The preparation for this upcoming trip has given new and deeper meaning to the word "unreal".
Next week at this time I'll be in Africa. If someone had told me in high school that my college theatre training would take me to Rwanda I would not have believed them for a second. When I began my college career I just wanted to be a good actor. How lucky I was to land in a program that has stretched me, challenged me, and left me every day wanting to be a good person. I feel so fortunate that I have this opportunity and will be able to use it to help and inspire others. My experiences in the department have taught me just how powerful a tool theatre is to really affect people and create change.
Something I've noticed in my preparations is just how little the Western world really knows about modern Africa. All I really know comes from my involvement in the Anne Frank Project, so I don't say this with any judgement. It's just interesting and perhaps sad that people in the United States hear Rwanda and either know nothing about it but genocide, or have never heard of it at all. I've been asked about Ebola more times than I can count (though Ebola is 3,000 miles from Rwanda and much closer to Buffalo), and it's assumed that I'm going there to build houses or teach about AIDS. The West has this unshakeable view of Africa as this impoverished place that depends on us (with our imperialist complex) to go in and "save" them. Though of course there is poverty in Africa, as is true everywhere, I feel very fortunate that I'm going on a trip to Africa where the goal is not to be the "Western savior", but to really learn about a culture and a history so different from our own. I'm looking forward to challenging my own preconceptions of what Rwanda is like. The less we assume, the more we can be open to learning from one another.
It feels both like it's very close and that it's never going to actually happen. As much as I pack and plan and study my script I'm sure I truly will not believe it till I see it. I suppose the best way to do this is to plan, prepare, and then let go. I can't wait to see what happens.