Friday, June 12, 2015

Here's to the Roaring 20s

I remember classifying the age of 20 as 'old' when I was younger. I can recall having a conversation with my mother about my cousin's age on his 20th birthday and having a sort of epiphany because up til then I had considered my cousin to be young. As soon as she said he was turning 20, I remember thinking to myself that he was 'old'.

So, I guess, if it were somehow possible for my younger self and older, present self to be sitting across from each other in the same room, she would classify me as 'old' now. My days of using the phrase, "but I'm a teenager..." as an excuse have come to an end. In the past 8 years of my teenage life, I have pursued some fun hobbies, attended my senior prom, graduated from high school, traveled, learned to drive, figured out what career I want to pursue, attended some amazing concerts, and the list goes on and on. The teenage years are one's filled with idealism. As teenagers, we find our voices, are not scared to be loud about demanding justice, feel alive when we help instill change, and often demand answers and solutions. The word impossible is often missing from a teenagers vocabulary if he/she is set on attaining something.

And last Thursday, while I waited with my friends for the clock to strike midnight into Friday, I found myself extremely grateful as I reminisced on my teenage years. But not very far from this reminiscing was another feeling, which though not as loud, was equally as noticeable...

Trust me, turning 20 really does change you. With the realization of entering a new decade of my life, I feel a sense of urgency to really pursue independence. And no, it's not because I've been watching too many Beyonce interviews! The truth is, I really want to figure out my strengths, likes, dislikes, passions, interests. I want to discover what really makes me happy and become that person. The more I observe people, and think about my own life, I am encouraged to be the person I am because each of us is unique in  one way or the other; and when I think about how beautiful the world would be if we each sought to be the best versions of ourselves, I smile for no reason!

You might be thinking, "but Tracy, independence can be a very vague word", and I agree! So, for me I will define independence relative to the situation I am in. In pursuing independence, it is not my goal to isolate myself from friends, or family in order to assure myself that I can do it all. No, not all. If one thing my teenage high school years taught me, it is that life is set-up in such a way that at some point, we all need someone to lean on.

For me, pursuing independence is: living without looking for affirmation from anyone (be it an individual or society). It means, going with my gut because it has a reason for being so loud sometimes. It means speaking up for an opinion whether it be majority or minority because my experiences have helped me shape that opinion. It means waking up at 8 to go to work and giving it my all because there's a reason I applied for that position. It means being myself while respecting every form of life.

So, here's to the roaring 20's... and to Independence, and to maintaining teenage idealism while attaining mature wisdom!



Friday, May 22, 2015

Challenging the Single Story: Nicaragua's Tale

For the past nine days, I had the opportunity to live in Nicaragua with some amazing students while
serving communities outside of its capital. During my stay, I was able to interact with these communities through medical clinics , as well as a public health project.

And as with every service trip I have embarked on, I left Nicaragua with a different perspective. Now for those who are against poverty tourism and the like, do not consider the previous sentence cliche. Trust me, I'm on your side. I grew up in Accra, Ghana, and I am used to people changing the tone of their voices into a sympathetic one as soon as I mention that I grew up in Africa. Its like Chimamanda Ngozi said in her TED talk entitled "The Danger of  A Single Story". We are used to judging lesser developed countries as inferior,  completely hopeless, and something to be pitied, due to one single perspective we might have seen through the bias lense of a news channel, a stereotypical movie, or a mal-intentioned source.

So, in writing this blog about my experience, my goal is not to belittle Nicaragua. I acknowledge that like any country, Nicaragua has a long way to go in terms of development. But aside from these deficits, this country is one whose mountains and landscape features will make you appreciate nature even more, and one whose people will inspire warmth and kindness in your soul.

I went on this trip through a club at my school called Global Brigades. This chapter is dedicated to medical and global health trips so I thought it was the perfect fit because I want to work for Doctors without Borders one day. For the first few days, our team served the people of El Naranjo and its neighbouring communities through a medical clinic we set up in a school. I had the opportunity to talk to patients (through a translator,of course), take their vitals, shadow a doctor, and help gather medications to be distributed to the people. Oh, and I also got to play duck, duck, goose with some beautiful children.

For the next few days, we worked on public health projects. There were three houses that needed help with construction so I worked on house 2 with some friends, and by the end of our trip, we were able to complete the flooring, bathroom, toilet and septic tank for the house!

Weaved through these experiences were  birthday celebrations, salsa nights, non-stop card games, intense conversations about bowel movements, and friendship formations.

I am very content that I went on this trip to Nicaragua. I am happy and humbled by the contribution the team and I were able to make to the community. However, I also walk away from this trip a little more confused . My experience in Nicaragua has inspired me to pursue independence, cultivate confidence, and reflect on who I am, and who I want to be, and why I want to be that. And as with any territory that is being newly explored, there is confusion. But its a beautiful confusion, a sort of controlled chaos.

Gracias Nicaragua,

xoxo Tracy