Packing For Africa and Lining My Suitcase With Granola Bars
Amongst the layers of clothing and English grammar worksheets, you will find my safety blanket threaded with granola bars. I consider myself a courageous eater, but it doesn’t hurt to have a foundation of hearty snacks coating my suitcase. Realistically (and hopefully) I will return home with hoards of granola bars remaining untouched for the entirety of my two-month adventure, but just in case I know I will never starve. In fact lining my luggage with granola bars is about more than just assuring myself an emergency stash of food; it is about securing a little piece of home with me in my travels.
A home situates itself in many different and complex ways, whether it be the physical home, a temporary home like a college, or the people who you feel most “at home” around. For me, my home is built physically in Newark, Delaware, but emotionally fostered through my loving family and friends. For me an essential part of packing for this extended journey to Zanzibar was assuring that I carried items that helped me to find peace and parts of my “home” in such a foreign area.
I do not expect to be homesick, because how could one be in such a beautiful area as Zanzibar, but my selfish internal thoughts convinced me to pack small American luxuries, like granola bars.
I do however expect to see many people in poverty, and to put it frankly, with no granola bars. I expect to not only teach, but to be taught. Taught about living below the poverty line or practicing the Islamic faith or even what it is like to grow up in Africa. I enter Zanzibar with an open-mind and a recently expanded comfort zone.
Service was always something I told myself I would get around to at some point or a task I was forced to do on occasion. I came to the realization that the growth of my cultural understanding will forever be stunted if I do not step outside of my comfort zone. For the past four summers I worked as a lifeguard. In this job I had a lot of fun tanning and jumping off the diving board thinking that I was helping to protect people, but in reality my job was insignificant in the service sphere. I was being paid to watch people who rarely needed watching, instead of actually going out in the world and serving. This summer I decided to not only step outside of my comfort zone; I decided to run far far away from it and abandon any system of sameness I had achieved the past four summers.
So now here I am, packing for Africa. I’m surrounded by stuff to pack, lessons to plan, and of course granola bars – my little comfort zone inside an adventure.
America’s Unofficial Ambassadors (AUA) is a citizen diplomacy initiative dedicated to increasing the number of Americans who volunteer in the Muslim World. Unofficial Ambassadors volunteer with grassroots organizations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to meet some of the Muslim World’s most urgent development needs in areas such as education, youth services, and civil society.