Notes from an alum…

*Note: this entry should have been posted Saturday night, which is when it was written in my mind.  Apologies for it taking a few more days (in due African custom) to appear in type and online…


Four years ago I traveled by bus from Nairobi, Kenya, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and was extremely distraught over the depressing poverty I perceived surrounding my route.  This was just one of many reasons I swore I would never repeat any part of the 15-hour journey between Nairobi and Dar again.  Today I somewhat hesitantly retraced my steps for almost 11 hours to Arusha, as I departed a week’s company with the SJU group in Morogoro.  I witnessed the same scenery, but this time my restlessness was replaced by a profound sense of inner peace.  A friend once told me, “It’s good to return to a place we haven’t been in awhile to see how much we’ve changed.”  Four years since I first stepped on African soil, my mindset seems to be shifting more vigorously than ever, not the least of which my perception of poverty and understanding of development.


Then I was fresh out of college experiencing Africa for the first time.  Now, in the midst of my fourth trip to the continent, I jumped at the opportunity to experience a sort of “service immersion trip in reverse”: after two months of fieldwork and research on poverty-related issues in Kenya and Uganda, I retreated to reflect with my alma mater as it experienced the first of its African excursions.  Somewhat ironically, I was breaking from the realities and the peoples these students were just encountering for the first time (save for the lone African member of the group, Michael Mungai, who has contrastingly lived them all of his life), and taking some time to myself in the midst of familiar and comfortable surroundings – a mobile Wolfington Center if you will.


So as this respite provided the much-needed space which enabled me to see pure beauty surrounding my journey today and poverty only so much as it lied within me, I couldn’t help but ask myself how these students are processing their newfound surroundings and wonder about where it will lead them in years – and return trips – to come.


Safari Njema…


-Mark Orrs, ’03


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