(Jennifer is a Binghamton University MSW student)
I first saw this opportunity for international social work in Malawi back in January and I was immediately intrigued. As a kid, I had had a desire to visit Africa and now, as an adult, reading for the first time about this new Malawi program being offered this summer, I felt that desire stir again.
Traveling, like learning, is an optimistic act: that life away from home is both safe and worth witnessing. I believe that the two weeks we spend with Malawians will have value beyond what we are able to accomplish working together. And yet, the closer our departure date for the Malawi Service Learning trip has gotten, the more strongly I have felt drawn to start projects around my house. Beyond buying small tubes of toothpaste and sunscreen, I have not yet begun packing.
Just yesterday, hours before I finally purchased the bus ticket that will take me from Binghamton to Grand Central Station, I went into my barn to get our mower and I paused to take a moment to visually organize the jumble of barn stuff before I resisted examining it. After mowing, I pruned a large bush and two of my children carted its fallen boughs away to the compost. I gave them frosty popsicles after they were finished. It was the first relaxed, sunny afternoon we had shared in a very long time, since the spring semester had finished.
As much as I am eager for this experience on the African continent, I am dreading being away from my family for these first warm spring days. My urge to organize and prune is not about hyper-responsible homeownership; it’s really about being grounded in what I love here at home, yearning to take care of it, but knowing that I’ve committed to going far away. Also, my urge may have some roots in denial due to my irrational fear of flying.