And we’re off!

After returning back home to Pennsylvania’s verdant Lehigh Valley, I spent about a week running around to doctor’s appointments, stores, and other people’s houses. I got in one last Lindy and Blues night in Philadelphia with Posfe (‘Posfe’ is the collective noun by which I label all my high school friends), as well as one last Posfe bonfire at Sonya’s house, before I had to leave for my New Jersey relatives’ place, which is closer to JFK airport.

Also happening this last week was my yardsale. It was a good excuse for my friends to stop by and chat, and in fact I received a surprise visit from Sarabeth, Caleb, and Janelle, the slightly younger generation of my friends from Camp Brainerd! When asked what brought them out to my neck of the woods, Sarabeth replied “I saw you were having a yard sale, and I really like yardsales and I really like you!” After hanging out and chatting with me for an hour or so, she and her cohorts went home with armfuls of my clothing, books, and beanie babies. 😀

Between my friends, people from church, and people who just came for the yardsale, I raised over $50 in yardsale sales alone, which is not too shabby when you consider that the most expensive item I sold went for a mere $3! I also received almost $150 in straight-up donations, either at the yardsale or afterwards, from people who had meant to go to the yardsale but hadn’t gotten around to it. With that ~$200, the most recent financial report, and my own calculations, I think I have at least $6,192 in the bank or on its way there!

I’m really touched by everyone’s willingness to support me in this endeavor, whether it’s financially or just by telling me they’ll be thinking of me and wishing me the best (or by posting a song about my future exploits on my facebook wall.) The phone at my uncle’s place has been ringing off the hook for me for the past two days. 😀 I’m going to do my best, for you, for Kijungumoto, and for me.

These last three days have been full of preparation, both physical and mental, for the adventure ahead. I stayed up until 4 am packing on Sunday night, but that meant that it was done by Monday! That has given me some time to read up on the agricultural information 2Seeds linked us to, and also to talk to my family here in New Jersey. I realized last night that this week is the first time I’ve actually talked with this particular aunt as an adult- before, she’d always been the adult and I’d been the child, and I hadn’t gotten to know her as a person very well.

My aunt moved here from China 18 years ago. I asked her what it was like, with specific reference to language acquisition. She said that though she’d been one of the best at English in her classes, and she understood at least 50% of the BBC broadcasts and other similar sources of spoken English before coming, when she first arrived here, she found that she couldn’t understand anything anyone said for a while, and her speaking wasn’t much better.

She was also cut off from a lot of her normal emotional supports- her family, her friends from China- and she felt that friendship in America was different from friendship in China. She had the sense that it was necessary to be more guarded here, to avoid possibly being taken advantage of- she grew up in a smaller community, and the easy, sincere hospitality practiced there did not appear to be the norm in America.

She was also a little surprised at the diversity here; America’s fashion magazines and tv shows are still largely dominated by conventionally attractive white people, and I’m sure the concentration was even higher 20 years ago. As my aunt found, the media presentation of the US differs from the reality.

I’ve really enjoyed hearing about my aunt’s experiences, and I can’t help looking to them to give me an idea of what to expect when I move to an entirely new country to live. As my aunt pointed out, the situation is a little different- she was moving in hopes of building a better life for herself, whereas I’m moving chiefly in hopes of a better life for other people, and I have a definite departure date scheduled. But I’m definitely hoping this will give me valuable skills, and perhaps even a sense of purpose. My aunt’s experiences might help me come to grips with both the way my life and perceptions will change, and what changes will go on in the daily life and thoughts of the people of Kijungumoto when we arrive.

I have to wonder what ideas they have of Western culture, particularly the US, that we will confirm or belie. And I’m sure that my sketchy ideas about Africa, poverty, and community will be confronted and readjusted by the next 9 months. I might not know what they are until I get there, though. I think my best bet is to note what I find surprising- and then ask myself, “Why?”