First Person

Opening my mind, getting uncomfortable

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Right now, my world is neat and orderly. From the office to the gym to my apartment, from my favorite restaurants to the streets of my neighborhood, most of my day-to-day life is enclosed by places I know well. Places where I feel comfortable.

But starting with a 14-hour-long flight later this week—and culminating in a 10-day journey along the uneven roads of southern Ethiopia—life is about to get uncomfortable in a big hurry.

I’m about to go beyond anything I’ve ever done before. And that’s both scary and exciting.

This Friday, I’m heading out to Ethiopia, where I’ll join a crew of Oxfam colleagues who are capturing stories about our work on the ground via words, photos, audio, and film. (For a preview of one of those stories, check out my colleague Coco’s audio slideshow about Loko Dadacha.)

Don’t get me wrong–I’m extremely excited about the trip. It’s going to be an opportunity of a lifetime for me, a chance to see Oxfam’s work in Ethiopia up close in a way that few of us who work in the US get to do.

But unlike Coco, I don’t have much experience with this kind of travel to remote, mostly poor, very rural areas. So I keep checking items off the packing list that a colleague shared with me, doing everything I’m supposed to in order to prepare. I borrowed a mosquito net from one friend, a mini video camera from another. I searched the stores of Boston for a quick-dry towel and an international adapter, for protein bars and desert boots. My list of items to pack seems to get longer each day.

And then there’s the health stuff. With five vaccinations in my arms, three bottles of prescription medications, and an ever-expanding first aid kit, I feel armored with all that American medicine has to offer.

But still, deep down, I know I’m not totally ready.

When I confided this to my boss, she told me that inexperience isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it can make you more open to new ideas and interactions; you notice things you wouldn’t have noticed before. Don’t try to be an expert, she said. Be a learner.

So here I go. I’m ready to learn. And if the technology allows, I’ll be writing more along the way, sharing what I learn with all of you as well. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+