Thursday, February 4, 2010

A thank you to mud and mud worms!

Our land cruiser got stuck. In the middle of a Kenyan Wildlife Conservancy. And we were all wearing sandals.

What else do I want to say about this day???. . . luckily the sky was abnormally full of clouds, so we weren't wading through worm-infested mud in our bare feet under the blazing equatorial sun. And there wasn't a shortage of men in our group that thought they could push this 2 ton machine out of a foot-deep mud hole (I include myself in this category), so that was very entertaining and idiotic. But as my old boss always used to say, "Incompetency breeds adventure!"

Earlier that day we had packed all 16 of us Mzungus (Kenyan slang for "white tourist") into the safari-ready Toyota Land Cruiser with the hope of introducing the group to their first Kenyan game drive. As our car bounced its way further into the bush and closer to prides of lions, hyenas, and a whole assortment of insects and reptiles that have been surviving on our planet much longer than you or I, we encountered mud hole after mud hole. . . Finally, the car gave up. We high centered in this deep hole in the middle of somewhere, and were stuck.

A couple hours of digging, mud fights, poisonous centipede sightings, and make-shift tow-truck attempts found our mud-caked crew headed back to the campsite to regroup and clean up. I don't want to call this adventure more than it was. . .we were safe. . .we were together, and we all got showers at the end of the day. But it's caused me to think about our experience as a whole.

We use our privilege and are given the amazing opportunity to connect with new and different communities through the Alternative Break program. As a group, we share the experience. And. . .we inevitably get stuck in the mud more often than not. I found myself calling other tourists I saw in Kenya "real tourists" and considering myself as connecting in a more authentic way. I end up relating stories when I come home to family and friends, and get patted on the back for what I've done. But really, the Truth in this is not about sitting on my "authentic tourist" high horse, or feeling good about the "help" I gave. It is more for me about the relationships that I make and the thoughtfullness and intentionality that go into making these experiences enriching, meaningful and transformative.

I'm glad we got stuck that day. And as cliche as it may sound, it's those unexpected times that I look forward to. It's in that space of dissonance and uncertainty that I find the most opportunity for growth and reflection.

So, thank you mud. And thank you mud-worms.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Welcome to CSU Alternative Breaks Blog!


Welcome to the Colorado State University Alternative Breaks Blog! We are anxiously awaiting a new alternative break season, which will be kicked off with a winter trip to Samburu, Kenya, followed by 13 amazing spring break trips! I know that 2009-2010 alt break season is going to be one to remember!

I recently learned about the Japanese philosophy of "kaizen," which is basically the idea that great change is often the result of many small steps. Sometimes I think about the impact of alternative breaks, both on agencies and students, and ponder the question, "How do we measure the change that we inspire through this program?" Sometimes the impact is quantifiable, like the thousands of hours we've collectively contributed to nonprofits across the country and world. But sometimes the change is not so clear cut or seems like one small step in a long journey. How do you measure the opening of a mind? The budding of a new life-long friendship? A commitment to a new cause?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I know that my love, commitment, and enthusiasm for this program grows every year.

If you are ready for your life to be changed, start here.
Great change begins with one small step and I'm taking mine NOW....