Preparing to leave… for Argentina, South Africa and Vietnam

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I use to have a basketball coach who would always stress how important foul shots were. Foul shots can be the most nerve racking aspect of the game. My coach would have us all sit at the foul line and look at the rim. “You need to see that shot going through and out the bottom of the net.” For ten minutes prior to shooting our end-of-practice foul shots, we’d all sit there, looking at the rim.

As I prepare for my trip abroad I have really tried to “look at the rim” and see myself in the places I’ll be traveling to.

…As I travel by train back to Jersey from Philadelphia I sit, staring out the window of the train car. What will it be like in Buenos Aires, I ask myself. I try to think of where people will gather to relax and unwind from the day’s work. I try to see the faces of my host family as they walk me through the city plaza; the same plazas I’ve learned Argentinians have long occupied in protest against the injustices of their government. Children playing as their parents sit finishing the remainder of their evening meal. Maybe a last sip of coffee or wine.

I switch my focus back to the train station. I quickly refill my transit card and hurry back to my car to make it on time to work in Camden. As I start driving I begin to “see the ball going through the bottom of the net.” Doing my best to focus on the road, I think of Cape Town. The images I have searched on Google do not do justice to what I imagine the coast line to look like. A bustling city, sitting alongside a vast ocean. The legacy of apartheid still ever so clear.

My focus switches to work, as I arrive at the community garden where I work at in East Camden. I’m the only one there and have to do some watering. Plenty of time to think. Before I get the chance to daydream about my travels to Vietnam, Chu Nam, an elder in the neighborhood comes out to say hello to me. I notice his hard hands, how straight he stands and the smile he gives me as he says hello. We talk a little and I mention how I am going to Vietnam in the fall. His reaction is not what I expected. As we talk for a little longer about his family, I ask him if he’d ever go back.

He replies to me with a no.

We continue on talking about the tasks to be done in the garden and say our goodbyes. I try to think of Vietnam. Complex, like the history that so many like Chu Nam have been through. Like the places I’ll be traveling to. How do you envision a complex world?

I finished watering and headed home.

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