Monday, February 2, 2009

Kristen Goes to China

Living in Vermont, I've been to Canada (namely, Quebec, or more specifically, Montreal) a handful of times in my life. I love Canada as any quality person of French-Canadian descent should. I eat goulash, have been to the Biodome far too often, and feel that, if necessary, I could return to my ancestors’ homeland to flee for my life and/or save the world.

However, this appreciation for Canada also highlights a reality of my life: I've never left North America. Truthfully, I've never left the eastern portion of North America (Fun fact: I've driven through every eastern coastal state in the United States). There are plenty of reasons for this, of course: Lack of time, lack of money, lack of...time. Okay, so the reasons are more like excuses and are rather poor ones at that. I suppose, the public deserves to hear the truth of the matter.

It all comes down to this: travel abroad concerns me. Okay, perhaps terrify would be more appropriate. The thought of embarking on a journey - getting on a plane, landing in a country, exploring the land - sends shivers down my spine. I am the first person to admit that this is not a rational fear, but it is based on facts.

Fact 1: Foreign countries are new, ergo full of possibility, the bad kind.
Fact 2: There is no safety net abroad - no family, no friends, no police who would understand that, "No, officer, that cocaine was NOT in my purse when I entered the airport. Clearly, I have been used by a drug ring" (See Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason).
Fact 3: I know this place, I know these people, I speak the language (fairly well, although that are days in which I feel as if I have lost my mastery) - three things that I do not have abroad.

But I do dream of it - being a woman of the world. I don't want to be a tourist. Yes, I am trigger happy with my camera, but that's for documentation purposes only. I want to live the culture, be the country for a time. I want to take my Facts and use them for good: To embrace the unknown, to find new safety nets, to learn about the place, the people, the culture.

Of course, this was just a dream. I was never going to do anything about it. It's like imagining winning the Oscar for Best Actress - I have my acceptance speech ready ("Oh my, I never imagined this day would come..."), but I'm not exactly preparing to procure a role in which such a speech would be awarded. To be a woman of the world - a beautiful, intangible dream.

Until now.

In the winter of 2008, China fell from the sky. Metaphorically, of course. My Contemporary Media Issues professor at Champlain College, Rob Williams, presented an opportunity to visit northwestern China in the summer of 2009 through the New Student Ambassador's 2009 MOJO Service Camp experience. This is not a normal trip abroad - it's an adventure with a mission:

First, we're visiting untouched, rural China that is facing major migration issues.
Second, it's a trip of service and goodwill, including assisting a monastery, teaching English, and setting up the groundwork to establish a private school in the region.
Third, we're going to China as mobile journalists (MObile JOurnalism - catchy, no?) to share the experience, the people, and the culture with our North American colleagues.

China is an expansive country that has managed to maintain a sense of mystery to Westerners. However, in the world economy where intercultural communications is key, that shroud is no longer acceptable. It's time to learn, to see, to understand. Through the MOJO Service Camp, this is a possibility.

And so, with the appearance of the Chinese Ningxia (Ning-shay) province at my doorstep, it made sense to face my fear and make my limited North American travel history, well, history. I can travel abroad with a group of dedicated, passionate, and intrigued individuals and start my woman of the world journey.

But I need your help.

Remember one of my travel excuses - money? It's still a valid excuse as the trip to China will cost $3,000 in total. I can cover some of that, but, as a working college student, that "some" is not enough. So, to paraphrase the ancient Chinese curse, perhaps if I "get everything I ask for" I "may live in interesting times." For this experience, I welcome such this curse at my doorstep.

If you can, please make your contribution securely through this Chip-In widget to my PayPal account. From a Canadian-traveled girl from Vermont, I thank you so very much.

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