One of the most common experiences that I’ve had during my Global Citizen Year is that sometimes I have a whole bunch of slow days or a lot of busy days. A few days ago, I was having a really slow day so I decided to watch a movie called Rango. It’s about a lizard who is lost in the desert, while also trying to figure out who he is and his purpose in life. I began comparing the past five months to the lizard’s story sort of jokingly, but then I realized in many ways that this animation relates a lot to the Fellows and me. Yes, this movie was made for kids, but who doesn’t enjoy watching cartoons every once in a while?
The movie starts off showing a typical day in Rango’s life. He likes to put together plays, but his only “friend” is his plastic toy. As he was acting, he realizes that his character is insignificant to the play. He makes the connection that these plays he puts together are a reflection of his actual life. He decides that his life needs some spicing up, perhaps an adventure. I’m not saying that I am like some weird little lizard without friends, but we all decided to join Global Citizen Year for one reason or the other. We all wanted something new, an adventure, a good story to tell, or just an overall change in our lives. I decided to join for various reasons, but the main one was that I was tired of my life in the Bay Area. I could tell you what I would be doing at any given hour of the day. There weren’t too many exciting events happening. I was tired of that, so like the little weird lizard, I looked for change.
The story continues as Rango is thrown into the desert. He has no idea where he is and has no friends. He meets a few other animals and is given advice to go a certain direction where he’ll find “dirt”. The little lizard literally ends up in a town called Dirt and the town is so small that in minutes the habitants already know that he’s the new stranger in town. For many of us, we were placed in a small town or community with people that we look nothing like. We come to these communities not knowing anyone and sticking out like a sore thumb. After a while we got to know our neighbors and family, and we made friends. Now, we all call these places that seemed like a different world to us, home, and the people that, in most cases, spoke a whole other language and dressed differently, family and friends.
For Rango, it happened that the people of Dirt started to view him as some sort of hero or savior for their problems. I’m not saying that people from our country placement see us as heroes, but they do gain a perspective of our country from us. Sometimes people do see us however as problem solvers or some sort of change, but in reality we’re only one person in each community and we can’t solve every problem alone. We all have learned that we can’t come into a different country and solve every problem single-handed. We have to work with the people of the community and come up with sustainable solutions. After all, we’re only here for several months, and then we go back. So for me, the most important lesson that each fellow must learn is not to get discouraged when they realize they can’t do it all. We are only high school graduates that are trying to figure ourselves out while trying to fit in a new place. Even though we maybe a little naïve, we can be a lot of help whether we are in a school, clinic, or farm.
As fellows we are responsible for being good ambassadors for Global Citizen Year and the U.S. The people of whichever country often use us as their only picture of the U.S., Global Citizen Year, and Fellows. This does put a lot of pressure on us, but the only thing we can do is be ourselves and have good intentions behind all of our actions. A lot of the time we can be misunderstood, but then again, how many teenagers aren’t? We have to remember why we joined Global Citizen Year: to get out of our comfort zones. I was told that stress and struggle exercises the brain. We must exercise our brain so it can grow and become strong. I know that each Fellow has experienced different types of stress while been abroad, but we learn to deal with it. Most of the times we use our members of our cohort or community members as support resource. Global Citizen Year is all about learning. We learn about culture, global issues, leadership, ourselves, and most importantly: life.