I’m living in a world I never thought was real. I’m surrounded by things that once were inhibitions in my life. I’m passing people on the street every day that you hear about on the news. I’m sitting on a crowded bus behind the boy having a seizure, next to the father holding rosary beads and chanting prayers for his son’s survival.
I’m working at a school where the teachers are on strike because the government hasn’t paid them, and the student to teacher ratio is one to fifty. I’m teaching children to read in a language they can’t understand or speak. I’m a minority. I’m a child of America who only learned about Islam after 9/11, and now am living in a country where the main religion is Islam. I’m surviving healthily among those who believe unexpected death is normal. I’m learning the secret of less is more, and it is possible to be happy without luxury in life.
I’m a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunt, a friend, and teacher. I’m witnessing children drop out of school before middle school, and working with ten and eleven year olds who are still learning to recognize single letters. I’m greeted every single day by a mass of smiling children, the ones you only can see on posters where I come from. I’m learning about the quality of life. I’m walking, eating, sleeping, breathing, laughing, learning, and talking, and crying with these people, as we experience life together as a family.
I’m 19 years old. I’m living in a third world country. I’m realizing something that some people never realize before they die: these people are not sob stories or charity cases. They don’t need pity. They’re real people…They’re my people.