A Transformative Odyssey
I was provoked by my conscience to embark on an odyssey through Africa and India. My vision remarkably manifested despite my lack of funds through either the divine will of the universe or predatory lending schemes. Either way, I fled the confines of the USA on a journey through Egypt, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, South Africa and India over the course of three years. Africa empowered me. India educated me. The Voices of Our Future application process is reconnecting me to the compelling lessons I absorbed en route and allowing me to share my personal transformation.
“See those lines on the road, they are merely a suggestion,” my best friend warned me when we arrived in Cairo on the hottest day of the year. Indeed, Cairo taught me to think outside the box! Tracy’s flamboyant, Egyptian family welcomed us to the big, filthy city. I would soon come to love Cairo for few, but passionate reasons. I left a bit heartbroken after a short summer semester at the American University in Cairo. Yet, when I arrived in Ghana I felt a thousand times more comfortable despite the open sewers. Women are more an outspoken part of society in Southern Ghana and people are intensely friendly.
Volunteering in the jungle (literally) on Lake Volta to create a learning garden, and traveling through the (frighteningly) expanding Sahara was intensely liberating. I was challenged and inspired throughout the experience of adapting to the absolutely opposite world of West Africa. I acquired a new set of values while absorbing Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina and Mali’s rich and varied cultures. Africa’s women transformed me with their generosity, kindness and resilience. West Africa is a world where relationships, family, ancient traditions and art forms are the measure of success. Time dissolved and I was blessed with new eyes as I learned to appreciate these qualities.
After six months I was again wrenched away and deposited in Cape Town. “Your pizza will be ready in three and a half minutes.” What! Ironically, I was bombarded with my first dose of culture shock in Africa’s most westernized city. Shifting into Cape Town’s post-apartheid state was painful. Yet, I found my love of journalism while teaching for the Media School in a local township during my spring semester at the University of Cape Town. Thus bringing me closer to my involvement with Voices of Our Future.
Africa inspired me to work for Jubilee Oregon in fighting for International Debt Relief for the world’s poorest countries to free them from the burden of economic slavery. Through my graduate program in Conflict Resolution I studied participatory approaches to development while interning with Navdanya, which is the largest fair-trade, organic network in India and founded by Dr. Vandana Shiva. You can find some of the results of my research on my blog carriestiles.wordpress.com. My goals reflect that of Voices of Our Future. My journey has motivated me to create space for women to participate in global dialogues and meaningful relationship building.