My legs step awkwardly onto the street as my feet try to acquaint themselves with the rubble and debris. I start too fast, too soon and I feel my knees buckle, bracing before I hit the ground.
I am embarrassed by my privilege in a third world country and feel trapped because I don’t know how to escape it. I am no better than those around me, but yet I am better off. They are no worse yet they have struggles that I’ll never need to know, nor will ever understand. They are an isolated group that are marginalized in society as the “have nots” because we don’t bother to try and understand a new culture or society. When the questions are easy and the answers are complicated we find comfort in stereotypes that generalize populations.
I am the white face with money in her wallet, the one with a ticket out. I can go anywhere in the world. I can escape discomfort, war and fear. I can complain about cold bucket showers, I can silently think about how kitchens here would never pass any standard health regulation test at home, and roll my eyes at how slow traffic is because for me this is all temporary.
I am the white face who lives an uncomfortable life at ease because I can afford to walk away from luxury. I am here because I made a choice; a choice of basic living, so that I may have a chance to humble myself for others, and for my future.
When you ask what it is like to live somewhere so different, I spare you the glimpses of real poverty and instead tell you about the food and cultural experiences.
I don’t tell you about people living in small shacks with tin roofs, as they share spaces with their livestock. Nor do I tell you about the children who crowd in between traffic to tap windows for change often standing without pants or shoes. All day they trade their dignity in the stream of traffic, to fill their pockets with something they value much more. You don’t want to hear about the blind cripple who lives around the corner from me, or the looming eyes that stare at me as I unlock the gate to my home; the gate that separates me from them and them from me.
My privilege is transparent. It is my heaviest shadow, and my biggest burden; I have more but want less. So I reject my privilege in exchange of a clear conscience.
But is this all too much to ask?
As I sit in the dust and stare at oncoming traffic, I feel weighed down. Even if I wanted to move I wouldn’t be able to anyway.