Remember when you went abroad the first time

2007, 17, all gangly limbs and good intentions

Remember when you went abroad the second time

2010, 21, all senior swagger and an eye on leaving university behind

Remember when you went abroad the third time

2011, fresh grad with a journalism degree and a fancy camera, intent on saving the world or at least the poor parts of it, with again the best of intentions and a saviour complex to match

Remember when you learned, boy you ain’t sh*t.
how the most compassionate colleagues held your newsroom rookie hand and taught you the ropes you thought you knew, with all your youthful bravado, one-size-fit-all Western arrogance
boy, you ain’t sh*t

Remember when they schooled you back to second year ethics, first year political science, your attempts a daily fumble, your stories disconnected and rambling, your mind a mess of what now?

Remember when you returned home humbled, grateful, unsure, cut down to size
which would’ve been fine, except
Western arrogance is one-size-fit-all

So remember when you went abroad the fourth, fifth, sixth, tenth, fiftieth time, carving out a career in global development that padded your resume and your insta feed, boy you ain’t sh*t

Remember when you turned 30? When you set out with an anti-oppressive agenda and a research project painstakingly constructed to be community-based, participatory-action, qualitative and quality, research that lives, research that breathes, research that gives back, research that pretends it is not like other research, research that needs to believe it is not like other research, research that looks like it is not like other research, research that screams, “I’m not like other research, why can’t you believe me?”, research that doesn’t believe itself, research that just doesn’t know anymore.

Remember when you learned, remember what you are learning, that the world is NOT your classroom, your thought experiment, a back doubling as a bridge on which you get to seek redemption, but the world is people, proud, diverse, struggling, clawing, moving ahead, taking steps back, corrupt and corrupting and starting revolutions and overthrowing governments and all this mess of humanity that is just like you and nothing like you at all

Remember when he asked, “So, how is this going to help us anyway?”
Remember when you didn’t know what to say