We tend to paint the unknown with a broad brush, which I guess is why some people assume that because I am in Africa I am working with those in extreme poverty. In truth I am observing lifestyles all along the economic spectrum while I am here, including the students and educators with whom I have been working.
Still, it would be dishonest not to cop to guilty feelings of privilege – I have a fancy laptop, iPad, and iPhone. I am used to a certain level of comfort and cleanliness. And of course, I was able to fly around the world to be here.
I see these people as my peers so I try not to dwell on what guilt I feel (or should feel). We are learning together.
When I sat in a classroom with a burnished concrete floor, flies buzzing through open rusting windows and none of the bells and whistles that we use to sell schools in the United States, my concept of privilege was turned on its head.
Seven students performed an energetic skit on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and my heart caught in my chest watching them demonstrate what they knew about the world.
My privilege was being there with them. I still had my iPhone and expensive education and apartment back home, but all that was nothing compared to the honor of being welcomed into their experience.