6.09.2005

Hypocrisy

Anxiety and Guilt.

That’s the feeling I have right now. I suppose anxiety and those sorts of feelings are easily explained – after all, it’s not everyday that a person decides to one day drop everything in their own lives and to what is literally the other side of the world.

But it’s odd too. Had you asked me a year ago what I thought going to another country to ‘help people,’ I would have said it’s a fantastic opportunity and something that everyone should take the time to do. To do something like that – sacrificing and putting your own life on hold for the sake of others is nothing less than a demonstration of the power of the human spirit. The only moral response, I would have argued, to the fantastic opportunities and wealth afforded to us in the United States is to give back somehow in a way that would genuinely require a change in lifestyle, and at the expense of our comfort.

But in the recent weeks leading up to this, I’ve found myself to be not trying to be a bastion of that famous indomitable human spirit, but falling into a behavioral pattern that I was trying to walk away from to start with – the sort of curious American cultural mentality that has us obsessed with our own comfort and conveniences. As opposed to thinking about Kazakhstan as a wonderful opportunity to experience a different life, oftentimes in want and simply learning how to do without, I spent the weeks leading up to my departure date buying everything that I “wouldn’t be able to get in Kazakhstan” so I could be as comfortable as possible. I did have some limitations of course – certainly, no down comforter and scented candles here, but I did obsess for weeks over the proper sleeping bag to buy, and I read all about the weather conditions in Kazakhstan so I’d be able to have the proper outdoor gear to match all of the elements, whether it was 100 plus degrees or -30 degrees outside (both of which are very real Kaz weather conditions). I ran out and bought name brand performance winter thermal underwear. “I don’t want to be cold,” I reasoned, “Surely I won’t be able to buy X or Y there!”

Never mind that people in Kazakhstan have survived for centuries without even having heard of North Face Jackets or Thorlo socks.

So that’s the guilt part. I’ve finally boarded my plane to Philadelphia, and the beginning of the next 2 years of my life and the next Chapter in the Jay Chen Life Story – sitting here, typing on my laptop, listening to my mp3s, wearing my Sony headphones – with 2 giant duffel bags of check-in luggage that ended up being 30 pounds too heavy.

Lord, I hope I don’t make the wrong impression.

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