Oct. 28, 2009
As runners throughout the NCAA prepared for their respective conference meets this past week, most probably continued to train and organize their class work, attempting to stay focused and unstressed. My teammate Lucy and I on the other hand, went for a more alternative race preparation style. Rather than relaxing in ham this past weekend, as members of UAB's Global Community Leadership honors program, we participated in a class trip to the small rural Alabama town of Lineville for a camping trip of sorts we would never forget.
In Lineville Lucy and I, along with 20 plus UAB sophomores in the GCL honors program, traveled to the campus of an international organization called SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology). This organization works primarily with leaders of foreign, rural villages mostly in Africa and South America, teaching these men and women how to use simple, innovative technologies in order to better their communities.
Before embarking on our journey into the backwoods of Alabama, Lucy and I were under the impression we would be sleeping in cabins and stuffing ourselves with good old camp fire food, laughing and having fun with our classmates. Upon arriving at SIFAT, we were promptly presented with our sleeping arrangements. Rather than comfy blow-up air mattresses and warm cabins, our options for the evening consisted of various primitive huts and cabins found throughout the countries SIFAT's foreign students came from. Lucy and I slept in the Liberia hut that night, which was made of walls and roofs of sticks and two rocks topped with a few strands of hay for beds. Needless to say this was not exactly what we were expecting.
Additionally, Friday night, in order to really get the full primitive life style experience, we were placed in pretend urban slums that had been built on the SIFAT campus where we had to work for money in order to buy food and water. Our jobs ranged from "paving" the slum roads with cardboard box shreds to guarding the pretend jail cell. Rather than eating all the burgers and hot dogs I wanted that night, I had to settle for nothing but cold chicken noodle soup broth and water. Not all my classmates were even fortunate to receive a measly ladle of this soup. Given that the conference meet was the following weekend, we were both rather upset with our cold, rocky beds and 10 calorie dinners. After going to bed on an empty stomach, the next morning I was ready to eat a full course meal. Much to my surprise (or maybe not considering my delightful experience from the last night) we were given oats, firewood and matches, and instructed to cook our own breakfast. The oatmeal was rather reminiscent of hot plastic; not quite the Quaker Brown Sugar mix I'm used to.
Despite these awful conditions, I definitely learned a lot from the weekend. I realized very quickly that I was very privileged to live the life that I do. Such privileges range from things as simple as a warm bed to sleep in, to the opportunity to run in the Conference USA cross country meet this upcoming weekend. My third world experience may not have prepared me physically for the conference meet, but I definitely learned to appreciate and capitalize on every opportunity I have.