Back Home- Slow lessons from the students of AFS

I was riding my bike the other night and it hit me. I’m back in Brooklyn.

This wasn’t a revelation. We’ve been back from our African adventure for over a month. It wasn’t that I suddenly “woke up” riding my bike in Brooklyn. To the contrary…. it was this sinking feeling at how quickly our adventure had been covered up by the waves our daily life back here in America. I was back on my bike… going back to my apartment after a long day, back to my kitchen, back to my dinner.

I think we are all hitchhikers who just like to play house. We are made of whatever we have eaten for breakfast…. Whatever color and nationality the dirt is under our fingernails from the day’s travel. We like to think that we inhabit every moment but the truth is that every moment and experience inhabits us (and then moves on).

In some ways it has been disheartening to Erin and I that we can’t keep the sights and sounds of our remarkable travels in our brains and on the tips of our tounges… but we cannot. I can tell the rest of this year will be spent carefully crafting videos for our various project with not only the goal of telling these important stories, but also with an eye towards meditating on the people we met, the problems we saw and the occasional small moment that made us feel like there truly is a world worth doing anything we can to improve.

But as I’ve said… life moves on (whether you want it to or not!) and so does our work. This month, while I’m already lamenting the quick fade of my Kiswahili skills, we had the pleasure of working with one of our favorite clients AFS, one of the oldest international exchange organizations in the world.

We shot two videos for AFS, interviewing exchange students at the end of their 10 month high school exchanges and to my surprise the answer to my malaise came from the mouths of these impressive young people.

Half way through one interview, a student who spent a year in Ghana was struggling to define her difficult experience. As she stumbled I saw familiar look in her eyes, the look of all people who see things so different and wonderful that the right words can’t be found. But then struggled on to beautifully about the magic of bonding with her host brothers, of eating with her hands, of learning to play the drum, of traveling the country.

Still more impressive were the exchange students from abroad who descended on Washington DC to meet officials at the State Department. During a Q&A session, we heard some of the bravest, most intelligent questions from these kids (all from countries with large Muslim populations). It moved me to hear the collective voice of those kids in that room. It made me proud to live in a country that makes itself open to such questions and proud to work for such an organization that teaches kids they have the right to ask them.

What we learned from the students of AFS is that it takes a lifetime to absorb the lessons of traveling abroad. It takes patience and creativity to tell these stories. From Good Eye Video we can promise the full force of our talents and the commitment of our hearts to try to share a piece of the gifts we were given by people in little villages and in sprawling slums. Of simple words and food and sights that really have changed us… even though we don’t know it (yet).



  1. Nancy Weis-Sanfo
    August 4, 2010

    So interesting to see how working with AFS has affected you Dan! I know your videos have had a huge impact on our volunteers and families. Thanks for helping us give families a peek into what hosting can be like.

  2. Bruce
    August 5, 2010

    Dan, I am so happy you have become an AFSer (though in an unconventional way…). It is true that all my life I have been, at unforeseen moments, integrating what I saw and learned during my year in Argentina as an AFSer. Think of it: an experience that lasts and gets better for 40 years!

  3. Abby
    August 19, 2010

    I think you know how I feel about this :)

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