by Phoebe Droz
I literally have no idea where the time went, both in regards to Jan Term, and in regards to tonight that has turned into this morning. It’s kind of crazy to think that time moves whether we like it to or not, but it is even crazier to think that just the opposite happens when referencing movement. As time marches on, if we do not move, time will continue to march, leaving us where we began.
I have spent my whole life in Spokane, WA. I’ve traveled abroad to Fiji to visit my mom’s family, and to Canada to see beautiful things and wade in hot springs, yet I’ve always called Spokane home. Being a travel journalist, although only for a short time, allowed me to call Kalispell home for a while as I tried to keep my finger on the pulse of a city that was foreign to me. I learned about dog sledding and science lessons in pubs and chocolate wandering. I also found a lot of information about road closures that I chose not to include in my posts, but reminded me that despite the novelties of any place, there will always be road construction.
Aside from a change in hometown, Ellie Probus and I were able to converse about voluntourism. We “traveled” to Cambodia and Haiti where non-profits were failing the citizens they were trying to serve, and making money because tourists knew no better. Though the hour was late, and her day had been full, she talked expressively about the importance of entering into volunteer situations abroad with both mind and heart, bringing me back to Whitworth and back to Spokane. She explained that one must make sure a heart for service does not blur a critical mind. We concluded our conversation by agreeing that thinking critically about how we are participating is the only way to actively keep from harming the communities abroad that we are trying to help.
Foreign aid and empowerment came up again as I talked to the owner and manager of Kizuri. Kim Harmson allowed me to travel abroad with her as she led me around her fair trade and local store. She spoke for wicker baskets piled high at the store’s entrance and for the simple beaded necklaces close to her desk, and undeniably close to her heart. We wandered through 5 countries and she spoke of many more in passing, but she ultimately left me back in Spokane with the challenging idea that my money, no matter where I spend it, is going back to some place, and to make sure that I support that whatever that place may be.
Unintentionally, all of my pieces turned into exposés on participation, but not only participation, how to participate well. If ever I was to become a voluntourist I have the words of Ellie in the back of my mind, telling me to not allow my passion for service to cloud my ability to critically analyze an organization. If ever I go thrifting in another city I have conversations with Brent Hendricks and the idea that thrift stores and non-profits can tell you a lot about a city. As fair trade becomes a popular trend, the words of Kim resonate in my mind, reminding me that there is a community that is attached to that product. She is telling me to show respect by learning about my purchase’s roots.
As time has marched on, I have stayed in one place, called one city home, and gotten to know it well. Yet my writing calls for my participation, and calls for me to participate well. You could say that this class gave me a travel bug, but I think that more than anything it gave me insights into how small the world is becoming, and how seeing it from Spokane is not the same as seeing it in person. I can only guess that this idea of participation will take me away from this place that is comfortable and familiar and towards places that make me think and participate a little more critically.