Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's not easy

A year ago today, or close enough anyway, I began my JHR experience - and damn has it been a good one.

I've traveled a lot of West Africa, met and worked with fascinating people, flexed my media muscles and helped to tell stories that shed light on important local issues in the developing world.

I've written lead stories in the newspaper and dozens of stories for the web, and produced in-depth radio reports, tv news stories and short documentaries.

I've hung out with refugees stuck between worlds, had lunch with a sitting minister, witnessed a contentious election in violence prone areas, rode on the back of motorcycles going ridiculously fast on terrible dirt roads, been invited into the homes and hearts of people I hardly knew.

I've climbed mountains, been punched in the face and called a variety of names, sometimes even my own. I turned 30, worked with UNICEF, saw the continental football championship game, costarred in a soap opera and witnessed a hernia surgery.

I've made great friends from around the world, including Ghana and Sierra Leone, Mali, Sweden, Denmark, the US, and even Canada.

To describe the range of experiences and feelings does not do the year justice. It's not easy to put into words.

My life in West Africa has been very challenging at times, like a pendulum swinging between love and hate. It's hard not to feel passionate about a place that takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride.

The difference between health and sickness, happiness and despair, rich and poor, educated or illiterate, development or poverty isn't black or white.

Life here challenges everyone to recognize the disparity and injustice, corruption and intolerance, hate and violence, at the same time as the hopes and dreams, life and love, beauty and possibilities.

As I contemplate the year to come, I must admit, I can't imagine it can match the last. I can only hope that, as I strive for adventure and happiness, I'll be able to give it my best shot.

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