For a while it sort of felt like we were all over the place…okay, technically we were, but I’m not talking about how we haven’t stayed put in any physical location for very long. I’m talking about how our interests/goals/hopes/dreams seemed to be a thousand places at once (at least to me). But with lots of time to let my creative juices flow while in Korea, the puzzle pieces began to fall into place (don’t worry, it’s like a million piece puzzle so I’ll spend the rest of my life working on it).
This post is part of a letter I’m sending out to friends and family to update them on our next adventure. I thought I’d share it here too!
Josh is revving up to begin the urban studies program at the University of Washington in Tacoma. I’ll be working as a substitute teacher and a tutor as I continue my yoga instructor certification courses and work on putting some of my dreams into action.
Many of you know that while we were living in Arizona we were both involved in a community of refugees from East Africa. The kids in the neighborhood actually got me my first teaching job and Josh followed soon after. It was these children that led me to pursue graduate school in Cape Town, South Africa.
Our year in South Africa was instrumental in shaping some of the dreams I’m now pursuing. For one, I discovered that I love listening to people’s stories and writing is a great way for me to process. My research while in Cape Town was predominantly about what it is like to live in South Africa as a Somali refugee. More specifically, I was interested in how the violence suffered in the homeland, the journey to South Africa, and in South Africa has affected Somali women in a gendered way.
I had the opportunity to get to know several women and their families. I heard not only about the trauma and loss they had suffered in Somalia and in refugee camps in Kenya, but also about the violence they face everyday in South Africa. I heard about their anxiety and fear for their children’s future and their struggle for resources. Many of the people I spoke with had been physically attacked—one man had been shot—or had a friend or relative that had been injured or killed in xenophobic violence.
Many churches and mosques have taken a stance against xenophobia in South Africa but unfortunately, with the government, media, and police contributing directly and indirectly to the fear and demonization of Africans from outside of South Africa, circumstances remain bleak.
Another discovery I made while I was in South Africa is how much I love to run. I had run a marathon before but it wasn’t until I fell head-over-heals in love with the hills of Cape Town that my passion for running really began to blossom. It was also a way for me to cope with the heaviness of the research I was doing and the stress of deadlines at the university. Running became my release– my refuge I suppose.
After completing Comrades, a 90KM road race in South Africa, I suffered from a double knee injury. At the same time, my nephew Payton, had a fatal accident that left my family and myself in severe emotional pain. Not being able to run, I took up yoga more seriously and relied on it as a means of coping with the intense grief I was experiencing.
Okay, so where am I going with all of this? Most of you know, after a few months back in the states, we moved to Seoul, South Korea. After leaving my full time job in Seoul, I had some time to dream. I spent a lot of time hiking and running the trails near our home as well as practicing yoga in our studio apartment. One day it occurred to me that if yoga could help me learn how to cope with my emotional trauma, why couldn’t it do the same for refugee women? I started researching the use of yoga therapy for refugees and found that it had been used in several studies which all reported reduced anxiety and heightened mood in yoga therapy participants.
A few months ago, one of the refugees I had worked with in South Africa began sending me articles regarding the xenophobic violence they have been facing. Since then, we’ve been discussing ways in which I could use my passions and gifts to serve the Somali refugee community Cape Town.
In April, I will travel to South Africa with these intentions:
- Teach yoga techniques to Somali refugee women as a means for coping with past traumas and current difficult circumstances,
- Follow up on the research I did in 2010 to see how the situation has changed
- Work with a small group of Somali refugees to record their stories with the intention of brining media attention to their struggle for human rights,
- And of course, participate in Two Oceans Ultra Marathon as an advocate for peace for those who seek refuge in South Africa. I’m still trying to figure out what this looks like (any ideas?).
How can you be part of my dream?
Share your thoughts and ideas. I only have one brain, which sometimes is creative but sometimes hits creative walls. The creativity is endless when we start using multiple brains! I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Share your contacts: Know someone who’s doing something similar or might be interested in investing in this dream? Hook it up!
Share your Resources: This project will require me to take a month off of work as well as cover some expenses like a flight, a cell phone, and possibly a rental car (accommodation is covered thanks to my incredible Cape Townian family). If you feel inclined to give financially, let me know!
Keep Updated: I’ll be writing about my project at MJ and a Sea of Stories (http://melissasjorgensen.wordpress.com/) and here on Cafemj.org. Subscribe to both! This way, you’ll get an e-mail any time I update the blogs!
Leave a message or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Can’t wait to hear from ya!