Fame, Fortune

Africa-bound for the first time. Alone. Twenty-three hours between airports and planes. Seems like decades ago, but it’s only been two years and seven months when I left the Philippines to chase a “vision” that had haunted me since I saw a photo of three African boys in a ‘70’s edition of National Geographic I borrowed (and never returned) from my elementary school library. The boys looked really happy, with their arms over each other’s shoulders, and smiling widely, not into the camera, but smiling at me. I was about 10 years old then, and wondering what it would be like to experience something that made the three boys smile that way.
Fast forward to year 2011. I am here in South Sudan, a newly born country and one that has seen decades of wars and conflicts that killed millions and forced million others to flee and become refugees in neighboring Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Conflicts that deprived children of food and education, wives of their husbands, and husbands of their dignity. When you think about it, the South Sudanese people have all the reason to wallow in their misery. Instead, they are smiling. The same smiles I saw in that yellowed photo decades ago.
Those smiles—the reason I’m here. 

It was never easy for some of my loved ones to accept the life that I have chosen. The hardest hit, probably, was my mom. Being the eldest of six, I was expected to do very well in school, get a high-paying job as a physiotherapist in the U.S., and support my sisters and family back home. So when I announced that I was going to volunteer for two years in Ethiopia, her world sank. I don’t come from a well-off family. My parents shed blood, sweat, and tears to send all six of us to school. And thinking about the sacrifice that my parents made broke my heart. To make matters worse, the TV kept on spewing news about humanitarian workers being abducted and brutally killed. I can still remember that night before my flight, my mom begged me to change my mind. But when she realized I wasn’t budging, she gave me a prayer book and her blessing.

Over the White Nile. I work somewhere down there.
I know I’ve disappointed some of my loved ones when I made that painful decision to abandon my American dream. I have thrown away the possibility to make a fortune and help my family. But I have no regrets. Not even when I spend half the day dodging bullets or being caught in a tribal clash. Or eating the same kind of food (i.e. lentil soup, rice, chapatti, and boiled greens) every single day. Or being feasted upon by insects and mosquitoes in my sleep. Not even when I had to suffer malaria and typhoid at the same time. It’s all worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to find myself. This is not about self-enlightenment, at all. My mission is not to save the world. I’ll leave that job to Superman and the Justice League. I am not even consciously trying to make this world a better place for my future children, nor am I doing this to go to heaven. This is not all about fame either. It just can’t be explained. Maybe it’s what some people call a “calling.”
Fame and fortune? It won’t hurt if I have those, of course. But I have acceptance, appreciation, and love now—and a million genuine smiles to last me a lifetime. 
This post was written for Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour 7 a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds, and locations. Please check out Dora’s Peace from Pieces and Shelley’s But What Are They Eating . Enjoy the tour with us. Click HERE.
You might also like

14 Comment

  1. Jenn says: Reply

    This is lovely! Thanks for sharing this with us–it has to be worth it to do something that you know is right…feels right. Kudos to you for pursuing it! Cheers, Jenn

  2. Thank you for sharing! I especially enjoyed the photos. Be safe.

  3. You're giving such an amazing gift to humanity – yourself! Every person who pays it forward – has a real, positive impact on someone's life – enriches their own life and that of the whole human race. 🙂

  4. Wonderful, Reiza. What you're doing is entirely altruistic; a service to the people you went to help, nothing self-serving or attention seeking. You are clearly a good person and I applaud your sacrifice and tenacity. Stay safe, and keep those smiles on those faces.

  5. admin says: Reply

    Thank you, all, for the kind words. I'm sure each of us is doing something for the humanity in our own little and big ways. 🙂 I appreciate your dropping by.

  6. Debbie says: Reply

    Reiza, visiting from the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour 7 ~ Fame or Fortune

    Nothing like the fame and fortune found in friends and smiling faces of the lives we touch. I enjoyed your post, wonderful photos too!


  7. JANU says: Reply

    Very commendable and noble of you. Honor to be on this tour with you.

  8. I really enjoyed reading your post. What you are doing is wonderful. It sounds like it is truly your calling in life, and what you were made to do. Please stay safe.

  9. What a fantastic post! After the riots in the UK this week I think some of our youngsters here in England could do to think about things like this and how fortunate they are and yet still some behave so appallingly. Good luck with your continued work!

  10. Candidly, this post made me an inch taller as a Filipino. It takes an unfathomable passion to serve humanity to arrive at a decision to be in the place where you are right now. My constant prayers for God's guidance in all your undertakings.

  11. admin says: Reply

    Thanks for your comments! They're very encouraging. 🙂

    Edelito: Thanks for dropping by. I'm always proud to be Filipino.

  12. Nelson says: Reply

    Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Congrats for your work. If you wish to follow back that would be great I'm at http://nelsonsouzza.blogspot.com
    Thanks for sharing!

  13. AJ says: Reply

    I admire you for staying true to your calling. I feel a bit of your mom's frustration (or so I think I do), but I'm sure she will be proud of you in due time.

    Not everyone hears their calling as clearly and as early (since you saw that NatGeo pic) as you have. And certainly, not everyone heeds their calling in such a self-assured way as you.

    This is truly a heartfelt post. You're more than Superman, Reiza. You're human. And the potential of the human spirit is limitless. 🙂

  14. admin says: Reply

    That's very humbling, AJ. Thanks.

    I used my mom's disappointment in me to prove (to her and to myself) that it is only by pursuing our passions that we can be truly happy. You can say I'm some kind of a rebel. And I'm not sure she likes that idea as well. 😀

Leave a Reply