Photo Essay 2016

Zoey Brandt

self portrait zoey brandt

Essay

Creature Comforts

I’m a cat person. I always have been and probably always will be. Cats are familiar to me and they always offer me a sense of home and peace whenever I travel. They also have a funnily convenient way of showing up just when I’m about to get home-sick.

I have always traveled internationally before as part of a missions team. We go as a large bible believing group and stay generally in the same space for a period while we do our pseudo-missions thing. These trips are familiar to me. These trips include a lot of children, cooking and generally taking care of others. Nicaragua changed my perception of travel and my self-perception. Our trip included travelling, learning, challenging accepted ideas, finding new ways to perceive America and more learning. We still played with children, cooked and generally took care of others, although it was not as much as I am used to. We explored a variety of nonprofits in the country and saw successful economically and socially progressive communities growing. We spent time exploring and learning about the land, we also found many opportunities to appreciate its produce.

During all of this learning and exploring and communicating I found myself becoming lost and despondent. And angry, extremely angry. My anger came from a variety of sources, some of it was directed at myself, some of it was directed at my team members and most definitely the majority of my anger was directed towards my professor. I logically knew that he did not deserve any of this irrational anger, but emotionally I wanted to blame the leader. In reality my professor did an amazing job and he is someone who I highly regard and deeply appreciate to this day.

Nicaragua is a trip that put me way outside of my comfort zone which shook me as a person. I am used to being adaptable and navigating third-world countries. Nicaragua was supposed to be a learning experience that didn’t deeply challenge me in almost every way possible as a human, which incidentally, it did. I never processed Nicaragua. The month of January was filled with loss and change that disrupted my time to review and process Nicaragua. Now having almost 8 months to distance myself from the raw emotions of the trip I have found my anger subsided. I know that I did not enjoy the trip but looking back now I am immensely grateful and changed because of the opportunity I had to travel. I no longer eat meat, I worry about U.S. foreign policy, I want to vote, I appreciate the strength of others and I’m pretty okay at using an outhouse.

I found a cat while I was at my lowest. That cat may have become my best friend for a day. When I most needed hope and familiarity the cat had it. Despite the cat I still ended the trip full of anger and rage. Sometimes when you’re provided the most comforting circumstances painful learning experiences are still inevitable but ultimately they last the longest and make the largest positive impression on your life.

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