Vignettes of my Seeds experience

Vignettes of my Seeds experience

Ermee Choudhury

6/28/19 (Second day of camp)
Tense moment between a few girls in my bunk today. After meeting one another and uttering the words “Israel” and “Palestine” they quickly turned away to continue organizing their clothes, abruptly ending the conversation. The bunk was silent, even before lights out.

Today was flagship day. All of the delegations sang their national anthems as their flags were raised outside of camp borders. The other Seeds [from Egypt, Israel, India, Palestine, Jordan, and Pakistan] sang with a fervor and passion I don’t think I’ve ever heard while singing the American national anthem – nor the UK anthem during the years I lived there. I watched as Seeds cried fiercely and embraced one another. I must have appeared lost because my friend explained that she was unable to sing her national anthem back home; this was the first time she had ever spoken the words louder than a whisper. I was moved as I watched other teenagers stand in anguish, perseverance, and solidarity – from wartorn places I had never visited. They stood tall despite the pain weighing down their shoulders; some of them had suffered beyond anything I could imagine. But, at the same time, I felt frustrated for being unable to share their passion, their love for their homelands. I was disconnected and numb, standing there as an American who not only failed to sing with pride for her country, but would never feel the struggles of the other Seeds, let alone comprehend the words they cried at the top of their lungs. Although it made me feel guilty, I almost wished I could join in their pain. Some of them sang with the belief that this rendition may be their last. Coming to SOP I’d never felt allegiant to a single group, and today I felt detached, unable to look at a single flag and call it my own.

Over the past week of dialogue, I watched Seeds argue about the corruption of the other’s government, scream insults and slam doors, and run out of the hut sobbing. But today we stood in a circle, and, one by one, everybody made a confession. One girl stepped forward and said that she had suffered from bulimia for the past two years. Back home, this was something she could never admit to, as mental illnesses were so stigmatized. After she spoke, she stepped back as her stoic demeanor gave way to tears, and I realized this must have been the first time she had ever admitted to her eating disorder. Our previous arguments about political power now seemed much more petty. A close friend stepped into the circle, shaking, as he talked about his mother’s death last year. By the end, all of us were either in tears or staring at the ground with a feeling of vulnerability, having shared stories we would never share back home, and comfort, with the knowledge that nobody in the room would judge us…. I walked down dialogue alley, feeling lighter and stronger, and, for the first time, connected. Regardless of our governments or political beliefs, we were all human. All of the Seeds from my dialogue group who had yelled obscenities at each other only the day before gathered in a tense but forgiving hug.

What I’m learning:
Always question what you believe to be true.
Don’t attribute 100% credibility to any one media source; there is usually an agenda.
Listen to others with an open mind. Try to avoid dismissing other people’s perspectives.
Sometimes you learn the most from taking risks.
You can love a person without loving their government.