Emerging from the Sewanee Fog

Reflecting on the events of the first week back in Haiti, several things have occurred to me, on which I wish to focus throughout the next few blog posts.

Fog in the Artibonite Valley, as seen from the hike to Bois Jolie

I found the metaphor in the title to be perfectly fitting for this week, which was an acclimation full of surprisingly disorienting and difficult situations. The fog we often see in Sewanee has become a novelty symbol for the school and the surrounding area, often confusing first time visitors and the occasional passerby. However, to the students and faculty, it is commonplace, and hardly does much to disorient or confuse anyone.

Although this fog, a phenomenon produced by Sewanee’s elevation, geological formation, and weather patterns, will often lift and be replaced by sunshine and clarity, a second subtle, intangible “Sewanee Fog” remains. This phenomenon is the result of an extensive historical and systemic cushion of wealth and privilege, which creates a convenient framework in which many (but not all) students are often relieved from exposure to the serious struggles that much of the human population faces.

This is not to say that no students are well informed and passionate about alleviating and addressing the serious local, national, and global issues, but often these problems are discussed from a very comfortable distance. Furthermore, many conversations remain distinctly in a theoretical realm, and face to face exposure can be difficult to find in the educational framework of Sewanee.

I would also like to note that my main point is not to offer a criticism of Sewanee (as ultimately I am in Haiti because of my education), but to highlight how this physical and theoretical distance and “fog” has left me vulnerable to some staggering blows as the reality of development in Haiti has begun to sink in deeper, and deeper.

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