I felt like I was going to barf.
It was something that I used to do all the time. Now, I feel overwhelmed by the splashes of colour and bright lights. People came from all directions, clawing at those rows and rows of hangers and draping clothes. The red and yellow flashy signs surrounded me. Buy 1 get 1 free. Boxing day deals. 20% off. There was just so much stuff.
After going to Kenya, I couldn’t enter a mall without feeling uncomfortable. I was accustomed to broken fences, dirt roads, and mud huts. I played with children who walked barefoot along the rugged dirt roads, desperate for even a drop of clean water. Every day was centered around survival for them.
Since then, shopping centres looked like feeding grounds for selfish savages to me, fulfilling our desires to have more, be more, and look better. It was a constant reminder that North American life was an illusion. We can’t see the problem. Therefore, its is far, far away, happening to other people’s grandparents, mothers, fathers, and children. I couldn’t wander the streets without remembering the beautiful children I met in Kenya.
The hardest part wasn’t the fact we were surrounded by so much stuff. It was the way we treated it. We are surrounded by piles and piles of material items, yet armed with an insatiable thirst for more. We always compared with the person who has more. We can simply turn on the tap for clean water, but we complain about not getting enough presents for Christmas.
As I walked around the mall, I saw empty faces. I was a nobody to them. While villagers always cheerfully waved “Jambo!” to strangers in Kenya, we turn away and avoid eye contact. We are individuals. And we are alone. Despite our overflowing closets and gasoline filled cars, depression and anxiety rates skyrocket in North America. And then there’s suicide. Bullying.
I felt completely alone. No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to break this North American bubble we lived in. On top of that, no one understood these feelings. Yet, like all other things, time allows us to forget. I started filling my head with my regular routine. Go to school. Go running. Go hang out with friends. Once in a while, I’d go back to the mall with friends again. I had “bigger” worries, like getting into university. Slowly, things started returning to normal. I started to forget these feelings.
However, as I stepped into the massive, multi-level shopping centre, it hit me again. I realized how far I had strayed from my awareness that I had gained in Kenya. My trip had been simply two years ago and I was filled with an anger and passion to end the issues. But now, I’ve fallen back into the bubble. Once in a while, I’ll open my eyes and remember the stories of those children again. But for now, I’m “normal.”