A few years ago, I was traveling with some coworkers along a rural road in the DRC. Suddenly, our car blew a tire. This event in itself was not extraordinary—car tires don’t last long on the rough roads in this area. But a year later I happened to be traveling along the same road, and our tire blew out in the exact same spot!
Luckily, I had my camera with me this time and snapped the picture you see at the top of this page. I took this picture spontaneously, but I can now see how it fits into a bigger story. To me, this photograph represents a place of unexpected reflection. Twice, I have been halted in this place—forced to pause and reflect on the road behind me and the path ahead.
In many ways, the process of writing my memoir has been a similar experience. Unexpectedly, I have felt compelled to begin writing about my life—both in the DRC and the US. Recording my memories and reflecting on these stories has forced me to pause and look back on my journey. As if through the lens of a camera, I see my experiences in a new light and with a new focus. Just as I look behind me on the road, I also turn and look ahead, peering into the distance to see where the path leads.
My hope is that once this process is complete and the journey has been resumed, this memoir can serve as a snapshot—not just of my own life, but also of the many people I have met along the way.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
“As I am starting to forget and may not always remember what I say or tell you, I want you to remember for me. Write it down so that you will remember and remind me.”
My mother spoke these words to me on a phone call from the Congo in March 2012. Unbeknownst to her, I had already begun writing.
About a month earlier, I had been struck with the urge to write. I am not a writer by trade, so I have no idea where this impulse came from or where I found the audacity to tackle such an undertaking. But at the time, I simply felt compelled to remember and record.
I closed my eyes and called upon my oldest memories. I was back in the Congo. The colors, scents, and emotions of my childhood bloomed around me in luscious, vibrant tones. I heard the many voices of my youth laughing, scolding, greeting, teaching, and singing—always singing.
But my journey did not end in the Congo. I now recalled my seemingly impossible journey to the U.S. as a 17-year-old girl, separated from my family for the first time, and speaking no English whatsoever. I arrived in Iowa to a new world of electricity, running water, moving pictures, and white faces.
Finally, I began to think about my time as a student in graduate school. As I completed my degrees, I began to make the natural transition into adulthood—taking responsibility for the world around me and making choices about my own impact. I found that I was inspired by the women I had known, both in the Congo and the U.S., and their natural entrepreneurial skills. I knew that my mission in life was to support and connect these women.
Now, reflecting on my story as a whole, I realize that it is not mine alone. It is my mother’s story as well. It is the story of my sisters, cousins, grandmothers, and all of the women in my village. It is the story of countless brave and passionate women in the U.S. and around the world. Our lives, intertwined and interdependent, are impossible to separate.
Just as my story does not stand alone, it will also take a village to realize this book. How can you be a part of this journey?
1) Help fund this project. We need to raise $7,500 to cover the initial production costs. This money will allow us to prepare the manuscript and obtain the support of a major publishing house. Anyone who donates $50 or more will receive a complimentary copy of the book when it is eventually published.
2) Help spread the word. Each week we will post excerpts and progress updates on this blog, and also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Chingwell) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/Chingwell). You can follow our progress and encourage others to do the same. This will show a potential publisher that there is interest in this story.
Please consider supporting this project, and help me share this beautiful and empowering story!