I gingerly positioned my spices and utensils around the kitchen counter, like an underpaid Food Network intern. I hoped my effort could compensate my friend Ophelia for my clear lack of cooking skills. She didn’t seem to mind. We laughed at my constant checking of the recipe and my week-long commitment to vegetarianism.

“I moved here for a year to live this reality, not to bend it to the will of my privilege.”

When it was time to add the water, I cranked the sink faucet a few times before trying the next. And the next. Nothing.

I looked between Ophelia and the burning rice desperately, searching for answers. Where was the water? Ophelia shrugged, and smiled at me again. I wanted to keep asking, wanted to express my frustration about washing the veggies and the dishes without it, but instead I remembered. The University of Ghana is in a forest in West Africa. Sometimes the water stops running. I moved here for a year to live this reality, not to bend it to the will of my privilege.

I head to the water tanks where I wash my clothes. As the pot fills, I think about Ghana, Cambodia, and Palestine — places I’ve traveled, without thinking twice about if I’d have clean water when doing so. I thought about Flint, Michigan. I thought about the last time I’d thought about Flint, Michigan. It felt a little too long ago, considering my initial reaction to one meal without what they’d been missing for four years.

That night, as I listened to international students bemoan bucket showers, I understood frustration as a form of self-pity. I recognized my position of privilege within the Diaspora I want to liberate. I focused deeply on the corrupt global order that denies access to all. And I decided that I could not change the world until I’ve decided to change myself.

Chasejamison Akilah Manar Spears is studying sociology, cultural proficiency and leadership. She is studying at the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana for the entire academic year.

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