Impressions from Harvard (Homeless in Africa)

I looked to the left and saw an old man eating a sandwich. I thought I should get one too, after all it was past midnight and I was starving, that’s why I had left the comfort of my dorm at Lowell House, to go get a bagel at Bon Pain, a bakery at Harvard Square. 10 meters away, lies Harvard Yard; we all know what’s in there, Widener Library, John Harvard’s statue and probably the centre of the worlds best University; Harvard University. I don’t have to list the alumni.

I left Bon Pain; my stomach lead me to CVS, the super market. It took me 2 minutes to walk there but it felt like an hour. I counted the homeless people on my way there; 17. One person on a wheelchair, some lying under the Subway station, the rest on the floor or, if they were lucky, to have found a free bench. I went inside and out again, crossed the road to avoid walking past them again. Two reasons. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing them in their misery again, it was a sad thing to watch, standing next to one of the richest Universities in the world, where I take classes involving human rights, seeing this was just heartbreaking. I thought of Obama, I thought of America.

The other reason was Society. Society teaches you to avoid people, “don’t got out alone at night, avoid the people at Harvard Sq.” we were told something like that on our introductory meeting when we entered our dorm. They don’t mean to tell us to avoid them, but they want us to be safe.

If I had decided to go eat an hour earlier, I would have seen the same homeless people playing Chess, oh yes, they play amazing Chess. They sit outside Bon Pain and play for hours. You can join them, but if you lose you have to give them a dollar. If they lose, they’ll give you one. If you don’t accept it – you look down on them, it’s arrogant. If you do – you are getting money from a homeless person. So lose. Then again, they are so good, not many can win against them.

Harvard Yard, people crossing, image by Christos Floros
People walking past Harvard’s Statue. Thousands cross daily, everything looks perfect during the day

I thought of America again, I thought about what Peter Economides wrote earlier, about how NYC inspired him. I had a wild thought. If I were to be homeless, I’d want to have been born in Africa. I would know no better than homeless. But imagine being homeless in one of the most advanced countries of the world. Imagine having to live in the streets at the same time that all around you people go to an amazing University, can buy food from a Super Market (What’s that in Africa?), have access to clean water 24/7 and Tourists pay to come and see this place. This beautiful place that I was lucky enough to be at, this beautiful place that is the prison for all this people that are less fortunate than us.

If I were to be homeless, I would pray to be homeless in Africa.

Homeless Chess player at Harvard Sq.

It breaks my heart to see these people on the streets. Something has to be done about this phenomenon, and I’m not saying give them food today, I’m saying “teach them how to fish” Jesus might have said that before me too. People on the streets should not be part of our contemporary societies. Giving them kindness today is not enough, something has to be done about it. And that’s one issue. I’ve had so many experiences here to write for a lifetime. Goodnight.

How Harvard changed me |Part 1 more coming soon. Today was my last lecture of International Politics at Harvard, therefore it seemed appropriate to publish Part 1 today.


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