Thankful in the aftermath

Hurricane Sandy 2012- The Aftermath

This whole thing has been devastating. Watching all that everyone has lost, people crying, whole towns gone and homes and lives destroyed is so sad and terrible. I keep saying I can’t watch anymore but somehow find myself not being able to turn the tv off.

Falling asleep to the sounds of sirens all week long felt eerily too much like 911. It felt and still does feel, so surreal. Seeing half the city lit up and half left in the dark, was unreal. Seeing trees ripped out of sidewalks in NY was something I’d never imagine seeing. Like everyone else, I truly didn’t believe Hurricane Sandy would be so serious, and figured it would only cause a little flooding here and there. I was evacuated and left to go to a good friend’s place, where we soon also lost power and hot water. I only packed 3 days worth of clothing, thinking I had overpacked. Little did I or any of us for that matter truly know the serious depth and severity that this storm entailed.

I feel conflicted about so much. On one hand I feel bad for everyone affected, but on the other I think the only ones who deserve the sympathy are the ones who lost so much and are in need of help. I keep thinking how on earth could they go on with this marathon, but then I have a best friend who I’ve watched train for months and know this was something she’s been waiting for forever. I don’t know..the thought of running through devastated towns and streets seems so wrong at this time. It feels like there are more important things to be dealing with, than exercise right now. It’s usually such a joyous occasion and it deserves that…Can’t the marathon be put on hold? I know thousands of people are against the run, as I see more and more online petitions going around right now. On the other hand, I did like hearing that all the money from the runs will be donated to Hurricane Sandy victims. It also in some ways, seems symbolic of NY’s strength. However the thought of it just seems unsettling in my mind at this time. Yesterday I read something that really stood out to me; it talked about how hard it may be for those suffering in Staten Island to watch runners run past them drinking cups of water and dropping half filled ones. Most of them still don’t even have any clean water to drink. I don’t know what the answer is, I’m not criticizing anyone’s opinion, I just had to share how conflicted I feel about it all.

New Yorkers tend to be tough, resilient, strong- qualities that I love the most, qualities that make me proud. Here’s my conflict. (Some) New Yorkers also tend to take advantage of what they have. I’ve seen and heard about so many things and people who have lost so much. People without anywhere to go who’ve lost power. People who have lost family members or who are simply trapped. Then I see people talking on FB who may have only lost their power, or were unable to catch a bus, or had to wait for gas; the contrast leaves me baffled. Yes it’s all relative to your own experience, but it’s also needs to be relative to the other people around you. People lost homes. They lost cars. They lost everything they’ve owned. There at countries who have nothing all around us.

I myself had to be evacuated. I may go back home to find my living room in need of repair, and have had no power for the past 5 days, but I’ve put a smile on my face and have been dealing with it because I’m lucky to be alive and am feeling incredibly thankful that’s all that has happened to me. Families lost lives. Innocent lives. There was a story of two kids who were torn away from their mother’s hands by the power of water. There was a guy who was simply going to get something out of his car was struck by a falling tree and killed instantly; one of my friends grew up with him. The stories continue. There were houses destroyed by an electric fire, basements and first floor homes flooded completely, elderly who couldn’t get helped and died because they were trapped, apartment walls ripped off instantly by winds. Last night on tv, they showed people digging through NYC garbage dumps for dinner. The sight really hit me hard. These are the ones who need help, and support, and are truly suffering from this insane hurricane aftermath.

Psychologically people don’t usually tend to worry about something bad that’s going on in the world, if it doesn’t directly affect their lives. It’s sad but true. New Yorkers need to look around and realize, the mass destruction, which maybe they didn’t have to suffer with, is only 20-30 minutes away from them. As some Manhattaners complain about not being able to shower, just a borough away there are people without a home to even shower in. It’s so crazy.

There is no doubt about it that it’s all a big mess. For everyone involved, it’s a mess. Commutes that take over 3 hours that normally take 1, or gas lines that last over an hour only to find out there’s no more left. These are all frustrating. Upsetting. It’s crazy, I agree. However, these things are also just inconveniences. I saw a friend’s facebook post that said exactly what I was thinking, calling these things “luxuries”. I couldn’t agree more. These past few days, I couldn’t help but think about some of the kids in Ghana who I know walk over an hour to school EVERY day.. and that’s just one way. I couldn’t help but think about the staff I worked with in Ghanaian schools who relied on water pumps and buckets weekly, in order to shower. Or the kids I work with who live in huts and have sleeping mats as their beds. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about one of our students Solomon, who on our last day, brought in his own sleeping mat as a gift to us staff. That was amazing. Still all the people I am thinking of and referring to in Ghana, are happy and thankful each and every day of their lives. They go about living with such a happy, hopeful, positive mentality. It’s one that says life is going to be ok. So, I walk. So, I have one pair of shoes. So, I don’t have many books to read. They are fully thankful of everything that they DO have. .. and that is exactly the mentality some New Yorkers need to borrow right now. People were left here in our home, our city, with absolutely nothing.

As the death toll keeps rising, All I can say is I’m thankful I have my health, a home, and all family members in tact. SO thankful. I can’t wait to get back home, and start volunteering to those who were less fortunate than myself. It’s time for everyone to look around and be grateful for what they have, because there are certainly a lot of people right now, who have a lot less. Cold food is better than no food. Power out is better than never having a light switch to turn on again. My thoughts go out to those who are hungry, homeless, stranded, and left with nothing. Thankful help is starting to reach out to you; I hope this all passes soon.

Concrete thoughts to jungle dreams

When I walk on the hot cement streets in the city, summer heat, I miss the  gorgeous sunsets atop the simple but beautiful orange-brown dirt roads lined with miles of forest and trees of all shades of green.

Whenever I smell food cooking, or something burning, I think of the distinct  smell of Ghanaian food being cooked in burning ovens.  I miss that smell.

Whenever I see kids playing on the street on hot, New York city summer days, it makes me miss the kids in Anwia, Salman and Nkroful who were able to turn anything into a game of endless play, and never complained of being bored or not having anything to do.

Whenever I listen to my Ipod, it brings me right back to a day in Nkroful when my class made their paper bag puppets and happily sang along to Jay-Z and Michael Jackson songs blasting from my Ipod speakers, without a care in the world.

If I hear a baby crying in a stroller or carriage, I think to myself if only they were in a cloth-sling that mothers use in Ghana; they’d be sleeping in no time!

Whenever I hear a drum in the subway, I’m brought right back to the play yard in Anwia where we spent endless afternoons dancing and singing to the beautiful, strong, loud beats of the drums, played with such joy, contagious energy and talent.

The honking of a NYC car, makes me (surprisingly) miss the crazy winding dirt roads of Ghana, with their unforgettable potholes, seemingly reckless but strategic drivers, and long bumpy car rides in our van.

When I said thank you to my bus driver this morning, it made me instantly smile and think of our driver who spent (almost) 24 hours a day with us..so unsure where to go and what to do, but always with a smile on his face.

Whenever I hear African languages on the bus or subway, I’m brought right back to being anywhere in Ghana; it makes me smile big every time.

Whenever I meet a cab driver, friend of a friend or stranger who is from Ghana, I immediately want to know as much as I can about them, and share with them that I was there, and experienced the beauty of their country.

Whenever I see a paper on the ground, I am quick to make use of it or ensure it goes in the recycling bin; I know that a child in Ghana would be so thankful to have even just that one piece of paper, and he/she would  make use of every inch of that paper in a second.

Seeing a child playing with a jump rope, makes me smile as I think of all the kids who were so thankful for all the jump ropes we donated to each of their schools.

Whenever I feel even the slightest bit of stress creeping in, I take a deep breath and think of the amazing Ghanaian mindset of finding a solution to every problem, and thinking positively that there truly is always a way….and suddenly I’m at peace again.

When I wake up some days a little on the sad side, missing Ghana, and the beautiful children I had the honor of working with, I look through my hundreds of pictures and without even realizing it, I’m already smiling.

Whenever I think of anything from my time in Ghana, I smile and say to myself, how thankful I am that I had the experience and how much I can’t wait to go back..and I feel so good knowing I will forever be in the hearts of the children I worked with..and that they too, will forever be in mine.

A sad day for Ghana

This weekend was a bittersweet one. Friday was my birthday, but it was a day celebrating both new and old…it’s a birthday I’ll never forget, not just because I turned 30, but also because it was the day of an important funeral, that of former president of Ghana, John Atta Mills, who passed away July 24th, while I was in Ghana.

When speaking to locals, it sounded like Atta Mills was respected and loved by many. He was described as a man who was soft spoken, thoughtful, and modest and known to be a peacemaker. I have learned that there were some who felt Mills was too weak; this belief was lead by former president Jerry Rawling, also a member of Mills own political party called the NDC, the National Democratic Congress. Him and his wife felt strongly against Mills, crticising him for being too weak and too slow. Nonetheless, he was loved and respected by many. President Obama visited Mills while he was president, and commended the country and Mill’s work, complimenting it as a model of democracy and stability. Obama told Mills, Ghana has become “a wonderful success story economically on the continent” (www.cnn.com).

Mills was President of Ghana since 2009. I learned that presidents in Ghana remain in term for 4 years; this began in 1992. Mills represents the political party NDC. He was the third president of the Fourth Republic of Ghana. The president’s death was the first death of a president ever before in Ghana. Mills died just a few days after his 68th birthday, and 5 months before he was up for re-election. It is said that he died from cancer, however his death came unexpectedly. One of the former president’s last words, which I found to be touching, were “”There are ups and downs in life and they should be expected but at the end of the day know that we are doing the right thing. The people of Ghana will have to support you.”

Mourning

When someone dies in Ghana, black and red is worn during the mourning period out of respect of the lost one.We saw lots of people wearing all black outfits, or red bandanas on their arms, legs, or hanging off their cars, bikes, etc, and I told the volunteers that they could wear black to work the next day, if they wanted. I myself wore a black shirt, and a bracelet with the Ghana colors to show my condolences to the country as well. Though it was a sad event, it was so special to me to be in Ghana during this time, and I tried my best to soak in everything I could learn, from people, news..anything that was around me. Particularly I learned that one  in Ghana called “Se-Asa” (meaning “it’s ended), was the most fast selling cloth in the market during the mourning period leading up to Mills’ funeral. One report stated, the cloth was “adopted as one of the funeral cloths by some party faithful because they alleged that it was due to incessant criticisms on the policies, programmes and administration of the government that led to the demise of the President” (www.ghana.gov.gh). The cloth’s meaning of “it’s ended” then, has significant meaning to this population of people wearing it. The news talked about how this cloth was being sold only to particular vendors. It became so popular, that there were alternate vendors selling look-alikes, selling other designs. The news reported that this particular material has been on the market for over a decade, but once it became popular during Mills’ death, the cloth was sold at a higher value.

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The funeral

Often in Ghana, funerals are celebrated like parties. Flyers are made to announce the event, and to get as many people together at once to celebrate the life of a lost one. People party all night long, with music, dance and alcohol. Kids are even actively part of these events as well. At first, it felt wierd to hear that people get drunk and crazy when someone dies, but after taking time to think about it, it fits perfectly with the positive perspective Ghanaians have on life. They celebrate positively rather than negatively. They place such a high value on life, and appreciate every little thing they recieve in life. As I blogged about last year, they make do with what they have, are SO resourceful with even the smallest things (that most Americans would just throw out or not think twice about utilizing for something); Ghanaians are genuinely happy people. I feel like they are even happier than people here who “have” so much more. It makes sense then, that Ghanaians would commemorate one’s death, with a happy celebration. It really makes me appreciate and love the Ghanaian culture that much more.

Mills’ funeral took place Friday, August 10th. It was reported to be a massive event. I wish so much that I was still in Ghana, just to see the live news footage, and perhaps to even try and visit. Chiefs, kings, dignitaries, and locals all came to pay their respects to Atta Mills on his funeral day. Hillary Clinton arrived as well . There were drummers, and dancers, and although most funerals are celebrated with high spirits, it sounded like overall this one was the most somber of them all. Ghanaians came dressed in black and red attire, from all parts of Ghana; more than 10,000 people reportedly gathered, according to BBC news. People were waiting in Accra several hours before, some slept by overnight near Independence Square, to ensure they were able to get a spot at the funeral. There were lines up to 6 miles outside the State House in Accra!  During the funeral, people lined the streets, crying, smiling, chanting, and remembered. I heard that some people had even climbed up trees to try and get a better view. Former President Atta Mills was buried on the grounds of Osu Castle, the location where Mills had lived and worked since he became president.

Pictures from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19214464

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Ghanaian politics

Elections in Ghana are held in December. At the time we were in Ghana, there was heavy campaigning going on for the 2 candidates that were running for president, one of them being Nana Akufo-Addo, a member of the NPP (New Patriotic Party), and his opponent,  who’s name I am unsure of. Akufo-Addo lost to Mills in Ghana’s 2008 elections.

It was a really unique experience to witness. Some afternoons, on our way back to Axim from one of our camps, we’d see people piled into trucks, all wearing shirts of one candidate. At other times, we’d see people marching in the street, all campaigning for the other candidate. It was really awesome to see. One thing they all shared in common was their happy energy; they were dancing, waving flags, clapping and marching.

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One experience that was most memorable for my team and me, was one night at our hotel. We were just finishing dinner at our table, when we noticed that one of the presidential candidates was sitting at table right next to us! It was really cool and felt like such a privelage. We just kept seeing more important looking people go sit by him..we knew for sure we saw a king of some sort, because they were wearing a very royal gold outfit, and there was a person standing next to them holding a cushion for them to sit on. Every day is a new learning experience in Ghana 🙂

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The news

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We found out the president had died, that day after seeing the presidential candidate; it felt like such eery timing. We were out for the day, and when we got home the news was all over every tv channel. I quickly texted some of Ghanaian friends to apologize for their loss; they all seemed deeply saddened by this news. I watched the news report for a bit of time, just to get a sense of what this president was like and what his death meant to the country. Within a few hours, it was announced that the Vice President of Ghana was going to be sworn in as President, John Dramani Mahama. Mahama will have a chance to extent his opportunity as president; he was selected by the National Democratic Congress to run as a candidate in December’s elections. We were told that the campaigning for the presidential candidates would be ceased during the mourning period, out of respect to the former president’s death and to his family. I thought this was really impressive.

Last words

Before his death, former president John Atta Mills wrote this:

(from http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=247420)

“I came to serve; I have finished my time here on earth and have moved on to everlasting rest and celestial duties with my heavenly Father. As you leaf through these pages of my life’s story, I pray to God that it touches you in many positive ways. Weep not; for I am not dead. I am alive and awake in the Lord. Ghana will not die; Ghana will live to declare the works of the Lord. As I rest in the perfect peace in the celestial realms with my Maker, I pledge to always uphold and defend the good name of Ghana. Remember the Lord in all your ways, and He will protect you. Stay well my brothers and sisters, for I will always be with you.”

Rest in peace John Atta Mills. Though I am far away now, I mourn the loss just as much and am thinking of all my Ghanaian friends, and the entire country of Ghana. Always in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell Ghana, my dear friend

Written on the plane coming home, 8/7/2012, and recent

I’m on my way home, and wish more than anything else I  could rewind time and land back in Ghana.  I am not ready to go home, and face the craziness of it all. I can’t believe it’s over. I feel like the time flew by so fast. I have such a conflicting mix of bittersweet feelings… both really happy  it happened and went well, and sad that after all that planning it’s all over. (I wonder if it’s similar to what my newly married friends feel after all the planning of a wedding!)

One lost luggage for a week, 4 sick volunteers, 1 lost handbag…but we made it!!  I have to say I had such a great time. This experience only reassured to me that I love what I do, helping people and giving to others; it also showed me how much I enjoy working with communities and working in collaboration with leaders from other countries. Also, it really showed me how much I love to watch other adults share the same joy in the things I do; watching my volunteers work hard, grow and learn about themselves was something I really enjoyed being a part of. I feel SO grateful to have been welcomed so graciously into the lives of those I worked with, for a second year in a row. Words cannot express my gratitude!!

I always liked challenges, and this was perhaps one of the biggest ones I’ve faced in a while. We had some bumps in the road, but in the end, we came to Ghana to give to 3 communities, provide days filled with activity, fun and learning, and that’s exactly what we did. I am so proud of the volunteers for making it happen,  and for doing an amazing job! Happy as well that I was able to ensure the programs at each school ran smoothly. At the end of the day, we didn’t just meet our goal, we excelled it, and I think that’s an achievement for both myself and my team to celebrate. We had never worked with two of the communities before, and as with anything new, there’s always that chance of it not going as planned. Working in a team, also comes with it’s own challenges. You may come across personalities with whom you clash with, or have trouble getting along with. Though there’s always going to be differences, I have to say that I think my team did an excellent job trying their best to work together, and enjoying each other’s company. On this trip, as team leader, I learned not only  about myself, but also, about  teamwork and people in general as well. 

At times I had the volunteers come together to reflect on their experiences, to help them learn about themselves as well. We did one in the beginning, the middle and the end of our program. I think it’s always helpful to stop and think about what you are doing, how it makes you feel, especially for a team of adults working together. The girls did a great job really thinking about the program and how it was affecting their own personal feelings and growth, mostly in positive ways. I loved it most, when volunteers would share new things that they’ve learned about themselves. That’s the only real way to grow.  From my own last year, I know that an experience like this really makes you think, and in a way, forces you to learn more about yourself..what you enjoy working in a team, and what you don’t, how volunteering can impact you differently than it does to others, how it affects your own life back at home, what challenges are the hardest to face, and most of all, how powerful it is to try something new. I think reflecting through out the program was a great opportunity for the volunteers in so many ways;  If nothing else, it helps to remind ourselves what we were in Ghana for, and that we all had one common interest…helping and giving to others, working with kids, and trying something new (for some). I felt so proud hearing what some of the volunteers have shared. (Made me think back to some of my teachers, and thought ‘I bet this is how they feel when some of their students get really into class assignments’!) Overall, it was great. If you know me, you know I’m a thinker, a processor, and am always encouraging others to write, journal, and just take a minute to think about things going on around you, when life moves so fast. I can only hope that the volunteers found it as helpful as I intended it to be for them.

As a team leader, I have learned so much. I’m a planner. I usually have a busy week and know what day I’ll be doing what. That is my sense of calm. This summer, helped me to learn and stretch my boundaries of planning. As my role of team leader, I was constantly emailing, on the phone, coordinating all our services…our drivers, school work, the kid’s meals, our meals, our hotel stay, etc. etc. The list goes on! As many phone calls it took to make things work, things were always changing..and more phone calls had to be made. There were days I thought, ‘Ah hah! I got it nailed, it’s all planned and things will be perfect when we get there!’… and then we’d get to a school and everything was switched around! It felt wierd at first, it was frustrating at times.  There were so many things up in the air and shifting…breakfast and lunch times at the school were sometimes moved last minute, volunteers had to swap scheduled with someone else, dinner plans were delayed, and sometimes messages got mixed up and lost in translation due to  language miscommunications. Those were the best! But, in the end, I embraced this lifestyle, and  I learned from the Ghanaians that even when things aren’t planned, or unorganized, or delayed..it still always works out. As one of my friends from there always tells me, “There is always a way”. I hope to take some of this Ghanaian mindset with me into the next year, and wonder if I may grow at least a little bit more faith in that things will just work out in the end even amongst chaos. It makes me wonder if our overall definition of “chaos” in America, is just different from those in Ghana as well.

I also learned how to be a successful leader (at least I hope so!).  I can now check off ‘lead a group of adults in a foreign country’ off my bucket list! I know I was always a natural leader in activities when I am with friends, or when I was younger, but I never had an opportunity to be one for adults. Well I did this summer, and am really happy to say, overall it went well. I’ve always been good at being calm when things are stressful for others, so that was one characteristic that played as a strength in my role as leader. We had a few stressful situations; one volunteers luggage was lost for a week! I was on the phone or texting to get updated every hour of the day, and ensured to update her whenever I heard news. I was SO excited for her when we found it, as I can imagine she was as well. I have to say she did an excellent job staying calm and being patient.(You rock girl!) Everyone was so generous in sharing their things with her as well! I also had a few sickies; I hate talking myself up, but one thing I’ve always been is giving to everyone around me. I gave the girls as many of my meds as I could, while trying to leave 1 or more to spare in case I got sick. So glad I ended up buying that cough syrup at the airport last minute! (Hope that cough is gone by now Soph!)  One of the other volunteers had to go to the clinic, but it was also a very smooth process and I made sure to wait with her every step of the way. She got better in no time! (Hope you are feeling better Steph). Another volunteer got sick and had to stay home one day..which killed me. I felt so bad. The show had to go on though, as her group was waiting for her, so I jumped in and worked with her group for the day. (MaryBeth, they didn’t stop asking about you!) I’m glad she stayed home though, the rest was definitely needed and helped her recooperate. There were also moments that the volunteers were frustrated with some of the program logistics, and this was definitely hard on me. But, I wanted to make sure they felt heard and held a group meeting to discuss the difficult topics, with the hopes of alleviating some of their frustration and other feelings. I wish I was able to do more to have made it a better experience for them, in those areas which they may not have been satisfied, but I at least feel happy knowing that most all of the volunteers felt a high level of satisfaction with the actual time they spent with the children in our camps.

This job required multi-tasking on a whole new level! I’ve also always been good at multi-tasking, but I even impressed myself with the amount of daily tasks I had this summer. I actually looked forward to each new task and embraced every new task with excitement. There were so many tasks on my to do list each day, and at first I thought it may be daunting…but in the end, I loved it, and it felt easy. I also learned that I can indeed get over my (silly) fear of talking to locals, being on my own, and that I actually really enjoy it. My trip was that much more special to me because of the fact that I got to work with so many different community members… they were all so interesting and I learned something from each and every one of the people that I had the honor to work with..the chiefs, the principals, amazing Adamus staff, etc. They were all so friendly and conversations were endless when it came to learning more about their own backgrounds and stories. As a team leader, I also learned that I can handle multitasking more than I ever thought was possible! I learned how to be firm with Ghanaians, when you need to be (because otherwise we’d still be sitting at breakfast waiting for our juice and fruit!) 🙂  After having one summer experience in Ghana under my belt, I finally mastered how to understand the local English as well as how to have the locals understand me the first time rather than the 4th or 5th 🙂 I learned how to constantly get used to changes, and work with things not going as planned- and still seeing positive results and learning to trust that everything will be ok. I learned that as a leader you are going to have people not like you, or listen to you, as much as you have said something over and over…and how not to take that stuff personally, because most often than not it’s not about you. I learned that sometimes you can’t please everyone but the best you can do it be yourself and know that you’ve tried your hardest. That perhaps was the hardest for me; I tend to be someone who likes to make people happy but I’ve learned to accept that with a large group of people, it’s just not realistic.  When there were some group frustrations, all I wanted to do was make everyone feel better and alleviate the upset feelings. If you know me well, I hate more than anything in the world, when people are upset and will try to do what I can to make them feel at least a little better. In this type of position, I learned sometimes no matter what you do may not help, and sometimes you have to let things be. Settle with the uncomfortable feeling that I can’t fix it all….it’s really hard for me to do that, even in my professional social work world. However, from this experience, more than ever before I’ve learned that it’s just going to happen that you can’t please everyone, realistically.  And, I’ve learned to settle with that feeling and accept it as it. I’ve also learned what it feels like to have pride in a team of hard working adults. Finally, I have learned what it’s like to feel a sense of pride to watch something you have put so much time and effort into, take off and be successful!

Ghanaians have this beautiful way of handling life that I continue to admire. I know I spoke of it a bit last year in my blog, but it’s just so inspiring to me. Ghanaians make the best out of everything and genuinely are happy and positive people; they deal with problems as they come, and never stress too much about anything. I spent time with so many different Ghanaians..some old, some young, some who spoke Twi, some who spoke Nzema, all from different places, and with different stories. Amongst them all, I noticed an inspiring sense of calmness. There was always a way, things were always worked out, nothing was too big of a problem or too much trouble for anyone. I found all the Ghanaians I worked with, to be so generous and always willing to help. I love that about the Ghanaian culture as a whole.

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I love that most places you visit in Ghana, are filled with the friendliness people. They say Ghana has a reputation for being one of the friendliest countries in Africa, and I completely see it. The ones I have come across, are just amazing people with warm hearts and sensitive souls.

After my trip to Ghana last year, I felt a life change. Slowly, I instilled this sense of calm into my life the past year and I noticed it made such a difference in all my interactions with the things and people around me..the way I’ve dealt with my own stress, and that of friends, the way I deal with friends’ drama or with arguments. I found myself at the end of this year, realizing that I have handled things a lot better than before I went to Ghana. I also changed so many of my priorities. Things like Facebook and shopping, lost it’s appeal after returning. Naturally, the new perspective I had when I returned wore down a little bit over time. So many people told me, it won’t last a whole year. My answer is that it lasts as long as you want it to last. Realistically, there are definitely things you just have to adjust to, living in a city as crazy as NY, but I definitely noticed a big change in my life over the past year; I hope to be able to do the same thing, after this trip. I hope to be able to pass this on to some of my friends and family at home as well. It makes me hate coming back to NY where things are moving so fast and everyone is on the go but if  I take the Ghanaian love for life and sense of calmness with me, I know that I will be able to practice that way of thinking no matter where I am.

I know for sure, that this summer with our Summer Camp Team, we made an impact that goes beyond the kids. We affected families, teachers, principals, Adamus workers, and so many kids. We made friends along the way, left some lessons behind, and walked away having learned ourselves. We taught kids things they never knew before, and gave teachers new ideas of alternative ways of learning. We enhanced lives. I’ve mentioned this before, and will again..people wonder what kind of impact you can make with such short time. I myself struggled with that idea this trip because we were only with the villages of Anwia and Nkroful for 3 days each. I went back and forth about whether it would be successful. Though I do think if we stayed longer it would have been even more powerful, I believe strongly that we still left something with those kids that they will hold on to forever.

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I loved Ghana after returning last year, and I think this trip only enhanced my attachment to it. The connection I feel is the type you may have with a friend who you don’t see that much, but think of often. Whenever you see them again, it’s like you never left eachother. It’s easy and effortless. There’s a sense of excitement yet also a sense of calmness. That is exactly how I feel. You know you’ll never have to worry about losing touch with that friend, because you know they’ll always be there. If there’s something you may ever need, they are suddenly right there by your side. You know even though you can’t see each other, you are both thinking about each other. Whenever you are with that person, life feels carefree and perfect. Cheesy, yup. But it’s how I feel. Ghana, is that friend to me. I feel so at home there. I’m always so genuinely happy when I am there. It’s comfort, happiness, excitement, and tranquility all at the same time. I honestly feel like some time in my future I would be perfectly happy staying there for a longer period of time. Some of the kids asked me if I’ll ever come back, if I’ll be back next year. I answered by saying I don’t know when, but I know I’ll be back. It’s true; I know it. I love it too much not to. It’s a part of who I am and always will be. Each and every person I had the honor to work with will forever be in my mind, and thoughts. I look forward to sharing all my pictures and stories with friends, because there are so many amazing memories!

Soon, my birthday is on it’s way. “The” birthday. As a single female in NYC, there is so much stress put on that number. Being in Ghana this summer, has helped me feel a lot more at ease, and ready for it to come. As I approach the dreaded 30, I am going to be positive and feel happy for all the amazing opportunities I have been fortunate to have in the 30 years of my life thus far.  I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity 2 years in a row; as with all my memories and experiences, it has made me who I am today and experiences like this continue to make me a better person. As I move on to this new period of my life, I am ready to embrace it and look forward to more exciting opportunities in my future. Before I left, I was really anxious about being 30, but after coming back from Ghana I realize…it’s only a number; kids in Ghana don’t even know their birthday. As I wrote in one blog, priority there is about health and happiness. And that is exactly what I am going to make as mine. Instead of dreading it, I am going to celebrate another amazing year of life, and instead of being bothered by it, will be happy I am healthy and alive. I miss Ghana and am still so sad, but I am ready to embrace the Ghanaian lifestyle as I take on this new chapter in my life, since it is a country that will always be close to my heart. I will continue to blog in the next week or so because I have so much to continue to share with you all! I hope if anything I have inspired some of you to pursue this dream that I have continued to live out for the past 2 summers. I know some people have shared with me that this was their dream too. Always remember, life is what you make of it, and anything is possible 🙂 To all my Ghanaian friends, you are in my thoughts every day, miss you SO much. I leave you with the quote that rings so much truth whenever I think of all the kids and adults I had the honor to work with in Ghana for 2 summers in a row..it’s a quote repeat from last year, but I don’t care..it puts exactly how I feel, into such perfect words..””Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.”

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Happy weekend everyone.

A day at the market

A Day At The Market

For one of our days off, our group split into two; a bunch went to visit Busua, a beach town, and Sharon and I headed to Tacoradi, to explore some local market action. We weren’t sure what it would be like, and were excited to explore the unknown. We got dropped off, and soon realized Tacoradi ‘ is a very busy, bustling town. I had read that it would be as such, but it’s much different to experience it in person. It made me wonder if it’s what a tourist who visits NYC for the first time may feel like. There were people walking in all directions next to one another, making the sidewalk feel small. There were all types of different things being sold on the sidewalk, from clothing, to fruit, to cooked meat, to housewares. We thought ‘yes, we found the shopping jackpot!’, but then we broke out our map, only to find out that  what we were seeing was just the beginning the real action was inside of a huge circular building that was a block down. This building was called the Tacoradi Market, a huge building that almost resembled the shape of a stadium.There were two floors, and it seemed like there were vendors for miles. We started to walk around it, and then realized there were entrances to walk inside. We continued to walk until we found a small entrance, and there, is where the magic began. It felt like we had just walked into a cross between a labyrinth, and the Secret Garden…there were vendors to your left and right for miles, separated by tight walkways between them. Every where you turned, something was being sold.

It was an amazing sensory overload to your senses; so many smells, sights, and sounds. Walking around, you smell everything from fresh cut vegetables, to soap, from fish, to spices. Some areas smelt so good it made you want to buy it all; others smelt so bad you had to move through them quickly. The sights were also amazing; pigs feet being sold, live crabs in buckets,  beans of all colors, endless bins of rice, palm beans being prepared, okra being chopped..and that was all in just one food area. The market seemed to be separated in different areas, so each one brought on a whole new array of sights and sounds. Sharon and I were loving it, and were taking in everything around us. We are both from NY, and the different sections reminded us of different parts of the city; as we’d pass each one, we’d call it out…’We now enter the garment center’, ‘This one is Harlem’, and ‘Definitely the Broadway of Tacoradi’. Ha. It was cool to see how the sections were divided up. We saw so many great things. Sharon was all about the patterned cloth, so we stopped at a few vendors for that. The prices range according to how nice the fabric is, usually ranging between 3-8 Cedi per yard.

We were excited to see this particular type of bean that we had eaten at our hotel for breakfast..it was delicious. (The rounder bean, in the 2nd picture below)

At the market, there was SO much fish. At times, not going to lie- I definitely got creeped out. I remember looking at a bin of shells thinking they looked really nice, until slowly I started to see one, two, three begin to squirm…they were snails! Gave me the creeps. I moved away from that bin fast! There were also tons of live crabs, and larger types of snails as well. Not my cup of tea, but I imagine it being a great place to go for the locals, who often eat fish as a staple in their meals.

The fresh vegetables were my favorite. I loved the smell as they were getting washed or chopped. I loved how colorful they were. There were bright greens, and reds, oranges and yellows everywhere!

Sharon and I also found one lady that sold beads. As most of you know, last year while visiting Cape Coast I got two strands of beads, one green and one white. They are still on my wrist today, and I wasn’t planning on getting anymore. Then I got to this lady’s stand. There was one gorgeous orange strand of beads that stood out. I had to have it. Welcome the new addition to my wrist 🙂 (I think soon I’ll be cutting one from last year off, so I will only have 2, 1 from each year. Was thinking of cutting the green, suggestions are welcome!) Sharon got really pretty blue beads as well.

I also have always wanted a waist band, so without hesitation I picked out a pretty blue strand, and had the lady place it around my waist. At first it was a bit too loose, so we went back and had her tighten it. I love it! It has definitely taken some time to get used to, but I love it. It’s a good reminder when I eat just a little too much ha…like I did RIGHT after getting it on. Sharon and I were starving after a morning of shopping. We had heard there was a lot of “chinese food” in the area, so we thought we’d give it a try. We found this:

It was a lot of food, but so yum! The perfecy way to end an exciting busy day in Tacoradi 🙂

The Children Of Anwia, Ghana

The pictures below include children we worked with in camp, children who were too young to attend our camp, or school in general.