Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gye Nyame

Gye Nyame is one of the traditional symbols here meaning "believe in God." All of the symbols, some specific and others not to certain tribes, are beautiful.
Gosh, where to begin. As I said before, it is often gruelling to get on the internet here. First of all because it is so gorgeous outside, second of all because I always think of something else I would rather be doing, and third of all, it is oh soo slow. Patience is a virtue.
I cannot believe it is already March! AND March 16th at that. It is so unreal. Life here is so unbelievably great. I am learning, teaching, and meeting so many new and amazing people.
2 weeks ago I went on one of my biggest adventures yet with the College of Social Work here. We went all over the country from March 3rd-7th. It was incredible. I cannot even remember which days we did what, but I will try and give you a little taste of everything. We went to many rural villages, where we learned about what they ate, how they survived, and what their schooling was like in order to better understand community development. Many of these villages I would not have been able to go into on my own because you must first get permission from the chief of the village and build a relationship before being accepted. The Dr. of social work here has been taking this trip for many years now, and has thus built strong relationships throughout the country within these villages, he is amazing. An amazing person and an inspiring educator.
We first visited a farming village, and as we ventured up north we took note of the gradual change in vegetation from very moist, green tropical foliage to hot, arid brown lands. As we continued on our journey we made many pit stops within different villages. Meeting people, learning how they live and how their community ahs developed. We later went to a famous rock shrine where many people go for sacred prayer, then ventured north to Paga, where there is a pond containing over 200 crocodiles believed to be sacred. So, after summoning the spirits and feeding them chickens, the man who lived there allowed us to sit on them! After that crazy adventure we continued on to a slave camp located a little bit away. Wow. This was one the the most powerful experiences I have ever had, to speak with Ghanain friends about their sentiments regarding slavery and such camps was one of the greatest opportunities ever. To hear how many of the African people sold their own people out in the pursuit of power, money, alchohol, and how Europe, Portugal, America, Brazil and many others sought out these slaves was dishearetening and sickening. Within the rocks at the camp were indents, about 10"x4." These indents were used as bowls for meals for the future slaves, 5 Africans to one indent. There was a punsihment rock there where the master would tie the Arican up, feet roped together and hands behind their back, and then force them to stare at the sun until they were satisfied. It was 94 degrees that day, and I broke into a cold sweat at the foot of that rock. And these people were human? That a person has that capacity within them to be that dark is terrifying. The echoe that we are all human regardless of skin color, background, language, rang more strongly in my ear that day than ever before.
Following that we continued on to Tongo. I could not believe my eyes as were journeyed there, I felt like a character on the cartoon, Wild Thornberries. The place was unlike anything I have ever seen. A place made by God's hand. Incredibly brown and dry, and the rocks, oh my gosh, the rocks there- they were placed everso precisely by a creator beyond me. We drove into the village where the chief resides in a concrete palace with his village that surrounds him below in circular concrete 'houses.' He has 17 wives and apparently 300 children. He is about 65 years old and continues to make children to this day. As a rule of the village, they are not technically supposed to have visitors, but the chief wanted them, so the community must sacrifice more animals to the Gods so that they are satisfied. To thank the Dr., the chief gave him a goat, which was an incredible gesture of gratitude because the village loses an animal to sacrifice. So, the rest of our journey we had a goat on the top of our bus. Picture that.
All the while, I was building an incredible friendship with the young man I sat next to, Sadeeq. He is from the Eastern region, he speaks Twi, Housa, English, a little arabic, and a little english. Everywhere we went he taught me something new, from the food consumed, to the foliage, to the housing to cultural traditions and new words in Twi, all while building an amazing friendship.
We stayed in many different places, from a room with bunks to a convent to a Worker's college- a long room with single beds lining the room, complete with concrete bath houses, where you fetch water and take bucket showers. Gosh an unforgettable, rewarding experience.
Ah! I know this is so long, and all over the place, I hope you can follow along. I am not doing my english major justice in my writing here, but I hope that this helps you to understand a little bit about what I am learning and experiencing!
Last weekend I went east of where my school is in Accra, Ghana, to Ho in the Volta Region for my friend's wedding. I stayed with my friends from the trip, Sadeeq, Susan, Betty, Mary, Love, Rose and a few others at their college.. it was so fun! Then on Sunday morning Sadeeq and I hiked up the mountain behind the school. Incredible. He told me how, back when people didn't have access to toothpaste, they would use the stem of a plantain and charcoal (made from burned wood) to brush their teeth. Gosh, the innovation here is unbelivable. As we were walking up we ran into a young boy, about 13 years old, carrying a long piece of wood on his head. He stopped when he saw us, fearing that we were part of the forestry commission. It is illegal to cut trees, and so we could arrest him if we were. Sadeeq said," oh! bra, bra." Which means, come come. When we got to the top, we could see more than 6 mountains in the distance, one after another, through the moisture hanging, trying to disguise them. What a sight to see. Just another day in Ghana.
Today I just had one class, the classes here are 2 hours long, which is draining. The school is on a british system, which means we only have one exam at the end of the term, and various group projects throughout. Last week in my history class for example, she handed us a packet and we read aloud for two hours straight. Classes are so different here. I am learning far more outside of the classroom than inside, and far more culturally than academically, which transgresses the classroom walls.
Tomorrow morning I will go to the Aburi clinic, where I will help weigh infants and distribute vitamins and various vaccinations.. one of my favorite days of the week :) Then Thursday I have one class, and a group meeting. Then, Friday I will go teach at a Muslim school about 1.5 hours away in a rural village called Amasaman. I teach english there to 6th graders.. It is wonderful.
When I first came here, I wrote in my journal a numbered list of goals while I am here. Little did I know in what way those goals would manifest themselves. Everytime any Ghanaian asks me when I am leaving, I always hesitate to say May 16th. I have so much still to do while I am here. So much still to learn and see. Tehre are so many different volunteer opportunites I ant to pursue, and so many friendships I want to continue to strengthen, and an entire language I need to learn. Ay yi yi.
After being here and seeing different classrooms, I cannot imagine teaching anywhere else. I have always had a desire to teach in inner-city America, where I feel I would be used best. After being here, I feel that I am truly being called to teach here. Who knows what the Lord has in store, what I do know is that I must seek and trsut Him first.
The faith throughout this country is so beautiful. Faith is about tradition and loving people well. Christian and Islam are the two dominant religions, though I have friends who are buddhist as well. The way that they blend together is so interesting and full of love. They say that above all, the core of all religion is love. To love one another well and to carry on the tradition into which you were born. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Ahhhh, thank you for reading all that. Know that I think about you often, lift you up in my prayers, and am so grateful for the blessing of your friendship and support.
A smile from Ghana to you, enveloped and sealed with love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I am so in love with life here. Here is a quick 411. I will write more later.. I am almost out of time here i nthe Internet Cafe... So here's a little somethin..

Last weekend was great, we went to the Liberian Refugee camp- it was a long trip, but very interesting, humbling, and a learning experience. Then Sunday we went to catholic church, and it was actually cool outside, crazy. Then a bunch of my Ghanaian friends and some American ones too watched The Book of Eli- they are amazing at getting burned movies here. It was really sad, but good. So much fun! We ate traditional Ghana treats and sweet popcorn and watched it on some laptops. Monday I went to a village called Ada. It is very rural with no runninf water- so amazing. It takes about two hours to get there, so I will be planning on going once/wk to teach. It is challenging because many of the kids don't understand my accent because they are not really exposed to obrunis or Americans often. I am trying to work on my Ghanaian accent in hopes of them understanding me better. Their dialect is called Dangme, which is different than the local Accra dialect or the Asante tribe of Twi. Gosh, the people here are incredible- they all speak about 3 different languages- english, their own dialect, and another in order to understand people from other tribes. So amazing! I am really excited about the school in Ada. My classmate and friend Dixon took me out there because he taught there for three years, so I met all of his friends and they made local dishes for lunch for us, and local ice cream that they make with ginger and spices and this beautiful flower that makes it this dark maroon color, yummm. Then one of the students shimmied up the coconut tree (wow!!) and threw some coconuts down, cracked a few open for us and I got to drink coconut water right out of the coconut! Then they carved a spoon out of the coconut and gave it to me to scoop out the coconut meat... omg!! Delicious and so cool! Today I tried to go to a school in Dzorwulu on the trotro, and waited for about 30 minutes and couldn't get one, so I gave up bc i wouldn't make it in time for the lesson. But, I am taking a social work class about AIDS and today at 1:30 we are going to a special AIDS unit for a field trip. I am so excited. Yuki is in that class, too which will be great. He is one of my best friends from Tokyo.. He has selection for the soccer school i nthe Volta Region that he asked me to be the head teacher of... so great! Sorry this is a year long.. know that I think about you all the time and love youuuuuuuuuuuuHave such a great Wednesday, I hope I can call you soon!This weekend we are going to Kumasi.. it's about 6 hrs away and where all of the traditional fabric is weaved and where much art is.. I am so excited! We will be staying there for two nights.

I love you all. Will write more later. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010


I am on the internet for the second time since arriving in Legon, Ghana! Everything moves just a little slower here, especially the internet- but, I am not mad about it. It is actually really liberating.

I do not know where to start. I have already made some incredible friends in my program, Teresa, Brook, Lorca, Sam, and Emily- all from different states. Then our other great friend is Yuki, from Tokyo. Then there's Prince and Kwame from Ghana, and well many more Ghanaian friends, too. My roommate's name is Adwoa, she is from Cape Coast. She is a French major, and I already love her.
The most different thing here is probably the transportation. I think through using it and getting used to it is where my confidence needs much improvement. We ride on large vans called trotros. They are about 30 peswas, which is a little less than 30 American cents, for one way. It is tricky to understand the mate who yells out of the window where the trotro is headed. Although Ghana is an english speaking country, Ghanaian english is often difficult to understand with their heavy accents and mixed in native language of Twi. But, it is so wonderful, too.

My two favorite things we have done thus far have been going to Kokrobite Beach, probably the most beautiful place I have ever been, and going to our friend Afiba's cousin's engagement ceremony and wedding. First, Kokrobite was incredible. Picture this, there were beautiful African huts lining the beach, handcrafted endless row of uniquely fabricated fishing boats, with fishermen sitting on them hand knitting their own nets, and gorgeous African children running around, unconditionally happy. Not to mention the huge turquouise waves and salty scent all around. Amazing.
Our friend Afiba invited us to her cousin's engagement. How it works here is the man and woman agree to get married and then arrange an engagement date, which is basically a ceremony at a family member's house where they receive the family's blessing to become man and wife. I will try and post pictures on here eventually. Then the wedding is the following day. The greatest thing about the wedding was that it was basically a celebration throughout the netire ceremony. Celebrating the love for each other and the love of the Lord. What could be better? My favorite part was the unveiling. The pastor gives the command to the man to remove her veil, and he does so ever so slowly. As though taunting her, as to say, I have waited for this day longer than my memory allows me to recall. Oh, the language of love- transgressing cultural boundaries.
The coolest everyday thing here, that I hope I never forget to remember is the women carrying the goods on their heads. It is unbelievable. The craziest item I have seen someone carry on their head was a refrigerator. Not just on flat ground, they carried it up TWO flights of stairs. Wow.

Right now I am sitting in an internet cafe. It is 11:45 am here, and 6:45am in the states. I just had to drop a history course that I don't need. Classes have "started," but it's really lax here, becasue you physically walk to each department to sign up for classes, so many professors do not show up to class until the second or third week of classes. So, after this I am meeting some friends to eat fufu for lunch. A traditional food, I am not sure what all is in it, but you eat it with your right hand. It is unacceptable to use your left hand here, especially when meeting people.

After lunch, I am meeting up with a girl Renee, from Iowa, to go to Kissima Village to teach some children there. Most of the kids in the village are not able to attend school. So, we give them lessons on the front porch of a man named Kwame, who was an orphan himself and only completed school up to 8th grade. The most difficult thing about volunteering, is choosing where to place my time. As always, so much to do, so little time.

My week ahead, I hope to go observe at some local schools. I need to make some contact with ohter possible volunteer opportunties, as well. Wedensday we're going to Salsa night with our Ghanain friend, Max. Then porbably ut to raegae night on La Barde Beach after. Then Thursday we're going to the beach with our friends Afiba, Abecca and Caroline, then Friday we're celebrating our friend Brook's birthday! Yahoo

God is showing me so many incredible things. Everywhere I look, is a different something to thank him for, or another reason the depend on Him. I am constantly analyzing the people around me, taking into accoutn cultural differences, trying to love them well, yet being concious of how different we may be, and how their language of love is spoken versus mine. Yet, how reassuring it is and beautiful that people are people. We all long for deep relationships and to love and be loved. How amazing it is that we have a sovereign Lord, that when we go across the world, people know his name, and share the same love for each other that he gives to us freely and without condition. This place is beautiful. There is so much brokenness everywhere, it is almost too easy to accept it as commonplace, it can be so overwhelming, yet the love people have here, and the community is so powerful. Bird by bird.

I have to run to get some fufu :)
Know that you are in my prayers. I love you, Allison, Julia, and Carolyn. I will be in touch as much as I can. I will try and write soon again. Hugs from Africa!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"He went out, not knowing whither he went." Heb 11:8

I opened up my devotional today, and there I read Hebews 11:8. Beautiful.
What am I going to do abroad? My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, is what I am reading and it says, "You do not know what you're going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing." Gosh, so encouraging. There is so much I have no idea about. My prayer today is that I go out for Him with a continual dependence upon Him.
Before I left Knoxvegas, mama came down to help me move out and I met up with Mr. Joe Wasmond. I was not suppose to meet up with him that day, my mom was not supposed to be with me, but as many times before, the Lord wanted to show me a little somethin about Him. So, we met up with Joe and his wife Kathy to give them some items that The Cross leadership team, a Greek Christian ministry I am involved with at UT, had gathered. So, Mr. Wasmond greets me with a hug and begins to tell me of future outreach opportunties for the upcoming year. I tell him that Iwill forward the info on, but that I will be abroad. Well then, he tells me that he and his wife have lived in Africa for mnay years and that Ghana is a very safe and stable country, the EXACT words that my mom needed to hear. So, then I summon my mom over, and Joe and Kathy tell us that they would love to pray for us. Wow. Picture this. We are all standing hand in hand in the middle of the P.F. Chang restaurant's parking lot praying. The exact meeting that we needed to have. And that is our God; greater than coincidence, greater than fate.. beyond perfect timing.
When I think about stepping on the plane I get butterflies! Gossshhhh, I cannot wait.
Also, just wanted to do a little shout out to my incredibly supportive mom, dad and brother. Thank you for loving me, even when it's hard. And my friends. I praise the Lord evermore that He has been so gracious in blessing me with you. When I am hurting, questioning, I look at you and I am reassured of His love. Thank you for being you. Know how much I love you, wherever I am, wherever you are. :)