Mid-service vacation in Seattle 

As I sit at the Frankfurt International Airport heading back to Accra Ghana, I have a few moments to reflect on my time home (Seattle, Washington) for the last 30 days. When I left my village on April 18th to begin my journey home, I had a few months to think and ponder on what I wanted to eat, what to do, who I wish and wanted to see. Even wrote a ‘things to do list,’ to make sure I didn’t forget anything major which I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t have too much expectations and wanted to be open-minded to what my experience and view would be after having been in Peace Corps and Ghana, West Africa. 

My first week back in the U.S. was difficult and trying to explain what I felt was even more challenging. I sought out friends who either have been in Peace Corps, lived in another country for some time or were from other countries yet we’re now citizens or members of the U.S. These friends help me to process my feelings and express my bewilderment and anguish of being not necessarily welcomed in the country I am helping and serving yet also not being respected and and appreciated in my home country.

Because I do not have a television nor do I have constant access to news, internet or radio on what is occurring in the world; I was a bit taken back on the raging racial tensions due to police shootings, civilians frustration with corporations and government as well as insensitivity and lack of empathy of the general population about issues which can greatly (in my opinion) further affect and inherently destroy the fabric of humanity. Hearing the frustration and building bitterness in friends’ voices regarding the insanely increase in rent and house prices, the stubbornness of companies to increase living wages and salaries, the blinded awkwardness of elitism and privilege; I wondered if I would truly enjoy my vacation.

I, myself, had my own weariness, based on what I was seeing and hearing. Yet, as I adjusted my view and interactions with friends and family, I received what I had been lacking and craving since being in Ghana. I had longed for deep conversations and debates. People listening and offering their insights, opinions and solutions and not trying to save face. Being able to express my emotions without apology or being considered weak. These interactions have been a lifesaver for me and I felt more at ease to tell my experience since being in Ghana.

Eating food, sleeping  and walking were the other activities I did as much as possible. My hubby was quite entertained with my indulgence with fruits and vegetables along with lean meats and drinking white wine or ciders would make me grin from ear to ear. Before I left for Peace Corps, I weighed 140 pounds, fitting a bit too snug in size six clothing; after my first year of service, I weighed 113 pounds, back in a size four, body taking longer to recover from injuries and colds.  Being home, I’ve been able to have a larger variety of fresh food to choose, get more than six hours of sleep daily and walk more than five miles weekly.

However, even with all these conveniences and enjoyment so I’ve missed, I did not fully enjoy my holiday.  I have a challenging time relaxing. I found myself thinking about the children in the village I’m serving in, the projects I’ve been planning and organizing (the library project, the English Fun/storytelling sessions, adolescent sexual health course, etc.)   The way we (US citizens) work and exist in our jobs and the work ethics our families instill in U.S., might be part of the reason of always staying busy. Even my own religious upbringing has influenced my ‘quiet time’ in which I cannot sit still. ‘A ideal mind is the devil’s playground,’ was something said to us, if someone felt we were being unproductive or relaxing too much. Yet, after this experience, I know I have to be diligent in working on this issue. I have to do better.

I’m glad I came home during my mid-service. I am glad to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I am thankful for all my complexities and uncertainties I’ve been feeling and reflecting on. I know I will continue to evolve as a concerned and caring individual determine to make the world a bit better with each interaction I have. 

        

afternoon motorcycle cruise w/ Fred

  

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My first year with Peace Corps Ghana

On the 5th of February 2015, I celebrated my first year with Peace Corps Ghana.  I was with a few friends in Accra and we had a celebratory drink to congratulation ourselves for making it this far. It hasn’t been completely easy being here in Ghana, I have to admit.  Yet, I have learned to adjust and adapt to my new “home.”  Over a year ago, I left my hubby (Fred) of two years from Seattle to travel across the country to be with other new colleagues in Philly.

Fred & Barb - beginning of the journey

Fred & Barb – beginning of the journey

Fred has been a great supporter and encouragement while being here. Because of the time difference (Ghana – 8 hours ahead), I can text message him when I’m getting ready for bed and after I get up (before he goes to sleep).  I am so thankful for him.  He is one of the two people I actually call from Ghana.  My parents are the other persons I call to see how they are fairing and catch up on what’s going on.

My parents have always been one of my greater supporters and have given me words of wisdom and advice during some of my challenging times here.  I am so thankful for their upbringing in rural Alabama, which has helped me quickly adjust to the environment and conditions of village life in Ghana.  Because of their upbringing, I am not unaccustomed to washing and hanging clothes outside, going to the latrine, dust all over the place, being quite hot during the day and sometimes in the night, fetching water. I am not afraid to work hard and being exposed to the sun. Their struggles and resilience during segregation in Alabama, has helped me to be a strong and determined individual.

Mom & Dad in Montgomery, Alabama

Mom & Dad in Montgomery, Alabama

My home stay (Ghanaian) parents have supported me and welcomed me as one of their daughters and I am truly thankful for them.  I have learned so much about Ghana from Papa Owusu (he is a retired teacher, who was a young pre-teen, when Ghana gained its independence from the British). Mama Asha possess the grace of a wise woman and her faith in Allah gives her a certain calmness and beauty which is wonderful to be around.  She reminds me so much of my own mother at times – ensuring I’m fed, comfortable and safe each day. Both of these women have compassion and gentleness that is so refreshing especially during challenging and uncertain times.

Mama Asha

As I reflect on my first year here, I’ve noticed that I have changed. Shedding my harden shell of security, unawareness and preconceived notions of what is the right and proper way to live. I’m somewhat evolved into a better individual.  I am more conscience of how I spend my financial resources as well as the raw materials (water, wood, food, etc.) that is around me.  I am learning to be in the moment and not plan out my days and expect them to work as planned. I’m learning to be more patient and not be in a hurry to do things quickly or go anywhere.  However, I am still efficient and considerate of people’s time as well as my own and to do things as precise as possible the first time around.

I see how excuses on why I do not do something can no longer serve me – being here in Ghana, people (in general) have a lot of excuses why they can’t do something and it is a bit maddening.  If I want something which will enhance and enrich my life, I will buy/obtain it. If I want to have some experience which will get me out of my comfort zone or offer my life/existence deeper meaning, I will do it. Because excuses (as I have been observing here) is debilitating and a hindrance of growth, development and progress.  Money and time can no longer be the reason especially if the deep desire is there or opportunity presents itself. Fear as well can not be the culprit of my inaction.

I want to live my life fully and this is part of the reason I am here in Peace Corps Ghana; to live and experience life in another culture; to have a richer & fuller life; to appreciate who I am; to help those I interact with become a better person and to inspire and encourage the children.

After being here for a year, I see myself completing my two year service and leaving footprints, planting seeds and creating memories which will have meaningful and life changing effects on many I’ve encountered.

I am thankful to be here.

image Some of the young girls and me in the market

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image Maybelle, a young adult student in vocational school modeling the new apron she made in class

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Kelvin playing in the grass

Kelvin playing in the grass

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Young teenager modeling a new dress in market

Young teenager modeling her dress in town

image Some of the KG students in the English Fun class I teach
image Enoch
image Sister Mary, my eggs/cooked beans vendor

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