The Ghana Chronicles: 12

July 19, 2000

Dear Journal,

I was just thinking about the time I won the gold medal for Girl’s Oratory Speech in fifth grade and I was so excited that I cried until I saw my mom across the room.  She was crying too, but she was motioning me to take deep breaths and then start my speech.  It makes my eyes water now, thinking about how much I love her and how much she means to me.  Sigh.

Anyhow, today was pretty relaxed.  I got to play basketball with some guys in the neighborhood.  That was definitely a high point.

As I was walking back from my taxi stop, I was breathing in deeply (it stunk) and I looked around and I felt so good.  Just being here.  Just knowing that my dream has finally come true.  I’m here.  I’m in Africa.  I’m not in some hotel visiting, I’m living with Africans, eating their food and living, for the most part, their life.  I just can’t imagine truly living here.  Of course I can’t.  America has spoiled me!  MY LIFE and the way I have chosen to live it has spoiled me.

But my heart is still in the right place.

I’ll write tomorrow!

With love always,




The Ghana Chronicles: 11

July 18, 2000

Dear Journal,

Today we went to Oso and ate at this American restaurant called “Frankies”.  This group of Americans came over and one of them told us a poem with God in it.

Then, I went to the bathroom and one of the women, when I told her I’d experienced some culture shock said, “Yea, well you know you’re in a different place and then you see a black. . . ” And I was like, “WHAT?! WHAT FUCKING CONTINENT ARE WE ON?!  THIS IS AFRICA! OF COURSE I’M GONNA SEE “A BLACK”.

It was so aggravating- why the hell is she over here spreading the word of God when she’s gonna be all racist like that?  Ugh!  It pissed me off SO much.

Love always,



The Ghana Chronicles: 10

July 17, 2000

Dear Journal,

Mommy wrote me! It was the sweetest letter ever- at the end she said, “Keep your courage darling, embrace this adventure and return to me soon.”

I miss her more than anyone- she’s my comfort zone.  I know her better than anyone.  What is it with mother/daughter relationships that make them so close?  It’s fascinating to me.  Maybe I’ll study that in college.  I can’t believe one year from now I’ll be preparing for college.  I’m growing up too fast.

We were driving in the bus today and it all hit me again like 1000 bricks.  As badly as I long to go home, I’ve realized these people who really live in poverty never get to go home.  They don’t leave in 11 days like me to the comfort of carpet, expensive food and freedom. . . money.  These people live everyday here.  Some never make it out of the country. Everyday they are out on the streets at 5, 6, 7 AM until night time selling cough drops through the window of your moving car as they run to catch up and get the money.  Everyday they sit in front of that electrical appliance store and some days they get lucky and sell a TV- other days, most days, 9 hours are wasted, sitting in the same seat until they lock up, only to return tomorrow, and everyday following.

So how can I wish to escape this poverty? I’m spoiled.  I know what I’ve got waiting for me on the other side of the Great Atlantic.  These people only dream and pray to God for a miracle.

Religion is so huge here.  That’s all they’ve got.  When things are down, pray to God and he’ll help you.

I want to escape because I don’t know, I don’t want to have to live surrounded by poverty anymore.  I want to be able tog home to AC, Good American Cable TV, washing machines, freeze pops, a nice car without exhaust gas blowing straight up my nose from in front of me.  I want to slip on that new blue or hot pink dress, show up at a party and knock ’em dead!

I don’t want to be asked to help people get a Visa everyday or to be asked for my address or my hand in marriage when I don’t even know my taxi driver.  As much as I know I should, I don’t want to feel guilty for my wealth.

But this is why it is a learning experience. . . because I am forced to live in this foreign situation- I am surrounded by and living in poverty whether I like it or not.  For now, I can’t runaway- that is the truth.

Love always,



Lucky Us

In my dreams, I saw him all along.

He was kind and funny.

Simple and interesting.

He wasn’t intimidated by me; he could hold his own.

He was cultured but open.

Athletically competitive, but not to a fault.

He would make the best daddy ever and I knew it immediately.

His name was Emmett Carawan and he’s who I had been looking for all along.

Someone who would love me wholly.

Someone whom I could adore.

Someone I could live forever with and for.

His name is Emmett Carawan and today, we celebrate just 10 years of a lifetime of marriage together.

Lucky us.

Lucky them.

Camille Vaughan Photography

The Ghana Chronicles: 9

July 14, 2000

Dear Journal,

The days are starting to go by faster now and each day is getting better and better.  Today was our last day at the CCCF Orphanage- it was hard to say goodbye, especially since I started to really get attached to these children.

The lights finally came back on.  Electricity flashes on and off whenever the city decides they want to conserve energy.  It’s worth it, but inconvenient.

July 16, 2000

Dear Journal,

This is crazy.  I’m actually gonna be able to say, “Yah, I’ve been to Africa.”  What do I say when they ask, “What’s it like?”

It’s unexplainable.  There’s absolutely NO WAY to prepare yourself for what you are about to get into.  It’s extremely nice people living in extreme poverty.  It’s naked children with smiles on their faces when you wave to them.  It’s open sewers, it’s green (outside the city).  It’s traffic and the sound of horns (inside the city) and it’s different than anything you’ve ever seen or imagined before.

It’s culture shock in full blown action.  It’s undescribable- there’s no definition that can capture the culture, no category to fit the people under, no way to understand until you’ve experienced it.

So I don’t know how to explain what it’s “like”.  This adventure has taught me so much about myself.

Don’t be so sure of yourself Lauren.  Because as much as you think you do, you don’t know-it-all.  If you think you do then you are no longer open minded.  Being opened minded doesn’t just meant that you only respect other’s ideas.  You can’t just say, “Well, I know what she’s trying to say, but…..”.  You have to respect people from where they are coming from and as hard as you try to put yourself in their shoes, you’ll never fully be able to understand their frame of mind. You’ll never be able to “know how they’re feeling”.  You can get a sense- but you aren’t them.

So stop trying to think you know how it is.  Face the fact that you don’t.

And when you aren’t happy with a situation or your job or your status, then get your lazy ass up and do something about it.  Don’t say, “I have no control over it.  I can’t do anything about it.”  Well you sure as hell are ineffective if you keep that mindframe.  If you’ve got a problem with something then at least give some effort and try to change it or effect it.  Something is usually better than nothing in terms of reform.




The Ghana Chronicles: 8

July 13, 2000

Dear Journal,

I got two letters from my mom today.  It takes exactly two weeks to get a letter.  It made me even more homesick but her encouragement is enough to keep me going.

Did I tell you I got another marriage proposal?  From a taxi driver this time.  The grossest part was that the whole time he was talking he was also picking his nose!  I had to hold myself in from laughing out loud hysterically!

Two weeks left tomorrow.  Hopefully they’ll go by quickly.  I know I’ll probably regret even writing that when I leave.  How can I think about home when I’m here in Africa!  I thought I knew what I was getting into.  I was naive. I learned so much about myself- not to judge or decide without proof.




The Ghana Chronicles: 7

July 11, 2000


Another thing.

I made a comparison today.  You know those world hunger things that say one dollar will feed like 20 kids?  Well I’ve always been like, “What?! Bullshit.” Then I came over here and realized that one dollar  = 5,800 cedis which is enough money to feed that many kids!  I never would have thought that.

In the same way, holding hands with one of the children here seem so ineffective to me, but that is from a one-sided view.  I don’t know how effective it really is or how much it means to the child whose hand is in mine.  I can only make an educated guess.

Overall, I have to be more open-minded to look at all angles.  To be content with the little I do and know that that little is a lot to them.

Me and Philli

The Ghana Chronicles: 6

July 11, 2000

Today was awesome!  You see, we’ve all been complaining that we’ve had nothing to do here at the orphanage.  All we do is try to bring organization into classrooms of chaos.  It’s nuts.  The kids all fight physically and verbally during the entire class and they take a break every two minutes.  Anyhow, we feel like we’re doing nothing to help- that our work there or just holding hands with a child isn’t getting anything accomplished.  It’s because as Americans, generally speaking, we work towards a finished goal and final product.  But holding a kid’s hand doesn’t produce a final product. You don’t feel like you’ve really made a difference.  We like to work- or at least I like to work towards a goal.  I like to challenge myself physically and be proud of what I’ve done.

So, today Britta and I went and asked the teachers whether or not we could help haul concrete blocks or carry water- and we did!  We hauled blocks of concrete, we pumped water from a well and walked at least 1/4 or 1/2 a mile to dump it into a large bin.  And Logan and I shoveled concrete that glues the blocks together.  Unlike America with our mechanical mixing machines, they mix with shovels, so that’s what we did.  I FELT SO GOOD ABOUT MYSELF AFTERWARDS.

I have definitely learned something that is easily overlooked.  Nobody is going to hand you your life and give you directions on where to go, how to do it.  Soon I will grow up and there won’t be a chaperone or houseparent to tell me where to go and when to be there.  If I want to accomplish something, I have to go out and get it.  If manual labor makes me feel like I’m contributing then I have to volunteer to find the work that needs to be done, the supplies to do it and the determination to get it done. It won’t always be handed out in front of my face.

I have to look beyond what has been laid out in front of me.  Stop bitching and start reforming if you want to change something or make a difference.  It takes the utmost determination and highest level of perseverance and strength to force yourself to find what you want.

Wow!  I feel great!








The Ghana Chronicles: 5

Dear Journal,

Today was my 1st day at the orphanage.  It was hard to see all [of] those children without a mom or dad.  I can’t even imagine what it must be like.  I felt/feel bad though because all I can think about is the possibility of them having HIV or any other diseases and I know that sound so horrible but I can’t help to listen to my instinct that says, “Lauren, be careful, they could get you seriously ill.” And the other part of me says, “You’re here to help them, not to think of only yourself.” They are all starving for love and attention.  They want us to hold their hand, hug them, pick them up, play with them and to talk with them.

I’m almost afraid to get close to them, because I know that I will soon have to leave them :(.

The poverty level here is astonishing.  I look around in disbelief, “This cannot be humanly possible.  It can’t be real.  This is something off [of] a movie.” Then I rub my eyes, wake up and realize that I’m here.  It’s real.  Too real.  It scares me so that I want to runaway from it all, from facing it.  Part of me wants to return home because I don’t want to have to come to terms with reality.

Why?  I have no control, I can’t “fix” this problem and that kills me.  I like to be able to work with situations and possibly better the environment but when I am confronted with a situation that I have no control over, I am easily frightened and my instinct is to quickly turn my back and runaway.

But this is how I learn, and just from writing this entry I have realized what this wall that I have been holding up stands for.  Now I have to break it down and let go of my safety rope.  I’m only here for so long and I don’t want to spend half the time being homesick.  Instead of living in fear of getting a disease or HIV, I need to still respect my instinct to be safe but I can’t deny myself the fun I should be having in helping out and living here.

July 5, 2000



IMG_9460 3.jpg

The Ghana Chronicles: 4

Dear Journal,


I wish I were at a cookout eating hotdogs, burgers and french fries with my family.

My host mother is trying to fill me up with food.  I’m SOOO FULL! She thinks it’s cuz I don’t like the food but I do!  I just don’t have room.

Yvonne [house servant] wrote me a really disturbing note about how she wanted to come to America with me and how she doesn’t like it here.  I’m gonna write her back- but it’s really hard to deal with. I never realized how VALUABLE my country is.  If I’ve learned anything it’s to appreciate America for everything.  After I get out of here, I’ll have the utmost appreciation for the U.S.A.

July 4, 2000