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



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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



The Ghana Chronicles: 3

Dear Journal,

It’s so hard to walk down the streets of Accra and look at the beggars and handicapped children begging for money.  It’s the kind of stuff you see in National Geographic and I’m in the middle of it.  It’s so polluted here.  The air reeks of exhaust smoke and the land is littered with trash and human excrement.  I feel as if I ‘m walking down the street like a figment of my own imagination- sitting back behind the glass wall and thinking to myself, “This isn’t real.  People don’t really live like this!”

I’ve come to the realization that this is their way of life and my contributions to the orphanage will be greatly appreciated . . . but I can’t try to “fix” the conditions of an entire country.

Seeing and experiencing this raw adventure has opened my eyes to the harsh reality of the world.  It is not a dreamland for everyone.  For some of us, we have been blessed, still others struggle to stay alive.  The world is not easily fixed.

July 3, 2000





The Ghana Chronicles: 2

Dear Journal,

These past 24 hours have been the hardest that I have faced in my lifetime.  I am trying to get used to the culture and ways of my host family and trying to stay sane at the same time.  Moving in with my family was the hardest transition yet.  They do not understand why I eat so little and why I am so homesick, why I cry because I miss my mom and friends or anything else for that matter.  I am hoping that as the days go by, it will get easier for me to cope with.  As for now, it is hard to keep my eyes dry and a positive attitude on the situation.  I’m scared for my safety in this neighborhood but more scared that I am or already have offended the family.

I miss my home so much.  I miss everything about it.  I miss my mom more than anything though, and I’d give ANYTHING just to have her here with me.  I’ll never let go of her again, so long as I live.  I want to spend every waking minute with her by my side.

July 1, 2000



The Ghana Chronicles: 1

“I can’t believe Africa is to our south and that I’m headed home. Soon I will be sitting on my porch swing recalling a dream of mine that once became a reality for a small amount of time.” – July 29, 2000

20 years ago today, I boarded a plane that took me to Ghana, Africa for a month with the American Field Service. I took some time to pull out my memory box and revel in the memories of a defining moment in my life.

What I’ve written in the journal I kept every day is something that I realize now should be shared further. Not everyone has the privilege to live with a host family and experience a new culture in that way. So here’s the first of many to come!