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!

Love,

Lauren

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The Ghana Chronicles: 4

Dear Journal,

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

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

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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

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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

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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!

 

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Wanderlust

I was so thirsty.  So tired I cried as I trekked through the hot sand that seemed nothing less than an insult at the time.  We’d hiked nine miles into the Canyon and had just one mile to go but it felt like another 10.

Worse yet, I could actually *hear* the water.  Taunting and teasing me.  Letting me know it was right there, just out of reach.

I sobbed and stumbled.  He grabbed my hand and walked alongside me, pulling me to the finish line.  I was tired.  I was done.  I didn’t want to do this anymore.  But there was no other way than forward and he was right there with me.

So along we trudged, until we caught sight of this.  In the desert.  In an instant, our skin was saturated with moist air.  Our eyes delighted with sight and our ears blaring with the roar of Mother Nature in her rawest beauty.

We’d known it was there all along and yet it still came as a glorious surprise.

Much like life, I suppose.

Trudging, trekking, hoping, waiting, discovering. journeying.

To the finish line.

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Havasu Grand Canyon 2007