thankful.

for the simplicity life can offer.

for a quiet night in where I can learn how to knit.

for the opportunity to start a new show on Netflix.

for being able to go out for a drink with my friends.

for a car and a parking spot that’s not far.

for the fact I can sit in my room in peace.

for not having to fear being displaced from my home.

for not being in an area where war is happening.

for not having to worry about my next meal.

for making it through the semester without giving up.

for getting paid extra by doing very little.

for a mom who helps me out when I’m struggling financially.

I know how to be positive. I try to take the time and appreciate the small things in my life. I love celebrating little triumphs, even if it’s finding $5 or completing something on my to-do list. When life is good, I’m good. But there are those seasons when life isn’t so good. In tough circumstances, I am neglectful, reclusive, and negative. I give up so easily, I don’t ask for help, and I get pretty ticked at God for not doing what I asked or wanted.

There are always going to be bad times where smiling, laughing, and rejoicing won’t feel right. Life is not catered to us. It’s important to smile now, laugh now, rejoice now, in the joys and simplicity of life. Take a moment and be thankful for the good things around you, in whatever situation you’re in. I’m working on it too.

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time’s up

As I sit here and reflect onĀ  my journey here in Ghana, I am astounded by the roller coaster my emotions have taken me on. Only 3 weeks ago I was crying because there were ants in my clothes and dirty toilets with cockroaches. And here I am crying again, except not about the conditions, but about the fact that my roommates from Germany are leaving, and I will soon have to say goodbye to everyone too. Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing more than to return to America. I miss wearing scarves and boots, watching Gossip Girl with my sister, dabbing to every rap song, and eating way too much chicken Parmesan pizza. But in Ghana, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing meals, engaging in discussion, and exploring the Brong Ahafo region with a some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. I didn’t think I’d become attached at all, but beyond the language barriers and cultural differences, I grew to love the natives and the visitors here.

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I definitely won’t miss the nauseating car rides, never having hand soap, or not having electricity every few hours. I won’t miss the aggressive flies, the intrusive mosquitoes, or the lizards that frequented. I won’t miss being stared at because of the way I wear my hair, or being called a “bruny” because I’m from America. I’m not particularly sad about not seeing C-sections and hysterectomies everyday, and I won’t miss peeing into a hole in the ground and getting it all over my feet. Nor will I miss the impatience of taxi drivers, causing them to casually drive in the opposite lane (this literally happened every day, I almost lost my life 21 times).
What I will miss, and am already missing, is the laughter of my Aunt Judith whose sandals got swept up by the ocean. I’ll miss intentionally being asked questions about education and racism in America, and being told of history in Europe. I will miss asking Peter our cook to toast one more slice of bread, and then wondering why he disappeared, only to realize he biked all the way to the market for more bread. I will miss Fanny doing her shimmy every time a surgery was about to start. I will miss the bluntness of Ghanian students, who asked me everyday if they could “be my friend”. I will miss Professor asking every evening if what we are eating is considered “stew”. I will miss being told Awkwaaba (welcome) every where I go and I’ll miss talking about music with my cousins. I’ll miss watching horrible Indian television shows, and poorly directed African movies. I’ll miss Sister Patricia’s hugs, and I’ll miss being cooked for day in and day out. I will miss being thanked over ten times for giving people American deodorant and toothpaste, and will miss hearing “enjoy your meal” every night before dinner. I’ll miss holding the hands of frightened mothers during delivery, and wiping the tears of children whose parents weren’t around for their surgeries. I’ll miss 4 year old Henry and 9 year old Boabeng playing ball outside our hostel, and then running towards me with open arms when I walk back from work. I will miss only paying $5 for a beautiful dresses and the Multifrutas juice served at dinner. I’ll miss hearing stories of my grandmother and mom when they were younger. I’ll miss picking tangerines and starfruit in the woods, and seeing goats walk around like they’re humans.

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Ghana is really a beautiful country, and while they do not have half the luxuries of the United States, there’s so much life in everything they have here. The weekend longĀ  funeral celebrations, the endless lush green trees, the children who knew little English but had great smiles — God helped me find joy in everything. Gratitude isn’t a big enough word for how I feel about having the opportunity to stay here. It’s not your typical tourism country, but you learn a lot about yourself and about others when you step out of your comfort zone in a place like this. People have been asking me all week if I would come back here, and for awhile my homesickness was speaking for me. But Ghana’s got a little piece of my heart, so it won’t be a goodbye, it will be a see you later.

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how folding clothes humbled my heart

Today, I volunteered with the organization Lori’s Hands to assist a man with a chronic neurological disease. His name was Dave, and what he has is called spinocerebellar ataxia. It’s a condition characterized by the progressive problems with movement. It causes problems with one’s coordination and balance, and impairs their speech and swallowing ability. The muscles in the body cramp and stiffen, and the sensation in the hands and body decrease. It weakens eye movement, and reduces the ability to remember and process information. Over time, a person can develop numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, and progressive loss of vision.

Thrilling, right?

My group arrived at Dave’s house, ready to throw down in the kitchen, because apparently that’s what he usually asks for. But instead, he asked us to help sort out his closet. He wanted us to separate his clothes into what he wanted, and what was going to Goodwill. So we went through the massive pile of clothes lying on the floor in his closet. There had to have been over 40 shirts, pants, belts, and hoodies. As we lifted each item up in a show-and-tell fashion, we patted off the collection of dust they all had, and pointed out the good things in each so Dave could keep more clothes. As we sorted through, he started to share his preferences. He only wanted shirts with pockets, so he wouldn’t lose his call bell. He didn’t like the over sized sweaters or shirts because he lost a lot of weight. The button down shirts weren’t appealing because they weren’t his style. He wanted to keep his marathon apparel because it was sentimental, and his dress pants for any possible special occasions, such as the Lori’s Hand’s banquet coming up. Soon, my eyes began to water.

Dave had a smile on his face the whole time. Gosh. No matter what he said, there was the sound of joy in his voice. Often times it was difficult to hear his full sentence, but he spoke so sweetly. He bumped into every wall nearly 10 times, because the remote to his mobile wheelchair was tough to control. But he thought it was funny. He enjoyed telling us the story behind all of the pictures in his house. He met Bill Nye the science guy, biked 30 miles in a race, and won a Senior Olympics award.

All we did was organize clothes. We didn’t give him pills or give him a bath or take his blood pressure. We sorted out clothes. And immediately I felt so small. I can’t really describe how I felt, but every time I was ever angry or jealous or ungrateful or pitiful about something in my life, it vanished in that moment. The time we got to spend with Dave felt so much bigger than life. Serving him didn’t feel like a job or task any more, it felt like what I was meant to be doing.

I have the ability to drive a car, walk down the street, and run up the stairs if I please. I have all five senses, and I wake up each morning with the privilege of being able to use them to their fullest abilities, and for these things, I’m grateful. But to be in the presence of someone who can no longer do half as much as I can, and to witness how much life still seeps through him, is inspiring.

Dave is writing a book about the intricacies of stem cell research, and is on his 4th chapter. He’s still living his life the best way he can, and hasn’t let his disease make him unstoppable. And for people like him, I’d be willing to do anything for.