The End

Re-acclimating myself back to “MY” world hasn’t been too crazy – not like a person who’s gone for 6 or more months.  Small little things crossed my mind – I kept thinking I was hearing Fante, questioning the safety of the water, even getting my mind programmed not to listen for the goats and tropical birds that woke me up every morning.  I honestly didn’t think I’d miss Ghana – but I sort of do!  My Ghanaian friends will be pleased to hear that, I’m sure 😉

My first evening, after arriving home from the airport – I was so grateful to take a shower – that was warm 🙂  Then, I climbed into bed where I wasn’t worried about small ants, mosquitoes, and flesh eating spiders.  I adjusted to the time pretty easily; fortunately, my body goes with the sun.  Unfortunately, this makes me wake up WAY early and want to go to bed at 730 in the evening.  It took about 46 hours from door to door – small cat naps on the airplane, and when I finally laid my head down I think it was about 49 hours.

I hope to continue working with GNDCS as they continue with their mission over in Ghana to improve the quality of education for deaf children – and more importantly, as they work towards changing society so that all deaf and disabled can have a quality, meaningful, wonderful life.  It was truly a roller coaster of an adventure.  I didn’t realize this until I was sitting here reflecting.  Aside from the food and bugs – customs and the societal attitude towards education of the disabled and their worth were impressions that struck my heart with magnitude.

On any given day, I wasn’t sure what sort of meat I was eating – if I asked what it was, the response was simply, “meat.”  I came to find, later, meat means beef.  I tried to sample as many local dishes as I could – I enjoyed the experience and the willingness of the people to share with me.  Handshakes with snaps – I never mastered this.  I was successful most times 😀  The language – aside from basic greetings, I don’t know much – however, the patterns of their discourse are forever imprinted in my mind.  If linguistics offered a program that was simply field study, though I wouldn’t have signed up for this before, I was really intrigued and captivated by varying inflections and use of simple noises within their speech: eh, uh, ahh, clicking – simple, short, meaningful.

The students will eternally be in my heart.  My last day I shook all of their hands; on their own accord, they each gave me a hug.  We WILL meet again; it won’t be soon enough.  I found myself questioning whether or not the teachers felt influential, had adequate training, wanted to be there – felt the students could learn.  With 5 English books to 22, and math books at – maybe, 15 for the same sort of class…with a class that ranged in age from 14 through 22 years…with an inadequately trained staff regarding sign language….with a lack of consistency of the language throughout the country….with teachers who comment “I don’t know why we have to give them exams, they don’t even understand English”…with the conclusion that the teachers have an element of learned helplessness and lack of ambition…with students who have been SELF taught for their entire lives I am amazed at, although it is not a high level, the level that they are academically.  I am forever impressed at their thirst for knowledge – their willingness to work through breaks in order to LEARN! Their inquisitive ponderings, their innocent view on life.  Their sufferings and desire to continue to take the world head on to prove I AM WORTH SOMETHING!!

When I initially embarked on this journey, people would say I would never be the same.  I didn’t disagree, but I never understood the magnitude of that statement until I sit here writing down my experiences as tears of sorrow, gratitude, and love stream down my face.  I am extremely blessed to have been able to have this time, however short, with the students and the people of Ghana.  I promise I will do my best to aid GNDCS in their mission.  Dear reader, I urge you to seek out a way you can travel abroad – I urge you to check in with your perspective of those who are disabled.  I quote from when I spoke at the church – though, I don’t know it was necessarily me speaking “God created us all.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  We are all important.”

I close with this.  There was one girl from Dayton who wanted to serve in Accra.  There was one school in Ohio who wanted to help.  I was born in 1979, moved to AZ in 1995 where I saw a movie Mr. Holland’s Opus – this movie stayed with me and when I later moved to Columbus, I saw ONE commercial that inspired me to become an interpreter.  The web that made this experience possible, you are already a part of.  You continue to be a part of it as these words resonate in your mind – as you ponder what you can do.  ONE can do.  ONE did.  ONE does. ONE will continue doing and make eternal impacts.  ONE is a powerful, wonderful, singularly fruitful number.  Many ONEs can make stupendously wonderful differences.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. – Spencer W. Kimball



Wednesday July 28th – Thursday July 29th

Ahhh…well, we set off at 9:00 AM  As promised, we drove by one of the coffins that Kofi told me about – I’d read that Ghana is known for making extravagant coffins and he noted one nearby.  We also picked up my clothes, walked around Kota Kurabe for one last time.

After we left town, we drove for a while, I was taking in my last sights of Ghana – all the while excited to be on a plane back home.  Along the way we stopped for coconuts.  Well, I was too timid to ask to try the coconut, but I did try the juice 😉  The actual coconut looked slimy – when Rosemond fed it to Papa, he spit it right out!

We continued along on our journey when Rosemond spotted her husband, Kwasi, his car!  If the truck wouldn’t have broke down just before I got there, that is what we would have been going around town in – ahh, well – at least I got to see it!  Nice blue truck with a GNDCS magnet on it.

Continuing on – we finally landed in Accra.  Dora made sure I got to see the temple – we even had to ask Joe to do a u-turn for us to go in.  Silly thing, it’s gated off.  Makes sense, really.  I was actually curious how they kept the grounds nice.  Relieving oneself in a public place and littering are pretty commonplace, so I wondered how they protected the temple from such things.  There’s a gate around it and a guard – who came out and asked why we were there.  I quickly explained I was on my way back home and wanted to walk the grounds – after seeing my recommend, he allowed it and I was grateful.  Joe and I walked around the grounds as Dora and Rosemond stayed in the car with the two boys.  I was grateful to be able to walk around.

After this – back on the road.  By now, it’s about 2-3 in the afternoon and the sun is making an appearance on my final day.  I actually got a mild burn on my right arm!  After stopping for dinner at a chicken place – going on a whim to this little hut (finding my unofficial brother-in-law his boxer shorts) we headed to the airport.  I actually made one more purchase there, and I waited for my flight.

Truth, it was  an uneventful day and, though I thought I would cry – I didn’t.  I will miss Emmanuel and Papa a bunch – but I’m excited to get back to the states.

Tuesday July 27

Well, today is the last day I have to fit in a ton of things.  We’re supposed to head to the beach (still haven’t been!), go to the tv station, peer at a coffin (one of the trades here – you’re a fisherman, you get a giant fish coffin! Our friend Kofi told us there was one locally that was a crocodile (normally this is seen in Accra) so I want to go see that), so shopping for souvenirs, pick up the clothes I had made, what else…I can’t remember.

Last night, we snuck out, away from the kids, and went to a restaurant on the beach – I had my favorite pop here, Alvaro, and kabobs. So tasty – YUMMY!, Rosemond took us to the beach.  Crazy waves – little Papa got knocked down a few times and Emmanuel loved running from the waves.  Me, well – I think I collected a cup’s worth of sand in my suit!  It was fun.  I can now say I’ve been in the Atlantic Ocean – more specifically, the Gulf of Guinea.

After the beach, we met a few kids who were selling oranges, plantain and cocoyam chips, and water.  Some other kids that were playing on the beach wanted me to buy their water – ummm….no thanks ..

In speaking with these young people, I learned that they go to school and sell in the afternoon.  One young man wants to become the president.  The other young man wants to be a soldier.  I wished them well and then we went shopping.  I managed to get all of everything that I wanted and still have some money left over.  As I was reflecting, I realized I forgot to purchase this turtle I spied for my Mom, oh well.  My eyes landed on this GORGEOUS bracelet, so I got it; black stone beads and either plastic or glass.  It was fun bartering and negotiating, but it was exhausting too!

After the beach, we went home to get ready for the TV program. Yikes!  When we got there, Dora was running a tad late – she asked us to wait to start until she got there.  It was crazy because we went on the set and briefly spoke about what we were doing and without warning, we were lived.  We managed to make it so I could interpret the program (I felt..uh..we’re doing this for the deaf in Ghana, so…we need to make it accessible since there isn’t any closed captioning in Ghana).  I can’t say it was my best interpretation, or even that I was clear in my message – but I sure tried! Every now and then the woman would ask me a question so I would have to sim-com (simultaneous communication – basically talk and sign) which was a challenge.  I realized I was more transliterating than interpreting into ASL, but..well, that’s what came out 🙂

When we got home, the little tykes came out and gave us a HUGE welcome.  Papa and Emmanuel were so excited to have seen Mommy on TV.  Emmanuel told us he called for Mommy but she was on the tele – so cute!  After de-highing from the adrenaline, we went to bed.  I was lucky because Papa and I became fast friends (he’s 5 years old) and he wanted to sleep in my room.  Needless to say, I didn’t pack because I didn’t want to disturb the little one.

Saturday July 24 – Monday July 26th

The long and short of the weekend is – went to Takoradi, came back 😉

Friday, as we were making the drive – Albert decided to stop for fruit.  I’m not kidding when I say there were about 10-15 women who swarmed the car.  Towards the end of the transaction, another vehicle pulled up and those who weren’t successful with Albert swarmed the new customer. Crazy. I did see a pokey fruit that looked like a big green ugly fruit.  I inquired about it later, it is an apple.

Ahh…well, I met more children and we enjoyed them.  The sleeping arrangements were at Rosemond’s father’s home – Prah.  He reminded me so much of Grandpa – I want to bring him home with me too 😀 I think I could fill most of one airplane with everyone I want to bring home – well, a small airplane.

Throughout the weekend, we still were able to hand out at Albert and Dina’s home.  The girls played with my hair – it was fun, except when they forgot it was attached to a human being, not a doll 😉  I ended up sporting a style from the 80’s with a side pony tail – really, one pig tail because the rest of my hair was down; I couldn’t go out like that, so as soon as we were out of sight, I pulled it back into a full ponytail 🙂

I was able to mark a few things off my list for the food: kenkey and shito.  I found I like Ga kenkey but not Fanti kenkey.  One reminded me of moldy bread, the other was nice.

We attempted to go to Africa Beach – I guess it’s an international attraction – I’d never heard of it.  Well, there was a wedding reception, so I didn’t get to go – still haven’t made it to the beach and I only have about 24 hours left! (I’m truly writing this on Tuesday.)

What else?  Well, Sunday I went with everyone to church and was called upon – because Rosemond volunteered me! I shared a bit about how I came to pick Ghana as my summer vacation and my role in the deaf community.  It as an opportunity to educate the congregation that deaf does not mean incapable.

The church service was one that I’m not used to – the guest preacher used olive oil and put it in his palm as he went around touching people on their heads….I got oiled 😛  It was an odd experience with people spinning around and dropping to the floor – but I’m glad I was able to share about Cape Deaf and experience with something new 🙂

The ride home was uneventful.  Papa Prah drove us to Cape Coast then took a taxi back home to Takoradi.  Ghanaians, I’ve noticed, aren’t huge huggers – but I am if I like you, so I hugged him and told him he was always welcome if he ever made it to my country 😀

Well, we had many visitors over Monday night – mostly to visit Rosemond.  Well, Little Kwame and Ama’s parents took me to their  home.  It’s currently under construction – they were building it little by little – kakra kakra – as they were renting.  HAPPEN (for my ASLers 😉 ) A flood hit where they were living so they had to quickly enclose their home and make the most of the situation.  A lot of their photos were “spoiled” but they were able to salvage some.  The water stayed in their home for 2 days before moving on its merry way.

In the meantime, they’ve grown corn, cocoyam, etc.  They’ve also had to kill a few critters that invaded their home – frogs, mice, snakes – even a cobra. Scary!

Well, that’s pretty much it!  OH, well – I sat with Rosemond and Dora as we planned out goals for GNDCS based on their experiences and my observations – they thought it’d be a good idea to head to the local TV station – so they did! They just walked in there, said “We’d like to do a program,” and it was done.  We’re to head there Tuesday to work out the details.  We stayed up late finding photos and typing an outline…let’s see if I can get out of talking 😉

Friday July 23

Last night, I finally got to meet Rosemond 😀 and Emmanuel, Papa, and her brother Emmanuel (there are 2 of them 😉 )  I love all of them – the two young boys are amazing.  Emmanuel is deaf and has one cochlear.  He’s starting to talk, and that was neat to see.  When Dora and Nana Kwame left Ireland back in January, he’d just started making some sounds.  Although he uses British Sign Language, we managed to communicate.  It was an enriching experience.  Papa was born in the UK, he has this adorable little accent – I would take them home in a heartbeat!  I’d better prepare Scott 😉

Today, I came to Headstart with Dora.  I was able to use my knowledge from my career in childcare and help train her staff of 6 for an in service day.  I hope they are as inspired as I always am after a training.  Just a note – you never know when an opportunity will present itself where you will be able to use all the information you’ve collected throughout your life.  I’m grateful for that chance and am happy I was able to “pay it forward” by using the knowledge I gained at Sunrise and Primrose 😀

That’s about it for today – NOW I will head to Takoradi for the weekend 😀  I’ll get to play with Papa and Emmanuel while getting to mingle and pal-around another city before I depart on Wednesday.  Cheers!

Thursday July 22

Today has been a pretty low key day.  I was going to do some laundry – I was trying to figure out how much I needed to wash to get me to Wednesday when Mommy will intercept me and I can wash all of my clothes at home 🙂  There’s nothing like washing and drying your clothes, lemme tell ya!  Again, I’m grateful for the cold showers and the ability to machine wash my clothes versus a shower out of a bucket and hand washing, however, a nice washing machine followed by a dryer and a warmer than cold shower will be a nice thing when I get back to the states!

I headed to the office first, at 8:30, with Auntie Baaba; on the way, she said Kofi was going to come pick me.  (They don’t use “up” here 😉 )  So, I logged on fast to Facebook and he was there.  We went back to his home to print some pictures that I could leave with the people here, then he told me about his trip in China.  Amazing cultural things over there – different registers for discourse, different ways of handling money depending on if you’re viewed as a “waste of time,” different attitudes towards black people, etc. 

One difference in Ghana is – as I learned making the goodie bags for the students – there’s really no worrying about politically correctness because everything is accepted.  All manners of religion, dress, etc. are all accepted and respected.  There is no tip-toeing around holidays; if you want to give out a Christmas pencil, it’s fine. If you want to give out a …some other pencil, it’s fine – they’re just grateful for the pencil.  You could argue that people in the US are too sensitive, makes them grouchy worrying about being offended all of the time – or worrying about if they are offending someone or not.  People here are open, makes them free of the burden; they’re not grouchy.  

Other than that, I’m a rock star here 🙂 People say “hi” all the time, little kids give me high fives :)I don’t know how I’ll adjust back to life in the US where I’m just a fish among the school.

Anyway, so you’re updated now. I tried to change my Facebook page, too slow….now I’m starved, so I’m gonna go see about getting a snack 🙂  I finally get to meet Rosemond tonight 😀  Then, tomorrow until who knows, I’ll be visiting her brother in Takoradi.  I’ll catch you soon; wishing you the best!

Wednesday July 21

I have to type really really fast because the taxi will be here i 7 minutes! I can’t harass him for being late if I’m NOT ready either!

Today was my last day – I delivered the school supplies from OSD to the school – they were extremely grateful.  Emmanuel tried to urge Madam Grace to allow for a “presentation” today instead of tomorrow since today was my last day – but they kept it tomorrow.  While I was waiting for Madam Grace to arrive, some of the younger children came to visit.  One little one kept spelling her name over and over again – I think maybe that was one of the few things she knew how to say, but – I confess – after about 5 times of smiling I just said OK every time she started.  The other kiddos checked out my veins – they thought it was odd my arms had blue lines.  I tried to show them they had veins too, but it was difficult to find one in their arm – I was pretty successful finding them in their hands.  Well, after I started showing them where their veins were in their hands, one of the young ladies took my hand and inspected it.

As I was talking to the other kiddos, I promise you – I think she licked me!  When I looked at her, she just smelled it – so now they started smelling my hand.  As the moments moved on, they examined my legs and told me they were fat – their meaning is “meaty” not skin and bones.  Then, they noticed my fat belly (my words, not theirs 😉 )  and they started poking at it.  Some pet my hair, some just poked – then they looked at my eyes (I had sunglasses on at the time.)  When I lifted my glasses they laughed when they saw my eyes.  After my eyes, they looked at my teeth.  I had a moment where I had to ask myself what I would do if they tried to touch my teeth, fortunately they didn’t go that far.

As I was sharing this later in the evening – it was pointed out to me that most of the dolls they see here are white; they were probably holding all sorts of questions in their minds since the first time they saw me.  The little ones saw an opportunity to test their theories and seized it 🙂  I’d read about things like this, but it hadn’t happened – my last day at the school I was thoroughly inspected 😀

After the math exam, I reviewed the test with the students outside.  One of the young men asked if could find time to review it with the whole class so that they could understand it.  He was adorable because he told me I would pass their test and be able to continue to the next grade.  I thought to myself “I hope so!” Though, I have no idea what triangular and square numbers mean here, because none of the answers were squared numbers…???

I passed out their goodie bags and reviewed the test.  I told them they needed to save their pencils and rulers for next year!  After we finished, I met each student at the door where they gave me a hug and a handshake.  That part was important – I remember one time a man was teaching us at the Mesa, AZ temple and he said a handshake is an eternal bond – so if I shake their hands, I will be able to find them again somehow 😀

After I bid everyone farewell, we sat in the corner and chatted – those who wanted to.  Then, Florence (I learned not Flores!) came in with Emmanuel and Madam Grace.  It was sweet – they presented me with an African style dress – with a, I forget but the symbol means that there’s no shame in learning from the past and own up to it..after that, I just chatted with the kiddos until it was time to leave.  My 2 pets, Philip and Seth – they weren’t there for me to say bye to, oh well 😦

Well, I was trying to be able to go to a session at the temple in Accra; unfortunately, it’s closed July 19 – August 2. 😦  One of the members at the Abura ward had mentioned it was closed for cleaning, unfortunately he was off by a few weeks.

Random tidbit: when we were out and about yesterday, we saw 3 sets of missionaries.  Must have been P-Day 🙂

Tuesday July 20

Phew.  Another day of testing.  Again, I caught up on some journal entries.  After 8 years, I finally finished one journal.  I had to summarize a few places; but hopefully, my life is well accounted for 😀

Turns out, Philip was just so thrilled with out dinner this past Friday, that he likes to relive it.  He did keep saying tomorrow we’d get together, but I think he’s just telling me how he was full from the food there and how he liked it 😀

After school, Auntie Baaba and I went to the seamstress – 54 GH to make 2 skirts, 2 dresses….whoa.  Well, there is a rush to have it  by Tuesday – and she was nice, AND she said my name how I say it – most people say Ah Mahn Duh.  She said it in the nasally way we say it in the US 😀  What else did we do..we took the fabric to another tailor (tailor means boy, I didn’t know that!)  Girls sew girls clothing and boys sew boys clothing.  Makes sense, I suppose!  8 GH for 2 shirts.  I added everything up, comes to be about $10 per article of clothing.

After our outing, I went home to play with my little friends.  Today was my last day for a little while; they’ll be away till Sunday 😦  When they left, Auntie Baaba and I made the goodie bags for me to pass out at school tomorrow – my last day 😦

Then, to bed 😀

Monday July 19th

Today started exam week at the school.  I was able to catch up in my journaling – finally wrote about how Scott and I met 😀 almost 8 years later 😉  The kids really just did their exams.  Nothing crazy to report.  I spoke with Madam Grace and was able to make my last day be this Wednesday, July 21st instead of the 28th (that would have been cutting it too close though, since I leave that day and we’d still need to drive to Accra!)

After school, I headed to pick up Esi so we could go shopping.  We spent some time with Auntie Rose so I could pick out some fabric to get some things made.  It was hard to choose because I’m a  pretty plain person – Ghana (Africa in general) LOVES patterns – bright patterns at that!  I did manage to pick out material for 2 skirts and a dress.  I hunted for some fabric for 2 shirts for Scott – we’ll see if he likes them.  After fabric hunting, we went browsing.  Auntie Rose told us to go to the café, told us where it is – as we approached – it dawned on me.  We were heading to the internet café.  Browse to them, meant browse the web.  Oops – I explained what I really ment to Esi, so we went shopping 😀

Then home – I think dinner was sausages and potato chips.  Some friends had come over, so we were able to hang out with them.  OH! One thing at school did happen: Philip told me that tomorrow his dad would come to school and we 3 would go to the restaurante…uh..I have plans – and in Ghana-speak, that means I’m treating them.  I asked Kofi what the proper etiquette was because I would feel AWFUL if Mr. Philip’s dad showed up after walking all that way and I wasn’t able to go – I had plans with Auntie Baaba to take our material to the seamstress!!

Well, we discussed everything over some – ahem, kellowillie. No clue, remember my forever clause – I’m excused from all Ghanaian spelling 😀  It’s fried plantain with ginger – served with ground nuts.  Not ground in a powder – from the ground. AKA peanuts.  It was very gingery, big Nana said I had to try it; not bad.  I think all I have left is kenkey and red red…just looked it up Kelewele.

We decided if I had plans, they’d be ok with that.  Till tomorrow!

Sunday July 18th

I woke up and headed to church.  The RS teacher asked me some questions about the priesthood; I contributed more there than I do at home (that’s not that much though 😀 )  After church, we headed home – I don’t recall that we did much. OH, Auntie Bea came over with the children.  I got to hold this little month old baby, Kofi – Fifi for short.

In the evening, I asked Esi if she would go to town with me tomorrow so that I could exchange money – she was going there today…eek.  It’s Sunday, how do I explain myself?  Well, I just told her, I don’t do business on Sunday – she was completely okay with that; I went to visit with Auntie Rose still.  It was a nice visit 😀  She gave me some material to make a dress out of.  I told her I’d be back tomorrow to browse more 😀

Then, home. Rest. You know how it is 😉