Friday, August 12, 2011

Personal Reflections on Leaving Ghana

I'm glad I listened to God's voice and went on this trip. I now know that I have more strength and endurance than I give myself credit for and that through Him ALL things are possible for me. The friendships I have made on this trip are priceless and irreplaceable. This was definitely a God-ordained "thin". (Priscilla Johnson)

Thinking back now, I cannot believe that I ever doubted going on this trip. This has truly been a life-changing experience. I look at everything so differently now. I am struck by the fact that I am so fortunate to live in America. Why am I so lucky when I am so undeserving? I know God has a purpose in everything and I am challenged to make every moment count from this moment on. I find it difficult to explain my experiences in Ghana. How can I put into words the impact these beautiful people have made in my life? The people I have met and friends that I have made will forever have a place in my heart. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I've ever done, especially because I felt like I'd just said hello. (Hilary Griffin)

My hands feel so empty. Already I long for one of theirs to reach for it. There were so many times when I had one on each finger, but right now one is all I need. Just to stand beside me content as they so often did. Not just to hold it, but to rub the back of my hand, to pull my arm hair, to study me while they infiltrated my life. I love them. I knew it would be hard, but before hard was only a word. Now it is hard and it hurts. I'm afraid of losing their faces. (Davey West)

Muhammad (age 8) gave me a tiny purple ring. I'd asked him earlier where he got it and he said, 'I bought it, Madam,' and then later he came up and put it on my finger (it only fits halfway down my pinkie!) It fell off at one point but Trustworthy saw it on the floor and gave it back to me. The children were crying as we left. I started crying, too, when I saw Ishaaq's big tears and then Muhammad's. As the bus was pulling away I saw them both. I gave Muhammad my last 'toffee.' Love that kid. (Celeste Pottier)

Following the Durbur at Tuwohofo, Don asked me if it was any easier to leave after the 4th visit. Sobbing I said, “No! It is harder!” I live out in the “country.” When I took my first drive after returning home, all I could see in my mind was the Abura Road leading to St. Cyprian’s Basic School. I saw people walking with huge metal bowls or bundles of wood on top of their heads, little children holding their mama’s hand walking along; goats and chickens crossing the road; and market stalls lining the way. I had to make myself focus on the winding, curvy, country roads of Chesterfield County. (Paula Watson)

Every day I am reminded of my second home. I have not forgotten my Ghana. My love has not faded and it never will. I miss the people and all of my students. I miss them more then I could have ever imagined. Life is so fast pace right now, but there is never a day that goes by that I don't think back to the place where half of my heart belongs. Ghana is not a foreign country but somewhere that I call home! (Jessica Hunter)

The hardest part came when I had to say goodbye after the Durbar. It was so hard to say goodbye to the children who had touched my heart. There wasn't enough time to say goodbye but no amount of time would have been enough. These children who touched my life will always be in my heart. (Marcy Gasperson)

I didn't wake up in the Maple room. There was no gentle "swish, swish" of brooms. No obnoxious birds, no amazing view of the hillside. No Fairhill patio and no red Tro Tro ride to the children I miss so much. No family of 15 to greet me for breakfast. I understand Dorothy's concern when she finds herself no longer in Kansas, and my mind is screaming, "I'm not in Africa anymore." The world is so different on this side of the Atlantic... my heart is there. A piece of it always will be: beating in time with the rhythm of the drums, dancing inside the laughter of a child, clasping their tiny hands, remembering the tear-stained faces. (Amber Prince)

Their names run constantly through my mind: Samuel, Agnes, Beatrice. I can picture their faces even now, filled with sadness and anguish as we departed from Ghana. Though I am starting a new chapter in my life, the Ghana portion will never be finished. As long as I remember the precious children, I will be drawn to the country that shaped my life. (Lindsey White)

On the final day, standing in the midst of impoverished children, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned to see a brilliant grin pasted upon the face of a former student of Tuwohofo Holly International School. Solomon was delighted to see me again, and it illuminated my impact upon the older students that I was able to build relationships with last year. My presence in their lives meant something, and the desire in my heart is to continue to facilitate the bonds that I have already forged. Fear inches into my heart, thinking about the possibility of not returning to Ghana. I regret not taking more time to be present in the moment, absorbing the sights, sounds, and emotions instead of wishing my days away. (Liz Hopkins)

I left Africa thinking I would never wake up and not think back to my children. Coming back to America, I was instantly overwhelmed by my obligations, and excited about the incredible things that the Lord has in store for me. Getting back into the routine of things and returning to a sense of "normalcy" was bittersweet. It makes me sad that some of the memories slip through my hands like water. I want to cling to the vivid images that gripped my heart: Stella holding her alligator book as we drove away, Emmanuel asking me to bring him to America, and Miriam's sweet smile. These are the things I will recall for a lifetime. (Katie Bowman)

I am so thankful I came on this trip. No matter what chaos lies ahead, I know I was supposed to be in Ghana this summer. Thank you Lord for this, the trip I've prayed for. Oh how wrong I was to think that this sweet boy wanted me only for a soccer ball. He was the only one who never asked for anything—sat in the back of the room real quiet, almost unnoticed. I am so glad that sweet boy yelled my name and grabbed my hand on the tour of his village. That moment changed my life. I wrote on the first page of my journal that I wanted to touch a life; well, I think I may have. When I think of Africa my heart will always be with one little Ghanaian boy, Obed. (Aubree Lindamood)

After the Durbar, I walked towards the Tro Tro slowly with Simone, Richmond, and William. We all hugged goodbye and I reluctantly climbed into the Tro Tro. As we drove away from Tuwohofo School for the last time I was sad, but convinced I will be back. As we turned the corner, everyone full of tears, I saw my sweet Simone. He ran across the field to wave goodbye. He was the only one standing there and, for a moment, I was the only one in the Tro Tro. Goodbye for now my sweet friend. (Amanda Hobson)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What was Available To-o-o Us on Our Way Home

Celeste Pottier

July 24-25, 2011

We woke up in the Crystal Palm Hotel in Accra for our final day in Ghana. Many of us were pleasantly surprised at the fancy coffee machine in the hotel restaurant, which featured Cappuccinos and “Mokaccinos”. We checked out of the hotel around 11:30 in the morning. Damba and Kwame loaded our tremendously-stuffed luggage onto the roof of the Sun Seekers Bus and we headed into the city for a final afternoon of shopping. But, before that we had lunch at a sort-of food court called The Pizza Inn in the Osu district. Most of us chose pizza, but some opted for chicken sandwiches. At the order counter we were told there was no Cheese Pizza (even though the menu board listed it) but there was a Marguarita Pizza with cheese and tomatoes. A few ordered it but Amanda, with the wisdom of a Harvard degree, ordered hers without tomatoes and thereby got herself a "cheese" pizza after all. As a dessert treat, several also had the chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream cones (thanks for the idea, Katie). It was somewhat of a gateway back to the American way of eating and we embraced it with open mouths.

Next, we walked down the main street of Osu to a trendy little boutique called Global Mamas (or as Damba pronounced it, “global mummuss.” It's an organization that trains young women to make traditional and contemporary clothing items and charges a Fair Trade price for them. Many of us bought batik dresses, Ghana fabric quilts, T-shirts and African Christmas ornaments.

Finally, we stopped at Accra’s Ghana Cultural Arts Center to spend any remaining cedis left in our pockets. Some of us spent many, many cedis in a very short period of time; most bought things that were tiny since our luggage was already packed; but there were one or two drums or dresses that we snatched up at the very, very last, last minute.

Then we drove to the Kotoka International Airport where we stood in line to go through baggage check and ticketing, said our goodbyes to our tour guide Damba and driver Kwame, and waited around talking or playing cards until 9pm when we boarded our plane for home. On our eleven-hour flight to Atlanta, some (the lucky ones) were able to sleep. Others of us watched movies, read, and tried, with little success, to keep warm by tying blankets, burkha-style, around our heads.

We rejoiced as our plane touched down in Atlanta! Miraculously, we then made it through customs and security without a hitch, even with Prof’s Black Volta River canoe paddle and several drums in hand. The only "hiccup" was when an emergency alarm sounded as we were going through the customs line and we were all told “Don’t move!” We froze with shoes and backpacks still on the conveyer belts. A couple of the group members worried that it might be the Groundnut Cake or the dried Waakye leaves they were toting; but it wasn’t (huge sighs of relief). We found out it was just a routine a security “test.”

We said "Good bye" to Amanda who was flying back to NYC for a week before moving back to Charleston. Then most of us headed straight to Chick Fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or Cinnabon for a morning snack and the taste of real Coffee (no more Nescafe Instant). Then we settled down and waited to board our flight to Charleston.

On our arrival we were so happy to be greeted by friends and loved ones and so thankful for the wonderful opportunities we had had in Ghana and in the presence of one another.

Thank You, God, for all of our going outs and our coming ins over the past 5 1/2 weeks.