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Archive for the category “Adventure Diary!”

So I went some places and saw some things…

A perfectly vague title for a perfectly vague blog. Bottom line: I went traveling for about a month and I went as far as my wallet could get me… Western Europe. Mode of transport: hitch hiking. Company: Me, myself and… Actually a lot of people!

I was going to give a very elaborate and perfectly chronological report on everything I saw and did, but I decided I’d rather talk randomly about all stuff until I feel like I’m finished. So to understand, here’s a very brief summary: I hitchhiked to Brussels with two other girls from uni, we did some tourist things, I met up with my friends and I enjoyed my last little bit of comfort zone before setting out alone. Then I went to France, I stayed in Taizé, a Christian community with international youth, for a week, then I decided to stay another week because it was awesome. In Taizé I found some awesome people to give me a ride to Switzerland, I went to Basel and Zurich for a couple of days. I continued to Austria, then Germany, then Luxembourg and from there back to the Netherlands.

What?! A girl hitchhiking alone?! Do you want to get yourself killed? Well, I’m actually surprised I didn’t die ten times over along the way.. For those who don’t know me, I’m really clumsy. I get myself into the weirdest and dumbest situations while at home, so I’m kinda proud that I made it ‘abroad’. I mean, I’m the girl that was still afraid to take a direct tram to school for 11 minutes by myself when I was 14 years old. The first time I went time I went to Brussels by myself I was terrified to take a train alone. I was nearly 18… Now I’m going hitchhiking by myself, which really isn’t that impressive but for someone that is actually scared most of the time, yeah I’m proud.

The thing I like most about this month is the things I got to learn and the people I got to know.

First of all, I’m a poor judge of character. On one hand I instantly hate 90% of the people I meet. On the other hand, I instantly trust every person I meet. So when I meet someone and hate them, I just switch off that feeling and switch to full naivety. ‘My first impressions suck, so this person must be nice, right?’ Witch hitchhiking that brought me to two completely different situations. In France, kinda close by Nancy when I was stranded without a single soul to pick me up I was walking somewhere at the lonely edge of some unknown village. About 15 minutes of walking later I see a car stop and a woman steps out and saves me from sleeping on not so comfy grass next to not so friendly sheep. Not only did she get me out of the middle of nowhere, no this women was amazing. She offers me her house to sleep in, use of her shower, she makes me a delicious salad and a fruit dessert and the next morning she personally drives me to the highway with a lunch pack with cookies and juice and fruit and a tiny quiche and cold water. I must be a very lucky person…

The second situation I won’t elaborate on too much. I stepped into a car, 5 minutes later I stepped out. Let’s just say I now know what kind of people to avoid and I got out really well, which is nice 🙂 After this interesting ride someone else picked me up. He seemed nice, so I stepped in, of course shaking like a scared puppy. He started blabbing to me in French about being a beekeeper and making wine. So I nodded and pretended to understand more than three words at the time. Suddenly this guy stops in the middle of the bushes and says in his best English ‘I want to show you my bees’. So naturally I start sweating and thinking I’m going to get raped and murdered. He steps out of the car, he takes me with him to the bushes and… He shows me his bees. Actual bees. I’ve never been so happy to see these stinging buzzing bastards. I got lucky again.

Another thing I’m really happy about is Taizé. Like I said, I came for one week and I stayed for two. As a student in cultural anthropology, as someone who is trying to figure out the meaning of life and as someone who loves music, I can say Taizé was definitely the place to be. Life in Taizé, if you’re a regular guest, basically lasts one week. You arrive on Sunday, you get an overview of the rules and activities, you make friends, you say goodbye to your friends while crying your eyes out, exchange contacts and start planning your next visit. A day in Taizé is as follows: You wake up at around 7 (or 8 in my case) and you join the morning prayer and (some) receive the Eucharist. (I did that one time for the first time! Interesting!) After that you join in breakfast with about 3000 other people (in holiday times ofc.) after breakfast you either have a kind of work or bible introduction. I started out with cleaning toilets in my first week. It was actually fun! They had this cool cleaning song that changed every day, and the people I cleaned with were pretty cool :). In the second week I was in the food distribution team. We handed out lunch to 2000 people every day for a week! That was really great, I definitely want to do that again. Also, I had a great team with great people who sang Disney songs with me and we played ukulele! After work we had the afternoon prayer and lunch. This was followed by bible introduction. First we discussed a bible text with a very big group, after which we split up in small groups to discuss a little more. With a little, I mean a lot. I love discussions, so I went full on. I had a really great small group that thought me great things about religion and weren’t afraid to defend their opinion. I really value the time I spent with them, and I’m even a little sad we don’t get to discuss like this anymore. After this it was around 5pm (or later, depending on how much we wanted to talk…) which was tea time. The tea in Taizé is a lie. It’s not tea, it’s water with sugar. But in severe heat, it’s oddly refreshing and I always really looked forward to tea time! One time, I took a friend to first aid and she got actual tea. With tea bag and all. We took a picture for the momentous occasion :). Ok back on track. After tea time you get to follow some really interesting workshops until it’s dinner time. (The last two days I joined the dinner distribution team as well, which was really cool! They were great!) After dinner you go to evening prayer and after that I would always go to Oyak. This is the place for people to hang out, get some drinks, get some guitars and sing. Yes that’s right, sing all the time. In these two weeks I sang so freaking much. In prayer we sang more classic church songs, at work I sang Disney and every song that came to mind (including a French song that a guy taught me when we cleaned toilets :)) and at night I sang at Oyak. I never stopped singing. This is also how I got to meet some really great musicians! In the first week there was a group of Germans with amazing voices and music skills, and in the second week I met two Germans who sang really new songs to me. The guy played guitar, while the girl played a kind of oriental drum while they both sang. Another guy, from Lithuania, joined and started completely improvising on his harmonica and his flute. Later I sang some classic worship songs with him as well 🙂 Man, I really really love singing. I rediscovered my passion for this in Taizé 😀

What interested me most was the structure in Taizé. Somehow, people from all over the world join up and live lives as Christians, whether they had zero religious background or were born, raised and dedicated Christians. They joined together, they accepted each other. They made friends in just a week, enough to cry over the, at the end. They quickly adapted to the structure, it became their routine overnight. They functioned as members of a community, in just one week. It’s like they built up an entire life overnight and after the week ended, so did that life. I had the privilege of staying for an extra week. I watched the majority of the population in Taizé change overnight. People came and went, and I stayed during that whole awkward goodbye fase when everyone was crying goodbyes to others and I just thought, hey, I’m staying. (Not so much for the crying… I guess I’m really getting used to this whole goodbye thing!) After that I got to start up the second week by meeting new people… Again. They got all settled in while I just though, hey, I’m here already. It’s so weird how everyone just arrives and naturally follows this rhythm that ends within days. Then they go back to live their lives, maybe changed, maybe not.

I loved seeing how Taizé worked and I kinda want to go back one time. Also to participate in a weekend of silence. I did my own little day of fake silence. Not that I didn’t communicate with people, or heavens forbid that I didn’t sing. I only did it to not use my voice to communicate. And it was hard. Everyone was talking to me and I didn’t know how to respond. I learned two thing from this. First: Man, I talk a lot. Crazy. I really should talk a little less in some occasions. Second: I like being silent. I really enjoy listening to other people. Knowing that, I’m gonna start finding key things that motivate other people to talk a lot, while forcing myself to shut up for more than two seconds so I can actually know people. That’ll be interesting 🙂

I also really liked meeting the people I met. I heard new stories every day from people everywhere. In the second week I met a really nice Swedish girl. It’s too bad we only had a week, I feel like we could be good friends 🙂 I was even kinda sad to leave because of her and because of all the other friends I made and things I learned and saw in Taizé. To make it harder to leave, this girl gives me a bubble blower with a plane from Disney on it!! (I lost my bubble blower the week before and I was really sad.. Yes, a bubble blower is in my standard travel kit.) I really had a good time there, but for someone that’s allergic to routine, I think it was good to keep moving 🙂

So at this point, the real travel started. I was dropped off in Switzerland by some really nice people. I had zero planning, no idea where I was, no idea where to sleep and zero sense of direction… I made it off quite well 🙂

Up until now traveling alone has taught me two things (aside from the million other things I learned). First: You’re never alone. Really. In cars, in hostels, in the city. You meet people constantly, you’re socializing constantly, and it’s great! Second: The perfect contradiction. Sometimes you’re really alone. At some petrol stations I was waiting by myself for such a long time, constantly talking to people and seeing people, but there I was, basically on my own until some passer by showed mercy on me. Ok, it wasn’t that dramatic most of the time, but sometimes it was. One time I ended up sleeping against a wall at the petrol station, sleeping bag over my head, pretending to be a garbage bag for passerby’s. Another time I spent around 2 hours waiting for a ride when worlds cutest family (mom, dad and baby) picked me up, gave me a bed for the night, breakfast and my ride the next morning. In between the best and the worst cases it comes down to its essence. Just you. I loved it most of the time. Doing my own thing, going wherever I pleased, getting stuck in bushes near the main road because I thought it looked interesting two hours before. But I also really like having a friend nearby.

After admiring the beauty of Switzerland and Austria and feeling in heaven multiple times is continued on to Germany. About three days in advance I asked my friend where in Germany she lived, I warned her I was coming and three days later I stood at her doorstep. Or rather, I stood in a big field as far as the eye reaches that was the closest to her doorstep I could get dropped off. (confusing sentence..) Little did I know that she lives a couple miles away from the middle of nowhere. But it was great 🙂 about 10 minutes in, I realized I hardly knew anything about her. We met in Ghana, later we met again with a group of old volunteers and now here I am in Germany realizing we never talked that much. So this time we did. I quote: “We shared pee stories, now we’re friends.” Sadly I’m not going to elaborate on this hilarious story. So I ate pasta and drank coffee with an Italian family (I’m so lucky) we made music and I got to be a typical tourist!

After two days there she went with me to Stuttgart and we got to stay at her best friend’s house for the night, which was also really fun. Now comes the awesome: when I left she actually left a secret present in my bag that I could only open after she left… She gave me her cool awesome bag and her two kashaka!! I mean, who does that? Why would she… Ok let me explain why I’m so happy, I tend to break things. I’m dumb like that. So I took a bag that I severely overused during this trip and it was ripped from all sides. I was sad, because I hate breaking things, especially when I got them from Ghana. Besides that, being a big idiot, I also broke my kashaka that someone went through the effort of getting for me from Ghana! I probably used it too much… Then hero comes along and gives me the two things I really want and need, without me even asking! Plus, I got a jar of homemade jam that I’m eating as I type 🙂 again, I’m so lucky. (Fun fact: My mom likes the jam too!)

So after Germany I went to Luxembourg, which was really nice. The city is beautiful! It kinda surprised me how small it was, and that it had different levels. That basically meant me climbing up hills just to sightsee… I liked it from the moment I was at the top! On the way from Luxembourg to the Netherlands I got really lucky again. Someone picked me up from out of the rain, he drove me to Liège and on the way he stopped at a restaurant and got me dinner!

In this month I got to meet over a hundred nice people, I was in around 40-50 different cars, I saw 6 countries, 10 different cities, loads of amazing sights, I slept in 2 stranger’s houses, 2 friend’s houses, one friend a friend’s house, two freakishly fancy hostels, a Christian community, an occupied house and a petrol station and I got to learn around 5 extra languages to say goodnight in. I loved it 🙂

Going back home was kinda nice too, I was getting tired of living out of a backpack… Pfff, who am I kidding. It took me three seconds of being home to get bored. I need to travel, I have to! I want to go to see Great Britain, and I want to see the whole of Eastern Europe and then I want to see the whole of the world. During this month I, as always, thought a lot about the meaning of life and seeing the world and my urge to keep moving. I just decided that this is the way my life is. Maybe one day I’ll find a place that feels like I can be there for a long time and maybe one day I’ll find the person I should be. But I really think, at least for ‘me’ I will spend my life searching. I don’t want to know who I am or where I’m going. I want to see it all.

So the clue of this essay long ‘summary’ of my holiday: I get lucky a lot.

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Happy tears :)

Just a random picture of me and the kids 🙂

I got a call Saturday. I recently accidentally deleted all my numbers, so I really had no idea who it was. I pick up the phone and answer in Dutch, obviously. Silence… Something happens on the other end. Some rustling, some vague voices and lots of noise. I’m confused so I’m nearly hanging up the phone, but I’m too curious to actually hang up. Thank God that I didn’t hang up… A few seconds later I hear I kids voice saying “Auntie Samantha”. I cry.

I talked to my kids about random things. How are they doing, how is school, how are the new volunteers, did you make more friends, etc. I talked to grandma about how much I miss it there and how I can’t wait to go back. The phone was passed around to lots of kids and I could just see them crowding around it waiting for their turn. Once they got the phone it was all kinda the same. “Auntie Samantha, I’m fine, how are you? I miss you, I love you, when are you coming back?” Same same, but different. I was so happy that I got to hear their voices and to tell them I love them over and over again. I was so so happy to hear them say Auntie Samantha. I made all the kids cry when they heard my voice. It makes me happy and sad to hear that they miss me so much. I’m happy that they think about me as much as I think about them, but I don’t want my kids to cry for me. I’m not sure if the kids could hear my thick voice and my sniffing on the other side but I’m sure that Elin heard it.

I’ve been back at home for a month now. I guess people are gonna start expecting me to forget about Ghana a little and just continue with my life. That being said, I still really miss it there. I still want to put on mosquito repellent when it gets dark. I still feel bad when someone hands me something with their left hand. I still feel weird drinking tap water and even when I’m throwing the toilet paper IN the toilet. It still takes me a while to realize when I wake up in the morning that I’m not gonna see my kids in an hour or so. Maybe I am extremely slow in readjusting. Maybe it’s because I really don’t want to readjust and I want to keep living a dream forever.

One thing that I really started realizing though is that going to Ghana really wasn’t a one time thing for me. Instead of thinking, I wish I had stayed longer or I wish I’d done that little thing more often, blablabla. Now I’m starting to think along the lines of, ooh, next time I go to Ghana I have to do this! This trip sounds fun, I’ll do that next time! This little thing sounds awesome, I’ll get that for the kids before I go back! Of course I’m still gonna be that over emotional person that cries when I hear the words Auntie Samantha, but at least I can handle that right now. Happy tears guys, happy tears.

Goodbye Ghana

This was harder than I ever thought it was going to be. I knew it was going to be hard, but this is literally breaking my heart. Saying goodbye to the school kids was hard, but it still went kinda ok. I managed to not cry before I had actually left the school. The orphanage was about a hundred times harder. These kids are my life and I left them. They cried, begging me not to go and I still left them. They all came by hugging and kissing me one by one, multiple times. They gave me the most heartwarming, heartbreaking letters telling me to come back. “If you don’t come back I cry and cry and cry a lot. Auntie Samantha I love you so much.” I tried to cheer them up by playing some happy music, but they started crying even more. The last few days people have been constantly asking me if I’m ok. Everyone knows how much I love Ghana, with all the good things and all the bad things in it. Everyone knows that I’d give up the world to make the kids smile. And I left. To answer everyones question; No. I’m really not ok. I’m far from ok. I’m a continent away from ok. I said goodbye to the country I love, to the people I love and to my kids. I’m emotionally exhausted, and bordering depression. Then I come home, and there is an overload of things to take in, next to the fact that I won’t see my kids and one of my best friends for God knows how long. Home is nice, but it feels so different.

Ok, let’s brighten this post up a little bit. I usually don’t look at things from such a negative point of view, that’s not me, but now it’s getting really hard to think positive for me. But ok, I’ll try. Think positive.

-I get to see my friends and family again and I love them so much

-I like cheese

-I can still talk to the kids through the volunteers there

-I can help the kids from here by raising money

-After studying I can be of even more value to them

-I like apples too

There. That’s positive right? It’s all going to be ok right? To be honest, I don’t know yet. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sad and confused in my life. So disoriented and so out of it that I feel a little sick. (Maybe I finally have malaria? :P) But for my own good I’m gonna have to look at the bright sides. There are a lot, I just can’t see them now because I’m too focused on the negative. I’m sorry that this is such a negative post. I’ll get there, I’m sure. I just need some time and some chocolate.

 

Welcome to Ghana

So now there’s a whole bunch of new volunteers in the house. It’s basically me and Elin that have been here since for very long, then two volunteers that have been here for kinda long and after that there’s a lot of people that have been here for a few days. On one hand I feel like I’ve had the whole crowded house, no free beds and no empty rooms experience now and I’d like a little bit of peace and quiet for now. Every time I walk into a room there are people there talking to each other, being social etc. While I really just want to sit next to each other and be quiet while appreciating each other’s company. That’s just how I am sometimes.

But on the other hand (that’s me seeing the positive side in everything) it is really good to have so many new people around. First of all it’s pretty cool that I get to show the new volunteers around. and really welcome them to the country and the project. Give them the whole I love Ghana talk and get them excited for everything here. If you meet someone that’s enthusiastic about something, you might be enthusiastic too. I’m so confident finding my way around now in Ghana that it really completely feels like home to me. Showing volunteers around Ghana feels like showing them my home. My country. Telling them about the little things they have to experience and that even though coming to Africa by your self is a big and scary thing in the beginning that they’re gonna have an amazing, fun, life changing experience. I love telling them about the way the kids stole my heart and the way I feel when I make a kid smile. I have to tell them that even though we have lights off multiple times a week, it made me appreciate light on so much more. I appreciate running water, a roof over my head and three meals a day so much more. I love saying that even though some projects have their downsides, it gives us the opportunity to suggest improvements and make changes. I love how these suggestions are so highly appreciated and actually put in to practise. The leader of Dream Africa, Jamal, is probably one of the kindest and selfless persons I have ever had the privilege to meet. He has given his whole life, every day and every week for this organisation just because he believes it’s the right thing to do. I can’t even tell you how much I admire that. That’s what I try though every time I talk to the new volunteers and every time I realise again how much I love this country and everything I’m doing here.

Besides all this it’ll also mean that we have a lot more teachers. The kids in the schools we help really need teachers. The schools are really understaffed and some of us sometimes have to divide our time running in between three different classes and trying to get them to learn something. These kids come to school to learn. They could be selling pure water sachets or plantain on the streets, but they’re in school trying to get something that other kids don’t even have the luck to have. These kids deserve teachers and with so many volunteers we can finally manage to have enough teachers.

Finally I love it when I see how the volunteers go through their first few weeks. Going from “I don’t know anything” to “I love everything!”. Seeing how the kids respond to new people is so much fun. It’s different for every volunteer in the last few moments before they walk into the orphanage. Some are nervous to see whether the kids will like them and some are wondering whether they will like the kids. Some have no idea what’s gonna happen and some have their expectations ready. For all of them though, the moment they walk through the gate the kids come running up to them. “What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you staying?” All of them end up loving it!

Still when almost all of the people are going on a trip for the weekend and I get to be one of the only ones in a quiet, empty house… I’m kinda excited about that as well xD The variation makes it fun 🙂

Home sweet home

So a while ago I started feeling really homesick. Really really homesick. I spent a few days inside my room, not talking to people, being really grumpy and avoiding all social contact. That’s not really weird I guess, since I’ve been away from home for more than 5 months now. I guess it’s different for every person, but in my case, I just freaking want to see my friends and family right now. I just freaking want constant electricity, to not be sweaty for a whole 24 hours and to have a comfortable bus ride to the nearest supermarket to buy their entire supply of cheese.  I just want to hug the people I haven’t seen for so long.

That was what was running through my mind two weeks ago, but that being said, I’m not ready to leave. At all. Not even close. I miss home, but here in Ghana, I’m making a difference. I’m actually helping kids get further in life. I’m not only their teacher, but I’m their mom, their big sister, their role model, their friend… I can’t believe that someone like me can play such a big part in someone else’s life. Since DACF started helping the new orphanage they got a new house, new beds, new fans, new towels, new classrooms, new clothes, new toothbrushes and new friends. Some of the kids even gained weight! They have it loads better now, just because we tried to help. These kids are my life now, I’m not ready to leave them behind.

So after a complete week of being antisocial a new volunteer arrived. Always when new volunteers arrive I see it as my job to have them know how much I love Ghana and how much they are going to love it. I spend time rambling on about all the nice things Ghana has to offer, sometimes I take them on their first tro tro ride, or their first time to the orphanage. For me that was the perfect moment to stop being homesick and start appreciating what I have again. I’ve got a good thing going on for me here. I’m surrounded by really genuinely nice, selfless people with big hearts who are all in it to make a difference and that’s more than I could’ve ever asked for. No more being homesick for me because Ghana is my home.

Why it’s hard to be raised a Christian

In Ghana everyone is a Christian, or ‘at least’ a Muslim. When you go to the hospital and have to fill out a form to get treatment, you have to fill some basic information and things like what tribe you are from and what religion you follow. Ok, since we’re all obroni’s, the volunteers obviously don’t belong to a tribe, but then the religion question comes up. I’m a Christian, yeah, but the other volunteers aren’t. The person that fills out the form for us asked “I hope you’re a Christian?” When they get no as an answer he looks up with a worried expression. “Ok, but at least you are a Muslim?” Like being a Muslim means that you’re less than a Christian, but you still get a small reference. “At least.” Isn’t everybody equal anymore? Does equality have to change per country? The volunteer says no again, worried that she won’t get treatment because of this. The guy looks up, looks down at the form and just awkwardly crosses the whole question out.

Being here in the volunteer house, I’ve been learning a lot about tolerance. Since everybody here is different in a way, we all have different opinions, and that’s ok. For me, it doesn’t matter how someone thinks or if I think differently. I’m not going to try to force my opinion on anyone just because I think it’s right. I can tell them what I believe and why I believe it, but for me it’s not important to have someone believe in the exact same thing. I just think people should think about life every once in a while and decide for themselves what is the best way to live it.

That brings me to deciding for yourself. That is what has been bothering me lately. I was born and raised a Christian and I have always thought that was the right way to live my life. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t believe it, my mom believes it so I do too. It’s not like my mom told me that Christianity is right and everything else is wrong, it’s just the way it worked in my head while growing up. Coming here and seeing there are different ways to live your life is one of the most important lessons I could have ever learnt. It is so important to know who you are in this world and not who other people want you to be. I have always believed in God, but this year it has been really hard for me. Coming here I had to make the transition from believing because I was taught to and believing because I was thinking for myself. And the hardest part of all is to separate my own thoughts from my church’s thoughts and my family’s thoughts. I tried and I’m still trying to distance myself from everything I have learnt, and finding it all out for myself, but it’s so so hard to see if what I’m thinking is really coming from myself.

I was raised in a relatively atheist environment and seprating these things is already hard for me. Here in Ghana, it’s the complete opposite. Everybody believes in God. They pray before meals, they pray for forgiveness, they pray for blessings, they pray for healing. Most of the time they don’t do it because they believe in God, it’s just that they don’t know how not to believe in God. When I ask them why they believe, they don’t know how to answer me. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to believe in God, but just not like this. I want them to know God because of God and not because of the world. I want them to think and not just follow.

Being a Christian in Ghana is really hard for me, because I want people to know what they believe and why they believe it instead of just believing. For me, not believing in God and knowing exactly why is better than believing in God because everyone does it. Listening to the kids pray should make me feel happy, but it makes me feel uncomfortable instead, because I feel it’s not true. One of my favourite verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and it goes like this: “Test all things and hold fast that which is good.” Another translation says “Examine everything carefully and hold fast to what is good.” Not everyone believes in the Bible, but you have to admit that this is a good verse. The Bible is telling us not to just accept, but to examine everything carefully and to stick to what is right. That right there is what really matters, in my opinion.

RME textbook for primary 5

RME textbook for primary 5

Back in Accra!

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in well over a month… For a change it’s not because I was being lazy, but because I literally couldn’t blog. (I just waited for two weeks after I arrived before I finally started writing this, but well xD) Me and a couple of other volunteers left to Larabanga in the northern region of Ghana to volunteer at a school over there and it’s safe to say that it was Completely different and absolutely amazing!

So the 26th of March Elise, Faye, Elin and I went on a little 18 hour bus ride to Larabanga. So yeah, I live in the Netherlands. You can go from top to bottom in the Netherlands in around 3 hours. I think it’s safe to say that Ghana is just a little bit bigger… Looking out of the window during the bus ride I could literally see the environment change. Up north everything is different. The air is dryer, the people look different, most of the population is Muslim instead of Christian, food is prepared on the open fire and for me everything just felt a little bit more Ghana.

Huts

Our little clay huts

We stayed about half an hour away from Mole national park. Since Mole doesn’t really have anything like a fence to keep the animals inside, all the animals that were there were also in our back yard. Hussein, our host father took us for a walk about 10 minutes away from the house so we could see crocodiles (in the lake where the kids fetched water), elephant tracks and buffalo tracks. One night Hussein pauses for a moment saying “Did you hear that? It’s a hyena, about a kilometer away.” On one of our last nights when we went to the lake for a bit, I almost tripped over a crocodile. Sitting next to the lake in the afternoon, and around 50 cows come running to drink some water. Women carrying buckets of water on their heads are running away so they won’t get trampled. In the morning the first two things that walk by a window waking you up, a chicken and a goat. Oh, Ghana. What animals do you think I see at home in the wild? A squirrel or a runaway dog… I love this country!

The teaching was also definitely something else. Since Larabanga is a kinda small village, the kids have a little less education. The school there basically relies on volunteers coming to teach. If there are no volunteers, there are almost no teachers. When we first arrived, Elise and I taught together so we got the biggest class. Primary 2. For the first few days we called it the class from hell… There are 38 kids who can’t speak a whole lot of English. Honestly, it was really tough. I felt like giving up so many times, but I’m really happy I didn’t. Instead of giving up I decided to learn some basic words in Kamara, the local language and to keep trying. Of course when kids learn something new and they don’t understand, they get messy, but that moment when they smile because they actually understand something is priceless. I will never forget the looks in their eyes when they found out they liked learning. Once one kid understands, this kid can explain it to another kid in Kamara and so on. After a while I started liking class 2 more and more.

The school grounds

The school grounds

Class 3Class 3

Besides that I quickly got really attached to the atmosphere there. In Larabanga we didn’t have wifi, supermarkets, fan ice every 10 metres… It was very very peaceful. In the morning we woke up at around 6 (Partly because of the chickens going crazy next to our door). We had breakfast, we went to school from 9am to 1pm and after that the day is what you make of it. I spent a crazy amount of time reading and just going for random walks. Going from a house with about 20 volunteers to walking around and having no one around was weird, but good weird. From having people constantly walking in the room to having to look around to find a person to talk to.. It was a really nice change of pace! Granted, for complete quiet it was better to stay in the room or wander in the forest. Walking to the lake or to town usually led to around 10 kids instantly trying to hold your hands for ever. During our stay we also got to eat a lot of the traditional ghanaian dishes. Fufu, banku, kenkey and TZ. I literally loved All of them! Still every time I tell someone around here that my favourite dish here is kenkey, they laugh and act surprised. I’m guessing most obroni’s aren’t that excited about this one. As for me, I dread the day when I get back home and I’m looking for some kenkey, and I can’t find any because I’m living in obroni land…

When Faye and Elise decided to leave both Elin and I felt like staying a little longer, to write the kids exams and enjoy the peace and quiet a little more. We started giving afternoon classes before the exams, we wrote the exams and then we found out there was no way to print the exams… We found out the night before the first exam. That night the two of us copied 3 exams for P2, 3 and 4. That is exactly 74 copies of exams that we had to write out in one night. Afterwards I’m still laughing about all of it but at that time I can’t even tell you how much my hands were hurting XD. The rest of the week basically looked like this. Wake up, double check exams, breakfast, write exams, school till 1pm, write exams, afternoon classes from 3 to 6, write exams, shower hour, write exams, dinner, write exams, sleep. I think you get the basic point, we spent a lot of time writing exams xD. But let’s go back to the point where my kids showed up for afternoon classes for 3 hours a day, every day! The nice kids in class that wanted to learn spent an extra 3 hours at school just to have me help them read! That’s amazing.

I felt really sad when I left Larabanga. Especially when literally all of the people we’ve been living with came up to us, one by one, to tell us how much they appreciated our stay. Awula, the 14 year old girl that acts like a 25 year old if you see all the hard work she does, was begging us not to leave. Everyone was sad when we left. That was really really hard. I really miss Larabanga, but I missed the kids in the orphanage like crazy for those 5 weeks. Coming back and having all the kids run up to me again, telling me how much they missed me. That was definitely worth it. Man I love those kids ❤

Awula

Awula. The most amazing 14 year old I’ve ever met. Seriously, the women in this country are so naturally beautiful and strong and amazing!

CIMG2002

Oh wait, I almost forgot about the part whene I went to Mole National Park and saw some elephants and when I went to Wechiau to see Hippo’s! Seriously, in Wechiau we slept on a tree platform and we could hear the Hippo’s at night on land and we could see them in the water during the day. It was so so so freaking Awesome!!

 

The greatest of them is Love!

I’m learning so much about myself and about others here. The thing about living in this house is that there are new volunteers coming all the time and that everyone is different. I’m meeting people that are worlds apart in every sense and we came all the way to meet up in Ghana to help make the world a better place. It’s really making me realise that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone can get along and help out together. That’s amazing! Even though this environment is so different from what I’m used to, I feel at home and I can honestly say that I love the volunteers in this house. I love every single one of them. I love that we have different opinions and lifestyles and ways of speaking english and ways to spend our mornings.
My roommates, I’m sure I mentioned this before, they’re amazing! I feel like I can tell them anything at anytime and they’ll have my back. As much as I love Ghana, and trust me I do, sometimes there are moments when I don’t feel happy and when I just desperately need a hug from my best friend. But whenever I feel down the people here notice it and they will drop whatever they are doing just to hear me complain for a bit and I’ll do the exact same for them.
I just love them!

The same goes for the kids at school and the orphanage. When I feel down and try to hide it little Roland comes up to me asking ‘why are you sad?’ That single sentence is enough to make me feel better. I love the kids so so much. I never even knew that it was possible to love anyone or anything this much. I feel like I can’t live the rest of my life if I can’t see Nii Nii or Gabriella or Peter smile every single day or at least every few days. If there was any way to adopt a child right now I would take all three of them. I would give them the world if I could. If I feel like this, I can’t even imagine Gods love for us.

So I think of all the things that I’m learning here in Ghana, the greatest thing is that I’m learning about love. I love Ghana, I love tro tro’s, I love plantain chips, I love the holes in the road, I love bucket showers, the leaking roof, I love sitting on the roof. I love this house and the people in it and I LOVE my kids. Loving someone this much really is the best feeling in the world and I am so thankful that I get the chance to feel this way 🙂

I’m still alive!

Ok. I have internet, my laptop is charged, there is electricity and I have 2 and a half hours left before the fishing village and my stomach is filled with bananice and fried yam. There are absolutely no excuses left for me to not write my blog, so sit back for a minute and enjoy this long update! 😀 So much has happened in the past weeks and I want to tell you guys all about it!

On the 20th I celebrated successfully walking around this earth for 19 full years! In the morning I did exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday. I didn’t want to celebrate it with lots of gifts and grand parties that last for a few hours and then end. I’ve never been the kind of person to give parties for my birthday anyway, so I asked God to give me one single thing; the opportunity to give back. God gave me exactly what I wanted. At the beginning of this month we found an orphanage in need of help. They needed a new place to stay, since they weren’t able to pay the rent anymore. They needed a house suitable for children to be children. Two weeks later, we found the perfect house! A beautiful, huge garden to run around, nice rooms, two showers, a living room, a kitchen. On my birthday we started cleaning up the house and painting the walls! On my birthday I helped give kids a new home <3. In the evening of course I still went out to get some delicious cake and milkshakes and ice cream xD Of course I missed my family and friends like crazy that day, but I am so freaking lucky to have all these nice people around me to celebrate it with! And the best part comes now: The day after, when I went to school my kids ran at me and loaded me with handmade birthday cards and presents!! A shell necklace, a juice box wrapped in lined paper with “Auntie Samantha” on it. Now I’m not that emotional about things that aren’t sad. I never cry for movies, and when I’m happy I prefer laughing, but for once I had to hold back my tears. I could’ve sat there sniffing for ages! This continued for 2 schooldays after my birthday!

Birthday

Fast forward to last Monday. Exactly one week after we started working on the house for the new orphanage the kids moved in! Their smiles were so completely genuine. They ran up to us, they hugged us and they wouldn’t let us go! Again I felt like crying. (Seriously, what is this country doing to me O.o) So the next d my roommates Elise and Elin and I went for a sleepover! Well… “Sleep” So as some of you might know I am not really that good with babies. I’m afraid that if I hold them wrong I might break them. Then when they’re just sitting at a safe distance so I can’t possibly do anything wrong I can’t say any more than “Ehm… Hi, baby…. ‘Sup?” That’s how awkward I am with kids. So the first night when I try to help some small kids out I have to change 4 diapers. I never knew that kid’s diapers are the worst possible smell in the world. After changing their diapers though, it turns out I still love them like crazy!! So in between changing diapers and switching the lights on and off dozens of times, we tried to get a liiiittle bit of sleep. We shared a room with 8 kids, one of them sleeping on our mattress one of them with her leg over Elin xD Never did I know that one single 2 year old could take up 2 full mattresses! This little girl has the habit at night to just roll over to every corner of the mattresses multiple times; taking up all the space I had to sleep. (The floor is quite comfortable though). The next morning at around 5 we ‘woke up’ and went to see what we could do to help around the house. Bathe some kids, mop the bathroom, do the dishes, help give them breakfast. They really do need some help in the mornings! And let me just take a moment to talk about Patience:

Mary and Patience

Mary and Patience

Patience is a little girl, about 11 years old I think, and she is truly amazing! At 5 in the morning she wakes up to help me change Na’s diaper. She goes and helps around the house without anyone asking her to do it. Starting early in the morning she cleans up the bathroom without asking for so much as a thank you! She is so selfless. She doesn’t require special attention; she just does things because it’s the right thing. She’s not the only one! Some of the kids at this orphanage are so caring; they make sure everyone is treated equally, the little kids get to go first, ‘don’t help me, help her!’ It literally melts my heart. Yes, I literally feel like my heart turns into a pile of mush and that my blood circulation stops working for a full night of staying there even though that’s physically impossible. So that morning after helping out a bit we dragged our sleep deprived faces home in high speed (and I mean, we were literally running because it was pancake day at home). We went to school for about an hour before we all collapsed on our beds, knockout for the rest of the day xD It was so worth it!! I can’t believe that sleep deprivation can make me feel so genuinely happy. Just like collapsing on a couch and falling asleep with a child napping on your lap is by far the best feeling in the world ❤

Gabriella

Gabriella

Hiswell

Mary

Another update following soon! And with soon I mean as soon as inspiration feels like it again xD

(Special thanks to Elin and Elise again xD Elin takes time to make these beautiful pictures of these gorgeous kids and Elise takes time to save them on her computer and post them to her blog. Then I take time to steal the URL and post them on my blog… (go visit Elise’s page while you’re at it! http://akinforamission.tumblr.com/ it’s 100% worth it))

It’s the little things

It’s a combination of a lot of little things here in Ghana that makes me smile. Things that are really a part of my daily life now but looking back, it’s completely different at home.

I walk across the street and random kids yelling obroni , just run up to me to hold my hand for a split second. I walk through the gate of the orphanage and all of the kids run towards me to get a hug.

Sitting in a tro tro that’s made for shorter people, but still having way more fun than you would when sitting in a normal bus.

On the way to the orphanage: “Good morning. How are you? Have a good day!”  “Obwoni!”

Sitting in a tro tro: “Plaintain! One cedi, one cedi”, “Accra accra accra, tema station accra”, “Circle, circle labadi circle” “Pure water!”

At school: “Auntie, auntie please sit down.” , “When are your sisters coming back?” , ” Will you come tomorrow?” , “Oh oh please, I’m sorry.” , “ No kids, it’s not good to hit each other!”

At the orphanage: “ I want to Shee.” “Pwease cawwy me.”

I like how you can walk across the street for 10 minutes and see 3 people selling buffro’s or rockbuns, but when you decide you actually want one you can go a full hour without seeing anyone. Oh and I like how when you finally have one you can buy them for 50 pesewas (about 20 eurocents).

There are no bus times, but you never wait for more than 10 minutes for your tro tro to come by!

I like having a normal shower, but I like it even more after having a lot of bucket showers!

I like how the kids at the orphanage hug me as if they never plan on letting me go. I like how when I try to put them down I can literally let go of them but they will keep sticking to me in mid air like glue.

We play clapping games every day. I learnt at least 5 new kids songs while being here and the kids want to repeat them 10 times in a row every day :). Sometimes the songs make completely no sense, but they’re still lots o fun!

Every time I see Nii Nii he measures his hand with mine to see how much he grew and when we can keep our promise ❤

I like how at the 18th of January we still didn’t take down our Christmas tree and it’s still the most sparkly and cheerful part of the house!

All of the volunteers are great and awesome people!

Every single day I realise that love is something that is really infinite. I keep on loving these kids more and more everyday and there really is no limit to it at all.

I like how I’m around the same people almost 24/7 and I still miss them like crazy when I don’t see them for a few hours.

I like how I’m able to cry just because one of my kids is feeling sad and I like how I’m able to hide my tears to make them feel happy instead. I like singing to them so they feel less sad and I like it when they cheer me up all the time without even realising it.

I love Ghana. I absolutely love Ghana!

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