Monday, January 10, 2011
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Just a quick update to let you know what I have been up to recently. I just finished two months teaching 1st grade at an international school in Kumasi. It was quite a challenge but a lot of fun, and I'll miss the kids dearly.
I have posted some photos of my kids under the Ghana: 2010 link in the right sidebar. Check them out! I will add a couple short videos of my kids in the classroom very soon. Enjoy.
Monday, July 12, 2010
“Good evening,” I said to the man. “How are you?”
“By His grace,” came the reply, as a fiery grin illuminated his face, showing clearly the large chip which, quite unfortunately, had made one of his two front teeth a jagged and unhappy half of what it once was. I understood the man’s words perfectly, as he had spoken them in response to every greeting I had ever sent his way. But to you, they may seem a bit strange. Let me briefly explain.
The people of Ghana are generally very religious, with the majority practicing a loud, intense, and intrusive kind of Christianity which is seen, heard and felt in all areas of both public and private life. Most people respond to greetings, regardless of the type or the time of day that they are offered, with, “By the grace of God, I am fine” or “By the grace of the Almighty Jesus Christ, I’m doing very well,” to which the initial greeter responds, “Thank God.” Walk down the street at any time of day and you will hear these exchanges, almost exactly as I have just presented them, taking place all around you. It is quite fascinating. Due to a kind of laziness to which most men are susceptible, the standard response to a greeting has been cut down to, simply, “By His grace”—the very words that this man spoke to me that night while sitting at the side of the road. Now, back to the story.
This particular night happened to be a rather cold one, with the clear, star-filled sky above made slightly imperfect by sporadic, swift-moving blemishes of thin, wispy gray clouds, and the wind a constant, unwanted companion.
“It is cold tonight,” said the man.
“Yes, it’s wonderful,” I replied. Tilting my head up towards the magnificent, black void above us, I added, “I would even love to see it rain, though it won’t happen tonight. The sky is clear.”
“But it can still rain!” said the man quickly and with a sense of surety in his voice.
As I sat there for the next few seconds, thinking back to my early years of elementary education when I learned all about the weather, including things like thunder, lightning, clouds, evaporation and rain, I thought to myself: no it can’t. I suddenly became curious at what motivated this man to make such a claim, which, in my mind, seemed quite absurd.
“We know that it rains when there are clouds in the sky, but that is only science,” he said. “It’s just a guy’s prediction. Someone predicted it and said it’s true. In the Bible, God says that any time a rainbow appears, it means it is about to rain. This is always true because it is one of God’s promises, but God didn’t say that clouds have to be in the sky in order for the rain to fall. That is just science, but it’s not one of God’s promises. So it can happen. It can even rain right now.”
Looking back up to the sky above, which, by this point, was completely! clear, I searched for some kind of divine intervention to help me make sense of the unbelievable words just spoken to me (intervention, I must note, from a God much different than the one who told this man that rainbows unfailingly signal the coming of rain). I found nothing, and at that moment, the only thought in my mind, quite ironically, was Ohhh Jesus! I simply replied, “Oh, ok. Interesting,” and left it at that.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
I am writing to you today with a heart that is at once hurting and happy, and a mind that is still at least a little bit unsure. For the past three years, our lives and hearts have been entangled as we shared in happiness, joy, sadness, frustration, loneliness, laughter, learning and love. We committed ourselves long ago to a life lived as one, and the time we have spent together has truly been a blessing. But after much questioning and careful contemplation, I have decided that the time for change has come. I am leaving you.
The standard line at a time like this is, "It's not you, it's me-- I am just not ready for a relationship right now. I need some time to be alone." But in this case, the truth is that it's both of us. Right now, I don't have the knowledge or experience that I need to help you and your extended family in a way that is sustainable, far-reaching, and real. And despite the wonderful experiences we have shared and the knowledge you have allowed me to gain, you are far too different than me in far too many ways for me to carry on living as your partner, lover and friend. I am sorry.
For those who know very little about you, the mentioning of your name evokes images of death, disease, poverty and powerlessness. But the privileged who have come to know you well, as I have, easily recognize that behind the sickness and worn clothing lies a woman that is incredibly kind and generous, and whose loving, lighthearted and undying spirit, visible in the harshest of environments and most trying of times, shines brighter than that of anyone I have ever met. Of the many things you have taught me, by far the most powerful and important is how to stay hopeful in conditions that are clearly desperate, remain resilient in the face of adversity that appears unbeatable, to laugh even when the hardships that invade every day of your life make you want to cry, and to have faith that life will one day be better. It will get better, I promise. Be patient.
Thank you, Mother Africa, for accepting me with your arms open wide, and for continually treating me with a level of kindness, generosity, and respect that now brings tears to my eyes. I will miss you dearly, but will return one day to see you again. Take care. Goodbye.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Exuding a quiet confidence, she contentedly moves about the Earth comfortably wedged in an on-going state of wonder. How could she not? The endless complexities of nature and of humankind, revealed to her through the simple, seemingly-insignificant interactions of each passing day, often leave her astonished, immensely appreciative, giggling. She is curious and ever-questioning; skeptical.
Unwaveringly optimistic, she views the world around her as a place where, contrary to widely-held belief, people are generally peaceful and loving toward one another, and where fear is most often unfounded. She believes undoubtedly that humans are good by nature and she views our shared desires—for peace, love, dignity, purpose, respect—as opportunities for the creation of dialogue, friendship, and understanding. She sees the incredible diversity in human thought, belief, and being as one of life’s greatest yet under-appreciated gifts; the diversity of non-human life simply astounding.
She is tireless in her efforts to offer hope to the many who hold none, awaken inspiration in the hearts of the ignored, and to give love to those who receive far less of it than they rightly deserve. Suffering and injustice, she believes, must be fought against, in manner large and small, by each and every one of us, as their victims, regardless of color, caste, or location, are our brothers and sisters of humanity, to whom we are inescapably linked. And so she gives herself—fully and without charge—to the causes that so often call her to responsibility.
Her heart, whose massive size is matched only by the extent to which it is blind, contains a very special place reserved solely for children, within whom she sees an intense, undying sense of curiosity that is both familiar to her and incredibly refreshing. And it is in the company of kids that her most-admirable qualities become unmistakably clear: she is gentle and patient, understanding and warm. What a wonderful mother she is sure to be.
A profound joy for learning and discovery, cultivated slowly during childhood years, sent her on an on-going personal quest for knowledge that is not likely to expire until the day that she does. She views the seemingly-endless capacity and power of the human brain as one of the greatest wonders of the world, and admires enormously those who set out to test its limits. From years of quietly observing the events and realities of the vast world around her has evolved one of her most firmly held beliefs: that the opportunity for personal enrichment, economic improvement, and expanded influence in an ever-accelerating world lies squarely in education. She believes that a sharp, intelligent mind is one of the most valuable assets one can possess.
Finally, she believes in love. Though fiercely independent—both in thought and in action—she recognizes easily the sense of fullness and deep delight that an honest and complete commitment to love another human being can provide, and she longs for the opportunity to surrender a small piece of her independence in order to have that feeling rest safely inside of her.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Just a quick update to let you all know that I'm alive and doing well. The community sanitation project that I had been working on since May, 2008 has finally come to an end, which means that my last two months in Mali will be spent watching CSI and swimming/fishing in the Senegal River-- good times!
Exactly two months from tomorrow, I will be jumping on a bus and leaving Mali for Ghana, where I'll be volunteering at a local NGO in the city of Kumasi, doing HIV education and working with some local orphanages. I'm pretty stoked! I'll be there for awhile- possibly a couple years or more.
I just uploaded a dozen or so new photos under the title "2009" in the right sidebar. Check 'em out.
Also took a few short videos of some kids in Bafoulabe. Click below.
Oh, happy 4th of July:)
Friday, May 15, 2009
I thought I would check-in while I'm around an internet connection. All is hot and well here. I spent the last three days in Bamako planning my departure from Mali at a Close-of-Service Conference with the 50+ other volunteers in my group. It's difficult to believe, but my time in Mali will soon be over-- September 25 is scheduled to be my final day as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I love many of the people I have lived and worked with during the past two years, and leaving them will be unbelievably difficult.
As of now, I am still planning on moving to Ghana directly from Mali, but am still trying to figure out exactly what I will be doing when I get there. I'll keep you posted.
I just uploaded about 30 new photos to the "2009" album-- find it under the photos heading in the right sidebar.
I hope all is well.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
I just returned from vacation in Togo and Benin a couple weeks ago. Photos are under the title "Vacation II" in the right sidebar. Enjoy.
Life here in Mali is pretty alright. Hot season is definitely upon us-- it stays about 104 degrees inside my house during the day and down to about 93 degrees at night. The outside daytime temperature is crazy-hot and the nighttime low is about 80 degrees (which feels chilly enough to have to cover myself with a sheet-- I'm going to die when I return to the U.S.!).
I am expecting to be leaving Mali around September or October of this year (only six months or so from now!) and plan to move to the coast of Ghana, where I am hoping to find some type of development work.
I hope life is swell. Take good care.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm alive and doing well. I'm in Bamako at the moment, getting ready to head out on vacation to Benin, Togo, and Burkina Faso. I'll be gone for about two weeks-- should be a blast.
Life is hot but good. Mango season is about to start, which will make things even tastier.
I just uploaded 50 or so new photos under the album "2009" on the right sidebar. Check it out-- they're pretty good!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Not a whole lot of exciting things happening in my corner of the world. The rainy season is officially over and the the cold season has begun, which is wonderful. It has been getting down to a low of around 60 degrees in the middle of the night, which feels cold! after being in the Mali heat for so long. It is still around 95 or so during most days, and doesn't get much cooler than about 84 degrees inside my house.
My phone number has changed, for anyone who is thinking of giving me a ring. Check it out on the sidebar on the right side of the screen.
I am in the process of uploading new photos-- check the "Vacation" and "2009" albums for a little bit of visual pleasure.
That's all. I hope life is treating you all well.