05 June 2008

The Yovo is Home

I would like to begin this blog post by saying that the experiences I am about to talk about are so special to me. I realize that this is a very long post, and that most of you will probably just scroll through without reading and look at the pictures. I do hope, though, that you will take the time to read what I have written, as these experiences are some of the happiest in my life. So please, especially my family members, read the words, too.

I just returned from what was in short, a life changing experience. My stay in Ghana caused me to have feelings, thoughts and emotions that I never knew I could feel. I can hardly put into words what this experience has meant to me. I never knew it was possible to feel so much love instantly for any one person, until I met the orphans I lived with. I have returned to America a completely different person than I was on 3 May 2008.

I am graduating in community health education and for my degree, I have to have 6 credits or 320 hours of internship experience. One of the aspects of community health is international health. This is the area that I am most interested in.

I have always been very emotionally inspired when I hear or see anything about Africa. For this reason, I decided to create my own internship which would involve me going to Africa to teach HIV/AIDS awareness to children. This is one of the good things about public health--not a lot of people know what it is, so you can kind of spin yourself however you want. The internship which I needed was just a good excuse for me to get to go to Africa.

Last year, I started researching different organizations and different countries in Africa to come up with something that would fit my criteria. When I was in the planning process, I had narrowed my country selection down to four countries; Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Ghana. When I think of Africa, I always think of Kenya because this is the country that you hear of when you see advertisements about the poverty in Africa. Kenya also has Victoria Falls and a lot of wildlife and other tourist attractions. Unfortunately, Mac did not want me to go to Kenya because of the problems Kenya is currently facing. Tanzania is right next to Kenya, so we counted this one out, as well. South Africa was on my list purely for the wildlife. I choose against South Africa because it is a very developed country. I wanted to live in a place that was not as developed so that I could truly experience Africa. I finally decided on Ghana because everything seemed to be pointing me this way--I have several friends from Ghana, Mac has a classmate who works for the US State Department in Ghana, and I had some strong feelings that I should go to Ghana. After returning, I really know why I choose Ghana.

When I would tell people that I would be going to Africa, I was a little disappointed in the reactions I would get. The first thing people would ask me is, “What will Mac do while you are gone?” What I expected to hear was, “congratulations,” or “That’s great,” or something along those lines. First of all, this trip cost us a lot of money, so we could not afford to send both of us. Secondly, I consider my self to be a pretty independent person, and this is something that I wanted to do on my own. Now after returning, I know that the lessons I learned while in Ghana would not have been learned should I have traveled with Mac.

My placement in Ghana was to be at an orphanage—Ryvanz-Mia Orphanage—where I would tend to ten orphans, and then walk with them to school each morning where I would teach HIV education to Primary and Junior Secondary School-aged children.

I left to Ghana on 3 May 2008. My departure was a little emotional for me. I had a hard time saying goodbye to Mac and I had an unexpected panic attack. My flight from SLC to NY was delayed by 2 hours and I was panicked that I would miss my flight from NY to Accra because I only had a 2 hour layover in NY. I started to cry on the plane because I was worried that once I arrived in Accra, I would be stranded and that my ride would not wait for me. Fortunately (or not so fortunately) my flight from NY to Accra was delayed by 4 hours. Without this delay, I would have missed my flight, and I would have had to wait 2 days for the next flight out.

When I walked on to the plane from NY to Accra, I immediately felt alone. I was the only white person that I could see on the whole flight. I felt like I was entering into something that I was not quite prepared for.

I started to cry once again as I went through a list in my mind of the things I had forgot to pack. “I forgot my extra passport photos. I forgot a hair brush. I forgot to buy granola bars. I forgot my tweezers. I forgot to make copies of my insurance card. Etc.” After a 14 hour flight, I was able to overcome my fears, and I even felt a great deal of peace.

When my plane landed, I started to cry when the first thing I saw was four barefoot Ghanaian girls dressed in raggedy dresses watching outside a wire fence as our plane landed. I am certain that this was the highlight of their day.

When I arrived in Accra, my stomach sank, once again. As I stepped of the plane, onto the tarmac into a blanket of wet heat, I began to panic inside as I remembered all the horror stories I had been told about the hassles that Americans sometimes get as they go through customs. I had been told that sometimes Americans are threatened that if they don’t pay the agent X amount of money, then the agents will tell them that there is something wrong with their passport and they can not pass through. Luckily, I had no problems making my way through customs. My luggage made it to Accra just fine, as well.

As I walked out of the airport an armed man checked my passport and my baggage claim ticket to make sure that I was taking my bags. He looked at my ticket and said, “Oh, MRS. Brown. You are married. If you were not married I would say that we should be friends and I could take you as my wife. You are so beautiful.” This was the first of what became routine as I met males in Ghana.

When I walked out of the airport, I was praying that Gunadiish, my in-country coordinator, would be there to pick me up as we had planned. Amidst a crowd of Ghanaians yelling at me to come to them, taxi drivers asking me where they can take me, and men hissing at me (In Ghana, everyone hisses to get your attention), I heard a man yelling my name. This was Gunadiish. He took my bags and walked me to a taxi which he had waiting for me. I instantly felt like a celebrity as I had swarms of people chasing after me and airport workers stopping traffic for me.

On the ride to Gunadiish’s house, I was in shock as I looked out the taxi window. Women were walking down the roads with baskets on their head, goats and chickens were running in between the cars, people were swarming to the car in attempt to sell me boiled eggs or PK (chewing gum), and people were lying down on the side of the road. The smells I smelled were indescribable.

When I arrived at Gunadiish’s house, my village coordinator was supposed to be there to accompany me on a tro tro ride to my village, Kpando, which was 4 hours away. He was not there. This was when I first learned about what is referred to and well known as, “African time.” In Africa, there is no concept of time. Africans do not rush to make it somewhere at a particular time. If it rains, all plans are cancelled; if someone is ill on a given day, the whole day is dedicated to rest; people walk slowly. So we called Edward, and he said that he had not yet left the village to meet me. This meant that I could either spend the night at Gunadiish’s or travel alone to my village. I decided to travel alone. Another volunteer, Ashley, was also in the capital that day, and she had to travel to her village as well (which was about an hour south of mine), so we took a tro tro together. Edward met me when Ashley got off of the tro tro and he traveled with me to my village. It was about 10:00 pm when I arrived, so I did not get a good luck at my surroundings until the next morning. We then took a taxi from the tro tro station to my house.

When I arrived at the house, Mama Esi (the lady who runs the orphanage) greeted me with a big hug and a smile. Her house help picked up my 70 pound suitcase and carried it from the taxi into the house and up the stairs. Mama held my hand and walked with me up the road to the house.

When I arrived, Mama had my first meal prepared and waiting for me. This was my first taste of what would eventually cause my cravings of chimichangas. She had prepared for me: rice, chicken, and stew. I quickly decided to become a vegetarian while I was in Ghana. There is something about watching the chickens peck the ground where the children defecate and bathe that makes chicken so unappetizing.

I was so tired when I arrived, so I went right to sleep. The next morning I woke up at 4:00 am. Between the sun, the chickens, the Guinea hens, and the goats, I could not sleep any later than this. When I woke up, there was no running water. I bathed by wiping my body down with wipes. I had purchased some gifts for the children prior to my departure, so I gathered the gifts to take downstairs with me for the children. When I went downstairs, 10 beaming orphans were standing at the bottom of the stairs with big smiles shouting, “You are welcome!” The kids immediately tore the bag out of my hand and went through it saying, “Wow!” I only wish that this was filmed. I can not describe the feeling I felt as I watched ten kids so amazed and grateful for my simple gifts of coloring books, crayons, bubbles, chalk boards and flutes. They kept saying, “Thank you, thank you!” Before I left to Ghana, I was a little stressed about all of the money I had spent for donations to the kids, my donation to the organization and my travel, but when I witnessed the happiness of these children as they danced around playing their flutes and blowing bubbles, I wanted to give them everything I had.

The first few days were so emotional for me. I was in complete shock as I looked around and saw the poverty in my village. At certain times, I had to turn my head to wait for my tears to pass. Even though these kids live in such poverty, they are the happiest and most grateful kids I have ever known. They work so hard for everything that they have and they do not show the slightest sign of sadness in response to their living conditions. In fact, I don’t even think they realize that they are poor.

On my first day, the oldest boy, Wisdom (who I would later develop a very close bond with) was sick with malaria and had to be rushed to the hospital. Wisdom was in the hospital for the whole first week of my stay in Kpando.

The chief of my village died in 2006. During my first week, the mourning of his death was happening. Because of this, school was shut down. This meant that I would not start my teaching until the following week. During this time, I met with the headmasters and directors of the private schools in Kpando so that I could present them with my teaching plan and make a schedule of the schools I would visit.

I could not believe that they had kept the chief’s body for 2 years, and were just now having the funeral. In Ghana, it is pretty typical to wait this long to bury a chief. The village did not have enough money to pay for a funeral, so it took 2 years to raise funds. I was able to go the actual viewing of the chief’s body and to the funeral, as well. Prior to the funeral, I was able to take part in some of the mourning ceremonies, too. This was the coolest experience for me. Sometimes I would just tear up because I could not believe that I was taking part in something so amazing. Below are some pictures from the mournings:

I also have a lot of cool videos from this but they are too large for Blogger. Once I get them on youtube I will provide the links.

To go to the funeral, I had to be wearing black and red (mourning colors), so Mama put together this outfit for me:

As I walked through town, the village people made comments about how beautiful I looked in my funeral attire.

When I went to the viewing, I was not sure what to expect. He had been dead for 2 years, so I imagined that his body would look pretty weird. To go to the viewing, I had to enter a courtyard surrounded by men with guns. I had to pay 1 Ghana Cedi (About US $1) to enter. When I entered, men with guns asked to see that my cell phone and camera were off. To enter the room where the body was, I had to pay additional money to the family and friends of the chief. The body was at the end of a long path. When I entered the room with his body, I was in shock. His body—covered in gold dust—was propped up in a plastic chair, as if he was sitting looking at his friends. Truly amazing.

The next week, I finally started teaching in the schools in Kpando. I started out at Delta Preparatory school, which was my home base. I was so excited, but at the same time, very nervous for my first day. I started out teaching JSS 1A and 2A (it is hard to compare JSS to our junior highs. The kids in JSS in Ghana are anywhere from age 11 to age 26). My first class was so much fun. In all the classes I taught, I had a teacher sit in with me to help the kids to understand what I was saying. In Kpando, the tribal language spoken is Ewe. Most of the kids in the private schools could understand English, but because we Americans slur our words and speak quickly, it is hard for them to understand. They were also taught English by the British, so the American accent is vastly different from what they are used to. The kids would laugh when I said certain things because they thought that I sounded so funny.

I taught all of the JSS kids at Delta, and later moved on to the primary classes. I taught P3 all the way up to P6. These kids are so amazing. They all take such pride in school. They all wear uniforms because they place such high value on their education. They love to learn and they love to ask questions. The kids would arrive at school at 6:30 am every morning to prepare the school. They would sweep (the dirt), cut the grass with their blades, and move all of the desks and teacher’s supplies out of their one locked cement storage room. After their morning chores are done, they gather for the morning exercises. During this time, the kids pray, sing and have a spiritual thought. I can not tell you how great it was to be a part of a school that speaks of God so openly and with so much excitement. God is at the center of everything they do. Wednesdays were my favorite days at the school. Wednesdays are devotional days. On devotional days, they have an extended song and dance time, where they pray and read passages from the bible. Never did a morning pass where I did not cry from the emotional inspiration I felt. I will post a video of the devotional day once I have it figured out, but here are some pictures:

Teaching HIV/AIDS really made me feel like I was making a difference in these kids’ lives. I was able to clear up a lot of there misconceptions about the virus, and I was able to help some of the kids who feared that they may have received HIV from siblings or parents who were infected. In one of my classes, I had a little boy tell me that his brother had HIV. He asked me, “My brother and I share the same glass, does this mean I have HIV?” Another boy asked me, “I sleep in the same bed with my sister who has HIV, and does this mean that I have HIV?” One teacher even asked, “My brother and I share the same blade for shaving, and he has HIV, does this mean that I can get HIV?” Some of the kids were so knowledgeable about HIV already, that I had them help teach my classes. I think that Africa does a far better job at educating children about sexually transmitted diseases than America does. In America, I wouldn’t have been able to use the words and visual aids that I used in Ghana—they would have been too offensive. The kids all took the subject matter very seriously and maturely. Below are some pictures of me teaching, the kids at the various schools, and kids working on my assignments:

The kids in Ghana are so well behaved. They show so much respect to their elders. They are hard-working and well disciplined. In Ghana, when a child misbehaves at school, the teacher will whip them with a stick. I witnessed this on several occasions.

I am so impressed with the hard-working nature that the children in Ghana have inherited. The school children arrive to school before 7:00 am to cut the grass with their cuttlers:

They make their own brooms from palm leaves:

They prepare the meals for the family:

They bucket-wash theire own clothes:

They are so accomodating. On Saturday mornings, Wisdom would wake up early and come to my window and say, "Sister Kelly, I have plucked you mango and orange, come and collect them."

They help each other bathe:

The women are the hardest-working women I have ever met. They carry such large loads on their heads without breaking a sweat. I was always so impressed with this, so I would always stop women on the road and ask if I could take their picture.

It was kind of funny because I ended up being Delta's school nurse. I kept a bag of medical supplies with me at all times, and one day, these supplies came in handy. There was a little girl who was copying off of her classmate’s paper, and the girl who was being copied became very angry with this situation. The little girl took out her pen and stabbed the girl who was copying her in the ear. The bleeding girl approached the headmaster and explained what had happened. When I looked over at her ear, I started to freak out. No one else was making a big deal about this (individuals in Ghana are very strong and tolerant people) so I immediately took out my medical supplies and began to treat her ear. She had a huge piece of her ear dangling with blood that was still partly attached to her head. I cleaned it off the best I could and bandaged it up. From this point on, the headmaster would send all injured students to me, saying, "See Madam Kelly Brown...she is a health worker." It was so funny that he thought that I was some miracle worker, just because I had a supply of band aids, gloves and Neosporin. I had to explain to him and the other teachers what basic medical supplies were. They had never seen the supplies that I brought with me.

I am so impressed with how smart the children are in Ghana. They have such a strong desire to learn. Most of them know French, English, Ewe and Twi. If only Americans valued learning other languages.

In the Ewe language, Yovo means white woman. As I would walk through town, little kids would shout, “Yovo, Yovo,” until I acknowledged them and waved back. They absolutely love white people and they get so excited when they see one. Sometimes when I would walk through town, little children would run up to me and touch my arms because they wanted to see what a white person felt like. Ghana has a lot of French-speaking people because Togo, which is right next to Ghana, is French-speaking. The children have a song that they would start singing when they see a white person. It says: “Yovo Yovo, bon soir, yuka yuka bon soir.” This is a French song and it means, “White man, white man, good afternoon, how are you?” I loved it when I would hear the children sing this.

After a while, I had met so many children and made so many friends my age, that when I would walk through town people would say, “Madam Kelly, Madam Kelly!” It was a good feeling to be loved by so many people.

On my very last day at Delta School, all 750 kids were gathered in a circle around me while the headmaster read a letter that I wrote to the school and staff. This was probably the most emotional day I had while in Ghana. I stood in the middle of a circle while 750 kids hugged me and shouted my name as they sang a goodbye song to me. I wish I had this on film. Of course I was in tears. In Ghana, people do not show emotion very often and I think a lot of them wondered why I was crying. The little kids were smiling and laughing me. The older kids were pointing at me and telling their friends to, “Come and see…Madam Kelly is crying.” Even my teacher friends were coming over to me to see me cry.

One day I brought bubbles to school with me and the kids went insane. They basically trampled me. Every time I went to blow, they screamed and through their hands up in the air in an attempt to pop the bubbles:

I made some very close friends with the teachers at Delta School. These teachers ended up being my best friends while I was in Ghana. I know I am married, but was I not so lucky to be spending so much time with all of these cute guys?

I spent almost every day with these guys. While I was in Ghana, there were many places I wanted to visit. I paid the way for some of my friends to take me to the places in the region I was in. They only make 50 Ghana Cedis a month (about US $50--but a little higher, due to the weakness of the dollar), so I was happy to buy them whatever they wanted.

On one occasion, my friend, Newell, accompanied me to a Catholic Grotto and to Wli Falls--the tallest waterfall in West Africa.

Pictures from the Grotto:

Pictures from the waterfall:

I miss these guys so much. I have only been home a few days, but I have already spoken to each of them several times on the phone.

My other good friends, Christian and Wisdom, took me to Volta Lake. Volta Lake is the largest man-made lake in the world. This was a really cool place to see. They took a lot of pictures of me. Most Ghanaians have never seen cameras before, so they get a thrill out of taking pictures. After every picture you take, you have to show everyone, and they all say, “Oh, NICE!” Here are some pictures of us at Volta Lake:

Meet my orphans:




Richard and Richmond, the twins



Cecilia "Cici," sister to Comfort

Love, brother to Wisdom

I love and miss these kids so much. Helping take care of them was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I would adopt Wisdom and Love in a heartbeat if I met the requirement of being at least 21 years older than them.

In Ghana, all of the children are named by the day of the week they were born on. Sometimes when I would walk down the street, people would ask me, “Are you a Sunday-born?” I had no idea what this meant at the time. I later found out why they would ask this. When I told people that I did not remember what day of the week I was born on, they would laugh at me. They thought it was so funny that I did not know. I later found out that I was born on a Thursday, which makes my name, Yawa. The kids have their school name, their name for the day of the week they were born, and their surname. It was a bit confusing at times.

The food in Ghana was very difficult for me to eat. There is absolutely no flavor to the food in Ghana (there is only spicy pepper). A typical morning meal for me consisted of one of the following: rice water, porridge, oats or coco porridge. Rice water was my biggest nightmare. All this is, is cooked rice in water. The porridge was made from corn which mama would grind, or from some type of ginger. Mama was so kind to take such care in preparing my meals, but I just could not get used to them. Mama would also make me a fried egg at times, as well. As I watched the warm eggs sit on the floor in a basket for days, I could not help but think of Salmonella as I swallowed my eggs without chewing. For lunch, Mama packed me rice with tomato gravy. I never ate my lunch; instead, I shared it with my friends. For dinner, it was a piping hot plate of rice with either vegetable stew, village stew, beans or broth. I felt bad because Mama always worked so hard to prepare my meals. I was never even hungry. This all lead to my 15 pound weight loss.

A few of my meals:

On my first morning Mama Esi prepared me a fried egg, rice water and papaya. The kids were not allowed to have their meal until I was finished. I felt sad as I watched the kids peak through the window to see what I was eating. Some of them were crying because they were so hungry. I hurried and finished my meal so that they could eat. I cried once again as I watched them eat a small piece of bread with a cup of hot water and one scoop of Milo (chocolate powder). As time went on, I would leave part of my food on my plate because I know that when the kids were washing my dishes, they would eat my left over food.

My favorite thing that I ate while I was in Ghana was mango and pineapple. Mama had a mango tree in her yard and the kids would pluck mangos for me in the morning and come wake me up and say, “Sister Kelly, we have plucked mango for you, come and collect them.” They were so eager to please me.

A few reasons why I choose to be vegiterian:

I had a lady braid my hair for me, and for the first two weeks, I kept them in. During this time, I never showered. Now, I know that all who know me know that I love to see how long I can go without showering, but this was not one of those cases. For the first two weeks, there was no running water. I used wipes to clean my body. I can not describe how bad I smelled after two weeks. I ended up taking out my braids because I had developed a rash so bad, that my head hurt. I took them out when I saw that the water was finally running. As I started to take them out, the kids immediately ran to me and put my hands down and said, “Kelly, let us take them out for you.” You know how some girls take their hair out of braids and have rally cute waves…Yeah, that doesn’t happen to me:

After they took out my braids, the kids insisted on washing my hair for me. So we went upstairs and they washed my hair. They told me that they had never seen a woman wash her hair before. They loved running their hands through my hair. The girls would say, “I want your hair, Sister Kelly.” The tub was black after I was finished. White chunks fell everywhere from my hair. It took about a week before I could get the sour smell off of my scalp.

Most of the time, I could not take a real shower. The water pressure was not powerful enough to carry the water upstairs, so I literally had to drip wash. Most of the time, I would just fill a bucket with water from outside and wash this way.

Below are some pictures of me feeding monkeys:

Some days the children would feel so sick. These days were always hard. In Africa, I was able to see first hound why heath education is so important. These children know nothing about hygiene. I was able to teach the kids some basic hygiene practices, and I think that the things I taught them will really help them to keep healthy.

Sick kids:

When I first arrived in Ghana, I was so hypochondriacal about getting sick or getting assaulted. I quickly became so brave, and perhaps even a little too brave. I would go out at night by myself, travel alone and walk bare-foot—all of which are things that I was advised not to do. The scariest thing that happened to me was this: I was walking home from the internet cafĂ© late one night. The road to my house was very dark and unlit (there are no lights on the roads, and the power usually shuts down about 5 times a day). I stopped to take a phone call from Mac, and as I was talking, a man walked up to me and waited for me to finish. I was always very friendly with everyone I met, so I was not worried. I told Mac that I had to go, and I hung up. I said hello to the man and he asked me where I lived. I pointed down the road, and I said, “I live that way.” I never liked to tell strangers where I lived. The man opened his zipper and pulled out his privates. He told me that he had just returned from Chicago and that he was sick. He asked me if I could touch him to see if I could help him to know what was wrong with him and to possibly heal him. I immediately said, “NO,” and walked away. He started to follow me for a second and yelled, “Va, Va!” (Come, come!). I hurried home, worrying the whole time that he was right behind me. Because of African’s dark skin, I could never see if anyone was in front or behind me. As I said, the roads were completely dark. Luckily, I made it home ok, but all I could think was that I was going to get raped.

At night, I would have the two oldest boys come up in my room and we would talk for hours before going to bed. I loved this time because we would bundle up under my mosquito net and they would tell me about their parents before they died. Even though they had been through so much, they were not sad. I however, would cry every time they talked about being orphaned. When I think about the kids in America—throwing tantrums over not getting the video games they want, not wanting to do their chores, being embarrassed by their parents, etc., I can not help but laugh at what now seems so completely stupid. We as Americans have everything so easy.

I have never seriously thought about adopting, but after spending time with these children, I wish so bad that I could take them all as my own. I had a special bond with Wisdom and Love, who were brothers.
If there was a way that there families would allow me to adopt them, I would do it in a heart beat. I love them so much. I feel so empty now that I am home and I am not with them. I think it has even been a little hard on Mac with the person I have changed into. I am depressed much of the time, and all I can think about is how I wish that I was in Ghana, in my village of Kpando.

Wisdom made this heart sculpture for me from caly which he made himself:

I have adopted Delta Preparatory School, and I am in the process of starting a non-profit account to collect donations for their school. Before I left, I sat down with the schools director and headmaster and made a budget with the funds that the school needs. The money they need to make their school into a real school is actually not that much; they only need about US $12,000. Once I have the accounts set up, I will be working on raising money for their school. My plan is to raise the money in two years time, and then go back and present it to the school.

I have also decided to sponsor two of the boys (Wisdom and Love) which will pay for their school fees up until they graduate from secondary school. After visiting Ghana, I have such a desire to give these children everything I have. Before I left, my concerns were these: the low balance in out vacation savings, my weight, living in a guest house, not being able to purchase a home for many years, school debt, not having a dishwasher, sharing a car with Mac that makes funny noises and will most likely brake at anytime, only being able to spend $60 a month after the bills are paid, the possibility of loosing my job, not being able to have kids until we have more money, etc. Now, these things all seem ridiculous. There are so many more things to be concerned about in this world, and if I am sitting around being jealous of my friends who have homes and nice cars and clothes and babies and tiny wastes, and then I am being completely self-centered. None of this matters—AT ALL!

The children were so eager to learn about my religion. I brought with me the Ensign issue that is completely dedicated to Christ. When the kids saw this, they took it from my hands and began to read it from start to finish. Once they finished, they started again. If only I was so eager to read the Ensign. Even the adults would ask me to tell them about my religion. I attended two different religions while I was in Ghana—The Church of England and The Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I was so grateful to be a witness of what religion is like in Ghana.
One of my favorite things to do with my favorite orphan, Wisdom, was to ask him to help me run errands in the town, and then suprise him by taking him to get a drink. This simple thing made him so happy. It was our little secret.

On my last day in Ghana, I traveled around Accra with two girls who I met from Denmark. We went to an outdoor market where I was able to purchase some jewelry and paintings. I got pretty good at bargaining with Ghanaians on prices. They assume that all Americans are rich, so they start very high. I talked a man down from 25 Ghana Cedis for 2 pairs of earrings to 6 Ghana Cedis. When we are at 10 Cedis, the man said, “It’s your lucky day, I will give you both pairs for 10 Cedis.” Then I said, “No, it’s your lucky day, I will give you 5 Ghana Cedis for the both of them.” Then he responded, “7 Cedis and we will shake hands,” and I responded, “6 Cedis and we will shake hands twice!” They started laughing and told me that they could really tell that I was an American, and said, “Fine!”

Here are some pictures of me and my friends from Denmark at the beach in Accra; behind me is the castle where the president of Ghana lives.

It is ironic that the place that is so stricken with poverty, is the same place that has brought me more peace and joy than I could have ever imagined.

On my last day, I was able to go to the temple. In a place where everything that is so different from what I am used to, it was comforting to be at a place where everything is the same, no matter where on this earth you go. I was able to talk to some missionaries, and I even shared the gospel with the man who accompanied me to the Temple.

Mama made me two Ghanaian dresses out of Ghanaian Batik fabric to take home with me. When she finished sewing them (5 minutes before I left the orphanage), she insisted that I try them on and take pictures. The kids started giggling when they saw me in the dress and kept telling me how beautiful I looked.

There were two guys who were my best friends while I was in Ghana—Christian and Newell. We did everything together. They were so eager to take me around and share their food with me. I love these guys so much and miss them already. I have talked with Christian several times since I have been home. I know that these guys will be life-long friends. On my last day, Newell showed up at my orphanage at 6:00 am, in the poring African rain, to escort me to the tro tro station to see me off--so cute. Here is a picture of him and I. Yes, I am balling.

These are my last pictures with Mama and the kids, again, I’m balling.

This account of my time in Ghana is hardly complete. Most of my feelings are too intense for me to find words adequate enough to do their justice.

The hardest part of my trip to Ghana was having to go home. Every day I wish that I was there. I wake up in the morning with the thought that I can see my kids, but then I realize that they are half a world away. I cry daily wishing that I could adopt Wisdom and Love. I just received a touching email yesterday from Mama’s son explaining to me that the Wisdom is going through a hard time without me. This was comforting to me, because I know that he felt the same connection to me as I felt for him.

I designed a sculpture that I had a man carve me, and I think it describes quite perfectly the change in my life. It is a woman holding a heart with the outline of Ghana in its center.

Despite all the horror stories and dangers I had been told about Africa, the hardest thing about my trip was the part where I had to go home.

My experience in Ghana has completely reshaped my life. I have a new prespective on certain things and I feel that I have changed for the better. I have so many new aspirations and goals now. Next on my list...India, Kenya and the Amazon.

Ghana will truly, always be in my heart.

My favorite pictures, push play:


Ronnie & Christine Brown said...

What an amazing experience! Doing something like this will change your life forever. Let us know how we can help with the fund raising. We are so proud to have you as our daughter. Welcome home.

Lindsee said...

Wow. I read the whole thing. What an experience! I can I just say that you are so brave. As much as I would love to experience something like that, going without Tyler would be so hard. We need to get together soon, because Tyler and I need friends:) So, we can do something fun, and cheap and talk about Ghana!

{alisse t} said...

Wow, Kelly! What an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing it with us- you will love to have these stories & feelings written down for years! The children are all SO very beautiful- I can see a little why you did not want to leave them. You are so lucky to have had this experience!

Stacy Stoddard said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, it has really touched me. I wish I could adopted all the children just so they have parents to love them and care for them.

I think if I were to go there I would be an emotional wreck everyday because I would want to save and help them right now and knowing I can't would be very hard.

Hopefully next time Mac can go with you to share in what you have learned and experienced.

Let us know when we can help in your fund raising.

Chris Brown said...

Kelli, I absolutely love and adore you. This is such an awe inspiring tale of love and compassion. Yes, we really take so much for granted, and as you say it really doesn't matter.
It makes me want to go on a service mission in the near future. There is so much need in this world, thank you for opening our eyes to the beauty in the world that we don't see.

Welcome home!
Ma Brown

rigby ericksons said...

Kelly I'm am in tears right now. I loved reading this and hearing all about your time in Africa. You are really an amazing person, so brave. I agree with you, it would not have been the same experience if you had not been alone. We have to be out of our comfort zone in order to really open up to something new. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I have always wanted to be able to do something like this, I look forward to going on a mission when my kids are grown.
That little Love is the cutest thing ever! I see why it was so hard to leave. All of them just seem so loving and wonderful. We really do take everything for granted.
Did you receive the package I sent? I hope so, especially after seeing what you were eating!
Welcome home!!

kemra said...

I just finished reading it - I wish we could all have that experience! How wonderful! You are such a great woman, and I'm sure you blessed their lives as much as they blessed yours.

That's cool you are going to start a non-profit thing for their school - keep me posted on that because I would like to help out if I can - sounds like a GREAT cause!!!

I'm glad that you were safe, and had a great time!

Tannis said...

Wow! I usually don't read posts that long, but I started reading yours and it got me hooked! It was cool hearing about your experience there. It makes me want to go there!

Tyler and Karisa said...

I just came across your blog. I started reading and couldn't stop. I loved all the details you shared and the experiences you had. You've instilled such a strong desire in me to serve and greater appreciate the things we are blessed with here. We do take so much for granted. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will probably come back and read it over and over. It truly helps to keep me grounded in reality. I admire you so much for the strength you have and the preparation and work this trip must have been for you. I know we haven't really talked much, but I really felt that I needed to comment on how inspired this blog made me feel. Thank you!
-Karisa Tomkinson (previously Crawford)

heather said...

wow. what an amazing opportunity. thank you for sharing!

Julie LeSueur said...

That was so cool to read Kelly, I love the expressions on everyone's faces. Pure joy. So glad you loved it!

Monroe Family said...

Wow! What an amazing experience!!! You have always been such an awesome person.

Matt and Kim said...

Kelly, you are so lucky you got to experience this. How amazing!

heather said...

Not yet! August 1st! (kinda) we're only stopping for in for a minute -then we're gonna go spend some time with Matt's parents, THEN we'll be moving in towards the end of August. :)

Post a Comment