Open Mind Open Heart

Sunrise over the city

Sunrise over the city

I will try to put into words how I felt when I woke up to my final, beautiful Ghanaian sunrise from my friend Erica’s apartment in Accra. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude. I was thankful for everyone who believed in me to head out and start this epic journey. I was grateful to everyone who wrote to me, sent me notes of encouragement and to Erica for giving me a room in her home, an introduction to the life of an ex-pat, and my first hot shower in 9 weeks.

Machete in hand...

Machete in hand...

For my last Sunday in Ho, I decided it was time to get out of town and go for a hike to the top of the one mountain in the entire Ho area. I asked the French solar energy volunteer Julian, if he would go with me, since I knew he had hiked it before. He agreed, and picked me up on his motorbike (I can barely ride a regular bike, let alone a motorbike). I am not religious at all, but I think I started to pray at the moment I got on the bike until the moment I got off. This was not a Camel’s Hump hike like I was expecting (the main big mountain in Vermont). This was legitimately “let’s just machete our way through this lush jungle (no maintained trails here) until we reach a solid rock face cliff.  Then let’s climb that without any ropes until we get to the top”. We did eventually, only to get caught in one of the largest thunderstorms that I’ve seen this entire trip. At one point, we stopped at a spot where it seemed other people had been before, and someone had carved “Natalie” into the stone.  This was very odd because no one is named Natalie here, so I decided it was some sort of good omen that I would make it back to VEG alive, which I gratefully did. I felt like someone was looking over me during that experience.

My VEG home for last 9 weeks

My VEG home for last 9 weeks

Can't forget a smiling face like that :) 

Can't forget a smiling face like that :) 

Now, here we are at the end of this trip. I cannot thank Julie Spaniel enough for coming to visit me (and revive my spirit with protein bars :) ). We are going to start a new health project out of our time together. She showed me the power of how simply brushing a child’s teeth and giving them a toothbrush and toothpaste can be a seriously appreciated highlight in someone’s life. I am grateful for both of my parents who allowed me to complete the trip even when there was a point where it would have been reasonable and appropriate to have come home. I am thankful for Village Exchange Ghana for allowing me the opportunity to meet a community of beautiful women and children who now have a second chance at life by creating jewelry, batiks, and learning to sew. Finally my greatest appreciation goes out to Kofi who acted as my mentor, my brother, and my friend. Without Kofi none of these programs could have ever gone into effect and I will be forever grateful for the time he spent watching out for me this entire trip.

Little things in life

Little things in life

I am returning home with a new perspective on my life. I have a new appreciation for things I didn’t even realize needed to be appreciated. I have seen a part of the world that many Westerners do not choose to explore.  This is a world filled with unbelievable hardships and sacrifices that are difficult to write about, let alone witness or live. Yet, at the end of the day we are all more alike than different. No matter what the circumstance, we are all human.  Who is to say that a 17-year-old girl from a rural junior or senior high school in Ghana should not have the same access to education, healthcare, and a future like I have? We all have a right to these things and I will do everything in my power to make this happen starting in Vermont and in Ghana.

This trip was a bit of a “soul-searching trip” to help revamp my personal goals for R.O.C. Inc. and rest assured this trip accomplished that mission. I have a defined new goal for the organization as a whole and am beyond thrilled to come home start the footwork needed to make these new goals happen. We live in a globally connected world, so let’s start connecting.

Do not get me wrong.  This trip also had its share of difficulties that I did not always mention in this blog, but I can say that I made it a full 63 days in Ghana on my own, living in conditions most people could not actually imagine (I wasn’t quite expecting some of it either…), but nevertheless, I did it. I set out to Ghana with an open mind and open heart not knowing what to expect.  My only goals were to set up high schools in Vermont with Skype calls to students in Ghana, and to make bracelets for each other. That was really it. 

I want to end with a quote from a poster I saw hanging in the room of the Headmaster at the Anloga Hafikor Basic School: Eulogy to I Can't

 

“Friends, we are gathered here this morning, to bury the memory of I Can’t.

I Can’t was with us for a long time and he was especially present when things were difficult.

He affected the way we do things, the way we lived, and the way we worked.

It is not easy to let I Can’t go, but it is time for us to move on.

He is survived by his brothers I Can and I Will and his sister I’m Doing it Right Now.

Although his siblings are not well known, we hope that they will become more important as time goes on.

Today we lay him to rest.

Let us all try to get on with our lives without him, Amen”

 

I will continue to live my life by following my dreams and passions and believing that I Can do it and I Will do it.

I am home, safe, healthy, and happy. Thank you for following this this blog. It has been my pleasure to share a glimpse of this life with you.

Love always,

Natalie