Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The Way I See It #21
When you purchase a warm, delectable cup of coffee from Starbucks, there are often little somethings spewed across the cup.
They are called "The Way I See It," and whenever I read them, they always bring a smile to my face. No matter what it says, it always provokes some thought about this world, about life, and maybe even just about coffee. These little quotes, sayings, and proverbs are just one of many reasons why I thoroughly enjoy Starbucks coffee. I am in Legon, Ghana—far away from a nearby Starbucks. I am away from Venti Chai Lattes, away from Blended Ice Tea Lemonades, and away from Starbucks espresso.
Yet, I do have a little piece of Starbucks with me.
It's a little piece of home, reminding me of why I am here.
When Michelle and I took down our decorations from our room this past fall we laughed and commiserated at our pictures and even our "Jesus Loves Feminists" sign. Michelle had put up part of a coffee cup that she had saved, one particular The Way I See It—and before putting back with her pile of stuff she told me that I should have it. I read it over again and smiled and gratefully accepted it. I figured that these words of wisdom may just come in handy for my experience over here in Ghana.
Next to my pictures that always remind me of the amazing support system around me, to the right of a note I have from a special child I have tutored in Menifee, Arkansas, and directly above my well worn and hearty desk hangs this piece of a Starbucks coffee cup. It reads:
People need to see that,
Far from being an obstacle,
The world's diversity
Of languages, religions, and
Traditions is a great treasure,
Affording us precious
Opportunities to recognize
Ourselves in others.
Youssou N'Dour (Musician)
Up to this point, I couldn't really find better words to describe what this experience has been like for me.
Every day, I find something new, something different, and it is so utterly invigorating.
And yet, the diversity of this culture, of the traditions, has still afforded me the chance to understand myself, and my own life experience.
Around town, especially around the market, you will often see mothers carrying their children on their back using intricate fabric to hold them up. They take them everywhere and you can see the bond right away. Usually the child has their head leaning on their mother's back, maybe they are sleeping, and they are connected together. It's a moving thing to see, a sight that I always am marveled by. When I see this, I am reminded of my own family. Everyone takes care of each other. Maybe my mom has never carried me on her back with colorful fabric holding me in, but she has looked out for me and kept me safe for my entire life. It's different, yes, but at some level, it's also the same.
Sometimes even talking with people here proves to be difficult. Yes, English is the official language, but there are about 50 other languages that are spoken, just in Ghana. Imagine all of Africa. At Mauhvio's Outreach Program (the school I have been teaching at) we have been working with the kids to help them with their English. It's been an experience; one that has opened my eyes to what I see myself doing with my life a few years down the road. During our lunch break, we take some of the kids back to their homes. One day we crossed the street into an area called Christian Village to take Belinda and Benedicta to their mother, and I was taken aback by how kind and welcoming their family was to me. And yet, she wasn't even speaking a language that I could understand. In Kissemahn, many of the Ghanaians speak Ewe, while at school in Legon we are being taught Twi. Talk about lost in translation—there I was trying to speak the very bare minimum of Twi that I knew, and they don't even speak that language. You can imagine the looks I got from the girls' mother and the rest of the family. Still, it didn't really matter to them that I couldn't speak their language; they were more concerned with the fact that me, a white girl, brought their girls back safely. The mother, Polina, told me she would look forward to seeing me again and she appreciated my kindness. One of the younger girls translated this for me, and it made me smile. It made me grateful for that moment, for the language barriers, because ultimately, it truly was an opportunity to recognize myself, and the beauty that differences provide.
It's been hard catching tro tros. It's been difficult understanding how relationships work over here. It's been challenging getting to know Ghanaians. It's been interesting in understanding how Ghanaians worship and pray.
But, it's been a great opportunity; far from an obstacle, but rather a "great treasure" that I can't even believe I have the chance to experience. This past week I have continued to ask myself,
"Why am I here?"
"How did I end up here, in Ghana, of all places?"
"Do I really deserve this experience?"
I don't have the answers yet, but I am just so so grateful to be living in Ghana. I have wanted to come here since freshman year. It's overwhelming sometimes, just to fully realize that yes, I am here.
Like The Way I See It #21 says, this diversity that I am immersed in, is a gift. A beautiful, incredible gift. And for that, I am grateful.