Saturday, July 31, 2010

Back in the U.S.A.

I didn't think one month in Africa could cause this much "reverse-culture shock." Throughout the last few days back home, I will have small reminders that will somehow bring me back to Ghana and my mind will just wonder off. It's hard to even explain to people because you really have to go through the drastic culture change in order to fully understand it, but I will give it a shot... The moment I stepped off of the plane in the Atlanta airport, I automatically prepared myself for the chaos or unexpected problems that always seemed to arise in Ghana...everywhere. In Ghana, when you left the airport, or your hostile, or anywhere, you were constantly confronted with questions and gestures and touching. This was especially true in the cities...people on the street would constantly pester you to buy their products or to have them help you carry something, etc. to earn their day's wages. Plus, since there are so few white people in Ghana, you are often treated like a famous person. They treat their guests with the utmost respect and interest, but that means people always want to talk to you. Walking down the street, they would yell questions at us, wondering where we were from, what our names were, why we were there, etc. When I arrived in Atlanta, I subconsciously prepared myself for this almost intimidating and stressful demeanor. But, it never came. For once, I felt like i didn't have to constantly watch my bag, have my guard up to all of these people "coming at me," and I didn't have to worry about anyone else bothering me. In Atlanta, everyone was out for themselves and nobody seemed to even pay attention to the next person. It was the weirdest sensation. I went from a culture of being treated like some sort of famous person (in both good and bad ways) to a culture who could care less about another stranger. Just like that, I was a "nobody" again....and, man, did I enjoy the solitude of my own mind. I felt like I could finally let myself go and not feel so "threatened" or on edge all of the time. It was just stressful in Ghana at times when you always had to watch your back and felt obliged to talk to/help everyone around you. It's such a different culture...never about the "I" but always about the "we." So the first feeling I got was a sort of freedom and letting go of a subconscious burden...(I'm not sure how to explain it...) The next feeling was awe. I walked into the airport and couldn't believe how clean and large everything seemed. Plus, there were SO many white people! After seeing hardly any white people for a month (besides our group), it was very strange to be among so many Americans...people that looked and talked like us. Then, I went into the bathroom...there was running water! CLEAN running water! AND it got even better...they had toilet paper in the bathrooms! Not to mention that the seats were clean and dry. The thing I got the most excited for was the drinking fountain! Free, clean, drinking water. It doesn't get any better than that after spending a month in Ghana. People there have to pay to get purified drinking water, and the water from the sinks and showers is generally collected from large rain reservoirs...For once, I didn't have to pay for water. Praise God! I'll finish this tomorrow...for now I must sleep. (I'm still suffering from quite a bit of jet lag...urghh)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

This last week went by incredibly fast...and I CANNOT believe I leave in three short days already! In the beginning of this week, I was pretty down because the plans of working at the medical hospital in Winneba had fallen through...But, literally the same day that the hospital work was cancelled a completely unexpected opportunity arose. After working at the school that morning, I ran into a couple of other Americans walking through town (and to even meet another American is super bizarre here). They told me about the mission trip that they were in Ghana for. Every day, they traveled to a different village and would evangelize to the people there. (They have been building churches throughout this region for the last 10 years.) They added that they were working alongside a medical group from the U.S. as well. The medical team would travel with them to these smaller villages and set up a full medical clinic where people were treated for various diseases. Before long, I found myself with a phone number to these kind people and had made arrangements to join their team later in the week. The opportunity seemed like an answer to my prayers. So the next few days I found myself shadowing the people from the medical team. For some of the time, I sat behind the translator and nurse where they diagnosed different diseases. When we arrived there the first day, there was already about 50 people lined up to get medical treatment before we had even set up. We had over 100 people treated that day; nearly half of them were diagnosed with some form of treatable virus, that they couldn't afford to treat with medication. Their symptoms had gotten out of control and they suffered from sickness that could be treated instantly back home (or that we had already been vaccinated for) in the U.S. like malaria, typhoid fever, and hepatitis B. It was so interesting to observe how a medical mission team worked. I also followed around the evangelizing group who I had met on the street one day. We simply went to different huts and spoke with the people about God (with the help of a Ghanain translator). We asked them about their faith and they asked us about ours. We shared different scriptures with one another and prayed with them afterward. I loved to really talk with the people there, and not at them...for once, I wasn't talking as a white tourist, but just as another person. It was amazing to see some people come to grips with their faith and to outwardly admit their flaws and ask for our help. It was even more amazing and humbling when the Ghanains taught me something about their faith and culture. I think I actually may have learned more from them than I gave back. It was just incredible to see people with almost no physical possessions (in American standards) to be so happy with their lives and on fire for God. One of the days, I was with the evangelizing group and our Ghanain translator left early, so we decided to go on a little adventure. There was these random women appearing on the side of the road with HUGE baskets of pineapple on their head. We wanted to see where these ladies were coming from, so we followed them on a tiny path that seemed to get tighter and tighter with trees so close that you could not even see the sky. It wound around for atleast a mile back into the middle of the bush...literally the bush. After 20 minutes or so of hiking uphill, the forest broke into a large field that overlooked absolutely everything. You could see the entire town and rolling hills of rainforest and various crop fields for miles around. But, the women didn't stop there. I continued to follow them up to the top of the hill while my group disappeared behind me. I wanted to find out where all of these pineapples were coming from! Shortly, we reached the pineapple field where pineapples grew in the middle of these short bushes for as far as the eye could see. (I was honestly expecting some sort of tree the entire way.. never did a think they grew out of a bush haha...) When I got to the top, I wanted to help the women somehow. I didn't come all that way for nothing. So, I offered to carry some of the pineapples back down the path on my head, secretly thinking that they wouldn't weigh that much. After some rough hand motioning, trying to understand one another, I had the bowl on my head full of pineapples. I just about collapsed! That thing was SO heavy...I can't even imagine how they carried those things!! I told the women to take half of the pineapple away so I could actually lift it; they all started laughing at me...They said I would never make it. I pretty much forced the bowl back on my head, determined to prove them wrong. Stubbornly, I marched down the hill, following the other ladies back into the bush. I don't think I have ever carried something so heavy in my life. I made it...but just barely. My neck felt like it was going to burst the entire way down and the women were chatting happily the whole way, while I couldn't even utter a word. At the bottom of the hill, the women applauded me and gave me one of the biggest pineapples I have ever seen in my life! Fresh out of the field too:) My neck and back were sore for days afterward...but I got a pineapple, right? Friday we headed West to Cape Coast, our begin our weekend of touristy attractions. We visited the slave trade castle and went on a canopy walk about 40 km above the ground. There is way to much to explain...but I'll fill everyone in more when I get home THURSDAY! AHH!

Friday, July 16, 2010


I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up with my journal...but there is just so much going on and too little time to type!

Last Thursday (a week ago Thursday) we arrived in Winneba from up north. We are staying here for the remainder of the trip and so far it has been wonderful. Our hostile is about 400m from the ocean and you can hear the waves in the distance before you fall asleep at night. For once, we get to sleep in our own beds with our own rooms. It's such a luxury! We have a kitchen as well and the owner of the hostile, named Emanuel, cooks African dishes with us at nigth sometimes. This week we learned how to make a delicious African Jollof rice with its "secret ingredient" and Red-red with fried plantains. Red red is a type of bean dish usually made with palm oil and different vegetables/herbs. Sooo yummy! (fyi..If you read my earlier posts complaining about the food, I can completely say the opposite after the last few weeks. Most of the African dishes our actually really good! You just have to know where to look or be lucky enough to get a home-cooked meal. )

While we are in Winneba, we are working with a school called Challenging Heights. It's a school that was originally created for rescued child slaves. The children that attend the school have either been rescued from a human-trafficker or our at high-risk to be trafficked. The school is in a poorer part of town (which is already poor so it's really rundown around there) where the traffickers our known to come looking for children and/or the children can't afford for normal schooling. (In Ghana, school costs money and, when most of the country is below the poverty line, it doesn't make much sense at all to charge people...) Anyway, I helped teach at the school earlier this week. All of the children our uniformed and the rescued children our not identified on order to treat all of the kids alike. Everyone in our group was asked to pick a class to help teach and I chose the 1st grade. While grading papers, I caught myself glancing around the room and wondering about which children had come from where and what kind of stories they possessed. Although, some of the trafficked children were pretty obvious. The ones who were recently rescued from slavery hardly spoke and would barely look me in the eyes when I taught. Also, many of them sat together in one corner of the room. The teacher later told me to be gentle with that section because they were still adjusting to everything (confirming my suspicions).

The level of abilities was just about as diverse as you could get in a school. One day, we (me and the teacher) went over the different types of rocks for about 2 hours and, after repeating the same information over atleast 50 times (by writing and speaking) we gave the 30-some children a little quiz. Half of them failed it. I was shocked, and kind of frustrated. Were we just wasting our time trying to teach them? Were they even trying to learn something? The teacher tried to explain how this was normal and that different children had not fully developed b/c of their situations. The school is trying hard to identify the ability levels of the kids, but it is so diverse and financially challenging that they are forced to group them in grade-levels. Rosemary, the teacher I worked with (who I thought was at least 24, but was actually only 18!), told me all about how many of the children were never given the chance to go to school before now and that in the first grade class alone, there were a few students over 20 years old mixed in with the kids. I couldn't believe it! How had I not noticed? Plus, she said many of them had been severely mentally abused along with the typical physical abuse.... Some were never allowed to speak when enslaved and, now, had the hardest time just getting a sentence out...

Wednesday, we traveled 8-9 hours by van to a Lake Volta where most of the children in Ghana our trafficked into the fishing industry. Guided by one of the rescuers himself, William, we took a boat ride across the lake to one of the villages where trafficking was very prevalent. The entire experience was unexplainable. I did a huge research report on this very subject and area last year and seeing it with my own eyes was just... unreal. On the boat ride, we could see children (as young as 5) on other boats with their "masters" helping them to haul out the fish and doing pretty much everything that the master didn't want to do. William informed us that many children die from diving into the deep waters to untangle the netting (which is a very common task for them.) Their little bodies our then buried somewhere far from the village and, after a few years, the children's family are informed that their child died from some sort of |sickness". How disgusting....
When we arrived at the village across the lake many of children came running toward us and William told us that these were the children of the families from the village. Apparently, the fishermen never use their own children to do work, but send them to school like any "responsible parent" would. Instead, the fishermen travel to far-off villages where they can "buy" children from desperate families, who have really no idea where their child is going...On shore, the fishermen tried to hide or disguise the trafficked children by having them duck in the boats or claiming the trafficked children as their own(beforehand, commanding the children to remain silent). The traffickers also tell the trafficked children that we are policemen coming to arrest them, so that they run and hide from us. William, with his year of experience, pointed out many of the disguised trafficked children for us. Most families played the act well, but some children seemed all-too obvious.. at some huts, a few children would be dressed in uniforms just hanging out and smiling up at us(the fishermen's children), while one or two would be standing off to the side untangling a net in some pathetic version of a dress. (These families claimed that the child was just doing a chores...uh huh...)I was soo frustrated at these fishermen to say it lightly...I can't even explain how angry it makes me.. How could they EVER think that was OKAY to completely ruin a child's life like that?? They treat these children like rats...and,then, these kids grow up knowing no better...and guess what they end up doing for a living?

I just don't even know what to say anymore...But the reality of these kids is so real and so evil it is just disgusting...and, when I get back, I think that is what I may concentrate trying to change...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day uhhh...16? 17? Lost track a while back...

Well, I have officially been without internet for 13 days! That has got to be a new record. And I can definitely feel the effects. I don't think I hve ever felt so disconnected from everyone and everything.

The last 10 or so days up north have been some of the most meaningful and confusing days I have ever had. Nothing turned out as I expected it would.

Looking over my first post, I came to Africa looking for an answer. I thought it would "lead me on the right direction towards my future," but it has truthfully only made me more confused. Some days I feel really excited and giddy about being here and doing these different projects, and then other days I feel rather down and don't understand what I am really doing here. On those harder times, I realize I didn't come to Ghana to enjoy was never supposed to be a vacation, but a true learning experience. In those challenging moments, I think that is when I am truly learning.

Anyway, I'll stop with my rambling and attempt to summarize the visit...

On the first day of our trip, we met the man who runs the orphanage called Abraham. This man is one of the most incredible people I have ever met in my life. He has completely given up his life to serve these kids and the people around him. When ate all of our meals at his house and he would make sure that everyone else had enough to eat before he served himself. A few times he even gave up eating because there wasn't enough for everyone, claiming "he wasn't hungry." He also has big plans for the city of Damongo (where he lives.) He wants to set up a restaurant to help fund his orphanage and wants to build a community garden to help feed the people "healthier" choices there.

The same day, we went down to the orphanage to meet some of the 50 children that live there. They all greeted us on the spot with laughter and smiles. I wasn't sure how I was going to first react with the children, but it didn't take any effort at all. They were absolutely darling from the start. Over the next few days, we played frisbee, football (soccer), and other little games that the kids were eager to teach us. We also painted some of the walls of the orphanage and helped cook meals. Okay, cooking meals here is so much more challenging then at home. Some of the hired women (called Aunties) taught me how to pound cassava one day (with a huge wooden tool into a pot). I thought it couldn't be that hard if the older women could do it for thirty minutes straight. I excitedly took the job over and, to my surprise, failed miserbly.. That stick was so incredibly heavy. I must have pounded the cassava only few minutes and had no strength left at all! The ladies and children got a good kick out of it and were laughing pretty hard at me. After a little instruction (from the children! ha!), I tried it for a second time and apparently did something right, b/c I got a little round of applause.

Early in the week, Abraham asked everyone what their majors were and I happened to be the only person in our group to be studying a science. He informed me that they were looking for a science teacher at the school nearby and he said I could start the next day. I thought that was rather random and strange to start a teacher randomly through the school year, but I agreed to do it. So, the next day I ended up in front of a class full of sixth graders with about fifteen minutes "prep" ahead of time. I was handed a book and told I was teaching physics. That's all...I freaked. First of all, physics is probably my worst subject of anything so naturally I would get that, and second of all I had no idea what or how I was supposed to teach!! One thing I did know, I just had to keep calm and look confident. Oh and speak realllly slowly since the kids could hardly understand my "accent." I vaguely recognized the material and pretty much winged the lesson. Two teachers and the principal watched me as I attempted to look professional and put-together in front of the 40some students. They also helped me translate some of the kids' answers. Let's just say, it was an experience!

So, this is a funny story...
we were working along four Dutch volunteers at the orphanage and one of them named Nicgrita used to run track. Naturally, we quickly caught up on the subject and she said their was actually a track competition (called "athletics" in Ghana) going on that weekend at the local high school and she was taking some of the children down to go see it. She asked me half-joking if I would be interested in running one of the races. I told her, if they really let me run, I would do it. I kind of regret saying that b/c within a few hours I found myself on the starting line of a 1,500m race against about 15 other Ghanains. I was the only white person in the entire meet...and the only one wearing tennis shoes (the Ghanains strangely preferred wearing bare feet...) The 400m track was roughly carved into the ground around a large football(soccer) field. There must have been over 400 people watching the meet and, man, did I get some weird looks. But, it was such a blast. I was older than the other girls in the race and had some prior training, so I knew it was not going to be an all-out race. I paced the top girl to the finish and had quite a reaction at the end for "a strange abruni-white person- winning the race."

My time is almost up though...I will update more later on this blog...possibly tomorrow. This entire trip is just much too long to explain...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 6

Saturday, we traveled about an hour down the coast to a smaller town called Winneba. We took a tro tro, which is basically a big van stuffed full of hot and sweaty people. It was a long and smelly ride, but it was well worth it when we finally made it there. Winneba is such a breath of fresh air after being a big, crowded city. It has a simplistic, close-community feel and we were told "this is the real Ghana." We met some friends there (who are faculty leader knew) for a birthday party and to watch the big Ghana-U.S.A. futbol game. We went to a local restuarant/lounge to watch the game on a big-screen TV. There had to have been over 100 people stuffed into the small, open-top building and I don't think I have ever seen a crazier crowd. This game was comparable to the super-bowl back at home, but probably even bigger. When Ghana first scored people were running into the streets singing and dancing, you could hear people for miles around honking and yelling. Also, the whole market shut down that day just for the game. There was absolutely no one on the streets or in the stores. EVERYONE was watching the game. Since our group and a few Canadian students were the only white people in probably the entire town, the locals kept apologizing to us b/c our team was so bad. We just laughed and said we were cheering for Ghana. They got so excited when we told them that. Later, we had a celebration of food and music. Some of the locals tried to teach me how to dance...and guess what? They actually said I was pretty good! (they must have been trying to make me feel better... hahaha) We got home late that night at probably 1 or 2 in the morning.

The next morning, I attempted going on my second run this entire trip (I went earlier in the week as well.) People here think it is the weirdest thing for someone to go running. They don't understand the concept of exercising or running for fun. I thought maybe in the smaller town people would just let me be and not think it was as weird. I was wrong, very wrong. I'd be running through the streets and near the market and people standing outside (everyone is always outside here, just walking around or selling things) would just laugh and point at me. They'd yell "abruni, abruni, you crazy abruni" and break out in laughter. (Abruni means white person in their language, it's just what they call us.) It was kind of embarrassing, I just tried to ignore them, but it is going to take some getting used to. Being a white person is already weird, but running as a white person supposedly makes me a freak of nature. haha.

I've been trying some unusual foods here as well...or maybe just plain food is a better way to put it. Nearly every restaurant serves the same thing: rice and chicken. If you are lucky, there might be fries. I am getting really, really sick of rice to put it nicely. So this past weekend, we went to this restaurant that was supposedly really upscale for Ghana. (It had the whole candles, and white table setting, folded napkins, etc.) Our group got really excited b/c it had a complete full menu. Like REAL food this time including most of the things you'd find back at home. I ordered "stir-fry" from the waiter, and was really optimistic at eating a quality meal for once, and he told me that they didn't have it. I thought that was weird. Why would you put something on your menu if you didn't serve it, right? So then, I ordered fish and a baked potato. That sounded good too, I figured...They didn't have fish either. I was like "what the heck?" I finally just asked "what do you have?" There was literally like a list of 5 things... and could you guess what they were?? Yeah..chicken, rice, some other things, and potatoes! I liked the thought of a real potato for I ordered that with chicken. I never got a potato, but fries... when did a a baked potato become fries? I was quite disappointed. But that's just how things work here. You never know what is going to happen. Also, another thing about the food, it is NEVER served on time. We could wait for hours and not be served unless we reminded them. Or it could be served right away if we got lucky. But most of the time, they forget or are just really slow. Anyway, food is just frustrating here. Especially with me being an overall healthy eater. I am either going to gain a lot or lose some weight depending on how everything sits with me. But, I know one thing for sure. I'm not going to be eating that nutritiously...But that's just a part of the experience I suppose.

Okay, so on the aspect of food again. I tried to eat as healthy as I could for a while(that is before I learned that that is nearly impossible). I ate vegetables (usually in the form of beans or the occasional thin salad) and omlets here and there (etc.). Well, this plan of eating healthy completely backfired. Yesterday, I came down with the WORST gastrointestinal problems(if you know what I mean;) I have ever had in my life. I could not keep anything down whatsoever. My food would literally go straight through me. I talked to some health professionals and they said it was caused by my "healthy" diet. I guess I wasn't supposed to eat raw vegetables... I was in bed for close to 24 hours, if not more, and could barely walk around b/c my stomach was constantly churning. After some medication, it finally calmed down a bit...but I guess my attempts at being healthy are done for a while. Bring on the rice! hahaha

Last Sunday, we came back to the city of Accra from Winneba and we are leaving again tomorrow morning. We are taking off on a flight at 4 in the morning for the northern region of Damongo. Up north, we finally get to start the real service work! We are going to be working with orphans for 10 days in a small city who has hardly ever been exposed to white people at all. I can't wait to get out of the city for good and begin to work with the chilren!

Well, I'm heading out for now, but for everyone back at home, do not ever take the food for granted there! In my opinion and to most Ghanains, if you eat more than rice and chicken in a day, you are eating luxury.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day Number One

Soo...where do I start?? This has been one of the craziest, yet strangely laid back couple of days I have ever had.
Yesterday, we took three flights to fly into Ghana. The first one was two hours late... and we had lay over for...two hours. Our group was literally sprinting through the Detroit airport to catch our second flight which was supposed to leave the minute we got there. The attendants weren't very happy, but we made it! Then, that flight was held up for a little while and we made it to our next flight in JFK 15 minutes before that was supposed to leave. It was one crazy LONG day on the airplanes...and I'm pretty sure I almost died on the last flight. About 20 minutes before we were supposed to land in Ghana, the plane started to have "some of the worst turbulence we've ever experienced" according to the flight attendants. We were literally bouncing up and down on the plane. Me, being me, screaming my lungs out...and everyone around us just ducking and holding on for dear life. I honestly thought that could have been the end...Me and the lady next to me said a quick prayer and just held hands well it shook uncontrollably. When we finally landed, the passengers all broke out in an applause of relief...I was still shaking until we got our luggage.

Another thing about the flight...I met one of the coolest ladies on our flight to Accra at I think 1 or so in the morning?? She was a missionary who was flying to Liberia to build a mission home for the people there. We talked for about 20 minutes and I told her how I wanted to do some sort of mission work in the future. She had the most amazing heart for God and felt so connected at that point and knew that I was headed in the right direction..

Ooh..and did I mention I maybe slept 3 hours in 3 days? no joke...I don't think I have ever been that tired. But anyway...

Accra, Ghana, Africa
This place is so strange. So different from what I pictured. I thought it would be mostly a dirt road city with little shacks surrounding the roads with these really friendly people (that everyone was telling me about). The first thing I noticed touching down was the cement roads with normal markets...and the shacks of course. My first impression was that it looked like "a really bad part of Detroit." It's almost a mix of the Detroit ghetto with the Mexico border. But the roads are paved and they do have nicer restaurants and just have to find them. At the airport, Christine almost got some of her money stolen from the people "helping us" (that we did not ask for). Then, we drove through the "city."
The traffic has no rules at all! If I were to drive out here for just one day, I would probably die. End of story. People are cutting each other off everywhere and the honking never stops. Plus, there are all these people carrying things on their heads in the middle of the streets, trying to sell their products to you. They come up to the window, sometimes even sticking their heads in, and throwing their products at you or stuffing it in front of your face. Another weird thing is when we were driving in the car, they played American music. You would think we'd get away from all that western culture stuff...but no, they try to act as American as they can, thinking that this will impress us. Kind of interesting...and sad.

After eating at an American restaurant (the last one for a while according to Janaan), we headed to our "hotel." It wasn't the prettiest thing, but it has a bed and air conditioning though so I'm happy. And supposedly this is more upscale for them. I took a nap then...and managed to pull myself out of bed to go on a walk around the endless town and little market shops. We ran into all of these children in uniforms on the street and wondered where they were coming from, so we followed them to their school and they kept holding onto our hands and pulling us closer. Soon we had a whole crowd of children pulling at us and showing us their teachers and such. We had to run to get away...and promised to come back tomorrow to watch them sing and that should be fun. We will see. but for now I have no time and am on my last minute so farewell for now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leaving TODAY!

I don't think the reality has hit me yet...I leave in less than 2 hours! Thinking back, t was nearly a year ago that I first decided I was going to Ghana in August of 2009. I heard about this trip even before I started school at Grand Valley and knew immediately it was something I wanted to pursue. The service work, instead of a the "regular" study abroad is what first pulled me in. I have always had the desire to go to a developing country and see the "reality" of the world around me. I've been stuck in the little "West Michigan Box" my entire life, and I really wanted a slap in the face to see what the world is really like. I know one thing: West Michigan is definitely not the reality. I think I read a statistic once and it said: if you have a roof over your head, food to eat, and a few spare coins in your wallet, you are better off than 99% of the world. This thought is so scary to me! How could most of our society seriously just sit back and pretend that the world is so nice and perfect outside this little area and especially outside the U.S.??! Although, that's probably how I still think/act like right now...I have never known any better. That is why I am going: I want a touch of reality.

Also, I don't want to just "experience" this trip either, but I want to learn from the people in this country and, hopefully, change some of my messed up perceptions on "normal." I want adopt their positive attitudes when they live on barely anything (in American standards) and, hopefully, begin to change my typical selfish and sheltered American mindset. I want to stop thinking about "me me me" all the time and begin to think of others ahead of myself. From what I've read, these people are generally humble, selfless, and optimistic. I am probably pretty close to the opposite, as our most Americans. I desperately want to change that, and I think introducing myself to this new and strange culture will give me that "kick in the butt" that I want, no need, so badly.

Well, I will stop my rambling soon. But one last thought...I want to grow closer to God during this journey as well. One thing West Michigan has taught me is how important He is in my life. I can't expect to go to a completely new country and genuinely change selfish ways without God guiding me through it. He is the one that has shown me how screwed up and sinful I am (we all are) to begin with. As far as I've heard, Ghana is a pretty "Christian society" and I can't wait to witness His presence in the people there. Although our group will be doing different service projects, I honestly think we will get out of this trip much more than we could ever put into it. I pray that I will. I not only want to witness the real world, but learn from it and come back ready to do something about it.

I don't want this trip to be some sort of "vacation," because it's not. As much as I try to pretend, things will not go perfectly and I will probably not be "comfortable," but that's the beauty of a challenge and change. I think that is what will make this trip so much more significant than the typical "study abroad." I am not here to soak in more laziness and to simply "enjoy myself." I want a challenge. I want it to be another step in my walk with God and take full advantage of it's truths. If I can even begin to get rid of my selfish mind frame, then I have made progress. The real challenge will be to keep working at it even after I get home...this I am holding myself accountable for and cannot wait to get started!

There is only an hour and a half now until I leave.

Bring it on!