07 July 2013

Reflective Paper

Here is a copy of my Reflective paper for my Development studies course to prove I learned something, I hope you enjoy!

My entire life I have been a dreamer, not a do-er, and this trap between making dreams a reality has been a common definition throughout my life.  Coming to Africa has been the one dream that has remained constant and true for as long as I can remember.  Now that my dream has become real in this trip to Ghana I couldn’t be happier and I continue to push the boundaries of doing things that I never even dreamed of doing. I knew it would be hard and I thought that I would have a hard time adjusting to life in Ghana, but the truth is that I have never felt so perfectly content in my life and not once did I miss home. To me, this is a sign that I am meant to be here and I can’t wait to come back to Ghana and even see the rest of Africa.  I have decided to write my reflective paper based on the two defining moments that I have had the privilege of experiencing during my time in Ghana.  These are the most outstanding moments that helped me to stop and think about what is really going on.
Feeding the hungry.
The very first moment where I can look back on this trip and recognize a deep change is one of the first days in Accra when we were riding the bus through the busy streets.  I was eating a popsicle at the back of the bus when an older woman walked up to the window and gestured to her mouth begging for food. This was the first time I ever had anyone ask me for food before, so I sat there dumbfounded not knowing what to do. Afterwards Brandon went to go hand her his popsicle and as she reached out to grab it the bus drove away and it dropped on the ground and she went without. I felt so guilty that I couldn’t even finish my own popsicle. It did not seem fair to me that I should have so much that I don’t need while someone watched in need. This was the first moment where I ever came into contact with the types of people that I have thought about helping for so long, and I got upset when I realized that I didn’t know how to help. I could see this moment as a symbol for many other events that I will encounter in my development career. What I took away from this experience was that I must use my privilege to help others who are less able to help themselves and then maybe those small acts of kindness and recognition of the poor and hungry are enough to spark some kind of generosity within the world.
People and a culture of kindness.
Last but not least, this is a picture of my favorite experience in Ghana. The lady to my left is named Grace and I met her at a dancing and drumming session outside of my home at the chief’s compound. We had just spontaneously came across this dance festival and decided to check it out when Grace welcomed us with the most joyful smile I have ever seen and continued to teach us their traditional dances.  A few days later I ran into her on the street and found out that she was my neighbor, as well I found out that her name was Grace, which is a word that has always had great meaning in my life. She invited me to her home to teach me how to make banku with okro soup. This is a picture of that night with these two beautiful ladies who treated me with such joy and kindness, along with the many great grandchildren and neighborhood children that stood around me the whole night in curiosity. It was amazing to see how different something as simple as cooking and cleaning could be in a village like Dzelukope. It was even more amazing to see how it was a group effort among women and how they laughed at me when I told them that I don’t know how to cook. I have never had people treat me with such kindness before. Grace went out of her way to share a very nice meal with me, she offered me to eat first, she offered me the leftovers, she offered me a piece of fabric to wear as a skirt to wear home and even keep, she offered me water, and she offered me a gold bracelet. Most of these things I couldn’t accept and I told her I was happy to just sit there talking with her as she told me about her family, her home, her community and way of life. Never have I experienced such generosity, and it is that kind of generosity that made me start caring for the world in the first place so I am unbelievably blessed for that to happen.
If anything, the biggest thing I can take away from this trip is a desire to come back and immerse myself in a single community in hopes of understanding it fully so that by knowing the people better, I have a better chance of helping them. But in all honesty this is more of a selfish dream as I just need more of Ghanaian life, I need to know more people and more culture and I just can’t get enough.
I feel as though this theme of trying to make dreams a reality if more than fitting when it comes to studying development in Africa because it is all about trying to make the world a better place for all people. I believe that this limbo between thinking, dreaming and theorizing development and living, doing and making development is an essential place for any development practitioner to be. If it were not for the dream, the practitioner would have nothing to do, and if it were not for the practice, the theorist would not have anything to dream about. A lifetime of dreaming has resulted in some pretty big and maybe unrealistic dreams. I dream of a world where people are irrevocably generous and kind to one another, where women no longer live in fear, where all children are looked after, where no one goes to bed hungry, where no one remains sick unnecessarily, where every single person has equal access to education and never stops learning, where women and men have the freedom to love who they choose without persecution, where legacies of racism can reconcile, where war is a long lost memory, where children are not made to be slaves or soldiers, where one person’s extravagant life does not come at the expense of another person’s livelihood, where people’s opportunities are not limited by an unfair system, where opulent ignorance ends so that peaceful sharing can begin, where we no longer have to worry whether or not a particular animal or ecosystem will be alive for our children to see, and a world where all people can live in complete peace. I do not wish to look down on a small village or group of people and point out all the things that are wrong in their lives, but I wish to use my privilege to reach out my hand and raise those up who ask for help in the ways that they need. Most of all, I dream of a world where all people have the freedom to make the their own dreams a reality.  I am so blessed to have taken part in this trip to Ghana because it has confirmed that these are the dreams that I want to spend the rest of my life working towards.  
"For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others."
— Audrey Hepburn

Last Night in Ghana

It is suffice to say that I contributed less blog posts than anticipated, as internet is a rare thing to come across in the developing world! So now that I have internet I will do one last blog during my time in Ghana, as it is my last night in Ghana! I am very sad to leave as I feel like I could spend the rest of my life in this beautiful country, but so many things have happened back home that it will be good to go home.

 I have discovered a strength inside of me that I never knew existed. I have discovered that it is possible to enjoy life even when living conditions make it hard. I have discovered that I am surrounded by brilliant like-minded people and it has been amazing to commune with them. I have discovered a new appreciation for the simplest things. I have discovered how to enjoy every moment in life and take advantage of every opportunity. I have discovered that there are actual real manifestations of everything I have learned about the world, giving purpose to everything I have worked towards in school. It is so satisfying to have faces and experiences and memories to motivate the dreams that I will now work towards, yet extremely overwhelming and even frustrating.  The higher energy guiding my life, whoever that may be, continues to bless me in every way.

All I can say is as much as I had always dreamed of coming to Africa and believing that my trip to Ghana would change my life, I never would have expected it to change in so many ways. In ways that do not alter who I am, but rather reinforce everything that I ever wanted to be, knew that I could be, and now I am that person! I am sad that this trip will soon be a memory but I leave knowing that it will always stay with me no matter where I go in life.

I know this is just a broad personal overview and that there are still many stories and experiences to be told, but I will share those in blog posts later on when I get home as I am able to look through my pictures and journal. I will continue to share in the future but in the mean time, here is my favourite picture of the trip!

My biggest dream becoming real... Seeing a wild African Elephant on a walking safari in GHANAA!

... and a little peak into the future ;)