Saturday, June 13, 2015

The end of my Rotary year has what?

        I’ve been home from Ghana for about three weeks now.  It’s good to be back home around my friends and family, and even a bit strange to measure my life now against what it has been in the past year.  In the past several days, I’ve give a Rotary presentation to my sponsor Rotary Club, gone on summer vacation, and caught up on eating some of my favorite foods. Here’s a look at life back home.
After a grueling 24 hour flight from Accra to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Washington, DC, and Washington to Columbia, I was finally reunited with my family.  In addition to my parents and sister greeting me at the terminal, it was great to have my aunt and uncle there supporting me.  My mom was a bit upset with herself because she was in the bathroom when I arrived.  She did, however, feel a bit better once we did a reenactment of me walking across the threshold (hopefully that photo will be believable once its developed).  We were so happy to see each other, no one hardly knew what to say, but everyone was smiling ear to ear. 
         After retrieving my luggage from the conveyor belt and packing my dad’s truck, we made our way to…you guessed it, IHOP!  Oh, how I’d missed creamy, delicious, sugary, artery clogging pancakes covered in chocolate chips and drenched in strawberry sauce and whip cream.  It was quite the treat.  At the dinner table, I discussed the various differences in the US and Ghana, like how big, sweet, and cheap fruit is in Ghana, how there are easy ways to conserve energy by turning off the power to the outlets when they aren’t in use, and listening to Hi-life on sweet cool nights at the Goil station in Cape Coast.  Everyone listened on in awe as I told my story and commented on how good I looked.  I told them I was glad I looked better than I felt!
At least dad wasn't in the bathroom when I showed up :)  May 23, 2015

Great family photo, but I was ready to see my bed!  May 22, 2015
A very nice family dinner, May 24, 2015

RIGHT.  ON.  May 23, 2015 
There's my wonderful childhood bed in my childhood room.  Looked so great that
 night 'cause I was so tired.Just how I left it, except with new comfy sheets.  Thanks, mom!  May 23, 2015

        While I thought I’d get to sleep peacefully all day on Monday morning, my uncle called Sunday night to let us know he’d be sending my cousin to help me clear out my storage unit from Charleston the next day.  Needless to say I was seeing double the next morning, but we cleared everything out within a matter of hours and were back home in no time.  
Breakfast the next morning: grits, liver pudding, eggs, leftover pancakes,
milk and coffee with oodles of whipped cream.  SCRUMPTIOUS!  May 23rd, 2015

So glad so my cousin came to help me move!  All my possessions, May 24, 2015
On Wednesday morning, I was more than excited to head to the Rotary Club of Daniel Island to give my coming home presentation.  There was a full house, and the Club members welcomed us (my parents and I) warmly.  They were eager to hear all about my adventures.  The days leading up to the meeting, I had no idea how I was going to fit the best and boldest of my experiences into a 20 minute presentation, but I did my best.  And everyone seemed pleased.  At the end, when it was time for questions, everyone remained in their seats, silent.  One of the club members addressed me and said, “Sierra, your presentation was so interesting and your presentation so thorough we really don’t have any questions.”  President Vail concurred and after a presentation of the club banners from Ghana, a few more announcements, and the reading of the four way test, the meeting was concluded.  Mary, one of the club members, took some incredible photos of us.  All in all it was a wonderful morning.
I’m sure that at the forefront of the club members’ minds was what are my plans now (perhaps you all as my readers would like to know, too).  With great pride, I announced that I had accepted a position as an English Language teacher at a Christian school in Ghana.  That’s right, I’m going back!  I am currently earning my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Certification to teach adults, youth, and children how to read, write, and reason in the English language.  
My classroom in Ghana! May, 2015
As I told many of the club members, I feel God calling me to return to missionary work, only this time overseas instead of in the US at the home office.  I look forward to hopefully helping someone with my God given talents and abilities.

What can I say about my Rotary year?  I owe this experience to Rotary.  Rotary International has changed so many lives through the generous and unwavering support of amazing people like Rotary Club of Daniel Island and Rotary Club of Tema club members.  Rotarians share their time, talent, and treasure to make the lives of graduate students, high school and college kids better and to give the underserved a voice.  I can’t begin to say what Rotary means to me.  I’m looking forward to continuing to be involved with Rotary upon arriving to Ghana.  There are so many ways to get involved and give back to our global community.  

                What can I say about Ghana?  This ‘small’ country on the edge of West Africa has challenged me, stretched me, pushed me to my limits, at times, made me laugh, and at times, made me cry.  An African American living in Ghana for several years, my host mother told me that when the time came for me to return home, I would be glad to be back, see my family, pig out on food, enjoy the ease of life, but then something would make me want to come back.  And she was right.  But I look at things differently now.  So far I’ve done some good hard down eatin’, but I’ve noticed even more how fattening our food is.  I’ve done some shopping, although the department stores look like metal jungles full of clothes and I can’t shop ‘till I drop the way I used to.  I look at our (Americans’) material ease of life and how so many others can’t imagine the freedoms we enjoy.  And as desperate as I was to return home, I find myself thinking about Ghana every day, smiling when I receive a ‘how are you doing’ message from one of my Ghanaian classmates, or praying that the power rationing situation has stabilized a bit for the sake of the people (and mine ‘cause soon I’ll be back).  And I have to admit that I’m just a little sad.  The decision I’ve made is really beginning to dawn on me.  Am I officially moving overseas?  Yes.  Will I be thousands of miles—a 24 hour plane ride away from my family?  Yes.  Is this a dangerous time for foreigners to live overseas?  Yes.  But last time I checked, there is danger at home and abroad. I will save enough money to see my family at least once a year and for now, God has called me to Ghana, and I’m finally beginning to live my dream—traveling the world, living a decent life, and serving others through my God-given abilities.  We only get one life to live, and while it’s not perfect, I wouldn’t trade mine for anything.

Finally, a big thanks to all of you out there, from all parts of the world.  I've received hits from Russian, France, Kenya, and different parts of the US, to name a few.  Your continued support has kept up my motivation to keep up maintenance on the blog.  So to say thank you (and by popular demand) to all of my readers around the world, I am announcing the launch of a new blog this fall.  Check back on this site in August to be directed to my new blog where I will discuss living, working, and serving the people and expatriates of the Ghanaian community (hopefully all of you will read and comment on my blog int he comment section.  I hope next time around it will be more of a discussion and I really want to meet all of you out there in cyberspace!) But for now, I leave you with one of my favorite Ghanaian songs, “Nyame Egwamaaa” by Joyce Blessing.  I will leave you, my readers, with the task of looking up the meaning.  Until this fall, (or late rainy season) be blessed!!

"Nyame Egwamma" by Joyce Blessing

Monday, June 1, 2015

I made it through second semester exams!

        May 22nd marked the last day of a two week exam period.  After about 18 weeks of school, the second semester of my graduate program culminated in six exams over the course of two weeks.  Much excitement, nervousness, and tears enveloped this semester, and by the final few weeks of group presentations and papers, it was all any of my classmates and I could do to turn in our papers on time!  Here’s a look at how I weathered the storm during second semester courses.

Saying see you later (not goodbye) to my host club, the Rotary Club of Tema, May 12, 2015
I thought first semester was rough, but second semester proved to be a monster!  In one class it seemed like we were giving presentations every day, in another there was so much information I wasn’t sure where to begin with taking class notes or what the salient points were (because it all seemed very relevant), and in statistics class, there were some new concepts I did not remember from undergrad.  Although our professor assumed we had learned these things in undergraduate school (which we hadn’t), thankfully he went back and broke everything down.  After crunching a few numbers, here’s what I came up with for the workload this semester:
  • 13 Papers
  • 6 Group Presentations
  • 35 Pages written (typed) for independent papers
  • 38 Pages written (typed) for group papers
  • 62 Pages written (by hand) for exams

Total pages of final drafts completed for assignments and exams=35 pages
I’d have to say that my favorite class this semester was the qualitative side of research methods.  In addition to learning how to really think like a social scientist, we discussed the different assumptions of qualitative research, the five approaches to qualitative research inquiry, and read some really fascinating articles.  I’m also looking forward to working toward having two papers published, with the help of my professors.

Tutoring for our statistics exam, May 16, 2015
          All I can say for exams is that God got me through them.  There were times when I was so exhausted, so tired of studying.  I felt that I couldn’t pack anymore information in my brain and all Iwanted to do was head to Cape Coast for a night of hi-life music at the Goil gas station!  At times I was studying so hard I developed headaches, and while there was a lot more to be done, I had to break and call it a night to get some rest before exams.  By the fourth exam I wasn’t sure how much I could take, and b the fifth exam, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.  But by the end of the sixth exam, once it was all over, I walked out of the exam hall with a swing in my step and a song in my heart.  I stopped to talk with my classmates who were in the library studying for their elective exams, walked around my department to tell my professors and the IT guys goodbye, and then I made my way off campus.  There really wasn’t much sadness: I knew I would return to Ghana and that I would continue to build relationships with the UG faculty, administration and my colleagues.  The road wasn’t easy, but the next evening, when I finally finished packing and stepped on the plane to fly home, there was relief, joy, and thankfulness to God in heart for helping me survive.  The road to and through Ghana was rocky, but I was able to hike my way through!

This ends my discussion on exam week.  Later this week, I’ll discuss my first week back home in the US and catching up on all the things I’ve missed in the past year.  Stay tuned!