All Things Considered

No idea where the title for this entry came from, but whatever. So I am sure everyone is just itching to find out what I have been doing for the past week or two. Well guess what? You are in luck, today I am going to fill you in. Here it goes.

February 26 – March 2 I participated in the SAP training for the smartphone prototype application for cashew buying. Here is another rundown on what exactly that is, because it is so cool I love talking about it. So, you have a smartphone with a camera. You have a prototype application. With the app you can look up a farmer, either by searching, scanning a barcode, or picking from a list. Then you can buy that farmer’s cashew by scanning and weighing his/her sack of cashew. The farmer will be able to see exactly how many kilograms of cashew they sold and when, what price they got, and how much they have made this season. Transparency is awesome! I love it!

So my role in the training – logistics, on the ground go-to-gal, cat herder, problem solver, organizer, and master planner. You know, typical me, especially that last part. Granted there were a few kinks and everything didn’t go perfect, still I think the training went very well. The people I worked with really understood the app and I trust them to be good zonal facilitators. Actually, I was really impressed at how fast people caught on to the app. It helps that it is a really cool smartphone. Overall, I enjoyed working with the farmers – teaching them how to use the app. I also enjoyed spending time with my fellow volunteers, who very graciously donated a week of their time to help out with the training. I am extremely grateful that I am able to work with such an amazing team at SAP. They have put a lot of time and hard work into this project and it really shows. I am so lucky that I have such great people to work with. (STORY OF MY LIFE! I am looking at you AcrobatAnt and State Department and Beale and TU.)

I prepped for this training since my first week at site. I spent the end of December and beginning of January registering farmers. I went to 11 different buying stations, meeting farmers. I typed up 870 farmer registrations. I took that data and analyzed it. I toiled over excel formulas so I could give a good analysis of the Wenchi Union’s farmer base. I stuck labels of all 870 farmers’ registration forms. I followed up with local contacts about the membership booklets that needed to be printed. I stuck labels in some of those. I delegated tasks to my counterparts. I hounded them to finish before the Germans got here. I tried to think of everything I would need for the training. I forgot some things. I organized with my German team on logistics for the training. I called people. I ran around trying to tie up lose ends. I went and printed a ton of documents. I did the leg work.

I did everything I normally do, which is to say I tried to control everything. Every aspect. I have to have my finger on everything. It is something that Ghana is going to teach me is impossible. I can’t control everything. Try as I may. I can’t do it. I need to relinquish some control and let the Ghanaians take on more. After all, this is their country and they will benefit most from this. It isn’t sustainable development if I do everything for them. I think it will take some time for me to come to terms with this, but I have to. Not only is it better for the Ghanaians in the long-term, but it is better for me. I stress too much over not having control. I could save myself some ulcers and live a little more.

Now for some more personal stuff. I have this dread that my first few months at site are going to be the best months of my service. I have this fear that everything else won’t be as exciting or won’t be as fulfilling. I loved doing the registrations because it was tangible. I could see results. At the end of training I could actually see everything I worked on combine into a finished project. Once cashew season is over, what am I going to do?! I know there are plenty of things that I could do, but I just feel this overwhelming sense of dread. Probably because I can’t control everything. (BTW – Audrey inspired me with her blog to actually discuss some of my emotions.)

So, I am taking the next week (mainly because I need a week off to recharge) to evaluate my first three months at site. I am going to assign priorities to what I want to accomplish/do. For instance, I have already scrapped my plans to teach at the local high school. I am part of this incredible Cashew Initiative and I want it to succeed, so I know that my number one focus needs to be cashews. Cashews, cashews, cashews.

On a totally different note, everyone please go buy some Planters cashews. Do it. Eat some. And think to yourself: maybe my farmers produced these. Maybe not, but either way you are eating delicious cashews. Try making pesto with cashews instead of pine nuts, just a thought.

Okay, back to personal stuff. One day during training, I had a breakdown. I snapped. I know exactly what it was too. It was a combination of many many things. I tend to bottle up stress until something unrelated pops the cork. It is another thing that I am going to work on in the next two years. I let the things that went wrong or didn’t go according to plan during training personally eat away at me. I felt like I was letting everyone down by exposing my vulnerabilities and by not doing everything perfectly. It wasn’t anything major, but still I should have thought about it before. The morning of my breakdown I woke up and hopped into the shower. Something about the smell of my hotel room triggered some memories of when I was a kid going on cruises with my parents. The tiny shower also reminded me of being on the ships. I was suddenly flooded with all these great memories of family vacations. Of when my parents were still together. I remembered how happy our family was and how those cruises were some of the greatest memories from my childhood. As sudden as the feeling occurred, it passed. But I guess some fragment of these triggered memories stuck with me that morning (like a horcrux). The back of my mind was thinking about how different my family is now, how much I miss those days.

Then BAM. One person said something to me that pushed the right buttons and POP there goes the cork. I lost it and I couldn’t quite figure out why I was losing it. Luckily, I snuck off to my room to lose it privately, I honestly think no one else knew I disappeared. I didn’t really sob, I cried a little bit. But I literally just felt lost. I felt lost in a wave of different emotions: sadness, stress, disappointment in myself for not being perfect, anger for snapping, even more anger for upsetting the person I snapped at (who understood), guilt, embarrassment, and a twinge of longing for those good ole days.

It was all emotions that I have been slowly storing up and not letting escape. Like a wise man, albeit slightly crazy man once told me: “you are free to feel every emotion possible, it is what you do with those emotions that is important.”

After my private breakdown, I went into town alone and took care of some things for the training. Getting away and having just a short time to myself was just what the doctor ordered. Afterwards, I felt much better and continued on the day like nothing ever happened. There are quite a few things that I want to work on here in Ghana and this is one of them. If I can’t control everything outside of me, at least I can control everything inside of me. I can control when I let my emotions out. I can control how I react to situations. I can control me. I just can’t control everything else.

I had a strange homesickness this weekend. I had this strong urge to get in my car and go to Sephora. Sephora is my little guilty pleasure. New shades of makeup, new skincare creams, trying on new products. Oh, how I long for that experience. I would love to just pamper myself with a Brazilian peel right now (face peel, for those who think oh weird and gross). I also had a strong urge to shop online for shoes. You can’t really just go shopping here. Yes, I buy cloth and go to the tailor, but it isn’t the same as going and trying on new dresses. Wow, this sounds really vain. Eh, its me – that’s a given. Anyway, I am truly not homesick for Oklahoma. Granted I miss my friends and family, but I am able to keep in touch via facebook. So honestly, I don’t feel like I am on a different continent half the time. I miss the weird experiences that I can’t replicate here – like shopping or going to a makeup store. But most of all I miss cheese.

I miss cheese a lot. In fact, just thinking about it I am about to cry. I crave cheese like a heroin addict craves a hit. It is overwhelming. I think about cheese probably half the day. It is a little ridiculous. Can you be addicted to cheese? Am I in withdrawals? I dream about cheese. I dream about eating it again. I dream about taking a giant bite of a really strong, hard cheese – like parmesan. I think about grilled cheese. I think about how awesome it would be to dip grilled cheese into my groundnut soup. I think about dipping chips into queso. I think about cheese way too much.

I guess that’s what happens when your diet is as follows:
Chicken and rice with small small salad
Groundnut soup with chicken and bankou
Egg sandwich with laughing cow fake cheese
Chocolate spread eaten with a spoon
Fried yams with tomato pepper sauce

Sometimes I make/eat:
French toast
Frozen yoghurt from a bag
Speck (thanks Germans!)

But that’s it. That’s all I eat. I eat two meals a day, breakfast and a late giant lunch. I can’t cook and it is a real problem. Buying food to cook is too expensive and I am cheap. Plus, the government hasn’t passed a budget for this fiscal year so while inflation increases at a rapid pace here, my pay stays the same – which means everyday I basically have less and less money. Anyway, honestly I am too lazy to learn to cook. It is hot and slaving over a hot pan doesn’t sound appealing. So my diet is suffering-o. Luckily avocado season looks like it is coming soon, so I will make quac and consume that daily. Buying veggies is a pain though, I have to either walk an hour (roundtrip) into town or wait for Thursdays.

So, moral of the paragraph above: I am lazy and because of my lackluster diet I crave cheese like a mouse on steroids.

This is turning out to be an extremely long post. You know only about 2000 words, which essays in college were this easy. So, let’s wrap this up with a final exciting bit of news.

My leave request was approved and I purchased my plane ticket to South Africa. I am pretty sure everyone dreams of going on safari someday. I sure have. And now it is going to be a reality. I will spend 3 weeks in South Africa going from Cape Coast to Johannesburg. Traversing the country with my trusty backpack. I have plans to see some penguins, whale watch, dive with great white sharks, chill at the beach, play with lion cubs, go wine tasting, go on safari, and much much more. Most importantly, I have already picked out 3 restaurants I want to eat at. Because, that’s what I do. I plan around meals. I plan around delicious delicious food. I will be going end of September/beginning of October. This will be my first solo vacation and I think it will be something I remember for a lifetime. It is a dream vacation and I plan on enjoying it to the fullest.


3 thoughts on “All Things Considered

  1. Trip sounds wonderful 3 weeks wow!! I really want more info when we can talk. I hate that our emotions keep trying to pull us down but it proves how much you want to be here4 and how strong you are that you can pick yourself up and start again. Can’t wait to see you, Barbara

  2. As you know, I’m a bit of a control freak too, so I completely understand this post. And I’m glad my blog inspired you. That makes me happy. Miss you!

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