One Year In Country

Today is an important day for me. First of all, Happy Birthday Mom!! Oooo, this is a big birthday. Hope you have a marvelous time. I’m always thinking about you.

October 4, 2011, I woke up around 3am to begin my Peace Corps journey. I said a sobbing goodbye to my doggie and put the rest of my life in the trunk of my dad’s SUV. I cried my way through airport security and sat patiently waiting for my plane to depart. I remember the man behind me was definitely African and I swear I heard him say Ghana at some point. I remember thinking it was a sign – I was on the right path. Hours later, after a pit stop in Memphis (which is one hell of a depressing airport), I land in Philadelphia. After searching high and low for a taxi, I finally found one and we zipped on over to the hotel. A couple hours later, being the last one to arrive, I meet everyone in my training group.

I remember staging vividly. It was wonderful. I still even have my staging notebook. And you know what – today is the perfect day to whip that sucker out. Let’s delve into the past! Please pause, go grab a drink or some M&Ms while I go search. Found it!

We had to finish this sentence: “I have chosen to commit to the Peace Corps at this time in my life because..” My answer: “I am ready and eager to make a difference. I feel the need to give back after years of success, it is important that I give back.”
“I will feel successful as a Volunteer when…” My answer: “I can see small improvements in my community or job. I will also feel successful when I can carry on a conversation at the market with no help.”

Well folks, looks like my job here is done! Ha. My self one year ago is very proud of what I have accomplished so far. My current self looks forward to what I can do with another year.

Let’s look at another thing. We discussed our anxieties and aspirations. I had very interesting images of Africa in my mind going into staging. I thought of Ghana as this dusty savannah with lots of bugs and very little trees. So here were my anxieties and my aspirations:

Anxieties Aspirations
Spiders Try new foods
Cutting my hair Learn the language
Sunburns Feel like I made a difference
Getting seriously sick Conquer fear of spiders
Travelling alone Learn to live on the basics
Getting a job when I come back Go without makeup

It is really funny to look back on these. I remember everyone giving me odd looks when I said I was afraid of getting my hair cut. Well now I am just growing it out! Solves that problem. Spiders – that ain’t going to change any time soon, but at least I have gotten so much better. I spent 3 months with a giant flat spider at the foot of my bed – live mind you, and it didn’t even phase me. When those suckers move though, I scream bloody murder. Nothing on this planet should be that creepy when it moves. Sunburns – well I still get those, but they fade so quickly. I’m a pro at travelling alone and I have been seriously sick. And I’m still here to tell the tale. I have tried new foods, and the best part is I am still trying new foods every day! I still have trouble speaking the language, but I do understand a lot of what is being said in regular conversations – which makes me very happy. Also, I went without makeup for an entire day once (while travelling). I was so proud of myself. I’m not about to do it again any time soon, but I did it.

October 6, 2011 I landed in Ghana. I’ll never forget the moment when I stepped off the plane into the thick and humid air of Accra. The moment I stepped foot onto African soil. I remember being greeted at the airport by CD Mike, Bob, and other Peace Corps staff. I remember every moment of that day.

Some days it is easy to think I have been here a year. But 95% of the time, it feels like I landed just yesterday. Time goes by so quickly here. A RPCV friend of mine told me to make the most of my time here. It goes by too quickly, enjoy it.

So as my ode to a year gone by, I don’t want to summarize (again) the past year. Instead, for each month I’ve been here, I want to pull some random quotes from my blog posts in those months. A year in review, random blog quote style.

October: “The worst part was they gave us both shots at the exact same time in both arms. It was my own personal version of hell.”
“And it was like the heavens parted and released Peace Corps paradise.”
“Every day reinforces why I came here and that I made the right decision. There is always something small that hits you and I think – I am living in Africa, learning a language spoken by probably less than 17 million people (about the population of Florida I think).”

November: “Seriously, those tro clothes were covered in pure disgusting.”
”Plus I did a lot of laundry, which I don’t know about you – but when does hand washing lots of laundry ever put you in a good mood?”
”Why does it take so long? Pot holes. GIANT MOTHER FUCKING POT HOLES.”

December:”My goal for after 2 years is to have 200 husbands. I think I can do it. I came up with a new goal today though – I want to collect 3 chiefs.”
”I am learning to live with spiders. Begrudgingly.”
”Torturing small children with questions on Christmas in order to get super awesome candy? Perfect Christmas gift.”

January: “So this is what it is like to be poor – having to decide what meals to eat because you can’t afford all of them.”
”I am sure if someone were to come in and see what I was doing they would have called the cops and said white girl gone crazy.”
”I truly felt like a Peace Corps Volunteer today. It was phenomenal. I loved it.”

February: “The mom is being really aggressive and rubbing the ointment into my legs like she was trying to scrub the sunburn off.”
”The first drops of sweat are miserable, it feels like your body is crying.”
”everywhere I looked it just oozed Africa. The kids at the school. The girl pumping water. The women with the kids strapped to their backs. The rolling hills. The taxi that stalled very very often. The dusty roads. The mango trees. It was simply spectacular.”

March: “I stood next to Akous, asking her questions and experiencing a new tradition. It felt right. It felt like standing next to my sister.”
”Did you know that for the price of a brand new iPad you could do any of the following: Help a small-scale cashew processor buy necessary equipment to aid in production? Having local processors empowers Ghanaians, helps to increase the price of cashew nuts, and creates jobs.”
”So we trapeze through the jungle in search of the water. I use my machete to clear some brush so I can get by.”

April: “This box of Cheez-Its was like competing in the Olympics for me. And I was out to win the gold medal.”
”I open all the windows and let the cool breeze from the storms aid in my fever reduction. I start to sweat like it is 2pm in the hot season with no breeze in the direct sun. I don’t stop sweating for hours, it wakes me up every half hour because I just feel gross. Keep in mind the delirium is in full force at this point.”
”When you are disgusting, covered in sweat, grime, dirt, sunburn, and other people’s BO – a shower with good pressure is like smashing your face into a three-tiered cake with lots of icing and just devouring the whole thing”

May: “I have been incredibly busy the past week. I also am having residual short term memory problems since I had typhoid. So, I could be lying. I probably did nothing last week.”
”Have you ever walked through a community of 40,000 people and had every single person greet you?”
”If you can live two years on your own, dealing with loneliness, boring food, and horrible transportation, you can live in a tiny studio apartment in NYC or DC dealing with too many restaurant options and your neighbor stealing your wifi.”

June: “He asks me about cars in America, he heard they are made of clay. I keep looking back at the stars and moon because it is mesmerizing tonight. He asks me if I can travel to the moon. If I’m allowed to.”
”I never want now to end. Now is being the happiest Peace Corps Volunteer on the planet. Now is perfect.”
”Cashews are the greatest nut on earth. Back off walnuts.”

July: “My brain is more like this bacon bacon bacon cheese cheese money money work work work work bacon cheese sex? money bacon bacon cheese pizza burger chocolate chocolate.”
”So what do Richie and I do? We go walk in a circle with his phone in the air looking for a signal. We quickly google President Mills dead. Confirmed.”
”I knew we were going into the bush, but I didn’t know it was FOR REAL BUSH.”

August: “Kid has no clue what he is saying, he just repeats it. Good for him though, 2 years old and busting out the English to impress the ladies.”
”The entire family, laying on the concrete, gazing at the stars. It was simply magical. Words cannot even begin to describe the emotions I felt while laying on the ground surrounded by my adopted family.”
”I’m no longer a number, I’m no longer defined by my size.”

September: ““You should be crying! I’m going to cry. I am going to miss you so much. How will we survive here without you?””
”Smallsmall mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the cleanest of them all?”
”Or maybe, I’m just super prepared. Maybe is a lie. I am super prepared. I came out of the womb that way.”


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