Welcome Home

April will always hold a special place in my heart, mainly because shit always goes down in April. Special place doesn’t necessarily mean good, it just means a little corner of my heart will forever scowl and give my pleaseeeee look at the month of April. Last year it was typhoid fever which knocked me out for the entire month second half of April/early May. This year it was a whole slew of things.

I finally arrived back at site yesterday afternoon, it has been quite an interesting month and a half. Here’s what went down:

Meeting with business man interested in expanding his juice business to create cashew fruit juice concentrate.
Frantic call from PCMO, went to Accra for medical. Still to this day don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m about 95% sure of what it is. And I’m 50% sure that juju was involved. Since we are throwing stats around.
One day back at site to pack.
Agriculture Reconnect Training – I talked about business trainings and helped out for the training.
Helping Scott with Our Talking Hands (see the previous post)
One day with Cara helping her find ways of diversifying and bringing in more profit to her project. It will need a lot more attention though, so I’m hoping to go back and help her convince her community to invest in some small stuff.
Warden training! Hell yeah, go safety training! I was pleased that I remembered a lot of stuff from training, but I guess security is in my blood. Thanks Dad!
All Vol. The All Volunteer Conference. It was pretty fun, not as fun as I remember from last year. But I also didn’t drink very much, so that makes a difference in my perspective I think. Prom was fun once the music started going. I unfortunately had a very bad reaction to mefloquine during All Vol, so I didn’t have as much fun as I could have. Also, during All Vol I came to a very difficult and hard realization that led me to give up something I truly treasured. Sometimes though, you have to accept defeat, bow out gracefully, and do what’s best for yourself. Another hard lesson that I’m glad I learned, but I’m very sad that it had to happen. (Imagine saving up money for your dream vacation for over a year, you finally get to go on vacation and something horrible back home happens, so you have to leave early before you get to really enjoy any of it.)
After All Vol, I headed to Accra. I had a meeting with the Country Director Monday. I spent the week staying with “my expats.” They work for USAID and hosted me for Thanksgiving and while I was sick in Accra a few weeks before. They were incredibly gracious, accommodating, and supportive during my week of internal hell. They fed me delicious food (homemade lasagna including the noodles!, enchiladas, cheeseburgers, spaghetti, Swedish meatballs, and fried chicken). They even let me go to the beach with them on Saturday. One of them is an RPCV, so it is like having a mentor. She really helped me to deal with my internal struggle and discover ways of changing my situation. It was exactly what I needed to help me get back to my normal self (screw you mefloquine!). I met with the PCMO and they switched me off mefloquine, so I’m slowly starting to feel like I’m emerging from a fog. It’s wonderful.

Monday, I met with the Country Director, Director of Programming and Training, and my APCD. They gave me two options – return to site and “make it work!” (my words, not theirs) or take interrupted service. During the week before, I spent a very long time thinking about why I joined Peace Corps. Have I accomplished my goals? Do I feel like I made a difference? Do I want to go home? Am I strong enough to overcome this hurdle?

This is why I want to be a PCV and why I decided to continue my service:

I want to help others. I want to give back. I want to share my business knowledge and skills with HCNs who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these ideas. I want to put my skills to good use, teaching people how to improve their lives by adopting simple principles, such as recordkeeping, accounting, knowledge of the value chain, and marketing.

I want to be immersed in another culture.

I want to learn about myself, grow, and benefit from others’ experiences.

I want to prove to myself that I am capable of living and working in an environment that is difficult, stressful, dirty, and sometimes dangerous. I want to prove to myself that I have the endurance to survive two years in a developing country. I want to prove to myself that I am strong enough to handle any circumstance that comes my way.

Last Thursday, I attended the Swearing-In Ceremony for 20 new Health PCVs. I’m incredibly glad that I was able to attend, because the speeches from the Ambassador and the Country Director reminded me of why I was here. I am here because I want to serve my country, by serving others.

I didn’t join Peace Corps to quit with only 8 months left. I didn’t join Peace Corps to take the easy way out. I didn’t join Peace Corps to mope in the corner because of this that and the other thing.

I am a Peace Corps Volunteer because I want to be here.

I’ve dealt with issues I never imagined I would face. I’m done with letting other people dictate who I am as a Volunteer. The only person who can judge my service is myself. If I feel that I have accomplished my goals, helped my community, and made a positive impact than I have succeeded. I will complete my service. I will not let the obstacles in front of me impact my last 8 months.

As I returned home yesterday, I spent the 10 hour trip staring out the window. The rains have returned and the land is green again. The wind in my hair, my head out the tro window, and I am content.

When I returned home, I grabbed some kenkey, but the lady forgot to give me mako (salsa). Bummer. I haven’t had anything to eat outside of breakfast. I get home and I can’t open my lock, it has rusted shut. A few bangs and I get it to open. My kitchen/porch is a mess. Clearly, it rained heavily while I was gone. My flax seeds have been nibbled on and there are tiny little flax seeds everywhere. I open my cabinet and 100 teabags from South Africa have been devoured by that bastard mouse. My ranch dressing packets and chickpeas were also not spared. I opened another cabinet and saw that fat little mouse just eating whatever his heart desired. On top of my bookshelf was a venerable mouse playground. He had carried my chickpeas all the way up the bookshelf and ate them under my mask. My wardrobe also made a nice little dining room for the guy right on top of my dresses.

I open my fridge and dear god I’ve never smelt anything so putrid. It was crawling with flies and bugs and all sorts of gross things. I quickly closed that door. I’ll deal with that later. I left it open when I left, the wind must have slammed it shut. There’s a cut in my screen, but at a weird place so maybe it is just recent storms. Nothing is missing. Inside my house is just dirt, but not as much as I was expecting. I found a worm on my bed. I sat down and wanted to cry. I forgot how small my house is. I felt so lonely now. It is always like that when you return from travelling though. And I couldn’t even eat because I had no mako for my kenkey. BAH HUMBUG.

So I got some kids to come over and fetch some water. Then I offered them 5cd to scrub my fridge, a little pricey but I wasn’t about to touch that thing. Even they thought it was gross, so that was some sort of awesome validation. At least it had been unplugged. They took it upon themselves to clean the rest of my porch, take out my trash, wash the floor, and overall make everything look 1000x better. It was fantastic. I decided to put some music on and I played Antenna by Fuse ODG. (Go look up the videos on youtube…NOW, but then come back and finish reading.) Like every azonto song in Ghana, a few beats and all the kids are dancing.

So a dance party started on my porch and the kids taught me some new azonto moves. Akua who helped clean the fridge is a great dancer and teacher. I think I found a new way to exercise. We danced for about 10 minutes, then I had a brilliant idea.

I ran back to my room and searched around for an American song that had a dance associated with it. So what did I decide on?

Gangnam Style.

Seriously, how much more American can you get that listening to a Korean song that went viral on YouTube with the most ludicrous dance? That’s what America is to me!

I taught them the dance and laughed so hard. They were so good! I wish I would have filmed it. I’ll have to do it again, so I can get pictures. Imagine a really tall skinny white girl teaching a bunch of 5-10 year old Ghanaian kids how to do Gangnam Style on a tiny little porch. I’m sure we looked awesome.

We danced for a couple hours until the rains came. It was hands down the best welcome home I could have asked for. Despite the fridge, the mouse, my lock, and the daunting task of cleaning, I felt great about coming home. It completely represented my past few months. One thing stacking on top of another, nothing seems to be working out, frustration, and disappointment, but then suddenly something happens and reminds me why I am here.

I’m here for impromptu dance parties. And I’m here to find creative ways of making that mouse pay for his indiscretion in my absence.

Here’s to the last 8 months!


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