Success and Failure

Why are we so obsessed with success? And who defines success, is it ourselves or our peers? From day one we are taught to do well in school, get a high paying job, and be successful. But why? What makes successful people better? Are they happier? Are they more fulfilled? Is accomplishment a fleeting high that just makes you crave more?

I’ve always done well in school and I’ve worked hard to succeed at everything I do. But why did I do it? I did it because that what I thought my parents wanted. That’s what I thought society demanded. That’s what I thought I needed. Looking back at my Peace Corps service, I see a few great successes, for example the cashew conference I helped administer. It was successful because it a) happened b) was well received c) inspired other PC countries to adopt similar programs and d) didn’t fail. We see success and failure as opposites on a spectrum. They seem like such concrete concepts; they can’t both exist at the same time. I know there are projects that also failed, like my bushfire training. That event just fell straight on its face. It failed because it was sabotaged, undermined, and no one showed up.

Now that I’m sitting in limbo once again, contemplating my service, I’ve found myself wondering if I was successful as a Volunteer. What parameters define success to me? From staging, I always said that if I can impact just one person then I will have been successful. But to other Volunteers, they define success by the number of projects you did or your biggest event or how long you stayed at site. Everyone has a different perception of success, but they impose that perception onto others. So again I ask – why are we so obsessed with success? What is it about success that makes us judge our peers or judge ourselves so harshly?

When you look at success from a macro-level, you see that the developed world is successful. The developing world is not. You see billionaires who have been successful in their careers. You see countries who have failed to utilize their resources. Success is often tied to money, the more money you have the more successful you’ve been. Failure implies laziness – you aren’t trying hard enough. Success implies attributes that our society has deemed favorable: initiative, ambition, creativity, and hard work. It goes back to survival of the fittest: the strong will succeed.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during Peace Corps is that failure does not make you weak. It does not mean you are lazy or lack the ambition to work hard. It does not mean you haven’t been successful. Failure is not concrete.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Edison

True failure is not learning from the experience. So while I have failed at many things during my two years in Peace Corps, I do not see my service as a failure. There are times when I wish I would have done more, accomplished more things, or impacted more people, but I can’t change the crazy circumstances that have impacted my service. I can’t go back and fix my old site. I can’t make my current situation just disappear. I can’t go back and kill all the parasites that infected me. I can’t undo mefloquine’s terrible side effects. I accomplished what I could given the hand I was dealt. I may never know what impact I had on the people I met. And even if I did do more projects, there is no guarantee that more means a better chance of success.

I know that I will continue to struggle with accepting this year’s seemingly endless supply of hardships and their impact on my work. My failures have been more valuable to me than the successes, because I’ve learned from them. I’ve learned that you can’t control everything, but you can control your attitude. I’ve learned that happiness isn’t measured by money or material goods.
I’ve learned that success is a measurement of your fulfillment with your work.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 reasons why my service was impactful.

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My Progression as a Peace Corps Volunteer

A long time ago, in a village far far away, I posted about the different types of Volunteers. I used Disney characters to highlight the different roles and personas we take on. I’d like to revisit those Disney characters to show how I’ve changed during my service.

First I was like…
chip

So excited and eager to be part of the Peace Corps.
Then after a month of training, I was like…
zazu

Getting sassy from sitting in sessions all day.
After another month of training, I was like…
beast

I turned into a completely different angry animal.
As training came to a close, I was like…
peter pan

Freedom! I was so excited to go to my site.
As I started working at site, I was like…
hercules

I can do anything! This is fantastic.
At our reconnect conference, we I returned to sessions I was like…
scar

Bitter and disenfranchised, but quietly plotting new outfits.
Then it was my first All Vol, and I was like…
belle

I just wanted to dance and be pretty.
Then I got typhoid, and I was like…
dopey

Completely off my rocker and asleep for a month.
Then rainy season hit and I was like…
stich

Incredibly stir crazy and about to eat my tin roof, so it would stop pelting.
Then I went on vacation, and I was like…
cinderella

All my dreams came true!
Thanksgiving came next and I was like…

abu

Free food? Washing machine? Please, can I have more?
Then my incident happened, and I was like…

ursula

Angry, just angry.
As I struggled to find a new home, I was like…

cogsworth

Frazzled and stressed to the max.
But then I got a new home and I was like…

ariel

A whole new world to explore!
Then I fell down hanging my curtains, a day after moving in. I was like…

mean girl finding nemo

Really, not happy.
Things picked up at site and I was busy with conference planning, so I was like…

shang

Let’s get down to business!
Then shit hit the fan, and I was like…

ezema

Crazy, upset, and about to put some boxes in a box and smash it.
Then I got sick with the curse of April, and I was like…
carl

Couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs.
Then there was All Vol round two, and I was like…

evil queen

Damnit I’m going to look fabulous.
Then everything magically went away, and I was like…

lilo

Hi, I’m back and I’m happy again!
Then I got back to business and was busy, so I was like…

doc

All’s good in the world again.
Then I got to go on vacation again and see family, and it was like…

genie

Someone just granted me three wishes.
Then I got back to site and had wonderful work to do, and I’m like…

buzz

To infinity and beyond! Warp speed ahead and into COS.

April Showers Bring More Rain and Some Flowers

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May is no different from any other month in Peace Corps. The days go by slowly, but the weeks pass at an alarming rate. This month has been a mix of emotions and I’m still trying to quietly sift through them. I feel like I didn’t do much of anything this month. Then I remember the good things that did happen. Progress and success aren’t measured by quantity, but by quality. I’ve said from the beginning that I measure my success not by the number of projects I do, the grant money raised, or number of children I have following me. I will feel successful if I have impacted just one person. Just one. More is nice, but one is all I need.

I let this month slip by knowing that I have been a successful Peace Corps Volunteer. The month began tragically. I still can’t believe our beautiful Dani has been taken from us. As we all gathered to mourn the loss of our fellow Volunteer and friend, I felt an overwhelming presence. I’m not sure if Dani’s spirit was dancing in each of our dreams or sitting sassily in the corner of our minds, but I could feel her. I knew that she was telling me life is too short. Life is too short to hold grudges, to forget to love, to be petty. I took her spirit’s words to heart and mended fences that have let too many cows out to pasture in the past year. I returned to site shortly after the memorial, renewed and ready to face any challenges that stood before me. The Wednesday after the memorial, I gave a tour of the Brong-Ahafo to a businessman looking to expand and create a market for cashew apples. I’m excited about the potential of this project. Afterwards, I spent time working on my SAP pilot project, creating analyses and debriefing farmers. The season is all but finished and I’m tying up loose ends. Halfway through the month I caught a cold. I took no chances and guzzled Vitamin-C, drank ridiculous amounts of water, and slept half the day. I recovered in just a few days. I did my PCV duty and informed the Medical Officer immediately as well. There is no longer a culture of fear in reporting illness, now it is a duty to our parents, the PCMO, Staff, and ourselves to report every thing – no matter how small. Two weeks ago I travelled to Brodi to conduct another Business Literacy Training. I did a training there a few months back to the same group, so I was excited to see how things were progressing. Did anyone learn anything from my last training? Did I make any impact?

First training

March 8

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May 17

As I began my training, I noticed familiar faces. I also noticed everyone came prepared. I asked the group, “who can tell me what is an expense?” Hands shot into the air. Multiple people gave me the correct answer and examples. I asked again, “who can tell me how you calculate your profit?” Again hands shot into the air, clawing at the opportunity to answer. Again, correct answers. I know Ghanaians are smart, but after a year and a half of accepting failure as the default condition, I was in total shock. Not only did the remember what I told them, they brought the handouts from last time. I fought back a tear. This training session, I focused on how to adapt what we learned last time so the farmers can keep a record book for years to come. After that I did what I once thought impossible – I taught the farmers about malaria. After 19 months in country, I taught something that wasn’t related to business or cashews. We did a cost benefit analysis of malaria. Finally, I did my new favorite training – the value chain.

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There are a few other players in there, but I like to explain the general idea to farmers. Honestly, farmers have no idea what happens to their cashew after they sell it. And I bet you don’t really know how cashews come from my farmers to your grocery store. As I explain the steps to them, I show them how much money is added at each step. Once you get to processing they are dumbfounded. Farmers this year sold their cashew for about $0.55 a kilogram. Once it is processed (cashews lose weight during processing so about 4-5kg of cashew after processing is equivalent to 1kg of kernels), 1kg of whole cashews sells for $7.50. Next time you go to a grocery store, buy a can of cashews. Are the cashews whole? Probably not. Split cashews are much cheaper $4.00 per kg. After I go through the exercise, I explain some of the factors that impact the price of cashew. Farmers are always outraged at the price they receive, so by doing value chain and price trainings you can help manage expectations better. Also, farmers will be less hesitant to hold onto their cashew for better prices. The training went fantastically. I even saw that many of the farmers kept books during the season. In VRF terms, training retention! If Peace Corps gave out badges like Boy Scouts, I’d demand a “THEY ACTUALLY KEPT RECORDS!” badge.

The following day I dropped off a rather large bag of clothes to my dear friend Wayne. Wayne, the PCV who I replaced, was travelling back to America the following week. He begrudgingly agreed to haul my 1 ton of clothes back to the States and ship them for me. And I’m eternally grateful. As I chatted with him in his gigantic cashew buyer house, he told me some simply amazing news. The kind of news that still makes me cry when I think about it. So, before I divulge, a little backstory. Wayne also worked with the Wenchi Cashew Union. At the time, the Secretary of the Union was Yahya. Yahya, a Muslim and hardworking cashew farmer, would go out of his way to help others. He quit the Union and went solo. Everything he did was to help his fellow farmers. In comes me, after a few months of working with the new Secretary, I realize Yahya is the better contact. I started working with Yahya on a regular basis last February. We conducted trainings, travelled together, worked on the SAP project together, and he even took me to farm. Yahya has been a great friend to me. We spent many hours planning out trainings and figuring out how to best meet the needs of farmers in Wenchi. Last Fourth of July, Yahya and my brother Ralph joined us for festivities at my old house. He barbequed with us and even brought me a gift – a microwave. Yahya and I spent a month together planning my ill-fated bushfire training. He was the last person I saw before while I was being evacuated. He’s continued to work with the new Peace Corps Volunteers and their communities. A couple of months ago, he conducted a training on grafting in one of my favorite villages. Today he is conducting a pruning training in another Volunteer’s village. He does this because he wants to. He never gets paid. In Peace Corps, the ultimate goal is to train individuals who will go on to train other locals. Sustainable development. Yahya already knew a lot before I met him, but together we taught each other much more than grafting techniques. I taught him how to bust out a business training. He taught me how to fight the man! Wayne once told me that I’m the first woman Yahya has ever agreed to shake hands with. Wayne worked with him a lot as well, but together I think we helped Yahya change from being a great person to being a great person and a great businessman.

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So, when Wayne told me that Yahya did really well this season I wasn’t surprised. Yahya, now a cashew buying agent, is very skilled at organizing farmers. I’m sure he would have no problem buying cashew. No problem is an understatement. Yahya, now gainfully employed, made more money this cashew season than I did in the entire year before I came to Ghana. Let me repeat that. He made more money than my salary was in America. In 5 months. He bought over 300 metric tones of cashew. That’s 2% of Ghana’s crop. When I first started working with Yahya he really had no income source. Now he’s wealthy! And he’s buying lunch for me next time.

Wayne should take most of the credit for Yahya’s success, but I think I had a part to play too. I’m hoping in the next few months to start another project with Yahya. Yahya’s no longer just a motivated farmer, he’s a true leader.

Wayne’s great news has got me through some tough days this month. Sitting at site, I’ve been studying for the Foreign Service Officer Test, which I will take June 10th. I passed last time, but I don’t want to take any chances this time around. Taking a break from studying, I called family to celebrate some other good news. The phone call didn’t go as I expected and I’m still mulling the call over in my head. Two days later, the tornado struck. I cried for two days straight. The memories of my close calls were too much for me to handle. I’m lucky to be part of such a wonderful Peace Corps family though. My friends and the expats I stay with called me to check on me and my family. They offered their support and put me at ease. It is hard to be so far away when tragedy strikes something close to your heart. I’m still shaken and emotional when I think about the tornado, but I know that I have friends here to comfort me.

As the month comes to a close, I have a cashew festival to look forward to. Next month I’m hosting a resume workshop for PCVs, and I’ll take the Foreign Service Test. If my leave is approved, I’ll be enjoying time with my Aunt in less than a month.

Life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs. Perhaps it is simply life’s way of telling us to hit the ball and just keep running.

The Reason I’m Still a Peace Corps Volunteer

I was ready to quit. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was frustrated, upset, sick, confused, scared, and hopeless. I was afraid of facing my fears head on. I didn’t feel like myself either. I felt like a shell of my former self.

At the beginning of April, I felt like everything was crashing down around me. At our All Volunteer conference, I knew that I needed to take control again and stop the train before it really did crash. I approached Peace Corps staff for help.

The Country Director saved me. I spoke with him about what was going on, how I tried to resolve the issue myself and how after months of different strategies nothing was working. I really did feel like I was crumbling in front of him. I thought I was strong enough to overcome these challenges alone. I’ve learned though that it takes an even stronger person to reach out for help when they know they need it. I expressed my fears and frustrations. He listened to me attentively and spoke calmly with me. He assured me that I was not alone. And I wasn’t the first person to go through this. He told me to come down to Accra after the conference, so I could think through things and relax. I felt like I was the number one priority. I felt like Peace Corps staff wanted to do everything in their power to ensure I felt safe and could be an effective volunteer. It was exactly what I needed at that moment.  I needed to be reassured. I needed a mini vacation. And I needed to know Peace Corps staff was there for me. As stoic as our Country Director is, I still felt like I was being cared for. Sometimes you just need that family atmosphere to remind you that people truly do care. You just need to be around people who want what’s best for you. It wasn’t just the Country Director that helped me, but my APCD and the DPT. My APCD has been there for me through thick and thin for the past year and a half. He’s rushed to my side to stick up for me, he’s intervened when necessary, he’s listened to my long rambles about budgets and money, and he’s always given me constructive feedback and helped me find my way. He’s really gone above and beyond to help me through my service. Plus he literally swooped in with my favorite driver and rescued me.

After the conference, I headed to Accra for a weeklong forced stress buster. I spent a lot of time researching stress relief methods, yoga poses, meditation techniques, and other ways to relax. I’ve never felt so relaxed before. It helped that I stayed with my Thanksgiving homestay family as well. (The American embassy workers who hosted me for Thanksgiving.) I spent a week with them a few weeks prior due to a really dumb medical issue. And by dumb I mean, only this kind of weird thing would happen to me. But it didn’t! It affected someone else too in an unrelated circumstance. The couple I stay with are beyond welcoming. I never feel intrusive or awkward staying with them. They have truly opened their home to me and allowed me to heal. The American food, air conditioning, hot showers, pool, and super cute puppy help too. One of them is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, so she truly knows the hardships involved and how sometimes PCVs just need a hug. She talked me through a lot of the issues I was grabbling with, giving me great advice on how to proceed. She encouraged me to remember why I joined Peace Corps.

A few days later I met with the Country Director, my APCD, and the DPT. They gave me two options: take interrupted service and go back to America or return to site. In my head I imagined Tim Gunn shouting “MAKE IT WORK!” I took a few hours to think through it, but in my mind I had already decided. I wasn’t quitting. I wasn’t going home. I wasn’t giving up. I feel like the CD gave me some tough love, a gentle kick in the ass. Exactly what I needed. I needed someone to give it to me straight. I needed that push. The next day, I walked over to the Peace Corps office and told CD Mike that I wanted to stay. And I 100% made the right decision. Ghana isn’t done with me yet.

Parallel to all of this, I wasn’t feeling well. For months I felt crappy, but I was never able to figure out why. The day I got into Accra, I had a lot of time to think. As I was unpacking, I grabbed my malaria prophylaxis. Suddenly it dawned on me. I looked at a calendar and everything became clear. The three days after I took my medicine, I became ill, but I would get better. Then I would take it again and I was back to sick. The next day I met with the Peace Corps Medical Officer, a quick explanation of my discovery and immediately they changed my meds. All along I thought I was just under the weather, but it turns out I was having a terrible reaction to the medicine for over 5 months! The PCMO has helped me every step of the way along this bumpy road of my service. Ghana has definitely thrown spitballs of salmonella at me, but the PCMO is always there to bandage me back up. When I fell, they were incredibly thorough. When I had my other recent medical issue (seriously, I would be a tropical disease doctor’s wet dream), they had me on the table drawing blood within minutes and off for Xrays immediately after. I loved my doctor in the States, but the PCMOs here have really gone above and beyond to ensure that I am healthy. Would your doctor yell at you for not eating vegetables? Would your doctor text you to check up on you after you got home? There has been at least one occasion where the PCMO has saved my life. Hell, the PCMO even met me at the office on a Sunday evening. The last few times I’ve been down there they’ve even made me de facto PCMO. They joke with unsuspecting PCVs that I’m the new nurse. I couldn’t imagine having to deal with 200 hypochondriac volunteers with weird infections, tropical diseases, and never ending requests for meds. I completely trust and respect the PCMOs we have and I’m incredibly grateful to be in their capable hands. Now if only they could get a thermometer that didn’t take 3 minutes to take your temperature.

Two weeks ago, the unimaginable happened and we lost our fellow PCV and friend. Our grief was overwhelming and it was shared by the staff. The way they handled the memorial and allowing us to mourn was beyond amazing. They kept their composure, but it was clear they were in agony. The speed and efficiency at which they organized homestays for us was truly impressive. The embassy employees opened their arms and their homes to almost 140 of us. At the memorial service, I was moved by CD Mike’s speech about Dani. CD Mike, the very definition of stoic, stood up and shared his grief with us. His tears showed us that it was okay for us to cry, it was okay to mourn, we didn’t have to pretend to be strong. After the memorial, he came around and hugged us all and told us to stay healthy. It reminded me of my own father, hugging me and telling me to stay safe in Africa. It reminded me of that fateful morning when I entered security at the airport. My dad hugging me goodbye. Once I got to country, I found a note he left in my backpack telling me to stay safe.

Every single one of us has a family, a group of friends waiting for us back home – sending us love, worrying about us, scared out of their minds, and amazed at our adventures. I imagine as a parent it is incredibly difficult to allow your child to disappear away to Africa for two years. Before this, I was only concerned about how this would affect me. My parents would learn to accept it in time, but know I realize what stress and concern I’ve put them through. Now they know that life is even more fragile over here and it could have been me. I’m sorry Mom and Dad for putting you through this! But know that I’ve grown as a person, I’ve learned more than possible in the 19 months I’ve been here, and I’ve had an amazing time.

I know though that my parents can take comfort knowing that I’m in good hands. From my APCD always having my back. From Ernest the driver being my personal body guard. From the DPT offering support when I needed it the most. From the PCMO saving me, caring for me, calling all my PC neighbors to help me, and putting up with my seemingly endless strains of salmonella. And our fearless Country Director who gave me the kick I needed, the hug I needed, and the support I needed. I’m so grateful to know these people have my back.

Peace Corps Proverbs

Like every continent, Africa has its share of proverbs. These fun little sayings can impart important moral lessons. Plus, they are awesome. Here’s an example of a Ghanaian one:

Anoma antu a Ɔbua da.
If a bird does not fly, it starves.
Meaning nothing ventured, nothing gained.


I decided to come up with some of my own proverbs based on my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Can you guess the meaning of some of them?

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You find patience and grace in a tro, they are sitting right beside you.

A cockroach in the latrine is a sign of a healthy diet.

If you throw the paper down the hole, you will never see it again. If you throw the paper in a bucket, you will have to see it many times. If you use your hand, you only see it once.

A run in the rain beats running in place.

Don’t ignore the roaring lion, he can run faster than you.

It only takes one drop in a bucket to bathe.

If you stand in the bucket, your water will become dirty.

A burnt finger is a sign of a good meal.

Fufu is in the eye of the pounder.

You can’t starve if you have good neighbors.

A fat cow produces better milk.

If you travel all day down a bush path you can look at yourself and think either “I’m dirty” or “I’m tan!”

A stich in time saves nine, but nine tailors can’t stich in time.

The cock that crows the loudest tastes the best.

The grass is always greener during the rainy season.

The bite of a mosquito only itches if you scratch it.

A good hoe should be between your legs.

Don’t put all your eggs in one Bolga basket, they won’t survive the taxi ride.

One yard of fabric can cover your head, but two yards of fabric can cover your ass.

Fashion, Style, and the Deaf

It is no secret that I’m obsessed with Ghanaian fabric, fashion, and style. It is hands down my favorite part of the culture. I’ve become more observant and aware of Ghanaian fashion trends and how Western influences are playing a part in shaping Ghanaian style. Since being in Ghana I’ve been able to track how trends have changed. And I absolutely love it. I wish I could sit outside in the shade on the street in Osu, East Legon, or Kumasi and just watch the fashionistas pass by. Snap photos of their amazing style. I’ve been inspired by Ghanaian women’s attitudes towards color, boldness, and fearless use of crazy fabrics.

I feel like a major part of my service has been focused on goal two and three of the Peace Corps mission – helping Americans better understand Ghanaians and vice versa (goal two is the vice versa). And I think I’ve accomplished this through fashion. Bringing Western styles and influences to my tailors, helping them to create new designs that challenge their defined skill sets. I know that my tailor used to share my designs with her fellow tailors, teaching them new styles to expand their offerings. I would have dialogues with my sisters and tailor about how Western designs are influenced, why we are so daring to reveal our thighs and our shoulders.

I hope that my pictures and blog posts over the past year and a half of helped to tell the story of Ghana’s fashion culture and helping my fellow Americans to better understand Ghanaian culture. For instance, Ghanaians rarely show their thighs and tend to cover most of their shoulders. Why? Ghanaian culture is conservative and some Muslim principles have an influence on daily life. During my service I’ve also talked about kente cloth, batik, and adinkra symbols. I want to research the influence of the Dutch on wax print here as well.

Last week I had the pleasure of being a visiting artist/business consultant for another Peace Corps Volunteer’s project – Our Talking Hands. It was a great way for me to marry all the Peace Corps goals and it was incredibly fulfilling.

Our Talking Hands is unique in that it works with deaf students to create beautiful accessories, home items, and designs. The project is based in the Volta region which, like the Ashanti region, is known for its beautiful kente cloth. The Ewe tribe has different influences than the Akan, so the kente is slightly different. The PCV working with this project, Scott, has been working with his students to teach new ways to weave kente that combines the traditional skills and designs with influences from the Northern regions (and their smock fabrics) and Western aesthetics.

Working with the students was incredible, they are truly talented. I even picked up some sign language! And I can’t express to you how wonderful it was to be in a place that was so quiet.

When I first got there, I met the students and learned about each of their unique talents. I explored the workshop and learned about the available resources. Then working with Scott and his Ghanaian counterpart Promise, we came up with some ideas for new designs.

There are a few things that are hard to find here in Ghana or they are less than ideal quality wise. I’ve become fairly good at analyzing demand and supply for accessories and clothing in Ghana. I keep a notebook with drawings of ideas for products, including magazine cutouts. We picked up a few of my ideas and decided to make prototypes during the week.

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It was wonderful picking out fabrics, tweaking the structural details, and working with the students. You think you know what a language barrier is. Then you remove language all together and you see just how important communication is. I didn’t know sign language. They couldn’t heard me. I didn’t know Ewe either. But the amazing thing was discovering how to communicate using no language at all and realizing that I could understand what they wanted to say without knowing what they were signing. Body language is universal and I used it as my Rosetta Stone.

During the course of the week, I not only helped with designing products, but with the business side as well. Including, cost analysis, inventory controls, break even analysis, and figuring out ways to minimize expenses while increasing profits. Helping Scott and Promise with these business principles was fulfilling in a way that I never thought possible. Do you know how happy I am when I stay up all night doing spreadsheets and tweaking the numbers? Figuring out how to convince Ghanaians about not only the importance, but the necessity of keeping books is another one of my favorite activities. Throughout the course of the week, we analyzed how to manage supply and demand, how to adjust prices, and anticipate seasonal swings. This is my bread and butter. This is my element, combining business accounting principles with production practices and marketing principles to turn a good business into a great one. I also helped Scott to streamline his ordering process, making his life much easier.

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On Saturday, we arranged a photo shoot to help Scott advertise his products better. Working with the photographer – a fellow PCV, I helped to pick out the products, do storyboarding, and decide on a general feel for the campaign. It reminded me of being back at the ad agency! Working with the client to streamline and refine their campaign, working with creative to come up with the best ideas for making the products stand out, supervising the actual shoot, and then helping with post production editing. It was like stepping back into my favorite shoes.

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This is Jennifer a junior high student who helped me to create braided headbands. I’m adjusting her styling.

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One of the most popular products, the piecey piecey backpack.

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Setting up the next shot.

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The batik queen size duvet cover, which doubles as a picnic blanket.

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Two things I designed and helped create – the braided batik headband and fabric adinkra earrings.

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The clutch in three fabulous sizes, tiny, just right, and gigantic.

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The yoga bag.

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The batik messenger bag.

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And the bun in the oven apron with oven mitts and oven squares.

A few days later, at our All Volunteer Conference I helped Scott with inventory tracking and sales analysis. So for two weeks I was in complete heaven, doing everything I love with a group that is simply fantastic. Working with each of the students was amazing, they are talented, motivated, driven, and an inspiration. A lot of them went from being kicked out of their schools and communities, to being welcomed with open arms into a caring environment, which is teaching them useful skills.

Check out Our Talking Hands website and Etsy page to learn more and order some of the products! You can special order items too.

http://ourtalkinghands.com/

http://www.etsy.com/shop/OurTalkingHands

Identity.

I’ve been grabbling with some issues lately that aren’t easy to talk about. And in fact I’m not going to go into detail, but they revolve around my physical and mental health, and my primary project. I’ve done a lot of soul searching as a result and I’ve come to realize that everything has made me question my identity.

What even is identity? My handy dictionary application says there are two main definitions that are relevant:
1, The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity
2. The individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognized or known

Throughout the past year and a half, definition one has become clearer. I’ve been able to tap into myself and finally see who I think I really am. Because of some recent circumstances though I’ve started to question even that. And that’s because of definition number two – by which a person is known.

Does that mean my identity is dependent on what other people think about me? At what point does it stop being my identity and become someone else’s perception.

Does the Peace Corps Ghana community define who I am as a person? Do they establish my identity? And why does it matter to me either way? Why do I let other people define who I am as a person? Why is it so difficult to separate perception from reality when it comes to identity?

Do I really know who I am? The answer to that question used to be yes. Now, I just don’t know. Is who I think I am enough for other people? Or do other people have to put in their two cents to establish who I really am?