2014: And I went from this to that and this again

I sit on my couch, having just finished watching one of my ultimate guilty pleasure movies: My Best Friend’s Wedding. I incidentally just returned from my best friend’s house as well, clear on the other side of the U.S. The past 24 hours represent the past year in a nutshell: a whirlwind of balancing my new career with my family and friends.

2014 has been the best year of my life. It has also been a test of patience and adjustment. I went from being an only child with no relatives living within 1000 miles, to suddenly having sisters and a very large extended family within 50 miles. I went from Peace Corps back to advertising, and clearly not handling it very well. (But the blog post it inspired continues to strike a chord with RPCVs everywhere!) I went from complete uncertainty about the future to more uncertainty to far too much excitement to care. I went from “now what” to 8 months of Arabic training! I went from RPCV consumerism guilt to taxpayer guilt. I went from Arabic to German four separate times on the plane just this morning.  I went from being a cashier at Whole Foods to a diplomat in one day.

January of this year, I sat in a computer room awaiting my fate. That hour ticked by so slowly as I waited and waited, while people kept being called away leaving me with two other people questioning what we could have done differently. But with one smile and a “let us be the first to congratulate you” my whole world changed. That moment, forever etched in my brain, was one I’d dreamed of for 10 years. And when I finally opened my envelope and saw that my score was high enough to ensure I was called off the register, I felt every emotion possible stream through my body. The second I saw my score, I knew that my dreams came true because I worked for it. I put everything into that day and I was rewarded. Turns out hard work and dedication really do produce results, but sometimes it takes a while. January 23, 2014 changed my life.

This year has also been about maintaining the relationships that are most important to me. But, it isn’t easy when there is a lot of physical distance between you and everyone else. And it won’t improve next year when you can tack on an extra 10,000 miles. But, I’ve tried really hard to make the time for my family and friends. Financially, it isn’t easy either, but I know it is important to them. It is always hard on me when I get back though, because it hits me that I live a completely different lifestyle than what 90% of people are used to. I’m a fair weather friend, daughter, sister now and while I don’t particularly like labeling myself that, that’s just sort of how the cookie crumbles. My lifestyle and priorities are completely different from most of the people I know (outside of the Foreign Service). It is not a vacation until I’ve eaten at the restaurant I’ve meticulously researched. Or it is not a family event until I’ve explained “yes, I’m aware of the dangers of living in Egypt.” I’m at this weird point in my life where I’m a complete outsider within my own family or friend group. I’m that wackadoodle relative or friend that you bring up over the dinner table, wondering “what’s she doing now?” But it’s okay, this is what I’ve chosen and I know that if it were easy it wouldn’t be as rewarding.

2014 was the year in which I sat at a picnic table on my lunch break devouring my delicious Whole Foods salad when everything changed. I still remember looking at my phone while scarfing down some mashed sweet potatoes with candied pecans. I remember checking my email and reading in big bold yellow highlighted text that my name was added to the register and my score was high enough to be selected for the June/July class. And then proceeding to lose it. My fork was still midway to my mouth when I started half-crying, half-hyperventilating. And then I called everyone. Passing the oral assessment was the most glorious feeling on Earth, but getting invited to a class that truly was hyperventilate worthy. 2014 was the year that I made my dreams a reality.

My father is an immigrant. His family didn’t have a lot. My mom didn’t have much growing up either; her dad worked in a sardine factory. But they both worked hard and did everything they could to provide me with opportunities, the opportunities they didn’t have growing up. I went to a competitive and challenging public high school 30 minutes from home, because I knew that it was what I needed to grow. I pursued my own challenges and I haven’t stopped since.
This is my lesson from 2014: hard work pays off. Dreams are a reality, but only if you accept that they are also a challenge. You can’t just be handed your dream career or vacation or experience or relationship. You have to work for it. You have to want it and you can’t give up. Dreams are difficult to obtain for a reason, but determination to succeed and just plain ole hard work can put them within your grasp. I didn’t give up, even after failing multiple times. But as my favorite quote from Edison goes: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

2014 was a year of many changes, but all of them put me right where I am today: extremely happy, grateful, and humbled to have been given such a wonderful year to cherish.

Harry Potter Feelings and the Big Move

The past 72 hours are a blur. The days leading up to Friday seemed to stretch on forever. Once Friday was here though, everything seemed to speed up rather quickly. I had a great time Friday with my family. We ate homemade fried chicken, courtesy of my stepmom, and chocolate chip cookies.

We sat by the pool chatting and sharing stories. As the sun slowly sank into the trees in the backyard, the stars began to twinkle, and our raucous laughter kept the bats away. We played Heads Up, which is a charades/taboo app that records the hilarity that ensues. It is a wonderful game to play spent surrounded by family and friends. And while consuming adult beverages. My dad proved that his motor skills could use a little refresher. You are supposed to tip the phone down if you get one correct to move on. Since it is on your forehead, my dad actually tipped his entire head to advance the cards. Like an ostrich digging for food. I’ll forever have that image in my brain, of my slightly tipsy father pecking at the ground because he couldn’t figure out how to turn a phone on its side.

It was a fantastic night and a wonderful way to sail off into the next big adventure. I even got a goodbye hug and kiss from my niece and nephew. My niece’s kiss came complete with melted ice cream.

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I finally fell asleep around midnight Friday. I woke up the next morning 45 minutes before my 4:45 alarm, because I heard the storm unleashing a torrent of rain. I immediately ran to the window and starting freaking out. All my clothes and boxes are outside! I ran to put my shoes on, only to realize mid shoe slip on that the movers picked all that stuff up two days before. In fact, I had been dreaming that my clothes were still outside. My glad my brain has its priorities – don’t get your stuff wet vs. sleep. When the alarm finally did go off at 4:45am I rolled out of bed and stumbled around trying to get dressed while simultaneously still shoving things in bags.

We left for the airport while it was still dark. Right before I left Charlemagne decided he wanted one last look at me and ran out into the garage to say goodbye. I’m going to miss my adorable little dog, who has been adopted lovingly by my dad, again.

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Unfortunately, he is a bit of a diva and moving around frequently doesn’t agree with him. Well that and he loves his little acre of land, freedom to roam, and leather couches. At least he lived up to his name.

We drove in darkness to the airport, but as soon as we came close to the airport the sun started to peek through. The remnants of the morning’s storm were illuminated with hues of orange and pink. It appeared as if someone threw paint into the sky. It was the Oklahoma sunrise I love. We dragged my bags to the United counter and waited for a Kenyan family to repack all 15 of their bags. As I saddled up to the baggage scale, I was incredibly nervous that my bags were going to be excessively overweight. Then this happened:

IMG_20140628_060938956[1] I hit the luggage jackpot. I didn’t have to repack my bags or take anything out. It just happened that way. I was incredulous and was far too excited for the baggage line at 6:00am. After my bags were whisked away to their holding cell, I proceeded with my dad and stepmom to security.

And that’s when I started crying. It seemed so final and so momentous at the same time. The last time I left, for Peace Corps, it was temporary, sorta. I knew it was only two years and that I’d be back. I felt like Harry Potter this time. This time when I left, Oklahoma was no longer home. I even felt like a spell was lifting when the airplane took off. Nothing bad, just different.  I know that I will return to visit, but I’m no longer a resident. My home now is wherever I am.

I flew to Houston and then on to DC. My flight from Houston to DC was amazing. I had an entire row to myself, enough leg room to not be able to touch the bar under the seat in front of me. I slept soundly for most of the flight and had an overall fantastic experience. The flight attendants were incredibly sweet and welcomed me to my new home right before we landed. As we landed I was privy to this view:

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That big building in the second picture – that’s my new employer. It’s hard to see, but there’s a beautiful and gigantic American flag flying in front of it. As I landed I actually thought to myself USA USA USA. Soccer fever no doubt, or maybe just an overwhelming sense of pride and patriotism. As we flew by the mall with the Washington Monument and the Capitol in view, I couldn’t help but let out a tear or two. I think it finally hit me that this is real. I landed my dream job. I am going to serve my country, doing what I love.

I took a taxi to my new apartment. We drove by the Potomac on our way into Arlington. I was incredibly surprised when we passed the Iwo Jima memorial at how huge it was. I managed to haul all of my luggage inside without any assistance. I received my keys in no time and had a fun time chatting with the Nigerian front desk guy. He’s already planned an outing to a good West African restaurant for some of the State people in the building. Maybe I did inherit some of my mom’s people charms.

As I proceeded to my apartment, I kept waiting for someone to stop me and tell me “oh no, there has been a mix up. You aren’t actually supposed to be here. We invited the wrong person. Here’s your return ticket.” Then I opened my door and the key worked and a little bit of that anxiety disappeared. The first thing I noticed was CARPET! Fluffy carpet! I love carpet. I love walking barefoot. I have been without for far too long. And so without any further ado, a tour of my new fully furnished “I can’t believe this is real” apartment.

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They even left a little note for me with my name welcoming me to DC. When I saw my name I thought, okay maybe this is legit. I love having a couch, that’s something I’ve never really had. My only complaint is the comforter on the bed is a little motel-esque. My Ghanaian one is on its way to DC though, so soon enough I will be reunited with my little things that remind me of home. So far, I’m loving it. This is the first time I’ve lived alone since 2011. Even in Ghana I was always in a family compound. The quiet is amazing.

I still feel like a fish out of water. I probably will for a while, but now that I’m all settled in I’m feeling more confident. I made my way to Harris Teeter for some household items yesterday. Today I braved the Metro and made my way to Whole Foods (old habits die hard). I miss my team member discount. But there is beer and wine in the grocery store! IN THE GROCERY STORE. This is big. I loaded up on stuff I have never seen before, namely awesome frozen foods. I found Korean frozen tacos in packaging that looks like a food truck. I was sad to find many of my favorite things were not in the store though. Whole Foods’s Southwest region stores have much more Mexican food options and prepared foods. My new Arlington store has a really good produce and fish section, but the salad bar and hot food bar have nothing on the Oklahoma City store. I’m going to need to talk to Prepared Foods and suggest they start shredding radishes, beets, and squash like they do in the Southwest. I was also sad to find a lack of fresh prepared foods in general. Gone are my days of endless Siriacha chicken salad and potstickers. Also, no Whole Foods 365 brand cold drinks were on hand. I want my sweet green tea! It was rather funny how indigent I was staring at the cold cases wondering: “how do these people live without 40 different types of iced tea?!” My Peace Corps self actually laughed at myself.

It’s all changing and I couldn’t be more excited. Tonight I will meet my new colleagues for the first time at a welcome mixer. I sure hope everyone else saw the part about informal, because I’m showing up in jeans and t-shirt.

Readjustment Phase Two–Where is Home?

In July I posted about discovering what home means to me – the place where you become yourself. As I feel the second phase of my readjustment kicking in, I no longer know where my home is.

I was looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends as part of my COS experience. However, everyone remembers me as the girl who left in 2011. I’m radically different from that girl. I don’t feel like I can be myself anymore because everyone is expecting me to be the old me. I’m caught in between this limbo of being my new self and faking my old self. As my best friend said “Peace Corps sent back a very zen person.” I was not that way when I left. I don’t know how to interact with old friends anymore. I don’t know how to connect. I feel like there is something missing in the middle, and that’s time. I’ve been gone for two years. I haven’t seen some people for ever longer. How do I be the same friend when I’m a different person? I struggle with every conversation to not monopolize the discussion and blabber on about Peace Corps. I’m genuinely curious about what everyone else has been up to, but most people don’t have two years worth of incredibly crazy stories to tell. How do I be myself?

Home. I’m back in America. But I’m not home. I don’t know where I consider home anymore, I can’t be myself and I don’t feel connected to any specific place. My mom’s house was cozy and nice, but it didn’t feel like home. The area and way of life seemed so alien that I could hardly connect to it. San Diego was fantastic, but it’s my best friend’s home. I was just visiting. I could be myself with her, I felt the most at ease during that week. I was so excited to return to Oklahoma. I grew up here. I have such fond memories of life in this house, but it isn’t my home anymore. It is scary how un-homelike it feels.

There were a few things that finally severed ties for me with this house. After just one hour, I knew this place was no longer my home. First, my dog didn’t recognize me. And he still doesn’t. That’s been one of the hardest aspects of coming back so far. I couldn’t wait to be reunited and dogs are supposed to have such great memories of their owners. He doesn’t even come when I call him. It’s almost as if he is scared of me. He loves everyone else though. It breaks my heart everyday to watch it.
Then, as I entered my room I felt disorientated. There was no carpet, just the concrete slab. My bed was there, but my mattress was gone. During my service I slept on a terrible mattress. It was made of “high density” foam with no springs. It was very soft and had completely molded to my body, which really means I made a giant butt imprint in it. It was so bad that I couldn’t roll over at night, I would just roll back into the butt pit. Turning it regularly didn’t help. I hated it. I couldn’t wait to get back to Oklahoma and sleep on my mattress again. The mattress I had literally been dreaming about for two years. That mattress was one of the first things I bought post college. It’s a material thing, but when you’ve been deprived of good sleep for two years, you really want a nice place to sleep. While I was tossing and turning every night, my dad decided to claim my mattress and it’s now on his bed. I probably would have said it was okay, if he ever asked me, but he didn’t. He said he’d buy me a new one, but that doesn’t solve the problem I have right now – I want to feel comfortable in my house.
This house doesn’t feel the same. My dad’s made a lot of changes, so it doesn’t look the same or feel like the house I grew up in. It isn’t friendly anymore. It isn’t inviting. I don’t feel like I’m wanted here. I don’t even feel like a guest. As I walked through the house, I found one picture of me. And there is a frame that says family and it has everyone in it, but me. No one talks to me or asks me questions. In fact, we barely say anything at all. It’s like I don’t even exist. This is now just a place I’m crashing while I search for a job. And it breaks my heart every night and every morning. I go to bed feeling lost and disconnected. I wake up wishing I was waking up to the sound of hand brooms and goats. I’d take my crappy mattress back and early morning wake up calls. Ghana was home, this is not. But I can’t go back to Ghana. So I sit here struggling with feeling like I no longer belong anywhere.

The only way I know to cope is to continue pursuing my dreams.
This too shall pass.

It Goes to Eleven

It’s hard to believe it has been 8 days since my birthday already. It feels like just yesterday I was standing at the station in Techiman, waiting to board my final bus to Accra. I didn’t expect my service to end this way. I never expected anything that happened to me during my service. But I did expect these final moments to be a mix of emotions. In just eleven days I’ll board a plane bound for Germany. My service will be over. It already feels over though. I no longer have a site. I no longer have attachment. I’m just ready to go home.

For the past week, I’ve been a robot. I’ve had to forget my emotions and set aside my beliefs. I became numb to everything. The days passed by and I didn’t even realize it. I’m tired. My bones ache. I long for a sofa. I long for a bed that my feet don’t dangle off the edge. I long for home. Home is no longer here. Home is America. Home is my family. Home is so close, but still so far away. I’m ready.

I said my goodbyes to my community. Today I said goodbye to my favorite batik lady in all of Ghana – Auntie Esther. She surprised me with a gift too. I felt humbled and loved. In the coming week, I’ll say goodbye to my Peace Corps friends. And I’ll be heartbroken. They have been there for me through the many many difficult times I’ve endured. I’ve listened to them cry. I’ve listened to them rant. They’ve heard me scream. They’ve heard me laugh. We’ve been to hell and back together and that’s something no one will understand. Now it is time to return to my friends who’ve waited patiently for my return, for my friends that supported me even though I could never fully explain what has happened here. I hope they will still recognize me underneath the plethora of freckles and African fabrics.

Life will never be the same.

Last night I attended a cultural event that was fantastic. One of the most powerful moments of the night came from a famous Ghanaian singer. She didn’t sing, she told her story. She told the story of a famous woman being denied the privilege of singing the National Anthem at a World Cup match because some Ministers, big men, said a woman was a bad omen. At this point, she couldn’t even continue telling her story. It was too raw and too emotional for her. To have the honor of being the first woman to sing the National Anthem at such a big event and then watching it slip away from you because some men think they know what’s best. Her story seemed simple on the surface. It seemed typical to me. But it stirred something in me. It reminded me of the injustice I’ve dealt with being a woman in Ghana. It reminded me of the times I had to work twice as hard to get even a shred of respect, because I was a woman. It reminded me of the times I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a woman. It reminded me of all the times someone treated me like I wasn’t good enough. It reminded me of the fear I’ve experienced living here. The fear I still carry with me.

Her story made me reflect on my service and the challenges I’ve faced. And I came to one conclusion:
I’m strong.

Despite everything, I’m still here. I’m going to finish my service. I’m going to get the hole punched in my ID that proves I’m now an RPCV. No one can tell me I’m not worthy. That I’m not capable. I’m not good enough.

Africa has shown me that hidden beneath this freckly white skin, I’m really a sassy black woman.
And I’m damn proud of it.

Shadows on a Cloudy Day

When you join Peace Corps, two years doesn’t seem long. But as time wears on, you feel yourself slowly shrinking away from the world. There comes a point when you realize you are living in a small fishbowl off in some dark corner of a forgotten room. Life moves on around you, but no one really takes notice of you anymore. They learn to live without you. They move on. They keep in touch, but the memory of you starts to fade. You’re just a shadow of a memory chasing the pavement on a cloudy day. As the time slowly reaches the two year mark, your shadow comes back into focus. They start to remember where they left that fish. The excitement returns. You’re back in their life.

It’s that period of time when you feel like a distant memory that just aches. Your shadow tries incessantly to jump up and down, “I’m still here!” I never left, I’m just somewhere else.

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.
Easter
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!

My Chief Friend

Back in Philadelphia during staging in October of 2011, I knew that I was going to be friends with Richie. Richie and I were two of the 7 business volunteers imbedded amongst a sea of environment/natural resources volunteers.

During training, I was always jealous of Richie, Cara, and Britney they were all fast friends and I was still swimming around just trying to keep my head above water. Richie and I had language classes together though and we spent about 6 hours a day together. Over the course of training we became good friends.

Then we moved to site. I was the biggest market town in relation to Richie’s site. So I saw him often. We both bonded with my new friend Ralph. When I joined Peace Corps I thought I was going to be isolated, alone, far from any other volunteer, and not able to easily communicate with others. The world has changed but the perception of Peace Corps has not.

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Richie has sat with me while I have been sick, taking care of me. Richie has been there to listen to my rants. I give him advice, support, and someone tall to hug. We have had a few moments where things weren’t perfect, but life will do that. In the end we both realize that we need each other too much to stay mad. We are a dynamic duo. I know everything that is going on in his life. We finish each other’s sentences. We have gained the ability to read each other’s mind. Richie needs to just make one small movement with his hand and I can blurt out exactly what he is trying to convey. I know that flustered look he gets when he just wants his space. There simply aren’t enough words to describe what a great relationship we have.

Everyone in Peace Corps needs someone. We need a good friend whom we can call, cry to, laugh with, and vent to. Sometimes everything seems too overwhelming and you just want to go home, but your Peace Corps friends are there to talk you down from whatever invisible ledge you are perched on.

When everything went down with my site, I had to leave very quickly. I didn’t know when or if I would be allowed back. I knew I was moving though, so I called in the biggest friend favor request I’ve ever used.

I asked Richie to pack my entire house for me. And he did. Every single item.

How many people do you know who would stop what they are doing, go to your house, and pack the entire place? A few days after he finished packing, I was chatting with Richie on the phone. He asked me: “so what exactly happened?” I realized I hadn’t even told him the circumstances of my abrupt move from site. So he did this favor for me without any context.

When I think about my Peace Corps experience so far, a few major things pop into my head:

SAP, Typhoid, Business Literacy, the Cashew Initiative, malnourished, sacred hole, the smell of cashew trees blooming, banku, my Ghanaian family, and one more thing.

How incredibly lucky I am to have found such a wonderful friend like Richie.