Capture Bliss

Capture Bliss

Apparently someone posed the question on Twitter what bliss looks like and thousands of people promptly replied with links to pictures of small moments of bliss they experienced.

This is a picture of bliss. We all have worries, but for me the moments of bliss are when those worries become invisible–our mind is occupied with something much more enjoyable (i.e. bliss).

Ghana – Days 1-2

Another Obruni’s experiences throughout Ghana!

Dan Doverspike

Note: I’ll be blogging about my time in Ghana over the course of the next few weeks. Some entries will cover the course of multiple days while some will cover the course of only a day.

Ghana trip – Days 1-2

Day 1 (6/13/13) – En route to Accra

Early in the morning on Thursday, June 13, 2013, I woke up from a light sleep. When I went to bed the night before I knew there was no way I’d sleep very well. Speaking in front of people, garnering attention and flying are some of the more terrifying things I’ve experienced in my life. So I guess it makes sense that I’m a teacher who talks every day, a person who is opening up through this journal and one who just went through multiple lengthy flights to a foreign land and back.

At about 3:30am on June 13 I went…

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July 18 Accra, Ghana

If you’re looking for another firsthand account of Obruni experiences in Ghana be sure and check out this blog. Very well written depictions of various aspects of Ghanaian culture. It takes me back 🙂

Sam G


I hope everyone reading this realizes that this journal is constantly evolving. Its full of first impressions and immediate reactions. It is made at the end of that day and there is not much reflection. That will come at the end of this trip. As a result of this kind of writing, you are right here with me in regards to emotions and thoughts. But just be conscious that everything I say is subject to change due to the new experiences that occur every day.

Today we visited the Kwame Nkrumah monument and museum, he was Ghana’s first president (circa 1957). He was a major proponent of Pan-Africanism (uniting Africa), making Ghana economically independent (not relying on Europe/US), and believed capitalism was bad for Africa in the longterm. Looking at his policies and how the people here revere him, he seems to have done a lot of good here…

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Imagine losing your life time investment in a flash!!

Edward Echwalu - Documentary Photographer

Last week was one of the darkest in my life. And this is how an eventful and bright day suddenly went dark.

I was meant to travel to Gulu town, located about 400km north of Kampala, Uganda’s capital on Thursday morning to volunteer for a robotic training organized by my friends Solomon King and Sandra Washburn.P01

That morning, Taxi operators went on strike, protesting the increased operation fees. Transport in Kampala City was a mess. The over 5 million inhabitants of this city who primarily use public transport were held hostage. I was part of the statistic that day.P02

Sporadic riots were happening all over down town Kampala. Teargas was being fired from one side of town, bullets went off in the other. I was caught in between. For that reason, I didn’t travel. No one did.

I decided to take advantage of the situation and photographed a few exchanges…

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Obruni State-Side

This obruni hasn’t posted in a very long time… He apologizes for that. But while the posts have been lacking, the experiences have not.

During the last year, I slaved away at eradicating the achievement gap for second graders in Brownsville, Brooklyn in New York City. What effect did I have? I’m unsure. While the data always came back consisting of average scores, I feel confident that my scholars are ready for the next grade. This experience was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and maybe ever will do. However, while I left most days wondering why I had signed up for this experience I was reminded of my passions and my abilities.

I am a person who believes in the good of other people; someone who wants every individual to be given the opportunity to maximize their own potential. We walk by people in the streets unaware of what they’re capable of. Often, we automatically jump to fear of another’s capabilities, but why not assume that the person has the power to change the world for the good? Perhaps, with the right teaching and determination that individual will find the cure to a disease the world so desperately needs. That’s what I want to do…not find the cure to a disease, but inspire and give others the tools necessary to do so. I want to light a flame that will spread like wildfire. I want to make a small hole in a dam that one day will cave under the pressure of the goodness behind it.

I used to say I wanted to change the world and of course there were nay-sayers who thought this naive and foolish. However, I believe it to be possible. Perhaps having a tremendous impact on the whole world would be difficult, but I can changed the world of some people and hopefully create a model for doing so that can be replicated in other areas and eventually spread throughout the whole world.

This is what I’ve come to: I enjoy teaching. Waking up and coming to school every day to greet the scholars in my class is not a chore, but I want more. I need to go and do this where others are not willing to. The achievement gap isn’t limited to America’s inner-city children; there are millions of children across the globe suffering from lack of opportunity who need someone to give them the tools/resources to be successful. Over the last few months I have really reflected on what this looks like for me and I have come to the conclusion that I will open my own elementary school in either Ghana or Kenya. The school will initially house and educate students in pre-k and Kindergarten and then add an additional grade each year thereafter through high school. With the help of volunteers, missionaries, community members, and churches we will decimate the achievement gap in the local community and prepare an army of scholars ready to address the challenges afflicting their community and nation.

I have one more year left in my commitment to Teach for America–a year in which I will continue to develop my skills to prepare and qualify me to make lasting change in the community of my future endeavor. I look forward to pursuing this dream and sharing the process with you.

August 20

I’m not quite sure what parts of the chicken I ate today, but since I was a guest in someone else’s home I pretended like I was a dinosaur and used my teeth to scrape every last piece of whatever from the bone. I was really just thankful it wasn’t goat.

Isaiah and Alpha also have a tv so we started watching Saving Private Ryan, one of the ones Isaiah got the other day. That was definitely interesting, probably the one time I was happy their English wasn’t that great; I had forgotten how much they used the f word in it.

I really enjoy the Matunge family. There is also a lot of them around Kurikuri. Someday when I live in Dol Dol I hope they will take me as their mzungu son. The father, Manasseh, is a former teacher and now is trying to revive the Yaaku culture and is chairman of the school board. Eunice, the mother, is a buyer and trader of Nesselrode; she has a little shop in town. Alpha had to run and open it today because there were some mzungus there.

After practice today we went with Alpha, Isaiah, Nicholas, and Moses to harvest honey. Getting Franco and Paulo to come along was kind of like pulling teeth; they cab sort of be sissies sometimes –“Sam, it’s getting dark!” “Sam, there are elephants!” Well I have yet to see anything at night to make me feel threatened. Plus, I want to see an elephant so put on your big boy panties and leggo!

Watching them harvest honey was entertaining. They climb into trees with smoking sticks and next thing you know they are throwing their clothes out of the tree because bees got stuck in them. Then, a honeycomb gets thrown down to the ground and it’s like five year older at a birthday party where the pinata gets busted; they swarm just like the bees themselves.

After having our share of the honey it was time to walk through the bush. Of course since it was dark, the scratches on my leg multiplied by two.

At almost 8:30, the usual dinner time, Joseph still wasn’t home from Nanyuki; however we ate, but it was apparently our lunch. Momma had saved our lunch. I didn’t know it was lunch until 9:30 and I was passing out in my chair waiting for the bedtime prayer so I could go to bed.

“Sam, you can’t stay up for dinner?”

“Well what in the world did I just eat?”

By 10:30 if I haven’t eaten dinner, I just don’t eat; it’s time for bed. We finally ate and I waited for Joseph to drink two glasses of tea and say only God knows what for us to pray and finally get to bed…

August 19

Apparently on the real August 19th I was too tired to actually write. Instead, I jotted down some speaking points that I will now elaborate on.

Cat–apparently eating cat is something that still occurs here in Dol Dol. Shops make people aware that they have by displaying some sort of leaf in front of their store, kind of like a vacant sign at a hotel. People did mention that it doesn’t happen as much anymore, most likely because cats are becoming more and more domestic.

Problem Solving– As we were leaving football today, Isaiah took the volleyball with him without asking. So what does Paul do? He runs after him yelling and throws off his jacket like he is ready to fight. They finally come back down where I am and we work through the situation. It was fun to ask things like “Now how could you have approached that situation differently?” or “What if you had done this?” They both calmed down and saw the error in their ways. Paul has such a quick temper.

Samuel’s Requests– No, not mine, my Kenyan brothers… Samuel approached me in the morning saying he was comfortable coming to me asking for help, his idea of help though was me buying unnecessary things. First, he wanted a cell phone even though he never leaves home… Hmm. He the wanted me to give money to his relatives who a red e rumored to be part of the reason he went off the deep end in the first place. So no, not this time.

Joe Visited — Joe the program coordinator for the program I am with came all the way up to Dol Dol to see what life was like and what I had been up to. It was nice… He met other potential hosts for volunteers as well.

TP — I went through an entire roll of toilet paper today. And no, I wasn’t blowing my nose.

August 18

Youth day. I left very early, though not as early as I had intended (what’s new) to go into town and prepare the spaghetti sauce. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I was very impressed with the way the sauce turned out; it looked great, I don’t know how it tasted though.


Talent show was supposed to start at 10 AM. Yeah…we finally got going around 11:45. Each week the number of youth present has grown, so this week we were expecting 80 (up from 30 last week), but we had about 120; it was packed!!!

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting with the Talent Show, but that wasn’t it. I thought they’d be more lively. It took me demonstrating how to do the Soulja Boy, Stanky Leg, Walk it Out, and 1, 2 Step to get them on their feet. There was a lot of singing. Oh, and a preacher preached /screamed for forty minutes which definitely isn’t what I was looking for.

Following the show we broke into gender-based discussion groups. For the girls it was women’s rights, early marriage, female genital mutiliation (FGM), and sex. We men pretty much stuck to sex and making wise decisions. I was really impressed by the complexity of their questions. I can tell they had/have been thinking about things relating to this topic. It is also obvious that a lot of them aren’t really sure what to believe; a lot of the questions related to fact or fiction.

We were two hours late for lunch. Duh. And we ran out of food before 35 of the small children got to eat. Ay yi yi. It was of course my responsibility to go buy something for them to eat… I didn’t even eat the lunch I had made. When dinner came at 9:00 PM I was starving! All I had had was a cup of chai at breakfast, bottle of water, coke, and a piece of andazi. As Alpha said so wisely, “You say you are okay, but really you are empty inside,” he knows me to well.

Today was Kurikuri’s first football match. Trying to organize them to play was one of the more stressful things I have ever done. Everybody thinks they’re amazing and deserve to start the game. I took one kid (one of my bros) out after five minutes and he yelled of corruption after putting all his clothes on and walking away. He doesn’t know it yet, but he won’t start the next game either. Big baby.

We lost 1-0 to a team that’s been playing together for years. I was impressed with how well we played together, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. They run around in packs like five year olds, or wolves. Oh, and they just kick the ball and hope someone gets to it. All of that can be improved upon though… I’m confident that we will smash the town team sometime in the near future.

We didn’t leave for home until very late, well 7:00 PM, but it was very dark and I couldn’t see a thing. Walking on the “road” was fine but when it came time for the paths I had the hardest time. At one point there was a rustling in some bushes and I froze and nearly pooped my pants. We decided to go a different way.

After making it home, it was obvious that I couldn’t see where I was walking. My legs were scratched on all sides from walking right in to thorn bushes and having to then spread my legs and hope it goes between them and I continue walking. Maybe someday my eyes will adapt like theirs have to the darkness.

Oiy! I almost forgot to mention that we relocated the door to the house–you can do that really easily when they’re made of mud.

August 16 & 17

Today is a city day so I got up at like 7:20 and had an egg and chai and then went to pack my bag.

Last night Isaiah, Alpha and Benja’s brother, asked if he could accompany me to Nanyuki and since I didn’t have a problem with it I stopped by his house this morning to pick him up and confirm with his parents that it was in fact okay. There was no Isaiah at home, but there was a Lilian, Alpha, Moses, and Eunice (the mother). Apparently Isaiah had already made his way into town to meet me; he didn’t follow instructions. Franco was also meeting me in town, so this was about to get awkward.

Franco has been wanting to go to Nanyuki with me, but Isaiah asked the most recently and I haven’t really connected with him yet. I also think Isaiah has a lot of potential, he just needs a bit more confidence. Franco never mentioned that his dad, Joseph, was going to give him some money to accompany me until we were ready to leave. I’M SORRY I’M NOT A MIND READER! I thought he was going to cry when he found out Isaiah was going; I felt terrible, but I can’t satisfy everyone all the time–being white is a genetic thing, not a super power.

John, the same person that brought me the last time, brought both Isaiah and me this time as well, on his bodaboda (motorbike) of course. We had to stop in Il Polei to fix the shock and then twenty minutes later we pulled off on the side of the road for the two of them to pee.

There was a bit of a communication barrier between Isaiah and I. Eventually after we did our own things for the afternoon we met back and checked into the hotel and watched some of the worst soap operas I’ve ever seen, among them was The Young and the Restless. We didn’t watch that, apparently Isaiah prefers Spanish soaps that have been dubbed over in English. However, if we are being honest here…I got sucked in. Between Soy Tu Duena, Tahidi High, and Spider I couldn’t keep up with it all as hard as I tried, but I was entertained.

Dinner took place at Nyama Choma, the same place we had lunch, but that was fine; I tried something new–BEEF STEW. They told me it was all actual meat so I took their word for it.

That night I fell asleep to yet another soap and woke up around 3 AM to BBC World News and watched two rounds of that and finally fell back asleep. This boy, he woke up at 6:30. Me oh my. I slept till about 7 AM and then got ready. I think he would have sat there all day watching television if I had let him.

I bet you can’t guess where we had breakfast. Oh, that’s right…Nyama Choma…again. It’s really okay though. We followed that with a trip to the super market so we could buy as mcuh there as possible so I wouldn’t be taken advantage of. They didn’t have spaghetti so we went elsewhere. I found the nicest woman who found 20 kgs of spaghetti for me and then gave me two suckers for free because we bought so much. Honestly, we probably paid as much as she makes in two days.

I tried buying pork sausage at the butcher, but he was almost impossible to communicate with. He opened his freezer to show me beef sausage and my gag reflex went into action. There was unpackaged meat frozen to the sides covered in frost bite. Plus there was the smell. I followed my final gag with, “That’s not really what I’m looking for, but thank you!” So we went back to Nakumatt, the supermarket, which is basically made for westerners in the area and bought nicely packaged and labeled pork sausage.

Going to the super market was a really neat experience because I don’t think Isaiah had ever seen anything like it. He couldn’t believe all the flavors of yogurt! We left with 15 thick sausage links, mango juice, a new volleyball, water, and two Mars ice cream bars. Great success.

After buying what we could where there were set prices it was to the actual market we went. Mangos, cilantro, onions, passion fruits, green onions, garlic–nom, nom, nom.

The ride home on the matatu solidfied my distaste for them. We waited about two and a half hours for it to fill up, the drive drove at the speed of light there every possible hole in the road, we picked up every single person on the side of the road even though we were already five people over capacity, AND there was a goat whose smell was nauseating. Oh, my window wouldn’t open either so if I had thrown up it would have been all over me as well as the Maasai woman and baby next to me; I can’t even begin to imagine what she would have done.

I was so thankful to be home. Isaiah and I rushed up the hill and then to our respective homes to change for football. Paulo and Franco had already left so Joshua walked me. He doesn’t really comprehend English at all. I had our neighbor tell him that we had to stop by Isaiah’s to get him… We get to Isaiah and not only is he still there, but so are his brothers and cousins…Practice started two hours ago…

Sam G

I absolutely dig adventure and travel!

Verbal tantrums of a writer & an anxious spectator of life.


Madison's renderings of teaching and learning