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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).

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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

18:33

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 10

Being completely drenched yesterday has left me with the sniffles; thankfully I am able to blow it out!

After breakfast, the usual chai accompanied by buttered bread and a bit of avocado, I got dressed. Today would be the first time I wore my shukka that I bought the day before. I draped it around my shoulders and set off into the forest in search of elephants. I have yet to see a whole elephant and on this trip all I saw was the buttocks of one (I could tell from the swinging tail).  On this excursion I also learned what porcupine poop looks like as well as a leopard print, which, I might add, was accompanied by drag marks. This hike was quite enjoyable and I was thoroughly exhausted when it was complete; thank goodness we had a massive plate of spaghetti waiting for us when we got home.

The afternoon meant it was time for football and volleyball. I played volleyball and really liked my team; we played very well together. It started pouring so we ran to a nearby home which happened to be Mofat’s, one of the players. This was good for all of us, being in such close quarters getting to know one another.

The rain slowed and they were ready to play again. I was freezing so I borrowed Sumuni’s blue jean jacket, another nice reminder of good old Kentucky. Man, it was so muddy… I eventually just took off my Tevas and carried on barefoot. Meh. My team didn’t win much but we were content with how we had played. Heck, we could hardly stand up.

Today is also the day we were to go to Penina’s home for Meru food! We arrived at dusk and had a delicious black bean mixture that used pumpkin instead of potato. I was really quite surprised by how good it was!

Oiy, after all of this, bed is calling my name.

Talk to you all tomorrow!


Long time coming…

Well, this has been a long time coming. In case you haven’t noticed I haven’t had access to the internet. I came into the nearest city yesterday and am going to do my best to get as many blog posts scheduled as I can this morning.

Keep in mind that none of these posts will be accompanied by pictures. Upon my arrival home, I will update each post with a picture if I have one. Once I do that, I will let you know so you can scroll back through.

Should you have questions about specific things, feel free to comment on here or text it to +254704168707.

I look forward to hearing from you and I hope you enjoy!


Ghanaian Pride

There are two types of pride—the pride that pushes people away and the pride that draws people in. The latter of the two, the one that draws people in, is captivating, warming, palpable, and rare. The pride possessed by schools and families and countries. For me, however, it is the pride of the Ghanaian people that has me wishing for more.

This past Saturday at 1 AM in Ghana, I embarked on yet another journey; a journey that would reunite me with my family. Little did I know that on this journey I would realize how much I had fallen in love. I was all for being home as I got off the plane in Atlanta, but it was after I had bought the Starbucks coffee and was making my way to Gate B36 for Delta Flight 1195 to Louisville, KY that I realized I had left a large part of myself and the spirit I had recently discovered in Ghana and the only means of retrieving it would require my feet to be reunited with the red dirt that made its way onto and into everything. Soon after getting home, I scrubbed away the last remaining physical mark Ghana had left on me—that very red dirt—which had been caked around the backs of my ankles for weeks in a thick layer.

This dirt however was reminiscent of something more that I wish to share with you… With a glow the color of fire it seemed vaguely familiar and eventually I realized it that that same glow is in each and every person that I met. The fire that burned in their souls and warmed my heart each time my hand was shaken, my shoulder was grabbed, my leg hairs were pulled, and my toe nails were touched.

A fire like that doesn’t come around often and when it does it is yours for the taking, to kindle inside yourself.

It is yours to take to share with someone else.

To make someone else feel alive.

Maybe it was just because I was an Obruni that I was made to feel so welcome or maybe it was something apart from Obruni/Obibini.

Something that saw no race. Something truly Ghanaian.

Ghanaian pride–

–drew me in.

It’s as simple as happiness, as satisfaction. It’s about accepting what you have and recognizing how much more important love is than anything money could buy.

After being in Ghana it is obvious that money cannot buy happiness and that by having more than is needed only clouds your mind and in turn makes you less happy. How many times have you heard this? Not consider your own life. Are you truly happy? Yeah you may have a good time every once in a while, but that isn’t all. the. time. Perhaps we should all consider reducing the clutter of our lives and look towards one another for the satisfaction that things previously brought us.

There is no doubt that we live in a commercial society; our economy NEEDS us to buy and buy and buy. However, maybe it’s time for us to begin making the shift towards something else. We work and we work and claim to enjoy our jobs, but there is more to life than work. Family is important, but if you aren’t truly happy in your relationships, both personal and work, then it is time to reevaluate.

Let’s get behind one another, our communities, our country. I’m not saying we have to support everything that our government does or that our neighbor does, but we need to learn to love and PAY ATTENTION. If you look to the ground when passing someone on the sidewalk or in the hallway then get over yourself and ask the person how they’re doing–it won’t kill you, I promise.

Being patriotric doesn’t mean you’re all about the military, it simply means you’re all about America; it means that you want America to be the best it can be and even if we fail at the being the best sometimes we know we tried and we tried alongside our fellow countrymen who have often times suffered similar situations.

Ghana–you will always have a place in my heart. A place that cannot be filled. It is my hope to be reunited with you in the near future so that I can continue to grow into a lover of people as well.


Medicine

This morning there were three men chopping something up right outside my window at about 7 AM… When I stumbled out into the courtyard thirty minutes later I discovered they were chopping some sort of a root. The middle son was running around gathering all the pieces being careful not to let them remain on the ground for too long. One of the choppers picked a piece of the root from the ground and offered it to me while saying, “Take this, it will make your penis very, very hard.” Well thank you, Sir; I wasn’t aware that we were close enough to discuss solutions to erectile dysfunction. In reality I just looked up at him and smiled and took the root…

Asking later, I was told that the root was medicine to make you healthy; it will send out all of the bad things–cleansing your body of impurities, while at the same time replacing it with the oil and various other toxins in the ground due to a lack of environmental protection.

The proprietor is a “Spiritual Chief” although none of us are quite sure what that means… When people in town ask us where we stay we tell them with Nuumo and Princess and they say, “Oh, the fetish priest.” Hmm, I guess? I am beginning to think it is an educated vs. non-educated kind of thing because one day Princess (the Chief’s wife) was going on and on about traditional medicine and her sons were just looking at me smiling like they didn’t buy a word of it…

If one were to peek into Nuumo’s shrine they would just think he was a huge alcoholic, though I don’t think he is, however the walls are lined with empty vodka, gin, and bitters bottles; we know how someone communicates with the spirits… When asked how a new chief came about we were told that “it was decided.” We then pushed and asked if it was voted upon by the community or the elders and that idea was shut down with, “No, the spirits decide.” Well, thanks for clearing that up…


Sam G

I absolutely dig adventure and travel!

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

Mathematical

Madison's renderings of teaching and learning