Thursday, February 24, 2011

Volta Region Weekend Trip

This weekend our ISEP group headed out to the Volta Region of Ghana which is a few hours east of Accra towards Togo.  I was so happy that I was able to get out of the hospital in time on Friday to leave for the trip Saturday because originally the doctor said that I wouldn't be able to leave until at best sometime on Saturday.The ride there was slowed down by the constant stream of bathroom stops that had to be made. And don't expect "bathroom stops" in Ghana on bumpy dirt roads largely in the middle of no where to actually include any form of a restroom.
We arrived first at the Monkey Sanctuary around noon and were lead through the village that the sanctuary has been created, which was amazing to think that these people get to hang out with the monkey's all the time! We were told to be quiet as our guide started doing his "monkey call" and we began to see about 5-10 monkeys start to come out of the trees, but because there were so many of us they were pretty shy and most of them didn't really come down except to get bananas from us.  Then our guide said there was a bigger group of monkeys in another area of the sanctuary so we rushed over there and found about 20 or more monkeys just hanging out (pun intended) in the trees. They were adorable and pretty friendly but I would love to go back again in a smaller group because then they wouldn't have been so overwhelmed and may have played with us more.
After the monkey's we rushed back to the van to head to the Wli waterfall which is the largest waterfall in West Africa and was about an hour away.  To get to the waterfall we went on a beautiful 30 minute hike through the lush tropical forest and I knew we were getting close when I heard the thunderous noise of rushing water.  As we approached the waterfall I literally was in absolute awe by the size and natural beauty and how HUGE it was. I've never really seen a legit waterfall in person and this was by far one of the most beautiful natural wonders I have and may ever see.  It almost looked like something straight out of a National Geographic magazine.  Once we all got over our initial shock we headed into the water, which was surprisingly cold but refreshing, and went straight towards the bottom of the falls.  The water was incredibly powerful but we still managed to climb up some of the rock base behind the fall before getting pelted with its force.  As I stood there under the waterfall I was so humbled by how small I felt being in the presence of something with such natural power and beauty and it felt almost as though I was completely in God's presence.  I almost wish I could just go back and sit there and just simply stare at the waterfall all day.  We also learned that just on the other side of of the waterfall is the Togo border because apparently Ghana and Togo had a fight over who should get it and obviously Ghana won.

On Sunday we made our way over to a Kente weaving village/ecotourism center.  Kente is a beautiful type of fabric that if woven to made gorgeous dresses, bags, etc. and is a staple of traditional Ghanaian fashion.  The center was filled with about 20 looms where the local workers do their magic and create the Kente clothe.  Each of us got a chance to try out weaving one of the very simple patterns and I was feeling pretty good about how easy it seemed once I got the hang of it, and then I watched one of the guys do it and realized that he was doing like 5 colors at a time and going at lighting speed...I was also able to buy a beautiful purse that was made there, and it was just a very neat experience to get to see first hand out this beautiful clothe is made.
When we got back to Accra Sunday afternoon some of us decided to go out and try to find a Mexican restaurant that I had seen on one of the main streets downtown.  I assumed it had Mexican food because it was named El Dorado's and it had a character with a sombrero on the outside.  Apparently all of those clues do not mean anything in Ghana because when we got there we discovered that it was a gambling/roulette lounge...yeah that makes a lot of sense. What was even more disappointing is the fact that apparently there are no Mexican restaurants in all of Accra, so I'm thinking after this semester I should def. open one up here and bring much needed mexican food to Ghana!

Praise Him!

Monday-Friday 2/14-2/18:

Sooo...this week began great with my first and only class on Monday being cancelled, which I didn't find out until I walked all the way to class, but I'll still take it.  Once I realized I had the whole rest of the day free I decided to attempt to take the tro-tro and get the mall by myself because I've decided I hate feeling like I can't go somewhere when I want to and so I'm doing my best to become more familiar with the tro-tro system.  After meeting another girl at the tro-tro stop who is also a student at Legon, she helped me get on the right tro-tro and ended coming into the mall with me and making sure I got there safely which was incredibly nice.  I was so excited to be able to find a pair of goggles and a swim cap at the mall so that I can finally start swimming in the pool right near our hostels, even though they have a rather sexist rule that no girls can enter the pool without a swim cap on.  Although I can understand how they wouldn't want hair in the pool, in my opinion if you are going to make girls wear caps then guys should have to too because there are def. some guys with longer hair then me...just saying.  

Then came Tuesday...everything was going pretty good I got up and went for a swim and then went to volunteer at the local primary school that I am thinking about doing my internship with. Around the afternoon I started to not feel so good but just tried to brush it off and go to my class at 5:30.  I knew things were going down hill pretty fast when I was getting chills in class and felt feverish, never really a good sign to get chills in Ghana.  Once I started to get really achy and had a bad headache and fever I decided it was time to go to the hospital.  After getting there and getting back to see the doctor pretty quickly she basically immediately diagnosed me as having malaria and admitted me.  I then did some labs so that they could make sure it was malaria, but those weren't going to be ready until the next day so they just decided to start with the malaria iv to get my fever down.  Then one of the nurses came in and was giggling and I was like what is so funny and she explained that she was going to give me a shot in the butt to help with the joint least this lightened up the mood as Kate, one of the girls in ISEP who came with me, was cracking up too.
The next morning I woke up feeling better but still feeling really tired and a bit nauceous.  Kate and I decided though that the hospital is the place to be, minus the whole being sick thing, because there was AC, a tv, and a nice bathroom with free toilet paper! After a few more rounds of drip iv bags the doctor came in and found from my lab results that I was negative for malaria but that apparently I could still have malaria because the medicine was helping me and the lab results were always correct.  He explained it that even though the malaria didn't show up in the sample of blood they took that I could still have it, so that was really reassuring...
After this he told me that I would have to stay at least for another day while they got more lab work done and waited to see if I had what he thought might be either a gastrointestinal infection or a bacterial infection.  This is when I became sort of frustrated because I just wanted to know what was wrong with me so that they could give me the medicine and I could get out of there.  I def. don't do good sitting in one place for a very long time, especially with being poked with iv's every few hours and being in a hospital in Africa thousands of miles away from my family.  
The next morning I saw the doctor and he told me he believed I didn't have malaria and that it was a gastrointestinal infection after all but that I would have to wait until Saturday for the lab results to come back so that they knew what anti-biotics to give me.  This was on Thursday and was a huge downer because we were going to have our trip to the Volta Region this weekend and I was so excited for it and the last place I wanted to be was sitting in a hospital room.  After sitting there for a few more hours and thinking that I wasn't going to be going home for a few more days I basically just broke down from being so exhausted and frustrated with both my body and the fact that people just weren't telling me what was going on.  Then some of the nurses came in an gave me hugs and basically served as my mom for the day because I obviously couldn't see her.  I was in such a frustrated and low place and feeling like everything was just going down hill fast until they came in and then my doctor came in and he told me how he was also a preacher. We started talking and I was explaining to him how when your sick and all you want is your parents, and he reminded that my Heavenly Father was always with me no matter where in the world I was.  I also started talking to one of the nurses name Joyce who said her name meant "joy."  She was so kind and after she saw that I had my Bible sitting on my bed, she began to explain to me that she became a nurse so that she could be the hands and feet for Jesus, to help people get well and always be the light when they were in a dark place.  It was so inspiring to be around someone so strong in their faith who is truly living out Gospel and doing everything in His name.  It was amazing because one second I was feeling so alone and then God completely surrounded me with his love and angels in the form of my nurses, who comforted and showed me the power of having faith that God would live up to his promise.
On Friday afternoon the doctor finally let me go so that I could go on my weekend trip!  Although it was a long and not very fun experience being sick, I feel like my faith was strengthened and I am so appreciative of the wonderful Ghanaian hospitality that was shown by my doctor and nurses.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Living the life.

This weekend was a fun and busy weekend.  Some of us who were pretty tired decided to stay in Friday night and watch The Tourist on someone's laptop. It was weird to actually be watching a movie/any form of entertainment because that is already something I am getting used to living without.  I love the fact that my days are not as consumed with technology at every corner.  It gives me a chance to actually enjoy others company and get some reading done. 
Saturday I decided to give one of the ladies who will do your laundry for a few cedi in the dorm across from us a chance because my sheets and towels were in dire need of cleaning and I was feeling a little lazy.  I've decided that I will do all my clothes laundry by hand and then probably just take my sheets and towels to her because I know they will be dry before I need them for sleeping and its really cheap. 
After laundry Kait and I decided to venture out to 37 Station and the Accra mall by tro-tro to get some fruits/veggies from the stand at 37 and to get a few grocies at the mall.  The veggie stand is like heaven to me because most things are reasonably priced or you can barter a bit to get a better deal, and it is great because I can choose as little or as much as I need and then do my own cooking back at the dorm!  The only thing that is frustrating here is how expensive some of the grocery store items that are cheap and popular at home are so expensive here because they are imported. It is difficlt to justify paying 10 cedi for a box of granola bars, so I have to do my best to shop from the markets and only get the essentials at the grocery store.

Later Saturday we got all decked out in our new Ghanian dresses that a lot of us have had made and head over to the Derber Festival on campus, which is basically a get together for all the international students on campus.  It was a great experience with live and autentic dancing/music, delicious food, and being able to meet some more of the international students was pretty neat.  My favorite part was probably when the Ghanian dancers pulled some of the students (literally dragged from their tables) to attempt some sweet dance moves.  I made sure that I was out of range of getting chosen but I made sure to get some pictures of our ISEP group dancing!

Sunday was another jam packed day.  About 10 of us from my group decided to make our way out to Bojo Beach, which is about 1.5 hours away from Accra towards Cape Coast.  We decided to be brave and do our best to get there by tro-tro and just learn as we go.  It started out a little tough as we wait about 20-30 minutes to get the first tro-tro which then took us to another station where we got on a bigger tro-tro bus.  That took us Kineshe Market, which is huge and overwheleming, and we got suffiently lost/turned around until a local was kind enough to lead us through numerous back allies where we hopped on another tro-tro and just prayed that we were going in the right direction.  After another hour or so we finally made it to a "road" that said we were headed towards Bojo Beach.  The road was basically a string of hills and potholes but we finally made it to the beach.  It was beautiful and peaceful, and much more enjoyable than the beach we went to in Accra.  It was really odd too beause it sort of felt like I was just back on a beach in NC but I had to remind myself that "oh wait i'm in AFRICA!"  We spent the day just relazing on the beach getting our tan on and swimming in the ocean.  It was great to get away and relax for the day. 
After a failed attempt to get tro-tro's back to Accra we were blessed to meet a guy who helped us barter with a taxi driver who got us a great fare back. 

Later that night a lot of the american students headed over to Champ's Sports Bar (yeah they have one in Ghana, weird!) to watch the Superbowl! It was crazy to be watching it in Ghana, especially because it didn't start until 11:30 Ghana time so it was a late night after a long beach day.  The only sad part was that it was streamed on ESPN so we didn't get to see any of the superbowl commercials (arguebly one of the best parts), but hey it was better than nothing! I only made it to half time before me and a few others headed back to the hostel and fell right into bed after a long but great weekend :-)

Friday, February 4, 2011 far!

Sooo now that I finally have found internet on campus I can update this whole blog thing!

Tro-Tro Travels:
Starting on Sunday the 23rd we began our day with another yummy breakfast at Tasty Treats and then me and some of the other students in my ISEP group headed over to the inter-denomanational church on campus with one of our ISEP volunteer students.  The women were all so beautiful in their Sunday best and somehow even though they were in floor length dresses they weren't even sweating while all of us were drenched! Church was about 2 hours which I have learned is a minimum here because most service are around 2-3 hours long.  The preacher was charasmatic and easy to understand and gave a great sermon about the importance of God sending Jesus to earth so that we could relate to and understand our Savior.  It was great to be able to worship with believers anywhere in the world who simply didn't care where we came from, we were just all there for the same purpose. 

After church ISEP took us on our first Tro-Tro ride, which is the most common and cheapest form of transportation around the country.  They are basically 12 passenger vans without AC, that are falling apart and usually have 20 or so people crammed in them.  Defeintely a new experience!  I have decided after riding in the Tro-Tro's and seeing the way that people drive her that I would NEVER even attempt to drive.  Turn signals and traffic signs have no meaning, honking is used in place of this, at best. 
As we rode there I was again amazed by the men and women that sell any and everything in the streets from phone minute cards to plantain chips, to mattresses with the cars swerving in and out!  We took the tro-tro over to Labade Beach, which is a local beach in Accra and although it was awesome to be in the beach it was incredibly crowded and interesting with vendors, performers, and horses strewn along the shore.  I joined in a little beach soccer game which was awesome! It was surreal to remember that I was on a beach in Ghana touching the same Atlantic waters that I have been in so many times on the east coast but now so far away from home. 

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday our days were mostly consumed by orientation meetings with all the international students with info sessions on cultural adjustment, class/university inforation, and all the little details.  On Monday we went to the Taco Bell on campus for lunch.  I know what your thinking they have taco bell in Ghana?! Yeah defintely not the same thing...they do not sell taco's nor do they have any idea what they are.  Lets just say that Ghanians really do think "outside the bun."

One thing that I am working on getting used to is being stared at contstantly, its defintely odd and humbling to be the minority in a completely new place.  I think it is good to be able to experience what it feels like to be out of place or uncomfortable at times to better understand what some people constantly deal with, and to also realize that most of the time people are just interested and not starting in a melicious way.  This has especially been evident when I run on campus because appartenly girls really don't do that here and so I stick out like a sore thumb.  In addition to the inquring looks, we are also addressed as "Obruni, Obruni!" This translates directly to foreigner and its what the Ghanians say to get your attention, especially in the markets or with the kids.  I have learned to not take this offensively because its just simply a way to get your attention.  This along with the kissing/hissing noises that Ghanians make as a way to get each others attention were odd at first but have already started to become the norm.  Furthermore, it is becoming the norm to be in a constant state of sweaty/dirty because it is simpy unavoidable here.  With the dirt and the wind, combined with long walks to class I am a lovely shade of orange by the end of the day.   Instead of having a chaco suntan I have lovely Chaco dirt tan.  Although you get dirty just walking around I love the fact that every place I need to get to is walkable and that that is my most common form of transportation. And in all the walking that we are doing everywhere you have to be careful not to fall in the gutters that line both sides of every road and are everywhere! I am very proud of myself that I haven't fallen in yet and that I haven't lived up to my "clumsy casey" nickname :-)

During the first two weeks I have had a good amount of the local Ghanian dishes including Banku, RedRed, Fufu, fried plantians, and all types of rice.  It has been a learning experience and a little difficult to try to avoid meat/fish because I am realizing that nearly everything is cooked with or in a meat base, espeically a lot of the spicy sauces.  So far my favorite meal has been sweet fried plantains and rice, and RedRed when it doesn't have a really fishy taste (beans in a spicy sauce with fried plantains).  It is also amazing because we can just walk down from our dorm to the market across the street and get fresh fruit and veggies, or dinner for almost nothing! I had my first fresh mango from the market which was AMAZING.  The only you have to be careful of is to make sure everything is washed off really well because sanation standards are def. different, but its just something you get used to. 

One thing that has saddened and suprised me is the amount of trash that is everywhere and unavoidable.  I expected this to some extent as I knew we would be in a city/urban area and in developing countries the laws regarding trash and recycling are obviously going to different, but the extent is difficult to handle sometimes.  I have the urge to just get a huge trash bag and go crazy trying to pick up as much trash as possible, but unfortuantely that wouldn't even make the smallest dent or help in solving the problem. 

Medina Market (Thursday, 1-27):
After finishing orientation meetings we were able to tro-tro over to Medina Market and 37 Station (a huge vegetable stand).  Medina is one of the biggest markets in Accra and is absolutely overwhelming.  I honestly have no idea where it really stops or begins, all I know it that we probably only walked through 1/50th of it and that took about an 45 minutes.  The market sells anything you could every imagine and somethings you probably couldn't even think of.  I got an awesome Barcelona jersey for 12 cedi (~$8) along with a marriage proposal...two for one!  I tried to practice my bartering skills a little bit but it is still a very odd thing for me because I feel like I am being rude in a way because you just simply don't do that in the states.  Hopefully as I get more comfortable with it I will stopped getting ripped off so much for being an easy Obruni target!

Cape Coast & Kakum National Park (Friday-Saturday, 1/28-1-29):
On Friday the ISEP group headed towards Cape Coast which was about a 3 hour ride on an air conditioned bus and the roads were good most of the way so it wasn't too bad.  It was really nice to get outside of the dustbowl that is Accra for a bit and head towards the beautiful and tropical coast.  I forget that there is so much more country that I have yet to explore and I think it will be really interesting to see how different the climates/landscapes are as I got from region to region.  I knew we were getting close as the dirt and dusty buildings turned into roadside villages and lush tropical plants.  It was beautiful to see the villages emerge out the hills and built completely with the earth. 
As we approached Cape Coast Castle I was taken aback by the contrast of natural beauty and yet had to remind myself that within the castle so much evil and pain took place. Even as we walked into the Castle it took awhile for me to realize that I was walking in the steps of so many people before me and that I was surronded by so much history.  We began our tour in the male slave dungeon.  We descended down into the different rooms, and there were about 35 of us in one of the rooms but he said they would have hundreads of people crammed in there with terrible conditions.  It was hard to believe because even at 35 people it was pretty crowded.  After the tour of the women's quarter we walked through the "door of no return" where so many had began their journey towards the America's and realized how unimaginable it must have been.  After we were outside the door our tour guide explained to us the the "door of return" back into the castle was put there to remind people that come of their past to allow everyone to absorb it but then to move past it and realize how far Ghana and the world have come since then.
After the tour we headed to our hotel for the night which had an alligator lagoon and was pretty cool.  The next morning we went to Kakum National  Park and got to experience one of the only two canopy tours that exist in Africa.  It was amazing and much longer/more intricate that I expected it to be.  It was also 40 km. (120 ft.ish) off the rainforest floor, and we were basically standing on a skinny wood plank.  I was too amazed and in awe of the natural beauty to be scared/realize how high I was.  Unfortunely we didn't really see any animals because our guide said that they only come out at night at this forest. 
Overall it was an amazing weekend and definitely experiences I will never forget :-).

First Week of Classes...sort of:

After doing our best to be thrououghly confused by the registration process and trekking all over campus to sign up for classes I got my schedule which is currently Monday: 9:30-11:30, Tuesday: 5:30-6:30, Wednesday: 9:30-11:30, 1:30-3:30, and 3:30-5:30, Thursday: 5:30-6:30.  Its a pretty awesome schedule because it leaves me the whole day on Tuesday's and Thursdays to volunteer and then no classes Friday so that I can travel.  My first class was a political science class called Strategies for Development in Africa.  The professor was really interesting and the class seems like its going to be great. 
It is a very odd thing to get used to though because appartently a lot of the students get to class really early but then the professors can come on time, 30 or more minutes late, or just not show up at all.  A lot of the Ghanian students don't even go to classes the first week because so many of the professors don't show up or the classes simply aren't ready.  It is very different from the stricter and more organized schedule we have at home, while Ghanian time dictates the pace of life here, meaning time is more of a suggestion rather than a fact. haha  The rest of my classes went pretty well with 2 out of 3 professors showing up and the classes didn't last the whole 2 hours.  I'm also really excited to take an introductory language course in Twi which is one of the common dialects spoken in Accra.  I didn't realize that I would have trouble with the language barrier around campus, especially at markets and more rural areas, so I hope to learn more of the language and practice in the markets and with the children.

On Thrusday we had a few local NGO organizations come and talk to us about volunteer opportunties in the area.  I am incredibly excited because I am most likely going to be teaching/coaching at one of the local primary schools started by a former study abroad student that takes in street kids and orphans and gives them a free education because currently Ghana does not provide free national education.  That was incredibly humbling and sad to realize because there is so much need and desire for education but a lot of places simply lack the support and funding to make it possible.  I am also planning on volunteering at a local orphange which I will visit next week.  I just pray that God will be able to use me to the best of my capabilties and allow me to be placed where I can both learn and teach.

Coming up...
I'm also really excited because apparently last spring a lot of the American students got to go to the US Embassy to watch the superbowl and we are doing our best to hook that up! That along with the fact that it is Bob Marley's birthday on Sunday and the word going around is that Bob Marley's wife and Ziggy Marley are supposed to be celebrating his birthday in Accra at one of the local beaches should make for an exciting weekend if all goes well!

Love from Ghana!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Going to greet the chief

Arrival Day:
After a long 10 hr. flight from D.C. to Accra, with only about 2 hours of sleep even after taking  a valium, we landed in Accra! I knew we were in Africa when I felt the airplane window and it had changed from frigid to burning up.  The moment we got off the plane it was a rush of heat and humidity...let the sweating begin.  Customs was simple enough as we just had to show them our passport and then came the waiting for our bags and thank the Lord I wasn't "that:" person whose luggage was lost. 

We then made our way to the International Student Hostels (ISH) where we will be living for the next four months.  The rooms were bigger than I expected but I am already learning that "clean" here is not going to mean the same thing as in the states.  Right now we are in the season where the Harmatan winds are coming down from the Sahara so EVERYTHING is covered in the red dust, but at least it is cooler!
We walked down from ISH to Tasty Treats where got some delicious Ghanian food for dinner and passed our new monkey friend chillen in the tree on the way.  There are about 30 of us ISEP students and next week we will get our Ghanian roommates :-)

Some lessons I have already learned...
1) Be careful when walking on the roads, cars will not stop for you, you must move for them.  This is def. not like any American college campus where students have the right of way.
2) Don't drink/brush your teeth with the tap water or swallow it when talking a least for now.
3) Toilet paper is your friend, bring it everywhere because most places will not have any.

Day 2:
Got up for another awesome breakfast at Tasty Treats of a sweet roll with jam, oatmeal, omelt, coffee, and delicious pineapple juice.  Then we headed over to the ISEP building on campus and got a talk from the doctor and one of the linguistics professors on campus about Ghanian etiquite and culture. Lets just say that we were all sufficiently freaked out by the doctor and I will definietely be taking my malaria pills religously.
The professor taught us to make sure not to use our left hand for greeting or really anything because that is disrespectful and I now know how to request to go to the bathroom: "Merekokyea": I am going to greet the chief.  Yeah way cooler than saying I gotta pee.

We also got a tour of campus...yeah its huge and I am pretty sure I'm going to get really lost for awhlie.  There is a soccer field/track right in the center of campus that we can use at any time that I'm pretty pumped about. 

Tour of Accra:
Today we loaded up onto the ISEP bus and headed for a tour around Accra.  We started at the Accra mall which was pretty crazy and really nice, and the moment you walk in its like your right back in the US.  We got to exchange our money for my first Ghanian cedi's!  The tour took us to a beautiful art gallery that was overlooking the ocean, to W.E.B DuBois house/museum, to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum (Ghana's first president), and then to Osu which is a section of Accra.  We had a delicious Chinese lunch at a fairly traditional restaurant and then we were set free to check out the streets of Osu.  This was definitely a sensory overload as we were bombarded with street vendors where I have already been proposed to I think...and ripped off as we basically have a sign on us saying "American fresh meat!"
My favorite part was the stop by the beach and all the "soccer fields" or dirt areas with kids playing soccer. I wanted to jump out of the bus and start playing!

So far I have sufficiently embaressed myself on numerous occasions trying to speak Twi (the most popular Ghanian dialect), but at least I'm trying!  I'm really excited to go to church tomorrow with one of our Ghanian ISEP leaders and then to the beach!

Even though it has already been a long and overwhelming few days I am loving every minute :-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


So I have finally created my blog as promised...
I just want to begin by saying that I apologize in advance if it takes me a long time to update blogs or if updates are very sporadic because I don't know yet how often I will be able to get online/what the wi-fi situation will be like. But I will do my best!

Tomorrow is the big day.  It is really starting to hit me that I will be getting on a plane tomorrow and within hours be on a completley different continent, for 4 months not knowing a single person...yet.  My packing is nearly complete, which is a huge step for me, with my bags just barely under the 50lb. weight maximum.  I have also been checking the weather conditions for at least the first week I will be there and the average temperature will be around 90 deg. with at least 75% humidity...oh my.  Yeah that will definitely be a change from the 20-30 degree weather I have gotten used to, what up equator!

I have mentally been preparing for this for months and I am feeling both excited and nervous for what God has in store for me this semester.  Although it is a scary thing to put myself on a completely different continent and be immersed in a largely foreign culture, I have faith that this it is where I'm meant to be and I can't wait to be pushed beyond my comfort zone and hopefully grow in ways I can't even imagine yet.

When I tell people I am studying abroad in Ghana I have been met with mixed reactions ranging from "thats awesome!" to "Ghana?" (where I must then explain that Ghana is a country in Africa).  I know some people may wonder why I chose Africa, well....I have had a desire to go there for years as I have always been fascinated by the people, the culture, and the beauty of those two things (and being in a place where people actually get excited when I talk about soccer is def. a plus).  I also have felt a strong desire to help those around the world who are less fortunate than me because I have realized how incredibly blessed I am.  And although I go into this situation wanting to help and volunteer as much as possible, I also acknowledge the fact that just because I am an American doesn't mean that I know anymore or am above anyone in Africa or around the world.  I have a feeling I will be learning a lot more from the people I meet than I could ever dream of offering them.

I hope this wasn't too long or boring...until next time!