Friday, October 28, 2011

The classroom of Africa.

It has been an embarrassing long time since I blogged but I feel its about time to put some things on paper. On November 16th, I am officially moving from Ghana back to the California with lots of mixed feelings. After 20 months in Africa, it has become home for me – the resilient people, the sounds of bustling streets, the horrible airlines, the spice Ghanaian cuisine, the taxi drivers who have no idea where their going, my small office – all of it.  
I have been reflecting on my time here trying to capture what I have learned and how I have changed. There is no way I will ever complete an exhaustive but I might as well get started.

  • People are not meant to live isolated, individualistic lives with no connection, responsibility or concern for others.  I love the community of Africa, the family compounds and the general shock that someone would l try to do it on their own. Here its impossible;  I know because I have only survived by my community. 
  • Dogs in Africa don’t chase runners but kids do.  Dogs here have no territory so have nothing to protect. Children also have no territory and no concern for protection. 
  • Having the power go out every once in a while is actually a great excuse to do the things that matter. Having the water go out is not. 
  • Taking the extra minutes to make a human connection with those around you matters a lot. People want to be recognized, humanized, and connected to, even from a strange obruni girl. 
  • Bargaining is about understanding the game of perception of willingness to pay and experience. I love bargaining.  And yes, that $0.30 extra matters when you’re going to make that transaction daily for 2 years. 
  • Africa is expensive. 
  • Africa is HUGE and incredibly diverse. Takes 8 hours to fly from east to west and 9 from North to South. 
  • Each country, region and tribe is unique with its own culture, naming conventions, ceremonies, language and identity.  My given names are Ama, meaning born on Saturday (Fanti tribe) and Na Adjeli, meaning second born girl (Ga tribe). I live in a Ga neighborhood that is loud, peaceful, full of goats, kids taxis, street vendors and music. 
  • Being a kid in Africa rocks – freedom, family, sun, animals, and room to play.
  • Being a kid in Africa sucks – poor education, dismal maternal health, lack of nutrition and a lower value of human life. Death is just too common. 
  • Water is life. 
  • Putting up street lights is only the first step, then you have to find someone willing to pay for the electricity. 
  • China is taking over the world and especially Africa. 
  • Trust is the most important and hardest things to earn in Africa. 
  • Business = relationships. 
  • Things are almost never as they appear at first. 
  • Africans are optimistic perhaps to a fault. 
  • Patience.  No one else is in a hurry. 
  • Everyone was created with the same human potential, I was just born somewhere else to different parents. 
  • Anything is possible in Africa, it just takes a persistence and creativity. You can even stop a plane on the tarmac to get on.   
  • What process? 
  • Fear is in the eye of the beholder. People fear what they don’t understand, but a lack of understanding and real danger are different. Besides on dodgy planes, I have very very rarely felt fear. 
  • Nigeria is not that bad, in fact it is intoxicating. 
  • No is not an answer, its an excuse. 
  • The propensity to be a good or bad person is the essentially same regardless of economic status. Poverty is not romantic nor does it make you a good person just like wealth does not make you a happy person. 
  • Marriage needs to be about love and faith, not economics. 
  • Money is not the issue. Africa has tons of it. 
  • Americans should stop complaining. At least your taxes go somewhere although in Africa you don't really have to pay them (btw, I do pay my taxes here!).
  • All of the accomplishments in the world cannot be compared to positively impacting even one individual. 
  • Compassion is fundamental to relating to others. 
  • God tells us to love our neighbor regardless of race, status, geography or understanding. Its true. 

A piece of my heart will always be here.  I am forever changed by Africa.