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The 5 things I wish I had known before joining Peace Corps

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It has been 12 years since I served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer, but I still regard my volunteer service as one of the best experiences of my life – both professionally and personally.

Are You “Ghana” Follow Me – June Edition

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In February, I reposted the Are You Ghana Follow Me? from my dear friend Brittany, who is now leaving as a United Stated Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Here are a few snippets from Brittany’s latest newsletter. Enjoy! 

Britt2

On February 3, 2015, I landed in Accra, Ghana, West Africa. When I left America, it was snowing in New York City. However, when I arrived in Accra, Ghana it was blazing hot.    The heat met me to welcome me to my new home! Peace Corps vehicles arrived to take all 30 volunteers to our first week of training.  In order to give us a smooth transition, my first week in Ghana was at Valley View University where my group members and I were introduced to Ghanaian foods and culture (don’t use your left hand) and every now and then an occasional American dish. I was introduced to fufu and banku. These are two of the local dishes that I will surely encounter at most meals.    After spending 1 week at Valley View University, I traveled about 2 hours outside of Accra to meet my new family for the next 3 months.

On February 18, 2015, I arrived to a village in the Eastern Region of Ghana. This is where I would meet the family that would take care of me, teach me how to cook and make sure the culture is embedded in my very nature.

At this time I was given the name Mamasewa. Mama Ataa (my host mom) told me, “If you go missing I am going to send word out for Mamasewa. You need to learn your name.”  I am named after my Ghanaian Grandmother.  Every time my Grandmother saw me she would say, “You have me name!” She was proud!

I am now living on my own in a village in the Central Region of Ghana. I learned Twi, but my community members speak Fante, therefore I have more language learning to do.  If I speak in Twi a sympathetic listener will be able to discern what I am saying!

I have a room, bath area and toilet. We will discuss water later! I also have a gate so I can control the flow of traffic (the kids staring at me).  Around here there are lizards, mice, chickens, goats, sheep, mosquitos, etc. When learning that I was afraid of everything the community installed a ceiling to help keep pest from entering into my room.  I must say that the community has gone above and beyond to make sure that I am comfortable.

Electricity I have electricity….sometimes! The electricity goes and comes and I must say I am used to it. There is a local spot, bar, that plays music so when I hear the music start I know to run and plug in my electronics! But sometimes it is only a teaser! After the electricity is on for about 1 hour the lights will go off! One day the lights came on, went off and to my surprise came back on!  I heard the children outside cheering! Everyone is excited when the lights are on.

Flashback to Mama Ataa….

When I would complete my long day of training and would return home….she would either say…light on….light off!

Fetching water I don’t have running water! I’ve tried it and for the first time ever I found out one important fact! Water is heavy. I carried a 3 gallon bucket of water on my head. When I arrived to my house I had stopped approximately 3 times, complained that my arms were tired and finally the young lady that helped me fetch water dumped some of my water out so that I could make it home. Fetching water is work! I must say I have only fetched water once. The children who live closest to me fill my water containers for me. Water! Water for bathing, washing dishes, flushing the toilet (yes, I have a flushing toilet. Most individuals in the village have latrines, a hole in the ground), and washing clothes and finally water for cooking and washing my hands.

Every day is a new day and I am trying my best to adjust. I have had my moment of crying where I wanted to give up. Gifty (introduced earlier in the newsletter) gave wonderful words of wisdom to help me keep on pushing along. A lot has happened since my last newsletter!

Re-Blog: When A Sanctuary Isn’t Safe: Commentary on the Charleston Church Shooting

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Thursday, June 18th marked the 3-year anniversary of my blog! I wanted to write a celebratory post; reflect on the experience of blogging consistently for 3 years; write about how refreshing and renewing this has been. But instead, I was saddened and literally heart-broken as I watched the events in the Charleston Shooting continue to be uncovered. I’ve struggled for the last few days to find just the words to say, etching out only snippets of thoughts on Facebook and reposting much of what family and friends shared. On today, I am thankful for my friend and author of After the Altar Call for her eloquently written post. I am re-blogging it here:

Hello World,

By definition, a sanctuary is a safe place. And a church sanctuary, a place dedicated to God, should be, just ought to be the safest place on earth to dwell. And so when I heard about the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina late Wednesday night, the fact that a church sanctuary is no longer the safest place on earth was my first thought. And if you cannot be safe in a church sanctuary, well, there is really no place else to go except to Heaven…

But I’m not ignorant of American history. American black churches have long been terrorized by racist acts…

Ku Klux Klan members, planted a bomb at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and killed four girls, Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14 on Sept. 15, 1963.

On June 16, 1964, Ku Klux Klan members, who were targeting white civil rights worker Michael Schwerner, burned down Mount Zion Church in Longdale, Mississippi but not before beating the church members as they left the church.

Within hours of the election of President Obama in November 5, 2008, three white men torched Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts.

And these are just a few of these terrorist acts…

And for American black people, churches have historically been much more than houses of prayer which is why black churches have been targets for racist attacks throughout the years. Aside from endeavoring to usher black people to Heaven, black churches also contributed to the betterment of their members’ lives on earth by being havens as slaves hid themselves along the Underground Railroad to escape slavery, establishing schools at a critical time in the nation’s history when education was often denied black people and affirming our humanity by refusing to allow members to be second-class citizens in their houses of worship…Below are just a few contributions of black churches to America…

First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia was a stop on the Underground Railroad as underneath the lower auditorium floor is another “subfloor.” Only four feet of height separates the floors.

Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. is the birthplace of Morehouse College which began as Augusta Bible Institute in 1867. The name of the institute was later renamed Morehouse College, moving to Atlanta in 1879.

According to the Emanuel A.M.E. website, “in 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston…During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshiping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning ‘God with us.’”

But as our predecessors knew way back when that we have to realize right now is: Until we get Heaven (if that is where you are headed), we have to live right here in this once slavery allowing, gender pay gap perpetuating , Kim Kardashian breaking-the-Internet glorifying, Honey Boo Boo paying, ozone layer puncturing, obesity causing, transracial entertaining, God’s name in vain taking, black lives minimizing, racist white police officers excusing, school shootings fostering, prosperity gospel teaching, government stalling, election stealing, God increasingly marginalizing country of ours…And I’m sure you could add to the list…In other words, no place, not even black church sanctuaries, is safe no matter what we would like them to be.

So what are we to do on this day June 19, Juneteenth and going forward?

As simplistic as this may sound, first of all, we have to make our souls are sanctuaries. Unless, we purge the hate from our hearts, even our souls are vulnerable to the attack of the enemy which I know is the spiritual force that influenced this most recent terrorist Dylan Roof ,who was allowed to come into Emanuel A.M.E. Church’s Bible Study where he subsequently murdered nine innocent people. Ironically, the Bible is the blueprint for the saving of our souls.

Secondly, we have to acknowledge that racism is still here in 2015 despite our black president and all of the other accomplishments black people have amassed in recent decades. In fact, and I may be mistaken, the election of President Obama seems to have galvanized racists in a way that rivals the terrorism of white supremacists decades ago.

Thirdly, black people, white people, people that love people, all people need to find ways to promote racial reconciliation whether that be in politics, churches, in school systems, at the grocery store, etc.

In big ways and in small ways, we have to REFUSE to succumb to the prevailing notion that we are different. People may have different ways of expressing themselves and we can celebrate and should appreciate our differences, but underneath it all, we are all creations of God no matter how He grouped us.

I don’t know if my words will make a bit of difference, but this is my commentary on sanctuaries, church or otherwise, in 2015. There are none and never have been except the ones that we create within our soulds through God and take with us when we die and return to God.

At the very least, please pray for the friends and families of those slain by this terrorist…And if you live in the metro Atlanta area, there will be a prayer vigil to demonstrate solidarity with those grieving in South Carolina on Saturday evening, 6/20, at 8pm at Stockbridge City Hall, 4640 N Henry Blvd, Stockbridge, GA 30281.

At the Same D*&! Time

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NotAllAtOnce

It’s funny how words of wisdom seem to crawl out from out secret spaces as we move through adulthood. I often find myself thinking of things my mom, aunts, close friends and other family members shared with me while growing up. Those very words of wisdom that seemed so incomprehensible … until now.

About 10 years ago a former colleague told me that “you can have it all, just not at the same time.” This view seemed so warped to me! Am I supposed to choose? Certainly, there are women who DO have it all – I know some of them! Why would she tell me this?

But now I know exactly why … because it’s true. In more certain and accurate terms, I think she was telling me – and I have come to realize – that in life we can attempt to juggle many things, but we do have to choose which things we want to do well. Yes, on the surface we can have it all, but as that all increases, we gradually begin to shift our attention from one thing to the next – never fully able to hold them all in perfect balance. We can achieve all of our dreams, travel to all the places we want to visit, become a wonderful friend/spouse/sister/mother/teacher/writer – but not all at once.

For some of us this means “mastering” 1 – 2 things at a time and then adding to the list. For others it’s means that as we get one thing in balance, another falls out of whack. And for yet another subset of folks, this quote means something completely different.

For me, it means choice – I CAN do it all, but not all at the same time. As I prepare for the fall semester and yet another shift in my school, work and home life I know that I have to – yet again – let some things go. Initially, I was nervous about this – even a little frightened. But now I simply see this decision as a shift in balance and a FIRM grasp on my sanity :-). I am excited about what my new life-season has to offer and willingly embrace the chapters that will close. I am choosing to have it all – in balance, in due time, during the appointed season.

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