El Salvador

It was a conversation on one of the hottest days, under a canopy in a back yard, food on a table behind and loud chatter around. I’d written the days into my story, pencilled my plans into the calendar, and then life shifted and changed and the days were wide open. Blank pages. My plans were gone, and underneath that canopy, in slipped His.

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And here’s the thing I was reminded of, in the midst of thick heat and tangled mosquito nets and cackling roosters:

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He’s a good God who gives good gifts.

Always. Even when His gifts come in the form of chapters ending and empty days. Especially then.

Because He always fills them with goodness. He’s always full of the days, or maybe the days are full of Him, and His love always chases us, pursues us, delights in us.

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I wrote it in my journal that I could have missed this. Tears in my eyes, pen in my hand, with darkness settled around so early that far south. I could have missed it. If I’d written my days, charted out the plans, mapped out the time – I would have missed it all.

I wouldn’t have seen her wrinkled face or felt her kiss on my neck as she hugged me each day.

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I wouldn’t have seen grace in hands held together around the one that wronged, praying for changed hearts instead of bitterness.

I would have missed the way the rain fell so hard against the metal roofs, bouncing as if it had been given life of its own, melting dirt into clay into hard work for these soft hands.

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These moments given – lavishly – to this girl who some days, clings so hard to her own plans that she misses the story being written around her.

I don’t want to miss it anymore. 

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Those days, that began with beans and fresh bread and if I was lucky, sweet sandía – those days were good gifts. I slide through each photo and see the story of a God who sees ahead of us – and knows what we need and when we need it. He sees the things that make this girl’s heart dance – laughter on top of a sand pile, mariposa dancing across bright flowers, sour mango dripping down cheeks – and He gives abundantly. Over and over.

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And He pours Love into the cracks, the broken dreams, the broken hearts –

and the lavish love leaves us changed.

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And that Love showed up, in a sweet little country nestled along the Pacific, in amongst cicadas singing and firecrackers popping.

And I am changed because of it.

 

Jesus in a Theme Park

The sun is setting as we walk along the gravel road to the theme park. People are passing us, smoke is filling the air as people finish up meals for the evening. There’s music in the distance, and finally, the cool air is filling the camp in place of the humid heat.

“So let’s talk about your day,” he says to me as we walk side by side.

I go through the boring list of things I did, and then in a moment of honesty, out tumbles a piece of my heart. “I think I need an adventure,” I say, thoughtfully, and then as in most moments of bravery, I push through any hesitations. “I don’t know. Change is hard … but I am craving it. And I don’t know that that means, or why that is. Do I find adventure in my normalcy? Or do I take a risk?”

He’s thoughtful as he answers. “I think that makes sense. Taking risk and making mistakes is part of being human … and part of being a Christian. It’s how we learn and grow.”

There’s other thoughts slipped into our conversation, as we pass a brightly coloured roller coaster and make our way down a winding path. It’s funny – the moments that you choose to be vulnerable, sometimes it’s hard to stop.

“I think I’m holding back,” I say to him, as the bright lights of a terrifying ride greet us at a turn in the path. “It’s like, I don’t really know how to let myself need God. I know I need Him – but I just feel guilty for it. I feel bad that I can’t figure anything out, and I can’t figure out how God would want a girl like me who doesn’t really have anything to offer.”

There’s silence in the conversation as he holds what I’ve said in his hands, and I’m thankful for the silence. Sometimes silence is better than wasted words.

He opens his mouth to speak, then closes it. Finally, he says, “Do you think that you are craving adventure because really you want to be in a place where you absolutely need Him? Because when everything’s new, you can’t do it on your own?”

The crowd heading into the concert is getting thicker as we near our destination. But the noise and crowd isn’t what I’m focusing on: mostly, I am amazed that someone who was a stranger just 48 hours before has taken a few pieces of my brokenness and given me some Hope in its place.

That’s the thing I am learning lately. Sometimes we need to jump into conversations with new friends, and take the risks in the unfamiliar and we find what we’ve been looking for all along.

“Just keep loving others and loving Jesus,” he says as we near the gate. “And you’ll figure it out.”

And that’s just it: sometimes it really is that simple. Sometimes Jesus is found in a church service, and sometimes He’s found in the ebb and flow of a conversation with a new friend. Sometimes He’s found in the silence of a forest, and other days He’s found in the chaos of a theme park.

But keep looking for Him. I promise He’ll find you when you least expect it but just when you need it the most.

It Started with a Letter

When I wrote myself the letter almost three months ago, I was in a delirious, post-birthday scourge of boldness. Words are a lovely way of telling yourself what you should be doing. Life is another story in and of itself. Sometimes courage remains on the page instead of nestling around your heart, but thankfully, this moment was not one of them. 

So I booked the plane ticket and packed my bags and boarded the long flight across the ocean. 

I had visions in my head of what almost three weeks in Europe would do. Everyone talks of the life changing power of time abroad, and this writer’s heart was leaping in excitement for the words this trip might create. My journal, brand new and soft along the leather seam, was packed in my carry on, ready. Waiting. 

It wasn’t opened again past the first stop in Paris for a few days. My heart had words, my mind was full, but the journal sat unopened. I sketched in it instead. 

And that was okay, I came to realize. Because just like a camera, my pen and journal couldn’t really capture what was happening in front of me. The towering old buildings, the ruins, the sound of accents and other languages melting in the pavement around me – that was meant to shape my heart in ways words and photographs never could quite capture. 

   

And I did write a few days later. And I did take many pictures to capture the beauty and life surrounding me. They aren’t as powerful as I would like, because I would rather paint a picture for you in words and in photos that bring you to that place. Words can only do so much. 

Maybe like most moments in life the days I spent abroad shaped and shifted my heart in ways I can’t quite convey in words, yet. But someday. Maybe you’ll see it in the way I drink my coffee: even stronger than I drank it before, just as the Greeks made it. Maybe you’ll see it in the way I create, now, understanding that maybe our cultures’ way of creating for functionality should shift more towards creating for beauty. 

 

Or maybe it will be in the way I realize that boxes were never made for a God who spoke the world into existence. He is big. And loving. And beautiful. And those towering steeples were just meant to point us towards that truth. 

Words are beautiful and I will always love the way they look and tell stories and breath life into a darkened world. But sometimes they are not enough. These moments, captured in my heart, won’t be explained well across the pages. But you’ll see them elsewhere. If you look. Life is so much about what we choose to see. 

  

I don’t have any eloquent words to end this with other than to treasure moments that change you in your heart. Remind yourself of them on days when darkness settles in for a visit. Be like Mary, who held a life in her womb that would bring light to this world: treasure up all these things in your heart. Hold them close. 

Let them shine brightly in your life as only a treasure can. 

Eveningsong.

I got lost on my way to Worcester today. I was frustrated. Tears threatened to brim over, as I had gone the complete opposite direction I was supposed to. I was stubborn and sure I was on the right train, but when the line ended far past my arrival time, I knew. So I found the information desk, asked for help, handed over far too many pounds for a new ticket, and made my way back the way I had come.

I made it, just two hours past when I was supposed to arrive.

Continue reading “Eveningsong.”

Seeing It As It Is

I looked through my journals, searching for the story I was sure I had tucked away somewhere. It had come to me on the bus, an image of his hat of all things. And so I had set out to write the story down: of the taste of the cafe au lait, of his French, of his story – to find some sort of beauty in the story of falling for an unhappily married stranger.

Because that’s what I long for, to find beauty in brokenness.

But today I just can’t bear to write those words. I can’t even describe to you watching him as I left, or the feeling of guilt rising in the pit of my stomach. We may not have even touched in that hour, but my heart had surely gone places it never should have.

Nothing will make that image pretty.

And I realized,

I don’t want it to be.

Because it’s not. Continue reading “Seeing It As It Is”

A Week in Northern Ghana

The mud huts we saw along our way up north.

 The sun beats down on our pale skin, making its mark quickly and efficiently as our pale skin deepens in colour. We are exhausted, hours away from our African home, yet enthralled by the beauty we have found around us. Northern Ghana is very different than the southern half; tin houses are replaced with mud homes covered by thatched roofs, and the sounds of churches worshipping down the hill have been replaced by the Muslim call to worship. Instead of palm trees and hills there are huge canopy trees in the middle of corn fields, and although our skin prevents us from ever blending into the crowd fully, we are less noticed and shouts of ‘Obruni’s!’ are few and far between.

These were some of my thoughts as we travelled up North this past week. We found ourselves transported into another world after eighteen hours of travelling over two days. We were exhausted when we finally arrived at Mole National Park, but even in our tired state we were filled with excitement as we pulled into the Park and were greeted by leaping antelopes and scruffy warthogs. We definitely weren’t in Asamankese anymore!

Warthogs and antelope!
So excited to go on our safari!
The road that goes to the end of the world (not really, but one can imagine!)
Loving the beautiful drive!
A monkey hiding in the tree.

We spent a few days at the park lounging by the pool, getting sunburned even in the shade, and chatting with tourists we met in the hotel. Our days were marked with baboons travelling up to our tables; monkeys swinging from trees; and warthogs ambling through the grounds and dirt roads. At night, we could walk out of our front door and cloaked in darkness, antelope would peek up at the sound of the door, but quickly return to their search for a midnight snack. We took a safari one afternoon and drove through the bush in search of animals, and although we weren’t lucky enough to see the elusive elephants, we were graced with visits from various birds, antelope, bushbuck and waterbuck, and more monkeys and baboons. However, the elephants were kind enough to leave giant droppings and large footprints to remind us that they were hiding somewhere out in the wilderness! To conclude our safari, we saw a baboon running away from our car with its baby wrapped around its stomach!

The baboon dancing in the branches at dusk.
It’s hard to see, but there’s a baby wrapped around her stomach!

After two full days at the Park, we boarded a bus at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning to head to our next destination, Bolgatanga, and from there to a place called Sirigu. It took about four hours, and if it was even possible, the land seemed to get flatter and drier as we travelled farther north. Once we arrived in Bolgatanga, we bartered with a taxi driver to get a ride out to Sirigu. Our hotel, called SWOPA (look it up – amazing place!) was filled with huts painted with bright African murals. We seemed to literally be in the African countryside, and what made it even more amazing was the fact that we could climb up steps to our flat roofs to lay under the half moon and starry sky! There was a courtyard between all of the huts where we were served our meals, lit up by lantern lights hung in the trees. SWOPA is an organization that provides a place for women in the community to make pottery and paintings, and although they offer lessons in their techniques, they also sell their wares for incredibly cheap prices. I bought four pieces of pottery to bring home and it was only 15 cedis ($7.50!). While we stayed at SWOPA for two nights, we spent time sleeping, reading, laying on the roof.

Some of the awesome buildings at SWOPA.

Thursday, our last day there, we hired a driver to take us to Paga. Paga is so far north that it isn’t much farther before you reach the Burkina Faso border. In Paga, there is a sacred crocodile pond. Here live about 200 crocodiles, and the crocodiles are apparently so tame that the local children swim in the pond! A guide took us out to the bond, holding an offering to the crocodiles of a live chicken. Everyone began calling out the crocodiles, and soon we saw a small croc swimming through the water before ambling out onto the shores. We each took turns holding its tail, but because it was so small we couldn’t sit on it, instead squatting overtop of it for pictures. After we were finished, the croc moved closer to our guide, as if expecting its reward of the live chicken. Our guide tossed it to the croc, and in seconds the feathers and body had disappeared into the croc’s stomach.

Touching the crocodile at Paga!

Afterwards our driver took us to a slave camp, where we were taken through fields to see the places in which slaves had been kept in captivity for years. We were shown rocks in which bowls were hewn out for them to eat out of; the field which they were forced to dance and entertain their captors was eerily empty and it was as if you could see their bodies lithely moving in the fields of grass. We wandered the paths which the slaves would have been forced to take, and it was amazing that such beauty could reside in such a place where unthinkable horrors had taken place. Pictures that I took don’t even seem to do it justice.

Bowls hewn out of the stone that slaves were forced to eat from. It was survival of the fittest; if you didn’t grab food first, you wouldn’t eat at all.

After we were finished our tour, we headed back to SWOPA to rest for the long day of travel we were going to have the next morning. We were prepared to leave at 5 am, but in typical fashion our taxi driver arrived late, and then of course got a flat tire. We still managed to catch our bus, however, and made it to Kumasi late Friday afternoon. We spent the night there in a little hotel with an incredibly helpful receptionist named Earnest, and then travelled the last four hours to Asamankese yesterday. We’ve spent the rest of the weekend so far ‘recuperating’ from our vacation. It’s amazing how travelling hours and hours by buses can exhaust you so!

Beautiful fields at the slave camp.

All in all we had a great week away. We learned so much: we were continually reminded to trust God for travelling mercies, and God continually blessed us by bringing people into our lives at exactly the moment we needed direction or help. We a lot of time just resting; spiritually, emotionally, mentally that  was so needed. I am so blessed by Kylie and Lauren and the way that they encourage me, draw out gifts and remind me of things about myself I never knew were there. We had a great time away, but are so thankful to be back safe and sound and are bracing ourselves for the busy weeks ahead before we all head home.

Love to you all back home,

Angie

Empty parking lots, the bead market, and teaching

I can’t believe it has been almost a week since I’ve written! I had started to write a blog post last weekend, but got interrupted by a power outage (our first since having been here – I’m told they are a common occurence, but we had yet to experience one). Last weekend was fairly relaxing; we spent the time doing laundry, cleaning, and enjoying the hot African sun out in the backyard. I didn’t expect the sun would feel hotter here, but it really does – my skin literally burns in the afternoon sun some days! But I just slather on the sunscreen and am determined to be as dark as possible when I return home! 🙂
This week marked a busy week for us. The kids are incredibly difficult to control in the classroom, which continues to be our biggest challenge here. Our methods of discipline in Canada are very different than here, as children are quickly hit with a cane or a hand as a way of creating obedience. So here we are, a small group of Canadians, entering an entirely different culture, and expecting these children to understand what it means not to hit, not to bite, and what a time out means. They don’t. So we leave the school quite exhausted from chasing children who run away, holding crying students who’ve been bitten or beaten up, and swallowing sarcastic comments when children laugh at our instructions. Consequently our evenings are filled with laying on the couch, eating fandangos or fanmilk, and watching a movie. 
Needless to say, when Lesley and I took off Thursday to go to nearby Kofuridua, we were quite excited for a breather! It is a town about two hours away that has a famous bead market on Thursdays. We hired Issac, Belinda’s friend, to taxi us there. We left around 9, and I have to say although I was exhausted and tempted to sleep the ride there, the drive was beautiul! We seemed ot be driving in more of the hilly and jungle-y areas, so it was mesmerizing to this artist’s eye. We had lunch at a nice air-conditioned resaturant (had a burger and cheese – so lovely! haha). Then we headed out to walk to the market. On the way there, we veered off the main street into a fairly empty (but huge) parking lot. Lesley and I sort of looked at each other, then at Isaac, who said, “Last night Auntie Jo told me to take you guys here. This is where funerals are held.” Les and I managed to hold in our laughs, because apparently this was a big deal for Auntie Jo, this empty parking lot, but to us it was just that – an empty parking lot!
We continued on our way to the bead market, and I have to say it was absolutely amazing! Beads of every colour, of every shape and pattern were scattered among vendors. There were beads made from Ghanaian glass and beads imported too, but all were handcrafted by the vendors (as you could see, because most of them were busy making necklaces right in front of us). We spent almost three hours walking through the stalls, trying on necklaces and rings and earrings. Everything was beautiful. They had really old beads there too – they said that some where a hundred years old. But these were incredibly expensive. 
By the time we were finished looking at the market, and found our way back to the restaurant where we’d left the car (and made an impromptu stop at a fairly modern looking store for jam), we assumed that becaue of the late hour (it was probably almost four) Isaac would take us home then. We had hoped to have enough time to visit Boti Falls, which was a waterfall about an hour away, but Isaac had said it was quite late so we just assumed we were headed home. Never assume here, is a lesson I’ve learned – too much gets lost in translation!! So about an hour into our drive of what we thought was headed home, we pull through a set of wooden gates and have arrived at Boti Falls. Les and I look at each other with a look much similar to when we first saw the parking lot earlier that day, and just laugh.
Boti Falls turned out to be a lovely sight, even without there being much water since it’s the dry season right now. There are 250 steps down to the falls, and along the way we saw not only gigantic trees, but gigantic slugs as well! I managed to wait until we were heading back up at the end of our trek before asking if there were snakes in the area (answer: yes, black cobras and vipers, but much deeper in the jungle than where we were). The falls were beautiful; Les and I took our time exploring and taking pictures.
So, as we left the fall area, it was beginning to get closer and closer to dusk. We were sure we were headed home at this point, but as we are driving off, Isaac tells us he has one more thing to show us. A palm tree with three trunks. Not sure why this is significant, but once again, Les and I just laughed and agreed we wanted to see it. It was literally in the middle of no where; down a dirt road, through a valley (which was beautiful – pictures can’t seem to capture the beauty here) and up a path. At the foot of this three trunked palm, there lies a rock engraved with an insignia of some sorts on it. Isaac pointed out that it is considered by locals to be a magical stone, which, if you sit on it, will bless you with the birth of twins. Lesley laughed and she no longer needed that blessing; I stepped forward gladly, but Isaac grabbed me and wouldn’t let me sit on. Oh well! Haha!
Across the road from where the palm tree was was a cemetary. We headed back to the car, but Isaac kept walking towards the cemetery, so Les and I followed him, down a long winding path up this amazing rock. It’s hard to describe it to you, but it was basically a bunch of smaller rocks with a HUGE slab of rock placed on top of it. And this rock overlooks a huge valley. There was a rickety ladder that you could climb to the top (which I almost climbed all the way, then decided it was too safe to risk it and climbed back down), but even without being on top the view was amazing. I want to go back at sunset, because by then it was dusk, but even still, it was spectacular. I think this was my favorite spot I’ve discovered here – I wish it was closer!
It was a long ride back again, because of our many detours, but it was so worth it. We had an amazing day.
So after our day away on Thursday, Friday marked my first day of teaching on my own. Lesley is still here, but I am feeling a bit hesitant in regards to teaching – I feel like a fish out of water. I didn’t realize how much work goes into teaching kindergarten, from lesson planning to different types of learning to understand curriculum. It’s hard! But I managed to make it through the day, and for the most part the kids listened – it was during play time and outdoor play that they got wild again. This weekend Lesley and I have been going over more teaching things – I feel like I am getting my BEd in just a day – but she sadly is sick and in bed. So I am getting caught up on blogging and emails. Tomorrow us girls plan on getting up at the crack of dawn (by that I mean 5:30) to go see a friend, Smart’s, soccer game and then we are going to forgo three hours of Twi church and do a Bible study here at home. Last weekend we visited Auntie Jo’s church, and it was a great experience, minus not understanding a word spoken! I love how joyful church is here, filled with dancing and so much singing. But, I do however love understanding the sermon and the hymns being sung as well! Belinda told us that there’s an English speaking church here in Asamankese, so we are going to visit there next weekend.
Hard to believe we are already half way through September. Thinking of you all at home and missing everyone very much!
Lots of love,
Angie

Full moons, Lies, and Walking on Water

Thursday night we began preparations for our long trip to Beyin Beach by staying up far too late – Kylie, Lauren and I found our way onto the top of the roof of the guesthouse to observe the blue moon. Sadly it was cloudy, so we sat and talked and waited until in one glorious moment, the skies broke and the beautiful moon shone straight atop of us. It was a breathtaking moment – Asamankese’s lights below us on the hill, and the hidden moon now appearing above us. This, I thought, thisis beauty!
Friday morning we were up bright and early as our driver was supposed to arrive sometime in between eight and nine. However, a flat tire combined with African time meant we left closer to ten instead. We passed the long drive by reading and sleeping and watching movies, and after one short detour, we arrived just in time to catch the African sunset over the ocean. It was absolutely stunning. The sun shone a bright pink, and literally dropped so quickly the sun was set within mere minutes. I guess this is what happens when you live so close to the equator! As night descended, we unpacked in our rooms and went to the dining hut (I say hut because all of the buildings were thatched and minus our chalets were open concept). We discovered the best treat for four Canadians living in Africa – hot, gooey, fudge brownies! Needless to say we had those every dinner while we stayed there 🙂
After supper we explored the ocean under the full moon and a sky full of stars. We definitely left our mark in the Gulf of Guinea … let’s just say there was more than one full moon that night! 🙂 After we headed to our rooms to enjoy beautiful hot showers – what a treat! – and then headed to bed. The next morning we discovered a beautiful day outside, and after breakfast we spent the rest of the day by the beach. Kylie, Lauren and I wandered down the beach to discover the fisherman taking in their catch for the day. Many of the locals were gathered around, and were incredibly friendly and explained the different types of fish they had caught. They offered to sell us some but since both Lauren and I don’t like fish we politely refused! Amongst all of their fish in their nets were jellyfish and stingrays, and we saw some of the young kids playing with squid that they had caught. It was interesting to see how the daily ‘fish catch’ was something everyone was involved in, whether it be the actual fishing or the bartering and selling.
Also it’s interesting – I don’t consider myself someone who can lie easily, sometimes I am convinced I have an inability to lie – but here you find the lies sometimes just slip off your tongue when single Ghanaian men are being incredibly forward! For example, here’s a conversation that happens far too often and happened while observing the fishermen bringing in their catch:
Ghanaian male: Are you married?
Me: (Pause) Yes. Yes, I am. (Hide left hand behind hip)
Ghanaian male: Oh. Where is your partner then? Back in Canada?
Me: (Another pause). Yes. Working.
Ghanaian male: Oh wow. You are apart for a long time then!
At this point I changed the topic hurriedly to avoid any further slips! After this unfortunate conversation, we headed back to our beach to enjoy the water. We got horribly burned even after applying sunscreen – well, all of us except for who Lauren, who apparently tans quite easily. It was an incredibly relaxing afternoon, but by the evening the waves were getting quite rough and strong, and after watching the sunset, we had dinner and headed to our rooms. It’s incredibly strange having the sunset so early; it sets around 6:00 p.m., and is almost completely dark by 6:30. It’s because of this that somehow my night-owl habit is being forced out of me … all three nights away, without internet, and I was asleep by 11 p.m.!
Sunday morning we awoke to bad news … Lesley was incredibly sick (we think it was food poisoning, as none of the rest of us felt sick at all). We had planned to go to Nzuleo, the stilt village built on water, but after breakfast we waited for awhile to see if she was feeling any better. We walked down to the ocean and did our devotions by the water and afterwards went for a walk along the ocean, where we were spotted by a church group from Kumasi who wanted their pictures taken with the ‘obruni’s. It’s funny feeling like celebrities just because of the colour of your skin!
Sadly Les wasn’t feeling any better, so we headed to Nzuleo without her. You had to walk along a long board walk to get to the end of a channel of water that led out to a lake which I believe was called Black Lake. We had to wait a long time, probably close to two hours, before we were taken in a canoe to the stilt village. While we were waiting we met a group of three Dutch girls who were volunteering in Ghana for a medical placement and spending a week travelling. It’s always fun to meet others who are travelling and hearing their stories! We finally boarded our canoe, and it was a bit of a scary experience to say the least – our first sight of the canoes was of a man emptying it of water! But we survived, and made it through the swampy waters to the lake. Kylie and Lauren had a blast terrifying all of us of sightings of crocodiles (even though they were small ones who live in the water, and our guide said they only came out a night) and singing songs at the top of their lungs. The stilt village was quite fascinating – all of the homes are built on poles coming out of the water, and there are board walks in between each home or shop that you walk over the water on. There was electricity, which was surprising, but I think that we saw some of the most poverty we’ve seen since we’ve been here. The locals use the water from the lake for washing, drinking, and sewage. And the school that they had built was a three room schoolhouse, but there were no supplies, just basic wooden desks and one chalkboard in each room. We so take for granted our classrooms back home, filled with toys and posters and every type of book imaginable. These people simply have nothing. There were two churches in the village – both built on a slant, and they also had some shops along the boardwalk. Everywhere we’ve been we’ve felt incredibly welcome, but here we felt invasive, almost as if we were walking through someone’s home that had been turned into a tourist destination. But I’m glad we were able to see it and experience this village that is almost 600 years old (it was originally built on the lake to hide from their enemies during a war).
When the tour was finished and we canoed back, we spent a little time in the ocean before we headed in for the evening, but by then the water was quite choppy and rain was on its way. We spent the night watching Friends on my laptop, and headed back around 10 this morning with a few stops to visit some people that our driver, Anthony, wanted to visit while in the area. Sometimes I can’t get over how social Ghanians seem to be – always paying a visit to one another multiple times to thank them or offer condolences. I considered myself a social person, but goodness, if I was half as social as the Ghanaians are I am sure I would be completely exhausted all the time!
Tomorrow we start our first full day week of teaching. It’s going to be exhausting, so I’m headed to bed early tonight! Hope everyone had a great long weekend back at home, miss you all!!
Love,
Angie

Ants, Misadventures, & Marriage Proposals

Tonight Lauren and I sat at our kitchen table and played a game of owari, a traditional Ghanaian game. It’s a fairly simple and straightforward game, involving pebbles and holes in a piece of board, but I was struck by how our lives are falling into somewhat of a routine; a busy day out, followed by a night of playing games or watching Friends (I got the whole series for $15 in Accra!). Things are starting to feel familiar here, from greeting Auntie Jo when we arrive from our adventures and laughing with Belinda over the events of the day. Today was the first day that I found myself lost in the craziness of the day, not finding myself very homesick until night fell … and even then, it didn’t seem too bad. So I am incredibly encouraged today!

Yesterday was a regular school day, but we are finding the challenges of teaching from a western perspective in an African setting to be a constant learning experience. From arriving in the morning and discovering that the builders who are working on the cabinets had deposited every little item onto the children’s tables, to trying to teach the students that the toys are precious and hard to come by and therefore must be taken care of … each day I think we all learn just as much, if not more than our students. But that’s a good thing – life is a journey of learning after all! Last night we found ourselves exhausted, but I managed to do a little painting, which was incredibly nice and left me feeling a bit more grounded and myself. I climbed into bed rather early by my standards, but little did I know an exciting surprise would await. That exciting surprise would be …

Ants.

Here there are ants everywhere – we have been trying to combat them with talcum powder around the feet of the tables and chairs, and it does seem to help a lot. But little did I know that leaving crumbs in my bed after a few hours of watching Friends would tempt those little ants to find a new home … and consequently be a huge pest until 1:30 in the morning when I finally stripped off my sheets, shook them until the little critters were gone, and was finally able to get a good rest, however short it may have been.

I was up early to meet Evans, the school’s groundskeeper and general go-to guy, to go over tuition payments and receipts. The night before he had stopped by to set up a time to meet, and this was our conversation:

Evans: So we should meet tomorrow to go over the tuition payments and get everything sorted out.
Me: That sounds great! Although we’ll have to do it a bit early since the girls and I are going into Accra for the day.
Evans: Okay, so I’ll be here at six?

I haven’t quite mastered the art of getting up at sunrise like every other African has apparently – early in my books was 9 a.m.! Everyone laughed as I explained to him, “No, early Canadian time – how about 9?”

Anyways, Evans didn’t end up showing up as something came up at the school, so the girls and I headed into Accra around 10:30 to meet our friend Kofi for his birthday and also to pick up a few things. We tro-troed it, just as we had on the weekend, but this time we had a bit of a mix-up and missed our stop. So we ended up farther downtown than planned, and started wandering the streets asking for directions to the mall. There were so many different vendors along the street, and so many people! At one point, I felt a hand grab my shoulder, and thinking it was Kylie grabbing onto me not to lose me, I reached back – and then realized it was indeed not a female hand, rather a male hand asking for my own hand in marriage! I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how forward every guy is here!

Even though we were lost, it was a lot of fun getting caught up in the hustle and bustle. We asked for directions from multiple people where the Accra mall was, and everyone kept pointing down the street and telling us to keep walking. Finally we asked another overly friendly male vendor, who gave us a slightly different directions. It’s incredibly hard to understand directions here because there are no street names. Can you imagine? It’s so frustrating! Finally we called Kofi, who confirmed how lost we were, and so we ended up taking a taxi to the mall. One person we asked said that it was close enough to walk to – ah, no. It took us almost half an hour in the taxi to arrive at the mall. Going in the opposite direction than everyone was telling us to go.

So, we ended up at the mall at 1:30 after getting lost, which cut down on our time to actually be in Accra, because Mary had warned us not to travel after dark as tro-tros are unreliable and there aren’t many street lights between Accra and Asamankese. So we stopped at the pharmacy for me to pick up new malaria medication, went to Shoprite for some odds and ends, and met Kofi for a late lunch in the food court. It was a lot of fun, and then we tro-troed our way back to Circle Station, where we caught a tro-tro to Asamankese. All in all it was a crazy but fun day!

A lot of my friends have been encouraging me as I adjust to keep a gratitude and praise journal, and although I haven’t started writing it down, I’ve been trying to be more aware of things I am thankful for as I walk through my day. Today I am incredibly thankful for Lauren and Kylie, who in all their craziness make me laugh so much! They are awesome, and I’m excited to spend the next three months with them exploring this country!

Jumping into the abyss

I’ve been struggling since I got here in Africa. Most of the time, I am blogging about my daily activities here, instead of writing here at my normal blog. I’ve felt a bit lost since I’ve arrived, homesickness and culture shock wrapping themselves around me and making it incredibly difficult to adjust to my new surroundings. Today, amidst a bumpy morning filled with longing for home, I wrote this journal entry, which is a mishmash of prayers and thoughts. Who God is to me is growing so much larger – and I am learning, even amidst confusion and feeling lost. I am thankful for that today.

“What is it that I so badly want from home? Because really, do I even have a physical home? In that thought I think of Jesus, who had no place to rest his head.

I just long to feel myself. I long to feel confident, joy, peace. I long for my familiar faces I so love. I long for the freedom to be able to talk to strangers and have them understand me. I long for familiar food, familiar things that make me feel like I have a place in this world. I miss worshipping in a place where I understand the songs and words, where I feel part of a community.

I think I’m being challenged on my image of God. I see Him so much as an overseer, a director, an instructor. But I long to see Him as my Brother, friend, even moreso my Father. I always feel like there is a big gap between us, and consequently I feel like the closeness, that intimacy, is lost in that abyss.

What is that gap, God? How do I change that?

Maybe I need to be willing to jump into that darkness, that gap, and trust that He’ll meet me in that in between.

I feel like here bits and pieces of me are floating. I feel like coming here maybe was sort of my jumping into the darkness. And I’m floating, but mostly I am feeling like I’m drowning. I am missing the sure ground under my feet. I am missing the light, the assuredness I felt. This gap, this space isn’t fun or safe like I thought it would be. It’s anything but. And I’m sorry, God, for that being true. For I once prayed that I longed to be stripped of everything familiar to have just You. And I suppose, deeply, I still want that. So hear I am, in a country far away, stripped of everything. And I’m terrified. I’m drowning. I’m searching for you. 

Why did I automatically assume that the removal of my life, my family, my friends, my comforts would mean finding you? Was I foolish enough to think that you can ony be found in a place of loss, in a place unknown? You aren’t dependent on circumstances, or time, or place. You said to search for you with all of your heart and we would find you. Maybe searching with all of our hearts means losing famly and friends, home, security. But maybe, just maybe, you are more concerned with our hearts and that we are searching for you from wherever we are. 

I can’t believe I didn’t get that, God. I am sorry – but thank you for showing that to me now. Thank you.

It’s okay to be missing home. It’s okay to be missing family. It’s okay to be missing my Thursday night dates wth my girls. All of this is so wonderfully okay.

Because what matters the most, here or at home, is that I am searching for Him with all of my heart. I can do that at home – and I can do that here. I can do that in the middle of a lecture or the middle of a staff meeting at work. I can do that here, in the middle of a busy, crowded, shouting marketplace. Wow.

Please, Jesus, protect me from losing sight of this – bury this truth deep within my heart, so deep it is permanently written across my heart.”

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:12-14)