4 years ago today I landed in Ghana, Africa to spend a few months volunteering at a school for students with disabilities. I am who I am today because of that experience. It changed me for the better and I'd recommend it to every single one of you.
The first journal entry from my trip - 1/11/09
"I have finally made it, the long painful hours of traveling are finally over and my first reality check of 'I'm no longer in the U.S' has hit. With a bit of a delay, we left the Accra airport around 10:30 pm. Just to start our 3 1/2 hour bumpy, slow down, speed up all over the place car ride. It seemed like NYC x10 when trying to leave that airport. Cars were so close to hitting each other. The van, with 10 people and luggage piled to the top, made turns I wouldn't dare make. It doesn't seem to matter what side of the road you drive on either. As long as you stay clear of other cars, people, animals, and millions of pot holes.
When I pulled up to the house it was in no way a fairy tale palace. But, it is what I am going to call home for the next few months. When given the short tour, I was then realizing I am far away from home and this is all too real. We were previously told there would be fruit and other snacks available. I envisioned fruit baskets piled high with fresh fruit and other snacks filling the tables/cabinets. What I really got was a table with fairly odd food and a few bananas covered by a blanket in hopes the bugs stay away. I was shown to my room where I slept alone this first night. My other 2 roommates went away for the weekend. Unfortunately, I slept terrible. Having not gone to bed until after 2 in the morning, I'd expect to be sleeping right now at 6:30. But the loudness of the fan that hardly reaches my mosquito net covered bottom bunk, the roosters wailing outside, extreme back pain from carrying the heavy suitcase on my back, and culture shock has caused me to rise bright and early. This place definitely isn't how I pictured it, but I am sure with time I will learn to love it. Time to take a cold bucket shower and brush my teeth with bottled water..."
I still remember so many amazing, beautiful, jaw-dropping, and painful moments throughout my time living there. Today, I sit here in disbelief that it has been 4 years. I'm wearing my Ghana beads proudly, while reflecting on all the lovely Ghanaians that welcomed me into their lives and treated me like family. I hope and pray that they are all doing well, healthy, and happy.