Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 5 - Cocoa Beans!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Maadwo! (pronounced like “ma-ju” = it means good evening!)

Hi family! Man, what a wonderful day in Abomosu. I am starting to get tired because we do so much in the day, but I am still loving it here.

The day started off with most of our group walking to the clinic to work while I stayed behind with my instructor and another student to welcome our prestigious guests. The medial director over all of the clinics in the Ashanti region was going to meet with us, as well as the chief midwife, Paul (the medical assistant of the clinic) and Brother Stephen Abu. Bro Abu was the pioneer of establishing the LDS church in Abomosu – I think I told you that already.

P.S. – Ghana is split into regions, kind of like states. Ashanti region is like a state in Ghana. So this medical director is over all of the clinics in the Ashanti region, kind of like a big state. So he’s a big deal. ;)

The people were late to pick us up of course, because the culture in Africa is totally different than ours. They get there when they get there. It’s very different than our time-driven society. They picked us up and drove us to the clinic where we all met in a giant meeting to discuss how to use the donated funds in fixing up the clinic.

It was interesting to see how the politics of everything worked. The meeting started out very formal, with introductions and everyone warmly welcoming us (akwaaba!). Then the medical director started the conversation about what would be best for the clinic.

I love that my instructor kind of took a back seat and let the people discuss what would best benefit their community. I think a lot of Americans swoop into a third world country, do what they think is best for the people, then leave, feeling that they did a lot of good. It’s interesting. In my classes we talked about how we need to let the people decide what changes THEY want made. This helps to make them stronger – it helps to empower them. If someone comes in and makes all of the decisions and does everything for them, then it doesn’t really help them that much at all. It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” principle.

So Karen kind of sat back and let them do all the talking and debating. It was wonderful to see her do that, I admire here so much for that. There is a new maternity ward that World Joy (a humanitarian organization) built for the health clinic, but it is not finished. They want to use the money to finish up that ward and move the maternity ward into that newer, cleaner building (which will be SO much better for the mothers and the newborns, let me tell ya!)

Brother Abu was very gracious. He made sure that the medical director knew that it wasn’t the church or Karen who raised the money, but that is was “the children” (us students and our families) who were giving the donation. I love that he wanted that medical director to know that. He was very grateful and said thank you over and over again. So really - he was saying thank you to YOU guys! They are very excited about getting that new maternity ward up and running.

So, after that meeting and decisions were made I worked in the clinic for a few hours. I worked with Gloria, Salomey, and Flora in billing. Oh my goodness. It was a nightmare! So the people of Abomosu can have national health insurance, and if they have insurance then we need to send the claim to the insurance so that the clinic can be reimbursed. But it is not on a computer or anything. It’s all by hand.

We have to look up the codes, the medications, the prices for the medications, all on this big list. It’s crazy. It takes so long. Kevin, you would have died because it is a business nightmare. Not very efficient. However, I do see that they’re doing the best they can. It would cost way more money to save up and buy a computer than it would for them to just pay the people low wages. Plus, by not getting a computer it keeps people in jobs. But it is a laborious process, let me tell you that. Salomey was very patient with me and my millions of questions. Holy moly, it was tough!

Salomey on the left, me, Catherine. Billing was tough, but Salomey was a pro. She was VERY patient with us!

Loretta was excited to see me again, and I was excited to see her! She’s so sweet. She wanted to know where we lived so she could come and visit us. I wasn’t sure if that was allowed, so instead I invited her to church with us! She said she couldn’t go because her uncle died and his funeral is on Sunday. Sad day. However, I talked to the missionaries later and they said she’s had a lot of uncles die recently… hmmm…. ;) They said she isn’t progressing because she won’t read the Book of Mormon.

After that we walked home and had even MORE kids waiting for us and following us home! Again, they hung out outside of the gate and whenever they saw us they would say, “Abruni! Come play with us!” So so funny. I kind of feel like we’re in a zoo sometimes. A sweet girl named Portia (who is 14) tried to teach me some new words. She taught me how to say “I love you”, but now I don’t remember. Rats.

Me with Portia on the left and two other girls. I've noticed that Ghanaians are always so serious in pictures...

The girl on the left was spunky. She had some attitude, that's for sure!

Brother Stephen Abu lives next door to us and he took some time to show us his farm/garden. I LOVED it! I got to see a pineapple bush for the first time!! AAAAAH! :D It is so crazy. I’ve always wanted to see one. I took pictures, because I think they’re so cool.

Brother Stephen Abu in the front, showing us around his farm.

There it is! The pineapple bush!! It takes 8-9 months for one pineapple fruit to grow, and only one pineapple fruit grows per bush.

The neatest part was seeing how cocoa beans are made. Ghana is the world’s 2nd exporter in the world for cocoa beans, so we definitely owe them for our delicious chocolate. Cocoa beans are inside of a cocoa pod. He cracked open the pod for us and let us taste some of the beans. You don’t chew or swallow them, you just suck on them and then spit them out. They are super sweet – taste nothing like chocolate or even cocoa powder.

The cocoa pods.

The white fleshy parts are the actual cocoa beans.

Bro. Abu teaching us. Of course, my eyes are closed. ;)

So here’s how the process goes: the beans are taken out of the pod and are lain out on a stretcher-type thing for 6 days under palm leaves to ferment. Then they are lain out in the sun for about 6 days to dry. After that they are then put in little bags and exported. It was fun that he showed it to us. I took a video of him explaining it, it was way cool. He also teased us Americans about liking “so many sweet things. You Americans like things SO sweet!”

The cocoa beans after they are dried out.

Look at how different they look in comparison to how they start out!

Brother Abu's cocoa tree nursery. He grows the cocoa trees here until they are big enough to be planted in his farm.

Here are some videos of Brother Abu teaching us about the cocoa bean process. It's also fun because you get to hear how he talks. I LOVE the Ghanaiain accent!

Dried Cocoa Beans Video

Cocoa Beans Nursery Video

Other things in his garden are mango trees, orange trees, banana and plaintain trees, coconut trees, and avacado. His brother climbed up a tree and chopped a coconut off with a machete. We all got to drink coconut milk and eat the meat right out of the coconut. It was so neat.

A banana or plantain tree... I don't remember which one it is.

Brother Abu's brother, cutting and "peeling" the coconuts for us.


Starting on the left: Desta, Becca, Elaine, Amelia, Me, Catherine, Chantal.

There were also a lot of chickens and goats running around on Brother Abu's farm. Goats are EVERYWHERE in Abomosu! The bleating of goats was constant while we were there.

Bro. Abu also raises snails. SNAILS!! EEEEWW! They were HUGE. Biggest I have ever seen. Why, do you ask? To eat of course! In soups! I held one and almost died. It slimed all over me. Sick sick sick.

See that big shell Bro. Abu is holding?? Yeah... that's a snail.

Look at how BIG that is?!!

That was so much fun today, to walk around his garden/farm and see all of the things he grows. Every morning he comes over with fresh pinapple or fresh avacodo from his garden. Wow… pineapple has never tasted so good in my life!

He also walked us over to his next door neighbor's house so he could show us how his people cook dinner. He showed us what Fufu is. Fufu is a very popular food item in Ghana. It is made from plantains and cassava mashed together to form a dough-like consistency. The Ghanaians then roll it up into balls and put it into stews or just throw it into the back of their throat and swallow it. No chewing, because it tastes like nothing. ;) They eat it purely because it's calorie dense.

That young man is pounding Fufu. The woman is the Relief Society president of the Abomosu branch!

Getting ready for dinner. The kitchens are all outdoors because it's so hot in Ghana. The only reason people go inside is to sleep.

The stew they were making.

Tonight we went to institute. We more than doubled the size – normally there are only 2 students who go faithfully. That was interesting to go to. The people here are so faithful, and they really do know a lot about the church. They know a lot of about church history too (which is what institute was on tonight). It was wonderful to be with them and hear their comments about the Gospel.

The teacher teased us about how we Americans say our T’s. Ghana was a British colony, so they have the British English and we have the American English – where we don’t really say our T’s. He thought that was so funny.

Sorry this is so scattered! I’m trying to type like a madwoman. Tomorrow we go to the clinic again and hopefully have some time at the market – it’s market day!

Love you guys! I hope you have a great day!



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 4 - Etesen? Aya!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hi family!

I miss you guys! It's so great here in Ghana and I'm learning so much, bit it gets kinda hard at night when I realize I'm in a different country, far from what I'm used to. So I really appreciate the emails that you write back! I love hearing from you guys.

Last night we had a CRAZY rainstorm. It was nuts. All of the windows are open all day long in the house because it is so warm outside anyway. So I woke up to wind blowing around everywhere and loud rain and lightning. There was a loud banging noise, over and over again. In my frenzied, exhausted state of mind I thought that people were coming into the outside gate and were trying to break into our house!! I imagined that I would get up and find 7 or 8 strange men in the house. But I was so tired and terrified that I never got out of bed.

The next morning we woke up and Karen told us it was just the doors on the inside of the house banging around. Haha, and all of us had been terrified the night before and had all been thinking the same thing - that people had broken into our house. Oh geez! It sure made for an exciting night (but not very much sleep).

Abomosu Marketplace on a rainy day

Traditional dress of Ghana. Most of the women wore dresses similar to this.

Today was our first day in the clinic! I loved it. I was helping with the intake of the patients. I helped with the vitals and the history. I was working with a woman named Loretta. She is 19 years old (20 years old next week). She is working so she can save up money to go to school to become a professional nurse. So it was fun to connect in that way - both of us trying to be nurses.

Loretta - Isn't she stunning?!! One of my best friends in Ghana.

She was so nice and patient with me. She took the vitals and asked about the history, and I wrote those things down. All of the history was given in Twi, so I had no idea what the patients were saying. Loretta would then translate for me, and I would write down things like, "Fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, " etc. A lot of they symptoms looked like Malaria symptoms. The students in other areas of the clinic said that a lot of the patients were diagnosed with Malaria. At least the medications are cheap, so some of the people can afford them. BTW, did you know that half, HALF of the kids don't live past 1 year old because of malaria? That made me so sad when I heard that.
Writing down the medical history in the patient's chart. Look at how cute that tiny girl is that the mom is holding?!! Ghanaian babies are beautiful.

But Loretta was so nice and SO patient! She would say something to me in her Ghanain accented English and I had a hard time understanding, and then she had a hard time understanding me and my questions. She would just laugh and laugh and say, "I don't get you!" But we eventually figured it out. She was even nice and taught me some words in Twi. Like good morning, good afternoon, good evening, I'm fine, etc. I would repeat what she said and she would laugh so hard at me! And I would try out my new Twi knowledge on some of the patients and they would just laugh me and say, "Oh, Abruni (white person)" in this condescending way. I wasn't offended at all, I just thought it was so funny that they thought I was funny, trying to fit in by speaking their language.

A sample of some Twi:
  • Good morning = maakye - pronounced "ma-chi"
  • Good afternoon = maaha
  • Good evening = maadwo - pronounced "ma-ju"
  • How are you? = Etesen?
  • I am fine = Mehoye - pronounced "me-ho-ye"
  • Thank you = Medase
Me, Loretta, Chantal, and ?? (can't remember her name)

Loretta told me she's teaching her LDS friend how to speak Twi. She isn't LDS, but she has a friend who is. She said her friend was American. When I asked her if her friend was a missionary she said he was! So she's seeing the missionaries! WOOT WOOT! That's awesome.

Loretta was asking me when I was coming back tomorrow. She said, "I like you. I want you to come back." I told her I really liked her too and that she is so nice. I'm glad I get to see her tomorrow, because she is so welcoming and patient with me, even though she thinks my Twi attempts are hillarious.

After the clinic we rested at home for a bit. The hottest part of the day is between 12-3 and we try to be indoors during some of that time - it is SO hot. So we chilled for about an hour and then some of us went oustide to play soccer with the kids.

Soccer was a blast. At first we could only find two older boys to play (Mark and Isaac). They were probably 15 or so. Man, they probably thought that we stunk. But we had fun. I guess the word got out that the Abruni were playing soccer, because suddenly all of these kids were showing up to play. It was so fun! Their ages ranged from 5 to about 13. They all went to the Zion school (which was built by LDS members in the US). They were a little shy of us at first, but by the end they were full-fledged playing against us.

The soccer field on the far right. You can kind of see the posts just sticking out of the ground as goals.

All of those kids LOVED soccer, or football as they called it.

One little boy named George was a GOOD goalie! He loved it. He would always want one of us white girls to shoot against him so he could show us how good he was. And these little kids are all good for how young they are. Man.

The soccer field was just two wooden posts stuck into the ground on each end as goals and it was just dirt and long grass. Man, they needed to mow it with their machetes, it was long! They really do mow with machetes, it's crazy.

The funniest part about today was during soccer. We were playing soccer and one of the kids pointed to my friend, Elaine, and said, "Abruni, come here." He waved her over to the sidelines, almost like a coach would wave over a player who is playing terribly. "Abruni, why do you not let me score? Why do you always kick it away?!!" Elaine said, "Uh... because I'm not on your team!" The little boy just shook his head at her and said, "Psh", almost like "man, you don't understand how to play this right at all." It was HILLARIOUS. We were still laughing about that when we got home.

On our way home the kids followed us the whole way home (of course). And we loved it. They started holding our hands as we walked back and acted like they were being so brave to hold our hands! Haha!

We went inside and they stayed oustide of the wall of our house, calling out "Abruni!" whenever they saw us through our windows for almost 2 HOURS afterwards. It was crazy. We were all wondering if their parents were worried about them. Karen then explained to us that the fathers work out in the fields and the mothers work in the market, so their kids are kind of like "latch key kids" in the US. She said she's worried about the kind of effect it will have on their community with their kids growing up with no parents at home. It's sad that they don't have any other option. Either don't eat but stay at home with the kids or go out and work so you can eat.

Tomorrow we are meeting with the mayor and a couple of other "big wigs" who are going to talk about our service project with the clinic and how we're going to do it. Karen rolls her eyes that it has to be a big ordeal with all of these officials. She said it "always has to be a big deal with these things." We also get to go to institute tomorrow night! That should be awesome! I'm way excited about that.

I love you guys! I have some assignments I've had to type up - some "deep thinking" journals that I want to send to you when I have time. I'm learning a lot here when I sit down and think about it, it's such a blessing.

Hope you have a great day today!



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 3 - Clinic and Marketplace

Today in Abomosu has been wonderful! First off, our instructor told us she was going to let us sleep in this morning (since we were suffering from SEVERE jet lag). We ended up sleeping in until noon! It was crazy! The only time I woke up was when the roosters started cockle-dooing when the sun came up, but then I went right back to sleep. I was surprised that I slept so well, because it's hot and humid and you have to sleep on top of your sheets. But I guess I was so tired it didn't matter - I was out.

We woke up this morning and met Elder and Sister Terry, a senior couple serving here in Abomosu. They're originally from Las Vegas! They are so nice. This is their THIRD mission as a senior couple, and all three have been to Africa. Their first was in eastern Africa, their second in South Africa, and now their third is in Ghana, is west Africa. I love that! I think it's so neat that they both made that a priority in their lives. I know Kevin and I want to be able to do things like that when we're older, so they were here, living our dream. It was so fun to talk to them about it.

We also met Stephen Abu, a Ghanain who started the LDS church out here in Abomosu. His story is amazing, if I have time I'll write about it. [I'll post his story soon!] He's one of the LDS pioneers of Ghana. Very nice. He's almost 70 years old but he doesn't look it at all. My instructor Karen said that their skin here is so healthy, they don't wrinkle or get old spots here like we do. No fair, huh? ;)
Brother Abu - an amazing example

Our driver, Yao, drove us up to the health clinic so we could see it and get a feel for what we'll be doing for the next week or so. The health clinic was a little bigger than I thought it would be. There's one room called the "Wound Care" room, with a nurse who does basic dressing changes and who gives shots.

The front of the clinic

Then there's a room where the medical assistant, Paul, meets with his patients. He's a Ghanain who acts like a nurse practitioner would in the USA, but he has a lot less education. He diagnoses and prescribes, but he goes off a little handbook that has a list of symptoms with possible diseases and treatment. So if someone comes in with a fever, diarrhea, and vomiting he opens his book and matches it with a diagnosis. He would say, "Oh, you've got malaria", treat them like the book says to treat them, and send them on their way. If they come back still sick he will pick a different diagnosis and see if that's right. Kind of trial and error it sounds like. If he still doesn't know after a bit, then he refers them toa doctor. The problem is there is only one doc for every 100,000 people. YIKES! It's hard for the people out here to get access to health care, especially because the transportation is so expensive. It costs 200 cedis to fill a gas tank (and the exchange is $1.50 of US currenty to 1 cedi, so that is STILL a lot of money, even by American standards.

So we got a tour of the clinic. There is a delivery room, a room for the woman after they deliver (so a mother/baby room), and 2 basic treatment rooms.

Delivery Room

A woman in the postpartum room with her newborn

There is also a "dispensary room" (their pharmacy) and a records room. The records room was organized very well. Our instructor Karen told us a story about this from her visit last year. (You'll like this Kev - you with your little business background).

Last year she was here there was a man doing his community service at the clinic. If people get subsidized by the government to go to college, then the govt wants them to pay it back by doing community service for 2 years. The government just sends them wherever, even if it has nothing to do with what they went to school for.

So this young man was doing his community service at the clinic in Abomosu but he had majored in business. So he was just kind of hanging around, just putting in his time until he could move back to Accra and make the big bucks. I guess when Karen went there last the records were just in huge piles on the floor with little aisles where you could walk inbetween the piles. The staff said they would sort through and put the records back when they had time.

Karen and her students organized and put the records all back in about two days. But the staff at the clinic still had no system in place and they would still just pile them up. Karen decided to talk to the guy who had majored in business. She told him that yes, he did have to be here in 2 years, but that he could use his education to try and make this clinic run like a business. That way he would be practicing for his future. He was stunned - he had never thought about that before!

She then asked him, "Are you planning on having records when you own your own business?" "Oh yes, I will have very good records, I learned all about keeping good records while at school." She then asked him, "Are you planning on having people work for you in your business?" "Oh yes, I will have employees." "Will you teach them how to keep these good records for you when you have a business?" "Oh yes, I will!" She then said, "Maybe you could use your degree and come up with a system to organize these records, and then teach the other staff members here how to do it."

So when we saw the records room today she was SO happy, because it was organized on bookshelves according to the number and everything. So that young man took his knowledge and helped the people of Abomosu in their clinic! I thought that was so cool. (And Kevin, an example of someone who used their business degree to help in the medical field - kinda like you!)
The organized records room, with all of the patients' charts

But the conditions are obviously way different than the US. The floors are dirty cement and the mattresses have no coverings. They just flip the mattress over for the next patient. We saw one woman in a bed who had an IV running, and the IV was hanging on this rusty, nasty-looking IV pole. Scary. The delivery room was also kind of scary. It had a lot more tools and things than I thought it would, but it just smelled dirty... like rotting flesh/wounds or something like that.

Delivery Room Equipment

More Equipment

The courtyard in the middle of everything is the "waiting area" (not room). Today it was PACKED with people (like 50-75 people there). That's because Tuesdays and Fridays are market days. All of the other days are when the farmers go out to work, but twice a week they come together to sell their wares. Market days are where the women and children are free to go to the clinic and they're not out in the fields, so they do a lot of children check-ups and women's health on Tuesdays and Fridays.

All of the staff at the clinic were very friendly. They would wave and say, "Welcome, WELCOME!" I love their huge smiles. They seem like they are very happy people.

After our tour of the clinic we chose to walk back to the house so we could see more of the village and the market. This was my FAVORITE part of the whole day! As we walked around people would just stare at us. Most of the people would VERY friendly. They would call out to us and yell, "hello! how are you?" It was a busy day with people everywhere.

Market Day in Abomosu

A common view from the streets of Abomosu

I bought a soccer ball there for only $6 cedis. I bought it so we can hopefully play soccer with some school kids after they're done with school. Then I'm planning on leaving the soccer ball here with them so they can keep it. It's a red soccerball with black circles and it says "Jesus is Good" on it. HAHA!!! That's my favorite part.

Haha, I LOVE this soccerball!

We also looked at fabric while we were there - we're hoping to get some Ghanain dresses made for us. Oh fun. :)

So anyway, as we were walking back past houses, people (especially kids) would yell out, "Abruni, Abruni! (white person) Etese! (Hello/how are you?)" When we would yell back, "Fine! How are you?", the kids would yell back, "Fine!" and then giggle and scurry back to ehir friends, who all probably thought they were SO cool. Haha, it was adorable!

Our driver Yao taught us that "Obibini" means "black person" in Twi. So when some of the kids said, "Abruni!" we would yell back, "Obibini!" They would look at us surprised (probably surprised that we actually knew the word) and then they would giggle even more. It was so funny!

When we were close to our house we walked past the Zion school. The kids were all wearing green and yellow dresses or shirts - their uniforms. We wlaked by and they were all waving and running toward us. I asked them if I could take their picture and they got SUPER excited. When I said, "Smile!" some of them did, but most of them posed almost GQ style. It was so funny.
After I took a picture I showed it to them on my display screen and they LOVED it! They all crowded around to see it and were pointing and laughing. Seriously, the cutest thing ever.

The kids once they've spotted us for the first time, coming to check us out.

Haha, see the girl on the left posing? They're adorable.

After that incident we said bye and kept walking. And they followed us! They would keep asking for more pictures. "Abruni! Picture?" Haha! We let them follow us for a while before we asked them if they had school. "Yes!" "Are you going to go back?" "Yes!" and then they jsut sat there. After I said, "We'll be back tomorrow. We want to play soccer!", they finally turned around and walked back to school. It was so funny.

Before they left we asked them their names. Some were easy, like Maria, but some were VERY hard. They asked us our names. They had an easy time with Jessica but they all laughed and struggled with Chantal. I'm excited to see more of them and play soccer with them.
When we got back Elder and Sister Terry asked us how many kids we had following us. When we told them about 6 or 7 they said it would be more tomorrow. Word will spread that we're here and there will be tons of kids following us. Oh boy. ;)

The rest of the night has been making dinner and writing in our journals, reading, etc. We aren't allowed out after dusk because of the mosquitoes - we don't want malaria, so we try to be inside after dark. We also talked with our instructor for a while about health-care related topics. It was super interesting.

Tomorrow morning we start working in the clinic. We're just going to be thrown into it I think - scary but cool at the same time! Wish me luck!

So far I am loving this. It's so interesting and the girls in my group are very nice. I love talking to the people and learning more about them. I don't know a whole lot yet, but I'm hoping to learn more and more everyday.

One thing I do know already is the people seem SO happy. They are always smiling and they're so happy to talk to you. For example, while looking at fabric I had an old woman come up to me, saying "Hello! Welcome!" And she was touching my arm and rubbing my arm. I said hello back and said "Thank you, I'm glad I'm here!" She smiled up at me with this HUGE smile and said, "Yes, I love you!" The Terry's said that they touch us because they wonder if the white skin will rub off. They also touch our arms because we have hair on our arms and they have hardly any hair on their arms.

But it's little things like this that make me think these people are a very happy people. Yes they work VERY hard, everyday, just to survive, but they are happy doing it. How many times do I complain, just because things aren't perfect in my life? I have so many reasons to be happy and joyful like these people are, but I'm not sometimes like that. I'm starting to realize that I have a lot to learn from these Ghanains. I'm excited to learn all that I can.

Look at how happy she is! I love that smile.

Thanks for your emails and your continued prayers! I miss you, but I'm so grateful that I can be here. Sorry the email is super long. ;)

Love you!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 2 Cont'd - The Minority

Here is a journal I wrote for an assignment. I might post some of these (at least the interesting ones) every once in a while, especially since I learned SO much while in Ghana with these amazing people!

Discuss a cultural experience you had this week and the impact it will have on your personal life.

I've only been in Ghana for 2 days, but I have definitely had some cultural experiences.

One of the main cultural experiences so far is my experience of being a minority in a population. Now I was born and raised in Orem, Utah. The majority of the people there are white and LDS. I fit that mold perfectly. I've never been in a situation where I feel out of place or different from other people around me, because I'm the same as they are. I've never been really concerned about if what I say will be acceptable to other people. I've never had to worry that my white friends think my way of living is strange or different. Because I fit in perfectly.

Now I come to Ghana and I am one of the very few white people here. I stand out like a sore thumb. I walk around and people stare at me. Granted, it's not the worst thing in the world by any means. For example, I love the attention from the little kids, running around saying, "Abruni! Etese!” (White person, how are you?) That is definitely very fun. But this "standing out" thing is very different.

That's me in the glasses. :)

It is different because, for the first time in my life, people stare at me because I am different than them. I also get treated differently because I am different. No, I don't get treated poorly, but different. I'm sure Ghanaians aren't followed around by kids all day like we are. I'm sure a lot of Ghanaians aren't expected to have a lot of money like we are. It's interesting to get treated differently as the minority.

At times I've been nervous as the minority. Like our first day in the grocery store I just wanted to get our food and get out of there. Why? Because it felt weird to be stared at for me. I felt threatened. I don't think its because I felt like the people were going to hurt me - maybe my identity as "one of the majority" was being threatened. What I was used to was being threatened. I don’t know.

This has made me think a lot about the minorities back home and how they must feel - the Latinos, the Asians, even the "non - members.” They must be nervous at times, just like I've felt here sometimes. They also get treated differently because they are different. A lot of times people assume that Latinos can't be trusted, or they must not have very much money. They are seen as not very intelligent because it is assumed that they drop out of school or don't speak English very well. Sometimes even I've been guilty of these stereotypes.

I wonder how they feel when they are treated differently? Probably a lot like me - kind of out of place. It must be hard to live like that all the time. This experience of mine is only going to be 3 weeks, but it must be strange to live like this all the time. Like I said, it must be hard.

This experience of being the minority has really helped me to feel more empathy towards the minorities back home. It's helped me see how I regard and treat them differently, even when I'm not aware of it sometimes. Yes, they are different, both culturally and their skin-color. But does that mean I should not regard them with the same high regard as I do with the white people I associate with? I don't think so. These differences of ours shouldn't make a huge difference in how we treat each other, but it does.

When I go home I'm going to try harder to embrace the differences I have with other people. I guess instead of looking at the differences, I'm going to try and look at the similarities. And not just between different races, but even between people with different personalities or ways of living their lives. Looking for the similarities instead of the differences will help me to bridge the gap between a lot of people in my life and will help me to connect with them.

These kids and their smiles make my heart melt. They are adorable.

I am so grateful I have this experience to be in Ghana, and this experience of feeling what it's like to be the minority. It's really opened my eyes to what other people must feel like. It's really helped me increase my understanding of other people.