While writing this blog update, I am sitting in my bedroom with sweat beads gathered on my forehead and a gecko staring at me from the doorframe of my bathroom. When I think about the fact that neither of these two things phases me, I cannot help but laugh. Four months ago this combination of sweat and a little beady-eyed creature would have been beyond bizarre. Now? I have just come to accept that this is my life … but not my life for much longer!
With five days left until I leave Ghana, it seems surreal to look back at all that our Calvin group has accomplished in the course of a mere four months. We have climbed waterfalls, we have survived the chaos of many markets, we have cried tears of joy and tears of sorrow, we have discussed our poop problems, and we have grown closer to our Heavenly Father as one body. Though many of our experiences would not be categorized as ‘glamorous,’ that certainly was not the point of this trip. The goal of this trip was to engage in a different culture in a way that made us appreciate our own culture at home, and I believe we all accomplished that.
Looking back at all of the excursions that we went on, it is crazy to think that we travelled throughout essentially the entire country and visited places that many Ghanaians have not even been to before. Since I stayed with a host family, I cherished the excursions that we went on because they created opportunities for me to get to know the other members in our Calvin family. It was on these excursions that friendships and family-like bonds were established … which is something that I deeply loved.
The most recent excursion that I went on was a trip to the beach in Cape Coast with 10 other students from our group. Since it is the end of the semester, we were given one week in which we could travel anywhere we desired, and the 10 of us decided to head to the beach. We spent four days listening to the waves crash upon the beach, feeling the heat of the sun beat upon us, and watching the dance of the bioluminescence shine its bright orange glow in the waves at night. (For those of you who don’t know what bioluminescence is (much like I didn’t before this Cape Coast trip), you can learn more about it here.)
After spending a month at Haven of Hope, it was so nice to be able to relax and get my tan on. Okay … attempt to get my tan on. We’ll see if my efforts paid off or not after I return home!
It just so happened that Thanksgiving fell over this week of free travel, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After Christmas, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love everything that is associated with this holiday – the family, the day-after Thanksgiving tradition that my family has of cutting down our Christmas tree, the ‘I’m going to stuff my face with so much food that I can barely move’ concept that inevitably happens every year, and most of all the idea of setting aside an entire day devoted to being thankful for the blessings that our Heavenly Father has so richly blessed us with.
Since I love Thanksgiving so much, being away from home was a bit more difficult than other days of the semester. However, being able to spend it with other members of my Calvin family proved to me just how much I really have to be thankful for. We created our own dysfunctional Thanksgiving meal made of street food (which included meat kabobs, hard-boiled eggs, pineapple, corn on the cob, cucumbers, carrots, and ice cream sundaes) and simply enjoyed each other’s company. As our dinner concluded we proceeded to say everything that we were thankful for, ranging from our families back home to the family that has been created here in Ghana to the simplicity of living in a developing country.
Each string of words that left everyone’s mouth while saying what they were thankful for was impeccably beautiful.
Sure, this Thanksgiving was not like any other I have had. And sure, we kept laughing at the fact that we were having our own Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. But I loved every minute of it. I have so much to be grateful for, both here in Ghana and back home in the States, and being away from home has made that so prevalent to me.
After this week on the beach and its magnificently painted sunsets concluded, we can jump back to today. With only five days left of this Ghanaian adventure, it is clear that my time is slowly dwindling. I am beyond excited to return home to my friends, family, and SNOW (go figure … there is a kind of weather where I won’t sweat everyday?!), but I also know that there will be so many things that I will miss about Ghana.
They always say you never know what you have until it’s gone, and I believe this to be true. There are most likely numerous things that I and the other students will miss about Ghana that we don’t realize right now, so I pray that God gives all of us the ability to retain as many sights, smells, and experiences in these last few days as possible. Spending a semester in another country is such a unique and beautiful experience, and I will never forget it.
So, now what? Now that this semester of a lifetime is nearly finished, what comes next? To be honest, I have no idea yet. I know that I will return to the States, complete the spring semester of my junior year, and play on Calvin’s tennis team. But the most important question is how am I going to retain the rawness of life that I learned this past semester? I think that only time and God’s guidance will tell.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24