“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have, and never be satisfied.” -Les Brown
Many people express that they don’t pursue a dream or a goal because they want the conditions to be a certain way, or they want things to be perfect. In reality, the conditions won’t change until the person decides to get into motion and to continue to stay in action.
I can admit, in the past, I have been guilty of putting off a goal or a desire due to circumstances. In the past, I have told myself that I had to wait until the situation was perfect or certain pieces were in place. True, there were times when it was necessary to wait on the other pieces of the puzzle, but it was never time to stop doing things towards my goals and desires.
The Law of Attraction expresses that whatever we put energy and attention towards is what we draw unto us. This universal law is simple, and can be actively applied to manifest one’s desires.
However, here is something to consider: If someone told you that your present situation and surroundings are the result of your past thoughts and actions, would you be bothered, or would you be willing to take responsibility for yourself?
One of the hardest things that I had to admit to myself was that I am responsible for myself and my progress.You are responsible for yours too.
Of course, this does not mean that you won’t face challenges and obstacles along the way, but it does mean that you can choose the course of action you take once they arise. Ideally, when a challenge arises, one of the best things you can do is mindfully look within and look at key areas connected to this challenge.
Four key areas to examine when facing challenges: 1) Thoughts–What do I really think about this situation? OR What are my exact thoughts? 2) Emotions–How do I really feel about this situation? 3) Underlying Messages–What is this situation helping me to learn? 4) Positive Behaviors–What am I able to do right now that supports a positive outcome?
Examining these things gives you an opportunity to shift a possibly negative perspective into an empowered one. This empowered perspective is one where you recognize that you have choice, and you can make a decision based on the understanding that you are always learning and evolving. Depending on the situation, the choice itself can range anywhere from sweet surrender to engaging in more focus-driven actions.
It is your choice.
Remember: Every action (or lack thereof) always results in some type of outcome.
Think about your life goals and how far you have come towards meeting these goals. Consider the one most important thing that affects the realization of your goals: YOU
What are you focusing on daily? What are you doing daily? Are your thoughts and actions moving you towards or away from your goals? You always have choice.
Right now, you have made a choice to read this post. In reading this, my hope is that you are gaining some insight or awareness about yourself and how powerful you really are.
There is one thing that I would change about the wording Les Brown used in the quote above.
I would say:
“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have, AND continue to expand.”
There is power in your decision to stay in motion.
When your heart speaks to you, do you listen? OR Do you talk yourself out of what is being said to you?
There comes a moment when we know without a doubt that we are being called to do more with our talents, our gifts, and essentially our lives.
Depending on where you are in your journey, some people might call it a mid-life crisis. In some spiritual communities, this process is referred to as Divine Discontent. I like to use this phrase because it is more than just a developmental stage; it is the Universe’s way of getting your attention and growing you into someone even better than you were before.
From personal experiences, and working extensively with several clients, I recognized that this process typically happens in stages.
Here is my summary of the stages related to Divine Discontent:
Stage 1: Misalignment= This is when you begin to feel out of sync with what is going on in your life. The things that you normally do might start to feel monotonous and boring. You might start to feel fleeting senses of disinterest or displeasure for these things. (Not to be mistaken for depression symptoms.)
Stage 2: Denial=The awareness of your misalignment increases, but instead of looking further into the reason behind it, you go against what you are feeling and try to continue in your monotony. You basically talk yourself out of whatever it is that you are feeling…or at least you try… which leads to the next stage.
Stage 3: Detachment = This is when you still are not quite ready to “dig deep” and give anything up or make major changes, so you start to distance yourself emotionally from the things that are causing the discontent. Unfortunately, this state of discontent may also spill over into other things in your life. People might notice and comment on your shift in mood and your distant presence. You can’t hide it anymore.
Stage 4: Epiphany/Climax/Aha Moment =This is when Shift Happens. Your discontent pushes you to the edge of introspection. You look inward, and question what is at the core of your feelings. You realize that you need to make changes, whether small, medium, or major ones. You decide that you are willing to make these changes.
Stage 5: Pursuit = You take action and make the necessary changes so that your discontent decreases. You actively seek guidance, whether it be inward, from mentors, or both. You change your direction and move towards your new goal.
Stage 6: Alignment= You feel more alive and the things you are doing or engaging in feel right. You no longer have that unpleasant sense of monotony or boredom. You are in motion, and it seems like everything and everyone around you are propelling you so that you stay in motion.
Stage 7: Realization= You reach that point of bliss where you know that you are doing what you are meant to do. You have moments where you reflect upon where you were before this stage, and you are grateful that you made the changes. You realize that everything was already worked out for your benefit, and all you had to do was take the first step.
Consider what things (or people) in your life that you feel discontent with. How long have you allowed this feeling to linger?
Recently I stepped away from all of the activities that I do in the big city in order to spend some quality time with my family members at the beach. I went on this trip with the intention of healing and to build stronger bonds with my family.
This mini vacation was manifested from a combination of desires that my sister and I both had. She wanted to take her two sons on one more special trip to the beach before they went back to school, and I wanted to spend more personal time with her. The Law of Attraction delivered her a prize from a drawing which included a trip for 4, lots of free and kid-friendly events, and a few days at a nice hotel directly across from the dusty white sands of the beach.
It was pretty awesome.
During this time away, I had a much-needed opportunity to take a step back and observe the path I have been walking so far. There is something about being near the water, especially the ocean, which cleanses me and puts me in tune with Source unlike any other part of nature.
I reflected on how I started the beginning of the year, and I slowly took note of the things that have manifested since the first day of January. I asked for clarity and assurance of my next steps as I dive deeper into my calling and take greater leaps during these last four months of the year.
One thing about being in nature is that an answer is always waiting to reveal itself. I was riding on a boat, breathing in the refreshing air, and staring meditatively at the ocean waves when a group of dolphins appeared. It was five of them, and each one came up of out of the water to say hello before diving back into the deep. I was asking Spirit a question, and they were my answer.
A few of the dolphins that appeared.
One evening, my sister, my nephews, and I left the beach and headed back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. She turned on the television and it was on the Weather Channel. They were doing a segment on double rainbows and explaining the scientific conditions that make them occur. She and I briefly watched the segment, commented on how neat that was, then continued getting ready. I had a quiet thought in my mind, “I wonder if I will ever see a double rainbow.”
The next day was our departure date. We loaded up the car and headed back towards our hometown. The weather was unusual, with patches of scattered showers and sunshine throughout the drive. I continued asking Spirit for answers to questions, and excitedly noted the signs in nature. I saw beautiful deer, turtles, and other animals along the ride.
We came to a four-way stop in a small town when I noticed a rainbow in the sky. “Look, a rainbow,” I said to my sister. She smiled and expressed gratitude that it was there. In that moment, I thought to myself again, “I wonder if I will ever see a double rainbow.”
Rainbow that was present for almost an hour
We kept driving, and the one rainbow stayed in our sight for nearly an hour. It felt magical. Then my sister pointed and squealed with delight, “Double rainbow! Double rainbow!” I looked up and saw a double rainbow in the sky. I said to her, “You know, I was just thinking to myself if I would ever see a double rainbow.” She looked at me with wide eyes and said, “I was thinking the same thing too!”
Look closely, and you will see the double rainbow.
And there it was. We laughed and chatted like we used to as little girls. She pulled the car over, and I took several pictures and even made a video. It definitely was magical, healing, and inspiring indeed.
You may wonder why I am telling you about this experience. Because I want you to know that:
Double rainbows do exist.
For me, a “double rainbow” was something that seemed like it was impossible for me to experience or witness.
What is your “double rainbow”– that thing that you think is impossible?
Is it World peace, healing from an illness, unconditional love?
This simple message is to let you know that it is NOT impossible.
This life we live is precious and priceless…similar to the beauty of these flowers.
There is one significant mystery about Life: Our amount of “time” in the physical world varies from person to person.Time is one of our most precious and irreplaceable treasures. Not the time on clock, but the Life you Live. HOW we spend our time matters. WHO we spend our time with matters. Essentially, we are sharing our Life when we give of our time.
Today I am remembering the life of a good friend whose time on Earth was less than mine: Kenny Reeves, who passed away from leukemia on July 24, 2007. I appreciate the smiles, laughter, and laid-back fun we all had with Kenny, yet at that time, I questioned why someone who was younger than me would also leave the physical realm before I did.
Today, I am also thinking about the people and things in my life that I give time to. I have purposely strayed away from some traditional 9-5 jobs because I value my time and the way that I use it. It can be challenging to spend a lot of your time doing something when you would rather be doing something else with that time. There have been jobs that I absolutely LOVED, which I have given more than the 40 hours a week, yet it was easy to do so.
It is empowering to be consciously aware and to live in the moment. Here is an example of my experience with acting in the moment.
In one of my graduate school courses, my professor proposed a challenge to us, related to the present moment. He dared us to express whatever message we wanted to share with someone who was not in the class, as we were sitting in the middle of class. In a very matter-of-fact voice the professor said, “When you walk out this door after class, you are not guaranteed to return. Hell, you are not guaranteed to finish this class and leave out of here! You havethismoment. What would you do? What would you say to someone that you love or care about right now? I dare you to do it.”
I felt the weight of his challenge like a rock was in my stomach. I thought of several people to text or call, but I felt like I had to make a quick decision. (He was counting down). I took out my cell phone and dialed the first number that came to mind. I looked around and saw that several of my classmates were taking out their phones too. A few people got up and left out of class. The professor smiled, and he took out his phone. The room fell silent as everyone was texting or awaiting to hear from the person on the other line.
I began to think about what was happening. What really bothered me about the challenge was that a lot of what he said had validity to it. It made me think of what it must have been like for people when 9/11 happened, or school shootings, or even hostage situations. (Oddly enough, the class was a crisis intervention course.)
My thoughts were interrupted by hearing a ring and then airy silence…
My mother answered. I heard her gentle voice and immediately said to her, “Mom, I just want you to know that I love you.” My voice was shaky for some reason, but I kept talking. “I am in class, and we were told that if all we had was right now, what would we do or who would we contact. I chose to contact you. I am okay, but I just wanted you to know that I love you.” She sounded a little worried, but she graciously said, “I love you too honey.” It was comforting. After we hung up, I texted several of my friends to let them know how much they mean to me. I could hear chatter all over the classroom, and the prominent message I heard was, “I love you.”
This awakened my consciousness again.
At that time, I was so caught up in my own routine as a graduate student that I had drifted away from living mindfully. I appreciate my professor for doing this exercise because I never forgot that experience, and how I felt in that moment. I allowed myself to think about what matters to me the most and evaluated how I acknowledged those things.
I hope this makes you think about what you are doing with your time on this planet.
We need not wait until a tragedy happens in order to appreciate Life. We need not wait until a death occurs before we join together to celebrate Life.
LIFE Is Right NOW.
Who or what do you need to give time to today? Sit down, take a moment, and make time for it.
Approximately 5 days prior to my return from my journey in Ghana, many people started messaging me frequently. Most of the messages said one of two things: “When are you coming home?” or “You’ll be coming home soon!” I kept on receiving those messages almost daily. I felt conflicted when I read them. By this point, I had gotten accustomed to being away from the US, and was excitedly exploring areas of Ghana on my own.
In the beginning of the trip, I was anxiously trying to make sure that I had access to wifi. I have this app on my phone (that I will keep anonymous for now) that allows me to communicate with anyone across the globe who also has the app. The more that I let go of my fears about being overseas, the less that I looked at my phone to see if there was a wifi connection. So, by the time I had reached the closing of my trip, I really did not overwhelm myself with using the app, unless I was talking with the locals and a few friends.
Plus, part of the conflict I was experiencing was because I kept thinking and wanting to reply, “I AM home.”
I loved walking freely down the streets with the locals, smiling, wearing my summer dresses, eating fried or fire-baked plantains, slurping down the sweet chunks of local pineapple, and having heartfelt discussions with fellow young adults about ways we can unify our world.
I was definitely Home.
Yet the time came for me to leave. I was very upset, but checked in with my heart and got clear: “All is in Divine Order and there is a reason for my return at this time”.
I got on the plane heading back to the US. It was going to be at least an 11-hour flight into JFK airport, and then another 3 hours or so back to Atlanta. I wanted to stay awake for most of the trip, so I decided to watch movies while I was on the plane. There were several choices, but I was drawn to two particular films. I watched Selma and 12 Years A Slave during my flight back to the United States of America…coming from Ghana, West Africa.
Notice any irony?
Needless to say, I am not sure what drew me to those films (and I knew what they were about), but watching them during the flight had more of an impact than I had imagined. I cried, felt disgusted, and was reminded of another fact about the foundational history of the place I was heading to.
So many thoughts and emotions rolled through me. My parents, who are in their late 60’s and early 70’s now, were once forced to use public amenities that were for “Coloreds/Blacks Only”. They went to schools that were segregated. They saw the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. inreal time. My dad marched in demonstrations, and I recalled marching with him and local members of the community as a very young girl in order to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr’s activism when he visited my home town. (Where he was arrested, by the way.)
Then I landed on US soil. I made it back into Atlanta, Georgia, and attempted to re-assimilate myself into American culture by catching up on the latest news. The first thing that I heard about was another shooting of an African American male. I turned off the news and sat in silence for a few hours. I felt numb and heavily detached, because I knew (and know) that this does not have to be.
Not long after that, the shootings in Charleston occurred. Once again, I thought about my experience in Ghana, and then recalled what I was witnessing here in America. It was challenging to go from an environment that oozes with freedom into a place that began to feel oppressive and constrictive. But I always remember that I have choice, andI can choose my own thoughts.
From our thoughts, our feelings and behaviors are affected. We can choose to interact with our environment from an intentional and positive mindset.
Yet, I still chose to reflect upon the history of America…briefly.
Many Americans know that this country was built from the desires of ego-centered men who seemed to have lacked understanding of the True Essence of humanity as a whole. Here it is, the 4th of July, where many of us Americans celebrate Independence Day. Yet, what is really being celebrated? The signing of the Declaration of Independence is not completely about freedom. (I also learned that some colonists did not sign it until an anti-slavery clause was taken out of it, but that may be for another blog post.)
Essentially, the 4th of July is celebrated because the colonies chose to declare their independence from Britain. The colonists were upset with Britain because they were being taxed, feeling stressed, and various rules were placed upon them that they did not like. But think about it…aren’t these same types of taxations and rules in existence in the country right now?
So I ask you, “What are you celebrating?”
I love this line in Bob Marley’s Redemption Song:
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind.”
One of the reasons I named my company Metaphysical Freedom is because Freedom first begins in the mind. For example: The colonists who declared their freedom from Britain first had to THINK they could be free from British rule. The slaves who fought for freedom first had to THINK that they could be free. The activists who marched for Civil Rights first had to THINK that change was possible.
I encourage you to recognize the power of your mind and the unshakable freedom that you have from owning your own thoughts and creating your experience from your authentic mind. Not from what someone else has told you, and NOT based on history. History does NOT have to repeat itself, and would not be able to if we renewed our minds and evolved.
You and I KNOW that there is a better way for ALL of us to live on this planet, and that is in HARMONY with it and each other.
I mentioned in Part 1 that earlier this year, I traveled to Ghana, West Africa and stayed for a month. In my time there, I learned a lot of positives about myself and the Ghanaian culture. I also recognized some of my own stigmas, and challenged others’. However, there are some things that I learned which opened my eyes to the reality of the challenges we face due to our ego-centric human nature and history. Through my next set of posts, I will address some “ugly truths” that I developed a better understanding of while being in Ghana.
As I shared in the first post, there were several people from other countries visiting Ghana. Due to my naivety, I thought that the majority of these people were tourists or volunteers. When I spent more time in the country, I paid attention to the landscape, noticed the architecture, and witnessed the different “classes” of people.
There were notably many people from China, India, and France in Ghana. (Through conversation, I learned that there are many people from these countries who reside or visit Africa in general.) I have seen videos of other African countries with “foreigners”, but the experience is different when something is observed firsthand.
I saw extravagant hotels, numerous casinos, and fancy apartment buildings in Ghana. When I asked the locals who owned them, I was surprised to know that most were owned by “foreigners”. These luxurious establishments were in the middle of cities with shack houses, cramped market spaces, and unstable roads. In the least, they were hard to miss because they appeared to have higher quality construction.
Why, you may ask are all these businesses there? Well, think about this: Which nation/continent is one of the largest leaders in cocoa production, has lots of oil, precious metals, diamonds and gold? You got that right. Africa.
I was bothered to not only to witness the economic disparity among the native Ghanaians, but also to observe the ways that the people were being taken advantage of by “foreign” businesses (example: Paying workers far less to run million-dollar businesses). I talked with many educated local businessmen who expressed that other countries are investing heavily in the continent of Africa and its countries. I learned that treaties were formed centuries ago that have left the people with little to no input or income when it relates to the extraction, use, and distribution of their resources.
It is funny to me that a great amount of the American publicity about the continent has been geared towards driving people away from Africa, or displays the people as poor and impoverished. Yet, I clearly saw that other countries see Africa as a rich continent filled with resources and wealthy opportunities.
I am not against people thriving and doing well in their business and economic endeavors, but I do not vibe with groups who take advantage of and oppress another group for their own gain.
It is once again, another form of slavery. The Ghanaian people are very kind, open, and non-violent. Their hospitality is nothing like any Southern hospitality I have experience in the United States. But, something is missing. They are rich and do not know it.
The long-term effects of colonization have left several of the people with a case of learned helplessness. I will talk more about the long-term effects of colonization in another post.
However, a crafty way that I can explain learned helplessness is like this: A person desires to get help with turning off a light in a room. The person is facing a wall, and the light switch is on the opposite wall that the person is not looking at. Due to the person’s history and past experiences, the person was made to believe that he/she cannot help him/herself. So, this person asks every other person who comes into the room for help with turning off the light. In reality, all that the person has to do is turn around and flip the switch.
When I roamed around Ghana, a lot of the people expressed that they want to come to the US in order to find jobs and make money. Almost none of them said that they wanted to have their own businesses and thrive in their own country. I couldn’t understand it. I felt like they were in a land overflowing with wealth, yet they were seeing it only from a limited viewpoint, and a very negatively skewed one at that.
It appears that their view of their situation is a result of a centuries old “(human) race consciousness” that supports limited awareness of personal strength and freedom. I desire for the Ghanaian people to know how rich they truly are. Food grows almost everywhere, the air is lively and basically unpolluted (most places I went), and the land has a wealth of resources.
These ants did not question if they could build this structure. They knew they had the ability, worked together, and did so, unencumbered.
To my Ghanaian brothers and sisters (and you the reader):
Do not look outside of yourself in order to discover riches. See who You Are. You Are already Rich and well-equipped. Tap into your innate strength and wealth.
I toured a small portion of the country and gathered as much information as I could about the people, culture, language, and customs. Most of the Ghanaian people are Christian, and there is also a large Muslim population as well. The day after Easter Sunday, I visited the beautiful Aburi Botanical Gardens for an Easter Monday festival. There was a live band, picnics, dancing, singing, games, and lots of food everywhere. I noticed the FREEDOM of the people, unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Everywhere that I looked, everyone was walking around confidently, laughing, smiling, and LIVING in the moment. I loved every moment of it!
Without me saying a word, people noticed that I was “different”and often asked if I was African at all. A few people said to me that my skin was too light, so they were willing to believe I was from South Africa. I found that hard to believe, because I have a brown complexion. (Then, I jokingly thought about the 13% of my lineage that is European.) After this happened frequently, I learned very quickly not to be bothered by these statements because I knew that it was only curiosity.
I met two young men in their 20’s at Aburi. Their names were Francis and Joe. They were excited to meet an American and asked me hundreds of questions. The first thing they said was, “Are you a Black American?” I nodded. Francis and Joe expressed that they wanted to come to America so that they can have jobs and live a good life. I did not want to discourage them, but I was realistic and told them that many people in America are having difficulty finding work. They looked puzzled so I explained more about the American economy until they understood.
I asked Francis and Joe for their Ghanaian names. With hesitance, they told me. Then, they asked me what my African name was. I told them that I did not know. They looked so surprised at me and asked why I didn’t know. I had to explain to them how slavery impacted my family (and many others) to the point where I could not tell them my whole lineage or my ancestors’ names. They continued to look surprised and a little empathetic.
We continued our conversations and talked about several issues facing each country. I wanted them to know how much freedom they truly have and how amazing life can be, right where they were. I ended up talking to them for a few hours, but it was worth it. After our conversation, they each told me their native names again, and with pride.
New friends Francis and Joe at Aburi
There are talented young people in Ghana. I met Jacob during some downtime. Jacob is a creative and fashion-forward young adult. He makes handbags, shoes, accessories, clothing, and much more…ALL BY HAND. As I learned more about him, I discovered that he had given a large portion of his products to someone in another country who paid him little to nothing for it and now sells it in her store for 120x’s more. I encouraged Jacob to share his work globally using social media, instead of just in Ghana. I pointed out to him that he spends a lot of time and effort to do his work, so he should get back what it is worth. He agreed, and has started working with a Facebook page to share his work. (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ja-Creation/832268476851066)
Jacob, a talented and fashion-forward guy. He makes shoes, clothing, handbags, and accessories. By the way, he made the bookbag in this picture.
Hanging out with Jacob and taking selfies at a local Lounge in Tema
I also had the pleasure of meeting Kingsford. He is another young adult, and he works in one of the small shops in the Accra Arts Center area. He was cool, kind, and made very nice bracelets…BY HAND. I supported his business by getting personalized bracelets made. I would sit in the chair and chat with him while he made them.
Kingsford making a personalized bracelet.
Giving Kingsford a goodbye hug and thanking him.
My next to last week in Ghana, I stayed at the home of a missionary woman. She worked with several organizations and had numerous projects. One day, she asked if I could sit in on a meeting and give feedback based on my perspective. I agreed. The meeting was at the Malku Institute of Technology. The topic of interest was marketing and social media. I gave my honest opinion and shared research that I had read. Surprisingly to me, I was asked to come back and present a workshop to the core staff about the topic. I was thrilled to do so, and I put together a simple presentation to assist them in the best way that I knew how.
As I continued with the intention to connect with the Ghanaian people, I discovered that the ones I connected with were ones who needed to be encouraged and reminded that they are worthy of greatness. (Don’t we all need that?!)
Here is another person that I met. Thomas, pictured below. He was my cab driver during my last week in Ghana. Thomas is 70 years old, and has 2 adult children living in New York. He and I had great conversations about spirituality, religion, and stages of the lifespan. Thomas shared that he feels like his time on Earth is about to be up. He said, “My kids are grown and a lot of my friends are dead.” I expressed to him that there is so much life to live right now. He smiled when we talked and shared, “I wish we could have met sooner so we can really talk about Life!” Before I left, he commanded me, “You come back in a year, and I want to meet your husband and baby.” This statement made me laugh.
All in all, I loved to hear Thomas’s perspective, yet most importantly, he also appreciated my willingness to listen.
By the last week of my trip, most people said to me, “Are you Ghanaian? You look Ghanaian.” I was so amused by this because the only thing that changed for me was that I felt less like a tourist or visitor and more like I was at home.
When my host family asked me how I felt about being in Africa and specifically in Ghana, I replied: “I see the faces of my friends and family in the people here.”
It easily felt like home, indeed.
Think about this:
The more we seek to understand each other, the less and less we support the false barriers that exist between us.
Joe gifted me with a bracelet and asked to be a lifelong friend.
One of the many reasons that I traveled to Ghana and spent a month there is because I wanted to learn more about my African roots. One of my siblings did the DNA genealogy test to help us to determine what regions/countries that our ancestors came from. To me, the test results were…well…they weren’t very conclusive. They read something like: Overall 85% from Africa (of course), then it was broken down into countries- Cameroon/Congo 31%, Ivory Coast/Ghana 26%, Nigeria 10%, and traces of Senegal 7%, Mali 4%, Togo/Benin 4%, and the South-Eastern Bantu region 2%. The other percentages were roughly 13% European and 2% Central Asian. When I first heard the results, I asked, “What does that really mean?” I don’t believe that the same borders or boundaries existed when my early ancestors were living freely on the land hundreds of years ago, so I figured that Ghana would be a good place in West Africa to learn at least something about the people I come from.
I grew up in South Georgia with small beginnings on family farmland in the countryside. The farms were former plantations. I remember having family get-togethers outside where we fried fish in a large pot of oil over an open flame. We had live animals running around…horses, pigs, chickens, and the family dogs. My uncles loved cooking Brunswick stew, or bringing back fresh fish from the local river. My dad would cut sugar cane, and we all enjoyed chewing it to get the sweet “juice”. I remember when I was very young, I used to sit on my great grandmother’s porch overlooking the farmland and help her to “shuck” corn.
Some of the houses were more like shacks because they were built by family members and had tin roofs. We called some of them “shotgun” houses because you could walk into the front door and see straight through the house all the way to the back door.
Even when we moved to the city, we continued some of our lifestyle. We grew plums, pecans, figs, blackberries, and peppers in our own yard.
Life was simple and rich.
Sogakope, Ghana in the Volta Region felt the most like my hometown to me. There were mostly dirt roads, several handmade houses, and the people were laid-back.
A few homes in Sogakope
Mango tree in the yard
Food stand: Pineapple, yam, plantain, palm nuts, and chopped sugar cane (at the bottom)
Laid-back moto riders relaxing by a “shack”
Something else that was interesting to me was related to funerals.My family usually wears black to funerals. However, if it is a grandparent that dies, we (as grandchildren) wear white instead. I don’t remember questioning why we had this tradition.
During my time in Ghana, I learned that red, black, and white are the funeral colors for Ghanaians. The people wear red if it is a young person who has passed away. They wear black if it is an adult/middle-aged person. They wear white if it is an elderly person. I felt a sense of satisfaction with this information and pondered if our family tradition was a watered-down version of an ancestral practice.
One final thing that caught my attention and felt comforting was the clothes-washing. Almost everyone hand-washes their clothing and hangs them out on a line to dry. My parents grew up doing the same thing, and they did the same for us. At some point, we had a washing machine, but we NEVER had a dryer, so we used a clothesline. As a teen, I used to be ashamed of it, but now I smile joyfully about it. (Plus, it is very environmentally friendly.)
Clothes hanging on the clothesline at a university guest house.
These small similarities made me feel more at ease in the “foreign” country. I started to pay more conscious attention to the people, and began to see familiarity in all of them.
It is such a pleasure to notice the small things that connect us all as a people.
In March 2015, I traveled to Ghana, West Africa and stayed for a month.This was my first official flight overseas, so I was nervous. I was not sure what to expect on my way to Ghana. I flew solo, and was going to meet my host family at the final destination in Accra. I took a red-eye flight, but there was a brief layover in Amsterdam. When I made it to Amsterdam, I could already feel a difference in the air. There was a sense of movement and action that did not feel like mindless busyness.
My layover was only for a few hours, so I made my way to the next gate for the plane heading to Accra, Ghana. When I got to the gate, I immediately noticed that almost everyone was Black. The people’s beautiful dark skin had a supernatural glow. I KNEW I was among Africans. It was an exciting feeling. The second part of the flight was long and turbulent. When the plane landed in Accra that night, most of the passengers applauded in relief. Shuttle buses came to the plane to pick up the passengers and take us into the airport. It was raining and humid, but I was in Africa!!
The customs line was long, and I had to wait for over an hour to make it through. Many diverse people were in the line with me. I saw Chinese, Lebanese, Nigerian, Belgian, and Canadian visitors, just to name a few. I admit that I was surprised to see many “foreigners” coming to Ghana. Then it hit me…I realized that I may have had some subconscious stereotypes and misconceptions about Africa even though I consider myself to be a very open-minded and an independent thinker. Due to this realization, this first post of the series is going to address some of the stereotypes and myths that many people might have about Africa. Although I was only in Ghana, I think that a lot of this information is relevant.
Prior to leaving the US, many people asked me, “Do they even speak English over there?” Often times, the tone of the question was condescending and judgmental more than curious.
To answer that question…Yes. A majority of the people in Ghana do speak some English (and also one or more of the native dialects).
Honestly, even if the people didn’t speak English, I was willing to learntheir language. As people of a culturally diverse world, I think it is beneficial not to be xenophobic or extremely ethnocentric. It benefits us if we do not go into another country expecting the people to speak the language that we are most comfortable or familiar with. It causes us to open up and develop an understanding of each other that verbal language can sometimes distract us from.
But yes, a majority of the people spoke English. This was a blessing, and I was extremely grateful.
Sign Above the door at a Primary school
Stereotype: There is extreme Lack of Education This is not completely true. There are professionals such as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, teachers, etc in Ghana. I did notice that public schools seemed to get the least amount of assistance and care. The conditions were not the best ones for learning. (I will discuss this in a more in depth post later on in the series.)
There are colleges, universities, and tech schools in Ghana.
Stereotype: People only wear Traditional Clothing I can admit that I expected a majority of the Ghanaian people to dress in traditional African clothing. This was not the case.
In all of the places that I visited, the majority of the people were dressed similar to me or my close friends. They looked like Americans. I did learn that this varied based on regions, belief systems, and age.
Adults waiting for a ride near the Volta Region.
Young people dancing in the park at Aburi Botanical Gardens.
Myth: There are only Dirt Roads and Villages with no Running Water or Electricity There are some paved roads, and there are some unpaved roads in Ghana. I had the joy of experiencing both. In some areas, when it rains, the paved roads get washed away and turn back into muddy roads with enormous craters. It can make for a bumpy ride or limited access to areas, especially if you do not have a moto (motorcycle).
Man and woman riding the moto near the Volta Region.
There are traditional villages and thatch roof houses like the ones that are often portrayed on television. However, many people do have homes like the ones in America, and they are HUGE!
Village home in Dodowa.
Back view of a “toilet” at a village home in Dodowa. The owner was kind enough to let me use it.
Private bathroom in my bedroom in West Legon.
There IS running water and electricity in parts of Ghana. Not all places have running water or electricity, but many of them do. Unfortunately there is an issue with frequent electricity outages. The people are accustomed to it, and even have a name for it: Doomsor. Some days I had electricity, but almost every day I did not have electricity for 6, 12, or more hours. I seldom had hot water, but it was bearable because the weather is very hot and humid.
Village children pumping water while a man walks by carrying goods on his head.
Stereotype: There is dangerous “Wildlife” (lions) roaming everywhere.
There are several animals in Ghana. I did not get to see the monkeys, elephants, zebras, and giraffes, but I learned that they have nature reserve parks in different regions where I can go see them. Everyday I did encounter many cows, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, and sheep freely roaming around the streets and in harmony with each other.
Baby goat in Dodowa casually heading under the vehicle for shade.
Herd of cows calmly crossing the street in the city.
Myth: All of Africa is only Deserts. There is no Vegetation. Ghana is beautiful! I was able to experience the lush Aburi Botanical Gardens, go to the beach, see mountains, and visit the bush areas. Plus, almost every where that I went, there was mango, papaya, avocado, and plenty of foods growing naturally.It was magnificent!
Home on a hill in Aburi
Walking a path out in the “bush” north of Aburi.
Cape Coast (The other side of the Atlantic Ocean)
Stereotype: There is nothing for Tourists because the countries are underdeveloped.
I would recommend that anyone with a genuine interest in the continent of Africa visit at least one country, even if it is only for tourism. In Ghana, there are hotels, spas, shopping malls, museums, national parks, and movie theaters. I am certain that other countries in Africa have the same amenities as well. 🙂
Spa in Sogakope, Ghana (Volta Region)
Museum in Kumasi (Ashanti Region)
Myth: They do not like African Americans.
My experience was that many of the people do like African Americans…and people in general. I was often referred to as “sister” (or “girlfriend” or “wife” by some guys who were really trying to push the envelope). The mindset of the Ghanaian people that I interacted with is , “We are family”. The people were extremely nice, helpful, and I felt very safe. I met some kindhearted individuals and made wonderful new friends during my time in Ghana.
My message to you is this: Africa is a rich and enchanted continent.
Do not allow stereotypes, myths, and targeted media coverage prevent you from visiting Africa, meeting the beautiful people, or exploring other regions of this planet.
If the inner guidance of your heart is pulling you to venture out, give it a try.
A loving presence is understood across all cultures and languages.
I am currently in Ghana, in the western part of Africa, on my first trip to the continent. I arrived in the city of Accra late on a Tuesday night in March. I was nervous, excited, and exhausted all in one. The customs line for foreigners was very long, so it took over an hour for me to get through. When I made it outside the airport, the first thing that I felt was extreme heat and humidity. I had been on the freezing cold airplane for several hours, the airports were very cold, and then suddenly it was hot. The second thing I noticed was all the Black people…Africans. They looked so beautiful, glowing, and so dark that their skin mixed with the night sky. It was lovely.
My first week here was spent doing tourist-like activities. I have been exploring the region and getting a better understanding of the people. During this tour, I visited Cape Coast Castle and the El Mina Castle. Some ex-pats refer to these locations as the Dungeons instead of castles. These are places where Africans were held in captivity before boarding ships to be sent to other parts of the world as slaves.
Needless to say, going on a tour of the castles was an emotional experience for me. Maybe not in the way that you would think, though. Instead of tears of sadness and sorrow, I became very angry when I heard about the inhumane things that were done to my ancestors. Although I learned about slavery, I was only given a small perspective—one from the lens of American History. The more I learned, the angrier I became. It was disturbing to think about the level of maltreatment that one human can inflict upon another and continue to live a fairly normal day-to-day life.
I heard about the ways that Africans assisted the Europeans to capture other Africans, especially if they were from another tribe or were offered a large amount of European goods.
I learned how the female slaves in the castle were abused and sexually exploited by the governor and his men. The women were forced out of their dungeon and had to walk in a small open courtyard. The governor’s quarters overlooked the courtyard. He simply would point at the woman he wanted to have sex with, and then she was taken through a secret door to his bedroom. Once he was done, she was put back in the dungeon with the others. If she refused, she was left outside, a ball and chain around her ankles to suffer…as punishment.
In the courtyard: Ball (without chain) for female slaves who refused sex
There is a great amount that I would like to write about this experience, yet I will keep this post brief. (Maybe this will turn into a book.) One other thing that I will mention is the “Door of No Return”. The slaves were kept in the dungeons for weeks and months at a time (men and women were separate). Think about it: Hundreds of people in one room–eating, sleeping, defecating, urinating, sick, etc…in ONE small room. The ones who died were taken out and tossed into the sea. The ones who survived made the life-altering journey onto the ships that transported them all over the world…. when they walked through the Door of No Return. Not only did they have to endure the dungeons, but the ones who survived had to endure the ship rides around the globe. What a shame that so many people suffered from this tragedy at the hands of their own people.
This is only a miniscule piece of the history of this planet.
Door of No Return
Why am I writing any of this? Because I desire for you to open your eyes and your mind.
Slavery still exists today, right here and now, and it takes on many forms. Some examples are: Mental slavery, economic dis-empowerment, sex trafficking, free/cheap labor, and cultural imperialism.
I refuse to believe that human nature is naturally selfish, greedy, and immoral.
Yet, I do wonder: What will it take for all humans to see each other as fellow brothers and sisters on this planet? How can we mend the mistakes of those before us and live in a peaceful world instead of repeating this revolving pattern?
Several RIP flowers and gifts were left in the dungeons from visitors around the globe.
In spite of the anger I felt, I found one thing to be slightly comforting. Several people from all over the world left gifts, flowers, and memorials for the slaves who were in the dungeon. Most of them read, “Rest In Peace” and referred to humanity learning a vital lesson from the pains of the slave trade.
I know that healing is possible. But first, we must have compassion for ourselves and each other.