Sayin' Goodbye Ain't Easy & Last Thoughts

Trip Start Jun 21, 2012
Trip End Jul 21, 2012

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Flag of Ghana  , Volta Region,
Saturday, July 21, 2012

I'm writin' this after I returned to the States.  It's time to sit back and reflect.   Like what Oprah usually said in the end of her O magazines, "What I know for sure...".  Here it goes...what I know for sure is dat I wudda not trade my profound, rewardin' experience for the world.  Before I left for overseas, I knew sumthan' wuz missin' and I felt I needed sumthan' to do.  Sumthan' nudged and called me.  I've always wanted to volunteer in the third world somewhere and I wuz leanin' toward Africa.  Now I feel happier and knew the void of my life has been filled.  I started to have a new perspective of life in general. I'm feelin' calmer and I seem to handle turmoils, dramatics, and whatnots better. I try not to practice materialism, accept things how they are, and try not to get myself disappointed.  When sumthan' like chaos or any negative external forces confront me, I learn to step back and try not to sweat the small stuff.   Funny, one week before I departed for Ghana, I wuz at my sistah Cindy's home in Houston visitin' her while I dropped off my two cats, Duma & Austin, at her house, so she'd take a good care of 'em while I wuz overseas for the whole 4 weeks.  On one night we happened to want seein' a movie and she took a remote control to press for the list of Pay Per View movies.  The title caught my eyes "Machine Gun Preacher".  Cindy is a big movie buff and she said she never heard of it.  After I read its synopsis, we decided to go for it.  The movie wuz powerful, mind-blowin', and dammit good!  I cried, cried, and cried.  IMDb summarized, "Sam Childers is a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children who've been forced to become soldiers."  As ya see, the movie title had drawn me for some reasons & made me to watch it.  I checked Sam Childers' biography and we're alike but I ain't the drug-dealing biker tough chick.  I applaud him for his bravery and wanting betterment for Sudan, Africa.  Ya gotta see dat movie!
What my family & friends didn't know for sure before I zoomed to Ghana wuz dat there wuz a problem aroused in Hohoe.  There wuz an escalation of violence between Muslims and town people of Hohoe where my volunteering placement wuz.  There were dead people, burnt shops, and soldiers' watch.  If my folks knew about it, they’d not let me to fly off.  I learned about it from my friend, Scott, who is with the Peace Corps.  I asked my volunteer program coordinator about it and why she didn't inform me about it.  My safety wuz supposed to be prioritized..  Sometimes you need other people, like friends, in Ghana to keep you updated.  Just a few days before I left, I wuz told the violence subsided but the curfew wuz still bein' monitored.  Once I landed there, there wuz actually a curfew at 6:00 P.M.  My home-base director honestly told us, the volunteers, about it and not to worry about it.  Actually I wuz feelin' safe and not thinkin' of it.  It's not worse like the Rwandan Civil War.  One week later or so, things became better.

One of my siblings wanted me to give him a physical address of the home-base where I stayed 'cos he didn't want the Post Office Box address.  I told him I'd give him the right one once I arrived there.  But things diverted my attention and forgot all about it.  Of course, he wuz worried and hinted me in Facebook until I got his inbox message.  When I read his message sayin' dat he cried so hard on the day I left for Ghana.  It broke my heart and I didn't weep in front of the volunteers in the dinin' room.  I hid in the bathroom and allowed my teardrops to fall like the Wli Waterfalls.  I wrote him right back and apologized for not stayin' in touch w/ him.  When I returned to the U.S.A., he said he hoped for me to stay here for good.

In Ghanaian culture, when a visitor is present while people eat their meal, they ask him to join for their meal.  No wonder often my teacher, Lydia, offered me to join her for lunch in classroom where I taught.  I politely declined 'cos she ate it w/ her right hand. The left hand is used for other things that are considered 'dirty' such as wipin' ya-know-what and pickin' up trash. Normally Ghanaians wash their hands first before their right hand digs in the dish.  In restaurants they even have two bowls filled w/ water:  one for washin’ hands & the other for rinsin’ ‘em.

I didn’t like the capital, Accra, as it reminded me of Rome and New York City.  Too many people, dirty, mass of transportation, pollution, smell, and Ghanaian people give non-Ghanaian peeps, or Yevu, pressure into buyin their stuff when they’re sellin’.  They came up to me at every vendor I passed.  Luckily I’m deaf and I tried to ignore ‘em but sometimes it’s hard when they confronted me.  I often gestured w/ my hands tellin’ ‘em I’m deaf and no thanks. They even tried to gesture back to me!  On the positive note about Accra, they have Lebanese, Indian, and American restaurants; and they do sell many nice things such as souvenirs.  To be honest w/ ya, I was not motivated to order the American foods.  They looked unhealthy to me as opposin’ to the Ghanaian foods.  Besides, they cost more, too. I wuz accustomed to eatin' the whole Ghanaian foods, not processed foods.  As a matter I've lost some weight and many clothes I wore there became loose.

I bought 2 Ghanaian cook books and tried to find right spices to bring ‘em home.  My interpreter, Mawusi, knew where to get ‘em.  When we got to the ‘food vendor’, the lady showed me different spices in a plastic wraps but didn’t have the labels w/ the names of the spices.  I tried to smell 'em and figured what they're.  I decided not to buy ‘em for I fear they’re the wrong ones I wuz lookin’ for.  I regretted not takin’ a cookin’ lesson as they offered in Ghana.  Next time, I definitely will!

Volta School for the Deaf didn't have an infirmary or health center for sick and injured students.  Often I see them with wounds in their toes and legs from playing soccer barefoot.  They pointed to the wounds and showed 'em to me.  They also had several round wounds in their heads (most of the students' hair were shaven or cut very short).  They're a lil' gross to look at.  I asked staff what happened and they said it's from ringworm.  One guy was limping and he looked painful.  I cudda see the swelling on his leg.  It bothered me a great deal and told him to put the ice on it, which he did.  I asked my interpreter to take a look at it.  Good enough, the boy was sent to the hospital and a few days later, the boy felt much better.  I sometimes brought band aids to give 'em to injured students.  I think the residential dorm staff have 'first aid kit' 'cos I see the blue iodine on the students' wounds and it keeps flies away from being too attracted to the wounds.

I very much want to return to Ghana because I felt my volunteer work is not complete as there's much more to do.  When I returned to my homeland,  I wuz homesick for Ghana.  I still stay in touch w/ 'em via Skype and Facebook. The first week of my four week volunteer wuz a rough start.  I thought my interpreter used American Sign Language but when I first met him, I realized dat he used Ghanaian Sign Language, which caused our communication barrier.  We slowly began to understand each other better and helped exchanging our language.  I just sent him two ASL books (teacher's edition and student workbook) and one ASL DVD in the mail because he said he wanted to continue learning the ASL.  I did not have an orientation at VSD and felt somewhat lost, but after my inquiry for more information (policy, students' ability levels, staff, curriculum, school itself, etc), I felt at ease.  The students at VSD were very friendly, helpful, polite, and welcoming.  They have made my heart fonder.  On the last day (Friday) of my volunteer work, I said goodbye to 'em and they kept askin' me if I'd return on Monday.  I signed, "No, I will fly back to America."  They didn't understand and I gestured to show how the plane flies around the earth from Africa to America, and dat it takes all day to get there.  Sayin' goodbye wuz very difficult for me.  I cudda not hold up my tears in front of 'em, so I had to let 'em see me cry.  They asked me, "Why are you crying" in sign language.  I told 'em I'll miss 'em when I leave.  Even, when I thanked the schoolmaster for allowing me to teach, he asked me why I wuz crying.  I cudda not stop crying!  He looked awkward and didn't know what to do with me but left me a note with his phone number and skool address.  It made me wonder if Ghanaians are open to express their emotions.  Later, I learned dat they do in front of their family and at the funeral.  Nevertheless,  I wondered if the students anticipated my arrival on Monday morning or just went about w/ their routine.  In Austin at my home, while VSD was still open, my students saw me on Skype.  They waved me "Hi" and probably realized dat I wuz actually back home

I got ride to VSD from my home-base, to the market and shops in Hohoe, and to other towns in Volta Region.  I got familiar to my surroundings and peeps.  I felt safe to walk and ride taxi alone in Hohoe.  The peeps were very respectful, helpful, and friendly.  My folks were worried about my safety.  I think the media had to do with its influence.  Not all places in Africa are dangerous.  Ya gotta read about the countries first before coming over.  My volunteer program, Cross-Cultural Solutions, won't send volunteers to dangerous placements.  Ya gotta get yourself immunized, or ya get really sick.  The website of World Health Organization is a good place for you to read about current health news and which immunizations you need to take.  Just always prepare for your trip and be advance.  In addition, it wudda be very helpful if ya have friends or befriend with peeps in 'other country where they give you right tips and guides.  I'm grateful to have met them via Facebook and friends in Austin who happened to know 'em in Ghana.  Some folks thought I wuz crazy enough to go abroad alone to the third world but look here I've achieved.  Not only from their help, but I strongly believe in prayin' and dependin' on God for His help.  I didn't allow my fear take me over 'cos I knew God (and my dear mother) were w/ me all the way.  My mother wudda have been proud of me and she does have an influence on me in bein' of service

So, I have become myself familiar with Ghana and VSD and I will be more than ready to return there.  I want to stay there longer than 4 weeks.  I'd love to start volunteerin' at VSD right away 'cos I have gotten myself oriented; and staff & students were very welcomin'.  In addition, I really want to travel to other regions in Ghana dat I missed out due to insufficient time when I wuz there.  I wudda love to visit other deaf schools, other towns dat I've heard about, and see more exotic animals in the wild like at Mole National Park.  I don't care if it takes forever to travel on the bumpy road but I just know for sure it will be worth it.  I also hope I'll be able to attend Leadership Camp for the Deaf hosted by Peace Corps dat I missed when I had to return here.  I also am leaning toward Morocco, too, even though the CCS doesn't have a placement for me where I can help deaf children but they said they'd find sumthan' for me to volunteer somehow and somewhere.  I'd like to explore and get an insight of Morocco for one or maybe two weeks, after spending time in Ghana for 6 weeks.  I'd love to learn more about Muslims, their culture, foods, and have a great sightseein' of beautiful artwork of mosaics in buildings and mosques.  My dream is to ride a camel in Sahara Desert and camp out there.  Wouldn't it be adventurous?  Now, I understand why my friend, Scott, who is the Peace Corps volunteer, has fallen in love w/ Ghana and didn't want to return to the U.S.  In conclusion, I have re-enrolled the CCS program to return to Ghana in summer of 2013 and started to save money.  The longer I stay there, the more money I gotta save.

Lastly, I want to share my friends' comments of what they said about me as a volunteer.  They meant a lot to me.  Scott posted his Facebook comment in his 'Our Talking Hands' homepage: "We want to thank Mary Chimelak for taking time to come visit us at the Volta School for the Deaf in Hohoe, Ghana. Mary has done so much to open the eyes of students, staff, and community members that it is beyond words. I just got my goodbye hug from Mary and hope for a return hug in the near future. It is evident that Ghana has had a significant impact on Mary as well. How can one know the impact they have had on the lives of others? We stay in touch. Thanks again Mary for the inspirational memories and your open heart. Till next time!"  Scott gave me a silver necklace with a charm of 'Our Talking Hands' and a beautiful batik shower curtain made by his students at VSD.  The shower curtain now is hangin' in my bathroom.  I've bought several things from his "Our Talking Hands' shop for myself, friends, and family.  He said that the sale from his shop had increased 'cos I've told my folks about it.  For you who haven't visited his shop, check:  Mostly things are made from deaf students, so feel free to visit it and make an order.  I also bought several bead bracelets and necklaces dat I cudda not resist.  I have a weakness for beads.  I used to make 'em as one of my hobbies but I stopped. My teacher, Lydia, said to me when I said goodbye to her, "Thank you and God bless you."  She also gave me a lovely bead necklace.  Robert, my deaf friend in Ghana who helped guide me around, mentioned in Facebook, "One thing I like about you is you adopted the Ghana way so fast."  I had to get myself immersed there, or I wudda not have learned & remembered nor shared my stories w/ others.  I also got a surprise later this summer from deaf students at Leadership Camp for the Deaf.  They sent me thank-you cards to thank me for my contributions to Our Talking Hands and the camp. I will treasure all the gifts.  In return, I have sent 'em my gifts in a package to thank them for all their assistance durin' my stay there.

Please do consider to volunteer and be of service overseas or in the U.S.  I can guarantee you it will be an eye-opener and change your life completely or in some ways.  Ya gotta experience it, or ya wudda miss out. Thank y'all for makin' donations for my trip and makin' my lifelong dream come true.  I also want to express my gratitude for those who included me in your prayers & gave me their encouragement to make my mission possible.  :-) :-) :-)

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augurtours on

It was very wounder ful.come and visit Uganda in this festival season or any time with augur tours and travel
we wish u merry xmass and happy new year

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