In the Education section of the blog, I’ll be talking about my experiences in teaching or observing in different countries. My intentions are to work with kids at some point in every country whether it be in a school setting or small group, a one-time thing or multiple. Being a teacher it’s always really interesting to see how another culture educates their youth.

Many cultures have a way of life that as the children grow up, it’s very predictable as to what they will be doing, because it may be decided for them. Education is the source to breaking the cycle of poverty. English is a language that is being learned in even the smallest of villages. I wasn’t happy teaching in elementary schools in the U.S. so before traveling to Ghana I always questioned why I spent so many years in college working on a degree that I had no interest in anymore. Then I had the privilege of seeing what it was like to work with kids from a culture much different than mine. It all began to make sense, I spent 4 years of college to get a teaching degree so that I could travel and be guaranteed a job anywhere I went. Teachers are always needed and valued outside of the U.S, but I’ve come to find that children are the real teachers. I’m setting intentions now to attract all the right experiences to help me grow as an educator.

My first time observing was in Ghana back in 2013. In order for these children to have some type of success, education is key. Children need to be in school or they will be roaming the streets and getting into trouble. I observed at an elementary school right down the road from where I was staying. When I stepped onto school grounds a crowd of children ran up and surrounded me, touching my freckles while smiling and laughing. All of the children have to wear uniforms and are responsible for keeping track of and washing them. If they come to school without their uniform, they risk being sent home. Unless they go to a private school, their head needs to be shaved bald.

The classrooms have multiple windows on both sides so the air flows better because it’s often very hot when the sun is blazing. Daily there would be one or two classes being taught outside. I observed mainly in the primary classes, around 4-6 years old. The walls were decorated with hand-painted ABC’s and drawings and the back wall of the room was lined with food. There was one teacher per class and about 35-50 students. The teachers prepared songs that the students sang to me, welcoming me to their classrooms. It was the sweetest! When the children had break time they would all rush outside to bang around on the drums or play in the field with the balls. The children were generally well behaved and respectful.

That’s one thing I really love about Ghanaian culture, children want to learn and are grateful for the opportunity to.

I didn’t observe too much during my time in Ghana so I don’t know the curriculum that is taught but I do know that teachers do their best with what they are given. In one of the classrooms, there was one laptop that the children used to practice their typing, with 5 or 6 children surrounding the desk waiting for their turn. Understanding how to use the computer is an important skill to know and although they don’t have a computer lab with multiple computers, they make use of the materials that they do have. I definitely didn’t expect to walk into a room with a laptop, so this was a shock to me. There were no materials to use, but somehow there was a laptop at the front of the class which didn’t make sense to me. Later I found out that it was one of the staffs and they shared it between multiple classes. Children getting the opportunity to use a computer is very slim unless they are a bit older and can afford to go to a local Internet cafe, so they were very eager to get the chance to type. Depending on the money your family has and the resources the school has, you may or may not have books. In one of the rooms, there was one teacher holding up a book for about 40 students to see. I think the teachers have a harder time keeping children engaged due to the lack of materials they have to work with. This is probably why many lessons incorporate movement and song, because it’s easy and doesn’t require money. Children are given a notebook to write their homework and notes in, likely to be something that they have to purchase on their own. In between lessons they are often put into crowded cabinets.

We also took a short trip to Aklorbortornu, a rural village of 300 farmers and fishermen in Ghana’s Volta region. Currently, there is no electricity or running water. Other then the light of the sun, lanterns are used and water is fetched at the closest water source. If the children want to attend school they have no choice but to walk several miles to the closest village. This “nearby” school is falling down and lacks qualified teachers in addition to basic materials like pens and paper. Teachers are as unreliable as the government that pays their salaries. Sometimes they show up, and sometimes they don’t. Children from Aklorbortornu often carry their own chairs and desks on their backs on this long journey. Otherwise, they have to sit on the dirt floor. We came to the village with donations of school supplies to find that a local woman has been volunteering her time teaching the village children. They were learning under a wooden shelter created with sticks, logs and palm tree branches for the roof. If it rains, the children don’t go to school, which is a problem during rainy season. The materials donated were from the Western New York community, even the smallest amount of donations are appreciated in a place where they have very little. You can read more about the village of Aklorbortornu and other projects on the Ndor Eco Village website.

Getting the opportunity to observe was an eye-opener for me in many ways. Although I don’t agree with the American Education system, we do have many privileges that we often take for granted, mainly because of a lack of comparison. If all teachers, coaches, and school staff working in U.S. schools were to travel to a 3rd world country and experience education, their perspective on many things would change. One is how freeing it is to work with children that want to learn with more flexibility on curriculum and less paperwork. Secondly, how lucky we are to be given so many materials to work with and the ability to have access to anything that we do need. Many American teachers spend a lot of their own money toward items for their classrooms but I think after observing a classroom that has next to nothing, they would re-think what is necessary to have and what is a luxury. In my personal opinion, I would rather teach in a foreign country rather than a classroom in the United States. Teachers are not only respected more by students but also valued overall. I think our Education system in the U.S. is strong in content but lacks the human aspect of it all. I know many wonderful teachers that teach in American schools and they go above and beyond what is asked of them for the sake of the children. They are genuinely loving and teach kindness and compassion within their classrooms and as you can see by all the news stories, this is highly needed within our schools. Experiencing education in Ghana has revealed to me my own teaching path. I don’t think I fit in with a typical public school system, I’m definitely suited more for an alternative, think out of the box environment. I look forward to many other experiences in many different countries and am blessed to have been given this opportunity.

We also have more pictures on Facebook.

Click on the pictures to get a better view and to scroll through easier.  We also have more pictures on Facebook.

After spending Christmas together in Buffalo, NY with my family, Jesse and I went our separate ways. He spent a month traveling to see his dad in North Dakota and his uncle in Seattle while I was off once again to Ghana. We haven’t spent more than a few days apart since meeting each other so a month apart would be a journey in itself. We said our farewells to family and friends not knowing when we would see them again, and the journey began.

The plan was to go with Cha Cha and some others but due to a number of reasons, I found out a week before leaving that I’d be going alone. Since I had my one-way ticket to Ghana and one way to Thailand booked and didn’t buy insurance, I couldn’t rewind time and get a refund. I was nervous, yet a part of me knew I had to go still. I originally left for South Korea alone so I had some previous solo travel experience but this was Africa and I haven’t seen Cha Cha’s family in over 4 years. If you’ve ever been anywhere in Africa you know that going, in general, is a journey but going solo is a pretty intense experience.

I arrived at the airport and vaguely remembered my way around. I was told that Cha Cha’s brother would be picking me up at the airport and bringing me to Hohoe. Last minute change of plans and an old childhood friend of Cha Cha’s met me at the airport. We then went to a hotel near his house, where I would stay the night and we’d continue on to Hohoe together in the morning. I’m reminded that traveling anywhere requires you to be able to go with the flow and be flexible with what comes your way. As long as you are safe, have a place to lay your head and can eat, then the rest will work out.

The next morning bright and early, we took a taxi to the bus station to catch our 5-hour bus ride to Hohoe. The size of the bus is a little bigger than a minivan and has around 12 seats, which includes 3 in the front. With luggage, the seats are pretty cramped. The bus definitely has some miles on it and it was pretty beat up, but I didn’t expect luxury. I put my headphones in and hoped for the best. As I traveled down the dirt, pothole-filled roads headed for Hohoe I was both nervous and excited to start this journey. I remembered all of the wonderful experiences I had the first time with the people I met and was filled with love and gratitude for being able to visit again.

Once we arrived, I pat the dirt off my clothes and bag and greeted the family. They were more than welcoming but we were all thrown off a little by the fact that Cha Cha couldn’t come. Normally he would have a general itinerary for the day and there would be someone making the meals, so without him, his brother and some of the other family members had to step up and take on that role to make sure I felt comfortable. The kids were tall and all grown up and there was a new cat and 3 kittens! You could tell which one was the runt, it was thin and frail but still very playful with his siblings. I wanted so badly to take them all home and feed them multiple cans of Fancy Feast. Later in the trip, one kitten disappeared. I was told it was sold to a man who would eventually eat it. I always wondered what the cats’ purpose was, but I didn’t think they were dinner.

The first few days were hard for me. I questioned why I came here and what I’ll be doing for the next month. My mind started to go back and forth about changing my flight to a different date and leaving earlier. One minute I was ok the next I felt I had to leave. It was really an interesting time for me on a deep level, that’s when I realized I really need to just sit with these feelings to really understand what is happening. I reminded myself that throughout this entire journey in Ghana and beyond, everything is unknown so I needed to get used to that space of not knowing where each day would lead and truly live in the moment.

One night I decide to go out front of the house and people watch. There was a kid that came up to me and before I knew it all of his friends were surrounding me. They learn English in school so it was easy to talk with them. They asked me questions and wanted to teach me some of their language, Ewe. When I would repeat the words back to them in Ewe they would laugh and cheer and bounce around like it was the best thing they’ve ever heard. After that night I began going out front every night up until I left Hohoe. The group seemed to grow, night after night they would bring a new sibling. Each night was filled with singing, dancing, pictures, videos, games and laughing. These kids reminded me of how much I love being around children, just having fun. I was having a hard time the first few days and then I met the children and any worries seemed to be silenced and I remembered not to take life so seriously. Saying goodbye was hard knowing that I wasn’t sure when I’d be back again. One little boy even cried, which made me cry. It just goes to show that time spent with children is far more important than any material object.

Like the first visit to Ghana, I presented donations. One to the village of Aklorbortornu where the small group of children were and another to the headmaster of a local school. When I got to the village the children and some others were gathered up for the presentation, it looked like more children than last time. This is when I learned that they received donations from the community to build a school building for the children. I was happy to hear that they no longer had to worry about it raining and not going to school. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of the new school building, but it is a very basic open-air shelter from the elements. Currently, a local pastor and another kind man are volunteering their time to teach the children, but in reality, they need a steady teacher. The first time I went to Ghana it was a woman so it seems to be an ever-changing role that the local people take on in order to give the children in the village some form of education.

Although my intentions were to volunteer with Ndor Eco Village, I didn’t end up doing any work on the projects which was the whole reason for going so I had a very relaxing month in Ghana. I had a lot of free time and for the first time in my life, I felt what it felt like to be lonely. I wasn’t sure if it was because Jesse and I were always together and now I was alone or if it was some inner issues coming to the surface. Eventually, I realized this was a time for me to just enjoy being with myself because I’ve gone a whole year without much solo time, which is usually necessary for me to reflect and grow. Knowing that after Ghana it would be a lot of on the go, one country to the next, I began enjoying the calmness of it all. Jesse reminded me to surrender and let it all go and just make the most of my time there.

Cha Cha’s nephew, Makafui was my sidekick for the month, he made sure I had Vegan meals and was comfortable and taken care of. I’ve been talking to him on and off through facebook since my first trip to Ghana so we became even closer friends. I basically tagged along wherever he went, the market, into town, the ocean, I even got to see his University and sit in on the Welcoming speech for the new year. I originally was to stay in Hohoe for the entire month but Makafaui and Madam Lizzy, Cha Cha’s sister in law were leaving to go back to where they live in Denu. Denu is small village minutes away from the Togo border with the Atlantic Ocean in the backyard. We all thought it was best I go along with them. Lizzy is a teacher at the local school and she said I could sit in on classes if I’d like. I thought this was a great opportunity to see another side of Ghana that I haven’t seen, and to be near the ocean sounded wonderful.

From Hohoe to Denu is about 4.5 hours give or take a little, but our trip ended up being about 6 hours. Our bus had some trouble so we stopped for about 20 minutes for a mechanic to see what the problem was. Not too long after we were back on the road we broke down and we all had to shuffle to different buses to get to where we needed to be. As we walked to the front entrance we are greeted by Madam Lizzy and her children. The ground is covered in sand, no grass or concrete, just sand.  I set my bags down and was told I’d been sleeping in the neighbor’s house, Madam Diana, which was right next door. There are about 5 apartment’s in the complex each apartment had only two rooms. The front room is the kitchen with some open space and the back room is the bedroom. The bathroom and shower were out back. The toilet is cement seating and somewhat like an outhouse, but if you’re only going number 1 you can squat in the sand. Trust me, you want to squat in the sand because at night the abnormally large cockroaches take over the outhouse. The shower was basically a concrete wall, open-air bucket shower…my favorite! There’s something special about showering under the stars at night.

Being near the ocean was breezy and relaxing, even in the hot sun the breeze was able to make the temperature seem less hot. One day I went to the ocean during sunset by myself to sit with a book and have a moment of silent reflection, that lasted about 2 minutes. As soon as the kids see a foreigner they flock to you. At first, they sat at a distance staring, then they slowly come closer, before I knew it I had 30 kids surrounding me and my moment of silence turned into an interrogation. Some of them knew little English, but there’s always that one kid that speaks it well and will question you about everything and anything. After that day I never went to the ocean alone again, when I’m with Makafui they don’t seem to come up to me unless called upon. Being by the ocean gave me a different perspective on life in Ghana. Many of the locals rely on the ocean for both their income and food, not only for them but food for the surrounding villages and cities. I was able to see the local fishermen pulling in their net, I’ve never seen so many creatures so closely together. There were octopuses, stingray, snails, and tons of different types of fish, all in one giant net. They open the net up and the women come over with their giant bowls sorting the fish and bringing them to an area where they dump them. After everything is removed from the net in piles, the fishermen weigh them and distribute to the women based on what they are seeking. The process is really interesting!

I spent two weeks in Denu and each week I observed at the local school. You can read about my observations and thoughts in the Ghana education post.

My time spent in Ghana was rewarding on a personal level. I was able to dive deeper within myself to open myself up even more and truly see the ways I limit myself and the steps I need to make to continue to keep an open heart. Since a child I’ve always been a shy person, as I grow older it slowly is becoming a thing of the past, but at times I see that shy little girl emerging again. This trip to Ghana has given me the tools to remind myself that every experience I have is a reflection of whats going on inside me. We have the ability to choose how our experiences are going to go, by staying open you allow the energy the space to flow freely. It is also a lesson in living in the moment. Although my experience this second time in Ghana was much different, it isn’t a bad thing…just different. Change is growth and being able to see where I limit myself and cause unnecessary discomfort has given me more insight and understanding of the human condition.

A few days into my trip I started reading a book that I brought with me called ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A. Singer, it could not be a more perfect book to be reading. It brings you on a journey beyond yourself and into your heart. One excerpt from the book that really hit home for me was:

“The more you are willing to just let the world be something you’re aware of, the more it will let you be who you are —the awareness, the Self, the Atman, the Soul. You’ll realize that you’re not who you thought you were. You’re not even a human being. You just happen to be watching one. When you start to explore consciousness instead of form, you realize that your consciousness only appears to be small and limited because you are focusing on small and limited objects.” (Chapter 4: The Lucid Self, page 37)

This excerpt may hit home for some of you, for others you may not understand and that’s ok too! I’ve read something similar years ago but for me personally, it was a jaw-dropping reminder. One of those moments where I remembered who I am. I’ve visited some busy cities but I think living in the U.S. is too fast paced for me, one minute you’re feeling present and aware, the next you are caught up in the busy life. It’s so easy to get distracted with the hustle of the day and the unlimited stimulation surrounding you, especially if you have multiple jobs, children, families, and numerous other responsibilities. Times are changing and technology is evolving, even more, machines are even replacing what were once jobs for humans. It takes more strength and conscious focus now more than ever to stay present in your life. I often find myself going back and forth, slipping into a lower level state for a brief time then eventually I’ll read something or have a moment and my attention and focus will be heightened once again, each time coming back stronger and stronger. I am reminded that it is essential to have a daily practice, whether it be Yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, whatever brings you to that clear-headed space. Take the time to check in with yourself on the inside because what happens inside is reflected outward. You’ll attract all the right situations and all the right people if you keep your heart open and your energy flowing.

After spending a month in Ghana, not really volunteering, just living. I am reminded even more that one of my purposes in life is to volunteer my time to projects I believe in and perhaps one day create one of my own. In life we’re supposed to do what makes us happy, volunteering is the one thing that brings the most happiness to my soul and my time in Ghana only made that clearer. I am not a tourist, I’m a volunteer.

I decided to give you a little more background with my time spent in Ghana and go all the way back to 2013 to my first trip. My present time in Ghana will be in the post after this one.

There is one place in the world that I have always felt drawn to visiting, Africa. Africa is huge but I’ve always felt connected to African culture and a pull to volunteer somewhere within the continent. Ndor Eco Village is the name of the project based in Hohoe, Ghana. A non-profit grassroots organization created with a vision in mind, to promote rural education and sustainable agriculture. Every child deserves an education, living in a small village many children miss out on opportunities that other children in Ghana have. One of the project’s missions is to bring the opportunities to them. You can read more about Ndor Eco Village, see pictures and learn ways to become involved through the website.

My first time volunteering in Ghana was in 2013 for one month. This was also my first time traveling outside of the United States. To some level, I always knew I’d make it to Africa regardless of money concerns. My soul was being pulled there and I knew that I had much to learn. When I first got there, I recall feeling this inner calm, a deep breath of fresh air. I never felt as comfortable in my own skin and as healthy as I did when I was in Ghana. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables from the land and drinking bottles upon bottles of water was a cleanse that I didn’t even know I needed.

On my trip to Ghana, I was accompanied by Cha Cha and Ashley. Ashley and I soon became friends, wandered the land together and walked for what seemed like forever in the blazing sun. We shared a room together with bright pink painted walls and a small electric fan. There were times at night where the electricity would shut off for an unknown amount time and we would wake up sweating, to step outside and see the rest of the family laying out under the stars. One night I pulled my mattress out there too, unfortunately, I forgot to put on bug spray and woke to around 30 bug bites at my ankles. Bugs are really sneaky, you often don’t even feel them on you, yet you have bites all over. I’m grateful to have shared this experience with another woman, something I will forever cherish.

In Ghana, it comes across as disrespectful if you don’t greet the people you see, whether it be walking down the street or walking into someone’s family home. You always say hello and ask how they are doing “Ayfwa”, in response, I am fine “Ay mayfo”. As you make your way through the village you will hear people say “wayzo”, often from across the street or in passing. This means welcome, they are welcoming you to their village, the proper response would be “Yo” meaning, ok (showing you achknowledge them). Learn these simple phrases and you will always be greeted with welcoming kindness. Ghanaians are very confident, they want you to learn their language and are always willing to share their food with you, no matter how much is on their plate. Their confidence at times may come across as intimidating but their hearts are made of gold. If you make even the slightest effort to learn about them they will welcome you with open arms.

While we were there we mainly worked on digging up clay, which would be used to mold bricks for the guest house building. We visited the village of Aklorbortornu where we donated some school supplies to a group of children who have limited opportunity for education and no school building. One of Ndor’s projects is to build those children a school. In our free time, we were able to go on adventures through town, see the monkey sanctuary, Wili Waterfall, and observe at a local school. Being a teacher I always look forward to seeing how schools in other countries are run. You can read more about my school observations in the Ghana education post.

Cha Cha and I took a trip to the monkey sanctuary. This was Ashleys second time in Ghana and she went to the sanctuary the first time so she decided not to come with us. After a few hours driving, we arrived. The sanctuary is right next to a small village, so with it being a Ghana tourist spot, it brings business to the locals. After we paid a small fee we were off with bananas in hand looking for the monkeys. There is a certain call our guide made that brought the monkeys out of hiding. Since they know this call means bananas, they all emerge from the trees. I stretched my arm out while holding a banana and a monkey came running, full sprint, straight up my leg to sit on my shoulder. He ate his banana and continued to sit there for a few minutes before jumping off back into the trees. When he ran toward me I was thinking his nails might scratch me but then he climbed up my leg so gently and effortlessly that I almost didn’t even feel a thing. His hands were similar to human hands and his eyes were deep. You could tell he was an intelligent being. Since the drive was far we stayed overnight at the sanctuary in small huts that had multiple beds. When night came and the mosquitos started coming out I realized I forgot my bug spray. There were tons of bugs and creatures so this was not the best place to be forgetting spray. I enclosed the mosquito net around me and hoped it was good enough. I woke alive and well and we headed back to Hohoe.

On a different day we gathered up a group of the local kids and kids in the family and went to the Wli waterfall, the tallest waterfall in Ghana. Many of the children rarely leave their towns and villages so this was a special time for them. It’s respectful as a foreigner not to show too much of your body, so we wore leggings and tank tops and walked into the water. I remember being pulled to go closer and closer and at one point I was directly under the waterfall. It beat down on me so hard that I lost my breath and had to step out. The majority of the children can’t swim because they don’t have the opportunity to practice so they stayed at the edge, just splashing around in a foot or two of water. At one point we looked at the waterfall and this beautiful rainbow appeared, spreading across the waterfall. You can see a picture of it on the first blog post. The song natural mystic came to mind, it was a magical moment. Being in Africa and seeing certain situations, many Bob Marley and the Wailers lyrics began to have a whole new depth and meaning for me. At times it was as if I was seeing the visual representation of the lyrics and as I sang in my head it brought a smile to my face. You can hear a lyric and enjoy the words, but just like the Grateful Dead, sometimes you have a moment in time where you’re like whoa I actually understand because I’m experiencing it. When I saw people sleeping on the cold ground and wearing shoes too small for their feet, the song “Talking Blues“ became a powerful one for me.

When you hear about Africa on the news, in general, its portrayed as very poor with violence and hungry people. The commercials, movies, and images that are shown put fear into peoples minds about traveling to an African country. I recall people getting worried telling me that I’ll get sick, get malaria, or possibly even die there. Besides your occasional homeless person on the street, from what I saw of Ghana everyone seemed to eat enough. Yes, there are countries in Africa where people are hungry and malnourished but I think we need to stop giving the entire continent of Africa that image.

During my time in Ghana, I became Vegetarian. Being an animal lover it was really hard for me to see the starving dogs, cats and overall way the animals are handled, but this is part of being immersed in another culture. You have to see it how it is without judgment, in my option, it’s just a lack of knowledge. Animals to them along with many other cultures are strictly for food, guarding the house or work purposes, nothing more. Coming from America where we treat our ‘pets’ like family, it was quite different and took some adjustment. I cried quite a few times during this trip and I would often cover my ears when the chickens were being gathered to be put away for the night. The sound of discomfort and pain is a sound you can’t fake. The shocking part was, I thought if I were to cry about something it would be for the people, not the animals. I was very much wrong. I cried not only for the animals but for people living in the United States. Many of us have strayed so far off from living a natural life and it was becoming even more clear to me that the simple life is my American dream.

My favorite part of Ghana was meeting all of the children, which seems to be my favorite part of every country. They are eager to learn and are very funny! I will never forget all those smiling faces or their reactions when we walked into their schoolyard. In a matter of seconds, you have about 20 children crowding around you. There were moments where I had children touching my skin, just to touch it, or multiple little hands wanting me to hold theirs. They often tried to scratch my freckles off because they’ve never seen them before or touch my hair because blonde was new to them. The children were very hands-on and always willing to shower you with infinite amounts of love.

Overall the first trip to Ghana was an eye-opener for me and life-changing. It reminded me of who I am and what I stand for. Cha Cha’s family was friendly and made me feel right at home and when the day came for me to leave, they reassured me that I would always have a home in Ghana.

We also have more pictures on Facebook.

As far back as I can remember I’ve always struggled with life in the United States, something was missing. The U.S. is big and has some truly beautiful landscapes but from what I’ve seen I knew that I needed to step out of my comfort zone and into the vast world to see what it has to offer, rather than states, I wanted to see countries.

Over time, something was brewing and when I turned 20 there was this thirst to travel, so strong that it was impossible to ignore. Growing up on welfare you always seem to have money concerns at the back of your mind, you become frugal but in all the right ways. Until now I didn’t realize how much growing up in American poverty has allowed me to travel this path I’m on now with a greater understanding and compassion for those I meet along the way. My thrifty nature has given me the skills to find all the loopholes and tricks to traveling cheaply. I always loved the idea of traveling but that little thought in my head would say, “It’s too expensive, you cant afford it”. Since I was living on my own it was time to change those thoughts.

I’ve always wanted to volunteer so I began by doing research on the topic to see what my options were. Site upon sites require thousands of dollars to stay for a short 3 weeks, not including airfare which is usually the most expensive part of traveling. Africa was the one place in the world I knew I had to see before I leave this Earthly plane, I wasn’t sure where in Africa but the pull was strong to go there. At first, I had my eyes set on Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is breathtaking. I found an organization to go through and put down a non-refundable deposit of $350.00 out of a whopping $3,985, just for 3 weeks, not including another couple thousand for airfare. Some time passed and with rent, food and other expenses I wasn’t saving much. It was beginning to look more and more like a fantasy.

Going to shows and listening to live music has always been a passion of mine and one day back in 2013 the stars aligned and a light beamed down from the sky with an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I was at a Reggae show in Albany, NY seeing Mosaic Foundation, a band I’ve seen a few times before, soon to become one of my favorites. I walked up to the merch table to find an assortment of African beads, masks, and crafts from Ghana. After speaking to Yao Foli (Chacha), lead singer of the band I find out that he’s from Ghana and is planning a volunteer trip within the year and that I was welcome to come along. My eyes lit up immediately and after hearing more I knew I was meant to be a part of Ndor Eco Village’s projects. In comes that little thought again, “It will be too expensive, you can’t do this ”, needless to say, I squashed that immediately. With Yao’s encouragement, he reminded me not to worry about the money, it will come.

Before I knew it I was on the long flight to Ghana. This was my first time out of the country and first trip volunteering, it was an eye-opener for me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. Experiencing the beauty of a different culture and its people, the traditional clothing, music, food, transportation, communication barriers and overall vibe of being in a foreign land felt oddly familiar as if I had been there before. I was reminded of the simplicity I longed for. It was a breath of fresh air and a calmness I had never felt, a sense of feeling at home. You can read more about Ghana in the next post.

The taste of culture has sent me on this wild adventure to experience more. You can read or watch movies and T.V. shows that speak of foreign lands and get a glimpse of what it’s like but when you set foot in a country you’ve never been, everything is new and its nothing you can truly learn about from the media. I enjoy writing so the intentions for creating this blog are not only for my personal reflections but also a chance for others to get another glimpse of foreign lands they may never see, through our personal experiences. Maybe it will bring you some inspiration to get out there and do the same. Since my first volunteer experience, I’ve discovered this is how I want to see the world, by lending a hand. Not as a tourist but as a seeker of life,  living in a country, working alongside local people helping with their various projects and dreams and at the same time learning about their culture and everyday life. Our hopes are that these posts will inspire you to follow your own dreams. Money will come and go if you allow it to flow, don’t let it be the reason you don’t follow what you love.

Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Originally the plan was to take this journey alone. At the beginning of the planning process, I met Jesse. Although I liked him, I repeatedly told him that I was leaving and couldn’t get into a relationship. After driving hours and spending a weekend together in Vermont in a tiny little yurt in the dead of winter, I knew he was coming with me. Jesse brought balance into my life, in a way that I’ve never had but always wished for. He’s the wind to my sail and without him, I’d most definitely get a little lost. I’m grateful to have him on board.

Jesse is the brains behind the technical details of creating a blog and I will be the one doing the majority of the writing. I’ve always wanted to create a blog so this is somewhat like a journal for me. I will be writing mainly from my perspective, depending what the context is. If we’re volunteering in a place that involves the skilled trades, Jesse’s expertise will take the stage and he will do some writing. We look forward to hearing your feedback, but we ask that you please be kind! You don’t have to agree with all of our views but this is a no troll zone, if you have some negative criticism you are welcome to message us privately.