Sunday, July 17, 2011

One man's Trash is another's Treasure

In todays modern world we live in a throw away culture. If it breaks, buy a new one. Thanks to convenience and large corporations like Walmart we have adopted a mentality of "this will do, for now" instead of "this quality will really last". I admit like most I fall into the common category of those who replace instead of fix. However, when you are living on a budget and have a husband who loves projects you start to think outside the box and jump on the opportunity to take one man's trash and turn it into a treasure.

Like most apartment buildings ours has a trash and recycling room and in a transient city building with people moving pretty frequently or just replacing stuff you never know what you may find down there. Our first big find was a space heater. It was just getting cool in Sydney and Chris and I were taking down the recycling and saw a space heating sitting in the room against the wall and next to it the box of an upgraded model of a new space heater. We both kind of gave each other a look that said "do you think that thing is any good?" Then decided hey its worth a try, we might as well see if it works and if not we'll just return it no loss.

We loaded our prized possession in the elevator glancing around as if its mirrored walls were judging us. Then to our delight when safely in the comfort of our chilly home, it worked. The middle setting didn't work so it was all or nothing as far as heat goes, but hey it was certainly better than nothing. It's been going strong for a couple of months now.

After that, on another occasion, we acquired a computer monitor and some useful cords. Then last night, we returned to our place to find a giant 43' inch flat screen tv sitting on the floor of our living room. I shouted in an excited squeal to our flat mates, where did this thing come from? The reply of course was "the trash room." They said it didn't seem to work. Chris saw this as an opportunity for a project and immediately started fiddling with it and searching the internet to determine what may be wrong. He came up late to bed and said "I think I can fix this thing." 

So today he took a trip to the electronic store and spent next to nothing (a womping $4) on the required parts and spent an hour tops fixing it up (most of this time was spent on the millions of unnecessary screws involved). Then to my amazement we had ourselves a new TV! 

Never underestimate to usefulness of having a having a handy-man around! I feel so blessed. Who knows we will find next. This gives a whole new meaning to idea of recycling.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life as a Story

I have always been fascinated by stories. As a small child, I have fond memories of my mom reading me bedtime stories, then hiding under my covers with a flashlight in attempt to continue reading or journal and write my own.

My sister, Catherine, and I lived in a world of fantasy stories created by forts and creeks outside, dramatic dramas in full apparel (growing up in the theatre one would expect no less) and a quite impressive barbie land creation put together with whatever happened to be around. Jenga blocks became garden fences, washcloths became high-class canopies but that was not the most important part, the most important part was the story. Which character would do something unexpected and leave the mansion for the farm because of a forbidden romance or the famous gymnast would break her leg and everything suddenly when awry.

As I grew older, barbies became too juvenile and I spent more time with my nose buried in books. I pictured myself like Belle in "Beauty and the Beast," one of my all time favourite stories, in the opening scene reading with village chaos surrounding her. Unfortunately, looking back, I imagine wandering down the school hall with book in hand, oblivious to world, probably appeared much less attractive than my heroin.

Somewhere along the line I had the epiphany that my life in itself was a story. I didn't have to rely on stories already written or even fictional stories I created, everyday I lived, whether I realized it or not, my decisions, my thoughts, the places I went and the people I met were all evolving elements in my story. Then the realization that my story in combination with everyone else's individual story is divinely intertwined to make up life.

People talk about life as a story. It is not uncommon to hear someone say they are "turning a new page" or "entering a new chapter" of their life. However, the thought that each persons day to day actions have the potential to create a fascinating story or a dreadfully uneventful one in the end, seemed a novel and liberating feeling to me. So I made a decision I wanted my life to be a story worth reading.

One of my favorite songs is called "The Story" by Brandi Carlile. Not only is it a great song to belt in the car with your girl friends, it really showcases its not just the happy ending that make up a good story its the sweat and tears it took to get there.

Another encouraging find was reading Donald Miller's book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." I highly recommend it to anyone on the quest to fulfilling this ideal. It emphasizes not only the idea of life as a story but that thats how God intended it to be, not shoved in a box of limitation but full of risk, adventure and romance!

I read this book at the time I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to take the risk to complete my Master's degree in Sydney. It was just the encouragement I needed to take the leap into the unexpected. I try to remind myself when life doesn't seem to go quite as planned: at least it will make a good story!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sydney Life

Chris and I decided to move to Sydney so that I could obtain my Master's degree in Speech Pathology. No, this is not the typical path for newlyweds from South Carolina but then again normal would be boring. There are many challenges involved in moving abroad sorting visas, airfare, finding a place to store the stuff accumulated back home and find a place to live in our new destination (much more difficult than anticipated). I studied abroad in Melbourne during my undergraduate program in 2007 and fell in love with Australia. I loved the laid back chill factor most of the people lived by, hopping on a tram and being greeted with a "G'day, how ya going," life at uni was great and getting lost in various cities, or the middle of no where in New Zealand completely surrounded by sheep, was exhilarating to say the least. These memories and the love for travel Chris and I share, motivated my return to Australia. However, this time there are a number of significant differences. Then I was in an undergraduate program taking mostly dance classes (my second major in college), the American dollar was much stronger than the $AU, and I was not a broke newlywed.

Though it is different from before it has offered new opportunities, it was a bit of a shock to the system to go from living in Ghana to the cost of living in Sydney (absolutely ridiculous!). Life in Sydney has certainly been an adventure so far, even on a budget we always manage to find something to do even if its just wondering around the city. One new experience was Christmas on Bondi Beach (since seasons are opposite here).

We do miss little things from home like American biscuits, and Southern Barbecue (our favorite is Roger's BBQ in Florence, SC) the price of food and drink in general

A True Buttermilk Biscuit (in AU biscuit means cookie)
Typical meal from Roger's BBQ

and more importantly our family and Trevi (our dog now with Chris's parents).

Me and Trevi

My program at the University of Sydney is 2 years. I have successfully completed my first semester which consisted of a great deal of stress, reading and reviewing more peer reviewed journal articles than I even knew existed and complex case study projects. Hope its worth it!

Proof that I did my homework!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life in the village of Okurase

Chris and lived in Ghana for 7 and a half weeks and it was truly amazing! We were different people while we were there, not different unlike ourselves but instead more ourselves than we had ever been. We woke up every morning with the sun around 6am to the children sweeping the dirt off the dirt out side our door calling each other and probably beating on a drum. We were alway happy and ready to go because we knew we had a purpose, we each were fulfilling our individual passions in life side by side and being loved by the people around us while doing it.

At first, walking through the village we noticed poor living conditions and shattered clothes. After a couple of weeks our focus shifted to seeing the joy of the people in the community they share, which we were invited into. We were excitedly greeted by "Uncle Kwame" (Chris's given name) or "Anti Adjoa" (my given name) or other names people came up with for us every where we went in the village, sometime by the same children 10x a day who would jump up and down and run up to hug us every time. We realized that while the people of the village of Okurase do need a lot of help, they also have a lot they can offer to teach us about living life and being happy with what you have.

I will never forget, Celestina, a little girl I taught coming up to me at our celebration after our performance and I told her to get in line for her food she said "No, you go if your not eating I'm not eating." Then at least five other children before even touching their bowl of food came to me and said "you're invited." Community and unity is part of who they are what they have they have to share.

I know that Chris and I will never forget this trip and know that we will probably be a part of this project for many years to come. After this adventure, we are certainly living our lives to a new drum beat. Your invited.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Arriving in Ghana

We arrived in Accra, Ghana on Tuesday with a slight delay. Nana Ama Yeboah picked us up from the airport and from the moment we stepped into Accra we were facinated by the people. You can buy just about anything through the window of your car from the locals selling good that they carry on top of their heads.
It was very exciting arriving at Nana's home and meeting her three daughters Adjoa-age 21, Opeibea age 19 and Nana Serwaa age 4. We quickly found out that Nana Serwaa puts the energizer bunny to shame, there is never a dull moment when she is around.
The first day we spent in Accra visiting the monument of the first president of Ghana and wandering around the shops of the Arts district. We visited Powerful's drum shop and tried to learn to play, I mostly enjoyed watching and listening to the music.
On return to Nana's home we realized how crazy the traffic is here! We waited in traffic and watched the sun go down around 6:30 (the same time all year) trying to absorb the scenery as much as possible.
Our second day we drove to the Central Region to Cape Coast and the Jungle Canopy. The Canopy was an adventure- we walked across 7 rope bridges attached high up in the trees suspended over the rainforest.
Then we went on our way to Cape Coast, listening to the local music with our wind blown hair, seeing the palms and scattered villages along the way.
We visited Elmina Castle, the place where slaves where shipped off around the world. It was unreal to imagine the feet that had tread the path to the door of no return before us.
When we left the Castle Nana had to help us get to the car as all of the teens surrounded us to try and get us to buy their goods or support their school.
We are so thankful for Nana's hospitality, she is truly an amazing woman.
Today, we go to Okurase to see what is in store for us.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Preparing for Ghana

When I was a small child I always kept a journal, writing and dancing were my outlets to express my feelings. I have a distinct memory around Thanksgiving one year being so thankful I wanted to share the gifts God had given me with the children in Africa. I obtained a double major in Dance and General Communication Disorders from Winthrop University. During this time, in a group discussion of "what do you want to do before you die" I was caught off guard that the first thought that came to my mind was go to Africa. When my husband Chris and I were dating, I told him some day I want to go dance in Africa and he said he would follow where ever I wanted to go as long as we both had a purpose there.

Now we have the opportunity to combine both of our life passions of dance and Architecture in Project OKURASE in Ghana. God willing we will leave mid-August and stay through September.