Chapter 9 - Bittersweet

At first is hard to be here, and then it gets hard to imagine leaving. The day-to-day is difficult. This doesn’t mean it is taxing, or that it is unenjoyable, it just takes effort. But all of the inconveniences become irrelevant after the first week, and your eyes are opened to a whole new world. You learn to enjoy just being.

Last night I took two teenagers to the new mall, about an hour from where we live. I always have a hard time with deciding what I should do for them and what I shouldn’t. I weigh out the consequences of showing them things they don't know and then essentially taking them away. I worry about what is fair and what is not. I decided to stop worrying and take them to have a good time. I concluded that if I think you are special, there is nothing wrong with treating you just so. They had their first taste of pizza, and I took them to see their first movie in the theatre (they picked Creed!). For a minute, I forgot where I was. I forgot that this is a place where movies and pizza are not the norm for these kids. We were just three people hanging out. At the end of the night, the younger one said to me, “I am soooooo happy, thank you. I will remember this night for my whole, whole life.” I later found out that the money we spent was nearly 1.5 months salary for the older one. It was both a heartwarming and heart wrenching moment where I felt bad for introducing them to something that they will probably never get to experience again - but isn’t that what life is all about - the experience? And if it is wonderful, and it goes away, wasn’t it still wonderful?

The small moments mean so much more here. You are stripped down to the essential part of yourself. You learn how to navigate new surroundings with new people and new practices. It is awesome to realize something completely different than what you know. It is not greater, or lesser, it is just so so different. The best thing about putting yourself somewhere totally uncomfortable is that you learn who you are, and who you can push yourself to be. To me, that is the point of it all.

I will be devastated to leave this place and these people again. I feel like I have been here for months. I walk out of the school and kids from classrooms across the way yell my name and wave. I walk to town, and the hair shop ladies call to me - not "o-bro-nee,” but , “STE-FA-NEEE!” The school teachers come to me to get their pictures snapped. The kitchen lady and older girls tease me about my “plennnnnty buttocks.” The teenage boys like to bother me until I threaten to punch them. They laugh when I speak Twi because the only things I know how to say are YOU ARE LYING! GO AWAY! and I WILL BEAT YOU! The small boys and small girls run to me because they know I will embrace them, no matter how dirt-covered they are from the day. Again I have immersed myself in this other world that no one else in my life can understand, and again when I return home, I will be sad. But I suppose it is like taking poor African teenagers to the movies. Bittersweet.

-- Stephanie Trapp | Photographer* | T R A P P F O T O S http://www.trappfotos.com | *415.806.6782

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