The reality is that it smells here. There’s goats and chickens and dirt and flies and cockroaches and poop everywhere. I eat my meals surrounded by flies.The reality is this place is littered with trash, and when there is too much trash, they set it on fire to get rid of it. The reality is that everything I eat here passes quickly, if you know what I mean. The reality is that they cane the children when they misbehave, and some walk around with permanent scars. They ask for “pure wata” because otherwise (and often) they have to drink unclean water from the faucet in the ground. The reality is that I am stared at everywhere I go, and you can never tell if the adults are shunning you for your skin color, or how they feel when you are holding the hands of their children. The reality is that to some, you look like a walking dollar sign, and they think you can give them everything. The reality is that strangers talk about you in Twi right in front of you, and then sometimes they laugh. The reality is that you are a clear outsider, even if you know how to live here.
The reality is also that it is simple and beautiful here. There's children and music and laughter and nicely dressed people everywhere. The food is different but mostly good. The reality is also that this place is littered with hope, and they are the most religiously dedicated people. You can take everything away from them, but they will always have their belief, and that makes them strong. The reality is also that even if they are hungry, they will say, “you are invited,” and share their food. The reality is that also these children get fed 3 meals a day, and have a (mostly) happy existence. They have never known anything else, so it is not a struggle for them to be content, and that is one of the many things that makes them so wonderful. The reality is also that it is not hard to get anywhere, because wherever you are going, people want to help you get there. The reality is also that it feels really nice to be able to help improve somebody’s life. The reality is also that you are greeted wherever you go, because they know white means visitor. The reality is also that besides “white lady,” your other most often heard phrase will likely be “You are welcome.”
Tonight I went to prep, which is 7pm-9pm gathering of all the kids in the kitchen. They sit and study and do homework. It is really nice how they all help each other, the older ones writing small assignments for the younger ones if they have no homework, and the general conversing. It is quite a change from their usual run-around-and-beat-each-other-and-laugh routine. I showed up with the paper, crayons, books, and suckers I bought today at the mall. If you could have seen these faces light up over those 4 simple things, the osmosis of happiness in the room would overwhelm you. I got multiple thank yous and a handful of hand drawn, i love yous. At 8 o’clock, I noticed some of the kids asking for “pure wata,” so I took Bishop to the street with me and we bought 25 of them for the kids to share. “God bless you,” was repeated throughout the room. For giving them a square plastic bag filled with clean water to drink. Think about that. I know I still am.
The reality is, it took me a little while to get back into the mindset that this life requires. It is hard to transition to a life where you have access to everything you want or need or can imagine. A life where you are the majority, and do not have to worry about being singled out or fitting in. This life has a different offering, and one I wish everyone could know. It teaches you to live in the moment, like the kids I wrote about in the last chapter. It teaches you that to appreciate everything, and that you can get by with much less. It teaches you hardship, and also that it is not that hard. It makes me reflect on every single thing about my other life, and that is priceless.