About the Blog

United Hearts Children Center is located in Bawjiase, Ghana. It is currently home to 25 children, who are excited to move into their NEW home in the next few months. We are continuing fundraising to complete the project and have just started to fundraise for the United Hearts Community School. Check them out in my links!

Monday, March 28, 2011

There is no gate 4

So, the obviously long awaited Ghana post is here! Followed by an ever so riveting medical update for those that are interested.

For lack of any other format to write in, here is a big bulk of writing that will describe the series of events that resulted in my untimely return to the country.

I arrived at the airport at approximately 5 pm for a flight that was to depart at 9:30. The Accra airport requires check-in to be a minimum of 2 hours prior to departure, and by requires I mean requires. I have heard stories about people being unable to get on their flight due to arriving with less time than this. I walked back and forth in the small check-in area, wondering where I would check in for my flight, and after finally asking someone what I was supposed to do they pointed me in the direction of some official looking people sitting at a table. Apparently, they were the first customs checkpoint, and after telling them that "just a lot of clothing" was the contents of my bag, they scribbled some letters on the suitcase with chalk.

I then was instructed to get in line behind a vast number of people, all of who were going to Lagos and were waiting to check in at the desk that, surprisingly enough, said Lagos. Luckily, a monitor quickly turned on with my Atlanta flight, and after wrestling with a number of Ghanaians to have my bag weighed, removing 2 kg from my overweight suitcase (which I could only do once I converted 2 kg into pounds with the handy converter on my phone), and cutting in front of the line to weigh it again, I finally was on the path to check-in.

The second customs official I spoke to, this time while waiting in line, asked me a series of "very important questions to be answered fully and honestly," including, but not limited to, how long I had been in Ghana, if anyone else helped pack my bag, if I had left my bag unattended since packing it, where I travelled when I was in Ghana, how I liked the country, when I was coming back, and instructed me to contact him upon my return so he could show me around the country.

After answering his questions fully, honestly, agreeing to let him show me around Ghana upon my return, and being laughed at when I told him I had "kity kity" containers of liquid in my carry-on (meaning small), I made my way forward. I then watched as a woman rubbed a white cloth type device over my suitcase, inserted the cloth into a machine, and then told me she had to search my bag. My entire suitcase of still sweaty clothing and possibly some Ghanaian alcohol (for a keepsake souvenir, of course) was searched. Despite having my 3 months' life belongings unpacked in front of everyone in the airport, it was a surprisingly pleasant experience for both of us, especially when she repacked my suitcase better than it was originally packed by yours truly and when I let her keep my fancy four sided nail buffer.

Finally, after all this excitement, I reached the check-in counter, got my ticket, and said goodbye to my drug and explosive-free checked baggage. I proceeded upstairs, through immigration, and into the lovely terminal. After some time spent eating, staring at the international chocolates for sale in the store, and attempting to read, I decided I felt ready to go to my gate. After discovering that the scribble on my ticket said to go to gate 4 at 7:00, I proceeded to learn that there is no gate 4 at Kotoka International Airport.

No, seriously. After asking about 10 airport staff, ranging from airline staff, janitorial staff, food staff, sales people, and even an immigration official when I wandered the wrong way through his area, I heard these responses:

"If you go back downstairs to the Delta counter, they will be able to tell you how to go to gate 4."
"Gate 4 is downstairs, you have to go back down there."
"Gate 4 is a temporary gate, I'm not sure how to get there."
"Go back to immigration, the door is on the opposite side."
"Wait here and someone will come and get you."
And, of course, my personal favorite:
"There is no gate 4."

Luckily, me and the 200 other people on my flight ran into each other in the three-gate airport terminal, and decided to listen to the people telling us to sit and wait for someone to come and get us. Due to the fact that I am now in this country, you can guess what happened.

Now, to give credit to some of the people I asked for help, gate 4 is a temporary gate and the door is actually through immigration, which meant we were paraded through the line of people trying to get their exit stamp out of the country. We followed this man (an oburoni, no less!) down a sketchy, poorly lit stairway, waited in line sweating due to lack of air-conditioning and limited fans, were patted down and had carry-on baggage swiped with the weird cloth things (mine passed this time!), and then sat in what I seriously feel like needs to be described as the bowels of the airport. It was an old waiting area, with old vending machines and check-in counters, looking out onto the tarmac. Finally, we went through a metal detector, waited for the bus to come, and drove off to the airplane.

It took forever to load the plane, and I luckily had the good fortune of sitting at a window overlooking the bus stop, watching it come and go and the people trickling off of it. Anyway, the plane took off and 13 hours later I was in Atlanta. So, alas, that is my journey home.

Despite the boredom you must have felt while reading this due to my lack of ability to actually write anymore, I do plan on continuing to blog for awhile, mostly to share some pictures but to add all the things I just didn't have time to write.

And time for medical: I met with a neurosurgeon today, who I really liked and who has a very good reputation and is quite well known. I had heard that he is conservative in terms of treatment even though he is a surgeon, which he also told me himself. However, he feels that surgery is my best, and possibly only, option for any improvement with my current condition. I will be needing to make a decision asap so that things don't continue to deteriorate, but will first be getting a second (third, fourth, etc.) opinion. So, that's that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"It's such a funny story but I can't get myself to write about it."

Thus, I will once again be diverting your attention towards my ever so fascinating medical issues instead of talking about Ghana.

I had an MRI Tuesday morning (after the doctor I saw Monday decided it was urgent), and received a phone call from her only a few hours later to tell me how messed up my back is. I have a herniated S1 disc and it is totally compressing my nerve, causing a lot of numbness, pain, and muscle weakness in my leg. However, she also mentioned that the discs above it (I think L3, L4, and L5) have some issues. I don't quite remember what she said, or even if she elaborated, but alas, things aren't sounding so great in my lower back. I have an appointment with some big name neurosurgeon on Monday, so I will update here provided there are still things I feel like blogging about. Or if I still haven't written anything about Ghana.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I'm Alive!

Sorry for the extended leave from posting, things have been a bit chaotic in the past few weeks, including the chaos that was my parents FANTASTIC trip! Due to some unfortunate medical issues, my parents, my uncle The Doctor, and I, decided it was in my best interest to return home. I am currently waiting to get the opinion of another doctor because mine was relatively useless, followed by a physical therapy appointment, before finding out if I should get an MRI on my back/leg, for whatever nerve issue is going on. So, no worries, it shouldn't be anything too serious!

Annnnyway, I hopefully will continue to blog for at least a few more weeks, both to catch up on all the things I had wanted to write about and didn't, as well as offer some updates on my reentry into the country.

For now I am just going to offer this update, but coming soon will be the exciting abridged version of my trip home.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Because I'm still in Bawjiase...

the internet is miserable. Therefore, I will just let you know that my parents are here, sitting on either side of me, equally miserable about the fact that the internet is awful. Luckily, they seem to mind this slightly more than the heat, which I figure is a positive thing. However, accessing her Facebook page seems to be a very fulfilling experience for my mother, so that's a plus.

We have changed our plans slightly and will be leaving Bawjiase tomorrow, to some hotel that apparently has wireless, meaning I will take the smartphone I use at home that has ruined my life and may once again ruin my life by updating my blog from it. And, you know, perhaps go on Facebook.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A tiny bit of information that is relatively boring but kind of important(ish)

After speaking with my mother and then forgetting to actually do it, I have FINALLY changed the settings here so that anyone can comment. So, to all those who have mentioned to me that they are blog challenged, I extend my sincerest apologies because it appears as though I have been the real blog challenged one the past10 weeks.

Secondly, the power was out for 24 hours and before that I was more tired than normal and didn't have the energy to go to the internet in Kasoa, so the blogging has slowed down a bit. Have no fears, though, I am still here.

Lastly, the number of posts will likely continue to dwindle in the following two weeks as my parental unit is currently on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, sleeping/eating/watching movies/reading, landing Ghana in a little less than 4 hours. I am nearly positive that I have not mentioned the fact that my parents are coming and that many people reading this don't even know the adventure they are embarking on. They will be in Bawjiase until Tuesday and then the three of us will be traveling to the coast. I will likely be able to get on the internet if I so choose, but if not then I will be back in Bawjiase on March 9th or 10th.

So, if you don't hear from me until then, please continue to enjoy the snow the best you can/whatever weather you are having, and I will enjoy the next two weeks the best I can.

(I really do love my parents copious amounts and am beyond excited to spend this time with them, but alas, traveling with the parentals at the age of 23 is always a little frightening to anyone)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"We know we're coming, but they don't."

-Vladimir Visek, referring to the fact that nearly every person we walk by calls out to us despite the fact that we walk back and forth to town multiple times per day.

Anyway, seeing as I cannot think of anything to write about/don't feel like writing about any of the things I can think of/haven't written about this in a long time, I thought I would update a bit on where we are regarding fundraising and what we still have left to accomplish. The new building is coming along and they finally started building the roof this week! We've been waiting a long time to finally see this happen, and the volunteers and the kids were equally excited to see this next step to the building. The money we are using comes directly from Mama Hope, so if you are interested in helping complete the building, definitely check it out!

The new building is obviously an important part of what we are doing right now, but even more crucial is making sure we can cover the daily expenses it costs to take care of 25 children and their caretakers. The salaries of our wonderful staff alone cost us 500 Cedi a month (340 USD) and providing food costs, at minimum, 1500 Cedi (1015 USD). Combined with electric bills, school supplies and other basic necessities, the monthly budget of United Hearts is 2500 Cedi (1690 USD). We have a balanced menu that we aim to make for the children every week, but we often struggle to provide them with the necessary components of it, as the protein and fruits that it contains add a significant amount to the already costly task of feeding so many people.

I truly understand how difficult it can be to really see how even the smallest donation makes a difference, and I can honestly say it took me actually being here to realize how even $25 helps. I can only hope that the posts I have made make the result of donating at least a little more tangible, and that this would help you in making the decision to give even just a few dollars. Donations can be made through our (new!) website and go directly to covering the monthly costs of United Hearts.

These links are also always on the right side of my blog, so if you ever feel inspired to skip a few meals out or forgo your Starbucks visit (which, admittedly, sounds absolutely impossible to me right now), you can always find the websites right there.

I hope everyone on the East Coast is enjoying what I have heard is basically spring-like weather!

Click here for donations to United Hearts!

Click here for donations to help construct the new building!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy

  • Sitting down to breakfast every morning and watching as Vlad opens the sugar, smells the fermenting odor, and then puts a spoonful in his tea.
  • Seeing small children with stuffed animals and dolls wrapped on their backs.
  • Having sister Akua tell me waye ade (pronounced why-a-deeay, meaning well done) when she is drying the children after I have bathed them. Meeting her standards of cleanliness used to be near impossible for me.
  • Taking a tro-tro and having it stop less than five times and not breakdown before getting to my destination.
  • The days when Agogo wears his Agogo jersey.
  • Knowing that the large covered bowl in front of me is ground nut (basically peanuts) soup with a rice ball and chicken.
  • Being able to respond in Twi when someone asks me what I am doing.
  • Walking more than one minute before someone calls me oburoni.
  • Buying a cold water.
  • Sitting in the house talking about anything and everything with the other volunteers.
  • Getting chicken and not egg with lunch and dinner.
  • When all seven of the small children (Kwashie, Kofi, Ernestina, Kevin, Joe, Agogo, and Kweku) are in good moods at the same time.
  • Every time the power goes back on.
  • Drinking a cold Coke on a hot day.
  • Realizing I have worn in a piece of fabric so that it is finally soft.
  • Hearing the children at the school by our house cheer, Monday - Friday, when the bell rings signaling the end of the day.
  • Buying spicy plantains from Theresa or rice and stew from Zinabu.
  • Having a child draw a picture of me.
  • Picking up a new dress from Ismailah or Vivian.
  • Anytime a kid laughs uncontrollably.
  • Being called obibini after the older girls braid my hair.
  • Getting a smiling picture of a child who doesn't often smile.
  • Telling men who want to take me out that I prefer going to the beach and actually having them agree to it.
  • Any moment when I am not craving a food I can't get in Bawjiase.
  • Rain.
  • Regular bowel movements.
  • Eating pancakes (Ghana style) instead of egg sandwiches for breakfast.
  • Days in which being called out to and yelled at doesn't irritate me.
  • The rare moments when I am wearing a clean shirt.
  • Every time I stop and realize where I am and what I am doing.