Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bothell, Washington- Dec 29th 2009

Tea has always held a special place in my heart. If someone is crying..."would you like a cup of tea?"...If someone is sick..."shall I make you a cup of tea?"...it is the cureall of everything. Maybe growing up in a former British colony helped solidify my love of tea....especially the afternoon tea- but tea at any time will do!

Today, Katrina and I discovered the most delightful tea room in Bothell, Washington. "Elizabeth & Alexander's Tea Room" embodies everything you would ever want in a tea room. Those waiting on you make you feel as though you have come to their house for tea. Each item is freshly brewed, baked or cooked. Can you say, "Pampered"...there is no other word to describe the experience.

*pictures courtesy of Katrina Ong

Monday, December 28, 2009

Endings and Beginnings (copy post from my other blog)

The year is coming to a close.....but that means a new year is starting. So many changes to experience ahead.

 This morning I put my youngest daughter on a plane. Her boyfriend's parents live in North Carolina and they asked if she could come and spend ten days with them. She called me from Chicago....and then she called me when she arrived in North Carolina....she sent me a text picture of the room she is staying in. I told her I missed her....she texted me back to say she missed me. I feel my baby slipping away into a young woman. This is as it should be.

My elder daughter graduates from University in May. Then I have a summer left to spend with her before she takes off to New Zealand. Another change....another separation to swallow and keep going forward despite the distance. You'd think I've gotten used to living so far away from every member of my family- but each new family member who has to move away- it hurts all over again. I feel my baby shifting away into a her own woman. This is as it should be.

My eldest son and his wife are expecting their first child in March. How much more of a new beginning can you get than bringing a child into this world. A brand new baby with new hopes and dreams and potentials. My son and daughter in law will make magnificent parents. I already see the way they are preparing themselves for their baby's arrival. I feel my baby sliding into new parenthood. This is as it should be.

When this year ends, there will be many things which never will be the same....but that is okay....because there are new things ahead. I may not have my little babies anymore-- but I do know I enjoyed every last moment with them when they were younger....I enjoyed the bedtime stories we read....the 'un birthday' parties we had...the impromptu picnics...the unique bonfires....the travels....the laughter....even the arguing....and now I will enjoy the new grandbaby, the new son in laws, the lives they share with me via phone, email or over a cup of tea...I will enjoy every last moment of these new beginnings. This is as it should be!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Kuching- 1983

December 25th, 1983....the christmas I spent in Kuching, Sarawak. How do I describe this lovely place? Well, I probably shouldn't try because what I would be describing is the Kuching in 1983 not the Kuching today. 

In 1983 a slow paced life and big hearted people made up much of the wonderful city. No one was ever too busy to stop and chat. The chatting sometimes opened up interesting opportunities.

One such opportunity took place the day before Christmas. I hopped on a bus to go shopping at the down town market. In the midst of my shopping, I noticed a young man who looked disheveled. Maybe it was his ultra blonde hair which made him stick out like a sore thumb. He seemed upset and my nosey nature got the better of me. I went up to him and asked him if there was a problem.

It has been 26 years and I cannot remember exactly why he found himself in a destitute situation. He was unable to find a place to stay and I do believe there was a lack of finances. All I knew was he could not be alone on Christmas. The solution seemed simple: he must come home with us for Christmas. 

He was very relieved to be able to clean up and rest. On Christmas we cooked a lovely meal and he seemed so happy to be a part of the celebration. So far from home and yet he was not alone. I thought, "This is what Christmas is all about"... he stayed long enough to get back on his feet and then we all bid him a fond farewell. I wonder if he still remembers that Christmas so long ago in Kuching, Sarawak when he shared the season with complete strangers.

                          picture after our dinner

<----Our guest helping us cook for the festive meal!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Suitcase

Almost thirteen years ago, I started working on a biography of my grandmother. The book is now complete and published. In the process of researching for the book, I came across some old trunks in my parent's storage shed. There was one suitcase in particular which called out to me. Lo and behold, when I opened it -- I found it full of old pictures-- pictures from the 1800's - there were also letters, a diary of my grandmother's , some miscellaneous newspaper clippings and important documents. I didn't have time to sort through everything that day, so I just picked the suitcase up and took it with me to Africa.

The suitcase remained in the back of a closet. From time to time, I would pull it out and look through the pictures and wonder "who are all these people?" Having been born and raised in Singapore to missionary parents, I had almost no contact with my extended family. Those were the days before internet, cell phones and international phone calls were the exception not the rule....so distance was a factor in the lack of contact with the extended family.I envied others when they would talk of their cousins...uncles...grandparents...etc. Especially, growing up in Asia where extended family is a big part of life!! Now, in that suitcase, I had found a family that stretched from the West Coast of America all the way over to the East Coast.....I just didn't know who they were...yet.....

Fast forward to the summer of 2005, I visited the States to see my eldest son. My sister, Debbie, flew out from Oklahoma to meet me and I pulled out the suitcase. She was fascinated. We spent an entire night going through the suitcase.. We went from the suitcase to the internet, trying to find clues as to who the people were. There were inscriptions on the back of the pictures-- but they all seemed so cryptic. And then one single postcard, written by my g-g aunt Nellie (can't figure out- is it great great aunt? Or great grand aunt? or grand great aunt? Bigsmile...anyhow my great- grandmother's sister!)...she had written the postcard to my great-grandmother Annie Muhm Teuber ...the postcard had the picture of Neligh, Nebraska and was sent to Tacoma, Washington. It was a simple message- but it unlocked the identity of the rest of the people in the suitcase-- the Muhms...the Mayhews...the Knapps....the Teubers...suddenly I had family coming out of my ears!!

I went to work on contacting the relatives to tell them I had pictures of their relatives. I spent the next few weeks sending packages of pictures to the families that I felt were the rightful owners....a picture of someone's grandfather...should be with that person...not with me! Through these messages back and forth, I got to know a third cousin here and a fifth cousin there and a fourth cousin over there...I was delighted!!!

Now my kids get a big kick out of saying, "Mom, everyone is somehow related to you!"....What a treasure my grandmother left for me....she left me a family. What a delightful family they are!! In getting to know them, I've come to know so much more about myself-- about my mom-- about my siblings...yes, indeed, my grandmother left me a priceless treasure!!

The postcard which unlocked the mystery.

 Frederick Muhm and family


Saturday, November 28, 2009


I often write about places I've been to and things I've done. I've been to a lot of different countries and places, but there are still so many more places for me to visit. Today I was thinking about those places I would love to visit. So many wonderful new memories to make; too many locations to think of, so I will just choose five.

1. Boston, Massachusetts

2. Zanzibar

3. Nova Scotia

4. Monaco

5. Cape Town, SA

Where do you dream of going?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gig Harbour, WA --2009

Nestled in the middle of the forest in Gig Harbour lives a most wonderful and extraordinary woman. Her name is Becky and she is single handedly raising five children. It was my privilege to be invited into her lovely home today. 

Gig Harbour is only one hour from Renton; yet it is a world away. Water, trees and a rough road beckoned me on to a Becky's home. I walked into the warm, cosy kitchen smelling the lentil soup simmering on the stove. She had already made fresh bread earlier in the day and now baked it with some garlic butter. A lovely chocolate cake perched on the counter tantalized all of us. 

Little Esther, Becky's five year old daughter, played the little hostess. She politely helped set things up for lunch. She later even served us tea. When she was done with her soup, she looked over at her mother and said, "May I be excused?" 

"Yes, you may."

She stole my heart. Her two younger brothers were taking their nap in the room. Her two older brothers were not yet home from school. I discovered her brother Amos loved to make chocolate chip cookies...and of course this made me smile...a new little famous Amos. 

After having the lovely soup at the kitchen table...we moved into the living room. The crackling fire made it just so warm and cosy. Becky told us about Morocco, where she grew up...she spoke a bit of Arabic for us to hear...We talked of Africa and Asia....We shared the world with each other in the small living room in Gig Harbour.

Although it felt like time should stand still...it didn't...the clock ticked away announcing the time to leave. I pulled myself away from the little house tucked in the midst of the woods. With shouts of, "You must come again" and "Thank you so much, of course we will" we trundled away.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Other....

I grew up in a very strange position. I was an 'other' Singaporean...you see on every form in Singapore it will say "Chinese" "Indian" "Malay" even sometimes "Eurasian" and then "Other"....I was the "Other" category. When applying for a flat...I would click "Other"...when getting my driver's license...I would click "Other"...one day I looked at the category and thought to myself...what is an "Other"...it is all the people they can't figure out which box to put them in- so they put them in the "Other" box.

I guess that sums up my life. I can't be put in a box....a red haired, freckled, Singaporean...married to a man who thought he was full chinese and discovered he is actually part european and possibly something else and then half chinese- oh my- talk about 'other'-- I guess that is why we have made such a good pair all these years. :)

The problem about being an "other" is people never let you be an "us" or a "them"-- which can be an interesting predicament. You sort of grow up in no man's land. Which gives you an advantage when you travel- because you are easily able to assume the role of "other" in every country you go to. However, you do wonder if there is a place where you can be something else...something more than an "other"...I guess I will never know. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snow White

Katrina has always been my fire ball. From the moment she was born she had energy to spare. If I was looking for her, I would look up because she invariably climbed up any pole or ladder she found.

When she was four years old I enrolled her in a swimming class in Japan. After 2 weeks, I had to take her out of the class. The instructor was frazzled. Her first day in class, Katrina jumped in the pool before the instructor could attach a life vest or explain anything about the water. A couple days later she attempted to jump in the deep end while the instructor was talking to the rest of the class. After a couple more mishaps, we knew she would need personal lessons from me to learn how to swim. She is an excellent swimmer today.

If there was something to organize, Katrina would do it. If there was something to be in charge of, Katrina would volunteer. She created
something if there was nothing to do.

When we arrived in Ghana, Kat was 8 years old. She managed to get the measles even though she had been inoculated as a baby. For some reason, she became extremely ill. The doctor treating her warned us she might not pull th
rough. I remember how quiet the house was during the two weeks she was so sick. I never thought I would be wishing for the noise which accompanied my daughter's entrance into a room or the constant motion she maintained as long as she was awake. When she was drifting in and out of unconsciousness, all I wanted was to have her leap from the bed and swing around the room. Thankfully, the day of her 9th birthday she began to pull out of the worst of the illness and the house immediately was restored to its chaotic balance.

Now my live wire is a twenty one year old woman. She continues to light up any room she walks in. "Kat" definitely has her finger in a million projects at once and yet somehow juggles everything with ease. Recently I sat through a remarkable performance she did at her University Talent show. Every year she does a
humorous take on a Disney song; this year she was Snow White. She had the entire auditorium laughing.

I laughed until tears streamed down my face. The laughter died down but the tears lingered as I realized she will graduate from University next year in May. After that, she plans to go to New Zealand..."For a year...or more...mom....".....sigh, she will take her energy with her. I will miss her horribly and yet I know this is all part of life. Children grow up, they learn to be independent and they live life to the fullest. This is the way it is supposed to be!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

4 Palm Grove Avenue, Singapore - 1960s

The Palm Grove Avenue house was so much more than a house. It sprawled out like one of the structures in a Gothic Novel. The large lawn area in front of the house accented the massive nature of the building set off to the back of the property. Under the drooping branches of the largest tree, children played and told stories of the 'Ghosts' which walked freely in the house and on the property.

Apparently these ghosts were the lingering spirits of those who had lost their lives in the building. If stories can be believed; the building had been used as one of the temporary headquarters for the invading Japanese army. Upstairs, in the round room, people were said to have been tortured and many beheaded. Whether these stories were true, I do not know, but the telling of them offered seed for many a bad dream and eeiry experience. :)

People who slept in the round room would wake up telling tales of figures walking through the room, being choked during the night or seeing crooked little men with lanterns leaping up to the windowsill and jumping out the window. The strange thing was most of these visitors had not heard the ghost stories before they experienced these things.

How can I describe what it was like to grow up in this mysterious place? The house for me was amazingly comfortable, despite the stories. After all, it was home for me from the time I was a new born baby til I was ten years old. And yet, the nooks and crannies, the long dark hallways, and the sweeping wooden staircase tantalized me with thoughts of 'what could be lurking.'

When I had to go upstairs to my father's office, I would stand at the bottom of the wooden staircase and take a deep breath and off I would dash, disappearing into the blackness. There was no stopping until I reached the top of the stairway and pounded vigorously on the huge door. I remember getting up to the top one day and pounding on the door and no one opened it. The round room peeked over my five year old shoulder; my little heart pounded its own frightened tune inside my tiny chest. The darkness moved in around me; my little fists pounded desperately on the large door. Mustering my last bit of courage, I spun around and bounded down the eeiry stairway- bursting out into the sunny front yard. Flopping down on the grass, it took awhile before I could catch my breath and reassure myself that I was still in one piece.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

trip down memory lane-Singapore 1963

Oh my- can't believe that is me!! The building behind me holds so many memories. Not only personal memories but memories of others who lost their lives in the building. It was one of the improvised headquarters for Japanese soldiers during the second world war (in Singapore). I grew up in the back of the building, hearing stories of beheaded prisoners, blood filled round rooms and ghosts appearing in the hallways.

Not all memories were ghostly; there were memories of countless hide and seek games, sliding down the hill in front of the building, exploring and just growing up. I could write a book about this building and the memories it holds.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

2009- USA-Daniel Arthur

Happy to have my 'son' from Ghana- Daniel Arthur here. He just arrived last Monday and it has been wonderful having him here. He will be here til the end of December. What a delight he is. It has been interesting to 'see' things through his eyes....

"The roads are so big" "The people are so big"

"The TV tells you to eat all the good food, and then they tell you to join the program to lose weight" (his comment on the commercials) :)

"Where are the poor people" We showed him the 'poor' people- but you see it is all perspective- compared to the poor people he has seen- they still have more. It is like the old Ghanaian parable of the man who had only one shirt and one pair of pants...so he decides he will go in the jungle and climb up into a tree and hang himself. he carefully takes off his pants and shirt and folds them at the bottom of the tree and climbs up to hang himself- while he is just about to hang himself, along comes a naked man...he sees the clothes and says, "Oh wonderful, how blessed I am to have found a pair of pants and a shirt"- the man in the tree looks down in dispair because he realizes he did not appreciate what he had. And so Daniel says, "There are many here who do not appreciate the little they have."

Yes, it has been interesting to see through fresh eyes. Oh I hope my eyes stay clear!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kota Kinabalu- 2009- Truth stranger than fiction

In my life, I find truth to be stranger than fiction. Often I hesitate to even tell people the things I've gone through or go through because eyebrows curve up with the slightest hesitation. The curve asks the silent question, "Could this be real?" When I see the curving of the eyebrow, the furrowing of the brow, bewildered faces, all I can do is laugh. I laugh at life and how incredible it can be.

This weekend my mom called me from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (East Malaysia). My parents have been living there for the past 3 years. They travel extensively; however, KK has become their home base for now. My parents have lived in Singapore and Malaysia for 54 years....in that time they watched the birthing of both those nations....they also have been involved with people. All sorts of people! I grew up with interesting housemates :)...let's just say, when the mental hospital couldn't handle a patient, often the patient would end up living with us! Enough said! (now you know why very little shocks me)

One day I might tell some of the funny stories of growing up in our home. But for today, I am just sitting here totally amazed that my parents have managed to find themselves back in the midst of helping someone in a bizarre situation. They were asked to help a woman who had found herself in a strange situation.

The story starts with a man who thought he was some kind of prophet or 'man of god'- he apparently convinced some others he was a prophet. There were three women followers, in particular, who gave up everything for him. In fact, their families knew this must be a cult. No matter how the families tried they could not get these women to come home. Then the leader 'disappears' or at least he doesn't appear. This didn't set off any red flags because he was known to spend time meditating and being 'holy.' It should have made people sit up and think, "where is the guy"...but it didn't...13 months went by and then the police finally broke into the house where those women were. What did they find?

They found the man- dead. He had been dead for 13 months. He had told his followers he would be resurrected from the dead. The women wrapped him up and waited...they waited 13 months...until the police finally confiscated the body and sent them to the psychiatric hospital.

So, where do my parents come in on this story? You guessed it; the woman was released from the hospital and my mom is supposed to help her. My mom told me one policeman was overheard saying to the women, "Your God only took 3 days to raise from the dead...why were you still waiting for this man?"

A link to the news story

Thursday, October 8, 2009

USA- speeding train

Everyone keeps saying, "Life is moving so fast." Life has felt like a speeding train or some kind of carnival rollercoaster for so many years. Has it always been like this? Is it like this for everyone else?

Children don't seem to think life moves fast enough. "Are we there yet?" "Why is it taking so long?" "When will my birthday come
?" The days plod along slowly. They tease the child with promises of what will be.

When does life get on the fast track? I'm trying to remember when I started feeling like life was moving too fast. My daughters are already telling me, "Mom, I wish life would slow down, I have no time to do...this...that..." I told them the other day, "MAKE TIME" - don't allow life to push you along- you take control of life.

I'm just rambling- just thinking- what makes
life go so fast. When I talk to the old ladies at the nursing home, they tell me life barely crawls. So maybe it is all our activity which makes life speed up. The busy schedules, the work, the appointments, and the needless running around.

The more I think about it, I think University i
s one of the first stops on the bullet train line. ..."All aboard...the LIFE train is ready to leave the station..." My Cassandra - the face of Northwest University- I wonder how many people her picture will entice to get on the fast track.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ghana- traffic

When Reflections did a blog update about driving it caused my mind to wander back to the topic of driving and traffic in Ghana. In Ghana, you weave in and out of traffic, from the left to the right side of the road. You squeeze in-between cars, trucks and vans, barely squishing through, all the while trying your best not to hit a pedestrian.

Lovely white lines adorn the tarred roads. They do look quite straight; however, there is little purpose for them being there. The lines indicate there should be two lanes; in actual fact, the two lanes span out into four lanes or more of jumbled cars. The amazing thing is each car makes it through with a minimal amount of accidents. Sometimes there are three lanes which transform into six lanes of traffic.

Here you see a picture of...no not a car park or parking lot....this picture is what used to be Tetteh Quarshie Round about. It has since been made into a lovely overpass. The traffic is not this bad anymore, however, coming out of East Legon, the lanes disappear and the amazing transformation into a blob of cars happens prior to straightening out.

When I first came to the Seattle area, I was warned of the 'traffic.' I kept wondering where this supposed traffic was. I left early in the morning, late in the afternoon and at other miscellanious times, but I never could find this traffic jam people talked about. It occured to me, everyone has their own version of what 'traffic' looks like. Seattle traffic compared to Ghana traffic was not traffic at all. It is, again, a matter of perspective.

It would be interesting to find out traffic/road stories from other parts of the world. What is their perspective?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time to Say Good bye -Sept 2009 USA

"Good bye" has become a familiar refrain in my life. Whether I'm the one going or the one staying it rolls off my lips. The farewells do not become easier with time, but I become better at withstanding them. The hardest part is the 'pre' good bye stage...right before I'm going to travel, or my husband, my children,my parents or friends will travel. Its the feeling of my heart crinkling up into a dried up piece of passion fruit. I don't want to think of life 'without' whoever I'm leaving or is leaving me.

The "good bye" itself and the aftermath go smoothly; after all, what am I supposed to do? I can't afford time to mope around.

Today the time came again for me to say good bye to my husband. It doesn't matter this time will only be three weeks; all good byes feel the same. Normally the "good bye" ritual begins with me giving my husband one last squeeze. While he walks through the security line, he glances back several times with either of us smiling or mouthing something like "I'll miss you"...."Hurry back".... etc etc. I give a final wave when he is walking out of view. Only when I cannot see any part of him, do I turn to go.

As I walk away from the farewell scene, I'm fine. Deep breath- my day planner comes out and I figure out how to juggle everything I have to do.

Now I look forward to when I say "Hello" again!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words

*These are random pictures of my 1985 trip from India to England. (actually, to be truly accurate- from Pakistan to England- you have to read the blog entry to understand.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

USA - 2009- life stretches out ahead

Aah, how did I arrive here? When I started this blog it was just to chronicle my trip from India to England. As I get older, my mind dims a bit and some facts fade. I wanted to capture those memories before they disappeared altogether.

The memories stretched on past the journal of my trip. Nothing elaborate, nothing intense, just simple bits and pieces of various times in my life. Sometimes I will look back at an entry and wonder, "Why didn't I mention..this or that..." but then this wasn't meant to be a blog about the specifics or the details. The wide brush strokes make up the pictures formed on these pages. Sometimes one has to actually step back when viewing this blog to get the overall picture. As I step back, I breathe in and let the air out, it is ...after all, my life. It overwhelms me, at times, to know I lived all this...and more. The more might be a bit too much for some to view. :)...so I leave it with the wide brush strokes.

I turn to pick up my brush; I pause and look at the canvas set before me. 2009, 2010, 2011, and on and on it goes. oh my! What beautiful colors are already starting to appear. So much joy and some pain all merge together to form yet another landscape of where my life is going and where it has been.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

USA-2008-what a year

Highlights included-

*Sean getting married

*Sean graduating from University

*Sean getting a job in Colorado and moving there with his new wife, Neisha

*Cassandra graduating from high school

*Katrina and Cassandra went to Nepal for the summer

*Daniel moving back to the US

*Me traveling only a couple times during the year- amazing!! (one of the trips was to Toronto, Canada - and I had the pleasure of seeing Niagara Falls)

*moved to the house I am now staying in...wonderful, wonderful house!

*experienced a snow storm like I've never experienced before (and apparently it was record breaking for Washington State)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kat's new blog 2009

Katrina has a blog. Three entries so far; each entry is concise and to the point. I think I need to learn from her...my entries tend to go on forever...but then maybe that is because I'm older and I have more to say :)....or not!

Here is her new blog's URL, in the event anyone wants to check it out----


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2007- USA- Mindboggling choices

Arriving in the States, this time to actually stay- was a totally different experience. There would be no more getting on a jet plane in three weeks- or in a couple months- this was it. Boxes needed to be unpacked and things organized. The last time I had been in the States to live was ten years earlier, and that was only for year. I was born in Asia- raised in Asia- only came to the States for my university- and then I was back out in Asia and then later Africa. Now I was here to stay.

Just when I thought I had gotten the 'swing of things'- something would side swipe me and I went reeling around trying to get my balance. Something as simple as ordering food at a restaurant proved to be a challenge.

"May I have some soup, please?"

"Do you want bread with your soup?"


"wheat, rye, white, oat, cracked corn, malted meal...." (this all rattled off at super speed which takes superman's hearing to decipher.) So I would sit there thinking "Do I dare ask her to repeat it again- do I even WANT to dare???"....usually, NO...so the easiest thing was

"Wheat please" the first choice and most easily understood.

This problem went for everything on the menu. There was choice after choice--this country is full of choices!! Oh for Ghana where you walk in and look at a menu and say, "I want this dish"

"sorry no more"

ooookay...."I want the fish dish"

"sorry all finished!"

hmmmm...."alright, how about this vegetarian platter?"

"oh madam, that is also finished."

"What DO you have??"

"fried rice and chicken"

No choices- easy decision- takes around 40 minutes to be brought to the table- thus giving you ample time to talk to friends....redo your day planner....contemplate your navel...or whatever you want to do.....

And how about the grocery stores here in the USA????

You go to pick up a can of green beans and you have cans and cans to choose from....company after company...price after price....Okay forget the green beans, you decide to settle for corn but you are faced with the same dilemma. A multitude of choices.

I remember the first day I arrived back and walked into an Albertsons- I literally walked through the aisles with tears in my eyes- not tears of joy, mind you, but tears of exhaustion--- wondering how in the world I was going to choose when I was used to either retrieving the one and only can of something I needed or being told "All sold out...new stock in two weeks"

Mindboggling choices....Don't even get me started on the coffee shops.

Monday, August 24, 2009

the day the words died- Ghana April 2007

Death is not a stranger to me. I'm not immune to the sadness it brings, but I am not overwhelmed with the sorrow. Normally, the deaths of those I love are staggered out but in April 2007 I lost two wonderful friends. For some reason, after their deaths I put away the manuscript I was working on. My words crumpled up and died. This blog has brought some life to my words, but I think they are handicapped. They limp pathetically along my screen. Sometimes a word will look up with a lively grin, but then I see it slide back into a stilted stride next to the rest of its lifeless companions.

What silenced my words? As I mentioned earlier- the death of two dear friends. One friend was snatched away suddenly and without warning. Lily Ashley was the co-director of Kinderparadise in Accra, Ghana. She was preparing for a trip to the US with her sons. I met her on April 6th and we had a great time together. We laughed, talked and finally I hugged her and said, "Good bye, I'll see you Sunday!" Little did I know that on April 7th- she would be killed in a horrible motor car accident returning from Pram Pram on the Tema Motorway.

Daniel and I received the phone call telling us she was at the Military Hospital. We rushed there to find out she was already dead. If I didn't look at the horrible gash on her forehead, I would have thought she was simply asleep. The next day was Easter Sunday, my husband had to get up and tell the congregation their beloved friend, Lily Ashley, was dead. This is where the reality of real faith sets in- do we let circumstances determine how we react, or do we act with the strength and the power of God.

April 24th I had to rush my friend Haruna to the hospital. He developed malaria when no one was around and now it had become cerebral malaria. Someone rushed him into Accra, where they knew I was and I rushed him first to one hospital and then to Korle-bu. Oh, how I could not stand Korle bu- it reminded me of Milli's death- it reminded me of too many people's sickness and sadness. I was thrust back into the bowels of the hospital.

Just to get a bed was a miracle. They wanted to turn us away, in fact another patient died in the taxi while her son attempted to get her a bed. Thankfully, Haruna got a bed. The man across the aisle could not lay down without choking. His frail wife allowed him to sit up and lean against her. She looked as though she would collapse, so I offered to let him lean against me. I made sure Haruna was resting and then I slowly changed places with the man's wife. She sank down into a chair and sighed. I chatted with her softly, asking her questions as she rested. A low rumbling in her husband's throat interrupted our conversation. She jumped up and began to wail. The nurse told her he was gone; she already knew.

I went back to sit next to Haruna's bed. "Mama Connie, I hear pain in my waist."..."Mama Connie, please massage my back."...."Mama Connie help me to use the toilet."... "Mama Connie, I cannot see"...and on and on it went for 6 days. Then on the 6th day it was, "Mama Connie, will I be alright?"

"Haruna, whether you live or die, you will be fine."

"Thank you"

"Mama Connie, will my mother come in time?"

His mother was coming from the North, she managed to arrive on Sunday. He said, "Mama, can you forgive me?"

"Why must I forgive you son?"

"Because I promised to take care of my brothers and sisters, but now I must leave you."

"Haruna, I do not need to forgive you; you have been a good son."

He smiled weakly and breathed his last breath. There was no more need to be at the hospital. I helped with the funeral arrangements. Lily and Haruna were buried a day apart. Life went on, as it always does; only this time my words were gone. I wait patiently for the day my words will return.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2007-Ghana-back for the last time

Here I sit in Renton, Washington smothering in the heat and it makes me think of my last trip back to Ghana. March 17, 2007, I stepped onto the tarmac at the Kotoka International Airport into suffocating…stifling…smothering heat- I had almost forgotten the perpetual sauna like atmosphere in Ghana.

Once inside the airport, there was the normal hustle and bustle --- semi lines that people never stay in. A lot of shoving in an attempt to be the first to reach the immigration counters. There was never a reason for the rush because the bags took forever to appear. After being shoved for the hundredth time, I know, “I’m back”

I exited the departure hall and was immersed in a sea of people. How does one explain the masses of people that always seemed to be around? It was like a perpetual rally taking place.

Of course it was “Light off” when I arrived at the house. Light off simply meant there was no power. Daniel kindly fired up the generator and promised me he wouldn’t turn it off til 11 pm.

I remember waking up at 2.45 am feeling that groggy “where am I?” feeling. My mind kept trying to grasp why everything was so still. I lay there in utter darkness listening to the gentle hum of someone’s generator and that reminded me that it was “light off.” I just lay there staring into the pitch black nothingness. I couldn’t sleep, so I just lay there and prayed for everyone I could think of. At about 4 something, I listened and waited…. I was sure to hear the ever familiar sweeping; the ritual early morning sweeping. It doesn’t matter how big the house is, or how small the hut is, the Ghanaians will wake up in the wee hours of the morning to sweep. They use a broom that almost looks like the bottom half of a witch’s broom. (minus the stick part)The sound of the sweeping is a rhythmic sound—it is a comforting routine….a way of saying, “this is a new day and we are going to sweep away all the dust and sand and grime from yesterday and we are going to start a new and a fresh” At 4.30 am the sound of the sweeping joined the hum of the distant generator. I listened as they told me, “You are back!”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

2009-USA-BIG NEWS!!!!!

Today started out like any other day. I looked at my calendar and it was full. I managed to squeeze in some time to spend with a dear friend of mine- that made my day brighter. Then I came home and checked the mail. I did not check my email; I checked the regular mail. The kind people have to put a stamp on and stick in a post box. There was a mysterious envelope amongst my letters. It was from my son, Sean and his wife, Neisha.

I tore open the envelope and out tumbled a little onesie with these words written on it:

Well, I may not be the sharpest tack around but I certainly know a clue when I'm staring at it!! I started screaming. My husband tried to calm me down.

"What are you screaming about?"

I shoved the onesie in his face and he said, "Don't jump to conclusions"

I just kept screaming and I grabbed the phone and called Sean and Neisha.

"You aren't joking right?? This isn't a joke, right?"


"I just opened your package."

Then they laughed. I grinned from ear to ear; I knew the laugh meant I was right. They told me I am going to be a grandma by the beginning of next year.

My day suddenly got a whole lot better.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2006- ...little notes that liked each other...

*title taken from a Mozart quote*

2006 was such an eclectic year. It would be almost impossible to put it into a neat little post. Half the year was spent in Ghana and the other half was spent in the US. Little notes from my journal give a glimpse of what the year was like.

The past couple days I've been fighting some kind of bug- and praying it isn't malaria. I told Daniel that if it continued and my fever stayed up then I would go ahead and take the artesunate . What makes me think it is malaria is because of the dreams- those strange dreams that seem to only come with malaria. They are more like night hallucinations. .................

The house is silent. Silence is so rare. Just 30 minutes ago it was all full of hustling and bustling and one by one the kids headed out the door. They yelled over their shoulders, "Bye mom see you later."

"Okay have fun!"

Now everything is covered with silence. I breat
he and I can hear myself breathing. The deep intake of breath as I sit here typing. The water pipes make their regular noises. I can hear the computer hummmming away. Without the others around the sounds are amplified.

Having lived the majority of my life in countries that were tropical, I am fascinated with the fall colors. The golden, red, orange, and brown colors are simply breathtaking. They fill up my senses, and yet....and yet...I look at the trees nearby that have already gone through the change of color and are bare...and I realize that these beautiful colors of the leaves are simply announcing their departure.
I wonder in the autumn of my life if I will come out in spectacular colors....announcing my soon coming winter season.


Katrina told me she was going to drive over the pass. I had to let her go--- we have to let our kids go sometime--- I just hate how it is all happening so fast--- I mean--- I thought I had forever--- and ever and ever and ever--- but suddenly she is all grown up and she works and supports herself...she is driving over mountain passes by herself and zipping around on her own. sigh.

Katrina called a little while ago, and I answered and said "Is something wrong?"

"Nope, I'm about 20 minutes from the place, but I just n
eed to talk to Cass"

I hand the phone to Cass, and I hear her say "Yes, of course..."Boston"...I know that one...."

She begins singing a line from a song, and then I hear Kat's voice on the other end singing with her....and I had to leave the room coz I was getting all teary-eyed, I'm not sure why....maybe it was because Sean, my eldest son, just confirmed that he is planning to ask
Neisha to marry him very soon!! I guess I have to let him drive that mountain pass alone-- ...I've gotta let go....I just don't understand, if I'm so happy that they are growing up (which I am-= I'm soo proud of them!) WHY does it hurt sooooooo bad!!?? (Now that would make a great title to a song)

Amazing! Snow! After years of green Christmas seasons- I'm standing in the midst of snow falling from the sky.

I went outside and said to anyone that would listen "The snow is marvelous, isn't it?" They just smiled and nodded and tried to walk away very quickly.

Katrina called and told me that it was really snowing up in Kirkland. I told her to put the pics on her myspace blog- she did and I swiped one-- it just is so "Kat"- click here to see Katrina in the snow!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2005 Ghana- The Whirlwind year

Whirlwinds constantly blew through our lives, but I think 2005 was an especially windy year. We started off with a new baby coming to live with us. It changed our lives. He was so precious. Someone discarded him like trash at the side of the road and thankfully he was found before the dogs devoured him. He needed a temporary place to live and it all worked out for him to come and stay with us. Malnutrition hampered his natural growth. Regular meals and proper sleeping times brought about such a change in his development.

Aside from the baby's entry into our lives, we battled a serious case of pneumonia with Cassandra. She almost lost her life. Daniel battled malaria before, but that year he got one of the worse cases he had ever had. Both of them recovered and life went on. We had our share of snakes sneaking into our yard from the overgrowth behind our house.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the two girls left Ghana to reside in the US. Little "Prince John" left us to go and stay in a children's home. We so wanted to adopt him but there were legal restrictions which were insurmountable. He took a bit of our heart with him when he left.

The winds of change blew us into a new house. I think the change was good. As with all life's storms, when the wind and rains died down the fresh smell of new beginnings filtered through.

Friday, June 12, 2009

2005 June- birds leave the nest

Did someone wake me up and tell me, "Your life will never be the same" ? No!

Life was going along merrily with me living in Africa. I simply stepped into a new phase of life. A step which would forever change the dynamics of my life.

My son, Sean, lived in the United States studying for his Physics degree. Now it was time for my daughter, Katrina, to follow her brother's footsteps. She would go and stay with her brother and do her final year of high school. It all seemed like it was going to be so easy until we realized there was no way to separate Katrina from her younger sister Cassandra. Cassandra ended up following Katrina to live with her brother.

A 19 year old young man took his 17 and 15 year old sisters in to live with him. His parents were all the way over in Ghana. Some people have asked me how in the world I trusted my 19 year old son to take care of his sisters. It never was something we gave a second thought about. He was so trustworthy. The two girls were also very trustworthy. All three kids went to school and worked after school and went to church. They said they never had time to get into trouble because they were too busy.

They made it through the year. We don't talk about the year though. If we do refer to it, we call it 'the dark year.' No one knew the tears I wept over in Ghana. Katrina and Cassandra said they never got used to arriving home to a cold apartment and not having parents to greet them. Sean says he grew into an old man that year. We made it through the year, but I doubt I would make the same decision again. My children say they are better for the experience, I think they are the type of kids who take any experience and use it to become better.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Motherhood 2009

Reflections tagged me to post five things I love about being a Mom.

1. I love watching the children find out who they are

It has been such a delight to see each child grow into who they are meant to be. To be able to be a part of that experience is priceless.

2. I enjoy having this compulsory relationship :)

Whether they like it or not- I'm their mom- and what thrills me the most is they say they like it!! But it is nice to know that no matter what 'they are stuck with me' - hee hee!

3. I love doing 'fun' stuff together

In the past, it was 'unbirthday' parties-- oh how I loved those- and I do miss them. Impromptu 'fun' tea parties, picnics, or dinners- celebrating all of us. Now I enjoy the games we play when they come and visit- the long talks- and still...the picnics!

4. I love how Motherhood has changed me

Motherhood has a way of grinding the rough edges off a person. When you are just too tired to take another step- you have to anyways coz this little person is looking to you for help. When you want the last piece of pie...you find yourself giving it to your little one coz afterall they need it more than you do.

5. I love being a mom because it has made me realize I have a capacity to love so many more people and children

Being a mom stretched me- it caused me to understand my love was not limited- it would not run out- there was enough not only for my own family but also for so many others.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Helpful People- Ghana = January 2005

What I love the most about Ghana is the people. They are full of laughter. They don't mind sharing their thoughts on any subject from politics to daily life. They are helpful in times of trouble.

In January 2005, Kat, Cass and Carlin King wanted to go to Tills Beach and I just felt uneasy about them going. The road going out to Tills Beach was a bit dangerous and I wanted to be sure they would be safe. I opted to drive them myself. It was a pleasant enough drive out - around 1 and a half hours. Once I dropped them off; I turned the car around and headed back to Accra. The road leading from Tills to the main road is so deserted-- it really looks like "Africa"...just long elephant grass and trees in the distance and no body--not a soul-- if you saw a Giraffe or some wild animal it would look just normal in such a habitat (except it wouldn't look normal in Ghana! hah)

I was driving along enjoying myself mulling over things. The night before I kept being woken up with the words to a song that says "Look what you've done for me..Yahweh, Yahweh..look what you've done for me" and so that was sort of going on in my head. I cheerfully turned out onto the main highway leading back to Accra and I was on there for only about 5 or 6 minutes and POW...my left back tire blew out!! It was a major blow! I wasn't sure it was the tire I thought the whole engine had burst or exploded. The car careened on the road (the very road that Ps. Raymond and Ps. Felix had their major head on collision) I managed to pull to the side of the road and got out.

It was the tire. There was some men at the side of the road working so I motioned to them. They came over and I asked them to help me with the tire- they were more than happy to do it and it took less then 10 minutes. I was back in the car and on my way thinking how great God was to

1) not to allow it to happen on the long deserted road

2) to let there be willing gentlemen to help me to fix the tire so speedily

Those gentlemen did not have to stop what they were doing to help me- they were being kind. They exemplified the Ghanaian population. Whether it is to help with changing a tire, pulling a car out of a ditch, or rushing someone to the hospital they are always willing to help.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Drowning in People- Ghana- 2004

It's been interesting trying to take an entire year of my life and put it in one update (or sometimes two). When I'm doing it, I think of those who read this blog as friends who have come over to my house...can you just hear the groans if I were to take out reels of old family movies, reams of old photo albums and a billion slides? So, rather than parading every journal entry from each year, I try to pick out bits and pieces. These are not necessarily highlights or even important parts of the year. They just offer a quick glimpse into what was.

An excerpt from my October 2004 journal- My life is so full of people right now. I almost feel like I am drowning in them. I smiled as I read the simple line. This sentence doesn't just sum up 2004- it pretty much sums up my life. The sentence sounds almost negative, but it isn't meant to be. It just is factual.

I often wonder what it would be like to feel lonely. I know you can have a million people around you and feel lonely- well at least I've been told it is true- I've not experienced it. Even when I'm alone, I don't feel lonely. In fact, I treasure my 'alone time.'

One time in my life, I felt this overpowering sense of loneliness- it lasted for a few hours and I thought to myself, "Oh my goodness, if this is what people are feeling when they say they feel lonely- how do they even go on living?" I ran to the One who never leaves me nor forsakes me and said, "Help me!! Take away this horrible empty- gnawing - gaping hole- feeling inside of me- where is it coming from?? If You are here, why should I feel this way?!?" The experience helped me be more compassionate towards others who live with loneliness day in and day out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ghana-2003- Houses

Ghana is a country of paradoxes. You have little pieces of wood stuck together to resemble a humble abode. You have the giant, palatial buildings which look like hotels but are houses. Often these two structures are right next to each other. For most of my years living in Ghana, I didn't stay in a hut or a palace. Our house was nice enough, but there was no water.....there were lovely light fixtures....but more often then not, there was no electricity.

I loved where we lived. The roads were not paved. In fact, when I had to drive in or out, I would comment to the children we didn't need Disney land. We had our own 'rides' - up and down- over pot holes- barely passing by swollen rivers. I walked to visit people at places called "Israel" "Jerusalem" "Hallelujah Junction" "Achimota" and "Pillar Two." The walks were always done with my eyes zeroed in on what was on the ground: one never knew what could be stepped in.

It was late 2002 that we moved closer into the down town area. We moved into a General's house. So the entire time we lived there (2 years) we called it "The General's House." It wasn't elaborate, but it had alot of rooms. When I first moved in, it took me a long time to get used to the lack of noise. My other house had been squeezed in the middle of a myriad of houses. You could hear your neighbor clear their throat. When you opened your window, you could wave at the person pounding their fu fu for the evening. Now we were in a new housing estate....there was an uncomplete house on one side....no house on the other side....the silence was unnerving.

Ah, but in the house, there was no silence. We usually had between 15 to 20 people living with us. There were ten rooms in the house, so there was never a problem with being squished. In fact, I don't ever remember feeling like we were crowded- even when we had 25 people living there.

We held on to our memories of our old house- and the adventures with the anthills which surrounded us....And we made new memories in our new house with the lake behind us...Sean made a cute video clip that year to capture some of the memories.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

repost- A different Kind of Journey- Ghana-August 2002

(I am reposting this just to keep it in the ongoing timeline)- warning, this is a bit graphic and morbid

On a fateful day in August 2002, a bicycle knocked my friend, Milli down. I rushed her to a hospital in Accra,Ghana. I reassured her she would be fine. After all, what real damage can a bicycle do? In the emergency room, I held Milli in my arms. She was bleeding profusely from her head as I pleaded with the nurses and doctors to help her.

"She will be fine" they responded.

She was not fine. She died.

I could dwell on the unfairness of her death...if only the hospital had been better equipped...if only the doctors and nurses had done more...if only the proper medication had been administered on time...if only ...if only...if only....but there is no point in lingering on such things.

Last year I wrote something of her death; it was a strange piece but somehow it helped me to put it all to rest- here is the piece- join me on this journey of the senses-

The Smell of Death

Milli was gone. It happened so fast I didn’t know what to think. One minute she was alive and well, the next moment she was lying lifeless in a morgue.

“You have to go in and clean and dress her up,” the robust nurse informed me.

The words just didn’t compute. What did she mean, I had to go in and clean her up? Surely there were attendants trained to handle this kind of situation. Apparently there were no designated people to do the clean up at the Korle-bu Hospital in downtown Accra, Ghana.

“Where do I go?” I asked, not really wanting to know.

After getting directions, I headed off towards the morgue. The building looked insignificant enough. The front doors swung open with a light push. One push propelled me into my own horror film. The next thing I knew my nostrils were paralyzed with the worst smell in the world. It was more of a stench, then a smell. I gagged and almost fell back outside, but an attendant motioned me forward. My hand instinctively flew to cover my nose in a futile attempt to keep the foul odor out.

“Come, your friend is here.” The attendant directed me to follow him deeper into the building. As I moved towards the inner doors, the smell became even more repugnant. It was a mixture between the smell of rotting flesh and some sort of chemical. I gagged again. As I moved through the second doors, I finally saw where the smell was coming from. There were bodies laying everywhere in various stages of decomposition. I stepped over a few bodies and tried to analyze the smell. The sickeningly sweet smell was tinged with the stench of dead rat flesh. I had to think of this analytically, or else I would faint.

The hospital worker pointed me through to a smaller room. I peeked in, before entering, and saw Milli laid out on a desk. Her body, although small, hung off both ends of the desk. I forgot about the man who had directed me to her. I forgot for a brief moment about the overpowering stench. I just wanted to try and bring dignity to my dear friend. She who in life was so prim and proper. I wanted to cover her naked body from the prying eyes of those who surrounded me.

“Oh, Milli, oh, Milli…” I leaned over and touched her arm. My nose was once again assaulted by the pungent odor of a mix between rotten eggs and formaldehyde. I gagged again, this time my throat stung from the burning liquid that came up in the back of my mouth. My free hand went back up to my nose, my other hand held onto the clothes I had brought to dress Milli in.

The attendant crept up behind me, “You must work fast, no embalming. She spoils quickly.”

I had no choice but to be strong. Pulling my hand away from my nose, I began to breathe through my mouth. Slowly, I washed her cold skin. She was defrosting, like a piece of chicken that had been taken out of the freezer. I finished up the cleaning and quickly worked at putting her underwear on. Have you ever tried to put underwear on a stiff, cold corpse? It is no easy task.

“Oh, Milli, why did you decide to walk to meet me that night? Why didn’t you just take a taxi?” Her facial expression remained frozen as I murmured my questions to her. Why had a bicycle come out of nowhere and knocked her down? How could a bicycle kill a person? It just didn’t make sense. I breathed in deeply from my nose and coughed when the vile scent of the room filled my throat. I had forgotten to keep breathing through my mouth.

It seemed like an eternity, but finally Milli was dressed beautifully. She would have been proud to see how pretty I’d made her look. I gathered my things and glanced back at Milli one more time, and then I left for the church. They would bring the body to the church and we were instructed to bury her within two hours. Her body was decomposing rapidly.

Once out in the fresh air, I took a deep breath trying to purge my body of the smell which invaded every pore. One gulp, two gulps, but the smell would not leave. The smell of death was there to stay. The funeral went well. Some say it was the most beautiful funeral they had ever been to. I can’t say, because I was too busy trying to get rid of the smell lodged up in my nostrils. That night I fell asleep smelling dead flesh and chemicals. I dreamt of dressing dead bodies and gagging. I awoke with the smell of death still on me. The dreams continued night after night for a week.

“Can you smell it, Daniel?” I asked my husband.

He said, “No, it is all in your mind. It’s been a week; you can’t possibly smell it.”

The smell of death is powerful. It doesn’t leave you easily. It had taken up residence in my nose and it didn’t want to be evicted. I had been around dead bodies before, but they were nicely cleaned and in sterile conditions. The smell of uncontained decomposition is a powerful stench that will not go away politely. One morning I woke up to the realization that I was finally free from the smell. I was finally able to think of Milli and all she meant to me without being overcome with a strong desire to gag. I could sit and think about the happy times we had shared, without remembering the last day I saw her in the morgue.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ghana 2002- their way

Tills Beach, Aburi Mountains, and Amedzofe have one thing in common. These are places to rest. Tills beach doesn't give much of an escape from the heat, but the waters help to cool you down. Once at Tills, there is a chance to relax but getting to Tills is another story!

Aburi Mountains offered an easier getaway with a lovely botanical garden to picnic in. My husband never wanted to go on excursions to Aburi because "...we have much nicer gardens in Malaysia..."

I would respond, "We are not in Malaysia- so let us just enjoy what we have!"

Ah, but the most wonderful place of all was Amedzofe. Unfortunately, we only made it there once. My husband was out of town and I visited my friend, Sister Victoria. She was from the Volta Region and as we sat and drank our 'mineral drink' (coke), she shared of how her father was getting on in years and she needed to visit him.

"What is stopping you?"

"It is a long journey." She sucked gently on her straw.

"Let's go together!"

Eyes as big as saucers, she couldn't believe what I was saying. Two days later I was driving up to Amedzofe in a van packed with 9 people. No one had warned me of the steep hill with no paved road. Actually the going up was not too bad; the coming down proved to be a problem. The rains came while we were up on the mountain and the red clay made for a very slippery surface. Even with the brake pedal all the way to the floor, the van kept sliding down the mountain. None of the passengers were aware of the involuntary motion of the van and I kept praying no other vehicle would show up. I just wanted to keep going straight down the mountain and not over the cliff.

Ah, but the actual mountain was breathtaking. We loaded up with bread on our way out of Accra. I purchased sugar, milo, tea, margarine, canned tomatoes and other staples as Sister Victoria said these would be appreciated by her family. (I had asked what I could bring) We were welcomed with open arms and the gifts were ooohed and aaahed over. It was the first time in Ghana I felt cold. I wasn't just cold, I was freezing.

Fog covered the mountain in the morning. It was so thick we couldn't walk around in case we fell off the side of the mountain. (or so we were warned) Days were spent climbing inclines, chasing butterflies, and meeting warm hearted people. Finally we clambered back in our van to journey down the hill. This is when they came. Katrina, my daughter, was the first to see them.

"Mom, look at the parade coming towards us"

Women and children marched towards us. Baskets laden with fruit tittered precariously on their heads. They came straight to the van and offloaded the basket of mangoes, and cassavas.


Sister Victoria said, "This is their way."

These were the people who shared their humble house with us. Gave the little they had to feed us and to make sure we were comfortable. Now as we were leaving they showered us with the fruits of their labor. I decided, I liked their way!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ghana 2001- shaved legs, sweet smells and other surprising things

Someone pointed out my absence of updating...I have been reluctant to update because I did not want to leave Ghana-2001 just yet. How does one compile an entire year into one or two posts? There is so much which took place in 2001, not just in Ghana but in the world. Looking back at old journal entries for 2001, I see a stadium collapse, beauty,birth, death, rains, joy, family time, 9/11, cancer, and so much more. Out of all the monumental entries, one simple one jumped up at me. It ties in with the last update I did....It says nothing, while at the same time it says everything.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2001

Just stepped out of the shower...had a delicious time with all those flavored shower gels and special smelling lotions.

What is the best feeling in the world? SHAVED
LEGS....they feel so smooth! love it! Wet hair...smelling of some kind of fruit....overwhelmed right now with various fragrances. There is the sweet smell of the 'after rain' drifting in from outside. Peeking out the window, I can see leftover rain dripping from drooping branches. Everything sparkles....so fresh....renewed. mmmmmm...good!

The garden looks
like I feel!

p.s. and for the other surprising things... a bit of morbid humor happened in 2001- my dear friend, Mr. O (69 years old)- was traveling from the Eastern Region via tro-tro (buslike contraption- which squeezes in more people than it should). The tro-tro met with a tragic accident just before reaching Accra. Dead bodies draped every conceiveable place.

Mr. O's body was hoisted onto a truck with the other bodies. On arriving at the Military 37th Hospital- white powder was sprinkled on each body. Due to the late hour, the morgue assistant simply left the bodies lying aimlessly about in the morgue and then he walked out. Several hours later, Mr. O woke up. Apparently he was not dead. After surveying his surroundings, he stood up and walked out the door. Two young watchmen were sitting outside the door when the naked, white powdered-sprinkled Mr. O emerged from the morgue. Needless to say, they shot up from their chairs and took off running. Mr. O didn't have time to explain to them he was not a ghost. :)...aaahhhh, yes, my memories of Ghana!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ghana- 2001-rains

Torrential rain crashes down wiping away the dust, dirt and grime. I love the smell after the rain. I love how green the trees look. Of course there were times when there was too much rain. Floods are never fun; however, on the whole the rain simply washed away the muck.

Things I liked doing when it rained in Ghana....Stay inside and just watch it from the window...I wish I could have snuggled in bed with a good book- unfortunately this was not always possible :)....I tried to have a hot cup of tea and sip on it while working...listening to the rain....Is there anything more soothing? Sometimes, I liked to stand out on the verandah and feel the bits of rain which managed to sneak in through the chicks.

white sprawling porches
tropical rain pounding down
washing the dry ground
watery sunlight peeks through
sweet scent of rain lingering

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

ghana- 2000- Tombstones

I was trying to think how I could sum up the year 2000 in Ghana. I mean how do you put an entire year in one post? I stared at the blank screen and then I remembered an essay I wrote ... I thought about it... and it will do perfectly. I looked through the blog and as far as I know this will be the first time I am posting this essay to this blog-- Simply titled "Tombstones"

I think being in a third world country puts one in a position to face death and sickness on a regular basis, but I don't think it 'prepares' you for it.

Rushing five year old Stephi to the hospital, speeding against time because she needs a blood transfusion. She makes it in time. Her mother is happy. Her father is thrilled. We are all relieved!!

I drive home through the night, sighing, I think, "This is why I am here!" No sooner has the sigh of relief slipped past my lips and the phone rings.

"We rushed Mary to the hospital"

.... I am back on the roller coaster... Mary is such a sweet lady in her 30's. She always has a smile. She is always full of joy. Mary has AIDS.

A short time before the phone call I went up to Aburi mountains with Mary. She was cold and I let her use my jacket. We kept joking with each other. Mary bubbled over with energy; what is she doing being rushed to the hospital? Didn't she only have a small problem with her stomach?

The phone rings again; now the ride swoops down. She is dead. I feel like I'm on one of those rides where the thing loops around and you are upside down.......what do you mean she is dead? I just talked to her!

No time to think. There are coffins to pick out, a dress to sew, something simple but elegant for her to wear in the casket.

Now I take out my jacket and I can't look at it the same way. I look over at Daniel's overstuffed green chair. I dragged it down to the hospital so Samuel could be comfortable the last day he was with us. Every time he tried to lean back he couldn't breathe. His heart would pound like a horse gone wild. He was exhausted. Everyone was exhausted taking turns allowing him to lean on us...that is when I thought of the chair...it didn't go back all the way, so it allowed him to rest while sitting up. Samuel was relieved when he leaned back in the soft chair. We said good-bye to him, he couldn't speak, but his eyes said everything. He smiled and closed his eyes and then he was gone.

The tombstones lining the pathway of my lifetime are not made up of rock and marble....no...they are made up of jackets...chairs...sweaters....shoes.....handbags......little
dolls.....raggedy stuffed animals....memorials to those who have gone on ahead of me....reminders that life here on earth doesn't last forever.......maybe it is a reminder (after all) of what I am doing here in Africa.

Where do I begin?

(written on March 28th 2018) For someone with so many words...words that just tumble out even when they are not wanted...words that jump h...