There's someone in Africa wearing my shoes.
I only wish I had brought 500,000 pair.
How to blog about two weeks that exceeded every expectation I had... changed parts of me I didn't know existed... left me feeling entirely void and unsure of what little I thought I did know.. left me full, but thousands of miles away from my own heart.
That's how I feel right now - stuck here in the spring mud, thousands of miles of salty sea-water away from my own heart, and no matter how badly I want to be there, to be unified with my full self, I cannot get there. It's a sickening feeling, one that's left me feeling quite immobilized and, well, stranded, really.
God bless America, and all that, but I can just feel Uncle Sam's fingertip pointed at me; He's laughing menacingly, for he knows that right now he holds some vital strings to this pupeteer life.
So where do I begin?
Do I start with the orphans? The hundreds of kids living on the streets in that one tiny town because the government shut down every single orphanage in the nation a year ago due to corruption in one orphanage, prohibiting them from re-opening until the situation is "cleaned up". How long will that take? A few more months? A few more years? Meanwhile they live in clusters and eat what little food they can find, hoping they can find some sort of shelter for the quickly-approaching rainy season.
Or the unending groups of women and children gathered on every side and bank of the local watering hole - a stagnant, mirky-green pond. Cattle wade in and out as hordes of people gather water for washing, cleaning, drinking.
No. No, no no. I'm going to start with something else. Because the truth is, as harsh as that other realm has been to them, they have something America has thrown away.. something America will most likely never get back.. something I would give just about anything to be a part of..
I'm going to start by saying this:
I've never before in my life seen such undeniably beautiful people. Striking, really. They have near to nothing and yet they stand so tall. I've never seen eyes so full, shoulders so strong, chins so proud. The women, I will never forget them. Babies bound to their backs, huge buckets and bowls balanced on their heads, they walk, some for miles, to allow themselves the barest of survival necessities.
We took a walk through the market our second full day in town. Women sat under cloth tents- yams, onions, fish, raw sea-salt spread all around them. When they saw us they would jump up, smile, wave, yell "Akwaaba!" (welcome) and point to our cameras excitedly. After taking their photos they would crowd around us, then laugh and slap their knees when they saw their images, patting us on the back, nodding approval and thanks. That's all it took.
We were the talk of the town.
The Americans who came to help. The Americans who came to build desks so the kids didn't have to sit on the floor. The Americans who came to install water filters. The Americans who went to the funeral celebration and blessed the sandals off a woman they didn't even know.
Pastor Peter (pronounced "pita", like the bread) said for them to see white people is like catching a glimpse of the hope and promise of heaven.
I have something else to say:
I would not wish America on any of you. You're far more beautiful than you realize. If I could give you all enough food and clean water I would do so without a second thought. But take you from your nation to mine, your culture to mine - never. We would ruin you.
I went to Ghana hoping to bring color from my world to yours. Well, friends, you colored me. And I get the feeling I'm the one who's never going to be the same.
(much, much more to come)