Don’t You Forget About Me

Death Cab for Cutie opens their new album with, “I don’t know where to begin. There’s too many things that I can’t remember.” I’m not one for excessively quoting other people, but this opening line is how I feel every time I start to write a new update. The days here are so magnificently saturated that it becomes arduous to detangle important details from random occurrences and hilarious moments, things that made us smile, things that made us cry, the dirt on our skin, the way our stomachs hurt from eating in the heat, the cool air of night time, and the simple delight of a ceiling fan.

We have been incredibly lucky to have the company of Carrie and Ford from the Kekeli Foundation. They have been absolutely crucial to the functioning of this project, as they know all those for whom we will be providing services and have been educating us on life here in Ho. Since being here with them, we have, among other things, been to a Rotary Club meeting to discuss Kekeli’s proposal to build an inclusive education model school, been on an eventful expedition through the bush to find palm wine (literally nectar straight from the trunk of a palm tree), gone to see Patience and another young woman, and had many laughs, including several arguments about the difference between goats and sheep.

Visiting Patience was surreal to say the least. I’ll try to recount it as best I can, but moments like those sink into corners of your memory that are hard to access. We were so touched by the way her family welcomed us into their home. They immediately pulled out several plastic chairs for us to sit in and we arranged ourselves in a circle with Patience’s family and several neighbors. Through Ford, our amazing translator for the day, we communicated to her our “mission” in coming, and I found myself at a bit of a loss for words, but I did the best I could without crying. We all had a lively discussion about some of the children in the village and about the way Richard laughed, and I sat in my chair, looking around the room, feeling a pervasive sense of satisfied hunger that I don’t think will ever go away. It was overwhelmingly beautiful to be back in the spot I never thought I’d see again two years ago, to see the baby girl Patience was holding back then running around outside in a little pink dress, to realize that a path I thought had been a line had been a circle all along, and I knew I would be back there again, and again. Ghana is starting to feel like a second home.

One thing about the visit really struck me, aside from the family’s hospitality and gratitude. An older woman in the circle with us gestured to me and spoke passionately in the local dialect, Ewe. I knew she way saying something important, and Ford expressed to me that she was communicating to me that she was praying that we wouldn’t forget them. I didn’t even know how to answer. I felt that no way of communicating “I will never forget” was convincing enough, and it dawned on me then just how many times they had to have been forgotten and left behind for her to relate that to me with such heart. It really became clear to me the abundant privilege that I grew up in, that she immediately knew that it was an option for me to visit them and leave forever, never to think of them again in favor of my posh little life. I hate even writing those words because I can’t fathom ever choosing that option, but knowing that is it something I could do and is something people do all the time is hard to swallow. I won’t ever forget her face, not that easily, and I know I will see her again.

After the family gave us a gift of bananas, we headed off to meet another young woman in a nearby village so we could do a preliminary basic assessment of the assistive device she might need. We detemined that because she needs to lean on someone while she walks, crutches would be the best start. The most exciting part of the visit was sitting with her and Carrie and attempting to discuss how her crutches would allow her to go back to school just down the road, to learn to read, to gain the sort of independence her eyes told us she so desperately wanted. For so many of these children and adults, mobility is just the first step towards a more independent life. It’s such a simple step, but it is more important that we could ever give it credit for, and I am thankful to be here and able to help give people such opportunities.

There is so much more to say, so many things that have made us laugh so hard we nearly cried, so many fulfilling moments in the back of a car letting the wind cool our bodies and make us feel alive, so many bananas and eggs we’ve eaten, so many children we’ve waved to, so many long walks in the sun, so many miscommunications, so many discussions about the future direction of this project. We’ve got quite a full week ahead of us, full of visiting communities and schools and even meeting the chief of this region, who has personal interests in our project.

For now, thank you to everyone for all the love and support. It’s my mission not to let anyone forget about the beautiful people we have met here.

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