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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I was thinking

I joke seriously with friends and family that as a youth, I had my whole life planned out up until age 21. I knew I was going to college, going to enjoy college, going to become a teacher. I did all of that, with few flaws. When I graduated from college and met my last goal (get teacher's license), I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do next. I may sound overly anxious but I just like order. I know it’s impractical to think life is going to work out according to planned but I like to imagine that it will follow suit anyway. So once I received my teaching license and my own classroom, I began to plan for the next phase of my life. I have this 1, 5, 10 plan in my journal. It's quite detailed. And ambitious. It gives me anxiety attacks sometimes, lol.
I love learning. I love everything that entails education; from the petty stuff like dry erase markers to the big thangs like, curriculum development. When people say, "it takes a special kind of person to teach, especially middle school", I wholeheartedly agree. Heck yeah! I'm even more special because I freaking love teaching at a middle school. High school still intimidates me; I can never teach there... :)

But I love Africa too. African studies was a topic deduced to two paragraphs in my 9th grade world history textbook. They were able to stuff the Songhai, Mali, and Ghana empires into 15 measly sentences and move on to something else. I found myself to have memorized the whole Africa section by the end of the semester. So going to college was a big deal to me because I had the opportunity to learn more about this vast and mysterious continent and connect on the level in which I desired.

Coupling these two passions only occurred to me last year. I traveled to Ghana for a vacation and just wanted to come back. Vacating in Ghana was fun but I wanted to return to something more fulfilling than relaxing at Labadi Beach. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and take time to learn my mother tongue. I never studied abroad in college due to financial and time restraints. Teaching abroad was an option I heavily considered upon graduation but couldn't figure where or when to begin. So last fall, I started at: I searched for teaching opportunities in Africa and found my dream program.

But where was I to fit that in life's current events? I just got a new job, it comes with a pretty good health care plan. I just got my own place with great-quality furniture. Oh, yeah, I just got ENGAGED!

I fought and fought with the idea of teaching abroad but thought if not now, when Mabel? Would I take the opportunity and time to teach in another country if I was married woman with a mortgage and baby on the way? Even though I am not all that woman yet, I still struggled mentally. I was so caught up in the moment of doing things right, doing things in order, that I didn't think about what God wanted for me. My passion for teaching is not an accident. My obsession with Africa is not a ploy. I just hope putting the two together will allow me to clearly figure out what it is is that I want to bring to this world and how I'm going to bring it.

So as I type this, I wonder, what is my elevator speech? If someone was to stop me and ask me about my program, about my goals, my next step, what would I say? I would say, I'm still figuring it out. I just know, I'm going to go with God's flow. Because even with all my planning, I didn't know that this was what God intended for me. Leaving my job, family, and fiance does seem random and as if I am running away to join the Ringley Brothers.... what am I thinking?

What I'm thinking is that I've got a little vision in the back of my mind. To see it come true is going to take some action and sacrifice. So, I've got to get moving....

This is some great elevator music though....


I have never been out West and was super thrilled to get the chance to go to Arizona! The desert land! The land of valleys and hills! And heat! I arrived last week for my weeklong orientation for IFESH. Aside from being super psyched to be away from Virginia, I was even more excited to meet my new colleagues. IFESH headquarters is located in Phoenix, where we had our Pre-Departure Orientation.
IFESH stands for International Foundation for Education and Self-Help. What kind of rock solid name is that? And it is quite self-explanatory. IFESH’s mission is toto support African nations in their efforts to eradicate poverty, disease and inequity through self-help partnership programs. They do this by sending volunteer educators to Africa to operate education projects at teacher training colleges. IFESH has sent over half a million teachers since the inauguration of their organization 20 years ago. Rev. Leon H. Sullivan had a vision for Africa: everyone can reach their full potential through quality education, health, and good governance. The education program is one of many programs that supports his mission to provide strategies for economic and social reform in Africa. I am fortunate to partake in this once-in-a-lifetime-serious-but-amazing experience with 50 other teachers. I am among dedicated and brilliant men and women who want to give the best they can offer through a wonderful act of service. I feel too blessed and am humbled by it all.
Orientation was lengthy, interesting, at times draining, but overall inspiring. IFESH did a great job in giving us as much information as they could and it was great to meet my “Ghana Crew”. For so long, I felt as if I was the only one who loved teaching and wanted to experience Africa in a different way besides a vacation. Coming to orientation was like coming into my own: EVERYONE here loves to teach and is super in love with Africa. We all joked about the different options we were planning to take if IFESH didn’t work: Peace Corps (we all started but never finished the application); or Fulbright. But we all share the same feeling: being a part of IFESH is truly an honor.

If interested, check out the website, This is not open to just teachers. It is for those who desire to serve those who are less likely to get quality education. If ever you thought about Africa in this way, give it a shot.

Below are pics of my trip:

The “Ghana Crew” Sandra, Tiffany, Amy S., Gayla (not going to Ghana but welcome to join our pic!, Mr. Kwesi Dzidzienyo (our Country Rep. for Ghana), ME! And Amy T..

Rose is brilliant and beautiful. #thatisall

Ms. Joetta Brown is brilliant and beautiful as well:) She was at Sefwi-Wiawso for two years with IFESH. Her expertise has sent her to Liberia this year; how I wish I had the opportunity to work with her privately!

Somehow, black girls always stay together, smh (in a good way!)
Rose D, Sonia, Asta (my big mommy!) Me (with that ddarn name tag), and Agatha
Tiffany, CR for IFESH Nigeria- Nafisa, Me, Mariama (love her!) 

View from my hotel balcony, Arizona during sunrise. Bliss 
It was a wonderful orientation. I feel very oriented:) with the program and all that it expects of me. I have so much I want to give to IFESH so it's about time to get started! I can't believe I'm doing this!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ms. Mabel "Potter"

I must admit that I have the best friends in the world. They vary in size, height, background, but they all carry the same trait: bestJ. My girlfriends from college, Nana & Zainab, are just an amazing bunch. We have shared a number of interesting, intimate, and unforgettable moments together, many without trying. Recently, our lives have taken such an “adult” turn that we often struggle to find time to spend together. But when we do unite, it’s like old times and it’s those times I treasure the most. This summer, I demanded that we each plan a “Girls Girls” day. What happens is that one of the girlfriends will organize a day of events that we must not do something typical (movies, dinner, someone’s house) and should not spend more than $40. It was my idea but even I couldn’t organize my day! This summer has been unfairly busy with work and prepping for Ghana but one of the girls came through and planned us a date with pottery.

 Clay Café is located in Chantilly,VA and is a place for one to paint the pottery of their choice. What would make Clay Café even cooler was if you were able to make your own pottery! But considering the time it took to even paint the pottery, I think it’s a good idea that the items came premade.

We all got to work; it was amazing how intense we were working on our creations. It was like being in elementary school again. It’s terrible how we take such things for granted. The quiet, the colors, the comfort of friends was entirely rewarding.

Nana chose a bowl, along with Zainab. I chose a plate. A portion plate I call it (hehehe). "Happy Yourself" is a self-explanatory inside joke.

Overall, it was a unique and fulfiling way to spend the day as girls (literally). I enjoyed the peaceful opportunity to paint, although I didn't finish my plate. If ever you want to relive those Monday Art Days from primary school, check out Clay Cafe.

Cheers to your choice Nana.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Africa's Newborn

I have a bff I have known since the 9th grade, Akuender. She’s tall, rich black, sarcastic, loving-kind, and South Sudanese. I have been aware of her country’s struggle since I could remember and it has, in a sense, been my struggle as well. Akuender’s father passed away working relentlessly for the freedom of their land. I have met numerous members of her family (she has plenty, Lord…) and chatted with them about Sudan and their hopes for their country. Her family has endured grave hardship and met unheard of blessings in regards to her country’s power struggle. She left Sudan a young girl and found refuge with her family and close friends in Virginia. Since I have known them, her family has quietly and proudly waited for the day of redemption. On July 9, 2011, the sun rose on South Sudan. A nation birthed from a hard labor; Africa’s newborn. Seeing this day has been but a dream for the new Sudanese and I was proud to celebrate with Akuender and her family. I noticed Africans are really prideful of their country and some seldom get involved with understanding the problems of the countries surrounding them. Befriending Akuender and knowing her family allowed me to get out of my “Ghana-bubble” from time to time and witness a different culture, a different language, and a different story. In the end, as cliché as it may seem, we are truly one people. Their joy should be our joy. Their sorrow, our sorrow. Their revival, our awakening. Arise South Sudan, we welcome you.
Akuender and her cousin, Susanna

This boy kept his arm erect with the flag the whole night (Akuender's sister in the corner:)

 My girl, her country flag
May we encounter more things to celebrate!