"The dust gets in your blood, and you take Africa home with you"
By Melissa Paolangeli '09
Melissa Paolangeli '09
This past January, associate professor of English, David Dzaka, led 22 Messiah students on a cross cultural trip exploring the history and culture of Ghana. Melissa Paolangeli '09 reflects on the trip and what experiences she brought home with her, including memories of the red dirt roads like this one pictured in Ho, Ghana.
Abby, a dear friend of mine who traveled to Namibia a few years ago, emailed me an encouraging note in January when I was in Ghana with a group of fellow Messiah College students on a cross cultural trip. She wrote, “The dust gets in your blood, and you take Africa home with you.” I can’t think of a more accurate way to describe how I feel after being home for nearly a month. Although no longer engrained into the skin on my feet, the red dust that seemed to hover in a constant cloud over the bumpy dirt roads still pumps through my heart and reminds me of the place where I learned invaluable lessons about patience, peace, and love.
Excerpts from my journal:
January 9 (Day 1)
I am starting to recognize that one of the main reasons God led me here is to teach me about patience. Spending time in a culture where “dinner at 5” easily turns into “dinner at 7” has revealed that I have some work to do on surrendering my overly organized lifestyle. This afternoon we headed to Makola Market in downtown Accra. Our Ghanaian associates led us through a winding maze of mostly women selling their fares, everything ranging from shoes and clothing to fish, grains, and large yams. Being the only white people in the market, we stood out, yet were still welcomed with smiles, waves, and calls of “Senator Obama!” Several women called out an Ewe phrase that meant “my daughter.” In the midst of a whirlwind of overwhelming sights, sounds,and smells, hearing that I as a stranger in their homeland was welcome filled me with an unexpected peace. I felt myself embracing the beauty of experiencing an environment unlike I have ever known.
January 10 (Day 2)
Ghana is already beginning to steal my heart and change my attitude. Not that my first impressions were entirely negative — I made up my mind before leaving to go into this environment with an open mind. But the peace I continue to feel is incredible. I don’t know what it is, but God feels so close in Africa. It could be the imaginative patterns of the rippling clouds scattered across the navy blue sky or the illuminating reds from the setting sun, or the warm tropical breeze, but I feel so very loved by my Creator here in Ghana. Daily I am experiencing glimpses of His attentive care — in the smiles of the beautiful dark skinned children and even in the sweet taste of fresh fruit. Not to say that every moment has been perfect — but I am learning to embrace the imperfection. And maybe I’ll see that the imperfection I sense is really in my own viewpoint, not in the experiences themselves. Take this hotel for instance, with the name “luxury resort” in the title. I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed to see that the idea of luxury in Ghana was closer to a Motel 6 than a Ritz Carlton. But sitting up on this rooftop terrace with the breeze playing with my hair and the moon giving off a gauzy glow causes me to rethink my definition of perfect.
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