November 18, 2011

C-Real – Do The Azonto [Ft. E.L.]

C-Real – Do The Azonto [Ft. E.L.]

this link is one of the few ghanaian songs i've downloaded from -- it took 6 months to find some songs we really like! what enabled it to happen was hanging out at someone's place, sitting on benches in the shade. when the kids started playing songs they have on their cell phones, it was like a swarm of bees rushing toward us as all of the kids came to listen.. and DANCE! what a fun site it was to see the ways they can move their body to a song -- ways that i've never seen before! after hearing "Yese Yese" a few times i was hooked. :) that was when i discovered how bluetooth works. i was introduced to free music downloading!! now i'm on a quest for clean (as opposed to 'explicit) hip hop music in africa. for now, we are infusing our home life with the new sounds of ghanaian hip hop and capturing a bit of it on video as the local children dance their way through listening to the songs. :)

water. woman. carrying a precious load

this morning i heard a lot of commotion outside so i looked out of my bedroom window and saw women filling up water from the other side of the wall.  jugs were sitting on top of the wall for my neighbor while other women found another location to fill up their jugs.  a pipe had busted.  free water for the neighborhood.  i saw Magdelene, my 10 year old friend, in her school uniform carrying an empty jug and spoke to her for a moment, as she was consumed with her task at hand.
example of Ghanaian girls working during school days

families are struggling to provide enough water for their families.  i constantly see kids and adults walking from unknown distances and locations to bring water back to their homes.  people have figured out very well how to store the water in jugs, using basins for water that doesn't need to be kept clean.  it is quite impressive to me to see people managing to carry heavy containers of water with their arms, on their hips and on their heads.

as i watched many women doing this while walking along the dirt road, all i could think about was the preciousness of water.  every drop that spilled out of their open basins was not able to be used for washing or cooking.  even though i think i appreciate having running water entering our home through a system of pipes, i know i don't appreciate it enough.  i am conservative and utilize techniques to reuse, redistribute or save, but i only begin to enter that sphere of true appreciation when there is an emergency and we have no water pouring out of our faucets or flushing through our toilets.  it is at that moment that i can no longer rinse my hands, a task i do probably hundreds of times a day.  we manage to have back-up jugs of water for rinsing but we must stop doing all of the daily activities which use much water: cooking, washing dishes and clothes, taking a shower and flushing the toilets..

while looking out of the window daydreaming, praying & longing to help but wondering if it would take away their dignity, i noticed a laughing dove with a twig in its beak.  it was perched on top of the barbed wire.  i watched it hop to the next arch of the wire and was curious where it was going to take this twig.  a few minutes later it hopped down to the top of the wall which separates us from our neighbors and hopped toward a bunch of small branches and leaves that were resting along the wall.  to my joyful surprise i saw another morning dove sitting on top of the beginning of a nest!  she was there to receive what he brought her every few minutes for the 10 minutes i watched them.  she maneuvered the twigs with her beak and somehow managed to twist them in a manner that would enable them to be secure for them.  it was beautiful and amazing to watch.  i was mesmerized.  it made me think of how typical it is for the husband to work outside of the home and bring back sustenance for the family, while the wife is typically home waiting to receive the sustenance and make good use of it for the family.

like two wings of a bird, men and women must support each other in their family life and in the workload in order for the family to be able to soar.  humanity is far from recognizing and appreciating the hard work women contribute to family life, but to me, it is precious.

November 15, 2011

releasing spiritual forces

i have been reflecting on the spiritual forces at work in our lives.  they are channeled through our good deeds, pure-hearted thoughts and a life sanctified from worldliness.  they operate through humility, selflessness, unity, generosity, kindliness, forbearance, truthfulness and all of the many, many spiritual qualities of our soul.  while these forces are being released, they are always, always confronted with tests, difficulties, tribulations and challenges in order to enable us to perfect them..

Playing Cat & Mouse during Sunday morning Baha'i class
in this spirit i arise each day, striving to overcome my lower nature which is prone to irritability and criticism, selfishness and lethargy.  i wake up with the utterance of Allah'u'Abha (God is Most Glorious) and continue constantly, all throughout the day, to call upon God for divine assistance, knowing that i am bound to be tested as i'm striving to serve Him.  when i'm tutoring the neighborhood kids in English and Math, having a Baha'i children's class or animating a jr. youth group, i feel like God is using my capacity to serve humanity.  our home has become a lending library, study center and spiritual refuge.  it continues to evolve as the relationships develop and the experiences are shared..

in the past 2 weeks i've seen the kids cry, dance, recite from memory, drum and demonstrate manners..all of which they now feel comfortable to do around us.  tonight eclipsed all other occasions.  it was one of the girl's birthdays.  i made a cookie cake to share after the tutoring session.  the tutoring session went perfectly, with 3 students who need a lot of assistance working with me while 2 older boys read on their own, and then 2 kids who have a long walk home from school arrived just in time for storytime.

i announced it was time to celebrate elizabeth's birthday.  3 jr. youth instantly volunteered to help me prepare everything which prompted the rest to desire to also be of some kind of service.  it was so natural for all of them to cooperate.  it reminded me of when the friends from Delft used to come and stay over our home.  it was like having a big family or a beautiful Baha'i school in our home.. the kids enjoyed singing 'happy birthday', eating a home-baked sweet and telling riddles to each other.  without me asking, they started to wash dishes, sweep and wipe the floor, and clean the table.  while they were doing those things i was trying to prepare dinner.  by the time i was finished it had entered my heart to invite them to stay for dinner.  all of them of course wanted to stay. :)  some helped set up the table for dinner while others played some game with the soft ball..

i wasn't sure they would like what i made for dinner because last night's guest didn't like what i made even though i had catered it to a ghanaian person (rice with peas, oven-baked potatoes and carrots, gari & the tomato sauce).  tonight's dinner was ziti with my tomato sauce, spinach, garlic, olive oil and cheese broiled and eaten with a chick pea salad.  these kids happily surprised me by asking for seconds (waiting patiently for me to come downstairs after talking with dashiel on the phone)!  some of them mentioned being happily full, which led me to think that perhaps they aren't often full after eating a meal..

the dinner quickly turned into a musical festival with rhythmic sounds of ghanaian artists being played on cell phones.  the kids were so happy, so comfortable, so content.  i broke up the party to end the evening with Devotions.  for the first time with this group i attempted to properly explain a few aspects of what Devotions are like in our home and for us as Baha'is.  it was great how they participated and then how they became engaged in the singing, drumming and marching around to the uplifting Baha'i songs.  ah.  they left happy but with sadness on their faces, as it's never easy for them to leave..

November 03, 2011

the 5 Year Plan

Tom Price has given extensive talks on the 5 Year Plan.  they are linked to  he has provided a lot of insight for this current stage of humanity's evolution and our essential role in its organic growth toward alleviating the suffering and extinguishing the darkness that is encompassing the world.  though i attended 2 deepenings on the current Plan, it is these kinds of talks which really leave an impact because the speaker has done extensive preparation and research to expound on the Universal House of Justice's December 28, 2010 letter.

November 02, 2011

recycling human waste

i have been reading "Toolbox for Sustainable Living".  my most recent attraction to the book has been how to dispose of human waste.  it provides a few ideas for creating a 'toilet'.  aside from the typical digging of a deep hole, i like the idea of building a straw bale base with a movable outhouse on top. :)  looked pretty cool in the book!

as i was reading i thought about these 4 neighbors i know who do not have indoor plumbing.  i started really wondering what they do with their waste.  today i walked to one of the family's homes who has a 17 year old daughter at home.  she is planning on becoming a nurse and i like how mature she is.  i brought the book with me and hoped that we could talk about it.  after sitting and chatting a bit, i asked her how do they manage their human waste.  she explained that they dig a hole each time and cover it up in a certain area of the land.  she explained that now it is starting to 'spoil' and they have started to use a new area.  she also said they were beginning to dig a big hole as well.

upon listening to her simple explanation, i thought about the practical reality of their lives.  it's very close to Nature.  it's peaceful.  it's respectful.  it's clean.  and it's sustainable.  they aren't flushing gallons or litres of clean water many times a day as we are.  they don't use cleansers to wash a toilet and then more water to rinse it away.  they just keep using undug areas in an exclusive area for their waste to nourish the soil.

i showed this young woman, Katrin, the book.  she was so incredibly happy to receive it, even if it was only to be borrowed.  she is interested in learning new techniques for this aspect of their lives, as well as gaining knowledge about the science of it all (carbon and nitrogen ratios for example).  it was a divine confirmation to get up out of my home and connect with another family in this way.  i will continue to share the book with other families once she is finished with it.

i admire families who live simply and sustainably.  it is something i'm always striving toward.  but what i love is how i can live and be so different from the families that are around me and yet it doesn't matter.  we are all learning from each other and sharing that invisible and most magnetic bond of love..all in the spirit of simply being neighbors. :)

November 01, 2011

'Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor..'

a couple of days ago i took the boys to play soccer behind our compound.  the neighborhood kids had been waiting for 2 hours but i couldn't leave the house until late morning.  we were greeted on the side road by Gideon (Ogee), Abu and Ema (short for Emmanuel).  they took us to Emil's compound/home.  he wasn't home but it never matters because all of these families are like one family in so many ways -- carrying babies for each other, watching each other's market stand, etc.

at first i went to talk with the jr. youth girls who were watching one of the mama's market stand for her.  once again they all said they want to join and be committed to the group.  it won't start for another week because today there was a Halloween party (4 kids from the neighborhood were invited!).  the girls giggled a lot while the mama across the street kept talking in twi while she 'bathed' right there behind the concrete wall.  i don't know what they were giggling about but it was funny because the young mother kept crouching down as if to hide and then reappear with soap all over her shoulders and neck area.  of course i was thinking, 'gee! this woman has no real privacy.'  life is so completely different for people depending on what they can afford or how they can afford to live.  i'm always impressed at how people adapt perfectly well to taking care of their basic needs.  i know everything is was private for her, just not private enough for me!

so i walked over to emil's plot of land which is mostly surrounded by a low wall.  as expected, i found the mamas and daughters hanging out in the shade doing various work as well as relaxing.  upon seeing me they gave me the one plastic chair that they have.  the rest sat on low-lying wooden stools.  it was a long-awaited moment for me.  i have been wanting to hang out with them ever since i observed them outside of ayana's bedroom window.  they are a happy, hard-working family.  they grow cassava, plantain, tomatoes, beans and some other veggies.  they created a shower area for themselves outside.  they make 'kenke', a fermented grain from maize and cassava (which is then wrapped in dried plantain leaves).  they keep the kenke in a big metal container.  there are so many ways they organize their lives that fascinate me.  i found myself looking around trying to figure it all out.

initially there was a comfortable silence accompanied by giggling from the younger children (which then made us adults laugh along with them, even though i didn't know what they were saying in twi).  it gradually gave way to questions, answers and sharing together.  i was the one asking the questions and they were the ones appreciating answering them.  they revealed to me 2 thoughts they have about me that were full of kindness.  one was that they observed how i love children and that God will bless me for that.  the other is that they like how i let them touch my hair -- adding that african women will be very defensive if you try and play with or touch their hair.  i wonder what else they are thinking but it will take time to know.  i really like how time flew by quickly while sitting in the shade doing 'nothing'.  i could have stayed there all day, just passing time being together.  someday i'd like to stay long enough to see the cooking done and other activities they engage in each day.