December 13, 2011

family, water & chocolate

my mom, Susan Strong
i am back in the states for a month visiting family.  it is something we look forward to for a long time while we're so far away.  when we're here, time slows down and we spend the days appreciating everyone and everything that we miss..
dad doing well after radiation treatment 2 months ago
for me, it's particularly a time of paying attention to my parents and honoring them.  i'm aware more than ever of the finality of life and that our time together is more precious than ever because it is so far and few between.  i've recently seen my dad as a cancer patient, and earlier in life i saw my mom with a life-threatening illness.  now that i'm a mother, i see and feel differently than i did as a child or young adult.  i just want to bring them happiness however i can.  i find myself very conscious of respecting them, listening to them, laughing with them and being evermore patient with whatever it is about them that may test that virtue.

the first aspect of life that affected me immediately on this trip -- and which is consciously a significant part of our lives in ghana -- is that i can drink water straight from the tap without any concern that it will make me sick.  in ghana, we have to pay for drinking water -- we bought a dispenser which holds a replaceable jug on top -- and cannot have any unboiled, fresh water enter our bodies.  in new jersey, pennsylvania and alabama where our families live, the water is abundant and easily provided without concern for disease.  it is easy to lose touch with reality that we must conserve natural resources to be part of the solution for an aching mother earth when living here.  we recycle a lot in america but we use up a lot of paper towels, ziploc bags and water.  i am able to see in my mind's eye now how the xhosa and ghanaian people make do with so little and conserve everything they have in order to save $ or not create unnecessary waste.  i have always been this way, but now that i have been able to live in africa, it is especially apparent to me how much disparity there is in how people live and use what natural resources are available to them depending most often on how much $ people have.

since i have left south africa, i have become accustomed to living more simply and have acquired a greater ability to conserve one 'resource' that affects my life in a very sweet and essential way: chocolate.  yes, i consider it a resource because there is no good chocolate in ghana that can be purchased at any reasonable cost and because the variety there is very limited --and without it, i feel like one of life's simple pleasures becomes a precious resource to be conserved.  if i want to, i can go to the gourmet market and purchase a bar of Lindt  for between gh12-15 (at least $10).  i can also buy a Snickers bar for gh1.40 which is about $1.  the snickers bar is somewhat comparable to what you have to pay in the states, but of course i like the Lindt chocolate many times more than the snickers.  i just can't justify spending that much $ on a bar of chocolate.  thankfully, and with much gratitude, i have been given some chocolate from 2 dear friends in america (kathy kelley and ariana salvo).  i now have a little collection of good chocolate -- including Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips! -- which i make last as long as possible.  we will bring back a few bars of Lindt, more chocolate chips and a small variety of chocolates to enjoy for the next year and half (which is how long it will probably be before we return to the states again).

i actually have had very little chocolate this past week.  my mom doesn't eat chocolate but for the 3 days i was there she did buy for me a chocolate cookie ice cream pie which was delicious.  my dad's house doesn't have any chocolate bars but there are so many other sweet options that it's been wonderful enjoying licorice, cream cheese icing, coffee flavored ice cream and fresh blueberries.  being with family is certainly the essence of my experience back in the states, but tasting food that cannot be enjoyed in ghana is next on the list (after water) of what i am appreciating most about being here for a month.

1 comment:

  1. Precious memories of those few days with my daughter in Alabama! If I'd known in advance about the chocolate... :-)