If there is one look that I have recently become well acquainted with, it is the ‘why are you going to Ghana when you could be doing anything else and stay in America?’ look. It is often quickly covered up by the face it rapidly comes across, but other times it remains there for the rest of the conversation. I quickly assuage the looks by telling them of the wonderful project to build a community center through a child rights NGO that will create programs to empower girls and educate their families. However, I don’t disdain that look–I have given it to myself.
Moving to Ghana in the fall was always the right decision for me, but it wasn’t always the easiest decision to make. Flashback one year ago, and I was writing back and forth with my friend and mentor Roxanne about international opportunities and making a grand list of organizations I wanted to work for and jobs I wanted to do. Go back seven months, and I was paper deep in not just my thesis, but the fast approaching deadlines of multiple post-grad fellowships, that would allow me to spend a year abroad. Yet by the end of January of this year, I had signed on to be a high school English teacher in Miami through Teach for America.
Teach for America is a wonderful opportunity with a great goal. Education and youth and children are my passion. For me, education will always have a special place for what it has meant to me throughout my years. Education blurred the lines for me–made those artificial lines of class and color and geography nonexistent. And it transformed my life, and I want that chance to be awarded to anyone else out there who would dare to have it do the same thing. Teach for America gave me that opening. So then why did I keep applying for fellowships? Why almost four months after I sent in my ‘yes’ to TFA, did I say yes to a public service fellowship to go to Ghana?
TFA is going to be a great experience after this deferral period. But for right now in my life, I think I always knew that not only was TFA not the only answer to things that I could pursue after graduation, but that it would also not finish what I started two years ago in Ghana. The feeling of not being completely done with a task started is a strong one. And the decision to go to Ghana instead of Miami in the fall went on all spring in my head, and I kept forcing myself to answer why it was that I was going to steer away from a job with mostly certainties, to a job of almost all uncertainties. But one thing was always certain–I had to go back. I could write the usual reasons–that this is the best time in my life to do it, and when someone gave me the means by which to make it a reality, not even a day went by before I took that offer. But at the heart of it all was the pressing feeling on my heart that I needed to go back, that was only loosened once I finally found my ‘yes.’
The last time I was in Ghana in 2009, the first poem I wrote was entitled “For When the Earth Forgets the Smell of Rain.” It’s about my first rainfall in Ghana during their rainy season, and how it felt like a gift from God after days upon days of scorching heat and dry earth. I likened it to love after heartache or compassion after fatigue. The phrase “for when the earth forgets the smell of rain,” has become the summary of my greatest beliefs of life. It has become the metaphor for how even during the harshest and hardest times in life, and no matter how grave the conflict, in a world where goodness and optimism still reside, there will come a rainfall.
That’s what makes the uncertainty so tiny compared to the possibilities. That rainfall is indeed a promise that takes the lasting hope and durable faith that I have found on previous journeys, and eagerly await to renew again on this one. I write and I take note and I believe in the work that I do, so that when the earth does forget the smell of rain, it may always have reminders. And in the familiar red dirt of Ghana, I will once again begin my own small task of reminding.