Sunday 27 October 2013

Being Grateful, Part 2

My first full post on this blog was about being grateful, where I wrote about my good friend Dean, who inspired me to practise gratefuls on a daily basis.  It's a great way to stay positive about one's life, and a nice pick-me-up on days when one is feeling down.  

It's been a while since I've consciously practised daily gratefuls.  I mean, sure, on a subconscious level, I'm constantly grateful for things, but lately I've been feeling like I haven't been as consciously grateful as I should be.  Events in the past week or so here in Ghana have really helped me think deeply about the things I should thank my lucky stars for, and to consider the things I really appreciate.  

So here it is, part 2 of being grateful, and all the things that I am currently appreciating:

1. Almonds.  Hearty, crunchy, fatty almonds.  Amir, a guest at our house, just set a big bag of almonds on our table for us to share as I am currently writing this.  Thank you, Amir.  

2. Paved roads.  The road to our home, like many other roads in Ghana, is not so good.  

I'll never complain about potholes again. This isn't even one of the truly terrible roads.

3. The efficiency of cashiers at grocery stores and coffee shops back home, as well as the convenience of having a vehicle to get to said locations.  After taking a 25-minute tro downtown to the supermarket and waiting at least 20-30 minutes in the cashiers' line, and then hauling groceries back home on another 25-minute tro, suddenly a 10-minute drive to Sobey's and a 10-minute wait to pay isn't so bad.  

4. Fast, consistent internet! 

5. Water.  This one I am grateful for in a number of ways: 

 a) I'm grateful for warm water.  We don't have a water heater here.  Sometimes, on a sunny day, the water in our big tank will be lukewarm by the afternoon.  So it's cold showers for us, unless we want to wash from a bucket after heating water in the kettle. 

 b) I'm grateful for cold water.  "Wait, what? You just said you were grateful for warm water!" you're thinking.  Well, it's really hot here in West Africa, and it's heading into a much hotter season, where we'll see temperatures of 32-35 everyday.  So come evening time, I'm disgustingly hot and sweaty; cold water showers are the perfect way to clean and cool down.  

c) I'm  grateful for consistent running water that I've grown up with my whole life.  Recently, we've had some electrical issues in our house where the voltage was screwy (that is the technical term, of course), and the borehole pump in our well was damaged.  Until we could get it repaired, the only source of water we would have was whatever was left in our tank.  This led to a week of extremely frugal use of water in order to conserve our supply.  We had bucket showers all week (at least they were warm!! See a) for reference), were sparing in our use of dishes to minimize dishwashing, and only flushed toilets when we needed too.  It was kind of gross.  Inevitably, the water in the tank ran out.   For one day (though according to Sean, it was like two whole days.  It was only one.  It maybe just felt like two.) we relied on individual sachets of drinking water and whatever was left in our buckets for our water-related needs.  After we finally had our pump repaired and our water flowing again, I realized how much I took easily accessible running water for granted.  It was also an important and humbling reminder that many people in Ghana and other parts of the world live everyday without quick access to water.  We just lived without it for one and it was stressful.  

6. Reliable electricity! As mentioned earlier, we had some electrical problems.  Our voltage was wonky, causing either low voltage or high surges of voltage that destroyed many of our lightbulbs, chargers, our microwave, and our water pump.  It's fixed now, so that's good.  The other thing we experience on a regular basis is power outages.  Unpredictable and inconvenient, power outages occur often and for indeterminable amounts of time.  The power might be out for 10 minutes, or it might be out for 8 hours - only the gods of electricity know for sure.  We finally caved and bought ourselves a generator.  

7. Cowbell Coffee Flavoured Milk Powder - this probably sounds disgusting to you.  It sounded disgusting to me as well.  We bought it anyway to see what it's like, and boy howdy is it ever delicious! Mix some powder, water, and ice into the blender and you've got yourself a sweet iced coffee that tastes just as good as a Tim's Iced Cap. Next time, I'm adding Nutella into the mix.  

8. Our education system in Canada.  Though not a perfect system (is there such a thing?), I desperately miss the autonomy and creativity that I (and my students!!!) am allowed in my profession at home. You may recall from my last post that I am currently teaching English composition and speech at a local private school in Kumasi,  Autonomy and creativity - not so much of a thing for staff and students here.  Everything is based on a rigid curriculum requiring transmission, rote memorization and regurgitation, and low-level thinking skills.  Also, (in my personal experience) the smallest, most insignificant things that have little to do with student learning will get you in big trouble (like, not properly forming your capital "W" on the whiteboard.  That seriously happened to me, though it may be isolated to my particular school). More on this in future blog posts. 

9. Autumn and pumpkin-spice everything!  Red, orange, and yellow leaves that crunch under my steps as I take a warm, comforting sip of a pumpkin-spiced latte from Starbucks during a crisp morning walk? I would love to experience even five minutes of that.  Ah well - next fall.  

10. As always, I am grateful for my family, friends, and colleagues:

a) I miss my mom for her warmth, her comforting visits, and her lazy cabbage rolls. I miss my brother for his deadpan wit and intellectual conversations.

b) I miss my friends for their company, their laughs, and the deep discussions we find ourselves in.  

c) I miss Jean for her hilarious and thoughtful perspectives on life, for her geocaching adventures, and for her awesome contributions to our "amazing" fantasy-epic series. 

d) I miss Sharon Harvey for her wit, her amazing ideas and approaches to teaching, and for the awesome shenanigans we would pull for staff meetings.  

e) I miss all the staff at WMCI, but a few shout-outs today go to: Jeff Soucy, who is surely rocking the musical this year; Mark Wilderman, whose high standards and unending dedication to students is surely appreciated by our…students (oh god. I forgot how to grammar.), and is a constant inspiration for me (if I'm not thinking, "What would Sharon do?", I'm definitely thinking, "What would Mark do?"; Glenn Harding, whose morning conversations and coffee in the lower staff room are the best way to begin the workday; Shannon Welch, who is most likely keeping the library a super hip place to be in the school, and helping students find their voices through spoken word; Brad Schoenfeld, whose innovative ideas and willingness to take risks are a huge inspiration and benefit to our school; and Shane Armstrong, whose Remembrance Day program this year will surely be moving and inspired.  Also - props to Scott, Karen, and Brian, who are no doubt doing a fantastic job of running the school for another year! (And many apologies for what I'm sure is a terrible and confusing couple of sentences here.  I'm too lazy to proofread or edit today. Sorry.)

11. I'm grateful for Mark Boots - for who he is, everything he does, and who he will be in the future.  I'm also grateful for the fact that everyday I get to wake up and share our lives together - now from the same location! Hurrah! 

*Whew!* Okay, this is a lot to be grateful for.  I have so much more I could write about, but I'm afraid it's late, and I should probably go to sleep (read: wade through Reddit for a while), and you probably don't really care that much, anyway ;)  

Take care, and make excellent choices!

- Jo

PS - Oh! One more thing! I'm grateful for you (yes, You!) for reading my blog.  Thank you, whoever you are for spending ten minutes of your life reading a poorly written blog about nothing particularly important.  You'll never get those ten minutes back.  So thanks, you know, for the sacrifice. Here is a funny picture as a consolation prize:


  1. I miss you too, Jo!!! I can't wait until Christmas break!!!

  2. Oh, and we really do need to start writing our epic novel...

  3. Jo,
    We will be thankful to get you back.