Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Myriad of Faces

If there ever was a faster transition from Ghana to mass materialism and excessive consumer culture than an AIRPORT, I haven't known it...

The airport truly is a fascinating bubble of society. As you rush out of the plane, you are immediately lured left and right by shiny, beautiful things. Designer purses, designer watches, designer perfumes, and you can't even get a bottle of water for less than $5. Notwithstanding the overwhelmedness this facilitates in me as I guiltily window shop, and browse the aisles of deliciously enormous chocolate bars, bestselling books, airbrushed magazines, sparkling watches and crystals, and spray myself with perfume I will never buy, I am almost equally enthralled with the beautiful people- not just the products- that flood the airport.

As I sit here in Amsterdam, enjoying a cup of green tea and 1 hour of free wifi, there is an endless rush of people walking to and fro, coming from one flight, moving to the next. The myriad of faces is enchanting. Woman wearing 5 inch high heels, men carrying babies, couples holding hands, couples arguing, children sleeping, flight attendants walking, always smiling- like mannequins. Some people are fat and some are quite thin. Some look African, others European, some look Asian, some you can't really tell.. some carry with them enough hand luggage to throw a flight attendant into a fit, and others simply carry themselves. Some are dressed for this cold weather, others clearly come from warm climates. Some have small fancy laptops and blackberries, while others look humbly, innocently lost in the airport- first timers? Some are sneezing- a cold from Canada, other look weak and tired- Malaria from Ghana? Some carry more wealth on their fingers than entire communities have collectively, and most seem at the very least comfortable, if not "well off". Where are they all going? Where are they all coming from?

I suspect that the airport is comprised of a specific, select range of people, with some nearly excluded, or in a serious minority. With recent experiences of qualified, educated Ghanaians being rejected Canadian visas to come to EWB's National Conference , I know that for many, many people in this world, travel is a luxury and one that vast numbers will likely never enjoy in their lifetimes.

As Christmas Carols and decorations begin to swamp my world, I am finally coming to the realization that Christmas is just a few days away now... and Christmas is always an opportune time to show gratitude for all the grace, favour, and opportunities that we enjoy.

When I see this myriad of faces I marvel at a world so vast, so diverse.. and yet, we are all one.

I love you all. May this Christmas be an exceptionally memorable one.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seeing every disability as a mere challenge

Meet Salifu Sandow, and join me in congratulating him. In Ghana I have seen countless people on the street begging for money; granted likely fewer than many other developing countries, but it is still commonplace to see beggars on the street- often in wheel chairs, blind, limbs lost, etc..

Though Salifu is in a wheel chair, he is not one of these "disabled" Ghanaians. His innovation, commitment, and work ethic haven't been paralyzed by his disability, nor caused him to revert to begging.

Last week, I visited him in his home, with the family he is supporting, as a result of his farming activities. We came to inform him that he had been selected as the Regional Best Physically Challenged Farmer for MoFA's Annual Farmer's Day Celebration.

Meeting Salifu reminded me that though every person has "disabilities"- flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings... we should perceive them as mere challenges.. a challenge can be overcome. Through perseverance and commitment, you can still succeed. He is the kind of Ghanaian I revel in seeing, knowing, and learning from. He inspires me that change is possible.

Never forget that you can beat the odds, and no matter how difficult change may seem; remember that you are ABLE....