Lessons we can learn from Ghana…


Americans are rich, selfish, greedy and unhappy. That’s the impression I get from my generation. It seems that if we think about other people we might lose everything we have, and we can’t let that happen. After all, status is determined from the money we have, the excess junk we can waste our money on, the selfish hoarding of our material possessions.

Ouch. That hurts. As an American, I’m lumping myself into this category. Although there are millions of people in the U.S. who care deeply for others and sacrifice on a daily basis for the greater good, overall the general feeling in society is to “look out for number one.” We live in a competitive world, so there’s really no time/room for charity.

I hate living this way. I’d rather give enough of my time and money a week to be uncomfortable than to spend that money and time partying it up before, during and after a hockey game. But, I’m not perfect, so I’m not quite to this point yet. I learned this coming back from Ghana, seeing all of the stuff that I have here and how I can forget to appreciate life sometimes. As this blog entry is titled, we can learn something from Ghana; I definitely have since my return.

  • Be nice to everyone you meet, even if they are complete strangers. As Ian Utley says in his book Culture Smart! Ghana, “Ghanaians recognize the dignity of their fellow human beings and have a deep and abiding concern for human welfare and happiness.”  He says that “Human relationships are considered the most valuable of possessions” (41).  I definitely saw this in Ghana as people would inquire about how you were doing (e mefoa?)  and sincerely mean it.  I saw this in the people I worked with at the NGO Rural Action for the Poor (RAP).  We were tagging along as volunteers to do the grunt work, but they went out of their way to give us the best seats and the best jobs to do.  They truly respected us within five minutes of meeting us.Also, when you would meet people on the street, they’d invite you to their home or to church with them. When you did business with someone, you got to know them and know what they were doing.This isn’t completely unheard of in the U.S.; I saw it down in Arkansas in the small towns. But, in Ghana it’s different because of how simply everyone lives and how grateful they are for what they have. That brings us to the next point
  • Be happy with what you have, even if it’s not a lot. I’ve made this point before, but in the U.S. people upgrade their phones every time a new one comes out. I can list off more than 15 people that I directly come in contact with on a daily basis who have gone through two or three phones a year. I know of many people who have enough clothes in their wardrobes to last them three months without having to do laundry. I’m guilty of it. I have more shoes than is probably necessary, but my stockpile is meager in comparison to other girls I know.We are so used to buying the latest trend – the newest gaming console, computer, phone, car, clothes, shoes, hair products, etc. – it doesn’t seem odd that we should hold on to what we have until it falls apart and then buy something new. Plus, things are really made to last that long anymore. Cell phone batteries hardly last two years. I had my phone for nearly three years but I had to finally get rid of it because I’d charge it two or three times a day. We’re a disposable nation with an insatiable appetite for consumption whether it be the aisles upon aisles of food in the grocery stores or the level upon level of department stores at the mall.In Ghana, you buy things because you need them. I noticed that because it is a poorer nation in some aspects, people still using pumps for their water, they go to the bathroom in the gutters along the road, they use a fire to cook their meals. Plenty of the people we drove by or met in the villages had to get up at 4 -5 a.m. to go into the fields to make money to buy food from the market for that day. Disposable is a word that hardly has any use in Ghana, at least in the more rural parts of the country. Everything can be re-used, and should be in order to budget properly.

    Although this comparison isn’t exactly parallel, what is good to take from this is that we have tons of STUFF that we’re not using all the time. Let’s cut down our consumption and just be happy with what we have. Let’s not pine after the latest iPad or iPhone that comes out. Let’s consciously try to think for ourselves and not just give into the groupthink which is consumerism at its best/worst.

  • Stop stressing and start appreciating. Ghanaians operate on something called Ghanaian time. This means that whatever you get done in a workday is what you’ve done for the day. Tomorrow’s another day, and we’ll do what we can do as much as possible and then be done for the day. What this simplifies down to is being content with the work that you’ve done for the day and not stressing yourself out because you didn’t get everything done. Critics may say, well Americans didn’t become the biggest, richest country in the world with that mentality, but studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Harvard have shown that Americans are the most depressed people in the world. So tell me – is it worth be super rich and unhappy, or is it worth being poor and joyful? Ghanaians go to church often; they have community events; they invite each other over a lot; they’re cordial, friendly, and conditioned to be selfless. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but from my experience, a majority of the people I met acted this way – whether or not they knew that I was studying them. As Americans, then, let’s emulate some of what the Ghanaians have going for themselves. Let’s minimize consumption and maximize appreciation for the non-material things that we have – like friends, family, community.
  • Taking care of our environment is important.While Ghana has leaps and bounds to go before they’re optimizing the use of the environment and its sustenance, they do have one thing right: living closely with the land is best for the environment. Ghanaians live off of the land, especially the villagers in the Volta Region. They utilize bamboo for everything, which is great because bamboo is plentiful, can grow nearly anywhere, replenishes rapidly and is very sturdy and versatile. Huts, gates, baskets, carts – you name it – everything’s made out of bamboo. They use everything of anything – meaning that they don’t just kill an animal for its fur and leave the rest of it, instead they utilize everything for something.Although they live closely with the land, the more their markets open up to the rest of the world and the more demand there is for the cocoa, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, coconut and coffee beans – the worse they treat their environment. I noticed that because of the demand for these products in other parts of the world, Ghana has begun what every other developing country seems to be doing, and that’s clear cutting forests and overharvesting lands. It’s because of OUR consumption patterns in the West that Ghana and other similar countries are killing their environment at a rapid pace.

    We as Americans need to take a proactive stance in our consumption to make sure that the products we get are coming from sustainable resources. Fair trade and organic products are much more sustainable for the earth. We as first-world consumers should realize that it’s our obligation to make sure that these countries are protecting their land, which we need to do for our own as well. We need to live more like the villagers in the towns – living with the seasons. We should be more aware of how our consumption patterns directly affect the lifestyles of people in the developing world. I think a majority of Americans have yet to realize that, making it harder for developing countries to develop sustainably. Let’s try to buy organic and fair trade. Let’s try to recycle more or use bamboo for everything. Let’s optimize use of products rather than just minimize them.

I’d like to think that what I’m writing in this blog is going to impact someone to change their habits. To live more sustainably. To care for their neighbors. To take a chill pill and enjoy life around us. I’d like to challenge anyone who reads this blog to take this to heart. I’ve personally have started buying mostly organic or fair trade food. I’m dabbling into cutting my spending (which wasn’t that hard, seeing as how I don’t have money), and I’ve started to focus my mind around being less selfish and more selfless. It does wonders for you.

If you take anything from this blog, take this: stop, examine your life, see how you’re living and figure out what you can change to be happier.

Stressful Week

So, I have some good news. I am officially an employee of the Office of Learning Services. I will be tutoring for English 271, which is really good. I could really use the extra money, even though I already have one job. Last semester, I took English 271, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I’d really like to tutor for the class. English grammar is something that comes naturally to me, and the class was an easy A. I’m really glad, however, that I took it, because I’m really happy to now be able to tutor for it. My plan is to contact Michael Murphy, the professor who teaches the class, but if you’re reading this and you take English 271, then go to http://www.oswego.edu/ols if you think that you might need a tutor. There, I believe that you can fill out an application to be appointed a tutor.

Anyway, there was a minor incident today that has unfortunately kind of ruined my weekend, one that I don’t really want to get into. I am trying to make the best of it, though. It’s not anything really serious; I mean, it’s not like anyone died or anything like that. I just feel “stabbed in the back” by someone who is supposed to be my friend, and the worst part is that when I mentioned it to him, attempting to talk about it, he said something that kind of made it look like I was the one who was being ridiculous. I’m not going to get into it with any more detail, though, primarily because it is unimportant. This entire past week has been incredibly stressful.

For starters, my computer broke, and for quite a while, whether or not I would have a computer between now and March (when I’m going home for Spring Break) when I could have it fixed was up in the air. This happened on Monday, and what ended up happening is that today (as in Friday), my mom came up to Oswego to bring me the laptop from home and take mine so that she could take it somewhere to get it fixed. They apparently told her that it’s going to take a couple of days and is going to cost $150, which is ridiculous. There’s no way that it costs $150 worth of labor or equipment to get rid of a virus from a computer, but all the same, I am really thankful for my mother doing what she did. I don’t know how I’d survive without my computer, and I haven’t. Anyway, I am sure that all of the stress built up this past week had a great deal to do with how I reacted to what happened to me today, and I am hoping that the issue can be resolved, but for now, I am thinking that this is about all that I wanted to write about this time around. I am sure that I’ll be writing again soon.

Killer Ostriches

Actually, no such thing as killer ostriches but made you click!

It has been a great nine days since we have been back to oz. I got a new cool roommate, classes are rolling, and I have been super social.
It is weird when you come back to college your home life falls away so fast. You readapt and you love it so quickly that it feels like you have always been there. Independence is a unique feeling that I love to get used to.
I love it so much I am moving out of my house. As a junior, I really feel like I am coming into my own and I just can’t go back anymore. Home is now Oswego and it is too weird to have restrictions. It feels silly, just silly is the best way to describe it.
I will be leaving to live in the Roc (Downtown Rochester) for the rest of my summers now. I am super excited and have made some important financial decisions.

Good Things to Do This Week:

Check out my life this week, my friends and my new roommate went to a fun party after the Plattsburgh Game :) We also are going to some events this week, click the link :)

“Hey! BILL PULLMEN!”

Bill Pullmen, the name sounds familiar? Besides his theatre credits, he appeared  in several movies including, “Spaceballs”. Not a movie fan? Maybe you had heard his name as a punchline of  a joke on the TV show “American Dad” or “The Simpsons”.

The entire festival was excited to hear that actor, Bill Pullmen, was going to be our keynote speaker. Not only was he speaking to us, but he was to be teaching us as well. Mr. Pullmen made appearances in workshops, and to our fellow Oswego Theatre Majors surprise, he responded to the directing scenes as well. To have a professional actor give advice and feedback to budding artists was truly an amazing opportunity.

Keynote Speach

The SDC Competition was a new addition on the festival this year. We had two students from Oswego who participated in the Stage Directors and Choreographers Competition. Keegan Bushey and Kevin Hollenbeck, along with Oswego actors (6 in total) presented their scenes to professional directors (and Bill Pullman). Once the actors heard that Bill Pullman was going to be watching their scenes, nerves set in knowing they were to perform for a professional actor. All of that aside, Bill Pullman did indeed like their scenes, and our students learned a lot during the competition.

Stage Directors & Choreographers

Some Random Thoughts

Sometimes, I wonder if maybe I post entries that are somewhat too personal. I mean, my understanding is that the purpose is to share college-related experiences that will maybe help high school students considering SUNY Oswego understand what life here is like, and sometimes, I share very personal stories, and maybe that isn’t appropriate; I don’t know. I do the best that I can to connect everything to my life here at Oswego, so hopefully, I am doing that successfully. I do, however, remember one blogger last semester suggesting that we do branch out a bit and talk about life experiences and such, so hopefully, I am still staying in the realm of what is appropriate.

Anyway, life has been pretty good lately. My friend David, who did live in Scales after transferring here just this semester, is now living in Waterbury with me. He moved in today, as in Tuesday. Additionally, I am really beginning to warm up to my EDU class. Today, we initiated our first discussion, and it was really interesting to discuss what we can do to make a difference in the school setting. Friday, I have to go to Sheldon at 11:30 to have a day and time set up for my Practicum, and I am feeling pretty bittersweet about that.

I am very happy to finally be taking part in courses pertaining to my major, courses that I actually want to be taking, but at the same time, it is so much work, and it is not that I am not disciplined. It could very well be that I am just taking too much work on myself. I will have that lengthy Practicum once a week, I have a Workstudy job, and additionally, I am hoping to tutor for English 271 this semester. Needless to say, it’s a packed semester with not a lot of time to myself, and that is my point. I am disciplined, and I do like staying busy, but also, I like having time to relax, and it seems like I don’t get very much time to relax; I don’t even get a little.

If you are indeed a high school student reading this and you’re considering SUNY Oswego as a possibility, please don’t let anything that I am saying to you dissuade you. I love college; I really do. No matter where you go to school, you’re going to get a lot of work, especially when you start getting heavy into your major. It’s simply part of the college experience, and it’s your job to find ways to balance that. For example, I have no issue balancing the life of a college student with a social life. I often do homework with friends and such. It’s really not that difficult. At the same time, however, you need to refrain from having too much fun if the amount of school work doesn’t allow it. Your education needs to be your top priority, and that kind of attitude is the only kind of attitude that is going to bring you success as a college student. If you don’t take it seriously, then your grades are going to reflect that, and that’s really all grades are; they are a reflection of how much you care.

For the past couple of days, I have been writing a lot. I like to write poetry. It really isn’t anything spectacular in my opinion, but it is something that I enjoy doing. It first allows me to unleash emotions and therefore feel them to the greatest extent and then allows me to free them. It’s incredible, and within the past couple of days, I think that I have written about five poems. Some are really short while others are a bit longer. It all depends on how much that I have to say. I bought a small-sized notebook at the campus store yesterday so that I would have something to write in if something spontaneous ever pops up, which does sometimes happen. I can, in fact, recall one called “Jet Engine” that I wrote while I was in a History class. Sometimes, I just get a spontaneous urge to write.

I feel like I am starting to get sick, but that isn’t really any surprise. With this spontaneous, unpredictable weather, it would be hard not to get sick. It seems like a good majority of my residence hall is sick. Anyway, as fellow LOST fans will know, the season premiere was on tonight, and this is an epic time for LOST fans, since this is the final season. The journey is almost over, and that is definitely sad. It’s too bad that the show has to be ending, but at the same time, every good story must come to an end. My two favorite shows on television right now are LOST and Fringe, and I can’t wait until Thursday. The final episode of Fringe before the spring hiatus will air, and I cannot wait for this episode. It looks like finally, the story is returning to the Cortexiphan arc of the mythology, and fellow Fringe fans will know what I am talking about. Anyway, I am sure that I will be writing again soon, but in the meantime, talk to you soon.

Lesson Plans to Life Lessons

As I count the days down towards graduation, I also have to count the sleepless nights staying awake to fill out grad-school applications, making arrangements for prospective job opportunities, and also re-arranging my final plans. But I have realized something, every time I tell someone, ” I really don’t know how I am suppose to  do this” how am I suppose to take classes, apply for schools, prepare myself for interviews, write personal statements, study, read, eat,  control my thoughts, work, and stay focus?” And most of them respond, “Sherrifa you have this under control, I am not worried about you.” However sometimes I do not feel like I have things under control. I am always running, always on the go, sometimes I feel like I do not have time for time itself, and that is a shame! I have  received alot of encouragements and advice over the last couple of months and many of them have kept me motivated and going, and I am really grateful for all of them.  I have to say that this one advice from one of my professors have really  stuck in my head all week long and it really has motivated me to just keep going and continue doing what I have to do.

I walked into my late class on Monday night, and the professor was down to earth and I was really excited to be there. As he went over the syllabus and requirements for the course, he made sure that we understood exactly what he was saying into a short space of time. He was more eager to get into the lesson. Usually I feel a little disappointed when professors decide to teach on the first day of class; sometimes I just feel really unprepared on the first day, and that is because I am really unprepared, and I just want a day to organize myself before I start learning, but this one in particular I didn’t mind.

He started talking about  general introductions about the course material and it was interesting, but what really drew my attention to what he was saying was when he said ” Students you learn by doing, ok? never forget that, you learn by teaching, or working with others.” Then he asked does anyone know about the learning pyramid? I honestly did not know about the learning pyramid, it was my first time, but I remember him explaining this pyramid and how we can apply it to our lives, and honestly I am so happy that in his lesson plan he provided us with life lessons. 

I remember him saying, grades do not come to you by memorizing and  pulling all nighters, they come to you by doing what you need to do! Do study, Do prepare! Do study groups! Do read! Do listen!  Do everything that you need to do! To me it felt like that was all I needed to hear… So the learning pyramid was a great introduction to my life, and from now on I will do!

Off to a Great Start

So far, this semester couldn’t be any better. As some of you may know due to my entries written during Winter Break and even before, my friend David is here, and that has been a lot of fun. He is just an all-around fun person to be with. In addition, I think that my classes are going pretty well. This semester, I am taking Lit 396, EDU 301, EDU 303, CWR 206 and English 265. It feels so good to finally be taking courses that I actually want to be taking, courses in which I am engaged.

My EDU 301 course is going to involve a lot of work. I have so much reading to do and response papers to write. Plus, I haven’t even been assigned to Practicum yet. When that happens, I am going to have even less time, and at this point, I have no ride, because I have no car. However, my EDU 301 professor says that no one is going to go without a ride, so she will gladly assist in finding transportation for those who need it.

This is the way that I look at it, though. Sure, this semester is not going to be easy; it is, in fact, going to be difficult, but I still think that my grades are going to be halfway decent. This semester will challenge me. In fact, it already is challenging me, but this is the kind of challenge for which I am up. Again, my mind is engaged in what I am reading and what I am doing. I would rather have a difficult semester due to a work overload than have one due to classes with which I am struggling to comprehend, such as math and science.

All I can do is thank heaven that I am not taking any math or science. I am all done with math, but I still need to take a level 300 Science course, which I don’t think that I can do until at least next semester, anyway. I guess that my senior year will be the only year during which I will only be taking courses that I want to be taking. Really, the only thing that I am doing this semester in which my mind isn’t really engaged is a novel that I am reading for English 265 called Moll Flanders, a novel that I believe was first published in 1722. It’s very slow so far and rather event-less, not to mention the fact that the language is very difficult.

Friday, I have my meeting to be signed up for a day and time for my Practicum, and so, I’ll keep everyone updated on how that goes. I think that it’s ridiculous that students are responsible for finding their own transportation. I think that some sort of busing should be available. Not everyone has cars here. In fact, a very small ratio of people that I know here have cars here. Anyway, it is getting late, and I am rather exhausted, so I am on my way to bed. I’ll write again soon.

Untitled…

Today, more than any day I have been here, I have realized how much I love the school, the people, and the community at Oswego.  Things have been very stressful lately with some issues I’ve been facing.  Having the people here, at work, my friends, and what I consider family, has really helped me get through it.  The support I receive from my coworkers, classmates, and close friends has made me stronger and more capable of getting through life.  I have met with administration and faculty to talk about my goals and aspirations, and I get nothing but support and advice.  I just finished watching the “Faces Video” from the capital campaign website that President Stanley and many other outstanding people completed just two years ago.  I will admit that I started to get a bit emotional.  The things everyone said about the interaction, support, and knowledge gained from Oswego are all true and hit the nail on the head, so to speak.  Everyday I think about where I’ll be in the next few years and one thing that always comes to mind is staying at Oswego.  I can see myself going off to grad school and getting a more advanced degree, but coming back to Oswego and teaching or being a part of the staff.  I want to see the changes that are about to begin and relive my college experience.  The new students that I see coming to Oswego this year are more intelligent and creative than ever before.

I came across this video by mistake (check it out here if you don’t know what I’m talking about), but kept on going to find more and more interesting, meaningful articles and videos on Oswego’s website.  The history of the college is incredible.  Next year marks our 150th anniversary and I know many people are planning so many amazing events for this celebration.  I know this blog is supposed to be an outlet for me to tell everyone about my experiences and my life, but I tend to use it more for telling you about the campus and what is going on and things that don’t directly affect me.  When I think about it, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  SUNY Oswego, or Oswego State as I like to call it, IS my life.  Everything I thrive for comes from and goes to Oswego.  I admit, I am a huge school spirit nut and I love seeing people excited to visit, start classes, or come back after a six week break.  Classes start on Monday, and I’m running low on patience for that day to come.

KCACTF 2010, Region II

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is an annual event that celebrates excellence in college theatre. This past week students in our theatre department took part in festival 42 (that’s right, 42 years!). Over the next few weeks I will be posting video blogs giving you all a glimpse into what goes on at the festival. This year, we had students competing in Directing, Design, and Dramaturgy, while attending workshops, and participating in side projects. OSU was not only represented by the students, but the staff as well. Judy McCabe, our costume shop supervisor, ran a workshop attended by students from other schools. Last year we brought Honor And The River to the festival to be performed for the entire region. This year was a different experience, but an overall great one!

Here is the first video,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-IzaIuCjc0