Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Invisible Walls

Over 20 years ago I remember seeing the TV mini-series of Gullivers Travels starring Ted Danson. I only saw parts of it and don't remember much but one scene that has always stuck with me was when Gulliver encountered a character played by Omar Sharif. The man offered Gulliver food and lodging and suggested he rest for a night before continuing his journey. Apparently he was a sorcerer with bad intentions and was trying to distract him from his journey. He placed a spell on him where he thought each day at his home was his first and at the end of each night he'd invite him to rest for the night in order to have energy for his long journey the next morning. I think this continued for several years until Gulliver finally realized what had happened and how much time had been wasted. I feel like the same thing happened to me...about 6 years ago.


You've probably heard stories about how fleas in a jar can easily jump out but after a lid has been attached for several days they stop trying even after the lid is removed. There is also a story about how baby elephants are tied to a stake with a thin rope and as they grow bigger they don't even attempt to pull on the rope because they've been conditioned to believe it is a sturdy anchor holding them there.

It's amazing how small habits (good or bad) slowly become part of your daily routine. It might be something like constantly checking social media way more than you think you do, or slowly phasing out of prior habits like praying, flossing your teeth, or exercising. Either repeating bad actions or omitting good ones over time can quickly become habitual.

Some days I feel like I'm in Groundhog Day. The days seem so similar and are always repeating and if I screw up or have a bad day I always get a chance the next day to try again with what seems like little or no consequences. This has become even more obvious since I've been living in Ghana. It's not very convenient to do many of the things I've previously enjoyed doing like playing basketball. Aside from the cultural differences, I have limits on my income and transportation and as a result, I spend a lot more time on my computer which is not the best recipe for self improvement.

My productivity over the years has decreased and I feel like I've been confined by invisible walls. I used to passionately work on personal growth, learning new things, and achieving goals. One of these days I will finally pull out the thin rope and stake that I feel tethered to. My daily routine has been pathetic for some time now but each night I assume it will be better after I have a good night's rest in preparation for the long journey that lies before me.

Friday, May 24, 2019

3 Controversial Opinions

It's been a while since I've added content to my blog. Sometimes I just write about random topics but today I'd like to share my thoughts on three important things I'm very passionate about. The first two fall under the category of manners, etiquette, or proper protocol, and the third is a pet peeve.I don't want to sound like an ignorant hick by going against the grain but it's time to stand up for how I really feel so let's get started.

My first concern is with spaghetti. I was taught it is bad manners to cut your spaghetti so you should instead swirl it around your fork. Maybe I've just witnessed too many little kids making a mess of their face and clothes as they slurp up long strands of pasta. I'm a big enough boy to be able to eat the "appropriate" way without making a mess but I don't want to. Since my blog is a big hit in most culinary circles there will undoubtedly be several 5 star chefs reading this and rolling their eyes. They would probably suggest I eat a bowl of spaghettios with a spoon if I don't want to adhere to the appropriate protocol, but I don't care. I'm going to keep cutting my spaghetti.You can have my fork when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands.

You should also know I break the spaghetti in half when I cook it. Yes, I'm aware that this is also taboo but you may have this rebel confused with someone who cares.



The next topic to address is tie tacks. I'll admit I'm a good 30 years behind the times when it comes to fashion trends but this accessory just doesn't feel right. I've known for a long time that when you wear a tie bar, it should attach at the level of the third shirt button. I just think that is way too high. That may look acceptable when you are wearing a jacket but once the jacket comes off, I think it looks imbalanced and awkward. It doesn't even serve it's purpose when it's up so high and your tie will still swing around down below. I own a few tie bars but never wear them since I will probably have some know-it-all come up to me and tell me it's supposed to be worn higher up on the tie than I prefer. As a result, the world is missing out on seeing me sporting stylish tie bars. Your loss.


My final gripe is a pet peeve about something I see regularly on Facebook. I usually see this from women who post a lot. I don't understand why someone posts a link to an article on their page and then say "for later", meaning they have not even read it but it sounds interesting to them. That's like an Instagram user taking pictures of a menu descriptions instead of the food they are eating. Why would you promote something you haven't even read? It was obviously not important enough for you to take the time to read but you share it with others? Do these same people forward e-mails they have not read to their friends after just reading the subject bar?

I'm sorry if I have come across as being  judgmental and uptight. I admit I probably need to chill out. By the way, one of the best ways to blow off steam and relax is by breaking handfuls of spaghetti in half.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

I Hate Getting Old

My vision has always been good, but for the last 10 years I've been using cheap reading magnifiers to help me see fine print. I had a shocking wake up call when I forgot to take my reading glasses to church on Sunday and realized it was not just fine print I needed them for.  I could not read anything without my glasses. I felt as blind as Velma from Scooby Doo when she'd drop her glasses and could not see them right in front of her. My already impaired hearing in my right ear has also gotten worse over the last couple years.


I also find myself getting tired earlier and earlier in the evening. I hit a certain point at night when I realize I'm finished and have about 2 minutes remaining to brush my teeth before I literally lie down and fall asleep for the night. It's like an aura that hits someone before a seizure. I get this feeling that I'd better be ready to sleep in a few minutes because my energy is gone. It's the same kind of panic and urgency you feel when you see you have a 1% charge remaining on your cell phone.

Another feature of aging is that I am more prone to injuries now and they take longer to heal. I no longer have cool stories to tell about why I am limping but now have to give embarrassing answers like "I hurt myself taking clothes out of the dryer." I also experience odd phantom injuries in my hip and shoulders that come and go. Some days I am fine and others I can hardly walk up stairs.

I've been complaining about getting old on this blog for over 10 years. I just reviewed some of my older posts about this topic and I have to laugh since I would love to be in the shape I was in my 40's when I was whining about how hard getting old is. Sometimes I feel like aging gracefully requires a personal chef, trainer, masseuse, hormone replacement therapy, and a special effects budget.

I've already experienced many mid-life crises over the years so I'm not sure if I need to find a different name for what I'm feeling. Some days I get a little frustrated or depressed with a body that doesn't perform like it used to but I'm not going to give up. In fact, I have a chip on my shoulder about getting old. Years ago I set a goal to be able to dunk a basketball when I was 50. I'm now 50 and it's been a couple years since I dunked so I guess I need to start working on that goal soon if I'm going to make that happen.

My body may be working slower than it used to, but on the bright side, my nose and ear hair is growing faster than ever before.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Harmattan

Last year I went back to America around Christmas time and ended up missing much of the dry season in Ghana. This year I'm learning what it's like. Between November and March, West Africa experiences the "Harmattan" which is the dry season. It is a result of the winds from northern Africa blowing sand from the Sahara desert down to the coast of west Africa.

When I first heard that explanation I thought someone was just making up the reason for the dusty air but it's not just a wives' tale. Trade winds from the Sahara do actually blow dust and sand all the way down here. During this time of year it stops raining and the air is more hazy and dryer than usual. In the last two months I've only see it rain twice and there is not substantial rain in the forecast for several months. Lately I've noticed you can look directly at the red sunsets in the evening since there is so much debris in the air.

There is a fine layer of red dust that settles on everything on a daily basis. I'm even shocked at how fast it can accumulate in some of the rooms where we have air conditioning and closed windows. I have not been running in this weather and don't intend to start strenuous exercise outside until we get some rainfall. Once the rains start again the humidity will soar but I'd still prefer that to having everything covered in dust. I found the following clip on Youtube that shows how the drastic contrast in the weather that happens during Harmattan.


I miss the rain and am looking forward to things greening up again in several months.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Racism

Over the years I've seen a lot of stories in the news that deal with or at least accuse others of racist actions or intentions. The definition of racism is: “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.”

I don't believe any race of people is superior to another. There are saints and jerks to be found among every kind of people. To assume an entire race is inferior is not only wrong, but it is just so lazy. If you were to get to know people of different races you would see that some of them are amazing people and others are maybe not so much. This concept extends from race and also applies to people of different religions, nationalities, political affiliations, ideologies, etc.

When talking about this subject I feel the need to differentiate between race and culture. You are born within a race. You have no control of what race you belong to or who your ancestors were. I am white. I am neither proud nor ashamed of my skin color.  I did nothing to determine my race so I have no guilt or pride about something I have no control over. However, I do feel gratitude and appreciation for my ancestors' sacrifices and accomplishments. 

Culture is defined as “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.” I think it is fine when people of all walks of life honor their heritage, ancestors, and culture, but I am saddened when any culture promotes dishonest practices, corruption, laziness, ignorance, abuse, etc. By the way, no country or group is free from these problems. If I speak out against certain cultural practices I believe to be wrong, that does not make me a racist if some of those practicing them happen to be of a different race than me. It really bothers me when people play the race card for their gain.

I am troubled when I hear people attempting to guilt others for being privileged and seeking justice or reparations from others when no injustice has been done. I have never owned a slave. I’ve done my genealogy from both sets of parents back to the 1600’s. As far as I know I have never had an ancestor who owned another human yet there are people who say because I am white I am guilty of being privileged and owe some kind of reparations to someone who’s ancestors were wronged in the past.  I simply won't take responsibility for things that happened before I was born or to people I have never met or dealt with.  I may be guilty of many bad things but they all happened after I was born and were things I actually did.

Another thing about this topic that bothers me is the classification of Americans. I hate it when filling out government forms and we have to choose Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Native American, etc. How about just American? When we accentuate and focus on our differences it doesn’t help to unify us.

I think we often focus on the wrong things. People who focus on sickness instead of wellness get sick, people who focus on poverty instead of wealth get poorer, people who focus on race instead of unity become more racist. 

I admit racism has been and is still a big problem but I also think the media and many politicians love to push the racist narrative even when certain issues or stories are not really about race. I don't have all the answers but I know racism could go away if people followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remarks when he said we should be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. We are all family since we are all part of the human race. If we focus on our similarities and the things we have in common as opposed to our differences, we would live in a much better world.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Back in Ghana

I've been living in Ghana since August of 2017 but several months ago we went back home for the birth of a grandson and also for our oldest daughter who was getting married. We had a nice visit back home and kept busy for several months. I just got back to Ghana this month and it has been a much easier this trip. I was surprised to see the Accra airport got an amazing makeover and many improvements. It hardly recognized it when I arrived.

As I traveled to Kumasi via bus I was more familiar with the landscape and cities we passed than on prior visits. I had far fewer people approaching to help me since I probably didn't have the deer in the headlights look on my face this time. The city roads were more familiar and I wasn't as shocked about the traffic or crazy driving. It also helped coming back to a furnished home. The first time we came we had no furniture and lived in an empty house for many months. We were even able to bring back some family Christmas decorations which makes it feel more like home during the holidays. 

Another change is that an American family we know recently move here. They live 15 minutes away and have children our kid's ages so they like playing together. It also makes me feel like we are not the only ones crazy enough to move our family across the world without having to for military, a career, or church appointed mission.



I feel like I have so much time here, but the days still go by so fast. I'm working via the Internet but it is on a part time basis. I'm a morning person but I have found myself sleeping in lately, possibly due to the jet lag. I haven't experienced this much sleep since I was a teenager. I was also pleasantly surprised that I could remember so many neighbor's and church member's names. My twi is still horrible so I have a lot of work to when it comes to communication. I really think it will be a game changer once I can start to communicate better with Ghanaians in their native language.

Our family has several humanitarian projects we are working on here. We are currently building a small literacy center and hope to duplicate more of them in the upcoming months. We also want to finish up a school addition we started before we left. Originally my wife was doing more with Days for Girls but recently she has put a lot more emphasis on literacy efforts. We have plenty of things to do so I'm sure we will stay busy. I'm feeling pretty optimistic about things. One reason is because I feel a lot more independent than I was the first time I got here. I'll try to do a better job of giving updates on my blog in the future.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Interesting Signs

I've been back in Ghana for 3 weeks now and one thing that recently caught my attention is the wording on many of the signs and advertisements here. English is the official language in Ghana but it would seem many of the companies here could use some marketing consultants to pick the wording for some of their advertising campaigns.

Sometimes the names of the businesses just don’t seem to match with what they are selling.  Some examples include gas station chains called Radiance Gas, Unity gas, Trinity Gas. They sound more like beauty products or churches than they do gas stations. Speaking of gas, I’ve also seen several highly inflammable tankers out on the road. 

I thought people in the states were guilty of using God to sell stuff but it is no holds barred here. I’ve seen billboards with Jesus promoting cell phones. Many company names reflect this like "God First Electricals", or "Praise to Him Furniture"

I actually like this Colgate ad since it pretty much simplifies things and gets to the point. “Fights cavities” just doesn’t have the same urgency to it as saying “prevents holes in teeth.”

Another funny thing is the use of celebrities on business signs. I’m sure Ronaldo and Obama have no idea they are the face of so many small businesses here.

When we went to the government offices to extend our visas I saw the sign to the right. At first it shocked me that someone would advertise the fact that they were trying to scheme legal aid. It is actually a place to help people figure out how to get legal aid but is just worded funny.

I'm sure people visiting the United States from other countries notice things they find amusing or strange in the way Americans advertise too.