About Me

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Why Sweet Thunder? It was my Indian name given to me at a camp when I was a teenager. The counselor said that I had a huge, SWEET, heart, but I was also loud and boisterous like THUNDER! Still rings true to this day! This is my 13th year of teaching and I have been fortunate enough to teach in the US, South America, Africa and Asia. This blog is my canvas for experiences, thoughts, feelings and memories. Read with caution!

Monday, 22 January 2018

REFLECT on the past, RELISH the present and REJOICE in the future

Ringing in 2018 in MALAYSIA!
REFLECT:  It is always cathartic for me to journey through the past year and remember events, places, and treasured people.  Taking an inventory of your life is a valuable lesson and one I sometimes forget to do.  To say I lead a blessed life is an understatement.  Never would I have dreamed that I would be in a profession that I love, be able to travel the world AND meet amazing people along the way.  I love my life!  Two years ago I spent New Year's Eve climbing a very large table-like mountain in South Africa and last year I was ringing in the New Year with my Ghana bestie and her family in Fort Worth, Texas.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I rang in the New Year with friends, fun, and fireworks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!

"We don't need the cable car, let's HIKE Table mountain," said no one ever! 2016 

Fort Worth FUN ringing in 2017

RELISH:  I am so thankful to have friends and family at home that give me roots all the while encouraging my wanderlust and adventurous spirit to live and work overseas.  Without the first part of this equation, my journey to other countries and various places would not be as fulfilling.  I am so grateful for my family that accepts my lifestyle, endures late or early conversations on Skype or FT and are always willing to dive into QUALITY time when I am home.  Being overseas for eight years has afforded me the gift of friends all over the world, but I am most grateful for those "bosom buddies" as Anne Gables would say.  Those people who know all about me and love me just the same.  The confidants who have weathered storms, breakups, celebrations and downtime.  Those people who I am happy to say, "let's do LIFE together."

Friends and family were very important to me in 2017 since I took a break from teaching for the first time in 13 years.  The circumstances were not ideal, but they did seem to fall into place.  I was especially grateful to my cousin and her husband for helping me find a job in insurance at Allstate.  I learned a lot about myself through this process and am more convinced than ever that teaching is what I was made to do.  Half of 2017 was spent in Fort Worth, TX and the other half in Suwon, South Korea.

My musings are mostly therapy for my soul, but if you are curious - here's a glimpse of my year!  REJOICE, REJOICE, REJOICE!

January - March 2017:  During these months I spent Christmas with family in Texas.  I was so fortunate to spend quality time with my brother, Granny, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I continued my work in sales at Kennedy Allstate Agency and I have to say that I couldn't have survived the year without my friend Megan.  We were soul sisters from the very beginning and I am so blessed that she is part of my TX journey.  In February I ran the Hot Chocolate 5K with my friend Andrea and the month of March involved playing the 2nd season with my adult volleyball team.  We came in 1st place and 2nd place respectively!
The traditional family pyramid

T-shirts and shorts and volleyball on Christmas day

Allstate Christmas party with Megan and Laurel
"You are in good hands with Allstate"

The things I do for HOT CHOCOLATE
Powderpuff girls for volleyball party
#1 in the league

April - May 2017:
  Two very busy months as I accepted a job overseas teaching in South Korea and created a Texas bucket list.  Many things were on my list, but some of the big ones that I was able to cross off:  going to a rodeo (even though I am allergic to horses), traveling to Fredricksburg, TX for a wine weekend, visiting the Magnolia Silos in Waco, TX, going to the Fort Worth Gardens, Fort Worth Zoo, various churches and cathedrals, and hiking. Also, I threw a baby shower for my friend Vania and both my Dad and step-mom and Mom came to TX to visit and help celebrate my brother's big 30!
Wine tasting with the girls

Valinda, Andrea, Rachel and I 
The red and blue poppies of Texas

Baby shower for Vania and baby Mika
The mommy-to-be and the hosts
Coming soon....June 2017

Magnolia market in Waco, Texas
Bummed I didn't see Chip and Joanna Gaines :(

My Dad and step-mom surprised my brother for his birthday
My first rodeo EVER

The only horse that doesn't give me allergies
Great time spent with the family

Sunday, 29 November 2015

History, Heights and Hysterical laughs

So, I am a little behind in my blogging and this post was written at the end of September.  I have only changed a FEW things, because I still feel that my theme for my time here in Ghana is the same!

Over the past couple of months, the theme of my experience in Ghana is:  Get comfortable being uncomfortable!

It is not that every day is a challenge; actually most of them are pretty routine similar to 98% of the people in the world.  My issue is that it is very common that the obstacles within my week stretch my emotional and physical boundaries and leave me thinking two different extremes:  #1.  “That was so amazing, - I am so thankful to be living here in Ghana.”  OR  #2.  “What the hell was I thinking moving all the way to Africa?” 

At the end of September, we had our first 3-day weekend for us teachers at Lincoln Community School and since all of us FIRST YEARS have been thrust together and learning as we go, we decided to travel as a big group and experience more of Ghana.

When all the logistics were taking place and I heard that 17 of us were going to travel together with a tour group and itinerary, I thought, we would either bond as colleagues OR come out of this NEVER wanting to speak again! 

Saturday morning wake up call was 7am as we shoved our bodies and luggage into a cozy little bus.  One of the teachers is a bit of a health nut and his wife informed us that the Saturday we left was his birthday so we decided to accost him with HEALTHY gifts (green peppers, nuts, peas and corn, apples and grapes) as he boarded the bus!  He seemed overjoyed at his nutritious bundles of fruits and veggies on his first day of vacation. 

Greg and his bundle of heart-healthy gifts

We traveled through Saturday morning traffic for about 5 hours on a little blue school bus.  All of our belongings we strapped to the top, but there was plenty of room and ample time to take in some sights along the way.

The wheels on the bus go round and round....round and round

Sights on the drive
Traditional way of carrying goods in Ghana

Amazing the efficiency of the people who are selling the goods

Finally, we arrived at our first destination, Elmina Castle

The actual structure is very majestic in nature.  It is nestled among the sand and waves on the coast of Ghana.  The white walls give it an asylum-like feel as we saunter along learning of the history.  The castle was built by the Portuguese to trade for spices and is the first European building built south of the Sahara.  Unfortunately, even though it was meant to trade for goods, the most recent purpose of the building was designed to be a ‘waiting room’ for slaves.  For over 400 years there were slaves brought into this castle living in despicable conditions.  There were close to 200 humans in a small area chained to one another and fed once a day.  Most of the time the WAITING ROOM was 3 months.  Sadly, the governor of the castle would rape the slave women and any male or female that spoke up during this injustice was held in the cells that displayed a skull and cross bones above the entrance.  We were told that this signified the only thing that came out of the cell was a corpse.

There was a stark contrast between the beauty of the sky and the day and the history of this castle

They had clothes that the prisoners would have worn in the cells
There was some history about the bricks and how the Portugese laid the brown bricks in the cell

We went into this small room that was used to herd the slaves and take them away from their loved ones.  There was a small little hole where you could see out to the ocean and I found it bitterly ironic that the boat that was in plain view was marked FOR SALE.  Eerie to think about the history of the slave trade that was happening only yards away!

Panoramic view of the castle and the coast

Panoramic view of where the boats would arrive on the beach

This is a panoramic view of the city right below the castle

My mind was reeling from the images and information in my head as we continued on our journey.  Many times while living in another country you have to adjust to the stark dichotomy that exists every day.  Poverty and opulence are everywhere in Ghana and this trip was no different.  The morning was full of history and my heart was heavy, but we were on our way to lunch and there was little time to process everything.  We stopped at a VERY nice resort for some delicious Ghanaian food and a view of the beach then headed to our cabanas.  The Ko-Sa resort is very simple in nature.  We had no AC nor hot water yet seemed to possess all the important things in life.  As a large group we had dinner and bonded over questions on the beach and nestled in under our mosquito netting and the lullaby of the ocean waves.  

Sunday morning was reserved for ADVENTURE as we boarded the bus for the Kakum forest canopy walk.   On our way to the forest we learned about the fascinating world of cocoa in Ghana.  They are the 2nd largest producer of cocoa thanks to King Tetteh Quarshie who decide to swallow the cocoa bean and take it to Ghana and POOP it out!  True story! :)  We stopped to see a small cocoa plantation and taste the bitter bean.  LOTS of work goes into making that amazing chocolate! 

The cocoa tree (surprised me for some reason to see that the fruit is yellow)

Small little buds for the cocoa bean
Once the fruit has been opened, this is what it looks like on the inside
We sampled the raw cocoa - very bitter!

"Kakum" is the sound that the Mona monkeys make which created the name of the forest.  The national park is 360 square KM and 8 Ghanian men made the canopy walk in just 6 months.  There are 7 bridges in the forest, 600 butterflies, 300 birds,  4 different species of monkey and various forest elephants.  If you want to be REALLY adventurous, you can stay the night in a tree-top and see the nocturnal animals.   (That is of course, next on my list!)

Fresh out of my BOOT - hiking in the Kakum forest

Me and 2 of my 7th grade students.  Not sure they were happy to vacation with their teacher

You can stay in a TREE HOUSE at night and see the animals in the forest
EEK - thank goodness I am not afraid of heights

Nicole, Joe and I - on top of the world
The whole group survived the hike

The ledge you step on to go over the bridge
Bamboo trees

After our TOP OF THE WORLD excursions we headed back to the beach to relax.  The sounds of the waves and cool breeze were a welcome change to the fast pace of the city of Accra. 

The remainder of the day was spent swimming in the ocean, playing with some kids on the beach, watching sunsets and being introduced to the famous BIG BOOTY game (too many details for this one blog post!)  :)  

Kosa beach resort

All the trees were painted with different flags

Gorgeous beach

These two cuties came up to me while I was reading

Yup, I couldn't say NO - I bought bananas

Playing in the ocean

This was so precious, I was fortunate to capture a moment

Hard not to be when you are on this beach

Sally and her ENO!  Chillin' in style

Monday we geared up for our trip back home to Accra, but stopped at one more place.  Cape Coast castle was at the forefront of the triangular trade between the 3 continents of America, Europe and Africa.  

Cape Coast castle panoramic view

Kids posing for a picture

LOTS of Ghana's livelihood depends on the coast

This was actually above the door where they led the slaves to the boats

"May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity..."

As I was standing in the dungeons hearing about the conditions that these people went through, I found myself getting emotional.  Feeling insecure crying in front of people I did not know, I took a break from the tour and began to process the magnitude of it all. 

My emotions ranged as far as the east is from the west.  I felt DESPAIR that we as humans could treat each other in this manner for well over 4 centuries, DISGUST that actions were not taken sooner to end this injustice, REVERENCE that I was able to step foot in history and stand where other brave people have stood and GRATITUDE for my own life and privileges and that I am able to become more aware and learn more about this heritage of West Africa.

Through it all, I realised there were parts of the 3 day weekend that were easy and convenient and there were other parts that were very UNCOMFORTABLE.   Sometimes it is much easier for us (me included) to stick our heads in the sand and pretend parts of history never existed. This was one of those times for me.  I know the reason this was all difficult to process is that LIFE isn't always pretty and it sure as heck isn't always easy, but I have to train myself to get comfortable being uncomfortable.  In EVERY area of my life. 

Again, I go back to the picture of that first step you have to take to cross the huge canopy at Kakum National Forest.  There are 7 shaky bridges that you have to conquer to get to solid ground.  You are high above the tree tops, but the bridges are very precarious. 

Here I am in WEST AFRICA.  Never in a million years would I have guessed I would be living and working half way across the world, but this is a bridge that I have crossed.  There are times when I am VERY unsure of this decision and others when I am excited and enjoying the heck out of this adventure!

No matter YOUR location or your path that you are on in life – there is always a bridge that you need to cross - sometimes several of them.  For some of us....our bridge will be solid and our steps are confident - – for others, it is shaky and there is a feeling of uncertainty in the whole process!

FOR ALL OF US – there comes a time when you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable!