Sunday, September 4, 2016

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La Vida Tica

The title of this blog site is "". I made the blog for my year in Ghana, but I made the title vague so that I could continue blogging throughout college.

Well...that worked and it didn't. I've had so many experiences at CSU, Sky Ranch, and travelling the US over the past few years. But I didn't think to write about those things. I only wrote about Ghana, using the same somber tone Ghana evokes in me. Joyful, sometimes, but a somber joy indeed.

This blog is for Ghana. Ghana is life, whether I'm home or abroad.

But here's the deal folks...I am not in Ghana.

I'm in Costa Rica. And the tone of this blog doesn't fit this place. Here there are yoga studios and chicken restaurants called "Pollolandia". I am learning so much Spanish...but not only deep things like: "vale la pena."

I've learned the words for beet (remolacha), Lutheran (luterana) and tornado (tornado). Life here is fun and silly and full of relaxation and laughter.

And I think it might just cure me. Sometimes, it's good to look your grief in the face.

But I think it's equally good, sometimes, to focus on the fun and the friendship and the beauty. As you elevate these things, pain begins to fade. A little.

Thank you, Sky Ranch, for showing me that. Playing with campers, hiking through the mountains, and I felt so alive.

I am going to stop looking at Costa Rica in light of my experiences in Ghana. I will always have Ghana, and I'm not sure I'll always have this place. Of course Ghana will come's me we're talking about, after all...

But I am here. And it's time to fully be here. To laugh and play and fall in love with something, somewhere, or someone.

"Sarah," I am telling myself, "lighten up."

Since I've been here, I've met my host family, been to two parades, had an awesome hamburger with the best homemade fries ever, and realized the wisdom of the quote above my bed.

One of the best ways to stay happy is to stop going to the things that make you feel sad. (Quote hanging above my bed)

Parade with Oxen Carts

Peli's (I watched them cook my food over the counter)

Parade of Saints

La Familia Mendez

Pura vida! (Pure life, Costa Rica's tag phrase).

Chau, amiges! I'm starting a new blog. That's way more fun and so less heavy. I'll post the address when I've made it.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Vale la Pena


A veces, voy a escribir un blog en español  y traducirlo en inglés.  Bueno, esta historia empieza con mi amiga de Ghana. Ella pasa un tiempo duro en su vida ahora. No recuerde que la hora es diferente entre Ghana y Colorado (y Costa Rica también, pero ella no sabe que estoy aquí). Entonces, ella me llamó durante la noche, cuando estuve durmiendo. Dijo una historia que me molesta mucho, pero no voy a recontarlo.

Me molestaba y me molestaba. Después de clases, no pude hablar con mis compañeros porque estuve triste y nerviosa. Después de la muerte de Kofi, noticias de Ghana me da nervios con frecuencia.  Las noticias de mi amiga me molestaban, y empezaba a llorar.

Empiece una conversación con mi amigo DL. Bueno, DL me ayuda. Pero a veces, nuestras experiencias pueden ser tan similares que nos dolemos.  Entonces, tuvimos una conversación como fuego…quema mis problemas. Pero ya suelo las quemaduras.

Con todos mis problemas...mi mamá Tica, Noris, dio cuenta que estuve llorando. Y se dije todo…en más detalles en que normalmente habla de Ghana, Sakina, Kofi, DL y todo. Y ella tiene mucha sabiduría para compartir conmigo. Me dijo que cosa horribles existan en la vida, pero hacemos lo que podemos. Y a veces, amigos no se entienden, pero siguen estar amigos. Y que si algo está pesado en su corazón, es necesario que lo siga.

Finalmente, ella me recordó de la frase “vale la pena.” Significa “it’s worth it”. Pero sonido como “it’s worth the pain.”

Aprendiendo esta frase me hice recordar la placer que gano de aprehender las lenguas.  Con todos mis aplicaciones de becas y razones lógicos para estudiar español, me olvidé mi amor de este idioma. Es una cosa ver la frase “vale la pena” en un papel de vocabulario. Es otro completamente aprehender como la frase explica mi vida…con mis amigos de Ghana, y toda la pena he tenido en los meses pasados.

Mis amigos, o, mi vida valen la pena.  Siempre valdrán la pena.


Sometimes, I will write a blog in Spanish, and then translate it into English. So this story starts with my friend from Ghana. She’s going through a difficult time in her life right now. She doesn’t remember that the time is different in Ghana and Colorado (and in Costa Rica, too, but she doesn’t know I’m here). Because of this, she called me last night while I was sleeping. She told me a story that bothered me a lot. I won’t retell it here, it’s hers to tell.

It bothered me and bothered me. After classes, I couldn’t talk with my fellow international students because I was sad and anxious. After Kofi’s death, news from Ghana frequently makes me nervous. My friends’ news shook me up, and I started to cry.

I started a conversation with my friend DL. I mean, DL helps me. But sometimes our experiences can be so similar that we hurt each other. Today, we had a conversation like fire…it burned my problems away. And I still feel those burns.

In the middle of all my problems, my Tica (Costa Rican) mama noticed I was crying. And I told her everything…in more detail that I usually talk about Sakina, Ghana, Kofi, DL and everyone. She had a lot of wisdom to share with me. She told me how, in spite of the horrible things in the world, we do what we can. And how sometimes, we can disagree and still be friends. And if something weighs on your heart, it is absolutely necessary to follow it.

Finally, Noris reminded me of the phrase “vale la pena.” It means “it’s worth it” but it sounds like “it’s worth the pain.”

Learning this phrase reminded me how much pleasure I get from learning languages. Somehow, with all the scholarship applications, all my logical reasons for studying Spanish, I forgot my deep love for this language. It’s one thing to see the phrase “vale la pena” on a vocabulary sheet. It’s a completely different thing to learn how the phrase explains my life…with my friends in Ghana and all the pain I’ve endured throughout the past few months.

My friends, or my life, "vale la pena". They will always be worth the pain.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Once Again

I received the notification that I have been placed with a host family in San Ramon, Costa Rica. I am overwhelmed by so many emotions. I’m excited because, well, I get to form new relationships with people so alike and so different from me. I can’t wait to learn from my host family.

However…I am also full of memories of my Ghanaian host family. Around this time four years ago, I learned that I would be placed with John and Agnes Adinkra in Kumasi. I knew they had three sons, Derek, Seth, and Caleb. I didn’t know my brothers’ ages, or understand the reality that Ghanaian households are full of additional relatives, so I got a few sisters in the mix.

Wow. Four years ago, John and Aggie were strangers to me. Now the Adinkra family is a part of me. I am defined by them in the way I am defined by my own parents and brothers.

Me, Maa Aggie, and Daddy, Christmas 2012
They took such good care of me! I was so young then. So unsure of myself and the world. And they knew things about me I didn’t even have to tell them. When Maa Aggie came to visit me in Colorado, she nodded knowingly upon finding out that I was an RA. “You’re always taking care of other people,” she said. “Half of your year in Ghana was spent taking care of the other exchange students.”

Maa Aggie and Me at Poudre Canyon in Colorado, May 2015
That was the same year I took what I now consider “my best trip to Ghana.” My second time back after my exchange year, I knew who I was and what I was doing there. Kofi didn’t let go of me all summer. I didn’t even realize how much joy my simple presence brought him, until then. He wanted to be a part of everything…my friendships, Enliven Mama Africa, and my silly activities.
Now that the shock is fading, I can look at things a bit better from his perspective. To me, he was one part in my story of Ghana. A big part…an essential part…but just one part. I was everything he’d ever know about Colorado. I was the most interesting thing that had happened to him in the past three years.

Kofi Painting the Enliven Logo, July 2015

Since my last post, I’ve gone to see my host family in Atlanta. That was a wild experience. It was fun. I got to meet my brother Derek and niece Abby for the first time, and we visited a lot of interesting places in downtown Atlanta.

Kwame and Me at the Georgia Aquarium, May 2016
Me, Abby, and Maa Aggie in Atlanta, May 2016

And it was also challenging. Because now I know…

The details. Which don’t belong here.

Oh, Kofi. In January, I was seriously considering dropping out of my college study abroad. Because I didn’t think I could risk getting so close to someone in such unexpected ways…not if I could lose them.

But no. I will do it again. I want to. I deeply want to. I think about the Adinkras every single day.
Sometimes I believe that my relationship with them is a fluke, something that cannot happen again.
But I think that’s wrong. I am capable of creating awesome relationships wherever I go.

Mendez family, here I come! Baggage and all… 

Monday, February 8, 2016

It Goes On

Sarah, Kofi, and Uncle at Bridget's Wedding (2015)
When exchange students leave our host families, life does not stop for them. It is tempting to think that it does, that when you come to visit, everything will be just as you left it during your incredible year. A relationship is not a book. When you read a book, you interact with the characters for a while, then the book ends. The characters don't live beyond the two covers, and that's kind of beautiful. Harry Potter will never have to grow old and die.

For some reason, exchange students think of our host families that way. We picture them as they were during our story.

But that is not reality. If you scroll down, and read my old posts, you will see Ghana through my "magic glasses." The sheer wonder that a teachers' daughter from small-town Colorado made it all the way to Ghana colored what I saw, what I perceived. I wanted to make a story. I assure you, though, I have not told you the whole story.

I wrote about my brother, Kofi, on here, a bit. I even wrote about those scary first days with the family, when he was so sick. (I didn't express the depth of my concern and fear. I was afraid to.)

In September, 2012 I wrote: "We were lucky. Kofi will be all right. He’ll come home from the hospital soon. (UPDATE: he came home Friday, September 20. He has to have some scans done, but he’s recovering well.) But, I wonder, how many Ghanaians weren’t so blessed? How many taxis didn’t get there on time, caught in that infamous Ghanaian traffic?...In a decade or so, I believe Ghana will have the infrastructure to support emergency  services. But how many lives will be lost in that decade?" (see my post 9-1-1).

There is a trace of my fear there. And, as I discovered a month ago, my fear wasn't unfounded. Kofi is gone now. He was twenty-four, and he was my brother.

Daddy, Kofi, and Maa Cook Banku (2014)

I am lucky. Most exchange students are not able to visit their host families within a year. I have visited mine twice within two. I am so glad I did. My goofy Kofi memories are abundant. And I got to watch him grow up. At least a little. (He may have been twenty-four, but he was an overgrown kid, trust me. The number of times he got us lost in Kumasi...I can't even!)

I know I've said I go back to work on Enliven Mama Africa. It's true, but only part of the story. If I didn't have this family, the Adinkras, I would not be back half as often. Maa Aggie has even been to the United States.

Everyday, I wonder how it happened that I was put in a family like my own. A family that revolves around a quirky twenty something boy. A family willing to give everything to strangers.

I told my biological brother Tyler, "The reason I would have brought you to Ghana is gone." I wish my boys could have met. I wish Kofi could have seen snow. I wish...

It's useless to wish these things. I remember, and I laugh. Kofi was strange, artistic, and offbeat. He made me laugh all the time. (He also made me pull my hair sometimes, like when we'd watch movies and he'd talk over them).

Joe, Kofi, and Sarah at the Milo Games (2012)
I know I am not the only one who has seen something like this happen in my host family. Life goes on after your exchange year. Not always for the better.

The name Afia (my Ghanaian name, it's the female "Kofi") means more to me than it ever has. I am grateful that it is a part of me.

Maybe on the other side of this tragedy, I'll be able to explain why I love and am loved by this family. For now, I will keep moving forward, and keep looking back. The layers of love and brother/sisterhood between Kofi and I are beautiful.

I wish I could sum up what I'm trying to say, but I just can't. Loving Kofi hurts, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to love him.

To other exchange alumni out there: stick with your host families when it gets tough. It's worth it. I know it is.

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Afia Bibbey