Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas in Africa

Christmas in Africa
Aly Fossett

When I first informed my family and friends back at home that I would be spending Christmas in Africa, they bombarded me with questions; “Wait, so does that mean you are going to miss Christmas?”  “Do they even celebrate Christmas?” “Aren’t you going to be sad without your family”?  For all of you that were concerned; I didn’t “miss” Christmas, if anything I gained something from spending Christmas here.
Let me further explain…
This trip has helped me open my eyes. I have been looking through a very small scope my whole life. I have lived in a small town growing up, and now go to college in a small town. Things always been relatively easy for me, which I am thankful for, but I believe that you don’t get to grow as a person until you remove yourself from your comfort zone.  And being in Africa on Christmas is my definition of being “out of my comfort zone”.  This trip has helped me begin to widen my scope and see the bigger pictures in life. And Christmas was just one of those many days for me.
We woke up bright and early to go to a Christmas Mass. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, everyone was happy, and I was wearing my favorite red dress. Today was bound to be a good day. The service started out with an amazing performance from the choir. And I kid you not, best choir performance I have ever heard. Not only were they amazing singers but genuinely passionate about the words they were saying. Constant goose bumps, that’s all I have to say.  The sermon was about how to achieve “peace on earth” which basically all comes back to having peace within.
So this is where the story gets interesting. After about half way through the sermon, I started to get really warm, sweat started rolling down my face, more and more, not stopping, now my stomach starts to ache, oh no! Sprinting to the bathroom.  I’ll let you put the rest of the pieces together. Needless to say I think I spent a little more time in the bathroom stall than I did in the actual church. 
I came back to the hotel early with a stomach bug. Home (hotel) alone on Christmas. I’m not going to lie I was a little sad and homesick at first but I sucked it up. I drank my sprite, flipped through the five TV channels at least a hundred times and became one with my bathroom.
After waking up from a life changing nap I decided to get on my computer so I could sit on Facebook and torture myself with pictures of all my friends and family loving the holidays while I sat here in Africa, by myself, on Christmas. 
But as I started scrolling, I didn’t find myself feeling jealous of them, I found myself almost mad. Mad that every other picture was of a huge Christmas tree with a ton of wrapped presents under it, my friend’s 13-year-old sister with her shinny new Ipad, or a sparkling new Michael Kors watch.  And I started to realize that being in Africa during Christmas has really helped me realize the real meaning of the holiday.
It’s not about who got the latest gadgets, or the most crap underneath their tree, it about love, family and happiness.  That is what Ghana is all about; love, family and happiness. They celebrate Christmas here but you never hear anything about Santa Clause, the focus is more on the religious aspect of Christmas. And guess what? They are doing just fine without a visit from the big man in red.
Oh, the irony. I have met some of the nicest and happiest people here who have little to nothing when it comes to luxuries. It makes me sick that we prance around showing off our expensive new toys while the 70 little kids I watched at the day care were content playing with one little plastic car toy. Those kids aren’t making Christmas lists that are 3 pages long or crying when Santa didn’t bring them what they asked for. They are all just genuinely happy to be at school, to better themselves.
Another thing Christmas taught me was the meaning and strength of family. In Ghana, everyone is family. There is no such thing as cousins, aunts or uncles. Everyone is either your sister, brother, mom or dad. The unity is incredible. Everyone is here for each other; people go out of their way to help people. Yet, another thing I need to take back to America with me, the selflessness. I can’t wait to keep learning from this incredible place. I’m leaving Ghana a different person than I was when I came, a better person.

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