Monday, March 5, 2012

A letter to my school teachers

I apologize for my occasional classroom disruptions, for leaving stray fragments of paper around my desks, and for eating Poptarts when I was supposed to be taking notes, but I am slightly older now, maybe a little wiser, and have a short story I would like to share with you:

At the time of this writing I am sitting on the porch of a mission house in Ghana, Africa listening to the drummers in the distance and am trying to remember the last time I had running water and electricity both at the same time—it takes but a moment to realize that was about 20 days ago (when I stepped off American soil).  It is here, in Winneba, Ghana that I understand what those “bare necessities” are that I once sung about, and here that I am reminded of the beauty of a simple gesture.

“Obone” is the title the Ghanaians have graciously given to anyone with light skin—meaning “white man” or “red skin” (it’s blazing hot here!)  Everyday, as I walk out of my room on the top floor of the building where I am living, I am heralded with the screaming of maybe 10 dancing and waving children who are shouting, “Obone!  Obone!”  Normally I smile and wave back, but the favorite is always when I make a paper airplane (yes, that really cool one I learned how to make while sitting in the back of your class) and send it soaring the thirty feet down towards them where it finally lands close enough for them to get it and play.  You would think it was Christmas the way they look up at me and smile.

Yesterday, I took a moment out of my day to walk over to the mothers of the children with a pad of paper.  I was pleasantly welcomed but could tell from their expressions that this was no ordinary occurrence.  They fetched a stool for me and asked me to sit, so I did.  I ripped out a sheet of paper and flipped the pad on its back to use it as a small tabletop.  What started with a circle of 5 or so around me ended up being a small crowd of more than I could count, but I continued to sit there quietly folding my origami creation in front of them.  While jokes were passed back and forth, they sat patiently waiting to see what in the world I was doing.  I unfolded a paper crane and handed it to one woman’s tiny child and they all burst into applause, amazed that a sheet of paper could be turned into an animal.  I smiled back at them and walked home knowing that I had just made at least 20 new friends, with not a single word being spoken.

Having graduated with a 4 year college degree, I realize the importance of knowing how to write a grammatically correct sentence, but, having had the opportunity to experience a world beyond my own means, I am aware now more than ever that supported academic materials without application are simply that, words on a pages.  Like that page I once sat in your classroom, with all potential of being shaped into and used for something.   Some of us get squished into paper balls like those I should not have hurled across your classroom, and while all are uniquely shaped, some standout and become something truly amazing, like a paper crane, and want to fly, like those airplanes did.

So I want to thank you for every time you turned your back to the class or walked down the hall for a short, unexpected appointment, for it is in those moments as well that I sat, being taught by a friend how to make an airplane that would impact the world around me far differently than could be done in any classroom.  So the next time you pick up a paper frog off the floor, before you crunch someone’s creative spirit by putting them in detention, remember this:  we are all called and unique in purpose, it sometimes may just take creativity in your approach to encourage us to fulfill it.

Joshua Gale

A couple more (unedited) photos for the non-readers to look at...

Awesome kids.

This about sums it up, haha.

Friday, March 2, 2012


I wrote this a few days ago...I'd to add a part 2 to it for my next blog though.  It was a little more harsh than I meant for it to be...

What have I seen/thought/felt?  It's good to debrief.
            What have I not seen?  At 22 years old I sit here on the third floor of a missionary complex in Ghana, Africa, trying to figure out where in the world I am being called to go.  Africa, from my narrow exploration of it, is a place with an extreme amount of potential, full of people and places that vary greatly from area to area, crossing the spectrums of morally good to bad and monetarily rich to poor, but mostly poor.  Abandoned by the materially developed world rests a beautiful people who have an understanding of their environment completely different than I do.  I use the word "different," not to be confused with better or worse, but different for I believe they have been created equally to myself.  When an African child is born, his slate is as empty as mine was.  If evolution thrives from variety, then why is it that most citizens of the western thought have let Africa lay to waste?  Is it the innate human desire to be better than someone?  Has our selfish desire to feel better about ourselves come at the expense of placing a lid on our potential to learn from a society that has survived longer as a species than most countries of the modern world?  It doesn't take a scholar to realize how stupid that sounds, yet we perpetuate this concept daily.
            Please, lest we forget that at one point in time every person living today has ancestors who lived in a primitive lifestyle, living a less sophisticated life than most of our "primitive" African brothers and sisters today.  Primitive is not a word that we should associate with cognitive ability--need we pull up statistics?  Yet we do it anyway--assuming businesses won't work and explorers won't survive it.  I thought we stopped believing in fairy tales as children, yet just west of Asia and south of Europe is a forbidden forest where humanity doesn't exist--only savages and only the daring come back.  Try this for a fairy tale:
            2 hours ago I with 3 other Americans stood in front of 40+ children with a large piece of luggage we had brought from home filled to the brim with homemade dresses.  The little girls were eager to try on their new presents, but filled with even more joy than the child were the children's mothers.  I recall one particular instance when I was maybe 12 years old.  I had gone to maybe 3 different shoe stores with my mother trying to find the perfect new pair of kicks for school.  We finally found the pair and took them up to the counter to make the purchase, and the clerk told me that I could put those shoes on and wear them out the store if I wanted.  Without hesitation, I pulled open the box and put on my new pair of shoes and walked proudly out of that shoe store.  Unlike my adolescent experience, these dresses were taken back off the little girls, exposing again the rags of clothes they were previously wearing, the dress not to be worn again until a special occasion were to arise.  And they lived together happily ever after.
            What is it then?  Where is the disconnect?  Why does that little girl not to get to enjoy her dress daily when I can not even remember what my aforementioned pair of shoes looked like because my memory is clouded from all the other shoes I have owned?  I would love to blame one blame one place, a nation perhaps; China for seeping in and stealing their resources, 17th century Europe for excluding them in the partial success of quest for total enlightenment, 18th and 19th century America and Portugal for exploiting the slavery system put in place by the Arabians and the Dutch, or any other crimes from both our past and present that have caused the stint of Africa's progress.  More than any of that I, as a Christian myself, would love (and hate) to point fingers at the religious sect for allowing these things to happen--for, in some cases, encouraging these things to happen.  A million things are to blame, including myself in my unintentional pursuit of ignorance, that could be bickered over all day, and are, but the question that I think we need to focus on is what are we going to do about it?  Are we, as fellow citizens of the world, going to help?  Or is it too late?  I don't believe it is, but until we drop our egos and chase after righteousness, the death and torture of the people on an entire continent is not going to rest solely on the conscious of our ancestors, but ours as well.

It takes forever to upload photos, and none have been edited, but here are a few:

Portrait of a teacher


There's not electricity I took the opportunity to do some night photography

Where's the hardhat?