words + photos by Dr. Marissa Pei
I went to Africa expecting to have my paradigms blown out of the continent. And bombs away, my mind detonated, but in a way that was entirely unexpected.
I went to Africa thinking that I would learn to be more grateful. And I am grateful, especially for the conveniences of western civilization that I have grown accustomed to. I missed having toilets that flushed, toilet paper supplied, toilet paper that would flush, stalls where I could sit and not have to stand, and bathrooms where I didn’t have to breathe through my mouth.
Yes I am grateful for sanitization that uses up exorbitant amounts of natural resources. Would I give it up? Not in this lifetime! Will I be more grateful for American bathrooms? Absolutely! But by being appreciative for our sanitation and building codes, am I implying that we in the west are more civilized? Well if “civilized’ means beautifully-constructed and aesthetically-pleasing on the outside, yes we in the West are definitely more beautiful on the outside. But are we more beautiful on the inside?
I went to Africa thinking that I would be triggered by the haunted look in the children’s eyes, you know...like the World Vision pictures or National Geographic images…and to some extent I was. But 88 percent of the time, our eyes would meet, I would smile, and a spontaneous answering grin would break their face wide open, tapping into the reservoir of love and joy in their heart which splatters all over me.
There is a brightness of color about them…no matter how outwardly dirty their surroundings look, they are dressed inside out in so much glory, the contrast is stunning. The beauty of spirit shines in their naturally white smiles, and is undaunted by what they don’t have, as defined by our ‘civilized world’. Interestingly enough, the West African Adinkra symbol chosen for Ghana is called ‘Gye Nyame’ and means ‘except for God’. This shape in all sizes and colors reflects the powerful source of their love, the Supremacy of God.
Names of establishments flashed by our luxury bus...Love God taxi cab...Eternal Love Barber stands...GOD First Electrician...thousands of signs reflecting the beauty within. I felt the Presence of something greater than myself. Another greeting used was Akwaaba (Welcome) to “the Land of I Am”. And I AM now overflowing with an abundance of love. The dirt on the outside physical environment may need some aesthetic construction, but there is a plethora of love and beauty on the inside of the people. My lasting memory of Ghana country is that God is everywhere...literally and spiritually.
I went to Africa thinking that I was bringing love to give and share with the African people, especially the children. How typically ethnocentric of an American with Chinese and Canadian roots to have this thought! Instead, it was my own heart warehouse that received eight times more love than was delivered. My distribution center of peace love and joy blessings has now run out of square footage. Out of Africa, I have been blessed. I return From Africa…with Love.
Dr. Marissa Pei is an inspirational speaker, best-selling author, organizational psychologist consultant, singer/songwriter, executive and Life Balance coach, and Balance Tai Qi Qong instructor. To learn more, visit www.4balance.org.