Erica Michelle Brown

Sunday, May 20, 2007


April 24th, 2007

This is a new style of email for me, a mass email juxtaposed with quotes. Some of the quotes hit me over the head with reality while others speak simply of some life perspectives for if you don't want to read all the fluff I wrote maybe you can at least enjoy the quotes....

Dear Ones,

"It is the quality of our experiences, the satisfaction, excitement or joy that we get or fail to get from them that will determine how those experiences will change us, in short what we learn. " - John Holt

It’s with a fuzzy heart that I write this email. I am torn right now between two worlds: that of Ghana and of home.

I tried my best to make Ghana my home for the past two years and I believe I did in my heart and with friends, but in terms of the physical place it never felt like home. It simply felt like the place I was traveling, visiting, and staying just temporarily - another stop on the journey of my nomadic life.

"Life is the art of getting used to what we didn't expect." - Anonymous

Some of you maybe asking what was the best thing in Peace Corps, what will you miss, what has been the hardest challenge for you….and I can say this. The best things are those little moments you connect with people, where you share knowledge and learn from each other, where you see something with fresh eyes, and when it captures you at that moment you get lost in it. I will miss friends, fresh amazingly sweet fruit, teaching, and my students. The hardest thing those times when I felt like I was all alone, when I didn’t have a shoulder to cry on, when I was going against the grain, and when I feel twenty feet and had to learn how to pick myself up emotionally and physically.

You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself. "
- Galileo

"Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Oliver Goldsmith

"Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way." - Dalai Lama

"The best way out is always through. " - Robert Frost

"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.´- Van Wilder

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." - Albert Einstein

But, all in all, it’s been good. I am not sure if it truly is the toughest job that I will ever love like they say that it is. If you have any questions, please ask it would really help me begin to process stuff.

"I am glad I did it, partly because it was well worth it, and chiefly because I shall never have to do it again. " - Mark Twain

When I come back I look forward to seeing family, friends, working out, drinking coffee, going out and drinking micro brews from the tap with nachos, climbing trips, the smells, the sounds, just soaking up the little things that remind me of so much. I know I will miss Ghana. I will miss the strong odors, array of colors, clash of market items, and garage sale like markets. But, I don’t really know what I will miss till I come home.

"A small boy looked at a star and began to weep. And the star said, boy, why are you weeping? And the boy said, you are so far away I will never be able to touch you. And the star answered, boy, if I were not already in your heart you would not be able to see me. " - John Magliola

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. " - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Do what you love and the money will follow. " - Marsha Sinetar

"Nature is about the only thing left where principles and laws hold true, where things are as they are supposed to be, where there is no discrimination against anyone, and where beauty, harmony and inter relatedness provide experiences that people enjoy remembering. " - Goff

During the last three months of my service I will be busy finishing out projects. Co-organizing a national art exhibition in the northern region of Ghana for all of the school that Peace Corps volunteers are involved in, teaching at my school and wrapping up project there (girls club, art club, mural paintings, etc.), participating in training as a trainer for the new group of volunteers that will arrive in June, and then closing out my service in Ghana. There are no big trips on the way home, just to get home. I will think about a big trip in a year from now. Right now I want to be back home with friends and family, and to be sudeo-settled living out of my car and playing as much as I can.

"Change is inevitable, enjoy it." - Dr Brian Smith

Now, I have a foot on one side of the raven and the other is beginning to touch down on the other distant side.

That step will be complete when I come home on July 21st. I’ll fly into Portland, OR, spend some time with my parents, go on some climbing trips with friends, and then buy a car and venture down to work in Southern Utah at my new job with Second Nature Entrada. I will be a wilderness guide for at risk youth and adults. Using the wilderness as a form of therapy to process life, which is one of the reasons I like to be lost in it so much. It will be great to be doing something that I love to do myself and this is really something that I can see as a job. It’s often difficult to take hobbies and really make the connection of work, life, and hobbies. Some of my hobbies take over my life, but at the same time, there should be a sense of playfulness with every endeavor. So it is with such thoughts that I venture down to the red hued desert and for the amazing climbing.

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead, where there is no path and leave a trail. "
- Anonymous

"The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before." - Anonymous

"Eventually all the pieces fall into place...until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason. " - Anon

"The only thing that makes life possible is the permanent, intolerable uncertainty, the joy of not knowing what comes next " - Ursula K Le Guin

"Not all who wander are lost. " - J.R.R. Tolkien

See you soon!

In love, Erica M Brown

"To be nobody-but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. " - e.e. cummings

"It is to conquer fear that one becomes a climber. The climber experiences life to its extreme limits. A climber is not a crazy man. He is not trying to get himself killed. He knows what life is worth. He is in love with living. " - Walter Bonatti

"The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." - William James

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Art Classroom and Project

More of the Art Classroom and Project

Jaro Grows Up

I'm so lucky to have Comfort, my housemate, who not only takes care of me, but also cares for Jaro while I'm traveling for training or pleasure.

Field Trip

I took my students on a field trip with a friend's (Katie) students. She teaches at Cape Coast School for the Deaf. We went to a local radio and television station and to a printing press.

More Teaching Opportunities

I continue to our teachers to use the computers, as well as led a class on how to make soome teaching aids using the resources at our school - the library and copy machine.

This Term

This term, we've done more mixed media projects and less drawing and painting-lots of collage, mosaic and coloring projects. It's been fun because it has allowed the students who don't draw as well a chance to show off some. We mounted the posters we made last term, one about aids and the other about hand washing.

Here's what an evening might be like for me: boiling water, cleaning, organizing and working on editing the colroing books I've been putting together.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Here's a neat graphic for you to enjoy. I am so enjoying the art here ! I finished a book last night called,” Messy Spirituality.” It’s the one I recommend to any Christian who is seeking, trying to be perfect, trying not to fail, does fail, does get frustrated, and even the ones that are pretty pissed at God at this point in their lives.
I am thankful that my life here has given me time to really think about what is important and also act on it - to take the time to write meaningful letters and emails, and to read books that really speak to my heart. I also love living in a culture that doesn’t tell me what I have to be; which it can’t because I am foreign. People do try to put me in a box with all other white people, but when I start speaking Fante or eating local food they start to take a second look. I hope that I take that same spirit home with me.
I can’t wait to come home for Christmas: to be freezing cold and wrap myself in blankets and layers of clothes, to go in a clean swimming pool and to sit in the hot tub at the house, to eat amazing food (but I will have to be careful because my stomach is not used to as much milk, meat, and sugar as I used to eat in the states) to see people who really know me, to spend time with mom and dad in person, to see Markus’s new place, to see a few old friends, to just relax, to get lost in a crowd, sip coffee at Starbucks, and smell all the good smells during the season. Hum, that’s all the things I can think of for now.
Oh, also to get and give great big hugs! Since I am one of the taller girls in PC and well since most of the guys in PC are shorter than me, I rarely get good strong big hugs, so that will be a good thing to come home to too. Okay, I’ll stop here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Here's a letter I wrote to my mom recently when she wrote, asking specific questiions.

Dear Mom,

I feel so lucky to have such a loving family and to get such great emails and packages from home that aren't just useless stuff but stuff that I need or I can share with others. I am learning that the materialism of America not only affects Americans but also the other countries that look up to America. I really think that America needs to step up to the plate, stop trying to protect the world, and instead be the example for the rest of the world. Too bad I have no desire to get into politics.....

Home sounds nice when you write about it, and Imiss it, but I don't miss it in a home sick sense; I miss it in an I just miss it. I can feel the things inside of me that you talk about - they are a part of me, and yes, that I will come home to them. When I think about them, I don't cry. Instead, I get happy and warm inside. I like that. It was different during trainning, but I was going through a lot during trainning.

I just got an email from Kelsey, one of the girls who guided with me for Women in the Woods and she's applying to pc. I told here to have patience, and press on through the paper work. She's getting her wisdom teeth pulled to fulfill some of the pc requirements. They really do pull your teeth to get you to do it all!
The answers to your questions follow:
How do you wash your clothes ? 
By hand, I put them in a bucket, throw in some omo (it's like dry powdery washing soap) and wash my cloths with my bare hands. This reminds me of going on road trips with Nate. He would pack light and only bring two outfits to wear so we'd climb, wash cloths where ever we could find a shower to take, and then dry them on the tent the next day. Other volunteers are finding this all new and fun.... Im finding it fun and also memorable of fun times back home. Then I rinse the clothes, and hang them on the line. I usually do laundry in the morning, becasue it's too hot to wash in the middle of the day. In the morning I have shade on the backside of my house and then the sun drys my cloths really well during the day. It also reminds me of growing up in Keizer when we didn't have a dryer. Auh - it's so much better for the environment, but my towels are never soft and some clothes are definitly starting to fade from the sun

What are your favorite foods to fix and eat now ? 
Hum, cereal makes me so happy in the morning. I eat a lot of powdered milk, bananas, pineapples, gari, boiled yams, stews, and peanuts. I eat what I need to stay healthy and what's sanitary and cheap. My current favorite foods are: iced chocolate drinks or gatoraid (when I get it from Rhad and Sia). But, the Ghanian foods are good also - I'll bring some home when I come for Christmas!
How often do you need to shop for food ? 
It depends. I am traveling a lot right now!!! and I do mean a lot! So my house is not stocked. When I am home, I go to the market about once a week or every other week. I try to go to market to get veges and fruit and then a few things like bread or powdered milk. That way, if I have healthy stuff in my house, I will be forced to eat it, espeically before it goes bad.

What are you doing with the girls' club these days ?
School just started again, so I will start planning.....any ideas ?
What are your art students creating ?
Lots of things - paintings a lot of paintings. My kids love it and I have paints. They are also drawing, learning vocab for their exams, and drawing with chalk on the walls. Next year, we will do more of a variety. This year, I am just trying to teach the basics of art and follow the syllabus the school gave me. Next year, I will spice it up and add the primary students to my classes. Right now I only have the older students .
Two students did draw the pics for the books, so they are working on that, and we made those hand things for the art show. We are starting a batik and tie dye program at the school, so hopefully when you come out that will be up and running with the students.

Well all for now. Feel free to call Sat or Sun when I'll be in Accra. I will be getting shots with Andrea for post raibies exposure. Her dog had it - we didn't get bit, but she was just concerned so we will get the shots.... Time to go get some more work done around the office.
I'll write more later. Love, Erica

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Talk about being in the right place at the right time ! The total eclipse last month was amazing to experience. The bats all came out for the few minutes of the total eclipse, along with the other night animals.

Many of the Ghanians now have a new respect for science. They didn't believe the eclipse would happen, though it was written about in the newspapers, etc. How could anyone predict such a thing ?

Picture Wall in My House

Here's where all the pictures I get from home are posted. The children love to gawk at them as much as I do. Keep 'em coming - I love hearing what ya'll are doing.

With the Ambassador

Coastline in Takoradi, 13 kil. away from my school where we went for dinner with the US Ambassador to Ghana, a remarkable woman, complete with fishnet stockings !

Art Class

Jaro is getting bigger each day.

I lead a Girls' Club on a regular basis. At one meeting, we cleaned up the school library. Some of the girls have pen pals with girls from my mom's church school class in Vancouver WA. Having the students take pride in their school and having some ownership are some of the qualities I'm working on instilling.

Serving fu fu to the students. Fu fu is made by boiling yams and plantines, cutting them into chunks, pounding them into the dough like mass shown here. This is scooped out, put in a bowl and topped with a stew. The fu fu is eaten with hands, as it is sticky.

The children in the common dining room. This is where the children all wash their hands
before eatting each meal. Do you see any soap ?

Poster Painting

Students are painting a LARGE poster we hope to post above the handwashing station at the entrance to the dining area, reminding them to wash their hands with soap before eatting. Since there is no soap at the station now, I am proposing we use some money from World Vision to purchase soap to be used here. The plan is to have one soapy basin and one rinse basin. If we were to oput out the soap, it would surely be stolen.

Adding Some Length

I decided to add some length to my hair the "easy way" a few weeks ago. The process of adding extensions and having them braided in took about 5 hours. My head hurt for a few days from all the tugging and I found my hands full of hair when I finally took out the braids - at least it's a way to get your hair thinned. I think I'll keep it short for awhile ...

Friday, March 17, 2006

A number of PC volunteers spent time in Mole National Park in December of 2005 where we hired a guide to help us spot some elephants. We were especially surprised and excited to see a herd of elephants come to a water hole as we were having breakfast one morning. Surprised because we had gotten up very early and trekked around the area for a LONG time searching for the beasts, not finding any. Giving up the hope of seeing elephants, we returned to the restaurant for breakfast ... We lost most of our meals to the impish baboons as we watched and took photos of the elephants.

Students painting a mural on one of the school buildings at Sekondi School for the Deaf.

Students showing their coloring pages from a book teaching them about aids.

Some students at the Sekondi School for the Deaf.

another part of our house

In Mole National Park where we saw exciting wild life !

One of my classes.

Jaro, my dog - I love having a dog to come home to and pal around with !

part of our shared kitchen