The Minimalist Life

Filling a garbage can up with water may seem like a strange thing to do, but when you do not have running water it is the best way to minimize your trips to fetch water. The can lid acts as a wonderful barrier from mosquitos who love to lay their eggs on the surface of water. Plus, I’ve learned to carry a 5 gallon bucket filled with water on my head, a valuable skill.

Most of us, myself included, live in great excess. A shower uses about 7 gallons per minute which adds up to a staggering 70 gallons for just a 10 minute shower. We also waste food in abundance. The average American throws away nearly half of their food.

For a little over a year now I have been living a meaningful life with less stuff. Of course I did have a few months of over indulgence when I first returned to the states from Ghana, but now that I am back in Africa, my minimalist life has returned.

Things I have learned to live without:

Running water- My kind neighbors have offered me their shower and toilet which is connected to running water but on a daily basis I fetch the bulk of the water I use (or someone fetches it for me.) The majority of people that I live with take bucket showers and use less than half of a 5 gallon bucket to bathe. I actually find it quite nice bathing from a bucket especially on cooler nights where the idea of showering in ice cold water is my nightmare. I boil a few gallons of water on my stove, let it cool a bit and take a lovely warm bath. It is a luxury!

Unlimited electricity- Here in Ghana we experience frequent black outs which on an extremely hot night can be an absolute horror (my fan is my best friend) but otherwise I have learned to not only cope, but enjoy the silence and wonder that it brings. I’ve become a custom to always making sure my headlamp, computer and phone are charged because on average we lose power a few hours every other day. I have a stock pile of candles to light in the evening and there is nothing more soothing than the glow of candle light. If the night is uncomfortably hot, I put on my long pants and cover myself in mosquito repellent, throw a blanket on the dirt path in front of my home and bask in the glory of a powerless African star filled sky.

Texting-
I am going to make a vow (and try and keep it) to not text very much when I get back to the U.S. You gain so much when you pick up the phone to make a call, rather than text. It is easy to misinterpret the voice someone is trying to convey via text. This causes major miscommunication. I strongly believe that communication is one of the main keys in life and a great gift.

Dairy- Okay, this is a real weakness for me and I actually can not say that I am happily living without cheese but non the less, I am living without it. I miss it though. I can not wait to indulge in a sharp cheddar and red bean triscuits. We all have our weaknesses. I choose to embrace mine.

Washer, dryer and dishwasher- Yes, I do all of these by hand and while I may not enjoy scrubbing my own clothing, there is something that I love about drying my clothes in the sun. It just makes sense to use our natural resources. I feel like it is the suns way of saying, “thank you for choosing to use my light.”

To all of those things that I thought I needed- I miss you, but I’ve learned to live without you and I am stronger for that. What could you do today to live a more minimalist lifestyle?

So maybe I am… a vow to understand myself

Someone once told me I was crazy. But you know what, someone once told me a lot of things.

So then I decided, if I was going to be crazy, I might as well do something worth talking about. Do something with meaning and give people a reason to think.

So I packed my bags, my life. The past was just that and my future, hot, passionate and painful. It was full of all I desired.

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If I was a flower I’d be passionate, wild and free.

I set out to make a meaning of this life; to live a life of service to others which meant it was for me too.

And I never really returned. I never truly came back because, maybe I am a little bit crazy.

But the crazy ones are the ones who give themselves time to feel free. Who take it all off and scream loud from every part of their body because, there just has to be more…

I was born to help others. To open my heart and let everyone in until I have used up everything.that I forgot who I was; that I was important.

I was born to be free and to teach others that they could know what its like to feel free, even for a moment until until I’d be back again. Its a struggle that spirals from wonderment to wonder.

I believe in those who are crazy; whose emotions are wild and free.

How do we get every child in school?

The air is sticky and noisy, filled with laughter as I walk out of my room into the hall of my house, stepping over children who are playing with a pile of dust and a stick. They seem distracted and distant in their imaginations. But I realized, the sun was already very high in the sky, the air was already hot and I was sticky with sweat. It was past school opening time yet these kids were at home.

I had my friend ask them why they did not go to school today and there responses are what I had expected. One responded, “I use to go but my mom can not pay the fees so she is sending me to government school.” I noticed that this group of kids has always either been sick, needed to work at home or their mother, “didn’t have money to buy food,” so they did not go to school.

My point is not to make you sad or break your heart. These children are incredibly strong individuals. They are resilient and can see the light in the darkest of their times. My point is not to show these children as victims but show that there is hope but we just need to find the way.

I passed a boy yesterday who was probably about 10 years old and he was so excited as he told me, “Madam, I am learning the English.” He was proud of his education.

Daily I pass by glowing students walking hand in hand to their classrooms, smiling, learning and growing. These children are going to be successful and have their own children who will also get an education because they were given the chance. They know the importance and how their life changed through education. Every child has the right to an education and deserve the chance to go, learn and shine like the other colorful students I pass on my walk to work.

The three children that are in my house that have not gone to school should also be granted that right. But how do we get to the root of this cause? If education is a main key to solve poverty how can we get those children to school? I am asking because I am unsure. I have worked with organizations who have sponsorship programs, community education and engagement programs and micro-financing opportunities. They have all done well but there are still a few that are left behind.

I believe in the power of educating communities and showing the accomplishments of other students who has been educated and fought their way out of poverty. What do you believe could work?

I love you, myself

Yesterday was a wonderful day. Such a wonderful day that it has me back to my blog after a brief hiatus. The words that made this day so wonderful were simple and true. I do not tell them to myself enough and I bet you do not either.

While in savasana my yoga teacher offered us a mantra; a beautiful few words we should tell ourselves everyday. “I love you, I forgive you.”

I challenge you to tell yourself this everyday. Agree to let go of what you can not control and forgive yourself for your mistakes. You are beautiful, I love you. Namaste.