Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Drizzle, drizzle

The first thing I immediately noticed upon my return to Seattle is that I feel cold ALL THE TIME. I also quickly stuffed my face with many junk foods but also started working out like crazy (that's the American way, isn't it?).

Without too much loquaciousness, since I mainly wanted to put up a few pictures in this entry, July was the most incredible month of my life. I have gotten this question so many times - how was your trip? All I can say in a sentence is that it was amazing, awe-inspiring, life-changing. They told us before we went to Ghana that we would change while we were there. The whole time I kept thinking I felt like the exact same person, but in reflection, all the insane things that I've seen and the roller coaster of emotions that I have ridden, have really made me a better person. I'm inspired by my host family, who welcomes in students with no questions asked, and I'm inspired by the other students in my group, who helped me through all the challenges, and I'm inspired by the Ghanaian people, who are so incredibly friendly and genuinely caring. I've never met so many people named Kweku, so maybe that also helped with my name memorization skills.

Anyway, I really can't summarize it all, so I'll just mention these pictures, and hope that what I wrote made sense. I want to go back to Ghana this instant and pick up where I left off! A month is a short time when you think about how it affects the entire rest of your life.

There were many palm trees in Ghana, although this photo is of one of the more 'lush' areas that we drove through during our week of travel.

Team leaders Robb and Rebecca!!

The best picture I could really come up with to portray a "typical street" in Accra, although there is really no such thing as a typical street in Accra.

I would like to hire this place to make my next party a success.

My older (and very tall) host brothers! Desmond on the left, Kweku on the right

Older sister Pearl in the center, younger sister Afua on the right

Being attacked with love at Peace and Love Orphanage :)

Everywhere around the world, they love Jesse Miller!!! Including at Christ Faith Foster Home

THIS is that crazy guy I mentioned several entries ago, who wanted really badly to marry me! Notice my friend Angel attempting to rescue me, to no avail. Everyone thought I was crying behind my sunglasses, but I was actually laughing so hard!!!

My best friends in the AFS group (we called ourselves the Dream Team) - At the bottom is Kerry, the top is Erika, and the right is Gaby.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Me ko America

Hello everyone!
I think this is going to be my last blog before I get home, since I am leaving at 6a tomorrow morning. I'll take a minute to talk about the days of travel that we just had.
Monday we visited Cape Coast castle, which is one of the 2 slave castles in that area. We had a brief tour in the slave dungeons and also of the area where the governor lived. The people were really not treated well. Also, not all of the slaves came from Ghana. Some of them came from as far as Angola, and they walked the whole way. The dungeons didn't have hardly any light and they were never cleaned, so the floors were covered with vomit, urine, etc. However, there was a really nice view of the sea, it was right on the water. A fisherman tried to charge my friends and I 1 Ghana Cedi for snapping him on accident, which we thought was outrageous so we ran away. Then we went to the hotel and lounged for the rest of the day. The hotel had a pool and the rooms were quite nice. As usual, the AFS group got into some crazy antics, such as playing chicken, and spin the bottle, but I was actually asleep at like 9p that night - not cool enough to play games until 4a. My roommate Kerry heard someone running through the halls saying, "it was a dare! It was a dare!" Hmm...

Tuesday in the morning we visited Elmina castle, which is similar in some ways to Cape Coast castle, but it was owned by like the Dutch and the Portuguese before the Ghanaians, versus the CCC which was British. That morning it was VERY VERY rainy. Everyone was kind of running from place to place avoiding it, but Garrett and I felt right at home in the rain :). We then went to a restaurant for lunch, and afterwards we were to stop at the hotel to change clothes for the canopy walk, but somehow ended up going straight to the canopy walk. This is how I ended up hiking in the rainforest wearing a blouse and flip-flops, which complicated matters. However, it didn't really stop me from enjoying it. Kokum National Park has one of 4 canopy walks in the world. It was probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Just don't look down if you're afraid of heights. I also bought my first souvenir at the national park, so my total spending for this trip was finally above 15 dollars then.

Tuesday night we stayed at the same hotel again, then Wednesday was travel day. Kumasi is many hours away from Cape Coast. I can't remember exactly, but it was probably like 5. The kids in the back of the bus, which is kind of like the 'popular group' (no... I'm not in it =P) kept us entertained with more kissing games, which once again, I didn't really join in on, but watching is enough fun initself. We got to the hostel pretty late, had dinner, and had a very cool traditional song & dance presentation/lesson, but I will confess that I kept falling asleep for some reason. One of the dancers did tell me that I was great at the booty shaking. Yussss. So, bed early again.

Thursday was our shopping day, so I bought a few things, although still haven't spent more than $75. And this is maybe only because during travel week AFS treated us right and stopped at several supermarkets, where we all stocked up on American junk food. It just seems to taste way better here. Thursday night we stayed at the same hostel again. It wasn't too bad, although in comparison the hotel was a paradise. Kerry's and my room had a concrete floor and the bathroom was outside on the balcony... strange, but you have to appreciate that the climate allows you to brush your teeth outside and enjoy the view (of goats eating garbage, and a barbed wire fence, and a hair salon). Wow, Thursday night was like SO CRAZY. We were playing psychology games (like Mafia, Psychologist, and Snaps) in our room, and these two.. larger girls broke Kerry's bed. Then, we staged a secret mission to counterprank the guys, but I quit after a flying cockroach landed on me. Garrett and this other guy ended up putting snails in group leader Becca's bed (ew) and so group leader Robb pranked them and told them they were being sent home to the US the next day. Garrett actually cried, so funny. Naturally on Friday morning we were all really really tired as most people didn't go to sleep before 4, so we made it just fine through the nice relaxing 6 hour bus ride. It was a really fun week with the AFS group.

OK, Saturday I hung out at home with my family, playing cards and hangman and things like that. In the evening I went for a walk with my brother. Yesterday I went to church for the 2nd time, this time it was a Methodist church, and the whole service was in Twi. I was there for over 3 hours. Despite not understanding Twi that well, I really enjoyed the enthusiasm, singing and dancing. I think they did a confirmation too. I just remember standing up and sitting down a lot. Then in the afternoon we had the AFS celebration thing at the AFS office (one of my brothers and one of my sisters came along). I got my certificate and everything. Nobody was really dancing, so after photo ops, we left and went to the trade fair with like 3 other AFS friends/their siblings. That was pretty fun, then I came home and crashed. It was a long day. So, I'm not sure what I'll do today. I skipped the end-of-stay orientation (shh) so we'll find something to do. Then I get up at like 5 tomorrow morning and well... that's it. I think when I get home to Seattle I will put up some pictures and reflect on everything. Right now I'm feeling really crazy. The month went by so quickly.
Later, Shannon

Monday, July 21, 2008

Head out on the highway... searchin' for adventure

Since it is doubtful that I'll be able to update my blog until next weekend, I thought I'd let you guys know what I'm up to for the next few days. This morning we are getting on the big air-conditioned AFS bus and driving to Cape Coast (west from here, but still on the coast, obviously), which is about 2-3 hours away. There we will check out two castles there, and learn some history about the slave trade that occurred here. So we'll be in Cape Coast for two nights. Then we are going to Kumasi, which is kind of northeast of Cape Coast. Kumasi is like The Place for shopping around here, apparently. We will also be going to a museum - I seriously can't remember what's in the museum, but I know I have to wear fancy clothes to go in. At some point in this trip there is a canopy walk, which I am REALLY excited for. It's going to be like B-A to the max.

So, unless I find an internet cafe in Kumasi that doesn't look life-threatening, adios until next weekend, which is also my last weekend in Ghana :(. And let me leave you rock music fans with a fun little note: Whenever there is road construction, you are notified by a sign that says 'Men at Work'. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Me ko da

This week was pretty low-key for me. We volunteered Monday-Friday at Christ Faith Foster Home which is also in the northern part of Accra, not more than a couple of miles from Peace and Love. Similarly, Christ Faith is not government-sponsored, so I was really wondering how kids end up there. I asked the director of the home and she told me that they go out looking for kids on the streets, who then have to be checked by government social workers - to confirm that they are needy and that Christ Faith is a good place for them. However, the facility is also a public school, so once again, we met a lot of kids there who do have parents and homes. We kinda get to figure out who the foster kids are, on the days that the bus is late to pick us up and the students have already gone home.

Speaking of the bus picking us up late, we have had an influx of AFS students with various maladies who are taken to the hospital every day. I like to call this "hop aboard the hospital train!", and also lay claim as the initiator of the Hospital Train movement. We kind of had this ongoing joke, where whenever anyone complained of being hungry or thirsty, or having a bruise, etc., we'd make the 'choo choo!'train noise and be like, "hop aboard!". Kerry got this red paint all over her legs and we went around telling people she had a terrible rash and needed to ride the hospital train. I hope that this is as funny to you guys at home as it was to us... it seems like at least 10 people in our group have gone to the hospital by now. And they take the hospital students on the same bus that is supposed to take us all home and bring our lunch, so if anyone goes, we don't get lunch until like 3 pm and then leave way later than we're supposed to.

I spent a little bit of time in a classroom teaching kids with a couple of other AFS students, but the handful of teachers at the school didn't really approve of our teaching. I think the kids were roughly second grade level, and so we did some math problems such as 1+2+3=? and then decided to do some like 4x1=?, 4x2=?, etc. One of the Christ Faith supervisors came in and started flipping sh*t and erased all of our multiplication signs, changing them into addition signs. Ooops.. anyway, I really like some of the things they do, such as clapping twice whenever a student gets a correct answer. The teacher also was handing out random food to kids for volunteering answers. Just not the kind of thing I'm used to seeing.

Later in the week I did a lot of repainting of things such as the main pavillion, the boys' showers, and some bathrooms. Thursday I was very popular helping the kids read, but it also made me pretty bummed out, because a lot of them couldn't read at all. I noticed that they were just memorizing the sentences, so if they went in order, they could read it, but if I pointed at a random word, they couldn't do anything with it. I tried to spell out words and stuff to help them associate individual letters with their sounds, but I know this is not a skill you can learn in 1 day. This goes back to what I was saying before. I think there are so many of these kids who are really bright and have a lot of potential, and the facilities were pretty good at Christ Faith, but they really need parents or someone who truly cares about them. With so many kids and so few people supervising them, I feel like they could slip through the cracks all the way to secondary school. I know that I made them happy by playing with them, helping them with their work, and improving the look of some things around Christ Faith, but I feel like the permanent difference would be to find them all loving homes. I am sure this applies to orphans/foster kids all over the world, not just in Accra, Ghana. Maybe someday I'll adopt, or find some other way to change the life of even just one of these children. I don't think all hope is lost.

Wednesday I got home at 5 pm, which is very very odd, so we had time to go to the seamstress with the fabric I bought last weekend. My measurements were taken and I actually already got my clothes back yesterday, although I haven't tried them on yet. Auntie Nancy got me some really gorgeous kente cloth and we'll have another skirt made. Speaking of Auntie Nancy, she left for the UK last night. We all kind of gathered around the car and waved goodbye. It's weird because everyone else here will definitely see her again in 6 weeks, but I might never see her again, although I'm sure we'll talk on the phone. After we saw her off, I went out with my host brother, an AFS friend Alex and her two host brothers, to Chinese food at Osu which is like the big food area of Accra, near the water. The Chinese food here is, maybe surprisingly, much better than what I have had in Seattle. It tasted similar, but a lot... healthier. I might add, though, that it was my second dinner, so Desmond and I decided to go jogging today, but then this morning decided not to because I slept in way too late. We dropped Afua and Papayo off at their school graduation and I finally changed some US dollars over, hopefully for the last time, but I have not bought many of your souvenirs yet, so maybe not. Later I am headed to the Accra mall - Shoprite! Tomorrow is still in question. I hope that everyone had a fabulous week. See you all soon!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What a week!

I really want to refrain from writing an encyclopedia about my trip to Ghana, but every day there are more stories. So let's see where I last left off. Tuesday was my sister Pearl's birthday. Remind me to come to Ghana the next time I have a birthday. I brought her a banana muffin that a friend's mom baked, as it was kind of a last-minute thing. We sang this extensive version of the happy birthday song and all shook hands, and we also sat down and ate dinner together, which doesn't happen incredibly often (especially for me because I get home so late every day). Then, a neighbor David came over in his traditional garb and helped drag Pearl outside to pour water on her. Apparently you don't have to use water, so I suggested Fanta, but we used water. This wasn't just a cup or anything - it was like 3 whole buckets. I got some epic pictures to account for this.

For some more background on Peace and Love Academy, it is both an orphanage and a boarding school, and they all wear uniforms. So some kids' parents pay for them to attend, which means there is a disparity between the two types of children there, but we can't really tell them apart from one another, which I think creates a little awkwardness. Peace and Love is sponsored by an actress from around here named Grace. So, as far as orphanages in Ghana go, I would say that they have it pretty good. We patched up some things that needed patching and did lots of cleaning/playing. That's really the one thing the kids don't have much of: attention. They really appreciate any good ole' fashioned TLC.

Late Tuesday nite/ Wednesday morning I started to feel really sick and on Wednesday at the orphanage I had the dubious distinction of being the first AFS student to get ill from the change in diet/conditions. I pretty much laid on a bench and was tackled by children for a while. The AFS bus was going to come take me home but instead they decided to take me to the hospital against my will. This made me feel a lot sicker than I actually was, but anyway, I went. I could describe the hospital in great detail here, but that would take forever. It was the first time on this trip that I got really scared though. I got some antacids and some rehydration formula and got back on the AFS bus as a hero. PS, I am feeling 100% better now. My host mom is taking really good care of me, I have fruit juice with every meal and plenty of water.

So Thursday I stayed home from the orphanage and slept all day. Friday was our last day at Peace and Love. We gave some gifts to the orphans and we had epic soccer matches of AFS students vs. Peace and Love kids. Our girls' team won (I totally had the assist, thank you) and our guys' team tied. That was really fun to do. Some of the kids were pretty talented, although I was expecting that we would get totally owned, so we lucked out I guess. It turns out that Ghanaians are not immune to my sweet moves.

Friday also yielded the most epic marriage proposal that I have gotten so far. One of the musicians at Peace and Love helping to teach us traditional dances, told me that he wanted to be my friend, so I was like, OK, I like friends. I went to write down my email address for him and he followed me into this classroom with like 1 other person in it. So, I gave it to him and was ready to split (our dance performance was coming up), when he started weirdly hugging me and putting his arm around me, and said, "We can travel the world together and play music... I would like to promise you with a ring before you go back to America." Well, I was something like, "That's really nice of you, but I don't think so." Then he got into this whole spiel of like "Why don't you love me?! Is it because I'm black and you're white?" At some point I finally extracted myself from his grasp and tried to leave, but he was like, "take a picture so you can remember me". Well, I definitely want to remember this story, so I agreed to take a picture. It was pretty weird, he didn't even smile.. but OK. So I ran back to my friends to tell them what happened and be traumatized. But this was not the end.

While I was waiting for the bus with my friend Kerry, the dude came back. I had my sunglasses on and tried to stay incognito. He began talking to her about how I was so beautiful that I could be the queen of the United States. Then he started talking to me again and telling me the same thing, to which I was like, "Well... that's kind of superficial." Then Kerry pointed out to him that I'm taken, which he totally didn't believe. So, our friend Angel, as we had agreed before, pretended to be my boyfriend. Crazily, this did not even deter the guy. He also told me that he was 19, despite looking like he's probably at least 25 or 26. While I was standing with Angel and Kerry, he hid behind the corner of the building and looked at me creepily for like half an hour. I don't remember what finally made him go away, but maybe it was that I doubled over with laughter right in front of him. It was hilarious, but also really creepy and I am glad to be going to a new orphanage and not seeing him again. I seriously hope he doesn't email me.

Yesterday we went out to eat and I bought some fabric to have some clothes made by a seamstress. I tried Ghanaian pizza for the first time, it was actually quite good, and they have the best fruit juice here. This morning I finally went to church. We were there for maybe like 2.5 hours. It involves a lot of singing and praying which is not like what I have experienced at church back home. There was a bit of dancing, but not a ton. Luckily, it was in English for 95% of the service, so I was able to understand everything. Also, it was my first time ever taking a taxi to church, so that is exciting.

Well, I'm embarking now on my second week of service work. My host mom is leaving for London to visit her sister sometime this week. After that, we have our 5 days of travel in other parts of Ghana, and then one more weekend with the host fam before I have to go home. I can't believe how quickly time is passing. It is hard for me to get to the blog during the week since I get home at like 7 every day and go to bed around 8:30 or 9, but my host sister Afua has said that she might write something for me. We'll see :). I hope you all had a nice week, maybe with less marriage proposals than mine. See you soon!

Afua and I got a new high score on Free Water :)


Monday, July 7, 2008

Another blog so soon?

I would like to take a moment to talk about Ghanaian food. From what I can tell, your average meal consists of a starchy portion (usually rice, or this dough ball that I haven't really figured out yet) and a meat portion with sauce. Sometimes also a little salad. You kinda mix the starch and meat together, but not completely. It is usually beef or chicken, once in a while fish. Everything is really spicy which is a thumbs up in this kind of weather. Another dish I have had is beans and fried plantains, which are probably the worst thing ever for you, but are soooooo good. Finally, last night I had my first experience with 'fufu'. This is the dish that everyone is talking about. It consists of a spicy peanut soup with some more of the doughy substance within, and some meat. And I would just like to say, for all of you haters (this means you - aunts, uncles, grandma, and mom & dad) who have told me not to play with my food, fufu is eaten without utensils. I was definitely really confused but I got a little fufu lesson from my host ma, then while I was eating I noticed one of my little host bro's was fiddling with his camera. What was going on?? Well, it turns out this was a host family sneak attack maneuver to take a picture of me trying to eat fufu. Trust me, it's not easy. I don't really mind messing up because the Ghanaians have a really good sense of humor about this kind of thing, and they just laughed at me heartily, and we had a good time. Plus fufu is really good so it's like a win-win situation.

I didn't do much this weekend except a couple little stories that I will tell someday, so let's fast forward to today - our first day at the orphanage. We picked up everyone on the good ole' AFS bus and headed over to Peace and Love Orphanage which is in Accra. My task for the day was painting this small classroom. We sanded it down and cleaned it and painted it all blue. I hope they weren't expecting too much quality because none of us had really painted before and it was kinda sloppy. I mean, I tried really hard though. Also, I am not too much help with painting because I'm so short, so I was maybe more of a cheerleader. I still got paint all over my clothes though, so I have the battle scar I guess. While we were painting some of the kids wandered in to say hello and...

I just can't even take it! These are pretty much the best kids I've ever met in my life. They are all so incredibly friendly. They don't act like their lives are destitute or anything like that. This one kid was very businesslike, he came in and shook my head, and said, 'I'm Francis, what is your name?'so I told him and then he just whipped out this notepad and pen where he keeps a list of email addresses. We talked for awhile (I think I was supposed to be painting?) and I ended up promising to get him a soccer ball. In the whole orphanage they don't even seem to have a soccer ball.

After we lunched we kind of hung out in the courtyard and this random girl came up to me and said, 'Will you come teach us?' What? Teach what? Well, she led me into a classroom filled with children and no teacher, and told me to teach them absolutely anything. So I launched into the whole Head-Shoulders-Knees-Toes and Simon-Says icebreakers and then we just talked a bit. After I went back out, I was feeling the love from the kids in the courtyard. I practically threw out my back giving piggyback rides. At one point I finally had to put this girl down because I was so tired and she just didn't want to let go so I picked her up and held her, but while I was picking her up, another boy jumped on my back, so it was really crazy. But they were so sweet. The girl wouldn't let go of my hand for anything.

Things like this happen and it really gets me thinking. I can't believe that there are all these kids whose lives are so lacking that they have to trust random American students with no real qualifications to come be their teachers for a week. Some of my friends were actually teaching math and reading class. Maybe we take our education for granted. Their clothes were all dirty and they were sometimes missing socks or shoes. But I have never met children with so much love. I can't believe I only get 9 more days of spending time with them.

Anyway, I didn't want to write too much and bore everyone, but I thought it would be cool to share about the orphanage. I will try to get some pics up by next weekend when I have more time on the net. Hope you all are doing well. It's a shame about Federer losing Wimbledon; I was on his side!
Peacing out, Shannon

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Hello everyone! This might end up being a really long post, because it is my first opportunity to update the blog since I arrived in Accra.

Everyone in my AFS group is really cool, and I have already made good friends. We stayed in a hostel the first couple of nights so we could go through some more orientation before meeting our host families, and we pretty much terrorized the place. Staying up until 4 am playing truth or dare and breaking into each other's rooms and braiding hair. It is nice to have some other Americans as a distraction from being homesick.

So I have been here something like 4 days and I am already practically a TV star from Ghana. On the first evening we all went to the induction ceremony of the new president of AFS Ghana and a reporter interviewed Garrett and me for television (both of us are from the Seattle area so that was pretty cool). It was pretty embarrassing because I was all sweaty, tired, nasty and couldn't hear the reporter since it was so loud, but I made it thru. It's cool how I have never once been on TV in the States and within like 12 hours I was on TV in Ghana. Speaking of arriving in Ghana... this is probably the most welcoming place in the entire world. The first thing we see getting off the plane is this huge sign in Ghanaian colours that says "Akwaaba!" which means welcome, and is the only word of Twi that I remember. That is kind of unfortunate because my host family basically speaks Twi all of the time, but I don't really have a problem with just trying to guess what they're talking about (hopefully not about me =P).

Back to the ceremony/event type of thing, after being there for an hour I found myself in a conga line with a bunch of Ghanaian homies. We moved and grooved to some local tunes, which I have to say are really legit. Then we broke out the American-style dancing and pretty much took the place over. Another interesting thing that happened was I went to the drink table (they always have people whose specific role are to give you food and drink) and recognized nothing, so I asked the dude for a recommendation. He definitely gave me a beer, which I carried around awkwardly for awhile until I found somewhere to set it. Ha ha.

Second day they took us into the city where we toured the University of Ghana (this probably rivals the most gorgeous American campuses in its beauty; everything is so beautiful here). Then we had a lesson in taking the tro tro. Tro tros are kind of like buses, except they are actually huge minivans that seat like 6 rows of people. They are really really crowed, but cheap, and kind of fun in my opinion. I end up talking to people who are interested just because I'm white. They call white people "Obruni!" and I get yelled that whenever I walk anywhere. Obruni, obruni, this shirt is your size! Hey, it's nice getting so much attention.

Thursday we kind of chilled out until we were taken to our host families. I am pretty sure I haven't even met everyone here yet. This is such a huge and wonderful extended family. They are really treating me like a guest of the highest order, although today they allowed me to help sort some pastries. PS I have never had food this good in my entire life. My family likes to cook with ginger (SCORE!!!) and not much garlic (DOUBLE SCORE). My host mother Nancy asked me on the first night what I would take for breakfast. I was like... I'll have whatever you all normally have. But she would not take this for an answer. So I reluctantly admitted that I like to have a coffee as breakfast. In the morning after my bucket shower, I went to the dining area where a platter with like half a loaf of bread, a plate of eggs, an entire hot water pitcher, can of instant coffee, and jar of condensed milk (they use this instead of cream) awaited me. Seriously, I think that was a little excessive.

Yesterday we all met up at the AFS office again and swapped host family stories - one girl has 5 host brothers in her 30's and no host parents and felt really uncomfortable - and went to the Kwame Nkrumah national monument and the National Museum of Ghana, both were really cool. While we were waiting around for everyone I bought a mango from a street vendor, specifically she was carrying them on her head, which is probably the coolest thing ever. The mango cost 40 cents (!!!) and she cut of the skin and cut it into pieces. I held the little bag for her and I even got a toothpick. It was a pretty sweet setup, and also a pretty sweet mango, probably the best I have ever had.

At the Kwame Nkrumah monument I was just chilling outside the bathrooms with my friend Kerry (we both say 'hella' like every other word, so we were instant friends) and a Ghanaian man came up to us and was like, hello good morning how are you! I need to take your picture! We looked at each other and shrugged and were like... okay. So his friend took a pic of him posing with us and then another one once he like changed his shirt. I wonder if it was for some kind of scavenger hunt or something. We wanted to get a picture on Kerry's camera too but the bus almost left without us.

Speaking of weather... which I wasn't talking about at all, it is not as hot here as I expected, but it is pretty freaking humid, as in, I feel like I am wiping my face off ever 10 seconds. Especially on the tro tro when you are crammed next to everyone, you get up and the sides of your clothes feel damp. One of my host brothers told me that it's like somewhat cold here right now. ?!?! Seriously, I have already wiped my face 3 times since the beginning of this paragraph.

Tomorrow I will probably go to church, and Monday is our first day at the orphanage, I am sure this will all yield some good stories to tell, so I will shoot for updating the blog again after that. I don't think there is any way I could have covered everything, so feel free to post with your questions/comments and I will try to answer all of them next time. Also tell me how things are back in the states! I am very curious. I see that we have an all-Williams Wimbledon final coming up... so go Venus! And happy Independence Day of course (my host brother today: *looks at calendar* 'Happy belated independence day!'). I miss you all tons and talk to you soon!