"Obruni, Marry Me!"

Today started out as normal as they ever do in Ghana, with a marriage proposal. For breakfast I decided to walk down the street to my favorite place, Paparazzi. I don’t know if it’s named after the Lady Gaga song or not but either way, I love their food! I always get the same thing, chicken with plain rice and small small sauce. That’s right, I said small twice. The sauce is so spicy that I have to make sure they know I only want a little bit. So I walked up the window and said my usual, “chicken with plain rice and small small sauce” to which the lady answered “Obruni*, marry me!” I was somewhat dumbfounded, but seeing as this wasn’t my first offer (I mean I did attend BYU after all) I replied “No thanks, just the rice please.” That’s when I knew this would be a great day!

*To explain, Obruni is like the non-derogatory, Ghanaian cousin of Cracker.

And things just got better from there. Isaac and I were supposed to meet the BYU MPA students at Big Ada, where a boat would take us to visit Pediatorkorpe Island. We left with plenty of time but didn’t factor in the new police presence along the way, which we were quick to find out thought our Tata Sumo SUV looked suspicious. (In case you were wondering, the Tata Sumo is its real name and is in fact made by the world’s largest automobile manufacturer, Tata Motors. It’s also ok if you’ve never heard of them because they are not sold in the US, the safety requirements are too expensive, which makes me feel safe every time I hop in one.) The first police stop took nearly 30 minutes and convinced me that I don’t want to ever see the inside of a Ghanaian police station on a Saturday, It has to be the busiest place on earth considering how many cars were pulled over right along side ours. The system in Ghana is somewhat different in that you don’t get a ticket; you get taken to the police station right then and have to wait in line to pay your fine. We finally got released without a fine, thanks for Isaac’s smooth talking, and were on our way. We were making good time until the second police checkpoint came and we were told to pull over again and Isaac was sent to the guard station. This time, however, he came back after a few moments smiling and we were off. Wondering what had happened, I asked why they let him go. He responded “the officer remembered us, we brought him frozen yogurt once so he let us go.” I guess that’s a lesson, always buy the checkpoint officers treats when it is hot.

More than just getting out of jail free and an early morning marriage proposal, today was good because the trip to Pediatorkorpe reminded me of why Empower Playgrounds exists, to give opportunities to children. This island has had an electricity-generating swing and merry-go-round for some time and has really grasped onto the concept and values learning. It is good to see how the play-powered lanterns have given the children more access to education and how grateful the parents are for the opportunity their children now have to go onto high school and college, to one day help the entire community. I met several students who were preparing to take their exams that will allow them to go to high school and they were excited to move forward with their lives and educations. I thought of these kids paddling their canoes across the river to another island where they would go to school and I remembered my own high school experience where I would often whine about having to drive the 15 miles to school. It seemed so long in those days, now it just seems as though I never valued my education as these children do because I have always had it. I have never had to work for my next class or struggle to be admitted so it has been seen as a burden rather than a blessing. Here, where nothing is free, everything is seen as a gift and treated as such. And how refreshing that point of view is!

To learn more about Empower Playgrounds visit www.EmpowerPlaygrounds.org