I walked through my community as the sun was starting to set and the air felt cool from the storm that had just passed. I watched as chickens, followed by their chicks, and goats roamed through the streets, as water flowed through the rocks in the dirt road. Community members called my name as I walked from the neighborhood store to my room, and the waves and smiles that came from them made my smile spread wider and wider across my face. As I walked up to my little purple door with orange flower curtains to start cooking dinner, I realized that home is not a place, but a feeling that is felt so deep in your heart and soul that it is hard to ignore the impact that each of these homes can have on our lives.
When I moved to Dobro in September, I had some anxiety. I was not sure if the people there would like me; if they even wanted me there, which I quickly learned that this was not the case at all. The “Obroni’s” that I heard while walking through my community on the first week have now turned into “Sister Adwoa!” (Adwoa is my Ghanaian name, which means that I am a girl who was born on a Monday). The students who were unsure of having a white woman teach their class now come by in the evenings to braid my hair and teach me Twi and how to play Ghanaian games. The love I feel from the people in my community has grown from an unsure need for approval and acceptance to an unconditional one that is felt in every “good morning” or “wo ho te sen?” which means “how are you?” in the local language.
When we think of ‘home’ we usually think about a place where we live or inhabit, but it is so much more than that. Home isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling of true and unconditional acceptance that makes you feel like you are exactly where you are supposed to be, no matter how tough some days might feel. It is the feeling you get when you smile and laugh at the kids that run through the neighborhood and when they so effortless reciprocate. It is the feeling of pure joy when you get out of the taxi at your community and your student runs to jump and hug you around the neck. Moving to a new country can be scary; you are so far away from this place you have called home for so long, and one that is comfortable. You move to a new place where you know no one, where you begin to not even know yourself. However, the discovery of your soul in a place that has become such an integral part of it, is something that is beautiful and a feeling that no one can ever take away from you. All these homes in our lives take parts of our hearts and embed them in the land, the people, and the memories that we experience, and most days, we do not even realize that it is happening. My heart has been embedded into this little town and I know parts of it will stay here forever. The reassurance that I now feel in a place that some days still feels unfamiliar continues to grow and develop each day. I cherish so much the days where I can sit on my front steps and think to myself, this is home.
Carrie Stephens received a degree in Animal Science from North Carolina State University. Before becoming an AgriCorps Fellow Carrie interned with Elanco Animal Health and will continue employment with Elanco when she returns as part of the AgriCorps-Elanco co-recruitment partnership.