Friday, 11 July 2014

Akwaaba

Hello blog followers and Akwaaba, or welcome to Ghana. I am currently interning in Accra, Ghana (the capital city) as a member of the National Institute of Health funded Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program or NIH-MHIRT for short. Every year my home university, Howard University, selects a few students to travel to different regions in Africa and collaborate with researchers from local institutions on biomedical projects geared towards eradicating tropical diseases that cause health disparities. A few of my colleagues are in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and right here in Ghana with me this summer.




I am ecstatic to be here, and extremely blessed to be able to learn and experience all that I have/will in this beautiful country. As of today I have been in Accra a week and a half. This time has been the most mind-blowing, life-altering, eye-opening week of my life; and I have had a pretty eventful life. 

From the moment I touched down I was intrigued! The Ghanians looked so exotic and beautiful to me, and they most of them were extremely nice and welcoming. 

My longtime friend Talha came to meet me at the airport and we headed to our place of residence. He is a brilliant mathematician and scientist who is also a part of the program and I am so glad to have him here.... It's nice to know someone from home in a new place. 

We spent the evening at a Ghanian wedding that was hosted on the beautiful grounds of the estate we are staying on. The people invited us in, fed us, and even took our pictures for the bride and groom. The experience was awesome, and it felt nice to be invited!! 

He spent most of last week showing me around, teaching me things he had already learned about the culture, area, people, food, etc. I spent all last week getting my bearings and soaking in this amazing experience. My favorite things to eat and drink here are the mangoes and the coconuts respectively. The mangoes here are really sweet, perfectly ripe, and huge! I eat them almost everyday. As for the coconuts, it just isn't a great day without one. They taste amazing, and they are also very medicinal so they make me feel rejuvenated. The coconut vendors here have a very unique way of opening the coconuts. They take a machete and scale it down, and then slice the top open in the gentlest of ways. Then they hand it to you ready to drink. The way they do it is so beautiful and skilled that I consider it an art. 

The local dishes taste very good too. I really enjoy the jollof rice and fried plantains.

Also, one of my best friends from Howard, Ayana, is taking classes at the University of Ghana. Ayana and I have known each other since the first day I arrived at Howard. She was my suite-mate in the Annex, and in no time became one of my favorite people. You can imagine the joy I felt seeing her this week. The people in the mall probably thought we were crazy because we screamed so loud and hugged each other forever! Talha and I met up with her and a few of her friends from the university for dinner. It was such a great evening! We sat back and caught up and told stories and laughed all night. I enjoyed hearing all of their tales about there time here in Accra. It truly made my week!

Today I visited the Kwame Nkrumah memorial park. Kwame Nkrumah was the first president and prime minister of Ghana (formally know as the Gold Coast). He fought for the country to gain its independence from Britain, and unified the northern and southern regions of the countries. He also advocated for pan-Africanism and founded the Organization of African Unity. He is the most celebrated figure in Ghana!

I know you are all probably thinking this girl is there for work and she hasn't said a thing about it. No worries, I have been hard at work all this week too; well, with the exception of July 1st because that is Ghana's National Republic Day, and national holidays equate to free days :). Nonetheless, I have been trying my hand in a number of different areas. 

I am doing clinical and laboratory rotations at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, researching malaria, and studying for the MCAT and GRE exams in the fall. 

So far I have done rotations in the polyclinic and the hematology department. The polyclinic is the segue to the main hospital. Patients come there to get blood, urine, and fecal analysis done. Based on the appearance and content of the samples, we can usually identify the pathology that is plaguing the patients. From there, the patient is prescribed a prescription to combat the ailment. If the symptoms, the patients samples are taken for further analysis and a specialist is recommended.

In the polyclinic I typically conduct urine analysis and cd4 counts in order to detect abnormalities in urine and blood content respectively. In the hematology department, I do blood separations, and smears in order to prepare the blood samples for further analysis. I predominately work with blood samples from patients with malaria because the mechanisms of that parasitic disease are my current research interest. Malaria, is one of the most prevalent diseases in sub-Saharan African, and the number of deaths annually are devastating.

All in all, I am truly enjoying my time here. It is drastically different than anywhere I have been; but it is oddly familiar as well. I will keep you all updated on my travels.

With love always,

Angel <3




Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Glory to Glory

Hallo/Bonjour/Hey there blog followers,

How are things? I hope life is treating each and every one of you like the superstars you are! I am currently in transition, or as my mommy would say, moving from "glory to glory". I just finished Trinity (summer term) at Oxford and I am on my way to my next expenditure, Ghana!

These past two weeks have been absolutely phenomenal! My mother joined my sister and I in Oxford, and we have had an amazing time traveling through bits of Europe together. I planned a small vacation for us three a while ago. I wanted to show them to meet a few of my new favorite people in life and see some of my new favorite places in the world.









After our mother landed, we packed up and headed to Holland, Belgium, and France before returning to spend a few more days in the UK. It was a riveting experience! We soaked up the jovial ambiance of the Dutch; we indulged in the sweetest Parisian deserts; we awed at fantastic architecture; we had a photo shoot on the eiffel tower; and we watched world cup games from the capitals of the winning countries.



The experience was surreal! I reminisce on my life and the hardships my family has endured and I give praise to my Heavenly Father for bringing us to this point. We are blessed in abundance! I feel so alive! This study abroad experience has been beautiful. Even the uncomfortable and frustrating moments have yielded essential life lessons.

One of my favorite moments from the last couple of weeks is: cheering on the Netherlands in a World Cup soccer match in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. The people were ecstatic! With every goal a wave of pride flowed through each of their hearts, and a smile swept across their faces. I was humbled to be able to share such a unifying and proud moment with them.

I also enjoyed the aerial view from the Eiffel tower. It was captivating and frightening all at once. I relished the fresh smell of lavender on a campus road in Oxford after a good rain. The taste of fresh tomatoes in my pasta sauce in Belgium catered to my tastebuds. Just being here with my family was great!




The opportunities I have been afforded have equipped me with skills, and insight I need to excel at what ever I choose; go anywhere in the world I please; and communicate comfortably and confidently with people all over the globe.


i will miss all of the amazing people I met at Oxford. Y'all truly helped make my experience. Best wishes to you all in your life pursuits. I know every single one of you will exceed expectations.





Well, that's all for now. I may continue this blog to include my travels in Ghana and beyond; what do you think?

In the meantime, have a lovely life and stay positive!

Angel <3

Monday, 9 June 2014

Best friends :)

Hello bloggers! I hope life is treating you all kind. Before I jump into my blog I want to acknowledge the beautiful soul, the transcending mind, and the phenomenal woman that was Maya Angelou. The death of this woman whom I perceive to be everyone's honorary grandmother brought tears to my eyes half way around the world. She did and said so many awe-inspiring things that have helped improve my perception of my myself and others; she taught me how to handle situations with grace and love; she taught me what it means to be phenomenal! In light of her influence on the world, I want to share one of my favorite sayings with you. "Open your eyes to the world around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself."  




Since Aidan left I have been very busy with school work. Long hours in the library, tutorials, revising and revising and revising work, applications for medical school and MD/PhD programs, and much more. However, the process has actually been quite enjoyable. My friend Marie from St. Hughes (another college at Oxford), and I spent all last week studying together. I am so appreciative of her presence and assistance in my academic pursuits. Some days I am not sure I even would have gotten out of bed and made my way to the library if she hadn't texted me. The work can be so tedious and frustrating at times; however, she helped me focus on the positive and keep pushing forward. She is truly my newest best friend (that's right I have a few), and I can't wait to come back to see her graduate in a couple of years! 

She also invited me to formal hall in her college, St. Hughes. The college was built in 1886 so it is centuries newer than most of the other colleges, but no less stunning. The modern architecture is captivating, and the flower gardens planted all around the campus are so lovely. I enjoyed just walking through the grounds and snapping pictures. Moreover, formal hall is a traditional meal held at some of the oldest universities in the UK (including Oxford and Cambridge), in which students dress in formal attire and dine. It was a really nice experience, and I enjoyed meeting so many new people. Interestingly enough, a lot of the students sitting at our table also study biochemistry so I formally met some of my classmates for the first time. On top of all of that, the food was absolutely delectable. :)




Then, on June forth my sister landed in London! My younger sister Alyse has been my very best friend for the past twenty years, so you can imagine how it felt to see her. I am beyond elated that she is here! A few months back, she saved up and bought her own ticket to come see her big sister in the UK. In order to appreciate the magnificence of this gesture you first need to understand a couple of details. First, my younger sister Alyse is a full-time pre-law student at University of Central Florida. Second, international flights are expensive. Now you may begin to understand how much it means to me for her to sacrifice time and finances to come visit me all the way in Oxford, UK. 

All week we have been enjoying the England together. I got to show her a few of my favorite places on campus. We explored my college (St. Edmund or Teddy hall), Magdalen college, the Rhodes house and garden and the city centre area. 



Also, on Friday we went punting on the River Cherwell with a couple of my friends from Teddy Hall, Anisha and Victoria. It was an exciting and terrifying experience all at once. We did not anticipate how difficult it would be to steer and propel the boat in the water so we ran into a few trees and walls and other boats along the way. After a while we pretty much got it down and even managed to make it look easy for a few minutes. Alyse was by far the best punter; Anisha was a good instructor; Victoria was pretty good at getting us out of the bushes; and I did my best not to run us into trees when I punted. We had a ball! 




My sister and I also went to London to celebrate her twentieth birthday yesterday. No matter how many times I go back, London never gets old. We explored Westminster, Brixton, Knightsbridge, and Kensington. It really neat to take in all the beautiful scenery, model in from of the monuments, and experience the culture. It was my sister's first time touring London so she was in awe all day.


While there we also caught a cruise from Westminster pier to Tower Bridge pier. Westminster pier is directly opposite the London eye, and across the street from Big Ben, and Tower Bridge pier is adjacent to the Tower of London. Both places were astonishingly beautiful, and on a very sunny day like yesterday they were even lovelier. Our tour guide had a satirical sense of humor, and a monotone british accent so he kept us laughing the entire time. My favorite moment was when Alyse stood up to take a picture with him, and he completely lost his train of thought and threatened to charge her; the whole boat laughed. 


All in all, it has been an amazing couple of weeks, and it is only getting better. I never imagined that at the young ages of twenty and twenty-one my sister and I would be able to travel and experience life like we do. 

Our mother arrives Thursday and we are all taking a mini vacation around Europe. I cannot wait! 

Well, I have to get back to my studies so I will talk to you all soon. In the meantime, stay positive, and enjoy life.

With love always,

Angel <3

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A Whirlwind of Joy

Hello blog followers! I hope life is being kind to each and every one of you. I have been quite alright these last couple of weeks myself. I will admit that getting back into the rhythm of schoolwork after a nice long vacation felt tiresome at first, but now it feels good. There is something about being in a learning environment that I just love. Plus, it was a treat to be around my peers again. I have met so many amazing, intelligent, driven, kind, and humble people here that it is mind boggling.





At the end of week one, my college, St. Edmund (Teddy) Hall had our ball. Our theme was "Road to Rio." I had an amazing time with all of my friends and peers that night. There were food stands, live bands, Brazilian dancers, bars, games, a photo booth, and even mini golf. I had never been to a ball with such a diverse array of attractions. It was also nice to see everyone dressed up and enjoying themselves outside of the books for a night.

Classes picked up as usual, and assignments, essays, and tutorials right along with them. This term I decided to keep with my biochemistry studies, but to change my minor from neuroscience to pathology (the study of disease). I have been interested in pathology ever since my brief exposure to the subject in the medical magnet program at my alma mater Andrew Jackson High School. Now that I am getting the chance to study the subject in depth and detail because of the foundation I gained studying at Howard University these last couple of years, I must say I have found my dream field of study.
I am so amazed by how a through understanding of the human body and its functions on a every level; combined with a deep comprehension of pathogens (disease-causing agents), and their mechanisms of development (pathogenesis), can lead to medicinal techniques that can save lives.

My course tutor, Dr. Al-Mossawi, conducts immunology (study of the immune system) research, practices medicine, and teaches pathology at Oxford. He truly has my dream job! One of my Howard biology professors, Dr. Lipscomb, asked me what I wanted to do career-wise last year. I told him I wasn't sure. I told him that I wanted to conduct pathology research to find natural compounds capable of curing diseases; practice medicine and look after hospital patients; teach science at a University, create opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and schools like the ones I attended before college; and improve the environment if possible. I also informed him that my confusion stemmed from me being frustrated about not being able to do it all. Many had informed me that it was too much to manage all of those things. Dr. Lipscomb told me that I could do whatever I wanted. He said that I manage the three careers because they all overlapped, and that my humanitarian goals would happen resultantly. Now, I have met my future self in Dr. Mossawi, so Dr. Lipscomb was right.



Although this environment is mind stimulating and inspiring, I can get a bit homesick and lonely sometimes. However, two weeks ago my days got a million times better! My love came half way around the world to spend time with me. I knew he was coming to visit me; yet, seeing him walk into the airport terminal made me so joyful I was surprised at how shocked I truly felt to see him in England. I guess his arrival was not real to me until I saw him in person. :)

That day, I took him around Oxford showing him all of my favorite sites, my college, where my lectures are held, and a number of other things that I have become familiar with at Oxford. It was nice to experience the city with someone I love, and to watch him gaze in awe at the same sites that have been captivating me for months. That night, we went out to dinner to celebrate him finishing his first year of medical school with honors. I am extremely proud of him, and I hope to do the same in a couple of years.

Also, Aidan's big sister Giselle lives a few miles up the road from me. It was a pleasure to meet her and her family, and to see family reunited. Aidan loved every bit of it, and his little nephews were ecstatic to see him. I loved watching their interactions, and they made me miss my family all-the-more. Her husband is a post-doctoral student here, so he conducts research and teaches, which is amazing! They told us about all the best places in town to visit; a lot of places I had never heard of before.

We also attended formal hall in my college last week with my good friend Marie from St. Hughes college at Oxford. It was a phenomenal experience dressing up and dining on a fancy meal with two of the most brilliant people I know. I learned a lot from the conversations, and thoroughly enjoyed the moment.









The other day, we had a picnic at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire (6 miles north of Oxford). This place has to be one of my favorite places in the entire world. It is an old palace set back about a mile from the street behind two very beautifully crafted iron gates, which are set between to detailed stone pillars. The palace has many beautiful and enchanting gardens, lawns, lakes, statues, wild-life, trees, farm- animals, and galleries. The estate is truly just a conglomerate of beauty!

We also took the small train connecting the main lawn of Blenheim Palace to pleasure gardens two miles up from the main house. Pleasure gardens has a giant maze that you can navigate your way through, and a butterfly house. I have always wanted to try a life-sized maze so it was an awesome experience for me. We had a picnic by the Queen pool portion of the lake. We also, followed a number of trails around the grounds taking in the fresh air and peaceful ambiance, and we toured the main palace's gardens, lakeside walk, and grand cascades. In addition Aidan and I did the grand tour of the palace when we returned today. Our tour guide was absolutely phenomenal! He knew all there was to know about the aristocrats and royals that roamed the halls of the palace, the art, furniture, architecture, and history of the place. He truly brought the experience to life for us; we were hooked the whole tour. I can't express in words the level of peace, beauty, and love I experienced just walking around the place with him. It was truly one of the most scenic, tranquil, and captivating places I have ever been in my entire life. I cannot wait to go back!!!

Sunday,  Aidan and I decided to go into London to visit. He had never been, and I had been aching to go back since I visited my friend Josh there in March. We started the day off at Buckingham Palace watching the changing of the guards. It was quite a cultural experience seeing how elaborate, detail-oriented, and traditional royal practices truly are. We also met Oliver from Germany there; a very kind, friendly, and funny world traveler. We all hit it off immediately discussing Michael Jackson, Prince, and other legendary musicians. He was even kind enough to open his doors to us should we ever visit Germany.


After the changing of the guards, we toured Westminster and checked out a couple of amazing museums: the museum of natural history, and the Victoria and Albert museum. Although I had already been before, it was very nice to return. We saw exhibits I had never come across before, and it was very interesting to learn a little about other cultures and their customs and practices in theVictoria and Albert museum.  We also visited the Brixton street market, and dined at a pretty good Mexican themed restaurant, then we walked around and took in the sites, the plethora of accents, and the culture for a while. Afterwards, we headed back to Westminster to see Big Ben and the London Eye. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful! It was the warmest it had ever been since my arrival, and I loved that I was able to go out without worrying about a jacket or umbrella.

All in all, I have had an amazing past few weeks. I am blessed to have been able to return to Oxford and study some more. I am even more grateful that I am getting the opportunity to experience it all with my love. With love always,

Angel <3