Hello, McFly.

May 3, 2010

One door closes..

Filed under: Ability Spectrum, Life, Obsessions, Travel, Uncategorized — marimcfly @ 3:30 pm

…and another one opens.

The cute little girl in the picture above represents (but is not) me, as I get ready to start classes (tomorrow) for my Clinical Doctorate program.

What I did this past semester:

  • 25 to 30 hours per week at my internship at PCDA
  • 20 to 25 hours per week pushing Containers
  • 5 classes, including a federally funded grant course and an independent study reviewing research for AOTA
  • Made it back to Ghana

What I’ll do this coming year:

  • Take OT 610 this summer
  • Move to South Pasadena
  • Work/residency at PCDA
  • OTD program/project in Ghana
  • Take over the wooooooooooorrrrrlllllld.

Okay, perhaps that last bullet point was a little too ambitious.  I’ll save that one for 2011.  It’s still good to have dreams though, right?

To infinity (and hopefully back to Ghana)… and beyond!


March 21, 2010

Ghana: the perfect ‘reset’ button.

Filed under: Ability Spectrum, Life, Obsessions, Reunion, Travel — Tags: , , , , — marimcfly @ 11:13 pm

I just got back on Friday, so forgive me if my thoughts aren’t as coherent as they should be.  I survived the trip (36 hours from LA to Chicago to Frankfurt to Accra to Apam, 30 hours coming home without stopping in Chicago).  I’m still processing everything that has happened over the past 2.5 weeks, while also trying to re-adjust to being home, surrounded by comforts, family, luxuries, and excess.  Let’s just say my head, heart, and body have been working overtime lately.

As soon as I got off the bus, I heard 4 of the older girls screaming from the dormitory window: “Marikoooooo!”  I almost started to cry… and the moments grew increasingly beautiful.

The thing about these children is this: Almost all of them have endured what we would call neglect, exclusion, abuse, and abandonment… and yet, they have a place at Mephibosheth.  They each have a role to play, chores to do, things to learn, food to eat, and a bed to sleep in. They enjoy spending time together, help each other out, and never feel sorry for themselves.  They play football together—walking unsteadily, crawling, or scooting on the ground to get to the ball – laughing and yelling the whole time.  The older children help those who can’t feed themselves—even before they eat their own meal.  The children who can barely walk still push the children who use wheelchairs, so that everyone can get to the school building on time.  If one child is given a banana, he breaks it into 32 pieces so that everyone can have some.  They help each other to pull their shirts over their heads, to wash their backs, and to tie their shoes.  They clap when someone else has done something well.  They praise God unconditionally, grateful for everything they have and trusting that He will continue to give them more than enough.  These children experience their lives with more pure joy, more powerful love, and stronger faith than anyone else I know.

Theo vs. Paul.

Gifty, helping Ebe open and drink from a water bottle.

Junior, wiping food off of Joel's face.

For me, this trip was even more rewarding than last year’s.  Last year was incredible, but I felt like I went all the way to Africa and helped some children for two weeks… and that was it.  I was frustrated and not convinced that anything I did made any sort of long-lasting impact.

This year, I was lucky to come back as a CI (clinical instructor) for the next group of USC students.  Each student pair (I supervised 3 pairs) was assigned to 2 children and did observational assessments, developed and implemented treatment plans, facilitated group activities, observed them in school, took them to the beach, and worked with the children to establish short-term and long-term goals.  It was challenging to figure out how to give feedback while still encouraging the students to trust what they know and problem-solve on their own.  It was amazing to watch the lightbulbs go on as the days went by.

Prince Kwesi, blowing bubbles.

Kwame, getting his arousal level up.

My students. 🙂

The CI (clinical instructor) team.

I think the most exciting part of the trip was the opportunity to collaborate with students at the University of Education, Winneba.  This is the only university with a Community-Based Rehabilitation program, which focuses on social inclusion for people with disabilities in Ghana.  These students will be going into their villages to provide education, awareness, and resources to support the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities.  The Winneba students visited Mephibosheth and teamed up with the USC students to work with the children, get to know each other, and discuss occupational therapy and culturally relevant interventions.


One of the students from the University was named Ike.   Ike got the measles when he was younger, which left his lower body extremely weak.. but (after convincing his mom to give permission) he walked over a mile to school every day – on his hands. Now, he’s a teacher, a student at the University’s Community-Based Rehabilitation program, and Paul’s newest role model.

Ike told Paul, "Don't ever give up. Try really hard in school. You can be the banker you want to be."

Later that week, we helped Paul open up a bank account. 🙂

After the USC students left, 5 of us (CIs) stayed to lecture at the University.  Carlin and I spoke about occupational therapy, the importance of meaningful occupations, common diagnoses seen in Ghana, priorities for treatment, and strategies for teaching a skill.  We facilitated discussions on task analysis (e.g. What component skills do you use to kick a soccer ball?), adaptive self-care techniques (e.g. How do you put on a shirt after you’ve had a stroke and you can’t move one of your arms?), cultural differences between American/Ghanaian approaches to disability, goals of independence vs. interdependence, and the best way for the students to support people with disabilities in their own communities.  Arlene even brought Gifty Effie and Paul to her lecture to discuss the experience of using a wheelchair (and to give Gifty and Paul the opportunity to be on a University campus).  The Winneba students were so thoughtful, passionate, and eager to learn; this gave me so much hope for the future of Ghana.  I strongly believe that the Winneba students I met will play a large role in the implementation of Ghana’s Disability Rights Bill (just passed in 2006).  I’m so grateful that I got to play even a small part in this movement.

2 Winneba students, learning how to use a "backward chaining" strategy to teach shoe tying.

Winneba's Community-Based Rehabilitation program (plus us!)

The teaching team!

To say the least, going back to Ghana changed my life (again).  It reminded me that most of what I have is unnecessary, that expressions of love come in all forms, and that anything is possible.  It gave me the chance to refocus and to clarify my priorities.  And it absolutely, absolutely confirmed that I’m in the right profession and I’m doing what I love to do.  The children at Mephibosheth are the most inspirational people I know.

This is what love looks like:

Augustina and Theo, before church.

Veronica and her 2 boyfriends, Tandoh and Kwame Otoo.

Ebe, Kobe, Joel, Junior, and Franklina.. getting ready to make room for some more friends.

Isaac and Prince, acting like 2 grumpy old men on a front porch.

Kwame and Watala, shooting the breeze.

Kwame and Veronica, lovebirds.

Irene and Pamala.

My boys. Albert, Joe, Bentum.


Oh.. and the kids had never heard Michael Jackson before.  Carlin and I decided to introduce them.  Party time!

The only thing left to say is Thank You.  Medasse.

September 14, 2009

Hooping = better odds than roulette.

Filed under: Hoops, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , — marimcfly @ 10:22 pm

Keryssa and I got back from the Vegas tournament last night.. and I was way too exhausted (and busy unpacking, doing hw, and watching ABDC and the VMAs) to put up a post.  I was blog-xausted.

Anyway, here’s a bit of a recap!

We lost our first game by 5, won the second by 15, and won the third by 5.  Not bad, overall.

You dont want it with the BLIZZARD.

You don't want it with the BLIZZARD.

We walked past the long line for the Bellagio buffet.. because we don’t wait in line.  We don’t pay, either.  Check out our complimentary dinner.

Round one.. fight!

Round one.. fight!

Hey.. not too shabby-looking for playing three games in 24 hours.

Hey.. not too shabby-looking for playing three games in 24 hours.

Then we made our way over to Kari’s condo suite at the Palms.  We also didn’t pay for food, drinks, or club entry here.  Apparently, we’re too cool for that.

Me, Kari, Keryssa.

Me, Kari, Keryssa.

We finally hit Playboy and Moon.  Apparently, this is how the ballers do it.

The view from the top..

The view from the top..

Overall, it was a successful (and ridiculously cheap) Vegas trip.  Keryssa and I stayed at South Point, which was far from the strip but close to our gym.. and it was pretty low on secondhand cigarette smoke (10 points for Team Puff)!  Plus, I only spent about $30 the entire time I was there.  Uuuungh.

August 18, 2009

Meet me at the Penthouse.

Filed under: Drool, Life, Reunion, Travel — Tags: , , , , , — marimcfly @ 3:07 pm

This weekend’s Vegas trip – Top 5:

1. Upgraded to a penthouse suite.. with a full bar and a jacuzzi with mirrors on the ceiling.

2. Ate at Bobby Flay’s MESA grill.  Heavenly.

3.  Em and I are beer pong champs.  Remember that.

4.  Seafood buffet at the Rio.

5.  My friends are dance machines.

Soooo shady, but still pretty glorious.

Soooo shady, but still pretty glorious.

SOUTHWESTERN SPICED DUCK BREAST with Carrot-Habanero Sauce, Chorizo-Goat Cheese Tamale + Thyme Butter

SOUTHWESTERN SPICED DUCK BREAST with Carrot-Habanero Sauce, Chorizo-Goat Cheese Tamale + Thyme Butter

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Round one of three..

Round one of three..

..and they all danced happily ever after.

..and they all danced happily ever after.

The end. 🙂

March 19, 2009

GHANA RECAP: These kids changed my life.

Filed under: Ability Spectrum, Life, Travel — marimcfly @ 1:56 pm

To be honest, I’m still processing my whole experience in Ghana.

I’ll post a few pictures and a few reflections, but there are no words that could ever do justice to the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical changes that this trip catalyzed.

I fell in love with the kids (obviously), the culture, the art, and the people that I got to know.  This trip absolutely confirmed that I’m going to be working in the perfect field for myself.  And the kids were incredible.

The kids (and their parents) on Parents Day.

The kids (and their parents) on Parents' Day.

We (the USC students) paired up.. and each pair worked with one or two of the kids, set goals, implemented treatment plans, talked to the kids’ parents about a home program, talked with the teachers about a school program, and worked nonstop to help the kids reach these goals.

Miriam and I worked with Grace and Tanhoh.

(I gave her my PackFM shirt)

(I gave her my PackFM shirt)

Grace is 7 years old.  When Grace was young, she had a high fever that resulted in seizures.  Now, she has weakness on her right side (she can still walk and use her right hand – she just prefers her left) and her attention span is suuuper short.  She doesn’t like to share, and she’ll cry for attention.  In fact, if she doesn’t get a response, she’ll stop, look up to see who’s watching, move closer to an adult, and start crying again.  Haha she’s so clever.  🙂

With Grace, our main goals were behavioral.  We worked on her ability to share and wait her turn without having a meltdown or throwing a temper tantrum.  We also worked on her ability to attend to a task until she completed it completely.  We played board games and hopscotch, worked on chores (such as sweeping and washing her underwear), and encouraged her to use her words to explain why she was upset.  By the end of the week, she started asking “can I play?” before she sat down and took toys away from other kids.  Success!

Tanhoh is 16 years old.  He was born with cerebral palsy.  In terms of physical abilities, he’s completely functional.  He prefers not to use his left hand, but he can and will when the task requires it.  He’s one of the friendliest kids at the school.  He doesn’t speak or understand much English, and he’s slow to to respond even in Fante (his native dialect).  He has a lot of trouble sequencing a task (figuring out which step comes first and when to move from one step to the next).

When we observed him during his shower routine, he rubbed soap on the front of his torso for about 7 minutes before we finally cued him to move to his lower body.  He also gets distracted very easily.  Our main goals for Tanhoh were to wash his whole body well (with minimal verbal cues) and to attend to chores (like sweeping and laundry).  We often worked with him and Grace together, to encourage social interaction, sharing, and taking turns.  We taught Tanhoh “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” and sang it in the shower.  By the end of the week, he was washing his whole body.

We also took the kids to the beach. They loved it.

Amonqua is 13. He has a hard time keeping his head up because it takes so much strength. He has an incredible sense of humor.. he tried to get me to steal Pastor Joe's car on the way home from the beach. He grabbed the gear shift and yelled "LET'S GOOOO!" He wants to work as a driver when he grows up.

Paul is the leader of the pack. He got polio when he was young, and his father took him outside of their village and left him in the bushes to fend for himself. He was found and brought to the school at Mephibosheth. Now, he reads bedtime stories to the younger kids, helps to oversee chores, translates Fante/English, and basically runs the place. He liked my hachimaki.. so I let him have one. He started telling everyone that he was Japanese after that.

Watala is an awesome soccer player.  He has trouble processing auditory information and producing speech, but that doesnt stop him from punking people with a fake high-five or an unexpected tackle.  Also, he looks like 50 cent. =]

Watala is an awesome soccer player. He has trouble processing auditory information and producing speech, but that doesn't stop him from punking people (mostly me) with a fake high-five or an unexpected tackle. Also, he looks like 50 cent. 🙂

Kate, Augustina, Gifty-W, Gifty-Efi, and Irene performed a body worship dance at church.. beautiful.

We also went to Kakum National Park and crossed 7 suspension bridges, hanging above the treetops in the middle of a rainforest.  Bucket list material, for real.

We visited Elimina Castle, a building that used to be a slave castle.

It was overwhelming, heartbreaking, nauseating, enraging, and really really important.

Pastor Joe’s sister Annie is a seamstress.  She brought fabric, let us pick our favorite patterns, took our measurements, and custom-made 40 dresses.

Showing off Annies creations with Miriam and Megan.

Showing off Annie's creations with Miriam and Megan.

We went shopping at a marketplace in Accra.

We couldn’t have done it without the Clinical Instructors and Pastor Joe!

Bonnie, Tiffany, Barbara, Naz, Katie, Esther, and Pastor Joe.

A lot of these kids have been through some horrible things, and yet they still enjoy life with more genuine happiness than most people I know.  They’re doing more than people ever thought they could, they take care of each other, and they matter.  I could write a million words about each of the kids, all of the funny/inspirational/heartbreaking/exciting/frustrating moments, but this post would probably freeze my computer.  For now, I’ll just leave it with a picture of the Mephibosheth shirt.

If you want to hear more, ask.  🙂


Filed under: Ability Spectrum, Hoops, Life, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , — marimcfly @ 3:29 am

Many more posts to come tomorrow, I’m sure.. since my plan is to sit in front of the tv/computer to watch/stream all of the 1st Round games.  But for now, let’s just say this:

  • Ghana was incredible.. those kids changed my life.
  • Wake Forest over UConn, Pitt over Syracuse, Wake to take it all.
  • Tomorrow morning, I’m facilitating a focus group of elders on the topic of aging and sexuality.  Yes, really.  I’m a little sad that I’ll miss some of the early games, but mostly excited to hear how the conversations go.
  • It’s 4:30am.  I need to go to bed, asap.

February 6, 2009

Give me the green light..

Filed under: Travel — marimcfly @ 12:25 am

So I got my Ghana visa in the mail yesterday.. APPROVED!

Today I got my vaccines (yellow fever, adult polio, meningococcal meningitis) and pills (malaria, typhoid)..  And a few Snoopy band-aids!

My pocket hurts, but I’m getting more and more excited!  March 3rd is coming up soon…