Gratitude and Appreciation

If there’s one thing my mom wanted me to come back from Africa with, it was gratitude.  For those of you who don’t know, she spent a few years in Nigeria when she was my age and she said that was the biggest lesson she took away from the experience. I think she’s totally right!

If you compare things in Ghana to what you experience in everyday life back at home you will probably get frustrated or disappointed.  Infrastructure is falling apart (or was never finished being built in the first place), public transportation is hot, slow and requires touching lots of people, and a positive customer service experience is almost impossible to find!

Despite all these factors that make daily life a little more complicated (or perhaps because of them) I find myself being happy about things I never would have imagined.

  • You know that feeling when you’ve had an awful day and one of your friends surprises you with your favourite guilty pleasure snack? Well that’s the feeling I get every time I get home from work and the lights come on after I flick the switch – pure joy!
  • When there’s one spot left on the trotro back to my house and I manage to squeeze my way on, I feel like a lottery winner!
  • Being able to go to the beach on the weekends, all year round.  It might not be super clean and fancy, but you can still put your feet in the sand and hear the waves splashing.
  • A cold sachet of water against my forehead while walking home from work.
  • Noticing that the donut I bought for breakfast is still warm from frying in the oil… I bite into it with a delicious sense of satisfaction, and it feels like it’s going to be a good day!


Recently I have begun to make a list at the end of each day of three things that I was grateful for that day.  It doesn’t have to be something huge… it can be a thoughtful compliment from a friend, a yummy meal, checking something off your to-do list, or a fun activity you tried.  It can be on paper, in your head, or in a conversation with a friend (Mike and I used to do this together sometimes when we first arrived).  I find it helps to increase happiness throughout the day.

I hope that I can remember to be grateful for the little things when I get back home. It’s way too easy to take the good things in life for granted!  As Great Big Sea would say, “It’s just an ordinary day, and it’s all your state of mind. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to say it’s all right…”


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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2 Responses to Gratitude and Appreciation

  1. Peter H Harrison says:

    Hi Amanda,

    Have enjoyed reading your blog-space today, especially the one on being grateful and making a conscious effort to remember to be grateful. Can also relate to the sense of being overwhelmed by the poverty not just financial but poverty of mind sets, and lack of understanding of things that in more developed countries we really take for granted and are often not grateful for. Its only once you have experienced poverty in its different guises that one can start to appreciate having been given the opportunity to attend school and get an education, and have the opportunity to follow whatever your area of interest might be.

    Living in South Africa is amazing on one hand (we have so so….. much here) and incredibly frustrating again on the other, especially when politicians voice strange ideas or thinking and clearly act for themselves and not in the interest of their people. The level and degree of selfishness from leadership is hard to comprehend and one keeps hoping that one day – irresponsible governments will have to stop, understand why what they do is wrong and make amends.

    I chose to believe that these governments and particular personalities in positions of power will have to answer for their actions, and be made to ‘do right’ by those they have for so long stolen from. Africa is for me, even as a fourth generation ‘white’ South African, a truly heart breaking continent. As a designer I have a huge responsibility to do whatever I can to actually make a difference and hope that small actions, however seemingly insignificant will impact peoples lives in a positive way.

    Kind regards, and all the best at EWB.
    Peter Harrison


    • mandyrox2 says:

      Hey Peter,

      Thanks so much for your thoughts. I’m glad you were able to relate. I’m sure South Africa has a lot of the same issues, but also a lot of it’s own unique challenges as well.

      Leadership is definitely a struggle in many of these countries (and on a lesser scale – I would say that even in Canada there’s a lot of problems with our Prime Minister). I hope that new people can come into power with more understanding of the people and willing to fight for important issues like health, education, social issues and the environment. I also hope that in some ways my design skills can help in one of those arenas, even in a small way.

      Great to hear from you though, and thanks!


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