Yvette and Ekourba,

My vacations tend to consist of escaping reality through beaches, elegant dinners, and napping in hammocks.  Who knew that the most incredible vacation I’ve had thus far would include mind-blowing realizations about brutality and poverty, nonstop reflection, and tough conversations.  I am forever grateful for the opportunity and am confident that I am a better person because of it.

The things that resonated most with me were the dungeons and last bath.  I think it’s a combination of learning, witnessing, and stepping foot into such a harsh reality and the personal connection I felt to the people, the land, and the history.  Walking through the Door of No Return is indescribable.  What’s interesting is that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t “whole” before taking this trip.  Upon my return, I don’t see how I could have ever truly known myself without going through an experience like this.  I hope that makes sense.

On a lighter note, the Grand Durbar was the most phenomenal cultural celebration I’ve experienced.  I was fully entertained by the performers and the grand entrances of the chiefs, president, and everyone who accompanied them.  I was extremely touched when they called up people from the Diaspora and honored our return.  I didn’t just bear witness to the celebration, I was a part of it.  The whole experience was extremely meaningful.

I also enjoyed meeting the locals, especially the kids.  It was heartbreaking to see so many of them struggling, but their friendliness, playfulness, inquisitive behavior, and intelligence shone brighter than anything that was holding them back.  I especially liked going to the GapBuster school and meeting the students and staff.  What you are doing for that school and the community is phenomenal.  I could not be more proud of who you are and what you are accomplishing.

I was given an opportunity to spend time with my family and get to know them on a deeper level.  I made connections and friendships along the way and look forward to remaining in each other’s lives.  Through the emotional ups and downs of the trip, our group shared love, laughter, and respect the entire time, making each day an adventure that I continued to look forward to.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  The time, dedication, and passion that it took to set up a trip like this was evident every step of the way.  You are amazing people and I am blessed to have you in my life.

Sincerely,

Deanna