thank you.

To Whom It May Concern:

Five months ago, just before Christmas, one of my roommates and closest friends gave me one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. In our apartment, Rachel, Kayla, Riley and I sat around our living room coffee table, which was surrounded by half-full boxes and suitcases that Rachel and I were attempting to pack as we prepared for our semester abroad in Ghana. Riley handed Rach and I each a stack of letters wrapped in Christmas ribbon. Puzzled, I looked at the girls, then back down at the thick bundle of cards and envelopes of all different sizes and colors in my hands. “There’s one for each week you’re in Ghana, Nat. You too, Rachie,” Riley said. My face lit up, and I lunged to hug and tackle Riley.

I was incredulous. She had been working on this, I later found out, for weeks and weeks. She had gotten in touch with some of the people closest to me, from all over the place, and asked them to write a letter that she then sealed and labeled with a certain week number for me to open all the way over here in Ghana. (And she did the same for Rach.) Ri, knowing how much I’d miss my closest friends while so far away, had given me comforting words to look forward to every single week I was in Africa. A truly creative and one-of-a-kind soul, Ms. Riley Beetner had given me my friends – and my favorite and most supportive professor! – when I’d likely need them most.

So, this post is a thank-you to those of you whose letters I have opened while in Ghana. You know who you are, and I want you to listen up: if I wasn’t able to tell you when I opened yours, or if I haven’t had the chance to wholeheartedly thank you for your letter, please know how much it meant to me. They have made me laugh and made me cry, and I have gone back to every single one of them when I particularly missed its writer. When I have the means to thank you properly (which will be when I see you next, or via snail mail if I may not be able to see you for a long time), I will.

For now, know that each of you has contributed to my wonderful experience in Ghana and have, whether you realize it or not, been there for me when I’ve needed you most. As many of you know, Skype here is barely functional, calls outside Africa only work on the days I get ‘bonus credit,’ and there are some weeks (like this one) where the Internet (and power.. and running water..) is out all over campus. But, thanks to your letters – and old-fashioned, ingenious Riley, of course – I had everything I needed all semester sitting on my bedside table. It took great restraint to resist opening every letter on the plane ride from Stuttgart, or during some of the more tame weeks here. But Ghana has taught me much patience (and Rachel was checking up on me), and so I abided by Riley’s rules. I have one letter remaining – which I’m naturally saving for my midnight flight takeoff.

Friends, family, mentors: letters or no letters, I am incredibly grateful to you. Thank you for being by my side, and for allowing me to carry you with me everywhere I go.

In love and envelopes,



One Response

  1. Yellow,
    I hope those letters wrapped up all the love and happies each person provides in your life.

    Can’t WAIT to have you home.

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