I'm home but I'm not home.
I'm back in America surrounded by all of the family members and friends that I was so hesitant to leave just one year ago.
But a part of me is missing.
My family and friends that I grew to love in just 10 months and was also so hesitant to leave, are now not a part of my everyday life.
4 months ago I was in Ghana and for some reason it doesn't feel like that was 4 months ago but it also didn't feel like 10 months there should have gone by so fast. Time is weird like that.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is this; exchange is hard, both during and after.
And I'm convinced it doesn't get any easier. My heart constantly longs for Ghana, some days more than others and, not gonna lie, my stomach longs for some fresh Ghana food to.
There's really no easy way to end this, partially because I don't think I'm ready to close my Ghana chapter just yet, the other, well, I am just terrible at ending blog posts.
Can't wait to see what other adventures are out there but I don't think any adventure could come close to the year long adventure I had in Ghana.
Until next time,
I'm home but I'm not home.
The struggle that is happening in the Ukraine right now pales in comparison to the melee that has been going and continues to go on here in Ghana.
Okay, maybe it’s not that serious but I wanted to catch your attention.
Being one of the few white people here in Ghana, Kumasi specifically, it’s tough. Not only do I have to fight to bring the price down on things every day. I have to politely accept the “Oh, you’re so beautiful” comments I get from well, everyone.
I know what you’re thinking….getting compliments is an issue for you? I know you think it’s an odd statement but let me explain.
It’s nice getting compliments. What girl doesn’t like getting them? And everyone that gives me the compliments genuinely mean them. However, there’s a longing behind every compliment that slips from their lips.
A longing to look like me. A longing to be white. To have lighter skin. Longer hair. To finally bebeautiful.
It’s more common among the women of Ghana but there are some cases where men, too, long to look just like the whites. It’s disturbing for me to sit around and watch commercials advertising products that will lighten your skin. It’s sickening walking around town and seeing horrible side-effects from these same advertised products.
But nothing changes. Commercials are still aired. Side-effects still scarring the skin of Ghanaians who think they’re not beautiful.
I even try to tell them that they’re so beautiful. SO beautiful. To no avail. It’s as if the years they’ve spent downtrodden themselves about it has drowned out any hope to just accept who they are and understand that who they are is the most beautiful they can be.
One can only hope that as Ghana progresses into the future, her citizens will see the beauty of the country, the beauty of themselves and the beauty that lies within them.
“…..That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty.” – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Year’s A Slave)
So you’ve decided you wanted to trek into the unknown and try the ropes here in Ghana?
You’ve probably just made the best decision of your life. Clap for *Insert your name here*!! (Typical Ghanaian school action when someone does something the teacher thinks is good).
But honestly do you have any idea what you will find when coming here?
A jungle where Lions, Gazelles, Elephants and every other animal from the Lion King living side-by-side?
Maybe you picture dirt roads with shanty little huts lining the sides.
Sorry to burst your bubble but if you’re coming to Ghana you won’t see Lions or Elephants unless you go to Mole National Park or a Zoo. (However, those cool little Rhinoceros bugs DO exist)! Oh and those shanty little huts lining those terrible dirt roads? They exist but for the most part… Ghana is actually advanced for a third-world country. (Advanced by third-world country standards anyway).
I know that it is nice to go somewhere completely oblivious to what might be waiting once you step off of the airplane because you get to do a lot of self-discovery that way. So if you’re one of those people who like being oblivious, I should warn you I’m about to list things that you might find/encounter in Ghana (though words can never be as satisfying as experiencing the real thing).
So without further ado:
Until next time,
Keep Calm and Consider Ghana
This is starting to feel silly. The amount of gratitude my heart holds for being able to live my life like this (basically having the coolest life a 19 year old can have) is immense.
I can’t believe I’ve been in Ghana for 100 days! I have already acquired a million and one reasons why I absolutely love this country and would tell anyone in a heartbeat that I never want to leave.
However these past 100 days haven’t always been completely amazing.
There are days where you become entirely exhausted from so many people asking you for your number and telling you that they like you and then asking you to take them to America with you.
You become exhausted from everything really.
You become exhausted from seeing your classmates being caned and you want nothing more but to tell the teacher caning them to just STOP.
You become exhausted from trying to learn the language and not understanding it when someone speaks to you. — Though you are really improving by this point!
You just want to throw in the towel and go back to “normal” life.
But then you remember that you worked so hard to get where you are at.You have friends and a family here who love you unconditionally. And you realize that your love for this country and for the people in this country is so much more than what any hardship you have faced or will ever face is.
The differences you encounter are what’s so beautiful about another culture. And that universal exchange saying “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.” is always nice to have in the back of your mind.
Since being in Ghana, I’ve laughed, I’ve smiled, I’ve cried but most importantly I’ve fallen in love with one of the best countries in the world, some of the best people in the world and even with every hardship, if I had a choice, I would choose to stay forever.
To my dedicated readers: I deeply apologize for the delay in posts. But when you have only 10 months to spend in one country and you’re having the time of your life…you wouldn’t want to be online either!
Eid in Ghana:
Eid, a Muslim holiday where each family has to sacrifice an animal in order to honor Abraham in his willingness to sacrifice his son. Depending on the country or area, people sacrifice different animals. Here in Ghana my family sacrificed a sheep, but like as in the picture shown here, some families sacrificed cows.
The day before Eid I was really excited to experience something that is not practiced publicly back in the United States. However as the day of Eid came I started to really dread it. I respect the reasoning behind why they must sacrifice an animal but I found it to be extremely hard to walk by so many homes with the corpses of the sacrificed animals being cut a part and blood running down the gutters. So hard in fact, that I couldn’t even watch the actual sacrificing ceremony.
I considered becoming a vegetarian until my mom made fufu with our sacrificed sheep meat. It was very good.
Also in the pictures above we went to my school and did prayers for Eid. It was beautiful seeing everyone in the traditional Muslim wear.
(sorry for the awkward position of the photos, I can’t change it)!
School trips are the best. I’ve joined a group at my school known as AMSAG, which is one of the Muslim groups’ club. I love going on trips with them because there are always songs being sung, laughter filling every seat and prayers, which I enjoy greatly. Recently, I went on a trip to Boti Falls and it was one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the air was extremely cool around the waterfalls which was really refreshing since Ghana seems to only get more hot with each passing month.
Birthday in Ghana!
Birthdays here in Ghana are pretty much non-existent once you reach a certain age (6, but it differs with each family), so I wasn’t expecting much when my birthday rolled around. My mum kept telling me we would do something small for it, little did I know she had planned a whole surprise party for me. I came home from school (barely escaping their tradition of soaking someone with water at closing), and our entire house was decorated, there was a cake and some ‘expensive’ drinks on the table and when I walked into my room, my bed was decorated with gifts from everyone in my family and a couple of my neighbors. Needless to say, I had a wonderful birthday and not to mention, I have the best host family.
Until next time, keep cool and consider Ghana!
Meeting my host family was overwhelming. After wondering what they looked like, where they lived and what their personalities were like, I finally was able to put the missing piece to the puzzle together. I have amazing sisters and brothers and superb host parents. I couldn’t be any more grateful.
My first night my little sister Alleyah pulled me to the side and spoke the words that entitle this post. “Stay with us, please don’t go anywhere.” I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. I love it here so much and could say that a million times and it still wouldn’t be enough. I feel more than welcome.
I was 5 years old and didn’t understand what was going on at the time. I remember coming home from school and my parents told me to sit down and watch the news with them. I remember seeing smoking buildings and then later saw those smoking buildings fall. ‘Terrorists have just crashed planes into the Twin Towers in New York as well as various other places.’ The first time I ever heard the word ‘terrorists’.. but definitely not the last. Fast forward a few years, in school on the anniversary of 9/11 we have a moment of silence and then watched a remembrance video. Terrorists are the reason for this we are told. Muslims in America and all over the world are now blamed for what happened. A man wearing the traditional wear for a Muslim is getting on a plane, the other passengers connect him to the 9/11 attacks and request him to be removed from the plane. He’s removed. Snide and hurtful remarks are reared towards the Muslim population,’ they’re all terrorists.”
9/11 came and went. It was a typical day. My family actually didn’t know what really happened on that day 12 years ago so we had a long conversation about it. They seemed just as devastated as any American would. My father is the President of the Atonsu circuit of the Ahamadiyya Muslim Mission and in a recent interview he stated: “Sometimes it baffles my mind when I hear some people trying to label Islam as a violent religion. Islam in actual fact, focuses on humanity and it is not about perpetrating violence against those who do not belong to this faith.” Not once since I’ve been here have I felt threatened in any way.
My host mom’s laughter fills the house everyday. My sisters and I hang out in our rooms and listen to music ad watch movies with each other. The hospitality my family offers to their community. How could they be terrorists? A conversation with my brother was eye-opening. He said, “Not all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, our religion doesn’t teach us to hate. If you hate your neighbor then you are not a Muslim.”
Within the short amount of time with my host family they’ve taught me so much already. From the local dialect of Twi to how to properly eat fufu. Most importantly however, they are teaching me about their religion. My family are Muslims, the suburb I live in is Muslim populated. I have a Mosque right next door to my house and I hear the call to prayer every morning and evening. I’ve attended and participated in their prayer. Religion is a beautiful thing and everyone should be open to learning more about other religions besides their own.. you’d be surprised how much alike they really are.
I love Ghana.
No questions asked.
My first night in Ghana was very interesting, I don't think I was really prepared for all that was about to come my way.
At the airport as I was checking in... I was getting hissed at. Hissing is not bad, it's the way people here in Ghana get each other's attention. I was just not expecting it.
Everywhere I go there are always people staring at me, the 'obruni'*, but that's really okay because in general Ghanaians are extremely nice. I can't count how many times I've shaken someone's hand and heard the greeting "Akwaaba" or the sayings "You are welcome" "You are welcome to Ghana." Everyone wants to talk to the Obruni.
My first full day in Ghana was exciting, but that's probably the biggest understatement. We had our orientation at the AFS office and then later was able to do a little touring of Accra. The things I've seen here are so different, different..that's going to be used a lot here. (It's also one of the AFS and YES Abroad sayings "It's not good, it's not bad, it's just different"). For instance, there are so many stray dogs here, everywhere. Back home I would always bring them to my house until I could find them a home, but here, most of them are afraid of people and it's just not part of Ghanaian culture to take home a stray animal. Different.
Another thing is that the wealthy and poor literally live side by side. You can be walking down one street that's nothing but slums and turn the corner and there be mansions. I guess in a way it is sort of similar to America..but not in the same sense. Different.
As we we werre driving away from the AFS office we stopped at a stop light and this man riding in the trotro next to me, was very friendly and asked me all sorts of questions. I think the most I can remember of our conversation went a little like this:
"How are you Obruni?"
"I'm fine thanks, how are you?"
"Fine, where are you from Obruni?
And then we were driving away and I look over to him and he's blowing me kisses, hanging halfway outside of the trotro screaming "I LOVE YOU OBRUNI!!"
We danced the night away and I think I'm sort of catching a groove here. Who knows, maybe I won't have two left feet when I return home.
This brings me to today! I've seen way too many people just 'do their business' on the street. And by this I mean use the bathroom. I knew it was going to happen. I was told so. But to actually see it for yourself is an entirely different story. Again, different.
One last thing that COMPLETELY throws me off every single time is that the stars and constellations are not the same as the ones back at home. I don't know why I was expecting them to be..but I don't know. It's just little things like that. Different.
Anyways, thanks for reading, I'm loving Ghana so far and cannot wait to see what all it has in store for me!
*Obruni means white person or foreigner
A day shy of one week before I depart for my exchange year in Ghana I received my HOST FAMILY!
Mr. Ennin, Mahmoud (Father)
Mrs. Ennin, Halimah (Mother)
Ms. Ennin, Hagar (Sister)
Ms. Ennin, Hajia Ruqqia (Sister)
Mr. Ennin Jnr., Mahmoud (Brother)
Mr. Ibrahim, Hakeem (Brother)
Location: Kumasi, Ghana
"Student will not share a room."
This was all I was given about my host family, plus an email/address/phone number to contact them. Is it weird that I love them so much already even though I've never met them?
I've spoken to one of my host brothers and apparently there is a family member I have that wasn't mentioned in the email because he specifically said "there are 4 younger than you" he also told me that he and my other brother are both in their 20s which was surprising because the email said otherwise...
Ghanaian families are a little hard to understand at times, my mom might also be my sister who is also my auntie or my father might be my brother but also my uncle. I'll explain more about this in another post once I am able to understand it myself.
My HOST SCHOOL
T.I. Amass http://realamass.org/
It's a co-ed school, I'm not sure how far it is away from my house. Like all schools in Ghana, I will wear a uniform (It's not that bad looking actually). It's one of the top 10 schools in the Ashanti region. I'm really excited to go here!
Most schools in Ghana are boarding schools, where the students will live at the school, but I get to stay with my family and walk/catch a trotro there and back every day.
Thanks for reading!
Today, finally, I received my luggage tags and my "What to do when you arrive in New York" paper. I was starting to worry that they would never arrive and even though I thought against it, I sent an email to AFS questioning if they were ever going to come and lo and behold they show up the very next day. (If only I just waited one day more). I also learned that I will not have my passport back until I arrive at orientation in New York so I no longer have to worry about it not arriving on time.
I had my last conference call for YES Abroad and this one happened to be my country specific call. I was able to learn a lot more about Ghana, and it made me that much more excited and nervous to go.
Shout out to Allen for preaching to us about the mute/unmute button and forgetting how to work it himself.
I have just a little under three weeks left here in the states, I know what you're thinking "Allie, why on Earth are you packing now when you have all this time?" Well, let me tell you... I'm the worst packer of all time and I probably should have started earlier than now honestly.
I probably shouldn't be dishing out any packing tips since I need them myself, but let me share with you what little information I've gained on the subject:
Things you should pack into your carry-on:
Change of Clothing,
Cell Phone, Charger, etc,
Travel Size Toiletries (Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Deodorant, Hairbrush, Hand Sanitizer, Body Spray, Soap, Shampoo and Conditioner, Floss).
Chap stick and chewing gum/hard candy
You WILL have orientation before you leave for your country and once you arrive in country (if you're AFS). This is just a suggestion to save you from having to dig through your suitcase and having to repack everything more than you'd like to.
Any kind of information (i.e. contact or flight info... You do not want to need it and realize that you left it in another bag)!
Underwear and Socks (Weeks Worth)
If your country has seasons pack appropriately.
DO NOT BRING:
A BAD attitude!!!!!
Any "One" Outfits EX: This jacket ONLY goes with this....
Something You Never Wear at home... YOU WON'T WEAR IT THERE, trust me or ask a rebound.
Don't bring a cell-phone, most likely your host family or host club will buy you one to use for the year.
Thanks for reading!
I leave for Ghana in a month and a half. Yes, you read that right, I leave in 43 days.
I've never been one to be open about my feelings, but I feel that as being someone about to embark on an exchange you're apt to do just that. Of course I know that when I go to Ghana I'll be able to broaden my horizons, step out of my comfort zone and experience a culture entirely different from America's. As excited as I am about experiencing all of these new things, I'm also very nervous, anxious and a little scared. I know all of these feelings are normal and it takes a certain kind of person to want to study abroad in Ghana for a year, but these feelings are still there and they need to be addressed.
I'm afraid of having a host family that won't like me and having to switch. I'm afraid of missing a trotro or getting on the wrong trotro and not being able to get home. I'm afraid of going to school for the first time in a new country and sticking out like a sore thumb. I'm terrified of doing something culturally incorrect in Ghana and having someone get mad at me and not forgiving me for it. I'm afraid of all these things, but I know I'm going to be fine.
The surrealism of the situation is starting to go away and reality is starting to set in. Right now, I'm taking everything one day at a time. Whatever I come across in Ghana, I'll embrace it with open arms.
Life is a little bit like a Zebra;
There are black stripes and white stripes, and sometimes they are uneven. Sometimes the black stripes are wide, and just when you thought things couldn't get worse, they do. But you should never worry too much, because a white stripe always comes eventually.
Wise words from a Turkey finalist blogger,
"I'm terrified and that's OKAY"
Thanks for reading!