When I arrived in Ghana my anticipation and expectations were high. I was running on adrenaline that whole first day. I was picked up by the wonderful program coordinator, Aloysis, shown around a bit, then taken to my host family. Lizzie, my host mom, was absolutely wonderful. She treated me like one of her own kids; but the end of the first day I did not know that. When I went to my room for the night, it all hit me. The fact I was alone, the only white person for miles, and the fact I was in another country with customs far from my own. The first few days were tough. The culture shock was overwhelming and I felt entirely alone. I didn’t know if I could make it. Lizzie, Eunice, and the kids at Uniqueen academy soon changed my mind. Like I said above, Lizzie took care of my as well as one of her own. She worried when I left Kwabenya for church or to meet up with a friend, and had a huge smile on her face whenever I returned. The adorable kids at the school loved me unconditionally and the school’s owner, Eunice taught me what it means to be truly happy no matter what your circumstances.
Each day I would wake up, shower (although the water was cold, I became used to it), and head off to the school. I became familiar with the Ghanaian transportation system and was soon able to navigate myself all around the greater Accra area.
What I did at the school was probably my biggest disappointment and frustration of the trip. I had hoped to be teaching, and teaching the way I grew up with in America. Instead I was mostly correcting student’s work. I would randomly teach a lesson but it was far from the kind of teaching I knew how to do, and this was before I had graduated with an educator’s degree so I was unsure on how to make our two educational philosophies mesh together. Looking back I would have done many things differently, taught more lessons, and engaged the children more. I also wish I could have somehow taught the teachers about my personal education, discipline, and management philosophies.
Another difficult thing was the food and my lack of love for it. I found the only thing I really enjoyed was fried chicken, rice, and stew. The other Ghanaian dishes just did not sit well with me, so each one of my meals was the same. That is, until I discovered Indomie, a noodle dish sold at most stores around where I lived. I wish someone would have told me, though, to bring non perishable food , such as granola bars and crackers, so I could eat something at night when my stomach was still rumbling.
The local community was very welcoming, and even sometimes a little too welcoming. The men of the town would call out to me as I walked by and many would even propose. It was funny at first and I did not feel threatened, but then it got to be annoying and I felt like they were not understanding my wished for me to just be left alone. Some men, even when I said no to them, would continue to try to talk with me and get me to spend time with them. I did not want to and sometimes it left me feeling uncomfortable. There was only one time when I truly felt unsafe and that was because I had stayed in Accra too late and was coming home by myself way after dark. Luckily nothing happened to me, but I had my pepper spray out just in case.
I did not know any of the other volunteers, and I wish I would have. I was far away from them and never had a chance to get together with them. Luckily I was able to find my own church and from there made friends. If a future volunteer, though, does not habe that option there is a possibility of them being somewhat isolated from other volunteers. I would suggest that they make sure to tell their program coordinator that they would like to a chance to meet and spend time with the other volunteers that live in Accra.
Overall, I would recommend this program to a friend, but I would definitely tell them all of my suggestions to make the experience better and more meaningful. This experience changed my life for the better, and I would never tell someone otherwise.