Ghana volunteer’s journal – “First Impressions”

First Impressions

By Christopher Prater (USA)

As I stepped off the plane in Accra, Ghana, everything that whizzed past my eyes reminded me of Nepal: taxis honking at my white skin, people staring, dust flying every which way, and people sticking their heads out of minibuses yelling the destination. I upheld this view until I realized that perhaps, away from the “comfort” of our Western lifestyle, things are just different, and there may be some link between different and (insert third world country name). Though I must say that Ghana is more advanced (whatever that abstract term means) than Nepal.

Immediately I was thrown into the whirl of Ghanaian life, as I was transported to my school– Excellece Primary, Kwashiebu, in the “suburbs” of Accra–on the second day. I awoke my first night there every hour to wonder “Where am I?” before drifting back to half sleep on yet another rock hard bed. My accommodations, as expected, are simple, but nice. To answer everyone’s questions, yes I have electricity, albeit only some times, and there is running water on the same terms. And I must say, whew, it’s hot.

I have settled into the groove, if that’s what I should call it. I’m teaching JSS (our middle school) science and math, and also fifth and sixth grade science, which seems like a lot of work, but in reality, is not. I could take more classes if I wanted to, but I feel that a relaxed schedule fits the needs of the teachers, whom I have intruded on. Teaching remains the best and most exciting part of the day, and I will refrain from boring anyone of “nerdery” stories. We’re discussing diffusion in one class. Sorry, I had to sneak something in.

As for the culture, I find it similar in its friendliness and welcoming nature as the Nepali lifestyle, perhaps more so. In fact, sometimes you can be killed with kindness with a deathly combination of friendliness, lack of a sense of time and complete disregard for different cultural standards. Let’s just say that if I have just met you, I don’t want to give you money, an e-mail, show you where I live, or take a professional photo with you. Despite one or two nearly troublesome experiences, though, the acceptance I have received far exceeds the uncomfortable (and even angry) moments.

So I will end here by saying that I am enjoying my African life, but I feel somewhat more alone in an environment completely devoid of other volunteers. I’m learning a lot here: about myself (that perhaps I’m not as courageous as I thought in a completely exotic city), about this culture (people over anything else…in most occasions…though money still thrives as the unfortunate universal definition of “happiness” in many cases), and about the foods of the world (lots more rice, pasta, and funny-sounding fufu and banku).

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