Life Lessons…

Athough, my trip to Ghana has come to an end, the impact that it has had on my life will never end. From the beginning of the trip to the end, I some times found myself asking to question, what have I gotten myself into. Now reflecting back on the last 21 days I now know what I got myself into…

I was not comfortable with staying in the hostel because I had to take cold showers. since my room was on the ground floor, I was woken by loud voices and the honking of cars almost everyday. I thought that I would eventually get use to having to take cold showers by the end of that week, but I never did. So,I sucked up having to take cold showers and took taking them with stride. In the middle of the first week in Ghana we visited the rain forest, Cape Coast and Kumasi.Walking 150 feet in the air on the canopy walk in the rainforest has taught me that I am able to reach any height, if I allow myself to. When we reached the top of the mountain, before we walked onto the canopy walk, I did not allow myself to think about what I was getting ready to do. I really did not have time to think about myself because, I was concerned about Sonya. By me being concerned about her, I had to find enough courage from somewhere for the both of us. Me doing that has taught me sometimes when you put yourself aside for the sake of other, at the end you benefit two folds. One from the accomplishment you have made and the other from the accomplishment the other person has made. Seeing how proud Sonya was of herself made hiking up the mountain and walking the canopy walk worth every drop of sweat perspired. Walking through Cape Coast slave castle was emotional but needed. the more I learn about slavery the more I become interested in learning about my ancestors. I want to know their names; where they came from; who were their master’s; etc.These questions yearn to be answered, but I am afraid of the response that I may receive. I know the past of my ancestors is not one of peaches and cream,and the visit to cape coast made me face that harsh reality. Facing the reality of my ancestors have made me want to learn about them more now than ever. I understand that the pain that not only my ancestors faced but, other slaves as well during the era of slavery, is unimaginable. It is because of them that I am able to be the young black women I am today. I pay my respect for them being took from their native land, losing their lives, and more by educating myself and my fellow african americans around me about our past.

the last day of dance class

Going into our second week, I was more comfortable with my surroundings. I was not able to be as involvedwith activities going on around me because, I was not able to find a balance between my school work and activities. When I did find a way to balance between the two, I was less stressed about not being able to participate in one or the other. Taking dance lessons was exciting because, it was a for sure time that I would have a break from class work, which was needed. During dance lessons I not only had a break but I was able to learn three dances performed in the traditional Ghanaian culture. Learning those dances gave me a first hand experience of the style of dance danced. Learning that the beat I danced on was different from the beat danced on during Ghanaian music was difficult. Learning how to dance on the correct beat, which was to drums, was difficult and never really accomplished. Going through the second week in Ghana taught me that whatever I do in life, there needs to be a balance. With out a balance, something vital will be sacrificed. sometimes what is sacrificed will not be noticed immediately, but it will eventually float to the surface.

Not knowing what I was getting  myself into at the beginning of the trip may have been what was best for me. I went into the trip like an empty book and came out with memories that will last me a life time and life lessons covering my book from the front cover to the end.

21 days!!!

In the beginning, I was nervous about this trip for several reasons. A few days before the trip, I remember saying I not going to Ghana. My biggest concern was not knowing anyone who I would be traveling with. After talking with my mother and friend Denae Murray, I decide that if I didn’t go I would be missing out on a once in a lifetime trip. Now after 21 day and 4 plane rides later, I sit here at the airport and recap my trip with the group, I can’t help but think how much I am going to miss laughing and hanging out with them on a day-to-day. I have enjoyed our trip to Ghana. I’ve become a better person from being around such awesome women. Thanks you guys!

I have learned so much. But I will only highlight a few things that keep running through my mind. My walk in the rain through the rainforest on a canopy 100 plus feet in the air with the DB’s(my name for the group) was the best. The slave trade and our visited to the castle in Cape Coast where the slave were held. It was an overwhelming feeling for me. The Catholic Church experience was different. I had never been to a catholic church and shocked at how very similar there are to every other church; I had every been to. Volunteer service at the children home and daycare were great. I love kids. Those children are enjoying life and not worry about what they don’t have. Most importantly, I have learned that some things will never change and that I can’t change anyone. I have to be happy with myself and do what best for me.

I am sad that I missed the lunch with the group and their family. We will have to together another time.I know that time waits for no one. I have to live my life now. I have decided to take more international trips.

Recasting The Past

We made it back. Thank you, God! After a ten and a half hour flight, a six hour lay over, a one hour delay, a two-hour flight and a little jet lag, I am safe at home.  The funniest thing is, I would do it all again. I have learned so much in the last three weeks. I have learned about some of the history of Africa, the different cultures within Ghana, and I have lived the life in Accra.  When studying abroad one does not just tour a country. One meets interesting people; learn customs and one makes some real good friends. Most of all, one learns a lot about oneself. Some of it you like and some of it you do not. I have learned that out of my comfort zone I can live, and I am a very open-minded person. I have been to Africa. I have traveled some of the same paths that my ancestors traveled.

I have seen graves of the Africans Heroes, and I have danced to an African sound. I meet people from different walks of life. I visited a country where almost everyone there is the same ethnicity as myself; advertisements, the commercials, the educational material, and the government are all African. In Ghana certain things do not exist, like racial profiling, racial discrimination or D.W.B., because it does not matter. I am told that in the US, I am an African – American, but in Ghana, I am an African. I was  at Home. Akwaaba (welcome)

In many parts of Ghana, a   Ghanaian does not live the same nor have some of the amenities that I am use to, but it does not matter.  I realized that at the end of the day what you do not have really does not count. What really matters is that you are happy and you are well. We all could learn a lot from the Ghanaians.

  • Well, I took my first international flight…
  • toured Cape Coast and Kumasi;
  • walked my first canopy in the rain forest;
  • learned some Twi;
  • volunteered at the Osu Children’s Home;
  • studied the life of Kwame Nkrumah;
  • brought original handcrafted wooden souvenirs;
  • road on the Tro-Tro;
  • read six books that explained the life, the culture, the history , the religion and the literature of Ghana;
  • interviewed and interacted with an Ghanaian family;
  • attended my first African Catholic service;
  • learned about Post- Colonial Ghana;
  • toured the Volta Regions and
  • tasted Fu Fu

Shots $225.00

Tum’s =$2.00

Taxi =5 cedi

The experience from my study abroad trip to Ghana= Priceless

Love you all.

Now I Know…

As most of you know by now I am the lone ranger here in Ghana. The rest of the group departed as planned on Tuesday evening and I was so sad to see them leave. I have become very fond of each of them as they lived to the titles so affectionately given to them by other members of the group. For instance, TaNika= Ike, Tonya = Joe, Sonya = Tina, I was Catherine a.k.a Sylvester (l0l). When I think of the nicknames I think of the character trait that was attached with it and that is truly what made the names fun, gosh i miss you guys. Anyways moving on to the here and now. Each day that we were here I recapped the events that occurred and put them into slots like pieces of a puzzle, and each day the picture seemed to get bigger. This expansion occurred not as a result of what was being filled in, rather as a result of what was still missing. Therefore, I decided to extend my stay because I felt like I was missing out, on what I’m not sure but I wanted to find it. For example, I wanted to know what it felt like to live like a Ghanaian and not a visitor to Ghana, my wish was granted.

On Wednesday, 7/28/10, I set out on the 4hr journey to Takoradi and Sekondi in the western region of Ghana to visit a friend from the states family. I was told that the trip would take 2hrs by bus…ha, ha. Each day I learn that the Ghanaians I come in contact with have a different concept of time and space than I do. Moving on, the journey it’s self was an experience. My escort and I boarded what looked like a greyhound bus to take the journey, the only difference was the fact that greyhound has a washroom and this bus did not and trust me that was an important factor in a trip that long. So, off we road and after about an hour on the road the driver said something in Twi and several people responded to what he said. the next thing I knew, we were pulling over. I thought it was some type of problem with the bus until I realized about 7 to 10 women got off the bus along with the driver. So, naturally I looked out the window to see what was going on and I quickly realized it was a potty stop in the middle of nowhere. the ladies eased themselves and got back on the bus like nothing happened. However, about 20 min lapsed it was evident that 7 to 10 women got off of the bus to ease themselves without wiping, in addition to about another 20 forgetting to put on deodorant. At that moment I longed for the ladies from my group to share my pain. Then I realized, this is why I stayed; to get these authentic African experiences. It was a long ride. 

Once we arrived in Takoradi, our attending party picked us up and we got a crash course in street navigation, it was like Kumasi market all over again. We finally reached the end of the maze and entered a building with the letters WOMCS on the side, no big deal or so I thought.  Once inside I was introduced to several people, one being the owner of the corporation. He gave me a brief synopsis of what WOMCS stands for. If you watch the news, you may no that oil was found in Ghana recently. Well, WOMCS stands for Western Offshore Management & Consulting Services… in other words, I met the man behind the oil and all of its glory, wow. So, he told me about all of the things he is embarking on with the co, including assisting with clean-up efforts in the Gulf, I was impressed. After spending about 2 hrs in conversation with him it was time to go to our final destination.

Takoradi has a sister city, Sekondi, and this is where we were to spend the remainder of our day. The moment we arrived, I was in awe. It is a small, dirty, smelly little place. However, it is a diamond in the rough and with a lot-of-bit of tlc it could be amazing. As I stood peering out of my friend’s door, I could see lights and ships off in the distance. You see he has real oceanfront property. The built-up shore line is literally 30 steps from his front door, and the view was aaamazing. Once i came back to reality, we decided to walk down to the beach and again, I was in awe. I absorbed all of the raw splendor and then we went back to the house. It was here that I had another, “you’re not in Kansas anymore” moment. I asked to use the restroom and I was pointed in the direction of what looked like a shower inside of the kitchen minus the equipment. looking confused I asked,”what am I supposed to do in there?” My host smiled and said you squat and ease yourself and then you pour water on it and it will flow outside, Oh, okay. So, I did and needless to say I need to work on my aim if you know what I mean. We later went back out and toured Fort Orange, former slave housing, which houses soldiers, and other historical buildings in the town. As we wrapped our tour we set out to catch the bus back to Accra and quickly realized that all of them were gone for the night. So, we had to stay at our host’s home, needless to say it was an adventure and know I can truly say that I have lived like a Ghanaian in the rural area. Again, it was a lot to handle, but this is why I wanted to stay another week.

Now that I am on my own, I reflect on the time that we had together and smile because it was so wonderful. But now, I am laughing because this is a real life adventure that I am having alone and I am loving every minute of it…

Three, Two, One..

One more assignment to go. I ‘ve  gathered most of  my research, completed my outline and did my presentation for my comparative paper. Now all I have to do is push the pencil on the pad. There were so many different topics to choose from and so much to be compared. I could have did my comparative study on place the market,the street sellers, the tro-tro, advertisement or even the housing structure, but I chose the burial rituals and funeral practices of those in the Ga and Ashanti nation. Why I chose this subject one might ask? Well, what  first caught my attention while traveling to Kumasi was the constant display of coffins for sale. It’s not common to see coffins being displayed for sale. The first time I was awed by the idea, but after every three or so  miles there they were again. That’s when my curiosity got the best of me.

When I Asked Moses about the coffins, he informed me that it in Ghana many people buy their own coffins and in some areas they have their coffin custom made to the likes or dream of the dead. Like if you liked coke you could have a coffin in the shape of a coke bottle. As soon as I got the chance to get to a computer I started the research. It’s really amazing how people from different diversities carry out the final detail for the dead. See images below…

Memories Made, Lessons Learned

Deciding to travel to Ghana, Africa was one of the best decisions I could have ever made in my college career. Although it took a lot of courage to step out of my comfort zone, it was well worth it. I learned more about African culture in these past three weeks than I’ve learned my whole life. Things I’d already learned were viewed through a whole new lens, and there were aspects that I hadn’t even thought about before that I got to experience first hand. I was blessed with meeting dozens of new people; I met people from my school that are now close friends, I met locals from Ghana that were so welcoming, and I met other international students from around the world. Not only did I learn new things and met new people, but I pushed myself to new limits and learned a lot about myself. Overall, our study abroad trip taught me more than any text book ever could have.

After all of the jokes, the laughs, the bonding moments, the deep conversations, and times spent with the new people I’ve met, many memories were made. Trust me!

All of the books and stories I read, and all of the papers I wrote pushed me academically. Although at times it was very challenging or stressful, I learned so much about African culture, Ghanaian social structures, and Ghana’s history with colonization, slavery, and politics.

Our excursions put all our in class studies into perspective, and made them more tangible. Seeing the slave castle of Cape Coast, visiting the Ashanti Palace of Kumasi, and hiking through the rain forest landscape opened my eyes to realize that the history and the culture is real.

Partaking in service activities not only made me feel good by making a difference in people’s lives, but it opened my eyes to things I may have been sheltered from before. It made me thankful for the life that I live.

Study abroad trips are so beneficial because they make the things taught in text books much more meaningful. Reading about something, or even watching something on TV cannot even compare to living it. For me, traveling to a place so different than anything I was used to was a huge challenge. I had to overcome homesickness and culture shock, but I feel that working through these things made me a stronger person. This study abroad trip helped me gain a more worldly perspective, and I think this is just the beginning of my world travels. They call Ghana the gateway to Africa for a reason — you get a taste of the land of culture, and we’ll see if my future holds this statement to be true.

Full Circle…

Today I arrived from Ghana with a new perspective on life. I’m very thankful and happy to make it home safely. Everyone except Tonya went with our families to Cheddars for a bite to eat. We were able to recap and think things over. I realized that I have a short attitude toward others regardless of their intentions. If I see that they are trying to infringe on my space in anyway, I immediately attack. I usually reflect later on and see the error in my ways and then attempt to correct them. That’s not the best solution because of my quick temper I may often miss out on the big picture.

My trip to Ghana taught me that if I can survive there that I can make it anywhere. I don’t have to take anything for granted just because it is right in front of my face. Life is too short so enjoy the moment. Somethings you can’t take with you and a lesson in life is quite important to have to reflect on. I know that any changes that I make is not going to transform who I am over night. I’m not saying that I want to change who I am, but the manner in which I handle problems; it makes a big difference. I am what I am and I choose to be me. Who else could I be and if I tried to imitate someone else would I be as happy? I’ve learned to cherish every waking moment and not take for granted what has been given to me.

Life is good so enjoy. Life is what you make so don’t just sit around waiting for life to happen to you do something about it and explore. I’m glad I made this journey and I will always be for ever greatful.

My comparative study is about the market place and/or street vendors. I think that they have a great work ethic because of the hardwork and effort that they put in everything that they do. Since I’ve witnessd first hand the lengths that they go through to provide for themselves, I don’t ever want to hear another human being complain about their simple 9-5. I hope that I am able to put into words my true thoughts and feelings, but time will.

Until Next Time as my Ghanaian brethren would say have a safe journey.

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