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My Last Week in Ghana :(   (published in Ghana)

November 25, 2017 by   Comments(0)

Friday: Yet another Right to Play, but this time before we left we got to observe an interview. One of the girls from shelter had her grandmother come to get her, and said grandmother was very frustrated because this was the third time the girl had run away. Although her grandmother takes very good care of her, she keeps running to Accra to search for her mother, whose location is unknown. The worst part is that the mother has been contacted by phone, and expressed she wants nothing to do with the girl. It is a very painful and frustrating situation because the girl won't stop looking even though it's pointless, and it's taking a toll on the grandmother because she doesn't know what to do anymore. The social workers weighed their options and decided they would try to track down the mother so the girl can at least see her once, then hopefully realize she was better off with the grandma. Another possibility was getting the police involved so that the mother would be forced to care for the child, but Tine and I worried that would set her up for maltreatment. In the end there was no good fix, so all we can do is hope something changes for the positive. That evening, we went out for Claire's last night in Ghana. It was a lot of fun, but also pretty sad because Claire was my roommate and best friend and I'll miss her a lot :(

Saturday: After the festivities of Friday night, I slept all day. In the evening Claire left, and made me cry because she started crying. What a jerk. To cheer me up, I went out with some local friends and we ended up at a party. This party was basically just a bunch of people all wearing white dancing outside of a bar, but it made for some excellent people watching. One man was extremely drunk and kept running after ladies' butts like a puppydog. By the end of the night he had lost his shirt, so I can safely say he had a good evening.

Sunday: Today was another lazy day, the only activity being a trip to a cafe with Maddi, Tine and Julie. Tine forgot to put on bug spray so was frantically itching and yelling about the "animals" on her, but I enjoyed it!

Monday: Our morning with the boys started with Pastor Peter preaching. He was talking to them about what kind of actions lead to heaven vs what actions lead to hell. Somehow this turned into him talking about "witchcraft" which he asked if I'd heard of. I knew witchcraft was beleived by some in Ghana, but told him all I really knew about was Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizadry. He was not familiar. He then educated me about it, and I was very surprised to learn that while he was a Christian and therefore not a follower, he believed that witches existed. I pictured witches as women who performed voodoo-like rituals, but his description was something else entirely. He told me that he has seen witches, and that they fly at night, upside down, with fire coming out of their nose and mouth. This was a true test of open mindedness. I respect anyone's beliefs, but I'm sorry that visual is hilarious. Somehow I managed to keep it together and not laugh, and it was actually extremely interesting to learn about. After the religious portion, we FINALLY got to read the damn Nelson Mandela story we had brought in about a week and a half ago. Peter did the translations for the boys, and then Tine and I asked discussion questions. The boys had excellent answers to questions about what they learned, characteristics of Mandela, violence vs non-violence, etc. What was fascinating was the fact they were unable to answer the question "what did you think about this story?". No matter how we phrased it, we kept getting facts about the story rather than their personal opinions. Time and time again, Tine have noticed throughout the social welfare center that the kids have a tendency to spit facts that are memorized or believed to be "right", such that anytime we ask for something involving creativity or critical thinking they freeze up. After talking with our supervisor, we confirmed that it is a tendency in the Ghanaian educational system and cultural in general to emphasize repetition and accepting facts over interpretation and questioning. Memorization is no doubt an incredibly important school, but I believe critical thinking skills and a sense of individuality are also beneficial. I would love to see the instructors incorporating more activities of this nature, even something as simple as asking the kids for their opinion more often. That night, my friend and I went to a Ghanaian/Ivorian restaurant that was known as a hidden gem. The food is simple, and most of it you can find at a ton of other places, but Chez Clarisse apparently does it the best. We got a whole grilled tilapia topped with tomatoes and onions, an Ivorian starch that reminded me of couscous (I forgot the name), and fried yam. The waiter gives you a pitcher of water, soap, a bowl and paper towels to wash your hand so you can dig right in without silverware. Let me tell you-this was probably the best fish I've ever had in my life. We destroyed this thing. I had been getting tired of the local food, but this revived my appreciation for it.

Tuesday: On the final day of my internship, we had an ICT class with the boys at last! The instructor was in charge so at first we were just observing, but then we were running around helping make sure the boys were following along with the lesson. Due to language barriers and inexperience with computers, it was really hard to keep them on the right track which was frustrating. It made me very impressed with the instructor's patience, because he had to repeat everything so many times. I think patience is a skill I really need to work on, so I'm grateful I got so much practice using it at my internship. After the lesson, it was time for me to make the rounds at the center and say goodbye to everyone. It was so much harder than I expected, because it finally hit me that there's a good chance I'll never see these people again, or at least not for a very very long time. I also found it hard to express my appreciation for everything they did in making my time there special. Words can never really do it justice. After work and a nap, it was time for my last night out in Ghana. I selected a burger place as my dinner destination, solely because I thought it would be funny to make all the volunteers eat American food. Luckily, it was very delicious. Afterwards, we went to karaoke night at Republic because I had made Tine promise to sing me a song. She somehow made me agree to sing with her, and we selected the artistic masterpiece "I want it that way" by the backstreet boys. I am furious to report that they never called our name, therefore I never got my serenade. It was an outrage. But besides that a really pleasant evening

Wednesday: Today I packed. I said goodbye to everyone. And then I went home. I'm back in Evanston as I write this, and it's still incomprehensible to me that three months went by so fast. It didn't quite feel real when I was there, and it doesn't feel real now that I'm here. When writing these blogs I tried to be as detailed as possible 1. So I wouldn't forget anything I did and 2. So I wouldn't have to answer so many questions from people about my trip (just kidding). But I realize now that no amount of detailed journaling could capture my stay in Ghana. The only people who will ever really get it are the people who live there, and my fellow volunteers. That's part of the reason why we all became so close so quickly, and what I hope will keep us close as time passes. Nonetheless, I will do my best to summarize what the past three months meant to me. Everyone kept asking how I felt to be coming home, and the honest answer was I really didn't know. On one hand, I was really looking forward to hot showers. I was more than ready to dive head first into a plate of cheese, and I couldn't wait to not be sweaty for the first time in months. In Accra there is garbage everywhere, it kind of always smells like poop, and I had to kill spiders the size of my fist. I missed sidewalks and wifi and all the little things that make my life "comfortable". But somehow, I still found myself tearing up on the plane as it set in that I was returning home. Accra is a hectic, loud, intimidating city, yet despite this, I was the calmest I've ever been in my life there. One of the sayings I heard the most in Ghana was "feel free", and they mean it. In America, I think we have grown accustomed to this competitive pressure that obligates us to always be doing something. In Ghana, not always doing something is absolutely ok. People do things on their time, in their way, and everyone rolls with it. It has it's flaws, as every nation does: corruption, gender inequality, poverty, etc. but everywhere you look you see people continuing on just doing their best, and I have immense respect for them. In particular, I was blown away by the employees at Projects Abroad. They were some of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met and did an incredible job of making sure all the volunteers felt welcome, safe, and happy with what they were doing. On top of that, they were just really really cool. I cannot thank them enough for the experience they gave me, as did the employees at my placement. Though we did not always agree, they taught me so much, and it was a privilege to work with them. Lastly, I owe perhaps the most thanks to the Live Like Ally foundation, that made this trip possible. Besides helping me fund the trip, Ally’s mom Michelle treated me like family and checked in on me every step of the way. I guess what struck me the most about my trip is the reminder that there are really great people in the world. With all the atrocities happening today, it is easy to get discouraged and lose faith in humanity. Who would’ve known all I had to do was travel about 6,000 miles to Ghana to have it restored.

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My Last Week in Ghana :(https://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/Fmleonard/read/439701/my-last-week-in-ghana-
My Last Week in Ghana :(