Posts Tagged With: Friendliness

Tearful Goodbyes

This morning, I greeted the woman who comes into my compound to sell bread and teared up at the thought that there will be no woman with a basket of bread on top of her head coming to my door in Canada (If you know where I can sign up for such a service, please let me know).  My days in Ghana are numbered and I’m a bit of a mess.  In general I’m in denial about leaving on Friday; I don’t want to think about it, but I kind of have to. For the past few weeks, every time I walk down my street and stop to talk to my neighbours I feel such sadness at having to leave them.  If you know me, you know that whenever I travel, I get attached.  Some people are attached to things, I get attached to places and people with beautiful spirits.

For all the things that drive me nuts about Ghana, Ghanaians are making this goodbye very difficult.  On my way to work, I stopped to buy waakye for breakfast and a man at the street stall recognized me from my morning jogs: “You’re the woman who runs every morning, I see you and I’m the one always here waving you on.  One morning I will come run with you small”. When I told him that I’m leaving on Friday, without hesitation he said that he would host a going away party for me tomorrow.  Then my taxi driver, who is an usher at his church, pulled out two wedding invitations and extended invites to me.

And that has been my experience with Ghanaians, so welcoming.  I don’t know if the impromptu going away party will happen, but the offer really touched me.  The same way that my co-workers’ plans for a big send-off party on Friday before my flight is incredibly touching.  Though I shouldn’t be surprised at either offer – Ghanaians love a good party.

I will write another post about reflections on leaving soon, but in the meantime, I think I have some explaining to do for not posting more often. I can only blame so much on the load shedding and lack of electricity.  Here is what I have been up to while neglecting my blog for the past few weeks (months?):

  • Still blogging! In addition to writing for Verge Magazine, I’ve started a new blogging gig for Girls’ Globe, a website dedicated to advocating for the rights of Women and Girls around the world.  I’m super excited about it and I will continue to write for them when I’m home. If you’re on Twitter, follow us @girlsglobe and like the page on facebook: facebook.com/girlsglobe.  Click here to see my profile on the website, and here to read my first post.
  • I’ve made a couple of videos since I’ve been here. Go to my YouTube channel! One is connected to my post for Girls’ Globe and the other is of two Ghanaian youth talking about what a typical day is like for them.  Quite different from how most North American teens spend their days.
  • Finishing up my work for the YMCA. I’ve accepted that this isn’t going to happen while I’m here. Things have just started really moving forward on my project in the last few weeks.  There is so much I want to get done and not enough time, so I’ve decided that some things (like a gender mainstreaming manual I’m working on) I will finish back in Canada.  Since I don’t have a job lined up, I will have the time to properly tie up loose ends.
  • On that note – I’m looking for a job! Hire me. Please. I’m fabulous; I promise 🙂 Seriously, I have been job hunting, which is a job in and of itself.  I’m hoping that my next project/adventure is just around the corner.
  • Lastly, I’ve been enjoying my time in Ghana. Seeing as much as I can, attending weddings and funerals and getting my fill of trotro rides.  I also had a photographer friend take some pictures for me to remember my time in Ghana by. Check out some of them here.

Though I’m leaving Ghana, my blog isn’t going to die just yet.  I still have a lot to write about my time here and have a few unfinished posts that I started and will post when I’m at home.

With Mexico, the former YMCA Technical School principal, just before heading to the wedding of one of the YMCA members

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First Week Wrap-Up

I’ve been in Ghana for just over a week now and it feels like I’ve been here for much longer.  Not in a bad way, but because I’ve already settled into a routine, made some friends and can find my way around my neighbourhood fairly well.  Although my routine is about to get shaken up.

Elizabeth making me an egg sandwich for breakfast

I’m currently staying at a place called Obruni House, which is essentially compound for foreigners with shared bathrooms and kitchen for each floor.    To me it feels a bit like living on residence during University.  It’s a great way to meet people, especially other Canadians since we’re the majority, and there is always someone around if I feel like company.  But it’s short on privacy, and alone time is hard to come by unless I lock myself in my room.  For example, I can’t leave the compound without passing a group of people who want to know where I’m going and sometimes if they can come too. There is also a porch where people like to hang out and entertain guests just outside of my room, so on more than one occasion whoever is out there has gotten a show as I walk to and from the shower in my towel.  That doesn’t bother me much, I’m more inconvenienced by the walk down the hall to the bathroom and the hassle of locking my bedroom door: laziness > shame.

For all of my complaints, Obruni house is right in the heart of town.  It’s an easy walk to markets, a grocery store, coffee shops, banks etc.  I’ve also got my commute to work down – which includes a daily stop at Mabel’s stall for my breakfast.

Still, I decided to look for another place to live where I’m not sharing with quite as many people and will have more opportunities to make friends outside of the expat community.   I’m very lucky that my search for a new home didn’t take long.  This weekend I will be moving into a two bedroom house with a fellow Canadian who is in Ghana working for a year.  My new place is the same distance to work, but in a quieter neighbourhood – pictures to come!  I will also have air conditioning, a coconut tree, orange tree and avocado tree in the yard!

As I get settled in, I’m constantly learning new things…here are a few of my lessons from week 1:

Accra is HOT.  One of the first things I’ve learned is the necessity of a sweat rag.  And not just for foreigners, Ghanaians also carry a cloth to wipe the sweat before any actual dripping occurs. I suppose handkerchief would be the more polite term, but sweat rag is a more accurate depiction of what it is.

Do not take malaria pills on an empty stomach! I definitely learned this one the hard way, after vomiting into a gutter on the side of the road on my way to work.  On the upside, that corner is now a landmark that I use when I’m walking home and not sure where I’m supposed to turn.

Detours are common.  On my first day here, I met up with Sarah from YCI expecting to go to work; instead we went to sit in on a session of parliament – just because we could.  Earlier this week, one of my co-workers at the YMCA took me to buy a cell phone; the trip should have taken 20min.  Instead, 3.5 hours and a whole lot of errands later, I had my pone.

Ghanaians seriously are kind and generous! In my first week, I’ve had: a taxi driver see me walking and drive me where I needed to go for free because he recognized me from the day before; a stranger give me money when I didn’t have exact change to pay for something, even though I had enough money; and my coworkers drop everything if I need something, like buying a phone or looking at a house, to accompany me where I need to go.  So far it’s only my male co-workers and this may have something to do with gender roles, and them feeling the need to take care of me.  I will definitely be writing more about gender roles in later posts.

So far, I really don’t have much to complain about. I have my days when I feel frustrated that things aren’t the way I’m used to, or the heat gets to me; but overall I’m enjoying my time here.

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The Journey

I have spoken to many people who have been to Ghana and haven’t heard a single negative thing (+1 for Ghana!).  I have overwhelmingly been told that Ghanaians are the friendliest people and that I will have a wonderful time in Accra; so this is obviously going to be the beginning of my newest love affair with a country.

I’m often teased about being too friendly to strangers, so if Ghanaians are as nice as I am told, we will get along just fine. My friends and family often worry about my safety because I generally talk to or at least greet anyone I meet on the street – Case in point, some words of advice I received before leaving: “Whenever you feel the need to say good morning (to a stranger) DON’T!” Fair enough, sometimes I talk to shady characters I meet on buses in Central America and end up getting robbed.  BUT sometimes, I smile and make small talk with the right people and end up getting upgraded to business class; as was the case with my flight to Ghana. This was the first time I had to worry about which fork and knife go with which course on an airplane (free wine however, goes with all courses).   My journey, which took me from Toronto to London, then London to Accra, was off to a good start.

Aside from the upgrade, there was little to report about my trip – although British accents and a pilot named captain hook were highlights for me.

I arrived in Accra on Monday night feeling hot, anxious to get settled and trying not to think of seven months as a long time.

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