Ghana - part one
16 days ago I returned to the U.S after spending 21 days in Ghana. I spent my first 7 days back adjusting into my regular life, and the next 9 days pondering how I wanted to speak about my trip in my first post about it.
In 21 days, I experienced more than I could have ever prepared for. There were so many incredible moments, hours, and days. However, the most empowering, inspiring thing for me was the people I met and the attitudes they had. Not just toward me, a visitor in their homes, but toward their own lives.
I think it is important I start by saying this is absolutely not a post about how much I did to "help the poor in Africa," a stigma often referred to as the "white savior" complex that I think often follows any trip to Africa or a similar place. If anything, the people I met did more for us than we did for them. In fact, Ghana is one of the most economically stable and peaceful countries in all of Africa.
The first village we visited, Sokode (pronounced So-ko-day), was in the Volta region which is in Eastern Ghana. We spent a few days in Sokode becoming familiar with village life and its people. From our first night in Sokode, we were told, "The minute you land in Ghana, Sokode is your home." The people were incredibly welcoming, inviting us to learn their tribal dances at our welcome dinner, and genuinely excited to have us in their home.
The second day, we were each placed with a family in the village. My family included a man, Alhaji, and his mother, Bella. Alhaji and Bella showed us around the village, which is about the size of two neighborhoods (with a main road separating them). The Sokode people have almost everything they need to survive within the village: a small house (pictured below), farm animals such as chickens and goats for food and milk, and different plants that grow everything from coconuts, to palm nuts for palm oil, to vegetables like peppers and maize.
It was so clear to me that Alhaji and Bella were proud of their home and village. They were not trying to hide anything from us - these foreign, white students whom they knew nothing about. Rather, they were genuinely excited to be able to explain their lifestyle and answer our questions with no judgement. Compared to most Americans, Alhaji and Bella had so little, but they were genuinely happy with what they had.
In Sokode and other villages we visited, the children were absolutely fascinated with us. After just exchanging smiles, they would eagerly approach us, even if they did not speak English. Even more surprising, their parents would be nearby and they would let them run to us on their own.
Picture this: In the US, a mother and her young daughter are in a busy downtown and the daughter is suddenly approached by a group of older, clearly foreign people. I think we all know what would usually happen next: a swift nudge to the daughter's shoulder to walk away and a push of the head down so no eye contact can be made.
In Ghana I experienced the exact opposite everywhere I went. Ghanians were so willing, if not eager, to let you into their culture and home. More importantly, they were so genuinely happy with what they had - even if it was a tattered shirt and dirt to play in.
So often in the US I think we are preoccupied with the future - what will we buy next, where will we go next, who will we see next - it is hard to be happy with what we already have or what we're already doing. I'm guilty of this too - at least once a day I'll be doing something but all I can think about is what I am going to do next.
Happiness is so contextual - in our context, material possessions are often abundant and moments we take to smile and be thankful are often scarce. In Ghana, appreciation for what you already have seems to simply be second nature.
In or out of context, I think every American could learn a thing or two from Ghana and the people of Sokode. They will always have a piece of my heart.
Just living, learning + loving and writing some of it down along the way. Senior + Director of Panhellenic Recruitment at Elon University in North Carolina. Currently interning + curating social for some badass clients at SFW in Greensboro, NC. Yogi, sightseer, shopaholic, foodie, writer.
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