Thursday, September 9th 2016

8:51 pm

Last Sunday was probably one of the most hilarious and uncomfortable experiences of my life.

So if you know me, you would know that by no means am I religious whatsoever. Like I literally don’t even know the difference between Catholics and Christians. That being said, I agreed to go with my Auntie (the lady I live with who is like 65-70yrs old) to church on Sunday. Mind you, I may have had a few drinks in me when I agreed to this. Nonetheless I woke up at 9 am Sunday morning go to church, purely out of anthropological interest to see what it was like. I figured it might at least be interesting to see how they practice religion.

Having never been to church before, I was thinking it was going to take up like an hour tops? Maybe 2 if i was unlucky. Seeing as I just woke up, I went not looking the greatest. However, every other person there was dressed in long fancy dresses, complete with satin head bands and pearls. Basically every one was sort of dressed the same, and then there is this white girl sitting there in borderline pajamas. Also, my roommate Yas came along and we both were sticking out way more than our liking.

Once the service started I knew this was not like any church back home. I haven’t even been to church but I can gaurntee it’s not anything like this. There was a band with drums, electric guitars, pianos and trombones backing up the choir at the front. Not only were people standing up and singing along, but they were dancing. Like REALLY dancing. It was actually pretty cool to see everyone so passionate and happy about something. Even when they went up to give donations (which happened about 3 times), they didn’t just walk up, there was a legit conga line all the way up to the front. I felt so out of place for not dancing! It was like they were having an actual party.  So after the initial hour and a half of this church party, it became more like I would expect a western church to be. The reverend read out some bible verses and preached for a while. At this point I started getting bored and checking the time frequently. The hours passed slowly and eventually by hour 3 I was literally rapping Kanye West songs in my head to keep myself awake.

Having been distracted by my personal lord and savior, Kanye, I didn’t notice when the reverend called out “are there any new comers here?”. My Auntie immediately stood up pointing at me and Yas.  I soon snapped out of my daze and was being rushed to THE FRONT OF THE CHAPEL. Here I am, not religious by any means, basically in sweat pants, standing at the front of the church in front of hundreds of people. They handed us the microphone to say our names one at a time, and state whether we wanted to join them permanently! I was biting my tongue trying so hard not to giggle out of discomfort. I somehow managed to say I was just here to visit, but nevertheless they all started preaching to us. The reverend got everyone to wave their hands in the air and pray for the two of us. We were awkwardly standing there not knowing where to look or what to say.

Once we sat down I was hoping that it was finally over, because I wasn’t sure how much more I could handle. 3 Hours seemed more than enough. But nope, I WAS AT CHURCH FOR 4 AND A HALF HOURS.

It did end eventually,  so Yas and I wanted to go back up to campus and do some of our readings in a productive environment. However we got half way to the road where we could catch a taxi and guess who pulls up? The reverend!!! He offered to give us a ride and naturally we agreed. Thankfully this ride was less than 10 minutes long, because the entire time was spent questioning us about our faith. He told us this story of a girl he met who claimed to be atheist and how he tried to convert her. It was so awkward because we could tell he was trying to get us to join his church and we didn’t know how to be polite about it. He asked for my phone number so that he could “visit us for a chat”. My phone just so happened to be dead and I don’t know my number here off by heart, so he just gave me his.

Overall I’m glad I went for the experience. I’m here to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things, so at least I have this funny story to take away.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

10:09 pm

Well, I made it!

It already feels as if the time is going so fast, although it’s only my fourth night in Ghana. It is not that different than I imagined, but I suppose that is due to my previous travel experience. Despite having been to other African countries, I’m definitely still experiencing slight culture shock. While it’s not so much due to cultural difference, I find myself feeling homesick and always trying to be on the internet, or communicate to others back home in some way. However, I was expecting to feel this way as I am such a home body. There is literally nothing more I love than laying in my moms huge bed with my dogs and an endless mug of Earl Grey, catching up on my favorite soap operas. For most of the others I am with it is there first time in Africa, so I can hardly imagine how they are feeling.

My first night here was spent in a hostel in Accra, the capital city. When we woke up the first thing we did after breakfast was go to immigration to get our residents visa… and my picture looks like a mugshot…as usual. Before heading to the University of Cape Coast we stopped at VERY western shopping mall, which had shops including Mac makeup, an Apple store, Payless shoes and best of all a Second Cup!! I got an extra large tea, which in turn made me feel very nauseous on the bumpy bus ride to the University and I had to ask them to pull over so I could puke on the side of the road. If I’m being completely honest I got it all over my shoes. About 10 minutes later we stopped for a bathroom break, which of course was a squat toilet (literally a hole in the ground). And yes, I did get pee on my shoes too.

The following two days were spent settling into the University, which to my surprise is huge and hosts around 60,000 students. It’s basically the size of a small town, and has anything you could ever need including a hospital, dentist, fire and police station, 6 residence, restaurants, a market place and so on. You could live at this place and never have to leave.

Tonight I settled in to my home-stay, where Yasman and I live with Auntie Ivy and her two dogs. She cooked us such a delicious dinner of the traditional meal ‘Red Red’, which I think was spicy beans and tomato sauce? Regardless, the food here is awesome and it is surprisingly easy to be vegan. I’m so okay with having rice and fruit for almost every meal.

So basically I’m homesick and stuff but I expected it and I know I’ll get over it. I think the hardest part is not being around people I am familiar with. Like it’s a really weird feeling and I don’t know the best way to describe it. When I’m busy doing things I feel like I could live here for years, but sometimes I’ll get this wave of reality and go into shock that I actually signed up for this. Regardless, I am happy and grateful to be here and I get excited every morning to see what the day will bring, which is not necessarily something I would feel at home.

 

Places I have been… So far

North America: United States, Canada, Mexcio

Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Cuba,St. Kitts, St.Thomas, St.Lucia, St.Maarten, Barbados, Tortola, Antigua,Bahamas, Honduras, Aruba, Curacao

Europe: Italy, Vatican City, Croatia, Greece, Turkey (EU side), Malta, Monte Carlo, Spain, England, Scotland, Germany, Russia, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia

Africa: Tunisia, Kenya,

Asia: Thailand, Laos

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

10:02pm –  2 months prior to departure date

Should I be nervous? It seems to be the first thing I am asked when mentioning this trip to anyone. “Are you not scared?”,  “Are you sure it’s safe?”, and most importantly; “Will you have WiFi??!”.

Yeah I’m scared! I’m not going to lie and say I’m not nervous about the fact I will be living in West Africa for 8 months. It only seems reasonable to be afraid of things we are uncertain of. However, I do not believe being nervous is a reason to stop yourself from proceeding with something that could be great. When given the amazing opportunity to study in Ghana with my school, Trent University, I knew it was something that I had to do. I began traveling at an early age which made me fall in love with the world. I know that sounds lame but it’s true. I’m so interested in humans and the earth that I study Anthropology and International Development studies as an outlet. I want to understand people as a whole in order to better conceptualize how society progresses. Add that to my love for traveling and you have an aspiring ethnographic researcher!  (Basically I want to travel around and study different cultural concepts and write about it in books that are important).

So yes, I am nervous, but how boring would life be if you never challenged yourself? I’m a firm believer that you manifest your reality through your mentality. Since I have been waking up for over the past year in the mindset “F*ck yeah I’m moving to Ghana!”, I’ve been subconsciously setting myself up for success. If you constantly tell yourself you will succeeded in doing something, you will. Go try it out. Remind yourself of your goals daily and watch what can happen.

It’s two months before I leave and I’m getting more excited and nervous everyday. My biggest concern is probably my diet. Being vegan I’m unsure of what I can actually eat there, and fear of offending someone potentially offering me some sort of non-vegan meal. I also fear the heat, but I know I will adjust eventually. I am also more nervous of coming back afterwards than I am to arrive;  I know I wont be the same as I am now. I fear of my mind growing to the point where the self I am now will no longer be recognized. But I can hardly wait. I do not know what this trip will bring but I am guaranteed an adventure.

I decided that this opportunity would be a good test run to see if this is truly what I want to spend my life doing. I’m going to post updates here  throughout my time abroad, because it’s easier to just share with everyone in one place instead of writing my stories to each person I may not get the chance to speak with. I wanted to do one now to trace my change in attitude as my time there goes on. Who knows, I could end up running home week 2, switching my major to molecular biology (doubtful). The truth is that I do not know what to expect. But I have to at least try. How would i feel if i didn’t?

10:58pm