Saturday, April 15th, 2017

I can’t believe that this year is already over. I’m sitting in the Accra airport writing this not able to understand where the time has gone. I distinctly remember getting off the airplane in August, shockingly overwhelmed by the heat, unsure of what was instore for me. That first night spent at Agoo hostel seems so far away now. This year ended up bringing me more than I could have hoped for. I made amazing, smart friends that I can have intense development debates with one minute, and then go out and dance like an idiot with the next. I learned how to live outside my comfort zone, and adapt to situations completely out of my control. Most importantly, I’ve been able to attach tangible experience to Anthro/Development theory I’ve learned through text books. This year was truly an invaluable experience, and I would do it all over again if I could.

The best advice I can give to someone living abroad, or even just traveling, is to go with the flow. Situations will arise that are completely out of your control, and you will have no option but to accept it. You don’t have time to panic or stress, you just need to evaluate your next logical steps. Also, never be afraid to ask a local stranger for help. Specifically, in most of West Africa, I’m certain almost anyone will be more than happy to assist you.

I’m sure I will have more reflecting to do once I’m home wallowing in homesickness for this country. But for now, it almost time for me to board my flight so I can go home and maul my dog and parrot.

Ps I hate flying. Wish me luck.

 

Your girl,

Cultured Tay

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

9:32pm

I can’t believe I’ve been here for over 2 months!!

It feels like the time is flying by so fast, but when I imagine my first night arriving in Accra it seems so long ago. It’s probably because I have been so busy. During September and October, I was staying in Cape Coast and finished two full-year credits in a matter of two months. I was living with a lady named Auntie Ivy in a community called Ola, and cabbing into the University of Cape Coast for classes Monday-Thursday. While the others in my program had a good experience with their homestays, me and my roommate Yasaman grew to really hate where we lived. Our Auntie lived by herself and was probably in her late 60s- early 70s. She would speak a total of about 5 words to us in a day, including her strange grunting noises we learned to take as responses to our questions. On nights we would come in late, it seemed like she would punish us by leaving a single piece of bread for us to share in the morning for breakfast. When we were lucky, we got two slices of plain white bread and maybe half an orange each. The occasions which she did actually speak to us in full sentences was when she found a reason to yell at us. Either our garbage got too full before we took it out, we came in at 7:15pm when we said it would be 7pm, or if we had the fan on for too long during the day,  were all considered times when “we were unfair to her”.  Things she could have warned us about before, or talked to us about after seemed to be a huge issue with her. But, if she had just talked to us we could have made sure these things would never happen! We have this theory that she only became this way after we went to church with her once and never again. She probably got her hopes up thinking we were going the entire time we lived there. Oh well.

But finally, we have completed our first two courses and moved out of Auntie Ivy’s house. Finally. We began our journey up to the North Friday October 28th.  It was a very long road trip which we broke up over the entire weekend, crossing 3 regions of Ghana. First visiting the half way point Kumasi, then all the way up to Bolga and then back down a few hours to Tamale. We will be staying in Tamale for the next month for a course called Local Dynamics of Change, which provides us with a hands-on practical experience to apply our theoretical knowledge. We will actually be in the field evaluating development programs and determining whether or not they are truly being effective. This basically what I want to do in my future career so I feel so lucky that I’m getting the chance to practice the skills now.  Also my professor is a total development badass/legend and I am so excited from how much I’m going to learn from him.

The North is so much hotter though! I felt the sun less directly while we were living on the coast, and at least we were near the ocean and could go for a swim or the cool breeze. This city is so cool though so I’m really not complaining. I’m missing little weird things I didn’t expect to be so significant. In terms of food I really miss sushi, burritos and dill pickles, but anyone who talks to me probably knows this by now seeing as it’s all I talk about. I also really miss going to the gym. I was going 5-6 days a week when I was at home at it was the only way I really knew how to deal with stress. I’ve tried working out here in my room, and I do sometimes, but it’s just soooo hot it feels impossible. Someone mail me pre workout please…

But guess what???? I’m visiting home in a month! I’m excited but also really comfortable here, but it will probably be a nice break to binge on all of the things I miss.

Friday, October 7, 2016

4:00 pm

One month down, 7 to go!

I’ve been living in Cape Coast for over a month now and things are going way better than I could have imagined. I’ve adjusted better than I would have expected and I’m starting to get really comfortable here. So comfortable that I’m actually nervous to visit home in December. I feel like it will be really strange going back, but regardless I need to go see my animals.

During our pre-departure orientation they talked a bit about culture shock. However, they made it seem fairly different than the way I am actually experiencing it. To me, it isn’t the food, customs or frustrations with communicating. In fact, I love the food here, the way different ways people behave intrigues me and basically everyone I have met speaks some English. Culture shock to me, is felt in the very minor things which become overwhelmingly frustrating.

You know that feeling when you put something in your bag, like your phone, and then once you go to get it out you don’t see it right away so you sort of freak out for a second until you find it? That feeling is amplified x10 when you’re here. Or if your laptop is freezing and you get a little annoyed? That could literally bring you to tears. What if you want to have a shower so badly, but all of the buckets of water in the house have been used? Not the best feeling. The only way around this is to take the time to remind yourself that you are overreacting. There is always a solution to the problem, it just seems further out of reach when you’re on the other side of the world. But it’s not, and you’re fine.

The number one most irritating thing to me so far is the constant attention. The first week here I thought it was kind of funny, but we literally cannot walk down the street without people talking to us. Little kids run up to you yelling “Obruni! Obruni!” which means foreigner, or white person. But its not only the kids, people of all ages call after you. I’ve been here a month and have had at least 5 people ask me to marry them within 2 minutes of meeting. I don’t even feel comfortable walking around with both headphones in because I know within 60 seconds someone else will try to talk to me, or at least wave. Sometimes it’s fine, but naturally you’re not always going to be in the mood to smile and talk to people. I literally know how the Kardashians must feel.

The strangest thing was when this family called me over on my walk home from school. “Obruni! Bra, Bra!” (white person! come, come!). So naturally I went over and said hello. But before I could even finish greeting them they handed me an infant baby, definitely less than a year old. Immediately the baby starting bawling and I was awkwardly holding it confused. The family started howling laughing and spoke in Fante the entire time so I had no idea what was going on. Eventually they took their baby back, and it stopped crying. I later realized they just wanted to see the baby react to a white person. That was all.

Overall things are going really well here, and this stuff doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it could. I try to just laugh it off. Also, I’m hoping people don’t assume that I’m on vacation because this is the hardest amount of school work I’ve ever had to cope with. I’m doing two full year courses in 2 months. This month alone I have 4 essays, 2 exams and around 50 pages of reading every day. November should be awesome because we are headed up north to Tamale to do more hands-on field work. But I love Cape Coast so much I wont want to leave here!