Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Things I'll Miss

Even within the first few days, I knew there would be may things I would miss about Ghana, but now with over ten weeks under my belt, I already mourn different aspects of my life here. It is strange how quickly you can be accustomed to things no matter how much they vary from your normal life. The first thing I defiantly do not want to leave behind is the mangos. In town, it was hard to go a day without seeing various stores selling them, be them on people’s heads or by your feet those metal bowls they are hard to escape, not that we'd ever want to. Helping to break up the carbo-centric diet the juicy fruits were a nice respite from rice and TZ.

It’s not only mangos people sell in large bowls on their head if you are looking for jewellery, fabric, meat or ice lollies we all know to raise our chins and search. Of course, the first few times I asked someone for something in this way I felt nervous and like I was annoying them with requesting they lower their goods. But the majority of people are very friendly and sellers are only too happy to… well, sell. This convenience of sitting down and watching your shopping drift on by in the flow of walkers is something someone as lazy as I, will definitely miss.

Another thing that has been amazing when I lack the energy to put an effort into my daily activities is taxis. Being placed in Tamale our two options of transport are taxis or walking. Often you walk to get a taxi from a certain road, just like a bus, saving yourself an unbelievable amount of cedis, but when it’s dark or when you really don’t mind giving the extra money you fork out and get a “drop taxi”- door to door service. Of course, it helped that we were given some good driver’s numbers at the start, but also along the way it is almost surprising how quickly you accumulate more contacts.

Maths. Yes, arguably not the most intriguing part of any trip I grew to love dividing all my costs by five. Why five you ask, well that is the conversion rate of pounds to the local Ghana cedis, and although I managed to live in the allowance for my food and transport requirements when buying gifts it was really nice to feel like I got an amazing deal on gifts. 20p each for bracelets? Heck, they can each have four! Of course, being a visible minority often we were cheated out of money, but these things you have to weigh up for yourself when using your own spending money: How much effort is the haggling worth? Is the £1 to me as bad a loss as their 5 cedis in profit? What am I willing to pay? Only you can know your situation and what the items are worth to you. Best of luck with that judgment, it’s something I have struggled with the whole time.

Talking about being a “siliminga” (white person/non-Ghanaian) I will miss that phrase. From my personal host home I had to walk through two schools and every day without fail I had swarms of children call out to me, greeting me with this title and asking me how I was, wishing me well and smiling. It was heart-warming. And this genuine elation at my presence even extended to the adults, especially in the local villages but even in town. Never once without fail did I not wave to someone who called out to me, or answer a question a pupil had be it my name, how I was or what I was doing in their country. This was very rewarding, although it made me late to work a few times I saw so much joy from children and to me being able to make that sort of difference on such a grand scale and so regularly is something I will miss.

As a white person from England, I have never been a visible minority before. I think this was definitely an important experience to go through. It’s different from visiting somewhere on holiday for a few days where you can navigate around the tourist sites; we live in this country. Not only from my own experience nor my fellow peers but what Ghanaians were willing to say to me I learnt a lot about preconceptions about my country and who I was. Of course, no matter where I go I have white privilege and I would never say my experiences of being charged extra for bananas comes close to the racism other people face.

However, despite previously being aware of microaggressions I had never experienced them, never mind on a daily basis, it was eye opening to see how small but irritating they can be. Whether it be people say I couldn’t open doors, asking me to pay for things or following me around. If there is anything I want to take home from my experience and take action on both the friendly side Ghanaians showed me and this new awareness on microaggressions would be those things. Basically note to self: greet more people, and educate yourself more on how to be a better white ally.

Finally, I’ll miss the project. No matter the day of the week or the pace of the work we were doing, every day we always know we are trying to make a difference and making small steps in achieving that. There is little in life I will find more rewarding than my host uncle saying repeatedly I changed his perception on contraception and that fact women shouldn’t have to get married. Returning to jobs and tasks that are less rewarding will be hard, but it’s still amazing we could make these achievements while we are out here and if nothing else we should use this moment of progress to inspire our action at home.

Written by Charlie Wood

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