Hello freinds, here is the latest update from Ghana:
I have been in Sunyani a week and a bit, but its just now starting to feel like home. The first three days I felt as if somebody had taken my life and shaken out everything I knew, replacing it all with new sounds, smells, foods, new everything. It at times felt like nails grating across a chalkboard in my head, and it was terrifying. In Accra, I do not think I felt much culture shock because I was with a group of ten other white kids, and we traveled around in our little bus like tourists. But on my first day here it hit me like a fifty pound weight to the chest and left me gasping for air. This is culture shock like being one of three white people I've seen in Sunyani, the other two being fellow AFSers. Shock like realizing that although English is the official language, twi is the spoken and known language. Shock like going from living on tons of wonderful vegetables, to having eaten nothing but yams and other starchy plants since my arrival. Sickening shock like going from being an environmentally minded person to becoming a litter here because there is no apparent trash disposal system. (Everyday one of my little siblings gathers all the trash in our compound and dumps it in a field across the driveway) The list goes on and on, but the last major shock I will mention is religion. I am not a religious person, but I had known Ghanaians would be quite religious and I thought I was prepared for that. Not quite. Religion is everywhere here, part of most shop's names, (The lord's own Internet cafe) on the back of taxis, in the schools, everywhere. The hardest part about it is that people always want to know my religious orientation, and upon hearing that I am not sure about the existence of god and that I believe in evolution they often laugh or look at me like an alien. Science is simply not a part of peoples lives, global warming is out of their radar, church is the highlight of their week, and the thought that we were once "monkeys" is impossible. I am learning quick to laugh at myself along with them.
My life at home is in all honesty, a bit of a zoo. I live in a compound made up of five squat one story buildings, which sounds like a spacious setup until you see the twenty-some people that live there. The room I sleep in is attached to the main house, but is only accessable from a single door outside the house. In my estimation, it is about 8 feet wide by 15 feet long, and I share the one twin bed in it with one of my host brothers BB. The room is sunk about a foot into the ground and has horrrible ventilation, so I go to sleep every night sweaty and uncomfortable. (I'm getting used to it though, the feeling of being sweaty and sicky isn't as bad as it once was) The only quiet time is between 11 at night to 6 in the morning, and for the rest of they day it is alive with activity. There is constantly loud music blaring from scratchy radios, and then there is the buzz of many people doing many tasks. Every day my little sibblings sweep the whole compound with homemade brooms, and every day my older host sisters sit out in the sun and wash clothes in big metal basins. Then there is the constant ca-chunk sound that is made by a big machine that filters water before putting into 500 ml plastic bags. The machine, along with my host brothers produces hundreds of the bags a day, which are then sold throughout Sunyani or drunk by us.
Sunyani. Sunyani is about the size of downtown Bellingham, and I think of it as the Ghanaian Bellingham because it has everything you need in a city without being big and crazy. It is about a 3 minute taxi ride from my home, and once in town I can walk everywhere I need to go. There is a big market in the center of the city that sells just about everything you'd find in an American supermarket, and just a few blocks from that is the school I will be attending. It is a constant buffett of smells ranging from pineapple to fried rice to giant roasted rats to sewage. It, like the rest of Ghana, is made quite dirty by an abundance of garbage, but that is no longer shocking like it first was. There is a constant flow of people and vehicles flowing through the city, but it has a lively feel to it rather than the frantic rushed feeling that inhabited Accra. I feel right at home in the city, and I don't think I could have been luckier in my placement.
I am now far past my first few days of intense homesickness, and now the place that I sleep and eat at is beginning to feel like my home. With this sense of home I am finding many things I like about the Ghanaian culture. I like the pace, the lack of rush and the absence of time. I like the twinkle of humor in so many Ghanaians eyes, the ease with which they laugh. I like how business is done, how everything is sold by local merchants and how most of the food is grown locally. I like the peace I feel as I sit around the cooking fire with my family, watching the sun silhouette the huge African trees in gold and listening to the contented buzz of crickets. I am finding there is so much to like here, and I know that this will only become more so as time passes.
Well that is all for today, I'm sorry this issue dragged on a bit more than the others but I had so much to tell! I am just starting up with school so in the next issue I will tell all about that and much more. I hope as you read this life is treating you well, and to all you Whatcom County people tell our beautiful home that I miss her!