We decided to live in Ghana… Permanently.

Why should we go home? Why do we want to go home? Well, if you speak to some White Americans in my study abroad program or to some Black Americans who live in my hostel, you will receive a very interesting answer to these questions. They do not want to go “home” to America because Ghana is now our home. Earlier in my blogs I wrote, “Living here is 100 times better than living in New York because here in Ghana there is a deep human connection you find with others, even with strangers and new people. I feel like the human spirit is more alive here in Ghana then it is back in America.” Once you come to Ghana, you experience a deep love, connectedness, and passion between people that is very rare to find in the United States. Deep, meaningful conversations pop up everyday and you do not have to wait until the weekend or the holidays to see your best friends.

It is very hard for me to articulate in words the warm feeling inside of my mind and my soul. I was unhappy in New York because I was never satisfied with things. I could teach inner city youth full time and even volunteer teach an additional 6 hours a week in the evenings. I could shop and party and go to bars. I could travel to see friends on occasion and visit my family on the weekends. But still, there was a cold and empty feeling inside of me, despite my struggle to live a balanced and fulfilled life. I felt like a deep person who was searching for a deeper human connection, but since I could not find what I desired, I settled for less, and I participated in meaningless, superficial things. I was hoping since other people were satisfied with clothes, money, and many superficial friendships, that maybe I would be satisfied with these things as well. I was wrong. They say everyone has to find what’s best for them and pursue that interest. Well, Ghana is everything I could have ever dreamed of, and more.

When I speak to some Americans about why they want to live in Ghana permanently, it has partly to do with the deep human connectedness. Two of my friends really enjoy teaching Ghanaian students. The children are very respectful and very passionate about learning as much as they can. They love participating in class and they always ask for more homework! Although some Ghanaian teachers still use physical punishment, my American friend decided to use “tickle punishment” with her kindergarten students instead. Whenever a student misbehaves or doesn’t do what they are supposed to in class, she tickles them for a while and they giggle and giggle until they agree to behave! The children are so grateful for their education. Their outlook is so positive, despite many obstacles that may be in their way.

The difference between life in Ghana and life in America is that here, people are satisfied. Maybe people are not rich or they do not drive fancy cars, but people have meaningful relationships and share love, laughter, and conversations, even with strangers. Yesterday I sat down for lunch with two African American women who live in my hostel that I have never spoken to before. They both told me that they are moving to Ghana permanently. One woman said this was her 11th time in Africa but her second time in Ghana. She planned to move to the Eastern Region and get married to her fiancé there. When she told me her plans, I felt the joy radiating from her smile, and I smiled with her. What a beautiful life! It makes so much sense that people should be happy, satisfied, and in love. It makes sense that people should love openly, without regret and should trust each other and build a future together. To me, love is the greatest joy in life. Although my career is important to me too, love is equally (if not, more) important. Why are American’s so dissatisfied with their love lives and why are they so obsessed with their careers? I realize that after feeling immense, unadulterated joy in Ghana, I can never return to the unhappy, dissatisfied, restless state of mind I experienced in New York.

Now, you could argue I am simply in love with my Ghanaian boyfriend and that’s why I do not want to leave Ghana.You could argue that my internship at the West Africa Aids Foundation has inspired my career decisions to be a doctor, and that Dr. Naa has become a positive mentor and role model and I want to become exactly like her. Or, I am so in love with the cute 3 year-old babies at the Daycare Center where I volunteer on Mondays, and I want to continue spending time with Ghanaian babies. Or you could say, since I am living a SuperStar Lifestyle, appearing in music videos with Ghana’s top hip-life artists, V.I.P., that’s why I do not want to leave. But my connection to Ghana is even broader, and deeper then that. My boyfriend told me, “Ghana is your home. You are always welcomed here”. Americans never told me, “Welcome home”. What is home really? It should be a place of comfort, love, joy, and satisfaction. The only thing I miss at home is the food. I think I can get over that with time. I love my friends and family at home, but it is obvious to me that I was not satisfied with the limited amount of time I got to spend with them when I was in the States. I feel like everyone in New York is constantly competing, trying to advance their careers, and reach their goals. I realize these are can be positive attributes and aspirations in moderation, but I personally think that taking out the time to be with loved ones and sharing deep moments is more important. You only live once, so why spend your life feeling trapped in a superficial “battle to the top”?

So where do I go from here? Do I still want to apply for Teach for America and attend post-baccalaureate pre-medical programs in New York City? Do I still want to go to medical school in New York? Well to be honest, I am not sure anymore. I have to see how things go. I know that foreign students attend Korle Bu Medical School in Ghana and it only costs about 6,000 a semester (WOW, no debit after medical school)! So at this point, I must say, I am very open to new possibilities. I am sure if I follow my heart, then all of my love, passions, interests, and my dedication to making a difference will steer me along the right path. From day one, I knew I wanted to be different from everyone else and I knew I was open-minded to everything the world had to offer me. I no longer think solely as a New Yorker, New Rochellian, or Cornellian—my mind is now open to a global perspective and global possibilities.

I LOVE GHANA! <3 GH <3


Inequalities in Ghana- University Stike, Police Bribes, and Gender Discrimination

Things have gotten very interesting in Ghana over the last 3 weeks for me. Unfortunately, some of these stories are too personal to discus online. But in short, COME TO GHANA!!! All the people here, including young adults, men, women, and children are very hospitable and friendly. The parties are amazing and the men believe in chivalry still!  Ladies, if you come to Ghana you will be treated like a Queen and will be respected (I can’t emphasize enough how well you will be treated by the guys here in comparison to the guys in colleges in the U.S.). Of course there are always exceptions, but I am speaking for me and my international female friends, based on our experiences in The Sates and here in Ghana. Anyway, I digress. I just wanted to be honest about that part of my study abroad experience.

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I have noticed that the Ghanaian government turns the other cheek to many inequalities.  For example, all public university teachers in Ghana are on strike now.  This is the third week of the strike. According to the rules, if the strike lasts 3 weeks then all of the public Universities in Ghana will be closed for a whole year.  According to my Ghanaian friends, the strike started because the government refused to pay the university professors the advance payment they agreed to in their contracts.  One friend told me that the government owed 5,000 Cedi to each professor, and there are approximately 3,000 public university professors in Ghana.  In other words, the government owes a lot of money and either the government does not have the money or they are refusing to allocate it to the professors.

It is very interesting how the universities have temporarily dealt with this problem.  The Ghanaian students have no classes at all and they are spending the majority of their time sleeping, hanging out with friends, and relaxing.  However, the international students still have classes because the professors agreed to teach only the international students.  This is simply one example of inequality here.  The international students are generally catered for, yet the Ghanaian students are left behind. The international students will write final exams on time, leave on time, and receive their grades on time.  However, the Ghanaian students (especially the level 400 students) may not even graduate in 4 years.  Who knows what they plan to do if they have no school for a year.  Most students here do not have jobs and do not work, so most likely they will continue to relax with friends and help out their family if the schools shut down.

There is corruption all over Ghana, especially with the police.  The police look intimidating in their blue army print uniforms, and they all carry rifles strapped across their chests.  I noticed that whenever the taxicabs pass through certain checkpoints, they have to negotiate with the police. They usually wind up giving the police 2 or 3 Cedi.  For example, one taxi driver did not have his new registration stickers for his car. As a result, he was charged 3 Cedi every time he passed through the checkpoint. In his case, it would have been a better idea if he simply got the sticker replaced (since it was not very expensive to do). Another time, the taxi talked to the police for literally 20 minuets because he had 5-passengers in a 4-passenger car.  I am sure he had to pay for that mistake.  He knew we had 5- passengers so it is unclear why he would chose to go through the police check point rather than taking an alternative route.  Also, taxis that do not have a University sticker have to pull over into a parking lot and pay 1 Cedi every time they enter the University at night. Although this rule is pretty standard, it is not clear what that money they are collecting is actually going towards.

Other inequalities I am noticing on campus are seemingly random.  International Student Hostel 1 is better that International Student Hostel 2 in many ways, even through the buildings are supposed to be the same.  For example, the rooms in ISH 1 are more spacious and have tiled floors in some of them.  The restaurant there serves larger portions, the food is better, and the food comes a lot faster.  More importantly, ISH 1 always has flowing water. They never have to carry buckets to an outdoor faucet to get water and take bucket baths like we have to.  However, even more significant than the water issue is the issue of electricity.  ISH 1 ALWAYS has power and ever experiences “lights out” because they have a generator.  This entire side of campus will have no lights, but if you look across the parking lot at ISH 1, they will ALWAYS have lights.  It makes absolutely no sense why ISH 1 would receive all the upgrades before ISH 2, if they were supposed to be the same quality buildings.  At least the price of housing should reflect these obvious inequalities between the two hostels.

The oddest example of gender inequality occurred to me a few weeks ago at the University pool.  The university has the strangest rule about swim caps.  They only require women to wear swim caps and men do not have to, regardless of their hair length, and the swim caps cost 8 Cedi (which is relatively expensive).  I saw an international guy swimming with shoulder-length hair and he was not wearing a swim cap.  Upon further inquiry, I was first told that women have cream in their hair and it will mess up the pool if they swim without a cap.  I was not happy with this answer, so I went inside to speak to one of the managers.  Then, I was told that women have perms in their hair and that the chemicals in the perm will mess up the pool.  However, this explanation makes absolutely no sense because there are no chemicals in your hair after you receive a perm (otherwise I am sure your head would be burning pretty intensely).  According to what my Mom explained to me in the past, when a person gets their hair relaxed (chemically straightened), the chemicals denature the protein in the hair, making it straight (then of course you deactivate the chemical cream and rinse the hair very well).  I though it made absolutely no sense that women (all women, regardless of whether they have a perm or not) would be required to purchase a 8 Cedi swim cap because of the “creams in their hair” or the “chemicals from the perm”.  I am sure you could imagine I was annoyed by this rule and immediately labeled it as an example of gender inequality.  The only rule that would have made sense was if all people were required to wear swim caps to prevent loose hairs from falling out and clogging the drain.  But as you could guess, I was hot and wanted to swim, so I bought the swim cap and went swimming anyway.  I learned that in Ghana (and in life) you have to choose your battles, and arguing over a swim cap and unfair pool rule are not on my list of things to do this semester.  However, I have not seen a more obvious example of gender inequality since I have been here in Ghana.