Wednesday, February 10, 2010

These are a few of my favourite things....!

I often have Ghanaians and Canadians ask me "Why do you love Ghana so much", and I find its not so easy to articulate.
In this post, I will deal less with the work I am doing and more about the culture in Ghana. I recognize that although many elements of the culture didn't surprise me- as it's my second time to Ghana- you, in other places in the world, may be interested in what makes Ghana such an amazing country, and why I'm glad to call it my home.

So here are a few of my favourite things:

- Greetings are crucial. Every morning people ask you how you slept, and about your health, your family, your work, your tiredness, the coolness... its sweet, and touching, and definitely more in depth than what you hear in Canada.
-I have many "friends". Most people I buy something from tell me they want to be my friend. I now have many friends- Naima who I buy phone credit from, Mama Fatia who I buy juice and bread from, the guys at the internet cafe, guys at the gas stations, etc. Whereas in Canada, most times you enter a store, buy something, say "have a nice day" and leave. Here- I now have relationships with people, and when I travel they will even call and ask where I am and when I'm coming back!
- Local food is everywhere. I love to buy pineapple on the street, bananas, oranges, dried fruits, eat yams, local rice, tomatoes, ground nuts, and pepe! Mmmm! This is not to say that there isn't a problem with imported food- there is- but if you try you can eat deliciously local food any day of the week.
- Everyone has faith, and they are just happy if you have faith. People are not judgmental of other religions. They freely talk about and display their views- big stickers on cars/taxis, name their shops "By God's Grace", and openly ask you if you are a Christian or a Muslim.. but what I love is that they are just happy that you believe in God. There is little animosity between Muslims and Christians. Most Ghanaians have a strong faith in God and pray and worship very regularly.
- People of all ages are engaged in politics. Unlike Canada, where even 20 year olds are uninterested in voting, I can talk to my 12 year old Ghanaian brother for 30 minutes while he tells me every detail of the last elections- who won, the number of votes, the drama, the campaigns. Politics is fun and omnipresent here- they have songs, jingles and commercials, posters everywhere, and give away t-shirts like you can't imagine. You can't find a village without one Political tshirt being proudly worn.
- Ghanaians love foreigners- for the most part. Most people see me and immediately want to make sure I'm well, and offer their help- whether its helping me to carry a bag, get me a taxi, water, a seat, or a husband! I've been to other countries that are hostile towards Whites/Westerners.. so it is lovely that most Ghanaians are EXTREMELY hospitable and love to welcome foreigners.
- I don't use a lot of water. I wash myself with a bucket of water. I don't have a flushing toilet or a running tap. My water consumption is FAR less than I could dream of in Canada.
- People love to eat and always "invite you" to join them. The portions in Ghana are generally HUGE and are mostly carbs. Anytime you encounter someone eating, they "invite you" to join them to eat. Its a friendly gesture, and all of this has combined to help me gain some pounds since living in Ghana!
- People generally say what;s on their mind- pretty directly. People will call an Albino- Albino, a white person- a white person, they will tell you when you are growing fat, when your outfit is not nice, when you need to iron, they will ask you why you have pimples, and will tell you they are going to urinate. It's hilarious and refreshing. In Canada people can be so "politically correct" that they beat around the bush. It's both funny and shocking at times to hear people speak the truth in Ghana.
- People are very active. Especially in the North, MOST people walk or ride bicycles for great distances. It's rare for people to have cars- unless they work for an NGO or the Government.
- Ghanaians love to laugh. Almost every conversation includes some type of joke- either they ask you to marry them, or tell you they will "follow you" back to Canada- and from the Ghanaians I've met- they often have a full, hearty laugh. Most social interaction and even work meetings include many jokes and opportunities to laugh.
- People are free. You don't see many people who look stressed out. People have a good work/life balance, are not afraid to nap in the day time, to take a long lunch break, and deal with life's daily annoyances and challenges with peace and calmness.
- Ghanaians can be AMAZING story tellers. Many are naturally very dramatic, and so when they tell a story, they get their whole body into it, use gestures, various different voices and impersonations, and the end result is always a group of people bursting into laughing, shaking each others hands.
- Many Ghanaians love music and to dance. Every cultural event includes dancing- even funerals, and from age 3 children have rhythm and can dance better than me!
- Most food is eaten with your hands, and its not rude to lick or suck your fingers clean! I'm a pretty kinesthetic person and like to get dirty, so its fun to put some of our Canadian manners and etiquette aside and just dig in to a delicious meal!

That's all for now.. just a few of my favourite things about living in Ghana! This post was not to insult Canada, but to highlight some of the differences I've come to enjoy. I hope you've gotten a taste of the daily moments of joys I experience here.

Love Robin

Becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable..

These last few months have been busy, to say the least.
With plenty of travel, and time spent in 5 different regions of Ghana, hours spent on buses and semi-conscious states of mind have enabled me to really think about what I'm thinking about... and how far I've come since arriving in September.

And I realized 1 sad conclusion, amidst a dozen happy conclusions (look forward to next post on my favourite things!)... I have become comfortable with the uncomfortable.
When I first came to Ghana, many things caused some level of internal discomfort....
People on the side of the road with torn clothes, begging for money. Children walking around selling water for 5cents instead of being at school, mass piles of garbage being burned, farmers losing all of their rice due to bush burning, farmers losing all of their rice due to flooding, children being smacked on a daily basis, children crying and no one acknowledging them, women breastfeeding on the side of the road while begging for money, children not attending due to school as a result of financial difficulties, family members arguing with one another over 10 cents..

When I first came, poverty really upset me. Sometimes I wanted to cry. Sometimes I did cry. But recently, as I traveled from one region to another, the differences started coming back to me again- I was seeing things with fresh eyes, and realized just "how well I've adapted to life in Ghana".

I have become comfortable with the uncomfortable.