20 months ago I was in Ghana… 20 months ago! Time has definitely flown by. In that time I have graduated university and now have a full-time job on a graduate scheme (the main reason why I’m so rubbish at keeping to date with posting blogs) and I have interviewed many people who have gone or are now waiting to go to Ghana with GHEI. I’m trying to get some of the other volunteers to send me so of their experiences so I can post them on here too. Hopefully, that way I will be able to get some posts about the other sessions that GHEI offer. Even though in the last 20 months I’ve not been back to Ghana I have been able to carry on working with GHEI through their media drives and recruitment for the next lot of interns.
Looking back on my time now I find that I’m longing to go back. I seemed to settle into the Ghanaian lifestyle quickly and their cultural conventions still have aspects that we should be trying to fit into the UK’s lifestyle/ maybe even western lifestyle all together. Seeing as I have only lived in the UK I can’t really say that the whole of the western culture need to bring in some of the aspects that maybe the UK need to remember again. The nature of life in the UK is a nonstop, rushing from one place to another, and not always spending as much time with family, friends and loved ones as they do in Ghana. I’m not saying that the Ghanaian culture is perfect but they do seem to have a different take on life. I’m sure that I have mentioned this before yet it is a main aspect of their culture. Whilst work is important seeing family and friends is on the higher priority list. If you see them on your way somewhere – even if it is to work – you would stop to talk to them to show them that you appreciate them. Time is not something that the Ghanaian culture worries about; whilst this was the cause of some annoyance at times, it created a less stressful culture to the one that seems to encompass the UK. Within the UK it’s like we are trying to fight with time to fit everything in without having the time to able to do everything.
Whenever I interview someone and they ask me how I found my time in Humjibre all I can say is how much I loved it and how great this culture was. I don’t think people can understand their culture until you experience it. As long as, you go in with an open mind and willingness to try as many things as possible you will love it. Don’t go in thinking I can’t live without my smartphone or that I need to be able to contact home every day; if you do that you won’t be able to see the greatness that there is being offered. In the month that I was out there I think I phoned people at home about 4 times – roughly, once a week. I was offered to call people at home as soon as I landed – which I didn’t do – I tried to leave it a couple of days so I could fill them in on more things that just the flight. (The flight was not the best but that’s another story altogether). Maybe this was also my way of preventing culture shock or maybe I was thinking that I would have quite bad culture shock. Yet, I didn’t seem to have shock when I was out there. This could be to the fact I was expecting the worst when I went out there; or, the fact that the culture seemed to make anything that could be seen as shocking so much better. Children who had lost a parent didn’t just have one parent they had a village full of parents. Everyone, looks out for everyone if a child’s parent(s) couldn’t be home for dinner the neighbors would check on them and make sure that they were fed. There was none of the isolation that you see within the UK. Whilst after 4 months getting back to ‘normal’ life when people can contact me 24/7 and the brightness of lights was shocking there have been things that I’ve learned to change about my life. 20 months later and I still don’t take my phone everywhere – probably to the annoyance of my friends that try to phone me and get to my voicemail (that then takes me about a week to check). If you are to leave me a Facebook message don’t be surprised if I never reply and that I rarely post things (unless it’s some article that I’m sharing). Twitter is just used to find out what is going on with the world and I barely tweet anything. Oh, and I get in a mood when people would rather be on their phones instead of spending time with the people they are with in person – especially when it is a family or special event.
When I interview people I look out for the ones that seem as passionate as I was before I left and who are willing to learn the culture of that they are entering. If you don’t try to understand the culture then you can’t see all the amazing things within it. Whilst, the main part of this article is to do with the differences between the culture of Ghana and the UK there are key aspects that you can take with you on any travels. As long as you go in with an open mind and the willingness to learn the culture you are in – you will be able to learn ways that you can benefit your own life as well as help to change that of others.Speak soon,