Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My new perspective in an old place

Originally I thought I would never leave Ghana. I would serve my full 27 months without stepping foot on American soil. Why would I need or want to go back? I had spent 23 years there! Well, exactly. I had spent 23 years there and to be honest I missed America. I missed my family and friends. I missed the food, I missed playing the piano, and I missed my culture. I'd like to think I'm so integrated in Jirapa that leaving would devastate me but when it came down to it, I needed a break. Ghana means something important to me but Montana will always be my home and I needed to go home.

Now, I still have 8 more months of the Peace Corps and a lot to do so I didn't come home for a few weeks to forget. What I have done, everyone I met and everything I learned in Ghana is only making my vacation back home all the more interesting. In fact I've realized I've forgotten quite a few things about America. Observations:

1. I can use my left hand. I have gotten so good at always using my right to not offend Ghanaians I actually feel some guilt when I use my left hand.
2. I can pay with large bills and people will have change. I was so used to getting all my money in 1 or 2 bills I almost asked for 1 dollar bills at the bank until my mother reminded me it would be better to get larger denominations. Nobody can break a 20 at market but in a grocery store, no problem.
3. Fast food is really disgusting but amazing. I think I forgot the disgusting part but after a fake cheesy something with ham and triple fried curly fries at the airport my stomach wasn't exactly agreeing with my taste buds.
4. Nobody is hissing or yelling at me. To go in a store or shop and not have the owner try and persuade me to buy everything is strange but nice.
5. No offense to anyone but there are a lot of fat children in America. And you really notice it after being surrounded by skinny or really fit Ghanaian children all the time.
6. I have a seat belt.
7. No one says, "small, small", "sorryo", "I'm coming"(when they're leaving), "Aba"(my favorite saying in Dagaare) and "Paa".
8. I love milk. I really forgot how much I love dairy.
9. I can drink the tap water. :o)
10. American's are really nice. Everybody is always talking about how welcoming and friendly the people in Ghana are well, if it weren't for a friendly and nice American I would have missed one of my flights because I was so tired and fell asleep outside the gate. In my opinion we are just as courteous. At least in Montana.

I also notice a lot of things we take for granted. When people complain to me about their pipes freezing and not having water, or when I hear about spoiled children complaining about toys I cringe just a little. I'm not saying people can't complain and a lot of Americans I know work very hard for what they have but trust me, things could be worse. Cliche but, be happy with what you have, count your blessings, etc...don't make me say more.

America is not a completely evil self-centered place and its not perfect but it is my home and it has provided me with opportunities I am very grateful for. Opportunities many children in Ghana will never have. I can't even begin to address the differences and similarities between Ghana and America but I do know that people are people and that is what makes both of my two worlds go around.

I will head back to Ghana in a few weeks hopefully a few pounds heavier and a little refreshed. After my successful but stressful donation of 200 bicycles with 10 workshops, health club/school activities, and domestic disputes in Jirapa I feel I will be ready to go back to face all of these things with a new perspective. And the rest of my service will focus on my relationships. Although Washington DC likes numbers and results they don't make me smile quite the way a friend does. And thanks to Ghana my measure of success is qualitative not quantitative.

Happy New Year!!!!