ErinCraig's Travel Journals

ErinCraig

  • 33 years old
  • From Idaho, United States
  • Currently in Idaho, United States

Erin's adventures in Ghana

Many people have asked how they call follow my experience in Ghana. I'm hoping this blog will be a good way for everyone to read about my journey.

America!

United States Idaho, United States  |  Nov 07, 2012
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I think I'm still in shock. It still hasn't hit me that I'm on my way home to America. Today has been a rollercoaster of emotions. It has most definitely been on of the most emotional days I've had in a very long time. It is such a bittersweet feeling to leave Ghana. There are definitely some reasons that I'm excited to go back to America. I miss my family and my friends, I miss certain foods, and I miss my kitty. Saying goodbye today was extremely difficult. Ghana has been so good to me. I have gained so many new friends, a new family and have learned so much about the person I am,  who I want to be and the things that I want to do with my life. I have a better insight about the life I'm leading and know that this experience will help me move into a better direction. I started this blog when I boarded my first flight out of Accra. I almost missed my flight because there was more traffic than we expected and we left Cape Coast late. Luckily I made my flight, even tho I was secretly hoping to get stuck there for a bit longer :) Once we boarded the flight, we were informed that there was a problem with the engine. We were on the runway for almost 2 hours. I was exhausted so I slept the entire time. We finally took off and were in the air for around 11 hours. Due to the delay, the extremely long lines for customs and immigration, and having to wait and recheck my bags for my connecting flights I missed my flight to Salt Lake. They had already rebooked me by the time I went to recheck my luggage. They put me on a flight going through Minneapolis and then to Boise. The Minneapolis flight was delayed almost an hour which meant I was cutting it extremely close for my Boise fight. BUT I lucked out and sat next to a pilot on my flight to Minneapolis. He drew me a map of the terminals so I knew exactly where I was going. He looked up my gate number and everything. Thank God for nice people :) I ran to my gate and was the very last one to board but I MADE IT. I landed in Boise around 1:30 and was greeted by my mom, brother and sister in law. It was so nice to see them. We had a delicious lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. I hardly ate anything. My stomach hasn't been too happy with me the past few days. I'm assuming its probably just from nerves and from traveling. I'm sure my appetite will be back to normal very soon :) After lunch we headed back to Twin Falls. It was definitey weird to be driving again. Not only that, but when I got into my car, I looked around and thought "wow, I have a really nice car". It might not be THAT nice to some people in the US, but compared to the cars I've been driving in for the past 2 months, its extremely nice. It makes me feel so thankful. One thing about the cars in Ghana is that they don't just take them to a junk yard when they break down. They repair them over and over again.There were many occasions while in Ghana where I had NO idea how the cars were still running. Makes me SO thankful for my car. I stopped by my grandparents when I got back into Twin Falls. I had one of the best talks with my grandpa that I've ever had. We talked about my trip, how much I loved Ghana and the people I met and about how different it is from the US. My grandpa kept telling me how happy I looked and said that he had never seen me smile so much before. He also said he needed  to win the lottery so he could send me back and I could continue doing what I love. It was really great to share my experiences with him. I will be taking my computer over to his house this week so I can show him the pictures and videos. I have a feeling that he will be completely shocked by my pictures. In a very good way. I think a lot of people were very surprised to see what Ghana really looks like, not just what they have heard or imagined. I have been meaning to write a blog over the past few days. I keep thinking about all of the things that I want to write about but for some reason, I just haven't brought myself to do it. To be completely honest, I haven't really felt like myself since getting back home. I'm missing Ghana so much. I'm feeing pretty disconnected to my friends and family right now. That makes me sad but I know it will get better. I have been living a different life for the past 2 months. No one here can understand my emotions or my reactions to different situations. Everyone always said that this experience would change me, but I am just now seeing that. I didn't feel the changes in Ghana but I'm sure that's because I was so engrossed in my life there. Oh how I miss it. I love when people ask me about my trip. I haven't even seen that many people since I've been home so I have a feeling that I will be talking about Ghana a lot. I don't mind, I actually love it because it makes me feel closer to my friends, family and the children. I love telling people just how truly AMAZING Ghana is. I think I have mentioned it in previous blogs, but my experience in Ghana was absolutely nothing what I thought it would be. In my mind, I thought that I would be living in a village with little or no interaction with the outside world. I thought I would be working from sun up to sun down. I took very little make up, no "nice" clothes and planned to live with the bare minimum for 2 months. Oh boy was I wrong. I lived in a very developed city. I wasn't in a village. I lived in a nice home, not a hut in the middle of no where. I only worked for about 6 hours, Monday through Friday. I had a social life! I'm sure you could tell by my pictures, but a lot of my time was spent with the other volunteers and other friends that I met. I lived my life there, like I live it in America. We worked during the week and went and did fun things on the weekend. Honestly, it wasn't much different than being back at home. Maybe that was a shock in itself. Sure, there were so many other differences, but overall, there were many similarities. So now, some of the differences. Some of them I have probably mentioned before. Where do I even start? I'll start with transportation. There are 2 main modes of transportation- shared taxis and tro-tros. If you are extremely lucky, you may have your own personal vehicle. While I was there, I only knew 2 people that had their own cars. Shared taxis were a little intimidating at first. The taxis have different routes that they take and they have set prices for each destination. It's extremely cheap!!! I ended up really loving the shared cars tho. For the most part, everyone is so friendly. Everyone says hello when they get into the car. A lot of the time people would ask me questions and start conversation. Most of the time they would ask where I was from, what I was doing in Ghana and how I saw Ghana. By the end of the ride, I usually had at least one new friend :) I hardly ever had to take tro-tros. They are buses that travel between the cities. They pack as many people as possible in them. People will be sitting on each other and have absolutely no space. Its also extremely hot, there is no air conditioning and everyone is usually pretty sweaty. Makes for a comfortable ride :) It works tho and its even cheaper than getting a shared taxi. So those are the types of transportation. The other big thing is the way they drive. Holy cow. I will never forget the first day that I drove in Ghana. I thought I was going to die!!!! There is no speed limit, no rules on passing and almost all roads are 2 lanes. In the cities, the taxis drive SO close to each other. There is no such thing as stopping a car length behind the car in front of you. The cars drive everywhere and not always on the road :) They also honk CONSTANTLY! Its weird to be driving here and not hear every single car honk. Everything is a lot quieter here :)Hmmm what else. There are no cats, dogs, sheep, goats, pigs, cows, or chickens running in the streets. They run loose in Ghana. There are no open sewers in America. There isn't trash all over the roads. The lights don't go out every few days. The water doesn't stop running. No bucket baths, no cold showers and no hand washing clothes. The smells are different. Those all might seem really bad and hard to imagine living like that, but I found it very easy. It didn't bother me. My mom told me yesterday that it was hard to imagine that life, yet she never heard me complain. Maybe its because those are not the things that determine my happiness. We are so lucky to have the luxuries that we have in America. There are also things that Ghana has that we don't here or at least not as much.  One thing that I am going to miss the most are the children yelling "Obruni, how are you?" It didn't matter where I walked or what I was doing, if there was a child around, 99% of the time they would say that. Being a foreigner was difficult at times (I will explain in a bit) but when it came to the children, I completely embraced the attention from the children. I will miss them running up to me to touch me and to say hello. It wasn't just the children that were friendly. I will miss walking by complete strangers, smiling at them and saying hello. No one stays inside their home in Ghana. Everyone is outside, working or just hanging out. There are always people around. Yesterday I was on skype with my doctor and I was walking around and showing him around my house. I walked out the front door to show him my car and the front of my house. He asked where all the people were. I looked up and down the road and did not see one person. It was actually kind of a lonely feeling. At first it was a bit overwhelming to have people everywhere but it is also comforting. People interact with each other in a different way in Ghana. If there was one thing that I never fully got used to, it would be being a foreigner. Around Cape Coast there are a lot of Obrunis. I never really felt like people looked at me or started while in Cape Coast. It was a bit different in Elmina. I hardly ever saw any other foreigners. It was a lot harder to be a minority than I ever imagined it would be. At first I was really concerned that I wasn't dressed  respectfully enough and that is why people were staring. At first I thought that I was being judged always. I quickly realized that that wasn't the case at all. People are curious. It definitely gave me a new insight as to how foreign people feel when they come to America. I will forever be grateful for feeling out of place and gaining a new appreciation for the struggles and insecurities that foreigners feel. One negative thing about being a foreigner was  when people would try to take advantage because they assumed you did not know the way things worked in Ghana. For example, when getting a "drop taxi" ( when you don't want to share the taxi. usually this was late at night for safety issues), the drivers would always attempt to charge WAY too much. Thankfully ProWorld taught us early how much it should cost. Basically you should pay the fare for a share taxi, times it by 4 (how many seats are in the car) and add one. The other time that people would really try to take advantage of Obruni's was shopping. They would always try to charge WAY more than they should. Its definitely frustrating but one you know how much you should be paying, it made it a lot easier. I'm so incredibly thankful for this journey. So incredibly thankful for the lessons I've learned and the people that will be part of my life forever. It exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I had to face a lot of my insecurities and issues that I struggle with on a daily basis. I guess part of me thought that being on another continent would change that, but it didn't. If anything it made them more evident because I realized that I am the same person, no matter where I am. I also learned that some of the things that I was hoping would "change" about myself stayed the same. It just showed me that I need to embrace who I am. I am me. Take it or leave it. I am always going to be, no matter where I am. Going to Africa was exactly what I needed to experience. Being in Africa also showed me that I can be a very negative person. Being surrounded by the most positive people I've ever met, really showed me that I have been living my life as a "glass half empty" kind of person. That is in no way the kind of person that I want to be. Coming home I have really seen the difference. We (Americans) complain so much, when really, we have so little to complain about. I, personally, have nothing to complain about. I am so extremely blessed. Not because of the material things that I have, not because I have running water and electricity every day. But because I'm alive, I'm healthy, I have a family that loves me, I have supportive friends, I can choose to do whatever I want with my life. I'm free to follow my dreams, free to be in control of my life. Being in Africa showed me that the things that I thought were really "big" things are the really "small" things. I love America. I love Ghana. I love my life. I know that every single day I will think of Ghana. I will think of the people that I met. I will think of the children that I had the privelage of meeting and teaching. I will think about the happiness that I felt there. Such happiness. I will think about how my experience in Ghana can help me help others. I feel so full of love and appreciation. I can only pray that will rub off on others. Thank you again to those that helped make this dream come true. I will never ever be able to repay you for giving me this opportunity. I shared a little bit of all of you will Ghana. I am who I am because of those in my life. I am who I am because of the experiences I've had. I am me and I'm pretty damn happy about that. A piece of my heart will ALWAYS be in Ghana. Always!I think I will post one more blog after this one. I want to talk a lit bit more about my projects, what I did while I was there, what I wish I would have done and what I plan to do next. Love you all. Happy to be home but missing my life in Ghana! XOXO

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