PaulaWoods' Travel Journals


What was your most challenging travel experience?

Painting a school with my right arm in a sling

  • 28 years old
  • From New York, United States
  • Currently in Cape Coast, Ghana

Ghana Adventures

I hope this will help all my loved ones follow along with me on my journey through Cape Coast (:

Happy Independence Day Ghana!!

Ghana Cape Coast, Ghana  |  Mar 08, 2013
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I can still remember reading countless ProWorld Ghana volunteer blogs before my departure…just trying to get some kind of glimpse at what the next few months of my life would be like…attempting to understand the daily life I would soon take part in…

Now I’ve been in Ghana for almost two months…and the reality of living here is so far from anything I could have ever imagined: neither in a positive nor negative way.  I have had some really hard days lately, mostly accepting some of the cultural and value differences here.  But this week, I think I finally had some sort of breakthrough and I’m beginning to have more “I love Ghana” than “Ghana is pissing me off today” moments, which I’m so grateful for.  In fact, as I sit up writing this post late into the night (seems to be the only time I have free time to write), I finally feel that gratitude for this adventure flowing through me once again, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Lesson learned/in progress of learning?  Self care.  Now, I already know the importance of taking care of oneself, especially when experiencing something so entirely new, when working in a developing country, when volunteering, or even at home… But that doesn’t mean I always follow through with actions, which I know would truly benefit me.  Why is it that we so often neglect ourselves, denying ourselves resources that are at our fingertips; refusing ourselves something so essential to our wellbeing?  Certainly this does not apply to everyone, but many of us stumble through the same patterns of self-neglect.  Well, it turns out this is not an acceptable path when in Ghana…

So I have learned… I have found the absolute necessity in quiet time: alone, away from the hustle and bustle and so on… Time to think, and especially to process and work through the events of a day is so essential to our mental health.  I now have been finding some time during the day, whenever that may be, to sit quietly alone and work through everything, to work on myself…my favorite places to do this are on my roof at my homestay under the stars, at ProWorld sitting in my favorite tree which literally pretty much is a chair, or next to the ocean (when that’s possible…).  I also have been seeking out more time for meditating, writing, Reiki (google it if you don’t know what it is J), and yoga.  Ghana has surprisingly aided in my quest for an opportunity and the time to complete this self-work.

Which leads me to another interesting observation…Jordan and I had a conversation about this on a particularly challenging day for the both of us…So many people float through life without ever truly working on themselves…without looking within to say: Hey, you know, I don’t like that about myself…how can I change it into something positive?  Self-work is some of the most difficult work to be done I believe, but the benefits are so extraordinary, it is worth every effort.  When you truly make a positive effort, you can see the change you are striving for.  For example, I’ve realized I have a terrible habit of missing places I am not currently residing in…Right now, I miss New York, North Carolina, Arizona/southern Utah, and Haiti…  that’s a whole lotta missing… So now, every time I start to miss something, somewhere, or I think of something I’m excited to do when I get home, I instantly think of a reason why I’m excited to be here…something coming up that day or the next that I’m excited for, or a reason why I love Ghana…  Such a simple practice can slowly, but surely, bring about a change in turning an overwhelming emotion into something positive and new.

Granted, this is just one of the challenges I am working through here.  Ghana has a way of taking all of the things you’ve known for awhile you needed to work on, and presenting them in a way which does not allow you the luxury of putting off working through them.  Something you may have been running from is standing right in front of you.  There is no way around it-you must work through it.  But simple exercises like the one I’ve described, as well as my quiet processing time, have presented me with an incredible opportunity for learning and growth.  I think that’s why people choose to study abroad in someplace like Ghana…we know we are challenging ourselves and we accept those challenges, in the hopes of returning with new perspectives, new life views, and most of all: new connections with people and places.

For a quick update, Jordan’s and my first day of teaching at the school went wonderful!  (As soon as we were told we were speaking too fast!)  We ended up talking to students who were a little older, but this proved to be to our benefit, as they were even very shy and not so quick to answer our questions.  I think our main goal with our lessons will be pretty basic: to help them understand why farming is important, why its such a necessary livelihood.  I really want to help them understand how necessary it is they do not follow in the footsteps of America’s food system.  (There’s a blog post for another day…Paula’s rant on the industrial food system…Get ready readers..)  I’ve actually been telling everyone I meet the problems in America across the board: from the lack of jobs, the high cost of living, the energy extraction, the industrial food system, the way in which a handful of companies own EVERYTHING and have an exceptional amount of power, especially over government, and yes there is in fact: poverty in the United States.  The idea of the US is so misconstrued here and some days I wonder if anyone takes anything I say seriously (probably 50% honestly…)  But then I think about the ideas Americans have of Africa and I’m not so surprised or frustrated…

Lastly! It was Independence Day here on Wednesday!!! Talk about a celebration!! We went to the beach closest to us but it was SOOO packed… We ended up staying anyways: my brother and I really wanted to go swimming (:  We went to his friend’s shop nearby for dinner which was some of the best food I’ve had out in Ghana and definitely some of the cheapest.  And then we went out to our usual spot-Goil- for Jane’s birthday!  Always lots of laughs, music, and dancing (:  Something I love about Ghanaians: they always know how to let go, be free and have a good time dancing the night away…

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