13 February 2013

Knowing Your Place

For the last 6 months and a bit I had been living in Melbourne, Australia; I got to see shiny things and a sugar coated life I couldn't afford. I heard lovely accents, disproved silly stereotypes, and saw things many people only see through National Geographic. I was thankful, but I wasn't where I belonged. I had so much to look at and nothing to feel...so I made a decision to change my life for the better. I packed up and I switched my happy little self over to the University of Ghana. For those of you who don't know much about Ghana, it's a peaceful, independent country in West Africa that makes me look white enough to write on. Life here is slow and patient; I realized the city miles I had wracked up and am so ready to put them in their grave. After just 3 weeks and 4 days here, I have been inspired to write this blog. I want to share with my friends, family

and randoms all the experiences and world issues that have started to change my life in hopes that it will change yours. So here it is-

Chapter 1: Knowing Your Place
No matter how many white people a Ghanaian or it's immigrants sees in his or her life, they will always be "O'brunei" or foreigner. It's like something seen on TV- the kids run and tug at your fingers and laugh at your silly accents and want candy from strangers. It's such a fantastic experience being an obvious minority in this society. The people here are patient and welcoming; they shout "Akwaaba!" (welcome) and "Eta sen?!" (how are you?) and are so helpful when I attempt speaking Twi. It's nothing like how the US treats their "minorities". They want to understand me just as much as I want to understand them. There are major do's and don'ts, but it's interesting adapting to the customs here, like: never use your left hand when greeting, and say hello to people as you walk by as a sign of respect, and always greet your elders but never ask how they are doing- I'm going to come back to the states either the friendliest or strangest American there ever was.
I am starting to understand and adore this culture faster than I thought possible. I love how the people speak from their hearts, I even love how they try to give me directions when they don't know them. I'm getting this genuine and personal experience here that Australia really lacked for me. It may have been a detour to the right country, but now I can appreciate this experience more than I could have before.

What really inspired me to write this blog was the Beacon House Orphanage. I volunteer there 3 days of the week teaching preschool and first grade as well as a music class on the side. The founder is a sweet American woman who gets so attached to the children I'm surprised they all aren't hers yet...but I do have a few issues with it all. There are 22 children in the orphanage, some Ghanaian and some from it's surrounding countries- not a single one of them speaks the language of their country or of the society they may live in the rest of their lives. The children are being supported, what more could you ask for? How about- THEIR IDENTITY! On the off chance that these children are never adopted, as many of them are older now, these children will have American values in a Ghanaian society. Already, you can see the children that go to school off the orphanage campus acting out as a result of frustration failing to identify themselves with their peers. Language in the Ghanaian culture creates a natural bond and trust between themselves; they help one another more efficiently when they have a genuine concern and connection with one another. It's hard enough not having biological parents, imagine not being able to understand your own culture or the culture you may be in for the rest of your life. I don't understand why the only three Ghanaian women in the orphanage are not allowed to speak anything but English or teach the children their cultural values. I've made this my new project; I'm having Ghanaian women teach me school songs that reflect their culture and anything else that will help the kids. I don't know if the founder or its employees and volunteers are attempting to Americanize the children, but either way I don't think it's appropriate- maybe they really don't understand.
In just 3 weeks I have found more direction for my life; I have found purpose and my place within it. There are so many things and people I want you all to understand, but that will all be introduced throughout my posts.

Nante Yie.
Emily Chamberlain