February 20, 2012
I just spent five amazing days in Ghana.Culture shock wouldn’t even begin to describe the experiences I had there.I’ve traveled to developing nations prior to Ghana, but staying with a local family in a village was an entirely different experience than coming back to a nice hotel, clean water and an abundance of food. Prior to Semester at Sea I had very little planned. I wanted to enjoy the thrill of traveling the old fashion way (you know…talking with locals and using those things we like to call travel books).However, prior SASer’s absolutely raved about one particular trip—A four-day homestay in a local village in Ghana.
In 2009 previous voyagers met our wonderful tour guide and friend, Fred, while roaming the streets of Ghana. Fred sat down and had dinner with the students and began to share a little bit of culture and Ghanaian life with them. Before he knew it, SAS students were calling him nonstop, wanting to step outside of the touristy spots and divulge into Ghanaian life as much as possible. What initially began as students breaking some bread together with a local has now become a four-day homestay in a beautiful village in Senase, Ghana.
We traveled nearly eight hours by bus to reach Senase. When we pulled in one would’ve thought we were of much greater importance than we actually were in reality. All the families gathered on the streets and waved to us, while the kids began to run down the beaten dirt path, trying to catch any glimpse they possible could of us. After all, we were just the third group of Americans that they had ever seen. The kids clang to me like something fierce. It was as if they thought we had something special to share with them, some sort of special, unique knowledge.
It was in these precious moments that I began to process how privileged I am on a much deeper level than I’ve ever experienced. After all, if I have food in my fridge, clothes on my back, a roof over my head and a place to sleep I am considered among the top 8% of the world. It was the kind of privilege that I have received simply because of the color of my skin and where I was born. This privilege was nothing of my own doing. I was a simple, broken human just like the kids cleaning to me, begging for me to hold them and play with them. All that separated me from them was two simple things. But yet, those two things have drastically changed the course of our lives.
I have educated parents.
I grew up in a community where not going to college was never an option.
I have shoes.
I have an abundance of clean water.
I have access to food. So much that I can throw things away when I don’t like them, and divulge myself to the point of feeling sick.
Most of all, I grew up knowing my value, worth and potential.
As my three roommates and I tried very hard not to think about the dirt and spiders surrounding us in our room the first night, we realized one thing: We didn’t need to pity the families in the village just because they didn’t live to the same standards as Americans. They were perfectly ok with sleeping on dirty pieces of foam, washing themselves with buckets of water, and eating rat for dinner. Their very most basic needs were being met and they didn’t know otherwise. They were joyful. They were grateful. They were hopeful.
I think the people in Senase thought we had something to share with them, but they were gravely mistaken. It was us that needed to learn from them. WE needed to be clinging to them, begging them to share with us knowledge about contentment and joy in the midst of trial and circumstance.
It was through our small differences that I found commonality…Hope. Hope for the future. Hope for something much greater than this world has to offer. Hope for new beginnings. Hope for change.
**Blog post retrieved with permission from http://chelcieatsea.tumblr.com