|A view of Elmina, Ghana from the slopes of Elmina Castle|
Monday, January 27, 2014
By Joshua Rogers
At the conclusion of my trip to Ghana, I realized a few things. The first thing I realized is how lucky I am for such an opportunity. The second, and the most important, was the realization that the group I traveled with made the trip as fun as it was. Never in my life did I think I would have the opportunity to travel abroad to Africa, let alone with 19 of the most genuinely interesting people I have ever met in my life. I love to experience different cultures and ways of life and Ghana was a very different experience for me. I have visited other countries before but never with a group of my peers so large for such a long time. I have visited countries like Israel, France, Jamaica, and many others, but never have I had an experience like Ghana.
Ghana taught me a great many things. The first is that material possessions mean far less to the Ghanaian people than they do to Americans. People survive with next to nothing in Ghana and yet they are happy because of the strong sense of unity each individual community has. They do not see the need for material possessions because they don’t know better. They have never had them and never will need them. Put your average American in to the shoes of the average Ghanaian and they wouldn’t last a day. Ghanaians find joy in the every day happenings. They do not look to money for happiness. It was truly enlightening to be with people who genuinely care about the well-being of others and not just about themselves.
Another culture-shock was the nonchalant attitudes of the Ghanaian people. I was there during Christmas time and it is a highly religious country, so it makes sense, but no body seemed to care too much about anything work related. This may stem from their general relaxedness towards life and way they are so happy all the time. Even in the media houses, there is no sense of urgency. If someone gets a story done then good for them, but if not it is no big deal.
I think I was able to learn so much about Ghana and its people because I went in with an open mind. If you visit Africa, forget everything you think you know about the continent. In fact, generalizing it as just “Africa” is a disservice to the people who live there. Each country is different. Each country can teach you something new. I only got to experience one of those countries, but I met plenty of people from Chad, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, amongst others. Each of these people was fiercely proud of their country and how it is different from other African countries. If ever given the opportunity to visit a different part of Africa, I would accept it without a second thought. I did not even get to see all of Ghana. Most of the Northern region and its way of life is still unknown to me. That’s not even mentioning the rest of Africa. The most important advice I can give is to go in with an open heart and open mind, and you will learn more about poverty, prosperity, love, and life than you can ever imagine.