Monday, January 27, 2014

Post-Ghana Post

Mackenzie Miller

It is incredibly hard to believe it has been 17 days since I landed back in the U.S. after my Ghanaian excursion. There are times when I feel like just yesterday I was strolling the streets of Osu and other times I feel that Ghana was something that seems so long ago. Part of this may be because I experienced a sort of “reverse culture shock” – if that is a thing?

I personally have found it difficult to adjust back to the American way of life. Yes, of course starting back up at Ohio University with classes and seeing all of my friends and family have thrust me back into the swing of things. However, my struggle comes more in little moments. Seemingly insignificant seconds that flash me back to what things were like all those miles away in Accra, Ghana.

The situations in which I felt this way have been various and generally unimportant on the surface, however they carry a lot of weight in my eyes.

Complaining. Complaining is in essence the overarching theme of things that simply turn me off about American society. I find myself complaining about people complaining (meta). I cannot handle it anymore and I apologize eternally for anyone who ever had to be surrounded by me prior to this journey. We have so little to complain about. And yet we do it so frequently. It really is just so much easier to be positive and appreciative.

As much as I dislike the complaints, more specific instances have stood out to me upon returning to Ohio. For example: complaining about service(s). I will never, ever complain again about food service. I have waited 2+ hours to not receive a meal over in Ghana, and guess what? That’s okay.

That’s okay because now when it takes 40 minutes for someone to cook me a meal made to order so that someone else can bring it out to me while also serving multiple other tables and my friends are up in arms about it, I’m really happy. ONLY 40 MINUTES! I mean they are serving me for god’s sake.  I could very easily make a sandwich at home – which in itself is an amazing privilege.

As important as food service is…I digress.

Another noticeable difference between Ghanaian and American societies that make me cringe has to do with children and youth. I hate the way America socializes our kids. I overheard two little boys in a store; they seemed to be about 6 and 8 years old, arguing over the older boy’s iPhone. HIS IPHONE.

I’m a 22 year old, near-college graduate and I don’t have an iPhone…

As I stood there watching them bicker, wanting to slap the snot out of both of them, it took me back to Ghana. Back to all of the beaches we went to where children were helping their families sell foods or clothes. Back to when we took dance and drum lessons where 7 and 8 year old boys were fishing, climbing trees to gather coconuts, and using machetes to cut them open for us.

Back to Weep Not Child where Precious, a beautiful young girl, helps to take care of the babies at the orphanage. Or 1 ½ year old Kwame, who was smiling and screaming with joy as he played with a string. A string. Just hanging from the ceiling, and I’ve never seen a baby happier.

It’s absolutely astounding that America’s kids are so entitled and believe that they deserve so much. The children in Ghana are so mature and self-sufficient. They’re so kind and gentle. Not here though. And it’s so unfortunate because then those kids grow up to be the general population of this country.

Again, I could go on for hours about one of these topics alone. I just really, really miss Ghana. Aside from general complaints and the differences between the two nation’s youths, there is another thing that makes me miss Ghana (and I’m assuming Africa as a whole) a LOT.

I know that gender equities are not perfect over in Ghana, trust me. But Ghana has something, or rather lacks something, that makes me incredibly envious: body image issues.
It’s like they just don’t exist.
The female body is praised and celebrated, not picked to pieces like it is over here. It took me until one of the last days to genuinely feel it, but I have never been more comfortable physically than I felt on the beaches in Africa. I didn’t feel too embarrassed to go in the water, or even to the beach in general for that matter, which happens to me all the time in the U.S.

“I’m so fat.” I hear it everyday from my roommates, random people in class, girls on TV, and most commonly from myself. Our media is so warped and has been for years, which is why people constantly feel inadequate physically. I am normally very secretive about things like this, which is a problem with American society in itself – shame - but I have suffered severely with body issues for a large portion of my life. I’m really good at making jokes out of things that make me uncomfortable or are touchy subjects, so deflecting is easy. But I didn’t really have to deflect over there. I got to just, be.

It’s such a set back when you have to return to a place like the United States.

There are so many more things I have taken away from my 25 days in Accra. So many things that make me happy every single day when I think about them, so many people I’ve had the opportunity to meet, and so many lessons I have learned. I have tried to maintain the mindset I had while in Ghana throughout my everyday life back in Ohio, but it’s hard when I’m plunged back into this way of life. Really I think I just miss Ghana.

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