Living in Ghana has been a wonderful experience for me. Being forced to step out of my comfort zone and submerse myself in a culture unlike my own has allowed me to see things in a new perspective.
I think if I could describe the country in one word, it would be “misunderstood.” I’ve met many people thus far that have come from America with a motivation to make a difference here in Ghana, which is admirable, but I feel as though they arrived here with the pretense that Ghana is at a place beneath us (America) and is therefore in need of our assistance. I hope to debunk this misconception, because what the rest of the world views as subpar I think of as differences in cultural values. In contrasts to many parts of America where people no longer have the time for small talk, where people go out there way to avoid eye contact, and where 10 or more friends could sit in a room together glued to their phones texting rather than engaging in casual conversation with each other, it is nice to be in an environment that values life in the moment. I think it is becoming natural to view places like Ghana as less advanced, but it’s more challenging to break the mold and realize that their state of affairs is not an implication of capability but rather an insight to the cultural influences that shape this society.
It is typical for an American to leave a county and all of sudden appreciate that he/she has things like running water from pipelines or 24 hour electricity, and this is no doubt a beneficial realization. Still, it is just as appropriate to understand that these things are not actually necessities, but inherent desires that have become our standard of living. We as typical Americans could not fathom a world where certain resources were not readily (or always) available, and this restrains us from understanding how other civilizations get by with no complaints. It is easy to place labels on Ghana from overseas, and it is even easier to be consumed by these labels when the whole continent is so often plastered in the media with portrayals of poverty, violence, and war. But if we could step down from our totem pole for even a moment, people could see that Ghana has just as much to offer us as we can offer them.