We have come to the end of our Ghana program and as my local friends have asked me and my friends from home will inevitably ask, “How was Ghana?” my response is: Ghana is very intimate.
Most of the Ghanaians I have interacted with are very intimate, not necessarily physically (at times they can be!), but more specifically, interpersonally. Almost everyone I have run into and gotten to know -vendors, professors, co-workers, passengers, drivers, and the staff at Freeman!- never fail to greet me with a smile and a warm “Good Morning, How are you today?”
Particularly the stranger sitting next to me when I took my first tro tro to work notified me that we had arrived at my bus stop; our tro tro driver friend who took us to Atafoa School Junction every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for no more than 1 Cedi and 40 pesewas; Freeman staff, who during the second week, helped me get a shared taxi; the Freeman staff in general who missed us when we left for excursion week and sometimes stop by our rooms to check in on us, the professors who shared their personal opinions with us and reached out to us beyond the classroom, the vendors I met at markets, roundabouts, junctions, and the cultural center who greeted me and sometimes reached out and shook my hand, talking to me for a few minutes to get to know me before going about their day and tasks again, the entire staff at APPG who opened up their lives to us, offering us nothing but their care and friendship and going out of their way to share their food, drive us back home, and even invite us to their wedding and naming ceremony; those who have have prayed for my well-being and wished me safe travels; and finally, Mr. Dan who came to our dance performance even though the office was working on an important grant report. While this intimacy can easily be taken for granted, it has facilitated a love for the friends I have made and the strangers I will always appreciate.
Physical proximity is also very intimate, as I often found myself brushing up against others and squeezing through narrow sidewalks while walking through the roundabout or junctions. I often squeezed onto full tro tros during traffic, and while riding, the vendors and passersby outside were only an arm’s reach away. I shared many sidewalks with cars and bikes as they rode by, centimeters away from grazing the passing vehicles.
Photo: Foster, Panix, Frederick, HD, and I all squeezed into one car on our way to Philip’s wedding!
Photo: The view of the street from inside of a taxi displaying how close cars drive next to other cars and pedestrians.
Even the sun and animals are intimate. Despite the rainy season, when the sun appeared, it never ceased to remind me of its presence, shining brightly and warmly embracing you. The chickens, goats, sheep, and even lizards of all sizes casually strolled alongside us and mostly did not mind our presence.
Photos from Left to Right: (Left) The Kakum National Park Canopy walk, we were surrounded by trees. (Right) A cat at the cultural center who did not mind our presence as we hung out.
Not every interaction was intimate or particularly comfortable, and it didn’t need to be. Nonetheless, this is an intimacy that I have found comfort and love in, and it is a particular intimacy that I will miss, for I doubt that I will find the same intimacy elsewhere.