I have been in Ghana for about five weeks and I am still unable to say that I have assimilated or become accustomed to Ghanaian culture. I am still learning the language and how to appropriately greet people. I honestly just learned that Taxis are not expensive if you ask for a shared ride instead of just hopping in and requesting to drop be dropped off at a specific location. I am also unfamiliar with feminism, women’s right, and politics related to gender in Ghana. I recognized that throughout the week during my interactions with a few people.
While waiting to shadow one of the psychiatrist at KATH, I decided to continue reading Chinua Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart. One of the patients approached me with a bright smile illuminated by a wide gap. “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?”
“I don’t think you do.” I replied with confidence.
“Are you from London?”
“No. I am from the U.S.”
“Are you a medical student?”
“No. I am a premedical student, I am here to shadow doctors and nurses for a few weeks and take a couple of Anthropology courses.”
“Well, do you know that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder? Do you know about bipolar disorder?”
“Yes I do know about it. Which type?”
We then talked about why I am interested in abnormal psychology, my knowledge about different disorders, and how I plan to further my education in the realms of psychology. I also had the pleasure of hearing about his opinions regarding the course of treatment patients were given at KATH.
The waiting room then grew silent as the conversation started to die down. Neither of us made the effort to break the silence with nervous laughter or small talk. Instead, he shifted in his seat to turn his body in the seat to turn his body in my direction. He stared intently at the book that sat on my lap and asked me what I was reading. I slightly lifted the book from my lap to show him the front and back cover. He pointed at the picture of Chinua Achebe and proclaimed, “He’s really good.” I nodded in agreement.
“What do you think of it[the book]?” He asked.
I proceeded to explain my thoughts on the novel by highlighting how Achebe depicts masculinity and femininity. He then asked me if it is the same in the U.S… to which I answered, “It depends. It depends on the individual’s culture and what they believe is good for them. My family is from Haiti and I can see some of the similarities between Okonkwo and some Haitian men.”
“Haiti. Thats African. You are pure African!”
“Yes I am.” I stated with high esteem.
“So what do you think about that ?”
“I personally do not like that kind of performance of masculinity.”
I do not know if he was shocked by my distaste for men who utilize their size and physical abilities as a way to earn respect in their household or that I was planning on buildining a career.
He got up from his seat in excitement and denounced feminism while encouraging me to abandon such feminist ideas because I am an “African woman.” Not a white woman. I watched him walk through the doors in awe after bidding him farewell. A sly smile was permanently edged into my face, not because I was happy but because I was unsure about what I should do next. Or what I was supposed to be feeling. I desperately wanted to continue the conversation with him… with anyone! The fact that me and the gentlemen were able to have a sophisticated conversation about mental disorders but he could not acknowledge that I had the right to make decisions about my future is puzzling. I wished I stopped him to ask more questions about his opinion because who knows if other men hold the same opinions.