Please excuse all the grammatical errors. My main goal was to get this up before the internet dies again.
Officially 72 hours in.
I’m sure you’re all wondering what it’s like to be here. For many people, when they think of Africa, they think of the photos of run down huts, safari animals, and volunteer trips shown by UNICEF or some other global poverty organization. However that shouldn’t be the mainstream representation of Africa. In the same way that we can’t group America, Canada, and Mexico as the same because they exist on the same continent, we can’t allow ourselves to view all the African countries from one vantage point either. I’ve actually been moderately surprised at what I’ve seen of Accra and the University so far.
The general feeling I got while being driven around parts of Accra and the University by the Tufts program drivers is actually, believe it or not, of a sense of familiarity. Aside from the fact that African faces greet you on the streets and in advertisements instead of Asian ones, modern Accra has been like a decade’s trip down memory lane to my grandparent’s village and surrounding towns in the southern Fujian province of China. At first, the similarities were slightly uncanny— from the small shops/shacks lining the streets that have no care for outer appearances and the open gutter system that runs alongside the roads, to the funky 80s décor furnishings in the university buildings and the need for a mosquito net to sleep under at night, to the goats and chicken that become a part of the regular traffic and the crazy 12 seater bread loaf looking vans that causes you to bump your head against the ceiling as the van drives across a particular bumpy road—Ghana hasn’t given me the culture shock that I’ve been told to expect when going to Africa. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that this isn’t Africa, this is Ghana and this is a developing area just like many other places in the world such as parts of China and India were and still are. Honestly, living wise, I feel like I’m spending a semester at a university like the one my dad went to in Guangzhou for his Masters in like 1987. So dad, if you’re reading this, you kind of got your wish!
Another interesting thing I’ve noted is that trade between Asia and Africa is very prominent. For some reason, I initially thought that the products that I would see in Ghana would largely be products of different African countries. I’m speaking more for common goods and utilities around the house than I am for electronics and technical goods in which Apple, Samsung, and Phillips are fairly prevalent here (though I think Samsung here is more popular than Apple). The first night, Dr. Bilsen, our Tufts In Ghana Program Director, explained to us this concept of ‘doom sut’ that Accra is currently experiencing. The basic gist of it is that there’s a shortage of electricity available in Ghana and at certain times of the day, the power will just go off and darkness will engulf. Its literal translation is ‘switch off’. As a result, Dr. Bilsen handed each of us a flashlight to use when this did happen and the first thing I noticed of the flashlight was that it is legitimately made by a Chinese company called ‘雅格’ (yage) and all the instructions were written in Chinese. So while the products we get in the US are likely to be Made in China, a lot of products bought here by the Ghanaians are the same products that people in China would buy as well—packaging, product, and all. It’s actually quite comforting to see.
Other than that, orientation has been a slow process. We’re still pretty much the only international students here for the Fall semester on campus right now. My roommate won’t move in for probably another 2 weeks or so and I have no idea who she will be. When we moved in, our dorm had a sign in book where we put our name down for one of the rooms allocated to our program meaning basically nothing was planned ahead by anyone. They also explained to us that basically our roommate will be whoever put their name next to ours when they move in too. Quite the system, eh?
Anyways, there are quite a few more feels that I want to get down in writing soon, but we’re going our first overnight trip to Cape Coast in Ghana tomorrow so I should sleep soon since we’ll be getting up extra early—not that it will be a problem since the first rooster starts cockling at basically 5am which is also something that happened at my grandparents’ home.