To see the first Q&A, click here.
1. What are you doing once you return home?
I return home on July 3rd. After a long shower, I will [hopefully] be eating Israeli couscous served with mango chipotle salmon and sautéed brussels sprouts/asparagus.
After satisfying my taste buds, my plans for the summer are as follows:
July 5-10: Madison, WI
July 16-18: UF Preview
July 25-30: Chicago/Iowa
August 2-12: Seattle
Somewhere between August 18-22: Move to Gainesville for UF
2. Did your dreams change? I mean the ones you have during sleep.
Although I’m not entirely sure what the implications/meanings of this question are, I will say that I sleep like a rock here in Ghana. My brother Stanley always exclaims, “Eii Charlie; you can sleep Kwadwo!”
I hardly ever remember my dreams – besides the one from a couple of weeks ago where I lost an arm and had to beg on the streets to pay for my plane ticket home…
3. What was the scariest thing you experienced?
The infamous football mob. It was horrible; I am lucky to have escaped when I did.
4. What is the one event you will remember for a lifetime?
Besides my encounters with a spider and story from Cape Coast, I have to mention the women of Malata market will forever be in my heart.
I love them all, which is why I have formally accepted marriage proposals from no less than four women. Polygamy aside, they are fantastic people. They live in squalor – selling vegetables here and there for coins. But they are some of the most sincere, gentle, and kind women I’ve met. They pamper me – treating me with samples, special deals, and often giving me produce for free despite being fully aware that I am capable of paying 10 cents for a papaya. I will truly miss my ‘Sisters’ and ‘Aunties’ of Malata market.
5. How has your experience in Craig Price’s improv comedy classes helped you with communication, friendships, interpersonal relationships and your overall experience in Ghana?
In general, I see life as improvisation. No matter what your job [lawyer, salesman, dentist, or teacher] there is some level of improvisation involved.
My stay in Ghana has been all about putting myself out there. Just by being white, I automatically get an abnormal amount of attention. I am often the first American that Ghanaians have ever met or spoken with. Being seen abroad creates impressions of your country; it’s up to you whether they are positive or negative.
I will say that my puns [which I practiced in Craig’s improvisation classes] have a tendency to hurt relationships with Ghanaians. They are almost never understood, leading to awkwardness.
5. How do you think you’ll reaclimate to American culture? What challenges do you foresee?
Quite honestly, I think I’ll re-adjust very easily. I don’t foresee any major challenges, just the following minor ones:
- Air conditioning will be freezing.
- Life without owning a car isn’t nearly as easy in Florida.
- I’ve started mixing up Spanish and Twi with my limited knowledge of Korean and Chinese.
- Trying to catch up with movies. I can’t wait for The Hunger Games, Madagascar 3, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Rock of Ages.
- I cannot imagine living without hawkers on the street selling food and water in baskets on their heads. Seriously… what happens if I get hungry or thirsty on the road?!
6. Do you have any tips for those going to Ghana next year with YES?
Let your host family know straight from the beginning what you want to get out of the experience, and [if] you plan on traveling independently. Don’t assume anything; tell them up front why you’re here and what your expectations are. Ask for your family’s feelings and expectations as well. Every family has a reason for hosting you; they don’t get paid for doing it. Know their expectations and balance them with yours. If expectations conflict, sit down and have a good talk with your family. Try to understand why they act the way they do.
On the subject of school, know that after completing high school Ghanaians do not receive their diploma. They first must pass the WASCE – the Ghanaian version of the SAT. It is pass or fail; failing can ruin your life. Teachers will teach ‘to the textbook’, in the manner of rote memorization. It may seem like they’re not teaching, but that is what’s required to pass their final exams. It can be brutal, one reason I personally switched to catering school. But according to Kyla, “I made a lot of really great friends that otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to know so well. It ended up being very rewarding sticking with school.”
Exchange is a test – of ups and downs. Days vary between wonderful, horrible, and everything in-between. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to politely speak up. If you don’t get what you want out of your host year, you have only yourself to blame.
At the end of the year, you’ll be shocked at how fast it flew by. There will be rough spots [months 3-5 personally], but part of the experience is learning to endure. You’ll come out all the better.
I want to give a shoutout to my favorite AFS Frenchman, Balthazar. He left Ghana yesterday, after finishing his year program. When I met Balthy in the Amsterdam airport, we could hardly understand each other and I had to repeat anything I said at least 3-4 times for him to understand.
Fast forward 10 months, I am amazed. His newfound ability to speak and understand English as well as ‘pull-off’ wearing tres chic scarves is shocking. His humor transcends the language barrier, and he’s been a great friend. But above all he was, and always will be, my bro.
Thank you to everyone who has kept in touch throughout my year abroad. I realize it’s tough doing that from halfway across the world, and I sincerely appreciate the effort.