Study Abroad 2019: Culture and Social Justice in Ghana, Pt. 1

The 2019 Summer Study Abroad to Ghana, West Africa has begun! Over the next several weeks, we will follow our students’ journey across Ghana as they explore and learn from the country’s rich culture and history. This will be part one in a multi-part series of blogs that have been written by our students throughout their travels. These writings have been left unedited to capture their unadulterated feelings and emotion. These blogs are solely an expression of the students and do not directly reflect the opinions of the NC State Department of Social Work.

Journal of Caroline Mundy

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

We just landed in Accra, I am sitting on the plane and while waiting to exit the plane, the man sitting next to me spoke to me for the first time of the entire flight. He asked if this was my first time visiting? Welcomed me to his beautiful country after responding that it was. The elder man, a native of Accra, told me the people of Ghana will be the kindest people I will ever meet and to fully immerse myself into the people and culture to get the most out of my experience and time here.

I’m in Africa!!!

I feel astound, like this is not real. The way of life is quite different here than it is in the states. Ghana is full of and rich in culture. Culture that you do not see at all in the states. Propaganda, advertisements and companies are different because their branding is even heavy in culture. Before arriving in Africa, I had absolutely no expectations of what I was going to see, experience and do. There was no way, at all, to prepare myself for what was in store for me in Ghana. I believe that I did come to Ghana wearing the American lens with influencing my thoughts and visions of preconceptions I had for Ghana. Because I had no idea what to expect, I allowed myself to view Ghana through the typical American lens of all of Africa being poor, poverty-stricken and uncivilized just to give myself a small idea of what it was going to be like. So far, the preconceptions are completely wrong.

It is very visible that culture is richly valued because you see it everywhere and on everything. Hardly anything appears to be commercialized. Driving down the road, your eyes are flooded with murals and paintings in the walls of the highways. Instead of graffiti, these images portray the Ghanaian flag, ancestral figures and prideful artwork related to Ghana. The billboards advertising large brands display their product quite small next to a huge, blown up picture of a Ghanaian woman with branch artwork painted on her face. Out of all things, this particular image advertised was for a branded vodka. You look around at your surrounding and everything appears run down in a sense, like a crowded ghost town; yet, it is filled with humble beauty. Little hut houses and dusty sidewalks line the roads. Women are working full-time jobs on the street, selling masses of goods on the corner of every intersection around the city. These women carry their goods in woven baskets on top of their head. This particular image appears like something out of a mainstream, African movie. These women selling goods still value their cultural heritage and are grasping at the remaining traditions as cars speed by them.

On the way home (back to Yiri Lodge), we passed a family begging for money on a corner of a side street. A mom, her infant, and two younger sons. The beggars are not from Ghana. They are, in fact, from Niger. The beggars come to Ghana and work to professionalize panhandling; surviving off of other people. I later learned that people who beg are frowned upon by Ghanaian natives because they come to Ghana looking for a better life I Ghana but then never work or do anything to help themselves achieve the better life they desire. The particular family we encountered today, swarmed our bus windows as soon as we approached their corner. The mother came up to my window, gently tapping her nail against the glass to get my attention and smiling softly when it worked on me. The mother lifted her infant in the air, toward the bus, mouthing requests for money, to feed her family. The son latched on to the window seal in front of me and held on all the way to the highway, continuing to ask for money, batting his eyes, and tapping the window, all while still dangling on the side of the bus.

Journal of Jenn Mathurin

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

We arrived in Accra, Ghana early this afternoon. The plane ride was one of the smoothest I have ever had. I never really sleep on planes, but for some reason I slept like a baby on the way here. Mrs. Linda, our tour guide, greets us at Kotoka International Airport upon arrival. When we get on the bus, she offers us water and introduces herself. Apparently, it is part of the Ghanian culture to always say hello and offer water to travelers. Mrs. Linda seems really nice. We are now heading to our hotel, The Yiri Lodge. And, on the way there I notice a lot of merchants selling everything from toilet paper, fresh mangos, nuts, pillows, bottled water AND FREAKIN’ sugar canes!!!! This takes me back to Haiti. I suddenly have memories of my grand-mother cutting and eating sugar canes on a hot summer day and it makes me very happy. When we arrived to the Lodge, I am pleased to see that our accommodation is lovely. The workers welcome us with a snack and a cold beverage. I am loving Ghanaian hospitality. I can’t wait to see what this trip has in reserve for us…the adventure begins.

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