Saturday, July 31, 2010
Back in the U.S.A.
I didn't think one month in Africa could cause this much "reverse-culture shock." Throughout the last few days back home, I will have small reminders that will somehow bring me back to Ghana and my mind will just wonder off. It's hard to even explain to people because you really have to go through the drastic culture change in order to fully understand it, but I will give it a shot... The moment I stepped off of the plane in the Atlanta airport, I automatically prepared myself for the chaos or unexpected problems that always seemed to arise in Ghana...everywhere. In Ghana, when you left the airport, or your hostile, or anywhere, you were constantly confronted with questions and gestures and touching. This was especially true in the cities...people on the street would constantly pester you to buy their products or to have them help you carry something, etc. to earn their day's wages. Plus, since there are so few white people in Ghana, you are often treated like a famous person. They treat their guests with the utmost respect and interest, but that means people always want to talk to you. Walking down the street, they would yell questions at us, wondering where we were from, what our names were, why we were there, etc. When I arrived in Atlanta, I subconsciously prepared myself for this almost intimidating and stressful demeanor. But, it never came. For once, I felt like i didn't have to constantly watch my bag, have my guard up to all of these people "coming at me," and I didn't have to worry about anyone else bothering me. In Atlanta, everyone was out for themselves and nobody seemed to even pay attention to the next person. It was the weirdest sensation. I went from a culture of being treated like some sort of famous person (in both good and bad ways) to a culture who could care less about another stranger. Just like that, I was a "nobody" again....and, man, did I enjoy the solitude of my own mind. I felt like I could finally let myself go and not feel so "threatened" or on edge all of the time. It was just stressful in Ghana at times when you always had to watch your back and felt obliged to talk to/help everyone around you. It's such a different culture...never about the "I" but always about the "we." So the first feeling I got was a sort of freedom and letting go of a subconscious burden...(I'm not sure how to explain it...) The next feeling was awe. I walked into the airport and couldn't believe how clean and large everything seemed. Plus, there were SO many white people! After seeing hardly any white people for a month (besides our group), it was very strange to be among so many Americans...people that looked and talked like us. Then, I went into the bathroom...there was running water! CLEAN running water! AND it got even better...they had toilet paper in the bathrooms! Not to mention that the seats were clean and dry. The thing I got the most excited for was the drinking fountain! Free, clean, drinking water. It doesn't get any better than that after spending a month in Ghana. People there have to pay to get purified drinking water, and the water from the sinks and showers is generally collected from large rain reservoirs...For once, I didn't have to pay for water. Praise God! I'll finish this tomorrow...for now I must sleep. (I'm still suffering from quite a bit of jet lag...urghh)