As of today I have been in Ghana for six weeks, although it feels like it has been two. When I first arrived here, it seemed like I would be here forever, and now I am worried it might now have enough time left to do everything I want. Ghana is a really cool country, very different from Canada but at the same time very similar. The first difference I had to get used to was accepting the fact that random people on the street are genuinely interested in talking to you and learning about your country. Everywhere I go, people will say hi to me, and just start talking to me. Back in Canada, if strangers start trying to talk to me on the street I find it a little weird, and I found it a bit weird here in Ghana at first. But you learn that people are just genuinely very social and interested in making friends.
While there are lots of other differences between my home country and my host country, what is more interesting are the similarities. For example, the global diffusion of popular culture is astonishing. For example, one of the first questions I was asked was if I was a fan of Glee. While I actually really hate Glee, nonetheless it was interesting to see how influential Western media is around the world. North American pop music is also very popular here, and often it is played on the radio along with locally produced reggae and Twi hiphop music.
Ghana itself is a beautiful country, especially when you travel outside of Accra. I travelled to Kakum National Park, which had a really cool rainforest canopy walkway that gave you amazing views of one of the biggest tracts of intact rainforest left in Ghana. Also, the beaches. It seems like the entire coastline of Ghana is one long uninterrupted beach. Coming from landlocked Ottawa, it is hard to express how much I love being able to go to the beach on weekends, after work, and even on work days when the power is out. The country is currently experiencing some trouble generating electricity due to low water levels at their main hydroelectric dam. And while this is frustrating at times (try going to sleep in the heat here with no fan) it also means that work closes at 12:00 if the power has not come back on. Me and the other interns have started bringing our bathing suits everyday just in case, so we can spend the afternoon at the beach.
As much as I enjoy Ghana and the people in it, the highlight of the experience has definitely been working at the HRAC. I had exceedlingly low expectations of what I would be doing as an intern. I would have been happy as long as my job was something more than fetching coffee for other more senior staff. However, it has far exceeded anything I had hoped for. First of all, I am actually given useful projects to do, and they are interesting and engaging. Furthermore, I am given a lot of autonomy, and my suggestions for projects are listened to and taken seriously. Papers I write are actually used and distributed. I was super happy when I saw a paper I wrote was distributed at a meeting with various NGOs and government officials. Better yet, I actually saw them reading it. What is great is that you feel as though the work you are doing is actually making a difference, and benefiting the organization. I really enjoy the work that I am doing and I feel as though it has been a great experience so far.
In fact, the only negative thing I have to say about it is that if you are a coffee drinker like myself, it is really hard to find real coffee and when you do it is ridiculously expensive. Nescafe is the only coffee-like substance readily available, and I think most people will agree with me when I say that Nescafe is awful.
Anyways, the fact that Nescafe is the one thing I have found to complain about should speak for itself. I’m having a great time.