Wednesday, September 17, 2008

wait, when did i get to africa?

So, it just hit me the other day that I’m actually here. It’s very surreal to be living in a dream. It’s strange seeing the nighttime sky with the moon as I’m used to, but no Big Dipper, feeling sweaty even as my head hits the pillow, and falling asleep to the sound of indigenous languages bouncing off the hallways. It’s like I’ve been planning on this trip for so long that I haven’t even fully let it sink in that I’m actually living in Ghana (albeit temporarily). It’s been over two weeks since that endless day when we boarded our first plane in Detroit, and now I’m really a world away. It’s crazy how much can change in a short amount of time. Now that we’ve found inexpensive places to eat, we better understand the lingo, are getting used to sllllloooooowwww internet connections, and are figuring out how to wash our clothes by hand, our lives in Ghana are beginning to be lived. I’m used to the quick sprint of Interims abroad, where everything is new and fresh and stimulating and awesome and then over. But it’s just starting to settle in my mind that this is more of a long-distance, endurance test. Not a Peace Corps long marathon, but the thought of no non-instant coffee or non-touristy, inexpensive pizza for three more months is a bit daunting at this point.

Our group of 17 Calvin students no longer is just a random assortment of classmates thrown together for a semester. We’re now becoming more of a family, who takes care of each other when someone falls ill and looks out for each other in making sure everyone has a walking buddy on the 25 minute trek to class. Names like “my boyfriend” or “my housemates” are taking a more 3-dimensional shape as everyone’s stories and testimonies and past are slowly becoming blurred with our own. And while it’s great getting to know these former acquaintances so well, the thought that I do have to put up with these peoples’ mannerisms and senses of humor for three months is also getting lodged in my mind.

It’s the strangest feeling to go from homework at Calvin to homework here. When I’m taking my on-campus classes, I might have homework that’s Africa related every once in a while. Now it’s all that I do. Ever. I go from reading about Africa’s colonial legacy or the modern political scene, and then lift my eyes off the page to my roommate’s TV where local news reports are telling the exact same story. And the election discussions aren’t just some foreign and distant topic I might occasionally peruse on the BBC. The outcome directly impacts Esther and my new friends’ lives. The propaganda smothers the backs and sides of the tro-tros I take into Accra. Issues of AIDS maintenance and malaria prevention are as common as the American presidential debate topics of socialized health care or military activity which they replace. I’ve totally traded in my stars and stripes for one star and three stripes. But even though it’s slightly overwhelming at times living, breathing, eating, and sleeping African studies and International Development, I think I’m starting to like this new African lifestyle.


Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Hey there,
Reading this post brings up a question that I have for you - are you going to be able to vote while you are there? Will you be able to get an absentee ballot?

I am feeding Riley sweet potatos and he has just learned to spit them out. Then when I tell him "No", he smiles at me! I had better get cleaned up.
Miss you!

PS - In case you see that a comment has been removed, it was me. I made a mistake while commenting:)

Pam said...

I'm glad to read that you are getting adjusted to your new life. What an adventure on which you have embarked! I'll bet that washing your clothes by hand gives you a real appreciation for our modern appliances. We are so fortunate!
Love you,

Lydia Larson said...

Wow. Amazing.
I'm going to write to you soon about all this and much much much more.


Heidi said...

Hey there!
Good to read about your adventures & thoughts - what a great experience! I had been wondering about your absentee ballot as well. I hope you're getting one? And voting for the right person??? :)
Keep thinking and writing and being changed...