I have now been in Ghana for 75 days. As cliché as it sounds, time is flying and I am learning something new everyday. It’s hot, it’s dusty, it’s not always necessarily beautiful, but I have settled into a routine here that has begun to make Accra feel like home. Days here go by slowly and leisurely; but the weeks are passing faster than ever and it’s hard to believe it is almost November already! The lack of changing weather adds to my disillusion as I find myself waiting for autumn to roll around and the air to cool down. No such luck here. As the leaves back home change color and the nights become frigid (so I hear), the rainy season here is coming to an end and the humidity seems to rise with each passing day. Classes typically meet just once a week and homework is minimal at this point in the semester, so I have found myself with more free time than I am used to while being in school. Not that I’m complaining! I spend my time during the week taking photos, doing laundry (usually by hand, which has become a new part of my routine), finding coffee shops or exploring the city with my new friends and fellow students, journaling and reading, and eating. We are always, always eating.
Up until recently I had 2 days a week when I had no classes at all, but a couple weeks ago I started putting my free time to better use as I began volunteering at a local NGO, the Street Children Empowerment Foundation (SCEF). SCEF helps bring children from the slums of Accra off the streets and into school, bettering their chances at changing their future. Many of the children that now benefit from this organization were found to be homeless or working in hazardous conditions, but with SCEF’s help have been placed in schools around the area and are supported by local and international donors alike. (If you would like to help improve the life of a child here in Accra, please click on this link and find out more!!) The SCEF family welcomed my friend Claudia and I with open arms right away and I find myself enjoying my long days there, which I spend helping in the office in the morning and playing with the children in the afternoon. The kids have already captured my heart as I learn about their stories, wishes and dreams, and I know that saying goodbye will be hard when I leave in two months. But for now I am doing as I do best when traveling: enjoying the present and not worrying too much about the future.
I have now passed the halfway point of my time here, and I find myself feeling more comfortable and happy lately than I have felt in a while, although there are aspects of home that I long for more than I care to admit (hot showers, fresh salad, and cheese-ALL THE CHEESE, to name a few). In some ways life here does not feel so different from dorm life back in New York, and yet I feel worlds away from home. Life in a college dorm may feel similar no matter where you are, but life outside the college is a whole different story. I have now mastered the art of catching the right Tro Tro across the city and bargaining for the best price for a coconut, a bar of soap, or an article of clothing at a market; I have become an expert at ignoring the stares in large public spaces and can now tell the difference between a regular price for a taxi and an “oburoni” price (foreigner price); I have tried Banku and Fufu and can safely say that I like neither, but I do enjoy some good Jollof rice and yam balls. Accra, like any large city, is fast paced and chaotic, but I find it much less overwhelming and intimidating than I did 2 months ago. I do long for the quiet of nighttime in Ithaca and the ease of getting from place to place by car, but I take in each moment as one of learning and growth, and I savor my time here, as I know it will end before I know it. As my time here passes quickly I am already feeling some sadness setting in that in just a couple of months this whole experience will be over, feeling like a distant dream. Experiences like this one truly are once in a lifetime, and I am beyond grateful to be here. Sorry for this not very exciting post, but thank you for reading, as always!