Akwaaba! “Welcome!” This was the first word spoken to me when I met new smiling faces in Ghana. It was not the standard “Hi.” “How are you?” that one receives on the daily basis in America: where regardless of how you really are, you simply respond “good” and get on with your life. The Ghanaian people I met cared. They were inviting, welcoming, loving. The communities that my school group were surrounded with were supportive of one and other.
On the last day of our three weeks, Paige and I spent the day walking on the roads of Accra: stopping to eat lunch or buy mangos. I think most people would be shocked that two foreign females were wandering through Ghana’s largest city and capital, but I felt so safe and secure. Maybe it is the rooted culture or the faithfulness in religion. Regardless, the way I felt in Ghana was the most precious part of the trip for me.
Partly, because after each day we had real homes to go back to. When Paige and I opened the vibrant blue gate, everyone knew we were home. Mamí would yell “Hellooooo” from the kitchen and all three of her grandchildren would giggle and run outside to greet us. They had overflowing love that they shared with us, but their knowledge too was something I learned from. Our host family taught us how to hand wash our clothes, but more importantly the intentionally of conversation.
As a young child, I was taught that “honesty is the best policy,” but that is only part of the truth. Our family showed us that within communication, it is so important to shoot straight. Share how you feel and say exactly what you want to get across. There is no need to fluff up a sentence to come across as nice. Speak the truth and you will be heard.
Paige and I learned this the hard way. Nothing too serious, but we were unfair to ourselves and our host family. We frequently did not enjoy the dinners that were prepared for us. Sometimes we honestly could not eat them at all. Instead of sharing the truth with our host family, we pretended to be full and came up with all different types of excuses. We did not want to insult them or hurt their feelings in any way, but it is different in Ghanaian culture and our host family would not have taken our words negatively. Our Auntie even said, “if you communicate fully then you are understood.” If Paige and I had spoken up then maybe we wouldn’t have had to secretly eat so many granola bars late at night. But, our culture influenced us differently, so we didn’t feel comfortable to say something. In retrospect I took away from this simple and silly situation that the intentionality of conversation is so important. The truth triumphs and there is no point to beat around the bush. As Paige says, “I’m not trying to hate, I’m just telling the truth.”
I have gushed about how great Ghanaians are, but my group was also spectacular. I came on this trip without knowing anyone. I left this trip with knowing everyone probably too well. People’s personalities constantly blow me away. Our group was eclectic and I appreciate the intellectual conversations that we had with one and other behind the scenes. One of the best parts about learning are the debates you get to have with your peers outside of the classroom where you share your ideas and challenge theirs. This trip made that probable and prominent. Memories to cherish, the betterment of my brain, and a legacy to continue.