One week on in Accra
10.07.2012 - 17.07.2012 30 °C
I’ve had such a good first week back in Ghana!
I’d forgotten a bit how intense West Africa can be. Even at the airport, there are throngs of people, all urgently pushing you forward, and I can’t walk down the street in Accra without someone trying to sell me something, someone else trying to be my friend, and someone else trying to pick me up. There are crowds, cars, trotros, animals, and smells everywhere you go. But Ghanaians are warm and welcoming, so eager to ask you where you’re from and how long you’ll stay in Ghana, that handling the intensity of Accra is a bit easier.
It was great to be back at the autism centre. It’s not easy work though. The centre is stretched for resources, and many of the staff have very little training on autism and how to teach children with autism. There are also big cultural differences - in how children are viewed, how discipline is viewed, work ethic - that I know I can’t change, but are hard to get used to. Serwah is doing an amazing job trying to keep up with the latest research but passing that information on to her staff in a way that they’ll understand and use with the kids is difficult. It’s also hard to make suggestions, because I don’t want to feel like some arrogant westerner coming in with all the answers. It’s definitely a delicate balance. I spent last week just observing the three different classes and getting to know the kids (some I remember from the last time I was here!) and this week I’m sketching out a few ideas on little changes they can make.
Since this is Ghana, I’ve met so many friendly people, both locals and other travelers. I’ve been hanging out with Katrina, who is a student at NYU here in Ghana to research the cocoa industry, and Monday night Charles, who works at my hostel, took us out dancing. We ended up at a table with us and about 10 other Ghanaian men (not surprising) but had a blast trying to learn asunto, the latest Ghanaian dance craze. Charles is very protective of us and made sure we weren’t harassed. I’ve also made a few friends just on the street, as you do in Ghana. I met an accountant named Frank who wants to teach me Twi, a Rastafarian photographer who’s exhibit I’m going to next week, and the man who owns the water purification plant, who wanted to take me on a tour there! On Sunday I had such a Ghana moment - I had been in a café researching what I‘m going to do when I get home, and was stressed, sad, homesick, walking back to the hostel and wanting more than anything to be left alone. Of course that’s not possible here, and soon I had a man trying to talk to me, asking what was wrong. I kept telling him that I was having a bad day and wanted to be left alone, but he kept saying that sharing would help, so I told him a bit about why I was sad, and he waited for me while I stopped in a shop. When I came out he had woven a bookmark for me with my name on it and refused payment, he just said it was a gift to make me feel happier! I love this country.
I’ve also made friends with Victoria, who has a food stall down the street. She sets up each night over a few propane tanks and charcoal stoves and makes massive dishes of friend noodles and omelets, all for under $2. Amazing!
My friend from work, Lina, arrived yesterday and will be volunteering with me until I go home. It’s definitely nice to have her and the other volunteers to bounce ideas off of. I’m hoping we can make a few small changes to programming at the centre to make life for the kids and staff a little easier.
Being back in Ghana feels so familiar and welcoming, I’m glad it’s my last stop before I go back home!