Culture Shock

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When you read other travel blogs, the authors only write how wonderful and interesting is everything is. Well, that’s not how I roll. All the other participants warned me that this week would suck. Of course, they were right. Culture shock is a real thing, folks, and I’ve been hit by it hard.

First of all, I’ve felt sick all week. I have a sensitive digestive system. Many people in my family have intestinal illnesses and I probably have IBS (I’ve just put off any testing). So transitioning to Ghanaian food has not been easy. So far, I haven’t had any diarrhea, but I feel nauseated 95% of the time. My host mother hasn’t given me anything to strange to eat, but my body is rejecting just about everything—even plain toast. I also feel terribly because I have not been able to finish anything that she’s given me. In Ghanaian culture, it is insulting not to clean your plate. It’s saying that you don’t like the food. I keep trying to tell her that I am enjoying my meals, but that I don’t eat a lot. Hopefully soon she’ll understand and stop giving me plates with mountainous amounts of food. I really hope my body adjusts soon. This plain sucks.

Secondly, I’ve just been homesick. I’ve felt homesick time to time when I’m at school in Philly, but usually it lasts a few hours. This time, the homesickness is lingering much longer. I’m going to be honest; I cried that first night at my homestay and have had a few breakdowns since. I’m just emotionally drained. Generally, I’m fairly even-tempered. It takes a lot to get me excited or really mad. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster. I really just want to get off and feel normal again. I’m also lonely. I haven’t been able to hang out with the other participants yet, so I’m struggling to find someone I can relate to. Ghanaians are wonderfully nice, don’t get me wrong, but it is often difficult to understand their English and they speak mostly in Fante or Twi. Once I pick up a phone, it will be easier. I’ll be able to text other participants to hang out and call home.

I thought that I would be really uncomfortable with being stared at all the time. It turns out, that’s one of the few things I’m ok with. Kids shout, “Obruni” Obruni!” whenever they see me, which translates to “foreigner.” They don’t mean it maliciously. They are just really excited to see a white person and want to talk to me (Or ask for money, but that’s another story). I actually made a child cry the other day when I was taking a shared taxi (more on the taxis later). He was sitting on his mother’s lap staring at me. He was touching my skin confused while his mother and I smiled at each other. I made a face at him, which was apparently the wrong thing to do, and he starting screaming. Oh well. Other than that, Ghanaians are extremely friendly and helpful. I’m happy to report that I don’t feel
uncomfortable at all trying to ask for directions or catching a taxi.

I’m so sorry for sounding so negative. I’m sure I’ll perk up in a few days; especially once I spend more time with fellow volunteers. Until next time!

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