Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. This will be the third Thanksgiving that I’ve spent away from my family, but this is the first time I’ve truly felt alone. During the past two years, I was able to Skype with my family during dinner and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year though, there’s no parades, no mashed potatoes, and no football (Not that I really care about dudes running around with a ball). It’s strange to be spending such an essential American holiday following my normal Ghanaian routine: breakfast, work, dinner, and bed. Nevertheless, I find it important to express the many things that I am thankful for. So without further ado, here’s what I am thankful for:
The more time that I spend away from my family for college or work, the more I realize how much I love and miss them. I know I’m often guilty of taking them for granted. My family has always been supportive of all of my decisions, even when they aren’t thrilled with them. For example, my parents were very nervous for me to come to Ghana. However, when the time came for me to leave, they made sure that I was prepared as possible. I definitely lucked out on the parental situation. They taught me to be independent, to value hard work, and to try new things. I also greatly admire my sister as she so many wonderful qualities that I lack. Overall, I feel very thankful to have such a wonderful family and can’t wait to see them when I return home.
Though I tend to be a bit of a lone wolf, I’m very grateful for my few, but mighty friends who put up with me on a regular basis. My friends challenge me to be a better person and I never fail to learn new things from them. I’m also thankful for the new friends that I’ve made here in Ghana. Without the support of my fellow obroni, I would have had a much rougher transition here.
While I may struggle with some minor health issues, I am thankful that my loved ones and I are relatively healthy. I’m also grateful if I do happen to fail ill, I have insurance and will be able to pay for treatment. Also falling into the health category, I am thankful to live in a place with elaborate sanitation systems and to always have access to clean water.
I am very luckily to have parents that value education and sent me to private schools throughout my life. After seeing the education system here in Ghana, I’ve come to realize how much I’ve taken my education for granted. Not only did I learn advanced mathematics and how to write properly, but my teachers also encouraged creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. I got a lot of personal attention in my small classes, and I never had to worry about caning or any other corporal punishment. Even my ability to use technology is a blessing. So many of my coworkers are amazed at my ability to solve minor computer issues and at the speed I can complete my work on the computer. Lastly, I feel grateful for the opportunity to attend university. College is a privilege that many Americans don’t have, let alone those in less developed countries. Despite my original reluctance, I am very glad that I go to Drexel University. I feel that Drexel is really preparing me for the “real world” and is helping me to figure myself out as a person.
As stupid as it may sound, I’m very thankful to have healthy pets to snuggle with. Here in Ghana, pets are not as common and the ones wandering around tend to look like they’ve come out of the Sarah McLachlan animal abuse commercial. Honestly, one of the things that I’m most excited about returning home other than family and food is seeing my doggies.
Many people return from traveling with very critical outlooks on their home countries. The thing is, I realize that the United States is far from perfect. The United States struggles with racism, homophobia, disdain for the poor, and many other social and economic problems. However, after living in a developing country for two months, I am extremely grateful for the liberties I enjoy simply because I happened to be born in a particular location. Despite political tension, the United States enjoys democratic elections and peaceful transfers of power. It is far less corrupt than many other countries. Unlike Ghana, I don’t have to bribe the postman for my package, and I don’t have to slip policemen money in order to drive a car between municipalities. Putting taxes aside, I can receive an education through high school for free and learn how to think independently, rather than being indoctrinated and taught to memorize. Lastly, my gender limits me far less in the United States than it would in other countries. I have more freedom to make lifestyle choices than my peers in other countries. Americans are incredibly privileged in ways that we don’t notice or take for grant. For these privileges, I am very grateful.
7. Financial Situation
Like my nationality, my family’s financial situation is simply a privilege that I was born into rather than earned. While my parents don’t have Warren Buffet’s bank account, I have never faced food insecurity or worried about shelter. Not only have my basic needs been met, but I’ve been luckily enough to experience luxuries such as being able to travel. While I pride myself on being fairly fiscally independent (Paying my rent, buying groceries, etc.), I know that my parents are a safety net and would give me money, no questions asked. I’ve worked since I was fifteen, but not entirely out of necessity. My parents encouraged me to work in order to learn the value of a dollar, how to spend money thoughtfully, and to let me buy unnecessary items like a new purse or DVD. I am privileged to be able to accept an unpaid internship. I realize many students cannot afford to forgo a paycheck just because they want to work for a particular organization. Overall, my financial situation provided me seemingly limitless choices for how I want to live and gave me opportunities that others with less money never considered.
This may seem cheesy or boastful, but I am thankful and proud of the courage that it took to come for Ghana. I haven’t done a lot of traveling, and most people who know me would agree that this trip is out of character for me. My boundaries have been pushed here more than I ever could have imagined. I’ve been homesick, physically sick, and generally uncomfortable several times during this trip. However, I’m proud of the experiences I’ve overcome and the strength that it took to do it. During my first two months, I’ve learned a lot about Ghana, but probably even more about myself.
There are countless other things that I’m thankful for and have failed to mention in this post. To me, these eight things seem the most important. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and remembers to acknowledge all the things that they are thankful for in their lives.