Thursday, October 29, 2009

some thoughts

Hello Canada,

This is the third and final week of "Phase 1", where we got organized, assessed the students, and began instruction. Tomorrow we have our last session before the one-week break (during which I will be in Mampong -- excited to see Suzanne and Michael again!). Over the break, Level 1 students will be making "Alphabet Books" and Level 2 students will be writing storybooks -- so I've been busy stapling the blank books together. Level 2 will also have a test tomorrow (scary -- not!).

So ... some thoughts of mine:

I think after this internship, I will have a lot more appreciation for immigrants in Canada. Crossing cultures can be very difficult. I'm only here for three months -- i can't imagine moving somewhere else. Having to arrange housing. Navigate public transportation. Here's a thought -- imagine landing in a classroom in a language you don't understand, and be expected to pass tests!

Here, people have been pretty gracious with me. With my white skin, it's easy for them to spot me as a foreigner. So when I don't say the right thing, or mispronounce a Twi greeting, or do something considered as "rude", they're pretty understanding. For example: in Canada, giving eye contact is a sign of respect and attention. Here, if a young person is looking an elder in the eye too much, it can be interpreted as disrespectful or a challenge. Another one: in Canada, it is polite to ask people older than you, "how are you?" Here, the older people ask the younger people that question -- the younger generation isn't supposed to be asking them. Or, one thing to remember is that the left hand is not used to shake hands, pass things, or eat with. Waving to people with your left hand can be considered an insult. Another one: saying "excuse me" in Canada is polite. Here, "excuse me" is often used as a sarcastic insult between children on the playground.

I have done almost all of the things listed in the above paragraph -- but people understand that I'm foreign, and don't take it the wrong way. Ghanaians are quick to educate you about their culture, teach you a Twi phrase, or tell you openly, "we don't do that here -- we do this."

Here's one interesting exchange I had with an elder in the church the other day. I was talking with him, and he was very interested about Canada, etc. He was discussing free trade and the cocoa industry with me ... And then he started asking about Canadian culture and family life. He said, "I hear that Canadian and American men are very bossy!" I didn't quite get where that came from/ "Bossy?" "Yes -- they can divorce their wives very quickly and very often. They sound very bossy." Oh .... that's a different take on it! haha I explained to him that in Canada, marriage is seen as a romantic union between two individuals -- unlike here, where it's a fusion of two families. Unfortunately, this could be one of the reasons divorce is more common ... He was very intrigued by this, and couldn't believe some of it!

Another little tidbit about Ghana: the driving is very different here! haha Here are some driving rules i've observed:
1. Your foot must always be pressing down on either the gas or the brake. Never cruising.
2. Biggest vehicle has right of way.
3. Vehicles -- taxis, trotros -- often do not have seatbelts, and so they are not limited by them. Instead, you can cram as many passengers as you can fit in the vehicle!
4. Drive on the left side, the right side, or the middle of the road until you see another vehicle coming in your direction.
The busy roads sometimes remind me of currents in water -- there's two directions of flow, and things somehow are movign ... but it's all very fluid and kind of smooshing together/

haha Finally, another good quote:
Felicia and I were preparing the booklets. We bought one stack of computer paper. later, we needed more. We were surprised to see that the two lenghts of paper were different ... she just laughed and said, "That's Ghana for you!"

Africa has been good to me, but it is teaching me patience and flexibility! haha



  1. First comment! Yay! Looks like I beat your mom to it this time!

    A most amusing blog!! I particularily liked the driving rules.. haha

    Reading your "cultural mishaps" reminded me of human geography... I forget how cultures can really be so different.

    anyways.. I shall refrain from talking about myself (as promised) because this is a list of comments about you.. haha.

    praying for you lots!!

  2. Hi Erica,

    The ONLY reason Ange beat me to it, is cause I'm home sick. Don't worry - it's not H1N1 - just a bad head cold. I read your new blog last night, but I was too wiped out to even comment. Feeling somewhat better today, called in sick for work, though. My only thought from reading this latest blog is - I wonder exactly how MANY times I will completely embarass myself while I'm over there! (Thinking of becoming mute for my visit - which you're probably TOTALLY OK with!) Sounds like you are doing a FANTASTIC job of helping these wonderful ladies learn English! Keep up the good work!!
    MA & PA

  3. Perchance the miles' would have insider knowledge about when the next blog is going to be posted? that would give an unfair advantage!

    Get well soon!

    Erica, I'm sure you'll enjoy the break to relax and prepare the next lessons! Keep us posted on all your adventures!!

  4. Hey Erica!

    Guess what I went to tonight!? STARFIELD at Redeemer!! Remember when we went like 2 years ago? funnnn times. The concert was really good.... I've missed seeing them... and me, Sheena, Reb, Jess Dobes, and Jordan Stacey got a picture with them at the end...

    anyways, just wanted to let you know briefly :)

  5. hi erica. i read your blog! ange said you were wondering if anyone even reads it, besides your family and her. i do!! :) it sounds like you're having the time of your life. such a sweet experience..