Ashanti Region, Ghana
This month marks a year of living in Ghana, and what a year it’s been. I had no idea what to expect when I got on the plane to come here. No matter how prepared you are, there’s no way to prepare for all of the ups and downs of service. This past year has been a year full of surprises and adventure. A year filled with trying new things and adapting to a new reality. A year filled with challenges and frustrations and homesickness. And a year filled with love, friendship, and laughter. I’ve been amazed by the extraordinary kindness of strangers. I’ve also experienced the isolation of being surrounded by people, but still feeling alone, because the cultural and language barrier are sometimes really difficult to overcome. Not a day goes by where I don’t question why I am here. There have been many moments, especially recently, where I’ve been ready to pack it up and head back to the comfort and familiarity of my America. But as I near the halfway mark of service in only a few months, I am starting to feel reenergized and recommitted to finishing my service. This isn’t the work I pictured myself doing when I came here, most of it is not even public health work. But it’s still work that has value, and the friendships I have made with some of my community members are more important than anything else I could possibly do here. At the end of the day, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be here in Ghana.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned a year into service:
1. Don’t take things for granted – people, experiences, electricity.
2. Take the time to greet people.
3. Things usually have a way of working out, even if it’s not the way you originally plan.
4. Change starts with just one person.
5. There’s always something that can be learned from someone else. Everyone has something to contribute.
6. Accept people’s invitations whenever you can. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from experiencing something new.
7. Practice self-care always.
8. Celebrate the big victories, but also the little ones too.
9. Friendships take many different forms.
10. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, and ask for help when you need it.
11. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something else will come up and surprise you.
12. Laugh at yourself.
What lessons will the next year bring? I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to finding out. Cheers to another year in Ghana!