17 August 2012

this countdown entered single digits. whoa.

Eight days.  Eight. Days.  In just over a week, I will be on my way.  There's still much to be done, panicked thoughts to be had, goodbyes to be said, and meals to be shared.  As a pre-trip assignment, I had to write a letter to myself about expectations, fears, yaddayadda.  If you're interested, here it is:

Dear Me(...but like...in the future),

I’m REALLY excited to go to Ghana.  (The word “excited” seems too cliche and insufficient, but I can’t really figure out a better way to say it.)  I feel like I’ve spent so much time this summer stressing about so many different things that I haven’t really had time to think about it until recently.  It still doesn’t feel real.  I think I will feel so relieved when I get on the plane.  Maybe that’s mostly because it will mean that my passport was finally sent back to me with my Visa, but also probably because it will mean that it’s happening and I’m as prepared as I can be and I will finally be able to let go.  
I think initially it will just be really hard adjusting to the time difference.  The first day I wake up in Ghana, we are supposed to be to breakfast at 7:30.  It’s a four hour time difference, and it will feel to me like 3:30.  In the morning.  Yeah, those first couple of days will be hard.  Maybe I’ll start liking coffee.  Probably not.
And then there’s food.  Apparently Ghanaians like meat.  I made some new friends from Ghana this summer who, upon learning I was a vegetarian, exchanged a look and then explained that they could probably stand in the middle of the country and count on one hand the number of people who don’t eat meat.  In my opinion, food is a really large part of culture.  And this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so I really don’t want to miss out on anything.  So this means I need to start learning how to eat meat.  I’ve been trying a little bit here and there in preparation, but I’m not going to push it.  My friend, who is also from Ghana, showed me a picture of a traditional meal she prepared which featured avocado.  As far as I’m concerned, anything with avocado is absolutely alright with me.  And having been a vegetarian since I was six, I’ve become quite capable of finding something to eat in the most unlikely of places.  So I’m mostly not worried.
What I am a little worried about is finding my way in a new city (not to mention new country...oh yeah, and new continent.)  Cape Coast is more than ten times the size of Athens, measured by population.  I am not the hugest fan of big cities with lots of people and lots of things happening at once.  It’s my opinion, but I don’t know what anybody finds appealing about living in New York City.  (Just to put it in perspective, NYC is like...forty times larger than Cape Coast.  I’m being dramatic.)  But really, it will all be new to me.  I don’t even know the basics of language!  (Way to go, Hattie.  That was a good decision, studying an East African language for the year before you go to West Africa.  Brilliant.)  Dramatics aside, spending time in the city will be really important and probably also very strange.  For the first time in my life, I will be a minority.  I’m not sure why this is scary.  It’s probably because I don’t like being noticed very much, and I will most likely stick out.  Certainly, though, there will be something to learn from this specific experience.
I think, right now, I’m most looking forward to meeting my Auntie Ivy and her family.  I really have no idea what to expect with regard to what the area and her home   will be like.  I don’t even know if she has a family.  Maybe we will be each other’s family.  But I want to meet her and learn about her and see how she does life.  I want to know if she goes to church.  If she does, I want to go with her.  I want to see what faith looks like in a different land.  I want to learn new ways to worship and new ways to listen and new ways to learn.  (If she doesn’t go to church, then I will find one!)
I don’t actually know because I’m not there yet and I haven’t begun at my teaching position, but I think that will be the most challenging experience, as well as most rewarding.  I’ve never taught anyone in a classroom setting and I know nothing about writing a lesson plan.  But the kids!  I have worked with kids before and I like it a lot and I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to learn together.  I will find my way and I’m hoping it will be flexible enough that I’ll get to add some of my own pieces to the lessons.  I don’t know what age group I will be teaching but I’m going to bring along some stories that I think can be enjoyed by a person of any age in hopes that I will be able to read them to my students.   
It’s also really awesome, in my opinion, that after dreaming up some photo/research/interview-type projects, I actually get to do them!  I just want to meet everyone and take pictures of them and ask them questions and learn about their life stories.  And I kind of get to try.  Yeah, like I said:  really awesome.
Aside from these things, I can’t say that I have too many expectations.  That’s not because I don’t have standards but because I just really have no idea what to expect!  I know life will be different in ways, but also similar in other ways.  But one thing I know for sure is this:  I want to be changed.  I want to be better after than I was before.  Sound good, Hattie?  Yeah.  I thought so.


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