Upon arriving in Accra, Ghana, knowledge has been strategically cramped in my head, so much so that I’m standing here in my own presence a stranger to myself one week ago. The flight was long and easy with movies in front of my face all day. Harry, a fellow NCSU student who is doing the same program, rode next to me sleeping. We shared the anticipation and excitement together as the plane’s wheels first scraped the ground.
An hour later, the majority of that time standing in baggage claim without realizing our bags were included in a cluster off to the side, we exit the airport.
“Hello TAXII?” “TAXII HELLO” shouted at least 15 people. We scan and make eye contact with the first white people we see. “USAC” they attempt to say but cannot be heard over the yelling locals. The paper they held up, however, was legible. Our program was ISEP, so we nod no and keep looking. .2 seconds later we are with ISEP loading a bus. We meet a few others in our program on the bus and are handed food in a to-go container. We arrive at the International Student Hostile (ISH), the dorms we are staying in. At this point Harry and I had been awake almost 20 hours. We got our keys, lugged our bags up the stairs, and began unpacking. This is when I met my roommate, Keisha.
When I first saw Keisha I felt the same energy as when I met Sis, the Coharie Elder who I lived with this past summer. I initially hugged her.
The next day all 17-ish of us in ISEP packed into a bus and went on a tour of the city. I stared out the window at the dirt sidewalks, cracked buildings, and black people. I don’t want to get out of this bus I thought. The bus turned off on a dirt road passing a local soccer group, then stopped. “Time to get out” our leader says. We took pictures of the beach.
Then we got back on the bus, to my comfort.
So here I sit, one week later, reflecting on how I persistently argued with some Ghanaian students today over a refund for a fee they tricked me into paying. In the states I rarely argued. Thus I wonder why was it so easy for me to stand up for myself here? Over the journey of this week I’ve watched the locals interact with each other over money. It is common for voices to be raised over a fair price or refusal to pay requested costs. It’s common for people to try and rip you off, no matter what color your skin is. Not that they want to rip you off, but they want money for themselves and their families. It’s common for people to be honest and good to you here as well. We, as foreigners, have to learn. We don’t know the signals for someone who is, as they say, ‘sketchy’. This is no different than any other country. In the US there are ‘sketchy’ people, I simply know how to tell who they are quickly. I know how much things should costs and the way the system works. In Ghana I don’t, but I’m standing up for myself. With each day it becomes easier to understand.
I’m becoming comfortable in this culture. And it’s going to do amazing things for me.