On July 13th, I departed on a plane from Toronto Pearson Airport to London Heathrow, then finally to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana. About 15 hours in flight, and several hours of customs, layovers, and delays I finally arrived in Ghana around 9 pm Ghana time on July 14th.
I was lucky enough to have met two girls at the gate in London who were also volunteering in Ghana with the same organization and the same placement. I grew to be fast friends with them throughout my stay and I was lucky to meet many volunteers from around the world. There was approximately 11 of us who arrived that same evening. We were all taken to spend the night in a hotel, as the volunteer house was full capacity with volunteers who had arrived previously.
The following morning included a wonderful breakfast, meeting other volunteers and orientation. Then we were split into our specific placement groups which are designated by colour, mine being purple. There was 4 girls in their 20s and 1 in her 50s. We had the furthest placement in a town called Frankadua, about 2 hours of a drive from the capital. Frankadua was more of a rural community than Accra, and as I came to realize quite quickly, a pretty amazing community as well.
And we were off to our placement, and I was off to 2 of the most amazing weeks of my life. I won’t bother to go into crazy, insignificant details on this post, because they are kept in my memories for me to remember and smile at. Hopefully I can summarize somewhat my experience. But there is no way I will be able to fully communicate or properly phrase how this experience deeply affected me, how it made a lasting imprint, or how it made my heart so much fuller. There are no words.
Throughout the 2 weeks I was able to be an assistant teacher to two classrooms: kindergarten at a school called Freedom School, and P2 (Grade 2) at EP Primary School). I was able to read to them, teach them spelling, numbers, animals, and a bit of geography. But outside of academics, I taught the P2 class (I grew to be very fond of them) the hokey pokey and a polish campfire song, to which they giggled with excitement at each chance to do it. They in turn gave me a mini Away lesson (the main language they spoke in Frankadua), taught me playground games and handshakes, and gave me a constant smile. There were a few kids who became very special to me, and the love they gave me will be with me forever.
I was surprisingly able to do a morning of construction work, smashing concrete with the other volunteers in 2 school classrooms, then scooping it away and sweeping the dust. Now that was an experience.
Evenings were laid back. We would finish dinner by 7, then proceed to have a couple of beers, play cards, and listen to music until we went to bed around 9:30-10. It was wonderfully simple.
The new volunteers had a night of “initiation” where we had to each take a shot of Akpeteshie.
But, twist – shot glasses there are about 2 and a half times the size of shot glasses here! But we took them, then headed off to a local’s party with dancing, African drumming, and lots of amazing fun and laughs.
A Saturday during the trip, me and 4 of the other newer volunteers went on a day trip to the monkey sanctuary to feed adorable, wild monkeys, and then to Wli Falls and mountains. The waterfalls were stunning and the hike up the mountain was one to remember. That’s all I can really say, but it was one of the most physically intense activities I have ever accomplished.
Excursions to nearby towns were frequently made, especially Jaupong, which had market days on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We mostly went to the market to pick and buy fabric at one of the many vendors, then brought it back to Frankadua, for the town tailor or seamstress to make something from it. I was able to get a pair of pants, a skit and a shirt made for me.
I was not used to standing out as much as I did in Frankadua and other towns. I was one of the small number of white people there. Being a white girl gives rise to stares, smiles, flirts, and marriage proposals. Yes, I was proposed to about twice, to which I replied “I am already married”. They leave you alone after that, but it is not uncommon as a tourist to receive those. It is also quite strange being back home and not hearing “YAVOO” being shouted my way which means “Look out, white person!”.
But I fell in love with the country and Frankadua. Ghanians are some of the friendliest, nicest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I was always told “You are welcome” from everybody I encountered, and pleasant small talk was made with practically every stranger. Walking around the town leads to many “hellos” and “how are yous”. It was very nice, as opposed to here, where people never look up from their phones, so as to avoid eye contact with strangers. No technology for 2 weeks either, only the beautiful backdrop of lush Ghana landscapes.
This does not properly capture my trip or emotions in the least bit, and it is weird to share it with people back home. I find myself missing the people and culture, and I’m always speechless, because it’s hard to find the words to explain the time I spent there. Please, I encourage you, to go to Ghana if you can. You will not forget it.
And, lastly, I was honoured to be driven to the airport on the last day by the mayor of Frankadua!