19 July 2012
Wow. The last few days have been a blur. I’ve been saving up the chance to dedicate a special post for Thursday because that day our group met to debrief for our reentry into the States. Before this meeting, I had never before considered the idea that coming back to my home country could be a culture shock in itself. They say, spend enough time in a foreign country and suddenly it’s like your home is not as familiar anymore. But the program was only six weeks, right? Maybe this was not enough time to make a full adjustment to a Ghanaian lifestyle, but I can’t help but feel that after all I have seen and done in the past month that I will not be returning home the same person I was when I left. Actually, I’m one hundred percent positive of this fact. Our presenter quoted Heraclitus, “You can never step into the same river twice.” We change so quickly, we really do, without even realizing it. The other day I was going through some pictures of mine and my friends’, and I was stunned to see what is different now compared to the year prior. We move, we change jobs, we change relationships, we change perspectives.
One of the concerns of reentry that particularly resonated with me is finding myself acutely aware of everything I took for granted in the States. And not just the things that I didn’t appreciate before, but even more so the assumptions that I once held to be true without questioning them. I feel threatened by the ugly head of cynicism toward my home country that travelers often grapple with. As much as my eyes have been opened to a few more of the not-so-attractive qualities of America, the purpose of this journey was not to gain a “more enlightened and cultured-than-thou” attitude toward my nation. Having said that, after my short time traveling abroad it is becoming clearer to me that I am in a unique position to fight American exceptionalism. Our country is a major presence in a wide and complex world community, yet Americans still struggle with prejudicial attitudes and entertaining overly simplistic views about the world.
This is why I can’t box this trip away. I can’t shelve it now, only to take it out once or twice years down the road to tell my grandkids how this one time, Grandma Gabi went to Africa. During our conversation at the meeting, one of my groupmates mentioned how surreal it feels to be going back to the “real world.” It’s funny and even poignant when you think about it, that in a sense, we are returning to our bubbles again. Looming overhead is the threat of losing touch with my Ghanaian life, to be replaced by my relationships at home, my job, and school. Countering this may be tricky business, but I have a few ideas! On an individual level, I want to keep in contact with my new Ghanaian friends. To share our lives with each other despite being so far away is a reminder that Ghana is real, it is still a part of my world. I also intend to seek out organizations in Reno that are involved with international social work or advocacy to see if there is any way I can get involved. I have to move fast... before the summer is over. Motivation can slip away if it is not nurtured (cough, like going to the gym, cough). I don’t want to wait too long. Blog, you better keep me accountable because I’ll be back to read you again and again, you can count on that.
Of course only a wonderfully reflective day with my groupmates could only be followed by our final dance performance. It was FANTASTIC. What an adrenaline rush! I guarantee that there are pictures and videos to share, I just have my hands on none of them at the moment. But when I do, I’ll be back to this blog to put them up!
Writing these last few posts during my final hours in Ghana...