Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Re-entry Strategies and Wise Words from Winnie the Pooh!

Well, it has been a whirlwind over here. I'm sorry I haven't posted in such a long while, but there came a point where things were a bit too overwhelming to sit down and write about. Tomorrow at 5:30PM I return to Canada via Dubai, and I honestly can't wait. For those who have talked to me recently, you know that I have been feeling pretty homesick, not least of all because I had a health situation that landed me in a Ghanaian hospital for two nights. That was scary,  but I made it through all the needles and ivs and medications and now I am almost right as rain, albeit ready to go home.

It's too bad that I had that situation happen right at the end of my experience here, as I was hoping to leave Ghana on a high note. That being said though, I have had the chance to make that happen in the past 3 days and I've been pretty successful. I'm not doing anything crazy - no more travelling for this girl save the flight home, but eating at some nice restaurants and heading to some central markets with my fellow Canadians and watching lots of movies to pass the time has been just what the doctor ordered. This in-between time does kind of suck though - not working or travelling - just waiting in anticipation for tomorrow to come!

Tonight we will head to a fancy restaurant here in Accra as a big group to celebrate our last night here. I'm looking forward to it, but even more so I am looking forward to tomorrow! Argh, time only flies when you are busy!

I'm not sure how to summarize my time here in Ghana - it was an adventure, a stretching time, a period of stepping out of my comfort zone in SO many ways. I learned a lot about myself, about the world, and about living and working overseas in a developing nation. Is it for me? Honestly, I don't know. I think I will need to come back to Canada and gain some further perspective on my experiences here before reaching a conclusion about that. There is so much to process, but I know that I will also have to deal with reverse culture shock when I return home. So for all my friends and family - please don't be offended if I don't reach out to you right away or if I seem moody or withdrawn or even ridiculously happy about small things. I've experienced so much here and been absorbed into a completely different culture and way of life. I've faced extreme poverty and inequality. I'm used to people stopping and saying hi on the street and feeling like a celebrity just because I happen to be white. It's going to be an adjustment. Bear with me, but know that if there is anything that got me through those nights in the hospital it was thinking of my loved ones back home and how blessed I am to have them!

I wish that I had the energy and memory to write about everything that has happened to me since my last post - but alas truly I don't! I did fly to the northern region to visit Tamale and Mole National Park and I was able to see wild elephants up close and a whole bunch of other fun and stressful events occurred! Perhaps over a cup of coffee at the Brown Dog or Williams I'll be able to share those with you in person,but for now I am focused on my re-entry to Canada.

A few days ago we had our last session with our Ghanaian guide here - Ophelia. We each gave presentations about our internship experiences and then she spoke to us about reverse culture shock and re-entry strategies. She did her best to prepare us for returning home by describing the past struggles that other students have had in returning home from another country. It seems that one of the biggest struggles is that things back home will have changed, and your loved ones won't be able to fully understand what happened to you while you were away and how it changed you. Not to mention, we will be thrown right into our 4th year of university and new jobs and new family situations all the while trying to process what we experienced here in Ghana. She gave us a list of possible re-entry strategies - ways we can make the adjustment back home easier for ourselves. Truthfully, I'm having a hard time remembering them all right now haha, but I can remember some. Journaling, listening to what happened at home before launching into my own stories, speaking with other international students or students who travelled abroad before, giving myself time and space to process properly, and ....and..... Oh man. I forget! I hope my re-entry will still go smoothly! (It's okay, I'll just ask my friends, they probably remember! :P)

I shared this quote when I gave my presentation to the others, and it made them all giggle. Yes, it's from Winnie-the-Pooh, but it just captures so well my experience here in Ghana.

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Much love from Ghana,