I’m sitting here on my last night before college, reflecting on my time in Ghana. What did I do? What did I accomplish? I feel like I learned and gained so much – what did I give back?
I just sent off a package to everyone in Ada, so I suppose there are the physical things. But did I bestow on any of the kids an excitement for learning? Are any of the teachers going to stop caning, and is that even the right thing to do? Are any of the students going to take to heart my advice to study hard and apply to university, maybe in America, maybe even Haverford? If they wanted to, would they even be able to? Are any of them going to stop throwing their trash on the ground; start recycling their water sachets? Are they going to continue the warm-up I taught them for the play? Is acting going to be a useful skill in their lives? Are any of them going to get past Ada? Will I make a difference?
The time went by so fast. It was filled with eating banku and okra stew, going for runs along the beach, doing washing, heading to market with Euphemia, laughing with Alfred about “my monkey in the US,” walking back from the internet café with Kofi, listening to the radio with Gladys, taking pictures with my students, talking with them about American and Ghanaian culture, watching football matches and African TV, greeting “hihowareyou finethankshowareyou.”
And what about what I did in Accra? Meeting with artists and getting to know the city – it was so great for me, but what was I doing for others, for the organization? I think the most useful thing I did was set up some excellent contacts for the JAC. I hope we make use of them. It will be easy for them to slip away if we don’t keep them up.
I left for Ghana having very little idea of what I would be doing. I made up some things on my CPGC application based on the JAC website and the few emails Kelvin sent me, such as making a documentary, writing a newsletter, and organizing exhibitions. I did not do any of those things. We did not have the materials or resources for those things. But I did end up meeting a whole bunch of people who changed my life. I think, if only in a small way, I changed theirs.
At the CPGC retreat in the spring, they had us write an entry in the journals they’d just provided about how we were feeling about our upcoming internships. At the time, I was just stressed about the Bi-Co News and all the papers I had to write. “Ghana feels a million miles away,” I said. “Maybe in two months I’ll be reading this, and Haverford’s Quaker Meeting House and its wooden benches will feel like the couldn’t be farther.”
I did indeed read over it in Ghana, on my last bumpy tro-tro ride to Ada. I had written in the spring, “It’s weird that now Kelvin is just someone I’ve been exchanging emails with, and in a couple months, he’ll be a real person I’m working with.”
As my eyes skimmed the words on the page, Kelvin was sitting right next to me. And now, I’m reading it here at home, about to leave for school again. Both Ghana and the CPGC retreat feel like a million years ago – or maybe just yesterday.
At the time, my journal was fresh, a shiny new black. Now it sits on the dining room table, wrinkled and falling apart. It has traveled to Ghana and back. Its gray pages are falling out. My tiny scribbles cover the green-lined pages; my students’ drawings claim a few.
It’s strange to me that my eight weeks are represented inside this journal. Where is my trip contained? Inside this little black book? In the photos on my computer and now on Facebook? On this very blog? In the notes on my computer that never made it to the blog? In my head? In the heads of all the friends I made and the people I interacted with? If I had to go and track down what I did, where would it be?
What has come out of my time and work? In the end, was it for them, or for me? That was my main question when I wrote my journal entry at the CPGC retreat: who am I really going to help, and who am I doing this for?
Maybe I thought I was going to Ghana to find answers or solutions. Instead, it has filled me with more questions. My task now, after I ponder, is to keep up my work.
Tags: Accra, ada, alfred, america, artists, bi-co news, cpgc, euphemia, Ghana, gladys, haverford, jac, jhs, journal, junior art club, Kelvin, kofi, notebook, presby, quaker meeting house, social justice, students, teachers