Africa

Finding home: Settling In

I’m not gonna lie – when I first got to Ghana, I felt like a fish out of water. I think a bit of travel hubris had me expecting I’d be able to take my 23 countries and counting and jump right in. Instead, I found myself staying in an abandoned-feeling hostel on the outer edge of town, overwhelmed by the heat and freaked out by the bizarre practice of paying between 6 months to 2 years of rent up front (and here I was needing to find a room for only 3 months…). Add some personal drama and my time in Accra didn’t start out on the best of terms. For the first couple weeks I just didn’t feel like myself, and wondered if I’d be able to make the most of an incredible opportunity in a country I’d always wanted to visit.
My, how patience is a virtue.
As time passes and I mark my first full month in Ghana, I am reminded that feeling at home somewhere doesn’t always happen immediately. In some ways, I came into this experience with an intention to keep it at arm’s length – I didn’t want to “bond” with a new place, lest it be yet another home I feel pulled towards once I find myself somewhere else. At the same time, wherever I travel or live, I want to know it. For me, knowing a place means being at ease and able to take in the sights, sounds and realities of life as it happens around you. Now that I have a place to live (an amazing, blessing of a home) and a handful of friends, I’m starting to take Accra in, bit by bit.

 

Yesterday, as I walked through the Jamestown neighborhood downtown, I was less aware of the heat and more aware of the children running naked to shared spigots and buckets for bathing. I took in the women patting portions of Banku into plastic bags from steaming pots and the clotheslines strung with faded fabrics still vibrant enough to catch my eye. I took in the smell of strange meats and noticed the beautiful wrinkles and incredible white hair on the granny outside the church where my work was holding a meeting.
When the meeting started (with a group of borrowers from the partner micro-finance bank my organization is working with), I was awash with emotion. I realized that I had found my rhythm, found the energy and peace that reminds me why I travel, why I choose to live – even for brief periods – in places so far from home. As I listened to the facilitator call everyone to attention with a call and response, “Opportunity?” “For all!” “Opportunity?” “For all!” I snapped pictures of light streaming in through the weathered church windows and tried to memorize the faces of the people all around me.

 

Someday in the near future, I know I will think back on this time and realize that this was one of the first moments when I settled in and started to feel at home.

meganmac
A choir geek from the age of 7, Megan visited Eastern Russia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan before she’d finished middle school. Home-stays and singing in cathedrals became an expectation (try not to hold it against her if she still invites herself over in a foreign land or bursts into song if the acoustics are right). Often preferring to stay a while, Megan has spent time living in Costa Rica, South Africa and most recently, Kenya where she pursued graduate studies in International Development at the University of Nairobi from 2008-2010. She’s currently back in the U.S. and ready to go whichever way the wind blows. Passionate about increasing opportunities for women through education and job skills training, Megan looks forward to exploring on Go Girl how travellers define “home” when their heart is shared with communities all over the globe.

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