I wrote this when I returned a few weeks ago and the Internet is just now (in the final hours of January in the US, agreeing to post it. Enjoy!)
January blog: Just got back from America
So before I get back into life in Ghana, let me say a little bit about going back to America.
Things I used to take for granted are so much more meaningful after time away, here are just a few things I noticed/missed:
RUNNING WATER, every way that it influences your life is amazing: drinkable water from the tap (though many Americans refuse to drink “that” kind of water), showers, washing machines (not to mention dryers!), dish washers, flushing toilets (especially with the added bonus of pipes that can handle flushing of used TP)… Wow! Who knew basic easy-access to water was such a hidden luxury!
MY PEOPLE, my culturally like-minded, American-English-speaking, everyday folks: with our many flaws, it is still so great to feel completely comfortable with the people you surround yourself with. Comfortable with so many little things, including the ways we interact and communicate. Being able to assume a few things. Phones alone, for example like, it is acceptable in US to NOT answer your phone; to text (either when feeling antisocial or for quick/clear communication); to fall into the internet wormhole that is a cell phone these days, etc. I missed Ghana’s typical greeting/connecting with people at first, but then later really appreciated my anonymity. In America, connecting with people is a choice, in Ghana it is more of an obligation, which can be exhausting.
NOT BEING CONSTRUED AS RICH. Because i am a foreigner, it is automatically assumed that I am rich. Because I am white in a black country, I stick out like a sore thumb. If I was making an American paycheck, by Ghanaian standards, I would be rich. If my pay was 400 USD instead of 400 GhC, I’d be three times as wealthy as I am; as it currently stands, I have left a husband behind in a wealthy country to eek out a living on his own, while I eek one out here. There is little extra money and when I go back to the US I am poor, by most standards, with an income of $400/month. Not being able to communicate this to Ghanaians is even more frustrating. I constantly feel like a disappointment for not being a cash cow in this needy country, and yet at the same time, I know that wouldn’t fix anything and would create an unhealthy dependence (which Ghana already struggles with from past and current NGO-interference).
CLOSE FRIENDS. See #2 above. Being among people who think/live/eat/survive differently and have done so for their entire lives and know no other way of life, does not lend itself to tight bonds. I have friends here and the family I live with has basically adopted me as their sister, but it’s so nice to be home, and know that people get me, without need for explanation. To EVERYONE I got to visit with back home, a great big thank you for being there. And for those I missed, I truly miss you!
FOOD VARIETY, the variety which is built by living in the world’s largest melting pot. I missed cheese and wine, of course, and enjoyed them freely in US, but don’t miss them as much as I thought I would. More so, I missed Mexican food, Indian food, Thai food, sushi, and the ability to eat any combination of said variety each week. I missed the wide array of vegetables available at the grocery store, even if they aren’t all bursting with freshness and incredible taste. Variety/choices are fantastic! Oh broccoli, how I missed you.
STORES. I don’t love shopping, but I missed the convenience of running into a store to grab something, from toilet paper to sneakers, from chewing gum to clothing. The added bonus of stores in US is the way they are usually low pressure situations. I can browse freely. I can leave without buying anything, without having to explain myself. I can buy something for the price it says instead of having to bargain and try to figure out what the “real” or acceptable price should be. So exhausting to constantly feel like you’re being charged more simply because you are foreign and therefore rich (see #3 above).
MARRIED LIFE. Still haven’t had much of it to enjoy (officially a year, but if you count time in same space… significantly less) but being in the company of my husband has become super precious. I miss our quiet time, sitting together watching TV, doing a puzzle, playing a game. I miss easy, daily interactions. The phone just isn’t as easy and cuddly.
So, yes, basically I missed America more than I realized and more than I like to think about on a daily basis (for survival’s sake). I have returned to Ghana and wonder what I’m doing, what I want to accomplish, and how I can use this time to help shape myself and ready me for what is next, and how to figure out what that will be. Basically, I have to get back into the flow of things here with an eye open for what’s next back there… suggestions are welcome!