Written on: 13/08/2012 by rachelveeravalli
The day before leaving for Ghana was when the nerves started, which felt strange after the weeks of excitement leading up to this day. When telling friends what I would be doing for the next month, they looked at me in shock and disbelief, and now I myself couldn’t believe it! But this was an opportunity that I was not going to walk away from now.
When I’m away from family, I don’t really miss them but in this case I’ll admit that I did. Even if it was for only 10 minutes, while I was still at the airport, just after saying goodbye to them. But communication with home once I was in Ghana wasn’t too hard. A phone call every few days kept my worried parents back home happy, and even though there are many internet cafés in my town, I decided I only wanted to experience it once. It took 30 minutes to send one email and luckily I had chosen to send it to my little sister.
My host family was incredibly nice and allowed us sufficient freedom for example when I wanted to go traveling. They also knew just how we liked our food, which was never too spicy for us but always full of flavour. After a couple of weeks in there, I found myself hungry and looking forward to a Ghanaian dinner after a hard day’s work.
At the hospital where I worked, it could sometimes be frustrating because of the lack of medical knowledge I had and how little I could do. I did a lot of observation work, but the more time I spent on a ward, the more I did and the more I could assist the nurses. I found myself greeting patients with the Twi I had picked up, admitting patients - which was a little more difficult with the language barrier, taking vital signs, giving medication, setting up infusion sets, and much more, things I had learned on the job which soon became second nature to me. But sometimes the work could be tiring, you could find yourself doing 7 hour shifts without having anything to eat or drink, and constantly being on your feet. But the nurses would look after me and even offer me Ghanaian snacks to help me get through the day. The work can be emotionally difficult as well. Sometimes I saw sad outcomes, and no matter how much you try to prepare yourself for a situation like that, the first time can feel make you feel incredibly lonely while so far away from home on your own, for so long. But I knew that this is just part of the job and you have to just get on with it, and in a way, I was grateful for these experiences.
The transport system is easy to get used to, and is pretty straightforward even when traveling longer distances. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to travel further north and explore Ghana as much as I would have like to, but that gives me yet another good excuse to come back to this country.
By the end of the month, I felt like a local. Eating Fufu in spicy fish soup with my hands, hissing at the driver’s mate in a moving tro-tro to stop for me to get on, and of course I couldn’t resist getting my hair braided before I came back home.
I feel that the people I was lucky enough to meet and the friends I’ve made here, Ghanaians as well as volunteers from other countries, have really made my experience of Ghana enjoyable and memorable. I’m really going to miss having 10 different people saying “good afternoon” and “ete sεn?” to me on my walk from the hospital to my home everyday. And of course, I would reply “eyε” which made them incredible happy.
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