Getting adjusted to life in Kumasi, let alone a different country from the one I’m from, takes time to figure out how to make it into your home away from home. I now better understand the feeling immigrants have when they come to the United States from their homeland, and have to adapt to our customs and ways. I have felt home sick at times and miss the activities we have in our country, especially since there are very few cities that can match up to the lifestyle of New York City. But there are a lot of good things here, and a lot of things that could be improved upon.
There is great potential for growth in many sectors here, but first a concrete plan for development would have to be formulated. The fact that most of the streets have not been named and the area has not been properly mapped out is a problem. Because of this most residents do not have mailboxes to receive mail since their homes do not have addresses, and have to use P.O boxes to receive mail instead. I’m also pretty sure that many of the buildings here do not meet the safety standards of our country, and I consistently see unsafe practices such as dangling wires and pools that are not regularly cleaned. If a fire broke out or someone was severely injured, I cannot imagine how botched the response effort would be.
Education here is also something that seems a bit counter progressive. Most students here study to take exams to pass each grade, and these exams mostly test memorization and routine activity. These exams don’t really encourage independent thought or inquisitiveness from the children here. It’s almost like how we have standardized testing in the States, and may be ill equipping the Ghanian youth for the rapidly changing world we live in. One high school student I met did not know the locations of the continents on a map, and asked us if Europe was next to the United States. This could be due to the outdated educational resources the students have access to which do not reflect the ongoing changes of the 21st century. As I will be doing some teaching activities next week with students at a local high school, I wonder if it will be a challenge to talk to them about certain concepts.
Learning about the arts and music of Ghana shows a connection between this and the cultures of many West African countries, and the cultures of Caribbean countries and African Americans. In one lecture we saw how similar geometric shapes in art and building designs were used by slaves who came to the Americas, and can still be seen in the present art forms even with the assimilation into European culture. This influence on European art has been acknowledged in the past few decades, and the depths of it is still being studied to this day. The exchange of ideas between the descendants of the African diaspora has gone both ways across the Atlantic ocean, as the local music Highlife has fused with Hip-Hop music to form Hiplife. Music from the U.S and the Caribbean is also very popular here, but it is feared that fewer and fewer people are taking interest in local art traditions and more must be done to preserve them.
Something that is a bit of a double edged sword is how globalization has affected development here. As this country begins to let more foreign businesses operate here, local businesses will most likely not be able to compete and will be forced to adapt, or will be put out of business. At the moment it’s almost like a one way street with more importation than exportation, and this also includes cultural ideas. One particular effect I have seen is this commercialization has been embraced in such a way that younger generations of Ghanaians seem to be more willing to accept the foreign cultural ideas that comes with this rather than their own, and almost idolize them. Even one retailer I spoke to said that he loved America and wanted to move there because it is a great place. This is problematic for the country as many people tend to leave and don’t contribute to the economic growth of Ghana, or don’t come back at all.
It’s intriguing to note how the news is covered here. Much of the news I’ve seen and heard reported on TV, radio, and in the newspapers is on international events, and certainly tends to be much more globally conscious than the newscasts shown on the primary networks in the United States. It doesn’t seem like there are many violent crimes here such as murders; the worst I have seen reported was about petty burglaries or a local chief being forced to step down due to a scandal. The press here appears to have the freedom to report on any matter and offer criticism too, which is healthy for the development of Ghana. I have seen quite a few newspapers around the country, and they are locally operated and owned by citizens here.
We will be in the village of Besease for this week, which unfortunately lacks internet access. So I may not be able to blog again until after we leave there. It’s bound to be a interesting experience and I look forward to sharing the details next week.