Friday, July 29, 2011

the lessons I’ve learned

Before I leave this place, I’d like to also try and explain some of the lessons I’ve learned about life from Ghanaians.
There are three rules to reciprocity, when I think about it as a way to win friends or pay someone back I’m thinking about it wrong and I need to follow these guidelines:
1. Remember when someone does you a favor. If someone has been generous to you, you shouldn’t feel indebted to them or that you need to pay them back, you just remember
2. Remember with gratitude. IF YOU’RE GRATEFUL - When you see that person, make time for them, look them in the eye and remember that they’ve helped you, treat them like a friend because they’ve indicated that that’s what they would like. Don’t do it because you owe it to them, do it because you remember and if you’re grateful.
3. When you have the chance to do something for that person (answer the phone or make a call to them, look up a price for something, help them with their work) TAKE THE TIME to do it. If it costs more money than time or thought you’re probably on the wrong track. A friendship is not based on monetary exchanges, but giving at a time of your abundance or their need.
These three things have stuck out to me when I’ve talked about reciprocity with Gina, Immanuel and Abena. Thinking about things this way has really helped me figure out how to handle building relationships with people and maintain them. I have a hard time holding onto a memory of someone helping me, but that would improve a lot of friendships I have, even in the States. I have a hard time making time for people when they want something instead of needing something… I have a hard time acknowledging with gratitude that someone has done me a favor, I find myself wanting to pay them back as soon as possible.
Also, I’ve come to think of relationships differently because of Ghana.
1. The first switch: Maybe friendships are maintained because of the past not because of present needs or potential for future contact.
2. Planning to maintain some of my relationships here makes me realize who really matters the most instead of pretending that everyone matters the same and then not contacting any of them.
3. Maybe friendship should be based on gratitude instead of just admiration or similarities
4. Maybe it doesn’t take being fake and sacrificing a lot to maintain a real relationship, just a little sacrifice when the opportunity arises or you have a generous thought. For example showing a person you care doesn’t take an extravagant gift or an hour long phone conversation. Maybe it could be maintained with a minute long conversation more consistently and a gift that will remind them of you or be more useful to them than to you in the future.
5. If you don’t like a person, don’t be their friend; save your resources for the people that will really be a good friend.
6. How are your friends your safety net? And do you keep them up sincerely unless you need them?
7. Should friends and family actually have daily contact? How can I keep in touch with these people? Who am I willing to do that for?

My biggest regrets

So I think I want to talk today about my regrets about research in the field.
Corrine and Deidre mentioned something this week that has me thinking about regrets from this trip. First, I regret that I didn’t learn twi better, or at least study it a little every day. I really think that with the stress of doing research for the first time ever, I just felt overwhelmed most of the time and didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere with the Twi I’d already tried to learn and forgotten.
I also regret that I didn’t write about all my frustrations with culture, moments of real struggle, and breakthroughs in culture that I had – while I think the record I’ve taken about the clinic was good as my focus, I wish I had a record of how I dealt with culture shock.
Pen ultimately, I regret that I didn’t build better friendships with people, but I think it just took me a while to realize that I really only needed to be a friend to people that I really liked or enjoyed or felt treated me nicely. I feel like in reality Ghanaians are more selective in their friends than Americans are, except that I thought they were less selesctive because everyone wants to be the white lady’s friend…
My biggest regret has less to do with this place and more to do with Roger. I regret that before coming here I didn’t think enough about what Roger would think or feel about me coming to Ghana in the middle of our relationship. I don’t regret for a second the strength it’s given our relationship, the things I’ve learned about myself and him, or the way it’s helped both of us learn to sacrifice for each other, and particularly me realize that there’s more I can do to think of someone besides myself, even though my points are pretty good most of the time, he might have a lot of good points to.
Maybe this list of things has just helped me see, not what will weigh on my conscience, but what is important that maybe I didn’t appreciate as much as I should. I’ll also regret the moments of anger I’ve had, the moments of apathy I’ve had, and the times I’ve selfishly ignored another’s needs or desires for what I thought was best for me. And those are all my regrets.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First in the Field - Focused on Culture

Today I want to share my thoughts about culture shock. These will correlate with what we read in class as the signs and stages of culture shock, but will hopefully add my own experiences and descriptions into the mix.
First of all, I want to apologize to ISP; I feel like I never really experienced (my parents can attest to this) the terrible teens, until now. Throughout the last four weeks, I’ve probably wanted to revamp and redo and reorganize every aspect of how a student is prepared for field work, I’ve recorded all those thoughts, or at least shared them with Deidre and Corrine and I realized that really, very little can be done to ease the shock of coming into a country you’ve never been to and trying to negotiate your way to a rural area of that country and try to not offend or ruin relationships for future students when you know nothing about their expectations. It’s also impossible to adjust quickly to the meals you make, the way you buy food, the time you wake up and go to sleep, the way to begin, or adjust research you have no idea exactly how to do. It’s a little like a mission, but a little worse because your trainer is non-existent and the spirit just isn’t as involved in research as He is in missionary work.
At the same time, I’m learning a million really great things from the people here. I keep writing home about all the friendly people who wave to us and want to meet us and welcome us to Ghana. We felt like celebrities the first two weeks of being here in Wiamoase, especially around the children! We are learning how to cook things, wash our laundry, do dishes, and communicate within this culture and can definitely see the valuable aspects of their culture and I think I can sa I appreciate almost everything about their culture at this point.
Two weeks later:
So we loved Ghana, we loved Wiamoase where we live. We loved being here and the people and how much we’re learning and experiencing. And then we went to the Cape Coast and when we got off the bus there, something snapped in all of us. I’m not sure if it was the fear and uncertainty I felt about being in yet another place that was entirely foreign to me, the incredibly annoying taxi driver we got to take us to our hotel (he became kind of a stalker, showing up at our hotel or insisting he drive us everywhere and lying to us about the other taxi driver rates), or just the pushier personalities of the salespeople that we encountered everywhere and the children/people that would ask us for money and be offended and pushy if we said we couldn’t.
Whatever it was, when we came back from Cape Coast, we all felt the aftermath of the cultural hostility carry over into our perceptions of people in Kumasi, Wiamoase, and for me, even toward the members of the branch in Asemang. People saying hello to us, especially men, then children, then women really annoyed me and I’ve begun traveling on different paths around Wiamoase to avoid the crowds and greetings. I’m frustrated when people laugh at me, and instead of reacting like I did at first (by crying) now I get really defensive and try to facially and verbally express what I think they don’t understand. I’m more frustrated with the bugs than I’ve ever been before, resenting them for the fact that they come out at night and that I have to put on bug spray and long sleeves/pants for them. I have felt all these emotions, but at the same time I am learning a lot more about Ashanti culture because of this hostility.
First, I recognize that these emotions are illogical and that I’ll be able to overcome them eventually. Because I want to overcome these feelings as soon as possible, I find myself asking questions that go deeper, looking at people in the eye more because I really wonder what they’re thinking, expressing my frustration verbally to the person that’s causing me to feel hostility has helped me to see they don’t mean things the way I interpreted it. Lastly, analyzing my own culture to try and differentiate what they’re doing with what that might mean within my usually context. It’s been interesting to experience these emotions and YET simultaneously recognizing their source as a stage in culture shock.
I’m just grateful I’m having these experiences in Ghana and I wouldn’t trade what I’m learning experiencing for anything.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Journal 30 - I'm Really Going

So today is the last day of class.

Friday morning we have a marathon meeting.

A week from Friday I leave for St. Louis for a week and a half of book reading, packing, shopping and internet research on how to handle dangerous situation and health related risks, a Hep A shot and final emails and phonecalls to my friends and boyfriend before I become much harder to contact.

Thursday three weeks from tomorrow I leave for a different country.

I keep telling myself it's going to be only two transfers (mission time) before I come back. I can last anywhere for two transfers right? :)

Can I really do the research I'm thinking about doing in that short amount of time? I won't know what to do with my time for the first week... There are a lot of pauses in this journal entry because of all the shock my brain is managing as it considers what I'm about to do in Ghana.

I'm so grateful to all of the people that have made time to answer my questions and help me figure out how I'm going to do this field study. I've had at least a dozen professors meet with me so I could discuss my questions, concerns and interests. I think I've talked to almost every facilitator in the office, and I have taken a good day and a half by now out of Ashley's life... But despite my questions and concerns, I've been able to do this!

I remember having a companion at the beginning of my mission that said "Sometimes I can't believe I'm doing this, I feel so overwhelmed and I miss my family so much, but I can't wait until the day when I can say 'I did it, I served a mission!' and then I'll look back and know it was all worth it." Well we went home together the same time, so I got to hear her say that, I got to see her face when she realized she'd accomplished as much as she could and had survived the challenges of a mission and actually excelled in the life she thought she couldn't handle. Well that thought, that someday I'll be able to come home from Ghana and say "I did it, I survived I field study in Ghana", will be my motivating thought in Ghana when I miss my home, my culture, my boyfriend and my friends and my life in the United States. While this field study isn't just a trophy to check off when completed, I really wonder sometimes if I can do it, and that day when I can say "I did it" I'll feel a huge sense of satisfaction and self-fulfillment. That feeling won't even include the feelings I'll have about the people I've met, the things we learn from each other, the way we change from interacting and working together, and the other positive results from this summer. I can't wait!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Journal 29 - A Penultimate Thought before my closing Journal

I was looking through my journal entries before I write this last journal and I realized something--this experience may brake me of the my inconsistency with journal writing. I can't believe that this entire semester I've written about my experiences, concerns, and insights about field work and cultural experiences.

I'm convinced that the experiences that make you work the hardest are some of the most formative experiences of life--and I know that this experience will push me from every direction to learn and adapt, there doesn't seem to be a part of life it won't touch and I don't know how I'm going to handle it, but I know I'm excited about the lessons I'll learn.

I was thinking yesterday about some behaviors and attitudes in this experience that I would like to ensure I make a concerted effort to maintain throughout the trip. I was sitting in my Development class yesterday and Dave invited us to talk for 30 minutes or so about way's we'd changed because of the class. A girl mentioned something I had forgotten I'd learned when she said "I learned that we are the same as the people in these lesser developed countries, in fact they are dealing with challenges I don't think I could handle as well and know more about their situation than I will ever understand." I recognized that she was talking about the foreigner's tendency to misunderstand and misinterpret the behaviors and attitudes of the people in developing situations. I understand that because of the Preparation course, the Twi course I've taken and this Development class, I've learned in numerous classes and lectures and experiences the tendency I have to do the same and the error in that tendency. I know it will have a negative impact on relationships and maybe on the continuity of program if I adopt that attitude at some point in the field, and one of my major goals is to avoid slipping back into that attitude or to correct myself when I identify that I'm adopting that attitude again. I don't have the answers to their questions and challenges, I don't have a superior mind or way of life, I don't know so many things that they know, we are different but equals that can grow form associating with and understanding each other. My hope is that I can learn to have that attitude and mean it for the rest of my life. They aren't superior, inferior, better or worse--just different and sorting life out.

Another goal I have is to gain a hands on experience with development. I don't want to overwhelm myself, I want to keep up a journal and write about all I notice, specifically about development issues every few days. Maybe every Monday, Wednesday and Friday... :) I feel like keeping a journal about development challenges will help me fulfill the purpose of this trip for me. I'll have thoughts and experiences I've documented and can build on and keep for my life. These journals will play a part in my research, my courses and my final project. If I document anything, I want to document these things because understanding and having experience within the field of Development is a major reason I decided to go on a field study.

Finally, I hope that I can begin to really understand the culture, values and needs of the people in Wiamoase. A challenge within my study is that as an outsider, I'm trying to note with observation and questions (that I don't know how to phrase or focus) about another community's culture. I know Ashley said she's experienced some success in places she's gone, and I would love to talk with her once again before I leave about how she approached this, how she came to understand their culture, and what pitfalls I can avoid in this attempt. I've never explored such a foreign culture before in such a short amount of time, and I hope that I can find success in this goal.

That's all my major goals for this experience.

Journal 28 - The Final Proposal

I can't believe my final proposal is going to be 30 pages long. I wondered while I was writing this morning if that was too long...

I really have appreciated the guidance that was given as Proposal Guidelines on Blackboard. I've really appreciated the effect that having to write this proposal has had on my research development. I think the curriculum for this paper is rigorous (obviously, or I wouldn't have felt I could only meet the requirements with 30 pages) but helpful if followed to the exact instructions. A lot of the things that this proposal asks for are aspects of the field study I'd like to understand better for myself and having to write about it helps me feel more prepared for the field.

I'm working on my background research and my methods section today before I turn the paper in, and I got some great feedback from Joan. She is really good at focusing her comments on things that are doable to change but make a big difference. I am really glad I'm not doing this research by myself because it was so good to hear from her that my methods and plan were viable, that my concerns about group interviews were legitimate, and what I might try and do if some things don't work out. I can tell she's going to be very helpful in the field, and hope that when I have concerns or encounter challenges in the field, we can figure out a way to be flexible, use what I CAN get, or work around the challenges.

Writing this proposal was really helpful to me because it forced me to identify and specifically articulate what I want to study and how I'll do that. When I was done with my methods section of my paper today, I felt so good about going into the field and doing research, not because I think everything will work according to plan, but because I had a plan and had articulated what my goals are.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Journal 27 - Leaving Things Behind

I decided to discuss something that's been on my mind lately for this entry. When I go to Ghana, what am I leaving behind?

Roger. So about the same time I started looking into a field study in November, I started dating a great guy... It's been a battle to get through this field study preparation AND do school AND callings AND good friends AND be in a relationship (all things that are important to me, all things I can't drop in the "juggling act" that has been this semester). But I feel like looking back on the semester, we all survived. In fact, I've become very certain in the last few weeks that if I wasn't going to Ghana this summer, I'd be getting ready to get married. So my questions (that for me are questions very related to this field study experience and one of the most important questions I can ask about life) is what will a field study cost that relationship? how can I limit the negative consequences? Is the price too high to go? What a question to start asking a month before heading out...

Fun Provo summers and summer paychecks. Some of the best relationships I've ever had have come from being in Provo in the summer. These relationships and the financial perks of the summer aren't really things I'm leaving behind as much as an alternative I've already considered and counted as worth sacrificing.

Safety? I don't know how much will be a factor in Ghana. My grandparents are worried, my mom is losing some sleep about it, and I just don't know what I'm getting into yet. My health could be at risk, and that's why I've spent 350 dollars on immunizations. I think my identity as a white "Oburuni" girl in Ghana could put my life and financial security at risk, but I expect that if it was extremely dangerous then the Field Study Program would have taken the necessary precautions and I'll take every precaution I can think of.

Culture and Context. My American culture--with all the capabilities and comforts I feel within that culture--is definitely I'm leaving behind. But this is a huge reason I want to go. It's worth the cost of comfort and confidence to learn what I think I'll learn from the Ghanaian people.

What am I getting? I've already gotten a lot out of the prep course experience. Sometimes it takes a lot to really do what they ask, I veyr often feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants, and I have had a difficult time remembering everything that's been expected because other things overwhelm my thoughts and efforts, but I think its been a great growing experience and a challenging class that forced me to learn in a better-than-mediocre way.

I anticipate that as long as I can find a way to keep my relationship with Roger from struggling or hurting, I will have no regrets about choosing this experience. If it looks like the trip will impact that relationship negatively though, are my priorities in the right place and should I rethink them?

I feel like although this field study experience is worth it for the education and understanding I'll gain before I finish my schooling, research and academia may not be a route I want to take for my life when I have a family and callings in my church. Those things are my priorities for my life, and I've struggled this semester with putting relationships and church callings on the back burner.