Time flies when you are having fun. I can’t believe we are over halfway, I am definitely wondering where the weeks have gone and starting to dread the thought of going home already!
One of the wonderful things about the ICS experience is how much you learn every day, without really realising it. From the small things, such as learning your way around, learning how to eat food and navigate around in the dark, speak a few phrases in Twi and cross the road without losing a limb or two, to the much bigger things: how to cope emotionally in a new place, when everything is different, how to communicate with people who may not understand exactly what you are trying to say, how to work in a new and challenging environment and deal with tasks you have never done before. My first two weeks in Ghana were difficult, but equally rewarding. Some days, I would experience only highs – I would learn a lot, meet new people, have power in my phone to call my friends back home, and feel settled. There were other days where I would wake up extremely tired, or feeling sick, struggle with the tasks at work, find it hard to build relationships with my colleagues, get lost on the way home, have no electricity in the evening, no clean clothes for tomorrow, and nowhere to be able to cry it all off. Although I learnt a lot from the happy days, it was the tough days which taught me the most. Now that I feel more settled in my family and work life and have adjusted to the culture and way of life here, I can reflect upon those first two incredible-but-tough weeks and realise how much I have learnt already from this crazy experience.
This experience is thoroughly rewarding – the work is definitely a challenge most days and sometimes there are days when you feel like you have achieved nothing. But it is important to take a step back and look at the progress you have made already. This programme has made me stronger, more resilient, patient, more aware of my own actions and emotions, and made me better at coping with them. It has made me appreciate many of the things we can sometimes take for granted at home, and think about things in a new way. All that whilst being able to give a lending hand to an SME in need and make a difference to the community is really not a bad combo!
Now I am in week six, and already dreading thoughts of landing back on British soil! What will I do without my fried plantain, cosy mosquito net, crazy tro tro rides and beautiful beaches? When I go for a run, and there are no little kids running after me and asking me questions, will I feel lonely? How will I cope when I am forced to put on that long lost jumper of mine and feel cold again, and where will I go when I fancy a fresh coconut? What did I even used to eat back home? (Though I do admit, the pizza cravings I have been getting recently are getting slightly out of control!)
As I make the walk back from A life bus stop back to my home on Guava Street, and I notice a spontaneous herd of cows that has gathered on one side of the footway, alongside a few stray chickens and a taxi, I laugh at how much I love this country! The people who recognise you in the street from the other day and ask how you are, the loud African music being played in every establishment and the coconut trees on every corner.
So, upon reflection, my ICS experience so far has been a crazy, fun, challenging, incredibly rewarding few weeks. Let’s hope the second half will be equally as great!