My Interaction with Isaac at the Fishing Village
By the fourth day of our trip we really had not had a huge opportunity to interact with any Ghanaian people, especially those that live in more poverty stricken area. Our visit to the fishing village surrounding Elmina Castle in Cape Coast was the group’s first opportunity. Driving through the village I came to the conclusion that the people were very use to tourists coming to visit the castle. We received a lot of blank stares that did not really look to welcoming. The word for welcome in Twi, a language spoken in many regions of Ghana, is akwabaa. Everywhere we had been prior to the fishing village we received a smile and a big akwabaa from most everyone we met. We received no such welcome here. When the bus stop a crowd of mostly children surrounded the bus and waited for us to get off. I must admit that at first I was a bit intimidated even though this was one of the major reasons that I came on this trip. I wanted to engage myself and interact with the people and their culture. No matter where you go in Ghana and many other parts of Africa you are seen as a walking ATM machine. It is no secret that we Americans have much more money than these people and they know that as well. Living in an area like the fishing village presents a huge opportunity to make money because of the castle. People sell beads, and masks, and anything else that they can make with their hands that rich foreigners would be interested in buying. They take this opportunity and swarm the visitors that come in attempt to make a couple bucks. The amount of money that a Ghanaian makes in a day is equivalent to about one US dollar, so if they can sell a couple dollars worth of beads they have had a fairly good day. The only problem is that this opportunity only comes around so often. It is not every day that a tour bus with a bunch of rich Americans pull up to visit the castle and maybe buy some things. As we were loading off the bus and the crowd around us grew bigger and bigger I realized that I had to separate myself from the group. One or two of the students had pulled out there wallet to buy something and was absolutely surrounded within seconds. I knew that you should never do something like that in a situation like that so I tried to distance myself as far as I could from the main group. As the group went one way down the street, I and a few of my class mates went the opposite way. Of course we were still followed by a few select kids that wanted us to buy their stuff, but it was nothing too big to handle. I actually ended up having a really great experience with some of the kids that I talked to. I met Isaac as I was walking down the street and he stopped me and asked me to check out the stuff that he had to sell. I was not interested in any of it, and told him that I did not have any money on me at the time, but I would be back tomorrow and if he could bring some different stuff maybe I would check that out. He got really excited and told me that they are not just interested in money either. He said that they loved to trade for things like t-shirts or shoes. That made me happy because I felt like something like that would benefit him way more than just cash. That experience really showed me that that was the best way to interact with people. If you separate yourself from the group and try to engage in one on one conversation with people you get so much more out of it. If I was in a mob of people that were just grabbing at my wallet I would never find out what Isaac likes to do for fun, where he lives, whether or not he plays football (not American football), or what he thinks about America. I learned tons about Isaac and he learned just as much about me. The exchange of information is the most important thing when you are interacting with people in a different culture. You actually learn something, instead of just holding a wad of cash above your head and getting yelled at by a crowd of people who want you to buy all of their stuff. Of course the next day I returned to the fishing village and as soon as I got off of the bus I saw Isaac waiting for me. We walked away from the crowd and I traded him one of my t-shirts for some beads. I told him that after my tour of the castle I would come back out and talk to him some more. After the tour I came out and he took me over to his shop where he had all of these beautiful masks that he had hand made him self. He gave me a good deal on two of them and I wrote down my email for him on his shop. He asked me to take a picture of him and his partner in front of his shop so I could put it up on the internet and people could see. I took his picture and headed back on to the bus. I will probably never see Isaac again, and he may never see his picture up on the internet, but I definitely will not forget Isaac and his shop. He was really the first person I was able to interact with that led a very tough life much different than my own. He lived in a poor fishing village making next to nothing selling his masks, but he taught me that just because you live a tough life does not mean that you live a miserable life. He never gets down on his situation, or his economic status, and has a great outlook on life. Isaac could teach many privileged people in this world that same lesson. The rest of my trip I tried as hard and I could to interact with people the same way I did with Isaac. It was important to me to try to learn at least one thing about every individual that I talked to or bought something from, and tried as hard as I could to stay away from mobs of people because you really do not learn anything in situations like that, and you do not get nearly as much out of those situations as you would talking with people one on one.
My Interaction with a Group of Children in a Rural Village
The one time on our trip that I was absolutely happy to have a crowd of people around me was when we visited a rural village to talk with the women of the village about personal hygiene. We focused mainly on dental care like brushing teeth and preventing bad breath. After our little question and answer with the women Steve and I were surrounded by a big group of young kids, probably about 4-8 years old. Steve had a pen and paper and we wrote our names down on the paper. We showed all of the kids our names and had them write down all of their names for us to see. I was extremely surprised how good the kids were at writing their names, writing 1-10, and the ABC’s. It really showed that they are receiving education, and a decent one at that. That really made me happy because one of the biggest reasons why poor countries have trouble decreasing poverty and improving the standard of living is because children do not recieve a good enough education growing up. People do not receive enough education to understand that it is important to get your education and then go out in to the work force and use your skills to start businesses or get a 9 to 5 job instead of hawking absolutely worthless items that no one buys. When you get your education you have the opportunity to get good jobs and improve your standard of living by leaps and bounds. Obviously it is hard for people who live in such poverty to understand that they have to get an education to do this. Many people have the mind set to just sell some junk and get quick money, even though it is next to nothing, so that they can just get by. The initiative needs to be there and the ideology that they can just get by with quick money needs to be switched to the ideology that an education will improve your standard of living.So the fact that these young kids were receiving at least some form of education made me very happy. After we wrote all of our names down we decided to have a little fun with the kids. They brought out a soccer ball and we passed it around a little bit. They definitely showed us a thing or two about how soccer is played. It was amazing to see these kids run with the ball and handle it the way they did. I played soccer and never in my entire life was I anywhere near as good as these little kids were. Hanging out with these little kids was one of the highlights of my trip. Even though the conditions that they are living in are far below ours in America and many other places through out the world, I did not see one single kid with out a smile on his or her face. It is amazing to me the positive attitude that these kids have as well as their outlook on their own life. I saw so much potential in this village and in these kids. If they can get a good enough education they can make their way out in to the working world and improve their standard of living greatly. I am not saying that they have to go to Harvard law school, or become a doctor, but just to get out and get a job that makes more than just a buck a day makes all the difference. It is a huge tradition in Ghana to take care of your parents and everyone else in your family after you grow up. It is like giving back to the people who brought you up. There is no reason why any of these kids can not do it. The problem is spreading the word through out Ghana and the rest of African nations so the progress continues.