I was at the doctor’s today.
“Let me ask you something, don’t be upset okay,” he started. “Do you feel ready to go to Ghana alone?”
I forced a very weak smile. Inside though, I was rolling my figurative eyes; I was there to get my vaccines, I didn’t need another patronizing lecture.
For the past few weeks, I’d gotten to talk to a fair number of people. Acquaintances, classmates, friends, friends of friends, complete strangers. Like for any other university student, summer plans was a topic I couldn’t avoid. But it seemed that the people excited for me about my summer internship were people my age; anyone much older almost always asked, “Why Ghana?”
… Why Ghana?
Why not Ghana?
Truth be told, I am slightly nervous. And isn’t that sort of expected of me? I will be there on my own. Not with a group of volunteers. I am arranging transport and accommodation on my own. In a few weeks, I will be touching down in Accra and taking a 12-hour bus heading north towards Tamale. For what? An internship, an adventure.
Yes, completely on my own.
That’s what makes the “adults” nervous. Alone? No one to go with you? To AFRICA?!
Second most populous continent in the world. Group of 54 countries.
“Country” suggests the existence of national borders. Unfortunately, when it comes to Africa, the concept of “country” is lost to the rest of the world.
It is as though the borders of Ghana and Senegal and Burkina Faso, of Mali, Zimbabwe and Uganda, are so incredibly fine, the perimeters of each so vague and indistinct, that all 54 nations dissolve into one big mass christened “Africa”.
Continent? What continent? Isn’t Africa a country?
It is almost as though to the rest of the world, Africa is just one big mass of land. And one big mess, too.
“Africa is dangerous.”
“Everyone is poor in Africa.”
“Be careful of those Africans, who knows what they are capable of.”
A British pensioner I was talking to loftily declared — “The Africans can’t manage themselves; look what bad shape they are in.”
I’m tired of hearing statements like these. Now I draw the similarity that people who think Asia is a homogenous continent where all countries are the same are incredibly ignorant, and leave them to figure out what I’m trying to imply.
When I was in London, my aunt’s french friend asked me, “Couldn’t you have chosen to do your internship somewhere else?”
Somewhere close to home, perhaps. Somewhere that you have friends? Somewhere safe? Somewhere developed with modern conveniences?
I could’ve chosen to go anywhere, any continent, any country for which the US hasn’t issued a travel warning. I could go anywhere, any continent, and have my school fund it completely. It is so damn obvious to me to make an African country my ‘anywhere’. When else in my life will someone sponsor a trip like this?
I’m a little nervous, but I’m more excited than anything.
How ready am I?
It is naive to think that I’ve taken enough global development classes to completely prepare me for what is to come.
Maybe I’m not ready. Maybe I’ll freak out when it’s time to board the plane. Maybe the heat will hit me hard when I touchdown. Maybe I’ll get lost while trying to navigate my way to Tamale. Maybe I’ll screw things up during my internship. Maybe the lack of certain conveniences will really get to me.
It doesn’t matter. I’ve handled a fair bit of challenges in the last few years, I can handle it.
So in response to the doctor’s question, I told him that I’ve done a lot of reading up on Ghana, I know a fair bit from my Ghanaian friends, and one of them is connecting me with his brother and another friend in Ghana in case I need help.
Then I ended with a firm, “I know I’m ready.”
It’s not that I’m ready in such a way that I am confident nothing will go wrong, but rather, I’m utterly prepared to handle things when something does go wrong.
The doctor gave a deliberate nod, and made a comment about my ‘adventurous spirit’.
Then he told me that I’m going into an experience of a lifetime, and wished me well.
So now I’m not annoyed at him anymore.