Tuesday, July 21, 2015


As I cite the International Service quote ‘challenge yourself to change the world’, I reflect on my experience at the half way point of my ICS Journey. For me, as conveyed in the quote, my goals at the very beginning of my personal journey were to step out of my comfort zone and to go above and beyond in order to make a fundamental impactful difference tackling paramount issues (my project aims: focusing on the issue of disability and creating awareness about intellectual disabilities working in collaboration with Yumba Special School). However with my focus primarily on my project at hand, little did I prepare myself for the extent to which my own personal global perspective would broaden. Therefore in this blog I would like to share my deeper understanding and widened perspective of my cultural experience in Ghana, from a Western Perspective…oh how my prior preconceptions have changed….

Deborah Catar (2013) quoted that ‘you have to taste a culture to understand it’, and I fundamentally think that this is the best way to seek true insight. 

A little over 5 weeks ago I landed in Ghana on the African continent in an unfamiliar setting, immersing myself into a culture ‘foreign’ from my ‘norm’.
Before coming to Ghana I had a preconceived image of what I thought Ghana would be like. Honestly, the 3 images that instantly came into my head were Cocoa beans, African Poverty and the Landscape of the country bearing a resemblance to the opening scene from the Lion King (unrealistic, I now know).  Here is a mind map of my key thoughts about Ghana and Ghanaian Culture without having researched or any prior knowledge; 

(Mind map based on initial key thoughts/perceptions of Ghana, none of the statements based on actual facts.)

Yes, I can clearly see (especially after spending time in Ghana) that many of my initial conceptions may have seemed far-fetched and unrealistic - yet some of my initial thoughts are indeed evident. However many of my statements are over generalized  and cannot be applicable to all people/areas/whole nation etc (as many factors influence certain circumstances e.g social/economic and environmental factors). Ultimately, without living amongst the people and exploring the diversity of a country and its' people can one truly understand the real authentic culture. We need to be aware that we often see people and the world through our own lens and therefore we need to stop and question whether our lens' represent the true picture, as viewpoints can be distorted by stereotypes, preconceptions, prejudices and misunderstandings. And this is the reasoning for some of my unrealistic conceptions of what I 'believed' Ghana (& Africa) as a whole would be like.

The cross cultural nature of the programme has definitely helped me to gain a greater insight into the culture; this has been achieved by working in a cross cultural team, being paired with an in-country counterpart and living in a host family in a Ghanaian community.I believe this has increased my understanding about the cultures' customs and has well and truly enabled me to immerse myself into the Ghanaian Lifestyle.  This is my own personal diary of my experience;

Essentially after fully immersing myself into the cultural aspects of the programme, I believe that I can now fully understand and appreciate other cultural backgrounds other than the one I possess. Significantly I feel that having a greater understanding enables you to connect more with the culture. I regard this as of great importance,especially on this project,whereby the aims are to educate people on crucial and influential issues and empower people to create positive change, as without understanding these viewpoints the change would not be possible.

Reflecting back on the title of my blog, 'I Have 3.G But Wash Only With a Bucket' this has both positive and negative connotations, stereotyping and going against the stereotype, and also highlights my own perceived expectations and an example of the way my perception had changed.Depending on your own opinion having 3.G (access to technology) could be a positive thing as it shows development, connectivity with the rest of the world, however it can also be viewed in a negative light - having a detrimental effect on the exclusiveness of the culture. Same too, with the 'wash only with a bucket', this could be perceived as a negative thing - as it highlights that they may have lack of access to certain things, or are in a perceived state of poverty, however it also has the alter meaning of being part of their culture, and a traditional way of life. Therefore my desired impact was targeted at making people aware of how different perspectives of a concept can be distorted and without knowing the entire context surrounding it, it's meaning and connotations can be altered and perceived differently.

Phillip Bock quoted that 'culture is what makes you a stranger when you’re away from home' which is a great reflection, showing that until a culture is fully understood it will always be alienated from the onlooker of the alternative culture. Therefore, returning to my initial point of the importance of becoming globally aware, indefinitely in my view, results in individuals becoming more rounded and equipping them with the ability to see beyond from different perspectives, make informed decisions, and acquire transferable skills that will be useful to them and will remain with them for life. So all in all,not only have my 'horizons been broadened' but hopefully after my entire ICS experience I will have contributed to 'broadening the horizons of others'.

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