Before I came to Cape Coast I thought I had prepared myself fully for what was to come. I read all of the blogs, researched the culture for weeks, read the Ghana travel guide, and had taken many classes on social problems and international issues. These preparations helped me significantly, but did not block the sense of culture shock for the first two, maybe even three weeks. It takes some time to adjust to the cold showers, brushing your teeth out of a water bottle, hand washing your clothes, figuring out the transportation services, adapting to the cultural norms, and living a life without your familiar friends, family and significant other. The beginning may seem like a daily struggle (especially if you lack other interns in the house), but I can assure you that it does get better.
Definitely pack as little as you can. Packing one suitcase and a back pack will seem like one of the best decisions of your life. I made a big mistake by bringing two suitcases, a carry on suitcase, and a backpack. It was a real struggle getting all my luggage from the Accra Airport to Cape Coast, and I am panicked to think about having to get it back to the airport on my own. I will most likely have to pay for the Volunteer Coordinator, Elizabeth, to hike back to the airport with me, which is an option if you happen to make the same mistake I did.It is a great confidence builder to know that you can make it through without giving up, and are able to adapt to an environment totally unlike anything you are used to. As time goes by, you develop a new normal, and start to fall in love with your surroundings. The people here maintain a light upbeat attitude, and will keep you smiling with their constant singing and dancing as if no one is watching. As a white female, it can become a bit redundant having men tell you they love you and want to marry you, but overtime you figure out your own way of dealing. The easiest way is to just laugh it off.
It is also important to note that you are going to want to make friends with at least one local, who has been accepted and approved by Mavis, the house mom. Use your human sixth sense on who feels like someone you can trust and is genuine. Lord, a 20 year old Ghanaian who is close friends with Mavis, came to be a great friend and my savior during the trip. I have endless amounts of gratitude towards the experiences he gave me, some being the best I have ever had.
Working at The Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) is a great place to work considering the welcoming nature of the staff and its convenient location. CHRAJ is smack dap in the middle of Cape Coast, right next to the Kingsway “shared” taxi station, shopping strip, beach, Oasis (a restaurant/bar known for its high concentration of tourists and food familiar to Westerners), and the historic Cape Coast Slave Castle. If you do choose an internship with CHRAJ, which I highly recommend, you are going to have to be self-driven. Most of my time these past few weeks have been spent doing online and on the ground field research, as well as helping the secretary with tasks around the office. Because it has been a bit of a slow season, I have yet to sit in on mediations and participate in the Human Rights education programs, but as things pick up I am sure to have the opportunity to do so. Feel free to leave any comments with any questions, and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.
Until Next Time,