Coming into a new country and a new culture definitely takes a physical, mental and emotional toll on you, so I’ve decided to give some tips on how you can make the transition period easier and your project stay more beneficial. Just as you probably have a routine at home; it is very important to set out one here too. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day activities, but remember to take some time for yourself.
Diet: Ghana’s food is very rich in palm oil and spice! So if you are not used to eating a lot of fried food, like I was, be warned! I recommend brining a lot of Tums! Try to compensate with lots of fruits, as veggies or salads are harder to come by and they are not what you are used to at home. I do encourage that you keep an open mind and try all the dishes! My favourite dishes so far have been fried rice with vegetable stew, red red with plantains, and noodles. Ghana has some of the best pineapple and watermelon I have tasted, so I recommend getting some natural sugar from your local fruit stand. Most of the vendors will even wash, peel, cut and package your fruits to go, so there is no excuse for not getting some good vitamins. Also keep in mind that Ghana doesn’t carry a lot of dairy products, so for optimal overall good health I would recommend a multi-vitamin and extra calcium if necessary. I have been taking Vitamin B12 and Garlic Pills on a daily basis; it does help with the digestion.
Sleep: I have had many sleepless nights because of the extreme noise around me and overall stress. To ease your sleeping routines I recommend bringing your own bed sheets and a comfortable pillow. I also found that waking up earlier in the morning helps, because the day is longer and you are doing more you will get tired more easily and hopefully fall asleep faster. If you are a light sleeper, then earplugs and eye mask is a definite must! Church ceremonies that take place at night can be pretty loud and not to mention the goats and roosters!
Entertainment: If you are a reader bring lots of books, I would recommend one book per week. It’s very easy to get caught up in the all the organizing, planning, facilitating, and report writing but your brain will also need a break. This is a great escape from reality and gives you a chance to collect your thoughts. I would also recommend bringing some games that you can play with your team members, usually on the weekends or after dinner. Since I’ve been here, I have been playing a lot of Gin! If you are brining your laptop then pre-downloaded movies are great, maybe a few comedies to make you laugh after a hard day’s work. I would also encourage you to go out and check out some of the local spots, where you can enjoy an Alvaro and dance some Azonto.
Exercise: If you exercise on a regular basis, or do some type of physical activity at home, DO NOT STOP while you are here! Your body is put through enough shock with the change in climate, daily routine, time difference, etc. I usually go to the gym at home a few times a week and I found that doing an hour of jogging in the morning before it gets too hot out or the sun is really out gives me a lot more energy during the day. If you are not a runner but maybe do yoga, then bring your yoga mat! Sitting in front of a computer all day will not do you any good! Also try to walk everywhere, this lets you better enjoy the city and gives you an opportunity to explore. Depending where you are in Ghana you will have access to some great hiking spots or maybe some long beaches!
Hygiene: I have been extremely fortunate in my time here in Ghana, as I have had access to running water most days. As it is very humid here, and you easily start to sweat, showering twice a day is highly recommended! The cold showers feel really good after a run or a work out so morning is a great time, and one later in the evening. If you don’t have access to running water then use the bucket showers, this way your skin will stay nice and clean and you won’t experience any unpleasant rashes, or reactions from all the dust and pollution in Ghana. Remember to bring lots of baby wipes just in case you don’t have access to water, and some baby powder to keep your hair nice and clean. To keep your clothes smelling nice and fresh bring some Febreeze and some dryer sheets, like I mentioned before it is very humid!
Peace and Tranquility: As I quickly found out, things don’t run so smoothly here so don’t let negative emotions get build up. As part of your daily routine I recommend writing your thoughts down in a journal or vent to your team members as it really helps to alleviate the built up stress. There are many things that are not in your control here so you will only end up doing yourself more harm than good by taking everything to heart. Things will eventually get done in their own way and at their own pace so don’t over stress about everything. Now this is a lot easier said and done, but in moments of despair just take a deep breath and let those thoughts go. Talking with others helps the most and if you are not comfortable talking to your team members then call home, it’s cheap enough to do so. Once you’ve let it all out you will feel a million times better!
Ghana is a beautiful country, with a unique culture so just keep an open mind and enjoy your stay!
-Sorina Bereneant, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2012.
We are currently recruiting for our fall project in Ghana. For details on the 10 week project, click HERE!