Spirit & Travel
Very often when one is about to travel to a place whose culture is very diverse from one's own, it is helpful to connect with another traveler who has "been there, done that". This issue's Spirit and Travel section takes the form of a letter sent in response to a woman who wanted to know of someone's experience there before beginning her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. Chris Thomas' response letter provides a refreshing look at preparing not only for Ghana, but for travel to other places as well.
Letter to a Future Peace Corps Volunteer
Be yourself. Don't buy special clothes for Ghana
hot weather clothes maybe, but bring what is YOU, what makes you comfortable. Okay, try to be both conservative and comfortable
you don't want the whole country staring at you
but be yourself. I went over in birkenstocks, trousers, and ties, came back on vacation, and bought combat boots, jeans, and t-shirts
the clothes I love most. You are going to be hot no matter what happens, so you might as well dress the way you'd like. Ohm, and learn how to sweat. Learn how to drip sweat and not worry about it. Learn that and you can go anywhere.
What have you always wanted to do? Learn to paint? Play guitar? Read? Read what? Whatever it is, bring it. Bring a bike. Bring an instrument. Bring an instrument! Keep it simple and to the point. All of the living material, all of the clothes, the food, the comforts, the stuff
they have it there and it generally works better than our stuff, given the circumstances.
I am going to India for seven weeks, starting tomorrow. I'm bringing 2 pairs of pants (plus what I'll wear), 2 shirts, 6 bandanas, 3 pair of socks, 4 underwear, soap, a toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, a camera, a notebook, (etc.) and some nice pens and candy to give out as presents. If I were going to the Peace Corps, I might bring music, art supplies, books, and a number of extras of my favorite deodorant, soap, and conditioner.
What should you do to prepare? Don't think about what Africa will be like
it's different. You'll see when you get there. That's most of the fun! Instead, get into Peace Corps mode by slowing down and checking out what is currently around you. Talk to people on the street, chat with cashiers, visit your folks, throw a party, watch how lovers interact on the streets, watch traffic flow, get a good look at the local plants, and explore all the side streets that intrigue you. Wave to people. Greet them. Take the time to listen to whatever they have to say. Do this, and the plane ride to Ghana will merely be a change of scenery, a new curiosity, a new jewel to be explored. You will see and grow and prosper. Open your eyes right now and love life.