Friday, July 15, 2011

Back To The Beginning

I've been back in the country for seven weeks now and I am still searching for a way to describe what coming home has been like. I'm so rarely lost for words.

I miss Ghana enough that I try not to acknowledge that I miss it very often.
That said, I experienced very little culture shock on my return. I'd like to think that's a result of how long I spent preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the process of coming home, though that may be giving myself too much credit. It helped that I was ready to come home in a lot of ways, eager for the next phase of my life. And my American life was waiting for me with open arms; everything seemed to fall back into place almost effortlessly- from driving my little Focus on midnight snack runs with my best friend to playing my violin in the backyard.
Still.... a little part of me wishes I had experienced more of an upheaval. Coming back took so little adjustment that I sometimes wonder if I ever really left at all.

But although I am still me... I know I am not the same me.

Almost a year ago I sat in this same chair and took the first step towards publicizing one of the most personal experiences of my life. Many people have commented how much they appreciated the blog as a way to connect with me and vicariously share my experience, and my ramblings have been followed by far more people than I ever expected.
But while I am by no means a shy or reserved person, sharing my trip to Ghana has been very difficult at times, especially since I got home. Maybe that's because there's no neat way to summarize nine months of growing up. There is no "in a nutshell" way to express all the things I have thought and felt and seen since that day in early July when I sat on a hot driveway with my forehead to the ground, overwhelmed by the news that I was finally going to Africa. Yet I don't regret my decision to share this experience. It started a ripple effect that we have yet to see the end of, and that is incredible beyond belief.

So as I close this chapter, I simply want to say thank you.
Thanks for your support in whatever form it took.

The most valuable lesson I learned in Ghana was that although bad choices may be louder and messier, loving choices are just as powerful. I witnessed the profoundly positive impact people can have on each other if only they're willing to open themselves up to the opportunities.
It was a lesson so important and personal to me that I tattooed it on my shoulder in the form of a butterfly. Because for every person whose life I touched in Ghana, there were a half dozen more people in America who had helped make that encounter possible in the first place.
I am so grateful, on their behalf and certainly on my own, for this experience. It was a coming of age, a spiritual journey, a trip down the rabbit hole. It was so many things I don't have the words for.

Although I'm sure I left some lasting fingerprints in Ghana,
I know beyond a doubt that it left its handprints on me.


  1. Then it was well worth answering the call. Thank you.

  2. Dear Katherine,
    Thank you for your voluntary efforts for education of students in Ghana.
    In this regard, I have you two Questions :

    1.Is "Caning punishment" administered by Principal or Assistant principals or teachers for the Students' Misbehavior in Ghana Schools right now?

    2-Have you yourself caned students'misbehavior since you have been a voluntary teacher in Ghana schools?

    3.What is your view about corporal punishment or caning in Schools?

    I will wait your answer.

    best regards
    Mohsen Farabi

  3. Sorry for my delayed response!

    1) Yes, caning is still common in Ghanaian schools although it is starting to be discouraged more. I saw it go down in frequency in my school over the nine months I was there.

    2) Rarely I lightly caned students' palms in very extreme circumstances, but mostly I used the cane to hit the blackboard or desktops just to get their attention when they were noisy.

    3) I'm very against corporal punishment in school. I believe children can't learn in an environment of fear, and that positive reinforcement is much more effective. However once a child has been trained to respond to corporal punishment (over yelling, or some other discipline) it is very hard to recondition them, which is why I sometimes used caning despite my strong aversion to it.

    I'm curious- why do you ask?