It was only a few short weeks ago that I was in my room meticulously going through the AgriCorps packing list that was given to us. This packing list included not just clothes, but other items that might make our lives in Ghana a little morecomfortable. Some of these items might seem day-to-day to Americans; some snack food as a little treat on a hard day, lighters, flash lights, batteries, markers, colored pencils and chalk, and not to mention the countless bottles of medicine. Little did I know that these items would be wasted space.
After spending around a month in Ghana, it was finally time for us to move into our communities. It was the day we had all been anticipating since we received our placements while in Ardmore, Oklahoma; which feels like ages ago. We all met with our headmasters and/or caretaker for the next year and were able to ask questions like: Do we need to bring a mattress? How many water buckets should we bring? How close is the market where we can buy food and supplies? These simple questions would give us an idea about our living situations, but only a small glimpse as to what our communities would be like until we arrived.
I have been placed in the community Korm. Korm is a very small community that is located up a mountain. The road leading to Korm is well paved and frequently traveled so my first time up the mountain I had high expectations for where I was going to be living. As I stepped out of the trotro (the private vans that make up the transportation service) I looked around to see hundreds of new faces waiting to talk to me. Everyone was shaking my hand and saying “Mohee” (pronounced mo-hay), which means you are welcome in Dangme (the language they speak in Korm). I was escorted to my home for the next 10 months. It was a mud house with two 20 ft x 20 ft rooms and two windows the size of pizza boxes. There is no electricity and no running water. I thought to myself, this is okay. You can handle this. Then I looked at my phone and realized I had no cell phone service. I panicked a little, but merely thought there was no service in that one spot I was standing. Come to find out, the closest place to cell phone service is either a 30 minute trail walk up the mountain or a 30 minute car ride down the mountain. I was quite upset at the situation; the first week I was ready to leave. How would you handle the situation? Maybe once or twice a year you want to sneak away from the outside world for a weekend with no cell service, no electricity, and no running water, but how about doing that for a whole year? This was insanely difficult for me to come to terms with. I wanted to quit because I did not have these “luxuries”. Things that before now, I have taken for granted.
I eventually picked myself up from the little pity party I had thrown and decided to make this community MY HOME. I unpacked all my luggage, organized my room, hung pictures and posters on my walls, and even made a sign for my front door that said “Mohee nge Kelsey wem”, meaning Welcome to Kelsey’s home. I walked around to meet farmers, met some students, made friends, taught my neighbors some card games and started to learn polite phrases in Dangme to use when I greeted people. In the process of unpacking all the items that were on the packing list, I realized most these “day-to-day” items I thought I needed are completely useless now.
My 15 year old care taker, Linda (whom I ADORE) came in to my room while I was unpacking and froze. She was clearly astounded. She had never seen a zebra suit case, she had never seen so many markers/coloring pencils, she had never seen fitted bet sheets, and the one that hit me the hardest was she had never seen a lighter before (cigarette or candle – and yes I packed both!). Everyone else in Korm use matches so when I showed her how it worked she was completely shocked and scared.
I have not actually used my lighter since I have been there because I am trying to live just like my fellow community members do. I fetch my own water, or at least attempt to – someone always wants to do it for me. I cook my food on the charcoal just like everyone else. At night when it is dark, I sit around star gazing, listening to the radio, and talking about life just like everyone else. I take a bucket bath and use the bathroom in a hole just like everyone else.
Living in this community is quite a humbling experience and honestly every day I love it more and more. I now know most of the community members and have friends everywhere I go. The farmers I have met always want me to visit their farms and are very willing to learn about new practices. I love my students and how enthusiastic they are about learning. I have taught them how to fist bump and the word “sup” and every time I see or hear the students doing this I smile. We have had our first 4-H meeting and now have 4-H officers. We have started making a football net out of plastic water sachets. There is SO much potential in this community and that makes me SO excited!!! I am really anxious to see what this year has in store for Korm. I am living in Korm to teach agriculture, but this year is going to teach me so much more than I could ever learn in any culture training.