Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Readjusting to Life in America

It took a little while, but it seems I've finally readjusted to American culture once again. The strangest part has been trying to keep the energy and general character expansion and learning I experienced in Ghana going back at home in suburban Massachusetts. Being immersed in another culture, and having limited time to learn, I felt pressured to be constantly present and to seek out every opportunity to see or hear something new. We had structured lessons every day, and ample opportunity to seek out further lessons. There were chances to experience going to markets, religious ceremonies, and funerals, less than a half hour walk or drive from Dagbe. Now, at home, I hope I can continue to hold onto the attitude I had in Kopeyia in my daily life here in the States.

I'm finding it even more difficult than I imagined to explain my experiences in Ghana to friends and family, even though it seems like yesterday I was teaching songs to the group(as depicted above). I'm glad to have recordings and photos to help, as it is almost impossible to explain the different music style we practiced at Dagbe.

Like others mentioned, it's weird having almost unlimited electricity, water, and food right at my disposal once again. Going into a grocery store a few days after I returned was very strange, I found myself yearning for the chaos and personality of a busy Ghanian marketplace. I have a renewed disgust with TV ads and general consumerism I see around me. However, I do have a renewed sense of appreciation for how lucky I am to have the comforts I do have, and have motivation to continue studying music, both in practicing cello and maintaining the songs I learned in Ghana.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Back to the Old Grind

So I've been back for a few days now and boy is it a different experience. Gone are all of the roving animals and the curious children. There are no spots to go to and you never hear the sounds of drumming in the distance. Everyone is so shut off from one another and saying hello is a thing of the past. But its green here and I can drink the water. I get to play guitar whenever I want and have steady internet access. I guess you have to take the bad with the good. All I know is that there is good in every part of the world and what little time I spent in Kopyeia was some of the best of the good I have ever had. I am starting to see it bleed into the way I carry myself in public and how I perform at work.

I am at school for the summer and am working pretty exclusively with technology (can you say reverse culture shock) and the people who use it on campus. In the past I found it a lot harder to interact with co-workers and customers. However, being in a place like the village where everyone is your friend has made it easier to truly feel that about the people I meet. I think this attitude is what I will take with me most going forward.

You cannot go through life shut off from people. Rather you need to meet them with a smile and an open palm. Life is too short to lock yourself away behind closed doors. I have never realized this more than now. To all of those who made this trip possible, who traveled with me, and all those people I met along the way I want to say thank you and that you have a place in my world forever.


Monday, June 1, 2015

It is hard to believe that I am already back in the states. After 30+ hours of travelling (I had an additional two flights home to Ohio), getting back into the swing of things has been a little harder than I thought. It's hard to think that I just spent the past few weeks making new friends, and now only time will tell when I will see them again, it feels like a dream and I'm not sure I'm ready to wake up. Although social media and technology has meant I am able to keep in contact with much of the Kopeyia staff, I am already plotting a return trip.

The states has been a little overwhelming to return to: the guarantee of electricity, the surplus of options at the stores, not having a small fear for my life every time I get into a car. However, I have been learning to allow my experiences from Ghana to flow into my life here. I've noticed that I picked up several habits that will take a while to go away, if ever. I constantly hand and receive things with my right hand, and expect to shake hands whenever I see someone. I won't lie though, the air conditioning has been a welcomed luxury upon returning.

I am so glad I finally had the opportunity to visit Kopeyia and see all that this country has to offer, even if I only saw the tip of the ice berg. Until next time, Ghana.


Adjusting back to America

Life since being home feels a little weird. Here, everything is bigger and much more fast. It can be slightly overwhelming.

Shortly after coming home, I went to a country music concert at which three big names in the country music world performed. It was different to see everyone do everything in unison like robots. In my head, the only thing I was comparing it to was a Ghanaian funeral which at the moment was a weird image because the two things are so different.

It is weird to see people driving here. Being from the Boston area, I had been accustomed to the driving the rest of the country hates so much before we left for Ghana but some people's driving still had scared me slightly. Since coming home, everyone's driving seems so calm and reasonable even though it has not changed at all.

While I was in Ghana, I happened to step on a sea urchin so walking around has been.... interesting lately. However, after going to the doctor's today, we have began to take it out, a process that will be continued at a later date. I am very thankful that only the larger pieces need to be taken out and that I will be able to walk normally again soon.

I think one of the hardest parts of being home is that people keep asking me how Africa was and if I saw any safari animals as if that is all the continent of Africa has to offer and the only reason a person would possibly travel there. After they ask their questions though, the people zone making it hard to educate them with your answers.

Back in Bellows Falls: Day 3

          I've been back home for three days now, and the 2 1/2 weeks I spent in Ghana seem like a sort of dream. Did I really meet those people? Did I really do those things? Was it really that short? It's a feeling that's impossible to explain, that maybe some of you who've had similar experiences can relate to. On the flip side, everything having to do with my life here in Vermont seems like such a long time ago. Yet here I am, back in the swing, back to work, back home and it's odd. It's not so much reverse culture shock, as I always new America was weird, and I wasn't in Ghana really long enough to totally acclimate. It's more so like something a Brazilian indigenous person once said about flying, that when you fly you travel faster than your soul can travel, and it takes it a wile for it to catch up with you.

          It's hard to sum up my experience: how it was, what it was like, what I did. Sometimes I felt really overwhelmed by the whole thing, sometimes I felt really comfortable and at home, sometimes I felt like there was so much to learn and so little time, other times I was unsure why I was even there, a lot of times I just felt tired and sweaty. I met a lot of amazing friends and teachers who taught me a lot about the music, but also about hard work and dedication. A statue of the founder of the Dagbe center reads "Whatever you do, do it well" a statement that really resonates with me now that I come home and try to figure out what's going on as I go forward with my life. Outside of the people themselves, Ewe music never ceases to amaze me, and getting such an up-close and personal look at it only made me want to learn more, not just about it specifically but about indigenous music and culture in general and how it forms and travels and hybridizes and morphs with time. I could certainly go back to Dagbe a hundred times and just be scratching the surface.

         The one thing I regret about the trip is there were a lot of times when I didn't feel like I was as present as I could have been. I'm a pretty neurotic person, whose has a lot of inner turmoil especially recently surrounding a number of things. I spent a lot of time in Ghana, as is true in the US, turning over a lot of stuff in my head and being in weird moods. Luckily, there was enough downtime during the trip that I was able to do what I needed to do to recenter myself for the most part without really missing out on anything. The trip even served as an excuse to deal with a lot of these issues and I certainly gained some great insights and learned a lot about myself.

         There were also a lot of moments when I felt totally peaceful, and lost in the moment. A few times that jump out to me are the last funeral we attended, the serene afternoon basket weaving sessions, and goofing around at "the spot" with our Ewe friends.

         All in all I haven't had much time or brain space to digest the trip, as I've been thrown right back into things here and right back into my old thought patterns and hang ups. But I'm sure as time goes along, and I reflect on the experience more and more, I'll uncover a lot of insights I got from the trip that I have yet to notice. One thing I do feel is thankful for all of the great friendships made and deepened, and everything that people both Ghanaen and American did to make it an amazing experience.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

The "gang" on performance day!  We left for Elmina the following morning; the students did an amazing job dancing, drumming, reciting Ewe, singing, and being a part of the Kopeyia community.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Last night in Kopeyai

Before the trip started, Joss said that right around the time we left was when we would have finally begun to feel comfortable and settled in here. I now know what she means. Tonight is our last night in the village. We performed what we'd learned, watched some amazing performances from our teachers and some local kids and had a great meal. My only regret is that I didn't learn more about these amazing people and their amazing music. I suppose it's just insentive to come back someday. I feel so deeply thankful for all that everyone here has done for us and all they've given us. I've met some incredibly inspiration people and some people that are just plain old fun. It's sad to leave, but being the homebody I am, I do feel like I'm ready to head back to old Bellows Falls, though I've got a few days to go.