My first year as a resident assistant I had a few new additions during spring quarter, one of whom was a foreign exchange student from Japan named May. Her roommate had a broken leg and was unable to walk across the green to show May how to use the laundry machines so I volunteered to help. After getting through the usual string of introductory questions and comparing our cultures a bit, we temporarily ran out of conversation topics.
The sun had set since we entered the laundry facility and the night sky was clear. I had been looking at the stars and decided to break the silence by saying, ‘these are the same stars you see in japan.’
‘How romantic,’ May joked and I had to laugh.
There have been a few nights where I feel homesick, and one of them I looked up at the stars and remembered that conversation. While it still makes me laugh, there is a calming truth behind it. Sure the constellations vary depending on where you are, but in the end we all still have a similar view.
Along with that cliché thought, the ability to call home or send an email helps immensely. I’m able to find out what’s happening in the lives of my family and friends. It’s not the same as being there, but it will suffice for now.
My mom put things into perspective when she told me how difficult and expensive it was to call home while she was in Germany for seven weeks in 1982. It made me realize (though obviously not to the full extent) how different this trip would be without that convenience.
[If you’ve heard this anecdote, feel free to skip ahead!] Best Buy had other plans for me. Just before I left I went into the nearest store and expressed concern that my computer was nearing its end and I was about to be in Africa. ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ they told me, conveniently just before my warranty was set to expire. Now it won’t turn on; thank God for internet cafés and kind hosts.
One of my favorite quotes is: ‘I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.’ – John Burroughs
Besides the chickens, goats and lizards that I’ve taken interest in and are everywhere, it’s also a treat when I get to play with a cat or dog. Even though they roam the streets (more so dogs), I’m not able to pet those ones because I’d rather not need a rabies shot.
The trip to an eco-lodge in Cape 3 Points was great for many reasons, one of them being the pet dogs and cats. A kitten I called ‘Leo’ became a friend for those three days and I woke up on our last morning to find him sleeping in the wood shavings for my composting toilet.
When I got back to my host’s home I was happy to find that they had gotten a new puppy while I was gone. Sasha’s still a bit timid, but he’s warming up to me. He especially likes Macho, the bull mastiff who’s about six, and cries when they’re apart.
The thing is, I act a little differently around animals than most Ghanaians. For them the animals seem to be seen in a much more practical matter. Hence the stares while I picked up a kitten in Cape Coast and talked to it.
SOLACE IN FAMILIARITY
Books and music have occupied many of my evenings. I’ve read six books so far and just started my seventh. Books offer a break from reality that is sometimes needed, no matter where you are. It’s been nice to get caught up on some books I didn’t have time to read during school.
And if all else fails and I’m feeling homesick, I simply remind myself that this trip is a great opportunity and I’m very fortunate.