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Heat and Development in Ghana

It was too hot today to exist. My fellow YCC Ghana volunteer, Dan, and I spent most of the baking hours attempting to work while draped on chairs and benches and other surfaces, trying to remember to breathe and drinking giant bottles of Voltic Water and Alvaro Non-Alcoholic Pear Malt. The ceiling fans whirled wobbly circles at their maximum speed and only seemed to stir the thick air soup slightly.

This is hilarious to you, surrounded by snow and frost, isn’t it? Or maybe it makes you furious, and you’re about to smash this screen with your frostbitten fist. But truly: this eternal heat is making me a totally different person. I’ve never before felt the physical, mental, and emotional sensations I’m feeling now, as I sweat while I sit.

“Why is it,” asked Wisdom in his never-ending quest for wisdom, “that African nations are so underdeveloped in comparison to America and Europe? Is it because we have no winter?”

Dan and I were about to scoff at that idea, but then we realized: Wisdom kind of had a point. If you know that you are going to die of hypothermia should your community not erect quality shelters within a certain timeframe, then you will smack your community into organized action.

Conversely, if you are so hot that you become drenched in sweat after walking one minute down the road (aka: what happened to us each of the three steamy times we left the guesthouse today), you will move very, very slowly, or not want to move at all.

But, like anyone who majored in “Development Studies” at lusciously liberal Brown University, I became rather upset at the label of Africa in general and Ghana in particular as “less developed”, ever since I arrived and can see it all with my own eyes. Though there were both goats and trash heaps surrounding us as we talked today, many other aspects of Sogakope are far more “developed” than America. Major examples: books and conversation.

The entire staff at YCC is voraciously devouring, swapping, and discussing non-fiction books, from economics texts to political memoirs. See the English teacher dancing with joy? I have not seen such textual love in America!

And then the philosophical questions and debates! From History to Sociology to Race Theory, we’ve delved into it all, usually spurred by Wisdom’s thought-provoking questions and then argued via text references. I haven’t philosophized this much since freshman year in college, giddily debating all facets of existence until three am in the dorm hallway!

“GHANAIANS ARE NOT LAZY” proclaims a political poster we passed last week in Aburi (pictured, left). Indeed, true! Here, the YCC staff is pretty much working around the clock, but they remain relaxed, kind, and cheerful. “We work without getting tired,” says John, “and we work all the time.”

But reading into the defensive tone of that “we are NOT lazy” poster, as well as analyzing a few other “we are a less advanced Third World people” comments we’ve heard several Ghanaians make, it all rather sounds like some big-time internalized racism and colonial vestiges! I’ve only been here a week, but this will certainly be a topic to investigate.

Now let’s talk about another kind of warmth pervading Ghana: hearts! The arms around friends… the radiant smiles… the willingness to chat with a stranger and help them out… the patience in answering endless questions from a certain American newcomer… it all makes a visitor here feel warm and fuzzy and cared for.

And so now it’s ten at night and still a sauna. I’ve had three showers today, yet currently feel like a limp, salt-encrusted rag. But I wouldn’t trade being here for all the temperate climates on earth! It’s all good, folks: both body and heart are warm, warm, warm.

 

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Nosica V.

Wednesday 18th of November 2015

The heat wouldn't affect me because I go to Haiti almost every single summer and the weather is kinda the same. The first couple of times I would complain, but after you get used to it it's not that big of a deal. I actually find it funny how the people there can run and carry heavy things and not pass out, because of heatwave.

Kaitlyn G.

Wednesday 25th of February 2015

I really liked this article because when reading about it, it made me think about what it is like here. Especially the weather with it being cold and a lot of snow. Also I liked how you said "Wisdom has a point." because that just stood out to me.

Tori

Wednesday 10th of July 2013

In my first grade class, I teach a unit on Ghana, and we read a lot of the folktales that come from their culture, many including Anansi, the mischievous spider. Do children in Ghana still read these? I believe those may have a good deal to do with the warm culture you've described here. I often find that American children lack some of the morals described in the folktales, including sharing, helping others, working hard, etc.

Thank you for this entry (and the hilaruous ones about Ghana vocabulary- some of which I will share with my students!).

Lillie

Friday 12th of July 2013

Thanks for reading! :) In America I have also taught with African folktales, which are always a delight. Indeed, they are told in Ghana.

Kevin Armstrong

Wednesday 2nd of March 2011

There are book clubs in America which is somewhat like what you described. I am however not apart of a book club yet after I get a 100% on the MCAS I will most likely join one.

Imported Blogger Comments

Friday 28th of May 2010

Franny said... Have you read "Gun, Germs and Steel"?

January 12, 2010 6:29 PM

Melody said... Keep drinking lots of water!! I was in a similar clime in the desert of western Mexico, and it is easy to get sick from dehydration even when you are not doing much. Hope your food poisoning is better! I got pretty sick in Cambodia after Siam Reap (the food there was great, you were right - I'm not sure what did it!) - of course the bug hit on the day of our conference, but Katherine, Mike, and Auggie all saved me - by providing antibiotics, electrolytes, excusing me from our fancy dinner out (sad) and lots of care. Ugh, bacteria are the worst!

Do they take siestas there to recover from the heat? Am really enjoying your new adventures in Ghana! Happy New Year :)

January 12, 2010 7:22 PM

Lillie M. said... Franny,

1. Thank you SO MUCH for your generous donation to YCC!! We DEEPLY appreciate it and will keep you posted on progress. THANK YOU.

2. You read my mind! I was about to go into the article and add a mention of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" which my father is obsessed with and which, it is rumored, has a fascinating explanation of world development and underdevelopment. I'll have to check it out soon!

Melody,

Glad SEAsia was great, and sorry about the food poisoning! I'm eager to hear more details of your adventure.

Keep those comments coming!

With love, appreciation, and slow internet, Lillie

January 12, 2010 8:30 PM

Danae said... Hi Lillie! I am a college student doing a year abroad in Germany and I've been following your blog since you were in Laos, I believe. I read a lot of travel blogs but I have to say yours is the most entertaining and emotional to me.

The reason why I'm finally leaving a comment is because I have the entire month of March free from school and instead of going home I plan on traveling. And I think that I would really like to come to Ghana and possibly volunteer with YCC for 3 weeks. I hope that we can exchange e-mails and talk about that more! Mine is here: [email protected] (I'm a film--and German--double major) :-)

January 12, 2010 9:23 PM

Lillie M. said... Danae,

Thanks for your awesome message, and I've responded in full at your email.

For others interested in volunteering at YCC, I've just talked to John and he says that you would be welcome to come! Send me an email if you're interested, and we can start the planning process (ex: visas, tickets, expenses, jobs, etc.). Woo hoo!

- Lillie

January 13, 2010 5:58 PM

Thapelo said... Ghana sounds like a fantastic country, you seem to be infusing yourself well with Ghananian people. I hope Ghananians will enjoy your warm character like some of who follow your blog do.

January 13, 2010 8:15 PM

Luddy Sr. said... Ohhhh Charleeee.

January 22, 2010 12:55 AM

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