Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Our Cultural Competence Continues...

Sunday, January 2nd

     After waking up ocean side in the huts of Coconut Grove Beach Resort, we enjoyed breakfast to the sounds of the waves of the Atlantic crashing behind us. After breakfast, we gathered our things and packed ourselves back on the bus. George started the ride by exercising our brains with a couple of riddles. Give them a try...''I am greater than God, I am more evil than the devil, and if you eat me you will die.'' and ''Every room has two and every corner has one. What am I?''

     As the answers were revealed, we arrived to St. George's Castle in the town of Elmina, the oldest and largest slave castle in Africa. Similar to yesterday's experience at the Cape Coast Castle, our tour guide, Kofi, led us through the male and female dungeons and the Door of No Return. Built in 1482 by the Portuguese, the castle was captured by the Dutch in 1637, purchased by the British in 1872, and finally taken over by the Ghanaians in 1957. The beautiful backdrop of the ocean was again overshadowed by the horrifying statistics of the castle's history: Throughout the 400 years of slave trade at St. George's, 3 million people were captured, of which two-thirds of them died. Despite all of the appalling information Kofi revealed, we ended our tour with a very appreciative "maydasay'' (thank you).

    Next, we traveled a short distance to a small fishing village in Elmina and were greeted by a local fisherman named Lionus. The overwhelming smell of fish and smoke accompanied the sight of women and children hard at work in their daily routine. While several children loaded and carried long, wooden pallets of fish to be cooked and smoked, women packed the smoked fish for delivery to the market. As Lionus led us though the village describing the process of catching and preparing fish, we were greeted by many young children of the village. We shared our names and high fives with the children and a few students learned the cultural art of balancing a baby on their back with a wrap. The hard, skilled workers fish everyday except Tuesday, which is the day of rest for the workers (and the fish)!!!

     The three and a half hour trip back to Accra left time for George to further engulf our minds with the culture and history of Ghana. He discussed various stages in a Ghanaian's life focusing on the rituals surrounding birth, marriage, and death. Guess which of the following is true: 1) You can go to a stranger's wedding whenever you want (bring a bag of rice of course). 2) It takes anywhere from one month to one year for a Ghanaian to be buried after he/she dies. 3) In the past, the birth of twins was seen as a curse. You guessed it! They are all true! Can you believe it?

     We survived the "bottle neck" (traffic jam of Ghana) with the help of a local woman selling plantain chips in the street. She briefly joined us on the traveling bus, where she sold more plantain chips than she had sold all day! This served as an appealing appetizer before preparing for dinner at Asanka, the local chop bar. The daring ones amongst us ate the traditional Ghanaian dishes of Banku and Fufu with their right hand, as it is disrespectful to eat with the left. As dinner winded down, we gathered in a circle to learn the modern Ghanaian dance, Azonto. Although a few of us had difficulty coordinating our foot tapping with simultaneous hand and hip movements, we all shared laughter and singing until we closed the restaurant.

     This weekend's experiences have provided us with significant insight to Ghanaian culture, which is crucial for our upcoming clinical work. Our  increased knowledge and understanding of the culture will allow us to be more sensitive and competent clinicians when working with our first patients tomorrow. As we anxiously and eagerly await our first day of clinical work, we drift off to sleep with the rhythm of African music in our minds...

-Brenna Zielinski



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  2. Nothing is greater than G-d , nothing is more evil than the devil, and if you eat nothing you will die.

    Miss you ACK

  3. I am learning so much. Thanks guys. All the best to you with your first day at the clinic.

  4. What an amazing experience you all are having! It is very interesting to learn about about some of the beliefs of the Ghanian culture. It is so true too that if you fail to understand how to interact in a new environments or how interactions may be preceived, it will be hard to work together positively because understanding another's culture and their beliefs is one of the first steps to showing respect. Thank you for sharing!