Stereotypes Overshadow Ghana's Beauty
One student's presonal account of a profound journey
By Andrea Waitrovich, Staff Writer, The Poly Post
October 14, 2008
For most people in Western countries, Africa is often stereotyped with words like corrupt, poor, war, famine and AIDS.
The public has to rely on these popular stereotypes of the continent as explanations.
In Professor Renford Reese's class, PLS 499, "Ghanaian Culture and Society," the class was required to do a field research project.
The objective was to find random participants and ask them questions about Africa.
One of the questions was "if you had an opportunity to travel to Africa, would you go?" Many of the participants said they would not because of safety concerns.
Can you really blame them for saying no?
Yes, Africa has been ravaged by war yes, Africa has millions of refugees; yes, Africa has starving children.
But how many people can say they studied abroad in Africa?
This past summer I did just that. I spent two weeks in Ghana.
Prior to the trip, I was concerned for my safety, but Ghana is considered one of West Africa's safest countries for tourists and is among the continent's most politically stable countries.
Reese's course prepared students to be culturally sensitive.
He lectured about how we were going to face many stereotypes, but explained that these social issues are minimal in Ghanaian life.
There were billboards addressing AIDS and promoting safety measures for protecting oneself against the virus.
Even chalkboards in middle schools included AIDS information for students to read.
There were times when I felt extremely overwhelmed with the huge masses of people surrounding our bus.
My group was literally bombarded with people begging for money and trying to sell or buy items from us.
You really appreciate what you have after spending time in a place like Ghana.
The simplest things we may take for granted matter the most for Ghanaians.
For instance, a simple item like a crayon can make a little child the happiest person in the world.
Most Ghanaians don't have expensive cars, big houses or lots of money, but they seem to have a smile on their faces.
Where ever the class went, locals were always friendly, and they wanted to talk to us and ask us questions about our country.
One day, while visiting La Pleasure Beach, the students interacted with some of the locals.
It was surprising how friendly the locals were. Some students held hands and became very close with the locals.
This trip was the best experience of my life.
People would ask me about my trip and it is hard to explain what I experienced each day.
Every day was a new adventure.
This trip provided so much that I never thought I would ever do, such as touching alligators and large insects, eating exotic foods, hand-feeding monkeys and walking across a 100-foot high canopy walk.
My personal favorite was being on local Ghanaian television.
We were caught on camera in the soccer stadium when Ghana won the qualifier game for the World Cup and the locals recognized us the next day.
A continent that is falsely described in the media as being "poor" and "corrupted" is the complete opposite.
People don't know the respect Ghanaians have for one another and for their environment.