I was standing in a nightclub in Barcelona when it really hit me: I really miss that Ghana group. The music was obnoxiously loud and the dance floor was empty, and my friends refused to budge from the doorway. “This is lame,” was their only response and they wanted to leave. I started missing everyone from our group the minute people started to leave two nights earlier, but I didn’t quite realize how much I missed everyone until then. No one was there to run onto the dance floor and dance like a gigantic dork with me. No one was interested in ‘getting the party started “oburuni style”’… no one there even knew what an oburuni was. There was no group of boys to act as our bodyguards and ward off the advances of creepy foreign men or pretend to be my husband. In the taxi home later, there would be no negotiating for the price or shouting “oburni tro tro!” or any sort of excitement if we all happened to fit on the same bus.
Our weekly Friday morning classes during spring term leading up to our trip didn’t give much indication to how close this group would get. It was only after someone organized a bbq one evening before we left for summer that I was able to really even picture going on this trip with these people.
But this experience would not have been even close to as awesome as it was without the 15 amazing people I shared it with. I am seriously impressed with how Leslie Steeves managed to pick 16 totally random people and make such a fantastic group. We are all such different people—in our backgrounds, personalities, and come from different corners of the University of Oregon and the journalism school—and yet we all became so close. We went through so much together, both good and bad, and I’m so thankful that I had these people there with me. I feel so lucky to have gotten to spend six weeks living with such a talented, conscientious, fun group. I really realized how special the people around me were after we got robbed. Hours after an actual home invasion there were several people, who they themselves had lost hundreds of dollars of valuables, sitting around debating how to best tell this story and how to do so in a way that ensured Ghana, this program and the work Leslie put into it would not be portrayed badly. It was tough, and scary, to swallow the idea that people had been in our rooms as we slept. I knew though, that it took a special group of people to sit down at dinner that night after everything, and have a genuine discussion about all that we were thankful for.
There were many moments on this Ghana trip that I labelled as my favourite at the time—the rain forest canopy walk in the rain, numerous animated games of mafia, oburuni tro tros, spontaneous dance parties—but hands down my favourite memory of the entire experience will be the last night we all spent together. We stayed up all night sitting on the roof of our green house in East Legon, talking about life. What started as light-hearted chatting quickly turned into a deep discussion about life and all we had learned from our time in Ghana, what we learned and discovered and the things we appreciated the most in those six weeks. We laughed, we cried, we stayed up so late we decided we might as well watch the sunrise. We also then apparently decided it would be a good idea to have a wrestling match on the roof at 6 a.m. (the wrestling part came after someone found a tube of lipstick and decided the boys needed a makeover. For the record, Kelly was the least resistant to our beauty efforts and Carson fought like a cornered animal). The whole night turned out to be my favorite memory of the whole trip.
Our Facebook group has been hyperactive since we all left Ghana. Every time I log on there are always new posts from everyone about how much we all miss each other, making plans to hang out at home or stories from home about trying to negotiate with American taxi drivers or accidentally trying to pay with cedis or the abundance of exact change and free toilet paper we all took for granted back in the US.
I’ve been so lucky to be able to travel around Europe after I left Ghana, but even as I tour the Vatican or Coloseum, swim the Mediterranean or type this from a borrowed computer in Nice, France, I can’t but help miss this Ghana group. As much fun as I’ve had, I miss home like crazy, and I can’t wait to get home and see everyone and hang out with people who understand why I now laugh when I hear the word ‘circle’ or the “meeehrr” sound of an airhord in techno music or know the excitement of drinkable tap water and appreciate whiskey that comes in packets.
I recently read an article that ended with a piece of advice I found particularly pertinent. It said something along the lines of: “travel the world and try new things until you really miss home… but you’ll learn that places don’t change you, people do.”
Medaase for the memories, Ghana!