I wasn’t expecting to get paid for my internship at Emerge Ghana Ltd. I had accepted this idea before I came to Ghana. I was only going to be there for a month, I wasn’t going to be working nearly as many hours as some of my coworkers, and the experience alone would surely make up for not getting paid. During my time at Emerge, I never brought up the subject of payment with any of my coworkers. I thought there was an implicit agreement that I was going to be unpaid.
Then on the second to last day I worked at Emerge, the newly hired accountant, Omar, asked me to come in his office and sign for my payment. He then gave me an envelope that had 300 cedis. What? I would have been happy with 20, but 300? I was so pleasantly surprised. I thought it was an extremely generous amount. There’s a popular saying that “money can’t buy happiness” but I was pretty damn happy. 300 cedis in Ghana is a lot of money.
The generosity didn’t end there. On our last day, Tuesday, the head of the agency, Michelle Attoh, decided to buy us and the whole office lunch at this nice restaurant called Buka. The menu is centered around Ghanaian and Nigerian food, and it was great. We had a nice and relaxing lunch with lots of laughs and good fellowship.
Perhaps the most unexpected and awesome surprise though was when some of our coworkers took me to Woodin, a high-end clothing boutique in Osu, the bustling financial district of Accra. They told me and Emily, my comrade from UO also working at Emerge, that we could pick out anything we wanted and they would buy it. I ended up choosing this shirt:
This shirt appealed to me in part because of how it reminded me of cultures in the United States. It reminded me of Oregon – I think this shirt would fit right in at any clothing boutique in Portland. It also seemed kind of Native American. But it was also uniquely African. Woodin is an exclusively African brand. Most of their outlets are located in Ghana, but they also have locations in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire.
All of this has made my departure from Emerge very bittersweet. I miss my family, my dog, and my friends back in the United States and I’m excited to see them again, but in just a month’s time I had grown to love my coworkers. They were so kind, so helpful, and so generous. Even though Emily and I were just temporary interns, every single person at Emerge treated us with so much respect. I will truly miss the work environment and the relationships that I created. Luckily, with modern technology, I’ll be able to keep in touch with them.