The Central Region has a beautiful coastline but a horrific past. Touching the wall of a cell where my ancestors were held captive, standing in the room with approximately 20 people and thinking to myself “how could 100 plus persons realistically fit in such a small space?”, and seeing the “Door of No Return” open up to the Atlantic Ocean bought about mixed emotions.
During Easter weekend, we took a staycation to the Central Region in Ghana. While there, we visited Kakum National Park, Cape Coast Castle, and Elmina Castle. School textbooks came to life while touring the castles. Personally seeing the dark, small quarters with poor ventilation that held my ancestors captive during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and hearing the graphic details of their captivity by our tour guide, I still cannot empathize with their plight. It gave me a new perspective on living. I’m done complaining.
Prior to visiting the castles, I thought living in Ghana was challenging. I had a low tolerance for suffering. The lack of simple things I took for granted like uninterrupted running water and electricity, the accessibility of air conditioning in cars and buildings, paved roads, public sewage was getting the best of me. My fuse was constantly popping due to an emotional roller coaster bought on by motion sickness while driving due to the holes in the road (yes, you heard me, holes not potholes), the scorching heat, the mosquitoes feasting on my body and the unprofessionalism exhibited in certain establishments.
Ghana and I are currently in a love/hate relationship. Where else in the world can you eat an organic chicken breast salad including your beverage of choice for $2 at a restaurant, get a customized dress made for $20, get your hair shampooed, conditioned, and twisted for $4, a pedicure for $7 and take an Uber for $2. Everything is mobile, constantly people are walking the streets and highways selling everything from boiled eggs to fresh fruit to flip flops to ice cold water to bed pillows. Honestly, there’s no need to make a trip to the market. On top of that, you can get anything made in Ghana to your specifications from clothes to shoes to furniture, cheaper than already made goods sold in a brick and mortar store. Even with the bang for the buck and the convenience, I still perceived living in Ghana as challenging. After my visit to the castles, I decided to change my perspective and accept my time here as an opportunity to grow and either conquer or manage my weaknesses. What I perceive as challenges are minuscule discomforts compared to the suffering my ancestors endured.
This new perspective also came about while reading Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I realized I wasn’t being responsible – response ability – the ability to choose my response. I was not being proactive but reactive. I was allowing the climate, other people’s attitude and my environment to affect the outcome of my day. In Mr. Covey’s book, he discusses attitudinal value, one of three central values in life suggested by Victor Frankl, which is our response in difficult situations. He goes on to write,
“what matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.”
Case in point, customer service or the lack thereof is a huge issue for me. I’m learning to reprogram my emotions to ensure I have an enjoyable experience while visiting any service-oriented establishment. I’ll admit, I have a short temper. I’m also realizing if I do not whip this weakness into shape especially while in Ghana, I will be miserable during my entire stay.
Recently, we patronized what appeared to be a nice restaurant to celebrate a personal triumph. The ambiance and decor was inviting, even upon arrival the waiters were pleasant but once we were seated, the service came to a halt. We braved the hot weather and the traffic to get there. Unconsciously, we decided to implement the attitudinal value system. We chose not to focus on the service or the lack thereof but on each other’s company and the outcome of the event that occurred earlier in the day and how we were going to move forward after our win. Our choice led to a relatively nicer outing. I also chose to utilize a pragmatic way of releasing my frustrations. I left a review of the establishment on Google Local Guide. Hopefully, management will read the review and make some changes based on our personal experience.
I’ve made a conscious decision to embrace Ghana. I’m experiencing the best of both worlds here, rural and urban living. I always desired to have a small farm so my family and I can be self-sustainable but I also desire a metropolis atmosphere. Ghana makes it possible. Farm animals roam freely about in neighborhoods particularly hens, roosters, and goats. It’s a huge garden. There’s an abundance of agriculture, naturally grown and sold within the neighborhoods. Every two to three days we purchase fresh fruit (bananas, mangos, pineapples, coconuts, papayas) for less than $5 as well as vegetables. Ghana is the ultimate embodiment of the farm to table philosophy. There are three malls within driving distance with a variety of stores to buy household goods, furnishings, clothing, and food but we prefer to support the local economy.
This attitudinal value system is a necessary part of my personal growth and has provided me with a new way of living which will aid me in reaching the highest, truest, fullest expression of myself. Join me in “finding yourself”, and discovering new ways of thinking, new ways of living and new ways of working. You’re invited!