Entertainment of Monday, 5 December 2005

Source: Heidi Schnakenberg hschnakenberg@yahoo.com

What to Expect in Ghana

The following is an excerpt of tips I sent to NYU drama students going to Ghana to study abroad. I attended the University of Ghana by myself as an NYU drama student six years ago, before NYU had a program there at all. Now NYU has developed a program in Ghana so other students have a chance to enjoy the beloved country as much as I did!

` MEMO TO NYU DRAMA STUDENTS STUDYING ABROAD IN GHANA

FROM: NYU and University of Ghana Alumni Heidi Schnakenberg

CC: My Fellow Ghanaians....For Your Entertainment!

RE: What to Expect in Ghana

I thought about this, and without any intent of being preachy or presumptuous, I came up with some pieces of advice off the top of my head.

Remember, if there was an award for the friendliest people on the planet, it would go to Ghanaians. This clich? is really, really true. You're walking right into a positive family when you go there ? it?s just up to you to embrace them as such.

Learn some Twi before you go, such as ete sen? ( How are you?) and aye (I?m fine) or Bol Ko (sp? ) (I?m cool). Ghanaians will love you for trying!

Watch out for the gutters - each street is lined with them and each obruni (Twi word for foreigner) usually falls in one at least once!

Eat as much of the local food you can - take advantage of the lack of preservatives and horomone-injected food while you can!

Always accept an invitation to anything - whether it be a 12-hour bus ride (numerous stops to fix flat tires included) to Mole National Park or a meal at someone's home. Gobble up all the experiences you can!

Don't be alarmed by gastrointestinal challenges - bring plenty of immodium!:)

My unauthorized advice for battling malaria is to take the local medicine - it's better for you and won't cause hallucinations like American malaria medicine - plus, I battled malaria better than all of my American counterparts who took the American prescriptions.

It is bloody hot, so don't walk too fast, anywhere...it'll be a nice change from NYC!

Bring lots of pens, pencils, erasers, etc. for kids there. They love it and they need it.

Completely abandon your sense of time - things take much longer to accomplish, there are long lines, service is slow, etc. This is a good thing - it re-teaches you how to just be a human being rather than a producing machine.

There will be a lot of people that will seem to want something from you, all of the time. Take it lightly - in fact, embrace it. It's a good lesson in being a giving person and getting a close look at how little most people in the world have (not that we don?t have our own third world within, but that?s another story!) But, don't let people take advantage of you either - a very close Ghanaian friend told me the most important things he learned from me was that Americans are not as wealthy as he thought and everyone struggles. The grass is not always greener on the other side. And what incredible lesson that was for both of us!

You will be stared at, a lot, because you?re American (and nothing you do or wear can hide that fact, no matter what your ethnic background). You can?t run, you can?t hide, but you can have fun with it and make lots of friends!

Bring clothes that you won?t mind turning red from the dust and worn from hand-washing and/or wear Ghanaian clothes as soon as you get there.

If you like eggs ? get an egg sandwich with cheese from the women on the streets who will cook them on the spot with a little gas burner ? to this day the best egg sandwiches I?ve ever had anywhere.

If you can ? take a tro tro to Krokrobite Beach ? one of the loveliest spots in Ghana?hopefully it isn?t getting developed too much yet!

Go out to the clubs as much as you can ?there is no better nightlife than in Ghana ? still the most fun I?ve ever had anywhere.

Oh, and when the electricity goes out and the water is turned off ? it?s time to party!

Finally ? you will have the time of your life! And you will miss it SO MUCH when you return ? appreciate every single moment!

I could go on and on forever and I?m sure everyone?s already been told a lot of these things ? I just wanted to provide further encouragement because I love Ghana so much!