Posted by: devonhamilton | January 9, 2011

Back in Canada

I have been back in Canada for about three weeks now. Coming back over the holidays meant that I was insanely busy, especially since I was only in Toronto for a couple of days before I flew out to Thunder Bay for Christmas. I enjoyed being busy, and I think it made my adjustment easier!

One thing we talked about during our debriefing sessions in Koforidua and Accra was re-entry shock or reverse culture shock. This refers to the shock one may experience when returning back to their home country, with feelings similar to the original culture shock.

Some ways of handling re-entry shock include talking about your experiences, especially with like-minded people. A major factor of re-entry shock is the fact that no matter how much you want to talk about your experience, either people don’t want to hear about it, or it seems that they don’t want to hear about it. I think being home during the holidays made this a little easier on me, since there were tons of get-togethers and people did ask questions. However, the most popular question is “how was it?” which can be difficult to answer. I felt that I didn’t really know where to begin with this question (although I still appreciated people asking)! I usually said it was good, and a big learning experience, but I didn’t feel that I could summarize everything I had experienced. It’s hard when you have so much to say about one particular topic, but don’t want to bore people!

I found that keeping this blog was really helpful, because those who have read it have questions about specific things which makes it easier to talk about. To some extent, I think all my friends know more or less what I have been up to the past couple of months.

Stopping in Amsterdam was also a great idea! I found it very valuable to have a few days to myself to relax and digest my trip to Ghana. I think it also helped me adjust to the weather change I was about to experience! I found Amsterdam to be fairly cold, although it is warmer than Canada. Once I came home to Canada I didn’t have any problems adjusting to the weather (although to be fair, I like winter, and it was unseasonably warm when I arrived back in December!).

I made a presentation online to the next group of volunteers that I hope they found helpful! They depart for Takoradi in just over a week I believe, which is pretty incredible! I tried to answer their questions as best as I could but I think the best advice I could give is to expect the unexpected; no matter how prepared you think you are, there are times when you will feel completely lost. Learn as you go, I guess! You can find the presentation by clicking on this link: Tadi. Since the next group of volunteers are going to spend their entire time in Takoradi, the presentation mostly focuses on Takoradi, but some of the lessons learned can be tied to the whole experience.

Besides what is included in the presentation, there are a few other points I would like to highlight for future YCI volunteers or anyone going to Ghana.

  • In terms of fundraising, I found creating a blog incredibly helpful. Compiling information on what this trip was all about and allowing people to look through it at their own leisure really worked for me. I think it kept my donors updated on what I was doing, and was also an easy way to share pictures and stories with friends and family
  • Although I found the Bradt Guide to Ghana extremely useful,  I think that finding travel blogs on Ghana helped me the most. There are a ton of blogs out there, and in particular I read blogs by volunteers in the US Peace Corps. They gave me insight into Ghanaian culture as well as to things they were struggling with as North Americans that I might struggle with as well
  • I met with or wrote to friends and friends-of-friends that I knew had been to Ghana. At the time I didn’t have specific questions, but it was still valuable to hear about their experiences and get any advice that they had!
  • I would recommend looking into the languages spoken before you depart, I wish I had done this because trying to speak Fante and Twi was one of my favourite parts!

I have really enjoyed writing this blog and I hope that whoever is reading this has found it interesting! I will be embarking on a job search now, but perhaps I will start a new blog in the future (the other volunteers suggested – we’ll see!). I might continue updating this blog as well, we’ll have to see what happens. In the meantime, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

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