Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Orienting ourselves to Ghana

On our first day of orientation, some of the students were feeling overwhelmed by their first night. I believe that jet lag and culture shock were the largest factors in this. It’s frightening to move into a new place thousands of miles away from home. At our group breakfast this morning, I read from Jean Vanier’s Becoming Human, the following excerpt:

“An Individualism that manifests itself in doing things alone, in being concerned only with one’s own interests and glory, one’s own growth towards autonomy, competence, and power, is the antithesis of belonging Such an individualism can grow out of anger towards an oppressive belonging, a demand to conform within a too-rigid group. It can come from a desire to become more fully oneself and to develop one’s potential and personal consciousness. It is easy to forget that the sense of belonging is a necessary mediation between an individual and society. It is, above all, necessary to help us in our growth towards maturity and freedom. Belonging is the fulcrum point for the individual between asense of self and a sense of society. It is the rock on which we stand, in security, knowing who we are, capable of inner growth as we discover other realities born and developed in other groups and cultures.

Society is the place where we learn to develop our potential and become competent; where we work and receive a salary that allows us to live financially independently. It is the place where each can accomplish his or her mission, to work for justice, to struggle for peace, and to serve others.

Belonging, on the other hand, is the place where we can find a certain emotional security. It is the place where we learn a lot about ourselves, our fears, our blockages, and our violence, as well as our capacity to give life; it is the place where we grown to appreciate others, to live with them, to share and work together, discovering each one’s gifts and weaknesses.”

I asked the group to help one another and to lay burdens on one another. We prayed. We ate breakfast together. We went to the International Programs office, and while we were waiting for the ID man to arrive to take our pictures and administer our IDs, the computer lab was accessed by students to send emails and get on FACEBOOK.

We spent about an hour there and took this photo from the atrium of the beautiful International programs building.

Then we went through listening about health, safety, and etiquette issues as well as some ideas about cross-cultural commun-ication in Ghana. All of it was inform ative, interesting and sometimes entertaining.

We then went on a tour of campus where the male members of our group had a bit of a tree-climbing competition in the beautiful row of trees at the top of campus, overlooking the city of Accra. James wins the monkey of the day contest for climbing the highest. And yes, they got down just fine. My daughter Julia joined in the fun too, but in a smaller tree!

After this we went on a brief bus tour of Accra, and after I realized I need to get the students down there on foot, which I will do next week when we find the time.

So…all is well.

The most important fact I learned today – malaria mosquitoes bite during the day too! So…now we get to wear repellent all day every day! Yippee!!

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