Especially the data collection phase, where I did interviews and held focus groups (special thanks to Sonjelle who helped me) was very interesting. It is difficult to describe the situation though, as it is an entirely different world. It was very heartwarming that all these respondents and especially the women were so open to us.
The first thing they would do when we arrived (even without having met each other before) is to drop their work and grab some chairs or benches for us to sit down. There are probably several cultural reasons behind this as well, but the fact they personally took the effort and time for us made me realize I can be more thankful and humble at times. Some even would give us corn or fish that they worked hard for when we left again.
Lost in translation
Doing these interviews with people from different villages, I needed a translator as I did not speak the local language, Ewe. He has helped me a lot and I have great memories making jokes and talking a lot during our hours spent in cabs. There were challenges though, such as coming in time to appointments and translating literally. Ewe is a very describing language which needs twice as many words as English to explain something. This made it very difficult to know whether he translated literally, or was leading the participants to certain answers. In hindsight I would have taken more time in getting to know each other and agreeing on certain standards. I guess it is the challenges that make research fun 😉
What I loved in Ghana (and in African countries in general) was the market. Usually I experience a lot of resistance when I want to bring my camera, but on one of my last days I managed to make some pictures. Not only can you buy fresh foods on the market, they have a lot of fabrics. They are not only beautiful, but also very cheap. You can have a dress for about €10, including the price of the fabric and the cost of making the dress. You do have to know what you get yourself into though, the market is very crowded, to say the least…
Obedience versus independence
In my culture, we grow up to be very independent. We do recognize the wisdom and experience of people that are older than ourselves, but we make our own decisions. During my internship I lived in the house of the local chief. I learned a lot from him, but also experienced a few funny situations.
At the end of my stay I wanted to say goodbye to my translator, but he arrived in the house before I did. When I came home there was quite a big fuss about the fact he hadn’t accepted a chair that was offered to him. He didn’t think it was necessary to sit down as I was almost there, but in rejecting the offer he was disobedient and we were almost kicked out of the house.
Obviously, in this case it was funny. But it shows the deeper underlying cultural value of obedience (which he should have known as a Ghanaian). Whenever there were issues, I was always told obedience is most important. I learned for example that in Ghana you are supposed to go to you parents to solve your marital fights, and follow the solution the offer. Whether I agree or not, to me it is amazing to learn about these type of cultural differences. They are not so clear or straightforward that you’ll see them with a one-week trip; you will need to stay longer in order to understand the culture better.