May 2, 2016 – Pre departure:
You know that moment when you finally come home after a long time (I have spent 8 months away from my family and my routine) and ALL of your stuff is moved around, and you cannot find anything. That is me right now. I came home for the safety of what is known before I am launched into the unknown, and for kicks and giggles everything is moved around. Now I have to reorganize my closet (my dad packed up my room in my absence). I have found that organizing my closet it is like organizing my mind – clearing things out before I start my next chapter living and working on a new continent.
May 9, 2016 – Pre departure:
I took Ducorol yesterday and had a violent reaction to the vaccine that I can still feel today, and it made me realize my privilege. I do not have to worry about what I eat or drink and that it could make me sick. Furthermore, if I were to get sick the doctor’s office is only a short walk away. The privilege I have is only allotted to a small portion of the world’s population. It makes me thankful for where I am from, but it also gives me pause on what I can do for those who do not have access to even a smidgen of what I have.
May 19, 2016 – Arrival:
Today I have arrived in Ghana, and it dawned on me that sometimes when you go through pre-departure training it can create unexpected barriers in your mind towards your host country. I will explain – on my first day of training we discussed the possibility of being kidnapped, or being caught in the middle of a political coupe – which was a bit overwhelming. Instead of thinking about your mandate you start to think of the danger you may face which can reinforce ideologies around danger being “over there”, therefore perpetuating feelings of “otherness” – how can you fully engage the experience and truly be a resource to your partner organization your client is “other”? I had to break down the fear of harm, whether from pestilence or mugging, and remember that though I needed to be street smart I know many Africans and they have come to and fro from the continent without harm, so I had no need for worry. The whole experience has shown me that how we conceptualize those we engage with is very powerful especially when it drives how you do development.
Stephanie Solomon is a Master’s Student in Cohort 4 of the Master of Development Practice program. Stephanie’s background is in multiculturalism and immigration. Her current research interests include poverty alleviation, gender, children’s development, and social mobility.