September 18, 2011

Leaving Ghana

Rebecca Distler,
GHLI Student Fellow
September 2011

When I went in for my last day of work in Ghana on August 12th, it didn’t feel like my last day. I was still trying to finish the in-service training manual I had been working on all summer and was still setting up meetings -- even though I wouldn’t be there for them. I was thinking about the progress I had made on the national service policy. But I definitely wasn’t thinking about saying goodbye. So I was horribly shocked to find that when I arrived on Friday, most of the people in my office were all away for a conference. That’s when it started to sink in – that I might never see these people again.

If there is one thing I learned in Ghana, it is the importance of showing up. On Monday morning, a mere 10 hours before I was to fly out of the country, I had a friend drive me to a hotel about an hour outside of the city, where I waited outside the conference meeting room to track down my office mates on their lunch break. When I saw Dr. Nyonator, one of the delegates, he proudly and jokingly introduced me as his “daughter”. I got to give necklaces to the secretaries, shake the men’s hands and exchange e-mail addresses. But most importantly, I got to say goodbye.

I loved my work in Ghana, but what truly made the experience was the people. I could not have asked for a better summer, could not ask for better friends or colleagues. And what I’ve learned is that it is not enough to love what you do – that’s important, yes. But it is also important to be inspired by and challenged by the people you work with. And it is important to always show up, to demonstrate not only your respect but also your true friendship. It is the Ghanaian way, and I think it will also become my way too.

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