Monday, 1 September 2014

Adjusting to "The Real World": The first month back in Canada

I have been putting this post off for some time now… 4ish weeks to be exact! To be fair, the title of this post would have to be changed to the first week back, but, what's a girl to do?!

It's hard to believe that Wednesday, when all the kiddies are making their way back to school, I will be 'celebrating' one month back in Canada. I'd be lying if I said this was fully positive for me. I'm still in a conflicted state, where part of me is happy to be surrounded by the friends, family, and conveniences that I left behind when I departed for Ghana, while the other part of me is wishing I were back in Koforidua being 'productive'. The interesting thing about the latter conflict is that my stay in Ghana did not leave me feeling overly productive, particularly where the organization that brought me to the country is concerned. But, I think making the connections I did, and working on the projects I started in my copious downtime, leaves me feeling confident that there is something productive I can do there. But let's step away from that for a minute…

Being as there was (and continues to be) a massive Ebola outbreak in several of the countries near Ghana, my departure was met with a little uncertainty. We were warned in Accra that we should be prepared to be questioned, tested, or in extreme cases, placed directly into quarantine. Nothing happened in Amsterdam, aside from being completely caught off guard by overwhlemedness (I know, not a word, but either we have a blog post with made up words, or we don't have one at all!) from the intensity of the bright lights, the warmth of the bathrooms' water, and the now unusual amount of white people! Having one's first cup of real coffee in three months was one super fantastic part of this stop-over.

Next was Detroit, where the customs agent bluntly told me I was lucky to have left when I did. Me, not having been exposed to the reality of the Ebola outbreak, was dumbfounded by what she meant… then I turned around and saw CNN on what felt like every wall. Who knew it was that bad? Here I thought the only real threat I had around me was the Cholera outbreak that was taking place in Koforidua when I departed! (Note: Ebloa has not found its way into Ghana, meaning that despite the magnitude of the outbreak, there wasn't any sort of threat to me!)

The final 'opportunity' to be questioned about the possibility of having Ebola was in Halifax - home sweet home. Verbatim conversation based on my overtired memory of my encounter with the customs agent at the Halifax airport:
Agent: Oh, so you were in Ghana for 3 months… what were you doing there?
Me: Volunteering… (said with the fakest smile I could muster, whilst trying to sound convincing that I had, in fact been "volunteering")
Agent: Great! Welcome home!
Me: …thanks…?
So, Ebola-free and slightly disappointed that I wasn't an obvious candidate for quarantine (what?! It would have made a much better coming home story!), I grabbed my luggage and made my way through the big sliding doors, where my two favourite boys and a bag of stale cheesies were awaiting me. For those of you reading that know about my allergies, there comes a time in one's life, when all they really need is the comfort of some stale cheesies! Besides, I wasn't fully able to stick to my dietary restrictions while I was away, so a few days to cheat, I think, is perfectly acceptable!

(Re)Adjusting to life in Canada was different from what I expected. The things that took me by surprise, or made me a little anxious, weren't things I had anticipated, such as how loud it is here…and a different type of loud than what I had experienced in Ghana. I also, to my brother's delight, found grocery shopping completely overwhelming! It was so bright, the choices were endless, and no one was yelling at me to buy their specific product. Driving, surprisingly, was the one thing that didn't seem odd to me, which is funny because I hate driving and usually find it overwhelming! I found the first few days really difficult. Part of this was because I was alone, I think. To be fair, I also didn't really want to see anyone. After I returned to Wolfville and met with some friends for REAL coffee, I began to feel a bit more at home. But it's weird, because in so many ways, it felt like nothing had changed… the conversations had picked up right where they had left off, except that, in reality, so much had changed.

The last few weeks have been spent decluttering, or perhaps attempting to declutter my life. Filled with a mix of adventures and chats with friends and family, and moving amidst a massive and inconvenient construction project, I have been slowly processing the last few months. I've alluded in previous entries that the organization and the expectations of my placement were not all they were promised to be. This is perhaps my biggest struggle to work through now that I am home and able to just contemplate things. I'm taking actions to deal with this situation, although based on my experience, do not anticipate any sort of result.

Well, that's all for now. Next time you hear from me, I'll likely be in Manchester!

-the Orange Canadian!


  1. You finding grocery shopping not fun is very weird to me! We used to have so much fun at Sobeys :)

    Now that we are all familiar with the Ebola outbreak I am so glad that you left Ghana when you did.

    -Amanda J

  2. Don't worry - I love grocery shopping! The first time going after my return was just a big indicator that I was no longer in Ghana. It was like being heavily caffeinated and going outside for the first time ever!

    Thankfully, the outbreak has not made its was to Ghana. I remain optimistic that this will continue to be the case, so that my new found friends and family will be safe.