Guy Bloembergen - General Journalism Projects in Ghana
It's 6.30am and the warm sunlight is already beating down on me through the floral curtains next to my bed. I exit my mosquito net cocoon, turn off the whirring fan and groggily waddle over to the outdoor bucket shower to get ready for the day. After a toast, fruit and coffee breakfast with my host family I squeeze onto a tro-tro (local mini-bus) to get my placement, The Chronicle Newspaper, by 08.30.
Each day is different: today I'll attend a conference on women's rights, yesterday I interviewed the headmaster for a school for street-children, tomorrow I'm editing various colleagues' articles. Like my tasks, my hours at The Chronicle vary: some days I see the sun dip behind the rolling hills from my office balcony, other days I leave after lunch to do independent research.
Living with a host family is ideal: I stay in a smaller building next to the main house, giving me the independence to come and go as I please, yet I take all my meals with my hosts, offering an insight into the local way of life.
I'm hardly ever alone: six volunteers live near me, allowing us to attend Project Abroad's various events together. Sunday movie nights, 2-for-1 Tuesday drinks and Wednesday drumming lessons punctuate the first half of the week, while 'spot-bars' and nightclubs allow volunteers to catch up and blow off steam on the weekends.
But weekends aren't only for cutting loose: volunteers often venture out of Accra to see more of the country. I've walked alongside elephants at Mole National Park, toured Elmina's historic castle and tanned on Anambo's pearl-white beaches. Traveling around Ghana is affordable and hilariously unpredictable: I most recently found myself on what I can only assume was the unofficial Westlife sing-a-long bus. Fun for the first 30 minutes, not so much six hours in.
Neale Donald Walsch once wrote that life begins where your comfort zone ends. Learning to not only survive, but to thrive in a context completely antithetical to everything I've ever known has revealed a sense of bravado I wasn't aware of, allowing me to grow and learn in countless new ways.
That, and I can now recite every word to Westlife's Greatest Hits.