September 02

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No Expert

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Maybe you experience this when you are traveling too…

People want to know what it is “like” where you are from, just as you are trying to work out what it is “like” in the place you have traveled too.

Many times I find myself answering questions about stuff that I have limited knowledge on and that I am half guessing at the answers to- whether it be about politicians or online dating or the online dating of politicians.

The crazy thing is that those questions require you to stereo type and generalize, to group and categorize people and/or experiences.  While I don’t claim to know everything, one thing I know for sure is that  if you have 10 people witness the same exact event, you will get 10 distinct accounts of that event, all with different “facts” and emotions that accompany it.  Each will have a unique experience.  Meaning that to answer any question about what something is like,  I feel like I have to preface it with, “this has just been my experience and may not be a true representation of the culture as a whole” (whether I am talking about US culture, Hawaiian, or Ghanaian).

The truth is I only know my reality, my experience.  To extrapolate and to say definitively that this is how it is (in Ghana or in the US) seems outrageous to me.  With all the different people, personalities, and views, I cannot with any conviction say that what I have experienced myself is anything that any other person in my situation has experienced.

For example, Kirby and I are the 3rd set of PULSE volunteers that have been with Jhpiego in Ghana.  Allison and Binita were the first.  I wasn’t there, but I would extrapolate that it was similar to having your first child.  You don’t know quite what to do with them.  They are brilliant and gifted and you kind of watch them in amazement.  Then there was Christie, who had to do both jobs, bc her PULSE partner had a family emergency and couldn’t make it.  She started her experience in Ghana alone and left with many lifetime friends.  Now there is Kirby and I.  In the same city, with the same organization, and similar focus for our jobs as the previous volunteers, yet even as we go to the same restaurants and shops, we go in our own way, interact with our own personalities and enjoy or are frustrated at the very things others had opposite feelings about.

Yes ok, there are overarching themes, but really even those can be argued based on your reality, knowledge and general hysteria or lack of it.

So for me, the reminder from this is that the world is big, diverse and depends on how you choose to experience it.  I only know it from my experience.  I am no expert.  But I sure am thankful for the “experiencing”.

Peace, MEA

P.S.

At a recent training for Jhpiego, a well respected member of the community presents.  Take a close look at the main image on the fabric of her dress.  Do you think your reaction to these pictures is the exact same as anyone else’s?

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