October 17, 2011
I spent six weeks in Ghana as part of a program through the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism. From Monday to Friday, I worked within the offices of Emerge and returned home in the evenings to a large house that I shared with thirteen other journalism students. We had cold water and electricity (most of the time), but laundry and dishes had to be done by hand.
On the weekends, the entire group would travel throughout the country. We went to see the old slave castles at Cape Coast, a mosque in the Muslim-dominated northern city of Tamale, to see elephants and antelopes and warthogs in Mole National Park, and to feed monkeys and swim underneath waterfalls in the lush Volta Region.
Was it challenging at times? Absolutely. Being hard-of-hearing meant I had obstacles the others didn’t. My supervisors at Emerge were relatively understanding about my disability, but they didn’t have a lot of experience working with (or talking to) a hard-of-hearing person. Living in a large group was hard for me because I often missed jokes and stories when we all got together to talk. When I had to travel by myself to strange parts of the city, I was very scared that I’d miss hearing when my stop was.
But Ghana was worth it, a million times over. Not only did I get to experience the unique culture and locations in Ghana, I sought out additional opportunities. I arranged for two interviews with a successful Deaf Ghanaian woman and her husband (made possible by MIUSA’s alumni network); I met with the founder of a non-profit for people with autoimmune and neurological disorders; and I toured a sanctuary for people with disabilities in the Madina neighborhood, led by four young Deaf men. I greatly appreciated hearing their stories, and in exchange I shared stories about my life as a hard-of-hearing disability rights activist in the United States. As a result of these conversations, I gained some profound insights into the disability culture within Ghana and ended up publishing an extensive article in a popular Ghanaian newspaper.
Now that I’m home again, I find myself missing Ghana quite a bit. As I wrote on my blog, I feel that there will always be a small part of me that continues to live on in Accra, walking the tarred roads under a hot and dusty African sun.
Anais Keenon is a hard-of-hearing student at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism. She will be graduating with a degree in Journalism (with an emphasis in Advertising) in June 2012. Read more about Anais’ exchange to Ghana on her travel blog: