Martha on the Move: Thankful in Ghana


August 20, 2010 – Lexington, Kentucky, USA – Martha Groppo, Features Editor of the Kentucky Kernel. (Credit image: © David Stephenson)

Ghana was country No. 9 on my trip around the world and my first “developing” or “low income” country, depending on your preference.

Before you can even set foot in Ghana, you have to get a Yellow Fever vaccination. You still have to be careful what you eat. Swimming in fresh water can give you skin parasites.

With all these possibilities, I was just hoping to get out of the country in one piece and without extra internal passengers.

But, when our ship landed, Ghanaians were drumming to welcome us and I was in Africa. That’s when I kind of threw out the rulebook.

I took off to an orphanage in the middle of the Ghanaian Volta region. I taught English, played soccer, drummed and danced with little kids who were tiny from malnourishment.

A funny thing happened to me that night while I was burning up, unable to sleep; I felt really happy instead of guilty or sad. Seeing those kids made me feel thankful, and feeling thankful made me want to get up the next morning and do it all again. One UK girl and a bunch of kids had a great time — though their dancing totally put me to shame.

I rounded out my Ghanaian experience by swimming through a waterfall. No fresh water parasites so far, but apparently these things aren’t immediately evident …

By the time I had to leave, I was remiss to say goodbye to the country that initially made me anxious.

Granted, I forgot my malaria meds in the middle of the jungle, almost fell into an open sewer and visited a hospital with hand written signs in the maternity ward like: “Step one: insert hand in vagina and make a fist,” but I came away feeling like that stuff wasn’t important. I don’t think “feel sorry for the poor kids in Africa” is the point, either. Maybe they should feel sorry for us: We’ve been given the world, and sometimes it takes a trip far from home for us to actually realize it.

Martha Groppo is a journalism and history senior