1. MY VALUES AND BELIEFSInthese few days, the opportunity to look back to re-assess the events that haveshaped my life has been well exploited. During the “where do you feel home”discussion in Colonization and its impact on Indigenous Peoples’ Health course, a unique experience was emotionally comfortable enough to lookback at my life. Through our discussions, re-evaluation of numerous occurrencesthat were often concealed and unpleasant to face was made possible. Things thatwere never considered as real issues but then having a second thought aboutthem led to several rhetorical questions.Just like otherindividuals, my personal principles, views and attitudes have contributed to myself-development throughout the course of my life. Personal past events,experiences, and failures in life have all played significant roles incontributing to my current state and perspective from which my immediateenvironment and the world at large are viewed.
In my life course, I have oftenworked with vulnerable people and also encountered people who may have alifestyle considered as being different or unacceptable by the mainstreamsociety. However, one of my greatest error towards this people is the biasesthat I have had towards them through my principles, beliefs and opinions. The passion topositively impact people with my skills and abilities has always been my dream. As a child, Iremember how I used to help people who were in need. I always tried to be kindto them even when their behaviors were different towards me. I was born in Accra, Ghana, considered as a land rich in excellence, yet unfortunately, for manyof the people living there it is also a land where poverty is a way of life. Therefore, many consider me as one of the few lucky ones who has never had to suffer thepain of an empty stomach or had to struggle to make a living off the land withlittle or no education to back up their choices.
Stillthe question I always ask my self is; what is a man without culture? Am Iculture-less? I sometimes wonder how my life would have been if I had grown upin one place. Will it have been different or same as it is now? How would ithave been like to live in the village, where I had to go to the farm and hearthe birds or even walk on the streets of Accra and play in the sand withfriends who have known me since nursery school. At times, Idislike the fact that I have to dig within me to provide complicated responsewhen I am asked simple questions like who you are. However, I am glad for theopportunities and experiences that I have had which often makes me feel like acitizen of the world. The fact that I have lived in different places andexperienced different cultures has given me a story to tell in different way asI chose. The feeling of wearing different mask and the fact that I choose to bewhoever I want to be wherever I go has thought me that being rootless doesn’tmean I don’t belong to a place rather it means I choose to belong to manyplaces as I please! All this experience has been exhausting but I am certainabout a particular thing which is; no matter how old I grow, I know I willalways question my roots at different point in time. Regardless all thechallenges I have gone through, one thing remains true and that is the factthat all these experiences have been valuable to my life.
2. IDENTITY CRISESAs a Ghanaian bornEuropean bred, coming to Canada as a student has been a dream of mine sincehigh school days. This is because I have always seen Canada as the “PerfectHeaven” on earth.
A place where lots of people are willing to migrate withoutthinking twice. Trust me, if someone had ever told me there was history ofColonialism in Canada, I wouldn’t have believed it. Every expatriate dealswith culture shock at one point in time but be certain when I saythat mine was devastating! Allthese points comes along with a story, I moved to Italy somewhere around 7years of age from Ghana (West-Africa) to join my parents.
A decision I didn’tparticipate to realize. My initial experiences in Italy was quite positive andduring my whole time there, I didn’t realize I suffered from an identitycrisis, but I knew I had become too disconnected from my culture, homeland andcommunity. My identity crises began whenI wanted to discover the reason driving lots of people to cross the Mediterraneansea to Europe. A journey whereby people put their lives at risk as they go on aboat journey in search of what they think would be a better and easier living.
This curiosity pushed me to work as a volunteer in one of the refugee camps inBrescia(Italy) where many of these refugees started asking me if I had an ideaabout my culture. This at first wasn’t bothering me but as time passed by, Irealized I needed to discover myself and give myself an identity. Fromthat moment on-wards, I have always had issue when I am asked the question”where are you from”. This question always panics me since it makes me wonderwhether the question refers to my nationality, where I was born, my currentplace of stay or where my family lives. Thisis a question I consider the most nail-biting and anxiety-inducing whichusually requires an in-depth explanation of my life story. The explanation getsmore complicated when you have lived in 6 different countries consisting of 3different continents. The concept ofhome and giving a definition to it becomes one of the most difficult questionsI hardly find an answer to.
The definition people give to it doesn’t mean thesame thing to me. With all theseyears spent outside my home country and my inability to fit into all thesecountries that hosted me is a sensation which gives me the ideology that I fiteverywhere and nowhere.3. CANADA: MY WAKE-UP CALLJustas many people, I have my biases, and this may be due to the fact that I oftensee things from one perspective. Indeed, coming to Canada has been my wake-upcall. Prior to my arrival, I imagined it as the perfect place, as I always saythe clean version of the United States of America.
The land without faultswhere there will be no homeless living on the street, but my after-arrivaldiscovery is what made the difference. Colonialism, reserve schools, stigma andracism are all things I reserved for the apartheid event in South Africa andNamibia. Notwithstanding, the things I have discovered in these five months ofstay in Canada enabled me to understand that biases do not only occur whenconducting a research study rather our thinking can also be influenced by them.This systematic error in my way of thinking has completely shaped me.
It hasprovided me a different worldview of life. Prior to my arrival to Canada, I hadnever heard of the word “Indigenous” or “Aboriginal” which as at now I can’treally tell the difference unless with the help of google. The history of theIndigenous people of Canada, their cultural belief, cultural diversity andsurvival has enlarged my way of thinking. It has shown me that things are oftendifferent from the way we see it and at times making an argument from onedirection can be a symbol of real ignorance.Thisjourney has been my greatest wake up call and I deeply wish a lot of people canalso come to realize that there are different realities outside.
I havedeveloped a strong question which I might never be able to find answers to thatis; Do the people who cross the Mediterranean sea to Europe have my sameideology of a perfect Europe? I guess not. However, this is a question I mightnever get answer from.Ihave always had the idea of holding a multi-dimensional worldview since I havespent significant part of my life in different countries which I presumed wasenough. I thought that reading about the two world wars, learning to be tolerant,adaptable and flexible were skills that could take me everywhere.
However, itseems apparent that moving from one country to another, knowing a part of theworld history isn’t good enough to reduce the biases and misconception I have.As my metaphor says, the world is a classroom and we are life-long studentsuntil we develop a critical tool to assess and explore it, we will always remainignorant. Thiswhole experience has proved to me that we never know what the true meaning of”discovering ourselves” means until we face a shock. In my case, Icall it the Canadian wake-up call.