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17.04.2007 Social News

Family values in the heart of Ghana

By Shulie Eisen

Before going abroad to Ghana, Africa seemed so dangerous: a continent full of violent conflict, intense poverty and a hundred possible diseases to catch.

Being in a culture and environment so different from my own offers daily challenges, including learning how to thwart marriage proposals from forward Ghanaian men, going without electricity every other day and carrying toilet paper everywhere I go because no public restroom has it.

But my relationships with people here, along with my general experience living in Ghana, teaches me that the desire for more material possessions is only a distraction from what is truly valuable.

Recently, a few of my friends and I traveled to a small village and stayed with a Ghanaian family for the weekend. By our American standards, the family's home was pretty primitive-no running water, no phone and no television. Yet this family was happier with their lives than most people I know in the United States.

I realized-as I looked at the children showering with a bucket of rain water-that what they have is really all they need. A loving home, adequate food, hard work that grants the means to an education for their children: These are the things that are important in Ghana. All the material possessions that are sitting, gathering dust in my closet at home no longer hold any meaning for me.

My experience abroad has changed me in ways I'm sure I'm not even aware of yet. I have fallen in love with this country and, right now, I can't imagine being back in the United States. It has taught me so much more about my place in the world and the responsibilities that come along with it.

The writer is member of the Class of 2008.