1. MY VALUES AND BELIEFS
In these few days, the opportunity to look back to re-assess the events that have shaped my life has been well exploited. During the “where do you feel home” discussion in Colonization and its impact on Indigenous Peoples’ Health & Healing course, a unique experience was emotionally comfortable enough to look back at my life. Through our discussions, re-evaluation of numerous occurrences that were often concealed and unpleasant to face was made possible. Things that were never considered as real issues but then having a second thought about them led to several rhetorical questions.
Just like other individuals, my personal values, beliefs and attitudes have contributed to my self-development throughout the course of my life. Personal past events, experiences, and failures in life have all played significant roles in contributing to my current state and perspective from which my immediate environment and the world at large are viewed. In my life course, I have often worked with vulnerable people and also encountered people who may have a lifestyle considered as being different or unacceptable by the mainstream society. However, one of my greatest error towards this people is the biases that I have had towards them through my personal values, beliefs and attitudes.
The passion to positively impact people with my skills and abilities has always been my dream. As a child, I remember how I used to help people who were in need. I always tried to be kind to 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 many of 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 the pain of an empty stomach or had to struggle to make a living off the land with little or no education to back up their choices. Still, the question I always ask my self is; what is a man without culture? Am I culture-less? I sometimes wonder how my life would have been if I had grown up in one place. Will it have been different or same as it is now? How would it have been like to live in the village, where I had to go to the farm and hear the birds or even walk on the streets of Accra and play in the sand with friends who have known me since nursery school.
At times, I dislike the fact that I have to dig within me to provide a complicated response when I am asked simple questions like who you are. However, I am glad for the opportunities and experiences that I have had which often makes me feel like a citizen of the world. The fact that I have lived in different places and experienced different cultures has given me a story to tell in a different way as I chose. The feeling of wearing different mask and the fact that I choose to be whoever I want to be wherever I go has thought me that being rootless doesn’t mean I don’t belong to a place rather it means I choose to belong to many places as I please! All this experience has been exhausting but I am certain about a particular thing which is; no matter how old I grow, I know I will always question my roots at different point in time. Regardless all the challenges I have gone through, one thing remains true and that is the fact that all these experiences have been valuable to my life.
2. IDENTITY CRISES
As a Ghanaian born European bred, coming to Canada as a student has been a dream of mine since high school days. This is because I have always seen Canada as the “Perfect Heaven” on earth. A place where lots of people are willing to migrate without thinking twice. Trust me, if someone had ever told me there was history of Colonialism in Canada, I wouldn’t have believed it. Every expatriate deals with culture shock at one point in time but be certain when I say that mine was devastating!
All these points comes along with a story, I moved to Italy somewhere around 7 years of age from Ghana (West-Africa) to join my parents. A decision I didn’t participate to realize. My initial experiences in Italy was quite positive and during my whole time there, I didn’t realize I suffered from an identity crisis, but I knew I had become too disconnected from my culture, homeland and community. My identity crises began when I wanted to discover the reason driving lots of people to cross the Mediterranean sea to Europe. A journey whereby people put their lives at risk as they go on a boat 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 in Brescia(Italy) where many of these refugees started asking me if I had an idea about my culture. This at first wasn’t bothering me but as time passed by, I realized I needed to discover myself and give myself an identity.
From that 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 wonder whether the question refers to my nationality, where I was born, my current place of stay or where my family lives. This is a question I consider the most nail-biting and anxiety-inducing which usually requires an in-depth explanation of my life story. The explanation gets more complicated when you have lived in 6 different countries consisting of 3 different continents. The concept of home and giving a definition to it becomes one of the most difficult questions I hardly find an answer to. The definition people give to it doesn’t mean the same thing to me.
With all these years spent outside my home country and my inability to fit into all these countries that hosted me is a sensation which gives me the ideology that I fit everywhere and nowhere.
3. CANADA: MY WAKE-UP CALL
Just as many people, I have my biases, and this may be due to the fact that I often see things from one perspective. Indeed, coming to Canada has been my wake-up call. Prior to my arrival, I imagined it as the perfect place, as I always say the clean version of the United States of America. The land without faults where there will be no homeless living on the street, but my after-arrival discovery is what made the difference. Colonialism, reserve schools, stigma and racism are all things I reserved for the apartheid event in South Africa and Namibia. Notwithstanding, the things I have discovered in these five months of stay in Canada enabled me to understand that biases do not only occur when conducting 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 has provided me a different worldview of life. Prior to my arrival to Canada, I had never heard of the word “Indigenous” or “Aboriginal” which as at now I can’t really tell the difference unless with the help of google. The history of the Indigenous people of Canada, their cultural belief, cultural diversity and survival has enlarged my way of thinking. It has shown me that things are often different from the way we see it and at times making an argument from one direction can be a symbol of real ignorance.
This journey has been my greatest wake up call and I deeply wish a lot of people can also come to realize that there are different realities outside. I have developed a strong question which I might never be able to find answers to that is; Do the people who cross the Mediterranean sea to Europe have my same ideology of a perfect Europe? I guess not. However, this is a question I might never get answer from.
I have always had the idea of holding a multi-dimensional worldview since I have spent significant part of my life in different countries which I presumed was enough. I thought that reading about the two world wars, learning to be tolerant, adaptable and flexible were skills that could take me everywhere. However, it seems apparent that moving from one country to another, knowing a part of the world 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 students, until we develop a critical tool to assess and explore it, we will always remain ignorant.
This whole experience has proved to me that we never know what the true meaning of “discovering ourselves” mean until we face a shock. In my case, I call it the Canadian wake-up call.