How to survive "GMT": Ghana Maybe Time

Ghana: Where nothing goes as planned and everything works out beautifully anyway.

I’m officially at the half-way point of my internship in Ghana! Three and a half months in, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I’ve changed and what I’ve learned so far. What stands out the most to me right now is my ability to go with the flow, particularly when it comes to work. I like schedules, love lists and having things planned makes me very happy.

Generally, I like order and what I think is efficient. However, I’ve learned very quickly that “flexible” and “adaptable” aren’t just skills you put on your resume; they’re survival skills. If you can’t go with the flow here, you will go crazy.

Case in point, I had planned a two-week work trip to Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana and set the dates with my co-worker there over a month in advance—or so I thought.

Leading up to and during the visit, the following things happened:

  • The set dates for my visit were changed twice.
  • The second date change came when I learned by fluke that my YMCA counterpart—who not only was I to be working with, but arranged my lodging and appointments for the week—was out of the country and would not be back before I was supposed to leave. Since I had no idea what the arrangements were, the only thing I could do was wait to hear from him.

  • As I was about to leave my office in Accra on the day I should have traveled to Kumasi, he appeared and said I should be prepared to leave at 7 a.m. the next day. (Oh, and that he would be out of town for four of the nine working days we had.
  • I was never sure who was going to show up for my Saturday workshop because nearly everyone we met on the street received an impromptu invite.

  • We spent the days leading up to the workshop running around the city trying to get things together without any real plan.
  • On Saturday, the workshop was supposed to start at 10 a.m., so adjusting for “African time” we told everyone to be there for 9 a.m. Most people didn’t arrive until 11 a.m.

Previously these things would have driven me absolutely crazy. (What do you mean we don’t have a plan? How am I supposed to get organized if I don’t know who’s coming?) But I’ve learned to let go and to trust my co-workers who know what works here far better than I do.

The result is that things always turn out better than I could have imagined. My workshop was success and my time in Kumasi, though random, has been so wonderful that I don’t want to go back to Accra.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Camaro West

Born on the island of St. Kitts and raised in the suburbs of Toronto, Camaro West is a self-described traveller, sometimes documentary filmmaker, published author and dreamer with a Masters in International Development. She is currently on a seven-month internship in Ghana, where she is working as a Gender Advisor with the Ghana YMCA and Youth Challenge International through CIDA’s International Youth Internship Program.


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