“So, how was Africa?” – A letter to friends, family, and supporters of a short-term overseas volunteer

Hey everyone,

I am now officially back from Ghana, and sitting in the living room of my apartment with Steve in Ottawa.  It’s hard to believe that I’m actually back here and that it’s been 5 months since I left.  Wow… overwhelming! Sometimes I’m so happy, sometimes angry… hopeful, excited, or just plain emotional. I’m all over the place, like a roller-coaster.  I’m really excited to be back (and especially thankful to my wonderful boyfriend, Steve, and one of my favourite couples, Anne and Ryan, for picking me up at the airport in Toronto – and bringing some winter clothes!).

I’m excited for many things back in Canada.  I want to go skating on the canal, eat all the food I missed, snuggle with my boyfriend, and watch all the new movies in theaters with my friends. Although job hunting really sucks, I’m excited for the new opportunities I will eventually become part of. I’m a bit nervous that my relationships will have changed, and that uncomfortable silences and awkward moments will be the norm.  I’m worried I’ll forget who I once was, and the city I’ve always called home.  I’m scared that I’ll forget all the important lessons I learned about gratitude, patience, understanding, and “going with the flow”.  But most of all I’m excited for my life to continue, filled with new friends, experiences, and wonderful memories.


As my friends and family, I know you care and want want the best for me.  I know you want to hear all about my trip but don’t know what to ask.  However, when I get the question… “So, how was Africa?”, or “How was it?”, or “Tell me about the last 6 months”, I’m a bit overwhelmed… I don’t know where to start, and I don’t know how to give you the stories you want to hear. Instead, think about what you love.  Are you interested in art…? If so, ask me about dancing, or the music, or the clothes people wear.  Are you interested in money…? If so, ask me what kind of jobs people have, how to haggle with taxi drivers, or what street hawkers are like.  Are you interested in people…? If so ask me about how they take care of babies or what the gender dynamics are.  These types of specific questions will give me a much better idea of where to start, and will help you possibly learn something new (that you care about!).

As EWBers and other NGOs I know you want to hear all about my work.  However, when you ask “What was your impact?” I’m at a loss to describe everything I worked on over the past half year.  Perhaps instead you could ask me what the highlight of my placement was or to tell you what our curriculum focused on.  More specific questions will give me the chance to tell you what you really want to know.  Even more importantly, I would appreciate your support in the transition back home.  So maybe don’t just ask me about work, but ask how I’m doing and if I want to go for a coffee.  Getting re-accustomed to life in Canada and just sitting down to talk with friends is currently my top priority.  Perhaps half-way through that coffee we’ll talk about work, but before we do I’d love to related to you as a fellow caring human being.  I think you can all handle that! 🙂

So thank you in advance for asking me great questions, and giving me a chance to talk about my experience  I know three-quarters of my stories for the next few months will likely start with “In Ghana…” and you might get annoyed, but please be patient.  That has been my most recent frame of reference, and I don’t yet have very many interesting stories to share with you about life back home.  In time those will come.  I missed you all, and I look forward to the chance to become reacquainted with you wonderful people!

With gratitude,

– Amanda

P.S. I had planned to post all my blogs about Ghana before leaving, but of course that didn’t happen! If you’re interested in a specific topic or aspect of life in Ghana, and won’t get a chance to see me in person, then feel free to comment or email me asking to talk about it on my blog.  There’s no such thing as a stupid question! 🙂 Stay tuned in the days, weeks and months to come for more thoughts and experiences related to my EWB Ghana placement!


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
This entry was posted in Ghana (2014) - Professional Fellow Placement (EWB), Opinions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “So, how was Africa?” – A letter to friends, family, and supporters of a short-term overseas volunteer

  1. jblechta says:

    Well said. I struggled with the questions or lack thereof when I got back too. Good call on giving some examples, that should help.

    I’d love to get a coffee or a beer when you’re ready after the holidays.


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