So the short answer to this is I have no fucking clue. Or even, right now, I’m lying under a fan with a toothbrush sticking out of my mouth.
But these are both just cop out crappy one liners compared to what I’m really doing (the non philosophical version).
First I think it’s important I explain how I got into this and what i thought it was. About a year ago this month I finally decided it was time to move on from my job and that I was going to quit before Christmas. To put it in context I guess, I had been working for this genetics company for about 2.5 years. It was good fun but I had to have a month off work due to stress induced RSI. When I came back in September I found that the promotion and pay rise I’d been pushing for for over about a year to bring me on par with my peers at the company and had been a partial cause to my being off had been officially agreed to, but somehow also not really.
Not pleased, I asked about it and my boss said it was out of her hands, by then and I should speak to HR. HR said it wasn’t up to them and I should speak to my boss. Now this wasn’t the only thing going on there that made me choose to leave then as if it was I feel I had a fairly strong position to argue from, but I decided the writing was on the wall and now was the time: No house, no girlfriend, no pets. Fancied a bit of a career change so yeah, let’s jump with no safety net! You only live once and work was seriously getting me down.
The only problem was I had no idea what I should do.
I realised quite quickly though that it was a great opportunity to go traveling for previously mentioned reasons, but I was basically at a loss how I could so it on a shoestring budget as I’d not been preparing for quitting and going traveling for more than a few months and so had no special money saved.
Luckily on a week-long mid-December Welsh hiking holiday (try saying that fast) with friends and some family someone mentioned this website called helpX.net where you can organise stays with people where you work 20-30 hours a week for free room and board, anywhere in the world!
So after quitting before Christmas, watching work go into mild panic on my leaving, shipping my stuff down to a shed in Dorset I call “bedroom at Ma and Pa’s”, spending a month in said bedroom faffing and applying for some PhD I saw… I ended up heading to France.
Oh yes, for poetic license reasons, Ghana hadn’t even entered my mind yet! No, I was hitchhiking and helpxing around France, lack of French be damned. These two months were actually really good fun! I stayed with two really lovely couples and one less than lovely couple (but being a camel farm made up for that slightly).
8t was while I was at the first place around when I didn’t get the PhD that I started thinking France, while quite…. French, just wasn’t feeling that adventurous. So I started using helpX to see what else was out there. After some thoughts about heading to Iceland (because Iceland), and Nigeria (because my mum was born there) I decided to investigate Ghana on a bit of a whim.
There were only 4 listings in Ghana, and only one that I thought sounded good that was asking for people to come and teach at their newly built high school. So I emailed them and asked about the possibility of my coming and could we discuss it some more. Their reply was, and I kid you not when I say their reply was almost verbatim: “yes, I have talked to everyone and we are all excited for your arrival. Please let us when you will arrive so we can sort things out from there.”
Holeeeely Shit! Ok, so I admit I kind of panicked at that and umm’ed and err’ed and said I didn’t know when I could come as I had to wait to find out if I had an interview for a PhD I’d applied for, which was technically true at the time.
What it wasn’t true for, was for the several months I left it after that that I didn’t contact them over. By the time I did get back in contact I had taken some very good advice from someone I trust and was off to Bali with some cousins of mine. I learnt a bit more about the school, how big it was, what age the students were, what they would want me to teach, if I went (i was quite clear on the fact…). All was going well until I found another damnable PhD that this time I really liked the look of!
So I think a fairly big point I need to make at this stage is that up until now I’ve let my over-thinking mind try and decide what I should want to so, ignoring all those pesky feeling emanating from beneath my lungs. A big part of the mental growth I am going through eight now is to tell my mind to shut the fuck up, for lack of a better expression, so to find a PhD that made me feel this way is a huge step. So I applied and put Ghana on hold again, but this time letting them know what was going on.
While waiting for the PhD I learned, firstly and most worryingly, that my contact at the school I would be teaching at (if I didn’t get the PhD and went to Ghana instead), didn’t actually work at the school.
Me: I’m sorry, excuse me, what?! Then who the hell are you?
Them: Ummm, just a concerned member of the community.
Me: Soooo… Does the school even know about me then?
Them: Here are two contacts at the school for you to talk to, feel free to ask any questions of them you want. One is a geography teacher, one is an English teacher.
Me: aren’t I meant to be teaching science.
Them: yes, but they will answer any questions you have anyway.
Me: [Questions galore]
Them: [actually fairly food answers]
Me: [more questions]
Them: [more good answers]
So this is probably about the point I decide that after over 8 weeks of not hearing anything I haven’t got the PhD so I easily shift on to applying for the 1 year Ghanaian volunteer visa and start looking at flights.
I think the shift is so easy as although I would have honestly loved to have gotten the PhD, by this stage I’m also pretty excited about going to Ghana. I’ve already been getting vaccinations all summer in preparation. Oncey visa arrived back, flights are all still fairly cheap so all is a go!
I knew were I was going and how I’d get there, I knew I was going to teach science and maybe ICT at a senior high school of about 500 16-20 year olds and that their reading age is about 4 years below that in the UK. I knew they lacked resources but stubbornly and annoyingly, not what (I took pens and paper and was way off).
And that’s it, I’ve been here 5 days so far now, and although I tried not to form any expectations back in the UK, it’s completely not like anything I expected here and for the most part, I really haven’t known what’s going on day to day or even hour to hour in regards to me. I’ve got a bungalow with a bed, a desk, and a selling light and fan, but that’s about it. No hot water, no curtains. Waay too much food, but no real idea what I’m meant to be doing yet.
What will I actually be doing?! Well, I’ll let you know that when I actually find out.