Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lives Apart: comparing Canada and Ghana

Happy belated New Year – can you say that? Like with Birthdays?

I have been home – across the world and back – for the holiday season. It’s surreal to visit your family as a guest, a fly on the wall of their collective reality, when mine is so different and so far away. I pick and choose which parts of home to embrace, and which to leave behind; remove my emotional investment.

There is a price to be paid for this definitely. I think over the years it has eroded my sense of home in it’s entirety. Sentimentality is replaced by a certain cynisism and the problems of the West seem to pale in comparison to what I see on the streets of Ghana. I am left in limbo. Not truly immersed in or entrapped by what being here means to it’s people, yet so far removed from what it means to live in a Western society, with reliable water and power and shopping malls on every corner.

I found an interesting website, If It Were My Home, that points out how different our lives are, based on the ‘lottery’ of where as a human soul, we are born.

It’s very North American centric, but allows you to compare the standards of living in Canada or America to most any other country in the world.

Below is a snapshot of a comparative analysis between Canada and Ghana.



What strikes me is what the statistics don't say. What they cannot. Like the fact that if you are in Ghana in January, you will wake up to a sky full of sand, blown far from it's home in the Sahara desert - it is in your teeth, all over your home. You wake unsquinting to a sun that stares back at you - calmly and defined like the moon, easily visible through the haze. The light of the day like a permanent twilight will guide and mold your mood. This is the unknown season of harmattan...

The stats cannot explain the fact that you will have no idea, no concept of what it is to walk outside to the assault of a Canadian winter morning cold. The kind that takes your breath away and brings you to tears instantly. Your eyelashes, coated with your tears, instantly become icicles. The tips of your ears, if uncovered, begin to lose feeling and you are overcome by shivers.

Life in two places can be so very different, and living between the two is a surreal experience indeed.
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11 comments:

NuminosityBeads said...

That is so true, your last two paragraphs. The poetry behind the stats. Well put!
( I have had the eyelash icicles and nostril crystals myself)

xoxo Kim

Janet said...

too true!

happy 2011 to you too

Expat mum said...

Your thoughts on the accident of birth are mine too. I try to tell my kids how lucky they are. Not by the West's material standards, but simply because they were born in a country where they stand a better chance of being healthy.
(Probably visiting Accra this summer!)

The pale observer said...

Expat Mum - let me know if your plans come together - I have lots of info about Ghana and would also love to meet u :)

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

Your writing is so clear and it conveys your feelings so well. Having lived in various poor, non-Western countries for many years, I know how surreal it is to come back to the West. It never becomes "normal" again. There is always the awareness of the "other" life, the other reality that is so different.

The pale observer said...

@MF - yes, I guess it never leaves you. How many years have you been back in 'the west' now? Do u think u will ever feel fully immersed and at home?

Anonymous said...

it seems almost like the motion between the two seemingly fixed positions is more real...almost hyper-real -- which would make only ever occupying one position the thing that's surreal.

k

Anonymous said...

I mean, I wonder why we often feel like our reality is less real when we find ourselves occupying inbetween spaces, when it's that inbetweenness that enables us to see more of reality.

metaphysical musings from vancouver...

The pale observer said...

Both Anons - so true! I think if I was stuck in one or the other, I would be so much more limited and so less able to see 'more of reality'. Thanks for the insight...

Celeste said...

This reminds me of the strange feelings I used to experience when returning to the UK whilst living in Zambia. That of an observer, an outsider. It gives you an entirely different perspective on what really matters in life.

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