Strange, Annoying, & Healthy Habits

In Accra, The Art of Travel Spring 2015, The Quotidian by Lydia Cap2 Comments

Ghana has made me feel like a mom. I plan out my days at least 24 hours ahead of time, and I carry a tote bag full of anything I could possibly need whenever I leave the house. I am extremely conscious of my own health, and that of everyone I live with. I grocery shop a week and a half in advance. I wash dishes right after I dirty them, and do my laundry on a weekly schedule. I go to bed around 10 every night, and wake up on my own between 6 and 7 every morning–even on weekends. If my mom could see me right now, she’d be so proud.

In New York I have a strict daily routine. I wake up two hours before I need to be anywhere so I can take my time getting ready. I work out, shower, eat breakfast, get dressed, pull my hair and makeup together, and head out the door. In Ghana I wake up two hours before I need to be anywhere so I have enough time to go to the water tank and fill up a bucket for my bath if there is no power. Hair and makeup are the last things on my mind because I’ll be so sweaty in an hour anyways, so there is no point in trying to look nice.

I’ve also stopped procrastinating (what!!!!!) because of the power and Internet outages. To prevent our generator from overheating, it is shut off from 10AM to 1PM on random days; sometimes when the power comes back the Internet doesn’t, and sometimes the generator does overheat so we don’t have power until someone comes to fix it. Every night before I go to bed, I make sure I know what to do incase there is an outage the next day: maybe I’ll read, or go to the gym, or plan to run errands. And if I have power and/or Internet, you better believe I am on my computer doing all of my homework for the next week that requires computer or Internet access. Only when I’m done with my work will I let myself watch a Desperate Housewives marathon.

Leaving the house, even if I’m only going to be away for twenty minutes, is an ordeal. Did I put on sunscreen? Did I put on bug spray? Do I have my malaria pills with me? Do I have enough water? During my first few weeks here, I always forgot something. Now I have become an expert at packing a day bag: I always carry a huge water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, a book (because “Ghanaian time” is often verrrrrrrry slow), a snack, and extra toilet paper because I have yet to see a non-NYU bathroom that has any.

When I tell friends and family back home about the habits I’ve picked up here, they pity me because, honestly, taking bucket baths and constantly feeling sweaty does suck. Obviously I was not a happy camper the first time we had a long power outage, but as I’ve gotten used to them, and gotten used to the rest of the strange habits I’ve had to pick up, I’ve realized that I am much more productive here than I am in New York. My life is more about function than fashion, and I’ve become a better, healthier person because of it. I stress less about turning assignments in and finishing readings on time. I am confident not because of what I look like in the mornings, but because I know how to make do with what I have–even if that means walking around with greasy hair for a day. Now I just have to figure out how to keep these habits once I return to New York!



  1. Dear Lydia,
    That is amazing!! Wow, it sounds like you are living an entirely different life from mine in Sydney! I admire your decision to study in Ghana, away from so many of the comforts of living in the City! It sounds like it is really paying off, since you seem to be developing skills and traits that are invaluable; self discipline, self reliance, etc. It seems like living in Ghana has stripped away much of the extraneous ‘bs’ that clutters the lives of many in 1st world countries (Waaayyyy too much vanity, for example). Even by simply reading your article, I feel more appreciation for the luxuries and conveniences I have. I hope the rest of your time in Ghana continues to be such a rewarding adventure!

    Avanty K.

  2. Dear Lydia,

    This is the best, most insightful post I have read. I could actually feel your pain as I read your blog but I’m extremely pleased with your ending. Not only would your mother be proud, but I’m sure humanity would applaud you. We all need a little bit of this in our lives–a chance to recognize luxury from necessity. That internet, a workspace, and even homework is totally a luxurious aspect of life and as much as I spend days and days dreading next weeks homework (and truthfully, last week’s unfinished homework), I know this is completely childish and ungrateful behavior. In some ways, Ghana was exactly how I imagined it would be and in many other ways, thanks to your post and other Ghana-students’ stories, completely different. It makes me feel like city-life is almost hellishly frivolous compared to what the world actually has to offer you. The idea of function and prioritizing is something that is lost on so many of us, it feels like a gift. Thank you for this valuable lesson and the amazing post. I hope you have a blast in Ghana and have tons more to teach us!


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