One of my coaching questions for the past week was around how I’m keeping my heartspace connected to my work. I have to applaud Mina for his ability to be incredibly topical with his coaching questions every week, because so far he’s managed to ask questions that have been turbo relevant to my own thoughts and also to the learning opportunities that have arisen through my placement. Well, this week’s learning opportunity came in a very surprising form. I like to think of personal development from an entrepreneurial perspective, though, so I jumped at the opportunity for learning when I recognized it.
My friend Aziz asked me earlier in the week if I’d like to go to Tamale’s (in)famous Royal Nite Club with him. “Plenty white people will be there,” he assured me with a smile. I told him that in fact, I’m somehow avoiding other Soulemingas, but that I’d go. I figured this would be a good chance to experience one more aspect of Ghanaian culture that might contrast with my experiences in Canada. I convinced my other friend Danjuma to come with us and of course my partner in crime Bailey was down as well.
So on Saturday night after a power nap, the four of us headed out of Sagnarigu towards town. “This feels a lot like first year,” Bailey remarked, carefully choosing her next step on the red dirt road–heels were not made for village life. Her words were a good frame for the rest of the evening. We walked to the first taxi stand and caught a taxi into town. Then, we caught another taxi to Royal. The whole trip took about twenty five minutes. We made our way to the side door of a sketchy building past a guy selling kebab. The doorman greeted us without checking our IDs, so we continued into the building and down a hallway smelling of bleach (oddly comforting) and through a pair of big scary double doors.
…Into an empty club. It was about 10 p.m. at this point. Not to worry, though! There was pool to be played and beer or malta to be had. We hung out, laughed, and played pool until things picked up and people started to arrive, at which point we hit the dance floor. We stayed until just after midnight, when exhaustion got the best of us. Then we trekked home in a similar manner to how we arrived (although with a little more haggling of the taxi driver).
Before falling asleep, I couldn’t help but think how normal the experience was. Bailey’s words could not have been more correct; my Saturday night in Sagnarigu was almost exactly the same as a Saturday night could have gone in Ottawa in first year, when bussing to Hull to party was no big deal. I had jumped at the opportunity to see what differences exist between my Tamale and Ottawa experiences and I had been warned that there would be plenty by past JFs and current APS. But I didn’t really see that many.
Sure, the club itself was a bit dilapidated. Okay, the beer was extra awful. Yes, there was an odd excess of mirrors in the club, and the music was 10-15 years old. Still, it didn’t feel all that different. There was still pool. Things still didn’t pick up until way too late. There were still groups of women dancing and solitary men looking for some lovin’. I had gone in with all these expectations of differences, only to be disappointed.
I think it’s better this way, though, because I immediately had an answer to Mina’s question. I can keep my heartspace connected to my work by living the life of a Tamalean 21 year-old and, in doing so realize that it’s not all that different from the life of an Ottawan 21 year-old. There are so many things that cut across culture and socioeconomic status and these things are what bind us all together. These are the things that make what I’m doing relevant and they’ll keep my heart in it.