By Isabella Harnick
It was 5:00 a.m. in Ghana, and senior Annabelle Golden was already doing her chores with her host mother, Joycee. Over the course of the next six hours, Golden would use a nail and string to make sure that the walls for the school she and 15 others were building were straight. After working up a sweat, Golden would cool off in an open outdoor shower—without any running water. She had to use a bucket to escape the 112 degree heat.
This past summer, Golden went on a trip to Ghana for two weeks and Morocco for another two weeks with Rustic Pathways, an organization that provides opportunities for students to travel to communities around the world. After a trip to Thailand the previous summer, she knew she had to take a similar trip this year. “I was really excited to make more friends and to be in a new and exciting place with interesting people,” said Golden.
However, living in Africa was no easy task. During Golden’s stay in Cape Coast, her hotel burned down, leaving her and her friends without any of their belongings. But having to share whatever they still had only brought Golden and her friends closer together.
She faced another obstacle when Joycee cooked a rat for dinner. Golden decided she had no choice but to feign illness so that she could go to sleep without having to taste this exotic delicacy. “It obviously wasn’t the most comfortable circumstance, but I managed,” Golden said. “When you are faced with unusual situations, you often surprise yourself with how well you can handle them.”
Golden also realized how fortunate she is to attend school and have the ability to help others. “One day in Ghana, I was talking with a village school teacher while holding four-year-old Maggie, a child attending school at a nearby village, on my hip. I learned that Maggie’s mom had to stop sending Maggie to school because she could no longer afford it. The monthly fee to attend school there is ten cedis or $2.50.” Approaching the chaos of senior year college applications, Golden now has a new perspective on the school year ahead.
After being 5,123 miles away from home for four weeks, Golden faced a huge cultural shock when she returned to JFK Airport. “I was accustomed to being in hot weather, going to sleep at 9:00 p.m., and wearing conservative clothing. When my mom picked me up at the airport, I saw girls wearing jean shorts, and I was embarrassed and uncomfortable for them, even though I knew that their outfits are culturally acceptable in the States.”
Golden “totally” recommends participating in the program. She is already signed up for next year! Look out, Mongolia—Annabelle Golden is coming soon!