With My Host Family in Ghana
I was in Spain when I lost my wallet. On the streets of Cadiz, it seamlessly disappeared. As if things could get any worse, my only emergency debit card was swallowed hours later by an ATM. I didn’t enter my pin fast enough. Panic mode. It was too late in the night to have someone from the bank retrieve it. There was no way I was calling my family back home – they were already reluctant of my decision to partake in such an adventure, spending a semester aboard a ship voyaging to twelve countries: why not stay on campus, or study abroad in France instead? “I told you so”, mom would say.
The very next day, we were embarking for Ghana, and I had nothing but $50 in my cabin. Because I hadn’t made any plans and I didn’t know where I would be staying in Ghana, there was no way to have any money wired to me. Amid my personal distress, I rationalized that $50 would be enough for me to have at least two meals a day for the five days I would be there.
“It’ll be fine. I won’t starve,” I told myself.
I ended up being much more than fine. I had arranged to Couchsurf with a family in Ghana that I only knew through email; there was no WiFi on the ship, so I wasn’t even able to download their pictures. The first time I met them was at the port, shortly after we docked. Olivia, my Couchsurfing host, slapped my hand as I picked at my fingers – the same way my mother does. I was home. For months, I hadn’t really been part of a “home”—sure, the ship was home, but nothing compares to being part of a family – if only for five days.
Sharing my last meal with the Bennehs, I couldn’t stop thinking about coming back to Ghana. But when? Perhaps never? The rush of emotions led me to a solution for the separation: I thought about recreating our experience by Skyping and virtually sharing a meal. I would collect the ingredients for the recipe — the ripe plantains, the rice, the tomato paste, the beans — and make the meal alongside them. I would then sit on my living room floor and eat with my hands, as if I was there in Accra with them. This would be almost as close as being in their kitchen.
That was the moment that gave birth to the idea for my social venture – KitchenConnection.org – why not open this opportunity to the world? Fast-forward. Four years later, that serendipitous moment of despair in Spain has turned into my entire professional life. Last year, Ophelia asked me to be her maid of honor. Ghana wanted me back after all.
Back on the ship, I created a note on my phone called “A Table for Two,” and every time I thought of something that would work for my then-imaginary foodie site, I wrote them down in the note. Fast-forward. I decided to go back on the ship to back on the ship for a second semester on board, this time focusing on social entrepreneurship courses and participating in as many mentorship opportunities as possible. Fast-forward: off the boat and three years later, we begin our Kitchen Connection adventure.