After over a week of intense bloging writers' block I finally have a lot I want to say. Today I experienced the biggest culture shock I've had since I arrived over a month ago. It slapped me in the face harder than the realization that there is no 911 here, scary.
This cataclysmic crash into reality happened in my social work class, entitled "Working with People Living with HIV/AIDS." Although I have already had this class multiple times, before today there was only slight foreshadowing of the extreme narrow mindedness shared by both the students and the teachers in this class. Aside from making multiple statements that prolong false myths and fears related to HIV contraction, the professor gave us a startling lecture about gender and sexuality, my minor, and a subject I feel very passionately about. Aside from her false definitions of sex and gender, she also told the class that people needing counseling due to sexual deviance were homosexuals, lesbians (as if they don't also fall into the category of homosexuality), "masturbaters," and those engaging in bestiality. I don't know if I have ever felt such an extreme array of emotions at once. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, and I even wanted to laugh. It all was just too much for me to handle. I knew that Ghanaians frowned on homosexuality (enough so that sodomy is illegal), but I never thought a professor for a course that deals specifically with a sexually transmitted disease would share such discriminatory views.
The horrifically false statements only continued with hypothetical situations of people contracting HIV from sharing toothbrushes and unclean manicure instruments. When I joined this class I was excited to be at the forefront of West African HIV education and prevention techniques, joining the most progressive Ghanaians in a quest to de-stigmatize a disease that not only ends people's physical lives, but due to stigma, ends their personal and social lives as well. However, I was greatly disappointed by what I found. As someone who is usually very outspoken about my own sexuality, I am scared to openly speak to my classmates and peers for fear of being ostracized.
Rough day, but at least my Theater for Development class is incredible. We're making a puppet show to educate people about climate change... I won't even get started on all of the misconceptions related to the environment, but at least we're working towards a good goal, which is more than I can say for our HIV class.