By Abdul Razaak Adams (YES 2017-18, Ghana, hosted with American Councils in Raleigh, NC)
One of my YES program goals was to learn more about American holidays and how Americans celebrate other major holidays. I was especially interested in experiencing Christmas. I live in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and all I witness are product promotions, loud music, club parties and of course chicken; which is almost every other holiday.
I was hosted in Raleigh, NC, a nice, fairly quiet city. A week before Christmas we started to get the decorations ready for our freshly bought tree. We also began to buy gifts for each other. Yes, I bought gifts for all five people in my host family -- my host brother from Kyrgyzstan, my two host brothers and two host parents.
We decorated our tree beautifully with a large star on the top and placed it in a corner of the living room. We baked chocolate chip cookies and watched a family movie the night before. My brother from Kyrgyzstan, Meder, was so excited to watch the movie “Elf.” It was really nice spending time with the family after the hard work of decorating the whole house so that the ghost of Christmas present didn’t come to claim we do not have the Christmas spirit. We opened our presents the next morning and had a wonderful dinner with family friends living nearby.
I wanted to get involved in the celebrations as much as I could. I was in a chorus class in my high school, Athens Drive Magnet, and I had also joined the Cary Alliance Church group to sing carols.
The second holiday I really enjoyed was Halloween. I asked my host dad what Halloween was and he gave me a great history lesson! What I saw most people doing on Halloween was carving pumpkins and playing dress up as your worst nightmare or role model.
For Halloween, I volunteered to work in a haunted house on the scare team. I had to do my makeup with a little help from my friends and it turned out pretty good. It was great scaring people. I also carved pumpkins with Meder. I carved out a witch and he carved out a scary pumpkin face. Yes, it was very gross. Of course, we got help from our host dad. My coordinator came along with some Halloween themed donuts as part of the celebration. They were exquisite.
I cannot leave out Thanksgiving when I’m talking about American holidays. We traveled to my host uncle’s house in Virginia to spend the holiday. I think I ate the most in those three days we spent there than in my whole stay in America. My host mum’s relatives were amazing cooks. They whipped up a golden-brown turkey and all the other things like cheesecake, stuffing and so many other dishes. We played board games like Monopoly, Risk, and Telestrations. I lost most of them by the way. The family was happy and easy conversation flowed among us. The holidays I spent were honestly very interesting and drew me closer to my host family. We played, cooked, laughed, worked and talked to each other more than on a regular day. All the holiday preparations brought us together and we managed to keep that togetherness even after it was over. We learnt many things from each other. I was mostly doing the learning part. And we understood each other better after learning about our differences and why we’re so different. It was all well worth it