The last year has presented many temptations to leave the United States: the catastrophic mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the social unrest in the streets, and an embarrassingly volatile presidential election that culminated in a violent storming of the US capital. However, I’ve been determined to leave the country ever since I took an internship in Switzerland in the summer of 2018. Once I received an offer to return to that company full time, I didn’t hesitate to leave the US behind.

I’m not prescribing emigrating as a panacea for the average American’s problems, nor is it fair or realistic…

Learning Twi has been, by far, the best part of my experience in Ghana. Not only has it helped make my life much easier by being able to find my way around, buy goods, and make friends, its given me greater insights to the Ghanaian culture than simply living here would have.

An excerpt from the Twi bible

Language reflects culture. Ghana is a communal culture, where the strength of the society stems from the interconnectedness of its people. It is important that when walking around town or in the workplace that you greet everyone the first time you see them. In Twi, maakye means good…

and how traditional wisdom could hold the anecdote

Africa, the land of malaria, HIV, and… hypertension.

“If HIV, with a national prevalence of 3.2%, constitutes a Millennium Development Goal challenge and commands multi-million dollar funding from Ghana’s development partners, why is hypertension, with a national prevalence of 28.7%, ignored?”. This statement is from “Ghana’s neglected chronic disease epidemic: a developmental challenge” published in the Ghana Medical Journal by Ama de-Graft Aikins.

Source: Novartis Foundation

Her point is a powerful one. The stereotype of Africa being a land of infectious diseases has allowed the chronic disease epidemic to sneak up on Ghana. In fact, HIV has a lower prevalence in Ghana than…

And how to actually make an impact

I first came to Ghana with a white savior mentality. I was going to make a difference. I was going to help the Ghanaian people. I was going to improve public health with my three-month research project. I was a student at the University of Michigan, and I would bring my brain power to help Africans improve their work. I was naïve.

The research project was purely an academic exercise. I was essentially helpless in the lab without Ghanaian scientists holding my hand. We generated good data, but had no end goal in mind, as it was conjured up by…

The stereotype is that Africa is hot, but Mampong’s high elevation makes the weather cool. There’s no greater feeling than waking up before dawn and feeling the cold morning dew. You literally feel like you are inside a cloud. The droplets that form on your skin are not sweat, but the condensation of the cool morning humidity. At night you definitely want to wear pants and something long sleeved. The environment is known for its biodiversity, filled with a variety of trees and birds. It’s a tropical paradise in many ways.

The Roadside in Mampong

Mampong is in a part of Ghana called Akuapem…

I’m not a software developer. To build our electronic medical record (EMR) software we used an open source platform called OpenMRS which you can build upon and customize with the fundamentals of HTML and MySQL coding. When we implemented these systems, I was not confident that they would be long-term solutions. I felt our EMR was certainly better than the paper based record systems most clinics in Ghana use, but I believed our implementations to be a temporary solution until someone legit like EPIC decided Ghana was worth investing in. Five years later however, most of Ghana is still using…

While the official language of Ghana is English, the predominately spoken language is Twi. I surprise a lot Ghanaians when I speak Twi. It usually goes something like this:

Oobrooni, 3t3 s3n? (White man, how are you?)
Bɔkkɔ. (Cool)
Eiii! wo t3 Twi? (Ah! You understand Twi?)
Aan3, 3tu Oburoni a, Ɔ Ka Twi. (Yes, when the challenge comes, the white man speaks Twi)

Twi is a beautiful language. It is poetic. It is tonal. There are many proverbs woven into daily conversations. It of course has no Latin roots, so the grammar is unique. Learning the language is the…

Alex Ocampo

Began writing to share my experiences in Ghana over the past decade. Originally from Ann Arbor, MI. I obtained a Ph.D. in Biostatistics from Harvard in 2020.

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