My month spent studying abroad in northern Ghana was most definitely a transformative experience. I came away with a new understanding of heat, an obsession with mangos and a deep love for a culture that emphasizes kindness above all else. However, it would be remiss of me to display these photos without recognizing the slew of political issues that come with photographing people, and especially children, abroad.

My fellow students and I had daily discussions about how uncomfortable we felt in certain situations, as a group of anthropology and African studies majors are bound to do. Our professor, from a different era and with less sensitivity to the political effect a group of Americans can have abroad, placed us in many situations where we felt extremely uneasy. Once, our plans suddenly changed from visiting a school on a weekend with a few donations, to interrupting classes in the middle of a busy school day with immense fanfare. I was forced to confront my discomfort and the political and historical context of my skin color.

But this is a photo story about northern Ghana, not a space for my personal reflections. I should explain that these children repeatedly asked me to “snap” their photo. So I did, they laughed at themselves frozen on my camera screen, and I taught them how to “snap” me.

So: this is who I met, these are the photos I brought back.

A young girl named Dora sat with us while we worked in Nangodi, Ghana. The scar on her left cheek is typical in the north and identifies her as a member of the local tribe.

We met Dora’s older sister outside the local health clinic./figcaption>

I spent most afternoons getting to know the two daughters of the manager of our hostel. Vanessa, twelve years old, was one of the strongest, most gentle people I’ve ever met.

This beauty joined us while we waited for our bus.

Mathilda, a schoolmate of Vanessa’s, hung around the hostel after school most days.

The girls taught us schoolyard songs and dances, not unlike the ones I remember from my childhood recesses.

Vincentia, a five year-old firecracker, was the highlight of my trip and my best friend in Bolgatanga.

Vincentia and her best friend try on the hat and bag of our Ph.D student guide.

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