A “Hot” Trotro Ride, if you Please

I have been thinking for a while now about the next post I would write in this blog.  I had in mind a very serious and philosophical post about having the experience of being here in Ghana and how this country is such a dichotomy; contradictions everywhere.  I have it half written in my head because I really did have an amazing weekend and wanted to share it……..and then today happened…and I think this experience is so much more interesting.

Monday’s are the day I make the trek into Madina to volunteer at an organization that sells handmade quilts, bags and clothing and uses the profits to help pay school fees, supplies and whatnot for the children of the community who otherwise would be unable to attend school.  Anyway, I have just begun to feel confident about making this journey on my own which marks a bit of an accomplishment for me because I am directionally challenged and as such am actually fairly terrified of traveling in big cities alone (which Accra is).  Especially if I am unsure of exactly where I am headed (which today I was).  But there is nothing like facing a fear/phobia down and conquering it.

A side note here about the public transportation here called trotros.  A trotro is essentially a stripped-down minivan, usually packed with 12-15 people.  Most of the ones I have been on are fairly old and seem a bit mechanically edgy but hey…what the heck, it is how the locals get around, so why not?  Aside from the driver, there is a “mate” who hangs out the side of the van shouting out its destination to attract more riders; for example, if you are headed into downtown Accra he will shout something that sounds a lot like Kra kra kra kra kra!  The mates I have run across speak a little bit of English but not much, so it is good to know the lingo here.

I got on the first trotro this morning without incident and attempted to transfer to a second one headed in the direction I needed to go. I looked at the mate and asked “Arappa Jane?”, (the name of my stop). He nodded yes and said, “bra bra”! Which means come, come!, so I hopped on. It did not take me long to realize that the route we were taking did not look familiar to me. After I was quite certain I was lost I decided that I was not going to panic and to just go with the flow and see where this little adventure was going to take me while I formulated a plan of action. At this point the mate looked at me and asked me something in Twi (I really need to be studying my Twi more here) and I guessed he was asking me where I wanted to get off and told him again, “Arappa Jane”. He stared at me blankly for a moment and he and the driver started having a rapid conversation in Twi in which I strongly suspected that I was the subject of. The mate looked back at me and I could tell by the look on his face that I was not where I was supposed to be, at which point another passenger looked at me over his shoulder and told me I had missed my stop some time ago and that if I continued on, the trotro would  eventually turn around and drop me where I needed to go. It was here that the mate and driver decided that I needed to ride in the front seat, I am assuming because I needed a bit of ‘extra’ help, and off we went (the upswing of all of this is that now I know how to get to Botwe which is where we turned around). I thought this would be an interesting little diddy to tell my hubby in my daily email/text/video chat and that would be it.  But alas my day was not yet done.

After my work was finished for the day I walked the seven or so blocks to the nearest junction and got on another trotro headed to the market where my next junction was located, going the correct direction this time (Horay for small victories!).  We were about half way to where I was supposed to switch trotros when the driver just stopped and the mate looked at me and said “last stop”…okay.  So I got out and proceeded to walk to the next junction.  It was very hot today and I was soon soaked through with sweat but again in the spirit of making the most of it, decided to absorb the sights and sounds and just enjoy the little jaunt through the popular and very crowded market. I also have a bit of thing about crowds so again a good opportunity for some fear conquering here.

The driving here is a bit insane and we were told that cars here do NOT stop for pedestrians so don’t think crosswalks are safe, so by the time I got to the junction and I managed to cross the 4-lane highway without being struck by a vehicle I felt like I had all the fear conquering I could take in one day and was ready to melt into a puddle. Really I just wanted to get back to my room and turn the fan on high and wallow in the breeze.  I hopped on the trotro and we waited (no air conditioning mind you) jam packed into the van. We continued to wait in the hot van like roasting chickens for about 20 minutes for the vehicle blocking us in to move on and then thankfully we were off.

Sitting in the van next to me was an older gentleman, holding his briefcase on his lap. I am guessing he was somewhere in his 70’s.  He looked at me and smiled and asked me where I was headed.  I thought he was sweet and so I told him I was headed to the university. He asked how I liked Ghana and where I was from. He seemed grandfatherly so when he asked my name and told me his I thought at least I can share a bit of kindness with someone on this unbearably hot and oven like vehicle.

At this point he pulled out a small note book and started flipping through the pages and began writing on the first blank page he came to. He ripped out the page and handed it to me and smiled and told me he was giving me his phone number. I have heard other students talk about how some locals really like to exchange numbers and social media info with foreign students so I did not think much of it. I just smiled back, accepted his number so as not to be rude, and thought to myself it was a cultural thing here. However, as we journeyed down the road to the junction where I was to about to depart he asked me if I lived near here. Finally, my spidey senses started to kick in (what took me so long, right?) and I uncomfortably tried to answer without answering while trying in vain to skooch a bit further away.  As we approached my stop he leaned in quite close to me and said in a very conspiratorial manner “When you call me, make sure it is in the evening….” Wink, wink.  I am assuming here that during the day my calling would be awkward for him….good to know.  This brings a whole new meaning to a hot trotro ride. I suppose it is all in the eyes of the beholder.

At least today was an interesting day. I remind myself that one day this will all be quite amusing to me. Who am I kidding, it already is.

In Need of a New Motherboard

I had a crisis this week.  I awoke the other morning to my laptop spontaneously beeping.  I was a little surprised because it woke me from a fairly sound sleep but I have been having problems with it since I got to Ghana so I was not entirely taken aback.  Sure enough, I opened my computer and the beep of death continued to blare.  I used all the tricks that I had looked up online the last time this happened but to no avail. I was feeling a bit panicky and after I consulted two different Apple repair establishments I found out the problem—my motherboard is in need of replacement (if that is not an analogy for life as my 50th birthday looms large I do not know what is).  For anyone who is a college student you know how important it is to have access to a computer. Not knowing how difficult it would be for me to replace my laptop I felt I was having a computer crisis. As I type this however I note that the word crisis sounds so dire and urgent. This and a conversation I had with an Uber driver the other day, has gotten me thinking about the language we use and how we use it.

It is not at all uncommon in the US to ask someone how their day went and to hear them respond using words like ‘worst day ever’ or ‘horrible’.  Or to ask, “How did the meeting go today?” to hear the response “It was a catastrophe!” if things did not go as planned. Worst day ever, horrible, catastrophe and yes, crisis are potent phrases and words when you think about it.

Not long before I came to Ghana the director of the CSU International Program spoke to the students who were headed the University of Ghana.  We were warned to watch our language.  He was not referring to profanity though. When hungry, you do not say that you are ‘starving to death’ because most likely there are people very near you who are actually starving.  We were told that as students it would automatically be assumed that we are rich so to be mindful of how we interact in the community.  But that was Africa in the abstract and so it did not really register with me…..entirely.

The reality versus the abstract that continually hits me in the face here in Ghana happened again when I took charge of my ‘crisis’ by getting a new laptop.  I simply used my Uber App (on my iPhone) and got a ride to the mall (GHS 11)—this means 11 Cedis.  I walked into the mall and bought my new laptop, and I hailed an Uber back to the university (GHS 12).  It was on my Uber ride back that I was quickly reminded of the privilege that I had been so thoughtlessly taking for granted.

I sat in the front seat with the driver.  I always ask their names and we end up chatting. Honestly riding and chatting with the Uber drivers has been one of my favorite parts of coming to Ghana.  I have the most interesting conversations and am continually reminded of how kind most Ghanaians are.  Anyway, as I sat in the front seat visiting with Christopher we started to talk about where he learned his English.  He had only attended school through middle school he told me, which is where he learned to speak his limited English.  His native language was Fante and he was from Cape Coast. We spoke of education and that led to talking about employment. I told him that I was in awe of how hard most Ghanaians work to make due here as unemployment is quite high. In the end, he told me that he works from very early in the morning until after midnight each day. And that he only earns GHS 20 per day.  Just so you understand the gravity of this, he works for the equivalent of $4.55 PER DAY. On this meager amount of money, he supports his wife, his three year old daughter (who is full of questions, questions, questions) and his 4 month old twin boys……..I sat with my brand new laptop in my lap and honestly felt shame for the extravagance that was just sitting there in front of us both like the elephant in the room. The price of my laptop would feed his family for months.

My ‘crisis’ was not a crisis at all.  It was an inconvenience and nothing more.  If there is anything that I will take from my experience in Ghana (at least thus far) it will be to have perspective on what it is in life that we have and to be grateful each day. I will remember to not dramatize what is only inconvenient. I think I needed this Ghana paradigm shift.  I have heard others who have been here say that coming here has changed them forever.  I know that if I left here today that would be true for me.  Does that mean I have been successful in replacing my personal ‘motherboard’? I hope so.

Poverty and Hot Pink Toilet Seats

I had a conversation with a fellow study abroad classmate a couple of weeks ago and I cannot quite shake the lingering questions that came from that. She said to me, “What does it mean that I am no longer sick at my stomach when children are banging on the windows of the bus and begging”?—–That is a good question and I have been pondering it since. It brings me back to what the Ghanaian gentleman on the plane over here said (I mentioned it in my last post) about pacing myself because the need here is much greater than any one person can give. “You will get used to it,” he said. But this is the catch here…do I really want to get used to it? By ‘it’ I mean the pervasive poverty that is very evident here. What does it mean if we become desensitized and seeing suffering does not move us as human beings? I do not want to make the image of this country to be about poverty because this country is so much more than that. However I found myself the other day, on the path from the Night Market to my hostel, and there was a woman begging. She sat on the ground along side of the dirt pathway and kept putting her hand to her mouth, indicating she was hungry. I noticed that she only did this when she saw that obviously foreign students walked by. It was after all the path to the International Student Hostel. I had conflicting emotions at the time. Was it cynical of me to notice that she was ‘working’ the foreign students? Should that even matter? Isn’t hunger just hunger? I was disturbed by my thoughts because who am I to judge her motives?

I spoke to the program director here about this because I wanted her perspective as she used to live in the states and now lives in Ghana and I loved her response… she said, “There isn’t poverty in the US”?…of course there is. The thing that is different here is that it is literally everywhere. Not just in isolated places. So am I becoming desensitized to suffering or has the shock of seeing it so prevalent worn off? I am not sure. All I do know is that I cannot give money to everyone who asks. I am but one person. What I can do though is offer up what abilities and skills I have.

Among other things, I am a fiber artist. I know how to sew, knit, crochet, make baskets, and various other skills. So beginning on Monday I will be devoting some of my free time to working at a facility called Madamfo Pa. They make, quilts, bags, clothing and whatnot to sell. The proceeds are used to pay the school fees and expenses for children who could not attend school otherwise. The woman that I interviewed with was very kind and excited to not only teach me what she knew but also for me to show her how to use her fabric scraps to make rugs and baskets. I look forward to the creative exchange.

Because I do not want to focus on only the difficulties here I would like to tell you about a few of the things I have noticed the last few weeks that amuse/endear me to Ghana.

-Since I have introduced myself to the man who runs the cafeteria downstairs (his name is Daniel) he always makes a point to say hello to me and use my name. I have been practicing my Twi with him. People are so kind here.

-It is not at all unusual for butterflies to be fluttering around my classroom in the middle of a lecture. There is no air conditioning in the classrooms so the windows are often left open to catch the breeze. How lovely.

-I told the girl who cleans the hostel where I live how much I enjoy listening to her sing while she works and now she makes a point to sing when she knows I am in and always greets me when I pass by. Again, people are so kind here.

-I mentioned this in a Facebook post but I saw a billboard the other day for a facility that advertises the ability to get cleaner and firmer vagina, for a more fulfilling marriage (I don’t even want to go into all the of the feminist alarm bells going off here). The model on the billboard had some kind of gold band around her thigh. I have no idea what a cleaner and firmer vagina entails but I wasn’t about to ask my driver to slow down so I could take a picture. It probably would have embarrassed him as much as me

-There is such thing as hot pink toilet seats. One of the best bathrooms on campus has them. (I find it very amusing that I know where the “good” bathrooms are).

Being here is truly an extraordinary and life changing experience.

Until next time..

Peace to you my friends,

T

 

 

Africa in the Abstract

Hello All,  I recently was assigned an essay in the Cultural intensive class that I have been taking part in for the last four weeks here in Ghana.  I was given some subject areas and other than that was free to write whatever I wanted.  My wonderful first reader on much of my work (my hubby) recommended I post this as a blog entry as it is a pretty good description of my experiences here thus far.

Hope you enjoy it!

Peace to you my friends,

T

Africa in the Abstract

“I am having a surreal experience”, I think.  My head is against the window of the bus that carries my fellow study-abroad students and me to the Kakum Rainforest and to Cape Coast in Ghana.  I am overcome with exhaustion after 24 hours of travel followed by three nights with only a few hours of sleep. Have I only been in Ghana for a few days?  It feels much longer.  African pop music plays in the background, drifting down from the radio speakers.  The scenery of the countryside that flies by us is something that I have only seen in movies.  This feels like a movie.  Like the opening scene of some action film with the camera behind me showing the view I am seeing and you just know that the revolution or bomb or ambush is going to happen at any moment.  I literally pinch myself because I cannot believe that I am here, that this is me doing this. The scenery that I have been watching through the bus windows shocks me.

I am shocked by the miles of poverty that I see fly by the windows of the bus and this reaction surprises me.  I see entire villages that are made of homes in various states of dilapidation.  Houses made of scraps of wood and mud, no windows and dirt floors.  I admire the ingenuity of the people making homes with what is available to them.  When the bus stops we are inundated by people hawking their goods.  They tap the windows and look at us with eyes that are begging us to open the window and buy whatever it is that they are selling, the smoked fish, the chewing gum, the shoes, the packets of dried plantain. For sale is anything at all that a motorist passing by is willing to pay a few Cedi for.  As the bus pulls away some desperately chase us imploring us to quickly make a purchase.  Many of the women have the double burden of carrying not only their product on their heads but also their babies on their backs.  I wonder how many hours a day do they spend on the hot cement, dodging cars and selling their wares?  I am in awe of how hard they must work for what must be a few Cedi a day.  I feel quite deeply that there is a disconnect here with what I had thought Ghana was going to be like and the reality of what I am seeing.

The disconnect surprises me because I had had spent the last semester of my studies in the United States doing research papers for all of my classes on one aspect of Ghana or another.  I thought that I knew what to expect.  This is why when a few days after the trip to the rainforest and Cape Coast, when I am attending a lecture, what one of the professors says strikes me so deeply.  I can’t even remember which speaker it was because the day we attended the roundtable discussion where I think he has spoken, I was quite ill.  I had the wherewithal however to scratch what he had said in my journal. He said that for most people in North America and Europe, Africa is only an abstract.

Looking back now on when this all started for me, I understand exactly what that speaker meant by viewing Africa as an abstract.  When I applied to the study abroad program and researched the schools that would best work for a major in Women’s Studies, I was given three choices.  The first was Ontario, Canada.  I have been to Ontario and I knew that I was not what I was looking for in a study abroad experience.. I thought that it would be like going to school in Ohio.  The second choice offered me was South Africa at the Nelson Mandela University.  That program was much more attractive to me, but the choice that really got my attention was the University of Ghana. I began to research my options in earnest. I wanted to know what the countries were like and how an older student would fare participating in each particular California State University International Program (CSUIP).  I ultimately chose Ghana because if I was going to a foreign country to study abroad then I wanted a culture as unlike my own as possible.  When I told the CSUIP director at my school this, she had a knowing smile on her face and informed me then I definitely chose the right program in selecting Ghana.

I had wanted to both prepare myself for the culture of Ghana and gain knowledge of the history of the country so I worked with the head of the Women’s Studies Department and honed my research for my classes on a few areas of interest that would fulfill the requirements of my Women’s Studies major. One area was foreign aid, and how the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have held up Ghana as a shining example of the successful implementation of Structural Adjustment Programs that were implemented. This is despite their very high levels of poverty. I wanted to know by what measure were the World Bank and IMF considering their financial programs a success and how did those in Ghana feel about it?  Knowing that as a general rule, poverty more adversely affects women this area applied to my major.

In my typical style of study, I did a great deal of research.  I easily read and referenced at least thirty different peer reviewed papers on the subject. I found online Ghanaian newspapers and read those exhaustively.  I read, multiple times, the entire seventeen page speech that the newly elected president Nana Akufo-Addo gave to the parliament of Ghana regarding the State of the Nation in February 2017.  I researched my subject thoroughly and wrote my papers. Having done all of this I felt confident that I had a more than average knowledge of the country and when I heard that I had been accepted into the program and that I actually was going to Ghana, I was excited for what I viewed a this once in a lifetime opportunity.  I felt prepared but still (though I did not know it) Africa was only an abstract for me.

I have been in Ghana for just over a month now and the last four weeks of the Ghana Society and Culture intensive class have been quite the whirlwind experience. It has been a lot to absorb. Yes I have done a great deal of research and reading about Ghana.  Reading and research is one thing, however being here has taught me that reality is an entirely different experience.  I have been guilty of viewing Ghana and the problems that I researched as an abstract. That is why the words that professor spoke so resonated with me. This leads me to wonder how much of the research I have read viewed Africa as only an abstract?

What led me to question the research I had used was reading the monograph given to me during the first full day here in Ghana written by Dr. Dan-Bright S. Dzorgbo titled Foreign Aid and Ghana: Power Dynamics of Partnership in Development.  Dr. Dzorgbo is a sociology professor at the University of Ghana. Certainly there are a multitude of papers and articles written criticizing the IMF and World Bank for their Structural Adjustment Programs and questioning their motives but I realized that none of the papers I had read were written by someone who was actually from Ghana. The only exception would be the address to parliament given by the president of Ghana and even then he was not critical of the IMF or World Bank.

Interestingly Dr. Dzorgbo uses the philosophical framework of the post-structuralism sociologist, Michel Foucault to analyze the power structure involved in foreign aid to Africa, in particular the IMF and World Bank.  Dzorgbo states, “The persistent underdevelopment of certain nations serves an important goal; it provides the contrasting context for legitimizing and justifying the Western path of development”. In other words it benefits the aid institutions in the West to keep Africa in need of aid because it furthers their financial interests and justifies the means in which they do it.  Dzorgbo is not shy regarding his criticisms of Western lending institutions and their stranglehold on the discourse of how development should look, particularly in formerly colonized countries like Ghana.  Dzorgbo goes on to state, “The industrialized societies have devised a more insidious form of control, in this case through the aid establishment and changing development discourse, to replace colonialism and the naked display of imperial power in their quest to secure foreign resources”. Said another way colonialism has not been eradicated in Ghana rather it has been repackaged in a much more palatable and subtle way in the form of the conditionality of foreign aid.

There is danger in this repackaging however.  This danger is that a large part of the Western world views Africa as an abstract, which makes it easier for a very small group of lenders, like those who control the IMF and the World Bank, to continue to extricate resources from developing countries like those in Africa at the expense of the people who inhabit those countries with little or no repercussions.  All the while presenting themselves as benevolent benefactors whose only interest is to spread democracy and to aid those poor unfortunate souls in, what is presented as underdeveloped and inferior societies.  Not surprisingly the reality is much different.

President Nana Akufo-Addo gives evidence to the true reality in his State of the Nation address he gave in February 2017.  One of the more shocking statistics that the president cites is when he states, “Ghana’s total revenue is consumed by three main budgetary lines: wages and salaries, interest payments and amortization and statutory payments. These three items alone account for 99.6% of government revenue. This means that anything else that government has to do outside of these lines will have to be financed by borrowing or aid”. Things like health care, road maintenance, education and all other social services.  This gives lending agencies like the IMF and World Bank tremendous power over the governing of Ghana.

What I have seen first hand now is how this power has been abused and most certainly does not serve the best interests of the vast majority of Ghanaians.  One only has to drive through Accra and see the conditions of the infrastructure to witness it. Or experience the intermittent power outages that occur here, which disrupts not only the lives of people but also the functioning of businesses.  Or look at the extremely high unemployment rates. Which brings me to a conversation I had on the plane ride from London to Accra.  I was sitting next to a very nice Ghanaian gentleman who had sought and found work in London but also resided part time in Ghana, where his family and fiancé reside.  When he found out how long I was going to be in his home country he paused and looked at me very seriously then he gave me some advice.  He told me to pace myself.  I was unsure of what he was talking about and asked for clarification.  He said that many people would ask me for help but the need was much greater than I would be able to give.  He told me that I would get used to the overwhelming need and would have to turn a blind eye to it.  Yes poverty is a part of Ghana but it is also so much more.

The Ghana that I am still learning about and that I look forward to getting to know even better is the beauty of this country and culture.  I think of the small village I saw where the children were giggling and laughing as they took turns pumping the water from the well.  I think of the beauty of the weaving and the pride taken in the artistry of weavers.  I think of the centrality of family here that has all but disappeared in the United States.  I think of all the kind people who have gone out of their way to help me when I asked, or even when I did not ask. I think of the girl I see who cleans the halls of the hostel where I live and how she sings while she works when she thinks no one is around.  I think of the liveliness and laughter I hear every evening from the Night Market that is just yards away from the window to my room.  These are all the things that make Africa and especially Ghana much more than an abstract

 

 

Works Cited

Dzorgbo, D. S. (2012). Foreign aid and Ghana: power dynamics of partnership in development. Accra: Institute for Democratic Governance.

State of the Nation Address – Home – Ghana Business News. (2017, February 21). Retrieved September 8, 2017, from https://www.bing.com/cr?IG=7269349457E44CD9BEF24B39662814C8&CID=26384C25C95C6F840C6646DDC85A6EFD&rd=1&h=Y9iJT_N2TQjL3H1ZOtR01v7UpZP5EIoHQCS1wa7KVMI&v=1&r=https%3a%2f%2fwww.ghanabusinessnews.com%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2017%2f02%2fState-of-the-Nation-Address_2017.pdf&p=DevEx,5065.1

 

 

Some Days…..Time is Time

I have probably decided in my mind a half a dozen times that I have experienced quite enough of Ghana, thank you very much, and have been ready to pack my bags and come home.  Today is kind of one of those days.  I came back to the University from Cape Coast where aside from the sacrificing of the bull part of the festivities ( a quite gruesome affair I assure you) I had a nice time. 

–A side note here I was just emailing my lovely hubby the other day about hearing a goat bleating from the kitchen downstairs and that I was not sure how I felt about that, only to have a local tell me that the goat was most likely sacrificed this weekend also in gratitude to the old gods for life’s blessings.—I eat meat and realize that in order for that to happen that animals die so it is just a cultural thing here. And they do eat the meat of the animals that are part of this tradition and the animals are treated probably much better than in western meat packing plants.

Anywho I came home only to discover that the same power surge that had melted the plug of my electric tea pot to my outlet last week probably destroyed all the RAM on my laptop this second week of the school semester. And because this is Ghana and they live by the credo “Time is time” (meaning there is always more time so no hurry), I seriously doubt I will get my computer back in the next three weeks.  So I am currently waiting for my prescription glasses to be fixed (they broke the second week here and should be ready any day now). I am also waiting for the electrician to come fix my melted outlet, but the porter at the hostel tells me the electrician is having ‘many troubles’ (not sure what that means).  And now am waiting to hear how bad the damage is to my laptop.  I think the great life force has a lesson for me here about time and patience.  So I smile and kindly, say no worries and remind myself to check my privilege and count my blessings even though inside I kind of want to have a hissy fit just to get it out of my system.  So now I head off to the showers (providing the man I keep seeing go into the women’s washroom to pee is not there) for my very quick and very cold shower.  No hot water is a great way to cut down on long showers by the students 😉 As Scarlett O’Hara said, “After all, tomorrow is another day”.

Peace to you my friends,

T

P.S. this is the lovely bull moments before he was taken to the shrine.  I have no photos to commemorate the goat.

Pringles in Ghana!

Why yes I did pay 30 cedi for a can of Salt and Vinegar Pringles and it was worth every pesewa. In US terms that is nearly $7 but man do they taste good. After two and a half weeks of eating food cooked in red palm oil the taste of those Pringles, which I would normally never eat back home, is bliss. To be honest I was so shocked to see them and they reminded me of home so much I would have paid more. I did finally get a small fridge for my room (also worth every cedi and pesewa) and the fresh mango, papaya, pineapple and other produce is plentiful and delicious and gives me a great deal more control over my culinary experience. Things I am already missing while here….

My family

Soft toilet paper

Beef jerky (I have no idea why I am craving this)

Ranch dressing (Again I do not know why but I would kill for some Hidden Valley Ranch)

Trail mix with M & M’s

Salami (I actually dreamed about salami the other night)

Cheese

Salt and Pepper being readily available

Mustard

The program directors are taking us on a city tour tomorrow where we will be shown places to shop at a grocery store versus the Night Market right near campus, so hopefully I can find some good ingredients to keep myself fed with salads and what not from the local produce. We will also be seeing the DuBois Center (W.E B. DuBois lived here in Ghana for sometime), the Artist Alliance, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum (He was the man who led Ghana to be the first African country to declare independence from colonial rule), and Art Center/Circle where I hope to find some items to take away the ‘couture de prison’ feel of my white walled dorm room.

Things I love about Ghana so far…

The pineapple is to die for, so are the mangos

The cleaning girl at the dorm sings while she cleans, it is lovely

Awakening to the chatter of Twi (the local dialect) and laughter from the Night Market right outside my dorm room each morning

The splashes of bright colors everywhere

I have access to fresh produce just yards from my door

Origin beer (a cross between a hard cider and beer, kind of fruity but not too sweet)

The Coke here all has real sugar, not HFCS (I have only had one but it was pretty good)

Classes begin in earnest next week, and I look forward to seeing how the college experience will be here. I am most excited about taking a textile class where I will be learning about dying fabric, making batik designs, motif prints and silkscreen fabric. I have also spoken with a teacher here and am arranging to be taught weaving from a local artist in my own time. How cool is that!

That is it for now my friends, until next time..

Peace to you,

T

 

The Ghana Vortex

I did actually make it to Ghana 🙂 I started my day leaving the house at 10am (CA time) on the 8th and did not get to the dorms at the University of Ghana until 11:30pm (Ghana time) of the ninth.  With the exception of today the program directors have had us running 15 hour days since we landed.  I would not recommend the pace but would definitely recommend the destination.  Some of my highlights have been a trip to Cape Coast to visit Elmina Castle (built in 1482) which was a major center of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  I have walked on a very shaky and tenuous feeling, 350 meter foot bridge, 40 meters above the rain forest floor (wayyy up in the tippy tops of the trees) in the Kakum Rain Forest. I have taken an African dance and drumming class that nearly killed me. I have visited a village where they weave Kente cloth.  Our class was greeted by a school of children with a drum and dance performance.  We also briefly attended a memorial/funeral preparation/celebration of life for a very important family leader in a village not far from the weaving (Imagine a lot of black and red clothing, a huge crowd of people, music, and a speaker the size you would see at a Gun’s and Roses concert announcing the arrivals to the festivities). I have visited two different local hospitals.  I also went to Kumasi which is about a five hour bus ride from Accra (that is if you hurdle down the highway at breakneck speeds and are not afraid of veering into the oncoming traffic lane at regular intervals).  Keep in mind folks, I have only been here 11 days.  I have also attended hours and hours of lectures as this first month here is an intensive 3 unit, upper division class.  There have been other things here and there.  Lots of dinner/lunches out trying different foods, museums, night life, market shopping, etc.   I would love to share some pictures with you but as I am technically challenged, and the tech here is not quite what I am used to, it is a miracle that I have managed to post this.  I have a classmate who is a whiz at this and he said he would help me out so hopefully soon.  I have managed to post on Facebook and Instagram if you would like to see a few photos.  I begin my regular classes this week so things will slow down significantly for me and I will update as I can.  Until then, peace to you 🙂 ——T

The Journey Begins

While I have been working on this trip for over a year, I am now two weeks from departure to the University of Ghana.  I will be there for 10 months, living on campus in the International Student Hostel with fellow students from all over the world (most of whom will be my children’s age). I began my anti-malaria meds today and suddenly this feels all too real.  The application process, the essays I wrote, the interviews I went through and the endless hoops and hurdles over the last year are finally coming to fruition.  I am excited and terrified all at the same time.  While at times I wonder if I have lost my mind most of the time the mix of terror and anticipation is a pretty good place to be.  So I hope to use this space as a chronicle of my journey and as a space to process an experience that I can hardly fathom.  I sure hope I am up to the challenge.