Passerby on the street: “OBRONIS! I WANT TO GO TO AMERICA!” Entireity of SIT group: “SO DO WE!!!”

I am now just settling in to my second homestay which is in Kumasi.  I have only been here about an hour but I like it so far.  I haven’t met my homestay mom yet, apparently she is at a funeral, but the four kids AKA the ones who brought me here all seem friendly and personable.  Hopefully I will be able to talk to them more than my last homestay family.  They were fine it was just a different set up and they didn’t much.  All of these kids seem to be mid-late teens, so hopefully they will like me.  I have just been setting up my room here and am now taking a break to use the internet, obviously.  Luckily I have my own room (technically they are required to give us our own room but some homestays have not been following these rules.  I am eternally grateful that this one is.) It is nice sized and it has a big bed, bigger than my bed at home, with a fan and an extra outlet.  So pretty much all I need.  This is a big thing here, figuring out what you actually need in life versus things that are nice to have.  There isn’t really much/any storage space so I’m just going to use the classic standby the ground.  I just put up my mosquito net, and let me tell you, putting up a mosquito net alone is one hard task.  Polls and net are just flying about and it’s a very large operation for a very small person.  But I managed, and I didn’t want to ask for help because I feel like a jerk being like ‘Your home doesn’t protect me so I need a net made of plastic to do so.’ Asking for things like this falls pretty high on my list of ‘Things I feel like a jerk doing in Africa as an American.’  Other things on the list include:

  1. Existing
  2. Breathing
  3. Et cetera et cetera

Anyway, back to life.  Um, I always have to poop.    Sorry if me saying things like that grosses you out, but I’m in Africa so suck it and don’t read my blog.  The group pretty much figured out on day 1 that we were going to have to talk about poop very casually so we are all fine with it.  I’m going to try to not pull the ‘I’m studying abroad in one of the most fucking difficult locations ever’ card too much, but I am going to communicate to everyone all of the things that you do not get in the third world and do get anywhere in the first world, not just the U.S.  For example, things you take for granted:  flushing toilets.  That’s not really that bad though.  Toilet paper.  That’s a rough one.  Carrying it yourself, using Kleenex, selectively choosing when to do certain things in the bathroom, and (I’m really really pushing the grossing everyone out line here so if you are squeamish don’t read) notebook paper and newspaper have all come in handy.  Soap?  Forget about it.  I used soap the only two times in fourteen days at a gas station on the way to Kumasi and at our hotel in Kumasi.  In the homestays you don’t usually get a sink with running water.

Oh speaking of things first worlders take for granted, drinking water.  Now don’t go telling me that Redlands (or any city in the US) tap water is foul.  I will probably virtually punch you in every part of your body.  Yeah I’m sure that not every city’s tap water in the U.S. tastes precisely like five dollar bottled water or Brita water, but A.) it comes from the tap, which means you HAVE running water and B.) it doesn’t make you sick and vomit.  And don’t worry, it’s not just because we’re not used to it.  Every family has stores of these bags of water.  Remember milk bags in elementary school, anyone else tried those?  That is how you drink all your water here.  It’s pretty nifty except when you need to drink water and there isn’t a giant bag of it handy.  But usually ladies on the street will be selling it (on their heads, so talented) for like 10 peswes (which is like 6 or 7 cents) a piece.

Anyway, back to things that have happened lately.  We finished up in Accra on Friday and took the BEST BUS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD TO KUMASI.  Dude seriously, we were thinking we were going to have to take a tro-tro, aka a 16-20 person minibus, all the five hour way to Kumasi.  This would have been as close to hell as most of us have ever experienced.  You think I’m exaggerating?  Try riding a tro-tro EVER and tell me that again.  I mean I love them because they are far more ecological and economical than any form of American car-doing (next thing that makes me upset to remember about America: that most people ride only one person to a car) but they are quite a problem for your joints knees body digestion system, the whole nine yards.  Added in the fact that when all 21 of us ride a tro tro someone always has to sit on someone elses lap, we were not stoked.  But then this GIANT BUS FULL OF GLORY AND WONDER pulls up, and I swear I almost cried.  Big seats!  That RECLINED!  This shit was nicer than charter buses in America. Okay that is a lie.  But the seats did recline.  Sometimes they wouldn’t go back up and stuff but still, it was amazing.  I was in heaven for those five hours.  We then got to Kumasi, checked into our hotel, and unknowingly prepared for THE WORST INTRODUCTION TO A CITY THAT ACTUALLY SEEMS PRETTY SWELL EVER.

So after no break whatsoever (that’s a big thing for our program, not getting any rest breaks but then spontaneously taking hours to leave restaurants where you CAN’T nap) we took two tro-tros (one can’t expect to live in luxury forever) to this restaurant called Kandy’s.  No one in the group laughed at my joke that we were eating at a strip club.  Rude.  They still don’t get me.  OH, here I need to put another things you better start being grateful for in America segment.

More than four meals ever.  I don’t mean more than four choices for one meal.  We never choose.  I mean you eat more than four different things in your life.  Here we have 1. Fufu/banku which is like…hard to describe.  And also hard to eat and digest.  It is in a stew.  It is kind of like dough.  But not really.  Sometimes it is very bland and other times it has a nice slightly sour taste.  You eat it with your hands and aren’t supposed to chew.  2. Yams with some variety of spinach or fish sauce.  Except no variety because it is always a sauce with spinach and fish.  Yams here are like mashed potatoes evil twin.   3. Rice.  Or Jollof rice which is like rice that is reddish with spices on it.  Or fried rice.  But I mean it’s all rice. And …wait is there even a fourth?  Let me think.  OH, there is 4. Redred, which is like beans in a suspicious sauce that can taste beefy or lentil or couscousy and sometimes has bones which worries me.  It can be good depending on who makes it.  I’m not really sick of any of these yet except yams (I had a bad experience that involved being bullied into eating approximately 19 yams.  I don’t know if I’m going to recover.) I do wish however that it were all spicier.  I was very excited about the prospect of everything being super spicy but that was just a lie.  But anyway, first worlders, America and elsewhere, cherish having choice.  Go to a restaurant and pick something from a thirty item menu instead of banku either in stew or with stew on the side.  For those studying abroad in Europe, absorb your various cultural foods, and also go to different restaurants.

AND EVERYONE, I DON’T GIVE A FUCK WHERE YOU ARE, GO AND EAT FAST FOOD.  YOU CAN TALK SHIT ON MCDONALDS WHEN YOU ARE THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY FROM A BURGER THAT COSTS A DOLLAR.  GO TO TACO BELL.  GET SOME FREAKING NACHOS.  GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE AND GO DO IT RIGHT NOW.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, Kandy’s.  So we had the classic rice for lunch at Kandys, but lunch was at 3 because of good old Africa time.  It’s funny at first.  That’s all I’m gonna say.  Then they were like oh instead of letting you all rest after getting up at 5 am you are going to go on a walking tour of Kumasi.

I know what you’re thinking.  Walking tours are great, you can’t complain.  Yeah, walking tours ARE great when you are going to see a landmark or a historical walk or something.  They’re great when your tour guides know where they are going.  They’re great a lot of times.  They are NOT GREAT when:

  1. Everyone has to poop (sorry I’m not sorry) and public bathrooms are not a thing.
  2. The guides try to tell you where you are going to go to class and how you will get there but considering that you don’t know where your homestay is have no sense of direction there are no street signs and the city is really loud so everything comes out as Awkjwooo anyway, you just have no idea.
  3. You are harassed outside a gas station for 20 minutes because you can’t get a tro tro to the opposite part of town since luckily we will be going to school on two separate sides of town and it is already six o clock which is when you were supposed to be comfortably eating dinner at the hotel.
  4. You have to avoid open gutters filled with gray sludge which is easier when you are not with 10 people in a clump on a road with no sidewalk
  5. You have to walk approximately 28505 miles in the dark and no one will tell you where you are going only to realize you are going to a ‘bus stop’ with buses not going back to your hotel but to Tamale and Accra and when you finally find the tro tro stop they are all going the opposite direction of where you want to go.
  6. Tro tro seats break.

I don’t think this communicates very well how annoyed we all were, and when I say annoyed I mean there were tears involved. Not on my part but they happened.  Organization and telling us what’s going on are not SIT’s strong suits.  After this we EVENTUALLY got back to the restaurant (not the hotel of course, the restaurant) 2 hours later than planned where we promptly began drinking to drown our sorrows.  We finished dinner and got back to the hotel in time for a few hours of ‘obroni time’ which is what we call it when we hang out and don’t have to be awkward embarrassing white people.  I think that I may be starting to fit in more with the group but it is always hard to tell.   We had a nice night though and then got to sleep in before lunch (red red) and getting our new homestays.  As I said at the beginning I think I am going to like this one more.  I just hate the beginnings because its like where do I shower, where do I pee, what do I call you, blah blah blah.  I have been in my room for a while but I am sleepy so I don’t care.  Hmm what more do I have to update on?

African dance may be my true calling.  JK that is definitely not true because I have no rhythm but I love doing it!  It helps me keep my mind occupied and the teachers are always so fun.  We get to have dance class almost every day in Kumasi so I’m REALLY excited.  I’m going to try to update this more later with what else has been going on lately but I figure I should try to go and say hi to the family for a minute.  And maybe figure out how to shower.  Enjoy the first world everyone!

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