Load Gun The, Plant Tree The, and the Dance Debacle of 2011

In opposition with the title, I will start with the tale of the dance debacle.  So here in Kumasi we’re taking dance lessons every afternoon for about a week and a half.  African dance is REALLY fun so we were all pretty into this…at first.  I say at first, because, our teacher is, a crazy person.  (I know all those commas were grammatically incorrect, but that is where I would have had a dramatic pause when speaking.) We were pretty babied with our dance teachers up until now.  At orientation in Accra they all just pulled us out of our seats and showed us fun things and laughed and it was no real pressure to actually learn anything.  When we saw performances or teachers before this at private places they were always really fun and smiley and happy about life.  But we didn’t really characterize this or notice how great it was until we got to this dance teacher in Kumasi.  This lady hates life, or more likely, hates us, for a variety of reasons, which she exhibited over the past few days…

  1. Anytime we laughed or talked or basically made any sound she told us to shut up and would move people across the room a la fourth grade.
  2. We were incapable of learning these impossible Twi songs that all went something along the lines of “Maya baya polo nolo schwa alphabet twinklebottom weird clapping motion bomb roy” and in return got called stupid americans 9355 times. I mean fair but still.
  3. We were also incapable of learning this odd clapping motion that apparently plays a HUGE role in African dancing.  Not.
  4. “WHY AREN’T YOU SHAKING IT?!!?!” (referring to our behinds) “WE HAVE NOTHING TO SHAKE!!!”
  5. Our level of sweatiness and tiredness (which was extreme) was not appreciated by this lady.  In fact she would make us learn total new dances when we acted tired.

It all got very blurry about day three.  I was still having fun in a ‘dancing is fun’ way but I was also starting to exhibit ‘becca in gym class’ tendencies aka responding to all questions like ‘are you ready’ with a very loud NO.  funnily enough, I was not the biggest naysayer like I usually was in physical activity classes.  My funnylaziness was on the milder side of the eruptions.  (I almost mean literally, you try dancing for two hours after fish stew) 21 college students in Africa do NOT react well to being yelled at and taught 17 different ways of doing the same dance while unable to talk or laugh or exhibit signs of tiredness so this quickly became an issue that our faketeacher Kwame and our real teacher Papa Attah were having to routinely intervene in.  Class was being forced to end earlier and earlier, breaks were longer and longer due to the influx of students ‘needing to get water from the vendor’ and there was just in general a lot of angryspeak to Papa Attah after, before, and during class.  Looking back on it it really is a laughable experience, but it wasn’t so funny when WRONG WRONG WRONG was being yelled at you in the hottest smallest hardest floored dance studio ever.  The suspicious nail sticking out from the floor, the random spectators who decided to laugh at the obronis dancing, and the sheer amount of sweat falling to the floor didn’t help.  But today DID get a lot better, you could see from us exhibiting our hot new moves at the bar for Trent’s birthday.

I feel like I am at the point where I am getting attached to Africa/Ghana/my life.  I know you all think this happened long ago when I became so attached to coming here and was all obsessive, but becoming attached to the place was very different from becoming attached to the idea of the place.  I think that for a certain strand of Americans (who are crazy) there is this romanticization (not a word) of Africa that really just gets a hold on us and won’t let go.  I don’t know how it is for everyone, but for me, when I got here, I didn’t feel the immediate connection to the place that I had thought I would feel when I became le obsessed circa last summer.  Luckily I hadn’t thought about it much before leaving so it didn’t stress me out too much when I got here, but I definitely noticed.  But I can say now that I am starting to feel the roots of attachment that I feel for places like Hoofbeat, Redlands, etc.  I think that I am just a person who gets really attached to things but it takes time for those attachments to grab on.  I kind of hope that as I age I get less attached to things; no, I like being in love with things, but I hope that I get better at letting go temporarily/sometimes forever of things that I am attached to.   Can’t work at camp forever/can’t be in college forever/can’t live in Africa forever.  I mean all these things could be true but are unlikely and would prove difficult.

Okay so, here, be forewarned, if you are ….a person, you are going to hate me for this section.  I AM SPENDING SO MUCH MORE MONEY THAN I SHOULD BE .  I KNOWWWWW, everything is cheaper here, we have a great exchange rate, I have to spend like, a dollar, for lunch.   But still I am somehow spending way more than I should be.  I’m not saying that I’m spending like craploads out the butt (gross) but somehow even though everything is cheap I still feel like I am racing through the dollars, and by dollars I mean cedis.  I think it is because I underestimated how I would be paying for everything that a life entails here unlike school where you have prepaid for many a thing.  SIT gives us a small (tiny) stipend for food and transportation, but that would really only cover the cheapest lunch with no snacks (you have PLAIN BREAD for breakfast and try not eating snacks) and the cheapest possible route to and from school (but the taxis are always full and no one wants to walk for 40 minutes and the tro tros are always stopped and we have to transition schools at lunch and sometimes you have things to do after school and basically GETTING TO AND FROM AND LIFE AND SCHOOL COSTS WAY MORE THAN 1 CEDI PER DAY.) But basically the point is I was under the impression that I would be living like a cheaper chicken this semester but that is just a lie.  What with paying (mostly) for my own food, my own phone/phone line, my own internet (don’t mistake this is not Wifi this is my pricey little modem), my own transportation, plus like going out, getting clothes made, etc….i just feel like the worst person!  I just miss the commons where food felt like it didn’t cost money.  And yes, everyone in world where things are more expensive than here, which is everywhere, I know you now hate me.  But I hereby say that I recognize that I am technically spending less money, I just feel guilty for the amount I do spend.

Oh, also, world, I have news.  Apparently, I am NOT tone deaf, and this is a lucky thing.  Because, Twi is a very ‘tonal’ language, which basically means that lots of words are the same words but the accents are on different places so you go low and high at different places and thus they have different meanings.  AKA, Me papa wo papa papa means My father has a good fan.  I don’t know where the accent key is on my computer but there you go.  The accents are also only written in for obronis; real native speakers just know  it (similar to all the tro tro ‘lines,’ whether taxis are loading or private, the prices of anything, etc) Twi lessons are quite a fiasco but they are often loveable and the teachers are all really cool.  All the confusion is offset by how fun it is to say the words and that there is a letter that is shaped like a backwards C that sounds like o but it is harder and (did I say that was fun?  I meant really confusing and difficult and it is more fun to watch all of our faces as we attempt to say sentences like Fe CbCfoC asem ObOfoC kC CbCfoC.  The C’s represent the backwards C letter.  That sentence means (well…verbs may be wrong) the Hunter was a messenger to the angel.  Also strangers on the street who talk to me (literally every other minute) try to teach me the answers to the things they ask me in Twi and I’m just like IF I COULD LEARN THINGS FROM SAYING THEM ONCE I WOULD BE FLUENT! Oh, in reference to my title, the comes after things instead of in the middle, IE, Load gun the.

Oh also a little snippet for my Ulysses kids.  I have decided that (in my life) Ulysses and Africa hold a similar role.  You try to love them and they try to shit on your face.  But once you get past Proteus you start to get along anyway.  Don’t worry, this is like chapter 3 versus week 3 so you always still have a lot left in the book/a lot left in the semester.  And it’s like, in the beginning you are like YEAH THIS IS SO COOL but you aren’t completely acclimated, but then once you pass the bump it’s like oh I get your challenges now so they are still challenges but I just have to change my reading style every day (alternately be open to new modes of transportation/eating/sleeping/moving/life every day) and it will all be bomb diggity.

Ah, I’m sure that I have more things to share (my undying love for FanIceDango, the SLUSHIE version of fanice?) but I will close with the joyous night we just had.  It was one of our group members, Trent’s birthday, so we all met back up at Tech junction at 5 to head to his homestay area.  We got rice in bags with sauce for dinner (the usual) and headed to a bar close to his house.  Here we were joined by a huge group of men that seemed to be all congregating around a chief (best guy) so they obviously immediately befriended us and were asking for our hands in marriage et al.  We declined but still had fun talking to them and becoming best friends with the chief.  Then I invited Papa Attah, our teacher, to come hang out with us for Trent’s Bday, and he actually came!  Yay for places that do not have restrictions on things like this!  So we got to chill with him, have nice relaxation, ENJOY OUR LIVES (as Papa Attah himself says) and practice our new African dance moves in the tiny cramped bar.  I don’t know, I am just enjoying all these little things here.  It is a nice life when you can enjoy things like walking down the street and being like “Wow, this is me, being self sufficient in a foreign country. Life is good.”

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2 responses

  1. First — I love your “a la fourth grade” comment. You have good jokes.

    Next, I have a similar monetary struggle in that it isn’t a struggle at all! Meals are easily under a dollar, but I am spending a lot in that I go out for drinks often and feel so much freer to eat dinner off campus. The lack of guilt on the daily spending results in a deeper-rooted guilt of living a luxurious life, like I actually thought about getting a massage the other day…
    I know these things will have to change on return to the states and particularly California, so I see it as a temporary appreciation of a ritzy life that will be replaced by reality soon enough. Yeah?

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