This week we’re in Tamale! I like this city a lot, I wish we were here for more than a week. It’s much more relaxed than Accra or Kumasi. Lots of people are on bikes which makes it feel more familiar. It is the NGO capital of Ghana, so there are actually a lot of white people here. This was really weird at first but then you realize that it is nice because more white people means that people are used to seeing white people which means that you don’t get OBRONI yelled at you 1000 times per day. It wasn’t the worst thing but this is definitely a nice break. We have also been doing activities in the afternoon which makes me happy because I like our field trips much better than sitting in class. They make me feel like I’m really doing something with my time here.
I always make lists of things I’m going to blog about…and then leave them where I am not. I.E. I’m now working on this/finishing my mini ISP at the bar at our hotel (don’t judge me it’s convenient) but my list of things to write about is in my room. Bah Humbug. Well let’s talk about Tamale some more. It was supposed to be really hot here and since it is mainly Muslim we have to wear a lot more clothes so this was nerve wracking. But luckily it hasn’t been too hot this week so we are not dying. On our second day here we went on a tour that was really a shopping trip because we got head scarves and these awesome smock shirt things. We mostly got head scarves to be appropriate when we go to the mosque on Friday but I have been wearing mine every day because it stops me from touching my hair too much and I’m also really angry at my hair right now so it is just a great situation. Our teachers say that the head scarves make the locals respect us more because it shows that we are trying to embrace the culture but I think that people just laugh at me in it. I think that I have accidentally embarked on a buying things spree. I was doing really well at NOT buying things thus far, I mean I purchased every day necessities and snacks and paid for transport but I hadn’t gotten any souviener WHAT THE HELL HOW DO YOU SPELL THAT WORD type of stuff since the beach. But then we got the smocks and the head scarves and then yesterday we went to this Shea Butter Cooperative (yes it’s a thing) and I bought tons of shea butter soap and pure shea butter. I mean it’s mostly going to be gifts first of all, AND shea butter is like 30 bucks for a tiny tub in the US and I got a medium tub and a small tub and 6 soaps all for 16 cedi. So really it was a good deal. I just wish my money didn’t get eaten up so fast by other things like drinks and transportation and stuff.
One of the things I like about this group (though this would be true of any new group of people) is that they are not tired of my stories AND they don’t know and therefore can’t judge me when I tell stories that relate to things that I supposedly talk about too much. See, school friends, I can see all of you shaking your heads already because you already know what I’m going to refer to. But nobody here does that! Therefore I’m allowed to tell LEGITIMATELY FUNNY AND GOOD STORIES without getting in trouble just because those legitimately funny and good stories happen to have suspicious minor characters. I was going to make an I.E. but that would be taking it a bit far since everyone already knows what I’m talking about.
Today in the afternoon we saw a new dance performance and drumming ensemble. I love it when we do this! African dancing is probably my favorite unexpected part of the program. I am obvs the horriblest dancer but I love to watch it and I do love participating even though I suck. As I said to Terrin today, I suck too much at dancing to consider doing it for my ISP but I hope that I get to do more while we’re here. It’s just something that is enjoyable for me to watch and is also an experience that makes me feel like I’m really absorbing Africa versus when I do things like writing a paper and accidently mostly playing FreeCell which I could easily be doing in America or elsewhere.
During the mornings in Tamale we’ve been having 4 hours of lectures which is….sigh, challenging. Even with Adderall and when they are semi interesting I still have to do another activity like making a list or scheming things or writing letters to keep me from zoning out altogether. Some of the lectures have been quite good but it was still challenging. Today was quite the lecture day actually, our first lecture was a history of Ghana lecture, AKA a topic that could be interesting but when the lecturer is talking really fast and Becca can’t put sentences together when listening to lecturers I was doing my usual of writing random sentences that I got while not really knowing what was going on. But then during the question section at the end somehow it came out (I think this actually came from a question I asked but I don’t really know how) that the lecturer considers colonialism to have been a positive thing for Africa. My mind was just blown even before the ensuing questions because so much of my interest in Africa has been based in colonialism/postcolonialism/hating colonialism. The rest of the conversation upset many people in my group but I did/do my best to remain as objective as possible, especially from an academic standpoint. He went on to say that Ghanaians (I assume not all because no one can speak for everyone but you know) see colonialism as something that happened and they choose to see the positive things that came out of it, his examples being technology and industrialization and formalized education. I’m not really sure if they actually view colonialism as positive or whether they choose to look at the positive things that came out of it because Ghanaians in my experience have been a very positive people. This is a difficult thing for me to write about because I feel that most things I or anyone could say will step on one person or another’s toes, but I will do my best. This conversation just really got me thinking. We as Americans are able to have the view that most of us do on colonialism because we can view it from an intellectual and humanitarian viewpoint. After the studies I’ve done on Africa I pretty much blamed most problems on the abuses during colonialism, but I can see now how that is not a completely encompassing view. It’s really easy for an American to say “Africa would be better off if colonialism had never happened, they were fine living traditionally without the industrial revolution, nobody needed to mess with that.” I’ll also say here that I’m not arguing at all that colonialism was done for the right reasons or was executed right or was a good act at all. I’m just trying to explore this topic. But anyway, it’s easy to say that when you live in a swanky first world country. But if you live here in Ghana, especially as someone educated, and realize that without colonialism you would probably never have gotten your education and would most likely not live in an industrialized city, the framework changes. It’s also really really easy for us as Americans to write off this man’s opinion as ignorant or sad or whatever other words, but what would you do if something so awful happened in your past? Would you sit around thinking about all the shit that happened and how sorry you feel for yourself, or would you realize the positive things that came out of it, say ‘it happened,’ and do your best with what you have now? It was just very interesting and something that I’ll probably keep thinking about for a while. I don’t really have an opinion on it yet it just got me thinking.
I have a very nice mental rhythm for missing Redlands without being sad about it. Like I miss it and my friends and everything the way I miss anything that is not with me but I don’t spend my time wishing I was there. I do though wish my friends were here. Sometimes to the point where I imagine them sitting on my shoulder in miniature having a conversation with me. (Two hour walks are really lonely okay!) I think that traveling independently or well with a new group is really good for me but I do also think that one day I really want to go on an intense trip with a friend that I already know and can adventure with. There are just some times when I think it would be so much fun to be cavorting around Tamale with Victoria or trying to find something to do in the village with Steph. And all the rest of you friends but those two were the first that came to my mind. I am definitely enjoying my time with the group here, but it’s still very different than people that you have a long term deep friendship with. (Long term friendship…I would say that.) I’m at a great place where I am happy being here and really able to enjoy every day and the things we do, but I’m not doing that thing where I worry about the passage of time and when things end. Because I’ve got a nice long time left here, then I will have a nice time to relax and become a real person again, and then I get to GO BACK TO REDLANDS! Life is good forever! I’m also entertaining the prospect during lectures when I can’t pay attention of going back to California early, possibly around New Years, so if anyone wants to hang out with me slash house me slash visit during this time holler at an obroni.
Also this hotel we’re staying at in Tamale is SICK. By African standards. In the US it would be like sketchy as balls, but I feel like the line of Jack’s in Titanic, “We’re riding in high style now!” We have a bathroom with a WORKING SHOWER and a flushing toilet. The downside of the bathroom is the sink doesn’t work and Andrea found a snail in the shower yesterday. Coming out of my soap bag. Kill me. I can handle the lizards who lived in my room, I can handle a spider the size of my hand on the ceiling, I’ve even become semi a little bit not really but I have to be okay with cockroaches, but snails are just my not thing. Ew. Luckily I have all my shea butter soap to replace the bar that I will now throw away. Anyway the room also has a fan and big beds and um it is the best. The lock seems like you could break it with a strong knuckle and my outlet is semi broken but I could not be happier with our new accomodations. Life seems like it’s gonna be pretty smooth sailing from here actually. We continue on this educational tour to Cape Coast and the Volta Region, and judging by what we’re doing now that’s like vacation (well…a jangy vacation) and then it’s ISP time! Trent and I have started trying to contact the guy at the ArtHaus so we can work out doing our ISPS there. We haven’t gotten through yet but that’s Africa for you. I’m so excited for this period of time. And not just because I will probably be able to wear this dress that I’m currently wearing as a skirt at the arthaus without a stupid t shirt under it without anyone caring about it. But no really I can’t wait to work with this place slash if for some reason I can’t I’ll die. No lies I’d work with that cool art professor in Kumasi with the long shirts. Or forget my talentless legs and learn how to dance. The possibilities really are endless.
I think I have more things to say but as always I forget. Tomorrow we go to Mole National Park YIPPEEE, it is actually the American visiting Africa’s dream, we’re going to see ELEPHANTS and GIRAFFES. We better at least. We have to travel on apparently the worst road ever (nicknamed abortion road? Ack) to get there but I kind of like doing ridiculous things. So yay! I will update after we get back because I bet it will be the greatest thing. As Papa Atta says I’m enjoying my life, and as Jack Dawson says I’m trying to make each day count. Oh also…a girl on my trip has met Leo. I DIE.