THE DAY BECCA WENT BANKRUPT

okay.  this was yesterday.  today was awesome too but there is no time.

THE DAY BECCA WENT BANKRUPT

Another full day of work on the ISP for me.  But you will be laughing when you see some of the things that I am constituting as research on my ISP, and laugh even more when you realize how legitimate those things are as research.

I got up in the morning with the intent to quickly go to the university with Emily to print one of my really late assignments, turn in something else, and then head to my 10 am appointment with the artist Kofi Nduro at his studio.  As it happens in Ghana, this did not go as planned.  We got to the university at about 8:15, with seemingly ample time for me to accomplish all said things.  Then, the computer lab wasn’t open until 9.  Okay, I figured, I can still make this – I’ll go check in at the SIT office now, tell them I’ll be back with my paper, print it quick, and leave.  But oh does life always have other plans for me.

First I realize upon getting to the SIT office that I really have to go to the bathroom.  The bathroom is open so I head right on in, but when I’m ready to leave said bathroom, the door is locked.  Not like my stall door, like the door to the entire bathroom.  This is a problem.  I was surprised when the door was open in the first place because we always had to get a key to unlock it, and apparently someone was doing that and then locked it again.  So I am now locked in a bathroom.  I try various ways of poking at the door but it is clear that none of them are going to work.  Windows are barred, I am stuck.  So I call Papa Atta who should be in the office and breathlessly explain my paradox.  I hear not much and then the line goes dead.  I begin to worry.  But luckily within a few minutes Nana Ama who is apparently the SIT staff member manning the office today comes to my rescue.  We go back to the office and have a short awkward check in moment and then I go back to the lab to try and print my paper.

It only takes me AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES TO PRINT IT.  Are you wondering why this is?  SO AM I.  I set myself down at a computer, open my email, go back to where I emailed myself my paper…open it, this takes a while, so I log onto facebook and check the rest of my email.  Loads in about ten minutes, love ya Ghana, and I’m about ready to print it.  I do so.  I go check the printer.  No dice.  People are fumbling with the printer so I decide to check back later.  This is not an interesting account so I’ll shorten it down

Check

Harass computer helper man who is a Ghanaian version of Owen

Ghanaian Owen tells me to harass computer ladies

They give me blank shrugs

I attempt to print again

First seven pages print

I attempt to print last 16 pages

No dice

I attempt again

7 more pages print

I harass more people

Ghanaian Owen helps me, kind of

No dice

More lack of dice

Computer ladies claim no documents have been sent

I print again

Finally everything is printed, and I pay 4.60 (beginning of bankruptcy)

Now it is an hour and fifteen minutes later and I’m not only late for my first appointment but am also probably like an hour away from it.  Typical Ghana.  So I leave and head to the taxi area, get on a tro tro bound for 37 (my new best friend) and am glad that Ghanaians don’t seem to care when I’m hours late.  This is where I mention, if I have not already, that I spend at least a third if not more of my day getting transported places.  Luckily I have gotten used to having an extreme amount of time to think so this is okay.  I switch tro tros at 37, the usual, eat a springroll, accidentally on purpose throw my empty water sachet out the window and cause a commotion, am embarrassed, get off at Cantomments.  Here I get in a taxi and put the driver on the phone with Kofi Nduro, the artist I’m meeting.  This is pretty much my only way to get anywhere because I can navigate to general areas (i.e. Teshie Nungua, Osu, Cantomments,) by myself, but then I can’t really find my way to the specific place because I don’t know where I am.  In a funny moment this taxi driver drives all around the area, asking pedestrians for help, going the same way multiple times…and it turns out that this guy’s studio is less than two blocks from where we started.  I tell him this when he tries to make me pay 4 cedi for that wild goose chase and I end up paying him 2.50.  New Kofi is waiting for me outside his studio and I go in and quickly realize that I am not just in love with Ebenezer Borlabie, I will probably fall in love with at least half if not more of the Ghanaian artists that I meet.  I’m starting to think that instead of meeting new artists the whole time I will interview a bunch this week and beginning of next and then for the rest of the time just stalk the ones I’ve already met and make them love me.

Oh, this is the appropriate time to share a funny quote said by yours truly on Halloween.  I was talking to Trent about Kofi and I said the phrase “You have no idea how good I am at making middle aged men love me.”  Now I have a few things to say about this.  1. It’s true.  2.  Not in a creepy way!  3. For evidence you can look at how the majority of my teachers since like 9th grade have been obsessed with me.  I don’t know how I do it, but in the words of the one Naomi Morrison-Cohen, “I think your sense of humor just really appeals to middle aged men.”  Maybe this is true.  We have yet to see if it will work on Ghanaian men but (well actually it has already worked all too well on creepy Ghanaian men, but I think that is just my diminutives white girl ness) but I have faith that if I can keep talking to Ebenezer Borlabie and Kofi Nduro (do not mistake he is different from Kofi Setordji, my advisor.   Kofi Nduro is New Kofi, Kofi Setordji is Difficult Kofi) they will fall under my spell and we will be in love.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, my interview with New Kofi.  He also has beautiful paintings and a studio filled with paint and we sit down and he is personable and we have a great interview which I record ON MY LAPTOP BY HAND NOT WITH THE IDIOT MECHANISM and it is lovely.  I get lots of useful information for my ISP and we make plans to talk again and I take pictures and life is so great.  I’ve just been getting such great insights from some of these artists so far, I am just loving my project.  Because it’s like my project is just what it is it’s not even just about the life of the contemporary artist…its just like whatever I want it to be and that is about art and life and Ghana and it is awesome.

I leave there and just grab a random tro tro.  This is my life now.  I don’t really know what I am going to do now but I figure it will work itself out.  In fact it does, because the random tro tro I am on stops in front of this mini tro tro stop and across the street is…Koala! The store that EB told me to buy a map at yesterday!  So I awkwardly push myself out of the tro tro and have another awkward moment of trying to pay the driver while having no change while the tro tro is moving away and it all works out after I drop a bunch of coins on the ground.   I head over to Koala and lo and behold it is ANOTHER nice grocery store, but this time I am not here to buy groceries just map.  I just revel in it for a sec, it smells like America and goodness, and then I see a hot white guy with an Amish looking girl (he was also presumably Amish but his wear was just saying ‘hot’ and not ‘all covered up’) and look at an article in the OH THIS DESERVES ITS OWN PARAGRAPH

I grab the map and am casually perusing the magazines when I see that Time magazine has an article on the science of favoritism that parents have for children.  I start reading the article, it says all parents have secret favorites (I’m watching you mom and dad) but that’s not the point, the point is, IT QUOTES A PROFESSOR FROM THE DEAR OLD U OF R!! UNIVERSITY OF REDLANDS!! IN TIME MAGAZINE!! I AM SO HAPPY THAT I ALMOST CRY.

I sadly return the magazine to its stand, wishing I could buy it but not wanting to spend the six cedi.  I clearly have no idea of the moneyspending that is in store for me.  I start wandering around again trying to find the art store that EB told me was near this place, as you can see wandering is my main pastime.  I walk one way, a guy who washes cars wants to be my friend but also tells me the correct direction of the store, I thank him and promise to come back and visit again (I might, that Koala was pretty enticing.) I am walking down the street where he said my place will be located….and I see it.

I say loudly, OH MY GOD.

Someone asks if I am lost.

I kind of say no but my no is lost in my running, not to the art store, but to…

KFC!!!!!!!!!!!! KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN.

I HAD HEARD OF THIS BUT HAD FORGOTTEN AND NOW I AM IN FRONT OF IT AND IT IS HUGE AND I AM RUNNING AND THE HAPPIEST GIRL.

I walk into KFC in awe.  I am so happy.  It is KFC.  I order a piece of spicy chicken and a coke.  I am loving every second of it.  I do not think it can get any better.  Then I go to the second floor eating place (THIS PLACE HAS THREE FLOORS) and set down at a table, and I hear a familiar tune coming on the stereo…….

Guess what song is the best song I could possibly hear right now.

THE REGGAE VERSION OF MY HEART WILL GO ON.

I call my dad to share this excellent moment.  I can’t really hear but it still happens. Life could not be better.  I eat my chicken to the bone and drink my coke and love my life.  I go to the bathroom just because.  In Ghana, you learn that you take nice bathrooms with soap and toilet paper when you can get them.

So then this random street artist maybe or just jewelry selling guy attaches himself to me and says he will help me find the art store.  That’s cool, you go for it.  We find it relatively quickly but I realize that I have no money so I need to go to an ATM before I buy all the shit I need.  This is my downfall.

I get money.  I buy a necklace from helper guy because he has been so nice.  Then his friend is making a bracelet that says Rebecca.  Then first guy is showing me wallets. Then second guy is saying he’s going to make bracelets for my friends. Then a third guy comes along.  He has paintings.  He is showing me them.  This displeases first guy who also has paintings. They are suddenly spread out as well.  Second guy is making bracelets for my friends while throwing a kente cloth around me saying I need to have it as a gift for Obama.   Now there is a guy in a wheelchair with bracelets.  Another guy comes over with kente cloth flip flops.  They know I have money despite my protests to the contrary and I’m bargaining ridiculously low with the hope that they will go away, but instead they start stepping down to my prices and at this point I realize that this is a great research opportunity on street art so while they are throwing cloth around me and making bracelets with my friends names and showing me paintings I start to say things like WHEN DID YOU BECOME AN ARTIST.  HOW DID YOU LEARN TO DO ALL THIS.  DO YOU MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO LIVE OFF SELLING?  DO YOU MAKE THIS BRACELET OR DO YOU JUST SELL IT? There is a cacophony of sound as I’m still trying to refuse to buy things (but am buying things anyway) one of the guys is asking if because of my hair wrap I am a rasta (yes, art on the street man, in America we call rastas camp counselors.) another is offering to give me dreadlocks, which I accepted (HAHA JUST KIDDING I CAN’T EVEN JOKE ABOUT THAT FOR MORE THAN ONE SECOND BECAUSE I’M OBSESSED WITH MY HAIR) and so then I spent about five minutes explaining to him how I love my hair but can’t take good care of it here, and then in my interviewing spree I ask him if he considers doing hair an art (I’m really milking this one for all it’s worth here) and meanwhile I’m trying to get as many names and phone numbers as possible so I can call these informal interviews and have more bulk to my references page.  The upshot of all this is, I buy a RIDICULOUS amount of the things they are selling (I’ve bargained it all down a lot, but at the end of the day a lot of souvineers is still a lot of souviners, I will never spell that word right) and I now have to go BACK to the atm to get enough money to buy the art supplies I need.  My life is a joke, but at least I’m accumulating enough gifts for the huge number of people that I love in America.  (seriously get excited guys it’s gonna be the best Christmas ever in Wisconsin and the best Christmas part 2 ever in California.)

Now first guy is taking me back to the art store and I am exhausted and the kente cloth for Obama is wrapped around my neck (loser.)  I get back to the art store and tell Calabash (yes that is his name) that I will try to make it to his reggae night at the beach tomorrow night (I will try, I didn’t say that I would be successful.)  I am now about to spend a lot MORE money because there is every painting supply I could ever need in this story.  Remember when Kofi 1 told me that art stores don’t exist in Ghana?  WELL, HE LIED.  Here is a bona fide art material store and I am in heaven. I buy oil paint and a sketchpad and a palatte and some canvasses and paint brushes and my quick drying medium and mineral spirits (nobody can say that Ben didn’t create a responsible oil painter) and a palette knife (YAY!!!) and call it a day.  Well in some ways, there is still more money to be spent.  I am loving life as usual and then decide to head over to check out the Global Mamas store up by the Koala.

Global Mamas is an organization that does fair trade for women artists in I think more than one country but they have a big chapter in Ghana and I thought it was only in Cape Coast but it turns out that they are in Accra as well.  These things are more pricey because well they are fair trade so I buy a few and ask the ladies if I can get in contact with someone to interview about the organization and they give me a card and then I decide that it is time to head home because I have spent almost as much money as I make in a week at Hoofbeat, you do the math, and if you don’t know how much I make a week at Hoofbeat, don’t try to figure it out because it will be simultaneously embarrassing how little I make and how much I spent.  I know that seems like two opposite things but trust me it is possible for both those to be true.

Anyway I get on a random tro tro headed home, and then it is not actually heading home because my tro tro logic is to just get on the nearest tro tro, take it to whatever station it is going to , and then go home.  This always works well it just takes a long time.  Case in point I get to Accra-Accra-Tema and find the place where I have to wait for an America House tro tro relatively quickly, but then it is a long line and I don’t make it on the first one and then I am confused because I am at the front of the line but there are three lines and I don’t’ know that anyone from these lines can just get on any tro tro that comes up and it will make it to America house eventually.  So I’m waiting for a very long time and then finally push my way onto a tro tro. Literally push, people in lines in the late afternoon get in fights over these things.  If I hadn’t been at the front I probably never would have gotten on one.  People are yelling and I am just huddling in a corner with my art supplies like the obroni that I am.

Me getting past people onto tro tros always reminds me of the episode of How I Met Your Mother where they are arguing about what makes you a true New Yorker and one of the things is stealing a cab from someone who needs it way more than you.  This resonates with me because, well, pretty much everyone deserves that tro tro spot more than me, no matter where I am.  But what can you do, take cabs everywhere?  Nope, not happening, I don’t hate myself THAT much for spending a mil dollars on random Ghanaian handicrafts, but I do loathe myself when I pay over 10 cedi for a taxi ride.  It just feels pointless when I have no good tastes in my mouth or merchandise in my hands to spend that money!

Yah so I make it home after another years long tro tro ride, walk back to my place of residence, and then collapse from tiredness.  I have more appointments to make but I feel awkward doing it at night so I will try tomorrow morning when I will be waiting a 18 years to meet with Kofi (this is inevitable.)

During my many (many) (many many) (many) hours of travel today I know I thought of other things that I wanted to talk about on this here blog.  I will try to remember anything I can

  1. Accra is really really big.  This isn’t really something I need to extrapolate on…it’s just really large!  And so many people!  And so big!  And so wide!  And so far!  And so so so many cars!  I made my dad text me how big it is today and apparently people wise it is between the size of Houston and Philadelphia, the fourth and fifth largest cities in the US, respectively.  I can’t shake myself from imagining it being the same size as LA, but maybe that is just because LA is also spread out/because I have no conception of sizes of cities that are not cities I live in.  But also then, LA IS REALLY FUCKING HUGE!  I need to look this up area wise too.  I wonder how people live in LA without tro-tros?!?!
  2. Sometimes I look around when I’m the only white person in an area (which is a lot, but less frequent now that I spend so much time in Osu stalking artists) and think about how weird it is on the one hand, cool that I’m here on the other hand, but on the biggest hand (if I had three hands? Gaelan?) I think of how it’s kind of stupid that I am the one who gets to live in America.  (and we can do the whole but is it REALLY better to live in America argument later, all these issue are far too complex, for this point for all intents and purposes we’re going to say yes) And I ask myself, why me?  Why was I the one out of all these souls who was born into this powerful country with lots of money and McDonalds’s and stop signs and varieties of food and universities and etc etc etc?  I mean nothing about me is inherently better than any of these people, probably a lot of them are smarter and nicer than me.  I guess that’s just how the world is, luck of the draw.  It’s just weird to think though that in any given atmosphere so few people have been to America.  And that’s where I live, that’s my home.  Oh life.
  3. Speaking of America, actually speaking of Ghana, I had a moment today when entering Accra-Accra-Tema station where I realized, I wouldn’t mind spending more than three months in Ghana.  It’s probably because on the isp I get to do what I want and meet fun people and go around all day and have fun things happen and also am living in a place where I can get groceries and internet and travel around easily.  But still, this is a big thing for me, since a month or two ago if someone had said ‘hey you have to say in Ghana you can’t go home’ I would have said something along the lines of ‘I’d sooner die.’  No longer, no longer!  I like my living pattern here now and even though I would still be pissed if someone told me I couldn’t go home (parents, Rachel, extended family, Victoria, Steph, Amber, Naomi, Kalehua, Jenny,  Kelli, Ariel, Natasha, Stessy, Lisa, James, Alex, Phil, Joe, Jake, Eli, Caroline, Jess, Cristin, all other friends at Redlands, all Redlands alumni, Hoofbeat, all camp friends, Taco Bell) I would probably be able to hack it and be happy for a while.  Even better if someone told me I could go home on schedule but that I would have to make several more trips to Ghana in my lifetime I would be quite pleased about it and excited for these future sojourns.
  4. I don’t know I am sleepy perhaps now I will eat a small snack and then read or draw (yay! I can do that now!) and eventually go to sleep. Yay life!