ISProblems

The Monday before last Monday is the day I met with Papa Attah and cried.  I shall explain my tears.  A bunch of us had to go in and talk to him on Monday about our lives and frustrations and I basically told him that my advisor does nothing for me, I accomplish things but I never know what I’m doing in advance and am annoyed that I literally do everything for myself when other students have advisors who organize all of their interviews and work for them.  Not me, whatever, story of my life.  Then I cried about money and maybe something else.  He made me feel better but didn’t give me any real help.  Textbook Ghana.  Then I went on the internet (or something I don’t remember) and did other things and went someplace.  What?

Oh this is the day I met my woodcarving friends.  Now I remember.  I went to this art market because I was like literally Papa Attah I’ve exhausted the sparse Ghanaian internet on art and my advisor won’t help me, WHERE SHOULD I GO TODAY.  His suggestion was this art market.  Actually his suggestion was to go to a garden in Krobo Dumase and I was like…no.   I somehow made my way to the art market (it isn’t far from campus but everything is a struggle) and talked to one guy who is a good useless interview but then I met my woodcarving friends. I forgot how we organized this but basically they are now teaching me how to woodcarve.  One of the good things about Ghana is how things like this can happen.

Well I wrote all that three days ago and now it is the NEXT Tuesday night and I don’t’ know how any of this happened.  Except that I am bad at writing now because Africa has ruined my intelligent mind slash I’m out all day so when I get back I’m too tired and scatterbrained to type.  I have been doing good work for my ISP.   I shall share a bit about this.

Tuesday and Friday mornings I go to a place called Dzorwulu (try to pronounce that.  Really.  Try. I always end up having to spell it.) where the artist Wiz Kudoror lives, and then I paint in his studio.   It’s probably my favorite part of the ISP thus far.  Except for riding on tro tros 3 hours every day…oh wait, that’s not my favorite, I hate that.  Wiz just gives me canvases and paint – only like four colors, he must be in between shopping trips, but I’m not going to complain, and I go for it.  It’s only been twice so far.  (wouldn’t it be nice if SIT had told me about him at the beginning instead of saying three weeks later Wiz is better than Kofi?  Hmmm..) But I’m working on two different paintings and I like both of them.  It’s good for me to be painting again, obviously, but also really good for me to be doing more abstract work because thus far I’ve mostly done still lifes and portraits.  I mean obviously those things are good for me too but the range is helpful.  Wiz also plays really fun music and feeds me Guava juice.  I mean he pours it in a cup and gives it to me, that sounded weird.  His studio is just chock full of paintings, like all over the walls, stacked on the floor, and I want to be him when I grow up.  His studio is behind is house but the studio itself is like a mini house, it has a bathroom and a kitchen and an upstairs that I haven’t been to but I suspect it houses a mini bedroom because he came out of it in a different set of clothes today.  We talk a little bit but mostly I paint and he conducts some type of business on the computer which is nice because I’m sick of talking all day which means I’ve stopped doing interviews but whatever I have enough now.

I’ve been settling into far more consistent activities now which I think is better for me and better for my project at this point than all my running around finding new places.  Actually anything goes with my project really but it is definitely better for my sanity.  I’ve been spending a lot of time at the wood carving place, we listen to the radio- sometimes creepy Ghanaian reggae about someone not wanting their family members to touch them in appropriately (really, I’m all for abuse awareness, but I feel like there are much better mediums than reggae music that can then get stuck in my head) and sometimes a nice interlude of American hip hop.  I even heard a new Rihanna song!  I haven’t heard new music in ages!  Also the other day I went out for lunch with one of the wood carver guys and I was like ‘well, taking a Ghanaian to lunch, I can check that off my list now.’ Not that I have a list but some of these things seem necessary.

Speaking of lunch I’ve been eating a significant amount of banku and fufu lately, mostly because I just really have developed a love for groundnut soup.  I mean both B and F I can give or take but I eat them for the soup.  I wonder if you can make groundnut soup in the US?  I mean we have both nuts and copious amounts of oil so it can’t be that far off.  The funny thing is sometimes I legitimately can’t find a place serving banku or fufu when I’m looking for lunch and I have to laugh, because like, who ever thought that I would be LOOKING for these things in GHANA and wouldn’t be able to find them?  In the funniest turn of events, today I searched on the way back from Wiz’s to the tro tro stop and then on the way from the Achimota Overpass to the Dei Center and couldn’t find anything so I had to settle (my use of this word will become comical momentarily) for a cheeseburger.  WHAT?!  When did a cheeseburger become settling when I’m looking for Ghanaian food?  And it’s not like cheeseburgers are common either, this is maybe the 5th place I’ve seen one in Ghana, but it just happens to be right by the Dei Center.  It’s called Papaye and is some kind of weird fast food but that also has chicken and rice and fish and other staples.  But the burgers are cheaper than the chicken and rice..it’s really weird.  But I like that place – except every time I get a coke it’s impossible to open so I have to wait 20 minutes for the semi waitress ladies to come back so I can pathetically be like um will you open this for me?  I’m an embarrassment.

Anyway the Dei Center which I have been mentioning.  It is another art gallery, the gallery is really nice but what I have been going back for is the art library.  Don’t get too excited, it’s literally a room with two walls of very spread out books, but it’s been good for me to get some print resources and I did two interviews with people who work there by accident. When I say by accident I mean I wanted to go there for the library and to avoid talking to anyone but then did interviews anyway.  But they were nice, I like the library for the three or so references it gave me.  Today when I ran out of useful books I started reading this book of essays by Black Americans about AIDS in America which needless to say enthralled me far more than the exhibition books I was searching through.  What can I say, I have equally strong loves for reading about AIDS and for nonfiction writing.

What else have I been doing?  Well a few times I have gone to see this lady named who is a half Ghanaian, half British lady who grew up at bording schools in London then went to Legon (here) for college, THEN went to USC for graduate school where she was the first class in the Annenberg school for something, where she was the same year as Steven Spielberg, then they created Sesame Street, then she had a boyfriend who got some really weird disease and went to live on a Buddhist compound and then she got famous in New York with Wiz and then was a journalist and then her daughter got burned by boiling water when she was a year old so she came back to Ghana and decided to start the Montessori school system in Ghana and then opened an Art Studio and now 25 years later she is retired and is writing a book and talks to me about art – WHAT?!  Yeah, and she has like34646 other crazy stories too.  Seriously she will just talk for hours and I won’t even get bored and will just be amazed by all the crazy stuff she tells me.  The first time we met was when I did my formal interview and then ate with her at this awesome semi obronish semi similar to Panera but not really type of place where she ran into some lady she knew at Legon who had a HOT son.  All I have to say is, WHY do all the random Ghanaian men ask for my phone number and then pester me for days, but the ONE super hot nice normal guy I meet doesn’t?  Where is the justice?

The third time I met with this lady it was mostly so my friend Kelly could interview her for education because of the whole Montessori school thing.  But I came along because I like her and because we were going to the Golden Tulip (of ‘This is not the Golden Tulip’ fame) which I wanted to explore.  The Golden Tulip is the nicest hotel in Accra (I think) so everyone always jokes ‘Well it’s not the Golden Tulip’ when we’re staying in shitty places.  Anyway the GT was swanky swank swankerson but nobody really cares about a nice hotel, we can see those every day.  (I love America.)  I will describe though my reaction to the sliding glass doors: I freaked out.  I forgot about sliding doors.

This was a good and entertaining meeting too, but it then kind of sucked because the lady spent like an HOUR being saying things along the lines of: well you see how men are looking at us?  They are clearly looking at your friend.  She’s just clearly the most attractive one out of the three of us.  I mean like you and me are fine but she is obviously the most attractive by far.  She’s just pretty.  She’s just the most attractive.  ON AND ON AND ON AND ON.  And like, there are only three of us, and one of them is you, who is three times our age.  So you are basically just saying that of two girls one is uglier for SO MANY MINUTES.  And honestly, really?  Is that necessary?  Okay, I get it, Kelly’s skinnier than me, she doesn’t have two tone hair, she doesn’t look like the rabid dog named Africa just chewed her up and spit her out.  She is pretty!  I acknowledge it!  You doing so once would have been fine too, but don’t do it in comparison!  Just say Kelly you’re pretty and move on!  Don’t insult me in the process!  Sorry I don’t wear makeup in Africa, but leave me alone!  I feel like I’m not a person who is particularly sensitive about their body  – I mean there are things about it I don’t like but I feel like I’ve come to terms with them and accepted that I am not ever going to be super thin and don’t really think about it that much.  But ANYONE would get pissy after being told for half an hour how much LESS attractive they are than their friend.  Ugh.  Also, don’t pretend to be a feminist and have a long conversation with me about women’s rights and then go onto compare how attractive two women are which is buying PRECISELY into what men do to objectify women thus KEEPING us at our second class status because IF WE CAN’T FIGHT FOR OURSELVES THEN WHO WILL!?!?!

Okay now we’re just getting into a different topic entirely but that’s because we have a lot of talks about feminism here.  Which is nice, I like talking about women’s rights for a lot of reasons but especially because being here has made me realize more than ever how women fall under men in the power structure and so many men (not all, I love my friends) view women solely or at least first as sex objects and lots of other fucked up shit about the world and the patriarchy.  Even in my project, I’ve talked to one woman who used to own a studio (that one from above) and one female gallery assistant, and tried to get an interview with a female artist but it didn’t work out mostly because the people who need to call me back never do and the people who shouldn’t call me constantly do, but anyway, men rule the art world just like in the US and it’s bad!

One of the interesting things though is that as a white woman here yeah, men talk to me a lot, they are obnoxious, they try to get my phone number, but I’ve almost never felt threatened by them.  They’ve never been predators in the way that I would have imagined before I came here.  They are eager beavers, they will call your phone a million times, but it’s like they’re idolizing you rather than trying to do anything creepy.  Like say you met a celebrity that you really wanted to talk to.  You wouldn’t be like YO LEO GET THE FUCK OVER HERE AND GIVE ME YOUR AUTOGRAPH OR I’LL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE.  You’d be like Um hi I really love Titanic, omg I can’t believe it’s you, you are so amazing, uh, um sorry, can I please uh, get your autograph, or um, just like – you know, flustered, because you feel like this person is so much cooler than you.  It’s closer to the second one because in the same way that we are brought up in this culture of idolizing celebrities in the media, a lot of people here are brought up to idolize Americans.  And it’s not good!  I mean yeah I think I tell funny stories and  paint okay and can make a mean um – actually I can’t cook, so a mean batch of popcorn, and I guess I have nice hair when it is properly dyed, but I’M REALLY NOT THAT COOL.  It makes me sad that people just want to be nice to me and talk to me because I’m American but really, no, I’m not that cool, I just got lucky and have a special affinity for quoting Friends.  I guess the other reason a lot of people talk to me is that they think I will either be their wife or take them to America. I will do no such thing obviously, but even so, THIS IS NOT A REALISTIC ASSUMPTION.  How could I EVER maneuver getting someone a free pass to America?  I don’t even know how ANYONE would go about getting to America if they weren’t born there, let alone how to speed up the process.  Slash also do you really think I’m just going to marry some random guy I meet who tells me he wants me to be his wife?  Why would anyone ever do that?  Also my fake wedding ring is a giant green amber stone on my RIGHT hand.   Least convincing thing.  I do tell a mean story about my husband (or boyfriend, which I use when the men are less creepy and I’m more into storytelling) James Greene when they ask.  I actually had a really fun time making up a whole load of crap about my romantic history (which in actuality is practically nonexistent) when I was talking to one of my artist contacts last Saturday.

I was supposed to be interviewing this guy who owns a shop at the cultural center, or so I thought.  He thought we were just hanging out so I was like oh well I got enough information out of you I’ll just chat.  Chatting with Ghanaians is hard for me because most of the time we don’t really have much in common to talk about.  But then I realized something awesome.  They like me.  They won’t tell me I’m being boring.  I can literally blather on about my friends, movies I like, America in general, for so long and they will not ever tell me to stop.  This was an awesome discovery because then I went on to tell this guy about Titanic, about Father of the Bride parts 1 and 2, about Redlands, about a bunch of made up ex boyfriends (this was just funny), about James my husband studying in South Africa, about my 16 best friends (8 Johnston 8 Beta obviously) and just in general about America.  It was awesome!

I suppose the main other thing that has happened to me is me getting lost.  All the fucking time.  I havea  lot that I could say about this but mostly it just annoys me.  I hate taxis!  And no, Yemi, YOU CAN’T ALWAYS TAKE A TRO TRO.  They don’t go everywhere, and even if they did, THERE IS NO MAP AND NO SCHEDULE SO HOW THE HELL WOULD I EVER FIGURE THAT OUT?  I spend so much damn money on transport I just wanna cry every day.  I literally fight with a  taxi driver at least twice a day.  And SIT won’t give me more money!  HOW is it fair that people living in a village don’t have to spend any money on taxis while I have to haul my ass around Greater Accra 5 days a week and don’t get any help with it?  Oh, it might be easier if my advisor would take me places or even get me appointments or show me routes, but OH NO, HE DOESN’T DO THAT. Also I have to somehow figure out a way to pay the wood carver something or a gift and do something for Wiz, but I’m already out of the SIT money and I really don’t want to spend MORE OF my own money on something that is clearly for my project.  I think I’ll ask Papa Attah (if I can ever get a hold of him, because of course, I cannot) if they can split the advisor money between Kofi and the wood carver and Wiz, because Kofi does LITERALLY NOTHING but piss me off and try to make me turn in early drafts of my ISP.  He does not deserve 160 cedi.

Well I think a lot of other stuff has happened but I will adjourn, that was long.  Home so soon!  Thanksgiving is 2 days away and I’m sad to not be home but we’re having a little obroni thanksgiving at the apartment which I’m excited for.  No turkey or anything, but we’ll get some good stuff.  I’m making spaghetti with meatballs – but no sauce because the meatballs were already 11 cedi and I’m already poor.  Boo.  I hate this money crap.