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.

nobody freak out about the part where I ride on a motorcycle

I feel slightly better about my progress now because I have called some random art galleries that I found on a phonebook  ish thing on the internet and now have three appointments set up over the next three days.  IN YOUR FACE, KOFI, BAHA!  I have to get over my paralyzing fears of being awkward and feeling like an idiot and the phone in general to do this so I am very proud of myself.  I think I still sound like an idiot and it is REALLY difficult because the phone service is never good and I can never hear anyone.  But whatever, I have three semi productive days ahead of me, life will be good.  I could try to do something outsidedly productive today, but it’s Sunday, and Ghana is dead on Sunday, so that probably wouldn’t even work out anyway.

OMG look now I have a fourth interview!  I’m so productive!  I feel so great about my chances in life!  So anyway now I feel okay about saying more things and telling more funny stories or something because it is Sunday, I have set up 4 interviews, and my project will not be a TOTAL joke.

I will tell the story of the art opening adventure.  So once I decided that this was a thing I should go to or else I would be wasting my life, I called Trent and he agreed and we set out from our separate locations (I don’t really know where he lives but it is far away) to go to this place.  It turns out that the gallery that the show is at is near the beach, so we figure we’ll both find our way to the beach area and then go from there.

I put on one of my outfits that is not 100% sweaty and ugly, aka one of the dresses I got here.   It’s not really that cute and I probably wouldn’t wear it at home if I was trying to look nice but the pattern is pretty and I don’t really have many options.  Lace shirts, I miss you.  I even put on my urban outfitters sandals instead of my chacos in the effort to not look like such a slob.  Then I set out on the adventure.  I walked to America House as usual, then got on a tro tro to 37 because I recognized it earlier in the day from the time we went to the beach early on in the semester.  I got to 37 pretty easily, but then, as usual, they let me off at a random spot on the street instead of anywhere near where all the tro tros are.  A guy told me which direction to go, so I started walking that way but wasn’t really sure where I’d find the tro tros.  While I was waiting on an island in the middle of this intersection, this guy on a motorcycle motioned to me and this is the universal (in Ghana) code for ‘I will give you a ride in my taxi/car/motorcycle.’ I walked over and was like where are you going and he said Accra Accra (which is another big tro tro interchange) and I said oh, I’m going to the beach area.  And he said I’ll take you there for 6 cedi.  I said hmm how about four.  And  he agreed.  Now at this point I was like hmm pros cons…okay I’m just going to do it.  So I get on the back of his motorcycle and he hands me a helmet and we’re off!  This was very exhilarating, flying through traffic at night on busy Ghanaian streets, on someone’s motorcycle!  It is only a little bit scary but mostly just so much fun!  He weaves through the traffic just like motorcycles are not supposed to do and gets me where I am going much faster than any other vehicle because of all the traffic.  Sometimes he tries to say things to me but I mostly can’t hear him so I just nod which doesn’t work on a motorcycle, then I say things like ‘yes,’ ‘ahh,’ and ‘oh good.’

He lets me off near the beach and gets my phone number (as usual tsk) and I walk in the general direction of where I think I need to go.  I pass this hotel that the website said was next to the gallery, so I’m like okay good.  Then I walk for  a while in between a bunch of trees and then I’m by a construction site and suddenly I realize that that map must have been WAAAY out of proportion.  So I turn around to try and maybe get help or directions from the hotel.  The kind people of Ghana keep shouting out their car windows “you shouldn’t be here at night!”  “be careful, do you need help?”  “go to the hotel!”  and I am happy that I am living in a place where the people inquire as to my safety versus trying to kill me. Back at the nice hotel I ask the men at the gate for directions and they lead me to another guy who is also trying to find this same event.  We leave in his nice car (yay, nice cars, with seatbelts!) and try to find the thing.  As we’re looking for it, and this is taking forever, I look at the brochure which he has a nice handsized copy of. On the back it says an RSVP number, so naturally I commence with amusing myself by thinking of all the things I will tell the people at the door if they say I am not on some RSVP list. This is a fun game, making up stories about how I am scouting art for a possible show for the University of Redlands esteemed professor of art Ben Bridgers and if I cannot get in he will be very upset and will never feature these artists in his spring show.  I love making up fake stories in my head.

About a million hours later after driving really far and turning into a place that is not the place and turning around and passing the correct things and finally finding the place, I get out while nice man parks the car and head in.  There is obviously nobody checking any type of list and this is a totally open event but my made up stories were a fun way to pass the time anyway.  I am overwhelmed by all the classy people here and immediately know that even though I am an obroni within this crowd I am not going to be the special commodity that I am on the streets.  This is a good thing though because then I can just be intimidated and look at the art in peace.  I immediately find the open bar and get wine (AN EVENT.  IN GHANA.  WITH AN OPEN BAR. WHAT IS THIS.) and then I start walking around and am amazed by all the art.  I am just in love.  It’s so fucking cool.  The two main artists on exhibition are taking up all of the second floor and I am just wandering around with my wine staring in awe at how beautiful everything is and how original and how wonderful and how lowly little me is at a real art opening just looking around and no one is telling me to get the fuck away because I am a pedestrian.  I am just the happiest girl.  Then I see Trent who has also found his way to the event somehow.  Neither of us really understand how we made it to this far away place.  We now continue to be amazed by everything but are now amazed together and have someone to discuss our amazement with.  We keep wandering around in awe, looking at things and talking about how great they are and how wonderful it is that we are here and patting each other on the back that we decided to come.  Everything is happy and beautiful and inspired and some guy with food on a tray hands me an appetizer and I am in heaven.  Trent and I wander about, find great paintings, go tell each other how great they are, stare at them, and we are amazed at our good fortune.  Some random guy talks to me for a second and I am happy that the world is giving me friends.  Another guy who claims to have art in the show starts befriending me and he and his friend are entertaining me and we go around and they take pictures with me and if he is a real artist I get his contact information for my project and life is so fun.  Then it is starting to close down so Trent and I head downstairs and we talk to some obronsters who are dressed WAY classier than us and are from NYU and probably hate us, then we set off into the night to make it home.

Also an adventure, just like this whole night, we cross streets and wander about, still talking about the greatness of our night and art and art and life, and then we find a place to wait for a tro tro.  None of these tro tros are going to 37 or Madina, our destinations, so some random guy takes us down this path to a big tro tro stop.  We get on a tro tro bound for both and continue to have great talks.  Me and Trent just have great talks, what can I say.  I get off at 37 but soon realize that I also have to go to Madina before I can go to America house.  Curses.  But then this funny thing happens where I get on a tro tro bound for Madina, and then suddenly it isn’t leaving and something is going on so I take out my ear phones and realize that the EXACT SITUATION FROM OUR SKIT IS HAPPENING, aka people are yelling and fighting over change.  Unlike in our skit, I do not jump up and say “No matter black or white, we’re all people together!” or whatever our narrator said (I was actually the driver in the skit) and I just sit there and am amused and only a little bit annoyed.  We eventually make it to Madina where I try to find a shared taxi to America House but this guy cajoles me into a chartered one and I’m tired so I just don’t care.  He talks to me and I decide that he is nice so it’s okay that he is cajoling me into spending extra dollars.  He drives me all the way to my house and asks for my phone number but my phone is dead so I agree to take his and I will eventually lose it but it’s not like I was going to answer anyway because I never answer my phone here because really what good would ever come of that for any party and now I am back in bed and it has been a great adventure!

technology has foiled me again: the lame blog post that replaced the great one my computer lost

Okay, so, I had a really long blog entry in my word but then my computer froze and I had to shut it down and instead of doing auto recover like word is SUPPOSED to do, it just disappeared.  Even my American electronics don’t work in Africa.  Ugh.  Well it’s been quite a last few days.  Except then I did nothing yesterday and today.  But before that I was keeping myself busy.  I’ll tell all about it.  I’m in the ISP period now.  It is challenging because my AD Yemi told me that working with Kofi, he’d have me doing a ton of stuff and keeping really busy, and well, that was just the biggest lie anyone has ever told me.  I’m basically completely self sufficient i.e. having to find all my own things to do and setting up everything for myself without any help or guidance, which I guess is good for me, but it’s also really stressful.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I had known this was coming, but to go from someone telling you that the person you’re working with will be taking you places and planning your life for you and then reality being that you talk to them, they’re like that looks like a good plan, and then send you off…not exactly the same thing.

But no, I’m actually really happy during the ISP when I tell myself not to be stressed because even if my ISP sucks…it doesn’t really matter, I’ll be back in America in five weeks regardless.  Even if I completely fuck it up, they can’t stop me from coming home!  Wait wouldn’t that be awful?  Okay we’re not even thinking about that.

Anyway so on Sunday I met with Kofi for the first time.  At this point I still thought that he was going to be a helpful person that I would see and he would give me activities.  This meeting actually fostered this notion.  We met at his house (the Arthaus, which I now learn is basically just his house and he works other places…hey remember when my ISP was just supposed to be there?  And that is not a thing?  Oh, Africa, the curve balls you throw me) and we talked for a while and got my project planned out which is basically the life of an artist in Ghana.  Slash studying art in Ghana.  It sounds stupid, I don’t know.  I just want to do shit and see shit and meet people and study and be happy, which has worked out well except for the planning part.  But I’ll work on it today.  He gave me some books that I can go back and look at later which he IS IN (It’s so weird that my advisor is actually someone who is in books.  Like he’s relatively famous.  Wow!)  and suggested some artists for me to talk to, he said he was going to give me their contact information.  In classic form this has not happened.  If anyone is keeping track that was six days ago that he said he would give it to me.  Ah, artists.

That day I went on to take a nap and then did something else.  I don’t really remember, time doesn’t make sense here.

OH BUT SPEAKING OF TIME AND TIME NOT MAKING SENSE I HAVE THE BEST FUCKING NEWS EVER

I was sitting in the SIT office, sitting on a couch.  Across from me, I saw this cabinet with clear glass doors and a bunch of books in it.  I was idly glancing at the books, thinking maybe a book I like will be here, when I saw it.  Literally the one book that I have wished I had brought with me since the very day I got to Ghana.  I jumped up and almost smashed the glass to get to it but instead waited until the door was opened.  I grabbed it and hugged it and stole it and it will be mine until I leave it for the next person because I have my own copy at home, it was, it was, it was

IT WAS THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE.  I NOW HAVE MY FAVORITE BOOK (WELL ONE OF THREE BUT THIS IS MY FAVORITE ONE TO REREAD) WITH ME ALL THE TIME AND I AM READING IT AND IT IS MAKING ME SO HAPPY AND I AM JUST GOING TO KEEP REREADING IT FOR THE NEXT FIVE WEEKS 😀 😀 :D:D:D

I LOVE MY LIFE.  Anyway, that was on Monday that I found my book.  Yipee!  Oh on one of those days I made myself tacos from stuff I bought at the supermarket.  I had a whole narrative of my taco making but it was lost in the Microsoft work fuckup of 2011.  (Along with my second paper, ISP proposal, and work journals.  Fuck everything.) So Monday night we all went out for Terrrin’s birthday also it was Halloween.  I really love Halloween in America, it’s my favorite holiday, so even though this was somewhat of a happy occasion it was also kind of depressing because we are in Africa at a bar with not real costumes instead of roaming between parties at Redlands with all my friends and excellent costumes.  But it actually did end up being really fun.  Cam and I were discussing this today, when we get together here and go out, it’s always fun.  We never have a bad night.  This is because you aren’t expecting anything.  At night you can expect a party to be fun and then it’s lame and you get upset, or you want to see a specific person and they aren’t there and its depressing, but here we know what we’re gonna get and we go to a bar and hang out there all night and it’s just fun.  So on Halloween we all had fun AND

  1. I did the freeze for the first time in Africa
  2. I ate kebabs (when in America will I be able to party and eat kebabs at the same time?  Never.)
  3. It was just fun.

So that was a good night.  The next day was Tuesday, we moved out of the hotel and had our last SIT meeting before the start of ISP.  I moved, I figured some shit out, that was when I found The Time Traveler’s Wife, explored the new area, had lunch at Bush Canteen, went on the free school internet.  Not too much exciting stuff.

Wednesday I met with my advisor in the morning…sort of. This is when Kofi stopped being helpful and started to veer into useless.  Trent and I met up at this hotel before walking to Kofi’s workplace, and this was a damn nice hotel.  Like a fancy schmancy hotel in America, except it was in Ghana.  I was sitting there in all my gross Africa clothes (I don’t even have to specify because ALL MY CLOTHES ARE DISGUSTING) and I was like man, if this were America, I would not be able to sit in gross clothes in the lobby of a super nice hotel in my chacos and not have anyone bother me.  But here, they’re just like she’s chilling she’s an obroni.  I’m not going to complain about it.  Then Trent arrived and we walked down to Kofi’s office (ish, I don’t’ really get it) place which is at the Nubuke Foundation which is basically just like a place for art in Ghana, apparently.  Kofi came out and was like HAND ME YOUR ISP PLANS and we were like what?  We have some notes. And he was like REWRITE IT AND GIVE IT TO ME I’LL BE BACK IN TEN.  So we wrote them down nice for him and waited…and started chatting…I read a little bit…we chatted more…ME AND TRENT LITERALLY TALKED FOR TWO HOURS.  Then Kofi came out, looked over what we had written, told us it was good, and left.  Wait, remember the part where you were supposed to help me execute this?  Apparently not, so now I’m on my own.  Then Trent and I walked to lunch.

The next day was really my only productive day of my ISP so far.  First I tried to go to the Foundation for Contemporary Art Ghana.  Keep in mind the word TRY.  I went to the big tro tro place, America House, by where I am staying now, and then the friendly Ghanaian people helped me get on a tro tro to 37 which would take me in the right direction.  I switched at 37, got on another tro tro,it was all good.  Then I got off by Osu/Cantomments and a guy on the tro tro pointed me in the right direction of the Dubois Center which is where the FCA is located.  Then I walked…and walked…and walked.  Not a thing.  Kept walking.  Nobody even knew what the dubois center was. So finally a taxi stopped me (after I’d been walking aimlessly for half an hour) and asked where I was going, I told him, and I asked if it was in walking distance.  His response?  “Well…technically.”

So he drove me there and let me out and I paid him and then I found my way to the building where the FCA is located.  It is a shack.  With no one in it.  It just says it’s the FCA, but really there were no people there and it was a shack.  So that was cool.  I copied down the phone number and walked down the street to call it.  No answers on either number.  So that was a waste of time.  I decided I’d make my way to the National Museum, but I didn’t know where I was or where the museum was so I had to take a taxi.  I fucking hate taxis.  They are so expensive!  I don’t mind spending money on food or souvieners (never spelling that right) or really anything but taxis just suck because tro tros are so much cheaper but sometimes you legitimately can’t take a tro tro because you aren’t near a tro tro stop or you don’t know where they or you are going etc.  Anyway I took a taxi to the National Museum, and spent an hour or two there doing research.  It didn’t really have much art at all and not any contemporary art, but it was still good research that I’ll be able to use in my ISP.

It took me an extremely long time to get home that day.  First off, I had no idea where I was, secondly I had no idea how far away I was.  Turned out pretty far.  I walked for a while and then realized…walking was not going to get me any closer because I was pretty much on the other side of Accra.  I don’t actually really have a good conception of this because maps of Accra don’t exist, but whatever.  I know.  I got a semi cheap taxi to a tro tro stop and then took a tro tro to 37, but then I endured the horrible: TRO TROS ALWAYS DROP YOU OFF ON RANDOM STREETS NEAR THE STATIONS INSTEAD OF THE ACTUAL STATION.  So I couldn’t really find where all the other tro tros were and just gave up and got a taxi.  I had my period, I was just pissed off.  Back at the ranch I took my second shower of the day (I NEVER do this) and sat around.  Then I decided that it would be really a good idea for Trent and I to go to this art opening that night, so I called him and we were like YES.  EVEN THOUGH THIS PLACE IS SUPER FAR AWAY WE’RE DOING IT.  This is why I like that Trent is my fellow art person because a lot of people on this trip would be like that’s too far, too confusing, blah blah blah, but we were just like WE’RE DOING IT MEET YOU THERE.

Now this is actually a really good excellent funny story that requires its own entry.  It is too fun to put in the middle of another entry. So look forward to that one.

Now then it was Friday.  The beginning of me accomplishing nothing.  I went to the school in the morning, thinking I’d turn in some late work.  Instead I still couldn’t figure out how to print, wrote some of my ACS, and copied down the phone numbers of some art galleries…(that I still haven’t called.)  Then Cam was visiting so we sat at a bar by Bush Canteen all afternoon talking. I mean it wasn’t productive but it was really fun and I need social time right?  Exactly.  That night we went to bed pretty early which was good because I was behind on sleep so I finally got twelve hours of sleep!  Yes!  So we will call that a  social and health day.  Keep in mind that I have been trying to contact Kofi literally every day and nothing has come of it so it’s not like I’m being totes lazy.. . I just don’t really know what to do haha.

Saturday aka Yesterday was another day of fun but also accomplishing nothing.  Cam and I went out to brunch (SUCH AN AMERICAN CONCEPT) at this coffee place by where I’m staying, so we used the free Wifi, had tea and rice, and then played SCRABBLE.  What a nice Westernized day!  Then we found Emily and hung out for a while in the afternoon, then went out to dinner at this poolside place by our hotel and made up SO MANY FUN NEW GAMES. Well some of them we made up and some already existed but listen:

Game #1: everyone tells 4 or so stories about you and a guy.  But without names.  Then later you go on facebook and show your friends the guys and they have to guess which person matches with which story.

Game #2: Show friends the facebook of one person you are really close with and one person you do not like. They then have to guess which is which.

Game #3: Think of someone on your trip (in this case.) The others with you must ask questions such as “If this person were a Ghanaian food what would they be?”  “If this person were a type of car what would they be?”  “If this person were a country what would they be?”  AND THEN YOU GUESS WHO THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.  It was so fun!

So then we were just happy and playing games and being girls and it was so happy because you start to miss things like that when you are away from college.  Now it is Sunday and I am going to try to call some of the art galleries but I am nervous because it is Sunday.  Ah well.  Maybe I’ll keep badgering Kofi and maybe one day he will respond!  Stay tuned for my art opening adventure and in the future more news of my nonexistent ISP.

two truths and a lie: i killed a chicken, i risked river blindness, and i met leonardo dicaprio

I have been in the village (my village is called Ampento, approx. 800 people) for about five days now.  As you may notice, today is 29 SEP 2011, but TODAY, as in the day I am posting this, is 7 OCT 2011 (or maybe 8 or 9 OCT who knows.)  This is because the village and internet, even with PLM (pricey little modem) are not friends.  Last Saturday I said goodbye to the internet, facebook, news on life, friends abroad lives, knowing who the new Beta girls are in a timely manner (SAD ABOUT THIS) and said hello to village life.  Village life is like camping.  Because it’s INTENSE.  LIKE…IN –TENTS.  Village life is intense and camping is intents!  Haha.  But really it is kind of like camping.  We don’t live in tents (or huts…don’t worry, this is exactly what we thought too) we live in compound houses.  The rooms are varied, but basically they are all just the good old African cement rooms.  Mine isn’t actually that different from my room in Kumasi…except for the spider the size of my hand, the cockroaches, the bed bugs, the…okay it’s kind of different. But it LOOKS relatively similar.  Electricity is on and off but after the weekend it has been mostly on, so that is good news.  Every day we have been DOING things instead of going to class which I love but then we also have more time to relax which I also love so basically village life is just way better than school life in Accra and Kumasi was.  I was definitely getting frustrated with the whole ‘SIT organizes nothing for us to do’ schtick in Accra and Kumasi, but the hikes and palm wine making and shit we do here is definitely making up for it.

We are split into three groups for this here village time, and each group has seven people.  My group is very chill and I like everyone in it so life is good.  Our leaders don’t ever seem to know exactly what is going on which can at times be frustrating since both of the other villages have super ‘on it’ leaders, and we pretty much know (because they told us) that our academic people didn’t really do the village groups in any special way – like it was completely random.  That’s fine for the student groups, but it seems like it shouldn’t be random for the staff.  It’s not really fair to have one group with two really capable experienced leaders and then give us one guy who literally has no idea what’s going on and then a girl who leaves half the time to go to Kumasi.  We’re still pretty much doing all the same stuff but it’s hard seeing as we can’t as students who speak very little Twi just go off and do our own thing, like we NEED the leaders to help us out.

We are each doing a mini-isp here in the village.  This has caused some funniness in my mind because the academics here are REALLY relaxed but some people still feel the need to get really intense about every little aspect of each project, i.e. asking our leader who knows nothing TONS of questions that really get lost in translation and all I want to do is yell WAIT FOR PAPA ATTAH TO GET HERE TOMORROW SEFA HAS LITERALLY NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON..but I can’t do that so I just laugh.  But anyway, I decided to do my mini ISP on animal husbandry as I call it, i.e. the animals role in the community and the care of animals and how that goes into meat and/or other animal products.  I really like my topic but I hope that I can do more hands on stuff with taking care of animals or preparing meat and stuff.  So far I have only done interviews (we’re all like this though so it’s not just my topic.) It’s just hard because a big part of the reason I chose this over other topics was because I wanted to do something hands on instead of just research, because I just like DOING things, but so far it has not been that.  I’m going to talk to them again today and impart that knowledge again (Yes people I know of the world, I know you like to tell me things like ‘when you have problems like that just say something,’ and I will say again, I DO AND HAVE MANY  TIME AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO.) The one hands on thing I HAVE done so far was very knowledging and interesting and I am going to tell everyone about it, BUT, first I must have a disclaimer.

VEGETARIANS, PEOPLE WHO CLAIM TO BE VEGETARIANS, PEOPLE WHO ARE SQUEAMISH, ANYONE WHO EVER CONSIDER USING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION AGAINST ME BASED ON THE PREVIOUS QUALIFICATIONS, YOU NEED TO STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW.  I MEAN YOU CAN KEEP READING BUT IF YOU CHOOSE TO KEEP READING YOU MUST ALSO AGREE TO NOT EVER BOTHER ME ABOUT THIS NEXT SECTION.  YOU CAN READ AGAIN WHEN YOU SEE OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ANYWAY.

On Monday I killed a chicken!  With my bare hands!  I mean no I killed it with a knife.  Kwame, who is leading another village but always comes over to say hi, was trying to convince Nathaniel (the only guy in our group, typical) to agree to kill it, but he was not down so I was like KWAME I’LL DO IT.   You may ask why.  My reasons are threefold: 1. I want to do things.  Like I just like doing shit that I can look back on later and be like ‘I know how to kill a chicken.  I did that.  Yeah!’ 2. I just follow the circle of life and I think that it is good to participate in a way of using this methodology that is actually real and hands on versus eating chicken that has been killed far far away and processed 17 times over before I eat it.  I love local shit and how much more local can you get than killing your own chicken?  3. I like eating meat and I have heard probably every argument for vegetarianism that there is and after the vegetarian period of 12-14 that I had I am just never going to do that again.  But because of this I feel like I should be responsible for eating meat.  If I’m going to eat it, I should be able to be responsible for and acknowledge that I can kill it too.  Like so many of us eat meat but then are really squeamish about animals actually being killed.  If I’m going to eat meat then I am going to have the guts to kill the chicken myself!

Yay for long winded explanations.  So Papa Attah and Sefa and I took the chicken out back.  It had been sitting in our SIT headquarters compound all day (and of course Nathaniel NAMED it, jerk) but the rest of us had acknowledged it as the chicken that I would later kill.  You have to pick up the chicken by the wings and then carry it as such. First Sefa made me dig a hole in the ground with a knife so that the blood could flow into it (this proved to be 100% useless.) Then Papa taught me how to stand on it so you can effectively kill it – you stand on its legs with one foot and wings with the other.  Then you pull its head back so it stops yammering at you and proceed to prepare to cut its neck.  This was obviously quite confusing for me – I’m really not squeamish and I wasn’t getting nerves but I am just REALLY BAD at following directions. Like directions just don’t make sense to me.  Not just about killing chickens but in life.  You have to saw at its neck versus one quick chop which was GREAT in my opinion because if it had been a swift chop I would have cut my own hand off. Like that is what would have occurred.  But nope you just saw a bit.  It goes a lot quicker than you expect, and then bam chicken has no head and the body is still acting up.  The phase ‘running around like a chicken with its head cut off’ is actually pretty accurate because although this chicken didn’t run because I was holding it, it was squirming around in my hands and the legs were moving.  I carried it like this back inside where we put it in a bit of water and started defeathering it.  Hopefully I can do the next part, the cutting the chicken apart and cooking it etc, sometime so that I can be fully prepared for the time in life when I am the only person in a group of people who knows how to kill and cook a chicken and impress everyone.  This will obviously never happen but who knows, maybe Lost will happen with me on an island with chickens.  This means I would have to learn to take the guts out which does kind of gross me out…but clearly I am prepared.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Yesterday we went on this amazing hike to the largest lake in Ghana.  When I say amazing hike I mean WORST HIKE EVER but the lake was amazing.  The hike on the way there was actually fine, because it was all downhill seeing as the lake is in a basin.  The views were beautiful, the hike down was relatively relaxing if slippery.  Oh also, it rains a lot here.  Apparently the rainy season is usually June and July..but oh joy not this year!  This year it rains every freaking day!  Yahoooooo.  We got down to the lake and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen!  I took some pictures but they really don’t do it justice.  (Victoria Beckley.)  We all decided to go swimming even though many of us didn’t have swimsuits so we just swam in shorts and bras or boxers or whatever.  We made a lot of half joking half serious jokes about worrying about getting river blindness, which is a parasite in some places in Africa where you swim in infected places and then like three years later you go blind.  But it’s never been reported in this region so we threw caution to the wind slash if we all go blind we’ll all go blind together.

Bokrum Estate is Narnia and Analoga Junction is the doorway that never exists when you need it

Wow it’s been quite a last few days!  Quite a few adventures getting lost (I live in an imaginary place in Kumasi, I swear) excellent street food, and weird things that are now normal.  I will begin with Wednesday.  The girl on my program whose homestay is close to mine, Kelly, went to the hospital with malaria on Tuesday night (life is excellent everywhere) and thus it was my first time going to school alone.  I waited at the taxi spot for like fifteen minutes, but all the taxis were full plus there were like 80 people waiting and no one was getting taxis.  So I started walking, and this guy in a car with some logos painted on it pulled over and offered me a ride.  According to our teachers this is an acceptable form of transportation so I said yes.  It turns out that this guy owns a hotel, ‘Time Hotel’ (things have funny names here) right next to my intersection.  He was quite a jolly fellow and gave me a ride to what they call Airport roundabout.  This is where I hit trouble.  He/comrades told me to walk this certain direction and I would hit a taxi spot thing.  This did not happen.  I walked for a while, then I walked some more, then I just kept walking.  At this point I had no idea where I was and didn’t recognize anything but advertisments for ‘Glo’ (still don’t know what this is) and MTN and Elite 1 Admission etc.  So I called Kwame, the guy who is basically just paid to hang out with us and not teach anything, and said I was lost.  He said where are you.  I said I don’t know that’s why I’m lost.  Then it got really bad service and I recognized a gas station so I hung up and turned there.  A random guy told me that I was going in the right direction (Semi false) but I called Kwame back anyway.  I still didn’t know where I was enough to tell him anything (‘a gas station’ doesn’t really help here) so he told me to ‘give the phone to a Ghanaian’ to help me.  I gave the phone to a random guy selling plantains or phone credit or something and him and Kwame talked in really fast Twi that I obviously did not understand, but the conversation ended with him getting me a taxi and asking for my phone number.  Typical of Ghana life.  I made it to school then, yay!

That day we went to a priestess in the morning.  It was hours away.  Like at least one and a half.  But it was a pretty cool experience.  We asked her questions about her priestessdom a lot of which were lost in translation but it was still interesting.  At this point nobody was forcing it down my throat like I actually had to believe it so it was interesting to see the traditional religion perspective.  Then they tried to sell us a bunch of stuff (welcome to our lives, being sold shit at a religious shrine) and I resisted.  I’m getting great at not buying stuff because I just can’t face the thought of carrying it all around for the next three months.  I’ll buy souveigners sovineers soveigners WHAT THE HELL IS THAT WORD in November before I go home but now I just cry about moving around.  Anyway then we did this dance session which is always fun.  She hugged us all it was very sweet.  This was when one of our group members ‘was chosen by the spirits’ and some really ridiculous story that I am not going to tell on public forum because the amount of skepticism I have would start to verge on sarcasm and that is just a slippery slope that I am not interested in slipping.  But if you want the full story, skeptic and all, shoot me an email and I’ll be sure to divulge.  After this part we had personal consultations with the priestess if we wanted.  All of us but three did, it was only 2 cedi and it was an interesting thing to do.  I went first, we were supposed to go in with a question but she usually just ended up talking and then maybe answering the question or not.  I went in and she said before I said anything that I should ‘hold my pen tightly in school,’ that ‘if I work hard in school I will be very smart and successful’ that ‘one day people will worship me,’ and then the big humdinger…that a water spirit follows me in my hometown.  Yes, lakes Mendota and Monona DO have a strange fascination with me, how did you know?!  (see the sarcasm can’t help itself) Now I have no problem with these ‘predictions’ obviously, but I’m pretty sure that everyone would like to hear that people will worship them one day.  Apparently she said some ‘really creepily accurate’ things to some people but I don’t have much detail.  It was a cool experience though.  My question for her was about how I should deal with anxiety (I actually know very well how to deal with anxiety but I couldn’t think of any specific life problems because someone outside probably would have heard me if I said how do I make my fellow students stop being rude) and I don’t think she (or either of the translators, for that matter) really got the concept because they all just seemed to not know what I meant by ‘worrying about things in the future.’  She then told me to tell Yemi (my program director) my problems and that I should come back with white powder if I wanted more consultation.  Some people are going back later and I might go with a specific problem in mind to see what they say, because it is very interesting if not something I believe in.

After this we were the starvingest (that’s actually not funny for me to write on my blog about studying abroad in Ghana…but too late.  My ability to be politically correct is just nonexistent) so I tried to convince Kwame to take us to a restaurant on the way back to school.  This was unsuccessful so it was already 1 PM and we then had the hour and a half drive back to school.  Yay…not.  We went on the LONGEST search for this elusive ‘cheeseburger and indian food’ restaurant in a really crowded region of Kumasi, but luckily we eventually found it.  And this restaurant, was, is, and always will be THE GREATEST THING.  The menu is HUGE and has cheeseburgers, sandwiches, indian food, chinese food, pizza, and like EVERY KIND OF FOOD.  No Mexican food but life is rough.  We ordered 13 cheeseburgers and ‘chips’ aka fries and in addition I got samosas and this weird spicy indian chicken appetizer.  (of course I got more food than everyone else in the group.  This is my life.) The burgers were actually AMAZING and not even by ‘I never get to eat American food standards.’ Well, kind of by those standards.  But it was still amazing.  Also we learned that Sylvia (one of the ladies who helps SIT) has NEVER EATEN CHEESE.  This obviously made me very sad because cheese accounts for much of the happiness in my life.  It’s not that they don’t have cheese in Ghana, they do, but it just isn’t a big thing like it is in America (or in my life.) We had cheese on our cheeseburgers but that’s all I’ve seen of it so far.  Also it isn’t pasteurized so it might be sketchy for us to eat it, but I also don’t give a fuck and if I find some I’m buying it because my stomach is already shot so I may as well add some unpasteurized cheese.  Of course the only other people in the restaurant were other obronis (which is funny that we all find this place because it’s not very obvious and also Kumasi isn’t exactly a tourist spot.) In the week that we’ve been here I have seen a total of 8 white people not related to SIT and four of them were in that restaurant or on the way to the restaurant.  The others – one was a girl crying next to a suitcase at a gas station (perhaps this was an SIT student in disguise), a guy in a safari outfit walking on the street (LOOOOSER!  There’s no elephants in Kumasi!  You have to go to the North, duh.) and two ladies at the zoo today.  I will get to the zoo later.

After the obroni restaurant (our affectionate name for it) we all went home.  I was promptly fed rice with sauce which was unfortunate since I was still full but I ate some anyway.  This happens to me a lot because the homestay pretty much feeds me within the hour of when I get home whenever that is, and I always end up eating really late with the obronis if we are free or getting a snack on the way home of a normal day.

The next day Kelly was still in the hospital (sad puppy paws) so I foraged my way to school alone again.  I had called Kwame to help me figure out my commute the previous night but instead of telling me what to do he just got my host brother on the phone and told him to take me to school.  This isn’t really that helpful because yes I get there but I still don’t really understand the process of how he does it.  This is an odd concept because you’d think that once I did it with someone it would be easy but there is some kind of taxi secret language or something and I just do not know it.  Anyway me and my host brother (also named Kwame…I think this is their day name and not real name…everyone has a name based on the day they were born…its confusing) set off at the normal time and started walking because the usual no taxis.  This is the walk that is 40 minutes if you can’t find a car.  Luckily Mr. Time Hotel Man found us again, this time in a pickup truck.  His comrade in the front seat moved to the bed with my host brother and I got in the front seat.  Obroni chick treatment right there.  He took me to the roundabout again and then Kwame shimmyshammied our way to school.  He also paid for the taxis which made me feel guilty but whatever it happened.  So no lostness but was still late and still know nothing.

Twi classes are going, as one would expect, terribly.  I am the worst at the language and not being able to concentrate obviously doesn’t help.  As an added bonus I get to listen to everyone who doesn’t take Adderall tell me how if they were on Adderall they’d be so good at it and I’m like GUYS IT’S NOT A MAGIC DRUG THAT MAKES YOU LOVE LEARNING TWI.  IT JUST MAKES YOU CONCENTRATE ON THINGS.  SO IF YOU GET BORED LEARNING TWI, YOU’LL STILL GET BORED LEARNING TWI ON ADDERALL BUT YOU WILL BE MUCH BETTER ABLE TO CONCENTRATE ON YOUR DRAWINGS OF TACOS AND WRITTEN HISTORY OF SOME OF THE SILLY THINGS THAT HAPPENED AT SCHOOL IN THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF.  Too many capitals sorry haha.  I just got on a roll.  Luckily we have a break in the morning where I always have to go get a snack.  I eat white bread for breakfast every single day which does not even remotely fill me up so I always need a snack and a coke or a Fanta.  Coke and Fanta are big things here. But they come in glass bottles and then you give the bottles back so they can be reused.  This is a great practice but I have a feeling that it would never work in America because of the germphobia.  But I like it.

We have now started afternoon dance classes – oh wait but we had our last lecture on Thursday.  It was actually probably one of the worst lectures I’ve ever had in my life, if you can even call it a lecture.  I like can’t even explain what happened but it was observation and participation techniques and the guy like said no words but then asked us for examples and we said the most obvious things ever and then wrote them down on these giant pieces of paper and then he talked for like AN HOUR about these weird African metal trinkets and passed around at least fifteen books and all the while we COULD NOT HANDLE OURSELVES.  Usually we’re a pretty calm if sleepy group during lectures but this time we just couldn’t live.  There was laughter and side conversations and just inability to handle our lives and the guy just didn’t even notice a thing.  I don’t know why it was so ridiculous…but it was.

THEN we had our first dance lesson.  Well not first we’ve been dancing since we got here but our first with this one teacher in Kumasi.  She’s a character.  Not the nicest lady but she’s funny.  We also have to learn a lot of odd songs with hard to remember tunes that no one can sing and play weird clapping games or just clapping rhythms and it’s all very odd.  The dancing is hard but really fun.  I’m glad we get to do something active, it keeps me occupied way more than class.  The dances will all be cool for me to parade at parties back at school….not.  Most of them involve us doing things in a giant circle and then doing really complicated body movements including one that involves putting your leg up like a bird and doing a hip thrust.  I am not really getting any better at dancing but the freestyle sections of the dances are always good for me!

I know that more things have happened in these past few days but it is hard to remember and that is fine because I can save some stories for real life.  If I can even call them stories.  A lot of the time I feel like I don’t really have stories, just weird things that happen in Africa like selling giant wood fixtures by the side of the road.

I will describe Friday by the sheer amount of food that I consumed.  So the usual breakfast of bread.  Then during break this thing that is basically cake and a lemon Fanta (the best flavor.) then banku for lunch (banku is my shit,) a Fanice for after lunch snack –

HERE I MUST TELL YOU ABOUT FANICE.  IT IS THE BEST THING.  IT IS ICE CREAM….IN A BAG.  YOU CAN BUY IT ANYWHERE ON THE STREET.  THE.  GREATEST.  THING.

Anyway, then after dancing I went with a few of the girls to this bar where we had kebobs (another FANTASTIC DISCOVERY ABOUT GHANA) okay I must devote more than parentheses to kebobs.  Everyone knows about kebobs but these are just so great because they are fresh and probably recently slaughtered chicken or goat (sorry for that) and made right in front of you but the greatest part is they put this AMAAAAAAZING spice on them that is some kind of awesome pepper.  I LOVE KEBABS.  Then I went home quickly to gather my things for our adventure that night (obviously getting another Fanice on the way home) , let my host sister know that I’d be staying away for the night (my host mom like doesn’t exist.  The siblings are basically my parents which is funny because all but one of them are younger than me…but every young person here is super mature and acts like 10 years older than they are) and headed to a taxi.  Here I bought two more kebabs (goat this time) and then at a gas station at one of our stops on the way to the highlife concert I got ANOTHER FANICE and some chocolate and a juice called ‘morning blend.’  I stopped eating at this point but it was just a great snack day.  THREE FANICES IN ONE DAY, LIFE IS SO GREAT.

That night Kwame took us all out to this highlife concert (highlife is a type of music that I still don’t really understand at all or know how to characterize) but it seemed very suspiciously like reggae.  I think that highlife is very different from reggae but clearly I know nothing so who knows.  Anyway this was great fun because we were able to be with the big group but hang out in little groups and we just danced a lot and had a grand old time.  It’s nice to just dance fun and crazy and not like at a frat party.  Watching the group dynamics during this is VERY INTERESTING THOUGH, especially how Kwame and our other semi helper people are involved, and if you want this analysis and funny stories please email me.  PLEASE IT IS HILARIOUS.  After this we went to a club (also Kwame’s doing, what a guy) and that was more fun good times.  A bunch of us got rooms at a hotel that night so we didn’t have to find our way home in the dark and late night ness, esp since one of the junctions on the way to my house just doesn’t exist.  I say the name and no one ever knows what I’m talking about.  All in all it was a very good night full of bonding and fun conversations and me continuing in my quest to figure out who the guys in our group (there are only 4) ‘like’ out of the girls/who they would get with.  Since I have no attraction feelings for any of them it is fun for me to try and analyze this and Trent (the one who I am closest to) seems to think it is funny and not creepy so it gives me entertainment.  I haven’t figured anything out yet for sure but I have my suspicions.

I will interject here with a section about Kwame.  I CAN’T TELL WHAT THE HELL HIS JOB ACTUALLY IS.  He’s always with us but he never teaches anything, doesn’t seem to organize much, sometimes chaperones us, but mostly just talks to us and hangs out with us/ takes us to clubs.  Okay, that last one has only happened once.  I’m pretty sure that he is just paid to hang out with us and be a semi-close-to-our age mentor friend guy.  His interactions with the students are interesting to say the least.  This is another one that is a great story but maybe not for the public eye.  VERY funny though, again I want to tell it.

There is a lizard on my wall.  Oh my life.

Anyway, my relationship with Kwame is very similar to mine with most of my older male friends where it’s kind of like big brother/sidekick/help me with my life type of thing.  By help me with my life I mean help me get to school, ha.  I can’t say the same for everyone in the group….ominous pause.

Also funny story, Kwame was in the hospital with Kelly when I called him asking to help me figure out how to get to school and she asked him about the morning where I got lost afterwards, like if I was upset or not and apparently he said “No Becca doesn’t get upset she just talks fast.” Or something equal parts funny and true.   A pretty good description of my life right now because when stressful things happen which is always I usually am just like huh, unfortunate, how am I gonna get out of this one.  I think it’s helped by the fact that I feel VERY safe here.  I’ve never felt threatened even though people pay one million times more attention to me than anyone ever would in America.  The Ghanaians are just generally very nice and helpful and malicious intentions aren’t as big of a thing here as they are in other countries, or so I’m told.  Even getting hit on isn’t actually that much of a problem if you know how to handle it.  If you just ignore it or smile/wave instead of getting into conversations with people it isn’t really that stressful.  A few people in the group have had issues with this – not with specific people but with getting used to just giving face and walking away instead of getting engaged in conversation.  I find it startlingly easy, a sentiment shared by most of the girls in the group.

I am starting to bond more with the group I think.  It’s still hard for me when we’re all together doing one thing (versus able to split into smaller groups) BUT I talked to a few other girls about this and we all feel the same way in this and other respects so that was very helpful, good to know I’m not the only one who has been having struggles.  It still really bothers me when people are rude but I figure it will either dissipate when we get to the villages (we split up for that) or people will keep doing it and then I will get so frustrated that I will be unable to avoid calling them out on it.  Either way it’ll work out.

Today we went to the zoo, which was a good day but the zoo was like maximum depressing.  I’m not an ‘I hate zoos’ person at all, I love the zoo!  But this one was just like not good old Henry Vilas Zoo.  I mean obviously.  But okay the zoo.  So the animals were like the saddest things.  There was this horse tied to a tree that I was excited to see…but it actually almost made me cry.  It was BY FAR the most malnourished horse I’ve ever seen in real life (and I’ve seen a lot of skinny skinny horses) and the weird rope-ish-not really rope thing it was tied with was wrapped all around its feet and it probably has horrible thrush, BUT the worst part was it had this GIANT growth/sore thing coming off of one of its lips.   Also really chafed withers which makes me think that this poor thing has probably been used for some type of pony ride which is simultaneously a horrifying and impossible thought since I’m pretty sure if I would have touched it it would have just fallen over and died.  So that was the worst.  The other animals weren’t as depressing.  Some of them actually had very nice open style cages or enclosures with a lot of room, some of them had more room than at American zoos.  They had squirrels in a cage which I obviously thought was funny because I mean it’s a squirrel that’s not exactly an exciting animal to a Midwesterner.  Same with the geese.  There were just bats flying around the sky in some places which was very interesting.  The donkeys were far less depressed than the horse.  There were peacocks just wandering about which was fun.  Monkeys did tricks for bananas, the usual.  It was definitely a good cultural experience even though I now kind of want to do my ISP on ‘saving the poor sad almost dead horse from the Kumasi zoo.’  Also I don’t know why I thought that a zoo in Africa wouldn’t be depressing.  I’m about to say a totally white person travels to Africa thing, but I hope that when we go on our travel trip around the nature and north and stuff that we can see some wild animals in their actual habitat.

Now I am home.  I feel bad when I don’t hang out with my host family but they are always just watching TV so I can do that with them sometimes but I figure its okay for me to have alone time since I’m with other people ALL THE LIVELONG DAY EVERY DAY.  I’m definitely bonding with Andy far more than the rest of the family but I have had chats with all of them at one point or another.  Small talk isn’t a big thing here like it is for Americans though so that is what it is.  Sometimes I practice Twi with them but it’s hard to practice when I know nothing.  It’s a good family though, I’m very happy at this homestay and we all get along well.   I like having the older kids and the freedom to come and go as I please and sit and watch tv with them or just hang out in my room.

I have found that I’m generally very at peace here and am happy in a different way than I am at home.  I’m not really happy based on the things I do but based on just having a general mindset of interest and relaxedness.  It’s quite a skill to be content while doing things like going to the bathroom in the complete darkness or walking through a commercial area so crowded that at times it just STOPS like traffic, but I’m learning.  I just like Africa.  Since getting here I haven’t really disliked it but at first I just wasn’t attached, I was more like observing it all and just taking it in.  Obviously I don’t like some of the things I have to do, but that’s very separate from my likeage of Ghana/Africa/the experience as a whole.  And I just fucking love Fanice so much. I still spend 70% of my free thinking time thinking about food but Fanice helps soften the blow of no Taco Bell.