Tuesday, January 19, 2010
“Obronis! This is Ghana man!”
Good morning Africa.
That was what I was thinking a couple of mornings ago when we awoke to no power and to no electricity. I can't say I was thrilled, but since we spent the day touring Accra, it didn't really matter anyway. Our tour of Accra was really enjoyable. We saw the presidential palace, went to the memorial for the first President of Ghana, saw the BEACH, went to a touristy market where some guys gave me some hints on how to play the drums, ate Chinese food in a nice part of town, and traveled to the Accra mall to get last minute items we need for our rooms. When we came back from the tour though, with the power and water still out, we had to suck it up and hang out in the dark. It was really fun just sitting in Amanda's room talking in the dark, getting to know people even better. Needless to say, all of us here are growing closer because of our common bond. We are in the same boat; we are adjusting to living Africa, and that common experience is creating a tie between us. If nothing else, we are learning to appreciate how blessed—how spoiled, quite frankly—we are back in the States. With no power or water here we haven't been able to take showers, have lights on at night, or even flush the toilets. What's more, is that I am learning how much food we consume back home. We have a meal stipend that ISEP provided for us that amounts to about $700. This works out to about 7 cedi a day for food, or what would be a little over 6 dollars. At first I remember thinking that there was no way this would be enough. Contrary to that believe, it is more than enough. I can eat under 2 cedi (just over 1 dollar) for every meal pretty easily. Whether it is fruit, an egg sandwich, red-red, or jollof and chicken, everything here is so delicious and so inexpensive. At the night market yesterday when my friends and I were getting some fresh pineapple and papaya for dinner we were talking about how cheap it was. The woman cutting the pineapple thought we were complaining, and we had to reassure her that it was quite the contrary, we just couldn't believe how wonderful the food was and inexpensive it was too.
As we toured the city the other day, I distinctly remember the faces of the people we saw out the window. We traversed through markets, homes, and the city on a huge, touristy bus. You can envision the looks we were getting. Imagine 45 international kids starting out the window, from a huge, air-conditioned bus. Most people would light up when seeing us though, for whatever reason they seemed happy to see us. I liked waving from the bus, especially when kids would wave back, but more than anything, I think I want to go back to the city and greet people on the same level. I want to walk by them, have a chance to shake their hand, and give them a proper greeting. I felt almost pretentious waving from a bus, to be perfectly honest. The Ghanaian students have been warm to us also, but have been much more hesitant in extending their hospitality. My best guess is that to them, we are these privileged white kids showing up to the University of Ghana and staying in the nicest place on campus. Yesterday, we didn't even have to wait in the long lines for registration, we just got to bypass that and sign up for classes. I can understand where the resentment would come from. Assumptions they are making about us are going both ways, because we are making assumptions about Ghanaian students also. It's been weird to be in the minority, at least in terms of race, because I have never had that experience before. My high school in Aurora, Colorado was well over 90% white and my college in Conway, Arkansas is also devoid of any signs of diversity. Yet, it is an experience I not only want, but need. Understanding life is a lot of understanding what others go through and you should embrace walking in their shoes. As the first President of Ghana once said, "Forward ever, backwards never."
In other updates…
**The biggest news in Ghana these days is about the national earthquake hoax from a couple of days ago. A couple nights ago in our hostel, we were told to come out of our rooms (at 4:15 am!!) because of an earthquake alert. Turns out, it was a national hoax started from text messages, so now the government in Ghana is trying to figure out who started the text.
**I have registered for my classes!! I am taking two social work classes (Working with Communities & Women and Children's Rights and Protections), an English class (Landmarks in African American Literature), & a Geography class (Geography of Gender and Development in Africa). I am very happy about the classes I am taking! Oh, and I don't have any classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays which totally rocks.
**I am going to go to the sports directorate today and try and join the University of Ghana field hockey team!!
**I will be visiting a village near the U of G tomorrow to check out a program I am considering volunteering for. It is an outreach program that provides education for disadvantaged children. I met some of the children yesterday and they are beautiful J
**Because of the lack of water, Rachel and I took our first bucket showers here in Ghana. How do you do it? Fill a bucket with water from the spigot in the courtyard and use a small cup to wash your body with this water. After over 2 days with no shower, it felt surprisingly wonderful.
**I just handwashed all of my dirty clothes. It didn't take terribly long since I didn't have a lot to wash, but it made me realize how different things are from back home.