Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back in the Subcontinent

Hello other side of the world, Vannakam, Namaste, Namaskaram!

I am currently sitting at my own researchers desk, adorned with name plaque, personal fan, and layers upon layers of demographic forms. The air is heavy with mumbled sanskrit mantras from the temple out the back window and the unrelenting hum of mosquitos. India. I love this place with all my soul. I really feel like a part of me has been awoken by even the few days I've been here. Marching around dusty paths lined with coconut trees and shrines in bright tunics, scarves,and my leather laptop case full of research methodology= bliss. Two worlds collide into one and it is almost too much to handle.

Flying here was a breeze. In fact, despite all of my pre-flight-to-third-world-countries-fears, once I stepped on the plane it felt like normalcy. Like swapping shoes from Boulder to some kind of reoccurring vagabond. My Colorado to New York flight was, although energetically charged with all of the goodbyes, rather uneventful. Peanuts were served, obese women cushioned my ride. Dubai, 12 hours later, was wrapped in a golden sham of dust and heat. It reminded me a lot of Burkina Faso or Ghana during the Harmattan winds. True bliss was stepping back into an air conditioned plane after a several minute walk in the thick environs.

I was surprised by my lack of total emotional chaos stepping off the plane in India (partially due to my sleep deprived stupor I am suspecting). But I gathered my bags, walked out the airport door, and the first person I saw was a beaming Indian man with a “Stroop” sign in his hands. Ravi, the professor I am working with, sent his star pupil and researcher of yoga's influence on diabetics to greet me. The 2 hour traffic jammed car ride to the jungle sanctuary where the university resided, was filled with exchanged brain facts and Sanskrit phrases. When we arrived at the campus, we met Ravi (the elusive figure I've been corresponding with now for a year and a half) and went to his house for a home cooked South Indian meal of joy. One thing is undeniable: South India food is a way to my heart. Immediately me and Ravi's mom (in her late 70's) hit it off and are now attending early morning Upanishads lectures together. She is also letting me cook dinner with her tomorrow night.

The campus is beautiful. A richly colored temple in the heart of the campus and open air yoga halls dot the landscape. Walking around the campus at any given moment you witness fleets of yogis chanting and bending their bodies in unison. Ravi took me for a walk in the surrounding jungle, where a huge Shiva statue was situated. I've been meditating under it for the past few days. The food here is primarily locally grown, all vegetarian and quasi-bland. But that is what one should expect of a yogi diet. All the students sit on the floor together in the dining hall and pray before every meal.

The past few days Ravi and I have been collecting pilot data, making changes to the software and editing our script in preparation for next Monday, when we'll be heading to the traditional gurukalam school 30 km away. This school houses boys from a very early age who have been sent to study under a guru until they are 22. It is intensive training and the form of school that existed long before the British invasion. I will be the only girl on the campus, and am lucky they are letting me in. Oh the power of neuroscience.

Yesterday I was asked to give a lecture to all of the faculty, P.h.D, graduate, undergraduate and visiting students. Haha. So I of course enthusiastically whipped up a series of slides and went to the designated lecture hall at the designated time. And, as unsurprising as it should be knowing India, I was greeted by a massive audience all sitting on the floor on bamboo mats awaiting my arrival. Oh lordy. Explaining executive and spatial attention and its relationship to neuroplasticity and meditative practice is hard enough to do to the general population, adding a room full of Indians who can barely understand my Western accent only compounded the problem. But much to my dismay, I was met with a room full of bobbing heads and many insightful questions. Walking around campus I am frequently met with a small bow and smile now. Did I mention I love India?

Okay. There is far more to be said, including lessons in html programming (wtf?), being asked to stick strips of cloth through my nose and pulled out of my mouth and put turmeric in my derriere to cleanse my energetic channels (fml). But will have to wait.

Life never ceases to amaze me.
*existential sigh *

If I cannot write again for a bit this is why:
16th-18th: Traditional gurukalam testing
19th-22nd: Visting Aadithya, Kaviya and Aruna in Chennai.
23rd-26th: Testing control group at a college in Bangalore.
26th-2nd: Either meeting the darling Lucy Richards in the north to frolic around for a bit or attending a 3 day Vipassana retreat/paying my dues to Coimbatore.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Great Grey Clouds

It is time to sweep.

Sweep up the layers of Sahara sandstorms never written about, the malarial lone travels across Togolese boarders, and the illegal Beninese motorcycling I would have loved to pay tribute to in words. But it is time to sweep up the memories that have been silently biting at me all summer, in order to finally move on. So, with a few tattered sentences holding the spaces for those memories, I resolve to let them rest in full richness only in my mind. The nice thing about sweeping, however, is that although at times a rather dirty process, it is always a good way to come clean. And at the crossroads of another adventure, clarity is most welcome.

So sweeping up West Africa with one swoop (insert frantic broom noise), I am ready to embrace the new. And what a delightful handful of new has been tossed my way since the last entry! I went from sweating profusely to the tune of tongues pouring in through a small window, to the cool summer rain of a Durango thunderstorm where I sit today. Time is a potent force. And this summer has been entirely too exemplary of its drastic impact.

The past two months I've been living in Boulder, Colorado, working at the Consciousness laboratory at Naropa University. Naropa is one of the only accredited Buddhist Universities in the world, and has been one of the major reasons my conception of reality (what a hefty assertion makes she!) has been cracked open this summer. Ironically, this crack-age was partially due to working on a project concerning quantification of a person's worldview- a line of research that is dangerously qualitative, yet unbelievably interesting (as well as absurdly thought provoking in the realm of my own worldview). I've had the pleasure of working with Dr. Peter Grossenbacher, who quickly morphed into a not only a figure of respect, but a profound role model in my life. Looking back at my decision making process for working at Naropa this summer, rather than the Cognitive Neuroscience lab in Denver or the fleets of other places I applied to, I realize hunches sometimes are worth following.

After all of this contortionist work, bending myself through different countries (13 so far this year), it was returning to the dear old Rockies of my birth that have fostered growth (curse you Candide!). Although, I am not sure if growth is even the right word for what has happened. It feels more like regression to a temporarily, but necessarily, set aside person. Perhaps forgetting yourself for awhile is a good way to remember. Rather than constructing yet another guise for a temporary place (a process I am making an art form out of), this summer I've been working on the process of unmasking. And as a product, I feel a sense of very real happiness. Wild bike rides, summer flowers, babbling books, thick books, geeky intellectualism, poetry slams, late night stupor and new faces have also been contributions to this feeling of satisfaction. Ahhh sweet summer, you have been so good to me this time around! And for that I am thankful.

So, setting overly dramatic life changing narratives of self discovery aside, I am proud to announce the next chapter: India. Three days stand before me and another transatlantic plane ride. But this time, unlike the others, it feels like I am flying towards an old friend. Homeward, these shoes.

So, alas, let the all too familiar ritual of goodbye and hello commence. The process of leaving has taken all forms in the past: complete earth-shattering sadness, numbness, and incredible joy, but this time it has a new texture. I recognize a large component of this leaving is sorrow, but one that is conditionally linked to acceptance. Ephemerality is no longer comparable to a rainbow, an analogy I've frequented, but the grey clouds left drifting in its aftermath. This kind of constancy, one that supports, but is not encompassed by ephemerality, feels very graceful to me. And although faces fluctuate and geographical distances shift, I realize my body and heart, the shreds of constancy in this transient equation, have the capacity to hold them.

And for that I feel whole, drifting.

Friday, April 2, 2010

PART ONE: Procrastination, Waterfalls, Togo

The past few months have fed my soul. Truly. There are too many things that I should have written here and have skillfully neglected, culminating into a mass of experiences inside me shared with no one. It is unfortunate and frustrating that I’ve allowed this to happen, since my intent for keeping this blog was not only to be a record in case of eventual amnesia (a brain lover’s quiet fear), but also an attempt to avoid one of the major frustrations I felt coming home from other travels: an inability to express. Questions of “Oh my God! How was (fill in the blank)” left me with an ever increasing feeling of injustice. An injustice to the person I was talking to, attempting to squeeze a monumental amount of things into the simple phrases of passing etiquette, as well as an injustice to the complexity of the events themselves.

So alas, I fail. But in the case of any split second stumble, a person can recognize their destined fall, stare at it intently, and commit to it. By acceptance of a preordained demise, falling with a bit of grace might even have a chance. This is what I hope to do in this blog, knowing right now that details (far too many details) will be lost and my dear old friend injustice will make his reoccurring visit.

To start I will copy and paste the beginning of a blog written 5 weeks ago that has been resting, frustrated at the composer, on my desktop. It goes as so:

“I am currently sitting in my room (with power! Alas! The beauties of fully functioning fans and lights!) after eating fufu (pounded plantains and yams) and spicy groundnut soup (liquefied, spicy peanut butter). We got back from Togo, the post-colonial French country directly east of Ghana, last night after one of the most fascinating trips of my life- black magic, dictatorships, and ancestral, speaking cowry shells. But before I delve into that I feel like I should cover a bit of what has been happening since I last wrote. *le sigh*

The weekend before last I went to the Volta region, which is an area due north of Accra and home of the world’s largest manmade lake, monkey sanctuaries, giant waterfalls, and traditional beading villages. We stayed in a small encampment in a village near the dam, which included private stilt houses, a kitten, and a rather aggressive monkey tied to the tree directly out my door (It was always an adventure bringing in the day with a stare off with a rabid primate). Haha. But nevertheless, it was beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed.”

The two events mentioned are referencing a hiking trip through the waterfall region of Ghana and my first journey to a different West African country. The trip to the waterfall region was incredible, dusty dirt roads out of some kind of Indian Jones movie through verdant hills blanketed in mossy greens, and spears of water dropping from vertical height A to less vertical height B. It was intrepid, yet elegant. The trip to Togo was during their elections, an event that has not happened for roughly 30 years, in an attempt to over throw the dynasty of a deceased dictator and his first of kin carrying on his legacy of corruption. Attempting to go anywhere in Togo was a bit hectic, streets packed with yellow shirted men, machetes, parts of palm trees, and constant drum playing. As we were crossing back through the boarded, our car got mobbed, being pushed from all side with protesters and the politically impassioned.

Interestingly enough, however, the first hand witness of raw governmental unrest was nothing in terms of shock value when compared to the voodoo priest village. After getting a tour of the very obvious illegalities of elephant heads, porcupine quills, gorilla feet, poisonous snakes, various strings of back bones, leopard skins, dehydrated monkey heads and the likes, we were summoned to the inner chamber of the complex, where the voodoo priest sat. Inside was a small muddy mound protruding from the ground painted with a face, which symbolized the god of the village. After asking for all of our names and blessing the occasion, the priest distributed a series of small objects, while ringing a bell. All of the objects symbolized different aspects of life and had powers over them. After the blessings of the objects, we were asked to put them into a hollowed out turtle shell and follow the priest into the next room for private consultation. I was the first to go. He asked me to squat with him on the floor to ask the gods the price I had to pay for the blessed objects (tactful con work if you ask me). He threw a series of cowry shells into the dust in front of us three times and read the way they fell in order to determine my price. And of course, being a white woman the Gods (or his conscious/unconscious psyche) asked for a sum beyond belief. So, as a response, I asked to barter with the gods. After throwing the shells and persuading the gods to lower the price we came to an agreement and I took my items thinking I was done with my voodoo experience for the day. But as is the case with most things in Ghana, or so it seems, things are never how you think they will be. As I climbed into the car to leave, I felt a firm grip take a hold of my arm, preventing me from shutting the door behind me. It was one of the workers for the priest. Turning around surprised, I was informed that the priest urgently needed to see me. After arguing with my program director for a few minutes about whether or not she would permit me to go, I was taken from the car, led back to the room with the mud god, and sat in silence with the priest. Eventually he took out a small red trinket from a satchel and told me he had a very important vision about me. The trinket symbolized love, and was one of the ones we could have purchased during the blessing ceremony. I had purposefully decided not to mesh magic with love, so I had not bought it. But he insisted on giving it to me for free, and told me to pour 3 drops of perfume on the wood, rub it with my right hand and say my name and the name of another 7 times. After ensuring I knew what to do, he took the object and held it even with his eyes and said: this is very important in your life. I was then asked to leave the room and make my way back to the car.

I am not sure what to think about that experience, and have since tucked away the object into my suitcase under my bed.

PART TWO: Mole, Hip Hop, and Fashion

Hurling ourselves towards the Burkina Faso boarder with nothing but flakey plans and a serious amount of belly laughter my friends Elsa, Arsalan and I began a trip to the most famous game reserve in West Africa, Mole. Ironically, we didn’t even see a single elephant, yet the trip was one of the most fulfilling of my life. This is where the mentioned injustice gets a bit sticky. I feel like the more important an experience is to me, the less likely I am to even write about it. Sometimes verbiage is unsatisfactory. This is a case of that. But basically, after a 13 hour bus ride, getting haggled by a Ghanaian mob, hiring a tro tro for a 4 our drive down the most washboarded roads known to mankind, getting caked with at least ½ an inch of electric red dirt, and being dumped off at the cross roads of a random village, we found ourselves in Larabanga. Larabanga, an unsuspecting locale, went from being a one nights whim, to a temporary home. Instead of continuing on to Burkina Faso or the hippo sanctuary as we had planned, we were adopted by the village. Pounding fufu in the mornings, learning how to ride motorcycles in the evening, sleeping on hay stuffed mattress pads on the top of mud huts under Orion, dancing with a plethora of village children, attending wedding processions, getting involved in the local healthcare system, sneaking into the oldest West African mosque, and observing how local shea butter was made were only a few of the happenings in this 100% Muslim village. Our trip to Mole was an inconceivable adventure. Although not dramatic in words, it was the details of the experience that defined it. Sleeping on handmade mats, skin drenched in sweat and freckled with hungry flies, learning about the traditional chief system in the sand drawn with sticks, and waking to the call of prayer as dawn drew near. There are stories to be told about this one. Unfortunately not here. :)

Okay….so sometimes I feel like the randomosity of life is overpowering, and the last two weeks have been exemplary of just that. Not only were me and my friend Elsa involved in the making of a famous hip hop rapper’s music video on a boat, but we were selected to be runway models for a national fashion show promoting sustainable agriculture. The music video was for a rapper named Guru, who Elsa knew indirectly through a friend in one of her acting classes. We were picked up in the morning in an air conditioned car (yes that is a big deal), music blaring, taken to the mall and told to buy whatever we wanted. Clothes, food, whatever. SO of course, Elsa and I eagerly made our way to the vegetable isle, where rows of imported spinach lined the wall carrying hefty prices of $10, right next to the peaches for $23. Fresh produce, a rarity, in hand, we made our way to the red wine, ice cream and the likes. When we got to the beach house where the music video was being filmed, the first thing we did was meet a crew of hip hop participants and board a massive yacht called “The Hooker” to drink Baileys with the director. It was absurd. I found myself in heaven at the discovery of a pet dog (also a rarity in Ghana) and a small plastic fishing boat the house keeper allowed me to paddle around near the yacht.

As far as the fashion show, Elsa and I were seen from afar by a woman who works for a major PR company in Accra at a dress rehearsal for a play our friend Daniel was in. The next day we found ourselves in a car on our way to meet with the top model, Miss Universe, Pearl Amoah to be fitted for clothes. After trying on a slew of produce themed outfits, it was determined I would be the flower girl and Elsa the fish woman. Haha. The next day we were picked up, chugged through hair and make up, and dolled up into the most ridiculous costumes imaginable. I, the proud owner of a Big Bird-esque yellow flower hat and a cake layer dress, found myself standing in line to walk down the catwalk with a slew of professional models in a state of existential hilarity. I knew nothing about modeling, nothing about how to walk on a runway, and had never experienced anything quite like it before. But I found myself wadding down the catwalk in, negotiating the bevy of frills and fake wings, rabbits and seeds, feeling ecstatic. Not only was the experience hilarious and fascinating, but also was an easy way to make $100 (in form of a gift, of course, dear dear Visa man).


I am ending now, head hung low in the knowledge of all I left out. Cooking lessons, socialist rallys, kente cloth villages, marriage proposals, making ink from harvested bark, Tuesday philosophy groups, and a slew of travels. But alas, I must go pack my bags for a trip to a small village for an Easter festival and a hiking trip to the tallest point in West Africa. But I love you dearly, and love you even dearer if you had the tenacity to chew through my sludge of unsatisfactory narration.

I will be home in less than 1 ½ months. It is hard to fathom how tricky time can be. You think you have all of it in the world, and then, suddenly in the bat of an eye, it is breathing down your back. Both beautiful and devastating, I await my homecoming.

Sincerely, with love.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hello from Ghana- sunburned, happy, and in obnoxiously vibrant patterned dresses. I just got back from a 5:00 a.m. run through the African bush (to beat the eruption of heat from the horizon associated with sunrise) past massive red termite mounds, a monkey tethered to a rope, Pentecostal megaphone preaching in the field and the clatter of tongue speaking disciples. Now I am sitting in my room, getting acquainted with my much adored ceiling fan, enjoying the ripeness of my new true love: mango.

The past few days we’ve been in Cape Coast, exploring the hidden paradise of the Guinea Coast, drinking coconut water off the tree, and learning the about the history of the slave trade in West Africa. It was an incredible trip- and I ended up making more money than spending it, since Goucher paid for the program and thanks to scholarships, I got to pocket all of the spending money for the weekend, which was extremely appreciated.

Cape Coast is west of Accra along the shore about 4 hours, which is apparently a long way according to Ghanaians considering the size of their country. We drove down with our coordinator, Mercy, and her family in revamped tro tro with our suitcases haphazardly strapped to the top of the roof. It was really nice to get out and see some of the less developed (developed being relative considering where I am living is still relatively pastoral) and get more of a sense of the breadth of the region. We passed little mud villages, children playing in streams naked, and fufu (which is essentially a mushy, dense dough you eat with spicy soup made of plantains and yucca) being pounded with massive wooden sticks along side the road. Chickens, goats, dogs, cats, lizards, birds and people living seemingly harmoniously. It is not rare to be in a shop here, and look down to see an assortment of animals running around. There is something splendid with living so in tune with nature.

We stopped at Mercy’s farm, which is located in a little village outside of Cape Coast and were able to tour on the deserted slave castles not open to the public made by the Dutch back in the 1800’s. In comparison to the other slaves castles we toured, I found this one of the most interesting (and sad). It was not altered for the tourist eye, and many of the dungeons were converted to be storage houses for series of saccharine soda drinks . The lack of reverence was a little bit unnerving. But we climbed to the top of the lookout towers and were able to listen to the fishermen chanting and drumming as they were coming in with the day’s catch. Lined with meticulously carved and painted wooden canoes and decorated with rusty hooks and brightly tied nets, the boats were not only tools to earn a living, but floating pieces of art.

Mercy’s farm was literally out of a story book. Blankets of green flora sprouting out of the red earth with flowers and fruit and jagged rock faces coated in foam. Being far too overjoyed, I found myself scrambling down the cliffs with Kwame barefooted, attempting to tactfully avoid the crabs shuttling in and out of the foam, to explore some hidden caves he told me about. They were incredible, laced with pink seashells and thick black snails. Crouching down in the coves, I felt like some kind of geeky pirate, too happy to be there.

We also went on a canopy tour in the national forest, which was essentially a series of ropes and boards tethered to trunks of the tallest trees. It was beautiful though, being able to walk above the canopy of the jungle, catching glimpses of monkeys playing on the branches and big butterflies was amazing. I was in need of a nature dose. For those of you who have read the Subtle Knife (yes, I am a Golden Compass YEAH!), I couldn’t help but think about dust and the canopies. Haha. I ended up leading the group of about 50 or so people who were on our tour, inciting fear for the poor people behind me by swinging the bridges back and forth. Haha.
Cape coast was also paradise, having an interesting mix of gorgeous white sand beaches, extreme poverty, and too many obrunis (white folk) to count. Out hotel had air conditioning, toilet paper and WARM WATER! Which is a clear indicator of high class living. I found it a little sickening though that from the beach (literally outside the backdoor of my room) overlooked the Elmina Castle (the biggest and cruelest slave trading castles in the region). So as we were enjoying our air-conditioned rooms and martinis on the beach, we were looking at one of the largest injustices in African history. The whole slave trading situation here is very interesting to me, but the most shocking thing, however, is the lack of hate there seems to be (and in Ghana in general). I had thought before I came that being one of the most oppressed and wronged colonial areas, that there would be much more hatred towards the white man, especially in the villages built around the castles. But walking through the villages, I found nothing but “AKWAABA OBRUNI!” (welcome white man- literally “one who comes from behind the horizon”) being shouted everywhere we went and smiling faces. A few of us decided to venture out off the main road and into the village nearby after our tour, and ended up taking part in a local checkers tournament with about 30 onlookers, dancing in a funeral procession, and taking pictures with the kids and their pet chickens. Ghana gives me hope for the racial tension that is so prominent in the U.S.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How did I get here?
I went from climbing frozen mountains in Colorado, to a 9 hour drive through the boonies of the Southwest, to howling at the moon and fly fishing next to a campfire with my Dad in Arizona, to an early morning flight to California, to a pan-American-pan-Atlantic flight to England, to randomly, being shipped to the Middle East, to flying over Afghanistan and Iran,to finally (!) a red dirt caked country they in West Africa they call Ghana- all within 48 hours of eating my last Mexican breakfast burrito. Whew! A total of 34 of those hours were spent shooting through a metal tube at high altitudes (yes, I thought I was going to die of blood clots as a product of constant sitting and squishing of self between overly sized seat neighbors).
But lesson learned: the world is miniscule when it really comes down to it.

And this is where I will remain for the next 4 months of my life.
There are so many things I want to tell you about. But my mind is racing and have little ability to quantify the experiences that have washed over my clueless, wide eyed, self these past few weeks. I suppose the best ay to start is by telling you what I am seeing. Right now I am sitting alone in my room, fan fruitlessly whirling above in attempt to slice the thick, Africa heat, an open window with a series of bars being the only obstacles between me and the red bush baking outside, and a small bed with nauseous floral patterned sheets. I live on the fourth floor of a square compound, white washed walls and red roofs. I have a small porch out my back door where I sit and read on a dusty cloth draped chair, and watch the a group of characters I've grown to adore picking through trash alongside their band of goats and baby horses. There is usually a trash fire lit, eating away at the debris, and the pungent smell sometime circles up towards me. Besides the obvious first impressions of a slightly less manicured place of residence, there s far too much beauty to be lost in the occasional trash pile. Red roads weave in and out of low growing bushes (accurately known as the "bush" in Africa), little shacks made of sticks where workers live, and the hot glitter of Accra playing in the sun on the horizon.

I am located in Legon, which started as a village nearby the economic hub of Ghana, and has since merged into the more pastoral extension of a endlessly colorful and chaotic mess that comprises the city. All of the buildings, laced in a red band at their base from wind whirled dust, are linked by dirt paths and roads, pressed solid by the constant pressure of foot and shoe. Banana and coconut trees dot their sides, contrasting green with the dry earth below. There are hundreds of small buildings, rarely one larger than one story, where every academic department resides, acting as a physical embodiment of the outrageous and often humorous bureaucracy that dictates daily life. (in order to register for classes, you have to walk to each department separately, fill out different piles of tedious paperwork, and file each appropriate sheet away to the different layers of personnel, greeting each and every person you encounter or else you'll be ignored- as is such the Ghanaian culture).

There are many things i like about being here, including the panoply of fresh fruit and the fact I can get a ripe mango hacked away form its seed and flesh and into my happy stomach at virtually any time of the day, but nothing has yet surpassed my total infatuation of the Ghanaian market place. India looks like nothing in comparison. I've honestly never seen such a nucleus for cultural expression or been in a place where I am more gleeful due to sensory overload. Outside the dorm where i live there is a place called the Night Market, which is basically a miniature version of the expansive marketplaces that coat much of the city and its surrounding area. Smoked fish, rows of tropical fruit, big metal tubs of rice and assorted sauces, men pounding plantains, yams and yucca with massive sticks into a sticky goo, and charcoal fires sizzling meat and raw vegetables. Yesterday I ventured out to a market in a nearby village called Medina, where I bought fertility beads from a local vendor, which Ghanian women wear around their hips as a sign of fertility and femininity. The color and arrangement of the beads have a huge significance and are only supposed to be shown to your husband.

Since I've gotten hear, I've been shuttled round the city in attempt to get oriented with the new place and learning how to navigate myself successfully through the fleets of women carrying everything ranging from apples, to water, to puppies, to even refrigerators on their heads. IT IS INSANE! I find myself not only shocked by their ability to weave in and out of tiny, bustling streets, but also laughing and the total randomosity of items they decided to place on their heads in the first place. I've been filling my bucket up with water and practicing carrying it up and down my hallway in aspiration to be half as talented.

Yesterday was the first real day of classes (apparently it is an unspoken rule that professors don't show up to the first week of classes, which was last week). I am taking Traditional African Dance, Psychology of Religion in Ghana, Linguistics of Ghanian Languages, Geography of West Africa, Anthropology, Archaeology and Cultural Evolution and Introduction to Indigenous African Religion. I am also going to start volunteering as an English teacher at a local school and working with street girls and their children a few times a week. I am pretty excited about that, since it is something I found fulfilling to do in India and will give me an excuse to integrate a bit more with the larger community.

I've been really lucky and loved everyone on my program and been able to meet some awesome Ghanian friends (mostly who are on the Handball and Basketball teams at school, and who are predominately male. I am finding Ghanian girls to be very, if not near to impossible, to make friends with). We've been going to the beach for reggae night, which comes included with a bizarrely rastafarian subculture, ponies, dancing obrunis (which is the term for white person here...and is constantly shouted at you as you walked through the streets. The culture here seems to blatantly racial, and therefore, ironically, much more open to racial issues and accepting than the U.S. I'm pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of white people in the community here and the joking nature of the interactions. If there if one thing I've learned it is that Ghanaians like to laugh, so if something can be mocked, the better).

Another key part of life here so far is the sheer simplicity of existence. Internet is a gem, running water is a grace of God, and fully functioning power is a privilege. We went 4 days straight without any of it, and it is not rare to wake up in the morning and not have one of the above for a solid few hours. Everyone kept telling me upon landing "do you have a bucket?" and "oh, you must go buy a bucket." At first I had no idea why, for goodness sake, this culture was so bucket fanatic. But now I realize buckets are an essential. When the water goes out, you take bucket showers with any water you can find, when your clothes are dirty, you wash them by hand with homemade soap in your bucket, and when your floor is dirty you use wooden brooms and empty the dirt into your bucket to take to the trash. PRAISE THE GHANIAN BUCKET!

Annnd speaking of praising, I'll have to dedicate an entire blog to the religiosity of Ghana and all of its glories. I've never been so bombarded with Christian themed everything in my entire life. On the way to the tro tro station where I ride jammed into a small car with 24 other people, I could probably count near to 50 signs like "His Almighty Stamps" or "Mother Mary's Milk" or "Jesus Nail Salon" or "Christ Blood Laundry." Incredible, poetic, astonishing, blatant, hilarious. I will also have to tell you about my first Ghanian church experience, but am running out of time.

Okay...that is enough for now. I could go on, but I'll spare your computer scorched eyes for the time being. My computer has officially met its electronic death, so I am rendered computerless until I can figure something out. Frown! But I am going to keep on being positive and flexible. These things happen, and walking a bit for internet is not the worst thing that could happen. But if you hear about a white girl trying to sell herself to the circus as the "glow in the dark doll" or something ridiculous like that on CNN, know that the desperation has won. Haha.

Anyways, love you all with all my heart. I'll attempt to get some pictures up, but the likelihood of that is quite low. Internet is barely fast enough to load a page.

Kelly "The Obruni" Graves