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