Saturday, January 30, 2010

You Have the Right to Remain Silent. Will You Marry Me?

As you all know, I am somewhat of an environmentalist. I reuse all my plastic bags, make recycled art, have a compost heap, and even try to buy clothes made out of sustainable fabric. So you can imagine how horrible it feels every time I have to litter in this country. Unfortunately, like India, Ghana has a severe lack of garbage cans. Because of the scarcity of bins and abundance of rubbish, large mounds of trash accumulate in all of the open sewers I described in earlier posts.

For the first two weeks I was here I still couldn't bring myself to throw my trash in the gutter, but after 14 days of stashing trash in my purse I finally began to give in to this disgusting habit. I figured when in Ghana do as the Ghanaians do... but that was not my best idea. Apparently even though every single person partakes in polluting this country, it is in fact illegal to litter. Who knew? I sure didn't.

This didn't bode well for me when I was caught littering outside of Makola market in downtown Accra. I was stopped by five officers who proceeded to tell me that I had offended the law and now was in their custody. That's Ghanaian-English for "We're arresting you." Luckily, my roommate had the foresight to call the director of our international program (a Ghanaian man) who could talk some sense into the cops that so clearly were just looking to get a nice meaty bribe from some rich Obrunis. While Mr. Kwasi was saving my ass on the phone I decided to play into the Ghanaian fetish for surprisingly friendly Obrunis and sweet talk them into letting me go. I put on the fakest smile I have in my arsenal and attempted to charm them in my very broken TWI. It somehow miraculously worked! Within an hour I was free to go and had two invitations to two officers' homes, and a marriage proposal.

Oh ya I forgot to mention how common marriage proposals are here, they've become a regular part of my daily routine. So much so that I've begun to tell people I'm engaged to ward off all the taxi drivers, tro tro mates, and apparently police officers that attempt to take me as their wife. But I don't think I'm fooling anyone with the peace sign ring on my finger, I'm currently on the market for a cubic zirconium engagement ring to make it look more believable. I've also tried telling the men here I was gay but that just went way over their heads. I don't even want to know what they would say if I said I was transgender, I guess there's only one way to find out!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Yesterday was my first day of my internship at the Orphanage and I think I fell in love. My heart literally melted. These children are so sweet and affectionate, and they have such big personalities! When they're not climbing on you and eating soap (no unfortunately that's not a typo) all they want is to be held. I'm gonna be so ripped at the end of the semester after holding all these adorable children. I've already mastered holding two at a time, but I'm aiming to do three by the end of the week.

In the morning I help with their schooling, which is a lot more challenging than I expected. I knew it would be hard to control the children, because they know an "obruni" (white person) won't hit them, but I didn't realize how emotionally taxing it would be. The hardest part was realizing that one of my six year olds didn't know how to count to ten. No, actually the most heart breaking part of my day was finding that none of my kids knew how old they were. I don't know if that's because the orphanage doesn't have that information, or if the children just don't know their numbers well enough to know their age, but regardless, it needs to change.

The orphanage is really a wonderful place though, the children receive an incredible amount of love and affection from all of the staff and volunteers, and from each other. The four and a half hours I spent there yesterday may be the best four and a half hours I've had since I arrived. Exhausting, but incredible.

The latter half of my day there is a bit more fun. I get to do basically whatever I want with them, so naturally we did Native American rain dances and a million head stands and cartwheels! They are very fast learners. But they taught me too! They showed me a ton of different ways to hang upside down from the monkey bars, and we all made crazy monkey noises! Needless to say, when the head of the orphanage asked who the dancer was I got a little scared that she was going to tell me I have to stop encouraging strange behavior; but instead she asked me if I could choreograph a dance for the kids. I don't know if I've ever said yes to anything so quickly.

I'm so happy I'm working with kids here, when I'm around kids I feel like I'm in my natural habitat, where I can be who I really am- still just a little kid who wants to eat ice cream, dance in circles till the sky looks tilted, and laugh so hard she pees in her pants! Speaking of which, I forgot to mention the funniest part of my day yesterday. I got peed on. No joke, I smelled like a urinal all day. One of my little girls didn't make it to the toilet, but instead of telling me she decided to show me... by sitting on my lap. I'm usually a fan of non-verbal communication, but this might be an exception. Especially because I still don't have water. So again you all are very lucky you can't smell me!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Different Kind of Time Change

I am currently sitting in my mosquito net covered bed, listening to my neighbors sing sunday prayers, getting my awesome tie-dye sheets sufficiently covered in sand, and waiting for the water to turn back on. That's what I call multi-tasking. Taking a shower here is like playing Russian Roulette, you never know when you're gonna get stuck with shampoo still in your hair or a toothbrush full of toothpaste... or in my case a body full of Bojo Beach sand. The down side is you end up smelling a little on the funky side more often than you'd like to, but the up side is you always have an excuse for being absolutely disgusting!

Productivity takes on a whole new meaning in Ghana. At home a productive day for me means I've accomplished a large to do list of homework assignments, errands, or fun activities. Here, a full day is one that accomplishes one task... if that. For example, yesterday my day's activity was getting lunch. I kid you not, it literally took me all day to get to and from a nearby restaurant that serves veggie friendly food. It was totally worth it, but a little frustrating. I'm still not used to the fact that taking out cash or getting groceries is a day long activity, but I'm getting there. I'm sure by the time I get back I'll have a whole new perception of time.

Today my days' activity was going to a beach about an hour away from Legon. It was beautiful and only semi-touristy, but even an hour away the beaches here are still decorated by an inordinate number of plastic bags. The coolest part of the beach: Ghanandolas. Pretty awesome.

Tomorrow's to do list is class and shower, that is if the water goes back on. Not too exciting. It's funny because every time I try to write an entry for this blog I realize how
few stories I have... or at least not in the traditional sense of a story. For example, today the Mate on my tro tro told me he loved me. We had never met. Now that was a pretty funny moment, but that's it- the story doesn't continue. Start to finish in one sentence. And there are many more where that came from. It makes the "what did you do last night" conversation go a lot faster, which is kind of nice, but blogging is a little challenging.

So now that I've explained my predicament I'll share some of my one-liner stories.

Last night I went to a benefit concert for Haiti where the Ghanaian version of Paris Hilton (a rich heiress with no real talent, covered in lots of glitter and attempting to sing on key) performed her hit song "Ete sen? Eye" (which means "How are you? Good," real clever lyrics). The rest of the concert was amazing, but she was not rockin it.

Earlier this week one of my professors didnt show up to the first day of class because the classroom was too far away. He somehow managed to relay the message to us that it was our job to find a different available classroom closer to the main entrance. I still have no idea where that class is.

Ghanaian karaoke might be the funniest thing I've ever seen. All I have to say is Cher+Ghanaian accents=a beautiful thing.

Finally, I saved the best for last. A woman asked me today if I was jealous of her beard, and yes she did really have a beard, and yes, I was jealous.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Trials and Tribulations of a Vegetarian

After only being here two weeks I've managed to already unknowingly eat animals three times, the only three times that's happened in the last 4 years that I've been a vegetarian. Needless to say, Ghanaians don't really understand the concept, I literally have to say in TWI, "My body doesn't like it" (which means I'm allergic) for them to even slightly understand. But the last time I said that I found a fish head in my okra soup :(. Seriously, a fish head, not a scale or piece of meat, the HEAD! I almost cried. For all of those reading this who already know too much about my life, you know I've had recurring nightmares about killing a fish with my bare hands, so holding a fish head in between my fingers was pretty horrifying.

I've learned that eating traditional Ghanaian food probably just isn't a good idea. Aside from the hidden, and not so hidden meat in everything, it's ALL fried. I thought the south was bad with fried food, but Ghana kicks their ass in the fried department. The only vegetable like substance found at restaurants and chop bars here are french fries, fried yams, and fried plantains... scary. But I've been finding some loopholes; I'm sure by the end of the semester I'll have a million things to eat, but for the time being groundnut paste (peanut butter) has become my new best friend. I think the love is mutual!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chocolate, Children, and Everything in Between

Its only been four days since my last post but I've already done so much! If I were to describe it all in detail this blog would soon become a novel, so to spare you all and make it slightly more interesting Im just going to turn this entry into a picture diary. There will be more photos published on facebook but for now I'll share the ones that paint a picture of my recent adventures. Enjoy!

Learning how to make Cocoa at Ghana's first cocoa farm. 40% of Ghana's exports is cocoa, it is the second largest cocoa producer in the world.

Playing with children at the nearby school!

Hard at work at the wood carving village.

Manual pump gas station. You turn the handle, wait for the glass vile to fill and then let it empty in to your car, then repeat.

Beautiful hollow tree in the Aburi Gardens!

The only tree I've ever climbed from the inside!

The first lighthouse ever built in Ghana, only seconds away from the hungry vultures picking through garbage on the beach.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You're All Lucky You Can't Smell Me From the US!

I am currently redefining the word dirty. Even after my 8-day spree of no showering in India, nothing compares to the utter filth coating my body at this very moment. My feet are literally brown from dirt, not to mention my face, body, and clothing. Nothing is spared by the ever present Ghanaian dirt. In fact, there's probably some up my nose at this very moment, but I'm too scared to check, I'd rather be ignorant of my internal filth.

It doesn't help that it's a million degrees outside with intense sun and high humidity. The sweat actually acts as an adhesive for the dust, it's quite impressive actually. I'm estimating that by the end of my stay here people will no longer be calling me obruni (the Twi term for white person), instead they will have to call me brown person!

Speaking of Twi, I started my Twi class yesterday, even though the registration period started today. I've learned a ton of new words already but my favorite is tikya, pronounced teachah. And yes, you guessed it, it is the word for to teacher. Pretty awesome.

Other than Twi, I'm not in any other classes yet. Today I began the registration process, which consisted of me trekking around the enormous campus to each and every department that I'd possibly like to take a class in. There is no such thing as on line registration here, let alone any centralized database of updated courses offered this semester. Therefore, to register you must first go to each department to simply look at the list of classes they will offer. Once you have seen all the departmental lists (which by the way are stapled onto very well hidden bulletin boards) you must create a list of courses you'd like to take. Then, you go back to those departments a week later, when they eventually post the time tables, and see if there are any scheduling conflicts among the courses you selected. Finally, you go back AGAIN to each department and register by writing your name on a list of students enrolled in the class.

Needless to say, I had a long day! But I'm starting to know my way around campus, after hours of wandering it would be scary if I didn't!

Must shower before the dirt eats me alive... Nante yie (Twi for good bye, literally translation: walk safely)!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


A sigh of relief exits my lips as I see this much anticipated greeting plastered above my head at the Kotoko International Airport in Accra.

I have now been here for two days, but I swear it feels like weeks! Ghana is like no country I've ever seen before. All of the buildings here are very spread out, making tro tros a much more appealing option than walking. Tro tros are the public transit here, but they aren't like any train or bus in the States. A tro tro is a large van that crams around 22 people inside, give or take a goat or two. I've only been on a tro tro once so far but I really enjoyed it! People are really good drivers here, or at least better than Israel and India. However, there are no pedestrian laws so if you're gonna cross the street you better be ready to run!

In terms of what Accra actually looks like, I dont know if I can put it into words. Colors look different here. I'm convinced it's all the dust in the air. Everything is softer on the eyes, except the browns, there are a million shades of brown! I find myself enthralled by the ground below me, unable to look away from the rich indian clay colored dust. But I may also be focusing on the ground because of the open sewer system that runs down the sides of every street. I think I'm more endanger of falling into a gaping hole here than getting malaria! Walking down the street last night was like playing Russian Roulette, between the lack of street lights and the need to watch traffic, the odds of falling in a pit was pretty high - not a pretty thought. But I made it home ok and slept safely in my bright blue mosquito net until 6 am this morning when I was promptly awoken by mother nature's personal alarm clock... roosters. Just one more thing that I'm sure I won't even notice soon enough.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Unexpected Adventure

With 4 and a half months supply of toiletries, medicine, and clothing somehow shoved into one pack and haphazardly strapped to me I'm finally off to Ghana!...... or am I?

When I awoke early Thursday morning I never thought I'd be spending Friday night in London, but alas here I am. So here's the story... due to horrible weather in London my flight was six hours delayed, causing me to miss my connecting flight to Accra. As you can imagine, there's only one flight from London to Ghana a day so I'm arriving one day later than planned, and subsequently staying in London for the night. The good news is the airline is paying for everything! My hotel room, all my meals, even my ride to and from the airport, who knew delays could be so wonderful?

Unfortunately, I am missing my first day of orientation in Ghana, but I'm trying to at least enjoy myself in London for the time being. There's not much I can do considering I'm less than a mile away from Heathrow International Airport, not to mention the hilarious wardrobe predicament I'm in. As I mentioned before, I took packing light to a new level and brought barely any clothing with me, and what I did bring is meant for a Sub-Saharan climate. So you can imagine my dismay as I stepped into the snow covered streets in flip flops and a hoodie. It was more funny than sad really, but I do wish I was able to explore London for the brief 20 hours I'm here.

Instead I've been hiding under the covers trying to stay warm and enjoying cup after cup of English Breakfast tea, I'm convinced it tastes better here. And now here I am, at 6 am London time (I haven't yet adjusted to the time difference) starting what will be my blog for the next 4 and a half months. As a warning to all those reading this, I don't know how often I will be able to update this blog, and I'm not sure how interesting it will be. But I'm going to try to have some fun with it so all those devoted readers out
there (mom and dad) can at least get a little entertainment!

Until next time....