Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Inevitable Plunge into Uncharted Territory

"And the earth swallowed her up," a line I'm sure was uttered last night after I not so soberly fell into an open sewer. Between the biblical undertones and the accurate depiction of the events that ensued that description would be very fitting in this country. To be completely honest, "fall" might be giving me too much credit. It makes it sound as though I tripped or lost balance and collapsed into the sewer, which is very possible, but not the case. On the contrary, I actually walked right into it. Completely oblivious of the gaping threshold before me, I continued to walk as though I could walk on air, but apparently I don't have that ability. I always hoped that in a time of need my fairy wings would magically sprout from my shoulder blades and bring me to safety, but maybe this just wasn’t the right moment, I know they’ll come someday.

Considering I’m only 5’2 and the sewer was probably around 2 feet deep, it looked as though I was performing a magic trick. Now you see her now you don’t! It was like a game of peek-a-boo, too bad my only audience was a group of middle aged Ghanaian men that responded to my tumble with the same “Oh!” they use when their favorite futballer goes down hard. I can’t lie, I was a little flattered.

I knew that I’d have to get up close and personal with a sewer sooner or later. At least this one was empty, it could have been a lot worse. And I came out without a scratch, although that saying really doesn’t account for any injuries that don’t fall under the scratch category. But aside from a very large, bruised knee, and a bit of a hobble, I made it out okay.

In the ongoing battle between myself and the open sewer I think I won this time. It must be karma after my almost arrest involving another gaping hole filled with shit. Final score 1:1, who will be victorious next? Only time will tell.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sisterhood of the Traveling Toilet Paper

After a week of good food, mommy-daughter slumber parties, and medical mishaps, I finally had to say bye to my mom on Thursday night. Luckily, I had no time to get homesick because I left promptly at 5:45 am the next morning with five of my girlfriends to Green Turtle Lodge, an eco-lodge about 6 hours away.

From magically finding six seats on a sold out bus, to getting the last two tents available, it seemed as though karma was balancing the scale after a week of somewhat horrible luck. This weekend was exactly what I needed to revamp. I was getting a little overwhelmed by all the smoke and exhaust polluting Accra and a camping trip under the stars, on a beautiful sandy beach at an environmentally friendly lodge was exactly the medicine I needed. Plus they had really good french toast!

We had so many adorable Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants moments this weekend. Between star gazing for shooting stars with our heads in a circle, sleeping on the beach till it rained at 3 am, and playing sober truth or dare, it was basically the best slumber party I've ever been to!

While at Green Turtle we got to go on a canoe ride through the river that runs along the local village. After convincing Emmanuel, our tour guide and the captain of our ship, to sing to us in TWI and asking him many strange questions I somehow found out that he loved to draw. Apparently, he really would like to be an artist but has no formal training whatsoever. When I told him that I also do a lot of art he got really excited and asked me if I could teach him how to mix colors. I gladly obliged, and spent the afternoon teaching him about the color wheel, 3-D vs 2-D, different mediums.... When I go back I'm going to bring my watercolors and oil pastels so he can try something other than drawing!

Talking to him really made me appreciate everything I've been blessed with. Being here has already made me realize how lucky I am to have even the simplest things, like water and power on a consistent basis, but I never really think about how lucky I am to have art supplies and an education system that, even with all of the budget cuts, still provides an artistic outlet to children. I couldn't even imagine my childhood without crayons/markers/finger paint/play-dough/charcoal... and I definitely can't imagine my adult life without art supplies. Being here has really helped me put a lot in perspective. Obviously acrylic paint is not a necessity, but it really does make me happy, as do hot showers, air conditioning and tofu. Being here has taught me that I can live without many things that we in America consider necessity, but that doesn't mean that I have to go back and continue to take bucket showers and not be able to flush the toilet for days, it just means that I have to be more appreciative and realize that the majority of the world can't even comprehend the kind of life Americans lead.

Moreover, my actions make a negative impact on the entire planet, so I should be more cognizant of how much energy I'm using and be aware of my carbon footprint, because everyone is being affected by climate change, but one country (my country) is disproportionately causing much of the problem due to our lavish lifestyle. So now that I know I can live my life with a severely smaller amount of water and energy I should work to cut down my personal expenditure.

And now I'll stop myself before I get too carried away about climate change, although I probably already have!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

You're Never too Old to Want Your Mommy

Surprise! My mom came to visit me all the way in Ghana! Well, it wasn't a surprise for me, but it probably is for everyone reading this. So Yay!!!!! You can all get excited with me!

When my mom got here on Thursday I already thought I was the luckiest girl in the world, first because my mom came all the way to West Africa to see me, and second because by some magical twist of fate she got in to Ghana just hours before a last second dance performance I was in. The timing of her visit couldn't be more perfect, or so I thought until I got a little injured at the rehearsal before the show. Due to the energetic, somewhat violent nature of the choreography, another dancer and I collided and apparently my tooth went through my face. (That sounds grosser than it looks I promise!)

At first I thought that I had just bit my lip pretty badly, but when I saw everyone's scared faces I realized there was blood all over my chin. Thank goodness everyone in Ghana carries a handkerchief with them to wipe the sweat off their brow, because it came in handy when I had to go meet my mom. I didn't exactly want to greet her with blood running down my face, if my mom was gonna cry when she saw me I wanted it to be happy tears, not fearful ones. Luckily, it stopped bleeding enough for me to perform and my mom was there to hold my hand afterwards at the pharmacy (pharmacies are more reliable here than hospitals). I really don't know what I would have done if she wasn't here. Even at 20, in a developing country in West Africa, it still helps to know that my mommy is nearby!

The good news is my face is looking a lot better! It looks like I either got a really strange piercing that went very wrong, or like I got in a fight that didn't end well for me. Between the gash and the cornrows I got for the show, I kind of look like a bad ass if you ask me, or at least more than I ever have before. I think I like it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reality Check

After over a week of intense bloging writers' block I finally have a lot I want to say. Today I experienced the biggest culture shock I've had since I arrived over a month ago. It slapped me in the face harder than the realization that there is no 911 here, scary.

This cataclysmic crash into reality happened in my social work class, entitled "Working with People Living with HIV/AIDS." Although I have already had this class multiple times, before today there was only slight foreshadowing of the extreme narrow mindedness shared by both the students and the teachers in this class. Aside from making multiple statements that prolong false myths and fears related to HIV contraction, the professor gave us a startling lecture about gender and sexuality, my minor, and a subject I feel very passionately about. Aside from her false definitions of sex and gender, she also told the class that people needing counseling due to sexual deviance were homosexuals, lesbians (as if they don't also fall into the category of homosexuality), "masturbaters," and those engaging in bestiality. I don't know if I have ever felt such an extreme array of emotions at once. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, and I even wanted to laugh. It all was just too much for me to handle. I knew that Ghanaians frowned on homosexuality (enough so that sodomy is illegal), but I never thought a professor for a course that deals specifically with a sexually transmitted disease would share such discriminatory views.

The horrifically false statements only continued with hypothetical situations of people contracting HIV from sharing toothbrushes and unclean manicure instruments. When I joined this class I was excited to be at the forefront of West African HIV education and prevention techniques, joining the most progressive Ghanaians in a quest to de-stigmatize a disease that not only ends people's physical lives, but due to stigma, ends their personal and social lives as well. However, I was greatly disappointed by what I found. As someone who is usually very outspoken about my own sexuality, I am scared to openly speak to my classmates and peers for fear of being ostracized.

Rough day, but at least my Theater for Development class is incredible. We're making a puppet show to educate people about climate change... I won't even get started on all of the misconceptions related to the environment, but at least we're working towards a good goal, which is more than I can say for our HIV class.