There are So Many Obrunis Here

This is the last I will write about Ghana here. I want to conclude with a blog post about coming home, but I really don’t know what to say. Maybe I can start by saying that the first thing I had to eat stateside was a 50 cent ice cream cone from McDonalds. Walking into the gas station cum fast food joint  wasn’t a shock like getting hit by a car. Not like walking into the Osu market and having your wrist taken away from you by a man trying to sell you a bracelet. Walking in, my eyes gazed around the room. Garish florescent lights. To the left, a shelf full of glossy magazines. Glossy paper, glossy overly muscular torsos and bikini clad women. Connected by a corridor is McDonalds. I stand in line. I order. I say thank you for my ice cream. Silence, except for the woman next to me babbling about her order in a shrill voice to the manager. I stand, dazed. Who is the Obruni? Is it me? Is it this woman? All these white people around me? It can’t be me and them because we definitely aren’t the same. At least not anymore.

            This culture shock isn’t the kind girls have when Ghanaian women grab their chests, in order to rate their breasts. In America now, I have a profound sense of familiarity. It is like I never left: The Sears Tower in the skyline. The golden orange sunsets I’ve missed so much. White people all around me. All of these things are so ingrained in me, it would be foolish to think that a little over four months abroad can erase 229 months of midwestern familiarity.

            Yet, I feel strangely detached from it all, perhaps even scornful. I feel like I have the mind of preteen–the rites and rituals of childhood are intimately familiar, but a relic of an era he or she grew out of. Somehow, banal chatter of a woman clarifying her order does not play the same to my ears as the collective outbursts of Ghanaians scolding a reckless driver.

            Truth be told, I can’t even picture myself in Ghana. Sure I have plenty of memories, but I am here, not there. Moreover, in spite of the 35 hour journey from ISH to Middleton, I can’t explain how I would have gotten here from being there. But, consistent with the paradoxes of studying abroad, I will never forget standing in front of ISH, hugging and joking with each of the ISEPers and my Ghanaian friends in turn. But now I am home and it is all a blurry dream. Or is it? Or am I?

            I suppose I am beginning to ramble too much now. When I envisioned writing this post, I thought I could write about the lessons I learned and my hopes for the future. I haven’t done any of that yet, but I’m getting there. At least, I’m trying.

            In the meantime, I am thinking about what they call “reverse culture shock.” That is, it can be just as unsettling in some respects to come home as it is to leave after being in a foreign culture for so long. For me, returning to fast, nice cars, seatbelts, clean streets, houses, manicured lawns, suburbia, flower gardens, sidewalks, daytime TV, pets, and everything else has been completely normal.

            What has really been an intense shock is the interpersonal interactions. How people react with eachother here is so different, so unusual, almost uncomfortable at times. I already told you about getting ice cream. My first shock though, was arriving at the airport. I was struggling, carrying four bags: two checked pieces of luggage, my laptop, and a carryon. After just a few minutes of walking my shoulders ached, the straps dug in, I was hunched over. Nobody cared. Granted this is an international airport in an anonymous city. In small town America, where people know everybody, it might approach more what I am used to in Ghana. However, even when I was in Accra, the largest city in Ghana, I couldn’t go more than a few meters without getting at least a greeting.            Even when I was waiting for a bus and my luggage toppled to the ground, nobody even noticed. These weren’t strangers; they would be riding with me on the same vehicle for hours.

            As I wandered around the airport in Chicago, searching for the poorly labeled bus station (I saw “bus and shuttle transfer” but I assumed this referred to intracity buses, not intercity buses), I thought back to trying to navigate my way through trotros in Ghana. From Accra to Busua, from Tamale to Larabanga, from Boti Falls to Legon, you wouldn’t have to walk more than a few steps before someone approaches you and asks you where you are going. Granted, they see you as a potential customer, but even if you are going the opposite direction as their trotro, they will point out exactly where to go. Even if nobody comes up to you–lets say you are walking down the street looking for the market–you can ask anyone and the side of the road, and given that you preface your question with appropriate greeting, they will always help you. Nobody ever said, or even implied “I dont have time” “why are you asking me, you should know it yourself” or “that’s not my job.”            

            But I’m not in Ghana anymore.

            I already miss the jollof and waakye, the redred and fufu. I got some recipes from one of my Ghanaian friends, but unfortunately I wont be able to try them out before I leave again.

            I already am looking for an opportunity to go back to Ghana. It’s not that I love it any more than the United States. Its just that all I know is still there. Even my ISEP friends, who I consider my college friends even more than my friends at UWEC. For me, they are all still there, and if I went back, it would be more laughter in Sports Clubs, Hearts at night, games of Truth, swapping stories, and yes, the occasional trips that people take.

            I am on a trip now, but I guess my whole life is a trip. I may not be living out of a suitcase, but we are never staying the same. Remember when I said traveling is just like a square dance–linking arms with those close to you, then spinning to someone else, but always coming back to your partner? Maybe life is also. Sure I am back from Ghana, and now I am “home”, but is it really home? I just keep moving. On to the Galapagos, and then who knows? Home is where the people you love are. And I can’t help but repeat the all too frequently quote by Carl Sagan, musing on a photograph of Earth, taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2, as it skirted the outer limits of our Solar System:

See the "Pale Blue Dot" on the brown streak on the right? Can you see the United States? Are you sure? Or is that Ghana? I can't tell.

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar”, every “supreme leader”,every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

 

So let’s stick together, okay? Because I am home, and so are you.  

 

 

 

 


My adventures continue in the Galapagos Islands. Check out my new blog at http://backtothetropics.wordpress.com.

Ghanaian Recipies

I got all of these from my friend Phebe. I hope she doesn’t mind that I reposted them for anyone interested. Unfortunately, the directions aren’t as quantitative as we are used to here in the United States, so it may be hard if you aren’t familiar with what the dishes are supposed to look (and taste) like

 

REDRED

Ingredients:

Beans, ripe plantain, red oil, or vegetable oil, tomatoes, pepper, onion,

 

Beans

  1. Cook beans in a pan until soft; remember to add slat just when the bean is almost done. Don’t add it early; it makes the beans hard
  2. Heat oil and add onions, brown
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and pepper
  4. Add canned tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes
  5. Stir/simmer.
  6. Add beans to sauce and stir. Add a little water if necessary
  7. Taste, add salt if necessary
  8. Simmer for 10 min, then remove from heat

 

Plantain:

Slice plantains and fry in hot oil. Turn when side is brown and removed when soft.

 

 

LIGHT SOUP (CHICKEN)

Ingredients:

Tomatoes, chicken, garden eggs, fresh pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, chicken,

 

Steps:

  1. 1.    Blend onions, garlic, ginger
  2. 2.    Pour over fresh chicken and cook. Add Salt
  3. 3.    Boil fresh tomatoes with garden eggs, onions, and pepper together. Save water used for boiling the tomatoes.
  4. 4.    When the chicken is cooked, pour the water from Step 3 over it and continue cooking. Stir Gently. Add canned tomatoes. Keep on heat for 20 minutes
  5. 5.    Add salt to taste, remove from heat.

 

CHICKEN STEW

Ingredients:

Chicken, tomatoes, onions, pepper, vegetables, garlic, ginger.

 

Steps:

  1. Cut chiken into chunks
  2. Belend garlic, onion, and ginger
  3. Add to chicken and cook for 20 minutes
  4. Add salt to taste
  5. When chicken is cooked, remove chinks and pour ginger/garlic/onion mixture into a bowl.
  6. Heat oil in a pan and add onions when hot
  7. Blend tomatoes, onion and pepper
  8. Pour into oil and allow to cook for 15 minutes
  9. Add canned tomatoes, mix until smooth.

10. Add ginger/garlic/onion stock and stir

11. Simmer for 25 minutes.

12. Meanwhile, heat oil and fry chicken

13. When chicken is cooked, remove and mix with sauce.

14. Add vegetables, simmer for 10 minutes and remove

 

JOLLOF RICE

Make stew (see above). Pour dry rice into the sauce. Add water (2.5 cups water for 2 cups rice). Stir intermittently to prevent burning.

 

WAAKYE

Cook beans for 45 min. Add 2 cups of rice with 2.5 cups water. Continue cooking until rice is soft.

 

PALMNUT SOUP

Ingredients:

Palm nuts (may be canned), tomateoes, epepper, ponions, garlic, ginger.

 

Steps

  1. Pour palm soup out of can, mix with water, allow to boil.
  2. Add whiole fresh tomoatoes, onion, pepper,
  3. Remove after 10 minutes, blend
  4. Pour back into soup and allow to cook
  5. Add steamed seasoned meat, chicken, or fish.
  6. Allow to cook for 30 minutes.

How to Change Your Flight

 

  1. Call the general USA reservation number for your airline (how hard can it be?).
  2. Be on hold for a while. Think about how international calls are expensive.
  3. Learn that the student discount program you bought your ticket from, has a separate phone number. Get phone number from the telephone agent. Ask what a flight out on the 28th might cost. $800.
  4. Call the student discount program phone number accidentally not during USA business hours; get transferred (unknowingly) to the original number.
  5. Have a second awkward conversation with the phone agent: “I just talked to you” “I called the exact same number you gave me.”
  6. Call later that day. Talk to Amy from Quebec. She’s awesome. Learn that you could take a flight on the 27th for cheap.
  7. Learn that I can only change my ticket at the airport
  8. Learn that you have tickets for the 28th and 30th of May. Say you never authorized any change to my flight. Get no useful information due to the potential for credit card fraud.
  9. Learn that your ex-girlfriend, who purchased the exact same ticket at the exact same time in the exact same manner as you got her flight changed for free by her dad.

10. Ask your ex-girlfriend to ask her dad how he was successful.

11. Wait for her to reply

12. Hear her reply: “He just called and they did it”.

13. Take deep breaths.

14. Call the local airport to see if the local airline office is open. Reply: “You need to call their number directly” “Do you know the num-” Click.

15. Try calling the local airline office number. Wonder why nobody picks up when you know they are open.

16. Take a trip to the airport. Get stopped at the front door. Sort of lie and tell them you have a ticket. Find out the office is closed because your airline has no flights that day.

17. Go back to the airport the next day. Get stopped at the front door. Start to take your passport out when your friend (who is a girl) catches up with you. Get waved through no questions asked by the doorman.

18. Find the  office in the international office to be closed.

19. Leave. Tell the doorman you forgot something. Go to the office in the domestic terminal.

20. Have trouble finding the second office. Ask a security guard which way to go. Get yelled at by the security guard for not greeting him earlier.

21. Act excessively polite when entering second office. Knock on the door.

22. Awkwardly see a bunch of Lufthansa employees watching TV.

23. Continue to be excessively polite. Enter room after you are welcomed in.

24. Learn that the international terminal office will open at 4:30.

25. Wait in airport for an hour.

26. Notice they opened the office before 4:30 and there is now a line of four people ahead of you.

27. Finally enter. Explain your situation. Get told you can change your flight for a $250 fee.

28. Also learn you can’t go home on the 27th because that would involve rerouting your ticket, and your ticket is nonrerouteable.

29. Explain you are exempt from the fee. Learn your record has no indication of this fee exemption.

30. Watch employee get more and more frustrated at you. Explain you understand what the computer says but that it is not correct.

31. Hear her say again you can change your flight for $250 in cash. Ask about a change fee. Watch her look at you like you are crazy. Hold your tongue about the change fee.

  1. 32.  Listen to the ticket agent plead with you to go to the main office. Notice she has bloodshot eyes.

33. Leave. Call your ex-girlfriend. Plead with her to ask her dad to do it for you in spite of the awkwardness of her being your ex-girlfriend.

34. Four days later ask if she’d done it. Nope. Ask again if she’d do it.

35. Talk to her the next day. Learn that she had only asked her dad how he had done it. Obtain the information you were looking for in Step 10: Learn that your ex-girlfriend’s dad had paid the $250 fee over the phone, then got a call from your airline a few days later telling that they were refunding the fee.

36. Realize the person you talked to in step 6 probably didn’t take into account your ticket restrictions.

37. Ask your ex-girlfriend why she didn’t ask him to do it for me when she said she would, and what I could have said to get what I wanted.

38. Get no answer until the next day, when you find out it was because she thought you were lazy.

39. Hold your tongue at the irony of her getting her ticket changed by her dad for free and calling you lazy.

40. Send an email using a form on the airline website. Explain your situation

41. Decide it’s time to call in the one, the only, Super-Dad.

42. Talk to one of Super-Dad’s associates: your dad. Explain your situation.

43. Let your dad be on hold for an hour and a half before he learns the same thing as you-that you need to change your flight in person in Accra, even though they don’t know about your student discount program there.

44. Find three glimmers of hope: First, that the flight change will be less than $200. Second, that they put a note in your record that the flight change fee would be waved. Third, a travel agent in your hometown may be willing to process the flight change payment for you.

45. Have your dad call the local travel agency and get blown off.

46. Take a trip to the main airline office in your foreign city.

47. Arrive, explain your situation yet again. Talk to someone helpful.

48. Have them explain that you can’t upgrade your fare class so you can’t change your flight at all. Persist. Listen to airline mumbo-jumbo, and persist until they realize what they can do.

  1. 49.  After half an hour of explanation, find out that they are willing to do exactly what you need them to do for $160.

50. Learn that the software won’t let them process your fee. Hear you have to contact your travel agent because they are the only ones that can change it.

51. Explain how you don’t have a travel agent because you bought the tickets online.

52. Learn that your “travel agent” is the Lufthansa ticket desk at your international airport back home because that is who printed the tickets.

53. Explain that your dad can’t drive to the airport to process the transaction, which is 200 miles away.

54. Hear that they can send a “queue” to your home airport to process the ticket change or give authorization to the airport abroad.

55. Ask how long it might take; get the impression that the airline agent feels like you don’t trust her to do your job. Agree to come back in five days.

56. Take a 40-minute trotro back to your dorm.

57. Get a phone call from the airline agent you talked to earlier. Strain to hear her. Hear something about changing your fare class, no charge for fare difference, and a $250 change fee. Lose the connection.

58. Try to call back, get put on hold. Give up, be mystified at your flight status for the next five days until you return to the main office.

59. Return to main office, learn that almost everything has done for you, though the “note” on your record could have been added by anyone, including a travel agent. Thus, it is not authoritative. Also, find out that they were able to change your ticket to the new date with the same fare class.

60. Learn that you have to call the airline to have them “sticker ticket to read new dates”. Otherwise, they will ask why you have no $250 at the airport.

61. Have your father call to request this change.

62. Pray that they give you a ticket and let you board the plane when you arrive at the airport in a month.

63. Receive an answer to your email (see step 40) telling you that you do have one free change, but your itinerary has already been modified many times.  Note that the email will surely lack any reference to the problem you mentioned that people here do not have record of the free change.

64. Reply saying that the situation has already been “worked out” but FYI, all the changes they see on the screen were never real flight changes, just hypothetical situations.

65. Irrationally check your online itinerary regularly until the day of the flight looking for proof that your flight is when you think it is.

 

Lesson: Changing a flight in Ghana can take at least six phone calls, three visits to an office at the airport, an email, and two trips to the main office of your airline.

At the Airport

            It is 6:49pm in Accra, 7:49 pm in London, 10:49 pm in Dubai, and 2:49 pm. in New York City. That is what the four wall clock in the dingy whitewashed, air-conditioned room I am sitting in waiting for Lufthansa flight 567 from Accra to Frankfurt. Aside from the three flatscreen TVs it could be some dingy diner in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Well, except dingy diners probably have power outlets you can use. It is strange to spend my last minutes in Ghana in this room, after hugging a dozen of my ISEP friends in front of ISH, and sharing more laughs with Ghanaian friends than at any time during the year.

            We will be waiting at our gate for two hours. This doesn’t seem that bad, though we left ISH at 5:30, over three hours before our flight departs. That’s because they have very rigid check-in times. For my flight, which left at 8:40, you are not allowed to check in after 7pm and therefore cannot get your ticket. It’s probably a good thing they do that, because this is one of the most disorganized airport check-ins I’ve been in:

            Nothing is linear. You walk in, with all your luggage. (Miriam and I each had 2 checked bags and a carry-on, plus my laptop and camera around my neck; I was the ultimate clumsy traveler a la National Lampoons) When you first get to the airport, you don’t get your tickets as one might suspect. First you need to take your checked luggage to customs. There aren’t any signs that tell you this; you just amble around, finally find the check-in desk and then are told you actually have to go over there first. Luckily I had been tipped off during my multiple trips to the airport to change my flight so I knew the first step. Strangely, but possibly unsurprisingly, the baggage check center is in the far corner of the airport and very poorly labeled. Incidentally, this is the international terminal so it’s not like going there only applies to some people.

            Since I’m taking a drum home, I’ve been very worried about protecting it. Packing it in the drum bag with clothing isn’t safe enough for me, so I put brown paper around it (though just now I realized that if that brown paper gets ripped off all of the routing information for the drum will be lost.) “Why don’t you wrap it,” asked the customs inspector, motioning at shrink-wrapping machines. “I don’t have enough money,” I replied. Allegedly it costs $20. I hadn’t finished wrapping it yet since I assumed they would want to open it up and inspect it. No, they pretty much just squeezed it and let me pass. These people must be really talented if they can find contraband just by doing the squeeze-test. In fact, the inspector seemed confused at why I hadn’t completely wrapped it up. So I stepped aside, taped on the brown paper lid and took it back to him. He scribbled on the paper and I was good to go. Oh, and only checked baggage is “inspected.”

            Second, you have to weigh your luggage. I had been worried about my luggage weight, since the drum is bulky but not too heavy, requiring me to shove most of my other stuff into my other suitcase. I didn’t have any problems though. One of Miriam’s bags was a little overweight. “This is too heavy,” scolded the Lufthansa employee. I guess she was distracted because she then weighed my bags and then waved us on. Sometimes I say things at really stupid times like when I said to Miriam, “wasn’t your bag too heavy?” “Sssshhhh.”

            You then proceed forward and actually check in, get your tickets, and give them the bags you are going to check. This part was pretty normal. While she printed my ticket I scrambled to mend some tears in my paper wrapping with the roll of duct tape I’d brought along. I don’t know why I couldn’t hear laughter because I know the people behind me must have been cracking up on the inside. “This is fragile,” I said, hoping they might have some sort of sticker they could put on the drum to augment the sharpie text I’d scrawled on the paper. “We don’t take fragile items.” “Okay, that’s fine, just take it.”

            Finally you proceed to embarkation procedures at customs. You follow a labyrinthine corridor that begins behind a large seating area and some food stalls to a room where you fill out the immigration paperwork. After you show it to a security guard (employed not by the government but by whatever private security company manages airport security) you stand in another line until you are directed to one of the immigration windows. When the private guard looked at my passport he grinned, looked at me, and

            “Ete sen”, says the immigration official, in Twi. I respond appropriately. He continues asking me questions in Twi. “Thats all I know” I say sheepishly, which isn’t really true, but it is  pretty much all I can comprehend by a native speaker who is talking quickly. He then switched to asking me if I knew French, in French of course. “No, just English” “Only French,” he replies. “Habla espanol?” I try, hoping to show him that I do know more than one language. “No.” I then had the blessing and curse of being next to some Peace Corps volunteers who were–I think–finishing their term. They started translating for me, and joking with the official. He then turned to me and said, “Look at all the white people, they know Twi. Next time come back to Ghana and learn Twi.”

            After getting your passport stamped, you don’t continue straight past the immigration gates as you might expect. (I tried that, and found a wall…sort of awkward). Instead, take a right turn and continue down another corridor to the metal detectors. I accidentally put my scissors in my carry on bag, so that got taken away. As the woman was hand inspecting my bag, they were pulling items out one by one, until she found the scissors and promptly threw them away. Ironically, in her other hand, she was holding a long, hefty metal ballpoint pen, equally dangerous.

            The next step in the process is the mandatory walk through the gift shop, just like you are getting off a ride at Disney World. Miriam and I laughed at the exorbitant prices. Even by First-World standards, the prices were outrageous as they are at airports. Still a seven-fold markup is remarkable. You could buy for 8 Cedis (5 dollars) were being sold for US$35. In fact, lets place a game. How much do you think these following items are worth? (Answers at the end)

A- Jewelry

B–Tshirt

C–African Shirt

D–Bearded Earrings 

            We found our gate, after one more ticket check. This one though seemed to be more for our benefit than some arcane unquantifiable security reason. It was like a gateside check-in, ostensibly such that they could make sure all the passengers were ready to go. If you leave this area, they hold onto your boarding pass. I assume this is so they can page you if the flight is about to leave. How nice (just like the complementary shower stalls in the bathroom)! I decided to go back out and spend my last cedi (which was supposed to be for plan Alvaro to take back home, but I forgot to get one before checking my bags). Juice boxes were too expensive so I had to settle for a tiny bottle of water.

            And now here I sit. I just ran into Kofi, our wonderful Twi teacher. He ended up sitting down right behind us while waiting for a plane to Swaziland. The minute hand of the clock continues sweeping; one more revolution and I will be in the air, watching the yellow glow of Accra disappear beneath the clouds, at least for now. 

(Answers: A-$165.20; B-$56.60; C-$89.70 D-$20.00, 20-30x markup)

You Can’t Have it All

THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT GHANA

  • Cheap, healthy, prepared food, 100 yards from my room
  • Children being super excited to see you
  • Sharing everything with everybody
  • Being 21 years old.
  • Frugality/Resourcefulness
  • Tax and Tip included
  • Cheap taxis
  • Trotros
  • The informal book-swapping of ISH
  • Friends Here
  • Frequent African drumming and dance shows.
  • Unusual experiences every day
  • Tailors, seamstresses, and vibrant fabric

THINGS I MISS ABOUT THE USA

  • Having people tell me if they don’t know the answer to a question
  • Temperature variation
  • Clean Air Act
  • Fixed prices
  • Window shopping without being hustled.
  • Textbooks
  • Tap water
  • Informed Consent
  • Not much dust
  • Speed limits higher than 50kph
  • Friends There
  • NPR news, classical music, jazz, and folk
  • New York Times, and other high quality newspapers
  • Blending in.

The Last Two Weeks

These last two weeks have been a blur, not because of all the things that have happened, but because each day is as muddy as the one before. No, this is not an allusion to the rainy season, although the occasional rains and daily cloud cover has made the weather quite comfortable. Essentially, the purpose of the past two or three weeks has been to take five exams– 10 hours of essays. Everyone has their exams at different times so it is hard to plan events, let alone traveling.

            The past few days–this last week has been the worse. Wake up, eat breakfast, chat, nap, more food, maybe a little reading and a dash of studying. Dinner, cards, bed. Okay, writing it out makes is sound luxurious, but it is the same day in and day out, and all I can think about is seeing my family, eating some good American food, and how nice certain amenities will be (I have decided that the first thing I do when I get to the airport in Frankfurt is to buy a copy of the New York Times at whatever the price, read it cover to cover, and do the crossword).            

            This is not to say there haven’t been some fun things to do–lots of games of hearts (and I am usually first or second place to boot!), Trivia night on Thursdays at Champs, and a couple movies Watchmen, Fantastic Mr. Fox.) I enjoyed going to Sarah Worthing’s benefit event at a bar to build a toilet in a rural village (Interestingly, the organization she is with is focused on education. When meeting with village elders, they identified that the toilet was the greatest need they had in terms of education. It turns out that children who had to go to the bathroom during school would have to walk all the way to the opposite side of the town. Then, the students wouldn’t come back to class.) A drumming and dance performance, the day trip to Togo.

            Of course the last two weeks are not supposed to be a vacation, we are supposed to be diligently studying for exams. I have found this so difficult, however. After a week of final exams I am burned out, but having tests hang over your head for three weeks is torture. I’m sure I would have done better if the finals period were reduced to 10 days. By the end, I had no motivation to study. Not only was it difficult, trying to commit every single word on half a dozen scraps of paper to memory but it was impossible to know what or how to study (unlike Humanities classes that often had large reading packets assigned, the study material has been almost completely limited to class notes). Some university professors are critical of study guides (“Everything in the class is important; study it all”). I don’t understand this. All I want is a list of topics covered in class. Let me know where my notes are deficient. Let me have a framework for the course, since the syllabus is frequently vague and the course outline is almost always amended between week 1 and week 15. Study guides help you see how your professor thinks, how he or she wants you to organize your information.

            The last two weeks have been a slowly building crescendo to my departure. To be honest, I’ve been counting down the days for the past month. It’s not that I miss Ghana–I love it here and want to come back one day–but as I’ve said, I really want to see my family, my friends, the land I call home (though Ghana becomes more familiar everyday, I will never be Ghanaian). But the closer I get to stepping onto my plane, the emptier it gets here. Scott left last Monday, Kait on Tuesday, then Kate and Hannah on Wednesday; Claire left Thursday, Evan left a few hours ago. As each person departs, things get a little quieter; it gets a little harder to find people to do things with. Voices lost from a choir are not noticeable at first, but soon harmonies start to fade away until all you are left with is a shaky melody.

            The last two weeks have been a dream, a vision, a rest, a meditation, a freedom, a burden, an echo, a swell, a trough, a whisper, a cry, a smile. Whether I truly realize it or not, it is the coda to my first trip to Ghana.

Weekly Musings

  • Tensions in ISH seem to be growing between us and the porters. We often get told to be quiet or scolded for other things by the porters, especially at Sports Clubs (recent interaction: Porter, looking at sidewalk chalk drawings: “what is this? This is not supposed to be here.” Adam Folken: “Don’t worry it comes off in the rain.” “Well what if it doesn’t rain?”). We get yelled at for being too loud when, in our opinion certain parties that Ghanaians have go unchecked. Example: the night before our Twi final there was music keeping a number of people awake. It didn’t stop until nearly 1 am, and the porters did not intervene, brushing off our complaints. Maybe we get loud a little bit  during the early evening, but by nine pm things are quiet. I think it is because we hang out on the first floor so it is easy to hear and scold us, while when Ghanaians are making noise it is usually upstairs. In any case, the bad blood seems to be increasing daily.
  • While traveling back from a bar on Sunday night we were stopped at a police checkpoint for having an “overloaded” taxi (five of us in four seats). I was with two Ghanaian friends and two ISEP friends. After getting out, here is part of the conversation: Police officer–“What can you give me?” Me: “I don’t have any money to give you” “Okay, let the blacks pay.” Fortunately nobody ended up paying anything.
  • It rained six times on Wednesday.
  • For the past month I have really been looking forward to being home. Spending time outside, seeing the family, eating new foods, etc. But last night I was lying in bed and I just realized that I won’t be coming back. I’m not going on the most exciting vacation of my life, I’m coming back from it.
  • With the support and blessing of Theresa, the ISEP program coordinator, I sent a letter to the Dean of International Programmes and the Director of Academic Affairs detailing the IAs and mandatory lectures held during revision week in violation of University policy. Apparently this is common, but Ghanaians students never report it. Anyway, I was heartened to see that the Dean of International Programmes wrote a reply and had it hand delivered to ISH.