Thursday, November 4, 2010


Ummmm... so I'm a terrible person. Hopefully it is not news to any of you by this point that I did not die in a Ghanaian hospital and that I enjoyed the rest of my stay immensely and I am now home and safe.
I don't know what I had that made me so sick. The doctors kept telling me that they were running tests and that they would give me results soon. Buuuut, on the last day I was there, they came in and asked me, "Did we ever draw blood for tests to find out what you have?" Um, I have no idea. Remember the part where I was delirious when I came in here? Anyway, they didn't know what was wrong with me and I'll never know. They did treat me for malaria, but they treat everyone for malaria just in case, so that doesn't mean much.
Isaac (now my wonderful boyfriend) came to visit multiple times a day which was more than fantastic. Furthermore, he brought food that wasn't the fish soup the hospital tried to get me to eat!
By the last day I was very fed up with being in the hospital and feeling quite ick. Finally some guy I had never seen before but who seemed to be in charge told me that he recommended I stay for another night but that I could go. So I left. And I instantly felt much much better! Because hospitals are happiness suckers. Also, they burned trash outside my window. And didn't have running water in the bathroom. Just saying.
On the bright side, my hospital bill, for three days stay, IV fluid for each day, and medication including malaria treatment totaled to less than $15. Whoa. Maybe Ghana's not such a bad place to be sick after all.
And after that I continued to have a wonderful stay in Ghana and would super like to go back very soon! Can we talk about how cold Maryland is in November?! Gross.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Excuse Number 1 Part 1: Intro to Ghanaian Hospitals

22 March 2010

Felt a little dizzy today at breakfast. I looked around and decided this wasn't too surprising. A heavy haze stuck in the air everywhere I looked. I've been told different things, but I think we're supposed to be moving into the rainy season right now. Instead, we're experiencing hamatan, the crazy dusty season, to an extreme. All this dust makes breathing trickier. Plus it feels pretty gross. As if there wasn't already enough dust around.
Later I went to class, grabbed a meat pie and plantain chips, and headed to the Shoprite at the mall to get stuff to make dinner. Shoprite sells all kinds of American type groceries. Tonight, I planned to make dinner for my friend Isaac and his friends, because when I've gone to hang out with them the past couple days, they've been making awesome Ghanaian food for me. So I planned to make some awesome American food for them. Gumbo, to be precise. As I wandered through the isles, grabbing ingredients, thinking got trickier and the dizziness moved into mild nausea. So I hurried on up, finished my shopping, checked out, and settled on an overpriced taxi to rush home (I paid almost $4 for a ride home from the mall!) The driver, Raymond, was very nice though, even if a bit talkative for me to handle in my current state. I got back to my room, fell on my bed and decided that only something very important was going to get me up. No cooking tonight.
A couple hours later I believe, Isaac came up to visit found me in my not so healthy state. I will add now that my sheets were at the time hanging to dry and not on my bed. Therefore, Isaac's original plan was to have me go over to his room (in the building next door) so I could sleep on a made bed and get some food.
We made it down the three flights of stairs reasonably well, but I think that rather exhausted me, and about halfway across the parking lot I decided I absolutely had to sit down. Which made us rethink the "just resting" plan. Isaac and his roommate Joe got a taxi to go to the health office on campus. Throughout the ride however, I very quickly grew much sicker and after I got sick twice we changed our route to head to the University hospital emergency room. (Sorry for the gory details, just being thorough. This *is* a hospital story.)
Contrary to popular belief, Ghanaian hospitals are not all candy and rainbows. They led me into a room, for some reason without Isaac or Joe. I had to ask to sit down. I don't know if they intended me to stand that whole time or not, but that certainly wasn't going to happen. Seconds after sitting, I put my head on my arm on the desk and nodded off. This happened multiple times, because they kept waking me up to ask repeated questions about my symptoms and what I had eaten and other things that I had a vague memory of but no clear ability to answer. I was OUT of it. They finally decided they got all the information they thought they'd get out of me and led me to a rubber mattress with a rubber pillow in a room with 7 other occupants.
I laid there alone for a bit and waited for the poking, prodding, and questioning to commence. And commence it did. The grand opening was an IV, one of my greatest personal terrors. That was followed by one rather large needle with unknown purpose in each thigh. After this, they asked a couple more questions, introduced me to a number of people I'd never remember, and finally let Isaac and Joe come visit. They made sure everything was okay (relatively speaking) and Isaac said he'd come visit tomorrow. For now though, they had to leave because it was late and visiting hours were over.
I knew I wouldn't sleep with that thing sticking in my hand to connect me to an unwieldy pole, so I thanked God that I had just put two weeks worth of minutes on my phone, because texting was all I had to distract me and keep me sane.
Eventually, nature called. I was still attached to a pole which had only vaguely effective wheels and no one was in the room to help. I could see some nurses a couple rooms away. I had a task ahead of me. I needed to get their attention but not that of the seven sleeping patients around me. Or get across the room on my own with my friend the pole. So I tried for the first by attempting the second, getting up my energy to drag the pole across the room. My plan worked perfectly. A man came to help and said that since the fluid had finished dripping he could simply take it off. So he attempted to do so with me just standing there. I started getting dizzy and told the man that I needed to sit down, but he told me he was almost done. Almost was not good enough. I took a seat right on the floor. He kept on doing what he was doing. When he finished I told him that I was hungry. He said, "At this hour? No, we don't have any food for you right now." Alright then. Washroom it is.
Got back to the bed still hungry, but also very tired, and though I still was quite aware of having a needle in my hand, at least it wasn't attached to anything that could fall on me, so I was able to get to sleep.

If any of you are still bothering to check, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth!

Hey all, it’s been a while, I know, and I’m sorry. I also know excuses are lame, but I’m going to give them. Because whether they are acceptable ones or not, (I think they are) they do make for interesting stories. Also, you may or may not know by this point that I’m near bald. That story’s coming too. I haven't really been recording the small details the past couple weeks so I'm afraid those that I don't remember are lost forever. You will just have to guess what I have been doing. Because I know you care what I have been doing every second of my life. Anyway, the next couple posts will be some snapshots of the past couple weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Delicious Freedom

6 March 2010
It’s Ghanaian Independence Day! We woke up at 4 something in the morning to catch transportation to Independence Square, where we heard that there would be parades and a possible sighting of Ghana’s President Atta-Mills. It turned out we did not need to get there that early. We got seats very easily and sat around for quite a while with nothing happening. Then the parade started. It was not terribly much more exciting. Different schools and groups marched, and their marching was impressive and it was nice to see all the different uniforms, but it got a bit monotonous after a while and the seats were not super comfy. The president rode by at one point in a little car, but I was looking at the wrong place at the wrong time and missed it. I did catch a glimpse of him through the window of his car. Woo?
Then we went back to the hostel and celebrated independence the only way we knew how—-with an American style BBQ! And that was delicious. We ate our fill of hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. Yum. Oh, the taste of freedom.

A Ravens Fan in Ghana?!

2 March 2010
Today I did some mad crazy bargaining at Madina Market! I hopped on a tro-tro between classes to get some rugby wear, i.e., cleats and clothes that can get destroyed. I mustered all the Twi I knew and whipped out my bargaining skills. I’ll put prices in U.S. equivalents to simplify. I got cleats bargained down from $14.50 to $6.60. Then I deviated from my goal a bit when my eye caught sight of sports jerseys. I’ve wanted a Ghana football jersey for some time now. That was a bit of a splurge. He initially asked for $23.30 for the jersey and shorts, but I got the set down to $10. Just to warn you, I will be quite an obnoxious fan when I get back to the states and watch Ghana's Black Stars in the World Cup. It’ll be great. Furthermore, my friend Hafiz told me later that I had gotten a good deal. It was good to know, because I had no idea what a reasonable price is in the U.S., let alone here.
Anyway. I got two t-shirts for 30 cents each. I paid $1.30 for a pair of shorts and got another pair ‘dashed’. That means she threw in another pair of shorts for free. Yes free. I paid the same for another pair of shorts elsewhere, but when I got back to the hostel, showing off the results of my savvy, I found that there was a U.S. dollar in the pocket. So… I paid 30 cents for those shorts. Which is good, because they didn’t fit. Oh well.
But going back to that bit about the U.S. dollar. I see people wearing or selling clothing, t-shirts in particular that is very clearly shipped used from the U.S. It’s crazy but exciting seeing people wearing very place specific shirts in Ghana. At first I felt it would be weird to point this out to someone, but I’ve found that it can be exciting on both sides. For example, one day at rugby, I saw my team mate wearing a Bowie Baysox t-shirt. (Baysox are a baseball farm team in my area.) I told him they were my home team, and he was very interested and asked what sport they played, if they were any good, and how they were doing this season.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Got 'To-go' Home.

28 February 2010
This morning we started off the day with bread and cheese. Some people were really excited to have cheese, even though it was pretty much just American cheese. Dairy in general is not highly prevalent in Ghana and usually expensive. I however was excited to have a new kind of bread. I haven’t actually gotten tired of Ghana’s sugar bread, but variety can be fun, and here they have delicious and perfectly wonderful baguettes! Yay French influence!
Then we went to a fetish market, for which apparently Togo and Benin are pretty famous. This is where people go to buy items for Voodoo spells. Yes, like dead animals. It’s common to practice Christianity and still use or at least acknowledge Voodoo in both Togo and Ghana, and I believe other areas as well, but I haven’t done research to back up other areas. These ideas aren’t so much blended together as was the case with Santeria, but coexist separately with little or no dogmatic issue. Kwame, our coordinator’s husband explained that most people in these areas believe in Voodoo but many, like he, think it is unwise to mess with it. Though our coordinators assured us that this was a normally functioning market, created for the purpose of buying items for Voodoo, the whole place still had a rather touristy feel. To elaborate, at the end, we got a group picture with the tour guide in which a number of our group were holding various animal skulls. Beyond the normal reasons this would seem a tad odd, I was confused by what seems a contradiction to me. Before traveling here, we were wanted that in Togo, many people did not want their pictures taken because they believe that you cannot get an image of someone without taking a part of that person. But at the market, you could pay a number of CFAs (French West African currency) extra to take as many pictures as you want. Actually, to be accurate, he did set a limit. It was something like 18,000 photos. Tangents aside, the whole picture-taking business was unclear and fishy to me.
After our refreshing pit stop, we got back on the road. I'm not sure how many of you are following news about Togo, but their presidential election is set for Thursday. So as we got close to the border, we saw people all around the road waving signs, shouting and selling related merchandise. They were almost all wearing yellow, the color of the leading opposition candidate, Emmanuel Bob-Akitani. In Togo, there is one dominant party. Others are allowed to run, but have little chance of winning. You'd never guess it from the displays we saw here. People ran up to cars with fliers, shoving handfuls into open windows. It was quite chaotic. I was very glad to be with people who knew what they were doing. We all got across the border in one piece and continued with the road trip. When we got to the hostel I jumped on the internet to find a status from Miki letting everyone know she was a-ok.
And I apologize for the title. Had 'To-go' with the blog theme, no?

Where'd the Maple Syrup Go?

27 February 2010
Our Ghana visas only last two months, so this weekend landed us with some mandatory travel time. Because we've been here almost two months? Whoa. Anyway, the third country I’ve ever gone to: Togo! We drove about three hours to Aflao, Ghana, which is at the border. Now, I’ve never been to the U.S./ Canada border, but I discussed with a couple of friends that there are probably one or two differences. And I’m not talking about temperature. The border checkpoint thingy to get into Togo had… character. And by that I mean it would be kind to call it a shack. There were nails sticking out of boards here and there and the nine of us struggled to find flat surfaces to fill out our bilingual paperwork. (Togo is a French speaking country. Ghana is completely surrounded by French speaking countries.) As we tried to determine whether our ‘point of entry’ was in Ghana or Togo, vendors were passing back and forth across the border. This went smoothly for them for a while, but for no reason as far as I can tell, a border employee suddenly decided he did not want this. So he grabbed a wood plank (with nails sticking out, of course) and closed off their path and yelled at the vendors to get away. On second thought, I imagine that’s exactly what the U.S./ Canada border is like, no?
Anyhoo, we got through and went to a German restaurant (because apparently there’s German influence in Togo as well) and ate delicious food and then walked around the city a bit. ‘The city’ is Lome, by the way, the capital of Togo, and we found it to be much cleaner than Accra, which was nice.
At some point during the trip, I heard about the earthquake in Chile. This was horrible timing. Being in Togo, I had no phone signal and no way to get online. For those of you who don’t know, my good friend Miki is studying abroad in Santiago this semester. Right where the earthquake hit. I have no way of finding out anything about her until tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by coverage. It seemed like everyone was talking about it, and when we got back to the hotel, we stupidly watched CNN, which of course showed nothing but constant re-tallying of death tolls and footage of destruction. This could only make me more worried, because no matter what they said, they couldn’t tell me about Miki specifically. Stress and suspense. Sorry if it’s weird to read this, Miki.
Something interesting I did note while watching the news: the news anchor at one point said something to the effect of “Let’s see what the president has to say.” It took a moment to think which they were speaking of, but I figured it must be the Chilean president. Wrong. It was a surprise visit from Obama! “The” president. Obviously. Keep in mind we were watching World CNN, with British anchors I believe, in Togo, showing Chilean earthquake coverage. But everyone needs to hear the United State’s opinion on everything, so there he was.
To be fair though, he is speaking for two countries. (I feel as though I’ve explained this in another post, but I can’t find where I did, so I will continue. Forgive me if I’m wrong.) Yes, at least two. Because the Ghanaians claim him as their own. In fact, one man told me that Barack Obama is actually Ghanaian and that after he finishes his eight years of presidency, he will come and live in Ghana. I have been told by people that they love us (Americans) because Obama is our president. Little bonus today-- here’s a song a bunch of prominent Ghanaian musicians put together when he came to visit Cape Coast: (‘Akwaba’ means ‘welcome in Twi) Some of us have decided that we would like to write letters to our president thanking him for making our stay in Ghana welcoming. Fun fact though: Despite the fact that Ghanaians don’t approve of the wars we have going on, they really liked Bush as well. In fact, I’ve heard that Africa is the only country where Bush’s approval ratings went up through his presidency.
Anyway, Togo was nice from what we could tell, but we’re only spending the one night, so I don’t think we’re getting a whole lot out of the area. Unfortunately, our coordinator seems to be unimpressed with Togo and wants to go and come as quickly as possible. Oh well, we’ll see what tomorrow holds for us.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Little Short of Island Paradise

20 February 2010
Today our group went on a cruise to Dodi Island. The cruise itself was pleasant, though not terribly exciting. I had less neutral feelings about the destination. Dodi Island is a tiny, uninhabited bit of land where very poor Ghanaians sail out to make money from tourists from the cruise. The only structures on this island are a couple pavilions and a sidewalk that goes from one side of the island to the other. When we got off, we were surrounded by children who took us by the hands and followed us as we walked on the sidewalk, past women and children singing quietly and playing on plastic gas can drums. One of these girls, who looked about five, had a baby strapped to her back and was walking around the island like this, presumably all day. We walked up and back on the sidewalk very uncomfortably with children surrounding us, begging for money. Then we got back on our air-conditioned boat with a live band, toilet paper, and large plates of food.

A Day at Wli

19 February 2010
Today we hiked to Wli Falls. The destination is a waterfall that empties into a shallow pool that is a perfect, cool temperature for swimming. We stayed there for about two hours and I was excited to find that you could actually stand directly under the waterfall. I've always wanted to do that!

A Trip to Third Grade

18 February 2010
This morning we left for the Volta region of Ghana, which is in the upper eastern area. The car ride was rather bumpy and unpleasant. I think there was more speed bump than flat road on the way there.
We first took a gander at the Akosombo Dam on Lake Volta. Lake Volta is man-made and provides electricity to most of Ghana and other surrounding countries. Our guide was redundant, paused a lot unnecessarily, and spoke to us like we were idiots. I’ll give an example of the last: “I’m sure that many of you were very excited when you found you would be coming here, but I imagine that if someone asked you what a dam is, we would have problems. So let me take you back to third grade…” He also reassured us that despite what we may have thought, the water was not "electrocuted", and that that was not the way electricity worked. As you can imagine, this tour was both annoying and hilarious. But it was all worth it, because mom, you will be happy to know that I got another marriage proposal on the tour.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


17 February 2010
I did a very exciting thing today. I got up at 5:30 am with friends Will and Alex. That’s not the exciting part. Today, I went to rugby practice. I can’t explain how excited I am about learning to play rugby. A little bit of me has always wanted to play I think, but I've never had the opportunity. Rugby takes the best parts of American football (tackling) and soccer (continuous play) and adds some other awesomeness to make the best sport ever.
Admittedly, today’s practice was not a whiz-bang success. I had eaten a pretty decent bit of breakfast, because I get hungry in the morning. And we did some really intense warm-ups. And I got fairly nauseous. I’m not at all deterred though. I’m so excited to play.
Later, I went to watch a rugby game to pick up the basic rules. I met some of the players and had quite a fantastic time. I absolutely cannot wait to get out there and tackle people. You will be hearing updates.

Just had to share this with you...

16 February 2010
Today, I was sitting on a wall outside a department building and reading, all peaceful-like. I will say, it was a nice place to sit. A man walking by noticed this, and said, “Hey, I like where you are sitting!” I told him thank you.

Jesus in Twi

15 February 2010
Today I made a wonderful purchase. There is a video store in the market near my hostel that sells delightful pirated films. I was fortunate enough to happen upon one called Jesus in Twi. The front is a Google image collage of Jesus-y pictures. The back has 28 different films that are apparently contained on the DVD. Some are about Jesus. Some are about Samson and Delilah, Noah, Abraham, etc. Some are about Viroin Mary, I suppose the lesser-known twin sister of Jesus’ mother. Three are about Thomas Jefferson. And three are about Claire Bloom. Because what is a Jesus movie without Thomas Jefferson and Claire Bloom, that’s what I’d like to know. I know that you are all waiting eagerly in anticipation to see this movie, and I will be happy to share it when I get back.

Any day dedicated to chocolate is okay by me.

14 February 2010
Today is Valentine’s Day! Better known by some in Ghana as National Chocolate Day! I like that. I celebrated by going out with Elsa, Julia, and Kelly and getting a pedicure for about $4. My feet have never looked so white to me. It was an amusing/ slightly embarrassing experience. The pumice stone tickled something ridiculous and I couldn’t help but laugh a lot and it was very difficult to stay still. The women working there thought this was really funny. I asked if Ghanaians thought it tickled ever, and laughed and said no. I don’t know how this is true. Having people rub things on your feet is a terribly tickly experience.
Beauty and the Beast ended tonight! Yay, I have a life again!

Moving Up in the Bimbette World

12 February 2010
Tonight I got a more attractive purple dress and a delicious, black, big, wavy hair wig. It’s amazing. On one hand, I’m a little disappointed I won’t look like a total cornball anymore, but on the other hand, I still look ridiculous, and in a slightly more theme appropriate, flattering way. I’m well pleased.
Also, we made bacon-wrapped shrimp and kebabs for dinner. So amazing.

Annie and the Beast

11 February 2010
Thursday’s my day off. I never thought I’d have a day off of classes, but here it is. I didn’t accomplish much, but I did clean off my chair. And boy, it’s really clean now.
Tonight was opening night for Beauty and the Beast. It was also our first day using costumes. Mine was a lovely pink lacy prom dress. Also a black mobcap. I had been told I’d get a wig, but they couldn’t find it, so they threw that on me. Interestingly, the Ghanaians didn’t find it funny. Of all the things they laugh at me for, this was perfectly normal. I knew I wasn’t safe from ridicule though. Elsa and Emily were there to laugh at me backstage and a bunch of friends came to watch. I was prepared for high hilarity.
It was to come in another form, however. Three minutes before the show opened, (which was 27 minutes after it was billed to open) the costume woman approached me with a wig. This was not any old wig. This was a little orphan Annie wig. Reddish and big time curly. And I flaunted it proudly about the stage and the show was wonderful, if ridiculously clumsy in every aspect. And there are pictures! Unfortunately for you, they will be of no use for blackmailing purposes, because I have no shame in these matters.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Notes from My Interior Design Experience

Notes: I give these to you word for word from my notes. Only the bits in brackets are my own additions for clarification.

Sitting Room, Drawing Room
-room for conjures
-luxury, elegance, and extreme comfort
-window treatment designed accordingly
-fullness= excess fabric
-rule to remember- Length is elegance.
-floor length curtains
-most lavish valences/perlments {not sure if this is the right word}, which are covers above curtains.
-keep bows out
-pleated frills rather than gathered (gathered are better suited for bedroom)
Study or Office
-Window treatment for man’s study/ office
-should preserve room’s masculine character; therefore…
-avoid too many curves and frills
-go for very organized, tailored pleats
-curtain in lovely , bold color
-art as a finishing touch
-In a man or woman study, room should be easy to work in; therefore…
-let a lot of light in
-go easy on the depth of curtains
Dining Room
-Room in which you entertain guests for hours
-So, it is fun.
-You should perhaps have something other than what you have in other rooms.
-Because room will usually be occupied after dark, use warm colors to enhance both curtains and perlments/ valances like the dining room with up lighters placed on the floor. {I don’t know what this sentence means.}
-Uplighters: other sources of light, like candles, picture lights, and wall scones {No, ‘scones’ is not a typo. I’m not sure if they are the same as sconces or not, but she actually wrote this word on the board and it was spelled just so.)
-If you have a farmhouse type kitchen, which exposes walls, brick work, you have a very smart kitchen which is very high-tech.
And that’s when I realized I was in the wrong class and had to go to my voice lesson! I’m stuck with such suspence!

Quest for the Hidden Housing Design Class

9 February 2010
I went to all of my classes today and none of them ran. I also went to two of my not classes by mistake. I went to both thinking they were my house design class. I’m really excited about this elusive course. I’m obviously really excited about it, because it runs at 7:15 am and I got myself up all cheerful like to attend. Okay, I didn’t get there exactly on time. I got there though, and the professor had some equations and such up on the board. I figured that made sense, writing blueprints and all. Who am I to say what goes on in a housing design class? It was a little worrisome, though, as I have not taken math since high school. Nevertheless, I was exciting to learn about building houses and I did my best to catch everything. He talked a lot about pressure and force. It was a flashback to my senior physics class. I looked around and saw someone with a physics formula handbook. I leaned over to the guy next to me. “Is this house design or a physics class?” It was a physics class. That explained the flashback pretty well. I quietly got up and left.
I went back to the Home Science department to see what they knew. The answer was not much. I mean really, why should the Home Science office know when its courses are being offered? They told me to come back later in the afternoon.
So after pop band I headed back over there. On the way, I met a Nigerian named Frank who insisted upon walking me there. We talked about this and that and he asked if I was married. I told him no and asked if he was married. He laughed at me and said no. What was I thinking asking something so silly? Then he told me that he had met the love of his life. I told him that was nice. “Ask me who she is,” he said. I did. “You are standing right next to me,” he said. Then he asked if that made me happy. I said that I didn’t know him well enough to know if that was a happy thing and “Oh, there’s the Home Science Department! Nice meeting you Frank!” Then I slipped into the conveniently present home science office. Sorry Frank, but I’m sending you back out to find a new soul mate.
I asked if they knew anything about the course yet and they told me it was going on right then. This was slightly problematic because I had my voice lesson in an hour and this class was two and a half hours long. I figured I’d at least go check it out.
This was not my home design class. It was, however, one of the most entertaining classes I have attended. Because textbooks are not widely used in Ghanaian schools, some class lectures consist almost entirely of professors reading notes line by line, repeating each line a number of times, and students copying verbatim. In general, this would seem to me a monotonous way to gather information and I am fortunate enough to not have any such classes. In this case though, it added to the amusement of the situation.
Again, it took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t in the right class. The professor began talking about the way to furnish a sitting/ dining room. I had not expected anything interior, but thought that maybe I had misinterpreted the course description. This isn’t at all what I had wanted to learn, but some of the things she said were very unintentionally funny to me and I thought I could enjoy this class anyway. (I am going to type out the notes for you in another post because they are wonderful.) She moved on to talk about other rooms in the house and then passed around a sign in sheet and a syllabus. That’s when I realized I was in Interior Design. And I left to go to voice. I must say, I’m a little bummed that I won’t get to find out what type of frills are appropriate in a household washroom.

I Could Trup Rachel Ray's 40 Dollars a Day So Hardcorely in Ghana.

7 February 2010
I woke up with a ginormous breakfast offered at the resort this morning before packing up and heading to Anomabo Beach. We took in lunch and had a lovely and relaxing time there and drove back to campus.
This evening I decided I’d finally try waakye, which is basically beans and rice. I’m not the biggest fan of beans, but this meal costs a mere 50 pesewas, which is about 30 cents, so I figured this would be a great time to start liking them. I got red gravy, which is a tomato-based sauce, and plantains mixed in. It was all right. I think I would not deal well with eating this more than twice a week. It’s just not very exciting.
By the way, I don’t think I had mentioned before that I found some groundnut soup in the market near our hostel a few days ago. I was really excited to have some of this after enjoying it so at Mercy’s house, and again, it was 50 pesewas. But… I got the soup in a plastic bag. Like the type you put produce in at the grocery store. I had planned to eat right there at the market, so I had to work with what I was given. (I found later that I could have gone to ask her for a bowl. Oops.) Anyway, My friend shared his spoon and I ate it straight out of the bag. I had a moderate amount of success before spilling half of it on my skirt. That was uncomfortable. And the soup was only so-so. Oh well. I will continue my quest for super cheap food. I know there’s more out there.
After that, we Americans needed to get our Superbowl fix. We headed to an ex-pat sports bar downtown called Champs. That was a little strange. Going through the doors was like walking into America. A bunch of white, drinking beer and watching football in the air conditioning. Because that's totally my American experience... Anyway... Almost everyone had their heads screwed on straight. In other words, they all were rooting for the Saints. Watching the game was a pretty nifty home-like experience even though I don’t get super into football at home. Sadly, we had lame Ghanaian commercials. We all missed our Clydesdales.

Bit of a Facebook Plug

6 February 2010
After breakfast, we began our morning at the Kakum Forest Reserve. There, we did a canopy walk. At its highest point, we were 160 metres up among the trees. Yes, metres. I was born to speak British. The idea was to see wildlife, but we only saw a couple monkeys briefly. Nevertheless, it was nifty walking that high up in the air on a spiff little bridge. There are pictures of this and the rest of the trip on Facebook, check it out!
We took the van to the Cape Coast Town and were let loose to explore for a few hours. We were rather hungry so we all started off with some lunch. From my seat at the table, I had the restaurant straight ahead, the town to my left, the beach to my right, and another slave castle behind me. Quite the set of views. A man in the restaurant was playing Bob Marley songs and he when he came to Redemption Song I got chills.
After lunch, we went to the castle that had been our dining scenery. The castle was roughly the same as the other, but the tour was much better. After the tour, we went out into the heart of the city where we wandered onto less traveled roads full of children playing, many of whom probably rarely see oburonis. They walked around with us and were excited for us to take pictures of them making crazy faces so they could run back over and see the results. The best one I got featured a girl holding a chicken over another girl’s head. Again, it’s on Facebook, check it out. Along the sides of the road, we saw many people playing a game that looked like checkers. My friend John was interested, so he asked a couple of men how to play. They eagerly brought him and the rest of us over to sit and had John take a shot at the game. It starts off the same as regular checkers, but you can go backwards and the kings do something weird. The most important difference though, is that you can’t simply place your piece where you want it to go. Through the Ghanaians’ example, we learned that you must slam the piece down on the board. It’s way more interesting that way and a good way to wake your opponent up if you’ve taken too long on your turn.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Breaking Out of the City

5 February 2010
We’re in Cape Coast today! The Brockport group is taking a weekend trip to this town that’s about three hours west of Accra. We crowded ourselves into the epic and wonderful Brockport van that’s basically a non-dilapidated tro-tro and made our way out this morning.
Our first stop was Elmina Castle, a Portuguese structure used for slave trade. We went at the end of the day and our guide seemed to have some place he’d rather be. Unfortunately, this was reflected in the tour. Nevertheless, we saw the space, and after hearing much about slavery back home, it was interesting hearing stories in and from Africa. Also a little odd. Everyone was respectful, but no one seemed caught up in emotion either, and it was difficult knowing how to react myself.
After that, we went to our hotel. Our hotel with running water and toilet paper and air conditioning and hot water that we actually wanted because of the air conditioning. It was a little overwhelming. We loafed around there a bit and had a dance party and a lovely time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lazing on a Thursday Afternoon

4 February 2010
I spent all day dropping classes. It really took all day. I had to go to each department separately and some places told me I needed to pick up forms from buildings across campus before talking to them. Gah. It’s easy to spend a lot of time doing very little here. In most cases, it’s not really a big deal though. When the music department told me I needed to walk across campus to get a piece of paper they easily could have kept in their own office, I figured I’d add one more casual stroll in the lovely balmy weather. So I wandered my way across campus. No point in rushing. It’s not like I had anything else to do today.

Dawn of the Apocalypse

3 February 2010
We had a semi-productive morning rehearsal for Beauty and the Beast this morning. Whoa.
I went to choir today. I think it’ll be a really great course. We’ll be learning songs in English and Twi, and OH MY GRACIOUS THERE ARE SO MANY GUYS. And they sing beautifully. And many of them are basses. Beautiful basses. Like, there are more men than women. I don’t know how to deal with how excited I am about this. For those of you who don’t know, Goucher usually has to hire tenors and basses for chorus. And they’re all over the place here. And did I mention they sound amazing?
So obviously they don’t have me singing tenor. In fact, I went to sit in the alto section and my voice professor came over to me and asked, “Are you sure you sing alto?” I told him that’s what I generally sing, but that I could sing something else. He told me that I was definitely a soprano and told me to go sit there, further adding to my voice identity crisis. I love my fellow sopranos!
Only problem: In addition to our Wednesday afternoon class, we meet at 7:30am on Fridays. Yuck. Ghanains get up so early. Also, funny thing: I meet with my 3 credit classes about 1-2 hours a week. I meet with my 1 credit classes 3-5 hours a week. Go figure.
Doing something at rehearsal + guys in choir = Grab your towels folks, the end is near.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


2 February 2010
I had my first voice lesson today! It was really exciting to sing some classical material again. Right now, I am working on Where’er You Walk, by Handel. I really enjoyed my lesson, but not surprisingly, it was a little strange. It was held in the same classroom as my Music in Southern Africa class, which can hold 50 or so students. There were a few people in the classroom when I got there, and they just stayed and hung out during my lesson. Sometimes they sang along. Sometimes they came in early when they did so. And in the back of my head, I knew this was amusing and odd, but it didn’t really faze me. I’m sure back home I’d be really annoyed and distracted if someone did that, (and Richard would never have it) but here I just rolled with it. It’d be really useful if I could carry that tolerance back to the States, but there are many things that I feel I just accept because I am in Ghana. As we and even the Ghanaians say, "TIG." This is Ghana. Prepare yourself for anything. Anything.

Not My Classiest Day

1 February 2010
I went to Music in Southern Africa again today. The professor showed up with 15 minutes left to the end of class. This didn’t seem to bother him or the other students. He started setting up the projector. This didn’t go very well, so we sat there doing nothing still. After about ten minutes of no success, he wrote a website up on the board and told us how to find two articles that we were to read for homework. And said we’d have a quiz on them next week. Someone came in to help with the projector and about ten minutes later they had it up and working. Though he had already given us instructions, our professor really wanted to go to the website and show us exactly where we needed to go. And we did some more waiting. But the internet wasn’t to keen on working that day, as is often the case on campus, and he could not pull up the site. For some reason though, he was able to get the Wikipedia site to load and he looked up similar articles there and gave us an overview of what we’d be reading. By the time he finished, he had kept us all but 15 minutes of an extra class period. This is the only class I absolutely cannot drop. Ugh.
My Conflict in Society professor did show at all today. What a bummer. I had hoped to elaborate my tree drawing/ conflict model.

Separating Light and Dark Laundry? No Problem.

30 January 2010
I finally made the attempt to do laundry today. Here’s how it worked. And didn’t work. I used two buckets. Elsa and I went halfsies on buckets because they are terribly useful to have, as we’ve found and you can’t be Ghanaian if you don’t have two buckets and two cell phones.
I’m digressing, but you've got to hear about the cell phones, so I’ll get back to laundry in just a sec. It’s true. Most Ghanaians who have phones have two of them. Everyone I ask about this will just say, “In case one of them is off,” as if that made complete sense. I have recently found though, that apparently certain networks work better in different places. Since pay as you go phones are the norm here, it’s not outrageous to simply have one phone with Tigo wireless (which is what I have) and one with MTN. Tangent over.
People do laundry in a number of places, but I decided on our balcony-porch thing. I filled the two buckets with water using the showers and lugged them out to the porch. This gave me a soapy bucket and a rinse bucket. My first look into the buckets was disheartening. I hadn’t so much as dipped a sock in the water, but it was cloudy and brown-ish. This makes me feel super about the showers I’m taking here. I looked away and went to grab my sheets, because I would need them to dry in time for sleeping.
This was probably an intimidating way to start my task. I had never used bar soap to wash clothes before and I feel that the large surface area I had to clean added significantly to my confusion. The buckets are large wastebasket sized. The soap, buckets, water and sheets got into a bit of a tiff and tidal waves of epic proportion ensued. Eep. I warned Elsa that I had done horrid things with the room and that I would clean it up once I felt I was done with my mess making.
Then came drying. My friend Emily lent me some cord to string across my room. (I’ll try to post some pictures on Facebook.) This may seem like a really classy way to decorate a room, but what you may not realize is that if you don’t wring the heck out of the sheets, you will create new bodies of water in your living space. I’m all about puddle jumping of course, but there’s something less satisfying about potentially falling on unforgiving tile. So I did a lot of wringing, which in my opinion is a pretty satisfying task when done well. It leaves a healthy burn in the arms that assures me I will leave Ghana totally jacked. Score.
The water got really gross really quickly. I ended up going through about ten buckets of water before getting fed up with the waste and the feeling that I wasn’t getting anything clean, plus running out of drying room. I decided it was time for a break. I cleaned up, as promised, and went to the Creamy Inn with some friends, who like me, were craving some ice cream.
The Creamy Inn is part of a fill-up (gas) station mart, which also has two for one pizza night on Tuesday at the Pizza Inn area. (There is also a Chicken Inn). What they do not have on the menu, apparently, is ice cream. Here is my theory: Ice cream is a big tourist joke to Ghanaians. They have it on half of the menus here, but they never actually have it in stock. We’ll ask for it and they’ll look at us like we’re crazy for thinking they’d have such a thing. They did actually sell it in cartons here, though, so we got one and split it among the group.
I would like to go to bed now, but my sheets are still wet. I feel that they and my other clothes are gathering massive amounts of dust now, and that nothing really got clean. Looking at my once white computer further confirms this thought. It turns browner every day. That’s pretty much the case with all of my stuff. Not me though! I’m still about as pasty as ever.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Slowing Down-- Hey, when in Ghana...

29 January 2010
Alright, nothing exciting happened today. Think I may not do a post for EVERY day at this point. Sorry to anyone who thought I’d have spine-chilling, life-threatening adventures every 24 hours while in Ghana.

The Ghanaian Good Cheer Mandate

28 January 2010
Sure enough, rehearsal this morning started its usual hour late. I have no words.
Later today, I had a class in the Home Science department called Housing Design, which I’m super excited about, because building things is awesome. That was canceled though. I will be excited to give more updates in this area when possible.
I decided to get a kebab at a stall on the way back from my not class. It was quite tasty, consisting of beef and onion. They actually do eat kebabs right off the skewer here, which I think is fantastic, because that is what I like to do at home anyway and I get weird looks. But that’s not why I’m telling this story. As I was making my way through my snack, a man called me over to talk and said something in Twi that I did not understand. He laughed at me, as Ghanaians are wont to do and finally explained that “When someone says [whatever he said], it means you have to give me some of that.” I replied with, “No, sorry, I don’t share kebabs with people I don’t know.” He said, “Okay, maybe another time.” And I just let him go on thinking that.
Today was the Nigeria vs. Ghana football game. There are Nigerians and Ghanaians living in our hostel, and they have a tendency to not get along very well apparently. From what I can understand, Nigeria is disliked by a number of countries and is known for being unfriendly, though I have no particular experience with this. Every time a goal was scored, a roar erupted form throughout the building. That’s all I was witness to, but I have no doubt that this roar was heard throughout the country. Ghanaians get PSYCHED about their football, which is exciting for everyone involved. There are three TVs in ISH (our hostel), and people crowded around all of them.
And then we won. Students ran through the halls, blowing plastic horns, waving flags, yelling, etc. Someone ran into the courtyard with champagne for whoever got to him first. A crowd then ran out of the building and into the parking lot. We went onto the balcony to get a view. A number of people got into cars and started racing around the parking lot, doing turns, with some people hanging out of the windows. On the sidewalks, people cheered and yelled. A couple cars ran into other parked cars at times, at which point the owner of the parked car would walk out to the lot amiably enough, check out the damage and move his car. There was no chance any Ghanaian was going to be unhappy this evening.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hey! This enchanted rose has thorns on it!

27 January 2010
I had my first Ghanaian Arabic class today. My friend Alex and I are the only non-Ghanains in the class of I’d guess 70 or so. The professor is great. He’s entertaining and easy to understand. I’m a little confused though, because this is second semester Arabic, but it seems that many students in the class just have a grip on the alphabet. I’m not quite sure what they did learn last semester. I’m hoping it will be a good chance to practice what I’ve learned and perhaps learn a thing or two. I think it’ll be a really enjoyable class!
I’ve realized that I haven’t talked at all about Beauty and the Beast rehearsals. To be completely blunt, it is the most disorganized production I have ever been a part of. To those who knew me in high school, yeah, it’s worse than “The Redneck.” We’ve been having rehearsals every day at 5, but invariably, we sit around and talk for at least the first hour. I’m not remotely exaggerating. After that, we spend about twenty minutes playing games like Zip Zap Zop, Big Wind Blows, and such. Then we finally ease our way into rehearsal. These rehearsals do not have end times. They just drag on until the directors decide to stop. But now they’re getting worried that we won’t be ready for our opening on Feb. 11. So guess what?! They want to have 6 am rehearsals too! I have my first tomorrow. Now I’ve gotten up at the crack of dawn to finish homework before, and certainly taken some early flights in my day, but I’ve never had to use great mental and physical capacity at any point before 7:30 am. Let alone dance. The world does not want to deal with me at 6 am. I’m just not sure if this will be scientifically possible.


26 January 2010

Oh, but if you were concerned, I did manage to sign up for voice lessons today! Yay!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


26 January 2010
Today was yucky. I don’t really want to rant about it here.
I will say though, that this video has become my life a little bit:
I know I’ve already mentioned that people great each other a lot here. Ghanaians are especially curious about white people, so I find people introducing themselves to me left and right. But I’m not sure I’ve made clear the extent to which this goes on. We have the basic introductions—My name is Emily, I’m from the United States, I study music, my sign is Gemini, I like long walks on the beach, the usual. Sometimes that’s all that happens, but more often than not, men will ask for a room and phone number after a minute long conversation. That’s where I get to pull an “Ivonne”. Or a, “Oh shoot, I can’t remember either number and I left my phone at home. Gotta go!” It hasn’t stopped being awkward yet, but as this happens at least three times a day, I’m sure I’ll come up with all kinds of witty things to say by the end of the semester. Or maybe I’ll stay awkward. That’s fine too.

Today I learned... how to draw a tree.

25 January 2010
Today, got up at 7:30 and set out to find building ZK. It was not on the map, so I ended up asking the porter, a student and a library employee for help. The porter suggested looking in the Zoology building, I suppose because of the ‘Z.’ Unfortunately, this building happens to be way out in the boonies of campus. I decided that if I was going to go there, I had better know for sure that this was the right location. So I asked a student. He was confused by the letters I gave him and he started listing other main lecture buildings that sounded nothing like ZK. (Which by the way, is pronounced ‘zed kay’ here. I haven’t stopped getting a kick out of that. Not that it comes up often.) At one point he asked a question that I thought was, “Is it Emily?” And I spent a moment being confused, because I had not remembered his name, but figured maybe I had forgotten that I had told him, so eventually I said yes. But then he said, “Oh, okay, I can show you where MLA is, but it is a language hall, are you sure you have a class there?” He had said ‘MLA,’ not ‘Emily’. Strike two. At that point, I had gotten close to the library, which is roughly at the center of campus, as far as my sense of direction can tell. I figured, hey, maybe people at the library know things about the campus. I asked a few men there, and they passed me from person to person. Finally, one man took a look at my paper and asked, “Is [ZK] a book?” As patiently as I could at this point, explained with the little knowledge I had, that no, this was a place where I had a lecture. And he seemed confused, but then acted like he knew where this place was. He walked with me out of the library, because Ghanaians tend to go out of the way to be helpful, especially when we say ‘hello.’ A lot of “hello-ing” goes on in Ghana, which is cool. At the end of our short journey, we were at the bookstore. He told me to take a staircase and I would end up at my classroom. This seemed unlikely, but I had no other leads, so up the stairs I went. Sure enough, at the top I found some stored materials and an empty classroom. Not what I was looking for. Finally, I decided to head to the music department. I figured I probably wasn’t going to find the class on time, but that I could at least maybe figure out where it would be next week. So I got there and checked out the notice board and guess what?! ZK is not a building! It’s a professor. Rather, his initials. The class was not in some grand lecture hall, but rather, in a small classroom by the music offices. Yay! I made it!
I saw a couple people I knew in the class, mostly from doing Beauty and the Beast. I sat and waited and met some of the other students for a while. Finally, a professor walked in. I couldn’t understand what he was saying at first but I gradually found out that he was not the professor for the class but someone else from the music dept. He had come to make sure we didn’t leave class and tried to steer conversation in the direction of Southern African music. He didn’t try teaching it, but he did want people to stop having their own conversations. This wasn’t very well received. I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but students started standing up and giving passionate speeches about having to take required courses for the major that they didn’t think they should have to take. They had a lot to say. The rant topic evolved into one about the music department being the most disorganized and flawed at the University. And really, after dealing with numerous departments, I’m inclined to agree. Oh, because did I mention that when I was talking with someone before class, he told me didn’t think they’d had a professor to teach voice for a while now? Awesome. Richard, my voice teacher at Goucher, will be thrilled.
Anyway, the professor stayed calm in a bored but power trip kind of way (if that makes any sense) and made a lame attempt to address these concerns. I’m not really sure why that man wanted us to stay in the classroom that whole time, but we were there for the whole period and the professor never showed. Whiz-bang of a first class at University of Ghana.
A little later I walked to Culture and Society, Poli Sci class, with a couple friends. Most ginormous class I have ever been in. I think it fit 500? Whoa. The lecturer was over 30 min. late, but he did arrive to give a basic overview of conflict and have us draw a tree that was supposed to be a symbol for conflict. I imagine it will get more interesting eventually. I hope. I drew a pretty sweet tree though.

One Man's Trash is Another's Cholera

24 January 2010
Oh hey! Today is my 20 2/3 birthday!
So between oversleeping and still not knowing all of campus, I failed again at going to Mass. Next week.
Later in the morning, I went to the beach with a jolly crowd of people. The water was super salty and had lots of seaweed to catch on ankles, but the waves were fantastic. I spent most of the time seated under an umbrella with friends, enjoying the weather and beachy atmosphere. One could hardly call it peaceful though. Left and right, people were selling jewelry, paintings, instruments, and getting all up in my face about it. One man was carrying a python and had people (including some in my group) pay 2 cedi to take pictures with the snake.
And odd thing happened as we were about to leave. I walked by a man who greeted me and extended his hand to me. This in itself is pretty common in Ghana. We’re pretty greeting-y here. But when I gave him my hand, he shook his head and gestured towards the plastic trash I held in my other hand. I held it to him to make sure that was what he wanted, and he took it and threw it on the ground! It didn’t seem as though this was done in anger. My assessment of the situation is that he thought he was doing me a favor by taking care of my trash for me and in the process showing me what I should do with it? Maybe? I don’t know. What I do know is that there is trash all over the ground in Ghana. Aaaand that’s why the water here is terrifying. Which is why purified water bottles and sachets are great. But… those are what I see all over the ground… I see a vicious circle happening here.

One Man's Trash is Another's Cholera

24 January 2010
Oh hey! Today is my 20 2/3 birthday!
So between overseeping and still not knowing all of campus, I failed again at going to Mass. Next week.
Later in the morning, I went to the beach with a right gaggle of people. The water was super salty and had lots of seaweed to catch on ankles, but the waves were fantastic. I spent most of the time seated under an umbrella with friends, enjoying the weather and beachy atmosphere. One could hardly call it peaceful though. Left and right, people were selling jewelry, paintings, instruments, and getting all up in my face about it. One man was carrying a python and had people (including some in my group) pay 2 cedi to take pictures with the snake.
And odd thing happened as we were about to leave. I walked by a man who greeted me and extended his hand to me. This in itself is pretty common in Ghana. We’re pretty greeting-y here. But when I gave him my hand, he shook his head and gestured towards the plastic trash I held in my other hand. I held it to him to make sure that was what he wanted, and he took it and threw it on the ground! It didn’t seem as though this was done in anger. My assessment of the situation is that he thought he was doing me a favor by taking care of my trash for me and in the process showing me what I should do with it? Maybe? I don’t know. What I do know is that there is trash all over the ground in Ghana. Aaaand that’s why the water here is terrifying. Which is why purified water bottles and sachets are great. But… those are what I see all over the ground… I see a vicious circle happening here.

Cinderella Sans Pumpkin

23 January 2010
This evening University of Ghana held a Durbur, or celebration, for all the international students. We had some nice food, and students performed, and we all danced to some Ghanaian music, including my new favorite song ever, Fresh One. It was here that I was first privileged enough to see the music video. And now you can too:
We were told that there was an after party at Cinderella’s, a club in Osu. A couple of us went to check it out and discovered that we had done a couple things wrong. First, we got there around midnight, which is apparently awkwardly early. (Amusing, given the name of the club, no?) Second, we went to Cinderella’s, which is on the expensive end among clubs in the area I do believe and also rather far away, making the cab more expensive. At the end, I think we all decided that we might try the clubbing in Ghana thing, but avoiding the awkward and pricey bits.

A Word from the Groundnut Gallery

22 January 2010
I went to the meeting for African pop band today! I think it’ll be a lot of fun. Here’s what I hadn’t realized but think will be pretty cool: It’s made up of all international students. The professor who organizes it (his name is Fish) finds students every semester and teaches a bit then lets us explore on our own and do a concert at the end of the semester.
This evening I decided I was craving groundnut soup. Sadly, Mercy’s is the only place I’ve had it and I have yet to find it anywhere else. So we made some! Well, we made groundnut something. Alex already had a couple pans, so we went to the night market right outside our hostel and got rice, oil, canned tomato-ness, pepper, onion, and curry powder. We already had some groundnut and paste and groundnuts. There was no possible option but deliciousness. We threw it all in the pan and made a fine Ghanaian meal. Because as Kwame had told us earlier, Ghanaian cooking is finding some food and putting it in a pot. And that is what we did. Oh man. I’m still sure I could eat groundnut something every meal.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And one more bit

Oh and no water again. Worse this time. The hose-type deal downstairs isn't working either. Not even bucket showers. :(

Veggies, Bimbettes, and Tattoos

21 January 2010
I had a dream about vegetables last night. I love the food here, but long for my beloved produce. In the dream, I was offered any type of food I wanted. At first I thought of some fancy stuff, but then I thought, “Wait! I could get VEGETABLES!” And they were great.
Elsa came back from class and told me that she was going to a rehearsal for a production of Beauty and the Beast she heard about today. I said that sounded totally cool and she asked if I wanted to come. I said that sounded even more totally cool! So Kelly and Emily joined us and we walked on over. The theatre kids are great! Everywhere I go, this seems to be the case. Elsa and I were cast as "Bimbettes" 1 and 2. You know those girls in the Disney movie with the colored dresses who fawn over Gaston? That's us. Obviously, we're psyched.
Mercy had us over for dinner tonight and GUESS WHAT?! We had vegetables! My dreams told the beautiful future! We also had more groundnut soup. More like groundnut super. Dinner was amazing.
Then Mercy and Kwame told us scary malaria stories and gave us information about healthiness and such, which was slightly less appealing. But I learned one thing that I'm all broken up over-- don't get a tattoo in Ghana!

I'm at the Tacobell?

20 January 2010
None of my Wednesday classes are scheduled yet, so I had a leisurely morning before heading to the check out the post office and sign up for Arabic with my friend Alex. Afterwards, we went to a campus restaurant called Tacobell, which is in no way related to the chain back home. They serve tasty Ghanaian food. One of my favorites so far.
In the evening, I went with our entire group as well as some of our Ghanaian friends, Nana, Nanasei, and Hafiz, to a Reggae party at LaBadi Beach. Fun! Socializing, music, dancing, beach—great time.

Behold the Power of... Power!

19 January 2010
We got power back today! And then it went away about an hour later…
We went to our second Twi class at 5:30, and the room got progressively darker since we had no light. (Twi is held in our hostel because it is just the SUNY program students.) Between the darkness and the heat from no fans, and the poor sleep because of the lack of fans, it was getting difficult to stay awake! Mercifully, halfway through class, the lights flickered back on! We heard mad cheering from the residents outside, and we could resist joining in just a little. I’m sure I was not alone in taking a moment to decide whether I would first shave or listen to some music under the fan. Or something along those lines. Because we’ve learned that sometimes these chances are fleeting and we don’t know when we’ll lose/ get power again!
In class today, we learned that the Twi word for Christmas is buronya, from ‘oburoni’, meaning ‘whiteman’ and ‘nya’, meaning ‘to get’. Basically, it translates as “Oburoni has got something to celebrate.” Our professor said that Ghanaians don’t care about Christmas much themselves, but rather are happy that the oburoni are having a good time… I’m not sure I’ve grasped the logic on this one, but find it interesting anyway.
Every Tuesday is two for one pizza day the fill-up station across the street from campus, so a ton of us went to take advantage like good college students are wont to do. While we were there, my friend Nana handed me a flash drive and said he had put some of his music on it. When I got it home I saw it was a ton of awesome Ghanaian music just as I had hoped! I’m so excited!
Still have power and water!

Safe to Say Biggest Happening Yet

18 January 2010
Already sleeping fitfully due to felling gross, I woke up this morning to the most terrifying time of my life in the middle of the night. We first heard people shouting from the courtyard to get out of our rooms. That stopped for a bit, so Elsa and I ignored it and prepared to fall back asleep. After a bit though, it came again, louder and more urgent. We froze. All we heard was that we should leave, but no one gave a reason. Finally we heard some one shout that there was a rumor of a ____. That’s all we could understand. Not that it would have been helpful anyway. We had no reason to trust what these unknown people were saying anyway. Desperate and mentally muddled, we decided to sneak quickly over to Kelly and Julia’s room next door to see what they were doing and to feel security in numbers. They were panicking too. We tried to call Mercy but couldn’t get a hold of her. We all imagine the worst-case scenarios and the best way to react to each. Ultimately, we decided even if there were intruders, our rooms would not be the safest place to be in any situation. And if the screamers were trustworthy, that was the definitely best course of action. Shaking, I cautiously but briskly headed down the three flights of unending stairs with the others. A ton of students were standing out on the parking lot and we were finally informed that the rumors were of an earthquake (maybe you read about this?). Julia, a resident of San Diego, has plenty of earthquake knowledge and told us that Ghana doesn’t get real earthquakes because it’s not on a fault line. I didn’t know about that, but really, now that everyone had been evacuated from the building, an earthquake rumor came as a relief somehow. Apparently I hadn’t given any thought to the recent destruction in Haiti in this rationalization. Going with this thought, part of me relaxed, knowing that the hostel porters had everything under control. The other part was still freaking out. Some of this had to do with the shock I’m sure, but mostly, I was scared by the burst of reality. I had seen the barbed wire and guards armed with assault rifles outside our buildings, but hadn’t internalized their necessity. What if someone could get past them? These were the thoughts going through my head at the time. But… I had a decent amount of time to be thinking these and voicing them to Elsa and Alex and we decided more or less that the guards are well trained and it would take a lot to get past them, and that Ghana is a fairly stable country. Between those two, I figure I’m about as safe here as anywhere else, and that anything could happen anywhere. So I’m sorry if this story was scary, but really, I’m okay, happy, and armed with a healthy dose of caution.
After a decent while, a porter came out to tell us that the earthquake rumor was an elaborate hoax and that it was safe to go outside. It was a great start to our first day of classes. I didn’t even want to know what time it was when we got back.
Today was technically the first day of classes, but today, I signed up for about half of my schedule. The other half I plan to get tomorrow. See, registration opened up last week, but many offices hadn’t posted their schedules and we had orientation around most of the office hours anyway. But we were told it wasn’t really a big deal. Many of the other students just got here today. The first week of classes apparently isn’t really used for instruction. I don’t understand it, but I seem to be on the right track, so I’ll keep rolling with it. And I’m signed up to be in an African pop band ensemble!
We did have our first Twi class today! Although English is the official language in Ghana, Twi is also widely spoken and often preferred by Ghanaians. We are excited to learn as much as possible to show our hosts that we are making an effort to embrace their culture. We had previously picked up bits and pieces from various locals, but mostly, when applied, Ghanaians would laugh at us playfully in a way that showed they were pleased but also said, “Oh, you silly oburoni, trying to nasalize your ‘I’s…” Because apparently, nasalization is important. And I have no doubt I’m doing it incorrectly.
I got on the internet today! We went to a building that offers free wireless to students for one hour a day. I’m sorry I didn’t post this. By the time I had caught up with some Facebook and e-mail, we had to go.
Still no power in our building.

Living the Sophisticated Life

17 January 2010
Went to Church today in Ghana! I didn’t make it to the Catholic mass this week because I messed up scheduling, but once I get more familiar with the campus it should be much easier to arrange. This week, most of us went to the Interdenominational Church with our coordinator, Mercy. They sing so much! They were very welcoming and had all those new to the church stay after for refreshments to talk about their experience at the service. I look forward to reporting the details of Ghanaian Catholic mass next week!
In the evening, Mercy said she and her husband Kwame would give us a bus tour around Accra and Madina and nearby areas and afterward take us to a nice restaurant. We were glad for the chance to get our bearings a little better in the school owned van rather than transferring from tro-tro to tro-tro, muddling directional clarity. As we were driving, we spotted a wedding party. We joked with Kwame about pulling over so we could crash it and experience a Ghanaian party first hand. He laughed and kept driving, but soon after, we were parked outside another party and he told us to get out.
Evidently, Kwame’s brother was celebrating his 70th birthday. We were welcomed to the party and enjoyed drinks and amazing cake and music we couldn’t help but dance to. About that music… Kwame’s brother is a retired Accra police chief, so naturally, the band that played was entirely made up of police officers. We saw “the police” play for a party! No one else in the group seemed to fully appreciate that bit as much as I did, but maybe some of you will.
After the party, we still went to our fancy dinner at a hotel. And boy did we feel swankified. The place had air conditioning, waiters, and, get this—flushing toilets! A beautiful bonus, as we still have no power back at the hostel. The food was great too.
Still no power. I am disgustingly in need of a shower. Also, this would be an awful time to get cholera…

An Action-Packed Day

16 January 2010
We went to the international student orientation today and heard a lot of information that our helpful orientation leaders had already provided us. Lost power and water tonight. Woo.

Culture Shock and Newfound Peanut Butter

15 January 2010
Today I had my first experience with what could possibly be called culture shock… in an American styled shopping mall. Before heading to Ghana, I was told by many that I would find this everywhere because American culture is so different from Ghana. They were right about the different bit, but what really took me aback was the similarity of Accra Mall to something found in my own hometown. After spending but a few days exploring urban Ghana in ninety-degree weather with rare air conditioned respites, experiencing an entire span of indoor air-conditioned shops took me more aback in a way that no unusual food, crazy traffic, or marriage proposal from a stranger had.
Oh, because yes—so far I have received two marriage proposals from Ghanaian men I likely will never see again. This is not terribly uncommon apparently, and after the proposal is given and laughed off, we all go on our merry way.
I had some of the most delicious food ever today. Groundnuts, I delightfully discovered, are basically peanuts and are commonly used to make soup! It’s amazing! The soup we had was a peanut broth with beef and a rice ball. Out of this world. Our orientation leader Mercy has the most fantastic food at her house and has done a wonderful job of showing us a tasty variety of traditional Ghanaian food to find easily in markets. I may however, just eat groundnut soup every meal of the day. And maybe as a snack or two.

Too Soon to Miss Sub-Par Burgers

14 January 2010
Today we went to one of the halls to eat breakfast and I got delicious chocolate crepes and orange juice that tasted and felt like drinking an actual orange. Mmm…
After that, we went into Accra again and I was overwhelmed by how constantly aware I needed to be in the market. I realize this is true of any city, but the markets here are so crowded and unfamiliar that the stress mounts quickly. I do enjoy the city, but think I need to take it in small doses. We learned how to take public transportation like the tro-tros and cabs and I bargained, or dropped, as they say here, for flip flops and a soap dish. Everywhere, I heard shouts of “Oburoni!” It’s delightful, and I wish people could be so comfortable with such terms in the U.S.
For lunch, our leaders took us to Frankie's, a restaurant with American styled food. It was very thoughtful of them to show us a place to find familiar food, but it ended up being pricey and sub-par overall. I paid about $10 for a so-so burger. That’s compared to the heaping plate of Jollof rice and chicken you can get for about $1 and some change.
I more than made up for this disappointment after my quest for Chilly Yoghurt, which is advertised all over the place. So delicious and cool, and a rare source of dairy here.
Tonight I went with Kelly, John, and Nick to the Bush Cantina, a market with some late night shops, bars, and restaurants. At least for now, before classes start, it was fairly empty, but in any case, it’s a nice place to hang out with people.

When I took this long to post, I was really getting into the Ghanaian spirit.

13 January 2010
Today I signed up for classes! Er, class. I’m registered for a dance class, but the music office was not open for registration today. For registration day. They said that they would be there tomorrow.
We took the tro-tro to Madina market today. The tro-tro is quite an experience. This common form of public transportation is a clunky, ginormous van that holds up to I believe 24 people and weaves around traffic and cuts through gas station parking lots and pulls around other vehicles by going off road. I find this particularly interesting, because in every other aspect I have noted, Ghanaians have adopted a leisurely pace in everything they do. If I run somewhere, I sense people looking at me strangely, perhaps wondering if something is wrong. I’ve fallen into this idea rather easily and am enjoying the absence of rushing and tight deadlines. If I have a longer wait in an office or restaurant, I have more time to talk with those around me, gather my thoughts, and maybe even bask in some air conditioning.
But then we hop aboard a tro-tro and it’s back to impatience and hustling. The tro-tro is not my favorite mode of transportation. Hard to beat the prices though. In the market I got sunglasses, hangers, and a phone. So I do have a phone number, and you’re welcome to call me with it if you want, as I won’t be charged anything for receiving calls, but I imagine it could be pricey for you. In any case, my number is 00233 0274788332.
We had dinner at our orientation leader Mercy’s again and I tried red gravy, which is delicious. It’s generally some mix of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and whatever else, and it is usually spicy and put on rice. We eat a lot of rice here. I really love red gravy.
Julia and I have a fantastic plan. We realized that no has his or her birthday this semester, and this made us sad. So we decided that we would pick alternate birthdays for everyone and a theme for each. Birthdays are the best.
I tried plantain chips today. They are delicious. They sell both ripe and non-ripe ones. I recommend the non-ripe ones if you should ever come upon that decision.
There is a seamstress who comes to our hostel twice a week. She brings in pre-made dresses that we can try on and buy, but she also has material that we can look for and choose a dress pattern we like and order. She does beautiful work and sells these dresses for 10 cedi (less than $10). I ordered a pink and purple metallic-ish dress before returning to my room to unpack and realize that all of the dresses I had bought were pink and purple. Oh well. I’m so excited to see it!

Time to be a Little Fish

12 January 2010
We found out today that the showers are working and that there had been a temporary problem with the system! Yay hygiene!
Apparently we need pictures for every department in which we are taking classes. “Peculiar Photography and Filming” on campus gladly helped us out here. Yes, that’s what it was called. After that, we broke off into groups of one or two and matched up with and orientation leader for a three-hour tour (no, we didn’t get stranded on an island) around campus. Henry was Shaylyn’s and my guide. I wasn’t sure how many people attended University of Ghana, but I had not been expecting 40,000. Whoa.
While on the tour, we saw a couple girls were walking with their mother. They saw us ran over to touch Shaylyn on the arm and ran away giggling bashfully. Though there are a number of white students on campus, many Ghanains rarely see ‘oburoni’ (the Twi word for white people). They’re curious about us.
We had a roommate switcharoo today. My new roomie is Elsa and she’s fantastic.


11 January 2010
I’m in Ghana and I love it! I now know all eight students of the other in my program and we’re all super excited! Julia and Kelly, the other two double-x chromosomed Goucher representatives haven’t made it yet, but I’ve already had an excellent time with the other two ladies, Emily and Elsa, as well as John, Alex, Peter, and Will. We got into our rooms, (which are great by the way, but I’ll talk about that later) and were eager to shower after sitting in our clothes/ the airport for 22+ hours and sweating promptly upon arrival in Ghana. But… no water in our shower. Now, we have 48 showers at our hostel. And we tried a decent portion of them, running from room to room in our towelish ensemble, arms full of self-cleaning products. We’d turn one on and get really excited—“Oooh, I got a trickle!” And one lasted long enough for me to get soap on my face… but only that long. Luckily, we got enough trickle out of a sink to splash off a bit.
Not enough to rinse out the citrus smell present in my towel courtesy of the “Veggie Wash” that now covers half of the items in my checked bag. So… turns out I won’t have clean produce, but my clothing could be citrus fresh for days!
Our packing suggestions list recommended bringing dark sheets… because they get dirty easily and light ones would need to be washed more often… Back home, our first reaction was, “Gross, I do plan on showering before getting in bed!” But it looks like that plan has already been shot down. Don’t worry— I’m sure we’ll get the hang of the water thing eventually. Until then, baby wipe bath it is!
Other than the shower business, I’m really pleased with the International Student Hostel. It’s kind set up like a motel, in that the rooms all open to the outside. My roommate, Emily H., and I are at the top of the four floor building that forms a square around a grassy courtyard, which reminds me of the quad at Goucher, simply because it is a grassy place where people could hang out during pleasant weather. The rooms are spacious and have a fan and excellent cross-ventilation windows, making the lack of air-conditioning quite manageable, at least at night. At the back of the room we have a door to a balcony that has a view of the city of Legon. It’s delightful! I love my room.
This may not seem super significant to some of you, but I am thrilled to report that not only does Avon Skin So Soft bug repellent not make my skin red and irritated; it also actually smells really good! Gramma, thanks for that wonderful stuff!
And that’s about it so far! (We got in pretty late.) I’ve barely gotten any sleep and we need to be up in the morning tomorrow, so it sounds like the perfect time to sign off! Later!

Here's How Things Will Work...

I’m sorry it took so long to put this up! Internet isn’t too difficult to get to, but I doubt I will be able to fit in time for it every day. Therefore, I will be recording things as I see fit into Word with a date in the heading. I’ll post them all at once when I do get to the internet. Right now, I like the idea of writing every day before going to bed, but that pattern may not stick. Some days, I may just write some bullets with amusing tidbits and happenings, or maybe just a picture.

So delayed but here I am!

So... I’m on my way to Ghana! Right now I’m in London’s Heathrow Airport, but I’ve been writing this on the train to Newark Airport. Which brings me to my first mini-adventure—my first flight was cancelled! So, Continental found me a train and I said goodbye to my wonderful family. Alright, short adventure. I did warn you it was mini.
To those of you who have asked me some variation of "Are you nervous?” I can only say that I feel a sort of a prolonged form of the anxious that I feel before a recital. I know I will enjoy myself whatever happens, but can't get the nagging "Gah, I'm going to forget something!" feeling out of my head. But mostly, I'm super excited because I've been working up to this for a long time and it's an opportunity to learn and share so much.
I will be studying music at the University of Ghana, just 8 miles from Accra, the nation's bustling capital. (There's a helpful picture tagging along with this post.) The University has on-campus housing and a residential hall just for international students. Being international in Ghana and all, that's where I'll be staying! I expect that to be bundles of fun because it will give me the opportunity to not only meet new Ghanaian people, but also people from ALL OVER the world!
Here's the part where you get mad jealous. Conveniently located just north of the equator, Ghana's temperature tends to stay around 75-95 degrees. Call me crazy, but I‘ve left my coat in Maryland.
I'd love to give you a list of the best ways to contact me when abroad, but at the moment I'm unsure of what those ways might be myself. Phones are pretty much out I think. You can still write to my Goucher e-mail, ( but I won't have internet in my room, so I don't know yet how often I'll be able to check it/ respond. The same follows for all internet communication. I do have a mailing address! Here it is:
Emily Davies
International Student Hostel
University of Ghana
Legon, Accra, Ghana
I’d love to get mail, and if you give me your address, I’ll gladly send a postcard or two your way!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Emily+ blogging = ?

Shocked? I can hardly pass for technology savvy, but I catch on eventually. So here it is, a blog to post my adventures about Ghana. But... I'm not there yet, so I've got the week to do a little intro bit and get into the swing of blog writing.
What got me started you may ask? Well I resisted initially. I find technology to be a hassle until I get used to it, at which point I become obsessed with it, and do I really need something else to occupy my time? And then there's the fact that I'm uncertain about what my internet availability will be in Ghana.
But then I saw Julie & Julia, which I love and highly recommend. And that settled it. I became convinced that my blog would be fabulous (which it will be) and would help me to share my world with everyone back home. And yes, I'm still unsure about internet access, but this way I can post when I do have time, and reach many people at once. Woo!
And the name... yeah it's cheesy. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw I needed a name, and thought to myself, "Psh, that's silly and corny." And then I employed the advice of friends I was talking to and what did Joe Moran suggest? "Ghan-away. Get it?"
My jaw dropped. A little freaky, no? But really, that settled it. Miki Haber and Eli Cohen approved, and I gave the first almost completely personal touch to my shiny new blog.
(And thanks to Eli for showing me how to get this ball rolling.)