Thursday, January 21, 2010

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.

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