Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We have been in Accra the past few days to attend an embassy orientation briefing for Fulbrighters and to collect a few items (half of which failed).  So, Monday we arrived and we are staying at Deron's place, a Fulbright lecturer in Accra, with his wife (Lori) and two children (Jasper-8, and Dashiel-4).  It was Jasper's birthday on Monday and guess what he got?  A chicken!  Yep.  It was really nice, Lori and Deron invited us to all the family events: cake and dinner.  It was a treat!  Then Tuesday was the embassy---lot's of don't do this, don't do that...most of which we have been doing.  It was definitely caution city!  Then that night was a Jazz performance--African Jazz--which was, interesting (?). was put on by a Fulbrighter who is finishing his research--preservation of recordings of traditional music--and the performer, the Divine Drummer, was very strange to say the least.  It was him telling the story of how modern African Jazz came to be, that was interesting.  Lot's of American's stole our music stuff and Cubans did something stuff, but I thought it was unique mixture of story and samples of the music changing.  Then he gets to "this is African Jazz," plays one tune, and says goodnight.  Then, his last comments were "and if you illegally pirated this performance, see me up here to pay me my royalty to save your bones."  So, I did tape a piece of it, but like hell I was going to ask for my bones to be saved.  (There is a small clip below as an example of what "African Jazz" is according to the Divine Drummer, but we seem to be having difficulties uploading it. . . maybe another post though).

Then, last night, Mo, Andrea, and I stayed up gabbing about infections and weird illnesses and such that exist in Ghana. We all own this book "Where there is no doctor" and I read parts of it, so did Mo, and it is SCARY sh*t!. I mean, worms entering and coming out all parts of your body, meningitis, malaria, etc etc etc. And we were just laughing at how squimish we were about these things. Then, this morning, we talk with Lori, who is a licensed nurse, and she told us the worst. If you leave your laundry out to dry and it is not totally dry when you collect it, or you collect it in the evening, there are chances of tumba fly larva crawling into your skin. The prevention, ironing your clothes. So today, we all bought an iron! So no worries about this happening.

Well, no pictures, no video. . . I think you'll survive though. . . Sorry about not being able to take care of your A/V needs, but we'll make it up to you, we promise.  If you need someone to blame, try a certain US delegate appointed to "take care" of us and yo's lack of any ability to do so.  It's been frustrating to say the least, but since we would both like our blog not to be deemed an instrument of seditious and libelous sentiment, we will refrain. . . for now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rural living and pit latrines.

Why does it seem that even though I have been here once before, I still packed all the wrong things? My clothes all feel too big, too hot, too ugly. My first aid kit lacks alcohol, peroxide, enough gauze, Tylenol and such. The three or four phrases Mo and I have since learned in Frafra are still not enough to talk to either the children or Faustina’s parents, all of whom do not speak that much English. The children have learned from us a few phrases in English “Kate” and “M-O, Mo” which they greet us with and shout outside our window when they want us to open the curtain so they can stare at us. We go outside to try to play with them and they tease each other in Frafra about wanting to be my husband or Mo’s wife (at least I think this is what they are saying since all I can understand is “poka,” wife and “saylor,” husband (spelt phonetically)) and outside of that we stare at each other and use the most basic phrases in our respective languages only to get no where. We need to learn more Frafra! I did learn two new useful and thank you (mposia).

Mo and I have made two exceptional little friends, Hoondy, the dog, and Akeenya, the little four year old. Akeenya just wants to sit near us and walk near us, much like Hoondy does (who I suspect only speaks Frafra as well). Oh yea...and Akeenya places everything he finds in his mouth. I spent the other afternoon taking rocks and pebbles and dirty gross plastic out of his mouth, fingers though (as you can see from the picture) were out of my control.

This past Friday it rained all day long, or at least all working day long, meaning that the rain stopped at about 2:30pm, long enough for Mo and I to run to the market (“da”) and purchase some lunch ingredients: tomatoes, onion, bread....mmmm...lunch of champions. I guess really do not understand how long dry beans take to cook without my pressure cooker, and so for lunch we had crunchy curry bean stew over rice (back off boys...I’m taken!). Next time I will try soaking them overnight.

But some things are still the same. I was just outside checking my laundry and one of the little boys put a dead moth on Helen and she ran around screaming. Even with all the bugs and sleeping outdoors, it’s somewhat comforting to see a dry moth get the standard reaction! It’s strange being so completely cut off from the news of the world. Mo and I tried to read the NYtimesn website for some news when we last used the internet, but four stories were about all we could open in a half an hour (Palin and her pipeline, Bush allowing raids in Pakistan, Iraq canceling six no bid contracts, and the scandals of the interior department). There is only one TV station that does largely play the news, but no longer receives BBC broadcasting, and is often broadcast in Twi. The news is still reporting stories that happened three weeks ago, the latest football scores, and calling for a peaceful election.

Mo and I talked about how we missed the little things like toast, and food without meat and/or fish. I miss green leafy vegetables, or let’s just say all vegetables in general minus tomatoes, onions, and okra. I am excited to get my boxes and start working. We go to the embassy on the 23rd of this month, so October should be nice and busy. I can’t say that I did not expect’s pretty much on par with the pace I expected...but expecting and experiencing are different. While my reading all day has now come to include one of the four chemistry textbooks I brought...I still feel lazy. I know back at home people are going to work and to class....and I am laying under the fan trying not to sweat too much so I can wear the same shirt tomorrow and not smell too bad.

Our two Japanese friends here (Rie and Ai...pronounced “Lee-aa” and “Eye”) are great. They are JICA volunteers, which is the Japanese equivalent to the Peace Corp. They cooked us a Japanese meal this past weekend, it was awesome. Ai is in her last 6 months of her assignment and Rie is in the firs 6 of hers. Typically, Jico spend 2 years on assignment. It’s nice having other foreigners to talk with...somehow they can better relate.

I guess it’s my turn now. . . I’m kinda rushing because I didn’t do this beforehand and we’re now paying for internet time as I type. I promise that next time I will be better prepared. I think Katie pretty much covered everything new under the sun. It has been raining at least once a day for the entire time we have been in Bongo, which doesn’t really put a damper on anything because we, like the Ghanaians, have decided to cease all activities that can be construed as constructive during times of precipitation. Seriously, it rained on a Friday morning and no one went to work. NICE!! Also, I am apparently the husband of two 12-year-old twins and a 40-year-old-drunk lady. DOUBLY NICE! Okay. . . now
go read this book. . . it’s pretty amazing. Later.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Set phasers to FUN!

It’s Friday, and our last day in Kumasi before we go north to Bolgatanga (which, by the way, is probably akin to Texas, since every time we say that we will be heading there people look at us as if to ask “what the hell for,” but I digress) and Katie and I want to take advantage of the readily available internet – which hasn’t been as readily available as we first thought.  Hmm, I’m looking back at that first sentence and I can’t help but think that it’s a long sentence, but certainly not Proustian.  Okay, on Wednesday we went with Joe (the smiling man in the pictures) who just recently bought a plot of land so that he could be a farmer.  Everyday but Tuesday he goes to supervise the men he hired to weed the plot.  When we arrived, he told us this, but it was like nothing I could have imagined.  First off, these weeds are tropical weeds, meaning that they can be found in the tropical regions of Earth as well as a few places on Venus; needless to say, they are very, very hearty.  So what does one bring to a weeding party in Ghana?  For those of you who think a regular weed-wacker will do, slap yourself.  Upon our arrival, one of the men asked if I had brought my cutlass (no, not like this. . . like this. . . for those who thought the former, slap yourself).  I said no.  They laughed.  A lot.  Then they began to work.  Like pirates (cutlass. . . come on , that’s a super-pirate word) they swash-buckled (yes it is a verb because I just made it a verb) their way through the 5ft. tropical weeds and brush, and came out with booty consisting of crabs, snails, and corn  Yum.  While they were fighting the good fight, like Soho children in the wilderness, Katie and I began snapping photos of the local fauna (in the pictures).  It was a pretty exciting way to end a trip that began with Joe leading us around the swamp so that we may see the vast swath of land will soon become his farm.  Good times.

Ok…so I feel I need to say more about this fauna Mo talks about.  First, thankfully, Joe hooked us up with a pair of mid-shin high wading boots, which were priceless for the adventure (meanwhile, most of the men weeding were in sandals. . . but they are way more hardcore than me…just wait!).  So we went sloshing around the farm with Joe only to see a different type of spider with every step.  When we settled in to watch the men weed, Mo and I couldn’t help but stare at the ground that was alive with movement.  Think of a bug. . . go ahead. . . yup. . . we saw it!  We saw an ant that was an inch long killing a worm (!), centipedes, millipedes, spiders, spiders, spiders, beetles, and more ants.  The spiders were quite cute in how if you stood still for too long they would climb up your leg and start spinning webs attached to you.  But the best were the crabs!  As the men were weeding Mo and I spot a hole in the ground and ask “snake?”. . . snakes. . . Ha!  Try crabs.  Joe of course told us that we were free to stick our hands down the hold to catch them.  Respectfully, we declined and let the experts have a try.  [Let me say that it was at this point that everyone put down their cutlasses and mocked us by fishing out more than half a dozen of them while laughing and weeding with their feet.  It is my understanding that crabbing, in this instance, resembles noodling in North America.  Fun. – Mo.]  These men would shove their arms down hole about 6 inches across up to their shoulders and come up with a crab (and sometimes two).  Yea. . . needless to say I did not try that one.  I was more concerned with the hole in the knee of my pants and all the bugs trying to make a new home out of it.  All in all it was pretty amazing.  Lesson learned: farming in Kumasi is nothing less than taming a plot of the jungle.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Kumasi. . . 7 days away from Bongo

Let's see. . . it's September 1st and our first full day in Kumasi.  We arrived yesterday and Joe, a friend of Katie's that she made on her previous visit, helped us get out of the bus station with all of our luggage.  We have a ton of shit.  It's pretty ridiculous.  Anyway, we got our stuff back to the Steven Paris Hostel (and I have come to find out that the term "hostel" in Ghana is more along the lines of a US dormitory than anything else. . . ) and were promptly taken back out again to Joe's house.  His mother fed us, we watched Kotoko beat El Merrikh (from Sudan) and were given a tour of the neighborhood.  For the most part, Katie knew her way around since she had been here before, but it's always nice to have someone else hold your hand.  

The next day we woke up and Joe escorted us to the largest open market in West Africa.  In the picture in the link, all you see is tin roofs, but underneath those roofs are any and everything you can possibly imagine buying anywhere.  Shoes, sandals, dresses, goat heads (click the link, don't worry, it's not a goat's head). . . and most of the items are made right there.  Katie bought some cloth for a dress; not much, but we mostly went to see that I wouldn't die of excitement.  It's like Akihabara in Japan, but not much light, mostly people.  Right now we're stealing internet access in the hostel, and will be doing so until Saturday, when we hire a car to get to Bolgatanga.

Katie's washing the clothes right now, so when she's done with that I'm sure she'll have something to say. . . now she's cooking me dinner. . . now she's rubbing my feet. . . she forgot she has to wash the dishes as well. . . okay here she is.  OH WAIT!  Before I go, I have to let you know something.  As most of you already know, I'm a pretty good looking individual.  Well, it seems that the fine folks in Ghana feel the same way.  Before we left for the market this morning, one of the hostel porters called me over to the desk because my beauty compelled him to do so.  He said to me, "Sir, I must say, you are very handsome.  There have been other obruni who have come here, and other Americans as well, but you are very, very handsome [emphasis his, links mine]."  It's funny because I was getting the feeling that people in Ghana didn't like me, but when I asked Joe, he told me its was a) because I had large earring, and earrings aren't common at all for men in Ghana, and b) because I was "pleasing to look at."  So there you have it, when Katie leaves me I will come to Ghana so people can look at me.

Now it's my turn I guess.   Mo forgot to say some of the other things we purchased at the market.  Well first, yesterday I had my first taste of Kenkey in 3 years....oh how I love it!  It was our first real chop-shop experience.  A tin shack that inside has benches and several buckets of water for hand washing.  While I'm pretty sure the palm nut soup was cooked with meat in it (not much we can do about that) we at least did not have to eat any whole pieces.  We also took (in Ghana it is "took" not eat) the kenkey with the spicy peppers and tomatoes...that is my favorite way.  So back to the market...we also purchased two dvds for Faustina...but these are not any ordinary dvd...oh no.  One has 12 brad pit movies on it and the other is 12 action hero movies on one vcd. the quality is not exactly "high-def", in fact it is pretty grainy, but they were only 2.50 each! We also had coconut juice from the coconut (see pics above).

One other thing, again the pictures are above, before we left Accra we traveled with Andrea (another Fulbrighter, the one in the picture) to the bead making village she will be living in (Krobo).  We met with a bead maker, Emanuel (I believe) and saw how the beads are made.  It's so crazy.  So those of you who have seen the beads I brought back last time, they are made from crushed glass powder, that is why they are opaque.  He was making some from larger pieces of glass from a blue champaign bottle, and so the new beads I purchased are clear.  It was so crazy.  That large mud object is his kiln.