Friday, October 10, 2008

October already!

Wow, it’s October already...where to start. I guess the last post was venting some frustrations over our passports, boxes, and ATM cards. Well, we still have no ATM cards, my last box of equipment is MIA, and our passports are still not ready. So, moving on. On our way back up from Accra we stopped in Kumasi again and saw an amazing display of bats. Now, having seen the bats in Austin, one might wonder how that display might be topped, well take the same number of bats but make them as large as house cats and you have your answer!
I want to answer some questions as to where we live, what we eat etc. On a typical day we meet at the District Assembly (DA) around 9am and then walk to the water lab with Ai and Rie. Well, on the day I wanted to capture a typical day, we had either a baby alligator or a VERY large lizard in the wall of our water lab moving around making noise. So, those of you at UT, you think finding a mouse or bugs around the lab is bad, I now have rats, lizards, and alligators to share the lab with! Of course, this now took center stage for the day. When we reported our new friend to the DA, they wanted to kill it, but we said no so I traveled back with someone to help release the little fella, but he was gone already. I have not been back to the lab this week because I have been observing a workshop, but Ai and Rie have both reported hearing the sounds in the wall again, so I think he is back! Since the millet is very high, Mo and I constantly lose our way when walking to and from the lab unguided, we always exit the path at a different place.
As for our life at Faustina’s compound, it is different. The kitchen is outside and all kitchen activities as a result happen outside: cutting, washing, etc. For Ghanaians, eating also occurs outside, but the mosquitoes like me too much to partake. The shower room is a mud stall without a roof. The water is brought to the room in a large bucket and we use a smaller cup to pour water over ourselves. It is one of my favorite parts of the day. The days have been so hot and sticky that I would wish to shower at least twice a day, but I fear that will be seen as wasteful by the family, so I take my half-a-bucket per day shower after my run in the morning. Of course, the things you don’t think about when you say “no running water” is brushing your teeth in the millet outside the house with a cup of water, walking outside the compound to the latrine to go to the bathroom (which at night you find yourself in the company of two very large spiders and some large ants). Of course, that also means that washing dishes occurs by bucket method as does washing clothing.
This past week I have been attending the Phase II workshop for Health and Hygiene teachers in Bongo central (22 total were chosen) on how to improve the water and sanitation issues at the schools. To describe the workshop as “frustrating” is being extremely polite!!! The workshop lasted four days, all day long when everything could have been covered in about 5 hours time. The head facilitator was somewhat of an a**hole. The first time I met him he asked me where I was from, so I told him I grew up in NYC but live in Texas. So he said he has family members in the states, someone in Idaho. So I say, “Oh, I hear Idaho is very beautiful” at which point he starts telling me that as an American I should know my own country and how do I not know Idaho. At this point I do a polite laugh and tell him America is very large and that I am very familiar with many parts. So he asks me if I know the west coast, so I say, “yes, I have been to the California Bay Area as well as Portland, Oregon. But, I am most familiar with the east coast since that is where I grew up.” So here is my mistake: trying to make polite conversation. He then starts to tell me how San Francisco is a bigger city than NYC and how, and I quote, “if you remove the government from New York City it is really very small.” So, again, trying to be polite, I say, “I think you are confusing NY with DC because NYC is not even the capital of NY State and, you are mistaken about its size.” “Oh no” he tells me. “Well” I say “I grew up there, I think I know” to which he replies “Oh no, you are wrong. I read it in a book, I know how it is.” So those of you who are familiar with my pet peeve of “stupid people” (let me clarify: stupid people as in those who just chose to be ignorant or insist that they know things that they obviously do not) know that it took ALL of my energy not to lose my mind at this man and tell him off right there. So, at this point I had completely lost my temper so I plastered my face with my plastic smile and walked away. This is the man who ran the workshop. Needless to say, he was not very receptive to the opinions of the teachers. I could write a book about how horrible this man was, but horrible in a way that you could say “but I guess he is nice” because he would insult you with a smile, which aggravated me even more. The thought of his face is now aggravating. Every day he found a way to refer to his penis, but “Ghanaians do not use the word penis” so I got to hear about his “friendly weapon”, “third leg”, and his “Kofi”. Plus, he asked me to contribute one day...well, put me on the spot to tell a story about a similar situation in the states relating to our discussion. So I tell my story, making sure I spoke slowly and without my NY accent and he started laughing in the middle saying that no one could understand me because of how I speak. I smile politely and start again, slower, louder, clearer and he interrupts me saying that he should tell everyone what I mean which at this point he tells a different story than the one I told. He would solicit responses from myself, Rie and Ai to ridicule us. I will force myself to stop here, but I took good notes, so you can ask me about it more when I return. It was a lesson in Ghanaian workshops and how to tolerate an impossible person. But, be assured I will find the proper person to voice my opinion to. But, what was good about the experience is that I met many really nice teachers and my new best friend, Kate. This was the most well behaved baby I have ever met. Over the four days, I never once heard her cry! She laughed, coo’d, and allowed everyone (even me) to hold her.
It's pouring in Bolga right now....good time to hide out in the internet cafe.  Later.


tadpole said...

Best. Post. Ever. Except that I don't think Mo got a word in. Remind me never to piss you off, Katie.

I know this won't help you enjoy your time in Africa any better, but I saw "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" yesterday and really wish I could have seen it with you guys there. I really liked it and think you would too. So I hop at some point you get to see it. I was eating dinner at an Italian place last week and sinde the service took so log I asked if anyone had seen the movie "The Big Night" and nobody had. stupid. Happy Columbus Day...

Jen said...

Hi friends! Glad to read you are doing well, except maybe for the alligator baby. Take good care and don't let the bats carry you away.

Love, Jen and Matt