Thursday, August 31, 2006

Water, water?

For the record, I wasn't trying to be rude about the pictures. I am growing increasingly frustrated because I can't upload all of them for some reasons. Plus, I have to admit that I haven't taken very many pictures (a little paranoid about carrying my camera around all the time). I will try to take some more pictures and then attempt to upload them.
So, I learned something about electricity and water here in Accra. Accra is powered by hydroelectric power by the Akosombo dam (which created the largest man made lake in the takes up 4 percent of Ghana's land area!). However, there isn't enough water powering the dam, so every three days or so, we don't have power. Every third day, we don't have power between 6am and 6pm. Every 6th day we don't have power from 6pm to 6am. It rotates based on where you live, as the whole city is on a grid system. Luckily, the campus is not all on the same grid, so some buildings will have no power on a given day while on the same day, other buildings do have power. So far, since I have been here, we have had no power in our hostel twice. Its not a big deal, because you don't really need power during the day, but electricity is connected with water. As the day goes on with no power, the water in the well no longer pumps into the buildings. Then you can't flush the toilet, wash your hands or take a shower until the power comes back. It's not something to really complain about...i think about the people who don't have access to bottled water and who go days without any water at all to drink, cook with.
So, a little bit more about my life here. I still don't have a roommate. Apparently, the Ghanaian students know that classes don't get "serious" for another couple of weeks or so. I am only allowed to transfer 4 classes back to Elon, which is a very small course load here (most kids take 6 or 7 classes). I haven't decided yet which four. I am definetly taking Population Studies (geography), Comparative Public Administration, Conflicts in African States and either Regional Development or Geography of the Developing World. I am also auditing three or four french classes. This may seem like a lot, but most of the classes only meet once a week for two hours, so I have a lot of free time. In the hours that I am not in class I am at my internship. I am really excited about this oppportunity, but I am a little disappointed in the fact that I am spending 5 hours a day on the internet and sitting in an office. Nothing is wrong with that, but I feel like I could be missing out on the whole Ghana experience while I am here, wasting time on the net. Oh well.
I am begining to enjoy the food a lot more now. I am jealous of ISH 1, the other international hostel. Its older, and more established and has a full restaurant, store and internet cafe. The restaurant makes pancakes for breakfast (1 for 2,500 cedis...less than 30 cents!) and the restaurant upstairs sells waffles for 5,000cedis (50 cents) from 5 til 10. We don't even have hotplates on the all the floors in our hostel, even though they keep telling us we will get them. There is also a very tasty restaurant in the hostel next to ours, called Tasty Treats, that serves banging red red (beans in some spicy sauce) and fried plantains, which are two of my fav foods here. So I am content. You have to eat dinner here around 5 because most places run out of food by 6:30. It gets dark around 6 here, but the sun rises around 6 in the morning. And so do all the Africans. And they are not a quiet bunch in the mornings. Its virtually impossible to sleep past 10. The weather has not been what i expected. Its been overcast 90% of the time and a little sunny and warmer the other five percent of the time. It rained yesterday for a moment and it drizzles but doesn't pour like I expected the rainy season to do. Its not cold, temps hover around 75-low 80s. But then I have Senegal to look forward to - 90s everyday! Its supposed to be hotter during september and october, but we will see how that turns out.
This weekend we are going somewhere, but I don't know where. We were trying to go to Cape Coast, but there is a festival of some sort, and all the hostels/hotels are booked. I will get there eventually, however. Next thursday is the one month anniversary of my arrival...its really hard to believe I have been in Africa for that long!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Celine Dion, Jesus and a host of other topics

So, for all of you who thought that coming to Africa I would lose a lot of weight...If I do anything it will be gain. All i eat is carbs carbs carbs and that's three times a day. I feel the pudge coming on. So no worries, I won't return skin and bones, i will probably come back 10 pounds heavier haha. It actually rained today, which was exciting. The weather has been warm, not hot, and a little overcast. Two people in our crew have come down with good.
So enough about me, lets talk about Ghanaians.

First, Music preferences. Delilah (you know the soft rock queen) would be quite content with the amount of listeners she would draw here in Ghana. In bars, restaurants, the political science department, tro-tros and taxis, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Lionel Richie and a host of 80s/90s soft rock and R&B blare. Celine Dion seems to be a favorite and it is totally appropriate to sing along, especially the men. Beyonce, Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Tupac, and Neyo are also played frequently.

Second, Jesus. Ghana is like 90 percent Christian, and they are quite proud of this. On tro-tros, you can read scriptures, taxis have names such as Lord our Savior, Have you prayed today?, and He died for you. Shops incorporate their christian identities in their titles: Blood of Jesus hair salon and Lord the Almighty car parts. Its kinda intense actually. But quite interesting...

Third, transportation. Ghanaians don't like to walk. Hence the extensive tro-tro and metro bus service. I dont mind walking, but there is a tro-tro that runs from near the ISH to the main gate for 1000 cedis (10 cents). Its only like a ten-fifteen minute walk, but you hardly run into a Ghanaian, especially a female, walking the path. I think this could be due in part to the fact that they wear heels to class. Today a woman got on a tro tro with a chicken and a goat. They put the goat in the back and she held the chicken in her lap. That was interesting. But tro-tros are actually a great idea. They go everywhere, and they come every few minutes. Sure, I have gotten on the wrong tro-tro before and ended up somewhere I didn't have intentions of being, but that's how you learn the system, right?

Fourth, I would like to offer you a view into things I have noticed that are acceptable here but would probably be taboo in the states.
Men holding hands.
Someone harassing you on the street to buy toilet paper.
Going to the bathroom with the door open.
Drinking beer at breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. (but public drunkeness is only accepted at funerals and weddings, i think.)
Singing along with Celine in public places, especially if you are a guy.
Walking in the street (but running over pedestrians doesn't seem to be taboo, so its best to be careful)
Cutting in line.
Hissing, snapping, and making kissing sounds at females.
Cell phones in class.
Fifth, Classes. I have had three so far. The first, international conflicts and resolution, was a class of 100+ and was addressed by the TA. Everyone was talking while he was trying to explain. Then everyone was shouting. Then everyone was raising their hands and then they were talking. I was very confused, because A) I couldn't hear the professor and B) I couldn't understand him. My second class had 150+ and went something like this. I got there fifteen minutes early but still had to sit in the back. Then the people who got there on time had to squeeze into the desks that were already occupied. SO it was hot, sticky, no power (it was out all day yesterday), and squeezed in a one person desk with two people. not to mention, everyone was talking while the prof was, he wrote stuff on the board, but I couldn't see it at all, so i doodled and copied the girl who was sitting next to me (who couldn't hear either). People also answered their phones during class. Today's class was a lot better...40 kids, I sat in the front, and the prof spoke clearly and slow and it seemed like the students respected her more, as they shut up. The content of the classes is kind of disappointing...each class is offered once a week for two hours and there is only 13 weeks of teaching, so not much is really going to get taught. I have also learned alot of what the courses are proposed to teach.
So far, I am having a great and interesting experience. I will continue to try to convey on here what I see everyday. AND quit harassing me about pictures. I am in a third world country, lest you forgot. I am working on getting pics up!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cultural Exchanges

So this weekend was interesting but pretty low key. On saturday I went with two of the Norweigan girls to this hair salon where they met a woman last weekend who invited them to a festival. At the hair salon I taught the Nords a little bit about black hair ("why do you need to put so much product in there??" "Does it hurt to get it straightened??") They have been having a hard time finding someone to just cut their hair without putting grease in it (haha). So we met the lady, who turned out to be the daughter of a former Ga king. The Ga is the largest ethnic group in Accra. anywho, we went to her house and sat in a living room on a couch and sipped pineapple coconut juice and watched a thai, indian, and ghanaian films. then she brought us a sampling of what would be served later that night for dinner...some sort of palmnut soup with fish. This is when I figured out why I don't like Ghanaian is very bland but at the same time very spicy. There is no flavor really, just spicy burnt mouth. Then we went down to the party and sat and watched funny dancing and got hit on by old men and young boys alike. It was a strange and interesting experience. I think that the Nords got invited because they are white, and they were most certainly a novelty at the party (people kept coming over to them, surrounding them while they danced etc). It is a weird experience, because I feel like I am not Ghanaian but I am not white, so I am not really paid attention to.
Sunday, I went down to my friend Tasha's room (rasta chick with cool dredlocks) and met her Ghanaian roommate. she said that she would cook for us, so I was totally down with some free food. Then she preceded to ask me a lot of questions about America. First, she said she was very surprised that we were dark skinned like her. She thought, based on movies and music videos, that all black women in America were light skinned. She was also suprised we had similar hairstyles as Ghanaians, and that we weren't "crazy" (which I think has to do with style of dress) and that we are very suprising to Ghanaians because we don't look like the stereotypical black female. I then proceeded to explain to her why light skinnedness is looked upon as better than black skinnedness in the states. She and her Ghanaian friend said I was beautiful (good for my big head, eh?). The food that she made was the best I have had since I have been here. She made some fried plantains (i wanted to start crying they were so good), a dish with a ton of veggies, tuna and pasta and chickpeas in a tomato sauce. I wanted to jump for joy, it was so tasty.
Last thing, I am at my internship now. I started today, but they haven't really given me any work. I am picking up where this girl left off on a project called "Ghana at 50." Ghana's 50th anniversary is next march, so CDD (Center for Democratic Development) is sponsoring a conference to discuss how far Ghana has come in regards to poltical, social and human development. I think my job will be to fundraise with international agencies and research possible topics for the conference. It seems pretty exciting, but like I said I haven't started or been assigned anything. I am just happy to have quick internet. This weekend we are thinking about traveling to the Volta Lake which should be fun (its on my top three list of places to visit while I am here, so i am looking forward to it).
P.s. classes were supposed to start on monday. No, they haven't. But its all good, I don't want to go to class anyway.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"You can be my African queen"

So, i wanted to update the blog, but i decided to take my time. i will begin with what i have been doing since the last update. this past weekend we went to Kokrobitey beach, which is about an hour away. We had intentions of going to cape coast, but we missed the bus. Kokrobitey was nice...we stayed at a hotel...but we slept outside on a loft for $3.20USD. anywho, we slept on sandy mattresses with mozquito nests, and it wasn't too bad, actually. we ate delicious banana pancakes and enjoyed a entertaining reggae concert. Although it wasn't quite sunny on the beach, it was still nice.
My next topic of discussion is the Ghanaian men. I was warned that they could be a bit "friendly." but holy crap. Anytime I am walking alone across campus, at least 6 guys try to talk to me. They say they want to be my friend and ask me what my name is and where i live. I have gotten used to telling them my name is Cynthia and I live in an all girls hall on campus (which is all a lie, in case you didn't know). Now I am just telling them I am engaged. but they still keep harassing me. its obnoxious. when they call you over to them, they make this hissing sound. I try to ignore them, but they chase me down. i know i am goregous and all that, but seriously!
I mentioned fufu in my last blog as well. fufu is cassava and plantain made into doughy balls and served with a "lite" soup with meat (we had fish), okra, garden eggs, and a host of other questionable objects. you dip some of the fufu into the soup, then swallow down the doughy mass. do not try to chew, or you will gag. it was not good. i like all types of food, but i couldn't eat a lot of fufu. at least i tried it. ghanaian chocolate is really good. i like to spread it on my bread for breakfast. i also like egg sandwiches (already mentioned), meat pies, and pastries. The rice and even the pasta are often too spicy for me. Crackers and cookies are cheap and tasty.
Food isn't really that cheap here, or as inexpensive as i thought it was going to be. sure, you can get a meal for a dollar, but it might not be that appetizing. I try to keep it cheap by buying something, i.e. a loaf of bread and munching on that for the week.
Classes....haven't started yet. things here are slow, and you gotta be patient. first, you have to go to the departments and see what is offered (some just put up the courses today, even though classes are supposed to start monday). second, you must register for the classes (this involves standing in a long queue and taking 300 passport pictures with you). third, you must register with the dean of the head department (i.e. social studies) fourth, you have to find out the timetables of the courses offered and see if they conflict. fifth, you go to your classes, see if you like them of you don't (6th) you must drop/add which you have about a two week period to do. then, 7th, you actually take the courses. haha. I am probably at the third step, and i have been trying to register since monday.

Friday, August 11, 2006

where is the heat?

So its cold here in ghana. Or at least it is colder than i thought it was going to be. Yesterday we went to a refugee camp that a friend of a friend (matthew phelps) worked at this summer (if you want to learn about his experiences it was a refugee camp for Liberians. I really liked it, everyone was friendly and nice. I decided that I don't want to be here in Ghana, living in the university with a bunch of upperclass Ghanaians. I would rather be spending my four months doing something more productive. I can take classes back at home. Wish I had known that before I gave all my money to Elon to take classes. I am still going to try to get down to the camp and help out as much as i can. I feel like i can be a lot more helpful actually volunteering than just learning. Its sad, there are girls there that are prostitutes...young girls. there are children there who lost parents in the war years ago. There are former child soldiers there who are shunned by the community. The volunteers are trying to help by encouraging people to use condoms and trying to get them to go to school, but they have to pay for school (like 15USD a year). The UN is encouraging them to go back to their home country, since the current president is trying to get them back. but some don't want to go. The US isn't accepting any more refugees from Liberia.
So i have this slight dilemma...i brought my laptop and a converter to use it with. problem is, the laptop doesn't plug into the converter. Any techno savvy people that know a solution to this please let me know. (laptop has three prongs, converter has two prongs).
Here is some comedy for you: there is a restaurant here on campus called Tacobell. I thought, whoa Ghanaians eat tacos? but no no, its not. They dont sell tacos, they sell traditional Ghanaian foods. So I am a little unclear as to the purpose of the title.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

akwaaba means welcome

Don't worry, I won't update the blog this often. We just have a ton of time because classes don't start for another couple of weeks. So what have I been doing you ask? well yesterday we got up too early and treked across campus to the bank and the international programs office. Now, since I still don't have my luggage (which I hope to change in about 40 minutes when I go to the airport, again) I didn't have a decent pair of tennis shoes to wear, so I wore my reefs. bad idea. we then treked back to the ISH (international hostel) then back out again to catch a tro-tro to head into Accra. The tro-tro was an interesting experience. Pretty much crammed in there really tight with a bunch of Ghanaians which was really cool. The whole trip into Accra people kept coming up to the windows and trying to sell stuff, such as gas caps for the gas tank on the car, toothbrushes, fried plantains, towels. What was really interesting was the fact that these hawkers weren't coming up to the tro-tros because of tourists; this was where many Ghanaians actually bought their goods. In Accra we just walked around looking at all the street vendors. Charles was the Ghanaians favorite. They would see him and say "nice white boy" or come up to him and stare. it was really funny. I don't think ghanaians know how to react to me. it's like I am not white, but I am not ghanaian. Sometimes they seem confused when I tell them I am from the states (one guy asked if I was from Jamaica). oh well. we ate some really spicy rice for lunch and then we headed back. I had my first interaction with malarial mosquitos last night haha. I doused my self in off though, so no worries. We walked on campus around 7:30 but none of the restaurants were opened. So then we just went to the Mobile station. I had a cheeseburger. This place sells american food that is overly expensive. We saw a bunch of americans there and I decided I don't like them because they only hang out with americans. I roll in a posse with two canadians, one norwegian, one german, three americans, a guy who claims he is Irish, and occassionally a beninese. The Ghanaians and other African students haven't arrived quite yet. We have developed a couple of tag alongs...Kwame who gave me a bracelet and wants me to play basketball with him and also wants to give me a lesson on African history and teach me Twi due to the fact that I am his "african sister," "Ko"joe who makes drums and also tries to sell Charles weed, and a few others. We ask a Ghanaian how to get somewhere but they won't tell us, they have to show us. then they stay with us for a long time. its awkward. Tonight "Auntie Maggie," our night porter, is going to make us Fufu which is a traditional dish. then we are going to a reggae festival on the beach. It should be fun. I think the other African students will be arriving really soon, so I should get a roommate and all that jazz. Its really quiet in the ISH without them. I learned a cool card game we shall call "Norweigan guess the card on your forehead game" which is fun. An omelette here is eggs, some spices, all omlettized up then smashed in the middle of a huge chunk of sweet white butter bread and grilled. You eat this with Milo or tea or nescafe. that is breakfast. for a dollar. That's what's up. haha. Okay I have written a lot today, so I will shut up. I hope all things at home are good.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

...And I am in the country

I finally made it to Ghana last night around 8. One of my bags made it with me, but one is still in london. That is no good, but hey it happens. I have to go pick it up tonight. My room in the international hostel is very nice. It has a balcony. I will post pics up when i get a chance. There are a lot of international kids; so far I have met a canadian and a norweigan and a bunch of kids from California. The Ghanaians are trying to teach us Twi, but its hard to remember all of the phrases. My flights in weren't bad...the flight to london i couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep so I slept alot in the airport. The flight to ghana was good and i woke up just in enough time to see us cross the med sea to Libya so i got to see the sahara! That was cool. Ghana reminds me of peru...just with a lot more black people. haha. Anywho, I will try to post every week or so, or if a funny story needs to be told. I met Charles, the kid from Elon, in line in London (they call it a "queue" here). Just so everyone knows i arrived safely and in one piece.