Published: April 5th 2011April 5th 2011
Hey guys. Sorry. I fail at blogging. Consistency is not my forte. Neither is blogging, unless you count livejournal when I was back in my angsty teen years and you wanted to read a bunch of dramatic yet vague complaints about how hard life is. I know. There’s a reason why you haven’t seen it.
Anyway, I’m sorry. I can’t say much more than that. I could give excuses, but you know what they say about those… If you don’t, don’t worry. I’m trying now, and that’s what counts.
Now I face the dilemma of where to begin in this blog since I have told you virtually nothing of my life here and how it has developed into my life and not just my travels. That’s right. I’m home. But I still miss home. In a way, my life here is a shadow of my life at LSU. But we’ll get to that. This is more like stuff for my journal, not for my blog.
Back on topic, this blog may not be in chronological order. I’m just gonna try to put important trips and firsts in here. No offense, but I don’t have time for the nitty-gritty. That’s journal stuff. But I said that already. See, I’m bad at this…
I arrived on a Thursday night at the Accra airport. The air was heavy with humidity (and that’s saying a lot when you’re from south Louisiana) and the heat was shocking. I think it might have had something to do with having just flown from Frankfurt where it was snowing. I was picked up by Susan, our assistant program director, and a driver. (I found that drivers are not as uncommon here as they are in the States. I think it has to do with the facts that traffic is so bad and the drivers are so crazy and cars are soooo expensive. Or maybe it’s just the people I see around me that have them. After all, Accra isn’t Ghana.) She gave me a welcome gift of a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of water. I soon learned that these are both crucial as toilet paper is not supplied at the majority of toilet-facilities here, even in the hostel washrooms, and, of course, you can’t drink the water.
On the trip to the hostel, Susan explained that I should not be offended if people try to approach me a lot, possibly in ways that might make me uncomfortable, or call me “obroni”, which means “white-skinned person” or something like that. It is apparently not an insult here to be called by the color of your skin. Susan also explained that people got “excited” to see an obroni, but it was all good natured and not to be scared. (Sometimes people shout out “Obroni!” at you so many times in a day, here, you begin to lose your sense of identity and it is replaced by being a white outsider and all of the things Ghanaians assume that means. We’ll cover that later. Oh, will we ever cover that. I think I could devote at least one post to it.) As I sat in the back seat, and took in my surroundings, I realized that Accra looks a lot like Costa Rica in some ways. Only people in Costa Rica, in my limited experience there, don’t walk around with things on their heads trying to sell them to you while you are in your car.
I would soon learn about the hawking business so far in that it is completely normal to buy the strangest things here outside of your window. Many of these products are carried on the hawkers’ heads, often in bowls, and I’d say the majority of hawkers are women. (I’d like to interject and say that since carrying things on your head is so common here, I’ve taken up the practice on a limited scale. If I don’t say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it for an obroni.) People most often sell sachet water or bottles of water and plantain chips, but I’ve seen them also sell things like clothes, towels, dried fish and all sorts of things I can’t recognize/remember.
Susan brought me into the Hostel, got me the necessary paperwork, and began introducing me to other ISEPers. They all knew who I was b/c it’s a fairly small group of American exchange students and they had been told all week that I was coming, but I had visa problems, and thus was delayed. Some students shared a meal of spaghetti they made with me and I tried to get to know people. The problem of getting food and water once I got here didn’t even occur to me as an American who had food available at every turn.
My new group was nice. They took me to the night market down the road to get a box of bottled water, buckets for laundry and whatever else I might need, and Barley Adam (the barley part of his name came later), I remember, carried the huge box for me. This was my introduction to “Vivian’s stall” at the market which I still frequent to see Ama. Don’t worry, explanations will be forthcoming. If they aren’t, just ask. If I keep stopping to explain here, I’ll never get done, lol. Maybe I can make a post that just answers all of your questions.
That night, I washed the dust off of some of my furniture in my room, and set it up. I remember thinking of how sparse and dirty and lonely it looked, and how hungry I was b/c I didn’t want to impose and eat a bunch of the spaghetti. As you might have guessed, I was dealing with some separation anxiety from my home. The reality of the fact that I would not even be on the same continent for the next 4 months, and I had virtually no way out at the time really started to hit me on my trip over. I felt especially discouraged as we flew over the desolate (yet beautiful) and hot Sahara Dessert. Susan let me borrow her phone to call Sarah so she could call the rest of the family, and I called my Mom and stepdad and my Dad.
I took a cold shower (b/c there’s no hot water) and went to bed exhausted and hungry and with no roommate. It was a little scary as there was barbed wire on the balcony just below mine, there were security guards in front of the hostel and at the entrance to campus and a large bolt on my back door.
(In retrospect, I realize I was in virtually no danger as this is a very safe area. The guards, I think are pretty unnecessary and ineffective, but maybe they do deter crime. The ones at the front of this hostel remind me of Church Point cops, back in the day, only nicer. I still don’t understand the way things work here, but I’m going to assume that doesn’t automatically make these positions without some purpose in mind. Again, I could go off on a tangent, but there’re too many cultural and sociological curiosities, to me, anyway, as an American, to discuss fully on this blog. How can I describe a way of life I myself am still learning?)
So far, my blog may have sounded negative. It’s not meant to be that way. I just want to portray the way I saw/see things. And for the record, even though I was scared, apprehensive, hungry and lonely, I went to sleep that night knowing that it was just the beginning, and I was determined to make the best of my situation. In fact, I didn’t even think I would need to do that long-term b/c I was hopeful that being here in Ghana would be a grand adventure. And so far, it’s been doing a pretty good job of living up to that hope.