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August 25th 2009
Published: September 10th 2009
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Campus MonkeyCampus MonkeyCampus Monkey

Look closely at the center of the photo- this professor has a "pet" monkey! Soon, I'm gonna make friends with him, and there are even plans in the works to set him free two weeks before our departure :)
So, some of you have brought to my attention that the folks on the other side of the world would like to know how I am, so here's my best as to what's the haps:

School has officially begun...it took a few weeks after the "start date" for classes to actually be taught, but it's happening, folks. I also finally got my schedule under control, too. Whew, paperwork at this school is like a full-time job! So it turns out, I am taking Botany 427: Conservation and Environmental Studies; Geography 307: Intro to remote sensing and GIS; GEOG 429: Environmental Ecology; Political Science 319: Public Policy Making; POLI 305: International Organizations; and Twi Language Class. I decided to go for my political science minor while I am here, since I have left over time in my schedule after taking the three classes I need for my environmental science degree.

So far, the BOTN 427 and GEOG 429 classes are the most interesting, and the poli-sci classes are the worst, most boring things ever. People always say that poli-sci is always boring, but in this case, it has much more to do with the teaching style. For example, the professors
View from my balconyView from my balconyView from my balcony

This is what you see when you look to the right, off my balcony...the "night market" where I get those lovely egg sandwiches, etc.
in my botany and geog. classes are excited about what it is they're teaching, and the poli-sci profs literally DICTATE PARAGRAPHS upon paragraphs to our 300+ people class, and it's just painful!

Anyway, back to the good stuff. There's only four students, including myself, in the botany class (of the 28,000 at this university), perhaps indicative of how much Ghanaian students care about the environment. But the class and professor are so awesome; we've been going on these field trips to sites around campus, and around Accra, looking at waste management systems here in Ghana. I can't even begin to tell you how raw the things are that I've been seeing. Just to give you an idea, the "waste water treatment plant"on campus has been broken FOR THRITY (30) YEARS!! So the sewage from every single person on campus, and mind you, 90% of students and staff live on campus, is flowing into these fields behind campus. The worst part about it all is that there are farmers who live there, and have theoretically speaking, made lemonade out of the lemons they were given, as they have created a network of channels to funnel the "fertilizer"onto their crops. RAW!
View from my balconyView from my balconyView from my balcony

looking all the way left
And this was just on campus... All I can say about the facilities off-campus have also not been functional for five years, cost 22 million pounds (donated by the British Government), and sit right on a lagoon, adjacent the ocean. Yeah, I know this is Africa...but it's still frustrating. I think the worst part about seeing these things was that Ghana literally has all the pieces of the puzzle to function properly, but it STILL doesn't. And don't even get me started on the men who are in charge of running these things...such a waste of a good job (no pun intended). Haha, did I just start this paragraph off with "back to the good stuff" ?!

Which brings me to my Geography class...it's an ecology class, so I'm learning all the ins and outs of ecosystems, etc...very interesting stuff, indeed. But the professor of this class is also really awesome. I went to go see him since I was going to miss one of his classes and we sat and talked about what I had seen on my field trips and the complexities of African societies, etc. We also talked about the fallacy of the practical application of
View from my balconyView from my balconyView from my balcony

That red dirt road leads to the main part of the University
theory here, and so much more. God, I am learning SO MUCH about culture, African Culture, how hard it is to get anything done here, and how much more awesome it is when you actually do get things done here because of all this. Overall, I am so glad I'm here. Even if I'm seeing really raw stuff, I'm meeting people like these professors who are helping me to understand the dynamics of this place. And boy is it complex...I mean every single day, I come up with a new topic for a thesis I don't even want to write- it's a never ending supply of perplexing questions. I guess my mom would say that I've always been good at asking questions...upon questions...upon questions 😊

So anyway, back to everyday life... I'm getting used to the food more, though two of my friends got a bacterial intestinal infection from eating at the night market we've all come to know and love. But I'm blazing on with my iron stomach and it's so far, so good. It's not like people think when they think of Africa. I mean yes, there is more disease here, but no not everyone is sick,
View from my balconyView from my balconyView from my balcony

We're moving from right to left folks
and when you do get sick, as long as you take care of it, life goes on. I mean not to sound morbid, but my friend had malaria last week, was in the hospital, and was out two days later...she's fine! It's not the end of the world if you get sick in Africa...people here just roll with it and understand it happens. So, I put a picture up of what the food looks like...it's all still scarily orange tinted, even to me, but I have my favorites now. And, rest assured, I scoured that night market for the most cleanly food stand, and I'm 100% loyal to them, even if the ladies still give me a hard time for not knowing how to say the things in Twi. These women are so tough, I tell you, I feel like they'd like to whop me upside the the head with their giant wooden spoons when they can't understand my English!! It's no smiles from them...but I still trudge over there and flash my pearly-whites, and I think I'm growing on them...

I'm also getting used to walking about 3-4 miles/day. My feet are like little leather flaps rather than
View from my balconyView from my balconyView from my balcony

more to the left
the soft chariots of grace (haha) they used to be. I literally have to leave my room 30 minutes before class in order to get there when class starts. ALL of my classes are on the perfectly opposite side of campus...I guess it might be the universe's way of laughing at my ever-present and uptight need for symmetry! It's really not that bad, the campus is seriously beautiful with its vast open fields, and ample shade from massive mature trees. But when you have 7:30 A.M. class, getting there on time is kinda brutal. Good thing NOTHING here EVER starts on time.

(A side note about time in Ghana...we have a name for it. So, we're in the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), right? Well, here, GMT stands for "Ghana Maybe Time," since nothing is ever 100% going to happen here. It's kind of heard to explain, but say we're supposed to meet with out friends for dinner @ 6:30. We show up at 6:30, and then proceed to wait until 8:15 when they roll in...and that's a conservative example. My friend Jessica once waited for her date to pick her up FOR THREE HOURS. And this was a boy

This is a typical meal that I eat from the night market ladies: "jollof"rice, plantains, spicy sauce, and a coke...I love coke these days since the ones here actually have sugar rather than corn syrup :)
who was trying to win her affection. American brains just don't work like that !!! After weeks and weeks of jaw-clenching frustration over EVERYONE's tardiness but our own, we decided to just be tardy too...and NEVER EVER believe that when someone says something will happen at a certain time, or that it actually will ever take place, at all. Basically, it's a freaking miracle that ANYTHING ever gets done around here. It turns out the one thing you can count on Ghanaians for is to not count on them, so now we just forget we had plans, then magically remember we were supposed to do something 20 minutes before we were supposed to do it, and start getting ready at that point. Somehow, we manage to show up when everyone else does. This was a very hard struggle for all of us Americans, and I personally want to pull out my hair every time still, but if this is the most culture shock I have, then bring it on 😊

I also attached some pics of my room and the view from my sweet balcony. Always the rebels, my friends Jessica and Sam (we're now called the tri-fecta 😊
My RoomMy RoomMy Room

Some of you wanted to know what it looks like...here you are, the view from my bed
"borrowed" a couch from the T.V. room and put it on their balcony, so we mostly hang out there...my roomie and I might have to follow suit, since it is really nice to study out there.

Speaking of studying... it's taken me about 5 years to write this thing, so I'm going to hit the books before my TWI quiz today.

I love you and miss you all...
oh, almost forgot...I get free incoming calls 😊 +233279220925 (and yes, my number is really that long). And, if you should so be inclined to send lovely American treats that I can't get here, (Emergen-C; hand sanitizer, etc)
my address is:
Robin Ray
University of Ghana
P.O. Box LG 453
Legon, Accra, Ghana
West Africa

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


My RoomMy Room
My Room

My little bed
My RoomMy Room
My Room

Pink, yes, PINK mosquito curtains. So me!
UG Botanical GardensUG Botanical Gardens
UG Botanical Gardens

Mom! come visit!
UG Botanical GardensUG Botanical Gardens
UG Botanical Gardens

I LOVE these trees
UG Botanical GardensUG Botanical Gardens
UG Botanical Gardens

Me where I love to be!
UG Waste Water Treatment PlantUG Waste Water Treatment Plant
UG Waste Water Treatment Plant

Pump house from the '70's when the plant was built
UG Waste Water Treatment PlantUG Waste Water Treatment Plant
UG Waste Water Treatment Plant

It's grown over with thick vegetation
UG Waste Water Treatment PlantUG Waste Water Treatment Plant
UG Waste Water Treatment Plant

RAW sewage flowing out
Toxic WasteToxic Waste
Toxic Waste

Look at these fluorescent bulbs being burned on campus...wow
Accra Waste Water Treatment PlantAccra Waste Water Treatment Plant
Accra Waste Water Treatment Plant

In disrepair. Look at the "lagoon"behind it... :(
Accra Waste Water Treatment PlantAccra Waste Water Treatment Plant
Accra Waste Water Treatment Plant

More disrepair, and it's only 7 years old
Cesspit TruckCesspit Truck
Cesspit Truck

Yes, it goes straight into the ocean. Yes, I started to cry when I saw this.

10th September 2009

Can you get some photos of the pumps in the wastewater treatment plant? I sell pumps for a living I'm curious! ;) I will attempt to read your update [book] here soon!! Glad to see/read you are doing well

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