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Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The Embassy:

Last night, after going to the beach, we did our laundry at the American Embassy.  Yeah, it does still sound ridiculous saying that.  If you didn’t already know, we have to do our laundry by hand here.  I haven’t tried this yet, because I, like a slob, like to let mine pile up before doing anything about it.  Apparently those who did do their laundry didn’t have a very successful outcome.  So we were at the beach again relaxing in the sun when one of our friends showed up at the beach.  Matt is a US Marine serving here at the Embassy in Ghana.  There are six guys that live in the Marine compound in Accra and we have had the pleasure of being invited over to have a refresher of what American things look like.  We were signed in and given badges to wear and then taken past the entrance.  As soon as we stepped past it, it was like being back in the states.  They had air conditioning, normal furniture, and other American things, like washing machines.  We got to watch movies on their giant projector that comes down from the ceiling while our laundry was washing.  Once again it paid off to be a procrastinator by not doing my laundry right away.  I’m more and more reassured everyday that it’s okay to put things off.  Also, we midwesterners got to share and explain our love of dairy products that no one else seems to understand.  We had a very long, drawn-out conversation about it.


Class is a whole different thing here.  Many students don’t attend class for the first 2 weeks.  Coming from a university that’s rules are so that if you miss the first class of the semester you are automatically dropped from the class, this seems a little lax.  One of our student guides didn’t attend class for the first 6 weeks last semester because he was too busy working.  I guess he did fine.  I’m not sure how that works, but I don’t think I’m going to spend too much time trying to find out.  I really do want to learn here, even though I sort of forgot I was going to go to school while I was here.  My first class was a social work class about personality development and behavioral disorders (which will be basically psych 100 all over again).  I had it with a few other Obrunni’s and we were the only one’s not laughing at the jokes told in class.  Whoops.

This hasn’t happened to me yet, but Claire’s professor never showed up for her class, but she did manage to get 4 phone numbers and someone’s church address.  It is much more common for people to exchange phone numbers here than it is back home.  People will stop you on the street and after talking for less than 5 minutes, they will have your name mastered and they will have asked what room you live in and have asked for your phone number.  Very different social practices.


Bottled water of a few brands is safe to drink, and commonly comes in 1.5 liter bottles (which are just huge).  But the most common way Ghanaians drink water here is sachet water.  It is in a bag and for a fresh stomach like mine, its not the best idea.  By now I’ve had several of them.  After the first one, then two, then three, I assumed I was fine.  Not so much the case.  I have a hard time remembering to take it easy, so this morning/afternoon turned out to be a fun reminder of that.


Going home will be a strangely amazing experience to once again feel clean.  Since arriving here, I have maybe felt completely clean for only the first ten minutes of getting out of the shower each time.  My feet are constantly dirty from all the dirt and walking in sandals, and it’s so hot that we all sweat all the time, and unless we visit the embassy weekly to do laundry, our clothes will definitely not feel as clean as if they would have if they were washed in a washing machine.

Food: A whole separate category.

Rice and plantains are staples here.  Who knew there were so many things you could do with them?  My favorite so far has been red red, which is beans in some sort of sauce with a little spice and fried plantains.  My roommate makes a mean red red.  Other things we eat are jolof rice which is a little like Spanish rice, banku (I still don’t know what this is) that looks like a ball of play-doh in a whitish/tan color that you ball up and usually dip in a sauce.  Sweet bread is delicious, probably not very good for you though.  And one of our favorite things is to get an egg sandwich at the night market from Vivian.  This is an omelet-type thing with cheese and/or meat on the sweet bread.  Another amazing treat we discovered is pancakes (crepes) with nutella on them.  I was quite excited about this find.  Had one today actually.

Fresh fruit and vegetables here are great.  I’ll have a few pictures of some at the market, but the pictures don’t illustrate the taste.  There are so many new things that they grow here that we don’t have at home.  I drank water from a coconut and then got to eat the skin from the middle afterward.  There’s a strange little orange fruit that is sticky inside that you suck the juice from and then eat the stickiness.  There’s a cocoa fruit that you simply suck the moisture from the seeds and then spit the seeds out.  It doesn’t taste like chocolate though.  There are many others that I have no idea about yet.

I’ll wrap it up for now by saying that the Superbowl is on at the same time as there are a few celebrations for Bob Marley’s birthday.  I might have to go with Bob on this one, I guess there will be other Superbowls, but we’ll see.  When in Africa!


  1. Celebrating Bob Marley's birthday!!!! While celebrating, Uncle Mike will be smiling down on you the whole time. Enjoy! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts, so keep them coming. This will end up being quite a treasure when your adventure is finished. Stay safe and take it all in! Sing Happy Birthday for me!!

  2. Really enjoying your journal, Miriam! Felt a breath of fresh air with you as you described the Embassy visit! Gotta have a little reminder of The States once-in-awhile!

  3. 1. Are you sure you're writing this? (because it's quite good, minus a couple typos.)
    2. Don't be flattered by the words "you are beautiful."
    3. The guys at the Embassy love their air conditioning, washing machines and film projector, but not because they love air conditioning, clean clothes and movies. Garbage move. They do it every year.
    4. Keep writing.

  4. PS. is the url for accessing search results from the US... (you don't even have to go to the embassy!)

  5. Miriam,
    You're so fortunate to have an older brother to offer you such sage advice! Also, Jonathan wrote us that he's thinking about joining his brother and your cousin Sarah next month on their visit to you.