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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Settling for Unsettlement

We have been extremely busy the first couple of days here.  We are kept running by our student guides.  Tina is my guide; she’s adorable and knows what’s going on.  They are very knowledgeable and helpful and very tiring.  Today is the first day here where I feel like I’m really starting to connect with others here.  I got my phone to work, but am still waiting on internet.  That’s the most frustrating thing not to have, even though it’s been sort of nice to have a break from most technology for a while.

Downtown Accra is crazier than New York City.  There are people everywhere trying to get you to buy something from them.  If you hear hissing, its just their way of getting your attention.  It’s not rude at all here.  If they are yelling out, “Obrunni!” they are most definitely talking to you.  The word means “foreigner”.  My favorite question to ask the people that ask if we are new here is, “How could you tell?”  Or, “Is it because I’m white?” We stick out like a bear in a raspberry patch here.  We are often targets of merchants and beggars.  In the markets bartering is a skill you better have in this area.  Two guys making bracelets were my favorite, they followed our group around teaching us handshakes and rapping for us.  One of them started in on Lil Wayne.  We didn’t buy their bracelets, but we enjoyed the entertainment.

There are many unfinished buildings in construction all over.  Ghanaians are good at building, but they are horrible at maintaining.  Random fact of the day. (for Chelsea)

Sunday is a day for church in Ghanaian culture.  We went with one of our guides, Awushi, to her church today, the LIC.  LIC stands for Legon Interdenominational Church.  I think I will forever be bored in church in the states once I go home again.  They are a God-fearing bunch.  It was an experience to see how they feel the spirit move them.  During the first part of the service, they asked all newcomers to stand and introduce ourselves to the whole congregation.  We did as told.  Then, after two and half hours of sweating profusely in the packed, non-air-conditioned church, they invited new people into a conference room.  (It is not polite to refuse something, so we also did as told.) They welcomed us, served us pineapple juice and cookies that tasted like they were made of mothballs, and answered any questions we had and were genuinely happy to have us.  They take pride in showing new people their ways.  In the conference room, there were two other white people, Kaylie and Charlie, that were in Ghana to student teach.  They were both from Minnesota.

After navigating our way back from church across the vast campus, we ate lunch and headed to the beach.  This was a culture in itself.  Being swarmed by black men who are FAR more forward then American men is a little crazy, not only on the beach, but in the water as well.  “Come with me, the waves are better over here.  What is your name? I can help you swim.”  “No thanks, dude.  I can swim on my own.  Please don’t touch me anymore.”  But all in all, I’m a water kind of girl, so just being there was beautiful.  There’s something about waves crashing, whether that be at the North Shore or the ocean.  The coast is somewhere I could sit all day and not say a word.

After we returned and had dinner, we had some time to relax.  We headed to the night market to explore.  We met an older man, Joe, that gave me his phone numbers (yes, both of them) after we had talked for a while.  He had worked in London for three years earlier in his life.  We met Vivian; she is a fourteen-year-old girl that has been born and raised in Accra.  When she isn’t in school, she is working for her mother running the market store.  She wakes up at 5:00 am and comes to set up the store, and then she goes to school and comes back to the market once school is over until about 11:00pm.  She invited us to sit down and talk to her.  We ended up staying for two hours asking her questions and finding out about her life here.  She wants to be a businesswoman and own her own store someday, and, ”It will be the best store in the country,” she says.  She’s very wise for her age.  She’s so contagiously full of life it’s intoxicating.  She’s my new favorite.

Life is slow.  Africa time affects everything except final exam schedules.  People walk slowly here, however, they drive quickly.  Rushing isn’t heard of unless you’re on a trotro or crossing the street.  I realized how much time I’m going to have to just be.  I had a little bit of anxiety the other day when orientation had ended and I hadn’t had class yet.  I need to learn to relax.  Welcome to Africa.  Or “Akwaaba” as the Twi speakers like to say.

Some of us wanted to go swimming today, but Shadrach, our student guide, told us we were “too fresh” to go to the pool.  I think tomorrow I may head out for a run.

Oh!  I saw the Black Stars! They were just outside the football stadium on campus in full uniform about 50 yards away.  I would have run up to talk to them if they didn’t have their coaches and security around.  Definitely cool.

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