Earthquake what?

Where to begin about today? It began like any other weekday here with the sounds of dogs howling. It turns out that the curious incident of the dog at 12AM is curious to all in the neighborhood. For years these dogs have all banded together between 11:30PM and midnight to howl (really?). It is quite irritating, but hasn’t kept me awake since the first night. I made the mistake of staying up late to talk to my friend and ended up barely being ready to go to the Village with the kids. On the way out the door Senam confessed that he had a meeting and would be leaving me in the care of Nikolas (actually spelled Nicolas, oops). I was ok with this since I believed I was going to meet with the Director at 8AM and be placed at that time. It turns out that he took the morning off, so I was stuck with my strangely tall, overtly flirtatious companion.

Nicolas is a librarian at the school. He spent the day talking to the other adults in the library, most of whom I am not sure what their purpose was. Auntie Veru had a 6 month old with her and spoke to me in Ghanaian English which difficult to understand. Patricia was possibly the physical education coach, but I am not sure, and there was also an intern who played Spider Solitaire on one of the 6 computers and read her Bible (with neatly written summaries she would write in her notebook every now and then). I sat at a table and played Tetris on my cell phone for most of the day, every so often being interrupted by Nicolas asking if I was bored or hungry or wanting to use the internet. At first I thought his odd friendliness was a result of being Senam’s friend and a nice person, but by the end of today I realized that his intentions were not that pure. On several occasions he talked about he and his Ghanaian Canadian friend picking me up in the evenings and ‘taking me out’, going to the beach, and not wanting me to work too hard during the day so that I could go out with him at night (awkward!). The final straw was when he introduced me to the canteen workers as his white wife in Twi so that I did not understand him. I am weary of protesting just yet since my housing has not been finalized with the Director.

My first meeting with the Village Director was at 10AM. After waiting with Nicolas for 3 hours I was excited to see him and hopeful for a good meeting. We went into his office and the first thing that struck me was that I did not receive any sort of greeting. He did not shake my hand, did not say good morning, and did not even make direct eye contact with me. After sitting down he asked me what exactly I wanted to do and I explained to him my interests. He decided that the best placement for me would be in the Kindergarten (ahhhhhhh!) until 1:30 when they close and then I could spend time with the village kids for a few hours in the afternoon. Nicolas then asked him about my housing and the Director began to speak to him in Twi. I found out later that the Director asked for time to see what he could arrange. All of this took place in a span of three minutes, and then I went back to the library… with Nicolas. We also went and spoke with the headmaster of the school who suggested that I be placed in the Special Education classroom. I would help the kids read and write, and follow them to their other classes to assist tehm throughout the day.

He paid for my lunch at noon without my knowledge and disappeared shortly after I met the other Americans staying at SOS. They are from the University of Delaware, and would only being staying there until Wednesday before traveling around the rest of Ghana. For some reason this made my frustration even worse and so, like many students who travel abroad do, I called my mom… who turned out to have a smoke-damaged voice and a country accent- one number off in a telephone call can be so confusing…eventually I got through and she calmed me down quite a bit.

Nicolas and I returned to the Director after some time and were told in yet another brief, this time completely Twi, meeting that he would need until next week to decide. Part of me was quite relieved because it meant another week without having Nicolas as a village-mate, but it does impede on my time spent with the children.

I am beginning to change my mind about my interests in anthropology. While I still would like to help underprivileged populations, I find myself drawn to advertisements (I know that is the purpose of them, shh). What I am most interested in is how companies alter marketing campaigns depending upon the demographic they are selling to. In Ghana everything is sold with 1)bright colors, 2)a jingle, and 3)light skinned (not white by our standards), European featured people. Skin color is such a dilemma in Ghana (and probably many other black African countries) that people bleach their skin and call it ‘conditioning’. A teacher at the school today asked me if I use body lotion and when I said sometimes she asked me what kind. I didn’t realize until late in the conversation that she wanted to know what products kept my skin so light (I am considered a white person to Ghanaians). Anyway, everyone seems to have a cell phone and everywhere seems to advertise them. In Accra beggars hold a bag in their right hand and talk on their cell phone with their left. In Kodzi everyone periodically monitored their cell phones to see any calls missed, and my host family owns at least 5 cell phones between the two parents. On top of that every small village we passé don the way to Kodzi had a combination of red, yellow, purple, and teal stalls representing the major cell companies in the country. There is also large advertising for ‘healthy and nutritious’ biscuits, cocoa, coffee, and cereals, most of which are only a combination of wheat and sugar with ‘vitamins added!’. Slap some light people and a jingle on the commercial and you’ve got yourself a best seller! Children subconsciously sing along with glued eyes on the television every time these ads come on television. I am not sure if there is a field for this, however, since I am not interested in marketing products but keeping them in check.

This evening I may have the pleasure of seeing Nicolas again. He said if he could not make it by this evening he would definitely do so tomorrow and show me how to get a taxi from here to the school. There are counseling sessions at the Village on Mondays through Wednesdays at 7PM, and so I would like to sit in on a few of those. Most importantly I would like a real shower- today in my boredom I began to rub my skin and watch the dirt flake off (my darkness seems to be dirt and not a tan!).

I am hoping that it will get easier once people get to know me. At the end of today several of the children came up to me to say hello and it made my heart lighten a bit. Senam and Geena have warmed up to me tremendously over the past week, so much so that I have talked about politics with them. I just need Nicolas to lay off and others to take an interest…

Oh, the earthquake! When I greeted the family this morning they told me about an earthquake scare that happened in Accra yesterday. Many people heard that at dawn there was to be a large earthquake, and so they all lined the streets preparing for the shakes. Of course there was no such earthquake and everyone felt like a fool. There were rumors that the government was seeing how prepared the city was for one, or that it was just a chain text message that got out of hand… I just think it is funny!

http://gbcghana.com/news/31058detail.html
(earthquake article)

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #13: If you travel abroad for any length of time there is a great chance that you will get homesick. Do not consider this a failure at being a good traveler. Just call your family or your close friend (even if it’s only for a few minutes) and talk to them to ease your anxiety.

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #14: If you are a heavy sweater you may consider bringing baby powder along with you. Skin sticks together when the sun gets hottest and can be very uncomfortable.

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5 Responses to “Earthquake what?”

  1. Dad Says:

    I guess the earthquake in Haiti has everyone a bit on edge, remember door jams and outside in an open area is the best place.

    Question, if my American daughter goes off to Ghana and get’s married do I still have to pay for the wedding? What’s the etiquette?:-)

    As for the skin tone hang ups, don’t worry that’s Africa, it’s unfortunate but a reality.

    What’s the school like and what about the kids? would love to hear more when you get a chance.

    Love
    Dad

  2. Mom Says:

    Beena,

    I think that is awesome that the whole city got punked!!!!!!! Lisa told me about the earthquake thing today. She saw it online. (Just for the record, it is gypped not jipped) Cant help myself :=)

  3. Chelsey Says:

    “if my American daughter goes off to Ghana and get’s married do I still have to pay for the wedding?”

    LOL

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