“There’s nothing I hate more than an anthology.” Rosemary Maxwell
This entry is a collection of everything I’ve blogged since arriving in Accra. I tried not to edit anything, even though it’s really tempting! The post at the bottom is the first one, and you read from the bottom up. Enjoy :)
At the Cape Coast, in a really American/European hotel, with internet that’s fast enough for a blog. Yay!
Today, we visited a castle used for slave trading. It was bizarre because the dungeons were so unimaginably depressing, but the castle has a beautiful view of the ocean. Cliffs dropping into the beach, fishermen fixing their nets.
Trip to Madina Market
Forget my sweat rag, walk to the trotro stop, run across the street, hear “Madina Madina”, climb over aisle seats to get to the empty back row, pay seventy pesewas, giggle about how clueless we are, bask in the breeze through the open window.
The trotro stops.
The conductor is yelling and laughing and trying to get the door open. Initially I think that someone’s trying to ride on the roof, but eventually we figure out that the conductor dropped one cedi bill out the window. It’s back along the road, in the middle of the intersection. The conductor can’t get the door open, so the driver hops out and runs back to the intersection and, casually stopping traffic, picks up the cedi. The door slams and he’s back.
Watch the cars zoom around us, feel the breeze again, try to speak more quietly, smell the market, see thousands of kiosks, swat flies, get off of the trotro, dodge cars to get to our meeting point.
Our group stands around at the periphery of the market, aimless and enthused. My buddy and I decide to split off from the main group, so we’re not such an obvious cluster of obunis goggling at the market. We make our escape.
Goggle at the market, shop for fabric, bargain, say no no no thank you, hear obruni obruniiiiii, take pictures, smell fish, burn, browse around the fresh veggies, smile at babies on backs, eat coconut meat, hop on the trotro back home. Feel so so so happy.
Next time I might even buy something :)
Tomorrow, the Cape Coast! We’re staying at a really nice hotel, with AC and the internet!
Have patience, have patience, have patience
The first day, they warned us that things move more slowly here than what we’re used to. I just wish I would adjust to this slow pace a lot quicker.
Registration for courses here is a week-long adventure. Have patience! First, you look at the course catalog to pick classes, all at one level and all in one faculty, otherwise the exam schedules may clash. Then, you physically go to every department and check the class schedule, to make sure that your classes don’t conflict and that the classes you want are offered at all. The timetables are posted on a notice board outside each department, but some departments don’t have the timetable posted yet. You can come back tomorrow. Then, you register at each department, and sometimes the departments need to keep the forms overnight. Finally, you register for everything online.
I’m at the stage where I’ve registered for two classes, with seven left to go. By the time this is over, I’ll have my campus map memorized!
The TV room is full of people watching Manchester United versus Somebody. Echoing down the hall, GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL!
ISEP Aplenty, ISEP Galore
There are big differences between ISEP Ghana and ISEP Zurich. In Zurich, there were only four ISEP students and we were independent after arriving at the dorm from the airport. There were no events, orientations, or meetings.
In Ghana, for the past week we’ve spent every waking hour in a group of about 35 ISEP students. We go to breakfast, go to meetings, have lunch, go on tours, have dinner, and hang out at the market or the dorm. The orientation program is very detailed and thorough, and we also have several trips scheduled for throughout the semester, to the Cape Coast and Kumasi.
I’m not sure which program is better. They’re each suited to their location, since Zurich is very similar culturally to cities in America. In Ghana, it’s important to learn lots of health and safety information before living independently. I never would have thought about which particular bottled water is safe to drink or which areas of campus to avoid. Thank you ISEP!
Way too much fun
I can’t describe this at all. So many things are different from home. You have to be here.
Today was a day out for us. We visited so many places- the mall, the W.E.B. Dubois center, a Chinese restaurant, the Kwame Nkrumah memorial park, an art museum, the Saturday market, even the beach. I’m really sorry I can’t describe it accurately at all.
The market is so much better than any mall I’ve been to, because it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen next. One awesome, hilarious thing that happened involved the persistence of one particular street vendor and the reluctance of a fellow exchange student, Adam. We were leaving the Chinese restaurant to spend half an hour at the market, and instantly we were surrounded by people trying to sell bracelets. The bracelets are really cool, they’re the color of the flag of Ghana and if you tell them your name, they’ll stitch your name into the bracelet in five minutes or so. And they cost only one Cedi! One of the vendors asked Adam, what’s your name? Thinking that the vendor was initiating the first step of a more complex strategy to sell him something, Adam told him. The vendor immediately took out a bracelet and tied it around his wrist! It probably made his day that he already had an “Adam” one made. But Adam didn’t want to buy it, so he tried to give it back. He spent the entire time we were at the market trying to give the vendor his bracelet back. He finally succeeded five minutes before we got back on the bus, and spent the remaining free time trying to escape the vendor. After we were back on the bus, the vendor knocked on the windows around Adam, trying to get his attention. We’re still waiting for the next time he finds Adam- on the way to class? On a tro tro? In the hallway of our dorm?
I can’t wait to go back to the market. Anyone want a personalized bracelet?
Day One of TMI
It’s Friday evening. I just washed the dust off my feet, erasing all hope that the toffee color of my skin was actually a tan. It’s the dusty season right now- Harmattan, according to my notes from orientation this morning. Look it up! Orientation so far has been fun, interesting, and encouraging. I think it’s driven by how enthusiastic all of the ISEP students and coordinators are.
Breakfast this morning was at Tasty Treats, a catering service/restaurant that feels like our place already- we’ve had every meal but one there. Today I met the second group of ISEP students who arrived. There’s only one of us who isn’t here yet! Another exciting thing that happened at breakfast was that a fellow student, Kate, not only rescued a fly from her pineapple-orange juice but also dried it off with her napkin so it could fly away.
After eating we took a walk to the ISEP office. It was really pleasant because there was a breeze whisking the humidity away and everyone was talking about their majors, plans for the future, etc. Did you know that Peace Studies is a major?
The orientation seminars themselves were really fun. We learned about staying healthy in Ghana and a little about Ghanaian culture. There was some intense imagery during the presentation about malaria, but I didn’t faint! Only barely, and I was rescued by my neighbors, Julie and Amanda, who kept my notebooks from sliding to the floor. This part of the presentation ensured that I’ll always remember to take my antimalarials and wash my hands before eating.
And the presentation about Ghanaian culture was awesome. The lecturer was really funny and engaging, and we learned a lot. One thing is that Ghanaians use lots of euphemisms. They don’t go to the toilet, they “greet the Chief” or “Merekokyea Nana” in Twi, one local language. And Friday Wear is fashionable. Formal greetings can last hours. Don’t do anything in public with your left hand (besides writing, yay!). And apologize for “every little mistake.”
This post is too long! Thanks for reading! I most likely miss you :)
P.S- not one mosquito bite yet!
The Honeymoon Phase
Walking down the dusty path to breakfast, I love Ghana.
Day Two: 6:35am. I don’t know what to say, I can’t figure out how I feel about yesterday. I think that the confusion comes from the fact that there’s so much to get used to.
Cold showers, bringing your own TP to the bathroom, carrying bottled water everywhere, eating with my right hand, sweating constantly, no ac, no internet. And the biggest surprise- I’m homesick! For Duncanville and Zurich.
Also I still haven’t processed the fact that I’m HERE. Ghana. Yesterday was an exciting and hazy series of incidents- seeing the city appear through the mist above the airport, guiltily not giving magazines or money to the people who whisked away our suitcases, exploring the campus bookstore (with an impressive selection of Hannah Montana and beginner Twi books), eating a revitalizing lunch of dumplings and rice, staring at the vultures and monkeys (we were more curious about them than they were about us), moving into the dorm, taking accidental naps, and meeting so many enthusiastic students- both Ghanaian and American.
I can’t wait for today to start! Hopefully the sleep from last night will make it easier to engage in and respond to all these new things. As for my ambivalent feelings, get back to me in a few days :)