Thursday, March 29, 2012

I met a woman named Modest on Tuesday, less funny than Hilarious (oh! a pun!) but still, funny.

Hi Mom!

I was thinking. You know what would be lovely, season tickets to the opera. J So, I was, uh, wondering, if, uh, maybe they’re available you could check it out. You and dad and I could go, eh? As of now, of course, I have no fall plans so, I’m game for anything. Just something to check out because the cheap ones get snapped up quickly. So, yes.

Were you able to print the pictures?

Today Lemuel had a headache and was feeling sickly. I said I could bring him some Advil, “An American medicine” and, swear to god, he looked at me a bit skeptically and asked, “Are you sure it will work on a strong African like me?”

Which leads me to the next part of my email (also, the Advil worked, he was visibly shocked):


1.       We have weak bones. Legitimately there is agreement that our bones are not strong and flexible.

2.       From that they believe that we are incapable of lifting heavy things. If given the choice of asking an 8-year- old African child to help lift something or me, the child is always summoned.

3.       Additionally, we do not have strong blood. They’re always encouraging me to drink/eat different things to help strengthen my blood.

4.       We can’t ride bicycles. Whenever my students see me do it they roar with applause.

5.       We can weed. Can’t wash clothing. Can’t wash dishes. I spoke to Lemuel about this and he said he thinks they think so because they assume we have machines to do all these things so that we are no longer able to perform the tasks.

6.       For some reason they don’t entirely understand, our skin turns red in the sunshine. There is little comprehension of why this happens or what it means, but I am often encouraged to leave the sun so I don’t turn red.

7.       Another mystery to them is how my hair strangely turns brown after I bath. Then changes again to blonde after a while. They don’t understand this.

8.       We are all the same. I swear, every week I get at least one person who says, “Whoah, you and Dima are not alike at all!” I smile, unsure of how to respond and they look at me expectantly. Awkwardly I say something like, “Oh! Okay!” Of course we’re different, by golly, we’re from entirely different countries (continents even), we’re different ages, different socio-economic backgrounds, etc. We’re different, solidly.

In other major news, Precious left the school. She’s taken a temp job doing voter registration because apparently the pay was too good to pass up. Now the students have no teacher for two of their classes though. It’s a bit sad to see her go, but I’m not terribly affected to be honest. If Josephine left too it would be weirder. I need to have African girlfriends…or, at least one. I hang out with too many men.

After a solid 7-9 days without water, it came last night at 11. I mopped and cleaned like a crazy lady in the night. God, it’s good to have it back.

In other dramatic events, Nicholas (who’s currently obsessed with Britney Spears…a benefit only in that his obsession with Amy Winehouse has been muted) and Naomi lost my iPod. I was really disappointed in them. I didn’t yell though, didn’t raise my voice. Told them they needed to get it back to me and that I was upset and disappointed. I learned later that they both cried after, as well as two other students in commiseration. Then, they skipped school to search for it. And consulted a fetish priest. Turns out Godwin found it on the table and gave it back to me later. Still, days later, complete stranger children are coming up to me to ask about it. They are all very relieved about it.

On that note, I was thinking, if I were to write a novel about my times here I would call it something like:



That said, my kids have actually been really good lately. Like, really good. I don’t know what happened, but I believe we’ve come to an understanding. Finals are next week and a little the week after. Then, Dima and I will go on a boat trip (hopefully) and I on to BF.

Hooray! Also, I just learned that Easter is this weekend. Is that true? If so, Happy Easter! I hope you eat cake. Mmm.

Anyhow, how are you? Why have you not emailed me? What’s up? How’s school? How are the taxes going? I liked your Ghana emails.

Well, love you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I am pretty sure my neighbors are raising their cats as food. The kittens that turn to adults disappear.

Hi Mom!

Maya caught a bat?! Don’t let her get rabies. She’s one tough booger, my littlest love. The tulips are up? Good golly! Also, ha! Dad told me you were worried about my plans for the 3 day camel trip. I laughed and said, “I love that she is not worried about me journeying to Burkina Faso, but IS worried about back pain from camel riding.” I think it means you’ve come to trust me and my wayward ways. True or false? I paid $665/month. Poor Lynn’s son. He was into hitching rides on trains to travel to protests. Plus, nonmonogamous relationships.

Sorry it’s been so long, but I’ve been legitimately busy with schoolwork and the like. How are you? Everything is fine here. It’s hot as heck, como siempre and there’s no water, also como siempre. Some things have changed though including:

1.       My sandals have been fixed! My FABULOUS student John (1/2 of the pair of smartie boy twins John and Johnson) patched ‘em up something wonderful.

2.       I miss Maya with an intense desperation new to me. I’ve been dreaming both about her and about other cute and cuddly things.

3.       I’ve been very into BOTH grade 4 and 5 this week.

a.       Grade 5 finished their book report to some “eh” results, but, by golly we did it. As a reward they got to make bookmarks which I laminated. Lawer decorated his with “I love Madam Nix,” Nicholas stressed out over his for days, the girls all covered theirs with flowers, and John (see above), the cheeky devil included the school logo on one side and, ahem, a small picture of a white woman in a bra on the other side. I admire his decision. J

b.      Grade 4 finished making their books (also thank god). On Wednesday I had been prepping them that we would be having 25 guests come to class. The students would each get one guest to themselves and they would first read their story and then, with the help of their guest, make a small book. The kids were dying of curiosity and I was badgered with questions such as, “Madam, are they white people?” “Madam, are they teachers?” “Are they from the village?” “Are they from your country?” etc. I did not tell them. Precious egged them on, telling them they must tidy the room for the guests and, “The guests just called to say their plane landed.” The guests were…kids from KG1, preschool. J I gathered all the babies with me, walked them to the classroom and the students had a righteous laugh. They made the books and the babies are cherishing them. They’re everywhere with them and I’ve accidentally acquired a small mob of MAJOR fans. Adorable.

                                                               i.      Other Grade 4 news: I’ve acquired myself two project students. One, Prosper, is too smart for his own good. He’s taken to writing stories for me to edit. His most recent one, created over the span of 3 days is a solid 17 handwritten pages and details the story of a mouse and her babies and a snake and her babies and their difficulties because they both keep eating each other. Second, Richmond, who is in grade 4 and, well, I asked him to write every word he could think of that he knew and he finished with: Richmond, ICT, RME, book, cat, is, so. And that was all. He doesn’t really have a good grasp of the alphabet and, honestly, has no chance of passing grade 4. He should not be in grade 4. He should be in grade 1 and I think the school is foolish for forcing him to associate with his friends in age versus his academic rivals, but, heck. So, I’m teaching him words now and he’s in a fever to learn. He wants to have class with me after school for one hour and in the evening for one hour. I’m trying to cut down, but he’s really, really interested in learning and I can’t say no to that. So, projects. Glad to be here. J

4.       Solidly stoked for break in Burkina. Not that I’ve yet done any research or anything productive like that, but, emotionally, I’m there. On that note, apparently, I’m done teaching for the term. Next week is “revisions” which means studying for the finals and the week after is finals. HOW TIME FLIES. On that note, 55 days until I leave. I’m pretty sad, but it’s still a number big enough that I’m not in too big of a panic.

5.       My vomit count holds at 3, which I think means I’ve turned African.

6.       Wanna know one of my new favorite things about Ghanaians? The words they use like, even from the little, little ones: vernacular (“Madam, Philo is speaking vernacular!”), flattulate (solidly unsure how to spell it) (*Snicker* “Madam, Lawer flattulated!”), buttocks, urinate, mucus. I’m also a 12 year old that I secretly giggle every time they use these words.

7.       OH! In other news, Keke was sick for 2 days and the whole world felt wrong. Random students cooked and things, but the vibe was all off without her sassy ways. I jumped and hugged her when she came back.

8.       I have to go to Accra tomorrow to get my passport back. I tried to go today, but after a late moto, flat tire, then complete engine failure I decided to call it quits.

I think that’s about all that’s going on in the hood. Oh, also, got into too many discussions about religion. Ghanaians are all nice, and welcoming, and lovely…just until you mention atheism, good golly, I’d prefer back surgery to more religious talk.

Love you,

Tell me all about the tulips.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My mother's "Final Thoughts for the Blog"

(She's wonderful, my mother.)

What I enjoyed most in Ghana:
·     Spending time with Nix.

·     The Children

·     Village life.

·     Mole National park

·     The market

·     Keke¹s cooking

·     Ada Fao

·     Lizards

·     Star beer

What I enjoyed least
·     Hard mattresses

·     Unremitting heat

·     Thrash

·     Lack of running water

My hopes for the people of Ghana re that they:
·     Will complete the village school and library

·     Provide affordable education for all children

·     Protect the environment

·     Replant trees

·     Find ways to manage thrash

·     Invest in clean drinking water

·     Adopt effective malaria control measures

·     Use solar-powered stoves instead of charcoal for cooking

·     Pave the road from Tamale to Mole

From My Mom...

My Spring Break Trip

During my spring break I traveled to Ghana to visit Nix and reassure myself
that all was well. Getting ready for the trip while working full time and
chairing the Biology Department was challenging. I hesitated because I did
not want to cut class.  The result was that I submitted my visa application
at the last minute and agonized over getting approval for days before my
departure.  I had to make an appointment at St. Louis Park for the
compulsory yellow fever vaccination and the malaria preventive medications.
While at the Travel Clinic I got three other shots for good measure.  I was
also waiting for the delivery of the books that I ordered from Amazon for
Dima.  In the end everything clicked except for one of the books. 

On March
2, I was on the overnight KLM flight to Amsterdam.  After a few hours delay
I boarded the plane to Accra.  The plane arrived in Accra at 9PM local time,
but we spent another hour waiting in line to have our passports and luggage
checked.  At first I did not spot Nix at the airport; she was waiting just
outside the terminal.  We spent the night at Afya Village Hotel. 

The next morning we boarded a tro-tro van and headed out to her village.
The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the teacher¹s house was the
children. They were lounging and watching TV in the living room.  Several of
them came up to Nix and greeted her warmly.  There was one adorable 2
year-old boy who had only a shirt on.  We unpacked the games and candies I
brought along and shared them with the children.

Nix informed me that there was no running water and we would have to use the
water from the barrel in her bathroom to bathe etc until the flow resumed.
In the afternoon we took a walk through the village and out to a couple of
lakes nearby.  I was grateful that we had waited until the temperature
dropped a bit. Even so, it was quite hot. The houses in the village are
either built out of cement or mud.  The mud dwellings have thatched roofs
and a dirt floor.  Chickens, goats and sheep wander around freely in the
village.  There is rubbish scattered everywhere.  At the lake we spotted,
egrets, herons, hawks and vultures.  We examined a termite mound as we
walked along and picked blackberries.  One of the boys caught a colorful
striped grasshopper.  He let it go unharmed after Nix photographed it. We
came across a few baobab trees as we continued toward a smaller, more
picturesque pond.  By then I was getting a little anxious because I did not
want to return in the dark.  However, we made it back in good time and were
served a fine supper the Keke prepared.

I slept well that night.

Over the next few days:
·     We went to the market at Kasseh.

·     Purchased colorful fabric for matching outfits for Heinrich and I.

·     Witnessed the marching celebration on Independence day.

·     Returned to Accra for an overnight stay at Byblos hotel in the
Lebanese district.

·     Flew to Tamale in the North.

·     Took what is alternately described as the ³bus ride from hell² or an
³African adventure² from Tamale to Mole National Park.

·     Spent two nights at Mole Motel and went on walking and riding safaris
while there.

·     Saw elephants, baboons, crocodiles, antelopes, warthogs up close.

·     Sampled Star beer each night of our stay.

·     Decided against visiting the famous mosque at Larabanga.

·     Returned to Tamale by taxi.

·     Arrived covered by red dust.

·     Cleaned up at Gariba hotel.

·     Flew back to Accra in the morning.

·     Traveled to the village by taxi and tro-tro where a funeral was in
full swing.

·     Ate fufu for supper.

·     Relaxed at the beautiful beach in Ada Fao

My impressions of Ghana are the following:
·     The people are friendly, helpful, good looking and strong.

·     Both adults and children appear healthy and adequately nourished.

·     Outside of the capital there are very few whites.

·     The climate is hot; it barely cools down at night.

·     In the South the landscape is flat with alternating scrub and

·     Long-horned cattle graze in the open pastures.

·     It is more wooded in the North, but trees are being cut and converted
to charcoal at an alarming rate.

·     Termite mounds are everywhere.  The taller ones resemble Gothic

·     Large wild animals are not encountered outside of the game preserves.

·     Traditional villages look very picturesque but the lives of the people
living in them are neither easy nor comfortable.

·     Funerals are big, noisy, expensive, 3-day affairs.

·     Children are required to do a lot of fetching and work on farms during
school holidays.

·     Markets are exciting and colorful venues where women, children and men
sell everything from sunglasses to boiled eggs that they carry around piled
up on trays posed on their heads.  Babies are strapped to the women¹s backs.
The women wear long, beautiful, close fitting dresses at the market.

·     Both men and women wear their hair short.  Long locks, if present,
consist of artificial hair that is woven into the short curly strands of the
wearer during a lengthy, painful session at the hair dresser.

·     You can tell young boys and girls apart by the fact that, in addition
to dresses, girls have their ears pierced.  Other piercings and tattoos are

·     Women may expose their breasts somewhat, but never their midriff or

·     Buses and other modes of transportation make travel within the country
fairly rapid and inexpensive. However, there is no air-conditioning or
toilets on the bus. Even a long, hot, smelly, uncomfortable bus ride can be
bearable with the right companion at your side.

·     Ghanaian cooking is spicy and flavorful.  Eggs, chicken, cassawa,
rice, beans and soft bread are common staples
Though I did not enjoy the heat, if you asked me whether I would go to Ghana
again, I would say, yes, in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Doing Actual Work is Boring.

Hi Mom,

You did not write my blog entry yet. Don't forget!

Totally strange. It's been super hot here. Like, especially super hot.

Apparently clay also gives you constipation (extra funny because no
Ghanaian I know knows the English word for constipation so every
discussion also includes an enactment). But, weird about the minerals.
I hear it's a hit especially with pregnant ladies.

The worst thing about the story (which I neglected to remember until
today) is that the students will be copying it into story books and,
ahem, drawing pictures to go along with the words...then, they will
read their stories to the nursery students. Lord help me. Did I
mention that the student who wrote it is my tiniest student of all and
good golly adorable?

How was the neighborhood meeting?

I got a tour of Lemuel's farm today. I hope to be gorging on his
watermelons in a month or so. The entire student base thinks we're
shagging. Also, most of the folks in his village. I was trying to be
extra flirty to embarass him more. He's very tolerant though
"accidentally" forgot to show me which house is his. I'm trying not to
take it personal. He did tell me recently that I was "created, not
born" which, aside from the religious implications, seems a nice

I've been typing up final examinations. It's dullsville.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Welcome back to America!

Editors note (read, me): I told my mom that she should write an entry for my blog about her trip and impressions. Once she does that, I'll post it, so you'll hear nothing of it until then!

On another note, remember when I asked my mom about the change in my sweat smell? Because the smell of sweat is caused by bacteria and I was wondering if my sweat smelled like Africans because of my change of diet or because of African armpit bacteria. Well, she had an answer for me - apparently, she believes it's the latter option. My American armpit bacteria have been annihilated by the African armpit bacteria and now the newcomers have settled in and changed the entire scent scheme. Needless to say, I'm feeling kind of guilty. My poor little American bacteria had no desire to come here, then I force them into it and BAM, they're shoved aside, no ceremony to the loss. On the plus, apparently bacteria can hibernate for a long time, so maybe they're just hibernating until I get back home.

That said, here's my email to my mom.

Hi Mom!

I shall anxiously await your email to add to the blog. :) I do not look forward to the flight home. That said, it was really wonderful seeing you and I'm forever grateful that a. you're largely tolerant of me and b. that you're my mom.

Want to know the WEIRDEST thing I've learned about Ghanaians? So, yesterday Mustafa (our cook's son, he's a complete little firecracker who breaks everything he touches, but looks adorable and giggles all the while) came in the house with a white mouth and sticks out his tongue to show Stronggy and I. I ask what it is and Stronggy tells me that it's aielo. Aielo is...processed clay. Like from the ground white clay. And Ghanaians eat it. Dumbfounded I pressed him, "Like dirt? Why in the world would adults eat dirt?" He explains that it tastes/smells like it smells right after a rain (you know that nice smell, right?) and people like that. So, anyhow, today I went to the market and bought some. While Precious was getting her hair done I sampled it (under the careful watch of half a dozen women), it's dirt. Grimy, dirty dirt. Ghanaians eat dirt. Not all Ghanaians mind you, but some. I don't know how to come to terms with it.

In other news (tragic news!) my flip flops of 3+ years have just broken. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I was in fact pretty saddened by the loss.

In other other news (also on the Ghanaians are strange front) I got the stories written by the 4th graders today. They're kind of boring largely, with a few really neat ones and, this one, which, in the States would have me running the kid to see a therapist, but, apparently it's cool here and not a big deal.

With no further adieu, The Hen and The Mouse.

(Note: I'll fix spelling, but nothing else.)

Once upon a time there lived 2 good friends called hen and mouse. One day hen told mouse that they should go and cut sticks to build a house. Mouse told hen that he had his own house so that if rain would fall he would go to his own house so he would not go. So hen went and cut the sticks to use to build the house.
When rain was falling his house was full of water so he ran to hen's house and said that hen should give him a towel so he can clean the water. After insulting mouse she gave the towel to mouse. The mouse said she should give her cloth.

And hen was insulting mouse. After insulting mouse, she gave the cloth to mouse.

So mouse said he would sleep on hen's bed and hen was insulting mouse. After insulting him, she said mouse should come and sleep. Then, when they were sleeping mouse called to hen and said that he and hen will get love.

So when they are sleeping mouse said, "I will sleep with hen." When they are sleeping then mouse said that he will rape hen. And he was raping her and his penis has cut into hen's vagina and they tight it and they are doing it and the penis has cut into hen's vagina and they tight. Once when they are doing it his penis cut into hen's vagina.


I have no idea what to do with this story. Precious said it's good because they've been studying rape in RME (religious and moral education).

Well, that's all. Love you!