Thursday, April 26, 2012

Serious weakness for African rastas. Oof-duh.

Hi! I didn't name her! She had the name before I got her. I just don't want to create confusion in the world. Plus, she would be a lovely representative for the Mayan people (any people, really). I can't wait to see her.

On that note, HI! I am in Ghana now and glad to be back. It's hot, of course, but unlike Burkina, it's not so hot that I wake up in the night a lot drenched in sweat and parched. I am in Cape Coast. This is where Obama first visited upon his presidency. Needless to say, much like the rest of Ghana, they love him/Americans here...except maybe moreso. I would hate to be in Ghana if he loses the next election. It's good, you know, to have a whole continent behind you. Also, I get a bit giddy at the fact that Canadians sometimes fib and pretend to be American unlike it usually is. Also, overjoyed at the English. Seriously, no one speaks English in Burkina. No one at all.

So, Cape Coast is the site of several forts/castles that were used in the slave trade. The people were rounded up by the area chiefs from surrounding areas (stretching North to BF) then brought to the forts here and kept in horrid conditions for weeks to months before a boat arrived to take them to Brazil (the most slaves from West Africa were sent there, did you know that?), the Caribbean (the second most), or the US (the least, can you believe it?). I did a couple tours this morning. It was heartbreaking and educational. I realized throughout the tour that I've actually received a pretty good basic education on the slave trade from grade school. Compared to the Ghanaians I've known here, I would have been an expert on slavery in grade 6.

Tomorrow I shall go on to Busua to spend a couple of days drinking beer and surfing (surfing BEFORE drinking, I know...). Then, back to the village to check on the progress of my seamstress (did I tell you I found an AMAZING one? She's the sister of Ernest, the science/maths teacher, however, he's a flake so it's tricky trying to do things with her as she's located in the middle of nowhere).

Also, mom, have I told you my current fear? I might want to...teach more than just English. Like, be a regular grade school teacher. This desire is rooted in my new favorite love Don't be shocked. It's just, at the primary level (not the nonsense you teach, don't worry that stuff is WAY beyond my interest level :) ) it's SO cool and fun and interesting. So, there's that. SCSU doesn't have a Master's in that though (from what I can tell), wait...does it even exist? Probably does. Probably ought to do some research.

Oh! Please wait until I give you the a-okay before sending the reference forms out, okay? I'm just double-asking my writers.

So, all is well, solidly. It's exactly 3 weeks until my arrival back. Whoah.

Hope the weather there stays nice and that you gave Calvin some birthday hugs for me. Also, have you booked my East Coast trip?

Love you!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I have enough sand in my nose to build a castle.

Hi Mom, This keyboard is not laid out like any I have seen before!
Also, I can't find a period! Prepare for a lot of exclamation marks!

I am quite happy to have received your emails, sometimes you get a bit lax about responding, so I always wonder! I am in Ouagadougou! Remember how we thought Tamale was hot? Child's play! I love that you read about the camel ride as being pulverising to the behind! Mostly, the wooden seat was pulverising for my thighs!

I don't know if words can explain how annoying this keyboard is!

So, yes, though rumors abounded about the unrest in the Sahel due to the Tuareg unrest/rebellion in Mali. Wait, look at that, I just found the period! Anyhow, though deserted (the local kids said that the last white folks they saw were a couple weeks ago in a place the internet refers to as "The town has modernized a lot and is getting timbuktu-ified with tourists. The guides are pests.") the only unsafe feeling I had was from my guide and his attempts to constantly touch me. Actually, that's a lie. I was conpletely terrified on the bus ride North, though, let it be clear that it was only in my head and there was nothing on the trip to elicit my fears. The ride was nice, a bit boring really, as we were just trekking through desert, there wasn't much to see. As I rode the camel (boy was he irritable!) the guide walked (boy was he irritating!) and the camel boy (who was lovely, but had an utterly unprounouncable name) rode on the back of the camel. We slept on mats on top of a dune. The second day we went on to a further little mango grove, then back to Gorom. The guide ditched me and camel boy, but I was grateful. Also, camel boy spoke only limited French so it was nice and quiet. I spent the night in, from what my guide and I could find, the only operational lodging in Gorom. It was like a prison cell, except they didn't even make any attempt to remove the cockroach carcasses, and MY GOD hot. What I learned in Gorom is that sometimes a breeze isn't a nice thing. Sometimes it's like you're sitting in a sauna (without the luxury of being able to strip down to your skivvies) and a BLAZE OF FIRE comes rushing at you. Ooof. Definitely the hottest place I've ever been.

A good learning experience though, I saw Tuaregs. They look just like Arabs. Are they (historically, that is)? They don't ride camels, really. They ride motorbikes like everyone else, or take the bus, you know? Normal stuff. I met fulani (my guide) people and Bella (camel boy) as well. The Tuaregs and Fulani used to hold the Bellas as slaves. Though it's now illegal, the Bellas are still in the lowest class and considerably less wealthy. It's like the US in that way - the light skinned people use and abuse the dark skinned people and still now the repercussions of the subjugation are felt.

So, yes, now I am in Ouaga, have been fending off consistent and annoying shouts of "La Blanche!!!!!!!!!!!" all day. It's exhausting. I could never live here.

I miss Ghana. The people there are more well behaved (people here smoke and drink!) and love white people more (here people are less in love with white people, they "tolerate" white people). Plus, French is so difficult and I am completely inept.

Tomorrow I fly back, via Air Burkina. Then I plan to go to Cape Coast to see the Forts and do some surfing. Oop, time is up!

You never told me why you spell Maya incorrectly. Will you do that when I have children?

I love you so much!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Last one before leaving the country.

Hi Mom!

How are you?

Everything is fine here. Dad said you were worried. I am in Bolgatanga, I hear it's 45 minutes from the border so I'll be heading there tomorrow. The boat trip up the Volta was lovely. Dima and I splurged to get a cabin and, after a couple hours of effort, we got the last one. It was mangy and smelled awful, but, compared to everyone else sleeping on the deck, it was luxury. I had beer and coffee and nutella and drove the boat for exactly 2 seconds before getting shooed away. Also, snuck to the roof of the boat and saw 6 potential UFOs (or satellites, maybe) and one shooting star. Last night we spent in Yeji and today spent 10 hours travelling by trotro to arrive here.

I don't know how things will go in BF. Some people who just came from there said that the Tuareg rebellion in Mali is also strong in BF and, in the region I want to ride my camel, apparently there are thousands of refugees arriving daily so, rumors say that the entire area may be a closed military zone. I hope not sincerely, of course, and, don't worry, I'm not a foolish girl.

Anyhow, love you desperately and, holy cow, I'll be home in less than a month.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I suck at riding bicycles in Ghana.

Hi Mom!

Microscopy went well. I am worried whether or not it shall actually be
put to use because Ernest is under the impression that the kids will
not be able to understand. Silly, really, because you can teach almost
anything to a way that kids can understand, you just have to make it
small. I told him he must do it before I leave because, if not, I'm
sure it shan't happen.

Like I said before, there are so many unused resources here, just
looking at the spare room in my house and you can find so many neat
things donated by volunteers that are sitting there, gathering dust.
You know how you said Rebecca seemed a little disillusioned with the
school scene when she left Gabon, I wonder if I shall feel the same
leaving here.

Yes, boat trip...well, I hope. I had thought Dima made the
reservations, but today she said she hasn't yet and she might be going
on a roadtrip with Godwin instead. I'm disappointed, of course, but
hopeful. Either way, I'll do it on my own. The trip is 3 days, from
Akosombo Yeji, then I'd zoom on to Tamale again, then North to
Ougadougou. Fingers crossed, of course. :)

I think this was my first Easter without chocolate. Lemuel brought me
a huge bag of mangoes, so I wasn't suffering at all though. The day
was spent running races, hunting for afienga berries, reading, and, my
new favorite hobby, watching Merlin, a British TV show on DVD. Within
the village we have seasons 2-6. I am currently borrowing season 3
from Keke and season 2 from Nicholas' uncle.

Keke has been on it lately. She nearly killed me when I turned the TV
off the other day to teach microscopy, hugged me the day after, tried
to cane me a day later, and now is taking me to her seamstress. She's
terrifying and I adore her. I'm also pleased to hear that I'm in her
"People I Like" circle. I've learned that she dislikes many people. On
the other hand, Mustafa has made a little turnaround. His English
suddenly got loads better, he hasn't broken anything in ages, and he
keeps asking me to help him with writing. So, he sits, silently, and
we write together. It's mind blowing. I'm feeling solidly infatuated
with him. I have a recording of him singing the Ghana national anthem,
it's SO cute I want to squeal.

It's 36 days, do you know that? I'm already feeling the pangs of
imminent depression. I'm really, really going to miss it here. The
kids, the teachers, the housemates.

On that note, we have a temporary new housemate. Solange, she's from
Switzerland and gradated high school there, but then her Togolese
parents shipped her here to attend school and learn English. The whole
situation sounds a bit strange, but she's here and nice company. Plus,
she believes in evolution and, unlike me who's so careful not to
offend, she's been calling everyone fools for not believing. I
silently praise her.

Oh, yes, and guess what mom? Per some people recently, I learned that
my butt is not big like African ones because you bathed me incorrectly
as a baby. Also, ahem, that is why I am "not fit like an African." The
girl who said this positively got me irked so I challenged her to a.
tell me how she came across the information about my physical
abilities and b. duel with push ups. She couldn't do even one push up,
but still insisted that I just don't understand physical strength
because I am too weak to comprehend. Gah.

I've become completely obsessed with buying fabrics lately upon the
realization that I can't buy them at home. So I've had to budget
myself at the market. Currently I've got items being made at 4
different seamstresses. Lush, eh?

I'm sorry you didn't see Karl on Easter. He's a bit of an airhead
about telling people when/where/how he'll be coming places.

As for visiting Rebecca, just check with her. I asked her briefly, and
she said that she doesn't get out of school until late, so bear that
in mind. Also, be sure it doesn't conflict with dad's planned trips
(Did you book the East Coast and Austria? If not, please do.) so I can
run the restaurant.

Also, if I were to hypothetically smuggle seeds to the U.S. (not that
I would) would I dry them first?

I miss you and love you. Thank you so much for the microscopy help. I
wish you were here to teach it for me, I'm not so savvy and can't get
many things to work, but, I try.

Ps: Last day of exams today, hooray! That said, I have to be marking
compositions from the 4th graders. Time, perhaps, to put a beer in the

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I want exams to be over so I can stop failing people.

Hi Mom,

I’m guessing the jaw pain is stress related. Clenching, you know? You should do some yoga and/or meditation.

Hooray Opera! It can be my birthday and Christmas present, eh? :)

Do you spell Maya incorrectly on purpose? Are you trying to change her name? We have had water NONSTOP for two days. It’s obscene.

Also, I think the rainy season has officially made its debut. We’ve had some awesome rains both yesterday and today. Unfortunately, one of the major rains occurred during exams while the students were in the primary building (see the photo from the beginning of the blog) and so the students got soaked and moved and there was rampant cheating and LORDY me, it was loud.

Also related, though not as dramatic. Twice in the past day a frog has lept on my foot while walking. Both times I shouted, “Jesus!” thereby leading several people to the assumption that I have allowed Jesus into my heart. I’ve argued to the contrary, but they’re unconvinced.

Approximately one million of my students just failed their exams. Big time ugh.

Of the 6 million that did not fail, approximately 4 million of them cheated. Are exams always this hard?

I have 4 beers stored under my desk to be put in the fridge and consumed in extreme need (as drinking beer is moderately frowned upon) and I’ve put two in.

On the plus, the microscope project is fun. I wish I had discovered them earlier too. There are so many things that people/organizations have donated to the school  and/or village that are unused. I’m sure whoever provided the microscopes thought, “Wow! Those African kids are going to love these!” and that would be true if anyone actually put them to use, but, no. They’ve sat on a shelf gathering dust for who knows how long? As I said to Nicholas, without knowledge and inspiration to use them, they’re no more useful than a stack of wood. (Somehow from this statement he decided that I had said that without use they would turn into a stack of wood, so there was about 15 minutes of solid confusion following this comment.)

On Saturday Lemuel and Ernest (science teacher) will be coming over to learn about microscopes. They have never even seen a microscope before and, from what I can gather, don’t know what it is or is used for. They’re excited though. Everyone is. With some students we’ve been busily making “slides” with laminating paper and examining them. We have: 4 kinds of soil, 5 kinds of hair (Caucasian, African, fake, goat, cat), one ant, one squished spider, one spider exoskeleton, one butterfly wing, my blood, 2 flower petals and one leaf, spider web, onion skin. That might be all so far. I’m trying to fashion my student Naomi into being the expert. I want her to be a scientist because a. she’s got the right sort of thoughtful personality, b. she bombed her English exam, and c. this area is in desperate need of a good scientist. She ran down a goat to get the goat hair (it was hilarious, as you can imagine) and, don’t ask me how, but she’s the one who got the butterfly wing.

Also, can you please send me information about the basics of cell stuff and about anything interesting to note about the slides we’ve made so far?

Seriously though, the knowledge of science here sucks. Everyone teases me for “believing in science” and they largely suspect that scientists lie and that the true in science (as with everything) is only to be found in the Bible and tradition. Some things that make me crazy:

1.      1.  A student of mine, Christopher, who I generally like a lot (though he also bombed his English exam) lives in the boarding house. He broke his wrist (I think) playing football and it was HUGELY swollen. I asked him if he went to the doctor and he said, “No, it’s a fracture. I saw a twin.” Insert my confusion here. Apparently, in Ghana, twins (like, you know, people born from the same lady at the same time) are considered to be good at healing fractures by placing their hands on the injury or some such nonsense. Flabberghasted I recommended going to the doctor as well and was met with, “But, Madam, it’s our culture.” This was a week ago. He’s still swollen. Also, related to this, I said, “He needs ice” when I saw it, largely spoken to myself, and the students there said, “But, Madam, we’re in a village. There is no ice.” Which I know and is true and that’s why I didn’t actually say it with any intention, but that’s something I didn’t really even consider that we don’t have here.
2.No one here believes in evolution. There is a serious belief that the world was created in 6 days and that Adam and Eve were, in fact, the first two humans, fashioned from clay. Even the science teacher for senior high believes as much. I argued with him about evolution and said that I’d never met a scientist before who didn’t believe in evolution and we got into a bit of a shouting match. He’s still teaching the students nonsense. I’m still trying to get my way.

You know, it’s a good thing you’re my mom because any other sort of mom wouldn’t be so helpful when I ramble on in my hypochondriac ways. That said, I am pretty sure it’s not a problem to not have my period while I’m outside of the U.S., but WHY is it so? I eat enough here, I ate enough in Central America and still, BAM, no period, but immediately when I return to the U.S. it does too.

In other news, I’m studying French in preparation for BF. I’m wondering if it will be really rainy while I’m there and, if so, will a 3 day camel trip even be possible? We’ll see, I guess.

Well, I love you still.