Ghana in Reverse (Twelve)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by ccartlidge

Thankfully, someone picked me up at the airport, because the place I’m living doesn’t exist on any map I’ve seen and the house doesn’t have an address to speak of. This part of Ghana reminds me a bit of Central America. I’m surprised at how comfortable I feel here. It’s drier than I expected. Almost so dry the dust chokes me, but I’ve heard the rainy season is coming. For now though, it’s too hot to wear actual clothes, especially when the power goes out (which is a lot) and since I only see two other people living in the house on a regular basis, I wear as little as possible. Side boob for weeks. It pains me to put on clothes to leave the house, but I can’t take a taxi naked. The last taxi I was in ran over a goat. That seems to happen a lot.

There’s a cat. Why is there a cat? I feel like no one told me about the cat. The frogs come out at night and I love listening to them, but people wake very early in the mornings and are not shy about making noise. Sunday mornings bring a parade of singing and drumming men praising Jesus, which is fucked up in my opinion.

There is no coffee. I lied, there’s NescafĂ©, but that’s not coffee. This is a list of all the food obtainable in the market: miniscule light green apples imported from South Africa, mangos (seasonal unfortunately), pineapples, bananas, watermelon (also seasonal), avocados, plantains, white sugar bread, white non-sugar bread, gigantic white yams, white rice, tiny white eggplants, eggs with pure white yolks because everything the chickens eat is white, white onions, yellow onions, red onions, green onions, green peppers, cassava, the greens of the cassava plant that I can’t spell and most people are allergic to so we never eat, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, maize (the tough, non-modified kind), okra, groundnut paste (peanut butter; the women at the market are all like ‘fuck yeah the American girls are here again, bitches clean me out every time’), black-eyed peas, goat, chicken, dried fish, sugar cane, ice cream in plastic bags (everything in plastic bags), chalky chocolate, box wine, and palm oil. I did find Marmite although it molded. I might have forgotten a few things, but that is a list of practically everything that could go into my mouth for the next eight months. I forgot cheap whiskey, that’s what I forgot.

Advertisements

Ghana in Reverse (Eleven)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by ccartlidge

There is a feeling I have about the food.

Obviously, I expected to make adjustments in my eating habits. Over the years, I’ve learned the difficult way to attempt not to be the one picky eater because I feel bad being a privileged pain-in-the-ass. A conscious one anyway. For someone like me this is very difficult (cue snare and splash), and the feeling I get is that I might be setting myself up. I’ve never seen so much sugar bread in my life, nor have I ever been fond of green peppers. The lack of running water doesn’t bother me at all, except in the kitchen. No wonder everyone cooks outside.

Theoretically I’ve got everything down, but I have a feeling my job will end up being largely reactive. That’s something, although lots of ideas seem good in theory. Do international non-profit organizations all run like this? My two roommates seem like their jobs revolve around sending emails to students or parents of students and I have no students (although I am grateful for this). We have a good time together, my roommates and I. It’s nice to have friends. I’ve heard there are other people who live in this house too, but I never ever see them so it remains a rumor. I do know that there is a cat. I did not invite him in, but apparently he was born in my closet and since the doors to the house don’t even close all the way, I can’t keep him out. Plus, he might get eaten out there. He just can’t sleep on my bed.

It’s very lush, so I was wondering when it would start raining. I’m not really surprised, but it rains a whole damn lot. It rained torrentially all day yesterday and now the road to the site is totally washed out. Of course we’re pouring concrete soon. Another bad omen. Now I take a shared taxi and walk the rest of the way, which is perfectly fine because I like to walk, but I don’t coo over children like other people and for obvious reasons they can’t help noticing the lone obroni girl walking through their village, and they have this totally adorable thing they do where they chant the same phrase at me in unison, over and over again.

 

Ghana in Reverse (Ten)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2013 by ccartlidge

I’m going out to a local community to work with my roommate. I’m unsure about how helpful the organization’s structure really allows itself to be to them, because building a small water harvester in an area that needs a big water harvester three months out of the year and no water harvester nine months of the year sounds inefficient to me and a better solution must exist, but I’ll probably never have another opportunity to go and it’s nice to have a change of scenery. Plus, I’ve never been to Kakum.

For the next week I’m living in a different room with three other girls, one of whom is a tall blonde who was apparently recruited for a professional European volleyball team. She turned it down. Why would you turn that down? Girl. The phrase “shit show” keeps appearing in our lexicon. I’m afraid I might have started that, I do enjoy casual profanity a great deal.

Against all odds, the water harvester goes up and stays up, even with six or seven humans on it. That was fun. I like climbing things. I’m happy it actually got built (my standards have changed significantly in the past few months). I spend a lot of time smoking cigarettes with a 20-year-old Romanian. I don’t think many people actually think of themselves as being a certain age until they are presented with a situation which makes them aware of it. These people were born in the 90s. I was almost a human being by that time. I’m still almost a human being. When was Saved by the Bell being shown? I’m so done with this personal crisis bullshit.

Ghana in Reverse (Nine)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2013 by ccartlidge

Apparently, baboons will steal your food if you let them. Especially if you are a small human. They know we won’t do anything, they know. They know, and now I know that one must exercise constant vigilance when eating food outside in Northern Ghana. Baboons are quite resourceful. Also, hate if you want, but warthogs are adorable.

Elephants: we were probably closer to them than we should have been.

Everyone knows that while truth may form the basis of stereotypes, they are never ever always true no matter how smug, elated, or otherwise it may make someone to think that they are. One example is that not all Ghanaians are non-violent and willing to tolerate Obronis; some of them have guns and use them.

Witch camps: horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, sexist, horrible, awful.

(Far too many people in the States have guns and use them. Even in the context of political and social revolution, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution assumes a lot about the generalized good intentions of human nature and really is quite frightening. Angry people with guns are scary, especially when there are no deer around.)

Ghana in Reverse (Eight)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by ccartlidge

This is new. Now I have a million fucking roommates and I’m pretty sure I only had three a few weeks ago. Nobody tells me anything. I just got used to being alone in this giant-ass house, not bathing, and not talking for days at a time. My newest roommate arrived in the middle of the night. (11 pm is the middle of the night for me.) This is a paraphrase of what I said to her before going back to bed: ‘Here’s the bathroom, there is no running water and the toilet leaks. You could use the bathroom next door, but you’ll have to walk around or climb the wall. This is your closet, sorry about the extra clothes. Keep the door closed, because there are cats around, and the only person who loved them enough to clean them is gone now. This is your bed, sorry it’s so small. Here are some sleeping pills if you want; I didn’t sleep for two days when I arrived. Not sure how strong they are, so you could take two. Welcome to Ghana.’ The next day, I took her to Cape to eat vegan food made by Germans, talk about sex, and visit a Rastafarian who calls himself Son of Man (whose given name I do not know, he won’t tell me, although I did guess his age correctly). She moved next door a few days later. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the running water.

The kids in Ankeful are still shouting that phrase at me when I walk through. I haven’t heard it in any other community and I don’t know what it means, although I’ve asked many people. Their mothers seem to scold them for it, so I’m not sure I want to know what it means anyway. Something about money? It is starting to get less rainy now, but it is still overcast almost all the time. The road to the site hasn’t been fixed. Before I left the States, I remember the woman who gave me all those shots telling me about what I should and should not do to avoid parasites and things of that nature. She mentioned never to walk or swim in freshwater. This makes me laugh. Clearly this woman has never lived in rural Ghana or anywhere else without a fully functioning stormwater drainage system because avoiding freshwater mixed with sewage is damn impossible here, even if the rains hadn’t washed out vehicular access to a specific destination and the only choices are to turn around or walk through. Hopefully, there isn’t anything sharp down there. She also told me never to eat fruits and vegetables that I couldn’t peel. This woman could be a comedian.

Ghana in Reverse (Seven)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by ccartlidge

We took a sledgehammer to the concrete wall between the houses. I wonder if the owners will mind. It makes it easier to get from the house to the kitchen, but I miss having the excuse to climb something. Running seems safer anyway. I can imagine far fewer opportunities to get a gnarly softball-sized bruise on the outside of my thigh from running. Climbing a wall in a tight cotton dress after two glasses of wine? More, probably. Lesson learned: unless under duress, never climb anything without a harness or a springy mat below.

Ghanaian dating culture is strangely like American dating culture, but simultaneously couldn’t be more different. I’m not unusually fond of either. For instance: If you want to get a girl in Ghana, you must call her at 6 am three times in a row, send eight text messages over the course of a few hours, and don’t forget to profess your undying love within a day of meeting her. Empress or Queen, either of these pet names will do. If you want to get a girl in the States, ignore her and pretend you aren’t interested. Take her out for a date and don’t call for two weeks, because you can’t seem like you enjoy her company. In fact, if you are confident, act like you think she’s stupid. That always works. If you want to get a guy in Ghana, or even if you don’t, make eye contact. If you want to get a guy in the States, or even if you don’t, make eye contact. Happy medians: who needs ’em?

I want to break all the mirrors in the house. Is that me? It doesn’t look like me. I can’t even tell who that is, is that me? This whole situation is disturbing. I’m not entirely sure what I can do about it at this point, probably because I feel as if I am under the influence of a mild dysmorphic psychosis. How interesting. Detachment and simultaneous over-involvement! Psychology is adorable.

Ghana in Reverse (Six)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2013 by ccartlidge

Mom has a week and a half between work in Tanzania and Kenya and I’m going to travel with her through Tanzania and Zanzibar. Dar es Salaam seems like a real city! Zanzibar is gorgeous and has delicious coffee! Addis Ababa is a confusing airport and people who speak Amharic don’t think so, which makes sense, but I still maintain that even if I can’t read the signs I should be able to navigate an airport without confusion, so I’m standing my ground on a theoretical design basis! I feel ecstatic and small.

I read King Leopold’s Ghost and The Catcher in the Rye for the first time, which is two more books than I’ve read in so many months. Finnegans Wake or The Silmarillion probably would have been better choices, for a less endemic and more time-consuming type of torture. My mother wonders aloud why I read books I know are going make me cry. I’m just not the type of person who reads a book from beginning to end when I know it’s devoid of intellectual value and/or alternative realities by chapter two (maybe three if it’s gotten good reviews). I just put it down. ‘Beach reads’ are a waste of time, in my humble opinion. No offense to James Patterson. I took a shower. Many showers in fact, and I feel guilty, but I’m fucking happy to get out and even happier to see my mother. I’m loved and I’d almost forgotten.

Back in West Africa, it seems like the seasons have changed during the week and all the sudden it’s hot as hell and the traffic is even worse than it normally is. Is it my imagination, or does the heat make the market smell worse? When I get back to the house, the power is out, the internet is out, and there’s no food. Not even eggs. Seriously, what are you eating? You know white bread has practically no nutrition, right? When was the last time you pooped? I’m worried about you.