Archive for January, 2013

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.

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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.

Ghana in Reverse (Five)

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

A bunch of us went on a road trip to Togo and back. I had to be convinced to go because I really dislike traveling in a large group, but I need to get out more. The market here is a fluffy, fluffy bed of unicorn farts next to the one that we got lost in (although admittedly I didn’t have to think about hookworms in Lomé and I did get my foot run over that one time in Cape). We had a Lebanese barbecue, smoked hookah, couldn’t avoid an incredibly uncomfortable political conversation, found a free beer fest, went hiking, and rode a swing shaped like a penis. Also, a few lovely ladies gifted me with good juju in the form of a bottle opener carved from ebony wood.

There are tiny ants everywhere. They are so miniscule, they live in my laptop and crawl out from the keyboard when I open it up. It doesn’t seem to make a functional difference, but DVDs don’t play anymore. I don’t think it’s actually related because those ants are really, really tiny.

I’ve discovered a second alter ego. She had a shit fit around 7 one morning and came out swinging, cursing and screaming (and crying of course because that’s apparently how I roll here). Quote of the morning: “Bitch, that ain’t my job!” It’s fascinating what a person does when they’re inhibitions aren’t functioning that well. It’s a little embarrassing to think about it, as many things are, but I do enjoy that I thought it was funny even while it was happening. I am a walking sitcom. It’s a good thing life starts so early, otherwise I would have woken everyone up. There are no secrets in this house anyway.

Frankie hasn’t had the opportunity to show up since I’ve been here. At first, I was happy to know I wouldn’t need to deal with his drunk frat boy act (and it is still nice to know that at least my current co-workers probably won’t meet him), but I think everyone has a part of their life that is largely misunderstood and Frankie is one of mine. Damn it, I am frustrated. Don’t get me wrong: I wish Frankie hadn’t shown up in the first place, years ago, but he makes me feel normal in a strange way. I miss that cocky bastard.

Also, I think way, way too much.

Ghana in Reverse (Four)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2013 by ccartlidge

For a few days, I felt as if I were approximating someone with emotional and mental stability, but then I started to make sweets with reckless abandon and ate like a third of a bag of Pebbles for lunch just now and I feel insane again. I really like making dough fritters, partly because everyone loves them and it’s nice to know that I can contribute somehow. I know one day I will have bad knees and a bad back, so continuing to run in cheap tennis shoes on a washed-out, rocky dirt road seems like a bad idea (even above and beyond the fact that I hate running and always thought the international sign for “leave me the fuck alone” was to put on headphones, sunglasses, and a spartan expression but this is not actually international and if you are an obroni girl with short hair people are always curious about where you are going and why you are going there and why are you so tired you haven’t gone that far and it’s too hot to run after 8 am so I have to get up at 5:30 but I suppose it doesn’t really matter much anyway because Isaac the baby screams like a damn banshee starting around 6 so it’s cool and there’s nothing to do after it gets dark and the power’s out so I just go to bed at 8 pm and always get a lot of sleep except when I have the insomnia or I’m sick and peanut butter makes me gag now). I always hated running, but I’ve got imaginary monsters chasing me. Americans take elliptical machines for granted.

The funny thing about self-motivation is that production only works properly if you believe in the product. Socratic irony and dichotomy fascinate me. But: having no one to answer to on a daily basis, and still working for what is essentially a startup non-profit organization run by very young people is neither precise nor transparent (read: trying). I’m curious about how other similar organizations work. I can’t pretend to know a lot about what the best model for international aid work is, nor do I even have a clear opinion about the moral issue and I would like to be able to make an informed opinion. Oh, I’ve got opinions, but they’ve been shaped using only firsthand experience and opaque information. Actually… nevermind. That’s the way it is.

I remain skeptical (and I’m not alone). I am watching with eyes wide and mouth gaping.

[For the record: Believe it or not, I hold a fair amount back in these posts. If I give it all away here, I’ll have no more stories to tell in person. That would be a shame, because I have an expressive face and like to use my hands when I talk. *gesticulates wildly*]