Archive for lessons

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 (Three)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2012 by ccartlidge

It’s late November, give or take. Everything seems to be coming full circle with the annoying, early morning atmospheric noise. (It’s a good thing I’ve compensated for this.) Three political parties in Ghana have been campaigning for a while and the elections happen on December 7th. Political campaigns in Ghana are less like the unconscionable American television advertisements and more like parades starting at 6 am, consisting of trucks with giant speakers blasting Hiplife and followed by excited supporters. On Sundays these are preceded by the Jesus Parades as well. I leave Ghana just a day before the election, which of course means that I will miss it. No matter, the incumbent always wins (even if the incumbent happens to have died in office).

Ghana is an extremely religious country, so religious in fact that to be gay is illegal. The organization maintains that it is secular, and this is one of the reasons I was comfortable taking the job. I’ve found that this is not strictly true. Every staff meeting starts and ends with a prayer. Every. Single. Damned. One. I shouldn’t have to state that this really pisses me off (this really pisses me off), but I decided a few months ago that I would not go out of my way to explain my opposition to the practice unless pressed, as I have enough problems without people chasing me with pitchforks machetes. A few times I was asked to lead one, which I deflected without incident. However, I did decide that it would be great fun to do the last prayer, at my last staff meeting, just for shits and giggles. Coincidentally, this is the only staff meeting that didn’t have even one. Well played.

There’s no nutritious food, no distractions, no box wine, and I still haven’t been lucky enough to go more than a day or two without crying. I’m drinking my dinner in the form of awful whiskey cut with a lot of water and eating Laughing Cow cheese with awful wheat crackers. (I hate that bejeweled bovine. She laughs at us, not with us. Hideous cow.) At least I’m eating wheat crackers and not those cheap Chinese butter crackers that occasionally have something foreign embedded in them. I daydream about Broccoli.

Ghana in Reverse (Two)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Note to Self, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2012 by ccartlidge

This last week has simultaneously been the worst and best. The shit finally hit the fan. I am relieved and looking forward to the day I stop torturing myself. I’ve been in my head for months, more than is habitual even for me, and it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. It’s horrifying. Any self-respecting overthinker is conscious of overthinking, and conscious of the high that results from the occasional desperate sprint through a labyrinth, but I’ve turned around so much as to have lost my bearings and I’m afraid that I’ve allowed myself to become ridiculously lost. High, but lost.

I like to think that I’m good at reading people. That may be true, but if it is, it is certainly also true that I’m a bit of a masochist. Ever since studio taught me how to see, I’ve seen that I am bored and frustrated by that which doesn’t at least acknowledge the sick beauty of dichotomy. Being absolutely sure is idiotic, which I realize is hypocritical coming from someone who enjoys having strong opinions, but I enjoy being an idiot because, after all, I’m smart enough to know that I am, in fact, an idiot but perhaps not quite smart enough to always be able to tell what is self-aware and what isn’t. I suppose it’s always been true that most things aren’t, including me. I’m disappointed and simultaneously smug.

I feel gross, and even grosser because I got exactly what I thought I wanted. At least now I know what I don’t want, which is a step forward unfortunately.

There are a few people I want to send a care package to when I get back to the States, but I’m not sure if they even print porn dirty enough to be worth it. Who buys porn anymore? No one. The internet killed the centerfold.

Exposition Upon Death

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Note to Self, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2012 by ccartlidge

It has only been a few days since I moved back from Ghana. In retrospect, time seems to have passed disturbingly quickly (which isn’t surprising, as they say that about practically everything).

It seems like a dream that manifests in the midst of the rising action, leaving me to fabricate the introduction, scramble to prepare for the climatic action, and then it ends so quickly that the conclusion seems not to exist at all and I still have no idea whether this dream was a comedy or a tragedy. Or nightmare, as it were. I suppose the truth is that it is both, because everything is, and it would seem so obvious as to be stupid, if it wasn’t also so complicated.

I may have learned more about human nature in the past year than I’ve learned in the previous 28 and I’ve certainly learned that the dramatic arc only exists, unadulterated, in a fabricated drama.

Endings are for the dead.

Lesson One: The Irish Goodbye

Posted in Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Personal work, Rants with tags , , , , on December 26, 2011 by ccartlidge

A few days ago, I practiced the Irish Goodbye at my own party.

Call me the damned Barefoot Contessa: I planned it, I decorated for it, I baked for it. I made mulled wine. I even cleaned of my own volition and not because the apartment smelled like it needed a bleach-based power wash: BECAUSE I WANTED IT TO BE NEAT. (This is a bit shocking, take my word for it.) It was to be grand. However, In spite of honest company I was freshly sick, exhausted, my head was pounding with abstraction and pressure and the ironic holiday music wasn’t helping.

Also, I’d spent the morning crying. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. I wasn’t in the mood to party. (A sub-lesson: trouble walks together with expectation.) So I did my best, then slipped away.

I’m not proud of this, but honestly I just couldn’t handle saying goodbye to my house full of friends. There are a few “socially acceptable” reasons for leaving a party early, one of them includes being incoherently drunk and I wasn’t. That had already been taken care of, and since I would never be able to upstage that particular exit, I wisely crossed it off my list. Neither did I have it in me to fake one of the other acceptable reasons for leaving a party early (sudden illness, another engagement, discovering irrefutable proof of alien life, living somewhere else, etcetera), so… Zmija.

I felt bad about it, but otherwise it would have been worse for me and awkward for everyone else. As an oversharer and a person who finds self-delusion slightly hideous, it’s difficult for me to lie on the spot or successfully evade questions which have doleful answers. I would have convinced no one. Or I would have simply caught hell. I wouldn’t have dealt with it gracefully and would have gone to bed angry as well as depressed.

The truth is that when you are in the process of realizing the myriad of ways in which you are an asshole, you probably shouldn’t go to parties. But it was our party, so I enjoyed the camaraderie while I could and inevitably allowed the melancholy to wrap its arms around me. My less-than-glorious exit allowed me the best of both worlds: I climbed out of my hole long enough to remind myself that the world remains essentially the same, then crawled right back in for processing. The Irish Goodbye saved my night.

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. This was my lesson.

I felt better in the morning.