Archive for Mental Health

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 Nescafé, 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.

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 (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*]