The Azonto Craze Continues…

Azonto continues to get world recognition!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyyFJgIhLuE&playnext=1&list=PL36E375552C276E85&feature=results_main

 

It’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon, everyone! That guy learned in three minutes! I’d love to teach you (or at least try!). It’s an ingredient to happiness. Azonto is going to be the next fun form of exercise, like Jazzercize, Yoga, Spinning, or whatever they’ve come up with. Azonto is THE REAL DEAL!

I have a “Ghana” playlist on my ipod, and sometimes I put it on before I go on a run. Every time I do, I usually don’t leave my room for about 3-4 songs because I find myself dancing in front of the mirror. 

:-P

-AzontObruni

@JeremyGinsburg

What did I Take Away From My Experiences in Ghana?

Recently, I was contacted by a student at the University of Ghana. She said she wanted to interview me for an article they were doing about International students. She sent me a list of questions to answer. The last one read: “What did you take from the experience? How did your perceptions change?”

Here was my response.

I don’t even know if I can fully answer that on a computer. I learned to appreciate what I have, and to be happy no matter the circumstances. I learned to greet people and be respectful to anyone you come in contact with. I learned that people are meant to help others. I also learned that germs are over rated!

My perceptions have changed a lot. I no longer complain about little things that happen here and there. I’m thankful for having running water, toilet paper, and electricity.

I’ve also learned that lots of people generalize Africa in a way that makes every country of Africa seem like it is the same. I came back and everyone was asking, “How was Africa?!”, “What is it like in Africa?!” “What do they eat in Africa?!” Before going to Ghana, I was a victim myself, but most people don’t realize that generalizing one country and referring to it as ‘Africa’ is very misleading. No one goes to China and says, “Wow! In Asia…..” You would never ask your friend who went surfing on the coast of California “What are the waves like in the Pacific Ocean?”

I can honestly say I have changed for the better, and it is noticeable. I’ve become a more positive person, I’ve become nicer, more patient, and overall a happier human being. I truly believe America would be a significantly better country if more people experience Ghana the way I did.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

Jeremy Ginsburg

AZONTO: From Ghana, to West Africa, to the rest of the World

AZONTO….?

It’s a bird!? It’s a name!? No…. It’s a SUPER-MANIC dance that is taking over dance floors in clubs and parties world wide!

If you haven’t heard of it yet, I’m sure your Africans friends have. Pronounced, “ah, zone, toe”, kind of rhyming with “I don’t know” (Well…keep reading and you will!), Azonto is on its way to becoming one of the most popular dances world wide. Originated in Ghana, Azonto is an expressive dance, where you can basically do what ever you want while moving to the rhythm. Some popular moves include mimicking the following activities: washing your clothes by hand, calling out a girl you find attractive, making a phone call, and boxing. Sounds humorous, but so does “the moon walk”, and that seemed to impress people.

Azonto has blown up on youtube. From tutorials, to skits, to music videos, to battles, to Azontoing in public across the globe, Azonto is penetrating the international dance market rapidly.

Here’s a recently article on .

This is the video I shot dancing Azonto around Ghana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XBWG-UVzJg

But, if you really want to learn, I’d suggest watching one of the hundreds of tutorials on youtube.

Oh, and by the way, it’s like the most fun dance you could ever think of. It always puts you in a good mood (but makes you wish you were in Ghana where it’s acceptable to Azonto in any given circumstance), and there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. You could be brushing your teeth, picking your nose, playing basketball, as long as you do it to the beat and make it look stylish. Not many dances easily migrate through language barriers, but Azonto, being as expressive and versatile as it is, has become a universal dance across the world.

Most of my friends know about it, mostly because anywhere we go that has music playing, I end up dancing by myself, even though other people look at me and think I am wasted and dancing like a fruit cake. I lived in Ghana for over four months, and it took be about 3 months to feel comfortable doing it, and another month on top of that to feel like I was actually doing it properly.

Azonto competitions have taken place in the London, Toronto, NYC, and Chicago. It’s coming soon to Madison. My housemates and I threw a party last weekend, and our friend DJed. During the party he played a short clip of an Azonto track, and people danced! They were already dancing before he put on the song, but hey, they DIDN’T STOP dancing!

I’ve been to Ghana, where kids learn how to Dance Azonto, mimicking the activities in the form of dance, before they learn how to do the activities themselves. I traveled around Ghana, and whenever I stumbled upon someone who didn’t understand English, they understood Azonto. Maybe I couldn’t ask what time the bus was coming and where it was going in the form of dance, but it always generated a smile!

Youtube: “Azonto” yourself, and see how many videos come up. It’s only getting bigger and bigger, and the later you jump on the bandwagon, the more you’re gonna think, “MAN! Jeremy was raving about that Azonto dance so long ago….I could have been the first one to whip it out in my friend group!” That goes for you, too, Grandma!

All love.

Jeremy Kwabena Ginsburg

aka

AzontObruni

NAKED TIGER --- Nicaragua

In a state of utter confusion and still half asleep, the six of us patiently waited in front of our hostel for the bus to Liberia (a city in northwest Costa Rica) where we would transfer to another bus that would then take us to the border of Nicaragua. The whole thing seemed surreal, as we had just decided on this destination less than 24 hours prior.

Here's two of my good friend's blog. They're down in Costa Rica! Hope you like it!

Elmina Slave Castle

The Elmina slave was first built by the Portuguese (1482), but was taken over by the Dutch(1637), and then the British (1814). The Portuguese were known to have treated their slaves worse than the Dutch or the English. The castle was built about a few miles down the coast of Cape Coast Slave Castle, and there’s a watchtower right up the hill.

When we went to the Cape Coast Slave Castle (Barrack Obama went there on his visit to Ghana) a few months before, we toured it with our entire group. It was very emotional. We had a combination of whites, Africans, and African Americans on our tour. I feel like since everyone knew each other, people felt more comfortable to get emotional.

The Elmina slave castle was known to be more intense tour; it was one of the most popular castles used for slave trade. At its peak, around 30,000 thousand slaves strutted out of the infamous “door of no return” per year.  Even if the castle averaged 10,000 slaves a year, you’re still looking at over 4 million slaves over 400 year stretch. AND THAT’S JUST ONE CASTLE!

Women were asked to lift this 25 kg cannon ball…if they did not succeed they were whipped 40 times.

As we walked the castle, we were brought into large cellblocks that held hundreds of slaves at a time. You could still smell it! The smell of death: a built up of body odor, urine, feces, and lost hope. People talk about slavery occurring so long ago, almost as it’s just a story to learn from. But, being at this castle made it clear how REAL and recent it is.

We were on a group with some other foreigners, and a group of adults that were joking around throughout the tour. That kind of lightened the mood, which was less depressing, but it also hindered our experience. We were told about the female slaves that would be allowed to shower and get clean only so the masters could rape them. We saw the doors that allowed the guards to secretly rape the slaves AGAIN after they had been raped by the head of the castle. So sickening. So gruesome. So sad.

What’s crazy to me is that outside of the slave castle, normal life goes on as if there is no depressing historic sight near by. The town is not built on tourism from these castles at all. At first I didn’t like it. Hundreds of years of suffering, millions of lives lost, generations of enslavement, and unless you stepped foot inside the castle, you would have no idea how disheartening Cape Coast’s history is. Yet, the sight of kids playing , people hanging out by the water, and sailors setting off for a nights work represented freedom. These sights are constant reminders that the past in the past. As important as it is to remember what has happened and to also learn from it, it is also important to move on in life in order to live a life filled with freedom. The workers outside of the Elmina slave castle may not live a luxurious life, but they’re finally free. Free from European rule. More importantly, they are free from enslavement.

Cape Coast is filled with churches and other buildings built by the Dutch, Portuguese, or the English. Those tall buildings serve as a reminder to all of the people of Ghana how far they’ve come.

All love.

Jeremy Kwabena Ginsburg

What I don’t miss about Ghana

What do I NOT miss about Ghana?!

As much as I miss Ghana (it is a lot), there are many things that I truly do NOT miss about living in West Africa. Lots of things in life are bittersweet, but for now let’s take a look at the bitterness that I’m quite content to have left behind.

The weather: True, it has been a “rough” summer (according to most), and the weather in the Midwest has been pretty HOT and HUMID. But, it still is more pleasant than it was in Ghana. Even the days when the weather is comparable, people aren’t outside NEARLY as much (around me at least) as they are in Ghana. People complain about how hot it is, when the only time they have to go outside is the 30 seconds spent in their car before the air-conditioning works, then the 2 minute walk in the parking lot from their car to their destination (which is most likely air conditioned). I’ve noticed my body can handle warmer temperature than most people, and that I get cold easier. It also gets cooler at night in the Midwest, so it’s much more tolerable at night. It’ll be 95 degrees here and I’ll go on a run at 4 pm and my friends will think I’m crazy. They’re right.

Slow Restaurant Service: I’m still shocked every time I go out to eat when my food arrives so quickly. It makes me so excited I feel like I end up eating more!

 

Mosquitoes with Malaria: Mosquitoes in Minnesota and Wisconsin don’t have malaria! THEY CAN BITE ME ALL THEY WANT! They’re not as sneaky anyways. It’s nice not having to sleep with a mosquito net, too.

No Air conditioning: That’s just something I’ll always appreciate. It’s so beautiful. It feels good. It sounds pleasant. It keeps mosquitoes away. It keeps me cool. And, best of all, it’s almost everywhere: restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, airports, libraries, coffee shops, trains, busses, bus stations, malls, movie theaters. They all have air conditioning (for the most part). What a great invention!

Being responsible to provide your own soap/toilet paper: I’m almost over this luxury, but the first time I got off the plane, I went to the bathroom. After I finished my business, I drank the tap water, pocketed some free toilet paper, and washed my hands with WAY too much soap. It was quite epic.

Sunlight from 6am-6pm: It’s great having sunlight until 9-10 pm. In Ghana, it was basically pitch black by 6 pm. I think it’s rainy season now, so it might even get darker sooner, but it’s nice to be able to do stuff outdoors as the sun is setting. I’ve gone on a few bike rides and jogs at 7 or 8 pm, or even later (after the sun set). It’s nice and cool, still light out, and the streets are nice and paved. Also, I don’t have to worry about…

Obruni Traps: The open gutters in Ghana are often referred to “Obruni Traps”. I don’t miss walking around and worrying about slipping and falling into one. I do miss watching my fellow obruni’s fall into them or hearing stories about their accidents. Just kidding! (Kinda)

Hand Washing my laundry: Don’t get me wrong! Hand washing your clothes can be good exercise, a good way to catch a tan and do something outdoors, and a great way to bond one on one with your clothes and feel accomplished. However, having someone do your laundry (love ya MOM AND DAD!) is much easier, and having a machine do the washing is easier, too. I’ve hand washed a few times since being back, but has been nice having a machine do most of the work. I’ll admit it, though. It does hurt me a bit deep down knowing that I was just learning how be good/decent job at hand washing my clothes, and then it was time to leave. But, when I recall how BAD I was the first few times, it’s nice to know I don’t have to be embarrassed anymore.

Aside from that, there’s not much I can say. Even if I complain about the things that I had a hard time with while I was in Ghana, the positives CLEARLY outweigh the negatives.

Despite the list above, I would GLADLY go through all of it if it meant I could wake up, sweaty, in a room with no air-conditioning at 7 am covered in bug spray from the night before. Then, go to the bathroom with soap and toilet paper in my bucket. Then, take a seat outside and attempt to hand wash my filthy clothes. Then, avoid the open gutters during my walk to a restaurant where I’ll order and not know how long I’ll have to wait for my food. All of this would be worth it to me, just to speak Twi, eat a big bowl of fufu and meat for $2, and dance azonto as the locals smile and laugh at me.

Oh, Ghana, how I miss you so!

Love Always,

Jeremy Kwabena

P.S.

Stay tuned for: “Things I do NOT NOT miss about Ghana”

Last weekend I traveled to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. D.C. has a decent Ghanaian population, WAY MORE than in Madison, Wisconsin. While I was there, I made 3 Ghanaian friends who recognized my Ghanaian shirt. One stopped me on the street and asked if he could take a picture of my friend and I so he could show his friends.

I decided to dance some Azonto around the tourist attractions and see how local strangers reacted.

Enjoy!

XoXo,

Jeremy Kwabena