Hello planet earth,

 

Sorry it’s been such a long time since my last post. Actually, I’m not really sorry. But I guess I can pretend to be.

 

Ghana continues to be wonderful. Even though I’ve found myself settled into somewhat of a routine, I’m still managing to spice it up a little here and there to ensure that I still get to do stuff that’s cool enough to write home about (and that’s enjoyable to read).

 

I love how friendly everyone is here. Ghanaian friends have texted me asking if I was coming to class (I was only running late). Everyone seems very willing to help. Though, I’m not sure if it’s simply because I’m an Obruni (I hope not). I’ve now taken a few by myself and I’m getting kind of good at it. Even if I have no idea where I am or where I am going, I can confidently ask a random stranger and, so far, they are glad to help me get to the right place and get on the right tro-tro. In two cases, while exploring the city of Accra, I’ve met or ran into a Ghanaian that goes to the university and spent several hours with them. One day we were at the art market (which is sweet), and we ran into a Ghanaian that lived in our hostel. He ended up showing us around, helping us bargain our prices down, and then leading us around Accra. While walking the streets of Jamestown (known as one of the poorer or maybe even poorest areas in Accrea) we saw children pulling around wagons of beer, some ritual that consisted of people dancing and blowing smoke and cheering, and a pick up soccer/futball match in a stadium like spot that looked like it could have been on NBA STREET for Nintendo 64. I tried CLAY! It was pretty gross. I guess pregnant women eat it for their stomachs…..so I’m not sure why our Ghanaian afternoon tour guide told us we should try it. I also ate these mini crabs that are sold for about 60 cents for 7 of them. It’s almost as if the crabs were captured, thrown into boiling water, and then put on the street to be sold. But, they were delicious!

 

After walking around Jamestown and standing out like LeBron James at an all girls albino elementary school, we went to an amazing fish restaurant for dinner. This place was incredible. They only open at night, as they spend all day catching the fish, and then serve them. We ate the ENTIRE fresh with our bare hands. It was delicious. Even the BRAINS were good!!

 

I played pick up basketball one night with a few fellow Obruni’s and despite our size and athleticism, we were able to take down the “All-Star” team. Games are played to 7, and we beat one team 7-0 and the crowd erupted when I hit a 3 pointer to end the game. We played against a lot of the players on the UG team that I’ve been coaching, so it was good to compete with them. It felt good to beat them, too. Our last game got extremely intense, but after we lost 8-6 we realized our team, on average, was at an 8 inches in height, 40 pounds, and 10 inches in vertical jump disadvantage.

 

On Wednesday and Fridays they have inter-hall games. It’s just like intramurals, except everyone plays for the hall/hostel they live in. My team, ISH, is by far the worst team out there. We lost by about 40 against one of the best hall teams that had 5 or 6 players from the Varsity team. None of them are on scholarship, so why wouldn’t they be able to play intramurals? I hit a bunch of threes, which was tight (no one can shoot so a 3 pointer is a huge deal), but my team needs some talent. I put up some fliers so hopefully we’ll pick up players with experience playing basketball. Some dude from Togo who spoke French and zero English played with us, and I think it was his first time playing basketball with a referee. During a free throw, he didn’t even know where to stand. He would straight up tackle players on the other team. It was fun yelling at him in French, though.

 

A few Saturdays ago the University Bball team had a “game”. We met at 7 am, but I thought I could take advantage of being a coach and not a player by going out drinking the night before. I foolishly assumed we’d be taking a bus there, and I planned to sleep on our team bus. I was Wrong. We took public transportation, which consisted of a lot of walking before an luxurious tro-tro ride where I found myself squished between two huge Africans, in a vehicle that surprisingly didn’t break down before we got there, while riding on what seemed to be roads made of potholes. I was not able to nap, and the game didn’t even start until after 9. The team played alright and they won by about 8 or 9. The scoreboard was a , and it was ran by a little kid who took orders from the coaches of when to change the score. Throughout the game, trash would blow on to the courts and the referee had to pick it up. During time outs, the coach would talk to them for a little then say, “Ok. Jamie, you talk to them!” and then he would just walk away and talk to other people. I filmed part of the game on my Flip Video and gave it to the Coach to view. One of the players saw and wanted to buy a copy just to watch himself play. In no time, we’ll be having film sessions! I wish the game wasn’t so sloppy, I’d proudly post some videos, but they’re nothing special to watch.

 

Thus far, on top of my class schedules, I’ve got Basketball “Training” (as they call it) , or practice Monday evenings, games Saturday mornings, then Inter-hall games Wednesday and Friday evenings. I also discovered that the handball team practices during the week and I joined them today even though I have no idea how to play and I’m not familiar to the rules at all. The coach put me in and I think I did okay, but I have no idea. It’s an interesting game. Seems like it’s some sort of combination of basketball, rugby, soccer, and baseball. After practice one of the coaches told me to come to their game next Tuesday…..at 6:30 AM! For some reason I told him that’d I’d maybe show up. I’d say there’s a better chance I find a bathroom in my hostel that has toilet paper, soap, AND paper towels. AT THE SAME TIME.

 

Here are some random funny things that have happened recently:

 

I was out to eat with my female friend, and a merchant asked me if it was my wife. I said she was not my wife, and then he smiled in excitement and asked if he could take her from me and marry her. I tried bartering her for some free groundnuts and fake lacoste pants, but she wasn’t okay with that. Oh Chalé!

 

A Ghanaian called me to tell me that she saw me walking and was happy that I grew my beard back. That was flattering!

 

We met a merchant who knew the capital of EVERY country in the world! He had heard of Rochester, Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and other random cities in Minnesota. Some Asians walked by and he asked where they were from. They said they were from China, but had no interest in talking to him or buying his things. Then, he started blurting out random cities in China to try to get them to come back. It didn’t work. But he said that strategy usually gets them to turn around.

 

I got a ride from some random Ghanaians on campus (they were old ladies, don’t worry it was safe), and they asked me where I was from. “Of course I’ve heard of Minnesota!” One of them yelled. “Kim Kardashian’s Kris is from Minnesota!” She was very excited when I said that I went to the same high school as him. She probably didn’t even believe me.

 

I was on the treadmill, and it lost power 3 or 4 times because I was going too fast. Seriously. I’m no Olympic sprinter, but apparently you can’t go faster than 6.0 MPH, or it has a high chance of blowing the fuse. They told me I could run as fast as I wanted to on the track near by. I told them (in my head, of course) to let me know the next time it wasn’t 90 and humid, and I’d be there.

 

The people at the gym are great, though. They recognize me easily cause I’m the only one who wears a headband when I work out. I’m also probably the only Obruni who tries to dance the Azonto with everyone else in the middle of his or her work out (I’m Ghana bring that back to America….dancing in the middle of the weight room!). You know a song is popular when it’s played in every club, bar, taxi, restaurant, gym, and then you even hear it as a ringtone on the cell phones of adults. The entire country knows the Azonto dance. Imagine Souja Boy’s “Crank that Souja Boi YOU” dance times 100. It’s like the Maccaréna meets the Cotton Eyed Joe, on Ghanaian steroids. Everyone knows it and everyone can dance it.

 

Aright folks. I gotta go shower. I’ve already said I needed to shower twice today, but decided not to since I figured I’d get super sweaty later on in the day (I was right). But, this time I’m just going to bed later, where I’ll probably sweat more in my sheets. Hit me up if you wanna cuddle J

There’s plenty of room under my mosquito net (actually there’s not).

 

I still got a lot to write up about.

 

Next Blog will include: surviving the Ghanaian hospital, getting robbed on the beach, traveling 10 hours to a beautiful resort, eating Chinese food, and getting a free sermon during a 3 hour bus ride.

Stay tuned!

 

One Love,

 

Jeremy LINsburg

So, it’s like 90 degrees outside (nonexistent wind-chill), there’s this harmattan (Red sand) stuff EVERYWHERE from my feet to my bed to my books, and I just paid about $3 for a lunch that consisted of: gooey soup, white race, baby crabs, chicken kebab, an orange, some mango and some pineapple. Where am I again?!

MUST BE IN GHANA! Miss me? Hope so. Here’s what I’ve been up to: (insert theme song of your choice)

First things first, I was in a cab on my way home from a bar, and the cab driver had a DVD player in his cab. Cool, right!? Reminded me of S. Korea. Except in South Korea, the cab drivers were watching what seemed to be cheesy Korean soap operas. This cab driver was enjoying the coarsest and most disturbing pornography I’ve ever seen in my life. (Hypothetically speaking…. It was actually the first time I’ve been exposed to such illicit material).  The 3 girls in the back of the cab were freaking out, but then insisted he put it back on when he tried to hide it and turn it off (okay that’s probably not how it went down). I thought it was rather disgusting, humorous, and sad. That is NOT common in Ghana, though. So don’t get too excited.

A few weekends ago there was a nice welcome dinner for all of the international students. They had some bomb food there! My program, CIEE, performed a during it. I swear my shirt was perfectly white when I brought it….There was also a sick performance with drumming, dancing, funny yelling,  fire, and other stuff. I got some of it on video and will soon put it up when I get enough time online for it to load. Stay patient people J! I managed to hit the buffet three or maybe four times. It was great to have vegetables, tuna salad, and other American foods that are more likely to come out in a familiar way in which my digestive system is happy to handle it with care. I spoke to one of the drummers after, and he said he could give me lessons for about 10 bucks for two hours. I’m definitely going to do that at some point! Hand made Jembes (hand drums) can be bought for like $40-$50 bucks. I’m thinking about getting one, just not sure how I’ll get it back to the States (assuming I agree to leave when the time comes).

Ghanaian drivers are pretty crazy and unpredictable. I never know when they’re going to stop, honk, or just hit me. I’m still getting use to it. I’ve heard people call pedestrian crossing “Zebra crossing”. The Zebra has the right of way, not the pedestrian! I was also advised, “the driver may want to stop for you, but the breaks don’t work!”  I’ve been doing my best to avoid those situations. Though, if I see a Zebra, I think I’d take a hit though, just for the story.

One night out, I somehow ended up freestyling with a bunch of Ghanaians that claimed they were big time rappers. One of them took my number and called me the next day and explained he wanted to make a song with me and put me in his music video. We’ll see what happens. He later explained that he wants to mimic a music video by Eminem and Royce Da 5’9, and wants me to be Eminem. Interesting…

(doesn’t this guy have class?)

Oh yeah. Education. School. Study abroad….right?

Classes are okay. Pretty long and boring. Some better than others. My English professor often relates the literature in class to the bible, and in my modern poetry class, most of the poems we’ve gone over are about Jesus, God, or Christianity. I’ve remained silent during comments such as “we’re all Christian, so Jesus will forgive us”, “c’mon you’re all Christian, barring maybe a few Muslims, you should know this answer!” and, my favorite: “don’t be so shy, I won’t send you to hell, unless, you’re a Jew!” Okay that last one might have just been me daydreaming about a rational reason to vigorously cuss out my professor for giving me the most monotonous classroom experience of my life. I truly don’t mind the generalization that everyone is Christian. It’s just another excuse for me to not follow along and work on my blog during class.

My sociology class is huge. I showed up a little late and they were out of chairs. So, I had to go to the front of the class where there was a huge stack of chairs. I finally found one with 4 legs and even though it was extremely dusty I brought to the back and took a seat. That’s quite the incentive: show up early otherwise you’ll sit in a chair that’s been soaking in dust for months and has no desk to write on.

My white towels are so gross. I hang them up to dry and they accumulate dust just by being outside. I swear there have been showers where I dry off with a towel only to get myself dirtier than I was before I took the shower. I’d love to air dry….but in a co-ed bathroom it might be a little risky. Or, tempting. I’m always looking for a good challenge.

There’s a mystery alcohol that they serve here. I forget the name, but it stems from some sort of ginger stuff. When I bought a shot (I can legally drink here, don’t worry), it was about 70 cents and it came from a plastic water bottle that had been refilled with liquor. I heard no one knows the exact alcohol percentage because it’s not regulated and it varies so much. Someone tried to convince me that they make a type that is OVER 100% alcohol!! I tried to explain to him that that would be logically impossible but he was persistent and stuck with his word. I wanna get a hold of that and show America what binge drinking REALLY IS! Apparently there’s weed in it too. I never know what to believe. I just try everything. And if I don’t like it, I keep trying it until I do. You can’t be old and wise if you’re not young and stupid first! Relax, I’m joking! Kinda. A little bit. Maybe. (Just pick one and believe me).

But, Hey, if I can report my experience in such detail, I can’t be abusing that many substances. Right?! Either that, or…. (not going to go there!)

My Twi is improving. Last night I went around with my friend and just started up conversations with random Ghanaians to practice our Twi. I was 0/4 in marriage proposals, but I’m not going to let that discourage me. I guess Ghanaian girls are just as hard to marry when you’ve never met them as Obrunis are!

“Mepakye, Wo Be Ware Me?!” (pronounced: mi pouch hey, Whoa, Beh, Warry, Mi?!?! (insert creepy smile)

à “Please/excuse me, will you marry me?”

It’s a great way to make friends, and an even better way to come off as a crazy obruni. The most common Twi word is “Chalé”, pronounced Cha like in the CHA CHA slide (man I love that dance. it never gets old) followed by Lay, as in Lay chips. (ooooooo I miss those so much. Actually, I don’t. But if I ever ate them in the USA I would). CHALé seems to translate as some combination of ‘Yo’, ‘my friend’, ‘hey’, ‘what’, ‘Oh’, ‘whatever’, ‘see ya’, and sometimes when girls say it to me it even means “you are so cute I don’t know what to do with myself”. OH CHALE! I swear if you listen carefully you hear that word 20 times in every conversation. But I can’t get enough of it!

Last weekend, my group went to the Gold Coast, now known as Cape Coast. We visited a slave castle. It was such an intense experience.  I really can’t put any of it into words very easily, but it definitely hit me hard. I tried to imagine life like there.

Those slaves were born into their lives just as I was born into mine. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw. I will say, it’s not everyday I take time to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom in the same room that I also share with over a hundred other dirty males who do the same. We were brought into these rooms where we stood on top of piles and piles of excavated feces as we heard brutal stories about the atrocious way these slaves were treated. We were brought to the church, where just before the entrance there was a peak hole for the Europeans to check in on their slaves in the dungeon before and after they pray. What type of individual prays to a higher power, following to a habitual check up on his imprisoned slaves? How can one rationalize the struggle of human beings held in such excruciating conditions? Then, pray to a god and not feel guilt?

I began to tear up when the tour guide declared, “If a female slave were to become pregnant while she was on the ship to the Americas, she was thrown off the boat and left to die. See, the workers at the slave castles in Africa couldn’t let the Europeans in the Americas know that they were raping the slaves. Also, no one wants to buy a pregnant slave.” That punctured my heart. I envisioned a pregnant woman, suffering through the waves as she desperately watched a ship full of slaves sail away. Infant in her womb. Hungry. Gasping for air. Fatigued. Hopeless….

How could she have hope?

After visiting the castle, it took me a while to revive my appetite. After lunch, we visited globalmamas (look em up online!) and got to learn about this boutique. We were sent off with a professional, and she helped us create a cloth.

That night, me and 3 other guys from my trip went to a bar/resort on the beach to see what was up. There happened to be an AWESOME drumming/dancing/acrobatic performance that night. This guy was balancing a chair on his forehead while balancing a stick that was on fire on his nose! Meanwhile, drummers behind him banged like there was no tomorrow. He then proceeded to use two sticks and a beer bottle as “devil sticks” (I think that’s what they’re called). It was some nice entertainment. After the show, my friend sparked up a conversation with one of the drummers, who later on proposed. “I give you good show! You buy me beer!?” My friend politely refused……then the same guy ended up giving us a ride back to our hotel, too. In his cab!!! I hope he used our money to buy his beer.

The next day we went into the rainforest. We walked on these and enjoyed the magnificent and soothing from above ground. That was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! I hate to ruin the experience by typing it, because I can’t really put it into words! (sorry I’m not sorry). Check for pictures soon to come.

After the canopies we stopped for lunch at this sweet spot on top of a swamp of crocodiles. I got to see a couple, but they all seemed to be lazy and fat. (actually I don’t know how to tell if It is fat or not). They must be offended from all those scary movies where you see them eating humans left and right. Maybe they’re trying to reshape the human perception.

Then….there was VALENTINES DAY! Hehe(that doesn’t mean anything). I wore a little red, but the highlight of my valentines day was falling asleep during the movie “A walk to Remember”. That was a movie NOT to remember. I watched it with a bunch of girls from my trip. We were all each other’s valentines….(AAAAAAAAW). A Ghanaian called me that day and asked why I didn’t go to class. Either she was genuinely curious, OR (this is my hypothesis) she got scared last minute and didn’t end up asking me to be her valentine.  I guess we’ll never know…

aight. Enough with this feminine talk, I’m going to go lift some weights or eat with my hands so I feel more manly. Thanks for reading!

“If you can’t get out of it. Get INTO IT!!!”

Love,

Jeremy aka Rejemy

My dear friends, family, fans, and haters,

 

My stay in Ghana continues to be a delightful one. I’m starting to finally get into a schedule, and I already feel my time here flying by. Last Thursday, two other friends from CIEE and I were on the local campus radio. It was pretty sweet. They asked us several questions about our stay in Ghana and what we thought about the University and stuff like that. I’m not sure how many people were tuned in at the time, but I definitely felt a little famous. They let me give shout outs, so incase you couldn’t tune in on satellite radio at 3 am:  “Shout-out to my BLOG, my family, everybody CIEE, Ricky Rubio, Barack Obama, and Walter the muppet from The Muppets Movie”.

 

I recently found out that the pet lizard living in my room isn’t even a lizard. It’s a wall gecko. My roommate and I haven’t agreed on a name for it yet, but it’s nice having him around cause he eats the mosquitoes and dead ants that join us uninvited when we eat have food around. We don’t have to feed him or buy a cage, so it’s pretty convenient.

 

Last week I went to a Korean restaurant (wadup Adam and Nathaniel!) near by with a Ghanaian friend. It was quite expensive (relatively), but it was delicious. He had never eaten anything like the food that we got (BeBin Bop…maybe?). I taught him how to use chopsticks, but then we got sick of that and started using our hands, eating Korean food the Ghanaian style!! The waitress did NOT appreciate that. The people at the restaurant didn’t speak any English, and when we left, I had almost forgotten I was in Ghana.

 

I attempted to do my laundry again, and boy was that a failure. I. NEED. HELP. SMDC! Save my dirty clothes! I started to become satisfied with what I could do and ended up stopping when my close became relatively clean (at least compared to before I started washing them). If pink is the new black, why can’t vanilla with a few stains be the new white? I washed my sheets and was pretty grossed out with the amount of sand and dirt that filled the bucket of water.  Luckily I’m hairy, so dirt is the second thing people notice when they look at my skin.

 

So far, living in an international hostel has had many benefits. We have a convenient restaurant on the first floor, though it is expensive, and our water/electricity has been pretty consistent. Usually if the water goes out on one floor, another will have it. I’ve met a lot of awesome people here from awesome places including: francophones from France, Brazilians, Koreans, French-Canadians, and some Sconnies!

 

My Twi class is my favorite class. I’m trying to learn as fast as I can. I’m now able to order Bananas, Oranges, Bread, rice, and Whiskey all in Twi. What else could I need? I also learned how to say, “I am foreign and have no money. Please, you give ME money!” I tend to receive more laughs at that more than money, but hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!

 

Speaking of missing shots, I’ve attended two basketball practices of the team here. The players are very good, but definitely have potential to get WAY better. Most of them didn’t start playing until they were 15,16,17 and even 18. Most of them are freak athletes, though. At one point the coach divided them into a white team and a black team and one of the players barked, “But coach… WE ARE ALL BLACK!” I couldn’t stand but to chuckle. I hope to get some time with the team soon to show them some drills and stuff, but so far I’ve mostly been observing. Basketballs just isn’t very popular here, and some random old man who likes to watch them practice was jabbering to me for about an hour about their lack of sponsorship and other stuff I couldn’t understand. I think he said the professional teams in Ghana don’t even get paid. It’s all about FOOTBALL.

 

Football….Ghana lost in the Africa cup. It was a close game, but they lost 1-0 and I was really bummed about it. My Ghanaian friends were trying to cheer me up; I think I was more upset than they were. They’re all so happy here! When I was watching the game, someone asked me which team I was rooting for. I explained to them that I would cheer for Ghana even if they played the USA, and then they all got really confused. Then I just smiled and got confused, too. Awkward.

 

So, I went to the gym to work out 4 days in a row. You’d think I’d be in good shape by now, huh? I wish. Each time I went the electricity was off. I don’t know if I felt more pissed off or just fat, but I definitely didn’t appreciate it. I finally got to work out on the 5th day, but after all this Fufu, plantains, banku, red-red, kenkey, and everything else I can get my hands on, I might need to get into a routine schedule. I’ trying to convince my body that every time I get sweaty, it’s because I’ve been exercising and not because it’s hot outside. Not sure if it’s working. I’ve been trying to eat healthier, but it’s hard to buy just one banana. For 1 CD, I can get like 5 or 6. I figure you don’t see fat monkeys very often, so I’m better off eating that than some of the other options.

 

My group is going to Cape Coast this weekend. Should be fun. I wish I could take pictures, but my camera is broken. Sorry! I’ll try to get some other people to take pics for me. Gotta bounce for now. Take care. Shabbat Shalom. Stay classy USA!

 

Please! Thank you for reading!!!

Jeremy Kwabena

I couldn’t get it up on YouTube or Facebook so it might be poor quality but here’s a little iMovie I put together of some pictures and videos I took thus far. Enjoy! New Blog post coming soon!!

With love,

JG(H)

Today I had quite the Ghanaian experience. I got up early (around 7) to get to the English department so I could register for my 2 English classes. I was told they’d open at 8:30 and to get there early so I can sign up before the classes fill up. I got there around 8:40 and the doors were still locked. I asked a student near by when the registration opened and he replied, “later”. I could’ve asked for an exact time, but it would have been pointless. Here, if someone says, “later”, you can try again later. Then, if you try later and it’s still closed, you can ask the same person, and he’ll respond in the same way: “Try again later”, until it’s so late that they’ll tell you to try again tomorrow. If you come back tomorrow you can keep trying until you are successful and do what ever it is you need to do. Hopefully you complete your task before you strangle yourself as you lose your patience.

So, I was wide-awake, walking around, as the sun was getting stronger. I began to sweat profusely (so much for a morning shower). I went and got my passport picture taken and printed out. Here, you need 2 X 2 size pictures of your face for lots of things: getting a gym membership, opening a bank account, registering for certain classes, and other stuff that I’m probably not even aware of. I just got a bunch so I could sign them and give them out to people. Just kidding (kinda). I actually needed to get a new picture taken because my hair is buzzed in the ones I brought so people have given me a hard time. 3 of the 6 guys on my trip have already buzzed their head, and I might at some point. One was saying that he got his done at a place that had a sign that read “Haircuts: $3 Obruni Haircut: $5”!!!! To be honest, I bet that’s not even racism. They probably just know that the white foreigners have more money to spend. Especially those that have long hair and can’t take the heat.

Then, I stopped at a few different departments to try to sign up for classes. But, of course, was not successful and was told to come back later. After walking for about 2 hours and sweating about 2 gallons, I figured it was time for some food. For lunch I ate some pounded dough that I can’t pronounce, which was in a bowl of soup with a name that I also cannot pronounce. The lady offered me meat inside the soup as well, and I asked what it was. “INTENSTINES!” I wasn’t sure if they came from a cow, pig, goat, human, elephant, or what, so I opted for fish. After eating my scrumptious lunch by hand, I went to the Business School to go to my first lecture! It was pretty difficult finding the correct room, especially since most rooms have no names or number attached to them, and there are no signs to direct you. The class attendance was a bit shocking, but I still learned a lot. I learned…..hmm what did I learn…? I learned that the professors and students are both on the same page. They both understand that the first class is just to handout a course outline or a syllabus, and they both acknowledge the fact that it is not worth their time to show up! So….yeah! The classroom was empty when I got there. I just thought of it as my “Ghanaian Snow Day”. Yipeeeeeeee

I explored the business school for a bit after that. I was trying to compare it to the business school at Madison. The business school in Madison has a nice café area to get food and drinks. At the UG Department of Business, there is a mini shop located underneath some outdoor stairs (that are about 10 steps high) that sells bananas, nuts, and water. The lady working there also sleeps there. I tried to search for a bathroom, but after I found one, it was locked! Then, I walked into a different block of the building and found another bathroom…LOCKED! At this point, I REALLY had to go! I had drinken/drunk/drank (whatever your high school English teacher prefers…..who the hell really knows the past participle for the word drink? English is so difficult sometimes) about 3 bags of water to keep from getting dehydrated. I sped walked back down some stairs and for a while debated urinating on the staircase. But, the African angel on my shoulder persuaded me (in Twi and expressional dance) that it was probably a bad idea. So, I walked all the way to the International Office (only ten mins) where I was sure there was a bathroom that was not locked. I finally arrived at my wondrous washroom. As I lifted up the lid, I could tell the water was out and the toilet wasn’t flushing.

***Parental supervision recommended for the following***

I was pretty grossed out as I noticed some colors on the toilet paper that clogged the toilet. Let’s just say it was not poop, and it would blend in at a Badger football game. Gotta love Co-ed bathrooms (I did not appreciate this instance. Now that I wrote about it I’m probably never going to forget it, either. shit!). I debated going back to my dorm to chill and shower, but I realized that the walk back later would generate so much sweat that it would be useless to shower. I’d say on average I break a sweat 5-6 times a day (sometimes for long periods of time), and a few times while I sleep. I keep telling my body that air conditioning is for sissies, but I’m not sure if it makes a difference.

Oh! There are also protests taking place on campus! It reminds me of Madison! Cept not really, cause I’m in Africa. The workers (janitors and cleaning staff and stuff like that) on campus are protesting the school because they haven’t been paid for their over time (or, “top pay” as they call it) work from the last 24 months. As a result, a lot of doors have been left locked and rooms are been left uncleaned.

Side note, I’m currently writing this in the CIEE office, where I’m surrounded by 12 girls and I am the only guy. I wish my ears weren’t capturing what I’m hearing. But, contrary to my naïve hypotheses that girls do not poop, I’m hearing more and more refuting evidence that disproves my claim. I’m not enjoying this.

Last night I had a great conversation with my Ghanaian friend. We were talking about Malaria and how the local population is so much less susceptible to it and so fourth. I said something along the lines of “I wish the mosquitoes would just go away”, and his response was intriguing. He told me that he does NOT want the mosquitoes to go away. For if the mosquitoes perish, so will the fear of getting Malaria. Then, greedy white people would come to Ghana and strip them of their oil, raw materials, and eventually change the mentality of the culture here. I thought about that a lot, and I agree. Ghana is an amazing place, and a big part of what makes it so exceptional is that Malaria prohibits capitalistic ventures that could ruin this country.

The more I meet Ghanaians and spend time with them, the more I learn about this country from in inside perspective. It’s great. Most of these Ghanaians were born and raised in Ghana. As were their parents, grandparents, ancestors, and their ancestors’ ancestors, and so on until you date back to Adam and Eve or the homo-erectus monkeys (whether you believe in evolution or the bible). It’s so fascinating when you think about it like that and trace back one’s heritage and everyone came from the same place! Yes, I love America. But I don’t feel much of a connection to the land. Here, they surely do.

Last weekend after Ghana beat Mali in the football (soccer) match, I went out with my Ghanaian friend and a professor of his. At first I was a bit thrown off when he said we were going to hang out with his prof, but he was a young guy and was very cool.  His professor had a car, which was sweet, and we drove to get dinner and then went to a bar off campus and met up with some other guys. They discussed many issues of Ghana’s government over some beers. They asked me what kind of beer I wanted, and I said I’ll take what ever the cheapest kind was (even they’re all cheap relative to USA prices). Then, they said they were paying, and explained that in Ghana if you invite someone for a drink or a meal then the person who offers is paying. Not just because it is polite, but because it can be assumed that there’s a chance you are so poor that you have no money in your pockets, and cannot pay yourself.

These guys discussed the corruption that exists in Ghanaian politics, and I chimed in when I could, but my ears were busier than my mouth. They were talking about the issue of unemployed college graduates and I said “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. The professor corrected me, “It’s who knows YOU! I am the professor with a large class. But, if I do not know you, how can I help you?” Very true! They explained to me that the Ghana dream is not similar to the American dream at all. The Ghanaian dream is to have a close relative that works for the government. Then you will be set for life.

Hearing these personal stories was such an eye opening experience. One of the guys explained that his father has already told him that once he graduates college he is financially responsible for his teenage brother. When I heard that, I felt my pockets, which were NOT empty, and wished that I could pay for everyone’s beer.

There’s a stigma here that if you go to college, you will soon be rich and find a job. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. I feel weird getting use to the living conditions here; I’m getting use to seeing people sleeping outside on a bench at any hour, or underneath a table at night. Street vendors often fall sleep on the job. Sometimes I’m not sure if I should feel bad waking them up to buy something….I want to give them business!I want to help them! Last week I went to eat at a market called the “Bush Canteen” on campus and the people who work there were sleeping underneath the tables where people are served. It’s hard to see these things and not help, but it’s good to know that these people are still happy and optimistic. Happiness is relative :-) !

On the drive back to campus, we stopped and got green coconuts on the side of the road. I truly love these coconuts. I ate 3 in one day but then realized that was probably not the healthiest thing to do. I had them for the first time in Brasil, but it’s just a coconut that has juice for you to drink, but then you can cut it open and eat the coconut meat after you finish the juice. I watched the guy with a machete who had served us the coconuts crack ours open and cut out a flat piece from the coconut to use as a spoon/knife to eat the meat from the inside. When he cut mine, he carved out all of the meat from the coconut with his knife and put it in a bag for me to eat while the two Ghanaians I was with ate the cocnut with their spoon/knife and laughed at me for being an Obruni. They guy assumes white people don’t know how to eat it so they do it for them. Some people here assume that white people can’t do anything by themselves. I’m not sure if it stems from slavery, colonialism, or just because we are ignorant tourists that are incapable of doing things how the Ghanaians do it. I’ve been trying to do things how Ghanaians do as much as possible. It’s very hard to dance like them.

I met a rapper on campus a few nights ago. He said there are battles that take place on campus. I can’t wait to check it out and represent the obruni population. It shouldn’t be hard to exceed their expectations.

My Twi class has started, and I’m excited to learn it and practice it. It’s a tone language, so everything is VERY hard to pronounce properly. My professor is HILARIOUS. Instead of saying “great job!” or “nice work!” he yells “HALELUJIA! Praise Da Lord!” I’m not sure if he needs a reminder that he’s in class and not a church, but every time he says that I crack up. He also uses expressions such as “I will kill you!” and “you are fired!”. Sounds odd, I know. But he’s such a happy smiley teacher that it’s purely humorous and never threatening. He also said it’s okay for us to use those phrases at him when necessary. “KILL DA TEACHA! Hallelujah! Praise Da Lord!!!”

A girl on my trip thought she got malaria last weekend and went to the hospital. Luckily, it was a false alarm. I wanna make fun of her and call her a woose, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate. Just kidding. The more people I know that get malaria, the more likely MY chances are to get it by a mosquito that bites them and then me.

I have no class scheduled on Fridays. If all goes well, I’m going to audit a class each week at the beach. :-)

More posts to come soon! In the mean time, check my facebook; I’ve uploaded many pictures.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Ginsburg

Yo yo yo yo, Maaha (good afternoon)

 

Today marks the first day of class. You’d think it would mean a lot, but it really doesn’t. Here, the concept of “syllabus week” is taking to an extreme. It’s more like “nothing in Africa starts on time so I’m not showing up” week. Professors are known not to show up the first week of class, or to just show up, hand out the syllabus, and then bounce. A lot of students haven’t even moved in here yet. I have two classes today, but they’re both through my program so I’m sure people will show up. Signing up for classes here is a bit different than in the states. Instead of doing it all online, you must go to the building where you want to take a class and look to see if they’ve posted the schedule for the days and times that the class meets and when the final exam is. Then, you must figure out on your own which classes to sign up for so none of them overlap. If you have two exams at the same time, you can only take one, and you receive an ‘F’ in the course that you don’t take the exam. Most classes have only have one exam at the end of the year. Right now I’m signed up for like 10 classes because I still don’t know the times of them because the time tables for the schedules weren’t posted when I checked last week. They should be up this week. But you never know…

 

My roommate has arrived and he is great. His name is Michael, and he’s from Ghana. He’s majoring in Biochemistry I think. He seems extremely accommodating and easy going. He doesn’t care if I sit on his bed/chair or turn on the lights at any hour while he’s sleeping. He said he normally goes to bed around 11-12 and wakes up around 4:30 in the morning. When I started to tease him he said that he couldn’t help it. Ghanaians DON’T SLEEP! He brought a microwave, and a pink pillow case with a heart on it.What a pimp. Everytime I come back to the room he’s with a different girl. It’s awesome, cept there’s always a girl in the room when I get ready for a shower so that’d kind of weird cause I don’t think Ghanaians are use to seeing such a beautiful human being with gorilla like hair. I’m excited to get to know Michael better. So far, he seems GREAT. I know he is very religious, and he sleeps with tbe bible. I thought he used it as a stuffed animal, but then I asked him and it turns out he reads it everyday. He seems very smart and I’m very glad I lucked out with a peaceful and accommodating roommate.

 

Yesterday we went to the beach all day. It was AMAZING. We had to talk two Tro-Tros to get there. Tro-Tros are shared shuttle services that cost about .30 a ride. It’s about the size of a mini-van, but it fits about 20 people. They’re very hectic to ride, but I love it. The beach was beautiful. They had horses there! The waves were decent and big at times, so I was able to do some body surfing. The Ghanaians don’t really swim here, it’s not apart of their culture. So, when I swam far out and stood up to the big waves with no fear a lot of them thought I was crazy. Everyone I asked said that if you go far out, there are sharks. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case (I hope). The water was filled with liter. I kept swimming through clothes, food rappers, or juice boxes. My first instinct was that it was an animal, but I got use to it.

 

There were hundreds of people walking around trying to sell you stuff. I bought a pair of sunglasses for about $5, and I traded my wallet (empty of my money) for a sweet canvas painting. My wallet was old and used and I got it for like $5 anyways. They man who traded it with me explained that he wanted it to remember me by. I’m not sure if he meant that or if that was code for “I’m going to sell this to someone else for five times as much”. There were tons of groups going around and drumming and dancing to entertain people, and then asking for tips at the end. It was amazing. There were kids playing soccer everywhere you walked, naked babies running around, and lots of RASTA’s chilling. If you know your stereotypes, you can take a good guess at what the Rasta’s do at the beach all day. I made the mistake of only bringing large bills. I had about 5 CD, but when I wanted to buy a coconut for 1 CD, the guy said he had no change. When he says that, it’s hardly ever true. He just doesn’t want to give you change. No one will make you change unless you buy something, and most of the time you buy something you must give the exact change, or close to it. Or, they will just try to keep it all and say they have no change. I’ve also noticed that when you order something and they say “it is finished”, which means, “we are out of them”, it’s not always true. Either they are too lazy to make it for you, or they prefer you buy an item that is more expensive. I don’t know the real reason for that, but it can get annoying.

 

I’ve met a lot of interesting strangers with different stories. Some people meet you and then right away invite you to dinner, their event that night, or a party. It’s very friendly, but I’m still trying to find the balance between a creeper and a friendly man that is just a good guy.  I met some drunk man at like 2pm who was telling me he was a U-G student, though he seemed to be in his 60s. He offered to share his drink with me and said that he loved Obama because that is his brother. Then, he explained that Obama is my brother, too. So, by transitive properties, I guess this old man thought he was my brother. He tried to get my number but I told him I would take his and give him a call if I ever ran into Barack Obama. He wasn’t very pleased. Wow. So much to type, and so little time and such a weak internet connection! Stay tuned more to come later. In the mean time, here’s a link of a popular song here and a few verses I jotted down while bored out of my mind during our orientation.

 

 

CIEE, constantly reppin U-G

the university of Ghana in Legon, that’s where we be

out in Africa to tackle the questions that we face

discovering the amazing aspects about this place

Learning Twi we go shoppin spending CDs

Try to bargain everywhere though everything seems cheap

Taking our left hand and keeping it in our pocket

storing electronics in our closet, and when we leave we gotta lock it

we’re not here to make a profit, we’re here to make a change

discover all our roots and learn about the place of where we came

go our bed nets when we sleep to protect us from malaria

taking pills, too cause of the mosquitoes in the area

Learning how to boogie like the locals, dancing Azonto

Ghana is one of the world leaders in the production of cocoa

takin cheap taxis and tro-tros, culture here moves so slow

bordering countries include: Bakurina Faso, Cote  D’Ivoire and Togo

Surrounded by countries that all speak French

but here they all speak English with a Jamacain/British accent

a lot of new foods we’ve never seen that are spicey

approached often for being Obruni, though we’re always treated nicely

I’m a cool kid come to live in Accra

English I speak, Twi, only Kakra (a little)

So Lehgo! to Legon where they easily speak in Twi

My accents wack so nobody understands me

Hot food, hot girls, no hot water but there’s hot weather

but we’re loving this place, feelin’ happier than ever

 

 

Love,

 

Jeremy Ginsburg