Friday, June 25, 2010

Email Home- "Howdy Ya'll"

Hello everyone,

       Wow, it is hard to believe that a week has already flown by.  I feel
like I just wrote, and I’m struggling to think of anything new to
really write about.  This weekend I buried myself in homework from my
course contracts that I have been magically wishing away, so a lot of
my time has been spent reading or typing away at different homework
assignments.  Not the most fun or interesting thing in the world, but
it feels good to get some stuff done.  It also made me realize how
plaguing my perfectionism is, and maybe even more so than my anxiety,
so there is one more of the many things I am looking forward to
working on.

       Sunday was probably the most interesting day of the week.  On our way
back from church it started down pouring, and our taxi driver gave us
all quite the scare.  We almost had three head on collisions with
other crazy taxi drivers and a tro tro, nearly hit a bike, and drove
off the road twice.  I know a lot of people sending me off gave me
“don’t die” wishes like I’d be abducted or get some kind of tropical
disease (and really, I think I was in more danger in Provo Utah with
rape hill and swine flu), but the real danger I believe is in the
transportation system.  We talked to Emanuel, Esther’s son, about it
later that night.  He laughed and laughed, agreed that most taxi
drivers seem to be numb to the fear of death, and that there are
certain drivers that try to get you from Kumasi to Accra in two hours,
which is half the normal time.  In Twi they have a name for them.  The
literal translation is “Have you said farewell to your family?”  I
think I will avoid those.

       Sunday we also took out my braids.  Yes.  We.  It took five of us to
get them out in about two hours.  I guess that is what happens when
you have fifty pounds of nylon melted together, strangling your hair.
It feels good to have it out, and it looks just the same as before I
put the purple extensions in.  It was fun.  I think I will get them
done at least once more before I come home (to the delight and horror
to the spectrum of you).  That is how you know you are loved though.
I’ve decided I have an amazing group.  We are all really ambitious
about our projects, and even though we are all very different and have
such different interests, we compliment each other well.  It is always
nice finding friends that I can be my odd self around and still feel
loved for it.  My only complaint is that they never tell me when I
have zits.  Luckily some of the girls at school are letting me know
when I have “mosquito bites” on my face.

       Project wise, things are going well.  After doing constant
observations I finally found a class that taught literature for one
day.  I’m also working on building a lot of relationships with some of
the students, with some of Okasan’s advice, asking about themselves
and trying to establish that friendship and rapport before shoving my
research down their throats.  So far it is working wonders.

       And just a mini accomplishment, I carried my water all by myself down
the hill from the square on my head without dropping it.  I know.  I
can’t carry a refrigerator yet, but maybe with enough practice…. It
seems like a much more efficacious way of lifting things in general.

       Next week we are having our mid semester retreat.  We are going to
monkey sanctuary, where we may or may not actually see monkeys, but
then we are going up to Cape Coast to see the slave castles and the
ocean.  Not that it is sanitary to swim in, but my heart leaps a
little bit when I think of even seeing it again.  Needless to say, we
are all very excited for the tourist break in our experience.  We’ve
also been planning a little bit of what we are doing in London as
well.  It made me giddy.  To think that I will be watching a play at
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, sitting in the pub C.S. Lewis lectured
in, or walking the gardens where Virginia Woolf contemplated, it is
really so surreal!  Have I told you I am staying with friends at
Cambridge University?  If not, there you have it; I’m thrilled.

       Oh!  And Ghana plays the US in the world cup on Saturday.  This could
make for an interesting time.  I am very conflicted.

        I am a little saddened that I am not there for the flood of family
birthdays this summer though.  For those of you out there, I wish you
happy birthdays and my love.  I’ll be thinking of you, and calling
when I can.  Again, thank you for all of the support.  I wouldn’t be
here without you.

       Loves Rach

Marriage proposal of the week:  “Marry me.  What is your name?”
Business name of the week: “Patience Beauty Salon”


Hello everyone!

Wow it has been such a great week! The project is going well. I’m making friends, and also finding that it is more meaningful and helpful for my research in general to establish that rapport before getting into my research. We celebrated a few birthdays, and the neighbors were kind enough to cook dinner for us all. Both Ghana and the US are going on to the second round in the World Cup, and we are all very excited about our mid semester retreat next week.
London is also creeping up on the horizon. We jotted down a few of the places we want to see. It is hard to believe that in a matter of weeks I will be staying at Cambridge, visiting the pub that C.S. Lewis lectured in, walking the groves where Virginia Woolf contemplated, and watching a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Nate also delighted us with his oldest sisters love story. She met her British husband on a study abroad in London at a coffee shop, where he asked her about the book she was reading, which happened to be Pride and Prejudice. I’m such a sucker for transatlantic relationships! Anyways, I might have to sit down with a book for a few hours and try my luck at it.

Oh, and next summer I am pretty much sold on India. J

For Danielle’s birthday, Gina decided to prepare us all groundnut stew and banku. The soup had a healthy layer of oil on top, and a generous helping of fish below it. It might have gone purposely unnoticed except for the eyeballs, with their stoic glazed gaze, and the bones poking up through the orange redness. The banku itself (I noticed upon closer look) was abominable without the soup. Banku has the constancy of play dough; and the taste, sadly, is not much better. The very look of it was unsettling. It was solid but slimy. Soft but grainy. It had a flavor of rotten milk. It had a color like puke. I hated the way I had to fondle it before shoving it down my throat, taking care not to chew before swallowing. It looked like my death certificate, and perhaps it was a divine revelation that I could never serve a mission.

But alas, providence was not so cruel, and since it was during the Ghana match of the World Cup, Rachel Morris, the saint she is, took a few of our bowls, ran out back, and chucked the meal over the fence without detection.

Needless to say, I assured all of my group members that if anyone breathes a word about my birthday next month, there would be serious consequences.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Email Home- "Once Upon A Time"

Hello Everyone!

This keyboard is terrible, so forgive the spelling and lack of spacing
when it comes up.  This week has been another good one.  Let me just
fill you in on the high lights.  Before that, I am feeling much better
now.  I think the parasite is gone or whatever it was, and thus far no
one else has been struck with Malaria, so that is happy for everyone.

I had my first eating a dinner I hated experience.  For Danielle's
Birthday Akua made her dinner.  It was banko in groundnut soup, but
the catch is the fish.  She gave me a bowl of this stuff that had the
consistency of play dough with the taste of sour milk, and the object
is to dip the dough into the sauce with the floating fish (eye balls
and bones included), and then swallow it without chewing.  Needless to
say, it was a struggle.  I tried to pretend it was a pot pie,cookie
dough, chicken noodle.... anything.  I think I now have a confirmation
that God never wanted me to serve a mission.  I threw up and had to
swallow it back down.  The natives kept telling us to "Eat,EAT!" and
"Finish it all!"  The World Cup saved us though.  Since Ghana was
playing, Rachel Morris made a run for it with our bowls and dumped the
rest of it over the fence. It was a miracle.  I told the group that if
anyone mentions that my birthday is next month I will kill them.

Another thing I am loving this week is the rainy season.  I have never
seen so much rain in my life.  It just dumps like a lake without
warning.  We filled up two 50 gallon barrels of water in half an hour,
which was good,because our water was shut off for a week, and without
rain water we have to haul buckets in from the next town.  Even though
I am getting much better at carrying things on my head, it was a
blessing.  You cannot even hear each other when you are talking across
the table in one of these storms.  No one complains though, it is a
sanctuary from the constant heat.

I'm getting better at laundry as well.  Even though some of the
romance is going away when I keep cutting my own hands with my finger
nails, and have to take a break so I don't get blood in the whites, I
am working up a great endurance for ringing out the clothes.  Me and
Rachel Morrison did everyone's laundry in three hours,which is pretty
impressive considering how long it took before.

I also had the opportunity to attend another part of a funeral
celebration.  This time we went to Mampong (which is where Craig was,
was it not?) for a seventh day party after the death to raise money
for the actual funeral.  We met a man named Jones there who helped us
get around, and with him was a colorful man who claimed to be his
"brother."  Everyone is everyones brother,so I"mnot sure of the actual
relationship, but I was a little surprised to find that as we were
greeting the elders I was holding his hand and not Jones.  Hand
holding is what you do to show friendship here, even boys hold hands
with each other, but I didn't even notice that I picked up a new one.
Then, out of nowhere, he kissed me!  It was about an inch miss of my
lips, and when I had a minute to recover he kissed my ear.  I grabbed
Rachel's hand and we all sat down to wait for the Fanta rounds.  I
turned to Maggie.

"Maggie, is this a kissing culture?"
"Um.. No."
"Did he kiss you!?"
"I don't know....."

And then we sat like that for forty five minutes.  I dodged his
marriage proposals with my language barrier excuse by replying, "oh
yes, yes, I love Ghana!  It is very beautiful here."  It seemed to
work.  We are supposed to go hiking with Jones on Wednesday, but if I
see his friend again that is not going to happen.  Anyways, that was
an adventure.  We all laughed and laughed the whole way home.

As far as my project goes, it is going.  Talking to Okasan made me
realize that I need to build relationships first with people before I
jump to the research part of it.  I remember learning about building
rapport, but doing it is another matter.  I have met a few groups of
girls at the secondary school just talking, and I think I am going to
go to their church tomorrow (except they make me sing and dance?
Yikes!), and I will hopefully see them today when I try to have
another focus group.  I feel better about things, but I am trying to
work on my expectations.

Thanks again for all the love and support, and for all the fathers out
there, have a happy fathers day!  I'm excited to call home.

Loves Rach

Favorite Marriage Proposal of the Week (not mine, but my favorite):
"You are Mormon?  That is perfect.  I am Muslim.  We are the same.  We
have the same people.  We can marry."
Favorite Business Name:  "Blood of Jesus Electricals"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Email Home- "Ma Haa (Good Afternoon)"

Hello everybody!

Wow this week has been amazing, one of the best yet.  I don't have a
lot of time to write and who knows when the power will go out randomly
(I've been to the internet cafe twice just today to try and write this
letter), but here is the jist!

First, thank you all for your wonderful birthday wishes!  I had one of
the best birthdays in my life on Monday.  Maggie woke up early to make
me pancakes (which is an all time luxury) in our sticky frying pan
that is warped in about seven dimensions.  I got a semicircle pancake,
which was a miracle.  My friends at school were adoranble.  They gave
me a bag of hot chocolate like stuff and a can of sardeins!  This was
the best thing they could have given me.  They know I hate fish, and
if they can tease me that means we really are friends now.  I had no
banku dinner celebrations, but Maggie yet again surprised me with a
confetti cake (smuggled in from home) cooked to perfection in a pot.
We put our mosquitto coil candle on top of it for me to blow it out,
and the rest of the group got me fanyogo (closest thing to icecream
they have here.)  Oh if that wasn't enough, they gave me a ton of nice
presents!  Nate got me a beautiful piece of kente cloth (hand woven
here for the royalty) that will make me a nice little bright colored
scarf when I am on my scooter in the freezing cold this winter, Rachel
Morrison made me a birthday crown out of post its and field note
paper, as well as a nice card (which is always all I want if you know
me well enough), and I got a whole bunch of buscuits and an off brand
version of frosted flakes!  It was euphoric.  I made a fun list of
goals to accomplish in the next year that I will try to post up on my
blog if I get a chance.  The only thing that could have made it better
was you people being here with me.

On a more saddening note, I am finding that certain things are more
heavy on my mind.  What it means to be a woman (here, and everywhere I
have come to realize), what it feels like to be hungry, these sorts of
things that I knew I would be finding but struggle to put in terms of
correctness to avoid international development taboo terms and all...
but yeah.  There is a girl at school named Charity (the dark irony of
that name), who cannot pay her school fees.  She gets caned almost
everyday because of it, isn't allowed to eat, and won't be able to
take the examinations next week.  What she owes?  About sixty US
dollars.  One shift for me at Noodles and Company.  It breaks my
heart, but I can't give it to her, not now, not yet.  I keep going
through ways to secretly send her the money (like the mail system
could do that) or find out her address or something, but in vain.  How
can I pay for her fees and not the other fourth of the school in the
same circumstances?  How do I give Akwasi a biscuit when he begs for
one and not the two hundred other ones?  I have a responsibility to my
group to not be showy with money, with the groups to come, and in the
long run I have to figure out if there is anything I can do long term
that will help, really help, and then there is the question of
qualifications and a whole storm of other difficulties.  I'm convinced
that these difficult questions might be my life long persuit.  But
what can I do right now, this very instant?  When I go home me and
Maggie are going to volunteer in a rape crisis center that she
volunteers at, and I'm joing the students of international development
club when I get home to try and learn what I need to do to get there,
but it is hard being patient about some things.  So yes, a lot of
things on the mind right now.

Brigher note.  Research is also going really well.  This week I have
spent as much time as possible in the school.  Yesterday I did 20
interviews!  I was shocked to find I still had a voice this morning,
and I have so many new friends and information for my project.  They
have their examinations this next week, so school coming to and end
feels like everything is over, but I am just looking forward to having
those two weeks to go wandering with my camera through the village.

Love you all, and I hope you are having a great week!

Business sign:  NPP (Ashanti political party) "So far, so good"
Proposal:  "Hello my wife..."

PS- If you plan on seeing me the first week I am home, consider the
following options for going out to eat:  hamburgers, cheeseburgers,
bacon burgers, cafe rio, breakfast buritos from Betos, little caesars,
and did I mentioned Wendys?  Yes.  Hamburgers are good.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Email Home- "After a power outage, a riot, and two failed internet cafes, I am writing...."

Hello my people!

       I hope everyone is doing well.  It seems the time has come to have my
share of some of the joys of sickness.  I refused to go to the clinic
for a few days, but when I couldn’t finish my run this morning Chase
and Rachel Morris threatened to throw me over their shoulders and
carry me there, so reluctantly, I followed.

       There are two possible things to be diagnosed with at the clinic,
complicated and uncomplicated malaria.  Seeing that I know I have
neither, I was kind of frustrated when the doctor wrote me down for
“uncomplicated” even though I don’t have a fever, and he only asked me
a total of two questions.  I left the clinic with a goody bag full of
random pills for various things.  Luckily Nate is in pre med and is
helping me figure it out.  But have no fear, we think it is just a
parasite or a hormone imbalance with Larium, so I’m on an antibiotic
and will be better in no time.  Rachel even called her dad at home,
who is a doctor, and he reassured us that I’m totally fine.  I’m
feeling better already.

       On a more positive note, my project is coming along well.  I think…
I’m certainly getting mixed messages about the attitudes towards
literature education.  On one side, no one reads at home, no one is
allowed to take their textbook home, and no one knows what a metaphor
is, and on the other, I found sections in their textbooks on
Shakespeare, Beowulf, and selections of Achebe, who is the father of
African literature.  I think the research part will be really
interesting when I build enough rapport to start doing interviews and
figure out what is really going on here.  I think some of the teachers
at the secondary school will be potential friends.  I am trying to set
daily goals to at least go out and walk around in the community.  It
kind of scares me how easy it is to get stuck in the four walls of
this compound.  I can be safe here.  I don’t have to speak Twi.  I
don’t have to be confused.  It is a little place to hide in my
mosquito net.  I definitely don’t want to get into the habit of coming
back here all of the time, and so I am walking the town trying to meet
people.  This whole being sick thing though is pretty inconvenient

       I also had the opportunity to attend my first funeral.  They are
always held on the first weekend of the month, and Jima assured us
that there is always a funeral, and people always die.  It was more
like a giant neighborhood party.  Everyone was there in their red and
black clothes, and it has such a different feeling.  That is how I
want to go.  I like that they celebrate life, eat, drink, and dance in
memory of that person.  Funerals are a very big deal here, and it was
definitely something that I was not used to.  Sometimes it is fun to
get into those moments where I am literally clueless.  Me and Rachel
Morris were the first ones to arrive, and we asked a woman to show us
what to do.  Turns out we were at the wrong funeral, we donated way
too much money to the family, and then we started going up to the
speakers with the DJ and he asked for our names.  We were worried we
were expected to give a speech or something.  No one else was doing
what we were doing, and to be honest I’m still not really sure what
happened!  We just each other’s hands and tried not to freak out too
much.  It would be much better if I knew the language.  It ended
though, and we went and bowed to the elders and shook their hands.  It
is pretty humbling, I feel like a child.  People clap for me when I
say something right, and everyone is anxious to help us learn as much
as we can.

       The world cup has also been quite the event here.  I didn’t realize
how cool it would be to be in Africa for it, but it has been
fantastic.  Everyone is rallied up, and it is so cool to gather around
the one TV on the block, shoulder to shoulder with the natives,
cheering on South Africa, praying that the power does not go out.  I
wish America was more into football with the rest of the world, but at
least we are in it!  I have my hopes that we will beat England. J

       Also, we have two birthdays for Danielle and Chase coming up on
Sunday and Monday.  Deborah, our neighbor, attempted to show us how to
make a cake (see if you can make a cake without an oven, eh?).  It was
interesting, but I’m not sure if we will try to attempt it.  I’m going
to pick up some of the cake batter I saw at the white mans market, and
maybe we will just end up having a chocolate stew.  I’m excited
though!  It is reason to celebrate.  I’m still having a wonderful
time, and I’m excited to keep learning.

Love you all and hope you are well!

Marriage Proposal of the Week:  “I love you.  Please, let us get
married and go to America.”
Favorite Business Name (two to make up for last week): “Crap for Jesus
(I think they meant clap for Jesus…) and “Beware Friends Fashion
National Geographic is not possible. Screw it. I'm doing something different. I'm taking a picture every hour, on the hour. It will be interesting.

I wish Gipsy and Ava would stop fighting about the "right to describe suffering." Bleh.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Email Home- "Ma Che (Good Morning)"

Hello everyone!

Well, another week here in Wiamoase.  I sure am having a great time.
I do feel bad if my last email gave off a vibe of everyone being
impoverished and miserable.  I'd just like to say that the people here
are also really happy, and have a whole lot to offer as well, and I
love learning about that.

Okay, I made a bullet list, I'm just going to go through really fast
before the "lights go out" as they call it.  Aka no more power.  I got
a dress made!  I love it very much.  I went and picked out some
fabric, they eye balled me, and then I went and picked it up.  I can't
breathe in it very well, but I feel like a woman again.  Some of the
girls cracked and busted out some of their makeup they are saving for
London.  One of these days I might give in.  But my dress makes me
feel pretty, and I'm excited to wear it to church!

Also, my creative writing lessons are not exactly working out.  It's
all part of the research experience I guess though, right?  I checked
out the Jr. High yesterday and I actually found a literature class!
When I was copying down the schedule I copied down the letters L-I-T,
hardly daring to put them together, and when I was confirmed in my
suspicion I leaped for joy.  I sat in and observed it.  Interesting,
that is for sure.  I have ten thousand questions for the one question
I came out here asking.  What are the attitudes of learning English
and written expression?

Funny times for the week, I went to the market right when the primary
school was coming out.  I was swarmed with a bunch of bouncing kids
yelling "obruni obruni!."  No one was with me, and I actually got a
little panicy.  There were two on each arm, and when I looked back,
there were kids as far as the eye can see.  They sure are cute.  All
of them.  So much fun.

Also our good time of good health looks like it is over.  Nate got a
parasite, and he has lost 15 lbs already.  I have been being a mommy,
buying him Coke to settle his stomach, making sure he takes his
medicine with bread, etc.  He acts like such a tough guy I hardly know
what to do with him, or know when he is actually feeling okay.
Reminds me of Okasan a little bit!  Chase has a fever today, and so we
think it is Malaria, and Danielle had us scared yesterday with a
headache (another symptom), but the rest of us are okay so far!  We
are willing to hope for the best, but we have the medication on hand
to catch it ASAP so it will only last a few days.  We are taken care
of, no worries.

Oh, and we found a snake at the other house.  Danielle, not having her
glasses in, thought it was a rope and almost kicked it, before Akua,
their landlord, came out and started screaming.  I guess it is one of
the most posinous snakes in Africa.  Everyone started screaming and a
guy came running down the lane in the dark to see what was going on.
He got a fufu pounding stick and just started mashing it.  We were
debating whether that knight in shinning armor treatment would happen
in Provo?  It is unsettled haha.

I have also learned some hymns in Twi.  They are really something.
Most of them have something about shaking your butt that god gave you
in them.  I'm thinking I will try singing that in sacrament meeting
when I get back, maybe they won't give me an insane calling anymore
haha.  But they are so fun, really!  I can't wait to try out a few
churches here and get a feel for the culture.  They say that Ghana is
like a big BYU campus.  Everyone is friendly, and everyone wants to
talk religion.  (Or so the temple workers told us.)

Also, we have not meet the chief yet!  A little odd.  Maybe it is not
as important as I thought.  We were a little stressed.  We do have a
funeral to attend today though.  The boys are dressed up in what looks
like pretty printed sheets and the girls are all wearing red and
black.  It's supposed to be more like a party though.  It will be
interesting to come it to my paradigm.

Also, I feel bad that I have missed like 3 graduations and a
wedding... Send everyone my love and congratulations if you see them.

Hope everyone is having a great week!  Love and miss you!

The Detour

"Don't look at them"
Was the tro tro driver's advice to us
As we drove to Kejatia.

"They are just beggars"
He reminded,
So jarringly nonchalant.

Then he took a sharp turn-
A sudden abrupt detour
off the paved road.

You get sick if you
Don't look out the window,
And more sick when you do.

With your eyes glued to the plastic window
To watch the passing shacks,
Their walls, crimped rusted metal slabs.

The rivulets of green and red sewage
That pass and pass. I had to look
At the barefooted woman hawking,

The cobweb infested barbwires,
The relic of a shirt
Clinging to the bowing back

Of a man balancing a mountain of bags
Still raining concrete dust,
Mixing with his sweat.

His eyes looked the color iodine
Behind him stood a once white wall
With a faded inscription about the evils of men

That I could not quite make out.
There was a certain look
That could pierce from a distance.

I found one smile in the face of a toothless woman
That looked more like a grimace,
So I politely looked away,

Trying not to cringe
From a whiff of the open sewer,
Or betray disgust

When hit by a cloud
Of black, thick diesel
Feasting on my lungs.

I saw a dead body on the side of the road.
The naked babies hiding in the shadows,
Their skin coming off in flakes.

No one brushes the flies from their face,
And looking up they hesitate,
With tired eyes that radiate

To collide with mine,
Sheltered and sick for it.
Driving past, unable to take a second glance.

"Don't look" is their advice.
What is there to romanticize? Synthesize,
About raw human suffering?

Stay at home. Watch the news.
Half promise to write a check,
Then continue on with your dinner.