Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Physical Body as a Medium

Another important medium that I did not consider as it relates to my experience in Ghana was physically.  What is the difference between going to Ghana and getting Malaria or just traveling to Ghana through books or Google?  Edward Casey in his book Getting Back Into Place makes a really good argument for the importance of the body and it's relationship to place, and where the mind fits into that whole deal.  Others such as Michel Foucault have also made comments on the subject, and for this reason I think it is a viable medium to comment on. 

Hygiene- Bucket showers were frequent, and sometimes if the well was broken or the power was off, having enough water to wash the dishes seemed more important than that shower or laundry.  We could not drink the water unless we were cooking and boiled it first.  All of our water for brushing our teeth and drinking came from little 2 cup sachets.  It was a real pain when we ran out of them.  We would have to walk clear up the hill and carry the bag back on our heads, which I never quite mastered.  The locals who could not afford sachets so readily went to the well frequently.

Hair-  And just for fun, getting your hair done in Ghana is a huge deal.  Sometimes I would really confuse me because women could change their hair so drastically and I would have trouble recognizing people.  Of course I had to see what this was all about.  I got my hair braided twice while I was there.  It took about three hours with four ladies helping me.  It hurt like crazy getting it in, and the picture I included in this post shows them melting the nylon hair together to seal it all up.

Sickness- Getting sick in Ghana tends to be an experience to remember.  Luckily for me I escaped anything serious, but of course there are the occasional days where you could swear you have a parasite.  Changing your diet so drastically and getting used to a new environment takes a tole on your body.  I also had to take antimalarial medicine called Larium that gave me the most crazy, lucid dreams imaginable, not to mention a serious hormone imbalance. 

Food- As I mentioned, our diet was changed dramatically.  Everything in Ghana tends to be a heavy starch with a spicy sauce on top.  Mostly this included rice and yams.  Other meals were made up mostly of bread.  We did not have a balanced diet to say the least.  Vegetables are few and far between, meat a rare luxury, and we went through gallons of oils quicker than I care to remember.  Of course you get used to it, but skipping breakfast and lunch was the usual, and food cravings were frequent.  Especially towards the beginning.  If I had a food allergy, this experience would be difficult, if not impossible. 

Climate- Ghana is located five degrees off of the equator.  It was incredibly hot and surprisingly humid.  You could not conduct research or travel between about 1-3 PM because it was so hot.  No one was outside. You just find a place in the shade and sweat.  When you get that hot your body and mind stop.  When electricity went out we were out of a fan, and trust me that had a huge impact on my experience.  Not only on what I could do that day, but also my mood.

Transportation- I have already made a few comments on what tro-tros are like (something between a taxi and a bus), but how I got from place to place really impacted my experience in Ghana.  Tro-tro's were always long, hot, and usually resulted in some kind of story or another.  Taxi's made me nervous, and I never really got over the no traffic lights thing, but walking was the main mode of travel.  School was a good 45 minute walk each way, and the town square about a mile.  At first, especially with the heat, this was difficult to get used to coming from my paradigm where the church around the block is too far of a walk in heels.  I found walking very intoxicating though. 
physical presence

1 comment:

  1. I just returned from 3.5 months in Ghana about a month ago... and today just stumbled upon your blog by chance while searching for a Twi translation on Google.... This is the first post I read, and wow it made me want to cry as well as jump for joy with the amazing memories it brought back. I would LOVE to chat with you about your experiences there (and I plan to read the rest of your posts now... eventually) :D