July 2, 2009
Finally arrived in Accra, Ghana after two long flights from Toronto and Frankfurt. Four other girls from Alberta were also on my second flight from Frankfurt so the University of Ghana sent a van to pick us up and take us to the campus in Legon. During the ride over, I felt very overwhelmed when I had arrived, and was very silent during the drive. All over the streets there are women with baskets on top of their heads that contain various products that they sell to people in the cars that are driving by, which at first I thought of in the same regards that people from Toronto think of the “squeegee kids” that roam the streets – to be very cold and not buy their products. However, the Ghanaian people seem to find it an effective way of getting their hands on a quick snack or drink. I expected more buildings than what I saw on the way to Legon – although I realize that Ghana is a third world country, I thought that the capital would be a bit more developed than it was in the areas that we were driving. The heat here is unbearable! I’m hoping that soon I will get used to it; as soon as I stepped off the plane it was like a heat wave hitting me, and my body just started sweating instantly. After a nice, freezing cold shower, I feel a lot better, and am currently getting used to sleeping in this mosquito net. It feels a bit like a protective cover almost… my room is alright, nothing like what I am used to at home, but I expected nothing more, and in reality it has all the essentials that a room would need anyways – a desk with a chair, comfortable chair, bed, shelf and armoire. The luxury is having a balcony, as at residence in Queen’s there aren’t any buildings that are equipped with them. It was nice to finally see Linda after hearing about her first two months here!
Roommate Roshanak in her mosquito net ready to hit the sac.
July 3, 2009
Met up with Michael for lunch today and had the general idea of the program explained to us, and then we took a tour of the campus (which is huge!!). In the evening we went into Accra for the night (we first went to a region of Accra called Osu), and I bought some canvas paintings and a bracelet that says Ghana – which I received for free but was then asked if I had two cadies because he was hungry, so I gave it to him, and he then told me he would sell me a bracelet that was the same with my name on it for five cedis, which I didn’t really agree or disagree to, so I hope I just never see him again. Linda took us to a great place to eat that was right on Labadi beach. She described it as “the best chicken in the world,” and it was not an understatement! This restaurant was right on the beach with these blue lanterns that turned on when it became dark, it was beautiful. My room is starting to feel more like home.
July 4, 2009
Today we went on a tour of the musical places of Accra. We started off at the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre of Pan-African Culture where we learned about Dr. Kwame Nkruma and Dr. DuBois (who lived until 95 and was a professor at Atlanta University). At the mausoleum there were stools that had symbols on them that all represented something (except God, prudence, love, looking to the past, and death awaits us all). Our next stop was the National Museum of Ghana where we learned that at ceremonies, Ewe people display that they are protected by God by showing that knives can’t cut through their tongues, holding snakes in their mouths, and other daring stunts. There were many displays of the old currency, musical instruments, kente weaving, and other various cultural activities. We were also informed about the slave castles and the “door of no return” from the dungeon to the ship where they were taken away to never come back. After the museums we went to Jamestown, which is a harbor area where the fishing boats are located. No words or pictures can really capture what it was like there – poor families with their amazing, happy children running around saying “how are you” to us, and giggling to themselves when we responded with “I’m fine.” These children are probably not going to be very well educated, and it was as though it was a myth that white people (or “obruni” as they call us) say “hello, how are you, I’m fine,” so when we responded they got all excited that it was true. At lunch I tried fufu, it was interesting… very unique texture… I’m not sure if I enjoy eating with it, or eating with my hands. We then went to the Art Centre, where there are just a bunch of little shops. The people just constantly harassed me because I am obruni, when all I wanted to do was look, and they just throw out prices at you “I will give you my best price!” meanwhile they are giving you the highest prices possible because they think we are stupid (which I am still, as I have not been here for long and do not realize the prices of things yet). I like it here, and am looking forward to the lectures on Monday.
July 5, 2009
This morning I woke up early and went to the Legon Interdenominal Church, which is an interfaith church. It was a lot of fun! There is so much dancing and clapping and singing, it has a very gospel feel as they sing songs of prayer and when the very passionate people really feel it they raise their arms and close their eyes and just sway and sing to the music as loudly as they can. Some of the prayers that were sung were in English and others were in Twi and Pidgin (according to a few sources that I spoke to outside after the service), but there is always an English translation underneath. All Ghanaians seem to love God so much more than even the most passionate people in North America. They have so little, but appreciate so much, and expect nothing. It was amazing to see such honest faith, rather than the false front that is often seen in the West. There were a lot of singers with mics placed amongst the crowd of people, and one man in particular got up and spoke about how he was thankful that it rained the previous day, so that his crops got water and he could feed his family. This is a huge reality check and really makes me appreciate what I have at home, where water is less scarce and there is plenty of food for all. In the afternoon we went to the beach where we were bombarded by Ghanaians who were selling their jewelry or whatever. I felt forced to buy quite a few things, and ended up spending a bit… I need to get better at saying no to these people. It’s just so hard when they pressure you so much, and when you understand the lifestyle that they are living. The bracelet guy hassled me again today and I didn’t buy the bracelet that he had already made with my name on it (even though I didn’t tell him to) and he sat beside me the entire time and begged me, and when I settled at 2 cedis he was not happy with that amount and kept saying “no” and “I thought we were friends” and “you know, black and white is like a piano…” It made me feel bad at first but after a while it just became annoying. He eventually went away, but made a comment of “see you on the streets” when I walked by him later on in the afternoon, which concerns me, but I probably won’t be back there for a while anyway. After the beach Linda took us to the TV3 taping of Ghana’s Most Beautiful, as the volunteer group that she is with has that activity as part of their orientation, and we were allowed to tag along. The episode that we were watching was on the topic of motherhood, so each candidate went up on stage and had to perform the ways of motherhood that are used in one region of Ghana, and they were judged on how well they portrayed it. After their skit was finished, they each made a speech about the right and wrong things that they were doing, which is excellent as it teaches each viewer about what they might possibly be doing wrong as mothers. Some facts that I learned during the filming are that some stepmothers hurt and even kill their children, nurses can be too impatient, care-workers do not care for the children like they are their own, Grandmothers breast feed to make babies stop crying (even though there is no milk), and teachers are too consumed in themselves to care for the children they are teaching.
July 6, 2009
We started classes today, my favourite is Ewe class – it is so interesting! Nketia is a very inspiring person to receive lectures from as well, but is very quiet and I had some trouble hearing everything that he had to say.
Me with Professor Nketia
July 7, 2009
Today I was horribly sick and had to leave the afternoon lecture because I was throwing up. I felt so bad, and apparently it was a really great lecture so I was kind of upset about missing it, but there was no way that I could have sat through it. I ended up curling up and napping on two very uncomfortable chairs in the hallway, and when I woke up, a Ghanaian man was staring at me and started hitting on me! Probably the last thing that I wanted after a morning of hell. Roshanak was nice enough to take a cab back to the room with me and buy me water and everything, I’m lucky to have such a caring roommate. I am still a bit weak and shaky and I think I am running a fever, but hopefully I won’t miss too much class tomorrow.
July 8, 2009
Missed the first class today so that I had enough rest, and I am definitely feeling much better! Class was good today, I really enjoy listening to John Collins lecture. He reminds me of the stereotypical old British traveler of Africa with his safari shirts and little glasses, he is super cool. Drumming again today was fantastic, I love it! After class I got my hair braided, which took 5 hours! It looks okay, I’m not really sure how I feel about it yet… and it HURTS! I invited the girls who braided my hair to come out to the club with us tomorrow, and gave them both some jewelry that I brought from home, which they loved. It feels so good to give little gifts to the people here, even if it isn’t much, it’s nice to see a smile on their faces.
July 9, 2009
Today in Johnson’s drumming classes we had a lesson on a new drum! It was fun but I like the first drums better I think… Tonight was outrageous! We went to a nightclub called Aphrodisiac, it was the nicest club I have ever been to by far! Joan, one of the girls who braided my hair came out with us, even after she spent 5 hours braiding Roshanak’s hair! She is a lot of fun to hang out with. The music they played was amazing – all African and Caribbean music. The only thing I’m not sure that I enjoyed was the amount of attention that we received purely from being obruni.
July 10, 2009
Today we woke up at 7:00am, with merely 2.5 hours of sleep, and left for Kokrobite. We made a stop at a Liberian Refugee Camp where Michael is currently working on a CD project with some rap artists who live there. We went to see their village and the recording studio that is there, and we met all of the artists. The most interesting person I spoke with was a man who told us his name is Sweet Africa. He used to be a professor at the University of Liberia until he became a refugee here, and is now writing a book about his life as an independent person who is not receiving any help from the government in this camp, which will be named “Sweet Africa in Ghana.” He makes and sells jewelry and other various items that he makes himself out of corn husks (which he claims to be the first person to ever do). He also gives inspirational speeches at the University of Ghana every Wednesday morning at 8:30am, free of charge. He was so interesting to listen to, I wish I could go hear him speak at the University but I don’t think that I will be able to due to our own lectures. We left the camp for Big Milly’s Hostel in Kokrobite. It is so nice! The girls and I are sharing one big house (called “house”). We just hung out all evening. Linda and I ate shark for dinner – it wasn’t really anything special, but definitely interesting to try for the first time. After dinner we watched a drumming and dancing group perform, they were amazing! They must work so incredibly hard to perfect the dances to that level.
Liberian Refugee Camp
July 11, 2009
Today was possibly the most fun day on our adventure so far! While waiting for breakfast, Katie M and I went for a walk on the beach, and on our way back, we went a bit too far and stumbled across a group of people pulling a fishing boat onto the beach. It looked almost like a tug-o-war, two long lines of people holding ropes and heaving and hoeing the boat in. The coolest part was that there was a man playing drums on a propane tank and everybody was singing songs as they pulled the boat in. One of the men waved Katie and I over, and we joined in and helped bring the boat in! I can’t even really described how interesting it was to be a part of. After breakfast we walked up the hill to a shady area where we received drumming and dancing lessons from the group that we watched perform last night. The drumming started off a little it slow, but it picked up and was excellent! I really enjoyed how they focused on the quality of sound that we were producing as well as the dexterity of our hands. I am having a hard time with the slap, but apparently it takes a really long time to achieve. After the drumming ended we had our dance lesson, which was so much fun! The dance moves had a Caribbean feel to them, and were super tiring in the heat. Right after, we went for a swim and played in the waves of the ocean. I bought a dress from one of the shop owners, who gave me a huge hug and exclaimed “I love your body! Marry my son so that I can have grandchildren who look like you!” Because a lot of Africans are unhealthy, a bigger body is appreciated because it means your family feeds you well, and I seem to be getting a lot of attention because of it. I’m not sure if I like it, but it is supposed to be a compliment so I will just take it for what it’s worth. I also bought some things from the Rastafari shops on the beach. The Rasta people are so chill, I’m really fascinated by their lifestyle and want to learn more! After dinner was reggae night, where I was talking to one of the drummers named Otchie for a really long time. He is also a Rasta, and was telling me (for probably an hour and a half) about their lifestyle, where I learned to always “be positive” and to teach new people that you meet, and to always have my mind set and not change it out of guilt. I want to become a Rasta (maybe).
Pulling in the fishingboat Katie and Rasta me, after our boat experience
July 12, 2009
Woke up early again today for drumming, and after waiting over an hour for breakfast, we were all late for the lesson. The drumming was alright again, and the dancing was really difficult for me because my body hurt so much from the day before! At 4:00pm they put on a performance at a run-down hotel called Aama’s, which was awesome to once again see them play. We even had the opportunity to dance with them at one part, which was so much fun!! I love dancing, it always puts such a huge smile on my face. It took us about 4 hours to drive the 35km back to Legon. And we drove it with a flat tire the entire way! After the long bumpy drive back I got my first dresses from Miss Elizabeth, a seamstress who comes to our hostel every night, and I think I am going to become addicted to buying African clothes.
Drumming group in Kokrobite
July 13, 2009
Lectures are still good, but getting hard to handle as it takes a lot of energy to pay attention for such long periods of time. I bought a pan logo drum today though! I got two symbols put on my drum – “you must remember your past to move ahead in the future” and “democracy and unity of diversity.” Finally finished the cue cards… I’m starting to miss my family and friends… After class today we went out for dinner with Joan, who brought me and Roshanak dresses! Roshanak’s suits her very well… mine is a bit ugly… but it’s the thought that counts (I’m going to get it altered asap). We went for Lebanese food at Frankie’s in Osu, it was delicious! We all feasted, and it was fantastic. I currently dislike African food and would rather not eat than eat it, it just doesn’t settle well in my stomach.
July 14, 2009
A lot of lectures.
Katie and Heather taking flute lessons from Kofi
July 15, 2009
Today after lectures our Kokrobite drummer friends came to visit us and go to reggae night with us. Apparently drinking a lot on malaria pills doesn’t work well with me, and so, I was in bed by 11 after a horrible hour of being sick. How embarrassing. Auntie at the desk checked on me all night, which was really nice of her. Still, embarrassing.
July 16, 2009
Today was good, we began studying xylophones which was a little bit slow for me because I’m a pianist, and have played marimbas, xylophones, and vibraphones for a few years now. However, it was still pretty interesting because there were no “black” keys, and it only played C D E G A. Aaron, our professor, was so amazing at playing them. It would have been really cool to have had a private lesson with him. Today we also had our final lesson with Johnson ☹.
Drumming in Johnson's class