11 June 2008

must be the colors and the kids

cape coast. with its colonial and slave trade history you understand why the water is so violent but the children are selling plantain chips and oranges and i think they just really want to be your friend. and when you become friends you become sad about having things and school and it seems like just luck and it's not fair.

15 April 2008

my drumming class was away at a funeral.

my teacher's senior-brother's wife is dead and you see her face on everyone's 'in loving memory' t-shirts and in the tears and in the dancing and in the singing. the first day in the afternoon is parades of men and women in reds and blacks dancing drumming singing down the street and you wouldnt know someone had died for all the joy and freedom in the way their bodies moved. later that night we join drum circles and dancing and stars stars stars. stars might be my favorite thing about Ghana. we sleep for two hours until the drums start again around midnight which means it's time for the all-night wake. we sit and listen to words in Ewe, understanding only 'amen' and 'hallelujah' and then music starts and everyone stands and they pull you in and old women old men young girls young boys take your hand and grab your waist and it's a mob of free movement free emotion sweat smiles. liberating. and all the while there is sobbing on the outskirts of celebration, those wiping tears, those wailing. and at first we are uncomfortable with such a dichotomy of emotion. dancing then crying, crying then dancing, happiness and sadness don't often exist in the harmony that i see this day. and i think this harmony was possible because of how truthfully these emotions were expressed. nobody is afraid of doing what they feel like doing when they feel like doing it--crying screaming laughing dancing--and at home we feel naked with such truthfulness because this means vulnerability. and sometimes you may want to scream your sadness to the world but you cant because nobody screams theirs. but here, someone will scream back.

grave-hopping. maybe more admirable than the aged traditions of flower-dropping.

his shirt read:
i'm not a bitch
i'm THE bitch
and it's MISS bitch to you

10 April 2008

where you will see ashton in bell bottoms and eat a pomme d'amour

aahh so long since my last entry. but i'm all over the blogging life again i swear. after this weekend i'm posting photos from a funeral in a small village. it was beautiful beautiful and so sad.

we went to Ivory Coast for Easter Break. despite the whole civil war thing and the 'don't go to ivory coast or you'll die!' warnings of peers. we felt pretty rebellious. and were glad afterward because we decided we would like to stay forever and only petty obligations were presented in protest of this idea. petty obligations won. on the basis that maybe they weren't as petty as we were willing to make them out to be if it meant we could stay forever. but maybe we'll stay forever another time.

french west africa. and it's really french. west africa. baguettes on street corners, croissants and tea for breakfast and we're ready to go. croissants and tea for breakfast everyday and any day means an automatic new favorite place. which makes sense considering paris is a favorite place and Abidjan was hailed as the 'paris of west africa' in its prime, its prime being the 70s which is quite possibly the best time to be in your prime if it means every building is a geometric puzzle and Ashton Kutcher may peek out in bell bottoms and all of a sudden set-location will be obvious, how did you not know it before? i also thought it looked like what i'd imagine an African Cuba to look like based on what i imagine Cuba to look like which may or may not be solely based on 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.'

the cathedral.

we find an abandoned dark stairway at the bottom and used a flashlight on a phone to go up the twisting staircase, dark and dusty enough to make you think you may step on an assortment of one or all of the following: dead bodies, a homeless man that upon being stepped on will awaken angry enough to kill you, the non-casper ghosts in casper that unlike casper are really mean. we climb all the way to the toptoptop of this weird abstract structure thing protruding from the church, the highest point you see in this next photo of the outside of the cathedral. we feel we are on top of the world. we are proud to have gone so high, to have done something probably illegal, and to have carefully evaded the homeless man with potentially murderous tendencies. so proud in fact, we sign our names. we were here.

the grocery store. we were really excited. as evidenced by the unnecessarily great amount of photos taken there. lipton tea is what i have four cups-a-day-three-spoons-of-sugar of everyday. nutella is what we dream of having everyday. milo is the ghanaian equivalent of ovaltine except EVERYONE drinks it ALL the time. and a nun at the butcher is just funny.

the art gallery. we love it. and those that run it. i am especially fond of the black hats and how much they laugh.

we kept trying to take 'serious family portraits.' we mostly fail.

apples of love!

17 March 2008

15 March 2008

you were right about the stars

first of all sorry for how long this is. but this post is my favorite 5 days since i have been in Ghana. also, celine dion is currently blaring in the computer lab, not unusual. and my tolerance for spicy food is increasing which means a variation from tikka masala at house of curries may be possible, though chances are still slim.

last weekend it was off to Mole. Mole like the Mexican dish, not the skin imperfection. Mole national park: home of 600 elephants, and vacation hotspot for 80-year olds (in khakis, giant Buddha earrings, and binoculars) who refuse to relinquish dreams of going on an African safari. traveling is me, Thien-Vinh, and Megan. except sometimes I call Thien-Vinh 'Rin-Tin-Tin' and she barks back. and we meet Syntia from Germany at the bus station and she ends up tagging along. for a long time I think her name is Cynthia, and it’s her accent making it sound like Syntia, but it just is Syntia. we have tickets for the 8am bus to Tamale (from Tamale we bus to Larabanga, from Larabanga to Mole) so we wake up at 5am to leave for the station at 6am, water heater, tea, sugar, mugs packed inside our otherwise outwardly appearing rugged backpacking gear. we arrive at the bus station at 730am, and it’s 830, then 930, 1030, and we leave at 11am. on the 8am bus. hours and hours of loud radio and louder soap operas later, we arrive at 1230am. as ‘white’ passengers (me white, weird, I know), we’re ran to and sweet talked so this person can take us to this hotel, and this person can get us this taxi, and finally they understand we don’t need their help and we sleep in the passenger’s lounge. don’t be fooled. passenger’s lounge = long wooden benches on an outdoor platform, security guards snoring, their flashlights sporadically shone in our faces when they arbitrarily decide to awaken for duty. we wake up at 430am, to get tickets for the 6am bus, because lonely planet told us to. 4:35am and the ‘seats are finished’ they tell us (everything in Ghana ‘finishes,’ it’s never sold-out), but DJ Ken from filaFM radio adopts us and convinces us he’s a serious man, he doesn’t deal with non-serious people, and his name alone yields favors. and maybe he was right because suddenly we were on the bus to Larabanga: home of the first mosque of West Africa, and brothers YahYah and Anoosa.

The mosque was beautiful, 600 years old and still used.

Yahyah and Anoosa are so smart, 19 and 15, respectively, and in love with our cameras. ‘I am a pho-tog-rapher’ Yahyah says over and over. ‘I am a pho-tog-rapher.’

I made a friend, our relationship was me talk-talk-talking, he blowing bubbles in response. no words, just bubbles.

me: can I take a photo of you blowing a bubble?

him: [blows bubble]

Yahyah and Anoosa are nephews of Al-Hassan, one of the Salia brothers. they started eco-tourism in Larabanga, ie 2cedis for his nephews to walk us around, show us the mosque, children always following, holding our hands, linking arms. this may be my favorite kind of tourism. Al-Hassan is all hospitality, serving us food despite our insistence that we just ate. ‘but food that isn’t free isn’t food,’ was his irrefutable response.

and finally we are driven in the community cab the 15 minutes to Mole. the cab was donated by an NGO for driving tourists to Mole, and pregnant women to the hospital in the next town to give birth. i wondered if a baby had been born in the taxi.

first baboon sighting at the front entrance!

settled in, we sit poolside with cokes and cards and swim dips while baboons swing at the giant tree yards away, pick at our bread, and elephants bathe at the water hole just below the pool area. this is the giant baboon-filled tree and those black spots in the water are elephants. and our seats atthe pool starts where the sandy dirt in this photo ends. surreal.

Mole is lovely, we sit in our bright-curtained rooms, Africa our backyard. cockroaches live with us. we name them Fred 1 and Fred 2. sunsets are pink skies, Lion King-esque tree silhouettes.

we wake up early for our safari and Abu with a gun is our guide. he has worked there for twenty years, sweet eyes and a sweet laugh.

we walk behind him through ‘the bush’, feet away from pumbas (warthogs, but spoken of as ‘pumbas’ throughout our travels). they look noble. we decided it’s the mustache. like they could smoke a pipe

when we finally see the elephants it’s magic because they’re huge and peaceful and I can’t describe their majesty. we watch their slow, heavy, dance-leap steps through the water, a parade.

elephant lovers:

evenings are teatime and spreading-out our towels on the porch and looking out at the trees and up at the stars and saying hello to the pumbas walking nonchalantly past us, close enough to be invited to tea. the next day we say our good-byes to the Freds.

this is how we get back to Larabanga. i feel like i'm flying.

we meet up with Daniel and Tara. they’re English and in love and together discovering the world. Daniel is in dreads, Tara in beads, and I admire their courage, leaving jobs and comforts only 6 months after finishing university for the adventures of W. Africa. the six of us talk about politics, life, and Tara’s father. He is the owner of Larchill Gardens in Ireland: a Victorian property with fields and lakes turned into a rarebreeds (fluffy chickens, emus, llamas, etc.) farm. Children walk through a door that stands alone in the meadow into the world of fairies, moving statues, and magical animals, kissing frogs to help sculptures regain the long-lost loves whose absences turned them to stone.

The Salia Brothers’ Guesthouse in Larabanga is a dozen children (Al-Hassan’s nieces and nephews) running around and jumping and screaming, flying colors, and I feel like they’re all walking on trampolines as they poke at us, leap at us, asking our names, teaching us songs and games. we play jump rope with them then teach them limbo.

they are fascinated with our cameras: run around, snap, run around, snap, climb to the roof, snap, ‘stay there, stay there,’ snap.

Tee-Tee's portrait of me:

my portrait of Tee-Tee:

photos taken by the kids; Larabanga through their eyes:

one of the girls prepares a delicious meal of yam stew and we sit around the table, Al-Hassan sharing his frustrations of trying to help his community develop, starting more schools, saying over and over ‘I feel I am in the wrong society’ and all I can think of is how I hope YahYah and Anoosa can go to college but it’s hard coming from a small village.

stuffed and sleepier we climb the ladder and it’s up on the roof with flowered-mattresses and our sheets to sleep under the stars. the sky is everywhere and all around, and looking up I felt we were on the bottom of a snow globe. because suddenly the world was small, the sky's edges curving under us. and I have never ever seen so many stars. I was ready for a Christmas-awaiting child to shake the globe and for the stars to come showering down like snow on our African holiday.