Thursday, September 15, 2005

Red Letter Day

This morning I had my first solid bowel movement in nearly three weeks. Bravo.

Also, I got my official letter of acceptance from the University of Ghana, Legon, so now I can enroll in the classes I've been sitting in for three weeks. Again, bravo.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It Gives Me The Shits

Ghanaian food is awesome. I can't get enough chicken, beans and rice. The plantains? Don't even get me started. Awesome.

However, the food? It gives me the shits. Today, after checking, for the umpteenth time this week, for skidmarks in my boxers after yet another clenched-cheeks sprint for the bathroom, I got to thinking. And this is what I came up with to share with you:

I once went on an Outward Bound trip. We went sea kayaking along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was beautiful and, except for the terrible bugs and the tornado warning, was a great experience. One of the funniest moments was when our guide - who was awesome! - showed us how to use the ocean as a toilet because, "dilution is the solution to pollution." She used a football metaphor that included squating, shuffling sideways (to avoid any floaters) and then squatting again. All while trying to time the waves and not get knocked on your ass.

My first foray into white water shitting did not go very well. I came back with a really bad strawberry (on my ass, natch) and soaking wet. But I eventually got the hang of it.

However, things took a turn for the worst several days into the trip when I developed a nasty case of the shits. (Didn't see that one coming did ya?) Having diarrhea is unpleasant regardless. But it's especially bad when you're spending eight hours a day sitting in a piece of waterproof plastic, but I grew up doing family road trips and can hold just about anything for hours. When I did finally have to use the restroom, it was not pretty.

Without further adieu, and in an effort to make myself feel better about the current state of affairs, I present my worst moment from Outward Bound:

One night, we had to cook and eat dinner on one side of the barrier island and camp on the other ocean-side. I was a cook, and so stayed to boil noodles and mix in powdered cheese while most of the group went to set up camp. And use the 'bathroom' if necessary. As soon as I finished my meal, and conveniently enough, as soon as it was dark, my bowels began heaving around and I knew that this was not going to be a pleasant "I'll just use the bay-side" trip to the shitter. I got directions ("follow the marshy stream until you see a dirt trail going off to the left, follow that about half a mile and then you'll hit the beach.") and set out with my headlamp. Which died almost immediately. So I stumbled on in the dark swamp praying for the turn off. Once I hit the trail I alternately ran and walked slowly trying to find something that would get me to the beach before my bowels let fly. Truly, one of god's nastiest jokes: the more you have to go the slower you have to walk to get there. When I finally got to the sandy outskirts of the beach I ripped off my shirt and ran, full sprint into the ocean, reaching knee deep just in time to drop trou and literally spray diarrhea into the ocean. Shuffling sideways be damned, there was not enough water for that to be diluted properly. I had two more days of explosive diarrhea while kayaking. But better timing. Good times. Good times.

Can't you just smell the lemon-scented air freshener? I can.

Friday, September 09, 2005

"I'm Not Gonna Lie..."

So nothing really of note has happened recently. School has started which is always an exciting, and then depressing, time of year. But here in Ghana, the beginning of classes is feckin' hilarious. Professors don't show up. Classes get whited-out on one schedule on one desk in one office and then are cancelled for the semester, despite not being cancelled on other schedules around campus. Students drop classes en mass when the professor mentions that he's going to be asking questions about the reading. Abruni students flock to politics classes that deal with development and Ghanaian students flee the great white wave: imperialism at work. Professors dictate long passages to students who frantically scribble down the page-long quotations despite not understanding half the words because of a combination of accents, poor enunciation, speaking softly and just pure disbelief that we are doing dictation. I start tearing up in frustration, until J starts laughing at the situation, then we both laugh quietly, but obviously in class until we literally run out of the room. Canadian students giggle when their university is mentioned. New York students pass judgement on the the other, aryan-nation-looking abruni.

But, despite all this excitement, I don't have much to blog about, so below are a bunch of piecemeal tidbits that have had me peeing my pants recently. A lot of them are probably of the "you had to be there" ilk, but I was there, and that's what counts.

"What the fuck is that? It's no fucking jelly donut." - J

"...well, I looked it up on, I don't know if you know what that is, but..." - M to our professor

"What's the deal with all the female abruni students having oily hair, stumpy posture and vaguely lesbian shoes?" - me

"Bitch! Learn how to make some coffee. Whore!" - Harold to his bag of weed

"Why? So you can beat him, fatty!?" - Ace Ventura

"Who is Vagina Mcginastine?" - M

"You said it. You said you have 10 inches, I want to see that shit. You were talking the talk, now you better walk the walk..." - D addressing the length of Chief's 'family inheritance'
"No! There will be no walking of that walk tonight!" - me

"Scott always has this disgusted look on his face." - H
"H just jumped on my shit list. She is hardcore off the team. Don't even come to tryouts next year. Bitch." - me

Monday, September 05, 2005

ET Starring In Shit Happens

"Well, this woman was pointing a gun in my face, well, one of the rifles they were using in the parade, and she was yelling ‘I’m going to shoot you! I’m going to shoot the white man!’ And then a bunch of other people came and were ‘dancing’ and jostling us (meaning me and my abruni friends) and someone copped a feel from all of us, and picked up my wallet. So, if you could cancel my Mastercards and give me the number to call and cancel my Visa checking card that would be awesome. No, I didn't have too much cash in it. Thanks a lot dad. Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun. I love Ghana!"
- as told to my father over the phone.

I was in Cape Coast this weekend to experience the celebration of the Fetu Afahye festival of thanksgiving. And I like to think that I did my small part in making it a happy day for someone and his friends (by which I mean accomplices). I contributed to the festival this year by donating my wallet and all of its (meager) contents. I’ll admit I didn’t just hand it over, I just made it as easily accessible in my back pocket as possible.

After that the day took a turn for shitty for J, A and I: we had plantain chips grabbed out of our mouths, stepped in human shit on the beach, got followed around by children for half an hour while they asked for money and just generally got sweaty and disgusting, as well as disgusted, mostly because of our own liberal use of shit jokes.

J found a bright side to having my wallet stolen, she said, “I’m glad you had traveler’s checks in there, because you know when he saw those he just said, ‘Fuck!’” Yeah, I showed him.

Another perk of having my wallet stolen was that I could honestly, and guilt-free, tell everyone else that tried to get money out of me for the rest of the weekend that, “I have nothing to give, my wallet was stolen.” A little kid wanted something to eat? Too bad, so did I. Isaac wanted me to buy a necklace off him. I’d love to, but my wallet was stolen. Ebenezer wanted me to donate to his football team. I wish I could, but, my wallet was stolen, I don’t have anything to give. What about just a little American currency? In my wallet, sorry, but you can have this highlighter. You want me to take your picture with your ancestral slingshot and then pay you for it? Go find the guy who stole my wallet and ask him to take your picture.

Also, I got free drinks that night on the beach (thanks K, S and J). Awesome.

The next day we went to the Elmina Slave Castle. It was a powerful trip. Seeing the governor’s residence was especially disgusting and, as K pointed out, truly embarrassing. An inscription at the castle read, “…may humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity…” However, it is too generous to call the traders who operated this and other slave castles around Africa human – they sacrificed that title when they denied it to others.

After the castle we ate lunch at some place that catered to abruni and was situated in the middle of a crocodile pond. The crocodiles were present but inactive and the food was tasty but seemed to have been made a bit bland for the more sensitive abruni taste buds.

We finished the day with a visit to Kakum National Park for a trip through the canopy walk, which was awesome, if a bit shorter than one would hope. We didn’t see any animals, which was a bit of a disappointment – but it was fun, the views were spectacular and I made Tarzan jokes, so it was definitely worth the trip.

All in all, the biggest downside to the trip might be the nickname I have gotten out of it (which I think we all are hoping doesn’t catch on): ET – which is short for Easy Target.

P.S. Thanks for the shell Ebenezer! It means a lot to me – I’ll definitely email you about payment. And tell Isaac no hard feelings because he took his shell back when he found out I couldn’t donate anything to his team either. Hope you enjoy the highlighter. Cheers, your “American Friend Bro: Seott Lea”

PICTURES TO COME. (goddamn fucking slow internet won't upload shit. goddamnit.)

Friday, September 02, 2005

"The Yankees Were Ahead And Then They Lost" or "I Had To Turn Our Air Conditioning Down Because It Was So Cold"

The hilarious comedian, Nick Swarsdon, has a really funny bit in which he talks about his grandma and how his problems don't compare to hers. Nick's bad day: the video store doesn't have the game he wants, the yankees lose, it's going to rain. Grandma's bad day: she woke up again, her heart hurts when she breaths and another one of her friends died. Nick's response? "Yeah, totally. The Yankees were ahead and then they lost."

In honor of Nick, K and I made plans for what we're going to complain about next time we're spending time with students from the University of Ghana - specifically other study abroad students who are actually living in Ghanaian dorms - instead of living in a really nice compound in a really nice part of town as far removed from other Ghanaian students as possible.

The next time a study abroad student complains and says, "we didn't have any water yesterday." K and I will respond, "yeah, totally, yesterday for my second shower of the day, it ran out of hot water and I had to rinse the shampoo out of my hair in cold water."

Or if someone complains about not having air conditioning: "well, count your blessings, last night I had to wake up and turn our air conditioning down because it was so cold. and to top it all off, the remote for the air conditioner was across the room on someone else's desk, and that marble floor gets really cold when the a/c is on full blast."

Some general complaints we might throw out to start the ball rolling:
"I had to take a cab to class today because our van doesn't leave until too late."

"When I came home last night, all I wanted to do was watch a little Harold and Kumar but all these kids were in our room watching Tommy Boy on our dvd player - like they don't have dvd players in their own house right across the compound."

"Last night the really nice restaurant in Accra where we have our meal plan served vegetable stew for like the third night in a row. Boring."

And the best one:
"Yeah, and the cleaning people wake me up every monday, wednesday and friday at 9:30 in the morning."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Color Me Developing

I woke up this morning at 6:09am (thank god for having two functional alarms, eh?) so that I could hop in a cab and make it to my 7:30am politics class at the University of Ghana. Why anyone would schedule a class before 9:30 is beyond me, but 7:30 is absurd, I didn't even wake up that early for christmas when I was younger, and let me tell you lecture is no damn christmas.

But my traveling buddy, J and I were on time to class, we were even early enough to go see if we could pick up the readings for the class. But when we asked the guy in the department if he had the readings for 419, he looked at us and said, "uh, 419 was cancelled" and pointed at the schedule on the desk in front of him where POLI 419 Politics of Developing Countries had been whited-out. This is the same schedule we had been looking at outside for the last week, on which POLI 419 Politics of Developing Countries was NOT whited-out. Cancelled for the semester, not just the day. Damnit. Silly Americans, checking the schedule that was posted outside. Obviously you have to check the schedule on which they are using the white-out. Duh.

J and I hung our heads defeatedly and got another cab back to our residence. J turned to me and said, "you know, sometimes I forget that we're in a developing country here, but then I see some terrible inefficiency like this and I remember, 'you people don't even have a computer system!'" Amen sister, amen.