Monday, October 31, 2005

I Love You Bigguy

I was going to write and tell you all about Senegal and how great it was, but...

I just got a call from my mom in Denver. My dad had a very serious heart attack and he is in stable but critical condition. They are keeping him sedated so that his body can get through this critical period, so he's not really responsive. I believe at least one of my sisters is on her way home right now, and I am so thankful that she is going, and I am so sorry that I cannot, because I want to be there for my father, and my mother, because they have been there so much for me.

Please keep my dad and family in your hearts and thoughts.

Love you Bigguy.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Enjoy Your Meal

I have been fairly regular for the last month. But this morning I wake up, a few hours before I am supposed to be leaving the country for a week of hostel-hopping and, surprise! I've got the 'rhea. Apparently spicy chicken burns as much going out as it does going in.

I'm off to take immodium and then to the airport!

Saturday, October 22, 2005


We were supposed to fly Slok Air to Dakar on Friday afternoon. On Thursday afternoon, we got a call from our travel agent, Michael, who told us that he had gotten a call from Slok saying that our flight was cancelled, but that we had been moved to the Sunday flight at the same time. J and I ran (actually, we walked sluggishly because it is so bloody hot here right now and the humidity makes walking a resistance sport) to the travel agent to talk to him in person - we don't really get our point across to Ghanaians on the phone. When Michael saw us he smiled but behind his grin he was hiding a look of terror.

We had him call Slok air and we interrogated them through Michael - who was surprisingly forceful for any Ghanaian, but especially for nice, mild-manner and very accomodating Michael. We were so proud of him. The ladies at Slok told him to have us come to the office and they would help us. We told them we were on our way and they shouldn't go on lunch or close for the day or anything else that would frustrate us any more.

15 minutes later, we hop out of our taxi and pop into the Slok office where a desk full of women all smile at us and seem surprised to see us. We sat down, explained that we had just come from our travel agent and that our flight to Dakar had been cancelled and what were you going to do about it?

"The flight is back on," the woman said as casually as if she was saying the lid is back on the peanut butter. Or that the electricity was back on.


"The flight is back on, for tomorrow. We were going to call you."

"We literally talked to you 15 minutes ago and the flight was still canceled. Why is it back on?"

"We just got a call. We were going to call you, we're calling all the passengers."

We happily got every number that Slok has in Accra and Dakar, including a manager's cell phone, and we gave them both of our cell phone numbers - telling them to call us if there was ANY change.

We happily trooped home and I went to (the most frustrating) class with a (slight) spring in my step. We went to the bar. The next morning we woke up early and packed. I updated internal monologuing with a smarmy note about my trip.

Cut to Friday, 4 hours before our flight. My phone rings:


"Yes, please, this is Slok Air, the flight today is canceled."


"Yes, please, the flight today is canceled."

"Not ok! I just talked to you yesterday and you promised me that the flight was leaving today."

"Yes, please, but it is canceled. We just got the call this morning."

"We are supposed to leave in 4 hours!"

"Please, but the flight has been canceled."

"How can you cancel it this close to departure time!?"

"The flight is canceled. But please, we will be flying on Sunday."

"Not ok!"

"Sorry, but we will be flying on Sunday."

"My ticket is for today."

"Please, we will be flying on Sunday."

"I'm going to call you back. Very soon. ok?"

"Yes, thank you."

J knew exactly what had happened when I walked into her room. I didn't even have to say anything. She cried a little bit. We both called Michael and Slok repeatedly. J even talked to the manager of the Accra office. Nothing. No other flights to Dakar, or to Banjul. Nothing. We spent the day sitting in bed playing solitaire, planning our trip and generally trying to avoid acknowledging the fact that we were stuck in the Compound for another 2 nights.

So that's where I am. Accra. I don't leave until tomorrow, Sunday, afternoon. That means no Cape Verde (and therefore, no Portuguese!). Just Senegal (and, obviously, some really, really bad French left over from highschool) - which will be amazing. But I am cranky.

And I am thankful that J is not one of those "find the silver-lining" types. We're both peeved and it's going to be a great trip.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Peace Outside

Or should I say, Paix Dehors? Paz Fora?

Ok kids, I'm off to Senegal and, hopefully the island nation (and therefore, probably sexy nation) of Cape Verde. I probably won't be updating much if at all. Which I'm not quite going to apologize for, but you should know that, while I'm sitting on a black sand beach, preferably with a cold drink in my hand watching the sun set after having hiked a volcanic crater, I will definitely think of you guys with a twinge of pity. I'll be back and updating after the 30th - can you make it?

Don't worry, I'll post pictures of my tan lines when I get back. Christmas is early for y'all this year, eh!?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Memo To All Ghanaian Taxi Drivers

Just because I am white doesn't mean I am incapable of walking. Nor does it mean that I am blind and can't see you. Nor does it mean that I am remedial to the point of not understanding the function of a taxi. I know you can take me wherever I am going, but I also know that you're going to try to gauge me and that I can walk the distance for free. It also does not imply that if I needed a cab I wouldn't know how to hail one - I understand that Ghana is not New York, but if I need a cab, I'm pretty sure I can figure out how to get your attention (beyond just being white). Therefore, DO NOT HONK AT ME. If I needed help I would be waving you down - not shaking my head no. If I just told the taxi in front of you that I don't need a ride, what makes you think I'm going to need a taxi 3 seconds later when you drive by me and honk? What's the deal with you pulling attitude when I don't get in the taxi? Stop acting like I flagged you down, made you reverse and then changed my mind - you did that all by yourself, and all the while I was shaking my head no and yelling "no."

And if you honk at me more than twice, you know what you're gonna get? A nice, in-the-spirit-of-New-York, loud "FUCKING NO!"

It's Midterm Time... And The Living's Easy

That glorious time of every semester when I realize just how little work I have done thus far.

And then I avoid it.

The following are things that have recently helped me in my work avoidance, and some random, and completely unimportant crap to show you how worthless I have been in the last week, a week that should have been filled with studying and reading in an effort to stave off the bombing of my first midterm that took place Monday in Community Psychology, and the impending destruction of my Conflicts in Africa midterm on Thursday.

Wednesday is my day off, I should be studying or exploring the city, looking for a hotel for my parents to stay in or... ANYTHING. But instead I'm bullshitting on my blog, all for you people!

Heather B. Armstrong always puts a smile on my face over at dooce, and I was chuckling, as always, when I started reading this post, because I too love Grey's Anatomy, despite being embarassed of it (though, apparently not embarassed enough to not talk about how AWESOME it is). It's up there with Alias on my list of guilty pleasures. However, I am stuck in Africa and have been sans Gray's Anatomy for the whole of this season, and Heather - without a spoiler alert! - gave away one of the major happenings on this season. GODDAMNIT! So, consider this an official spoiler alert for Heather's spoiler: Do Not Read if you ever plan on watching the second season of Gray's Anatomy.

Amy Blair over at the Black Table pretty much makes me pee my pants every week with her Week in Craig. But this week, she really struck home, because she totally explained why I hate the gym (at least, one of the explanations). I'm not doing much of anything here in Ghana besides sweating - which I think deserves partial credit - but when I'm in the states I'm far too competitive to be allowed out in public. It's a subtle kind of competition, one that takes place mostly in my head, but come January if you're out running on the East River and some skinny fool passes you with a huge smile on his face and pumps his fist, that's probably me. And the 'Open Letter' is both funny and sad, because he actually wrote that shit and posted it in a public forum, but even sadder because I could actually relate to his deranged inner monologue.

The pictures, in case you haven't noticed, have nothing to do with any of the writing in this post. They're pictures of beautiful Lake Bosumtwi (formed by a meteor!) near Kumasi - in the central region of Ghana. They're pretty much the only pictures I took this weekend. Not because Kumasi wasn't entertaining - the market was huge and amazing, though not as overwhelming or aggressive as in Accra, thank god - but because I am officially paranoid of being pick-pocketed in strange cities. They don't call me ET for nothing.

And finally, more Africans doing manual labor while obruni take pictures!

Monday, October 17, 2005

October 17th

Happy International Day For The Eradication Of Poverty. There are events going on at the UN in New York, and sites around the world, as people come together for this cause.

For more info, visit:
Fourth World Movement USA
World Day To Overcome Extreme Poverty
United Nations

Shout out to the New York team for all their work to set up this event. And to Tama Waipara for performing.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Habitat Safari

My program organized a group community service opportunity. Though, like everything this program organizes, it was organized more as a photo-op than as an actual community service opportunity. So we drove (in a bus with safari-animals painted garrishly on the sides) nearly 3 hours outside the city to a village, Kyebi (I think?) to help build houses with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate. The villagers were, as almost always, extremely welcoming and far, far more capable than the obruni. So they wasted a lot of time showing us how to do stuff that they could have done themselves in half the time. But they got a huge kick out of laughing and watching white people sweat, try to lift heavy objects and get blisters. I did brick molding for about an hour. It is a labor intensive process, not surprising, seeing as they do it by hand, along with everything else, such as; mixing concrete, laying concrete, carrying concrete, carrying water to make concrete, making their shutters, clearing the ground for houses etc. etc. etc. Pretty much, if we use heavy machinery to do a task in America, they do it manually. And they have the incredible muscular definition to prove it. I also did a little brick laying. Though, considering David had to fix all the mortar I spattered between the bricks, I feel like we were more of a hinderance than anything.

After 2 hours of working, we broke for lunch. We fed the whole village, which was nice, they were appreciative. Then we left. We were back by 4. So really, we spent more time in the bus than actually working. And we spent almost as much time eating as we did working. But, I'm pretty sure the staff got some awesome pictures of white kids doing manual labor to send back to the States for recruitment pamphlets. So it was worth it.

Pictures of the brick wall at which I threw mortar to follow.

Believe it or not, we were building this, not demolishing it.

How much would you kill for that landscaping in your back yard?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Body Glitter

Towards the end of my (short and painful) run this morning, I passed a lady from my program. When I talked to her half an hour later, still sweating profusely, she exclaimed, "boy, when I saw you this morning on your run you were the shinniest person I've ever seen. You were glittering."

My body glitter is all natural, 100% Me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thanks For The Generous Outpouring Of Concern

You can all breathe easier now. I'm sure the drama of my last post probably cost most of you a good night sleep. And for that, I apologize. But I just wanted to let you guys know that today I went and got my U of Ghana ID. And for once my picture doesn't say "wanted in 50 states for child molestation, assault on old ladies, bestiality, incest and general white-trashiness." The camera worked, the printer worked, the guy manning the machines was efficient, they spelled my name correctly and put it in the right order, the line wasn't too long, everything went smoothly.

Thanks for your concern. Sleep tight.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's A Li'l Somethin' We Like To Call "Ghanaian Time"

I am taking classes through my university's program in Ghana, as well as through Ashesi University and the University of Ghana, Legon. Classes at Legon started 2 weeks before I arrived in Ghana. My program did not inform us of that little scheduling blip. We did not get our letters of admissions from U of Ghana until a month into our stay here. The reason for that is dubious, either my program didn't turn in our papers in time because they were waiting for paper work to arrive from New York (papers we could have filled out here...) or becasue U of Ghana is a huge institution that is terribly (though, thankfully as it means more people are reaching tertiary education) over populated and lacks any sort of central computer/data management system. It took me 4 trips to 3 different offices and over 2 weeks to get registered for my politics classes - and I still am not sure I'm on the final list. I have yet to receive my U of Ghana ID card.

I tried today, for the 4th time, to get my ID. Theoretically, this consists of a guy snapping my picture, entering my student number into the computer and then the little, laminated beauty coming out of the machine.

Ghana's not real big on theory. Because, in theory, the office is open from 9am until 5pm. But in actuality, if you show up at 10 you'll probably beat the guy there. Theoretically, lunch is from 12 to 2. If you show up at 11:30, the guy is gone and the woman at the desk next to his can't help you and he should be back "very soon." If you come back at 2:30 (having learned your lesson, that he won't be back right at 2) you'll have to wait for another half hour before he decides to come back to 'work' - which leaves him with a solid hour and a half before he has to lock up at 4:30.

U of Ghana told us that today, Monday 10 October, would be the last day for us to get our ID photos taken and be issued an ID card. ID card which are necessary to access the library and to take the final exam. (Are there really that many kids trying to take final exams for classes their not registered for? For whom is that a good time?) We were told that the photo ID guy would be there, taking pictures, from 9am until 3pm.

I showed up at 9:30am - after my 7:30am class. ouch. - and my friend had already been waiting for half an hour. The line didn't move until 10:45, when they announced that they would be "starting with replacement IDs." At 11:45 the woman announced that they could not take any photos, and so, kids needing new IDs would have to come back between 3 and 5pm after the machine had been fixed. All 8 of us clarified the situation and left more than a little peeved.

At 2:30 I left my psychology class early so that I could get to the office and have my photo taken so that I could get my ID. For those of you keeping count, this is the 5th trip to the office.

I arrived at 3:05 with several other people on my program. The woman at the door pleasantly informed us that, "Oh, no, he's gone home for the day, but you can come tomorrow between 10 and 3."

It was about this time that I went from peeved to hopping mad. I am an easy-going Colorado boy at heart, but push me far enough and the New Yorker in me comes raging out. Today my inner New Yorker reared his ugly head - flames shot from my nostrils, my hair went all Medusa, my eyes bulged, veins popped in my neck and villagers ran for the hills.

"Excuse! Me!?" I gasped with an oh no she di'n't attitude. As I stormed the door, I felt my friends all hold their breath, concerned that the innocent little lady didn't know what she had coming her way and worried that they would have to drag me from the room screaming "let me at her" while the poor woman tried to get the blood to stop. And then sedate me. Heavily.

Upon closing the door, I thought to myself, "you don't really want to tear this woman limb from limb, be patient, you're in Ghana, go easy, she's an old woman for chrissakes." I breathe deeply and turned on the woman, flashing a smile and starting with "Please" explained to the woman that her office had told us to come back here at 3 and what makes her expect us to believe that we are going to believe her when she says come back tomorrow? Is the guy even going to show up? Because he didn't last week? And I need an ID. And I missed 2 classes waiting here for this ID and now the guy went home, when you guys said he would be here after 3? I can't afford to miss any classes tomorrow. Can I please have a number for this office so that I can call and verify that the man is here, the camera is working, the printer is working and that I can get a new ID issued to me before I waste more money and time coming down here? Pretty much all in one breath.

The woman had a look that expressed both understanding and fear. She told me politely that I didn't need to have a number, that the man would be here tomorrow from 10 to 3, and I should just stop by.

"But you said he would be here at 3 and he's not here!? Can I have the number"

"Don't worry, he'll be here, just stop by."

"I want a number for this office."

"He'll be here from 10 to 3."

"I need a number for this office so that I can call and make sure he's here and everything is working before I miss another class and waste more of my time." My voice was rising, not so much in volume as pitch, because I was beginning to hyperventilate.

At this point, the fear in her eyes overshadowed the understanding (or maybe she began to understand more fully the fury that this skinny white boy was about to unleash on her) and she started reciting the number.

"Thanks! Can you please do your best to make sure that the guy stays here until 3 tomorrow because people from my program will be coming to get their IDs and we don't want to miss any more of our classes. K? Great!"

The Ghanaians - and cheeky ex-pats - call it "Ghanaian Time" and laugh at our silly impatience. I call it "Inefficiency and Incompetence" and get red in the face while clenching my teeth. J calls it "the reason you people are still developing!"

I'm going to drink heavily now. Not because I'm alcohol dependent, but because I like to have a (large) drink or 3 when I get stressed out.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Compound...

Doesn't that sound like it should be the title of a 'federal pound me in the ass prison' film featuring Nic Cage? I think so.

But it's not the name of a 'federal pound me in the ass prison' movie. The Compound is the endearing name we've bestowed upon the palatial villa in which the 32 American students on my program live in in Accra, Ghana.

It's in North Labone, which was described to us as, "one of the nicest, well, probably the nicest, neighborhoods in Accra" inhabited by ambassadors, diplomats and ex-pats. And us. And, on twelve-hour shifts, our security guards.

The neighborhood is lovely. Filled with tall security walls, razor-wire and lovely, flowering landscaping.

The four matching townhomes in the compound are tres chic.

Inside they boast high ceilings and marble floors.

When it comes to studying abroad, there's nothing like living in the Compound to give you a sense of how the locals live. I heart you Compound.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Food Update

I said previously that I love Ghanaian food. But this needs to be clarified a bit. I love SOME Ghanaian food. The rice, beans, chicken and plantains, they're awesome. The fufu, the banku, the light soup, um, not so awesome. I don't really eat goat to begin with, but I certainly don't need goat ears in my soup. Fermented corn mush? Not so tasty. Mashed cassava with the texture of playdoh? Elch. Boiled yams? Dull much? Whole, fried fish? Don't even get me started.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Things Take A Turn For The Worst About Paragraph 4

I woke up at 7am this morning and went for a run. it was still early enough in the morning that it wasn't oppressively hot, but that didn't stop me from sweating severely and having chills by the time i got home less than 20 minutes later.

Translation: I think I may have been about 2 minutes from some sort of heat exhaustion, and much closer to vomiting.

Layman's terms: I'm in terrible shape. But I'm studying abroad in a developing country. What's your excuse?

I felt like that was going to be the beginning of a productive day off. It wasn't.

I sat and stretched in front of the air conditioner. Watched German news - with anchors who sound uber-American. Waited for David, the cleaning guy, to finish in my room. Took the (overflowing) kitchen trash out so that David wouldn't have to. Heads up housemates: if the bag isn't holding all of the stuff in the garbage can, don't throw your chicken/fish bones or stew scrapings into the trashcan... EMPTY THE TRASHCAN! AND REPLACE THE TRASHBAG!

I went upstairs, flipped through Lonely Planet - anyone else looking forward to black sand beaches on Cape Verde? more importantly, anyone interested in chipping in to the 'Help Scott and J Fly To Senegal and Cape Verde So That Scott Can See A Black Sand Beach and Embarass Himself Using Below Remedial French Fund'? - finished the New Yorker that my mom sent me (it was beautiful, with its glossy, text-heavy pages), watched the end of Iris, napped, missed the only important call I have received in Ghana, did not call the woman back...

ok, i just got really irritated with this post. i thought it was going to be clever and funny about how i did nothing today, i literally just laid in bed from about 10am until 5:30pm when i took a shower, brushed my teeth and started waiting for dinner at 7. i basically didn't leave my bed. and all i ate were cookies. but it's not. it's just irritating. so there. hopefully there will be something better tomorrow, but i'll probably just be bitching about how boring my classes were. see you then kiddos! until then, i'm the black thundercloud obscuring your silver lining. eat it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Thank God For SPF 45 - And Beaches That Require It

ciao kids. sorry i have been m.i.a. for so long. our internet has been down, last week i was actually busy going to events for the inauguration of my program in ghana - events at which the students were obviously afterthoughts, despite the constant reassurances that "students come first, without you guys we wouldn't even be here" - though that didn't quite ring true when people told me they couldn't help me register for classes because they were busy preparing for the inauguration...
...we whine because we're from the US and we can afford it.

last weekend i escaped the compound, which someone (who shall hereafter be refered to as BJ (any implications you daw from that are probably appropriate)) wants to smash - which strikes me as funny because BJ certainly doesn't seem to mind the hot showers, air conditioning, the prestigious performing arts school name and having friends over to the compound.

but i digress.

i went to Ada Foah with G, a lady from my program who seems too good to be true. and she is. when you meet her she's so sweet and nice you get a toothache that makes you sick to your stomach. or, at least, i do. but then it turns out she doesn't mind talking the shit about people, she's just smart about how she does it. brava! so Ada Foah is a beautiful beach town on the coast, right where the Volta River meets the Ocean. So beautiful. the ocean is turquoise and on the other side of the penninsula the river is deep blue. the water was perfect temperature and our resort, on the beach, natch, was fantastically devoid of tourists.

we walked around town for hours at a time at the heat of the day and in the pitch black dark of power-outage night, ate fried rice when we could find it, paid young ghanaian brothers to take us on a canoe tour of the river, waved at wealthy oboruni from accra who lay tanning and drinking on the verrandas of their vaccation homes, only got harassed by one strung out rastafarian, were nearly drown by power boats and wakeboarders (jealous? me? never.), pondered how the ghanaian fishermen maneuvered their enormous fishing canoes "maybe really long paddles" "or do they use poles?" and we almost didn't talk or think about the compound at all - which was even more refreshing than the water - all for less than 25 USD. shout out to touring developing countries!

we came back exhausted but relaxed and rejuvinated, though G did suffer a bit of sun stroke on monday, which i feel a bit guilty about, but her coloring is great! i had a great weekend and got a great tan, despite numerous applications of G's spf 45.

the answer to the fishing canoe question? our ghanaian guide: "those are fishing boats. they have motors." duh.