Saturday, September 13, 2008

Akwaaba!

Hello friends and family, hope all is well! I arrived safely in Ghana 9 days ago and traveled to Winneba, a town on the coast about an hour from Accra. I am staying at a house owned by relatives of my friend Kwesi. They have been wonderful hosts, cooking all my meals, doing laundry, and taking me all around.

So far my experience has been like a vacation, but it’s been a great vacation. Ghanaians are generally very friendly and helpful. Winneba is a charming town, and I’ve explored most of it, including swimming on a secluded beach, playing checkers with the locals (they call it draughts), and going to a church service which was well over 2 hours long! As far as I can tell, I’m the other white person here, and am constantly greeted by young children shouting “Obruni! Obruni! Obruni! Obruni! How are you?” (Obruni means white man). But the children have been a lot of fun. I brought my frisbee (to spread ultimate frisbee to Africa) and a huge crowd of children played, they loved it. We also put up a basketball hoop and I taught some people the basics of basketball. It was strange being the best player in the land (especially being white) being watched by a crowd of about 15 children, plus the hoop was 9 feet high so I could throw it down!

The house I am staying at has 7 people: Ida (a radio DJ), Mensa (just finished high school) and their mother (retired), and 3 people renting rooms (2 of them are teachers). The food has been a pleasant surprise: most dishes I really like, including the legendary fufu (cassava/plaintains ground up with pestle/mortar into a gooey dough, served in a vegetable soup broth), jellof rice (rice with spices/vegetables), waichi (rice/beans), and lots of fish, chicken and bread. There is a TV and DVD player (I’ve watched 3 African movies; my advice, steer clear!!), no computer and the kitchen is very small but functional.

Traveling has been an experience; it is generally more unreliable and cramped but comes with plenty of character. There are a million taxis everywhere, but it is cheaper to travel (in Accra and larger cities) by a chartered bus or a tro-tro, a converted van that seats around 20 people. The amount of people that are packed into these vehicles is insane, and the traffic (especially in Accra) can be an absolute nightmare. Often you have to wait 10-15 minutes until they are completely full. Drivers aggressively cut off others in narrow confines, constantly honk the horn warning people and other vehicles (I’ve heard more than a 1000 horn honks), and shout out the destination to recruit even more riders. You might receive a 30 minute sales pitch or hear the gospel preached on a tro-tro ride (with a joke or two about the white passenger)! The good news is that you can usually find a tro-tro or taxi quickly in most locations.

One memorable trip was to Cape Coast, about two hours away. There was a major festival that featured a huge parade (with costumes, drumming and a generally festive, frenzied atmosphere), attended by the president of Ghana. Unfortunately, my camera was stolen (so I have no pictures posted yet!) and we were in a car accident leaving town. We had to wait 5 hours at a repair shop only to learn they couldn’t fix it, so we ended up taking two taxis and a tro-tro back to Winneba.

The one key ingredient missing from my trip is music. But I am moving to Legon on Monday, where the University of Ghana lies. Once I arrive I’ll start drumming/dancing lessons, collaboration with the Noyam Dance Institute, and teaching at the University. I don’t know how quickly any of these will take shape but once I am in Legon I’ll be surrounded by musicians, which is just the way I like it.

Please keep in touch…I miss all of you already so much. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to access the internet but I’ll do my best…my aim is to post about every 10-14 days. Have a fantastic week.

All the best,
Joe

13 comments:

Shashank said...

Good to know about your adventures, Joe!
Keep updating the blog..sounds like a very interesting experience..how long are you going to be in Ghana?

pvarine said...

I really can't tell you how jealous I am. Glad things are going well. Plaintains are the best! I buy 'em from the local Hispanic market and fry 'em up.

Later, my Obruni brotha, ha ha ha...!

nfsheehan said...

Joe:
We love hearing about your adventures in Ghana!
We'll call soon...Love, Mom and Dad

LeeDonna said...

Hello Joe! OH! - it sounds sooo gooood! Enjoy your time there and keep those blogs coming. Love, Lee, Donna, Nicole, Christine, Jake and Elijah

Susan said...

Joe,

What a wonderful experience. I can't wait for the next posting.

I am passing your blog address to Greg (I also sent him your CD).

My best to you.

Susan

Jessie said...

OK so are you trying to be like Ted Styker on Airplane, or something, teaching Africans how to play basketball? Are they any good? How do they do frisbee? You think I could take 'em down? I have cleats...

Anyway, glad to see you're doing well. The University will be a better setting, I think. But I'm glad that you got the whole experience. That's why you went in the first place!

Have fun!
Love,
Jessie

MaggieO said...

Hi Joe!
It was wonderful to read your detailed and colorful descriptions of life in Ghana. Glad to hear you are having such a full experience (minus the horns) and we can't wait to read your next post. Please let us know if you ever want something sent in a care package. Love you...Maggie and Z

Amanda said...

Joe! Good to hear about your travels so far. My mom directed me to your blog, telling me it sounded like you're having similar experiences to the ones I had in Senegal. Sounds like it in many ways... I hope the "go with the flow" attitudes of those West African countries doesn't get you down! Can't wait to hear about the ways in which you've immersed yourself in the arts...they sure are plentiful! Take care, Amanda Weber

amy said...

joe!!! i miss you!!!

Jeremy said...

Joe, looks like I am the neo-luddite compared to you now that you are officially part of the blogoshpere. Maybe I can redeem myself by figuring out a way for you to get a live feed of the Steelers games...

Barbara said...

Hello Joe!!!

How awesome is it that you're in Africa living out a dream! I can't help but wonder how this will influence you and how you will influence all those you meet!

Love the blog...please keep us posted and take our love and best wishes with you each day!

Joys from your Colorado Clan...Barbara, Pete, Sean, Zach, and Ryan

------

Grandma Nita says: "Hello Joe! Take care! All my Love!"

reborromeo said...

Hi Joe,

Glad to hear that you are safe and sound. Sounds like you've already had quite an experience.

I can't believe how much you've grown. I remember spending many hours talking about dinosaurs with you. Even then, you were a great teacher. I have to say, I retained most of the information. I've been challenged by Charlie.

We'll be thinking of you.

Rachael, Chuck, Charlie and Katie

webpdw said...

What a great start to a fantastic learning experience! We are very proud of what you are doing and know that this time will shape you into an even more incredible composer and musician. We send our love!

Paul & Florence