Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lizards, Spiders and Jollof Rice, oh my!

So I successfully moved to West Legon, near the University of Ghana, 10 days ago. The place I am renting is a small, furnished house with a generous kitchen, 2 bedrooms (one is ominously and permanently locked) and an empty living room. It's a very nice place, and the neighbors are generally very friendly and helpful, and look out for me. But I've had my share of mishaps: when I'm not smashing monster spiders, chasing lizards, and battling invasive ants (now I really understand Garcia Marquez in 100 years of Solitude when he talks about the Buendia's eternal struggle with the ants), I'm enjoying occasional power outages, no running water (which happens about every 3 days), a power strip where one of the outlets blew up creating a small flame at 5am (luckily it extinguished by itself), and certain neighbors engaging in Jerry Springer style wars of words for extended periods of time. All that being said, I feel fortunate to have my own space, even if I get a bit lonely now and then, that's relatively close to the University. I've been cooking simple meals, and as an added bonus I have satellite TV with about 10 channels, including ESPN, CNN, and BBC (all European versions however, so lots of "real" football and world news).

Musically, things are starting to get going. I'm working with a great teacher on drumming, and even though it's not terribly cheap it's been productive and fun. He's going to take me to various music societies who perform traditional music/dance, so I'll be the token "obruni" trying to step in on drums. I'm also teaching (with the chair of music) a six-week course at the University on orchestration with the greatest student/teacher ratio ever - 2:2. And at first it was 2:1 - we picked up a straggler. I've taught one class and it was great fun - I realized how much I missed teaching, and the class size makes it very laid back and stress free. Other avenues of exploration include getting a keyboard to jam with, and working with a Dance Institute up north, both of which should get going in the next couple of weeks or so.

I also got to see a group called "Hewale Sounds" perform at a posh bar, with mostly whites in attendance (which made me a bit sad, since most Africans don't have the expendable income to hang out at this sort of place). They were pretty awesome, and featured 4 recorder players, 2 balafone players (aka xylophones), a keyboard player (who often used general MIDI percussion, to my great amusement), and some drummers (including a dude on "box-drum"). It's been really inspiring to be around so much great music and dance at the University and elsewhere...I've even heard a pianist practicing the familiar Rachmaninoff G-minor prelude!

The day-to-day stuff is coming along. I'm getting settled in, becoming familiar with the tro-tros and markets, and coming to terms with extremely unreliable internet (but the good news is the internet cafe I'm in plays nonstop Britney Spears, it's just finished "Slave 4 U" and now on to "Stronger", thank god for American pop music). I've had time to catch up on some reading, and to my surprise learned that Ghanaians barely read fiction at all (only self-help and religious books). While out walking I'm often greeted by strangers, and many times I've met people who desperately want to get to the US by any means (and can't get a job here, not for lack of trying), asking for help and advice. This also makes me a bit sad, and I feel fortunate to have a place like the US to return to (even in the wake of our $$$ crisis). So even though you might see taxes go up, and inflation, and all sorts of scary economic developments, be glad for hot showers, reliable transportation and hamburgers/fries (I am REALLY craving this, you can't even understand). Farewell, and peace.


VAFinkes said...

Joe- we finally managed to find your blog! What an adventure you are living. And we thought it was exciting to move to VA! ;^) We're looking forward to the next entry.

The Virginian Finkes

Barbara said...

Hello Joe! What a wonderful writer you are! I could almost "see" the endless ants testing your patience and resiliency! Glad to read you're enjoying yourself and I appreciate greatly you making it "real" for me by sharing your feelings of sadness regarding particular situations you've experienced. I promise to think of you and appreciate every bite of my American fast food while I dance to Britney Spears and other "wonderful" pop music this weekend! LOL

All our best from our home to yours (sans the ants!)...
Your Colorado Clan..B,P,S,Z,R and Grandma