Thursday, November 27, 2008

Where's the Stovetop???

Happy Thanksgiving y'all! In honor of the holidays I ran amock around my property with a butcher knife until I caught one of the turkeys that roam the grounds. After I beheaded and de-feathered him, I cooked up a feast with yams, carrots, and onions, with apple pie to boot. Okay, actually I just ate beans and plantains, and I couldn't even find Stovetop. Such is life in Ghana.

Can't say that I have much to report, it's been two weeks of failed plans and days blurring into one another. But I have an action-packed weekend coming up (assuming that plans actually work out) and I might even be able to put up pictures in my next post (a replacement camera is possibly en route).

Music: I performed in a parade, the first since high school marching band (thank god we didn't have to wear the stupid marching uniforms). There were about 10 of us going round the neighborhood at maybe 7pm, drumming, singing, and causing havoc. It was great. Later that night we played Weka and Kpanlogo, both popular traditional dances. The night also stood out because I also took apateshie for the first time, a mix of gin and traditional herbs. It burns like whiskey, but I did enjoy the "earthy" flavor of the herbs.

At the university campus I saw a performance of Brazilian samba. Well, sort of. The singer/guitarist was an exchange student from Brazil and the rest of the musicians were Ghanaians, so it was a weird fusion of samba and highlife (afropop). Halfway through the performance the mounted lights illuminating the stage fell over. Oops.

Other: I took a trip up to the Eastern region and though it didn't quite work out as planned, I found a trailhead into the "sacred and everlasting Dodowa forest" (said the sign nearby). The only person around was an old lady sleeping on a bench, so I went right in. I found this amazing clearing with two HUGE bamboo trees and a small stream. It could have been a set right out of Jurassic Park or some African movie set in the jungle...unbelievable. I relaxed under cover of the forest canopy for about 30 minutes before I saw a man in approaching in the distance. We met eye to eye, and I had this weird vision that he was going to signal to his friends who would emerge from hiding in the bush all around me, with painted faces and blowguns with poison darts, and I would be tied up and carried to the chief. That's what Hollywood movies and do to your mind. What actually happened was he left, and I was alone again. When I exited the jungle, the old lady was awake and started yelling at me in Ga-Dagbani, a language I unfortunately don't speak at all. I just had to shrug and walk away, hoping she wouldn't come after me with a machete.

I've also converted to being a futbol (aka soccer) fan. It's a sport unrivaled in popularity in Ghana. At some point I'll see a Ghanaian Premier League match at the Accra Sports Stadium. Tickets to the cheap seats are less than $4!

And the real fun times: Moments to cherish ... being on a tro-tro where everyone was yelling (and I mean everyone, excepting myself) in Twi for 15 minutes straight, like an episode of Jerry Springer, and the car being stopped so the driver could get in the face of the man who started the disagreement. I think the dispute was over the fare ... going to campus dressed up to play a concert with the R&B group I volunteered to help out, and finding out 45 minutes before the show that it was cancelled for the second time, meanwhile I had cancelled other plans just for this show ... traveling two hours by tro-tro and hiking 30 minutes uphill to attend a rehearsal that two people confirmed would happen, and arriving to find no one there ... oh, Ghana!

Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Still hot & heavy in November

The current score in the war for supremacy in my kitchen: Ants: 2,313,534 Me: 7

Addendum to favorite fruits: Tangerines - cheap, tasty, juicy, available, fresh, amazing, yummy, goodness

What's new: Stayed up 'til 5:30am last Tuesday to watch the election. My neighbor lived in Canada for 30 years and loves to follow politics, so I camped out at his place with 2 big cups of coffee and lots of adrenaline. By some small miracle we picked up CNN around midnight. I'll never forget that night...there's a lot of scariness ahead for our country but Tuesday was inspirational.

I returned to the Ewe music society, this time in a different location, for another funeral (did I mention that a funeral in Ghana can last up to 3 days, and after the body is buried it becomes a party celebrating the life of the deceased). Once again I played the song/dance "Kinka", playing rattle, supporting drums and the master drum for a good while. I think I can safely say that I tore it up: many people complimented my playing, including the resident "master drummer", and my teacher was very proud (he boozed in my honor). While I'm still by no means a master, I know "Kinka" well, and I'll be working to get other songs up to this level. I've become an official member of this society until I leave Ghana, and I'll be visiting them in 3 weeks for more of the same.

Finished teaching my orchestration class, and I will be playing keyboards for the university R&B group (our show includes "Killing me softly" and "No More" by Alicia Keys) at an unannounced concert date. Caught a cold twice in 2 weeks, but I've recovered and hope to stay healthy. Slowly making more friends and maybe more enemies. Seeing a few unbelievable thunderstorms and hoping my house doesn't flood (it didn't). Reading books. Learning RH Factor tunes on my keyboard.

What's on the Telly in Ghana: I get four channels on my 13" TV: GTV, TV3, TV Africa & Metro TV. All are homegrown Ghanaian stations. By far the most common programming is news, broadcast by all stations. Other common programs include African movies (from Nigeria & Ghana) and music videos (from Ghana & US). Soccer is fairly frequent, including English Premiere League, UEFA Champions League and Ghanaian soccer. There's also an assortment of very random shows on that I've catch now and again. This includes "Murder, She Wrote", "Touched by an Angel" (never watched these shows before in my life), a very strange Korean show about princes and princesses with subtitles (currently my favorite), a Spanish soap opera with English dubbing (which doubles the entertainment value), Voice of America (a US news report and propaganda tool), and US cartoons. I even watched 10 minutes of the latest "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie, the one in CGI. Wow. I'm sure there's lots more I haven't seen yet. And apparently it's also possible to get CNN and Al-Jazeera early in the morning, but I haven't been successful yet. I'm hoping to build a rogue antenna so I can pick up "American Idol" and football playoffs.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You say?

Small (small) differences between American and Ghanaian English:

US: How's it going?
Ghana: How is it?

US: What did you say?
Ghana: You say?

US: These little insects are biting my arm!
Ghana: These small small insects are biting my arm!

US: I'll be right with you.
Ghana: I'm coming.

US: Do you like ground nuts?
Ghana: Do you take ground nuts?

US: [phone ringing] Don't answer it.
Ghana: [phone ringing] Don't pick it.

US: Lets go this way.
Ghana: Lets pass this way.

US: Get off at the crossroads.
Ghana: Alight at the junction.

US: The bus will turn.
Ghana: The car will branch.

Common Ghanaian phrases:
I'm telling you! I'm TELLING you!
You understand? You understand what I'm saying?
(There are lots more, can't think of them)

Saturday: I traveled to a funeral in the afternoon in Mampong, in the Eastern Region. This area of Ghana is not far from Accra but has lush, tropical forests (partially cut down) and mountains with scenic overlooks. The entire town of Mampong was filled with people dressed in nice black clothes, all attending various funerals in the area, which apparently is the thing to do on Saturdays. The funeral itself was uneventful, since we arrived too late to see the burial of the body and the associated rituals, and there was no traditional music performance.

Monday: Today was America day. I traveled to the US Embassy for the first time and voted (it should arrive by plane tomorrow morning). Then I went to Osu where all the trendy international restaurants are, and got myself a juicy, dripping burger and fries. It was so unbelievably good, you can't even imagine. The cost was remarkably high by my standards ($8.70) so I'll probably go back once more before I leave. And I got to watch CNN at the restaurant. Yay America.