Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Final Post from Ghana

The time has come for me to return to leave Ghana. I'll be flying home Thursday and arrive in Pittsburgh Friday night. The last days have been busy, I'm not sure how, but busy. My neighbors organized a party at our housing compound on Sunday, and many of my friends were able to come. It was a nice get together, and even the late afternoon rain didn't dampen the spirit.

As this is my final post proper, I've compiled some statistics for you:
No. of tro-tros ridden: 450 (rough estimate)
No. of vehicle accidents: 3
No. of times the tro-tro broke down: 3
No. of days power was out for at least an hour: 45 out of 190 (rough estimate)
No. of days with no running water: 50 out of 190 (rough estimate)
No. of cockroaches that crawled up my legs in tro-tros: 2
No. of ants on my bedsheet one night after being hung out to dry: 110 (rough estimate)
No. of times the ATM machine didn't properly dispense my money: 2
No. of times finding a way to break up a 10 Cedi bill into smaller bills caused a mini-crisis: 70
No. of times I danced "Agbadza" with old ladies: 14
No. of "rasta men" who sang songs about Black power to me on tro-tros: 2
No. of times people gave me bad directions: 60 (rough estimate)
No. of people who gave me rides in their personal car, free, while I was waiting for tro-tro: 11
No. of people who helped me out: so, so many

And now, some parting thoughts...
I will miss the turkeys, cats, lizards, and nocturnal toads that roam my backyard.

I will not miss killing dangerously large spiders, rogue lizards, and cockroaches in my house.

I will miss the warm weather (not for too long).

I will not miss insanely loud frogs and invasive ant armies.

I will miss tasty meals for only $1.50 and haircuts for $2.

I will miss the plentiful fresh fruit and juices (no sugar or preservatives), especially coconuts (my current favorite), tangerines, pineapple and oranges.

I will miss eating food with my hands (or maybe I will continue this...). I will miss a lot of the food here, especially fresh akpele with ochre stew with crunchy little fishes, roasted plantains, yam fufu and fried yams.

I am excited to eat hamburgers, pizza and salad (yay America).

I will miss plentiful, cheap public transport.

I will miss the sounds of the lorry station, the calls of mates proclaiming their destination (Madina Old Road Road Road Road Road!), and the ubiquitous merchandise sellers roaming every nook and cranny of the station (Yes! Pure Wata! Yes! Hankie! Yes! Orange!).

I will not miss the ridiculous traffic, the absolute disaster that is "rush hour" from 5-8:30 from Mon-Sat, including long queues to get a car and mobs of people swarming approaching transit, and the rough dirt roads taken to "dodge" traffic.

I will not miss bargaining and/or arguing with taxi drivers over the fare (no meter).

I am excited to drive my own car.

I will miss getting up early and washing my clothes by hand (didn't think I'd ever say this).

I will not miss frequent power outages and no running water.

I will not miss the smell of raw sewage from open gutters, trash anywhere and everywhere, and no proper sidewalks to walk on.

I am excited to flush a toilet, take a hot shower, play a decent piano, watch the NFL (okay, I'll have to wait for this one), and go to a proper library.

I am sad to leave my friends here, very sad, but excited to see my friends and family at home.

I will not miss the calls of "obruni!", the chants of enthusiastic children "obruni ko ko! obruni ko ko!", and babies staring at me in curiousity for an entire tro-tro ride (seriously, it makes you really uncomfortable).

I will not miss standing out and attracting unwanted attention, and being approached by strangers who "want to be my friend" and get my phone number and visit me at my house.

I will miss the frequent extended talks with my landlord about life, the universe and everything (mostly he does the talking), with advice on such things as "time, treasure and talent", "planning, preparation and persecution", etc. Maybe just a little.

I will miss my neighbors: relaxing and enjoying coconuts with Simon while he teaches me a bit of the local languages, drinking Star beer and chopping fufu with Beotang (aka: Boat), and watching "Touched by an Angel" at 6pm on Sunday, over fresh food and tea, with Solomon, Peace, Naomi and Mawuli.

I will not miss answering the most commonly asked question from Ghanaians, always asked in a slow, overly ponderous way: "So...how...do you...see...Ghana?" or "So...how...does life in Ghana compare...to the US".

I will not miss the frequent requests for money and other dubious favors from many people, even my friends.

I will miss the laid back lifestyle, where people take time to enjoy life, but I will not miss "African time" (I'll be there at 3pm means anytime from 5-9pm) and the occasional impossibility of planning or structuring a day.

I will miss the music, singing and dancing here very very much, including highlife songs on a tro-tro where maybe someone is singing along, the traditional songs at church services, and the traditional music at funerals, festivals and on campus.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to study Ghana's music and culture, which has been truly amazing and in some ways revelatory for me, and especially thankful for my drumming/dancing teacher, who has been as good or better than I could have possibly ever hoped for.

I am thankful for knowing what I want to achieve in music, even if doing it will be hard.

I am thankful to have lived abroad for some time, to have understood more about not only Ghana but about the US and the world, and myself, and for the great times and the hardships, which I hope has made me a stronger, better and more interesting person. God bless Ghana.

Can't wait to see you all!!! All the best.....

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