Travel in Ghana

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Here are some pictures

I hope this works....

Here are the picutes I've posted:

1. Some cows hanging out on a school's field. Cows, and goats, and chickens do this kind of thing all the time.

2. Lauren, with Koforidua in the background.

3. A guy weaving kente cloth.

4. My mom and Lauren pushing Fi (my nephew) on a swing

5. Lauren pounding fufu with Affie.

6. Uncle and nephew, hanging out.

7. Crossing a bridge into koforidua.

From Kumasi to Cape Coast

Last day in Kumasi

On Friday, our last day in Kumasi, we went to the Ghanaian National Cultural Center, twice. I got the impression that the name of the place is about as euphemistic as one of those UNESCO "World Heritage Site" places. In other words, it's mainly a big shopping mall where each store sells a different kind of art or craft for sale. But it has its bright side, too: a well-stocked library and what looks like a great outdoor theater for cultural events. It's also quiet, compared to the bustling city just beyond the gates, and the pressure to buy is 100% times less than it is at the Cultural Center in Accra. Also, unlike the one in Accra, it's not just about the sell; you also see the artisans making the things that they're selling (like the wicker furniture maker weaving a couch, or the guys carving wooden stools by hand, or the kente weavers at work). And so why did we go there twice in one day? Well, the first time I went I didn't have enough cash to buy all the things I wanted!

After the first walk-through at the Center we went to the palace of the former and current Ashanti chiefs. We saw a brief video and then joined a large group of young Ghanaians on a tour of the old palace (no one is allowed into the one where the current chief lives). The surprised reactions of the people taking the tour left me really wondering about the state of Ghanaian history classes in secondary school education! But the artifacts were pretty interesting, in particular the remains of a carriage-like thing (shaped like a huge rounded pencil case) for one former chief, in which he was once carried (by six men, on foot) from Kumasi to Cape Coast!

In the end, Kumasi was getting me a little grumpy. It's an exhausting city. Also, our dark and gloomy hotel room lost its running water for most of the time towards the end of our stay, and I think we were both getting pretty tired of listening to the same jokes from Jefferson's well-intentioned relatives (about how funny it is that he understands but doesn't speak much Twi, and how funny it is that I speak it more than him; observations that really aren't worth so much roaring laughter in the first place, much less the third time it's mentioned). So anyway, on to Cape Coast.

Arrival in Cape Coast

The bus ride out of Kumasi showed us a different side of Kumasi; the outskirts of town resemble places like Koforidua and even Akropong, and seem much quieter and more livable. The ride was bumpy but fairly fast, and although we suffered through a bad Hulk Hogan movie, it was at least quite a different experience to be on a bus (what we'd call a bus in the US, too, not a van) that was able to show movies. We boarded Kumasi around 1pm and were in Cape Coast by 5pm.

Our hotel is wonderful! If anyone ever comes to Cape Coast, they must stay at the Sarahlotte Guesthouse. It's less than $14 a night, has carpet (!), running water (so far), and is just across the street from a huge expanse of beach. The beach! It automatically feels more like a vacation than the rest of Ghana has felt, just because there's a beach.

30% and on to Cape Coast

I'm glad to be out of Kumasi. If the world relied on just my views of Kumasi, the city would be deserted. I found (almost) nothing appealing about it. I should mention thought, that my dislike for Kumasi had more do with my experiences there, and not the city itself.

We stayed in a hotel arranged by my uncle, that was equally close to his home and his job, which meant we could do almost nothing on our own, without being secretive about it. To make things worse, I found a hotel 30% cheaper than the one he set us up with, that was closer to sites we wanted to see. Also, the water in the hotel we stayed in was only on between about 10 pm and 6 am. To get water, we would have to walk down two flights of stairs, down a hallway, to a tank, fill up a (rather small) bucket, and make the walk back. Having lived (and been) in places where there is no running water, I know all about collecting water in buckets and that kind of thing. However, I have never had to pay (30% more than I had to) to stay in a place with no running water. What annoyed me even more was the attitude the workers had. They had this "its not our problem"-attitude about the water, which really irked me, because it was their problem. A bathroom is virtually useless without water, and we paid (30% more than if we stayed at the place I found, that probably would have had running water) for a service we didn't have. I didn't vent this to anyone in Kumasi, because I didn't want my uncle to feel bad.

Our Cape Coast place is pretty posh (and it's directly across from the beach, Emily). This is the first place we have stayed in that's in our guidebook. It even has a refrigerator!

I'm looking forward to spending two weeks in Cape Coast. I went walking around the neighborhood this evening (Lauren stayed in the room), and chatted with a couple of people. One guy even took me to his porch to meet his mother, and gave me a (very brief) lesson in Fante; the language spoken in this region of Ghana.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

More about Kumasi

What a city! Kumasi is a definitive CITY. Crazy traffic, tons of people everywhere, a greater gap between rich and poor, and between modern and traditional. I've seen more women here in pants and tight jeans, and more couples holding hands. I've also seen more men in traditional clothes, and a lot more beggars. The city is much more exciting and vibrant than Accra, but it's also louder and more intense (and the smog is unreal). I'm glad to be in Kumasi, but I'm glad that we'll only be here a few days!

I finally had my first bit of stomach upset; it was bound to happen eventually. The jerking bus ride from Koforidua (3.5 hours in the very back of a 22-passenger van) started it all, and then the scanty carbohydrate-only "lunch" didn't help, topped off with some super spicy soup at dinnertime... Anyway, last night was a bit rough. But the hotel is nice, and it's a little quieter than Koforidua just because there isn't a jarringly loud Islamic call-to-prayer at 4am!

It's fun to be in the "heart of the Ashanti Kingdom," just for the sake of being excited to go a place I've read so much about, and because I'm surrounded by Twi (unlike Accra, which is quite multilingual). It's now that I really see how much I was learning textbook Twi, and how that textbook Twi was really modeled after Kumasi; at least the few people we've talked to (Jefferson's aunt and uncle, say) have been so much easier to understand than the people in Koforidua. I could be exaggerating that, though.

There are a lot more Obroni-folk here, and interestingly a lot more East Asian looking people (I actually haven't seen any in Ghana until Kumasi). In general, the cries of "Hey, Obroni!" are much much much less frequent than anywhere else we've been. In its place are more cries of "Madam!" and the universal "Heeeelllooo!" and the ever present "Hey, Rastafarai!" (because none of the Obronis that are in Kumasi, though numerous, seem to have dreadlocks). Hissing at people to get their attention is just as frequent here as in other places in Ghana. I'm not sure if it's a polite thing to do, exactly, but it certainly doesn't seem to be seen as rude! My favorite attention-getting call came when we were walking to Jefferson's uncle's house in a quieter corner of town and someone called out "You tattoo is very nice!" (first in Twi, then in English) followed by "And your husband's hair is nice, too!" Now that's better than "Obroni, obroni"!


I was hoping to post picutres today, but this internet cafe, with a fast connection, has an old browser, and I can't figure out how to post pictures using this version of explorer.

We got to Kumasi yesterday. I can't say I love it. I feel like it's too loud for my taste. Loud, like sound loud. I feel like the city is one big stereo.

Also, I have overly helpful family in Kumasi. The kind of help that makes me feel like I'm treated like a 5-year old. I appreciate it, don't get me wrong, but it's a bit much.

In the internet cafe we're in right now, there is a radio playing a preacher saying everyone is going to hell. This is in extreme contrast (at least to me) of the Ashante tribal rituals that involve voodoo-type things. It's odd to me.

In other news, I have a cold. I lived in Michigan for 7 years, hardly ever getting a cold; I come to tropical Ghana (in the July, no less) and I get a cold. Go figure. The cold is minor enough that it's more of an annoyance than anything else.

We leave Kumasi on Saturday - to Cape Coast.

Monday, July 25, 2005

More Ghana Comments

In the U.S. we say "Thank you" and then "You're welcome". In Ghana they say "You are welcome" and we thank them for welcoming us. Really, it makes more sense, don't you think?

I've always been interested in humor from a psychological perspective, particularly the difference between humor and pain, which both seem (to me) to stem from the same kind of cognitive dissonance. (As a college sophomore I told a sociolinguist that I wanted to be a humor scholar. Her reaction was less than encouraging! So this is all just my impression.) In addition, there's the whole factor of "getting" or "not getting" a joke. I bring this up now because if I had to name one thing that's different between Ghana and the US, it's the sense of humor. I don't know if one culture has "more" of a sense of humor than the other; it sure seems like Ghanaians laugh more often, but I'm sure that's just because I'm not getting the jokes. So what's interesting to me is that even when I'm sure I got the joke, I still can't figure out what's funny. But luckily, the few times I've tried to make a joke, it's been appreciated!

A couple of years ago, Naomi got me hooked on John Irving novels. The first one I read, A Prayer for Owen Meany, took me nearly a year to read because I never read novels during the school year. I brought The Cider House Rules to Ghana, thinking that the summer would be a good time to actually finish one of these 600-page things. Well I've been enjoying the book thoroughly, and now at page 448 I've noticed that there are 4 totally blank pages dispersed between pages 506 and 532. So now I'm on a funny little mission to find The Cider House Rules at some used bookstore in Kumasi. It sounds ridiculous, but I actually saw two copies of it at a bookstore in Accra (before I knew of this problem, of course)!

On a different note, AIDS awareness is huge here. I've seen several billboards and signs with the saying: "Stopping AIDS is as easy as ABC: Abstain, Be faithful, and Condomize!". In the most random places (a calling card, say), there'll be this little image of a yellow cartoon hand and the logo "Love life, stop AIDS!". In the Legon University bookshop I flipped through a children's book called "I Have HIV," written in first person about a 10-year old boy who got HIV a very graphic way. The book was so matter of fact that it was shocking, but at least it was accurate and real. It's good that Ghana's general vibe of hyper-Christianity hasn't (apparently) condemned the use of condoms or the ignorance of the facts.

Nick Hornby, Akaa Falls, and Cat Cultural Differences

I just finished reading my second Nick Hornby book in 2 weeks (High Fidelity and About a Boy). I read a lot more here than I do back Mountain View. I brought 5 books with me. Lauren said there was no way I'd get through all of them; I'm done with 3, and we've not even spent half our stay here.

We went to Akaa Falls yesterday. It's not as well known as Boti Falls (it's not in our guidebook). I enjoyed the outing, mainly because Fi (my 3-year-old nephew) got to see the Falls. He was quite excited, but was far more excited about the swing set and slide that were by the parking lot (he played on those after we saw the falls).

Describing culture is difficult. I don't know how many times I've been asked what it was like to live in Nigeria. How do you answer that? I'm finding the same problem here (as I have every time I've been here, since moving to the US as a twelve year old). People here can't imagine not having goats wandering the streets (occasionally stopping traffic), just like many Americans probably can't imagine what it's like to through a herd of cows, sometimes 2-3 feet from you, as part of your daily routine.

Affie (my older sister) didn't understand why we would let Geordi (our cat) into the house (he is an indoor cat). I was showing her pictures of Geordi watching TV, sitting on a couch with me, sitting on my laptop as I worked. She thought it was crazy to give a cat that kind of access. It's funny, because there are 5 cats in this compound (father, mother, and 3 little kittens), but these cats are never let inside. I spent a good 20-30 minutes the other day chasing one of the kittens around the living room, just to get him outside. The very opposite of what we do with Geordi. We chase him around when he goes outside.

Friday, July 22, 2005

5 Random Things

The power went out a few nights ago. My mom didn't remember the last time she was in Koforidua when the power went out. To top things off, no one in the compound had a candle. There must be 30 people here (mind you, some of them are kids) and no one had a single candle?? Our flashlight was the only source of light in the house. It just shows how times have changed. I remember living in Nigeria, losing power ALL THE TIME!!! We had candles (and lanterns) everywhere.

We watched an episode of "American Idol" the other day. It was from season 3 (for those of you who are not AI fans, this past season was season 4). It was odd to see that on TV. It seems like on all TV from the US, the sound doesn't line up with the picture. It's like there is a delay so you hear the person talking about 1/2 a second before their mouth moves. It ends up looking like really badly dubbed TV.

We got a piece of fabric yesterday, and we are both going to make a piece of clothing out of it. We'll have matching outfits to go with the matching shoes we have (we make a point never to both wear the shoes on the same day). It sounds cheesy, so let me note that Lauren seemed more interested in getting matching outfits than I did.

I've been amazed at the number of people who have thought we were siblings during our time so far. Even an aunt of mine thought Lauren was Emily (my sister). After one woman said this (and was corrected), she got the impression that we were married and said, "when you are married for a long time, you start to look alike, that's why I thought you were siblings". It thought that was funny.

Over the past few days, I've been thinking about when I would like come back to Koforidua again. Every other year sounds good, but with costs of travel, I don't really know. To travel so far, I would want to stay for a while, to justify the costs. I have to admit I like being this out of touch. It would be nice to get away every year or two; I don't get many phone calls, I can't respond to emails very well, and I don't have to feel guilty about it. What more could an introvert ask for:)

Akropong & Fieldwork Thoughts

So it's one more weekend in Koforidua and then we're off to Kumasi. Jefferson and I are trying to write our blog posts on his laptop and then transfer them to the cafe computers via USB, so I can afford to be more verbose!

It's been a good week. The main event was on Wednesday, when Jefferson and I went to a nearby town of Akropong to visit an anthropology professor, Cati Coe from Rutgers University. She did her dissertation work during a year in Akropong, studying how culture is taught and performed in schools and the community (her interest stemming from the circumstances of defining "culture" in post-colonial Africa, particularly in contrast to Christianity). She also wrote a great article on fieldwork in Ghana that I'd contacted her about last Spring, and when we were emailing we discovered that we were both going to be in the Akuapem region this July, so we met up!

First of all, Akropong is a really nice town; it's my kind of town! Small, quiet, and navigable, with lush, green, hilly surroundings and a history of an emphasis on education (the Basel missionaries settled there and opened, debateably, the first Western-style primary school in the Gold Coast). Linguistically, it's an interesting piece of history because the first, and really only, grammar of the Akan language was written in Akropong by the missionary Johann Gottlieb Christaller. I had the idea of camping out there for a while sometime and seeing how the Twi has changed since Christaller's documentation (in 1881), but that's just another idea.

Actually, it brings me to the topic of fieldwork, which is what Cati and I were talking about most of the time. Her insight, of both the ups and downs of living and working in Ghana, was really valuable. I'm still mulling much of it over, and I can't say I've come to any new epiphanies, but I can say this: I now believe that I could succeed at a dissertation based on fieldwork in Ghana if I really wanted to and if I was really prepared for the challenges. My first impression upon being here was that the odds against me were just too many. Afterall, how do you conduct sociophonetic fieldwork in a place where you can't really speak or understand the language (after a year of studying it!), you don't really know the culture (outside of what the books tell you), everyone sees you as a perpetual outsider (even if you've lived in a small village for over a year), and everyone switches into the most formal of formal styles as soon as you turn the tape recorder?? That's just the start of it. But with hired translators, research assistants, and neat tricks like sewing the tape recorder and lapel mic into a vest (thanks Heidi Orcutt!), I think that the ability to still conduct good research is possible, it's just a major challenge.

So that's where I'm at: I think I could do this if I really wanted to, but the question is, do I want to? Again, these are premature thoughts: I want to work on the Fante dialect, in the Central Region, and I still won't have even stepped foot in the Central Region until the first of August. So who knows, all of this could change.

Meanwhile, the Twi's coming along. (I do have cassettes, they’re so formal they don’t help as much.) I've given up speaking with the kids very much, which was my first inclination; when I was in Germany, my little cousins were by far the best teachers. But in the compound here there are just too many of them and they're really noisy and rowdy, and when I do try to speak to them with anything more complicated than "How are you" they stare at me blankly. I think I'm still pretty bad about producing the right vowel harmony, vowel length, and other verbal inflections. Learning to speak was much, much easier in Mandarin, even though I studied it for half the time I've studied Twi. I think I hear and learn tonal differences quicker than vowel differences (which is a scary thing to admit, as someone who works on vowels). On top of it all, Fante is pretty different than Twi, so we'll see how that transition goes!

In other news, I'm enjoying buying lots of fabric and having different outfits made. I wore my first "wrapper" outfit to Akropong. It was fun, but I'm still working on keeping the head-wrap on my head without it slipping off (2 yards of cloth is pretty heavy)!

The weather here has been great. Breezy and cool in the evenings, with nice rain showers on some days (yes, it's finally raining, and when it rains, it pours). We're rarely caught in direct hot sunlight for a long period of time (except for that annoying Boti Falls hike). Being uncomfortable is due way more to the humidity than the heat. Also, I'm so ecstatic that I haven't gotten a single mosquito bite since arriving to K'dua; only two or three little bites that might be red ants or something, but I don't have the same allergic reaction to those. I had a bit of a cold when we first got to Legon and it's gone now. And Affie's food is treating me very well!

A note for Naomi Jorgensen: while we agree that your beloved chocolate Fan Milk is not that bad, Jefferson much prefers the vanilla ice cream flavor, whereas I'm partial to the strawberry yoghurt. Fan Milk is funny that way, in that each flavor corresponds to a different milk product in the US, although here they're all just frozen and called Fan Milk (the chocolate one is basically frozen chocolate milk).

And Happy Birthday to Jaime (tomorrow)!

Sunday, July 17, 2005


The email in Koforidua is veeeerrrry slow. For example, it took 26 minutes since log-on to get to this blogging page. Often, my Stanford account never loads. So it's been a quiet week on the blogging front, and it may be another quiet week or so until we get to Kumasi.

Daily life at the house here is nice; we're very much taken care of, on every level. Affie, Jefferson's older sister, doesn't let us do anything, to the point that I feel a bit guilty about it. But I have to admit that I'm not a fan of washing clothes by hand, and she does do a great job! Our room is really posh, with a better bed than the one in Legon, and a bathroom where there's always running water, even if the pressure's not that high (they've installed a private tank which takes up the slack when the water from the pipe gets shut off). I've come to love cold bucket baths! Who knew.

Every morning we're woken up around 4am by the local mosque's call to prayer. Usually, I can fall back asleep, but not always, and Jefferson has less luck. We're usually up by 7am, way after everyone else in the compound. We both do some work first thing in the morning (who knew that 7am was a great time to textgrid some vowels?!) and then have breakfast around 8am. After breakfast we do any number of things, including going into town to try to email, or going to the market to buy fabric (the only thing that I've bought, so far). In the afternoon the kids come home from school and I usually sit outside and play with them or watch them perform some hand-clapping games. Dinner is around 7pm, and then we either sit around and do some reading or watch TV, which consists of Filipino and Latin American telenovelas dubbed bizarrely into American English. Bedtime is around 10pm.

Ah, the food! Whereas in Legon, food consisted of bread & juice for breakfast, fried rice for lunch, and bread & canned food for dinner, here breakfast is always bread (homemade in a huge oven in the back of the house, by Jefferson's Aunt Esther), juice, tea, and often something else like pancakes or eggs. Every night for dinner, Affie has made us some kind of Ghanaian dinner for me to try. Fufu is my favorite! Affie let me help pound the yam for it one day, just for laughs really. We have a photo that will be posted come September!

The kids here are the best, though they can be a bit over attentive. I still maintain that the cutes of them all is Fi. He sits at the table with me, Jeff, and Jeff's mother for every meal -- the kid's got a huge appetite. He talks very little but he'll say "Good morning, Auntie" when told to. Also, if you say "Bye-bye" he'll reply with "BYE?" as he's walking away; it's not a question but it sounds like one. I guess it's something you'd have to see for yourself. There's a little girl in the compound that is about Fi's age who has taken a real liking to me and always askes for me. In addition to those two and a few other little little ones there's a gang of 8ish-year-olds who follow me everywhere like the pied-piper!

Learning Twi has been really frustrating. I've been trying to study every night but progress seems too slow; I think I'm just impatient, although it's also been hard to find patient people to sit and talk with (I've been shy, too). Most of the time it's discouraging because I'll be with a big group of people, and someone will ask me a question in Twi, which takes me a minute to decipher, and then respond, and as soon as respond the group erupts in laughter, and I don't know whether it's because I said something funny or because it's just funny that I said it.

I'm getting a little tired of some other things, too. Ghana has some rather frustrating elements to it. One is the constant "obroni" (whitey) shout. I never thought I'd make a baby cry because my skin was light! There have also been some seriously frustrating moments with pseudo-official people, some of which Jefferson just wrote about in his post. That misunderstanding with the "walk" at Boti Falls was horrid; it was half hiking and half rock climbing, which would have been fine if we'd been expecting it, or even if there'd been a waterfall at the end! The race thing actually came up at then end when we were fighting to get our money back. I was exhausted and furious, and was yelling at the guy, who in return got frustrated and mad and yelled back "Just because your white, you think you can yell at me like that!" Talk about a bizarre comment to my ears; I am definitely not the brown person here that I am in the US!

On a final sad note, the hardest day for me so far was when we were walking in town and say a man beating a woman with a switch. She was crying out chillingly and in utter fear, and seemed to be mentally off -- perhaps she got that way from beeing beaten, although apparently some people here think that abuse is a good way to discipline the insane. To top it all of there were people everywhere, and no one did a thing (the horrors of mob mentality). Needless to say, it was a disturbing moment.

My Ghana Personality and Koforidua

Most people who read this (people who know Lauren better than they know me) probably see me as a quiet, reserved person who would rather have dental work done without anesthesia than go to some kind of social function.

In Ghana, I'm different. I'm not the boistrous, life of the party guy in Ghana, but I find myself being someone who is quick to argure for what I think is right. I've had incidents with a couple of people here, who have presented themselves as having authority they don't actually have. Both times, I have felt victorious (I'm more competitive than most people know).

In Accra I got into a minor exchange of words with a guy who claimed to be security, and told us we were not allowed to visit possibly the biggest tourist attraction in Accra (Black Star Square).

Yesterday, my whole family (with me starting the whole thing) got into an (at times heated) arguement with a guy at a natural park who gave us VERY misleading information, that resulted in my nephew (who's 3) being expected to walk a 45 minute rocky, rocky trail (all we wanted to see was a water fall that was not more than a 5 minute walk in the opposite direction). I did the walk back in less than 30 minutes, took my nephew with me, and gave the guy a piece of my mind, telling him he was crazy to expect this little kid to make that walk, when all he wanted to do was see a water fall. Soon, everyone got involed in the discussion, the guy said he would not give me my money back, even if I bugged him for the rest of the day. Soon, there was "a scene", lots of people gathered round, and he was forced to cave. He gave us back our money. We left Boti Falls. We Won. We got our money back even though he said he would never do that.

Koforidua has always felt like an odd home. The kind of place where you are welcome like family, but treated like a guest. It has always made me feel slightly uncomfortable, and I'm sooo glad Lauren is here, because it's an escape. Our jaunts into town to get online (slowest connection EVER - if I post this, it'll be a miracle) are a great way to get out of the house, away from the 6-8 kids who are constantly playing, and making noise, and Kwame Wasa (a cousin with no attention span who is almost impposible to talk to) and his rambling about anything.

That being said, Koforidua is great!!! I love the food and it's great to see my mom, sister, and nephew.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Chocolate and the 5000 Cedis

I should have posted about this a while ago, but I LOVE the chocolate bars produced in Ghana!!! It is so awesome. It tastes far more chocolaty, and a lot less sweet than anything I have had anywhere else. The bars are called Kingsbite. Awesome!!!

On another note, I am tired of being called at. "Rasta, Rasta, Rasta", usually followed by some offer that would involve me giving the person money for doing something for me I don't want, or buying something I don't need. The other day, we went to the Art Centre, filled with vendors pressuring you to buy. One guy came up to me, and started with the Rasta thing, saying he had seen me in Legon. I turned the tables and asked him for money, saying I had no way to eat or get anywhere. He proceeded to give me 5000 Cedis (about 60 cents, but worth more than that here, if that makes sense). He then left us alone. I think he was embarassed. Later in the day, another guy started hounding, and wouldn't let up. I asked him for money. At first he thought I was joking, but when he realized I wasn't, he got mad, said I was a bad person, and left us alone (which is all I really wanted in the first place).

We are off to Koforidua in the next hour or two (hopefully, as things tend to always take longer than expected). It will be good to not have to do as much (with so much family, everyone wants to help), but on the same token, it will be bad to not have to do as much (with family, everyone wants to help).

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Last Post from Legon

Well, so much for this being the "rainy season"! It's day 9 and we've yet to get rained on. Not that I'm complaining, it's just kinda funny. Anyway, today's a quiet Sunday and everything is still on campus. We've spent most of the day inside, working and reading and taking naps. Tomorrow we'll go to Koforidua, where there are apparently two internet cafes in town, but where you might expect our blogging and emailing to decrease a bit. I'm looking forward to being with Jefferson's family, and not having to walk so far and so long just to find a good lunch! Oh, regarding food, one thing I forgot to mention is that the egg yolks here seem to be white. I wonder what you call the white of the egg, then? :-)

My dad called me yesterday, from the China/Myanmar border! He and my immediate family are there for a conference that he organized, in addition to having fun and, apparently, experimenting with the possibilities for international cell phone coverage. You can check out his blog at

Another note on taxis. We had a bizarre musical experience in a taxi going into Osu the other day: American Country-Western music! And then on the same radio station, after a few songs, it switched to some classic slow R&B tunes. Quite surprising! We've also tried our first trotro, which anyone who's been to Ghana will appreciate. I, for one, appreciated that it cost us 10 times less for the trotro ride than the taxi. And it wasn't too uncomfortable, really! The problem was that we weren't exactly sure where it was going to drop us off, but it turned out just fine.

It'll be good to leave Legon and Accra and get further away from so much English. I'm sure I could live here for the rest of my life and never have to speak anything but English. That's not a good situation for someone trying to learn Twi or Fante. You know the saying that the more you learn the less you know? That's perfect for learning Twi! I go back and forth from being really excited to really discouraged, which I suppose is normal. The truly daunting pressure is the idea of ever learning Twi or Fante well enough to actually conduct a sociolinguistic study, which has been, of course, my main objective all along. Already I'm beginning to doubt my ability to ever get that fluent, especially in time for the dissertation, but of course it's still early and only time will tell.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Osu and hot feet

We went into Osu (the so called expatriate part of town) today. I don't remember ever being there before. It's this slightly odd mix of foreign and domestic. It was a little odd to me. It was almost like a small scale of the art center in Accra; vendors shouting "rasta", trying to get my attention and sell me a Kora (Senegalese guitar- I own one), or some other trinket or piece of cloting.
We had some kelewele (spicy fried plantain) while were there. It's not the best I've had, but it was decent.
The second part of my title. Man, my feet get sooooo hot when the day is done. I take a cold shower every evening, but it doesn't seem to cool them very much.
On an unrelated note, I think the Larium is making me remember my dreams more. I never remember my dreams (Lauren seems to remember all of hers), but I've woken up the past few mornings, remembering my dreams.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Some Random Observations

The taxis in Accra are interesting. A lot of them have the "D" for "Deutschland" bumpersticker on them (presumably, this is not because the drivers are German...). It seems that in cars, in general, the radio is always played so loudly that I'm amazed that the driver seems to have no problem understanding what other people are saying, even if they're outside of the car, on the other side of the road, and behind a stand of oranges. Yesterday in the taxi, we were listening to a loud and repetitive rendition of an old Ace-of-Base song.

On the radio in the local shop yesterday the DJ mentioned that the United Church of Christ has announced its support for gay marraige (internationally, I guess). Then the DJ went: "let's all show our support for gay marriage!" I think it was a Christian radio station. Interesting difference from the Christian radio stations in the U.S....

When I first saw Accra, it seemed much less dominated by major corporate entities than I'm used to seeing in big cities. At first glance, it looks like everything's independently owned. But after awhile, you start to see the same logos over and over; they're just not American ones, which is what I'm used to seeing in other countries (Wal-Mart, KFC, you know, the usual suspects). But some of them are American; there was a truck advertising "Key Soap" and in small letters on one of the doors was the "Lever" brand logo.

The goats I've seen here seem to be about the size of medium-sized dogs, or large dogs. The dogs also look a bit like the goats. In my opinion, the goats are cuter than the dogs. The goats just go around eating everything and ignore you, but the dogs will follow you if you're not paying attention. Seeing chickens all around is also something different for me; not so much at Legon, but in Accra. Roosters, however, are the stupidest and most annoying creatures in all of Ghana. The ones around Legon seem to think that it's time to start crowing at about 2am, and they continue all morning (this fact I discovered about two nights ago when I couldn't fall asleep, even with ear plugs).

The most amazing thing that I've seen so far in Ghana are women with huge plates of neatly-stacked peanuts balanced on their heads. You just have to see it, it's so incredible!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Research & Books

Well, the academic side of things is going kinda rough. I'd hope that I'd be meeting with professors who work on Akan, and so far I've been introduced to prefessors who work on Ewe, Buli, and Ga. I hadn't even heard of Buli before, and felt pretty dumb. Some of them have been helpful, but I feel like it's only because they've read a bit more than me. And as for secondary sources, there are some great ones here in the linguistics library, but not as many as I'd hoped. I spent all of yesterday sitting in that (fabulously air conditioned) library, copying notes by hand-- there's no photocopier, as least not one that I'm allowed access to. So I took pages and pages of notes until my hand was about to fall off. Even Jefferson wrote down two pages of data from a big table in Kwesi Yankah's BA Thesis Appendix. So it was a satisfying day of work, but that I finished with all of the library's resources in just one day, which was disappointing.

On a nice and sort of funny note, the library is very well stocked with linguistic books, including Penny & Sally's language and gender book, and Eve's language acquisition book! Today in Accra, Jefferson and I went to a used book store and everything was American (unfortunately). It was amusing to see my 9th grade literature textbook on the shelf. On the flip side, the University of Ghana bookstore has some great stuff; I've bought four books that I definitely couldn't have gotten anywhere else!

I like the country better than the city when I'm in foreign countries. Accra is interesting to look at, but I feel like all the car exhaust is giving me early lung cancer. I'm really looking forward to going to Koforidua next week, even though it'll mean more limited internet access!

Thanks to those of you who have emailed, and I'm sorry I haven't replied to all of you. Do stay in touch! (And read Jefferson's post, below...)

Ah, Ghana!!!

We finally are in Accra, unsupervised. I feel like my family wants to do everything for us, so being on our own (and away from Legon) is a good thing.
Something about Legon seems artificial. You are protected by this wall (figuratively, and literally) from the rest of Accra. Yes, a few people hound you, and call you obruni, or rasta, but it just
Accra feels more raw. More like I am actually in Ghana. The smells (not all pleasant), the sights, the sounds, and the people. I'm sure I stick out far more out here, but I have to say, I like it.
We ate a HUGE meal of plantain and beans (they call it Red Red) for lunch today. I still feel like I'm going to explode. I think it's the food I miss most, when in the US. I've liked everything I've eaten since I got here.
Lauren got her first true taste of Ghana when we didn't have water for 2 days. It came back on last night, but it went off again this morning. Having to fill water bottles and carry them back and forth takes me back to childhood. Lauren said that's the kind of things American kids do at summer camp. That was kind of funny, because who does that for fun?

Monday, July 04, 2005

No water, no wind

Today has been a bit less lucky than the weekend! I'm definitely still on California time; I've now gotten enough sleep to realize that my sleep patterns are off. I crashed last night at 9pm and woke up around 1am only to stay awake until about 5am, and sleep again until 9am. On top of it all, just when I woke up they turned off all the water in our building. And today is a much less windy, and therefore a much more hot & sticky, day so far. Oh yeah, and my legs are covered in mosquito bites. Just lovely; now I'm getting the real experience, I guess!

In good news we took a walk around campus lately and know our way around much better. We also found the library and the bookstore, which were closed on Sunday but which we can hang out at today. The linguistics department is also easy to get to, just in between this internet place and the library.

Unfortunately, I haven't gotten ahold of any of the linguistics professors yet, so I hope someone will be there when we stop by. The one person I did hear back from is busy until Friday, and maybe even then. She's a sociolinguist I was looking forward to meeting, so I hope I can see her. I need to, in fact, because she's the one who booked our room for us.

Well, happy 4th of July. Like I always say, if it weren't for Independence Day, the U.S. would be just like Canada.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hello from Legon

We're in Legon! It's funny to blog when you're paying for your time to be online; I may be a bit more curt than I'd like, but you'll get the gist.

The flight was exhausting, but part of that was my fault; I stayed awake nearly the entire time, and payed the price when I lost my lunch on the second flight (I blame it also on these malaria pills). But all and all everything went fine, and we got to Accra on time and Jefferson's mother, sister, cousins, and adorable nephew were there to pick us up. It's been great meeting his family, especially his sister and her son, Fi (short for Kofi). Fi is three and a half and the cutest kid in all of Ghana. :-)

First impressions are that I've been traveling too much, because nothing was shocking in that culture-shock way but everything reminded me of somewhere else: rural China, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Indonesia, even Sedona. The only things that are different are, obviously, that everyone's African, and then all that stuff that you can read about in the Ghana guidebooks: the Christian store names, for example. The former-British-colony aspect is also pervasive. But again, these are first impressions, and this is the urban capital. I'm hoping that things will be different when we go to Koforidua next week, or Kumase next month.

Good news: I don't have a single mosquito bite. They're just no where to be found! And the weather has been awesome. It's nice and cool outside all the time, with wonderful breezes. I even got downright cold last night. The only major downside to this is that the cold showers are less than refreshing.

Lingustically, Ghana is so so so interesting. What I notice right away are the names of stores and signs; there are occasional signs of Portuguese, such s "La Paz" road and "El Ayudo" store; there's a postal truck with the German name "Schnelle Post." And the night that we arrived, Jefferson's uncle and cousins were glued to a Filipino soap opera, dubbed in stilted American English. And the English that's spoken is British in ways I didn't expect, like using the tag question "isn't it?" at the end of statement about the 2nd person singular. So interesting!