Debauchery!!

Apparently I can’t be serious and honest in my blog without causing concern for some family members. The second I start talking about some of my flaws, I guess I need to start expecting emails asking about my “immense” low self-esteem.  Pretty sure the word I used last week was “poor;” immense seems like too strong a word. Maybe it’s not. The point is, I’m not going to censor my thoughts or feelings just to make myself appear perfectly fine and content with myself. Part of why I started writing these entries is because of my less-than-satisfactory ability to vocalize certain facets of my being. I apologize to those of you who were uncomfortable with me breaking from my general snarky tone, but I don’t think you’ll have to worry this week.

Alright then.

My penultimate week of classes featured some of the last hidden gems I’ll likely hear from Bossman in “Sucks that Y’all Were Born in Ghana!” (Politics of International Economic Relations, for those of you who forgot the class’s actual name):

  • “If you’re not doing excellent there’s nothing you can do about it.” Really? Nothing?!
  • “The population of Nigeria is 160 million.  I don’t know how many the leader has killed…but there’s about 160 million.”
  • “Does Ghana like the Nigerians more than the Brits?” The Nigerians of the class responded with a resounding “NO!!

Not much else happened this week academically besides a lot of studying for another Colonial Rule/African Response exam on Halloween (funny how not being in America instantly makes October 31 insignificant). After seeing the scores of the first test there’s probably no point in feeling confident about it. I also didn’t study as much as I should have, partly because I didn’t care too much, but mostly because I was distracted/mesmerized by coverage of Superstorm Sandy. I don’t know why I bothered concerning myself with a silly storm that only affected rich white people in the Northeast (Don’t ask. But this article is shockingly appropriate/identical to an argument had over this).  Thankfully my house survived unscathed and my father was safely marooned in Las Vegas (best week ever for him) and avoided evacuation.

When I arrived at Beacon House on Thursday I was surprised to see that Ben’s new mother was there, I guess to deal with some adoption paperwork and other legalities that are part of the process. It really is amazing and beautiful to see him so excited and happy. I’m happy and excited for him too, but I can’t help but think about the other kids whose futures are still completely unknown.  I can’t imagine it being easy for them having to see Ben with his mother, and I think it was slightly inappropriate that she spent so many hours at the house.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about children, it’s that they become jealous easily. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it.

Hello, perfect baby pretending to be Superman!

I really need to work on not laughing at inappropriate times. Prince and a couple of the other kids decided to play “Run Away from Matthew!” As I power walked ran after them, Prince turned towards me, stuck out his tongue, laughed and yelled “Na na na na na” at me. I went after him, he turned around to run away, and immediately smacked his giant head into a wall.

This smile didn’t last too much longer

The switch from screaming in laughter and joy to howling in anguish and pain was instantaneous (always is with this kid).  I only laughed for about 2 seconds (I swear!) before running over to him to let him cry all over me.  I’m really curious to know the quantity of child tears my shirts have accumulated these past few months.

Friday morning I had to register for next semester’s classes at GW.  Like most things in Ghana, this experience was stress-free, unlike prior registration experiences that have rendered me near tears and in the fetal position. I left for Beacon House afterwards, feeling pretty bad about how little I’ve been there these past two weeks.

My mood quickly changed once I arrived and was met with a ridiculous welcome that I’m still not used to. There were chants of “Matthew! Matthew!” (or “Matteeee” from Prince) and kids running at me from every direction to give me a hug. I’ve probably mentioned how unused to I am to witnessing anybody express excitement over my presence. It seems completely outlandish to me, but it’s also the greatest. Ever. And when I have to leave and the kids seem genuinely miserable and say “Don’t goooo!” it’s just…too much to handle.

My cheeks used to look like Prince’s. Can’t wait to get that back in a few weeks

I’ve earned the reputation here of spending a majority of my time with children, but this is one of the few instances in my life when I don’t wish that anything was different.

That afternoon I helped a girl with her science homework, giving me a chance to look through a Ghanaian textbook. I knew that if it was anything like the short stories I’ve talked about, that it would likely be hilarious.  Some sections were, but others were absolutely terrifying. Just take a look at some of these pictures and you’ll understand.

Things started off tame enough

“Our friends will run away from us if our body gives off an unpleasant odor”
Well this is a bit odd

When I saw the heading of “Keeping the Anus Clean” I realized this book is probably not the most ideal learning material.

This is around the time that I wanted to rip up the book.

“God created humankind from the dust.” WHAAATTTT? This is in a science textbook. I couldn’t believe it. Wanted to cry.

The only jobs teachers gear us towards are doctors, policeman, farmers, and presidents. Seems pretty valid

This is just hilarious.
Remember, old people are not wizards/witches!

I mentioned last week that after seeing that hilarious fight scene from Batman I wanted to see the movie 12 more times, but I didn’t think that would ever actually happen.  Luckily for me the kids watched it again Friday night, and this time I got to see the film in its entirety. It’s a 90 minute trainwreck of pure campy hilarity. Two new favorite scenes:

I began my Saturday by going to mall, hoping to either get my camera fixed or purchase a new one.  My camera is probably my most important possession here, and since I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling in the next few weeks I need to do something about this fast.  Unfortunately, like most of my trips to the mall here, I left accomplishing little and with a bag of chips. A young woman in the supermarket asked to be my friend, and all I could muster was a “No thank you!” and ran away.  I’m sure she really just wanted my money, but I don’t think my answer would have been different regardless.

The social butterfly that I am, I intended to spend the rest of my Saturday reading, but somehow agreed to play some Frisbee. There were times when we were pretty good, but a much larger number of times when we were shockingly bad. But it was fun. And thankfully a young boy joined in and automatically made us look better. I played again today (Sunday), this time competitively. Considering I haven’t played a team sport since probably high school gym, and that I haven’t really exercised since the summer, I’m just glad I got through it. I also learned that I’m some kind of frisbee-throwing virtuoso.  It’s amazing how good I am when little movement is required.

I’m not really a “go out and have fun at bars” kind of guy. I’m more of a “stay inside and be lame” kind of guy. The few times I decide to actually be a real 20 year old, ridiculousness tends to follow. Here’s a timeline of last night’s debauchery. But first, please enjoy this Spongebob clip:

  • Spent about two hours trying to meet up with people at a bar on a beach that’s supposed to have live music.
  • Arrive at bar and learn that the music is nonexistent.
  • Cross the street to another bar when poison gin shot #1 is consumed.
  • Young cat comes up to us. I needed to hold that cat immediately. Spend a lot of time on the floor petting him.
  • Get up to finish poison gin shots #2 and #3. Realize that brand new sandal is broken.  Same foot as my other pair, making me question whether my right foot is dangerous.
  • Hobble over to Bar #2. Around this time Anil gave me his shoe to wear. His feet are tiny. Really tiny.
  • Carton of Sangria consumed.
  • Off to Bar #3, aka Air Hockey Table Bar. There’s a new motorcycle racing game there. We all came in 8th place.
  • Off to Bar #4 where we met up with other people. Still wearing Anil’s shoe. Beer and poison gin is shared. Yuck.
  • Few of us return to Air Hockey Table Bar where I demanded a rematch after my humiliating defeat by Anil a few weeks ago. The table ended the game prematurely with him leading 6-5. THIS ISN’T OVER.
  • Finally start stumbling back to campus. My other sandal breaks. Decide the only sane thing to do would be to walk barefoot all the way back. Bon voyage, pussy sandals.
  • We decide to steal a bunch of political party flags. Not quite sure how this decision came about. Climbing on shoulders was required. Surprisingly I didn’t participate.
  • Finally arrive at around 1:15 AM with a PPP (Progressive People’s Party) flag and no foot wounds! I’m as shocked as you probably are by that.

    Can’t wait to fit this into my suitcase

This coming week is pretty important! Last week of classes, my Ghanaian media presentation (HAHA it’s funny cause we’re not prepared at all), and potentially some travelling. If I don’t latch onto another group’s travel plans, I’m just going to embark on another solo travel adventure, possibly to the Western Region. I think it would be good for me to travel alone some more, if only as a way to test myself. With all the traveling I’ve done over the years, very little of it has been completely on my own.  I’ve always been shepherded around or chaperoned, and I’m curious to see how I’d do when having to make my own decisions. So either way, I have a feeling I won’t be here next weekend, in which case my next entry may not be for a little while. Sorry, dad everyone.

My friend sent me this video this morning, and I’d say it encapsulates what I deal with here better than anything else I’ve shared.

Oh, and one more Spongebob clip from the same episode. Really can’t believe this was allowed to be shown.

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“This White Woman Touched My Balloon!”

Week 12’s academic experience was about as thrilling as previous weeks.  However, I did learn that “moustache” in Twi is “mfemfem.” How adorable is that?!  Other than that, the main development of the week was learning that I’ll be presenting a group oral report on Ghanaian media a week earlier than expected (November 7), meaning I’ll have 2 weeks free for traveling before my first final exam.  Good thing we’re about 12% prepared for that presentation. Eh. (But seriously, uh oh).

My day at Beacon House on Thursday began once again with helping Ben work through a Ghanaian short story, one that was about as ridiculous as the last one about a slow-moving bus driver. This week’s featured 6 Ghanaian ladies traveling to a school to help teachers “work harder.”  Women teachers were taught subjects that had generally been instructed by men, like Math, Science…basically anything that isn’t home/baby-related.  Everyone was just ecstatic that women were taught how to “work harder.” Lord. If this story sounds ridiculous, take a look at what next week has in store:

Before lunch, and because I can’t go a day without something comical happening, I had to deal with removing a wild animal from the classroom.  This ordeal lasted for about 30 minutes (23 minutes longer than it probably should have lasted). The damn creature decided to hide in the corner of the classroom where all the 50+ pound rice bags were.  With the help of this beautiful Swiss lady, I hoisted away about  33% 66% of the bags before zeroing in on the target: a small moderately-sized lizard.

Look at this bastard

After almost shitting my pants when seeing how outrageously long the tail was, and after we she stopped hyperventilating, we armed ourselves with brooms and created a pathway for the little dude to escape outside through. It really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I just can’t resist hyperbole always sometimes.  The experience is pretty comparable to this video. Skip to about 1:52, or watch the entire thing because they’re British which means they’re perfect.

I made it back from lunch just in time to watch the conclusion of the original 1966 Batman film starring Adam West.  I had never seen this movie before, but after seeing the concluding fight scene, I think I will need to watch it about 12 more times. I’m not really sure what the purpose of the cat was, but I’m really glad he/she was an integral part of the scene. Bon voyage, pussy!

After the movie finished, and because the day evidently wasn’t jocular enough, I had to help blow up more balloons for the kids. Look. It’s wonderful that the simplest things like balloon sword fights can bring so much entertainment, but after everybody’s balloon eventually met its demise and with all the tears and demands for roughly 126 more balloons that followed, I was just not interested anymore. I decided to sadistically snatch some balloons just because I found their reactions to the slightest inkling of balloon thievery hilarious.

I can’t even with this kid

Is the loss of a balloon for maybe 4 seconds really worth screaming and bursting into tears over? Geesh. Anyway, the real thing to take away from this experience is the following complaint from 4 year old Michael to one of the house mothers: “This white woman touched my balloon!”

My life. On the bright side, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that day for perhaps the first time in a decade. It was fantastic.

My sandal met its probable permanent demise on the way back to campus that evening. I guess for a $0.25 repair, I shouldn’t be too saddened that it only survived 5 more days.  Rest well, buddy. Maybe we’ll resuscitate you back in New York.

I couldn’t go to work Friday morning because we all had to attend a “lecture” on slavery to “prepare” us for our trip to Cape Coast to visit centuries-old castles where the slave trade was conducted for hundreds of years.  Once the lecturer began by uttering, “The Jews were enslaved by Egypt! Have you heard about that?” I knew my time was about to be wasted. Things deteriorated fairly quickly, culminating in him advising us to not let ourselves be emotionally affected by our visit to the slave castles. He honestly couldn’t understand how people, even those with ancestral connections to the slave trade, could get to the point of tears when walking through the dungeons and seeing the conditions slaves were subjected to.  I could physically feel how offended the entire room was. Pocahontas understands.

Later that afternoon, after acquiring a new pair of sandals by the mall that I struggled immensely expertly bargained down to $12.50, I received a knock on my door. I don’t know what possessed me to open it, but I’m really glad I did because 2 friendly people had come to talk to me! They told me they were just visiting rooms checking up on people, which seemed harmless enough.  After more pleasantries were exchanged, the girl asked me if I knew Jesus Christ. Great. I know where this is going, I thought. “Oh, yeah. I’ve got him on speed dial” I replied in my head.  They didn’t seem too phased when I told them that I was Jewish, and that my Jesus knowledge wasn’t too extensive. “Savior, blah blah” is pretty much what I said when they asked me what I knew about him. After about 20 minutes and they had exhausted the usual nonsense about how nothing done or any accomplishment on Earth matters at all unless I accept Jesus as my Savior, they recommended that I read a book they saw on my roommate’s shelf entitled Hell Is Full of Good People. Yeah. I’ll add that to my damn reading list. They also told me that they’d return shortly with a Bible for me. STILL WAITING! Take it away, April.

We left at around 7:30 Saturday morning for Cape Coast, about 3.5 hours outside of Accra.  We visited Kakum National Park which featured a canopy-walk of 7 bridges, 100-150 (or more. Or less. Not sure) feet above the ground.  This experience was slightly more terrifying than I had expected; the guide told us not to worry if the wood creaked under our feet. I worried. By Bridge 3 my legs were less jelly-like and I was able to enjoy and appreciate the views and moment more.

Just a tad terrifying

The main highlight and real focus of the trip was the visit to Elima and/or Cape Coast Castle. I and a few other people elected to visit just Cape Coast Castle, the youngest of the Ghanaian slave trade castles, constructed in the mid-17thcentury. A reflection session was held after dinner to discuss the trip, and people were able to so eloquently and articulately vocalize their thoughts and feelings, in ways I have never been able to do. 36 hours later I’m still trying to work through exactly how I feel/felt about walking through one of history’s grossest blemishes.  The smells, seeing first-hand the rooms where hundreds of Africans were kept in the dark with no sanitation, hearing the stories of physical abuse and rape…it’s just incomprehensible. The juxtaposition of the beauty of the Castle’s exterior/its location and the understanding of what slaves experienced as they were led through the “Door of No Return” was particularly jarring.

Slaves were led through the Door of No Return, the last door they’d walk through in Africa.

The last view of home the slaves would have.

The beautiful, shiny exterior of Cape Coast Castle.

I don’t know. I went to the Castle having no idea how I would react, or how I would feel. Some experiences take time for its significance to become apparent.  I might not have any direct connection to African slavery, but on a human level, this is an aspect of history that is universally important.  It needs to be understood what drove humanity to conduct these atrocities to help acknowledge or recognize what’s being done today that, while not at the scale of the slave trade, is comparable to the exploitative, power relationships that still exist throughout the world. Oppression didn’t start and end with the Atlantic Slave Trade. My family by virtue of being European Jews suffered through the Holocaust. Minority groups find themselves struggling daily in a society where difference is often equated with inferiority.

I maintain the belief that people aren’t all good or all bad, that seeing and recognizing our own flaws will allow for the acceptance of others.  But acceptance of others can’t come without first accepting and loving yourself. I’ve realized that part of why I have trouble relating to others is because of my unwillingness to let people really know me.  For whatever reason, (fear, I suppose), I came to the conclusion that aspects of my life needed to remain hidden in order to maintain any of the few relationships I have with other people.  While there’s been some progress this past year with self-acceptance, I’m still hindered by lingering distrust and poor self-esteem.  I’ve come across people whom I would love to be open with, but still find myself fearful of them not liking what they see. Them seeing nothing at all has been my preferred solution for so long and breaking from that mindset is something I’ve only recently begun attempting.

If anything, my trip to Cape Coast Castle has helped me recognize the progress humanity has made but also the reality that much more still needs to be done.  It’s helped me recognize this progress in myself and the issues I still grapple with.  It’s helped me appreciate the flawed-nature of humanity, and our privilege that allows us to choose whether or not to overcome these flaws.  Mankind’s unique ability to choose has been humanity’s most detrimental trait. It’s up to current and future generations to make this ability positive, powerful and valuable.

Alright, hope I didn’t lose all of you towards the end there.  To lighten things up, enjoy this scene from last week’s Parks and Recreation. The fact that I cried while laughing during this is a good indication of where my maturity level is:

To my New York/Washington, D.C. family and friends, stay safe and make good decisions!

Wicky Wacky Woo

As I sit down to write this, I genuinely can’t believe that another week has passed. One would normally associate speedy days with busyness, but I can’t really use that as an excuse here. Maybe I can a little, but still. It’s been 11 weeks already. That’s just ridiculous.

Here are Bossman’s “Gems of the Week”in Sucks That Y’all Were Born in Ghana:

  • “Teachers aren’t professionals.” Uhh…then what are they?
  • “Can the Japanese guarantee that there will be no stones in their rice? Can we (Ghana) guarantee that?”
  • “Do you think Africanization would be better than Westernization? You like the witch camps? Let’s be frank.

On the bright side, he finally decided to discuss some negative aspects of globalization.

Later that Monday night, as I was enjoying my $0.30 dinner of groundnut soup with rice balls at the Night Market, I was joined by Kwame, this seemingly-pleasant Ghanaian man.  Obviously I would have preferred to have been left alone (we know how I feel about most human interaction), but he wasn’t being too bothersome. He asked me how I was liking Ghana, how I feel about Obama/Romney, what my favorite Ghanaian food is, etc. Nothing too out of the ordinary, right? But since this is me, I can’t have normal interactions with anybody strangers. I should have known things were going south when he started talking about how crappy Ghanaian clothes are, and when he asked me what the cost is for a good pair of pants in the US.  I don’t remember exactly what he said, but here’s the gist of it: “I really need an overseas contact. You’re not going home for a few months, which is plenty of time for me to start to trust you.  I hope we can become friends and you’ll buy me pants when you’re back home. What’s your room number?”  I don’t know why I was surprised by how quickly our conversation devolved; I mean, I’m the person whose earphones were nibbled on by a homeless man who didn’t know he was supposed to put them in his ear, and who had newspapers thrown at him by a different homeless man (DC really needs to do something about its homelessness situation).  I don’t know. There’s just something about me that attracts these kinds of exchanges.

I think I need to start wearing one of these pins.

Not much happened on Tuesday besides a Twi test, which I think went well. I also created a potential schedule for next semester (International Economics, French, Psychological Anthropology taught by this beautiful silver fox, French, Cultures of Latin America, and Global Health and Development). What I really want to discuss is Wednesday, the day we got our exam grades back in Colonial Rule/African Response.  Here’s an excerpt from my journal entry that night, when my feelings were still raw (Note the difference in quality of writing. I try to keep things classy on the blog, but my journal lacks these constraints): “FUCK. What the actual fuck? I want to punch whoever graded these, probably my dumbass TA, in the esophagus.” Sure, I got a 15.5/20, which I suppose isn’t so bad, but there are some really intelligent people who got a 10 or 11/20 and that’s just not acceptable. No explanations were given for why an answer was wrong, and if you didn’t write exactly what the professor wanted, you were screwed.  If that’s what you wanted, then you should have made it a multiple choice exam, buddy. For example, one question asked to explain the legacy of colonization’s social impact. I wrote about how the re-drawing of boundaries/splitting up tribes/ethnic groups has led to ongoing ethnic conflict. That was apparently wrong.  Here’s another journal excerpt: “WHAT?! Are you fucking retarded?!” That must be it because the professor also said that slavery has no relevance to the course…entitled Colonial Rule and African Response. Good grief, man. Good freakin grief.

The University of Ghana really needs to get its shit together.

I started the day at Beacon House Thursday morning by reading a story to the kids about mermaids and evil sharks. I don’t really remember the details, probably due to a combination of a lame plot and tiredness.  Next they practiced adding numbers only by 2 to help them memorize answers. Timing them in solving 100 problems seemed to be a really effective method. I don’t remember how I was taught basic adding/subtraction, but since I eviscerated my classmates in timed math drills back in the day, I’m sure similar methods were applied.  Later that morning Zilda “taught” some more French and had the kids draw themselves. Daniel A. decided to draw me instead:

The resemblance is uncanny

In the afternoon, I “helped” blow up some balloons to make into hats for the children.  This is not an easy task for me, as evidenced by this picture from Summer 2011:

Guess which pile is mine?

Thankfully, the kids were really understanding and patient as I pathetically struggled. Wait. No. They were the worst. They all crowded around me shoving balloons in my face that they wanted me to blow up for them. “I want one as my own!!” they repeatedly whined at me.  More reasons for why I shouldn’t become a teacher became clear when all I could think about was saying back to them, “Yeah? Well I want you to shut the fuck up!” (Teachers: Do you have these thoughts/do you hate yourself for having them?).  It’s probably a good thing that I had to leave by 5:30 that day.

Look at this badass

Thursday was a friend’s 21st birthday, and I decided to act like a normal 20 year old and go out and celebrate with her and some other friends. It was also my half-birthday, and since I’m sure my actual birthday won’t be worth talking about, at least I’ll have October 18th to look back on! Our first stop was this Irish pub/restaurant in Osu, the place where all the nice restaurants and clubs are located and therefore a place I never go to. Everything on the menu was horrifyingly expensive by Ghanaian standards, so I settled on a $7.50 burger and basically cried over some beautiful garlic bread.  I felt like I was experiencing one of Survivor’s ridiculous food auctions. The menu had 2 pages of food and about 6 pages of alcohol to choose from. (MOM: I recommend skipping a couple paragraphs lest your image of me/my “purity” be tainted by some alcoholic escapades)

The Wicky Wacky Woo s in the middle

The good thing about being alcohol-illiterate is that I have no aversion yet to any type of booze, so everything looked equally unappealing. I settled on a Wicky Wacky Woo, partly because of the name, and partly because it contained a mixture of a lot of crap (vodka, gin, rum tequila, some juices). It tasted as good as I expected it to, (meaning it wasn’t really good), but there’s more drinking to discuss! I had a shot of B52 (Baileys is involved, whatever that is) before leaving the restaurant, and we were off to the next bar!

Along the way I’m pretty sure some man commented on my “fat ass”, to which I say, Thanks for noticing!! We arrived at the bar and I had a double shot of some poison gin (will always call gin poison). Around this time we were joined by a local man known by people in the group as “Sexy Monkey.” He has a crazy potty mouth, but he is also responsible for providing the group with this giant graduated cylinder-type tube of beer:

The Beer Tower. 3 of those were consumed.

I’m not sure if I was drunk by the end of the night or I was just tired, but by 1:00 AM I was pretty much donzo. Beer is nasty. I’m just happy that I didn’t have the same reaction as Buffy did after consuming a substantial amount of it:

I don’t think I’ve ever been sadder than I was when I woke up at 7:30 that morning. I dragged myself to Beacon House and silently praised God when I saw that there wasn’t any class that day. I spent a lot of that morning laying on the couch trying to not fall asleep.  I’m glad I didn’t because otherwise I might have missed this question from Ben: “Are there black people at your school?” Do all kids ask questions like this? So ridiculous. Of course my CIEE supervisors pick the day that I did the least amount of work to come check in on me. I was literally sitting on the couch reading while the kids were outside washing their clothes when they arrived. Now they probably think that’s all I do there. Perfect.

Incapacitated.

That afternoon the rain came and it was probably the most torrential storm I’ve ever witnessed. To put it into perspective, the rain was heavy enough for the kids to bath outside in it.  Unfortunately for me, persistent heavy rainfall meant that all the kids were forced to remain indoors.  And scream and jump all over me. Needless to say, I didn’t stay for dinner that night.

Possibly the greatest picture I’ve ever taken.

Saturday marked the first of probably many Solo Ghanaian Adventures to Bojo Beach, supposedly Ghana’s most beautiful beach.  I debated for a while about whether I should do this by myself, but then I realized that my alternative Saturday activities would have probably consisted of reading for class. So many times in my life I’ve used school/work as my scapegoat out of doing something spontaneous and * gasp * fun.  Also, the thought of travelling alone appealed for reasons I’m sure I don’t have explain at this point. Honestly, I do love adventure, probably more than most things. I just need to learn how to carve out some time for it during non-summer months.

I left at about 8:00, and it took 2 tro-tros and a taxi, finally arriving at around 10:15 (travel time skewed due to helpless wandering while looking for the right tro-tro to take).  As soon as I stepped out of the taxi, one of my sandals fell apart. This wasn’t too upsetting; that sandal had been on life support for weeks, and it served me well for 80 days here.

The boat ride to Bojo.

Bojo Beach is pretty much a sandbar on the outskirts of Accra.  On one side there’s a river, which you have to cross by boat to reach the sandbar/ocean. When my feet touched the sand at about 10:30, I was instantly stunned, first when I saw that there was nobody else around, and then by how unbelievably, breathtakingly beautiful the beach was. For starters, it was clean! Granted, my only prior Ghanaian beach experience involved trash everywhere and a man trying to get me to put a snake around my neck, so to see the sand and water refuse-free was wonderful. I left by 2:30, mostly because I didn’t feel like dealing with getting back to campus in the dark with one usable shoe.

Wish I put sunblock on my feet…

As I hobbled around Accra’s Keneshie station, a man saw that I was struggling and led me to a shoe repairman! For $0.25, he fixed my sandal in 2 minutes with some crazy glue and thread.

I really love Ghana sometimes.

My feet and nose may be sunburned now, but I’d say my first solo outing was really successful.  I only have 60 more days here, and there’s so much of Ghana that needs some exploring.  When classes end the first week of November, there will be plenty of time for that, hopefully. I just need to see some elephants again.

I miss seeing these on a daily basis

I’m fairly certain that President Obama is more beloved in Ghana than in the United States, evidenced by this NSFW song/video tribute. WARNING: Strong Sexual Content and possible references to Bestiality are contained in the lyrics:

“Your Nose is Sweating”

It’s getting towards the middle of October, the time of year I love perhaps most of all—for the beautiful Fall foliage, and, most importantly, for the virtually perfect weather/temperature.  There are only a few non-Winter months when I’m not completely disgusting to look at/be around, and October is usually one of those months.  Here in Ghana, October is turning into a fiend. There’s a war being waged against me, with October being the front line of November’s treacherous army. The weapon of choice? Debilitating heat.  I’m definitely probably exaggerating a bit with the use of that word, but anybody who knows me understands that once temperatures rise above approximately 65 77 degrees, my body is no longer capable of keeping me in the semipresentable appearance I strive to maintain. I’ve reached the point of requiring separate morning and afternoon shirts. I knew that this would probably be the case in the months leading up to this experience; Ghana’s basically on the damn equator after all.  I decided that I wouldn’t let my unfortunate sweat glands get in the way of my travels, but when I think about having about 70 more days of these temperatures that will only be getting higher, I just want to hide in a freezer. Or run away to Iceland. In essence: livin’ in this town is like livin’ in the Devil’s butt crack (Credit: April Ludgate).

Anyway, back to the important stuff. This week I learned so much, and by so much I mean so little.  I have so much nonsense I want to share, so I’ll break it down per class.

First, in “Sucks That Y’all Were Born in Ghana,” Bossman gave a shockingly uncritical lecture on globalization. In between, he spewed some wisdom and observations:

  • He explained (in detail) how a fax machine works.
  • “It used to be that when you received many letters you were a somebody. Today you’re a colonial person if you receive letters.”
  • “We are poor because we don’t give enough money.” Uhh…that doesn’t sound like it makes much sense, but..maybe it does. I don’t know.
  • “If you can buy the pizza, you have arrived. AMEN, Bossman. Amen.

I haven’t talked about Twi in a while, mostly because it’s probably the one class that I don’t have any issues with.  It’s a combination of the professor being just the cutest older Ghanaian man alive, and the class consisting of people I don’t mostly actively dislike. On Monday, my professor wasn’t around, forcing the class to combine with another, larger class containing some pretty special people.  Needless to say, a combination of there being no air conditioning and the professor being ridiculously dramatic (bellowing things like “KILL THE TEACHA!” when he made a mistake) resulted in some slow-building sass steadily percolating in me. Uh oh! Once he asked the class, “How do you create a Yes/No question in English?” I became slightly concerned that it would burst forth. But then when he mentioned “Fact-Finding Questions” and one college-aged student heard it as “Fuck-Finding” and just had to let everyone know through obnoxious, “embarrassed” laughter, I’m pretty sure my glares were somehow audible. Wait. That was probably just the exasperated sighing. Pocahontas really understands how I felt at that point. What? You want more Pocahontas? Alright, here you go.

Oh, and my Development Studies professor sounded out pornography. Yes. He moaned. It was probably the most shocking/amazing moment of the semester. I love moments when you aren’t sure whether to laugh or cringe, so you uncomfortably do both.

On Tuesday (after my Colonial Rule/African Response TA decided he didn’t feel like showing up), I was supposed to go to the market and practice bargaining in Twi. But, as Sweet Brown likes to say, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!”. So instead I turned Tuesday into a Mental Health Day (I clearly needed one). I read a lot and watched The Silver Linings Playbook, mailed to me by my father, known to most simply as Irwin. The movie is amazing. You should all see it when it’s released in November.

Some order has been restored at Beacon House now that there’s a full-time teacher again, one who’s actually qualified.  She’s going back to the basics, drilling the kids with simple addition/subtraction so they don’t even have to think about what 3+5 or 9-6 is.  I definitely understand the need to do this.  The day I don’t see a couple of the kids struggle with 3+1 will be a beautiful day.  I didn’t do much Thursday morning besides help Zilda “teach” some French.  My contribution was teaching a few of the kids how to draw a star.  I sympathized with them because when I was their age, I really struggled  with that task. Take a look at this drawing of the solar system I made soon after my 7th birthday:

I only knew how to draw Jewish stars at this point in my life. See? Hebrew School was good for something!

Thursday night I was subjected to most of Aquamarine, a magical movie starring a young Emma Roberts, JoJo, and Sara Paxton, this Reese Witherspoon-like girl but with creepy piranha teeth. JoJo wishes for a miracle that would save her from having to move to Australia (who would complain about that?), and the next morning she and Emma find a mermaid named Aquamarine (Sara) in a pool.  A beautiful friendship is formed, and Aqua tells the girls that she has to prove that love exists within THREE DAYS (uhh..that’s definitely realistic) or she’ll be forced by her father to marry a merman. For whatever reason the girls become obsessed with this surfer/lifeguard, Raymond. The entire movie is basically JoJo/Emma stalking Aquamarine/Raymond as they “fall in love.” A lot of ridiculousness ensues. Here are some highlights:

  • “Can you pick things up with them?”—Aqua, about her new feet
  • When Aqua transforms into a human girl, she looks at her butt and says “Isn’t it cute?”
  • Apparently, girls call boys and hang up on them to get their attention.  Really? Is this true??
  •  “Everything we’ve learned about boys have come from the pages of these magazines!”—JoJo or Emma. They had about 100 magazines. Good Lord.
  • “The laugh and pass”—casually walk past the boy you like while laughing.
  • Raymond buys Aquamarine some cotton candy, and Aqua proceeds to rub it all over her face.
  • “I don’t have earrings! How can I not have earrings?!”—Aqua.  Uh…not a big deal, girlfriend.
  • “Don’t you just LOVE love?”—Aqua
  • “You guys look like the grandma brigade”—some bitch.  Aqua spits her drink onto her in retaliation.
  • When Aqua cries, she exclaims, “OH MY GOD! What’s happening to me?? I’m leaking!”
  • Raymond and Aqua watch the fireworks separately, gazing longingly at them.

At this point the power mercifully went out, sparing me us from the ending.  I can only assume that Raymond eventually finds out that Aqua’s a mermaid, but decides that he loves her just the way she is.  So romantic.

Ben posing with the chalk-tracing of himself that I did. I’m not responsible for the extra fingers/toes added.

Friday morning began with helping Ben read a short story and answer some questions about it.  The story was about this poor Ghanaian bus driver who gets made fun of by some asshole kids for driving slowly through the towns.  At one point these soccer players are being carried across the street (not really sure why that was happening) as the bus approaches. The people carrying the soccer players fall in the middle of the road but because the driver was going so slowly, nobody was run over.  Now everybody loved the driver. The end.

Before lunch I attempted to play this Uno/Dominos mash-up game with a few of the kids.  I never played Dominos growing up, and the kids didn’t really understand the rules of either, so it was grand old shit show.  But at least they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Before I left for lunch the kids were shown 3 music videos, and voted on the 2 that they wanted to learn choreography to. One song contains the lyrics “Jesus loves me, yes!” and the other contains “I am a soldier in the army of the Lord.” I really hope I get to be a part of this production. After I put on my sunglasses when I was leaving, one little douche boy asked me if I was a girl. Cause apparently boys can’t wear sunglasses. I really thought my days of being asked that question were over, but I guess the accusation wasn’t too outrageous.

And people are shocked when they hear that I didn’t get along with sister growing up. This is what she made me do. But it looks like I was enjoying it..God.

That afternoon I didn’t do much other than help with practice math questions I made for them.  I really love how much a couple of them love to learn and ask me to give more problems.  I tried getting Prince to write a number, but since he’s 2 (or 3…not really sure) he wrote more on the table than on the paper. Whatever. He’s the cutest so he gets away with everything. It was also around this time when one of the kids told me that my nose was sweating. Thanks, kid. Like I needed that reminder. I left at 6:30, and Mama Irene was surprised that I was leaving so early. The fact that 6:30 is considered an early time for me to leave is precisely why I need to keep leaving around that time.

This baby is perfect. Just a tad messy, though.

Somebody needs to adopt this child. And that somebody should be me.

These past few weeks some people have been saying things to me like “Where have you been?!” as if they actually care.  I really just want to reply with this quote by Amy Poehler/Leslie Knope but I just smile and say, “Oh, ya know. Internship!” It’s true that I’m not around much during the week, and weekends for me are when I do most of my homework.  So Friday night when I was asked to go to a bar, and after learning that the people going weren’t gross, I agreed to join.  I had some nasty beer, then drank this decent cider beverage.  We walked over to this other bar (which I guess means I bar hopped for the first time) where I had a $0.50 shot of some poison gin. This bar instantly became the greatest place in East Legon when we saw there was an air hockey table.  I beat my fradversary Anil in the first game, probably due to a combination of his intoxication and shock that I was so aggressive. I might have been slightly tipsy myself because I couldn’t stop laughing and standing for long periods of time was becoming problematic.  He beat me in a rematch 7-5. The bastard. All in all, it was a really fun night. Going to bars with people you don’t dislike isn’t so bad, I suppose.  I’m secretly hoping to have a night that devolves into this:

I’m sure you can guess who I relate to the most.

This weekend has been spent researching Ghanaian media for a group presentation that I decided should finally be thought about, and studying for an upcoming Twi test.  On Saturday I saw that I only had $5.00, and after going to about 8 ATMs on campus that weren’t working, I decided to spend that money on 25 hours of Wi-Fi rather than save it for food. Priorities. I found $0.15 that I used to go to the mall to use the ATMs there.  After running away from avoiding some begging children outside the mall, I was accosted by a man who asked me for “a favor” while I was at the ATM.  As I was withdrawing $50.00 I glared at him and said, “I don’t have any money to give you!” and stormed away.  I don’t know when I became so evil, but it was probably around the time that I ran out of fucks to give. I purchased a book, Beyond the Horizon, to read after I soon finish East of Eden.  I was going to read The Hobbit next, but decided that I should probably read some African literature while I’m here. Also, wandering pathetically through supermarkets is something I really need to stop doing, but I walked away with some iced tea and these potato chips that I used to buy once a week when I was in Botswana. Nostalgic food purchases are the best kind of food purchases.

Alright, that’s all for this week! Apparently I write more during weeks when not much happens, which means this entire post is probably useless. Oh well. At least my father will enjoy it.

Have a wonderful week!

My roommate  watched this magical movie called The Encounter on TV tonight and I thought I’d share the trailer for it. Spoiler Alert! The Encounter is with Jesus.

If that trailer peaked your interest, which I just can’t imagine not happening, the entire movie can be seen here! You’re welcome.

“Is That Your Giraffe?”

The fact that skipping my Colonial Rule/African Response discussion class was the highlight of this week’s academic experience is a good indication of my attitude towards the University of Ghana’s learning environment.  It’s just not very good. That being said, we did have an useless engaging discussion on reggae music and the Rastafari movement in Jamaica during Wednesday’s lecture. Also, in my “Sucks That Y’all Were Born in Ghana!” class, Bossman asked the class what the difference between the United Kingdom and Britain is, and one student confidently replied, “The UK is bigger!,” while another added emphatically, “Britain is England!”. Well, at least classes are never short on laughter! What are the classes short on? Relevancy.

Beacon House this week was incredibly different.  Without Katie or Rachel, the girls who had been there every day for a month to teach, there was a noticeable atmosphere change. Things seemed more hushed and even somber when I arrived Tuesday afternoon.   I was still greeted with more enthusiasm than I usually am; the kids were probably excited to see that at least one person hasn’t abandoned them yet.  It was obvious that the attention given to them had precipitously dropped, and unfortunately luckily for me, that meant I got to be everybody’s sole entertainment provider.  This has especially been the case with the younger, pre-school-aged kids who were previously given constant attention by Katie.   While I didn’t do much on Tuesday, I did get to play with Prince (aka my favorite kid of all time), and take this picture with him, which instantly became my favorite ever:

I apparently appear super skinny here. I say my arm is just strategically covering where most of the fat is.

Other than that, I just watched Daddy Day Care with them, yet another movie that I loved when I was 10 but failed to see the appeal in today.  Maybe it’s because many of the scenes felt too familiar.

Thursday was probably the most challenging day yet for me at Beacon House, despite the wonderful fact that I completed my 135 required hours that day (CIEE record? Probably).  The kids hadn’t had class since last week, and nobody I asked knew when the long-term teachers would be arriving.  When I arrived that morning and saw that the kids were just running around/playing, I had to make the decision to either do nothing and hope a teacher comes soon, or put on my big boy panties and create work for them to do myself.

What happens when an infant gets his hands on the homework I provided

The thought of them regressing, forgetting what they’ve learned and losing any progress made the month I’ve been there was unacceptable to me.  I am in no way qualified to teach and I’m not really known for my ability to rise to any occasion, but I surprised myself this week.  It helps when these kids are so eager to learn; they came to me asking for work. I mean, I was pretty enthusiastic about learning when I was 10, but I was one of the losers exceptions.  It’s really nice to see here.

Before the kids could work on the practice questions I created, a FRENCH TEACHER (Zilda!) arrived to work with them for 45 minutes.  My initial excitement over this development  soon diminished when I realized how much of the French I learned over the past 2 years has been forgotten. Next semester should be hilarious.  I’m also concerned that there isn’t any use for Zilda’s lessons; these kids are still learning how to read/write English (why they’re learning English and not Twi at least in conjunction is an issue I don’t feel like ranting about now), so I can’t really see how attempting to learn French is of any benefit to them.

Later that afternoon, after lunch and after my failed attempt at buying some pencils for the kids to use for their practice questions (the store had pens and damned compasses, but no pencils?!), something wonderful happened.  A beautiful, bright, shining beacon (pun intended) of hope appeared to quell my fears of being responsible for the education of these kids long-term: Heather, Beacon House’s co-founder and licensed teacher! Almost cried.  She didn’t stay long that day, so that meant I still had to help the kids alone with the work I made for them, but things went smoothly enough. It’s just hard when everybody’s at a different level and wants my attention at the same time.  I’m used to people wanting my attention never, so it’s understandably overwhelming.

Other Thursday Highlights/Quotes:

  • Romeo (the dog), mounted one of the children. I was frozen in shock.
  • “Is Santa in America?”
  • “Does the President of the America sleep?”
  • “On Christmas, if he’s (Obama’s) bad, he get’s a bad gift.” What’s the bad gift? I asked. Coal? “No. Only water.”
  • “I like your head!” (seconds later) “I like your ears!”

It was another long day at Beacon House on Friday.  That morning I helped Heather and the kids start to clean/organize the classroom. Heather has the cleaning ethic of my mother, meaning there can be nothing out of place and anything potentially unimportant needs to be thrown away.  Immediately. I helped create ‘Good Behavior’ charts, something I always loved growing up. I was shockingly obnoxious during elementary school (can you imagine me being labeled consistently as the “Class Clown?” I can’t either.), but always looked to get some Gold Stars, especially if food rewards were involved. I was the French Fry King of East Broadway Class of 2003, evidenced by my…healthy girth appearance:

So. Fat. But at least I look happy about it!

Heather’s 10 year old son, Jayden (Jaedan? Eh. Britney Spears picked “Jayden,” and I haven’t seen any reason to doubt her choices) was also there.  He’s a cute and somewhat insane kid, which means he fits in well with the others.  Having another white boy there who is actually their age meant the kids paid less attention to me, which I wasn’t about to complain about. Let Jayden get chased around all day while I sit and roll a ball with Prince or help build some puzzles.

So sad when he didn’t even know what Winnie the Pooh is

Somebody knows he’s not supposed to be in there.

My other Friday experience involved interviewing two young mothers for the blog who live and work at the orphanage. I’m still a bit skeptical that they’re 18 and 19, and unsurprisingly not much was revealed (my interviewing skills are nonexistent). Of course I couldn’t make it through the interviews without something uncomfortable happening during one of them: Breast feeding.  This might come as a surprise to none some of you, but I haven’t been exposed to any many breasts, let alone ones with a baby latched on.

Other Friday Quotes:

  • “Do you have a mother? Do you have a father? Do you have a poopoo?”
  • “How are you? (without waiting for a response) I’m fine!”
    • Prince said this. He doesn’t know much English, but whenever he says something like this it’s the cutest. Ever.
    • “Is that your giraffe?” No. “Is that your dad’s giraffe?” NO!!

      My father and I with “our” giraffe at Busch Gardens

Saturday was CIEE Community Service day! About half of us (the other half had better things to do were traveling, or intentionally accidentally overslept) went to Future Leaders, an underprivileged children’s center that provides education for at-risk kids and houses orphans.  Admittedly, I contemplated skipping the trip because leaving at 7:00 AM seemed really unappealing, but thankfully I haven’t reached the level of asshole required to use that as an excuse.

It was a long but really productive day of manual labor; we helped build

I wish you could see the airplane painted next to the elephant that’s seemingly flying down towards his face.

a classroom and painted a lot of the walls that needed some revitalizing.  After sanding and painting moldy walls for a while, I helped drag carry some wooden planks over to be cut and made into the walls of the new classroom.  Things became comical as many of us attempted to use a handsaw to cut the wood. I’m sure you can guess how well I did with that.  My particular skillset isn’t really suitable for anything construction, but hey! At least no bodily harm was done! That’s all that matters. We got to paint designs on the walls of the classroom, and I helped fingerpaint an elephant that my friend sketched.

By the time we finished working at around 3:00, it’s possible that I was the grossest I’ve ever looked.  My hands were covered in paint and turpentine, but that didn’t stop me from devouring the pizza that was provided.

Week 9 in Ghana has come and gone unnaturally fast.  I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that there is only one more month of classes. I don’t want to think about having to choose next semester’s courses in a few weeks or going home at all, really. Life in DC is hard, and is stressful.  There never seems to be enough time in a day or week to do the things I need to do, and I find myself struggling through one moment just to make it to the next one. Time here is…different. Things are slower, calmer.  The people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had…I just feel that my life here is filled with purpose, something I’m not sure I’ve felt in a long time back home.  I feel warm.  I feel like a better me.

Alrighty! Again, thank you for continuing to read this! If you’re insane and haven’t listened to Adele’s James Bond theme song, today’s your lucky day!

60 Freakin Days

Right now I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I’ve been in Ghana for 60 days already. It seems like yesterday that I was whining about being bored here, and now it feels like each week is whizzing by faster than the previous one. Then I think about the fact that I’m still not quite halfway finished with the semester and how much more rice I’m going to consume and…you get the picture.

This week was largely spent “studying” for the two tests (Development Studies and Colonial Rule/African Response) I had on Wednesday. I think I spent more time coming up with reasons to not study than I did reading any of my notes, but for whatever reason, I just don’t care too much about my academic performance here. Bad? Probably. But the lectures here have been so…uninspiring. This coupled with the lack of assignments outside of reading has rendered me more apathetic than I usually am at all times. The tests weren’t too challenging, but a couple questions on that history exam were so pathetically vague/irrelevant (“Who were the Creoles and what was their historical significance?” “Who made up the 19th century elite?”). I had to actually try to not write “Nobody cares” as my answer a few times.  My strategy was to just write as much as possible and make it sound “scholarly” in the hopes that somewhere hidden beneath all the crap I wrote is some semblance of a correct answer. We’ll see.

Wednesday night I did two things that I usually never do willingly: socialize and consume alcohol.  I decided that I deserved some kind of reward for all the procrastination hard work I put in throughout the previous days. I had one shot of gin at a restaurant, and another one later on at a bar(!!).  I believe I literally uttered “poison!”  during the second shot.  Alcoholism is something I’ll never have to worry about for more reasons than one, but the fact that booze is so nasty is definitely at the top of the list. Also, spending money on that crap is so unappealing to me. When I talk about how much I dislike alcohol, I’m often met with looks similar to these by Britney Spears.

Luckily alcohol doesn’t have the same effect on me as it has on Cathy Ames from East of Eden (that bitch is cray), or any effect at all, it seems.  I did manage to reveal virtually every embarrassing thing that has happened in my life (I spend an unfortunate amount of time thinking about them).  These stories ranged from ripping the back of my pants off after getting caught on a chalkboard, to falling into a river and down a tree within a 24 hour period, to both previously mentioned pee incidents, and having to have a woodchip surgically removed from my ass upper thigh. Oh. And my Bar Mitzvah theme. Hippo”matt”amus.

Yes, that’s a cardboard cutout of myself. There are 2 of these in my basement. The hippos as well.

The fact that I felt guilt about not being at Beacon House Tuesday afternoon is

This is Ben and Daniel!

yet another sign that I need to rethink the amount of time I spend there.  I did make up for it Thursday and Friday by spending 11 hours there each day.  Thursday wasn’t extremely eventful, other than for a few ridiculous naptime events.  I got back early Thursday afternoon from my rock-bottom lunch of $9.00 pizza to find two of the kids, Daniel and Ben, awake.  I made the mistake of taking out my Kindle to read with them nearby, and ultimately I read zero words of East of Eden that afternoon. Instead Ben fiddled around with it thinking it was some weird computer/camera, and Daniel thought it was a video game. Then I took out my iPod and they rocked out to some Edward Sharpe since that’s basically the only thing I have on my iPod that isn’t miserable. They also looked through pictures on my phone. I have never been more thankful for poor African literacy rates than when they came across this picture:

One of the most ridiculous things I had ever seen on the cover of a magazine.

That night we watched Mulan, my favorite Disney movie after Pocahontas. I’m only guessing that Pocahontas was my favorite because I own a still-in-existence Pocahontas doll that I would bring with me during car rides so I could let her hair blow in the wind. I’m really the creepiest.

Friday was the final day for two of the girls I’ve worked with over the past month.  I’m really worried about what next week will be like without them there, especially the pre-schoolers who won’t have a teacher now for an unknown amount of time. The pre-school teacher, Katie, and I bought some ice cream and cookies to give to the kids as a goodbye gift. Katie had also bought them all toys, and that went about as well as you can imagine.

If you imagined tears, screaming, and rare moments of joy, then you’re beginning to understand the kids I’ve had to deal with! They were instructed to choose 2 toys that they liked, which seemed reasonable enough. But once they all saw what the other had chosen, they deemed their own choices to be mistakes, and so much anguish ensued.

Prince, the Wee-Wee King. Potentially the cutest kid of all time.

It was a mess, a mess that culminated in the boy who peed on me flying down some stairs and into a puddle. I laughed (people, especially children, falling is my laughter kryptonite), but only for a second because then I had to deal with the crying. So much crying.

After the kids finally settled down, we started to watch Aladdin, another movie dear to my heart. When I went to Disney for the first time at age 7, I saw Jafar giving out autographs, marched over to him, and, the badass bitch I was back then, kicked him in the shin and ran away in absolute terror.

We paused halfway through the movie to give the kids their ice cream/cookies, and just as they were about to start eating, the power went out. I really need to start bringing my flashlight with me to work.  All was well, as the kids really loved their surprise and Katie had enough battery life on her laptop to be able to finish the movie.

It must have really been my time of the month, because during that night’s prayer/singing session, I had a major minor emotional breakdown over the prayers directed at me and Katie. Maybe I felt safe because the power outage blocked my gradually-deteriorating facial composure, or maybe it was because for the first time I felt that the kids really meant what they were saying to us.  I think in the beginning I felt that they said all those wonderful things to me because they felt required to, but as each one gave me a hug that night, it was just…beautiful.  God. My shit is such a mess, isn’t it?

After a long week, in a desperate attempt to recreate a sense of normalcy that has been lacking in my work routine, I spent Saturday relaxing and reading for class at the coffee house/Chinese restaurant I go to during orphanage naptime. The iced latte was shockingly amazing, and all that was missing was some smooth jazz playing to make me feel like I was back at Starbucks crying over whatever Hell I had to read while shoving Marble Poundcake down my throat.  Afterwards I wandered pathetically around a supermarket, staring dejectedly at $10.00 cheese and $9.00 chocolate bars.  I walked away with Peach/Passion Fruit juice, which is about as amazing as it sounds.

I have a feeling many some of you think there’s something wrong with me because I spend more time with kids than people my age.  If you’re interested in reading about healthy, college friendships that exist in my program here, I recommend this blog by an adversary friend. He’s possibly the sassiest person in existence. He was kind enough to advertise my blog on his while commenting on how grossly sweaty I am. He’s a charmer, that Anil.

Instead of leaving you all with a song, I’ll leave with my favorite passage from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, when characters are discussing different translations in the story of Cain and Abel. It amazed me three years ago when I read it for the first time, and it amazed me just as much today:

“The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance.  The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Though shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin.  But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’—that gives a choice.  It might be the most important word in the worldThat says the way is open.  That throws it right back on the man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’”

And later:

I have no bent towards the gods.  But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul.  It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe.  It is always attacked and never destroyed—because ‘Thou mayest.’”

Pretty beautiful stuff, no?

Alright. Fine. I’ll give some music, ’cause I know how much you want some. Mumford & Sons released their new album this week, and every song is perfect. I like to think of them as the male/British Dixie Chicks in terms of talent, harmonies, and overall beauty. Seriously. Just buy the album immediately.

“Is That Your Bible?” “…No. That’s My Wallet.”

Last week I ventured back into the miserable territory that frequented the first few posts of my blog. I really wanted my writings while here in Ghana to be light and filled with the constant occasional snark. But I also promised that I’d be honest, that I would discuss everything, good, bad, or embarrassing. At the time I wrote last week’s post, I think I really needed to sort out the struggles and concerns I had. God knows I lack the ability to vocalize my thoughts/feelings in an articulate, coherent manner, so writing about them is really therapeutic for me.

I’m not quick to say anything good about myself, but I like to think I’m fairly self-aware and perceptive. Putting words to these issues makes them real, something that I can accept, and hopefully manage. I may not overcome them right away, or at all, but at least I’m not oblivious to them. And that’s an important first step, no?

Alright. Enough of this.

This week during Politics of International Economic Relations, or as I like to now call it, Introduction to Sucks That Y’all Were Born in Ghana! my professor was as charming as ever, spewing beautiful, uplifting remarks such as “When you have more black people, you have more problems,” and “If Ghana were a human being, would you say Ghana was a smart person?” Maybe I’m being a bit hypocritical since I’m not America’s biggest fan, but good God, Bossman. Lighten up! Yeah, Ghana has its fair share of issues, but compared to much of the rest of Africa…things could be worse. In other classroom news, writing “I know papaya!” on my Twi test was basically the best thing I could have done. The professor found it hilarious and he decided to give everybody points for that question since nobody actually knew what the Twi word for papaya is. I don’t really know why this surprised him.

I crossed the 100-hour mark at Beacon House this week! I can’t believe I was ever concerned over reaching 135 hours by the end of the semester. At this point I’ll probably double that. Maybe I’ll receive some kind of “CIEE’s/Africa’s/The World’s Greatest Intern of All Time” Award.

Tuesday afternoon was a little bittersweet because it was the last night for two sisters who left the next day for North Carolina. After spending 20-25 hours per week with these kids, it’s pretty impossible to not become emotionally invested in them. I got to interview them Tuesday night for the blog, and the last question I asked was “Is there anybody you’d like to thank at Beacon House?” and the older sister, Helen, basically just thanked me.

Gonna miss these two. But mostly the older one who wasn’t as annoying.

These girls have been at the orphanage for many years now so I’m sure there are plenty of people who have left a far greater impact than I have, but still..AWW! I’ve been smacked with so much collective love and appreciation since coming to work at Beacon House, but I’m still blown away every time the kids say something like this to me. I’ll give more examples later. But man. I can’t imagine how overwhelming it will be for these girls. Moving from a Ghanaian orphanage to the American South is something I can’t really fathom.

Things got a bit…uncomfortable… on Thursday. Towards the end of the day, either right before or after dinner, I was alone with one of the house mothers, Irene. Here’s how our conversation went down:

Mama Irene: (while examining her Bible) “Do you have one of these?”

Matthew: “Of course! Mine’s a bit smaller, though.”

Mama Irene: “Which books are in it?”

Matthew: “Uhh…all of them?”

Mama Irene: “What’s your favorite Bible passage?”

Matthew: (few seconds of uncomfortable stammering and flipping through pages, pretending to not remember where in the Bible the passage is) : “Uhhh…Uhh…Job!”

Mama Irene gave me a look that reeked of skepticism, but the subject was dropped for the time being. We went through the nightly prayer/singing routine in which we discussed how non-believers go straight to Hell and that you can commit any sin imaginable, but as long as you accept Christ as your Savior you’ll make it to Heaven (seems like a pretty poor system, if you ask me). As I was getting my bag together to leave, Mama Irene saw me take out my wallet to put in my pocket. Here’s a snippet of that glorious exchange:
MI: “Is that your Bible?”
Matthew: “No…this is my wallet. My Bible’s at home.”
MI: “You should have your Bible on you at all times.”
Matthew: “I know. I just don’t wanna lose it.”
MI: “What Church do you go to?”
Matthew: (mumbling) “…Regina..”
MI: “What?”
Matthew: “…Saint…..Joseph…
MI: “Oh. So a Catholic Church.”
Matthew: “…Yup.”
I really don’t know what to do about this. Telling them that I’m Jewish this late in the game seems like the worst idea imaginable, but my lack of any Jesus knowledge is painfully apparent to everybody. If I could go back in time I’d probably reveal my Jew-status immediately, and I would hope that this revelation wouldn’t change how I’m treated there, but…I really don’t want to find out.

On Friday I was looking forward to avoiding further uncomfortable situations at all costs. It was a public holiday (something about Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday), so there wasn’t any class/homework to help with in the morning. I was excited for a relaxing day of playing and watching Beauty and the Beast.

Then a child peed on me.

I don’t know what it is about me that makes kids want to urinate on me/my belongings, but it must be something. The fact that this isn’t my first encounter with child pee is a great indicator of the kind of life experiences I’ve had. The first time, 5 years ago, was pretty rough. The kid decided it would be cool to shower my shoes/bag that I left in the locker room during their swim-time with that gross liquid (trying really hard to not write “pee” over and over, and I’m struggling). Long story short, the fact that he did it on purpose, and that he was 10 at the time (like..seriously?), and that the shoes were brand new and beautiful, brought about an emotional meltdown in the laundry room as I cried/hyperventilated while waiting for my shoes to finish their rinse cycle.

Five years later, I’m proud to say that I responded monumentally better during this “wee wee” (their words, not mine!) encounter. I mean, the kid didn’t do it on purpose (I was basically at the wrong place at the wrong time), and he’s 3, and his life hasn’t been too ideal, so being mad at him would just be silly. I think the fact that I’m not 15 anymore also helped…and the fact that the kid is absurdly adorable. He doesn’t speak much English yet, but we have a secret handshake! And his name is Prince! Love that kid.

Things could have been much worse.

Other orphanage highlights:

This is what I have to put up with

• As if the pee debacle wasn’t enough trauma for one morning, the boys were literally brawling on Friday. At one point Ben (aka my favorite kid of all time) was bitten by another kid and I had to physically restrain Ben from retaliating. This is what happens when I’m left alone to watch the kids.
• When I arrived on Friday morning, the first thing Ben says before hugging me is “You look great today!” So wonderful. I love the implication that I look like a gross mess every other time he’s seen me. It’s basically the truth.
• After we finished Beauty and the Beast I danced with a few of the kids during the end credits while actively forcing myself to not sing along/cry to Celine’s version of the song.
• At dinner on Friday Mama Irene had the kids stand and say what they enjoyed about the day, and Ben and a couple others mostly talked about me. SO GREAT!
• Turns out I’m much better at teaching kids how to add/subtract than how to read simple words. This is probably because my ability to speak/read isn’t too advanced either.

On Saturday most of the CIEE crew were taken to the Eastern Region city of Aburi. As I’ve established on numerous occasions, I’m not fond of too many people my age. After spending hours on a bus with some of them, these feelings haven’t really improved. I’d say I’m pretty open and honest with my friends and on this blog, but some things I keep to myself. Some things should just remain private, right?

Apparently this belief isn’t shared by all of my contemporaries, resulting in some pretty magical conversations. I doubt any of these people I’m about to mock read this blog (If you do, hello! Please remember that when you open your mouth and talk about your various sexual escapades and STD scares on a crowded bus, you open the door to internet ridicule. The only type of ridicule I have the cowardice capability of giving). Anyway, after learning about pregnancy scares and pus-infected peen’s (which turned out to not be an STD. So…what was it?!), my favorite exchange happened on the trip back to campus. Here’s what was uttered:
Girl A: “We still have 88 days!”
Girl B: “Why are you counting down?”
Girl A: “Cause I wanna have sex!”
I’m known for my inability to control my reactions to complete ridiculousness, so it took an inordinate amount of strength for me to not say something bitchy.

This is Tetteh. I bet he fit in pretty nicely.

Anyway, aside from those sloppy bus rides, the trip was really great. Our first stop was the Tetteh Quashie Cocoa Farm, named after the first dude who brought cocoa to Ghana in 1876. Here are the highlights:
• Cocoa trees kind of look like they’re infected with malignant tumors. But those tumors are just the cocoa.
• To remove the cocoa from the trees, you use this spear/whale harpoon called “Go To Hell” to poke them off.
• Tried some cocoa. Tasted like a very bitter dark chocolate. But anything that isn’t rice at this point is delicious.

The cocoa! The yellow ones are ripe!

Our next stop was the Aburi Botanical Gardens. There are many trees, all of which are beautiful. Some highlights:
• I ate some cinnamon-tasting bark. This marks the second time I’ve eaten part of a tree while in Africa.
• We ran into Daniel, the man I mentioned in an earlier post who I met at a Thai restaurant during our Accra “tour.” How ridiculous is that? I mean, Ghana’s pretty small, but randomly seeing him again is mind-blowing to me.
• There was this weed-type plant and if you touch it, the leaves retreat. Is the plant ticklish? Nope! Just a defense mechanism.

Beautiful Tree #1

Beautiful tree #2

Strange tree carving.

Next was the Aburi Wood Carving Village. I made some really practical purchases, including a slingshot. Tempted to bring it to the orphanage and threaten the kids with it. “If any of you goes wee wee on me again, you’ll be sorry!” I just wanted another excuse to write “wee wee”, hopefullyprobably for the last time this decade. I also bought this awesome elephant! According to my mother, if the nose is pointing up, it’s good luck. Unsurprisingly, my elephant’s nose is pointing down. I think this suits me more.

After finding out he’s inherently unlucky, I think I love him even more

Our final stop was TK Bead Village. We were given a quick demonstration of the bead-making process and were brought to the giftshop. Within 10 minutes I picked out a necklace for my mother or sister (likelihood of either of them liking it? Maybe a 45% chance). A swift 90 minutes later (for God’s sake, people. The beads were not expensive. Instead of deciding between two $7.00 necklaces/bracelets for over an hour, just buy both. Lord.), we were finally on our way back to campus.

Alright, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful week, and thank you for continuing to read this nonsense!

In honor of this heavily-religious post, here’s a song called “I Don’t Wanna Pray” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. They’re great!

Adventure and Slippery Slopes

In this week’s edition of “Classroom Nonsense…With A Smidgen of Embarrassment,” after starting my Monday morning strong by spraying my armpits with bugspray, my Politics of International Economic Relations professor (“Ghanaians have nothing to be proud of!”) decided that out of the class of 200 he would call on me specifically to answer a question.  “Is there a Robert in the class?” he asks while looking directly at me.  After I stare in bewilderment for a couple seconds he asks me what my name is before giving an answer to “What is Intellectual Property?” Luckily this exchange went monumentally better than the first time he asked me a question.  A couple of days later during the “discussion” class for Colonial Rule and African Response, the Teaching Assistant (“What is history?”) asked an equally provocative question: “What is a compass?” Luckily this question was posited about 10 minutes into discussion so I knew I could safely spend the rest of class doodling. I paid attention enough to hear bits and pieces of the discussion; one kid insisted that the Fountain of Youth was a significant reason for exploration, and another girl was outrageously concerned with where the doctors who were brought along during European exploration were kept as the interior of Africa was navigated. The answer? On the damn boat. Good Lord.  On Tuesday I had my first exam since arriving here.  Since it was a Twi test, and since my knowledge of the language so far is infantile, I wrote fun sentences like “I know papaya!” (instead of I eat papaya) and “I have a lot of hats!” (instead of I have a lot of money).  Whatever. At least the professor will be entertained. Hopefully.

On Saturday I traveled with 3 friends for the day to Shai Hills, a wildlife/resource reserve about an hour (hypothetically) outside of Accra.  I don’t think I would trade the over 3 hours/3 tro-tros it took to get there for anything.  Tro-Tro #2 featured a very passionate man selling highly questionable ointments and weight-loss capsules to the van of 28 Ghanaians. I’m only guessing it’s weight-loss related because he made numerous hand gestures that suggested he was talking about reducing stomach girth.

Sitting in the back row at least spared us direct contact with the crazed salesman (front row, white shirt)

The whole time he was looking directly at me which was just a tad uncomfortable. This nonstop selling/sermon went on for at least 50 minutes, and I’m a bit concerned over the amount of people who actually gave him their money.

About 40 minutes into Tro-Tro ride #3 the engine started smoking so we had to pull over pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  The driver told us we were only about a mile away from Shai Hills, so we decided to just walk the rest of the way even though we all agreed that the driver probably had no clue how to estimate distance.

After walking for 25 minutes a car pulled over in front of us and asked us if we wanted

Seemed like a great idea at the time…

a ride.  Because the car seemed to be nice enough (there were leather seats!) and it was a youngish couple offering us the ride (women=safety, right?), we decided it was safe to hitchhike with these wonderful people.  Turns out we underestimated the tro-tro driver’s knowledge because 3 minutes later we finally arrived!

Our guide first brought us to the Ostrich enclosure, where 4 ostriches just run around and do other massive bird activities. Seriously? What do ostriches do all day? We walked a short distance to visit

Look closely at the Ostrich’s butt and tell me you don’t see a Pomeranian coming out of it. Who do I talk to about this?!

a baboon family and to feed them bananas! As we approached I was thinking about the hazard level we were stepping into since there wasn’t anything separating us from them (and baboons are freakin’ terrifying). One baboon leaped from a rooftop onto a tree directly above me, and at that moment, I thought my end had come. As the baboon was soaring through the air seemingly towards my head, I experienced flashes of Steve Irwin and that poor lady who Oprah interviewed whose face was ripped off by a chimpanzee. Dramatic? Yes. Always yes. In the end all was well and having a baboon snatch a banana from my hand was awesome.

What a life

The 4 of us and our guide hopped onto the back of a pickup truck (solidifying this day as the most adventurous ever) to drive to Sayu Bat Cave.   Throughout the ride I couldn’t stop thinking about last summer in Botswana, that my life basically consisted of riding around in a safari car for hours a day in an environment just like Shai Hills. It’s like I was transported back 15 months and I was on one of Legodimo’s Biodiversity Drives; I half-expected to see hordes of impala rushing across the road and an elephant family that we would have to escape from.  While none of that happened, for those 15 minutes I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation, perhaps more than I’ve felt before, for those 30 days I spent in the “wild.”

These feelings of nostalgia were replaced with revulsion when we first entered the bat cave. Their feces? Not too olfactory-pleasing. This unpleasantness was quickly erased once we saw/heard literally thousands of bats in the cave.

Our next and final stop was Mogo Rock, a place girls were kept for 6 months as part of their rite of passage into womanhood.  After climbing up the rock (which at one point required hoisting ourselves up with rope), and absorbing the beautiful views of the reserve, we agreed that being forced to spend half a year up there didn’t sound too bad.

Always a sucker for a beautiful view

Riding in the back of the pickup truck to the reserve’s entrance was a perfect way to conclude a fantastic day trip.

To make this week even better, I was lucky enough to spend another 25+ hours at the orphanage.  I mentioned last week that I was going to work on Beacon House’s blog, and hopefully the posts I wrote will be finished editing soon.  It isn’t anything too substantial, but hopefully substantial enough to make the supervisors stop asking me to do something that leaves some grand, monumental impact on everybody’s lives there. Again, I just wanna play and help in the classroom.

On Tuesday night, I was asked to lead a prayer. You can imagine how I reacted to that (If you guessed uncomfortable giggling and declarations of embarrassment, then good job!).  Before this happened the kids were read Bible passages about the importance of being honest, so all I could think about at that moment was how disappointed Jesus must be in me.  But telling these people that I’m Jewish after all this time just doesn’t seem like something that needs to happen. Instead I’ll let them think of me as a really bad Christian.  Definitely the safer choice.

On Thursday, I went through the normal morning routine of playing with the preschool-aged kids and babies and helping in the classroom until lunch. I ventured off during naptime to a restaurant called Luscious Temptations (!!!) to indulge in some Western, Oboruni food. In other words, it was the most expensive meal I’ve had since

Food rewards are the best kind of reward

coming here. I spent a hefty $12.00 on pizza and passion fruit iced tea, but damn it, I think I’ve earned this “luxurious” meal.  I devote so much of my time to these kids, and yeah, I really love it, but sometimes, those kids can be a pain in the ass difficult. As Donna from Parks and Recreation would say, Treat Yo Self!

I had 30 minutes to kill in the office before naptime was over so I decided to read…until an unnaturally large cockroach crawled next to me across my bag.  I’m not about to stay in the room with that monster with me!

That night right before it was time to watch a movie, the power went out (again). So much chaos ensued, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it:

Oh gross, his tears are all over my shirt

Not everybody was miserable, at least:

Guess this is what kids do these days when the power goes out

Friday’s highlights include me trying to help collapse a baby stroller (does it look like I would know how to do something like that?), reading The Gingerbread Man to the kids, and splurging some more on Chinese Food.  My plan is to just starve myself all week so I can afford these 2 days of extravagance.

We Love Our Matth..er..Class!

(WARNING! SEVERE MELODRAMA FOLLOWS)

I’ve already spent over 70 hours at Beacon House, and it’s been beyond amazing, but I think I need to start worrying about how close I’m getting with some of the kids. I’m finding myself falling into similar patterns that forced me to leave the day camp I spent 10 summers at. I mentioned vaguely a few weeks ago why I left, but I guess I can elaborate more now.

You spend so much time with these kids, and they’re genuinely happy, even ecstatic to see you. (Seriously. So many hugs).  They say the cutest things like  “I want you to come every day.” They start depending on you to help them with whatever they’re learning, and you feel wanted, needed, appreciated.  I’m not really used to feeling these things, and just like I did 5 years ago, I’m getting emotionally attached to a few of them.  I know that this is happening, but I don’t know how to detach myself.

I don’t know why I’m so good at forming relationships with people 10 and under but am completely clueless at forming relationships with people my age.  Maybe it’s because they don’t expect much out of me, and for whatever reason I don’t feel intimidated like I normally am when talking to people.  Maybe it’s because I have some yearning to go back and redo parts my childhood. I see how wild, free, excitable these kids are and I don’t remember ever being like that.  I’m connecting with these kids for the same reasons I did at camp—because they represent aspects of myself that I wish I possessed. I wasn’t able to form many friendships growing up, and I think that jaded me, affected the way I interact with people today. My confidence is…negligible, and I just don’t put in much effort with people because I expect them to automatically not be interested. I’m still always surprised when people seemingly want to talk to me or be around me.  Case in point: My uncle just asked me via Skype if I’m practicing “safe friend.”

So here are these wildly enthusiastic kids who run over and hug me every morning I arrive and again every night I leave, desperately fighting for my (MY!) attention and I just…turn to mush. These feelings of acceptance are so rare for me that I just latch onto them whenever/wherever they come about. I know I’m just making it harder on myself for when I leave. I like to think that three months from now they won’t see me as just another person who has come and gone in their lives, but that is the most likely scenario.  Maybe they’ll miss me for a little while, but they will definitely get over it. And then it’ll be me, five years later, missing yet another kid.

Yikes. Maybe working with kids is just something I should avoid.

If you managed to make it through the messy ending to this post, you’re rewarded with the wisdom of Amy Poehler. I’ll post two videos from her web series “Smart Girls” here, but I seriously recommend watching them all when you get the chance. Thanks for reading!

Alright, one more!

The Horse, The Kids, and The Haircut

In this week’s edition of “What am I Learning? Eh, Not Much”, there isn’t anything too ridiculous to report.  I think at one point my Politics of International Economic Relations professor told our class of mainly Ghanaians that Ghana doesn’t have much to be proud of.  So that was charming. Also, his name is Bossman. What’s up with that?! Other than that, the main development that happened was me willingly participating in my History class!! I’m pretty sure I hadn’t raised my hand in class since High School.  Granted, the question was really easy (When did European colonization of Africa escalate?), but I think I deserve some kind of praise for opening my mouth and managing to spew out words coherently.

On Wednesday after class I took a painful fun trip to the post office to pick up a package of clothes my mother sent me 4 weeks ago.  A 30-minute tro-tro ride later, the package was finally in my hands! Wait. No. There’s 90 minutes of exaggerated misery to discuss! After figuring out where my package was within the office’s storage, running around looking for a place to photocopy my license, and having to rip open the box with a small knife so they could see if anything dangerous was concealed in my undies, I was finally allowed to leave! After paying a 15 cedi “service” charge, of course. For that money they could have at least spared me the humiliation of struggling to use any dangerous weaponry and knifed open the box themselves! At that point, I was too flustered and ashamed to argue with a taxi driver for charging 18 cedi to get me back to campus.

In other, more wonderful news, the orphanage this week featured the usual awesomeness I now come to expect.  I only spent 4.5 hours there Tuesday afternoon (the fact that 4.5 hours is my short day is definitely a problem), but that was not even close to the amount of time required to try getting a 4/5 year old to play board games correctly.  After about the 12th time I tried explaining the correct position capital “Ts” are supposed to be in, I decided any future effort would be futile. The heck with it! If they wanna have their Ts upside down, then who am I to stop them? It’s not like I’ve come close to mastering the English language.

No matter how many times I showed them what a “T” is supposed to look like, this is what would happen.

After feigning disinterest in staying to watch a movie with them that night, the worst thing that could happen ever in the world made its sinister appearance: Power Outage. So instead of watching a movie, I had to deal with miserable children afraid of the dark.  Luckily my phone has a flashlight app (thanks, App Store!), so I spent the next hour with about 8 kids piled on me trying to remain in the light. The walk that night in complete darkness to look for a taxi was only slightly more terrifying than it normally is.

On Thursday, things were back to normal in terms of how much time I spend there (over 12 hours).  Last week I mentioned how as an intern I’m supposed to be doing something slightly more substantial than just playing (shucks), so I was asked to work on Beacon House’s blog. I happily agreed and was set to start a post this afternoon (I feel like a traitor since it’s on blogspot), but, naturally, the password I was given to access the site was invalid.  Oh well!

I’m also going to work a lot with one kid and help him with math. Not to brag or anything, but I was basically the math prodigy of elementary school. Nobody could do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division better and quicker than me! Seriously. I won all the math games played in 3rdgrade. So I figured helping to teach a kid how to subtract 16-9 would be right up my ally! Wrong. So wrong. I had no idea how to explain what to do.

Teaching him might be like pulling teeth sometimes, but he’s a good kid.

He was using his toes and I was trying to get him to just count backwards 9 times from 16 (since you can’t take off your shoes in class forever, as I explained) and things were just deteriorating.  I think the fact that it seems so easy and obvious to me made it harder to explain to him. But thanks to my new-found patience (the lack of attention span can be rough) there was noticeable progress by the afternoon.  Repetition and positive reinforcement are extremely important (at least that’s the conclusion I came to), so once I brought out the stickers, I knew everything would be alright. Who doesn’t love sticker rewards?!

During Thursday’s nap-time, I decided it was time for me to do something I had been dreading since I arrived in Ghana: get a haircut.  Since my hair is basically the one part of my body that I don’t have some unhealthy issue with, I was a bit terrified of what it would look like.  I asked the barber beforehand if he could use scissors instead of the buzzer and to keep it not too short. He smiled, nodded, assured me that he’d do whatever I wanted, and proceeded to pull out the largest buzzer he possessed (he tried using 2 smaller ones but my hair requires, as they say, the big guns) and cut it shorter than it’s ever been.  Since I’m the most dramatic person alive, I actually had to fight back a tear as my hair was being evisceratedcut.

Cut Right? More like Cut Fright

Afterwards the kids expressed dismay over not having as much hair to yank off, but about 20 other people told me that it looks nice.  Leave it to me to assume that they’re just all being kind and secretly think I look worse than I did before. Just as I was starting to accept that maybe it doesn’t look so bad, my aunt tells me on Skype today that it’s the worst haircut she’s ever seen.

On Friday I made the more-difficult-than-necessary decision to only stay at the orphanage for a few hours in the morning so I could go to the beach in the afternoon. The fact that I had to debate whether to spend my Friday with screaming children or lounging by the water is slightly questionable.  But it was a really great decision.  Once you look past the fact that the water is polluted with garbage (“Those aren’t plastic bags! It’s seaweed!”), it’s a really beautiful beach.  Looking back, I can’t believe that I willingly swam in that water, and if this were a beach in America it would probably be condemned, but the weather was perfect, the people were great, the beer was nasty alright, and there were horses to ride!

Me actively exploiting a probably abused horse. Look closely, and you might be able to see some trash in the ocean!

For $2.50 I decided it was too great a deal to pass up.  Afterwards, as I looked into the miserable, bloodshot eyes of the sunburned horse, I hated myself more than ever for exploiting him like that.  Sorry, little guy!

Yesterday all of us attended the Ghana vs. Malawi football game. It was some kind of qualifier for the Africa Cup of Nations. Or something like that. Anyway, it was extremely entertaining, with all the added benefits of being in the “VIP” section. Here is what I and the other “VIPs” got to enjoy during Ghana’s 2-0 victory:

Not sure what the purpose of this was, and not sure how the police didn’t do anything to stop this from happening. Seems a bit hazardous.

Not sure what these people are.

After a long week, it was nice to spend today (Sunday) relaxing and doing some reading for class.  As I write this I’m watching the US Open finals where Serena Williams will (hopefully) defeat Victoria Azarenka, the b&%^* who beat Maria Sharapova in the Semis.  While I know Maria would have had her wig snatched in an even more embarrassing fashion, I’ll just choose to not dwell on that.

And what better way to cap off a wonderful weekend than to have a grilled cheese sandwich!

Possibly the greatest thing to enter my mouth since I’ve been here

Thank you all for reading, and have a wonderful week! Happy birthday mom! ❤

My best friend sent me this video, and I hope you feel the same uncomfortable mix of awe and self-loathing for not despising a song performed by Miley Cyrus.

No, That’s a Dog. Not a Baboon.

It only took a month, but professors finally decided they felt like showing up and teaching! Well…not all of them. I haven’t actually seen the professor for Colonial Rule and African Response, and based off this week’s “lesson” I really hope he makes an appearance sometime soon. The Teaching Assistant started off with the monumentally deep, thought-provoking question “What is history?” Seriously, buddy. You need to come up with a better way to take attendance than spending 30 minutes having us write down and discuss our personal definitions of history. He spent the remaining 90 minutes attempting to convince the class that Africa does indeed possess a history. Nobody Some people seemed to think otherwise. Along the way, he took the time to spell out “hieroglyphics” on the board. So considerate! As if there weren’t enough literacy issues in Africa, now there will be people walking around spelling that word as “hirogliphics.” Good work! At one point one bewildered girl behind me uttered “What is he talking about?” That about sums up everybody’s experience.

Anyway. That concludes my weekly class rant.

I spent another 14 hours at the orphanage this week. Just in case I didn’t make my feelings clear about working there, it really is the GREATEST.  Tuesday afternoon was spent pushing the kids on swings, receiving multiple hugs, and watching Agent Cody Banks.  At the time that movie came out in 2003, my 11/12 year old self thought it was just the coolest film ever, starring the coolest people ever: Lizzie McGuire and the boy from Big Fat Liar (or to most people the boy from Malcolm in the Middle). Now Hilary Duff is married with a child and Frankie Muniz is…(pause for a Wikipedia search) a racecar driver?! His last movie is entitled Pizza Man so a career change was probably a wise decision. Needless to say, I felt extremely old and silly for enjoying that movie after watching it again this week. And Hilary Duff looks the same as she did when she was 15. I can relate.

it’s basically either this or the trampoline. This is at least less exhausting for me.

On Thursday I met my internship “supervisor” (in quotes because she’s basically my age) and the woman who owns Beacon House.  As an intern, I’m supposed to have a long-term goal/project that will leave a “lasting” impact on the lives of the children and myself. I’m not really creative and possess virtually zero skills, so this is something that isn’t extremely appealing to me. Just making the kids smile and laugh and helping out in the classroom is more than enough to leave me feeling like the experience is worthwhile. I don’t need some grand project to make me feel like I’m making a difference.

They have some weird obsession with sprawling themselves across my legs.

I came up with the idea of a “Beacon House Olympics” since it could involve everyone and there can be educational (but mostly fun) events, crafts for uniform/medal making and cool prizes, but there wasn’t much enthusiasm displayed towards this plan. Whatever. I tried. I just wanna play.

I learned what happens when I allow 10/11 year olds to play with my camera. 50 random but adorable pictures and a 13 minute video later, I think I learned my lesson. The lesson? That giving them the camera increases my chances of having really cute pictures to show you guys and continuing to risk monetary damage is the only possible way. You’re welcome!

The kids were fascinated by my pictures on my phone of my dog. They thought he was a baboon.

Baboon? Nope! Just Milo.

A couple more highlights from the orphanage this week:

  • I was yelled at for the first time in years on Thursday for leaving toys outside. Apparently a jump-rope left unattended will result in children choking each other with it. Look, lady. Don’t you know who I am?! I don’t get in trouble. Ever. I’m the kid who never missed a day of high school, was never late to class, never got detention and feared doing anything that would result in a scolding. I don’t break rules! The last time I was yelled at was the first day of 11th grade for eating lunch in class. I almost peed my pants during that confrontation, so you can imagine how I felt during this reprimanding.
  • I am way over my head when it comes to teaching. I really don’t know how what I’m doing. I’m trying to get the kids to add with their fingers instead of using counters and it’s just not working out too well. But I brought in stickers that my friend gave me and their motivating effect seemed to help. Who doesn’t love getting stickers that say “Muy Bien!” after completing monumental math equations like 14+8?
  • There is no greater tragedy than the popping of a toddler’s balloon. I held a boy as he bawled his eyes out over this devastating occurrence.
  • I was praised for my patience by one of the House “Mothers” after she witnessed me with one of the babies.  She was surprised that I had no younger sibling.  That was so nice!

This weekend was spent in the Ashanti Region and its capital city, Kumasi.  After our 5+ hour trip into central Ghana we arrived at our first destination, a traditional Ashanti house.  This current UN World Heritage Site is one of the few of its kind remaining after the British came and destroyed everything in the late 19thcentury, probably just for shiggles.

Traditional Asante house

Our next stop was Bonwire Kente Village to learn about kente weaving and to potentially buy some cloth. I don’t really know how to go about explaining this experience, except that it was one of the worst ones ever.

Really wanted to buy the “Obama Cloth”, but was too busy fending off aggressive salesmen to have a chance to look at them.

Seriously, Ghanaians need to learn some salesman techniques. We couldn’t look at anything without being bombarded by multiple men, literally grabbing our arms to show us products for sale. The words “I’m not interested” didn’t really register with them.  Look. I like to think of myself as a really calm person and I put in a lot of effort to maintain my composed demeanor.  For example, whereas in my head I was screeching “I don’t want your fu#$%@* sh$@!!!” outwardly I just smiled and repeatedly said “No thank you”. The New Yorker in me made a rare appearance towards the end when a man followed me outside and literally threw some cloth at me into the bus. I opened the window and threw it back at him, and when he tried opening the door I slammed it shut more or less on his arm. That’s right. Don’t mess with this!

Another highlight of the trip was having the privilege to participate in a music/dance workshop led by one of Ghana’s music legends, Agya Koo Nima, who specializes in Palmwine music. I’ve done more dancing this past month in Ghana than I have in all my 20 years, and by some miracle I maintained control of my bodily functions during this ordeal. At least during my first dance workshop everybody was doing it at once. This time there was an audience of respected individuals. Please, Ghana. I didn’t sign up for the dance class for a reason. Leave me alone!

In all seriousness, the drumming and dancing we got to witness was truly amazing and beautiful, and is one of my favorite parts of the trip so far.

I would upload a video if it didn’t take hours. Instead, an action shot of the performance!

Other Ashanti/Kumasi highlights:

  • We stopped at Ntonso Andikra Village to learn about Andikra symbols/their meanings that are used as stamps/designs on buildings and clothing. I bought the stamp that means inner strength and humility (two of my favorite traits), and if I ever get a tattoo, maybe it’ll be of this symbol. Sorry, mom!

    The symbols! The one I love is on the front row, second from the right.

  • Manhyia Palace was a really cool pit-stop.  We toured the Palace Museum that contained life-sized effigies of past and present Ashanti Kings and their Queen Mothers. Just a tad creepy.
  • We visited Kejetia Market, West Africa’s largest open-air market. Good lord. I’m not a fan of large crowds and chaos, and this market had all of that plus the bonus of some pretty putrid delightful odors. Other highlights included seeing goat heads and live chickens being placed into plastic bags. I think I’ll be alright if I don’t visit that place again.
  • By virtue of my lack of male friends here I had my own room at the hotel we stayed at. See? I knew my social failures would start paying off if only I failed just enough times!

Wow, I really can’t believe that I’ve been here exactly one month already. I’m slightly surprised that nothing has gone too horribly wrong yet. However, the food situation is getting a bit concerning.  I can’t handle rice and egg sandwiches anymore, and if that starts happening with chicken, plantains, noodles and pineapple my diet will consist of…nothing. Damn it, I just want some Dunkin’ Donuts and real pizza. And bagels. And burgers that don’t look like this:

If a restaurant in America attempted to pass this off as a burger, there would be riots. RIOTS.

Alright. You get the picture. Thank you all for continuing to read this, and especially to those who have complimented my writing! I don’t really see what’s so great about it, but we all know about my non-existent confidence/self-esteem levels. Have a wonderful week!