Monday, June 15, 2009

It is possible I'm actually in Africa?!

This post marks the beginning of a series that represent my journal entries written while in Ghana. I find I've been putting off this task-- I'm not wholly comfortable putting my thoughts and feelings out there because they are so personal to me-- but at the end of the day this was one of the most profound experiences of my life and I can't go around telling everyone I meet they should absolutely take advantage of any opportunity they have to travel to a place like Ghana and then not be open and honest about my own experience! So here it goes.

Hello! Today is day 4 in Accra, Ghana-- though it seems like I've been here much longer. It seems so long ago that we landed and wandered through the onslaught of people waiting outside the airport to meet their families (or fares) or to carry travelers' bags in hopes of earning a few cedis and into the burning african sun. At first I thought, I can do this, this is just like Chile with the brightly colored flowering trees, wide sidewalks, walled yards, stucco style architecture and street peddlers-- then we travelled outside the area around the airport (which coincidentally was where many of the embassies and government housing seemed to be located) and into the rest of Accra. Our tro tro (tro tros are the vans Ghanaians travel in) creeped through town and we went from a lovely suburban looking area to an area so packed with people and vehicles it seemed like pure chaos. Street vendors now lined the street and weaved in and out of the vehicles which were already packed bumper to bumper on the street. The street vendors' kiosks looked more like shanties forming slum neighborhoods than kiosks forming markets. And oh my lord it was HOT. The African sun burns-- it was like we had started an enourmous bon fire in the middle of the day and decided to sit next to it all day long-- it just roasts your skin.

People are just everywhere, I have never seen so many people just out and about. The first 2 days were totally overwhelming--too much heat, too many people, too much grime, too much sweat, too many odors (exhaust, burning trash, open sewage) and too little sleep. I started to worry that I would never find it in my to actually like it here in Ghana. Give me lack of schedule, give me constantly waiting for everything to get done, but please at least let me feel clean most of the day! I was completely dismayed. Didn't I survive 6 months in South America?! What was wrong with me? I like the heat, I like the change of pace, and I LOVE traveling! Why wasn't I totally in love with Ghana on day 1?! I'm not sure I have an answer for that.

But thankfully by day 3 I was getting sleep, so that helped and by day 4 I was loving my tro tro window seat and the feeling of the African sun on my skin, and all the easy access to the street vendors--it didn't even bother me when a few reached in the window and gave my shoulder a pat, like hi there obruni! I see you! Orbruni is the twi word for us white folk (and twi is the most common language spoken in Ghana). I am also starting to enjoy my frequent cleaning schedule-- the grime is not so horrifying any more and there's even something extremely satisfying about looking down in the tub and seeing dirt-- like yeah, that shower really accomplished something, it wasn't just part of a daily routine that I do becuase not doing it is frowned upon! So, thankfully, 4 days in Ghana is growing on me, I am finding my place here and looking forward to the rest of our stay.

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