proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.

Some more random things that I love about this place:

You can engage anyone in the street, whether to talk about what they’re selling, where they’re going, the weather (oh, so you think it will be hot and sunny for the next six months? me too), what the taxi you want to take into town should really cost…anything!

Even though Ghanaians are pretty much late for everything (a widely-known and accepted fact), I’m not frustrated by that anymore. Why? Because once you learn to expect to wait anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes for someone to show up for a meeting – once those expectations are managed – it just doesn’t get to you anymore.

Things that are said in my lit class continue to blow my mind. The other day, for example, we were discussing Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’ubervilles, and got to talking about progression in society. A Ghanaian student said, “There is something wrong with us Africans. When we accept something new, we think we have to abandon the old, the past.” I am still thinking about that statement. Later, Maggie and I (as two of the only American girls in the class) were asked what we look for in a potential boyfriend in college, and if money and wealth is a factor like it is here. It was hard answering that question on the spot, of course, but what was more hard was saying as delicately as possible that no, money is not a factor for us when it comes to deciding to be in a relationship with someone or (I’d like to think) when marrying someone. I learn so much from my classes here, and so much of it comes in discussion and conversation about differences in cultures and values – and the fact that many of those open and genuine conversations come out of books by Thomas Hardy or deliberations on the concept of import substitution is just plain wonderful. Also, I read the title of this blog post in a book by a Nigerian author. Beautiful.

We celebrated Jason’s 23rd birthday the other day by sharing scoops of that really good ice cream downtown at Frankie’s, a Lebanese-owned restaurant/creamery. Our Rasta friends came too; check out this eclectic crowd.

I saw a woman (she may have been a student) outside of class the other day who had the car of her hood up, was putting water inside her engine (not sure where the water actually goes in a car – ah), and was wearing high heels. High heels! That. Is. Awesome. Would I see that in the States? Have you? Okay, maybe, but it just made me sit there and grin. What a lady. What a culture.

I like that I’ve been able to meet and hang out with people who aren’t necessarily associated with the University of Ghana. I’ve been to two Embassy parties since I’ve been here, and have met extremely interesting individuals from all around the world. The Embassy community in Ghana is a small one, I’ve found, and it reminds me of the military community in Stuttgart. Sometimes, it’s nice to have that sort of small crowd with similar worldly connections when you’re living in a foreign country. The more I learn about the Embassy world here, the more I continue to think about if a career in that sort of service is one for me. Check back in five years. For now, I’ll keep telling anyone who asks that my dream job is to do what Jennifer Connelly does in the movie Blood Diamond. Love her, love the work she did in that film.

So this isn’t necessarily something I loved, but it was an event that turned out all right and I feel as though I should share: a while back, I got some sort of bug bite that, over a period of two or three days, festered into a bad boil and spread over and around my wrist. It hurt a lot and looked pretty bad, so on the fourth night I went to the hospital. It turned out to be what’s known as “Cellulitis.” According to Wikipedia, it is unrelated (except etymologically) to cellulite. But I almost laughed out loud when the Ghanaian doctor told me what the thing on my wrist was called – then I got a few shots and was back to being grim. Anyway, I took to wearing a loose cloth over it for the next few days while the antibiotics kicked in. (It was not pretty to look at, and I noticed more than a few of my classmates staring over the days.) But, I was lucky to have a really good first (hopefully last!) hospital experience here. Many of my friends who have had to go to the hospital for one reason or another have waited for hours and hours, had to go back multiple times, and have spent days getting better or getting something taken care of. Anyway, I’m all healed now, and don’t have much scarring – and what is there vaguely resembles the shape of the continent of Africa, so that’s okay with me.

Okay, sit down for this. Let me tell you about prices. A generous portion of spicy rice with a hard-boiled egg, some salad, and tomato sauce = 50 (U.S.) cents. A bar of the creamiest ice cream you’ve ever tasted is 20 cents. A tro-tro ride into town? 60 cents. A sack of individual water sachets that will last you a week? Less than a dollar.

awesome.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve done at the University of Ghana is become involved with the United Nations Student Association here, through which I participated in Ghana’s first ever International Model United Nations Conference. I’ve blogged about it a bit before, but I wanted to show some more photos. I was the only non-African female, and one of two obronis, which was remarkable and fascinating. I met so many great and passionate young people –  which will always be one of my favorite things about Model UN. Resolutions were passed, debates were fruitful, and everyone learned something. That weekend was one of the most exhausting, challenging, and rewarding I’ve had here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

visiting the Liberian Embassy

in committee

***

One of the most valuable things about being in Ghana is that I have continued to write about anything and everything. It’s not unusual for me to go to pick up my phone, to call or text a friend or someone I miss, but pick up my pen instead. It’s often hard at Elon to allow myself or push myself to read or write for the sheer pleasure of doing so – instead of for, say, a lit class or creative writing assignment. Along with so many other things, Ghana has given me the time and inspiration to do just that, and I am so fortunate to continue to be molded as a student of writing and follow that passion in an environment like this. I think that, in life, we make room for the people and things that are important to us, whether we think we have time for them or not. When I’m back at Elon, writing will remain a top priority. And if I am going to continue exploring the writing world like I feel so wonderfully compelled to, I’ll make sure a pen and Moleskine are always within reach.

Sometimes, writing comes with recognition – a very humbling thing. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the concept of validation when it comes to writing and sharing it with others, but at any rate, I received an email a few weeks ago telling me that I have had two poems accepted for publication in the 2010 issue of The Colonnades, Elon’s Art & Literary Journal. Also, a photo that I took in Kenya was selected to be the image on the journal’s cover! It’s quite an honor to be published. Maggie will also have a poem in the issue, and it was so great receiving that news together while all the way over here in Ghana. We’ll miss the unveiling of the magazine later this month, but I’m sure we’ll get our hands on a few copies somehow. Here is one of my poems that will be in the issue:

Creating

The people who make me feel most alive do not live here.
They live in adobe huts deep in Yemen,
in tree houses in Oregon, and on the coast
of the Coral Sea. In the arts and letters of all ages
and all walks of life, there is a man who drones melodies,
holding his wrinkled hands and mouth around
a gourd; a woman who finger-paints with purple sand
and the insides of tomatoes.

When I hear spoken word poetry on the streets of Tegucigalpa,
recited by orphaned teenage boys high on glue—cracked vessels
of truths whose rhythms resound in the city’s dust and darkness—
my heart skips. Or when I see a Pakistani grandmother
crushing henna leaves and carefully mixing the dark pasty dye
in preparation for a honorary feast. . .
Mundane, ugly, beloved— it is how, not what, these luminaries
create that stir deep and quiet beginnings within me,

and my heart beats a beat for the troubadours, the dream weavers,
for the papier-mâché masters and blistered dancers of jazz,
as they achieve an artist’s greatest success:
revealing life in what was never before thought of.
Whispering to the remnants of artistry inside each of us,

creators never stop living alive. I pay tribute to those
who unknowingly remind me that what I have to offer—
hands that always smell of clay, a flair for color
and a little bit of gumption—
is enough to tell stories.

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One Response

  1. Natalie, I just LOVE to read your blogs. I’m “stuck” in Naples (due to the ash cloud from the volcano in Iceland)and Naples, in several ways, reminds me more of Ghana than of Germany. Love, Mom

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