The first week of anything new is always incredibly long. The first week of summer camp, the first week of school, the first week of college, the first week of study abroad. That’s the reason tourist trips that only last a week can actually be satisfying. When you come into a new situation of any kind, one that you have chosen to enter, you’re open to taking in new information. There is so damn much new information that it’s exhausting, but you can feel you really experienced a place in a week. Then there’s the first week of six months.

All this, of course, is to say that on this the fifth day of my trip to Ghana, I feel as if I’ve been here for years. Ignorant, oblivious years perhaps, but still years. Each day is packed with information and experiences, not that they’re all so exciting necessarily–in point of fact, few of them are yet–but they’re just so damn new.

In many ways this is harder than I thought and anticipated; a couple of my readers can look forward to receiving letters that say so in a month or two. Even though I knew this was going to be challenging, there exists a secret (well, it WAS secret until now) part of me that firmly believed it would all slide into place just because this was what I wanted to do, these were the choices and the plans I made. It doesn’t work like that. Hardest on me at the moment is the serious ugliness of my immediate surroundings. I guess, loath as I am to admit it, I carried some vision of Pastoral Africa with me. This is not that. These are the outer fringes of the Greater Accra Area; what little I have seen in Accra makes me think it is not a pretty city, and I live and work in dry, dusty villages lined with ersatz roadside stands from which people sell low-quality American- and Chinese-made toys, groceries, or hair products. People live in small houses or somewhat larger colonial buildings in poor repair, and peppering the town where I live (though not the one where I work) are shells of new construction on which no one ever seems to be working. Taxis, tro-tros and ill-repaired cars speed by as you walk by the roadside (take note: Ghanaian drivers are *crazy*), and all the tiny stores have misspelled, religious-revivalist names. (This week’s favorite: “God Is One Stationery Shop.” Who knew, right?) It’s strange, because I think of myself as an American who likes grittiness, understands poverty, and the like. But the fact is I could always go home to a space I controlled. I don’t have that option here. And loath as I am to admit it, I like knowing shiny things are present. Even when I don’t want to buy them or visit them.

It is also painfully hot. This is what you get when you’re only a sparse few degrees above the equator, but it compounds the difficulty. I am not good with heat, not built for the tropics. I have thus far managed to stay successfully hydrated, and the doxycycline does not seem to have made me *more* photosensitive than usual: small favors. It’s hard to move around in the afternoon, though.

Amadou says that many of the other white women who have stayed with him over time are upset by the constant calls of “obruni, obruni” from children as they walk. I don’t mind. I stand out here, and it makes sense for people to point it out. I’ll admit, though reluctantly, that I sort of revel in it: I like knowing that I’m the only obruni in the area, that I’m not doing something common to Americans. On the other hand, I feel a creepy relief when another obruni passes in a car, and on occasion Lucy, Amadou’s fiancee, returns while her niece is cooking and immediately asks her a question in Twi regarding “obruni.” Sometimes when I am in the shower or my room, but just as often when I’m right in front of them. My Twi vocabulary consists of approximately ten words right now, but “obruni” is certainly one of them, and I occasionally fight the urge to snap something like “Obruni has a name.” But it’s not as if they don’t call me by name when addressing me, and either way, this may be a symptom of the long-week problem. We do not really know one another yet. Why should I have surpassed the moniker of “obruni” just by being present? Until I know people better, it is and will be my defining factor.

So those are the hard parts. So far, to my relief, the planning of work has felt electric. It seems unlikely that the actual theater programming will start before the third week in February, but the schedule is packed.

The Girls’ Club is managed by two Ghanaian teachers, Flora and Davis. Flora works as a teacher full-time, so Davis does a lot of the paperwork and organizing, and may end up assisting me with one of my programs and taking over when I leave; he’s the one helping me with all the pragmatics, setting up meetings with schools, etcetera. We met yesterday. (He was an hour late, but I do have to consider that par for the course here, I think.) It actually turned out to be really productive: we made a schedule, we made some application forms for my students based on his old forms, I watched a DVD of his students’ presentation last semester, which gave me a good idea of what’s going on. When I have the power to make decisions, I am electrified by working. Therefore, I am destined for self-employment. But I think I knew that. The next two days I am not travelling to town, but on Thursday I have to be there incredibly early to start meeting with school principals. As I have needed an unprecedented amount of sleep so far, this is not going to be easy. But yesterday I took tro-tros alone for the first time, and it takes three transfers to get from Amadou’s hostel to Pokuase. So I feel fairly competent about that journey. Several young men ask for my number en route, of course, particularly if I look uncertain or ask for directions. As per Layna’s recommendation, I’ve been saying I don’t have a phone, or that my phone is only for work. Thus far no one has pushed it.

Also: goats, lizards and chickens wander the streets everywhere you go, with cats and dogs occasionally stopping by as well. On Sunday a couple of baby goats next door managed to climb onto the six-foot wall between Amadou’s property and theirs, and stood in the space between concrete spikes maa-ing. The pictures did not come out very well, I am sad to say.

And oh my gracious: I am in Amadou’s office, and it is *raining*. I was told not to expect rain until March, and not serious rain until May.

When my schedule regularizes–you know, in the middle of February–I will be posting on Wednesdays and Sundays. Until then, you’ll just have to wait with bated breath as I do the next installment WHENEVER I FEEL LIKE IT!

Advertisements