The Art I Live

Friday, October 29, 2010

In an African Context

Oct. 29, 2010 Ghana…….

Hello from Ghana! So I’ve been in Ghana for almost three months (exactly 3 in another week). I have one refrain in my head that makes days both frustrating and funny. My closest Ghanaian friend tells it to me all the time: “THIS IS AFRICA.” In many ways it means “suck it up this is how it is here.” Sometimes it means “just laugh honey.” On the opposite side of this refrain sometimes sits my laughter others my response: “when do I go home” lol.

Here are my most recent adventures and stories:

Strike! (no just kidding, no sike it’s for real, actually no one knows, uh yes there is a strike)

That’s basically how the university faculty strike in all of Ghana went. Hear-say, they say, he say, she say, there was a strike. Eventually there was an official statement that in fact the university faculty all over the country were on strike for not being paid a pay increase they were promised a long time ago. So what exactly does this mean? All the university lectures refused to teach. The strike continued for a solid three weeks. No one attended class and campus was pretty vacant for the first week. After which the international students became afraid this would elongate our stay and/or disrupt our academic progress. Considering of my duration here and my purpose as a student, I was ready to pack my bags and head home. The second week International Programs at the University of Ghana arranged for international students to have private lectures. We did. Mines were very boring but I do believe I learned more during those two weeks than I have the entire stay so far. Due to the low number of students (sometimes just myself) we were able to hear, see, ask questions, and actually understand what was being taught. In my African dance class there was actually room to dance and enough air in the un-air-conditioned room to breath. The bad part was that professors found it appropriate to make us attend extended lectures that met at 3 hours a session to make up for lost time. It was not effective in that way because of course any person will stop paying attention if made to sit and listen to someone talk for 3 hours!
After three weeks the university policy was that the school would close but instead the faculty returned to the classroom and the academic calendar was extended. International students (ME) are not supposed to be effected by the extended schedule but some faculty is trying to say we have to attend class until Dec. 2, 2010. I find this ridiculous and terribly organized because we’ve done more than enough. It is especially grueling when you don’t feel like you’re learning much. My departure date is Dec. 12, 2010. It will not be compromised!!! I hope to stop attending class Nov. 12, 2010 which was the original date. I feel like the faculty were justified in their purpose for striking but I’m not sure if they achieved anything. Seems like the made more work for them and complicated my life.

Honestly, I would not recommend any student in need of fulfilling academic rigor to study in Ghana. Sorry.

The Attack of the Tro-Tro

To begin a “tro-tro” is a primary source of public transportation in Ghana. It is essentially an overcrowded mini-van that you pay no more than fifty US cents to ride pretty much anywhere in the city. They have little chairs that fold up on the end of each row to allow for as many people as possible to ride. You stand some place on the road and wait for the tro-tros to come by. There is a young boy/man hanging out the side of the sliding door yelling the destination the driver is going to. He is called the mate.

So what had happened was………

My friends and I got in a tro-tro back to campus. I was wearing a long, flowing pink dress. It’s really hard to find tro-tros with several seats empty, so we cram into one. I sit on the last seat before the folding one. Our stop comes. We yell “bus stop” to tell the mate we want to get off. I stand up, crawl over a woman’s lap and hear a loud ripping sound. A man that was in my row yells at me to come back. Mine you, I’m all of one foot from my seat hunching over in this little van. He begins to pull me back so he can pull my dress from in between the folding chair. Did I mention the metal in these tro-tros is typically rusty and sharp? So, I’m caught. A nice old guy is trying to pull me out. I’m sweating. The driver is ready to go. The guy rips my dress out and I have two large holes in my dress. The guy who helped me says “oh it’s spoiled.” I smile, laugh to myself, and hop down from the tro- tro. “THIS IS AFRICA.”

Playing Chicken

As a child growing up in inner city Indianapolis my siblings and friends used to play a game called “chicken” where the object was to run across the street with cars coming without getting hit. So, in Ghana crossing any road at any time is an extreme game of chicken. Believe you me, I am one terrified pedestrian. There are no pedestrian rights here and very few signs that tell you when to cross. The few I have seen don’t work. I have nearly been run over about three terrifying times. Once the car stopped like five feet from my body. People here drive extremely fast no matter where they are going so you have to run for dear life to cross the rode. I’ve adopted the habit of waiting for a Ghanaian person, greeting them, and saying “Hi Auntie/uncle can I cross the road with you?” They usually take my hand and say “let’s go.” My friends laugh every time but hey I’m still alive! “THIS IS AFRICA!”

Traveling by road

When I first arrived I was surprised by the amount of cars on the road. Then I learned that when you leave the city of Accra there are not many paved roads. So…….you’re in for one bumby ride Traveling by road in Ghana is like riding a wooden roller coaster with no seat belt. I nearly got whip flash riding to a city called Kumasi. I was in the back of the van and with every bump I hop and jerked my neck. Paved roads and side walks are something we take for granted in America! But of course….. “THIS IS AFRICA!”

Village Visit : Aygementi

Recently I visited another village to supposedly do some water sanitation work. Due to disorganization, road delays, and lateness that did not exactly happened. The one thing I did learn from this visit is that all things have to be considered in their own context. My America eyes see things like traditional villages (houses with mud walls, natural water source, limited resources, etc) and think the people are so bad off but that’s not necessarily true. Because people don’t have a lot or what we consider necessities doesn’t mean they are not happy or making it. For instance, in this village we met a woman who made annually about $25 from selling cassava. She had four children. I thought, wow that’s so little how can she live? But after discussing it I learned that she is a farmer, so she doesn’t have to buy food. She can make her own clothes. She owns her own home, so she doesn’t have to pay bills. Essentially she has what she needs. I don’t think that this should be used as an excuse not to help others but we should not be so critical of things we don’t fully understand.

General Reflections from my daily journal:

• Ghana is like the USA 200 years ago. She still has time to grow.
• I was asked why I didn’t want a perm when I went to get my hair braided. Funny, right? I thought this was Africa?
• The “female urinal” is like peeing in an animal stall. I prefer the bush!
• African dance is much fun but hard work! Sweat baby, sweat! AFRICA! Lol.
• Many educated Ghanaians strive to be western.
• “African men like their women fully endowed, round, and sweating.” –Ghanaian professor.
• The sun here is a smiling torture.

Poem, Titled: Accra

This is New York before the lights
Chicago before the buildings
This is every ghetto on a sweltering day
This is the south before King or Jim Crow
This is Africa.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October Living in Ghana

Blog Hog Spog….what happened to my blog!!!

Oct.3, 2010

Here it is the genius of another month! Wow time is flying by. Everyone I talk to back home implies that they know how hard it must be here because things are so slow. Well, things are slower but indeed my time here is speeding by. Below are a few things I’d like to reflect on.

Ghanaian homes:

I’ve been to two homes. They were both large cement buildings with huge cement fences. Both of the houses I went to were in nice neighborhoods. By nice I mean most of the houses around were large and well kept. All of the roads are pretty much dirt road with all the challenges of holes, stones, etc.. Yes the houses had electricity capabilities. During my stay at both places the electricity went out. It’s a city wide thing that affects every single part of Ghanaian life. (Homes, businesses, universities and schools) The other day while I was sweating and dancing to some African drum beats the electricity went off. It’s really hot and extremely dark when that happens. But back to the houses: They were comfortable places to be. It’s always nice to get out of a dorm and into a “home setting.” The families were very welcoming and hospitable. I was in no way hungry when I left. Let me tell you Ghanaians really love to eat a lot of food and if you’re a visitor you’ll be expected to eat as much if not more. Both times I had difficulties meeting the food challenge! Once I had a dish called Banku which is like a sour dough ball and you eat it with soup. You have to dip the dough in the soup and eat it with your hands I didn’t really like it but I forced myself to eat enough not to be considered disrespectful. At the other home I had (omg where do I begin) fried plantains, rice, rice, and more rice, chicken, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, ice-cream. Oh before that as an appetizer we had huge eat sandwiches. When I frowned in bloating fullness and refused to finish my plate (only because I told her not to give me more and she keep dishing it out) my Ghanaian friend remarked “This is Africa!”  I was just thinking this mean exercise.

Ghanaian Women:

I want to comment on how amazing strong and innovative the women are here. They are the faces you see at the markets selling, washing clothes, in the streets carrying goods for sell on their heads, the teachers, the cooks, the seamstresses, the mothers (carrying their children on their backs as they cook, sell, or sew). I like to think of them as the face of this nation. Everywhere I go I see and meet women sweating and working yet smiling (not always). When I went to a friend’s house she allowed me to help prepare a Ghanaian dish that is essentially rice balls. I have never worked so hard to fix food and I’m sure I was getting the simple version. There are much more difficult dishes like pounding fufu. I’ve seen people do it in various markets. When I see a woman walking down the street with large gallons of water on her head I feel like this is a place of strength. Of course to the women here there is nothing abnormal or super human about their daily routines. They just get up, get out, and get it done. As a foreigner I see it as an image that nothing is impossible and we (Americans, perhaps African American black women) are quick to limit ourselves or accept weaknesses that could be over come.

The University of Ghana:

Oh boy, I have no idea where to begin. Well classes are going well. I have yet to get used to the over crowed lecture “halls” and the chatty students. I’m enjoying most of the actual information but the way the classroom is conducted and structured is annoying. When lights or fans don’t work it’s a hassle to learn. Instead of complaining I try to write and process the experience. Overall, I’m happy to be able to be here and working towards my graduation this May but I could really do without the classes. But hey, at least I’m here.

Performing Arts:

One of the absolute coolest things I’ve done sent my last entry has to be going to a couple of Ghanaian dance performances. They were so very cool! I love the music and the art here. One show included some contemporary African which got a little weird but I’m all down for art. Seeing these shows made me so happy I did not choose to stay in the West to study abroad because experiencing completely foreigner art is awesome. I can’t wait to go to the art galleries and see exhibits that are all African pieces. It’s so rare to see people of color in art museums in the States. I’m taking it all in. Honestly, as far as my art goes a lot has yet to produce its self. I journal a lot but the “artistic” stuff is processing right now. I’m just taking it all in.


Ghanaians typically have a day name (after the day of the week you were born), a Christian name (thanks to colonization), a name after an important person in their family, and their father’s surname. I’ve meet so many Ghanaians named really western things like Michael, Patrick, Frank, Catherine, to name a few. It’s sort of odd in a way. You just wouldn’t expect that. Names are very important here because they tell where a person is from and give insight into their family history.

I am Tuesday born so my day name is Abena. There are a million people with the same days names because obviously there are only 7 days in a week. Lol. It’s really cool to know that your name has a meaning greater than just the letters though. When my program discussed this I was happy to be able to tell people my entire name means something and I know the history. Camea (my mother’s name and great grandmother Carry Mae) Lona (my grandfather and uncle Lonnie) Osborn (my dad’s surname, from the plantation owner our family traced docs to).


I’m in good health and good spirits. I get a little tired of eating rice everyday but I’ve been cooking a little bit so it’s ok. Not to mention, African renditions of pizza and burgers are available at a high price. The fresh fruits are nice too. The cleanliness and smells of things here are not on my list of things to adapt to so I deal with that daily. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about a whole lot of things! I will start volunteering/teaching in a local school this week. Guess that’s all for now!!!

See you soon!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crafts Market Visit


You step down from the crowned mini van and walk into the swarm of aromas, people, and colors. Urine reeks in your nostrils like an abusive hello. You turn you hips to slip through the slim open among the heap of round bodies. As you consume the new sights with your eyes your mental digestion is interrupted by a merchant with goods in both hands asking you, in a language you don’t spea,k would you like to buy. You smile shyly and keeping walking. The merchant follows you into the large, barn like construction screaming with color and sound. You hold your purse tight and enter.

So yesterday, I went to the Crafts Market in Accra. The place is a huge area with several different stalls that sell everything from paintings to clothing. Sellers have beaded jewelry, wood carvings, things made from animal skins and horns, masks of all sorts. Me being a person that LOVES African style, fashion, and art I was overwhelmed with excitement upon entering the market. I wish I would have taken my camera. My eyes are so full of sights my head aches. Immediately owners of the shops approach and begin to try to get you buy things. Before you even enter the market men and women are on the street with their goods beckoning you to their stalls. The tactic they use is first asking you to have a look. Then they attempt to pressure you to buy anything you like. Oh let me not dare forget to mention, race and nationality plays a huge role in how much you get haggled and or ripped off. I’m brown skinned but lighter than most people so I’m constantly asked where am I from and if I’m Ghanaian or not. Once I speak my cover is blown and I’m a prime victim to be sold extremely over priced goods. Also, if you are traveling with anyone white or anything non black everyone knows your ‘obruni’ (white man). For example, I asked for the price of a bag I wanted and I was told 28 of Ghanaian currency. My Ghanaian friend on the other hand was told 12. That’s how it is here. For the first time I feel like being black is a perferred in the space I live in. I’ve never not being proud of being a black woman but in certain places in the states (especially among educated people or in successful arenas) being black is not as “good as” or appreciated as other ethnicities.
So in the beginning I was crazy enjoying myself. I enjoyed looking at all the great unique crafts, bartering with people, and attempting to speak Twi (the local language). After a while you realize that every type of stall pretty much has the same exact thing and many of the sellers are business men not craftsmen. They do not make the stuff they just buy it from where ever it is mass produced. I began to have the most fun once I ran out of money, then I cold just look at stuff with no pressure because I knew I couldn’t buy anything. If you look though, you are in for a debate with the shop owner about how good of a price he will give you. I saw so many things I wanted to buy so I’m making a list of things for next time that I’ll purchase. I won’t be going back to that market until like next month though. I am a bit of a spendthrift and I want to make sure my money last me the entire trip. Also, the shop keepers here want to make you feel like this is the best deal you’ll ever get on this great thing but the reality is there is so much more where that came from. My mentor has always told me not to make rash decisions. People want you to decide things on the spot so they can rip you off. My dad has always told me not to

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First Village Visit

Village visit 2010

Just got back from the village visit to Dogobom at Ada. This is my first time ever seeing anything like it. I was so moved so amazed so wowed by what God is allowing me to see and do here. I really did enjoy the trip. What we did was build water purifiers for a community that otherwise would not have clean water to drink.
They have a pond in the village where people go to fetch water for drinking, cleaning, and bathing, and any additional domestic needs. It was really dirty water that is also shared with cattle and anything else that wants a drink or to live in the pond. Our program partnered with a local water sanitation organization to purchase the supplies to build 5 water filters in this community. The water filter consisted of a barrel, sand, rocks, a mesh net, a pipe and a water nozzle. The stones and sand act as filters for the water. The way it works is people put the dirty pond water into the filter and turn on the nozzle to obtain purified water. I suppose this is a proven science. The water certainly did change from dark brown to clear because of the filter but I’m unsure about the ability of this filter to cleanse the water of microscopic organisms that could hard the people. Nonetheless, we were able to build three of these filters. We were told that water from these filters was 98% clean. Our three water filters were donated to the school in the village for the students to have clean drinking water. Two additional filters are to be built in the actually living community in the near future.
I was primarily in charge of getting sand from the ground and “washing” it in order for it to be used for the filters. All of the materials used in the filter have to be extremely “clean” in order for the filter to function properly. I had to use a mesh net to sift the sand on the ground to remove large stones and grass. Then my group (about 3 other participants) filled a large bowl with sifted sand. After that we poured water from the pond onto the sand and proceeded to swirl it around. When the water was swirled enough times we dumped out the water, removed the top layer of silky sand, then added more water and repeated the process. It took about one hour to get one bowl of sand “clean.” The washing was not too difficult it was the swatting over the bowl to do the washing that put a strain on my body.
I was happy to help the people of this village though. I was constantly reminded that this is how people live here everyday but soon I would return to the bustling city of Accra and soon enough home to America. I realized that people survive under really bad conditions with little to nothing therefore I have nothing to want for or complain about. I was made to acknowledge the immense privilege that my life style has even though I’ve always thought of myself as not among the “privileged class” in America because I live in the ghetto. I felt so very blessed to be able to serve in a practical way that would really increase the welfare of people’s lives. We were told that these filters could function for up to five years.
I also considered what it meant that we built these filters in a school. This school was basically a series of cement, open rooms lined up next to one another. How can students really be educated when they are getting sick from the water in their classrooms? Furthermore, since all the food is washed in this water as well what they eat and how they bath are all contaminated. So the environmental and geographical issues of a place are imperative to the education of the people. There were a lot of kids from the village all around while we worked and it was obvious that they were happy we were there. Several people from the village came out to meet us, greet us, and thank us during this process. I could tell that they really needed and appreciated the gift of clean water. The elders of the village approved our gift, accepted it, and invited us to dance with them in celebration. They also gave everyone a coconut to drink from and eat.
It was amazing to see. The village consisted of what looked like mud huts with straw or grass roofs. From what I saw most huts were one room square buildings with not much inside them. It had no running water or electricity. The key thing I want to mention is that these people were happy and enjoying there lives. They were happy for the help but if we would have never come they would have kept living and making it. I admire their endurance. There were girls fetching bowls of water that held about five gallons of water. They carried these bowls on their heads up hill and to their homes. Three other women and I in my program (Americans) had a hard time carrying one of the same bowls together. These women (and I believe women in Ghana in general) were innovative, strong (physically, emotionally, and mentally) and self reliant.
This experience has my brain full of thoughts and questions. I realized today why the Bible says that we are our best in serving because when you give to someone else you are able to be empowered and strengthened. In serving you can see how much God has done for you and be humbled. I learned that the world is dealing with grave hardships and my being here is no mistake. I questioned how does this relate to God’s purpose for my life? What am I meant to do with the indescribable emotions I felt in those moments of cleaning sand for water? I wonder why God has chosen to be so very kind to me. All these are reoccurring thoughts that are challenging my perspective of myself, my world, the world, and my place in the greater world. I was reminded of how my mentor told me that Christ’s first order of business any place he went was to meet the needs of the people. We were meeting a need today and in that there was an inherent aspect of communal respect and community building. I’m convinced that dancing is a universal language that any “body” can speak. Speaking of languages, the people in this village spoke Ga and a few people spoke English. This trip is making me want to become a language learner because communication is so important and living in a global world mandates more than English. That is if the world is meant to be authentic and not oppressed by western culture, language, and ways. At the same time, I hope that rural Ghana can one day acquire the resources that are so readily wasted in the states.

Living is Learning,

Camea Osborn

Friday, September 3, 2010

to fill you in

3 am GMT Sept. 1, 2010

So I’m having a hard time sleeping in Ghana and a hard time posting pictures to this blog. I don’t what exactly is the difficulty. I know it has something to do with the sounds (frogs, wild dogs, howling birds…) the dampness is also a factor (I sort of feel like I’m sleeping in wet rags some nights). I don’t mean to be negative Nancy but today this is where I am. I thought I would share my classroom experiences at the university of Ghana. So far I’ve encounter too many students crammed into small classrooms. Ghanaians tend to ram into and over anyone in their path to the lone desk. That gets really annoying. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m past being friendly and respond with the same rude aggression with which I am approached. Today in my lecture of 100 plus students in a room designed to seat maybe 50 the lecturer proceeded to make us watch a VHS on a 30 inch tv screen that about 10 people in the very front row could see and hear. I was not one of those people. It is an extremely difficult environment to attempt to “learn” in. I have learned very quickly that the standard of “quality education” is very different than elite universities in the states. With that in mind, I spent much of my time today contemplating enter the teaching field as I previously thought I would. Primarily, I would do it to help bring quality education to urban youth in America. I have ideas about how to transform education and spaces in which people are meant to learn. I feel like the quality of a nation’s education is directly relational to the “quality” of it’s people. By that I mean what type of people a society produces in terms of their goals, contributions to the world, views, etc. Not that one person is better than another per say but perhaps education
is a vehicle by which people can be equipped to do and give more. I’m still developing these ideas and working them out in my head.

I’m blessed enough to have regular internet access in my room and I have the audacity to be frustrated that it’s inconsistent. (Privilege is an addiction)

I also wanted to mention some alarming things I’ve seen on this campus: (in no particular order)
• A monkey named Joe tied to a tree
• Massive terminate/ ant mounds everywhere that stand taller than me !! scary!!!
• Many lizards both large and small
• Wild dogs that roam around, most of them are starving
• Starving horses (I was not an eye witness but the pics were alarming)
• Men and women indiscreetly urinating in public places (this is unfortunately really common)
• I guess I could say people carrying things on there heads but it gets typical

With that said, I guess I’ll return to my bed and continue reading until the sun rises and I find something else to do.

Good morning good world!

-Camea Osborn

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Week 2:

I’m surprised at how well I am actually doing here. Just a year ago I thought Africa was too far, too foreigner, and I was too weak, and had too many “standards” to ever live in a third world country. That goes to show how living truly is learning because I’ve found out that it’s not all that hard to be here and I don’t require all that much. Comfort is a privilege not a necessity. My greatest frustrations thus far have been the limited running water (mostly in terms of the toilets “bucket baths” aren’t so bad) and the complexity that is registrations and finding books for class. While being frustrated I also realize that “developing country” effects matters from the governmental level all the way down to how hard it is for me to get a photo copy of a syllabus here.

Classes this week went well. (the ones professors actually attended…lol). I’m sure I will be engaged in my course work but course work alone is not enough to keep a busy bee like me going. We only take each course once a week for two hours with the exception of dance. This leaves me a lot of free time. I’ve decided I’m going to begin consciously crafting art projects. What I’ve set as goals are my next cd, a book of poems, and some type of performance/show for the exit project during my last semester in First Wave. More to come! As those projects develop I may publish some of my work here. I’m also going to spend a lot of my free time trying to write for grants and planning some additional travels around Ghana. If you know me you know I must remain busy!!!!

I went to Labadi Beach for the first time this week as well. After bartering for a cab (or getting frustrated and just accepting the driver’s request) we rode for an hour to the beach. Mind you along the way there are at least 20 persons selling anything you can imagine. They walk up to your car and tap on the window and show you things and try to convince you to buy, buy, buy. Once we arrived at the beach we had to pay a toll price and get a slip checked. The beach was very beautiful. I was surprised to see horses there! Men were charging for rides and pictures with the horses. That goes to say that men were selling everything. It was funny I told one guy selling leather hand made bracelets that I had no money and he asked would I like to trade him two of his bracelets for my watch. My watch was basically work about $2. He was trying to sell his bracelets for 5 cedis a piece so I figured it was worth it. I also brought a handmade leather purse from another lady. While we were there my friend mentioned he was hungry while we were talking to some Ghanaian and they pulled out some jellof rice and chicken they had prepared for the orphanage children they were chaperoning. We ate what we were offered and talked to the women and watched the kids play. We then paid a even higher taxi rate to get home because of the crazy traffic on the rode. During our ride it rained so less sells persons but more chaos. Our driver nearly ran over a biker. Eventually we made it back to our dorms and went and brought some dinner from the night market right near us.

Coco farm: We visited a coca farm, tasted fresh coca, and learned about the process of harvesting coca.
Dunbar: The university had a welcome dunbar for all the international students. We ate great Ghanaian food and danced until night. I found out that I really do love to dance when I’m in a space that’s free and welcoming to just moving. I had so much fun. Here, people genuinely like to hear great music and dance.
Church: I went to church for the first time this week it was more traditional than my style of worship. More like a Anglacian or Methodist service in American might be. I was intrigued by how Christianity in Ghana came by way of colonization and it’s visible in the services. The only Ghanaian music was a hymn sung in twi. Also, many people were dressed in traditional cloth. I found it interesting that the women in the church far out numbered the men. This church also had flat screen tvs in the sanctuary like some places back home. The basic church protocol was the same at this church. I look forward to finding a more “urban” perhaps upbeat place of worship in the future here.

Washing Clothes: I washed my clothes by hand and MAN WAS IT A WORK OUT! But my gospel tunes motivated me to get it all done. I have never ever done my laundry by hand, never hung anything on a line to dry. It reminded me of the stories my grand mother tells about how she had to do so much difficult house work as a child. I was very proud when I finished. I realized how privileged my life in America actually is and thanked God for what I do have at home. I will sure not be changing outfits a few times a day here like I would at home! I have to wash that stuff!!! I also enjoyed doing laundry because it was a good two hours for me to reflect on my time here, my life at home, my future, and several other things. The thing I appreciate most about being here is stillness and time during which I can ponder.

Recently, I became very frustrated with my current status of living and the lack of efficiency and resources here in Ghana. At times things get under my skin that I can’t control and I can’t help but to compare it to the way my world is in America. (which obviously isn’t fair). The frustrating things have been having to witness random people urinate in random public places with very little discretion about it. It’s socially acceptable here I suppose. Another thing is how rude I feel like people are here. (I’ve been trampled for a desk). But it all comes back to under development and lack of resources. My history class on colonialism and African response is really opening my eyes to how systematic these things actually are. I have much to learn.

Living is learning,

Camea Osborn

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ghana week 1

Week One: An Introduction to Ghana

Sorry for the delay in progress. Like most things here my internet is inconsistent and some what faulty. I have a hard time loading photos. I suppose they will come when they get ready.

So I’ve been living in Ghana for one week now.

When I arrived here last week my program CIEE took us to a hotel and we started our orientation. Upon getting off the plane, I realized for the first time since I began planning this trip that I would actually be in Africa for four months. The air smelled different, the dirt was red, the people were all brown and black. When I exchanged my money at the airport I received cedis with brown faces printed on them. I knew this place would be much different than home or any place I’d ever been. When I went to get my luggage I remembered what I had been told about people offering to “help” you with your luggage. Many people were standing by but I managed to grab my bag and take it to the van for our program participants without any trouble. I later learned that other people in my program were charged fees by pretend bag handlers, someone tried to steal a bag, and others were haggled on there way to the car.

As we drove through Accra, the capital city, I was amazed by the amounts of things people carried on top of their heads. (dress pants, bottles, peanuts, toys, food, water….and so many more things) All of these things were for sell. I was surprised by the many cars that zoomed past us. There were a range of cars from raggedy taxis to top of the line vehicles. I even saw a hummer.

The first few nights here we stayed in a great hotel with all the normal amenities you would expect at an American hotel. The food was great. All the dishes are very spicy and include rice. I also had very sweet pineapples and ice cream for desert.

After the hotel stay where we were coached on how to live in Ghana and what and whom to avoid we arrived at the University of Ghana to our dorms. Let’s just say the dorms were a lot more humble than our hotels. For the first time in my life I slept under a mosquito net. After the first night I took a bucket “shower” because there was no running water. I saw the poverty that plagues this country but the pride of it’s people. I rode the crowded public transportation which is called a tro tro (over crowded minivan) I have even bartered for the cost of food and taxis. I over came the maze that is registering for classes at a university very new to internet usage. (ie: going to every building you want to take classes in and signing up). I’ve survived being lost in translation with people who don’t understand my fast speech and people I can’t understand because of their accent. I have a lovely room mate who is also American.

I am often frustrated and thinking critically about what it means to be an American studying abroad in Africa. That includes the colonial history and present realities that both countries face as I exist between the two at this time. I have yet to really acquaint myself with the primary customs here but I am adjusting just fine. I am documenting everything to the best of my ability (ie: constantly writing). I’m having a hard time remember to never use my left hand for anything because here it is deemed the “dirty hand” and people find it very disrespectful if you hand me things are signal using the left hand.

For our official ceremony we when to a wealthy side of town to a beautiful restaurant and danced and ate great food. There were mansions and very beautiful homes. It goes to show that there are two sides to every coin. Ghana and Africa is so much more than what is portrayed on American television.

On campus, I’m constantly hustling around to find what I believe is “safe” food. The result has been eating too many potato chips (ie: French fries). I went to the Accra Mall today, which is like any mall you’d find in the US and brought some groceries to get me through this week. Soon I will tackle washing my laundry by hand.

I can’t forget to mention that I have a cell phone here that looks like a basic calculator from back home! (lol) and I also the other young women I’ve meet in CIEE have been a great support system in helping me cope with the day to day challenges here.

Well in conclusion, I’m doing well. God is good and I have a lot to learn. There are many things that are great and others that are not so great but you have to take the good with the bad and learn as much as possible. I start my classes tomorrow. I have a history class on the history of colonialism and the African response, a sociology class on Ghanaian women, two English classes (graduation is still the primary goal folks!), and a drumming class.

By the way I forgot to mention I took a dance workshop here and it was Amazing! The professor told us if you come to Africa and do not dance you have never lived. Boy did I live in that moment! We danced until we sweated then kept on dancing. It was very communal and fun.

Major over all reflections: our past are apart of our present existence, "People are people every where", "the deep call unto the deep", "this experience sure beats the school of education back home"

Until next time,

Living is Learning.