Monday, July 19, 2010

In a different space and time

7-19-10 @ 9:33p

I’m looking forward to the memories of right now…

So much has happened since my last blog. I do not even know where to begin. For starters, my friend left Ghana today. It’s sad. That necklace suits you well. We’ll meet again in a different space and time. ☺

This past Friday we had a fascinating lecture on the “Political Economy of Ghana.” The professor was great. He spoke a lot about the continent as a whole and the idea that Kwame Nkrumah attempted to put into reality of uniting the entire continent of Africa. Or having a United States of Africa with more trade and positive relationships in order to encourage industrialization. Ghana’s government struggles with colonial undertones just as other sectors of the nation such as education, economics, etc. The sound of having a united Africa makes me smile. Former president of South Africa, and the current presidents of Gambia and Senegal have been attempting to push this idea. We’ll see how it develops. Ghana is $7 billion in debt. An exchange rate of 1.41 cedis to 1 USD might suggest a bit of difficulty in paying this back. Much of the debt was accumulated during the period after independence (1957) that military coups were constantly overthrowing the government. This led to borrowed money for specific projects going unfinished. The coup to overthrow Nkrumah in 1966 was funded by the CIA. #randomfact. I love to hear the lecturers refer to Kenya. It’s amazing how frequently this happens. I feel extreme pride hearing them reference the Kenyan government, presidents, or anything else. Even when bad things are mentioned I smile. I need to learn more about my home countries, Jordan and Kenya.

Saturday we traveled to the city of Kumasi. It is the center most part of Ghana and a trading point for all of western Africa, dating back to slavery. It houses some of the most prosperous people in the country but there is poor education and financial literacy. We went to the central market, which is the largest open market in western Africa and run by women. For every 15 stalls there might be one male owner. My five foot, eight and three quarter inch frame towered over many of the women (average male height). The stalls are the size of a closet; most were hard to even enter. As you walked, you found more shops. It was as if it was never ending. Name a product and it was there. Look right and you see clothes (panties, bras, shoes, flip-flops, jeans, tops, kente, socks). Look left and you saw raw pig, beef, chicken, fish onions, tomatoes, potatoes, plantains, peanuts. Take 10 more steps and look left again to see more clothes (panties, bras, shoes, flip-flops, jeans, tops, kente, socks). 10 more steps and repeat the process to see gold, silver, pots, pans, blankets, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc. They chopped the meat in front of you. They ate from their goods. Look straight and a 10-year-old girl was peeing. It rained for about 30 minutes before we entered the market. We split into groups of 6. Most of the girls and I had on sandals. The water splashed feet causing the women in my group looked down to avoid the unsanitary water rather than taking in the experience. The paths were narrow and the locals were moving fast, not worried about the water hitting their feet or anything else for that matter. The girls complained of the nasty smell of raw meat and body odor. They sang church songs, partially to be funny and partially because they thought they would vomit. “Abdul, get us out of here please.” I ignored them and took it in. Nodded and smiled at the stall owners. Unlike the many shops we visit with tourist attractions, these women did not ask for us to enter their stalls, they did give you the famous, “come my broda (brother), have a look, this is my work, I’ll give you a good price, we’re from the same family…” I get off the hook most times when I tell the vendors that I’m Kenyan and think of Rory’s time in Haiti when they ask to trade my shoes, hat, or NSOD bag for things they have. Back to the central market… Stall owners did however yell at the mixed guy in the group that can pass for white, “white man, white man” or “America, America.” One girl began to cry, back to the bus we went. And of course I thought we were exiting from the exact spot we entered but I was easily lost in the most ORGANIZED CHAOS I have ever experienced. Once on the street we spent 30 minutes searching for the bus, which for me was fun but traumatizing for the girls in the group.

I’ve grown to hate the traffic in Ghana. If I didn’t know any better I would think the horn was the device that made cars move. The horn has become second nature to drivers. If the light turns green and you don’t peal out leaving streaks on the ground, you’re getting honked at.

We visited a kente village in Kumasi. Kente is the national cloth of Ghana but unfortunately it’s imported from China. I think I’ve mentioned this before. And you can’t be mad at the buyers, because it makes economic sense especially for poor people. The men do the weaving. It requires extreme arm, back, leg, and butt muscles. They sit for hours at a time weaving beautiful and elaborate designs. I’m a bit jealous of the men here. Most have defined arms, legs, and abdomen areas. I suppose if I actually worked out when I visited the YMCA, it would help me. I kid I kid, Mariam will like that one.

The bead village was also an interesting place. All of the beads are made by hand from crushed glass. The glass is placed in little clay holes and bamboo is put in the middle to create the hole that remains in the bead. They then place the clay in the clay oven fueled by wood until the glass melts, let it cool, and you have your beads. I did not buy much, mainly because I was playing soccer with the kids just behind the tables with all of the necklaces and bracelets. That was my day’s highlight.

The hotel we stayed in was nice. We swam for a bit on Sunday in the over-chlorinated pool. They had hot water! Man, the showers were wonderful. While I’ve grown accustomed to the cold showers at our house in East Legon (head first, then hands, then chest, and slowly put your back in), the hot water was great. I miss some of the luxuries we experience in the states. I watched CNN and boy am I out of touch with the happenings. It feels weird.

I’ll soon be blogging about the people that work at the house and Aya Centre. I love to sit and talk with them. The conversations are rich and I’ve learned a lot from them. Elijah, Timothy, and Uncle Solo. I’ll do a little bio on each of them this week.

I guess not too much has happened. Maybe I was just excited to blog. Who knows?

The life and times of amo…


  1. Don't leave me hanging...I'm enjoying this!
    I've got a great idea...when you come to the Y - use it! Maybe next time you're in Ghana you can help the men work! I love you and miss you too much! but, shhhh...don't tell anyone! HA!

  2. "Five foot, eight and three quarter inch"

    That's pushing it kid!

  3. i love what your doing. i love that your eyes are wide open, i love your immersion in something completely out of your imagination. LOVE IT.

  4. Salim, come on man. It's a true statement. But I know no matter how tall I grow up to be (I know I'm done growing) I'll always be your little brother.

    Thanks, Shaker. I've been keeping up with your blog as well. I hope you're enjoying my homeland! Visit Shaker's blog in Amman, Jordan.

  5. Another compelling post. I died when I read this one liner: "If I didn’t know any better I would think the horn was the device that made cars move."

    See you when you get back.

  6. lol Ghana traffic is no joke! The stop lights serve no purpose at all..

  7. I was hoping someone would get a kick out of that line, Muns.

    The traffic people let the the cars go for about 4 lights cycles before letting others go. It's terrible.