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Wellington and the Night Life

Last weekend, my new friends and I decided it was finally time to venture out. We have been in Palmy for about 2 weeks and it is as fabulous as a college town can get, but there is not much to do here except to go class and do your homework- so…. I guess if you are into that sort of thing it’s like heaven- however I prefer activities that involve some adrenaline pumping in my veins. So, we decided Wellington would be out next destination-it’s the capital of New Zealand, and only two hours away- it’s the perfect weekend getaway.

Traveling here is much different than Ghana- for one, you have to make a reservation for a place to stay, and second, public transportation leaves on time….and if you want to visit any kind of festival you have to arrange tickets in advance.  I don’t know if that’s more or less stressful to be honest- we had to run pretty quick to catch our bus….but we also knew we were going to have a place to stay that night (although a guy at a bar offered me his place…but we had already paid for the hostel so I said maybe some other time 😉 –just kidding mom). Anyway, we made a reservation at a youth Hostel in Wellington and off we went.  I even got to sit next to a cutie on the bus…although I didn’t talk to him…scary.

When we arrived at the hostel, I felt like I was living a life of luxury again. I mean…there were no holes in the walls, no water damage, no strange scent that lingered, no wiggly ceiling fans, clean sheets and mattresses, pillows, flushed clean toilets…..all I remember thinking was “I get all this for $23 a night?” I mean, they even had warm showers and working lights. Incredible! After that we ventured out to have a look at the night life. Mom, I would not suggest reading the entirety of the next couple paragraphs…and Dad too for that matter.  I will start the next paragraph that you are allowed to read with all capital letters. Everyone else can feel free to continue reading, but I ask that you do not repeat the story within a 100 meter radius of my Mom and Dad.

We wanted to find some live music, so we started asking around for the best place- everyone suggested Molly Malone’s- an Irish pub. No sooner than when I walked in did the fun start. I was nervous about what was going to happen because I just turned 21…in Ghana…so I haven’t really been out much because 1. I have been hanging out at home with my mom and 2. Most of my friends aren’t 21. The girls I were with were also a bit nervous, so I, being brave thought back to a new year’s resolution Alyssa and I made. We decided that this was the year for us to be bold bitches, but classy of course (sorry about the swearing mom- I did tell you not to read this paragraph). So this was my night, I was going to be fun and outgoing and be bold about it.

Three feet into the bar, I had already lost my friends, when a lady pulled me aside and asked if I was a tourist. I said yes, then she screamed “Yay!” and asked me to be in her picture for her scavenger hunt. Cool. I found my friends a bit later, when another lady asked me if I was Irish. I told her no, then she got really excited and said she was on a scavenger hunt and had to convince me that she was Irish, and it had to be done on video. So, I agreed and asked her about Leprechauns and she convinced me she was Irish. After we passed her, we went to the quietest corner of the pub and sat a table.

None of knew what to order, so we decided we would has a bar tender for a nice beer, I mean, we were in an Irish pub. However, we never really got to the counter because two guys came up and started talking to us. They were pretty weird- but entertaining for sure. The guy talking to me asked where I was from- I said California and he said, “I can tell by the god awful accent.” I thought, wow is this how guys hit on girls- it’s not as great as I thought? Then he asked me why I wasn’t wearing a bikini. Ummm….because I’m in a bar…it’s raining…i am more of a one piece kind of person…is there really any reason I should be wearing a bikini? I responded by saying “is that even allowed?”  He replied by saying “If you are as beautiful as you are, it’s always allowed”. I love pick up lines (I mean that one was weird, but hey- A for effort). I don’t know what I would have done if he had said something like “You’re so hot, you denature my proteins.” I mean…I may have thought he could have been “the one”.

He then asked me what I am studying, and I told him Microbiology and he said “Oh my mom’s a microbiologist!” I started laughing and he got all offended that I didn’t believe him. He then said we would be super compatible because he was a plumber….?…..He explained that I could “study his shit.” Uh yeah…that’s…. great…(I’m quoting mom, so it’s Ok to swear this time….and you really shouldn’t be reading this).

Next, he told me he was from England. I said, Oh my gosh, My mom is from England. Then I got all offended because he didn’t believe me. (it was also at this point that I realized I could make up whatever story I wanted- I can’t wait to go out again hehe) We ended up concluding that part of the conversation by him explaining that he was from south England I was from North England, and we all know that opposites attract….however I am not sure about this case.

A little bit later he asked me if I dance. Um yes I dance. Alone. And sometimes (though rarely) with others….. usually with people who don’t say we are compatiable because I can study their shit. I told him that I don’t dance, but I wanted to see his dancing. My friend asked him if he could moon walk. He told me he would show us, but it would cost me a kiss. Hell, I had got in this far so why not?…Hmmm…is this how I get myself into sticky situations? Turns out he can moonwalk.

He then asked me if I had a place to stay for the night- and I responded “Yeah, I’m staying at a hostel.” He then stared at me wide eyed and said “Haven’t you seen the movie Hostel?” I laughed, and he told me not to worry, I could just drive him home. I told him I would be helpless at driving because “you guys all drive on the wrong side of the road.” We argued, and soon after, he and his weird side kick left after giving us their numbers….not that we asked.

After they finally left, we ordered our beers (oh that’s the other things, here it’s not customary for men to by girls drinks- major bummer), talked for a bit, and stood up to leave- I mean, us party animals could not imagine staying out passed midnight. My friends walked ahead, and I soon lost them AGAIN. Another man told me if I wanted to pass I had to be in his picture…Ok, sounds good. After a smile and a click he proclaimed that “He loved my titties.” I smiled, awkwardly, and pushed my way through to find my friends… and then made mad eye contact with a guy that had dreads. So cute, but it was midnight, and we had a lot to do the next day so we left….and I would have been too scared to talk to someone I actually thought was cute anyway.

OK MOM AND DAD, YOU CAN READ AGAIN.

Unfortunately, we picked the weekend that there was due to be a major storm to visit Wellington, so all of our activities from then on had to be indoor things. We went to a fantastic museum and saw a Moari band as well as some traditional moari dancing. We paid to see and exhibit called “Unveiled, 200 years of wedding fashion.” You know, mostly so I could get ideas for the big and upcoming day. And then we walked around downtown. Wellington is a really cool place- a lot like San Francisco.

The next day we went to a place called Zelandia. A seriously cool sanctuary that they call a “500 year project” in which they wish to take out all of the invading species and return it into a place where only native plants and animals live. We hiked up to some beautiful look out points and got to see some really cool birds. One day, I want to go back and do the night tour so I can see all the Kiwi birds running around.

Upon my visit, I also found out they also do weddings =D –seriously, if you look at all the signs, it was just meant to be. I now have a venue, ideas for a dress, and someone to preform the ceremony (and considering the night I had when I went out- I could probably find a groom). Just to be on the safe side, I would start making some deposits into the “Abby’s wedding fund account!”

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Seeing as how my Hogwarts letter is a bit belated in arriving (though I haven’t given up hope), I took matters into my own hands. When I originally looked at my schedule, I thought; “3 science classes? I need something to take the edge off.” Well, who wouldn’t be more relaxed with a little magic in the mix? Plus, a little History of Magic could really help me when I get to wizarding school.

When I walked in, the professor informed us that we were all very ill prepared students. “Where are your brooms and cauldrons?” She asked. Shoot, my first day of being a witch in preparation for Hogwarts and I’m already failing.

When she handed out a syllabus- it informed us we had to write two papers that would be worth a total of 50% of our grade. Ready to hear the topics? The first essay, we must describe and analyze any spell or charm used in the middle ages, and give the reasons and for its uses, as well as its intended effect. I only wish I had a feather “auto correct” quill and a spare piece of parchment to write it on. *sigh* One day.

The other topic I picked was “Write an essay on the modern practice of sorcery in Sri Lanka.” Think that will be my next trip? That owl carrying my Hogwarts letter better hurry.

Then we started by talking about the evil eye. Apparently, the evil eye cast its rays upon those that were vulnerable to it (mostly kids). The Rays of disease/disabling causing energy was brought upon by envy. In order to deter that, you must wear an amulet to distract the eyes of the witch and therefore avoid the harm of the evil gaze. The professor also explained to us that the presence of the evil eye is why in Greece, people may spit on you or your children when they see you. It’s supposed to mean, “I’m not casting my evil eye” and “I mean you no harm”.  So get ready for some wet greetings when I get home 😉

Also, tip of the week, you should avoid blue-eyed people (don’t worry, it’s only day one of being a witch, I’m not sure how to bring out the evil eye yet)- apparently blue eyed beauties more commonly possess the evil eye. Oh and make sure you flush away all your hair from the hair brush, and all your nail clippings, because witches can use those things to perform spells on you. It has to do with the theory that says “what affects a part, affects the whole.”

I shall keep you all updated on further ways to protect yourselves from the evils of magic.

On a different note, something unexpected happened today in my first physics lecture. Don’t worry- I’m not going to summarize something fantastic about the physical world (snore…zZzzz), but I have to give you a little background information first.  We’ll get back to this later.

A few days ago, we had international student orientation- that I can summarize in one word: snoozefest. Anyway, while I was waiting for the speaker to let us disburse, a guy winked at me. Full on, open mouth, head turned to the side,  squinty eye winked at me. What was going on? I promptly looked away deciding that a rather large bug must have flown into his eye. When the lecture was FINALLY over, I went to dinner, where again, I saw winky winkerson, and he did a fairly obvious head role in my general direction. Another bug flying around his head? I’m not inclined to think so.

After discussing the instances with my mom, we decided there are only a few types of people that would do this: a) players, b) desperate people, or c) he was probably gay (not because you have to be gay make a silly pass at someone, just because I tend to attract the attention of gay men). Either way- he was not someone I was going to be interested in (unless he was gay in which case, we could be best friends). Anyway- after that I started to refer to him as “Creepy guy”. A day later- I walked by him, alone, and he did a double eye brow raise. Whoa. definitely not a bug. I must be smokin’…maybe a little too smoking’ (*cough cough* creepy professor), but we already knew that 😀

So, back to physics today. As we were all sitting there  listening (kinda), in walks Creepy head nodding double eye brow raising winky winkerson (also about 40 minutes late to a 50 minute lecture….snazzy). What in the world were the chances of that happening? A campus with 8,000 students and he, of all people, is in physics with me. Even worse, we made eye contact…. for more than 5 seconds.  So, now not only do I know that we have a class together, Creepy head nodding double eye brow raising snazzy winky winkerson also knows we have a class together. My mom was a tad upset when I told her the news, Alyssa on the other hand assured me that creepy people keep life interesting. Think we should be lab partners? *Wedding bells sound in the distance*

Anyway, speaking of creepy men- I got my grades back from Ghana. Passed everything! Not necessarily with flying colors but when you consider the encounter with a backward professor, a missing paper, horrid lab grades, meaningless lectures, and a whole lot of frustration- it’s almost better than I had hoped! Two Bs and Two Cs….Looks like I’m going to have some work to do this semester- but nothing a little magic won’t be able to fix. Sri Lanka, Here I come!

My Real First Day of School

After my kinda sorta first day of school at the University of Ghana, Accra, I was not quite sure my  how first day of school at Massey University in New Zealand was going to go. I haven’t been nervous for a first day of college since my first day of college!  Back when I was a tiny freshman and I had to navigate the big college all by myself, I was a little stressed. In fact, I almost flipped out at a guy that was just trying to be helpful. He was cute too. Oops. I had been waiting in front of my lab class forever and I started wondering where the professor was when  finally I  got so fed up that people started to notice.  A guy came up to me and asked if I needed help. I told him my situation, in what was probably a frantic high pitched voice (I was a little more uptight back then…)  Turns out, labs at my home University hardly ever start during the first week of school. I had been waiting for no reason. Even worse,  the lab door had a sign on it that said “Labs will start next week.” !  Sorry cute guy  on the first day of school that I threw my arms up at and stormed away from. I really should have been more understanding of the situation. And calmer.

Anyway- back to today- for the first time (in what seemed like forever) I was nervous about the first day of school. Like…really nervous…butterflies in my stomach…may flip out at another cutie patootie trying to help me by giving  me correct information nervous. The day before the first day of school, I did the typical freshman thing and walked around campus trying to find my classes, only I did it more than once. The first time was to find each building, then, I decided to walk from my dorm and walked to Monday’s classes, in order. Then I went back to my dorm and walked to Tuesday’s classes- in order (continued by the same for all the other days of the week), so that I knew exactly what I was doing. I hoped. That way, if it was 10 million degrees outside and they asked me to come back in a couple hours, or if the professor didn’t show up, or if people stared at me, or if it turns out that you can’t just register for classes online- I was prepared, or at least, I knew where to walk next…but I still had butterflies. I was even more nervous because here, unlike the US, and unlike Ghana, the class times and locations change daily. One of my classes I have at 10am on Monday, 9am on Tuesday, and 3pm on Friday- all in different class rooms. Way to make it difficult.

Turns out, college is exactly the way I remember it being. All you have to do is have to register online and show up to class. I have real textbooks, and the library has free wi-fi that I am welcome to use during breaks (which I didn’t do because that would have messed up the path I had memorized to get to my next class).  The no stop, pre-determined route method also meant I was the first one to all my classes. And when I got to class, I almost didn’t remember what it was like to have a professor show up on the first day! Ah-mazing.

After hearing the introduction to my first class I learned that it would be all about infectious microorganisms. Fantastic. It was exactly what I needed/wanted/loved (I know- I have some weird obsessions).  And even better- the professor was not only present, but funny. Yay!!! Now I just need to make friends (I couldn’t possibly have done that while I was nervous- last time I overreacted and stormed away from the first boy I met in college…haven’t had a date since).

Anyway,  Immunology lab. Here, in New Zealand, they do have labs in the first week of school even if it’s scheduled before the first lecture – and I read my class instructions about 50 times just to make sure!   When I arrived at the lab, my name wasn’t on the list. I just about fainted. UH-oh, and the day was going so well. Visions of Ghana flashed back in my head. However, the lab assistant told me not to worry. She’d just add me to the list and get me the supplies. Whew-ee- crisis adverted. The first day of school anxiety started to subside. Maybe school in New Zealand wasn’t going to be that bad.

I don’t know if you have ever seen The Incredibles, but my professor reminded me a lot of Edna- he even had the hair cut down. Edna designs superhero outfits. Youtube it. Anyway, my professor was fabulous. When I walked into the lab, and my lightheadedness was just about gone, the same lab assistant freaked out on me and said I couldn’t bring in my bag. For the second time in 2 minutes, I felt my balance waiver. In came my professor to the rescue.

“Don’t worry hunny, just keep your bag with you- how could we expect you to know not to bring it in here on the first day?”

“SHE’S BREAKING THE RULES! I’M GOING TO GET INTO TROUBLE” the lab assistant replied promptly

At this point I felt like I was just going to fall over because my body didn’t know whether I was in trouble or saved, and the going back and forth was confusing me.

“Hold your horses, she’s (me) just going to hold onto it, until I find somewhere for her to put it.” He replied to the lab assistant. Then he leaned over and whispered to me, “We all know some people are less than honest”. Meanwhile, the lab assistant was acting very frustrated and still trying to explain the trouble of me having my bag to my professor who was obviously not going to listen. After the whisper in my direction, he interrupted  the lab assistant by saying “I’m not being difficult, I’m helping”, and walked away.

So, I stood there, awkwardly in the middle of the classroom, with the frustrated eyes of the lab assistant upon me, alone. Thankfully, about 30 seconds later other people walked into the lab with their bags as well. The lab assistant looked livid, and the professor walked back out chipper as can be and said “Follow me everyone, we’re going to lock your bags in this room” whispering to himself,  “Honestly, how would they know not to bring bags on the first day? Honestly.”

After that, the lab was amazing. We had to prick our finger and squeeze a drop of blood onto a slide, stain it, then examine it to find different types of white blood cells. Funny enough-I refused to prick my finger in Africa when my professor wanted to test for my type-but in New Zealand, it seemed a little less risky. I had never done this lab with my own blood before. It was wickedly cool. I could look under the microscope and see what my blood looked like. My blood! From my finger! I saw what was going on inside me. It just doesn’t get any cooler. I think my lab partner thought I was a little ridiculous, because she wasn’t nearly as impressed, and did an awkward laugh when I tried to explain the magnificence of it. After the lab was done, I stayed there for an additional 20 minutes looking at all the slides we made. When have I ever stayed in a lab longer than I was supposed to?

When all was said in done, the only thing I needed to get was textbooks. The nervousness had not yet completely subsided because I was scared of what the cost of a semester’s textbooks would do to my bank account. When I went to the bookstore at the mall to find a book to read for pleasure every book I picked up was between $30-40!  Books in New Zealand are expensive! I mean, the book I was reading when I left the US  I bought for $14 at the airport, in New Zealand, at the mall, that same book was $36.99!  And considering that the last science book I bought in the US cost me $220.00, what did that mean for the text books I had to buy in New Zealand? I almost didn’t want to know. But, when I walked into the discount textbook store in town today, my books ended up costing me $210. Total. Three science courses and I still paid less for all the books together than I would for one book in the states.

Honestly, I may never come home.

Save The Date

I promise to start talking about New Zealand in a minute, but for right now I have something really important to announce. Sometime, in the future (not necessarily soon), I will be having a wedding in New Zealand. I do not when it will be, or who the invitations will go out to, or who will be a part of the wedding party or what the budget is, nothing about the flowers, the cake, the colors…or who the groom will be is for that matter (although I’m thinking a kiwi…and I am not talking about the fruit), but I do know the location, and I ask that you save a date for sometime in the future,  so block out the calendar from now  until…further notice! (And start saving some money because plane tickets will be….uh a tad pricey.) Good news though, not only will this be a fabulous wedding- your presence, not presents, are all that is requested. (but,  *wink*- I do have my eye on a lime green food processor *wink wink*).

I promised my mom I would not come home from Ghana pregnant or married; a promise that honestly was not all that hard to keep. All I had to do was avoid my professor and boom- still single and as unpregnant as possible!  I think, it may be a bit trickier in New Zealand (not the pregnant part, just the marriage thing). As you know, I’m already thinking about weddings, and a guy at orientation said he authorized to preform ceremonies, and will do so for no charge he just wants an invite to the wedding reception. These are all signs of what is meant to be- am I right?

The first thing that gets you, about the kiwis, is the accent- and even more, all the kiwis make fun of how hard they are to understand. Never do they act like we are the idiots who speak funny and don’t listen very well.  I don’t know why, but everything a kiwi says seems so friendly and warm, and they all seem to have a touch of humor. All us foreigners (I almost said Obrunis, but then remembered where I was) are finding ourselves laughing when there is nothing to laugh at and smiling at every hello.  I’m pretty sure someone could scream a big “F*** you” and the smile wouldn’t move off my face because it was obviously meant in the friendliest, warmest, funniest way possible.   I have been warned me that it might take a couple weeks for me to be able to completely understand the accent, but I am hoping that my uh…understanding, won’t change anything I currently feel towards any and all kiwis (particularly male). Sometimes  I am more comfortable with them then I am with the Obruini…oh, shoot, foreigner, standing next to me.  I am  honestly in a dangerous “wedding bells” kind of situation.

It’s incredibly easy to talk to store clerks  like they are a long time friend- and the jokes just flow out.  A couple days ago, oh wait, that was just yesterday, I went to get a new phone situated, and I had a good laugh with the store clerks. First, I walked in and a (male 😀 ) kiwi greeted me, I responded with “Hi, I want a phone.” Apparently, that was funny because everyone in the phone store started laughing.  Usually when I am that blunt about pointing out the obvious, I am met with an awkward stare as in “Uh yeah. Duh.”  See what I mean? These kiwis are so laid back and so friendly that they are even comfortable enough to laugh at me.

When he had helped me pick out the phone he then said “Ok, do you have any fly byes with us?”

I responded “Um…what?”

“Fly buys”

The girl standing next to me (a foreigner like me who had been in the country exactly one day longer) cleared it up by whispering to me, “five dollars.” And I nodded reached into my pocket handed him five dollars and waited for a response.

Silent questioning stare (not unlike the ones I get in San Jose when I am so blunt about the obvious).

“I’m sorry what did you say?”

“Fly buys”

I, being a little awkward responded with; “Ahhh….. is that some kind of robbery?” the four people I was talking to all burst out laughing.

As it turns out, “Fly Buys” are  discount reward…things…(I really am not sure still), and I having just got off a plane took that in a whole other direction. But, the fact is that kiwis are easy to laugh with- and it’s a good feeling when you are as…awkward as I can be (don’t worry- I like my awkwardness.  I like to think it makes me a little funnier and gives me better stories–and if it doesn’t , please don’t ruin it for me because then instead of being funny awkward, I’m just awkward, and that’s something I don’t want to  be).

On a broader note, New Zealand is fabulous. As you know, I am in love with the people (*wedding bells sound in the distance*), I am in love with the campus, the land, the smiles, and the culture. I can’t wait to learn something about Rugby and go to a game or two. The city is small, and 1 in every 4 people go to college (there are 3 colleges in Palmerston North- a true college town). The bus is easy to figure out and the food is….typical dorm food, but it’s food that I don’t have to scrounge the city for and I don’t have to eat it out of plastic bags.  My room is smaller than it was in Ghana and my roommates (or as we would call them hall mates because we share a hall instead of a room) have not moved in yet but I can’t wait for the day they do.

Overall,  I’ve got a good feeling about this place…kinda like the feeling you get when you listen to “I gotta feeling” by Black Eyed-Peas. I feel like the world is mine for the taking, and anything is possible- and that is not a feeling I always have when I walk down the street in San Jose.

But anyway- the is your official notice: Save The Date for sometime in the future. If you read my blog, please let me know you’ve opened up a New Zealand destination wedding account so I can get you on the guest list!  Get ready for a ridiculously long flight, then some  good laughs and big smiles from the kiwis (and me) and the greatest wedding event that will ever take place.

See you all soon! (and based on the current “wedding bell situations” it could be sooner than anticipated- so don’t let the fact that I seem to be perpetually single throw you off!) By the way- I am not kidding about no presents (unless your name is Alyssa Mcdonald in which case I am expecting a present in the form of a bachelorette party).

I will have pictures soon. I forgot to bring my camera out today but don’t worry, I’m working on not being so forgetful! I have just been so…distracted…and these bells keep ringing…

Coming Home

Mole National Park, Ghana.

When I got home from Ghana, there were …a couple shocking things that I came to realize.

For one, I no longer had to “hold it” for too long before finding a suitable bathroom (I mean the airport actually had a bathroom with flushing toilets- who knew?). Like instead of waiting two hours just to end up going on the side of the road, I could 1. walk down the hall and 2. there would be a working toilet with nothing but water in it and 3.it would actually flush- so that whole process could repeat multiple times. Wow. Oh and, If I need to go while I’m out and about- there is toilet paper and soap available! Ah-Maze-ing.

Children just outside of their village.

Also- my mom’s car is quiet. When we got in the car to drive home- I actually told her that her car had stalled because there was no way it was really on. Apparently cars are just that quiet- you don’t need it to be rattling… or roaring…or screeching to know that it’s on. That was news to me. Then we were half way down the 101 before I realized there was a seat belt in the car and I probably should be wearing it. I had forgotten about seat belts.

Oh and, when people say they will be there by 2- they are actually there by 2. I mean that’s great, but I’m not exactly ready yet…I thought I had a good 30 minutes before I needed to expect you to knock on the door.

I also had to start wearing make-up again…and doing my hair. I had become so comfortable with my red shiny face and sweaty hair- I’m not exactly sure I was ready to let that go- but let’s get back to reality here…and a little mascara never hurt anyone.

House on stilts, covered with a USAID tarp, Benin.

On the same subject of things…my first warm shower when I got back was incredible. I stepped in and instantly my muscles relaxed- I didn’t even know that that happened before I went to Ghana- but oh my goodness, my muscles had not been that relaxed in months- all that “11th minute” business would never ever be able to get me while I stood in that warm shower.

I can’t forget about shopping either. I mean, I always loved shopping- but in Ghana “shopping” kind of meant something different- shopping was code for a crowded market or overpriced foreign food store that you really only went to in the first place because they had air conditioning. Now there were clothes stores with really pretty clothes. And shoes. And sparkles. Man do I love glitter. How could I ever forget that shopping could be such great fun? I bought high heel sparkly shoes, a fur (fake) coat, and lots of dresses and skirts (I really didn’t purchase, or even look at,  practical day-to-day clothing items. Who needs those when there are new fancy clothes to buy and wear?.  You could say that I missed being glamorous, but just a bit.

The hardest, saddest day, the point of no return.

Dying fabric at the crafts market.

The food was also a shocker. In Ghana, I was used to being hungry about 70% of the time- so when you eat a meal in Ghana- you eat. Eat like you may not get another meal that day (and sometimes you wouldn’t). So all of a sudden, I have a practically guaranteed 3 meals a day? I gained 10 pounds in 2 weeks. Don’t worry though- I stopped eating and started playing Just Dance, and I’m back to normal. Oh also- salt is the most amazing thing that ever came into being.

Elephant skull for sale at the Voodoo Market

And what do you mean I can go out at night alone? The day after I came home, I drove to Sacramento and took Zade on a train ride- we had to walk through a very dark park of Old Town Sacramento to get there and I could not believe how chill I felt. Last year- I would have freaked out doing that, but now, after being in Ghana,  I felt like the risk was significantly low of anything bad happening- I mean, I got through all of west Africa without incident- what was going to hurt me on a 5 minute walk in the safest city in California? Nothing.

There were a couple stories I waited until I got home to tell. Most of them concerned safety. At home someone can say,  “that place isn’t exactly safe”. Well it may not be, but you can still chance it and make it out alive. In Ghana, if someone says that’s not safe- you should never ever do it. I had a friend that almost got raped when she was running- two men grabbed her and asked her for kisses and told her she was beautiful, a quick elbow to the stomach and a fast run for her life fixed that. Another person was telling us that he was talking to a man that needed help at a popular tro tro station, and ended up being surrounded by a gang holding machetes and they robbed him. If I can survive those risks- I was sure I could walk to my car.

Sometimes, random things come back to me. Someone tells me a story and I respond by saying “When I was in Ghana….”

Palm trees on the beach in Ghana. Beautiful!

My mom told me I should be writing it all down- and she was probably right- but needless to say, I didn’t do what she said.  I’m sure other stuff will come back to me and I will keep adding it to this post.

When I went over and started reading  my old Ghana blogs- I found myself laughing, and I know that I wasn’t laughing when I wrote them…or I was only laughing out of pure misery. But man, I feel like I am a whole world away from that…like Ghana was forever ago- like I can’t believe it all happened, and yeah- most of those things were really funny.

It’s hard to believe that I went to Africa, just like it’s hard to believe I’m in New Zealand. However, there are two questions that continue to stump me: When people ask me why I picked Ghana, I always respond now by saying: “I don’t know”. And honestly, I don’t remember. I’m glad I chose it- but none of my previous reasons could ever explain what the Ghana experience was to/for me- or why it for some reason caught my attention- and I think that’s why I forgot what they were. They weren’t….good enough. I went because it stood out to me….because it would be an experience to talk about for the rest of my life. Because how many other people can say they lived in west Africa for 4 months?

Togo. No, not the sandwich shop. The country.

Yes, I traveled by taxi, without a helmet.

The other question is “How was it?” Well….I don’t know. Hot. Most people stare at me after that. How do I answer that question? “The last 4 months of my life were good?” There was so much more than that. The experience changed me…but I can’t really explain how. And….it was hard at times, and really fun at others….No, none of that works. Sometimes, people look at me like they are expecting me to tell them that just because I was hungry, frustrated, and hot…. most of the time (not to mention cold showers), that it was bad- but i promise I wasn’t. Or I say “I just spent the last semester in Ghana” and they respond with a sour look on their face and say “oooo umm…how was it?” It was one of the best things I ever did. Period. No, I really can’t begin to explain why. Stop looking at me that way

Children at the crafts market.

Open sewer in Ghana.

I find myself telling people that it takes a certain kind of person to travel to Ghana for a semester and then walking away thinking “I can’t believe I was that kind of person…I can’t believe that I was just in Africa.” Most days I was glad to be home, where I had a warm bed, reliable internet, lots of new clothes, and all the people I love were around me. However, there are moments, like now when I am writing this post, that I do miss it, I miss the people I met, the laughs we had, and yeah….maybe the red red (the beans I swore I would never eat again).

But, I’m in another part of the world now- ready for a new kind of experience. So far, so good- and because people have continued to say they hope that I will keep up with the blog- I will! Thanks for reading!

Saying Good-bye to Ghana

Mom, brother and nephew wait for me in San Francisco. Sister and niece were there, too.

My "Welcome Home" dinner, a Thanksgiving re-do.

Burkina Faso

Traveling in a developing country can be difficult. The roads often need some help…and the vehicles are questionable at best. It has prompted me to think, more than once, that when I am middle-aged and traveling on no budget (one can dream) that I will look back on my days in Ghana remember that I am pretty good at “roughing it”.

Burkina Faso is an African country that resides directly above Ghana. Half of their population lives on less than a dollar a day, but it was a beautiful country. The women were absolutely gorgeous (to the point that I considered telling my professor, I’m just not interested in men anymore), the landscape was pretty, and the roads were better than those in Ghana. Amazing! We originally wanted to ride camels into the Sahara Desert. Doesn’t that sound like a fabulous African experience? However, we had to change our plans the day before because we found out that some of the embassies (not the US) were issuing travel warnings, and it was very dangerous for tourists to go to the north. So, much to my mom’s relief I am sure, we decided not to stray too far up that way.

To get there, we had to take a 24 hour bus ride- needless to say, I was very confused about what day it was when I stepped out of the bus. For such a long bus ride, it didn’t feel like 24 hours…even trips to So Cal seem to cause me more restlessness.

At about 1 o’clock in the morning, our bus stopped at a metal fence (you know, the kind that they put up around concerts for line control etc.) and with us there was a huge line of buses and cars. The man sitting next to me explained that we had to wait for a police escort. Well that was a bit shocking. I asked him why, and he told me that that stretch of road was extremely dangerous at night because there were robbers hiding in the bushes. When I looked around, I got a weird feeling. Everyone (but us 3 obrunis) was sitting up a little straighter and looking out the window- but no one was talking.

Where the fence sat, it seemed to draw an invisible line. On one side there were kids running around, fires burning, people talking and laughing, and nothing seemed to bother them. But, as soon as that invisible line was reached, there was not a single person. All there was, was a very dark dirt road lined with very tall bushes.

I had been on the bus for about 12 hours at this point, so I was in a bit of an…interesting mood. I had decided that nothing bad was going to happen and therefore I was going to fall back asleep. When the police car came, I was uncomfortably aware of how tense everything thing seemed to be, despite my eyes being closed. The guy next to me sat straight, gripping his bag and staring out the window. But, nothing was going to happen, so I went back to sleep. Are you starting to see why I get myself into sticky situations?

Lo and behold, nothing happened. Within ten minutes of being on the other side of another fence, the entire bus was asleep again. The guy next to me told me in the morning that we were very lucky- that that was particularly uneventful experience for that stretch of road. I think that was when the gravity of the situation set in, and I was not looking forward to passing the other way to come home.

When we arrived in Burkina Faso, it was HOT. But it was dry heat, which I must say was a very nice change. In Ghana, you could be sitting under a fan and start sweating profusely because you moved your arm a little to the left, but here, it was over 100 degrees, and the sweat didn’t stay on us long enough for us to know it was there!

By this point, three and a half months of travel in a developing country had started to take a toll. We were just tired. Tired of trying to work things out, tired of trying to think of what to do, of finding places to stay, and tired of asking for directions and getting a marriage proposal in return (or an offer to bare someone’s child for that matter). So, we collectively decided we were going to just chillax (I am proud to say I have gotten Mie, from Denmark, to speak very proper American English, she has said  “chillax” more than once without noticing). All we did, and I mean this quite literally, was shop, eat, and sleep. Life could not be any better.

The people in Burkina were extremely friendly and more helpful than in any other country in West Africa that I have been to so far. They seemed to really appreciate the fact that there were three women traveling alone together and went completely out of their way to help us out. We ate creamy pastas, and extremely good ice cream, French pastries, and I even tried an antelope steak. At least, that’s what I think it was- the menu was in French and Mie wasn’t a 100% sure of the translation…but regardless it was a delicious mystery meat.

My favorite part of the trip was staying in a small town called Bobo. It reminded me overwhelmingly of a place my brother would love. Everyone was so (in his terms) Sunday beach (the chillest day in the chillest place-therefore really chill). Shop owners sat outside their shops and were willing to talk to us for a long time. All the little kids waved to us as we passed. A person we met on the bus even pulled over to ask if we were finding everything ok! Another woman stopped us and told us she wanted us to meet her family and cook dinner for us. Bobo had a small beach town feel (even though there was no beach). The cars did not honk at us, the people did not overwhelm us, and the food was outstanding. To top it all off, we finished each night with an ongoing Uno tournament in which I won. Life was fabulous.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for more! We weren’t kidnapped like the travel warning said we would be, and we weren’t mugged like the guide book said we might be, and weren’t robbed when everyone thought we could be. The people were kind, the air was dry, the food was good, and land was gorgeous. If you ever have a chance to go- don’t let anything hold you back!

6 Showers Left

In International Student Hostel II, life can be a little….ghetto. Our water goes out often, the power goes out every once in a while, the Internet works maybe 50% of the time, and things are generally pretty broken down.
Coming here, I didn’t really care that parts of our roofing were falling off, and that all the bathrooms had their own quirks in terms of what showers and toilets worked and which were a little sketch. The fact that the communal fridges didn’t get as cold as they should, or not work all together, seemed to be no big deal. Sometimes, the hot plates  in the kitchen shocked us, but that really was just a matter of learning with ones to use and which ones to leave alone.
It also seemed like every student’s room had its own personality. In my room the dresser doors are not attached to the dresser, but merely resting against it. The surfaces of my desk and end table are covered with a tacky picnic style plastic to mask all the scratches and moisture damage. Other rooms have ceiling fans that shake a scary amount if you turned on too high, and others have outlets that don’t work.
That is life in International Student Hostel II. We can rough it. No big deal. On the other hand, life in International Student Hostel I seems to be a little up town. It’s newer, and therefore the facilities are a little nicer, the roofing is not falling apart and the appliances are all in working order. They have an Internet Café, too, so when the Internet goes out- the guy working in the cafe actually believes it’s not working and it gets fixed the same day!  Every time we go tell him that it’s not working in ISH II he responds by explaining that it is working and we need to go try it again.  How stupid does he think we are? We now call the repair guy ourselves with our own cell phones. ISH I also has a little shop on the bottom level that sells things that are relatively hard to get ahold of other places and a café that has a coffee machine. The water rarely goes out, and their power tends to stay on. Life on the other side seems luxurious.
However, none of that really matters, much, until the water goes out. When we have no water, everyone suddenly gets resentful of the rich kids (they aren’t really any richer than we are, they just have access to things we don’t). Why do they get to have consistent, reliable running water when we don’t? I feel like a 4 year old asking why I can’t have a candy too. Luckily- we are able to walk to the other hostel and take a shower there when our water is out.
The problem is that as we are nearing the end of the semester we lose water regularly to the point that we can predict exactly when it will go out. We have multiple theories as to why it goes out (water shortage, bad infrastructure, etc.). At the end of October, we lost it every Friday night ( I would not recommend walking into the bathrooms any time after Saturday morning) and it would not come back on until Monday morning. ISH I always had water though- yay for them. Well now that we are nearing the end of November we have water less than half the time. Monday and Tuesday are our water days which means Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we don’t have showers, running water to wash hands or brush teeth, or toilets that flush. Gross.
The worst part is that the porters will not tell us anything. At first, we would ask them when the water would come back on, and they claimed they never knew and brushed us off. However, everyone always got the feeling that they just won’t talk to us. Well, Mie and I have a new theory. We think they are asked NOT to tell the international students when the water will go out. Here’s why we think that: It started to become apparent that the Ghanaian students knew what days and times the water would be out! They would fill their buckets with water from the tank downstairs before that too, ran out of water- and it was only on days before the water goes out. A little suspicious right? Well then yesterday, I was walking out when a porter was telling a Ghanaian student to fill her bucket with water in case we run out of water. When the Ghanaian student left, I turned to the porter and said, “Is the water going to go out again?” and she assured me that “oh no, the water is NOT going to go out- don’t worry- I just told her to fill her bucket because the reserve tank has hardly any water in it.” “Hmmm” I thought, “We are not going to have water tomorrow.” Low and behold, it is Wednesday so the water is out. Fabulous. The porter lied about having water, and told the truth about there being no water in the reserve tank. It is now very apparent to me that they do know exactly when the water will go out and they relay it to the Ghanaian students, but the international students are left in the dark.  Great; and I can’t even get a bucket of water for a bucket shower.
Well, now ISH I doesn’t have water either. So that means no showers, no toilets, no brushing teeth, no washing faces until the water comes back on (unless you do it with bottled water and in your own room, which you have to do because the bathrooms smell so bad).

Mie said she finally understands what it means to be in a developing country- and I am no longer able to use the number of showers I have to take as a means to count down the days I have left. 21 days. And if the water stays in the same pattern it is now- that means I have 6 days left of running water. 6 showers. I feel sorry for the person who has to sit next to me on the plane.

Superglue Situations

At home, I often find myself in what my friends and I call “sticky situations”. I have three problems; the first is that my flirting skills are about as good as my running skills. Awkward and slow. It seems I can only flirt when I am unaware that I am flirting. The second problem is; I am oblivious to others flirting with me. It’s not until the situation gets real “sticky” (aka uncomfortable) that I start to realize I may have lead this person on…and I have no intention with following through with anything that they may have in mind. Alyssa has come to my rescue on more than one occasion. My third problem is; those sticky situations tend to only happen with people I have no interest in. Oh, make that four problems;  when I see someone I am attracted to I stutter and say awkward things and just like when I run, I get nowhere.

Well, there is the rare occasion that I can foresee the potential for a sticky situation to occur, and I am able to turn around and walk the other direction. My friends are much better at recognizing these situations than I am, but nonetheless, there are some occasions when even I, Oblivious Abby, see it’s time to turn around.

A couple months back, a professor asked me and my friend Svenja to join him and a group of biology professors for drinks on a Friday night. We looked at each other, made a silent agreement, and then turned to our professor and told him we would be happy to join them. Walking away we thought, “WOW…Did we just get a date with the biology department?”. I couldn’t do that in America (despite how hard I try). So, off we went, the two of us to have drinks with the professors. I don’t usually drink, but I thought it would be that much funnier if I had a beer- so Svenja and I both ordered one.

Well awkward would be one way to describe our date. First, we met the dean of students. That was scary. Then, conversation did not flow very well, and there was definitely a cultural barrier that made certain topics a little bit uncomfortable to talk about (like religion and gay marriage) which the professors insisted in perusing. When Svenja and I finally finished our drink, we thanked everyone and walked away, agreeing that we had no intention getting drinks with the professors again, but also agreeing that in 10 years, we could make that story out to be hilarious.

That brings us to today. Sticky. Svenja and I are the only two foreign students in the class, so we stand out. Today was our last lecture, and Svenja was traveling, so I went all by myself –which in itself is quite an accomplishment because usually I can’t do anything myself (aside from getting on a plane and flying to Africa).  When it comes to getting lunch or walking to the campus post office, I am always in need of partner. I decided, while sitting there, that Svenja is the only thing that helped me survive that class. I could not have done it without her, I would have stopped showing up long ago. Although, after what happened, I don’t think I will go anywhere near the department, with OR without her, again.

Finally, the lecture was done. I am done with classes in Ghana. My mood is ecstatic. No more 5 hour classes ever. EVER. Then I heard my professor call out my name. I turned around and he asked me if I was traveling this weekend. Usually, I say yes, in fear of being asked out for drinks again, but today, my mood and the prospect of never having another droning lecture prompted me to tell the truth “No, I’m not traveling.” Oops. I knew I shouldn’t have said it the moment it happened. He asked me to go and have a drink. We were supposed to meet at five.

The rest of the day, I had a sticky feeling growing in the back of my mind. I did not want to go get a beer with my professor. Not without Svenja. I contemplated asking a friend to come with me, but then I thought, is that rude in Ghanaian culture? Can you bring extra guests when someone invites you somewhere? No, it would be better to just skip it. It took me about 2 hours to figure out a believable excuse as to why I could not be at the bar. My plan was to go back to the hostel, send an email that said, “I am so sorry I was not able to come by today, a friend of mine got sick and asked if I would accompany her to the hospital so she could get tested for Malaria.” So simple. So easy. So believable. Problem solved.

Except that on my way back I ran into him (luckily, I had not sent my lying email yet). He said we could just walk to the bar together. Sticky sticky sticky. Ok, plan B, I will tell him I have to be somewhere in 45 minutes- so one quick drink, no harm done. At this point, all I could think was that I had better get an A in this class.

First, he told me a little about his family. He has a daughter that is 1 ½ and he is married to a nice woman in Accra. I almost thought that the evening would be ok- which is what I always think and how I get myself into these sticky situations.

He then asked me “What is the obsession with Americans and big houses and big cars?” I responded, “I don’t know. I suppose it’s the bigger is better philosophy.” He then responded “You know, Ghanaians have one thing that is always bigger.”

Sticky.

I picked up my drink, started to gulp it down rather quickly so I could make a fast escape without appearing rude, and before this situation could turn to superglue. He then asked me what my plans were for my life, family wise. I responded “I am not quite sure. I don’t see myself getting married or having kids any time soon- I want to see the world first.” He then told me I was crazy, and continued on to tell me about how polygamy is accepted in Ghana, and he was curious about what my views were.

Sticky. How fast can I drink my beer?

Ok, fast forward 15 minutes….to where it gets to be like super glue.

My professor said “I was wondering if I was to come spend the night at your hostel sometime- how would you feel about that?” I said “I would feel weird about that.” My beer is almost gone. Gulp gulp gulp.

He asked “What is weird, what does that mean?”

I said “Abnormal, uncomfortable, strange.”

“Why would it be weird?”

“Well, I have never had a professor ask if he can spend the night before.”

This is a superglue type of situation we have here.

“Oh, drop the professor, I am just a Ghanaian friend asking to visit you.”

Ok, beer finished.

“Umm, we’re not allowed to have overnight guests. Sorry.” (All manners forgotten. My escape plan ready…)

“Oh that’s ok, I will just pay the people at the front, and I can come visit you.”

“Uh, I am really sorry, I have to go. I am meeting my friends in front of the hostel in 5 minutes. Thanks for the drink.” (I stand up….)

“Ok have a good time. I will stop by the hostel on December 12 and stay that night and the night of the 13th– that way you can have some crazy nights before you leave.”

“I will have to check- I think I might be traveling. Thanks again!”

“Oh no no no” he says to me, “Block those dates out- don’t travel!  I’ll see you on the 12th.”

After I skedaddling out of there rather quickly, I then just wanted to laugh. How could this horrible awful class that I dread going to two times a week, get any worse? I thought it was over!  Just yesterday I was saying that I missed getting positive male attention however I got a little more than I bargained for today. Mie said she can’t wait to look attractive again…yet I am feeling a bit too attractive at the moment. Yikes. Awkward. Sticky. Sticky. Sticky. Superglue. What do I do? Call my mom of course.

Oops. I kinda freaked her out too. Again. Oops.

Ok, time to run and tell Mie…and everyone else. They all looked at me wide-eyed and couldn’t believe it. Then Mie agreed to be “hit by a car” so that I could “spend a couple nights at the hospital with her” on the nights currently in question.

I definitely did not wake up this morning thinking this would how my day would turn out. Now I’ll have to see how my grade turns out.

But hey- when I am out of the Ghana,  I ‘ll be stoked to have a funny superglue type of story to tell.

Just in case you are wondering, I do not have any pictures to post with this blog.

How I Got My Goat Back

Last weekend was Halloween, and considering the nature of the holiday, we thought, how better to spend it then to go to the Voodoo capital and try our luck with the fates? Although the trip was one of the best I have been on since I have been in West Africa, I succeeded in scaring my mom more than the time that I ran in to her room screaming about burning my hand only to find out later I had also melted the kitchen floor with a hot pot… She took it really well then too.

 

We were going for 5 days, and I guess I did not properly pass on that message to the most important of people, so my mom sent a frantic message to everyone she knew I knew, asking where I was. My friend Kobe, after receiving the message, tried to call me a couple times and when I didn’t answer, he thought I had been Voodooed. Oops.

Well, I am happy to say, that I am currently unaware of any effects of Voodoo taking place against me, but pleased to report that on this trip, I successfully got my goat back. Problem solved.

We left at 4:30am in order to catch a bus at a station that we (and seemingly none of the Ghanaians) knew about, in order to jump on a bus by 6:30. Luckily, we for once,  had no problem getting to the station and we were on the bus bound for Benin by 5 AM.

Photo by Zakary Pearsall

Photo by Zakary Pearsall

There were some very obvious differences between Benin  and Ghana.  I noticed the moment I got there that Benin is a much poorer country than Ghana- apparent by the type of buildings and houses that we saw outside of the major city.  There were hardly any car taxis, and so we traveled by moto taxi or as they call it- zem.  (Most of the people I saw driving cars were white). A moto taxi is a taxi by motorcycle. There was really no other way to get around Benin, but regardless, when I jumped on the back for my first ride, I thought two things.  The first thing I thought was, “I can’t believe I am on the back of a motor cycle in the middle of West Africa with no Helmet”  I would never have guessed that this is where I would have ended up last Halloween! The second thought-that came very quickly after the first was, “My mom is going to kill me when she sees pictures!”

I’ve heard that most people look back on experiences like this twenty years later and say, “That probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do”.  However, I am fully ready to admit, not more than a couple days later, that the moto taxi thing was a tad risky.  However, it seems that my Voodoo omens are promising; I made it out alive despite the poorly paved streets, the lack of helmets, and the blatant disregard for speed limits!

I felt like I was inside one of those stories that you hear from older people talking about their travels, when they were young. It was (almost miserably) hot, we carried all our stuff on our back, risked our lives several times a day by jumping on zems, ate cheap (but delicious) food

Yes, that's a chocolate croissant. There is a GREAT French Bakery in Benin!

and stayed at hotels that cost the equivalent of $5-10 a night. Needless to say, they were not five-star rooms- one guy even tried to tell us that we only get one towel per room (there were 2 of us in the room). However, I am stoked to have a backpacking across Africa story to tell in 20 years or so.

Obama Beer! Photo by Zakary Persall

While we traveled around, we drank a considerable amount of water, and for some reason the only waters we could find were bottled.  In Ghana, everyone has bagged water! So, we bought numerous bottles, and the moment any of us finished one, people asked us for them.  At one point, I had an empty bottle in my bag and when I handed it to the lady that asked, another person ran up and snatched the one I was finishing out of my hand. We assume that people are able to resell the bottles at the markets because some stalls at the market we visited had nothing but baskets full of empty plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes.

Photo by Zakary Pearsall

There are also very few gas stations in Benin. Most of the gas is sold on the side of the road from glass jars sitting on tables. From what I understand, a lot of  the gasoline smuggled in from Nigeria, because it is so much cheaper than to have it imported from other places and buy it from a gas station.

Photo by Zackary Pearsall

On Halloween night, we stayed in the place where Voodoo was supposed to be the most prevalent in Benin. We visited the Python Temple where people worship their python Voodoo God, and the guide tried to get us all to hold snakes. He assured us that the pythons were defanged and could not hurt us; however, I have held snakes before and am now perfectly happy standing 3 feet away. I would have hated to drop one of the Gods, knowing I was going to have to leave the temple risking my life on a zem.  The additional worry of possibly facing some bad Voodoo on top of that was not appealing.

Photo by Zackary Pearsall

We also visited the Sacred forest, where thousands of people visit every year for a Voodoo festival in January to me it looked like a “Secret Garden”.

That Halloween night, we stayed at a hotel where we are pretty sure we were the only guests.  There were tons of spiders crawling around the room, and they were BIG spiders. (A great Halloween experience, no?) Luckily, my roommate Mie,  is brave and killed all the spiders–although she said she felt bad about it. At home she never kills spiders, she just gets her vacuum out and vacuums them up. I told her not to worry, that I am fully ready to accept all the blame.

Mie, the brave big spider killer!

My mom sent some Halloween candy in a package for me as well as some Halloween Mad Libs and spider rings.

Happy Halloween in Benin (it rhymes!) Peanut M&Ms, mini Oreos, and Goldfish crackers!

At the end of our meal-we all dug in.  All the Americans in the group enjoyed a taste of Trick-or-treat candy from home. After dinner, we taught Mie, from Denmark,  how to play Mad Libs (she loved it). Then we stayed up really late laughing more than I have laughed on this trip, while playing cards and Uno.

Overall, I had a very happy, creepy-crawly Halloween.

All in all, when I got back to Accra, I felt like Africa had practically thrown my goat back at me, deciding that it no longer had use of it. If anyone decides to go to Benin- make sure you have Mad Libs and Uno on the necessities side of the packing list.  Maybe a helmet would be a wise addition, too…

   

 

 

Most days, I wake up ready to take on Africa. I wake up knowing nothing will happen that I can’t handle.  I know I will most likely learn something new. All I have to do is roll with the punches, not lose confidence, keep a strong head on my shoulders, and keep thinking that I can do anything and that nothing will get the better of me.

Well, today I was a bit…tired…borderline cynical…OK, full blown cynical. I had a dream that I went home, and really really missed Ghana, but when I woke up…I couldn’t remember what I would miss . On a regular day, I can give you multiple reasons why I would miss Ghana, but today, the gloomiest of all my days so far, I had some trouble.

Reason #1
I am tired of public transportation.

Every time I get in a tro-tro I find myself wondering how, and if, the tro -tro is going to make it to the next stop. The doors take a good amount of force to shut, and when they do shut, the whole tro-0tro shudders. The seats sway back and forth when the tro- tro brakes or speeds up. Tro-tros are always braking or speeding up. They are a  little smelly, OK…I’ll say it, they stink.  And they’re hot.  On top of this, you have to fight for a  seat!  Have you ever fought for a seat on hot, smelly, shaky public transportation that you are 90% sure is not going to make it to your destination without breaking down?

There are options though.  There are taxis.  They are more expensive than tro-tros, of course. Plus, there are no street names, no GPS, and no big landmarks to help the drivers. If you are going someplace obscure (or not so obscure-such as returning to the University of Accra) you kind of have to know where you are going, so you can direct the taxi driver on how to get there (and back). I would not recommend trying to get to the Embassy of Benin by taxi.  That’s what I had to do today. The taxi driver didn’t know where it was.  I didn’t either, but I had the address from the embassy’s Internet page.  The Embassy of Benin had the wrong address listed…

My mom told me told me to look at the  situation and ask myself, “What can I learn from this?” Well, I was being cynical and responded, “When I am lost, when it’s 95 degrees outside with 97% humidity, in a taxi with a driver that speaks very little English, and I am under a time constraint…I’m not really looking to learn anything.”

Maybe tomorrow there will be something new to learn.  Not today though. Today I am totally frustrated.

Reason #2
I am a  done with eating rice and beans, and fried chicken.

I’m sick of joloff rice, I’m sick watche (rice and beans together). I can’t bring myself to eat any more red-red (beans-similar to refried), and I never really liked fried chicken in the first place. No more! I want sushi, and pasta, and Indian food, and huge salads, all of which are very expensive in Ghana. I could buy dinner for a month for the price of one meal of sushi, or pasta or a salad. My mom said “Go get some then! Then go back to the Ghana diet.” Honestly, I think that’s what started this issue.

Weeks ago, my mom asked me what food I wanted when I got home. I told her that honestly, I have forgotten what food tastes like. I don’t really remember the things I used to love. I was telling the truth. I was totally happy with fried rice and spicy sauce. Yumm.

Well, then, the next week, I had sushi. And pasta. And Indian food. And salad. I remember what food tastes like now, and all I want are big expensive meals, without rice, beans or fried chicken. Humph.

Reason #3
At first, I was adjusting well to “Ghana time”. Fifteen minutes behind schedule? Nooo worries. But now, I just want to get things moving!

I went to lab today, and after 30 minutes, I started drawing the specimens because, let’s face it, I have other things I to do (like getting a taxi and going to the Embassy of Benin). Cynical moment, I tell you! Well,  I got into trouble for starting to draw!  I was informed I was not allowed to start the lab before we do the “pre-lab”.  Together.  “What’s the pre-lab?” you ask? The lab assistant reads the questions out loud!  Great. Helpful.  Good use of class time, don’t you think?  I had already read the lab questions, by myself, to myself (while waiting for the lab assistant to arrive on “Ghana time”!  So, why did I need to waste an additional thirty more minutes while the lab assistant read the questions out loud?

I could have spent that time ordering more rice and beans and fantasizing about sushi. Or looking up the wrong address of the Embassy of Benin on the Internet.

Reason #4
Being stared at is getting old.

When people stare at me on campus, I want to let them know, that I, and many other obrunis very much like myself, have been on campus for 2 ½ months so, “Why are you still gawking at me?”  Of course, the feeling intensified today because I was already irritated.  Honestly, who wants people staring at them when they are in a bad mood?

It’s amazing how much attention I get. One guy (who looked homeless) asked me if I wanted to have his baby, like he would be doing me a great kindness! Another guy ran after me with a cell phone, trying to get a picture of my hair. Others see me and Mie walking around and scream out the window “Obruni, let me take you somewhere! I will drop you off!!” Once I timed the number of honks, only honks, I got in 10 minutes.  Each individual car (no matter how many honks from that particular car) counted as one.  TEN! Ten in ten minutes.  Don’t tell me that’s not annoying.  You multiply that out by 2 1/2 months and a minimum of four walked miles a day.

Hmmm…maybe when I get back I will miss being a center of attention.

Reason #5
I stopped reading Harry Potter and went to swim practice only to find out it was canceled. Ghana should know better than to interrupt my quality Harry Potter time for nothing!

The coaches told me to come back at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning.  That did nothing to lift my mood either.

I’m hot, fantasizing about food, wasting time on “Ghana time”, harassed…and now Harry Potter is involved. This just got serious.

That’s all I’m saying.

I’m going to go take a cold shower now. Only forty-nine to go. If the water holds out.