Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Africa Part 1

*First, I want to tell you there are no pictures on this entry. So... sorry. I wasn't so sure if I was allowed to take pictures of certain things and didn't want to offend anyone in Accra. But on my second leg of the trip there, it'll be okay, as I checked with a local.

I am writing this before Im even writing in my journal, so this is the raw, and uncut version. I'll possibly have more to say, but email me and tell me what you think too! This blog was meant for our exchange, and I can't wait to hear/read your reactions. It's probably less well written than I'd like, but I have reliable internet right now. So:

From LAX:
I have decided that I like train stations much better than airports, generally. There is an unbelievably pervasive energy of stress here and of people making concerted efforts to be strangers. At least in Los Angeles it is. The farewell with my parents was much less tearful than I had imagined, but still the tugging in the throat. My mother told me that years ago her own mother was put in the same position, letting an only daughter go away, but she (my mom) was too excited to feel the stings of pain. I felt them.

My flight first stopped at JFK, and I was happy to have a too-short hour of laying over in New York. I was pleased to find that my seat companion for the international flight was impressively well traveled and extremely knowledgeable on South Africa as well as West. Needless to say, questions were asked, answered, and notes were taken, as per my personality. Also fitting was my viewing of Invictus on the 10 hour flight into Accra. Landed at 7:30, and realized I had the whole day to spend, as my flight to Johannesburg was at 11PM. Well planned on my part, I know. So I made acquaintance and then was thrown into travelers friendship with Jean-Paul, who had been sitting behind me the whole time. He's doing a project in Cape Coast for a few months, and we bonded over not knowing much. Off we went to Osu, a cultural, restaurant filled nightlife type district. We went during the day. On a Monday,to boot, so it wasn't as bustling. But JP and I walked around anyway, and had some interesting observations, to be sure. Apparently it's the "London's West End" of Ghana, but it seemed to me sort of like Wang Fujing in Beijing, or the Santa Monica 3rd St Promenade.

Some notes:

I have never been in situations where I was the only Asian individual. But for my hours in Ghana, I became quite aware of how different I looked. Lots of stares, handshakes, and bemused "hi"s from beautiful children with gigantic brown eyes. In addition, Ive been honked at more in 4 hours than I have in my entire life. And it was because of my appearance, but as someone who needed a ride in a cab. Taxi drivers tap their horns, such that I nearly had a crick in my neck shaking my head no. Thoughts on intention: I have only used my horn once in my life, to avoid being steamrollered by a driver of a trailer careening into my lane on the 101S. I've always been afraid to seem "mean" or "a jerk". The horn here is used much more liberally, in a less malicious fashion. Interesting that the supply and demand changed so dramatically. This would be unheard of in NY.

Baby goats!! Chickens!! Running rampant!! (Nothing like Pamplona, but surprising. And adorable).

In Ghana, and as I understand it, Senegal, hissing at someone is a way to get someone's attention, and it works like magic. Too bad that in America, hissing at a woman is a prime way to get slapped. Hard. In other "greeting" type is a fingersnap after a handshake. I can show you when I get back. But it's quite a lot of fun.

Obituary posters are everywhere in Osu. They're around the size 12" by 14" and usually in color, with a picture of the deceased, the age at which they passed away, and lists of the names of family members. This usually takes the most space: I saw that one woman who had died at 92 had 30 grandchildren. My goodness. One man who had died at 35 had on his obituary, "WHAT A SHOCK" and it is quite so. They were usually euphemistic words and brief elegies, always ending with an open invitation to the funeral. We walked by one that day. No matter where you are, no matter what the mourning rituals may be, the grief is ever present.

Diet Coke in Africa and in China, is referred to as "Coke Light". Maybe it's because the concept of dieting is very different in the American mind, different to the point of being foreign. I had a talk with a woman on my Accra to J-burg and noticed that the cans of soda, and portions of food items are noticeably smaller. *sigh* She was absolutely stunned at the situation of obesity in America, and I couldn't blame her. I said these things to her as I was polishing off the most delicious plane food I'd ever had, that South African Air put down before me, ironically. And the Guinness here, has more hops. I can't wait to come back to Ghana in the end of November!

I spent my birthday with strangers who quickly became friends, and I think it's nice to spend one "alone". I'll ponder about it more and tell you why I think so.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Boarding for the Motherland.

In one week, I will have been in Africa for four days, on site in South Africa for two. I have three days to pack, for 15 weeks. Will be back on the 14th of December.

Numbers aside, I am a little nervous. I've never been away from my parents, or some semblance of a home-base for so long, but it will be an adventure, to be sure. I think the trick is to create home wherever I am. Let's try that.

Internet might be limited, but I plan on doing as much blogging as I possibly can. So stay in tune.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gee Are EE.

A few hours before my test, I am blogging. Maybe it is a subconscious way of preparing for the analytical writing section, to ensure that my fingers are connected to my arms, to my brain by way of fasciculi, nerves, tracts, and whatnot. Could be that I'm a little jittery.

I'm jittery. But I know that last night, at clinic, I felt calmer than I've been in a while. Seeing what has been created: a medical home for folks to go, feel safe, and address their concerns. The idea of a home to me, lowers my blood pressure, that's for sure. And it helps to go remember the reason why I put myself through more math than I've cared to do in years, spouting essays about seemingly unimportant issues, and completing sentences with words I wouldn't have used anyway. (Though my adoration for analogies has never left me).

Funny that every "big thing" we come to is the biggest and most insurmountable, seeming, until the next. And so I'm off to this one. Rilke reminds me that I ought to "Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart, and learn to love the questions themselves". I think I can do that. Especially the math ones.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Excuses, excuses.

I remember the word "hiatus" well, from studying for the SAT whilst in high school. My mnemonic for it? "Hi Atus!" Atus was a hick with a big old gap between his two front teeth. A gargantuan gap between January 22nd and August 2nd, certainly qualifies itself for this space between updates. I am a horrible blogger, but as one of my San Francisco tango buddies always assures me, "Baby, I can change!"

Although I have been more than assiduous at writing in my paper journal. After filling up the last one yesterday, I began a new notebook August 1st. It is my 11th, I discovered, after unearthing tomes from as early as 6th grade. It was a kick to note how my handwriting changed, my syntax, my tone.

But my love for cursive handwriting does not wane.