Monday, January 24, 2011

Fluid places, fluid spaces

My Ghana keeps changing. As I rode out of Accra a week ago, I saw it as it really is—a large city somehow both sprawling and concentrated. It probably took close to an hour to drive out of the outer skirts of the city. And as we drove away, I knew that I was leaving a calm routine filled mostly with work and the familiar faces of just a few people who I grew to love very quickly, but I felt peaceful and strong, and ready to try out another way of life in Ghana.

So we arrived in Cape Coast on Thursday the 13th. By Wisconsin standards, Cape Coast is a city, but the scale here is interesting because people call Accra a city, Cape a town, and anything smaller seems to be a village. That night, I moved in with a well-known family amongst the Global Mamas community. One of my co-workers delivered me to the house, and explained during our cab ride there, how I would travel to and from work. I tried my hardest to pay attention and to understand the names of the many drop-off points I'd need to know through his accent and after a long, exhausting day. By the time we finally arrived at the family's home I was thoroughly lost and confused, and closer to tears than I'd been for the whole month. That night I introduced myself to my host mother (Aba) and father (Wallace), had a good chat with Wallace, and wound down by journaling in the nice bedroom they provided me in their home. I woke up the next day refreshed, but hushed. I was soaking in all the sounds and rhythms of the place. It was a neat to be out there because there was a lot of foliage and trees nearby, and I'd seen very little plant-life in Accra. Their home is quite a ways out of Cape Coast in a neighborhood called Polykamp, and I saw just how far out it is on my commute home the next day. From the office, I took about a 20-minute cab ride (depending of traffic) to the 'station' where I hopped into another car going to 'Poly.' What's great about the taxi system here is that, once you know what you're doing, you share a cab with other people going to the same destination. This means you pay 40, or 90, or whatever number pesewas (think of these as cents), instead of 3 or 4 cedis (think of these as dollars) for a ride by yourself. As a result of trekking back and forth from Poly, I got used to public transport and now it's one of my favorite parts of my experience so far. I stayed with Wallace and his family for about 5 nights, and every evening Wallace and I had a wonderful conversation about politics, media, education, adoption, fair trade, feminism, history... you name it, we covered it! I think we learned quite a bit from each other.

On the 18th though, my Ghana changed again when I moved to the house Global Mamas volunteer house in Elmina (just outside of Cape Coast, and 15 minutes from our office.) A few Global Mamas employees live there, as well as any visiting volunteers, so I moved in with my awesome co-workers. Elmina really is gorgeous, right on the water!And most nights we eat dinner at Ellie's; she's this amazing cook and the kindest woman, and she serves us wonderful home-cooked meals on her patio which is right by our house.

So I've now had three different Ghanaian homes, and I'm writing from Accra right now. In an hour or two I'll head to Prampram, a small seaside community about an hour east of here, and stay there this evening. The purpose of the visit is to see Global Mamas' newest production site so that I can write a little story about it for the website. The more I see of Ghana, the more it morphs and changes. I'm learning that the we experience places is layered, not linear, and also that nobody's Ghana is exactly the same. This seems like a simple lesson, but it's so clearly illustrated to me now. I heard many different things about Ghana before I came, and I think I'm discovering some of those same things for myself, but I'm also discovering new things. My Ghana is my Ghana—and I love it more and more each day.

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