Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Twi Class

So I am taking a mandatory Twi class through my program, and our professor is a linguistics teacher here at the University, and he really seems to know a lot, which is good and makes the class really interesting. There have been a few different things that have happened throughout the class and I have been trying to keep track of some of them and thought I would share them with you all.

Today we were discussing food and the names they have and why. And our professor explained to us that food is meant to be eaten in a certain order, and when two people share a plate, there can be a crash between them because they might want to eat the same thing at the same time. Apɜsie means yam, and if you break the word down, pɜ means to like, and sie means to save, so the word literally means, you save the pieces of yam that you like. But, when two people are sharing the same dish, they might both want to save the same piece they like, so when this happens, there is a CRASH and then you have problems. The best part to this is when we just stared at the professor, and he took our stares of shock and stares of not understanding, so he went to the board and drew different pieces of yam and numbered us, and then showed how if two people both wanted the number five piece of yam, that then there would be a crash. It was really entertaining.

Also, fish in Twi is nsuowunam. Nsuo means water, and nam means meat, so fish translated to: meat in the water. Which is genius! I feel like Twi is giving me a greater realization of how crazy the English language can be.

Kyebom means egg in bread, so it's what they call an egg sandwich, something which I have become addicted to here. It's an egg, cooked up with random vegetables, and put on this delicious sweet bread It's kind of like an omlet, but no cheese. Another common food here is fufuo, which is a combination of casava, yam, and plantain that is all pounded together and generally served with soup. There are three key things to know about eating fufuo: 1) Eat it with your fingers. 2) Dip your fingers in the soup first so that the fufuo doesn't stick to your fingers. 3) Don't chew fufuo, simply swallow it after dipping it in your soup. All these are things that have taken me awhile to learn, but now that I know them, I am apparently a pro fufuo eater. This is according to my Twi professor who says that by the time we leave here, we should all be veteran fufuo eaters, and I apparently am one. Go me.

With some frequency, there are rules or ways of speaking Twi that don't really make sense. When this happens, my professor generally says “who knows, only God can know.” So when I asked where the verb went in a sentence we were saying he says “who knows what happens to the verb, only god can know!” And this was a perfectly acceptable answer. It was great. So next time your trying to learn a language and your confused about it, don't worry, only God can know why it's working that way.

Meka Twi kakra, means, I speak a little Twi. While this sentence is extremely helpful, this always makes people laugh because I probably sound ridiculous when I say it and I'm usually saying it in response to them talking to me in Twi and me having no idea what-so-ever about what they have said to me. So I tell them my one sentence in Twi and they giggle and then try to talk to me again in Twi, but slower. I generally still have no idea what they're saying.

Another fun fact to Twi, many words are spelled the same, but mean different things and are very different words. The only way to know what word the person is talking about is by knowing the context it is being used in. This provides to be a challenge though when you can't understand what they're saying.

And that is more or less my class in a nutshell. This is the last week of it, so only three classes are left, we'll see how many more new things they can cram into our brains.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Photo and Letter Update

So, I have yet to be able to get photos to upload, because no internet connection ever works fast enough. I'll keep working on it, but you might all have to be patient and just wait and see photos when I am home. But don't worry, I am taking lots and lots of pictures, so there will be plenty of them in May.

Also, if you decide to be kind enough to send a hand-written letter (which I highly encourage), along with the letter, if you wouldn't mind throwing in a few twist-ties, it would be greatly appreciated! Twist ties don't seem to exist here, but there are so many times when I could use them! And they're light, so if you throw a few in, they really shouldn't cost anything extra to send along with the letter!

Hope you all are staying warm! With humidity, it's about a billion degrees here, I pretty much sweat constantly.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Weekend Adventure

February 21st-22nd

This weekend Clara, Kate, Mary and I ventured out to Shai Hills Resource Reserve, which is a wildlife sanctuary about 2 hours away from Legon. Between my Bradt book, and directions from one of the guys who runs our hostel, we thought we had a pretty good idea of how to get there via tro-tros. We were told, Legon to Madina, Madina to Dodowa, Dodowa to Doryumu, and there you are. Sounds simple enough, right? We started out fine, going from Legon to Madina, no problem, and even in Madina we were able to find a tro right away that went to Dodowa. We probably should have started to worry then, that there was a tro right there, but we didn't know that Dodowa is tiny, so we thought maybe there were just lots of tros that went there. Not correct it turns out. We rode along in the tro for about an hour, and we get to Dodowa and there isn't a tro station anywhere in sight. Our tro driver and mate ask around, for where we should go, but they have no idea. Finally, these two men, probably 12 and 18, tell us that they will hire a taxi for us to go to Shai Hills. We refuse to take taxi, knowing there is a tro somewhere, and definitely not wanting to pay the 10 cedis for a taxi, instead of 80 peswa for a tro. Once these guys finally realize that we will not give in to their taxi plan, they take us to the tro station. All I can say is good thing they took us there, because if we would have had to do it on our own, we would still be walking in the small town of Dodowa right now.

The tro from Dodowa was supposed to take us to Doryumu, but instead, it took us to Ashaiman, where we had to catch a different tro to Doryumu. Only to get to Ashaiman, the tro turned about 100 feet from where we needed to be, but we didn't know it at the time. So we more or less went an hour in the complete wrong direction, only to have to cover the exact same ground once we were in the correct tro. It was interesting to say the least. We found Shai Hills Resort (which is a good 2 miles down the road from the actual reserve where we were dropped of) without much difficulty, but walking was the only way there, and it was 2:30, so lots of sun, and no shade, it was not pleasant. (And don't worry, lots of sunscreen was worn.) Lucky for us, our room had air conditioning! It was wonderful! There isn't really anything to do in the town (really a junction) of Doryumu, so we spent the evening, cooling off in AC and being lazy, it was wonderful! Also! We saw grass cutter! It's this animal that looks kind of like a mole, and is furry, and apparently is eaten a lot in Ghana. There were three in the cage when we went to dinner, and three when we came back though, so we think we're safe from having eaten them.
This morning started at 5:30 (I thought about all you folk at Morris, and realized that your Saturday night activities were probably still in full swing, since it was only 11:30 p.m. there), and we sadly left our air conditioned room, and walked back to the reserve. Bradt had told us that a tour guide was required, so we weren't to surprised when a guy started showing us around, but even now, looking back on it, we're not entirely show if he actually worked for Shai Hills or not. We got to see baboons way up close, which was great! And then we did an incredibly long walk (about 6 km total) to a bat cave, where we saw antelope and trecked up this really steep mountain, into a cave, where there were hundreds of bats flying around. It was a long, hot, walk, but I'm glad we did it so early in the morning, I can't imagine what it would be like in the full sun. It was great to see the baboons up close, but that walk back, in the sun, with sweat literally dripping from my face, I kind of wondered why the heck I thought this was a good idea, but now that it's done, I'm glad we did it. Our ride back was much easier and quicker. We simply took a tro from the reserve to Ashaiman, and then right from Ashaiman to Legon, which took all of 2 hours, instead of the four it took to get there.

I'm really proud of us for finding a place to go, getting there, providing food for us, and getting back, all on our own. It also gives me a lot of confidence for doing more trips in the next few months, and staying busy on the weekends. Hopefully the internet will pick up one of these days and I can post some pictures from this weekend, and Cape Coast a few weekends ago.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Address!

Most importantly, I have a mailing address for you all! It should only cost 98 cents to send me one, and I'm sure you all love me enough to at least spend one dollar on me. :) The address is:

Greta Simons
c/o Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah
Private Mail Bag 31
University of Ghana
Legon, Ghana, West Africa

In other news:

I've been without water since Sunday night. The water has been iffy for the past week, so I've been using bucket baths, but at least the spigot in my suite was working. Now though, with no water in the suite, in order to shower I have to bring my bucket to the spigot in the courtyard and then haul it up four flights of stairs. I don't mind using the bucket, but I could do without all the hauling.

My weeks are starting to form a pattern and I'm getting some sort of a schedule down. Tuesdays generally have down time until the afternoon, when I have my Human Rights in Africa class and then go from there to Pizza Inn (it's buy one, get one free on Tuesdays) to meet up with other CIEE folk, and then back to my dorm to do readings for my Penology course. My days tend to pick up the pace once the afternoon rolls around, mainly because there are things to do, and then at night, all of us in Pentagon hang out together. It tends to be that the mornings are the hardest time of day for me, because there's lots of free time, so I tend to think about being home. I don't have class on Fridays, so generally a group of us go to a beach and just relax and do nothing producitve. Don't worry, I wear lots of sunscreen!

I leave for home in exactly three months from tomorrow, which seems crazy! Even though the days go slowly, the weeks go fast, and I know that May 18th will be here before I know it! Right now I am just at the point where I am really missing foods from home. Baby carrots, leafy lettuce, and cheese are a high priority for when I get home. :)

This weekend will hopefully be an adventure to Shaii Hills Reserve, but we're having some troubles figuring out the details, so we'll see.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day to you all!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's Been A Month

This time one month ago, Clara and I took off for Ghana, and here I am, one month later, doing well! It's hard to believe how quickly the month has gone by, this means there's a little more than three months left, which seems both way to soon and way far away.

In current news:

On Tuesday I had my Human Rights In Africa class and the professor walked out. He warned us last week that we needed to do the readings for each class because he would ask people questions, and if they couldn't answer, they would be kicked out of the class. So class gets started and he says “boy in the green shirt, what was the reading about?” And the boy couldn't answer, he said he wasn't enrolled in the class last week, so he didn't know to do the readings. The professor then kicked him out of class. Then the prof asked a girl what the readings were about, and she answered. He then said “the gentleman who came in late, what were the readings about?” And no guy would stand up and answer. So the prof finally said, “if the the gentleman won't stand up, I will leave leave class.” No one ever stood up, so the prof left. It was quite a sight. Right then it really struck me how different academics are here than in the states. I feel as if the professor was kind of saying “if you don't do the work, we won't have class” which most students would be pretty happy about it back home. But after talking to my room mate, she said that the professor walking out would make the students see the need to do the work from then on.

On Wednesday morning I went to the orphanage with Mary and Kate. The orphanage is called Ma Daamfo Pa (which I think loosely translated is My Good Friend) and it is run by a lady called Fati. I heard at some time that there were around 25 kids, but I've only seen a maximum of 10 kids at any time, so I'm confused. I worked with Paul on his math homework and reading. The math homework was multiplication and long division, and it made me realize how long it has been since I have done any math without a calculator. I had to do a couple problems myself before I could help him out, haha. When Paul and I were working on reading he was reading about the digestive system and the book he was given on it had so many problems. There were grammar errors and spelling problems, and extra words, and words that made no sense. So not only was Paul trying to read, he was trying to comprehend information that wasn't even being conveyed to him correctly. It was really frustrating to watch Paul work so hard at understanding something that wasn't right. Not only that, but he was learning to read by talking about the esophagus and the small and large intestine, not particularly easy topics. It just made me feel like these poor kids aren't being given any fair chances. I am happy to give my time to help them, but I also feel like no matter how much time I give them, the education system here just won't give them a chance.

This weekend was our Cape Coast trip with CIEE. Overall, definitely a good weekend. We took off at 6:30 in the morning, and trecked about three and half hours to a hotel in Cape Coast. Shocking as this is, when we got there, only about half the rooms were ready for us. And a lot of the rooms that were supposedly open for us, still had people's things in them. We all wasted time for about an hour, and then there was lunch, which at least lightened the mood. The afternoon we went to Cape Coast Castle, which was one of the original castles used for slave trading. I was not very impressed with our tour guide, and wasn't able to get all that much out of the tour. It was interesting to be in an original piece of history, that has so much to do with Africa, but there wasn't a lot of explanation in what the experiences for a black slave were like. I feel as though I could have learned more from reading a book, then being on the tour. I'm definitely glad I went and could see it, but I wasn't real impressed.
The rest of the night was ours, which was spent mostly in our rooms, with air conditioning, which was great! I slept the best I have since getting here. I got a hot shower, a cold room, slept with a blanket, and it was quiet! I woke up when I wanted to, not because someone was singing, or praying, or yelling. And I wasn't sticky. It was one of the best feelings ever. While the humidity out that close to the ocean was insane, it makes the humidity here in Legon feel not nearly as bad. Sunday morning we drove out to Kakum National Park, where we did a canopy walk through the jungle. It was AMAZING! The rope bridges are secure, but that's all there is. Wood and rope, holding you 60 feet above the jungle ground. It was amazing to be walking through the trees and see so much jungle life from that high up. After the canopy walk, we went to Hans Cottage Botel (no idea why it's not hotel) for lunch, where we got to see crocodiles while we ate. They were so cool looking! After lunch, we went for a walk around the grounds, and saw a crocodile in the shade and I got some really awesome pictures of it. When I was all of 10 feet away from the crocodile and taking a picture of it, I realized that I am definitely in Africa!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

God Is Great Cosmetics

The humidity here absolutely baffles me. How can you stand somewhere and sweat??!! I don't get it! I'm not moving, I'm not doing anything, why must I sweat??!! This morning was laundry day, which you do by hand, and I had showered and was somewhat cool. Then I spent an hour, in the sun, scrubbing away, and I was soaked, and it was NOT from my laundry water. I look forward to being back at home where I can take HOT showers and not sweat profusely by just walking to class. We had a nice break from the humidity last week, but then it came back strong this week, and apparently we were lucky to even have a break for all of last week, I guess it's not very common.

I am taking two sociology and two political science classes. The sociology ones are: Culture, Gender & Reproductive Health and Penology. And the two poli sci are: Human Rights in Africa and Regionalism & Ethnicity in Ghana. My classes are HUGE and the profs just lecture. I mean, all they do is lecture. And you frantically take notes, and try to understand their words, and then hope that a nice Nigerian or Ghanaian is sitting by you so you can ask them what the prof said. Also, even though we have had two weeks of classes, my Penology class has yet to meet. I dunno where the prof is, but apparently coming to class is not the big concern. One my suitemates said that once Feb 6th comes (the add/drop deadline) then my prof will probably show up, but no guarantees So we'll see what happens there.

One of the neatest things here with the animals are the lizards and they are EVERYWHERE! Minnesota has squirrels the way that Ghana has lizards. They're awesome though and I love seeing them everywhere. They scurry around everywhere and don't seem to mind being around people. They also seem to change colors when they're in the sun. I want to try to learn more about them, but I have no idea who I would even ask.

Other random fact about Ghana, church is everywhere here. Especially on campus, but throughout Ghana, there are references to God no matter where you go. The turn for the orphanage I volunteer at is right after God Is Great Cosmetics, but before In God's Hands Mechanics. And signs like those can be found almost everywhere. On campus though, there are church services happening all the time. And on Sundays (today) it seems like it goes all day long. I woke to service at 5:30, and then again at 7:30 (probably the same mass). Throughout the day I hear different prayers and chants, and then the real kicker is Sunday nights, when there is a “small” service in the building behind my dorm, there they turn up the volume as loudly as possible and sing and chant and speak in tongues for three and a half hours. It's a good time. I'm sure soon enough I'll get used to it, but for now, it's weird to go places and always have religion being pushed in my face. I know people mean well and are just trying to show me their beliefs, but sometimes I feel like it's a little bit of intrusion on my personal beliefs.

Happy Beginning of February to you all!