Friday, May 08, 2009

farewell, for now

As I sit here and write my last blog from Africa, on my last day in Ghana, I am filled with mixed emotions and don’t even know where to begin or what to write about. There is no doubt I am beyond excited to go home—to be around anything familiar, to not be an “Obruni” anymore, to know how to appropriately function in society, to eat good food (not white rice for a long, long time), to see my momma, sister, nana, boyfriend and all of my family, to see my dear friends in New York and Texas—it’s definitely time.

I have been moved and blessed by these four months. I have learned things about myself and about humanity that I will carry with me forever. I have met and become close friends with some of the kindest people in the world. I have battled everything from the Ghanaian health care system, the maltreatment of women, to the lack of development in the nation. I have been to some of the most beautiful places (Winneba, Tamale) I’ve ever seen, and had some of the wildest experiences I’ve ever had (remember the 1 Cedi hostel in Togo? Or the journey to Green Turtle Lodge?). I have traveled three African countries—Togo, Morocco, and Ghana, and none of these journeys were without tough moments that ended up being hilarious ones. I have learned that “Africa” is not at all what I expected. I have peed on concrete slabs in front of lots of people. I have learned to love Makola market (a true example of growth!). I have bought more fabric than I can even wrap my mind around (Gillian can attest to my utter anxiety in packing it all). I have refused more marriage proposals than you can imagine. I have been treated both like royalty and like the scum of the earth because of my skin color. I have taken 126 malaria pills, and never missed a day(!). I have written 66 (now 67) blogs. I have ridden in tro-tros that my mom would’ve had a heart attack if she’d seen me in. I’ve bartered for hundreds of taxis. I have not eaten enough Fan Ice (must find a way to get this back to the states!). I have made local friends in every city I’ve been to. I have cried more than I ever thought I would. I have laughed more than I ever thought I would. I have become used to, and sometimes comforted by, power outages and water shortages. I have lived in Labone, one of the nicest neighborhoods in all of Ghana. I have been to the post office once a week, every week since I’ve been here. I have received letters from my mom, Nana, Sarah, Eric, Kala, Amanda, Rachel, Rebecca and Carley. I have cherished these letters. I have acquired a new tan, a new wardrobe, and a new outlook on life. I have challenged myself to think deeper about issues like development. I have become more patient with myself and with others. I have learned to slowwww downnnn. All in all, I have had the most incredible, rewarding, adventurous, scary, beautiful, fun, trying, and perfect study abroad experience. In Ghana. In Africa.

So now for the letters, with which I will try to be brief, but which deserve to be said, on the internet, for everyone to read.

Dear Solomon’s Girls,

Thank you for every single day providing a safe haven for one another to be themselves. Thank you for nurturing each other, and me, and always finding a way to have fun. Thank you for being the most eclectic, unlikeliest of people to live in a house together, but for proving that this “Real World: Ghana house” was real, and wonderful. Thanks for doing your dishes (ode to Julia) and for doing life with me. Emma, Anika, Marykate, Marika, Monica, Crystal, Tanesha, Gillian, Marta, Julia, Katie, Victoria, Stephannie, Helene, Leigh, Naa, and Julia, you girls are awesome and I love you all.

Dear Gillian,

I know you’re going to read this today anyway, since that’s what we do, but I want you to know what an impact you’ve had in my life these last four months. I never expected that we would become such great friends, or that we would go through hospitals, tro-tros, multiple countries, countless cries and laughs, Mamma Mia (I’ll leave it at that), some of our lowest and highest moments, bike rides, prayer, and fellowship together. You are as beautiful inside as you are out, and I am honored to have gotten to share an oversized room and undersized food supply with you for the last four months.

Dear Anyone-Who-Ever-Wrote-Me-A-Letter,

Thank you. Thank you for brightening my day and pissing off dear Debby, whom I harassed for the mail every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks for reminding me that even when I’m half-way around the world, people are still thinking about me and I am still part of my loved ones’ lives.

Dear Family and Friends,

Thanks for being patient with me, and for graciously encouraging me to go off on this adventure. Thank you for trusting me and for reminding me day in and day out that I need to wear bug spray, but more importantly, that I need to do what I, Elizabeth Shelby, want to do. Thanks for never hindering me from becoming who I am still in the process of becoming, and thank you for letting me go (even for just four months). Thanks for Skyping with me, for emailing with me, for IMing with me, for spending ridiculous amounts of money texting and calling me (and vice versa!), and for reading this little blog.

And finally…Dear Readers-of-this-Blog,

Thanks for coming with me on this journey. I’m glad to have shared it all with you. I hope you find something else just as compelling to read daily now! Just kidding. But seriously, I’ll miss writing it just as much as you’ll miss reading it.

Alright, I suppose I better close this computer up and pack it away—we leave in an hour and a half or so, and our plane leaves in 5 hours. If you read this at anytime within the next day, please send prayers of safety towards the sky, as Gillian and I will be on our way back to the states, EEEEK! We should get into New York on Saturday at 11 am NY time, so 10 am Texas time. I love you all and can’t wait to see you soon!!!


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

QUICK post

i have a test tomorrow which i need to keep studying for, so i'm just writing a quick post to show you a picture of marjorie and her two girls, janette (2) and tina (5). i stopped by her place today to pick up one of the last two things being made. tomorrow i'll have to say goodbye, which will be sad. less than 48 hours people, crazy. emma and leigh left today and it was pretty emotional for everyone. just hope these two days go by fast and slow all at once. anyway, gotta go study- wish me luck on this test!

love love love

Monday, May 04, 2009

my ghanaian experience: a photo blog

As my time in Ghana is coming to a close, I thought it'd be nice to post pictures of the people and things I see on a daily basis, the people and places who have made this NYU-in-Ghana experience so wonderful.

Solomon's Lodge:
These are the girls of Solomon's Lodge. My Ghanaian family. Each girl has made this experience something special and fun. We've helped each other laugh through the terrible times, and have celebrated communally through the great times. These are some of the funniest, greatest, most intelligent and open-minded people I've ever gotten the chance to meet. I am so thankful I am able to call each of these girls my friend.
This is our day guard, Danny, who every day from 6 am to 6 pm watches over our house and protects us. He is employed by g4s, a local security company. this man always greets us with a friendly "You are welcome" when we enter Solomon's, and a "me combra" (meaning "come back soon") when we leave. There's not one person in Solomon's who hasn't been touched or blessed by Danny's hard work and smiling face every, single day.

This is the street Solomon's is on.
The man cutting hair is Issac. We pass his stand every day on our way to the Academic Center.
Part of the road on the walk to the Academic Center.
This is First Choice, the local store where we buy everything from sache' water to phone credit to snacks for the schools I taught at. Those signs in the front (the pink and yellow ones) are to let customers know they sell phone credit for both Zain and MTN users (the equivalent of, say, Verizon and ATT). Those red cases are crates and crates of empty class bottles, which Ghanaians recycle. In fact, if you were to buy a glass-bottled drink at First Choice, or anywhere else, you would have to consume the entire thing and give the bottle back before you could leave.
Ghanaian children love to pose for pictures. This was taken along the road on the way to the Academic Center. Painted on the white wall are two Ghanaian flags.
This is one of the shops on the way to the Academic Center. As I've mentioned before, many many shops have titles like this one, "King Majesty Hair Cut." In front is a typical-looking taxi (notice the religious writing on the back windshield? This is also common.).
This is Uncle Sammy, one of our two drivers (both are named Sammy!). One of the things we love and will remember most about him is how he tries to mimic an American voice. Whenever we leave the van and say "bye Sammy!" in our relatively high-pitched voices, he will raise his voice several octaves to try to match ours. He's Solomon's primary driver to and from dinner.
This is "Young" Sammy, as we call him. He's also a day driver for NYU, and is usually the one who would take me and Marykate to Legon on Mondays.
The Academic Center:
This is the Academic Center. It was once a house that NYU transformed into a building with several classrooms, a conference room, a computer area, and a kitchen. This is where I take three of my four classes. The walk from Solomon's to the Academic Center is about 7 minutes.
This is Uncle Tego!!! He, like Danny, works from 6 am to 6 pm, 6 days a week. He guards the Academic Center. Every single morning he greets me with a friendly "Queen Elizabeth," in his deep, Uncle Tego voice. He has all 40 something students' names, as he sees them day in and day out walking into the Academic Center. He says each student's name in a very distinct way. I'll have to say my name like he does for you in person.
This is the porch area of the Academic Center, where much of our intense orientation week was held. Occasionally we have classes out here under that veranda (for instance, this is where our televi class and our dress-up class were). Additionally, all of our workshops, for instance, "Adjusting to Ghana," were held out here.
West Africa AIDS Foundation, WAAF:
This is WAAF. While I don't see it every day, I did see it plenty this semester. The white building in the back of the shot is the Health Care Center, where people are tested and treated for all sorts of diseases, not just HIV. The tannish building on the left is the Almond Tree, where the women who make things to sell and get money for their medicines are stationed.
This is The Almond Tree. I have pictures of me with my favorite woman who works there, but have decided against posting, just for her privacy. I will gladly show them to you when I get home, though! She is the woman who has been making table runners and table cloths for some of you!

This isn't such a great picture, but it was taken out of a taxi window. This is Independence Square, built to commemorate Ghana's independence in 1957. I'm sure I've already said this in a post, but Ghana was the first African colony to gain independence.
This is another shot of Independence Square. The ocean is in the background, and this is where events such as parades and large social festivals often take place.
So these are the pictures I have so far. Tomorrow I'm going to try to take pictures of some more of the staff, as well as of Marjorie and her shop. I hope you've enjoyed looking through them as much as I've enjoyed putting this blog together (and living these pictures).
love love love

Sunday, May 03, 2009

our final weekend

getting really tired of my blog formatting the way it has been...sorry, again, for the weird spacing.

*i didn't intend for this picture to turn out the way it did, but it's really cool!

*ahh! i can't believe we've almost concluded our final weekend in ghana. this time next week i'll be resting comfortably in jon's awesome apartment, followed by visiting my cousin in brooklyn and having a much needed dinner with charlie. can't believe it. there are so many things i want to say and blog about, so many reflections, etc. perhaps soon there will be a blog with those types of sentiments, but for now, i'll just update you on what we did this weekend!

*friday i spent writing my final paper of the semester! it's good to have that over with, and now i just need to focus on my tests that are on thursday and friday. the day was spent doing nothing, really, and we went to bed early because we had an early morning saturday.

*saturday started at 4:30 am, because nyu in ghana loves leave for their field trips as early as humanly possible. anyway, the bus picked us up at 5 to go to WLI FALLS, pronounced wee-lee falls. the four hour bus ride proved well worth it, as we we got there around 10 or so. we had to hike for 45 minutes to the actual falls, but it wasn't that strenuous, and actually really cool. we had to cross over several bridges, under which there would be families washing their clothes and collecting water. pretty cool.

*the waterfall is gorgeous, and according to the welcome sign is the tallest waterfall in west africa. we all braved the semi-cold waters and got in, and a bunch of us even went to the base of the falls, right where the water actually hits the bottom. it was came down SO hard and was SO loud, but really cool. now just pray none of us get river-blindness, JUST KIDDING. our RAs assured us it is safe for foreigners to swim in the water, and that everyone in prior semesters had done it and been just fine. somewhere, someone has a picture of us actually in the water.

wli falls...the water looks disgusting in this picture, but i assure you it wasn't this bad.

marika, me, gillian and marykate

*this morning all of solomon's decided to make brunch, complete with french toast, pancakes, eggs, and fruit salad. everyone pitched in, and i was the designated pancake-maker. when gillian's mom was here she bought us bisquick...a godsend. it was a great way to spend our last sunday as a complete house. two girls leave on wednesday, gillian, helene and i leave on friday, and then others leave next saturday and sunday. slowly the nyu in ghana program is coming to a close for the semester, and we are all getting really nostalgic and sad. this departure is bittersweet, but more on that later...

*for now, i plan on making the most of my final five days here. today i've decided to stay in my pajamas all day, until gillian and i head to the golden tulip for dinner tonight. we're treating ourselves, because, really, why not? maybe i'll get some organizing/"packing" done today, but let's be honest...i doubt much will get done.

*also, for those interested in the whole development discussion (i've shared some of my thoughts in earlier blogs), i'm reading a new book called dead aid by dambisa moyo, a zambian woman who was educated at harvard and oxford. she's worked for the world bank for many years, and argues that all foreign aid must be removed from africa before africa can get back on its own feet and actually develop. i don't know what her new solution/propositions are (i haven't read that far) but it's a compelling argument, especially since it's being made by an african. what i've read so far is very good, and i'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in another take on the issue/dialogue of development.

*anyway, that's all for now...i suppose i'll go get to that "packing". happy sunday my family and friends!

*love love love

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

taken from gillian's camera

a picture from bike riding in aburi and one from that awesome fettuccini-laden dinner!
(my blog's doing that random no-line-between-paragraphs thing)

it's now wednesday, and the official day counter is in the SINGLE digits. that's right, 9 days until we leave for the states, and 13 days until i'm back in texas. before i go, i want to take pictures of all the things and people i do and see everyday. that's the kind of thing you don't think about until you're gone. so that's my project for the remainder of my time here, in addition to PACKING and finishing up two tests and papers which are still lingering over me. the past three days have been fairly un-blog-worthy, simply because they've been spent writing a 20 page paper with gillian. this is one of our biggest projects of the semester, so it's good to have it done!

random thought, but: remember a while ago when i said i had seen buildings with people's names on them? like isha's collection, etc.? well, since then i've also found: "marilyn's latest fashions," "prince eric" (i'm not kidding) and "sarah's fabric." also, at makola, there's a woman who sells fabric named diana (spelled d-i-a-n-a). that one made me smile ;)
>>also, please pray for solomon's lodge. in the past week, two of our girls have gotten malaria or "malaria" and have spent lots of time in the hospital. just to remind everyone, malaria is not contagious, it's transmitted through mosquitos. it is very treatable, especially in ghana, where the infection rate is so high. please pray for everyone's continued health and safety in these few short days left. let's just finish this thing healthily.
>>alright so this blog was highly jumbled, but bare with me!
sending lots of love to texas, new york and beyond. you texans, stay safe in all that rain...and don't get the swine flu. i kid i kid.
>>love love love

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

a gift for you on this tuesday morning

gillian and i are working on a paper for one of our classes, and upon searching for what i assume was "rap in ghana" or something of the sort, gillian found this.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

chicken fettuccini alfredo

at the aburi botanical gardens by a broken down helicopter

I wrote this blog last night, but couldn't post it til this morning because our internet was out. Let’s see, since Tamale, I had a pretty normal week.

Monday I had my last class Media and Society class at Legon, which ended up being a “revision” class. The professor basically just told us what kinds of questions to expect on our final (next Thursday 5/7). He was surprised to see that only 40 out of 450 students were at the revision. WE were surprised there were even 450 students in the class ever! No previous Media and Society class had ever had that many students in it.

Tuesday I registered for my fall classes and I got all the ones I wanted! Next semester in New York I’m taking: History of Communication, Film: History and Form, Media and Identity, and Copyright, Commerce and Culture. I’m really excited about all of them! I’m in my Film: History and Form class with Marykate! It’ll be great to have a class with her again J.

Wednesday was kind of boring, nothing too exciting happened. Thursday Marykate and I got pedicures and manicures—the second of the semester! It was nice to get away from the house for a bit and relax. I nearly fell asleep in my oversized salon chair, as it should be.

FRIDAY was a really fun day! We had a makeup recitation session in the morning. It ended up being really fun and quite a cultural experience! The guest professor was Esi Sutherland, who is a really famous African writer, and is known all over the world. She brought in some people from the Accra Dance Company (or something like that), who brought with them lots of “costumes.” These were basically all different types of cloth and beads and head-wear. They dressed us up and we got to learn a few dance moves, too! I was dressed as an Ashanti woman, in formal wear. My favorite part of the whole experience was that they gave me a bustle (aka, a fake butt)! Ghanaians definitely aren’t lacking in the butt area, and so to be more realistic, they had to help me out a little bit! I asked if they add the bustle when Ghanaians wear the outfit, and they said, yes, all people add the bustle. So mayyyyybe these big butts we see under all this beautiful clothing have been a rouse all along!

my bustle

my typical weekend wear

Saturday was another NYU field trip to Aburi Botanical Gardens, in Aburi (where Tetteh Quarshie cocoa farm is). We had passed the botanical gardens when we went to Tetteh Quarshie, but didn’t have time to go, so I’m glad we got to go with NYU. It was just a day trip, so we got to leave the dorm around 10 a.m. and got there around noon. We first had a guided tour through the ten different lawns of the gardens. We saw many different plants, whose names I don’t remember (of course). My FAVORITE was this tree, which is actually two trees living symbiotically. They grow around each other. After 35 years or so, the outer tree ends up killing/strangling the inner tree, leaving the inner tree hollow and dead. The coolest part is that because of this, you can actually walk inside the tree, and even climb up the inside! It was really cool and quite a photo op! inside the tree
Afterwards, a few of us went down the hill to rent some bikes, which we got to ride around for a little bit. Never are you reminded of how out of shape you are until you get on a bike and have to ride around hilly areas for long periods of time. Gillian and I have bikes and ride them daily around our neighborhood but this apparently has done nothing to boost our physical stamina, as we were both exhausted after only a few minutes of pedaling. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun, but definitely tiring, and we only lasted 20 minutes or so around the gardens. Once everyone was done wandering around, we spent about 30 minutes at a “craft market,” which was really just a busy street lined with vendors on either side. It looked like and reminded me exactly of the “craft market” we went to in Kumasi. I got a really cool fabric patchwork oversized duffel bag which I will use as my carry on (since heaven knows I have far too much stuff).

Tonight is Gillian’s mom’s last night in Ghana…which everyone is really sad about. She’s brought such a joy to our house, despite getting sick herself for a few days. No worries though, she is feeling better. Anyway, tonight, as a parting dinner, she took me and Gillian to the Golden Tulip, a REALLY nice, REALLY expensive five star hotel in Accra. And it really is nice. I opened the menu, and as pathetic as this sounds, I literally had to hold back tears when I read the words “Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo” on the menu. It was the most American menu I have seen since I’ve been here, with dishes ranging from mashed potatoes to bacon burgers to all kinds of normal salads. I was in HEAVEN. Our dinner was accompanied by a piano player, and for an hour, I honestly did feel like I was in some ritzy hotel in America. The fettuccini was delicious, but even if it sucked, I would’ve appreciated it just the same. Just the fact that I ate something called chicken fettuccini was enough for me. Anyway, it was the perfect ending to a great few weeks spent with Barb.

We only have twelve days left—can’t believe it! This week will be busy spent writing papers and doing all sorts of projects and presentations. But Gillian and I have planned out our week so we won’t get stressed out. I only have two finals this semester, and they’re the last two days I’m here (one is the morning of the night I leave). But I’ve decided I will not stress out, so that’s that.

I hope all is well at home. I know Meredith’s graduation luncheon was today—I hope it went well and I wish I had been there! Can’t wait to see most of you so very soon!

love love love