Monday, December 8, 2008

A month

There are pleasures to living in the tropics. Today is Eid, the Muslim holiday that marks the beginning of the Haj and it’s a national holiday to round out the four day election weekend. I carted my computer to a small hotel/restaurant overlooking the ocean in central Accra to work and write a bit and am enjoying the environment. It’s hot, but as I hear about icy winds from back home, I am content in a tank top, the breeze blowing through the palm trees and into the veranda.

As usual, the days and weeks pile against each other and a month slips by almost without notice. I’ve been keeping busy and it’s a pleasant enough routine. I enjoy work and am busy with it during the week. In the evenings there’s either dinner with the friend or two I have, or the gym and fueling my addiction to Weeds or The Wire with the pirated DVD’s widely available on the street. I’ve also gotten to take a few day or overnight trips out of the city.

I went with an IFPRI visitor Jiun, and Alfred and his daughter to a town about three hours away called Cape Coast on a Saturday a few weeks ago. The two major “tourist” attractions there are a terrifying canopy walk 100 ft into the rainforest of the Kakum National Park and the remnants of the slaving forts left behind by the Dutch and the British, who used this coast as a major point of departure for people forcibly transported from West Africa to Europe and the Americas. It’s a tragic history, and the experience of coming in out of a personally pleasant Saturday to stand in the same physical space in which other human beings suffered enormously is eerie and hard to put words to – similar to when I toured Robben Island, or what I would imagine Auschwitz would be like. That the soil on the floor of some of the cells was the decomposed human waste from the captives who were held in fetid conditions quickly brought the reality of the place home.

For Thanksgiving, my friend Lauren and I did our best to recreate the traditional American meal and cobbled together a guest list to enjoy it. After trekking through the local market, the super market, and the American commissary, we were actually able to get most everything – we had turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, yams, mac and cheese, even cranberry jello. While we flirted with the idea of buying a live fowl to slaughter (with the help of Mercy, Lauren’s maid), we quickly thought the better of it and went with the frozen bird we found at Max Mart. We found two bosses, and a few neighbors to give us a reason for cooking the feast. I also got to talk to many of those I am thankful for back home, in the spirit of the day.

Last weekend, Lauren, Eric and I went back to Ada Foah the beautiful beach/estuary at the mouth of the Volta River that I had been to with much event last time I was here (see below). This visit was more chill this time, but just as beautiful. I also realized how much, um, nicer it is travelling with other people. Being in the same place with others that I had once visited alone, you realize the richness that social nuance inscribes on a place. I of course know this, but it’s good to be given occasion to remember it, especially for someone who has a bit of a travel bug. This Saturday I spent the afternoon visiting with Comfort’s family – the wonderful Ghanaian woman who lives with my grandparents in New Jersey and remembered why I love playing with children and why I like but do not love fufu.

More updates coming soon, but in the meantime I posted some pictures here and here.

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