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week 10   (published in Ghana)

November 9, 2017 by   Comments(0)

Friday: Yet another right to play. I got a sunburn and bitten multiple times by a really cute four year old, but I beat my co-worker in a shoot-off so it was all worth it. Back at the office, I got to talk to one of the PA employees and hear about her life in Ghana. She met her husband at school in London, and moved to Ghana seven years ago. She now has a son who is attending preschool and noted that it was unfair how money could buy such superior education even at that young age. Her story just made me think about how wild it would be to pack up and move your life somewhere else. She's created a whole new life here and seems very happy, but has had to adjust so much. I admire her bravery and the way she's leaped into Ghana with open arms. Speaking of (overly) open arms, this evening we went to a new bar to meet one of our volunteer's coworkers. He was a man in his 30s, and my first impression of him was him grabbing a waitress by the breast and saying "see I can do this, only for me". I thought hmmmm where have I heard this before..cough cough Trump. I was horrified, and looked at the woman to see if she needed help. She didn't say anything, but was smiling as if all was well and they knew each other. As uncomfortable as myself and my fellow volunteers were, we decided not to say anything because perhaps it was a cultural thing and not a big deal. Unfortunately the next thing this man did was look at my two friends and I, inspect our breasts closely, then decree that none of ours were big enough for him, and he preferred the waitress' because they were large enough to "eat up". 1. I've never had anyone in my life tell me my boobs were small, so that was jarring to begin with. 2. WHO THE HELL DOES THIS MAN THINK HE IS. I racked my brain thinking am I being judgemental, is this culture shock, how would this go over back home, and no matter what I asked the answer I came up with was no, this man is just disgusting. He may have been drunk, but this was our first time meeting him, and it was completely unacceptable for him to objectify us like that. We then left, because I didn't want to make work awkward for my fellow volunteer by punching his coworker in the face. 

Saturday: Today my friends and I went to Jamestown, a very poor fishing community a few towns away. At first I wasn't dying to go because the big attraction is the lighthouse, and I'm lucky enough to live a few blocks from one back home. However, I am so glad Claire dragged me out of bed to go. We arranged for a walking tour with a guide, and upon arrival a man welcomed us and began showing us around. Having a bad feeling, I took Claire's phone to call our guide, and sure enough, this man was not him. Luckily he didn't take us far and our real guide quickly arrived. He did an amazing job answering all of our questions, sharing the history of the town with us, and making sure we were comfortable. What I liked most about the tour was that it was not a mindless march from monument to monument, but rather a walk through the community itself. He lived right in the middle of it, so everyone said hi to him and welcomed us. We learned how the fishing boats were made, how the fish were caught, and how they were dried or smoked and sold. Unfortunately all the pollution in the community is decreasing the fish population, making the business more and more competitive. It is easy for one to say "stop polluting" or "do something else", but these families have been fishing for generations on generations, and have no infrastructure in place to address the colossal issue of pollution. Our guide was a big promotor of education for the youth, which sounds like the best hope for Jamestown to thrive. A particularly interesting sight was a smoking facility that had been put in place by some Australian foundation. The guide informed us that it was completely unsuccessful because it didn't take into consideration how the people here actually smoked the fish. So while meaning well, this was a case of westerners assuming that we know best and "helping" without actually doing anything beneficial because we didn't take the time to ask the people what they need. I'm just glad it wasn't America for once. Overall my opinion of the day was the sun was hot, the fish were smelly, and we almost were in a car accident, but I really loved being there. It was completely different from where we stay, and such a cool feeling to be immersed in it. 

Sunday: Feeling ambitious two days in a row, I dragged the volunteers to Bojo Beach, since my coworker agreed to take us. Our journey started with a tro to the major junction of Circle, where we would meet said friend. Unfortunately we asked directions from two men who then followed us five blocks to the meeting place. These men stood with us for a half hour attempting to convince us to go somehwere with them. What started out as politely explaining that we were meeting a friend at this spot and therefore were not moving, eventually escalated into me up in their face yelling that they needed to leave us the #$%^ alone. Somehow, these men STILL DIDN'T GET THE HINT. I was truly at a loss of what to do, since the only options remaining were physical violence. I have never felt so angry or helpless in my life. While we were not in danger, it was the simple fact that these men refused to accept our rejection and leave our presence. It was not until my coworker, a Ghanaian man, showed up that they finally left. I have talked with Ghanaians here who explained that men are socialized to be very persistent and not take no for an answer because women are socialized to be very passive and act uninterested to avoid looking easy, but at some point everyone has to understand that no means no. After that drama, we had another tro ride, followed by a taxi, followed by a boat crossing, before we finally reached Bojo Beach. Luckily, it was worth it. The beach was really clean and uncrowded, and having to take a boat to reach it made it that much more special.

Monday: Today's topic with the boys was english, and they had mentioned they wanted to red more real-life stories, so we brought in a short version of the story of Oprah. For those that don't know, Oprah had an extremely traumatic childhood, but somehow pushed herself to become the richest african-american in the world. The boys really appreciated and understood the story, as well as grasped how her life lesosns could be applied to their own situations. Peter the pastor, who translated, loved the story so much he stole a copy for himself. Tine and I were incredibly happy the boys enjoyed the lesson, and left the center feeling like we had done some good. After work, we went to a football match between two local towns, Teshi and PranPran. The field was absolutely packed with people, I've never seen anything like it. We moved towards one of the goals to get a better view, and found ourselves in the smokers section. We were already the only girls, also the only white people, and now the only people not smoking a joint. It was pretty hilarious. One old man behind us introduced himself as FBI and then answered all of our questions about the game as well as screamed encouragements to the players in my ear. It was definitely a bonding experience, and I really felt like part of the community.

Tuesday: Today Tine and I found ourselves alone with the boys. At first we were nervous because language would be a huge barrier, but luckly our lesson plan was math. We plit them up based on skill like last time, and helped them work through the problems. At first my boys thought the problems were way too hard, but once I showed them it was easier than it looked, they did a great job. At the end, we just spent time talking, and it was really nice to get to know them better. We talked about music, food, and they tried to teach us more Twi. One of them did ask me to bring him a phone, but laughed when I told him I wasn't a phone dealer so I think he got over it. Later in the afternoon, I went over by myself to play basketball with them while Tine did some more work. If I wasn't there, they would have been locked in their rooms, so they were really appreciative of the company. My basketball team won the game even though I was wearing a dress, and I think we won football too even though I was completely useless. They're clearly very sweet guys who got tied up in bad situations, and I really admire them for how they're handling it.

Wednsday: Today we brought in the declaration of universal human rights for the boys. Our translator took over a bit, and had us writing vocab words on the board instead of actually comprehending the document, but once he left we struggled through it on our own. There was a lot of pantomiming involved, as well as blank smiles from the boys who were too kind to admit they had no idea what we were saying. But we did our best, and that's all we can do. Later that afternoon my day was improved, because in the midst of a wild goose chase at three different pharmacies, a grandmother and mother came in with a four month year old who was the cutest thing ever. I don't even like kids, but this girl was so precious. She was waving and staring at us, then finally got brave enough to touch my skin to see if it felt different. All of a sudden she was crawling to my lap and the mom just handed her over for me to hold while they did their shopping. I was worried she'd get freaked out and start crying, but she sat with me for ten minutes just staring, poking my face, then bursting out in giggles randomly. She also started a game where she'd hit my face and I turned away, but she was stronger than she looked so I put a stop to that pretty quick. I had been feeling annoyed because of the pharmacy escapade, but meeting her reminded me that sometimes unpleasant things can lead to fun surprises. 

Thursday: Buckle up and get ready for a rant, folks. Today we arrived planning to do ICT with the boys, but the computer lab was closed, so Peter said we should go over the human rights again. A university student was there as well, so her and Peter assisted in translating our questions and explaining the document to the boys. Everything was fine and dandy, and we were ironically on the topic of discrimination and how we should all be treated the same, when all of a sudden Peter starts talking about today's calamity-gay sex. One of the people in the room happens to be gay, but Peter did not know, so you know it's about to get awkward. What ensued was the most painfully uncomfortable, infuriating, and morally challenging 45 minutes of my life. Peter went on and on and on about how homosexuality was a sin, unnatural, and "disgusting". When asked for our point of view, we politely stated that while we know it is not popular opinion in Ghana, our home countries happen to believe in gay rights, therefore it is very normal and accepted for the most part. We explained how we are taught homosexuality is not just about sex, it is about love. It is not something you choose, but are born with. And there are many very happy and loving gay couples that have families. Unfortunately, instead of the respectful disagreement we afforded him, we were met with more questioning and arguing. Some of these arguments included "poop comes out of your anus, why would you want to put your penis up there?". I couldn't help but inform him word on the grapevine is that most Ghanaian men love putting their penises up women's anuses, so he could ask them. He also argued that it is anti-procreation. We pointed out that the world is overpopulated. He then tried "women's hands are soft. men's hands are hard. if I come home from a long day of work, I want a woman's touch". I said "ooh that sounds nice, so you're saying I should marry a woman with soft hands?". We tried to change the subject multiple times, but to no avail. Instead, the topic shifted to questioning us about our religion. Tine and I are both baptized Catholics, but do not practice. Needless to say, this did not go over well. When they found out I didn't read the bible every morning, nor did I own a bible, they almost forcibly downloaded a bible app on my phone. Luckily, I had the excuse of lacking data. When all was said and done, we wasted an hour of the boy's time having a one-sided argument that left Tine and I very angry. I'm still having a hard time processing it because on one hand, I know that this is the point of view most people in Ghana are raised with in both religion and society. We come from very different backgrounds, and just because we were taught differently does not mean one is superior over the other. However, I simply cannot understand how one can read the bible that says "love thy neighbor", and agree with a constitution that bans discrimination, then turn around and condem those who are gay. At the very least, I expected someone with the level of education he has to know how to present his opinion in a respectful way, rather than insult and try to force his opinion upon others. I feel caught between wanting to defend something I so strongly believe is right, and keeping an open mind to make sure I am not writing off part of a culture I am privileged enough to be experiencing. Rant over.

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week 10
week 10