Today was my first day here that I didn't have classes, so I got to sleep in until 8AM instead of 5AM. Though 8 is still pretty early, it was a major score. After quickly eating breakfast and getting ready for the day, Mariana, Becky and I left for Makola Market. As we were leaving, we noticed that the boys in the school yard were running around holding large poles. When we asked them what they were doing, they said that a dog had made its way into the yard and they were trying to chase it out. I told them please not to kill the dog (and said that I did not think all of these poles were necessary), and then we went on our way. We took two tro tros to Makola, which is about half an hour away. Makola is a super large outdoor bazaar that sells everything from food, to clothing, to cleaning supplies. It was very difficult to weave in between all of the shoppers and sellers at some points, and I was yelled at a lot for accidentally blocking people's ways as I repeatedly stopped to look at patterned fabrics.
At one point, as I was pushing past a crowd of people in the market, I felt a hand on my backpack and suddenly Mariana started yelling. Apparently, a man had managed to squeeze himself in between Mariana and I and had started to unzip the front pocket of my backpack. As soon as she started yelling, half a dozen others joined in. I turned around to face this guy and was not very worried (after years of traveling, I know that the front pocket of your bag is where the thieves always go, so I put my stuff in the bottom of my back pocket instead). Though there was really no cause for alarm as I knew nothing had been taken, it was really amazing to see how quickly the shop keepers rallied behind me. Men and women appeared from out of thin air to yell at the man and pat him down, and the police showed up within minutes. After a quick check I was able to confirm to everyone that it was okay and he had not taken anything, though I was more amazed at how quickly everyone had come to my rescue than I was upset that this man had tried anything. I honestly don't think that passersby would have acted the same way in Philadelphia, where I have seen so many women harassed on the subway or street yet no one steps in on their behalf.
After this incident, Mariana and I looked through the fabrics and selected some to have made into custom dresses. The fabric was extremely cheap (about 2USD a yard) and I got enough to make two dresses, two tops, and one skirt. We took a tro tro back from the market and Mariana and I stopped to have lunch in Lapaz while Becky continued on to Circle to pick up some school forms. Becky started taking education certification classes quite a while ago, but she needed to stop school and take the job as the cleaning lady at Brainbirds in order to make money. She has been doing this job for quite some time now, but she has now decided to take the steps towards going back to school and I am so proud of her for this.
After the tro tro dropped Becky off, Mariana and I continued on. I picked up a meat pie on the street to have later, and then Mariana and I ate at a cheap restaurant called Las Palmas. At Las Palmas, they have this very cool system where you simply tell them how much money you would like to spend and then what you would like to eat. For example, Mariana told them that she wanted to spend 6 cedes and then ordered rice, salad, fish, and sauce. I was not super hungry, so I told them I wanted to spend 4 cedes before ordering rice, beans, plantains, and sauce. As I'm sure you guessed, they modify how much food they put on your plate based on how much you are spending, which I feel is such a cool business model.
After a delicious meal, we returned back to the school to see a dozen students and two teachers eating small hunks of meat on plates. While Mariana went inside the apartment to lay down, I asked them what kind of meat they were eating since the school almost never serves meat. Disclaimer: the next couple of paragraphs are going to get VERY gross. Seriously, don't read on if you get squeamish!
When I asked the kids what meat they were eating, they responded to tell me that they were eating dog. At first, I did not believe them. I laughed it off and said yeah, of course, you're joking, and then I left to take some photographs around the school. When I came back about fifteen minutes later, I heard someone else say something about a dog. I asked the kids again, "you're joking, right? You're not actually eating dog." The kids insisted that they were, but I seriously could not fathom how this could be true. Peace, one of the little girls that lives with me, explained to me that it was the same dog the boys had been chasing in the morning. I was in disbelief. I yelled at the boys, reminding them that I had told them not to kill the dog. I kept asking again and again, "How could you do this? Why?" The kids and teachers seemed so at peace that I really did not think they could be telling the truth.
When Mariana caught wind of what had happened, she stormed out of the room to yell at the boys and teachers. She kept asking "How could you do this? How can you say that you are good Christians when you go out and kill? Why?" etc. Mariana's reaction was so extreme (and I'll admit, rightfully so), that it almost made me take my reaction down a notch. I tried to consider why the boys would have done this. Though killing a dog would not be acceptable in America, I think that the general consensus is a bit different here. What's more, these kids get no meat nor nutrition from their daily meals. Because the school does not have a refrigerator, they are forced to prepare meals that will keep well in heat, i.e. beans, rice, nuts, and maize. The children are never fed protein and they do not have the money to purchase it on their own. While I was still appalled that people I knew had actually killed a living thing, I tried to approach the situation as calmly as possible and see how I could learn from it.
I asked the school's security guard, Dennis, to tell me where and how they had killed the dog. Apparently, the dog had gotten behind a shed where they keep firewood. The dog could not get out on its own, so the boys used the opportunity to kill the dog with the wood. I asked if there was any blood I could see (I still needed to confirm to myself that they were not joking with me), and they showed me a few spots of blood on the floor. This evidence was not enough to convince me, so I asked for more. I asked, "Where did you put the head?" Dennis answered, "Over the wall. There is a river behind the school." When I remarked that it did not seem sanitary to put a dead animal in water, he reminded me that the water is filled with trash and has never been sanitary enough to drink or bathe in. When I peaked over the wall, the facts were confirmed. I actually saw the dog's intestines hanging from a tree over the river, and I also saw one of its legs on top of a bush. These things were obviously disgusting, though I did not react as emotionally as I had anticipated. As a former vegetarian, killing animals is something that I really, down to my core, do not think is right. That being said, I am a guest in a new country and just because I would not do something does not mean I can expect that others will not do it either. This is something I have been trying to work on for some time now--way before my trip to Ghana--and, though this is a surprise to me as well, I think I am finally at a point where I am able to accept differences in opinion/action without passing judgement. Kind of crazy, right? Seems like ya girl is growing up.
A few hours after the dog incident, Mariana took me out for my first night out on the Ghanaian town. Mariana has been dating a boy she met here named Quasi for about two months now, so we took the tro tros to a town called Osu to meet up with him and his friend, Victor. Mariana had told me a lot about Quasi already, so I knew that he is a professional basketball player and works at an American university in Accra. Quasi is much more educated than the teachers at the school as well as less religious. What's more, he is from a family of more wealth than those of the teachers (if I had to guess, I'd say he is probably upper middle class), so his way of life is much more similar to mine and Mariana's. It was great meeting Quasi as he is very easy to talk to. His friend Victor is also very nice--he is a professional pianist who actually lived in Boston, Massachusetts for one year when he attended Berklee College of Music. Mariana, Quasi, Victor and I got a quick bite to eat on Oxford Street in Osu, which is a more affluent part of the town. The street had lots of fast food restaurants, shops, a super market, and a few bars. Though I am now much happier living in Israel Alhaji, it is somewhat comforting to know that there are many other parts of Ghana that feel more like home.
The four of us went back to Victor's apartment, which is very nice. His place, which he lives in alone, is probably about the same size as the place that I share with all of the other teachers and students at Brainbirds. We spent the night eating french fries, drinking wine, and talking about deep topics such as how it feels to grow up in Africa when all of the television shows that you watch feature primarily white casts (Quasi told me this didn't actually bother him, which I was surprised to hear). I also learned from Quasi and Victor that it actually is not common practice in Ghana to kill dogs, though I am still trying my hardest not to pass judgement as I know that desperate times call for desperate measures.
We were having such a great time hanging out that we did not realize how late it had gotten and, since Mariana was planning to stay over at Quasi's house, I did not feel comfortable venturing back to Brainbirds on my own. Fortunately, Quasi's sister was out of town and I was able to sleep in her bed. It was really great to have a full bed all to myself (I have a twin bed at the school), a fan, and a modern bathroom at my disposal... even if it was just for one evening. It's the little things, right?