Day 31

Friday morning (for later reference, that is July 22nd), I tried to sleep in. I had my first class for the day at 10:30, so this seemed like an amazing opportunity to wake up a little later than 5AM. Though this was my hope, of course it did not become my reality, as, by 6AM, it was hard to ignore the yelling, singing, and clanging occurring in my room. By 7 I had given up, and I jokingly told Peace that she must be “the loudest girl in the world.” Ironically, she didn’t hear me, and shouted back “WHAT? WHAT AUNTIE RACHEL? WHAT DID YOU SAY?” I rolled my eyes and started to get ready for my day. 

Mariana decided to skip assembly that morning, so I chose to play hooky alongside her and take my time getting dressed. I had a bowl of cereal with some banana that I had bought the night before, and then hung out around the room—grading, editing photos, and playing some more Sudoku. I did this until 10:30, and then headed up to Class 5.

Because graduation is now drawing near, the already excessive amount of practices has recently reached an all time high. My Class 5 kids were scattered amongst various dancing, singing, and acting rehearsals, though thankfully I had Sir Gideon’s permission to borrow them for my class. By 11AM we had all convened. Suddenly, I realized that I had forgotten to take Class 6’s photos from their memory cards the day before, so I spent the first 10-15 minutes of class copying the contents of their cards, which Perlin so graciously helped me with by handing me the cameras one by one. Mariana and I have a feeling that Perlin might be gay, and the other kids feel similarly as they often tease him for how “girly” he is. I think he’s an amazing kid—he always helps me out, does his homework, and is kind to his classmates—so I’ve really taken a special liking to him. When Perlin and I had finished going through all of the cards, we passed the cameras out and I explained the caption assignment. One student named Kerry had been misbehaving since the start of the class (he showed up late, then proceeded to walk on the desks and play with his camera when I asked him not to), so I told him that he would have to give up his camera to one of the two girls that normally has to share with someone else. I asked another student, Apoakwah, if he could please let the other girl borrow his camera, while he shared with Emmanuel. Though I didn’t like having to punish Kerry (and even sort of Apoakwah, though he did nothing wrong), I felt good seeing how excited Joyce and Stephanie were to finally have their own cameras. The two of them (as well as Ruth and Christiana, in Class 6) have been so amazing about having to share, that I’ve decided to let them take cameras home over the school vacation, since they weren’t able to take cameras home over the weekend like everyone else. Though I’d give it to them for less time if I were able to, the vacation is a whole month, so I am really hoping that I can trust them to take the cameras for so long (I mean, there’s quite a big difference between taking them for 2 days and for 30!). 

It took me about half an hour to explain the assignment, so it was nearing 11:30 as we left the school gates. I gave the children from 11:30 until 12 to complete their work, and I then proceeded to meander around, keeping a distant eye on how the kids were doing. Out of everyone, I think that I was most impressed watching Adelaide and Perlin. While their other classmates gathered in groups of 3-5—I suppose a sort of strength in numbers tactic to make it easier to approach strangers—both Adelaide and Perlin set off on their own, boldly introducing themselves and taking many pictures before conquering their next interaction. I did not receive such a variety of images from anyone else in the class (most took one picture of their subject before moving on), though all except for one student did succeed in following the assignment guidelines, albeit loosely. At 12:30 I gathered all of the kids to head back to the classroom, and then spent from 12:30-1 going over the weekend camera rules.

 Perlin makes me proud during the caption assignment--approaching two men fixing a car and taking their photographs, all on his own! 

Perlin makes me proud during the caption assignment--approaching two men fixing a car and taking their photographs, all on his own! 

 Apoakwah and Maxwell write their captions as Caleb looks on.

Apoakwah and Maxwell write their captions as Caleb looks on.

 Hakeem photographs a woman making banku across from the school. 

Hakeem photographs a woman making banku across from the school. 

 Adelaide and Perlin team up; Adelaide interviews a local salon owner, while Perlin takes her picture from behind. 

Adelaide and Perlin team up; Adelaide interviews a local salon owner, while Perlin takes her picture from behind. 

Lunch break started at 1PM, so I made a peanut butter and banana sandwich using the leftover bananas I had from that morning. Honestly, I wish I was able to eat more of the meals that the school prepares (on average, I’d say I only eat about two meals prepared by the school a week), though the majority of the dishes the cooks prepare are made with fermented maize (which I am not a huge fan of) or are way too spicy for me to handle. It would certainly save me a lot of money to eat their meals, though I can’t say I’d be receiving any more nutrition than I do now, since literally everything they eat (that’s not chili pepper) is a carbohydrate... 

After eating, Mariana and I went to visit Mary. Though I pretty much just said I need to slow down with the clothes commissioning, I had two pieces of fabric left and couldn’t resist. This time, I asked Mary if she could make me a tank top from one piece of fabric, and pants (sort of like harem pants, though without the absurdly low crotch) from another. I’ve actually never seen anyone here (that’s not an obroni) wear patterned pants, so I am really crossing my fingers that Mary knows how to make them. Mary said that she would be done with everything by Wednesday, and I cannot wait to see her assuredly beautiful handiwork! On our way back to school, Mariana and I tried to visit a local camera shop, though they were closed. Mariana hoped to have them print a photograph of her and Quasi, and I needed to see how expensive it would be for me to print photos for the school’s graduation. As expected, there was no written indication of when the store would reopen, so we will try again Monday and hope for the best. 

When I got back to the school, I assumed that I would have another Miss Brainbirds practice at 1:30, as usual. But, when I went to gather my girls, I realized that they were all gone. Apparently, there had been a school-wide rehearsal earlier in the day, while I was in the middle of teaching Class 5. While I had heard that there would be a rehearsal on Friday, I was never told what time it would be at, nor asked what my schedule was and if/when I could practice. I didn’t much mind that we wouldn’t be able to practice that day, though apparently Teacher Albert was quite upset with me for having unknowingly missed the school-wide one. Mariana told me later that she heard him talking about me with Sir Gideon, saying how I’d better not miss the next rehearsal. Hearing this from Mariana was pretty annoying, as I feel like the teachers here are a little old to be talking behind peoples backs… if Teacher Albert really wanted me to come, couldn’t he come and tell/ask me himself? Of course, he will probably say nothing to me, so I am at least hoping that I will be notified of the next practice so that I can plan my upcoming class schedule around it.

Around 3PM, Mariana and I headed out for the Accra Mall. As I mentioned earlier, Mariana was having some troubles with her phone and wanted to take it to Vodafone to see if they could fix it. I told her I’d go along with her since, at 7PM, there was a dance performance I wanted to attend which was pretty close to the mall. After taking our first tro tro to Lapaz, we took a second towards Madina. Only a few minutes into our journey, a woman stood up and addressed everyone in the car. My Philadelphia mindset told me that this woman was going to introduce herself, tell a sad story, and then ask for money. How many times have we all seen that happen on a subway? But, this is Ghana, so she was really standing up to preach (and then to ask for money). Before long she was standing at the front of the bus, yelling and singing about Jesus. She even spoke in English every once in a while so that Mariana and I could join in with the constant pulse of Amens. For twenty minutes, she preached non-stop and then collected “donations” from almost everyone in the car. I thought the whole thing was pretty funny… like, only in Ghana right?

 A street preacher uses her hand as a microphone as she conducts an impromptu service in the Madina tro tro. 

A street preacher uses her hand as a microphone as she conducts an impromptu service in the Madina tro tro. 

We arrived at the mall around 4, and went straight to Vodafone. The line in the store was very long so, after putting Mariana’s name in, we walked upstairs to the movie theater to check the ticket prices. Children’s tickets were surprisingly not that cheaper than adult tickets, so I cringed a bit as the Silverbird employee told us our grand total, though I know that this is a one time, last hurrah of an outing so it warranted a bit of a splurge. From the theater, we walked back down to Vodafone, waiting half an hour until Mariana was seen. Unfortunately, they were not able to do anything for her and she was still virtually without Internet. She was pretty bummed out, but sadly there was nothing we could really do. 

Before we knew it, it was dinnertime, so we decided we might as well eat at the mall. I had a saladmaking this the first time in one month that I’ve actually had real vegetables. I was elated (can you tell from my use of italics?)In case I haven’t detailed this well enough yet, let me clarify that, due to the conditions of the water in Ghana, it is not advisable for travelers to eat vegetables and fruits that retain water (such as lettuce). What’s more, Ghana’s climate supports tropical fruits, though not really any vegetables. Because of this, vegetables are extremely expensive here because, in fancy restaurants, they must be imported. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to eat lettuce in my life. The salad was quite large, but I was so excited that I ate the whole thing in a matter of minutes—so fast that I had an awful stomach ache afterwards. It was worth it though! By the time we were finished eating it was already close to 6, so we packed up our things and headed for the dance performance. 

Elisabeth had invited me to the performance earlier in the week, entitled, “Resonating in the Moment.” The event was described as an exhibition of two new contemporary dance pieces, and I was so excited to go. The performance would be held in the Efua Sutherland Drama Studio (named after Elisabeth’s grandmother, a famous Ghanaian playwright), which was located at the University of Ghana. Apart from being eager to see the performance, I was thrilled to have an excuse to go to the university, as I’ve often admired how beautiful it is in passing. It didn’t take us long to get from the mall to the university, and we arrived around 6:20.

 An exterior view of the University of Ghana. 

An exterior view of the University of Ghana. 

As I remembered (from zooming past it in tro tros), the campus is stunning. Each building is white stucco with a Spanish-style red tiled roof. The front lawn features trees and fountains and, once we got inside the main gates, we saw a long, wide road framed on either side by beautiful trees. The drama studio is quite close to the university entrance, so we snuck inside to meet Elisabeth prior to the official door opening. The admission was 15 cedis for adults, and 5 cedis for students, though Elisabeth did us a solid and allowed Mariana and I to get in for the student rate. Because we weren’t actually supposed to be there until 6:40, we spent ten minutes wandering around the campus. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any pictures, as it was much too dark at this point, though I will definitely go back again at some point before I leave. We walked back to the studio just as the doors opened, and got front row seats (so I’d have an easier time taking photographs of the performance). While we waited for the show to begin, Mariana and I looked around at all of the beautiful dresses that the other attendees were wearing and gathered ideas for our next commissions (I’m sorry! I have a problem!). 

The show began a little after 7 and kicked off with an introduction from Liliona Quarmyne, the choreographer of both pieces. She explained that the first piece, performed by four dancers, was about how each of us are comprised of a million moments, and how each decision we make is influenced by the millions of decisions that came before it. The quote she used to describe it was: “Every breath, every moment, every interaction, every passing glance is a history of a million moments…” The dance itself included seven different sections, which flowed effortlessly into one another. Though certainly abstract, the narrative was easier to follow than I anticipated, and it was clear to me that the dancers were embodying a variety of moments that came together into one entity, then broke apart into others, then came together again as a form of resolution. Fortunately, the lights were bright enough that I was able to take many pictures during the performance, as I (rightfully) anticipated that my verbal description would not do the exhibition justice.

 Liliona Quarmyne introduces the first piece she choreographed, "We Are Every Moment."

Liliona Quarmyne introduces the first piece she choreographed, "We Are Every Moment."

 Cynthia Onoma, Ebenezer Nii Aqwei Addotey, Jeremiah O. Atcheah, and Stephen Kofi Agyekum perform in the first dance. 

Cynthia Onoma, Ebenezer Nii Aqwei Addotey, Jeremiah O. Atcheah, and Stephen Kofi Agyekum perform in the first dance. 

After the first dance, “We Are Every Moment,” concluded after half an hour, the second piece, “Resonances of a Warrior Boy,” began. This second dance was performed solely by Liliona, and was more about the importance of ancestry. The context for the piece given in the programs reads: “…in the dialogue between the past and the present, what stories reside within? Who lives inside us, and how do we carry them? This piece is a personal exploration of ancestral memory, a circular pause in the line between past and future…” Again, the narrative was easier to follow than I thought it would be, and I (believe I) saw the dance evolve from a primitive state, to a tribal mentality, then culminating in the strong, “warrior boy” mentioned in the title. One thing I really loved about both dances was that, at some points, music played, though at other points it was completely silent. When the music played I hadn’t even noticed that I was splitting my attention between viewing and listening, because when this option was taken away from me I felt like I was so much more engaged in witnessing the performance. The silence succeeded in making the dancers’ every movement seem so much more monumental, and this was such a cool juxtaposition to experience.   

 Liliona performs "Resonances of a Warrior Boy." 

Liliona performs "Resonances of a Warrior Boy." 

After the conclusion of “Resonances of a Warrior Boy,” Liliona took the time to speak intimately about her choreography (a major plus to having a super-small audience). At this point, Quasi finally showed up and sat next to us. He missed pretty much all of the dancing, which Mariana was not very happy about. Since he is not my boyfriend, I didn’t really care, I was just happy to be there. Liliona took questions from the audience and, from her answers, I was able to better understand her intentions in choreographing these pieces. She explained, beautifully, how important she feels it is to understand who you are and where you came from. She then told us about her great grandfather, who came from the Northern Region of Ghana. When he was just a young boy, he was enslaved and taken all throughout the country as a servant. After many, many years, he was eventually able to rise above the conditions he was forced into and became a business owner, and then later a tribe leader. By the time that he died, he was a revered leader and was known by many for his strength and dedication. Liliona reminded us that it is important to understand the history of your family so that you can better understand yourself; she was so inspired in learning of her great grandfathers life that she was thus inspired to create “Resonances of a Warrior Boy” so that she could greater embody his legacy. She had a wonderful manner of speaking, and it was really amazing to hear her explain her influences. She also let us in on the secret that the dancers in the evening’s first performance, “We Are Every Moment,” had only six days to learn the piece—a full half hour of dancing with little to no pauses in between moves. This was astounding to me as the dancers were so in sync that you would’ve thought they’d been working together for years.

When Liliona’s Q&A session ended, it was nearing 9PM. Before Quasi, Mariana and I left the university, Quasi asked if we’d like to see his sister, who was temporarily living at the university to be closer to her study groups (since final exams are nearing). We walked to her dorm to meet her, and were showed around her hall and room. His sister is so sweet and very easy to talk to. Graciously, she offered me her room at her parent’s house for the evening, so that I could go back with Quasi and Mariana to his house and not have to go all the way back to the school on my own. After saying our goodbyes, we took two tro tros to Quasi’s parents house, and I was given the key to his sister’s room. I can’t even explain to you how nice it was to have a room to myself, and to have quiet and darkness, and a fan. I had slept in her room once before, when I first got to Ghana, so I was expecting all of these conveniences, though I now appreciated them even more.