Day 32

Waking up Saturday, I felt great. My room was dark, it was silent, and I was able to sleep in as late as I wanted (which was only until 8AM… but still, that beats waking up at 5). This time, I didn’t get locked in Quasi’s sister’s room like I did last time, so that was also a major plus. While I waited for Quasi and Mariana to wake up, I took the time to do some blogging and also munched on some biscuits that I had bought the night before, having anticipated that they would sleep in. Around 10, Mariana texted me to tell me that they were awake. Unexpectedly, Quasi had to leave to go into town, as his basketball teammate’s father suddenly passed away and his friend wanted to be surrounded by his close friends on the team. Quasi hurried to meet his friend, and Mariana and I lounged around and enjoyed the air conditioning while we had it. When Quasi returned around noon, he brought a dozen eggs and some bread with him. I am the type of person who normally eats eggs about once (sometimes even two or three times) a day… though I’ve only had eggs twice in the month since I’ve been here… so I cannot even begin to explain how elated I was. Mariana, Quasi and I brought the eggs into his parent’s house and, while we were en route to the kitchen, I met Quasi’s father and brother.

 Details from Quasi's house

Details from Quasi's house

Mariana had warned me that Quasi’s father was a bit stony, though I shrugged the comment off without giving it much thought. When I actually came face to face with the man, I could not believe how correct she was. Weirdly enough, when I introduced myself and thanked him for having me, he responded with a loud, gruff, “What?!” After I repeated myself, I received a nod; I received no acknowledgement from his brother. Tough crowd, I guess. We continued on to the kitchen, where I volunteered to cook the eggs. As I served up omelets, Quasi chopped tomatoes and onions and Mariana made toast. Before long, we had a beautiful bounty before us. I shared the extra omelets I had made with Quasi’s brother and Auntie. Not surprisingly, I did not receive a response from his brother, though his Auntie was very gracious. The two of them ate in front of the television (I am not sure where Quasi’s father was at this point), and Mariana, Quasi and I ate at the kitchen table. In addition to our omelets and toast, Quasi also made us Milo (hot chocolate). Though it was delicious, I was surprised to be offered hot chocolate while it was so hot outside. Apparently it is only in America that hot chocolate is saved for the cooler months, because both Quasi and Mariana claimed that everyone they know drinks hot chocolate year round.

 One of many omelettes... 

One of many omelettes... 

While we feasted, I asked Quasi if he would be attending his friend’s father’s funeral the next day. Quasi’s answer really surprised me, as he informed me that it is not customary for Ghanaians to be buried so soon. Apparently, most of the deceased sit in mortuaries for months before their funerals; tribe leaders can even wait in morgues for over a year. Mariana and I were both extremely shocked to learn this information, as the same is not customary in our countries.  Knowing this, paired with what I had learned earlier about Ghanaian “wakes,” made me very interested in attending a Ghanaian funeral if only to investigate what other ways they differ from the ceremonies I have attended back home. 

After we finished our meal, we all got ready for the day. I packed up my overnight bag, and then we took a tro tro from Quasi’s house to Accra Central so that Mariana and I could watch Quasi’s weekly basketball game. Conveniently, the court his team would play on was only a 5-minute walk from Makola Market, so Mariana and I stopped by the market first so that she could buy some more fabric. Since Mariana is leaving so soon, she wants to have a few more dresses made within the next few weeks. As I illustrated earlier, having clothes made is becoming a bit of a weakness of mine, so I was easily talked into buying some fabric as well. Though we tried to find the same vendor we had bought fabric from when Becky had taken us to the market several weeks ago, the market is so large that we quickly became insanely lost. Having given up hope of finding the same exact shop, we resigned to wandering and hoped that we could find fabric we liked at one stand or another. Eventually we found one shop that had what we were looking for, and we each bought two things of fabric: one plain, and one batik. Overall, the market experience was pretty stressful as Mariana and I were constantly being grabbed at by shopkeepers, one woman began screaming at us to “go home” (at which point Mariana screamed back at her), and Quasi and Mariana were fighting about when we should head over to his game. I agreed with Mariana on the latter since, as it neared 4PM (the start time of his game), I could not understand why Quasi was still taking his time walking through the market.

 Women sell fabric at Makola Market.

Women sell fabric at Makola Market.

 It's a bit hard to capture in photos since it's so massive but, as you can sort of see here, Makola is incredibly hectic. 

It's a bit hard to capture in photos since it's so massive but, as you can sort of see here, Makola is incredibly hectic. 

 Another, equally crowded, corner of the market. 

Another, equally crowded, corner of the market. 

The reason for his leisureliness became clear later as, though we showed up to the court just after 4, the team did not even begin warming up for the game until 4:45; the game itself started just after 5. I’m not sure why it is still surprising to me to see that many Ghanaians do not care to stick to a strict schedule, as this is clearly becoming a pattern. While Mariana and I waited for the game to start, I ate the remainder of my biscuits and then climbed to the top of this random lifeguard stand that was situated at the edge of the court. From this stand, I photographed some young boys playing basketball in hopes that I could add the images to my #AccraFromAbove series.

 #AccraFromAbove outtakes 

#AccraFromAbove outtakes 

When the game finally began, the opposing team quickly pulled into the lead. They were pretty much crushing Quasi’s team (the Leopards), and Mariana and I were really worried that they would lose quite badly. However, it wasn’t long before the Leopards started to gain traction; by the second period, they were in the lead by a mile. At this point, I began to take some pictures of the game since I had promised Quasi a new profile picture of him playing. This ended up being excellent practice for me, as I never shoot sports yet know that I will have to in my future photojournalism career. I photographed all of the second period and most of the third before it started to rain, at which point I gathered my belongings and took a seat under one of the tents set up at the side of the court.

 Though the referee had an electronic scoreboard set up on a table by the side of the court, local kids still maintained a manual scoreboard. 

Though the referee had an electronic scoreboard set up on a table by the side of the court, local kids still maintained a manual scoreboard. 

 The opposing team (C.Y.O) attempts to stop the Leopards from making a basket. 

The opposing team (C.Y.O) attempts to stop the Leopards from making a basket. 

 Quasi goes in for a dunk. 

Quasi goes in for a dunk. 

 One of the few photos I was able to get of the third quarter, before the rain became too heavy.

One of the few photos I was able to get of the third quarter, before the rain became too heavy.

Though I wanted to keep taking pictures, the rain came at a somewhat convenient time as it was just starting to get dark anyway. Due to a rip in the tent roof, Mariana and I still received a decent amount of rain on us and were soon shivering underneath our new fabrics (used as makeshift umbrellas). Towards the end of the third period, the referee called for a short break so that they could see whether the rain would stop or not. After about twenty minutes, the rain slowed down enough for the boys to resume their game. What was originally supposed to be a 4-5PM game ended up becoming a 5-7PM game, with Quasi’s team celebrating a massive win over the other team. The Leopards’ team captain bought everyone small bags of food featuring one spring roll, one samosa, and one strawberry frozen yogurt. I was just complaining to Mariana how hungry I was, so it was amazing to receive some food, and for free! As the captain handed me my food, he told me that we should speak another time and then returned to his other teammates. I joked with Mariana that this free food/no talking thing was the type of flirting I could get behind. The spring roll and samosa were both delicious, and the frozen yogurt was surprisingly true to its name. Though I feel like most frozen yogurt in America tastes exactly like regular ice cream, this frozen yogurt was literally frozen yogurt, as in a carton of strawberry yogurt stuck in a freezer. That seems like a silly thing to say when I write it down now (of course frozen yogurt is frozen yogurt)… but I swear it is definitely different from the frozen yogurt I get back home. 

Around 7:30, Quasi and his teammates started to pack up and head out. Mariana chose to spend another night at Quasi’s house but I preferred to go back to the school, so I planned to take a tro tro back on my own. Mariana and Quasi were getting a ride back to Quasi’s house from Quasi’s friend Michael, who told me to hop in so that he could drop me off a little closer to the school. As the Accra Mall was on his way, Michael dropped me off there and I took a tro tro from the mall to Lapaz. This ride was pretty uneventful, though I cannot say the same about my ride from Lapaz to the school.

From the second I first got into the car, the mate would not leave me alone. He continually shouted “Obroni!” followed by long strings of Twi. While at first I tried to politely explain that I didn’t understand that much Twi, I became frustrated when his responses were met with laughter from the rest of the car. While I didn’t know what he was saying, it felt isolating to not be part of the “joke” (I say joke to be nice, though I know he was probably spewing things that were quite inappropriate). I tried to mind my own business and text on my phone, but I was interrupted every other minute by another cry of “Obroni!” Eventually, he switched to English, begging for me to marry him. I politely declined, and turned back to my phone. It had been a long day for me. I was cold, I was wet from the rain, and I was tired. However, no matter how many times I nicely asked the mate if he could stop hollering at me, he wouldn’t. I ignored him up until the point where the tro tro reached my stop, though at this point it was hard to disregard him since he literally blocked my exit and put his arm on mine to “help me out” of the car. I pushed his arm away, disgusted. I told him that he should probably have more respect for women and the word “stop,” though not even this put an end to his cat calling. When I finally got out of the car, I told him to fuck off. For me, I think the most disappointing part of the whole interaction was that every other person in the car could see that I was annoyed, could hear that I asked him to stop, could see that he blocked my way, yet didn’t say or do anything to try and stop him. I was upset about everything that had occurred, and I called my mom to talk it over.

On the phone, I aired out all of my grievances. I told her that it is frustrating to me that, to most people I meet, I do not deserve a name beyond “Obroni.” What’s more, it upsets me to think that my word is not often respected—that it doesn’t matter what I say, my “admirers” will still persist. It is not fun at all to feel as if people do not care about anything beyond the color of my skin—that it wouldn’t matter my name, my profession, my interests, or my personality… I would still receive “attention” because I am white. Of course, while I said all of this aloud, I noted that the negative attention I fall victim to as an obroni abroad cannot even compare to the prejudices, stereotyping, and labeling that minorities experience on a daily basis. That being said, I want to make the point that I am not experiencing racism. I’m not. The lack of respect I feel from men here (because I am white) can never outweigh the inherent privilege that I also receive (because I am white). But, I’m also not going to deny that it’s horrible to feel disrespected. When I am told, “I will take your number” and “I will marry you” more often than I am asked, “What is your name?” or “How are you?” that’s not okay in my book. I feel as if I’ve made this point again and again in my blog posts, though unfortunately it is not a problem that has yet gone away.

Thankfully, my mother approached the situation from a more logical perspective than I had. She reminded me that, though I was annoyed, I was safe (and she was right, I was uncomfortable, but there was no point in my ride that I didn’t feel safe). She also made the point that these men probably did not intend to disrespect me… they were just so excited to see an obroni (since they are not at all common in the area where I live). Hearing her frame the situation in this way made me feel like my experiences here could perhaps be compared to what a celebrity feels on a day-to-day basis. What I mean by that is most celebrities cannot enjoy a walk down a street without hearing their name called, being grabbed at, and being asked for pictures and autographs. Most people do not care to get to know celebrities on a very personal basis, they are instead interested in a quick “souvenir” in the form of a noteworthy conversation or a selfie. I don’t mean to say that because I am white I am a celebrity here, but I do feel that most people I meet would rather come away from our interaction with a cool story (“I asked her to marry me!”) than with knowledge about who I am and why I am here. Thinking about it in this way made me feel really badly for having cornered Jim Parsons at this bar mitzvah I photographed a few months ago… the poor guy was just trying to enjoy his night in the most normal way possible, and I’m sure it was so annoying for me to ask him for a selfie together. Jim, if you ever read this… I’m sorry!

Speaking with my mom made me feel a lot better. Though I still did have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, I came away from the conversation with an understanding that I am going to need to put up with interactions like this for another two months, and no matter how bent out of shape I get over them I am not going to change how the Ghanaian culture is nor how its people behave themselves. It’s a shame, but it is what it is. Having accepted this, I blogged for a bit and then fell asleep—extremely excited about the next day’s trip to the movies.