As I’m sure you all have noticed, I’m running a few days behind on my blog. Right now I am currently on Day 16 of my trip, though unfortunately the last day I was able to blog about (due to power failures and general business) was Day 11: this past Saturday, July 2nd. For efficiency purposes, I am going to try to knock out Days 12, 13, and 14 today. Hopefully I will be able to keep up a little more in the future, though I suppose only time will tell!
On Sunday, July 3rd, I was woken up quite early again. This time, it was not because of a funeral, but because Becky was hollering at the top of her lungs. Before I understood what was going on or why she was upset, I snapped, “Becky! Why are you screaming?! It’s 4AM! Some people are sleeping!” Becky was quick to explain that she had good reason to yell. Apparently, Alice had wet her bed… and so much so that it had leaked through her mattress and onto Becky, who sleeps on the bottom bunk beneath her. Becky woke up to pee drips falling on her. I’ll admit: that's a pretty good reason to yell. Becky slapped Alice upside the head, hollered a bit more, and then ordered Alice to take her mattress outside to clean.
While I normally am a bit horrified at how harshly the teachers treat the students here, I found my feelings to be a bit more conflicted in this situation. I didn’t think it was necessarily fair to blame Alice so severely for something that was clearly unintentional. When I was younger and peed the bed, my parents were upset but altogether understanding; they explained to me why I should try not to let it happen again, but they cleaned everything up calmly and did not further the embarrassment I was already experiencing. That being said, I was much younger than Alice whenever this happened. I was 3 or 4, maybe even 5 the last time it happened. Alice is already 8. What’s more, I think it can be universally agreed upon that it is not a good feeling to wake up to pee dripping on you… so I can understand why Becky was super angry. At the end of the day, I’m not really sure if I feel that Alice’s treatment was or was not deserved… so I think that I will simply accept that I do not need to have an answer or opinion on everything that happens here.
After eventually drifting back to sleep, I read a bit in bed before forcing myself up to do my laundry. As I’ve said before, hand washing a weeks worth of laundry takes a while. I am a pretty impatient person (and have been hopelessly spoiled by my washing machine) so, though I did my laundry on my own this time, I don’t necessarily think that I took all of the care that I could in washing and wringing my clothes. I did everything I was told to do, but admittedly rushed the process a bit out of sheer restlessness. When my laundry was done, I hung out a bit more and did some Sudoku outside in the schoolyard. I tried to teach Sir Cornelius (the ARAME, African Religion and Moral Ethics, teacher) how to play, though he wasn’t readily grasping onto the rules and it took a while for him to get the hang of it.
Around 6PM, I headed out to meet up with my friend Frederick. Frederick was one of the translators that helped our Global Brigades group the last time that I was in Ghana. While I’d love to meet up with all of the translators at some point or another, it was easiest to make plans with Frederick since the medical school he goes to is in Accra. I suggested that we go to Las Palmas, the restaurant that I’ve been to several times in Lapaz, but he alternately suggested Ashanti Home Touch. I was not sure where this restaurant was located, and he could not properly explain to me how to get there, but I vowed to figure it out. Upon getting off the tro tro in Lapaz, I asked several women I passed in the street if they could direct me. Most of the answers I got were a point “this way,” though not very specific. Finally, I found a kind soul who walked me right up to the restaurant. It turned out to be super close to Las Palmas. Frederick and I were so happy to see each other and decided not to eat right away so that we could catch up first.
We sat outside and talked a bit, but unfortunately it did not take take long before conversation started to dwindle. Frederick is a super nice guy, but we don’t know each other extremely well. We only worked together for four days, and that was over two years ago. While we both had great intentions going into the conversation, I felt in the back of my head that our interaction was a little forced and that we weren’t talking about anything very substantial (for example, “How’s school going?” was asked about three times on both sides). After a semi-long lull, we walked into the restaurant to have a look at the menu.
I felt really badly about this, but I was not super hungry. Just before I had left to meet Frederick, Gideon had given me a fried bean snack to try. It was really good, but I probably shouldn’t have eaten it right before I had dinner plans. I nervously asked Frederick if he’d mind if I didn’t eat, which thankfully he was okay with. He chose to order potato chips, which was really funny to me for two reasons. First of all, “potato chips” are actually what they call French fries here. What’s more, the fries came with chicken, though this was not readily advertised. Instead of the menu listing chicken (with a side of fries), it listed fries (with a side of chicken). I found it so funny that the fries (“chips”) were the star of the meal. Frederick loved his meal and, while he ate, we took silly pictures to send to the Global Brigade-ers and continued to talk.
At this point, our conversation became a little more in-depth, though in a weird way. We started to talk about money, which was interesting yet somewhat inappropriate. The topic was brought up after I mentioned that I hoped to have one of the other translators accompany me back to the village I had worked with two years ago. When I said this, Frederick asked me how much I was planning to pay the translator. I was really taken aback by this as I consider the translators my friends. We have all kept in touch on Facebook and, if I were to visit and hang out with them for an entire weekend, I would assume that a two hour detour to the village would be a favor that they would do for me as a friend. If a friend at home asked me if I could please look over an essay for them, though it would technically be work on my part, I wouldn’t dare charge them for my efforts. Apparently it is not really the same here. Frederick explained to me that if you ask someone to help you with something in Ghana, it is expected that you will give them something in return. This realization put a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, since as an Obroni abroad I feel that I am always expected to give. I do understand that I have the capacity to give, but it would be nice to know that, if I need help with something, people will assist me because they respect and care for me, and not just because I have something to offer. I will definitely have to discuss this with my translator friends. I mean, I’d be happy to buy them a dinner for their efforts, though paying a friend an hourly wage seems a little weird to me.
Beyond money, Frederick also let on that he has a few misconceptions about America. For example, he did not seem to understand that going to college for a “promising” degree would not automatically result in a job. When I explained to him that friends of mine studied engineering and business, he was quick to comment on how rich they will be. I tried to clarify to him that, though these friends will probably get jobs (and I hope that they do), it is not as if being American guarantees that you will be rich one day. I know so many people that studied to be doctors and lawyers who cannot find jobs. While I could be wrong, it seemed to me that Frederick assumed every American to be on a path to affluence. That’s not to say that there are not many wealthy Americans (there are), but not everyone in America is afforded the same opportunities. I in no way mean to make the point that America is worse off than Ghana, but we do have a pretty big wealth divide as well as somewhat high unemployment and poverty rates. Something I feel I am constantly doing here is explaining to people that America is not flawless; it has problems, just as every country does. Frederick was also under the impression that American children receive money from the government each year up until they turn 18. I had to tell him that this is definitely not true—Americans give a large amount of money to their government, but they have a very difficult time getting it back. If what he said is true, I’d like to know where my 18 years of payments have gone. (Mom? Dad?)
All in all, it was a good dinner albeit a bit awkward at times. Frederick is a very sweet guy and he really seemed to enjoy our time spent hanging out. When he finished his meal, he walked me to the tro tro and I headed home. On my way back, he sent me a list of activities that his friend had suggested he show me. Apparently, there are a group of exchange students at Frederick’s college whom the school has arranged various trips for so that they can get to know the country better. Frederick’s friend suggested that I take a look at the list and see if I would like to join any trips, since the cost of traveling with a group will likely be much lower than if I went anywhere on my own. I thought this to be a very good suggestion, and I will definitely look into going on some of these trips.