I dedicated an entire blogpost to Day 12 for two reasons. Firstly, Tuesday July 1st is a Ghanaian holiday. I’m not entirely sure of the details, but nobody went into work, meaning I had the day off. Secondly, a series of unexpectedly awesome events took place, and I feel the need to express such circumstances with great detail for your reading pleasure.
I attempted to sleep in seeing as I didn’t have to depart for work before sunrise, but unfortunately, awoke with the sun around 7:30 a.m. I wasn’t feeling particularly well, so I cooked some breakfast and browsed social media websites. The pouring rain outside made for a less than favorable day-off forecast, but it was the perfect atmosphere to fall back asleep. I awoke for the second time around noon feeling refreshed and energized (I’m just perpetually exhausted on this trip and it seems as though my tiredness finally caught up with me). The rain had stopped and there’d been talks of tro-troing down to Osu (the location of my internship) to wander around, find some local street food, and explore. Osu is roughly 20 minutes away with no traffic (and traffic is essentially nonexistent on Saturdays and Sundays), and boasts quite the array of eateries, nightclubs, and shopping centers. After overhearing that a tailor planned to drop by the house around 2 p.m. to take measurements for custom-fit clothes, all ideas of heading towards Osu were put on pause. Myself and those without fabric braved the now scorching heat to wander up the road and purchased some yards from nearby stores.
Fabric in Ghana is so ridiculously cheap – I buy one yard for the equivalent of $2-3 USD. After picking out two different patterns, I headed home and placed my order. The total was $13 for a customized pair of shorts and a shirt. Not to mention free delivery within three days. The speed and skill of this tailor is unbelievable – 20+ years practice most definitely shows. I will order more clothing in the future, and I believe everybody else feels the exact same way. I’ll surely stick out like a sore thumb back in Oregon, but I don’t blend in here, and I’d like to think my current situation is a tad more noticeable.
It’s around 3 p.m. at this point and I overhear some friends discussing the possibility of a beach party to celebrate the Ghanaian holiday. One of my friends, Sumi, knows a guy who is Ghanaian and attends the University of Oregon, but comes home every summer. Walking the line between wanting to go out or taking a nap, several of us decided to embrace spontaneity and give this beach celebration a ‘go,’ We took a taxi to the Osu Shell Gas Station; drivers in Accra (and Ghana) do not use fancy GPS systems or street routes/names (seeing as there are no street signs). Instead, directions are given based off landmarks and large tro-tro junctions. Strangely, I find this method of transportation rather efficient. I always have trouble memorizing street names and giving directions, so having the ability to navigate via visual memory comes easily and conveniently. Sumi’s friend Jonas picked us up at this gas station, and we headed off to some undisclosed destination.
I don’t know exactly where Jonas drove, except that our car twisted and turned throughout a sea of cars and motionless streets for quite some time. After parking what seemed like 30 minutes later, we eagerly hopped outside and walked through a series of gates and security checkpoints. We were given wristbands and I felt like a VIP going through some back entrance of a grand scale event. I heard sounds of the waves in the distance.
This is where we ended up:
We emerged to find a large oceansidde extravaganza. Hundreds of people, food stands, and wild animals filled this gated-in celebration. Immediately the five of us were guided to an upper deck, seated at a large table overlooking the ocean, and handed complimentary beers. I didn’t really understand but definitely wasn’t fighting this treatment. After overlooking the scenery we decided to make our way to the dancefloor, and found ourselves in a dance-off with some local children. All surrounding adults and various other persons took pictures and video. Imagine 100+ eyes fixated on you and your dance moves. I felt like a zoo animal…am I just some mere form of cheap entertainment? Nobody seemed to have any malicious or bad intentions, however, it’s more so the shock of seeing white people dance ridiculously that excites the locals. We wandered down to the beach, dipped our feet in the warm water, and made our way back to the upper deck.
Myself, Sumi, Kaylee, Jonas, Lacey, and Spencer:
The DJ got going on the main stage, playing some local tunes and initiating yet another dance-off. There were 2 rounds – the first for young girls, and the second for young boys. Music played and the 7-10 competitors rocked out to some of Ghana’s hottest hits for a cool minute. Afterwards, the announcer huddled next to each contestant, shouting “Stay or Away?” to the audience. The crowd would respond favorably, applauding and cheering, or negatively, booing and bashing. Somewhat comical, and somewhat strange considering how intense this crowd was on such a young demographic. You’d think a seven year-old girl would react very poorly to a large group of people bashing her dancing abilities, but apparently it’s nothing out of the ordinary. After both rounds eventually concluded (winners were awarded some promotional t-shirt), us white folk were forced on stage due to ‘high demand’…whatever that means. We embraced this goofiness and danced to some recognized radio tunes; it was dark by this point and I couldn’t really see anyone offstage, so when in Ghana, do as the Ghanaians, right?
We left the dancefloor after a few songs because the Ghanaian dancing culture is much more intense and tiresome than in the U.S. Immediately afterwards, several TV personnel shoved their way to our location, demanding interviews and wanting to know about our time and experience in Ghana. I remember countless photos and three to four cameras constantly in my face. If this is how any American celebrity feels, I can see why the limelight isn’t idealized or sought after. I’m proud to say I can check appearing on Ghanaian TV/radio off my bucket list, but for the rest of the night there was never a moment in which the cameras were far away. Why can’t we just dance in peace?
Around 8 p.m. our group left for another surprise (we’d originally arrived around 4 p.m.), and Jonas drove us to a somewhat local bar he enjoys for its calmer, but still lively atmosphere. Much more lowkey and relaxed, I relished the soothing tunes and high-quality food. We picked up on some dance moves from locals, and I began talking with one man who started asking where I was from, my name, why I’m in Ghana…the usual set of questions. I told him our story and that we were approaching the second week mark. Two whole weeks in Ghana…who would have ever thought? I have a love for the hospitality of Ghanaians and an appreciation for the lifestyles they live. Twelve days in an environment that completely contrasts all you’ve known for 21 years is quite the learning experience.
At this point something cool happened. He tells me, “If I can share with you one thing, it’s that you do not just pass through Ghana, let Ghana pass through you.” Chills ran down my spine. He patted me on the back and walked away. Our group wanted to move outside so we relocated our dance party to the outdoor patio, but for the rest of the night I couldn’t think of anything but that quote.
I’ve loved my time here so far, but there are most definitely points when I miss the ease of life back home. I’m still not entirely acclimated to the heat. Waking up early…well let’s just say I’m not the most pleasant morning person. This is an onerous lifestyle and I give the highest praise to locals, because I’m exhausted after two weeks. This quote, however, helped put my situation into perspective. I’ve about one month left in a place in which I may never return, so I by all means should make the most of this opportunity. With the countless highs come the inevitable lows (more so stresses), and I mustn’t forget that people deal with my joys, angers, and frustrations on a daily basis. From here on out, and back in the U.S. as well, I will attempt to remind myself that things are temporary. Experiences, people, feelings..all of it comes and goes. Take the positive with the negative and embrace the present moment. Open up your mind to understanding and a new way of life.
After moving outside, the five of us danced in the rain with some Ghanaian women who fed off our energy and emotion. Myself and friends finally made it back around 11 p.m. (keep in mind we’d been celebrating since 4 p.m. and had work the next morning), so I was thankful to arrive home at a reasonable hour and sleep. Heading to bed that night, I still replayed that man’s message over and over. With one month remaining in Ghana, I’m ready to take on even more than I already have, and embrace the discomfort as it crosses my path.