Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Market Thief, Trip to Kumasi Part 3 5.21.2011

So we made it back to the hotel and slept well. Next day we ate dinner, but only got 6 free meals so we had to pay for the last two and share it but we were shocked to find that it was around 6 cedis, 50 pesawas for a small piece of egg and three slices of toast. Yikes. After that, we got out and this time we split into two groups to look for the market because 8 people was not working out at all. (There are 11 of us from the two PIBV groups, but 3 people hadn’t come for various reasons). We had to go through the market quickly so that we had time to go to the cultural center and catch a bus before 2 or 3 so that we wouldn’t be traveling at night (the entire trip between the cities was about 4 hours). My group found the market and just about gasped. The guidebook describes it as labyrinthine and I’d say that’s about right. The Kumasi market is a vast maze of stalls and what not, ordered slightly into sections of food, clothing, tools for hygiene etc. It’s really amazing actually that the stall owners can get in and out of there with their stuff and find the same stall that they came from. Assuming that is how it happened anyway. We walked for maybe 10-13 blocks and we only went down one strip!! When we finally came to an open, we looked back and saw like 6 or 7 more strips of market! It was honestly too much. Chei! At one point we went through the meat and fish section and me and the Penny Loafers kid (who happens to be from Hong Kong) were chillin’ but the other three with us were gagging from all the fish eyes and flies lol. Gotta have a little experience or else that’s definitely a shocker at first.

So when we made it out, we decided not to go through any more stalls, we’d already bought some fake jerseys from Ghanaian soccer team for 6 cedis (the day before some one in our group had bought if 13 cedis lol!!) and I bought some Nigerian Super Eagle shorts because apparently Nigerian soccer jerseys are hard to come by in Nigeria. We walked all the way back down the outside of the market looking for the Cultural Center and ended in another part of the market. I was talking to my mom and walking quickly through it and when I finally made it to another opening I looked back and saw that only 2 of the 4 people I was with were there! We started walking back to find them, yelling there names and walked only a few steps when they shot out from a crowd. We yelled after them and one stopped but the other girl just kept running. The one who stopped yelled, take us to a safe place! Take us to a safe place! And we were so confused but we walked around to the steps of a Barclay’s bank and sat down and talked. Apparently this guy in the market had come up behind the girl and unzipped her backpack and tried to take something. When she looked back, a lady next to her pointed after a man who was walking quickly away and told her to go after him. So the two ran after the man saying he took something from the girl! Suddenly a swarm of Ghanaians came running and stopped the man and were holding everyone part of his body and asking the girl what he’d stolen but she was so terrified from all the running and screaming that she didn’t focus and she looked through her bag and didn’t realize that (she found out later) the man had taken 20 cedis from her bag so she said he hadn’t managed to take anything, he was just rummaging. As they hurried back to find the rest of the group, they saw the man sitting on the side of a street with his head bloody because apparently the group of Ghanaians had taken it upon themselves to punish the man for his attempt. The thief looked up at the two from our group with what the boy told us was a look that said “See what you’ve caused!” They were so shaken they just continued hurrying until we saw them and stopped them. Whoa Ghanaians do not take thieving very lightly…

After all that, we didn’t feel like going to the Cultural Center and most of us had no money to do so anyway (especially the girl who’d had her money stolen). Some people just bought some little things from the gift shop and we headed back toward the bus station. This time, we were all seated in the same place but part of our group ended up right next to a drunk man who wasn’t wearing a shirt. He spoke little English and the rest of the bus was just laughing at whatever craziness he was saying as he semi-harassed our group. I wasn’t back there with them so the three who were sitting with me and I had a pretty pleasant ride back as usual. What a day in Kumasi!

The Bar, Trip to Kumasi Part 2 5.20.2011

Part Two
So the drive to Kumasi was a bit cramped but not bad otherwise. Can I just say that in between cities in Ghana there is ongoing scenery of green foiliage and rainforest, savannah-ish landscaping and it is absolutely, amazingly beautiful. In addition to the Cape Coast beaches, the foliage in parts of Ghana that haven’t been urbanized yet are really quite breathtaking.

So, we make it to the hotel; a really nice place with A/C, running water and breakfast included and the two rooms were triples, but we had 8 people so we just snuck the last two in. We sat for a bit and then walked around Kumasi searching for the market. We thought we’d found it, but it wasn’t that big nor that great and we were hungry. So we went to this place that served American cuisine that the people in my group had read about in their guidebook and had been lusting after ever since. Joan (our token Ghanaian who usually takes the reins and leads us everywhere even though technically she doesn’t know because she didn’t grow up in Ghana much less Cape Coast lol. [Like I said, that key Ghanaian accent helps out]) hadn’t come with us to Kumasi so I had to step in as the token African and pretend I knew what I was doing. We made it to Vic Baboo’s CafĂ© and sat and ate burgers with ketchup and my team members basically cried tears of joy about it. I don’t understand why since I personally love some rice everyday, but whatever. The burger was good, can’t lie.

Anyway, my cousin (shout out to Dezzy and I being in the same place at the same time in Ghana, whoop whoop!) was planning on going out with her group from Yale so I thought it would be fun to have a little American meet up in Kumasi. But she wasn’t texting back and my group was getting cold feet about it. By the time 9:30 rolled around, Dezzy’s group was back in the hotel, apparently not going out at all, and my group was at some random outdoor Bar [called Eclipse] on the side of the road buying 1cedi sodas (lol jk that was just me, everyone else was getting beers and Smirnoff’s) and listening to loud African music. One of the kids in our group befriended a guy sitting nearby and he came over to talk to us about how he was an artist and had all these paintings and then brought them out. We were like ooooo ahhhhh and then he put them away. Later after some time, he moved to the other side of the table and brought them out again to talk to a girl in our group about them, suddenly money was out and he sold like 8 in 5 minutes. Psh whatever, o wait, darn he sold one to me to =[, such American tourists we are, we almost made it out with our money. I’ll tell you a funny aside about these paintings later.

Back to the bar, a live band started playing and the drunker people in our group got up to go dance. Then, so that we didn’t dampen the mood, we all got up to dance. This, let me just say, was an experience to say the least. There were like zero female Ghanaians dancing, just older Ghanaian men and they were trying to grind with all the girls in our group and we weren’t having it lol. One of the girls told one of the guys, “in America we don’t touch while dancing!” LMAO. That’s a fallacy, but sure girl. Anyway, soon enough, one of the kids in our group who’s in Penny Loafers [and has been serenading us this whole program with his guitar and harmonizing] was with the live band on the drums, and then he moved to the piano and was seriously jamming. And we were screaming for him and all the Ghanaians were laughing and clapping because he was so good and there are pictures and everyone was dancing. It was ridiculous, but much fun. Shoutout to Eclipse and all the Ghanaians who showed us a great time that night!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Trip to Kumasi Part 1 5.20.2011

Back to the actual trip to Ghana. Like I said, some of us decided to go to Kumasi this weekend and go to what the Philip-Briggs Ghana guidebook (between all the members of our group we have two) says is the largest market on this side of West Africa. There’s also a cultural center and a zoo but after all the fiasco we went through in the market, we just walked into the cultural center craft shop and then got on the bus back to Cape Coast. Nothing we did was without some action. I’ll tell the story in segments.

Part One
Before we could even go to Kumasi, three of us from the group got into line at the bus station in Cape Coast and waited for a ticket, but they ran out so they pointed us to the queue of like 100 people sitting in a cramped little area, waiting. So we’re waiting, and the first bus leaves and a few people started creeping and shuffling ever so slowly toward the line, so I’m like…do we move? Then everyone caught wind of what was happening and within one second, everyone ran—scratch that, SPRINTED—toward the line and we were like...question mark? So we just tried to stay in the mix and not get pushed out of line and then we waited. Everyone was cramped into line but no one was getting tickets, people in the front were just arguing and fussing but getting no tickets. Then, the other half of our group came and we just kind of stood for some time waiting until a lady working at the ticket door came out and asked us (skipping everyone else) how many tickets we needed. We said 8, and then the whole line gasped ahhhhH!! And THEN this old lady closer to the front just goes off. She starts screaming in Fanti (language spoken most prevalently in Cape Coast) at the lady and we don’t know why. And then they blow up on each other, just screaming and yelling and pointing and clearly cursing each other out. So then, one of us asked another person in line why she was screaming and they said that the bus lady wanted to show us that Ghana could be nice by making sure we got on the bus and the old lady at the front wasn’t having it. But we didn’t ask for special treatment, so we felt bad about the situation because it wasn’t like we weren’t still waiting in line with everyone else but the lady was not having it either way. Long story short, we didn’t get our tickets ahead of everybody else but I think they were just trying to make sure that there were enough seats for all eight of us to get onto the same bus. So everyone gave the two of us waiting in line the money and when we got to the front I asked for 8. She said, ah, that’s too much, but then I gave her the money and she didn’t give me all my change. Siiigh, Ghanaians never missing a beat lol. So I laughed, and hit the Nigerian accent again, “ahh, please, we’ve all paid separately, if you take some, whose money will it come from?” She pointed at one of the white girls from our group standing behind me, and smiled, “from hers, she doesn’t mind.” I laughed again and said please. And she was gave me 2 cedis (of the 4 she had kept). Then she gave me one, and finally, the last one. I probably should’ve just let it go but really now. It was all quite unnecessary; another fun moment though. Happily, we got onto the bus and got ready to enjoy Kumasi. Little did we know there was a lot more coming up…

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Five Things You Probably Shouldn’t Do While Traveling But That I’ve Already Done 5.19.2011

My hair/ongoing Nigerian accent experience has been really amusing this whole trip, so when I wrote the last post I was pleased to see my friends enjoying my foolishness with me. But my friend left me some sobering advice when he suggested that I shouldn’t go around alone in Nigeria like I obviously had done in Ghana. And honestly, that’s probably great advice; one advice, amongst others, that I really need to be following in Ghana. So, to keep you updated on my many blunders, I give you:

Five Things You Probably Shouldn’t Do While Traveling But That I’ve Already Done
1. Leave the Group and Not Leave Your Number
So, the day I did my hair and I was waiting at the cab station for thirty minutes for my friend, a logical person might’ve asked why I didn’t just call my friend. Welp, I had no credits left on my phone because one of the kids on the trip with me used up all my minutes the night before talking to his parents on my phone (mad rude I suppose but I digress). That would’ve been fine as well IF I’d given someone my number to call me. That didn’t happen either, so while I was off being independent with my accent and what not, my friends were worried because they didn’t know where I was and who I’d gone off with since they were with the girl I was supposed to be with and I was MIA. Oops.
2. Sleep Without Your Mosquito Net and Get…a Cold
Our beds don’t have blankets on them, just a sheet and a pillow and a mosquito net. The mosquito net acts as a makeshift oven, however. When I go to bed with the fan on and the window open, I get under the net and I immediately start sweating. So I was like, whatever, my African blood with swallow whichever Malaria wants to enter in JESUS NAME! Lol I’m kidding, but seriously, I was too hot so I just nixed the net for two nights and it rained, so I woke up with it colder than usual. Then I had a cold and I was miserable. The end -_-
3. Pay One Whole Cedi for a Cab Ride Less Than Four Blocks Away
Sigh. This time I couldn’t help but have this happen, even with the accent. We went to visit Kumasi (a larger, busier city about 4 hours from Cape Coast) and we got of the bus and had no idea how far the hotel was from the bus station. As usual, there are people in place in every corner to con money out of foreigners, so the man saw us and was like “Taxi! Where do you want to go?!” We told him, he said 5 cedis (or 1 cedi, 25 pesawas/person). I knew to take anything he said as crap and immediately told him no, 50 pesawas per head!! He was like ah no no no 5cedi, 5 cedi. I said ok 1 cedi per head, for 4 cedis. He said OK. We filled up two cabs and left.
4. Bring Enough Clothes for 4 Days When You’re Staying for 3 Weeks
This was just stupid.
5. Get Into a Cab Alone On the Side of the Road with Four Big Men In It
Again, that day I did my hair, I started out with the group but they needed to go in the opposite direction of me. So they got into a cab and left me alone on the side of the street in Cape Coast, Ghana. What. The Heck. So cabs were passing me because they were filled or ignoring me and finally I flagged one down and there were four men in there. And I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn’t do this. And then, I got in the car anyway and went to Kingsway praying: chukwu nonyere m, ije oma. God definitely needed to be with me and keep my journey safe. (Wink wink to anyone who gets the irony.) Any who, I’m safe and I won’t do it again.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

This Lady Tried to Play Me!!: My Nigerian Accent 5.14.2011-5.18.2011

Guys, I'm Nigerian. If you didn't know that, you don't know me. I'm pretty sure it comes up all the time somehow. But with that being said, I'm really Nigerian-American. Second generation. I haven't spent a majority or a even a significant minority of my life in Nigeria nor do I speak Igbo fluently. BUT, what I do have is a Nigerian accent. Nigerians who do in fact have a Nigerian accent based on the fact that they grew up in Nigeria may disagree with me, but I KNOW that I have a pretty good accent that I can pass with. So, what better place to use this skill than in Ghana? Where I'm close enough that they would actually believe I'm from Nigeria [and therefore not try to play me because I'm American] but not too close that I just see Nigerians all over the place who can refute my accent.

So anyway, this accent helped perfectly when I went to braid my hair. I had planned to get my hair braided but this girl who lives nearby me agreed to go with me to avoid my paying an inflated price. However, due to some miscommunications I ended up sitting alone at a cab station waiting for the girl for thirty minutes (and having some old man hit on me and ask for my number) before I just asked a nearby shop owner where the hair place was and walking there alone. So I get to to Queen's Hair Salon and I'm sitting waiting when I remember that I don't have enough Ghana cedis and that I need to exchange some dollars. So I go to the old lady at front who was apparently the Queen Pin of this little hair shop (with literally 20 girls and women braiding hair; they had 5-6 people braiding one head!) and asked her [in my superb Nigerian accent] where I could exchange money. She told me it was kind of far but she'd have one of her girls go exchange it for me. She saw my twenty though and her look changed; she knew right then was her opportunity to PLAY. ME. So to ensure no one got smart, I told her that exchanging my twenty dollar bill should give me 30 Ghana cedis, which is true, and that's what I expected to get back. Seeing that she couldn't play me in that way, she told me fine, she'd exchange it later, that I should just give her the twenty and she'd give me my change in cedis: 1 Ghana cedi, meaning that my hair would cost me about 29 Ghana cedis. While that's cheap in America, why should I pay more if I don't have to? My friend had told me ahead of time that it should cost around 15 cedis and this lady was going to have me pay 29?! Heeckkk no. So I put a little more power into my Naija accent and told her that I'd heard a different price. She was like o was it 12 cedis? I said, yea something around there, she was like eheh ok that's the price plus the hair, I'll give you 9 cedis back. oooo! So now you suddenly have nearly 10 cedis more to give lady?! Plus at the end she gave me two more cedis back to show that she really, really was cheating me and that she'd changed her mind about mistreating a fellow African lol at least that's my interpretation of how it all went down.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Balling 5.13.2011

Today was a bit more relaxed. We started work and researched incubators a bit. I believe that tomorrow we’ll get to sit down and talk with Simon (the director of Abusua Foundation [the NGO that we’re working with]) and start brainstorming based directly off of their vision. But we got great things done today. Jack and I soon plan to do “fieldwork” and go talk to people who live in Cape Coast about how businesses are run. It should be a lot of fun. I’ve been having funny, intense dreams and apparently it’s caused by the malaria pill that I’m taking. I’ll try and keep track of them but today’s started with a bunch of random people I know playing basketball. I left the room and suddenly I’m in some sort of indoor auditorium seating area with more randoms from all throughout my life and then I walked into another gym (one of those dark ones that they always have in the Gatorade commercials with the basketball players sweating red juice and what not) and two professional basketball players were playing; one older, one younger. At first, they were playing pick up games and I was just watching and the suddenly I was playing with them and they were clearly better than me. Then suddenly AGAIN the older one was coaching me and there were twenty or more basketballs out of nowhere and he was passing them to me one after the other and there were just so many and it felt really real and I was sweating and then I woke up.

"No Sexual Deviants" 5.12.2011

So, I counted the Welcome Sign as yesterday even though, technically, I landed in Ghana on the 12th. But here’s the post for today because it has been quite the experience outside of the plane ride. First, I got off and coincidentally, my cousin, Adaeze—who is here on another trip—was standing outside the baggage claim! It was great to see a familiar face outside of the people that I came with. She’ll be in Cape Coast but I forgot to get her Ghanaian number so I’ll need to Facebook that later.

Today has been funny because I’ve been testing out how well I can blend as a Nigerian and not just American. I hit ‘em with that light accent and they know I’m not Ghanaian but I can tell they aren’t writing me off as just an American lol! Or maybe they are and they’re just being very nice about it. Anyway, I came in through the Ecowas (Western region of Africa) Nationals line with a Nigerian passport and I’ve been riding this citizenship ever since.

So yeah, how’s Ghana? It’s hot and humid but Cape Coast beaches are amazing. People are steadily trying to guilt us into buying things everwhere, which leads me to 150 Days of Summer Picture Number 2.

Please excuse my crazy look and tired eyes. My jetlag was getting the better of me and I was getting ready to go to bed anyway. But if you can’t read it, it says:
To: My Dearest Friend, Nony
From: Your Friend Kofi
That was cute but was I going to pay for that? Heeeckk no. I felt a little bad, but then we got in the car and drove away and all was well again. Otherwise, today was pretty basic. I realized for the first time in my life, I under packed. I actually didn’t pack anything almost. Mistake. On that note, gotta find some clothes tomorrow.

I'm On a Plane 5.11.2011

So I’m on the plane to Accra after an abundance of STRUGGLES. Note to self that procrastinating while traveling doesn’t work half as well as procrastinating to catch the bus that’ll take you to the train that’ll take you to the subway that’ll take you to the airport. With all that change in transportation between Penn and the airport, you really want to stick to a schedule. -_-. Point taken for next time. Long story short, I made it to the airport with an hour and fifteen until take off and the Jamaican lady at the front was purposely trying to make me sweat. “Why weren’t you here two hours before your flight? No, you can’t get on.” What?! I looked at her and I’m just like, NO. I traveled nearly 4 hours to get here (JFK from Philly), I missed my bus, had to take NJ Transit AND I forgot to checkout and return my key so from all that I was in the hole over $150 within a few hours and I was literally looking at a sign that says “All Domestic and International Flights Must Check in 60 Minutes Before Take Off”. I’ve been so kind as to leave 15 extra and I’m going on this plane if it’s the last thing I do.

Of course, all that was definitely said more timidly than it’s coming across now because that Jamaican teller was scary, I can’t lie. And I had a strange suspicion that she was wielding her power in such a way that one wrong step would send $1400 down the drain very quickly. Any who, after telling me that Ghana doesn’t accept Nigerian passports without a visa (which is false) and that my bag couldn’t go (which it did) she finally let me through and I waited forever through the security checkpoint, sprinted to the gate (thanks track!) and made it onto my 10 hour flight to Ghana. THANK THE LORD JESUS!!

To close this off, can I just say that the flight to Ghana has everyone that you wouldn’t expect on the plane? I saw an old man with a snapback and J’s on. I saw more than several white people. I saw a little Ghanaian-American boy with the sharpest line-up I’ve ever seen and with a batman backpack bigger than he was (think the cartoon bags that were big in high school a few years back if you were anywhere near Black people). I saw the hoodest dreadhead ever with his pants around his knees. I even saw a Que with his purple and gold hoodie on. Everybody was on that plane, literally. And then we landed and this is the picture that welcomed us. Akwaaba! Welcome to my blog! Haha.