So I realize that it's been quite a while since I've filled all you loved ones in on some tangible things that I and my Calvin friends have been expiriencing lately. I'm sorry that some of these things are a bit outdated, but might be a little interesting nonetheless. And, since I have quite a bit to share before my internet connection fails...again...I will be utilizing my famous "bullet point" style to cover more ground. I'll try to go in chronilogical order:
--Our group was invited to the U.S. Embassy in Accra a week ago Tuesday. We called the embassy "fortress America" since the huge barred walls and thick concrete looked more like a prison than a welcoming place of foreign diplomacy. After the extensive security pat-downs and passport inspections, we were escorted into a conference room where we heard a presentation on Ghana-U.S. relations. It was really interesting to hear how proud both sides were of this relationship. As it turns out, Ghana's President Kufor was meeting with President Bush in Washington D.C. the day we were hearing this presentation. We also heard from other speakers about stuff like absentee ballots (which, by the way, i already got worked out before I left, and I should have one mailed to me, for those of you who were concerned if I would fulfil my civic duty this November or not). The speakers also told us about how we shouldn't swim with sharks in the ocean or use lots of illegal substances during our stay in Ghana. They're no fun. We truly appreciated their hospitality and midwestern accents, but overall it was just really surreal to be back in a place with carpet, grass, and automatic hand dryers. It seemed a little artificial and really steril, and overall American.
--The next night, last week Wednesday, we had a "welcome dinner" from the Institute of African Studies (IAS) on campus, where we're studying. Along with the Calvin group, a group of students from Trent University in Canada are at IAS too. So we had an AMAZING catered dinner with our new Trent friends, followed by some entertainment of traditional dancing, drumming, and singing. Then, if all that wasn't enough, we were all individually pulled up onto stage to have an impromptu African dance party under the stars to the sound of cicadas and drums. Awesome.
--At the end of last week, we expirienced our first big round of illnesses. At one point we had one who had just gotten over something, two who were fighting something internally nasty, and one who was nearly on her death bed. A trip to the clinic, Gatorade, and lots of rest seemed to slowly get them all back into shape, but it definantly a wake-up call to how blessed we are to be healthy thus far, and to not have any illnesses be too harsh. Although we're afraid that one of the girls might have had mild malaria, we're quite glad that we're all over that infirmary spell.
--At the beginning of this week, I decided to finally give in to my professor's urges and put up my mosquito net. I did it when my roomate Esther was still at home in Tema for the weekend, so she didn't get to expirience the laughter and frustration that went into stringing the darn thing up. A little packaging tape and twine has gone a long way, and all over my room. But now I feel a bit like a princess sleeping under a wafting white canopy every night; a canopy that keeps tiny bugs, mosquitoes, and huge African crickets hanging just inches above my head on the other side of my mesh curtain. Once Esther got back, she laughed that judging little chortle that she does when I do something dumb. She may still think that I'm an American tourist, but I smile and tell her it's for aesthetic value. She doesn't quite believe me.
--Classes are going quite well, and I'm liking finally being into a rythm of my schedule. I absolutely love my African Politics class. Our professor just casually dropped the other day that he's running for Congress, so we only had one class period this week due to his touring and campaigning schedule. The class is really interesting, and I feel so smart as I get to ask questions with words like "neopatrimonialism" in them. Our Peoples and Culture Class consists of constent guest lecturers, which could probably be something more, or I could just be more appreciative. But it is cool learning more about Ghanaian culture. The drumming and dance classes are hysterical, and every day I come back from dance Esther asks me how much we've disgraced ourselves today. Ha ha. We're slowly improving and slowly getting more rhythm. Maybe by Christmas we won't get laughed at anymore. The bane of all of our existance might be our Twi class. I've never had a professor like this guy before. He DEMANDS respect, but doesn't really do anything that makes us want to give it to him. He's very strict and sucks any fun out of a room the instant he walks in. He also doesn't really teach us that well and jumps around from topic to topic, and then verbally judges us for not keeping up with him. Uh! Not fun. But, I must be learning something since I conducted my first conversation in Twi with the "kebob man" at the night market. Even though it was just an elementary sharing of our names and how we were, it still made me feel pretty cool! Our independent study is in full swing and keeping Becky and I quite busy. I had my first interview with Dr. Patterson this week, which ultimately taught me how much I have yet to learn about the AIDS fight, the intricasies thereof, and NGOs in general. I'm excited to keep doing research, but I feel like I'm still running just to keep up with the brilliant mind of Dr. P.
Well, that's about it for now. Hopefully I can get some photos and videos up in the next little while. Until next time...