Monday, 2 June 2014

Oh! There's so many obrunis here!

Last time I posted I was doing so during an incredible rain storm, and I was pretty happy. Tonight I am sitting on a chair outside overlooking the Atlantic, watching and listening to the waves crash against the shore. I feel so close to home and yet so far away. I feel homesick, but at home all the same. It's weird. I tried to call a few of you at home, but like usual none of my calls went through, until I got a hold of Scott. There are amazing things happening here - and I will share them in a minute - but today for the first time on my long, knee-crushing trotro drive to Cape Coast, I started to question what I'm actually doing here...

This week was set to be short, given the Public Holiday we had on Monday, and especially since our Tuesday plans were cancelled due to an unexpected illness. Who remembers me saying that it wasn't me, that I was fine? Bonus point if any of you heard me jokingly say "the only thing I'll probably be able to add to my resume is 'had heat stroke for 12 weeks'"? Well, Wednesday after a long, hot, frustrating day, I returned home only to feel a massive headache. It wasn't the beginning symptoms of heat stroke, nor did it turn out to be anything too serious (thankfully), but what ever it was kept be bed ridden for a day and a bit. As a result, I also missed Day One of our first workshop. From the symptoms I was showing at the beginning, I was convinced that I had Malaria, but again, thankfully I did not. Luckily, as well, I wasn't presenting until the second day of the workshop.

Enter Friday. Still not 100%, but to quote a one Mr James Pineo (my Mom's late father) "there's stubborn and then there's stupid..." I was being stupid. I'm not so sure I was being stubborn either, perhaps just guilt ridden for letting my team down, regardless, I boarded the trotro for Asamankese and tried to mentally prep for the day ahead. My part was small - discussing roles and responsibilities - but I pretty much wasted all of my energy leading the group stretch 30 seconds prior. Again keep in mind, 24 hours before this I was on hour 9 of 12 of dry-heaving. Thankfully I was finished and spent the remainder of my time trying not to pass out. The thing is...we were told it would end no later than 12, including lunch, yet here it was 2:30. And after all of that, the partner we were working with on this workshop and one of our main projects (for which we still have events to complete over the next nine weeks) turns to us and pretty much says "well, I got accepted to a Masters program, I start Monday." Insert the origin of my sudden "why am I here?!?!" moment.

But enough about that. Let's skip this afternoon. Cape Coast, found in the Western Region of Ghana, and home of the Cape Coast Castle aka my number one must see while here. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is an incredibly well preserved fortress used during the slave trade. I can tell you that stepping through its entrance gave me such an immediate overwhelmed feeling, such a heaviness. One the one hand it was amazing to be there, walking through this very real piece of history. On the other hand, I just felt incredibly sad and deflated think about what had to take place within the walls of the structure for it to be of such relevance. Countless men, women, and children taken from there homes. I thought about Mrs. Smaggus' grade 12 African Heritage Literature class and how this moment related to what taught, and how that very class reshaped my entire way of thinking and how I viewed the world.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole experience, was doing so with a Ghanaian friend, Freddie. Prior to the one hour tour that is included with admission, they direct you to the Castle's museum. We walked from display to display carefully taking in what each info panel was telling, with Freddie close by doing  just the same. It was fascinating to be reading about this chunk of history through a non-Western view. After we finished I sat down next to Freddie on the bench in the middle of the museum, and asked him what it was like for him to be there, to be reading and seeing all of it. This allowed us to have a brief chat about the current forms of slavery taking place today in not only Ghana, or even Africa, but globally. Powerful, powerful day. And once again I'm reminded of why I'm here.

By the time we left, it was nearing game time... Ghana vs. Netherlands...aka my first ever football match. So where does one go to watch the game in Cape Coast? A bus station, obviously...where we ate a "local classic" called pizza. But let me tell you about the most terrifying part of this story. I had to pee. Bad. So I make my way to the washroom where I'm confronted by this small child who insists I pay her. Fine. But then she looks at me, noticing my necklace, and says "next time, I want that." Needless to say, I held it in after that!

Well it appears to be nearing midnight. I'd better get some sleep being as this is the first time we have made it past the 8:30pm mark since arriving to Ghana!


Day two:
It's 5:45am. A few of us get out of bed, hop over the wall and head to the beach (which is maybe 10 feet from our room). With both feet planted happily in the Atlantic, I take a moment to look around. Garbage. Everywhere. On the beach. In the water amongst the waves. Those of you who know me well know that the unknown of the ocean terrifies me, while the power of it all completely fascinates me. Nothing makes me feel more insignificant, and yet it creates a charge within me - especially seeing unnecessary pieces of plastic tangled within each wave. Water in all of its forms is the center of pretty much everything, although we wouldn't know it from the way way we take it for granted. I maybe insignificant standing next to this body of water, but I care enough to want to seek change, and that in itself, to me anyway, is pretty significant. I just need to find away to make everyone else understand this as well.

Me in front of the Cape Coast Castle...and in the Atlantic!
So much garbage...
Those black chunks you see floating around are plastic bags... Just sayin'...

Signing off from beautiful Cape Coast, Western Ghana,
-the Orange Canadian

PS: Guess who's developping a bit of a tan?!?!?! ...and no, not of the red variety!

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