Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ehime and Ghana

Well we finally made it to Ghana! We arrived in Accra a couple hours ago and so far I can already tell that it is going to be A LOT different than Nigeria. Personally, I was really sad to leave Nigeria, but I don't think many of my trip-mates felt the same way. Ghana is much more touristy than Nigeria and our program here reflects that. Nigeria was really about personal interactions and looking at social issues. We couldn't even find any postcards in Nigeria and already in Ghana we have. I didn't get to see much of Lagos, but it was definitely the most western of anything we saw in Nigeria. We did see a lot of slums in the same city we went to a shopping mall full of foreigners and the rich elite. The shanties in Lagos were different than the ones we have seen in other areas of Nigeria because they were over the water. All of them were built on stilts over a lagoon. People navigate with canoes. It was a pretty crazy sight.

One of the highlights of this trip so far was when we went to Ehime. Ehime is the village that the head of the foundation is from. it is also where he built a secondary school (the first school to be built in the area in 17 years). The rural parts of nigeria where still most of the population lives is AMAZING. Sparse properties which contain several generations are planted within the palm tree forests. It truly was the picturesque/stereotypical rural village that most people think constitutes all of Africa- red dirt paths and lush green. We stayed there for four days at the parish priest's house (in iboland everyone is Catholic, if you have read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart then you understand). We got to do short home stays here in which someone our age took us to their community and we hung out at their houses and met all the neighbors. It was really amazing just getting to be with families, with the people, in their element and seeing exactly how they live. The communities were beautiful and so nice and peaceful to be in. All in Ehime I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place. My home stay girl, Prisca, was so nice. She picked me up from the priest's house and as we made the walk to her village (there are 5 smaller communities within the Ehime area) we gradually picked up more and more kids who walked with us. The highlight for me was getting to hold a baby on my back like the women do here with a cloth. Her English name was "good news" and she was 2 years old. With her on my back I walked to Prisca's house. I met her grandmother, very sweet grandfather, and mother. We played with the gifts we gave them: jump rope, bubbles and crayola color explosion kit. We also ate ground nuts (boiled peanuts) which I am now SO addicted to and performed the Kola Nut ceremony. The ceremony is done all over Ibo land and you do it whenever you welcome a guest into your home. I have two different views of poverty now: poverty in the city and poverty in rural areas. In the judgments of Americans, everyone in this village is extremely poor. the houses are simply stacked cement blocks, maybe with a later of stucco on the outside, a lot of the children's clothes are rags (American cast-offs that are falling apart), but I really don't even view it as materially poor. No one seems to mind or care too much about the clothes, the houses are small but they really do provide the shelter need. The property has space, yards, courtyards, and almost everyone grows the food they eat, or they buy it directly from someone close who did. The house we stayed at was not nearly as comfortable as what we have in the U.S., but it really hasn't bothered me one bit. There were holes in the ceiling, tons of moldy walls and generally dirty walls and floors. But really, none of this has bothered me one bit throughout the trip. During the home stay I just wasn't appalled by the facilities, I have seen much worse on this trip. I feel like anyone still living in a rural area is still doing well because they don't have to live in the crowded, dirty cities. I could totally see myself contently living in a place like this. Any who, once we got to their house it turns out that Good News had fallen asleep on my back. We went around the village and I met a lot of people in the community. They were all ridiculously welcoming. It was really neat to meet old people who have lived there their entire lives. Most didn't speak English and one was even blind, but they always said welcome and asked me how I was doing. One lady told me to tell my mother and father that she hopes they are doing well. I was so happy just to be there with everyone! I find myself constantly wanting to rate my experiences here on my "best of my life" list and I simply can't rank any more.
Also in the village we played a football (soccer) game with some local kids. That also ranks high on my list. We were all really nervous about playing because the kids here eat breath and live soccer. We played on the church/community field and we played during a gorgeous sunset. The energy and ray of the orange sun were palpable. I almost felt I was having an out of body experience I was so happy. There were tons of people on the sidelines. A lot of the entire community came out to watch the game. On my team were all of our group and about 4 guys from the community and 2 girls. Jesse was a really good goalie, but the rest of us sucked, we only kind of held our own because of the locals on our team. The game was close and at one point we were actually winning. I was goalie for a little bit, but they scored on me and then with shame I switched positions. The game ended with the score 4-3, us losing. The best part of the night was after the game when tons of kids surrounded me and we played a giant game of Simon Says. they never really grasped the concept of only doing something when "simon says", so it reallly was a game of "imitate annie doing weird, funny things". the kids loved it and were totally cracking up and smiling the whole time. i played with them for a really long time and gosh it felt so good!
Being around all these wonderful children truly makes me want to spend every second of my life helping them and loving them. EVERY child here brings out that feeling in me. i would really love to be a teacher here, but i question whtether it is my right/role. visiting schools i have learned that there are able teachers lining up for jobs, that really need jobs, but they can't hire them because there aren't enough funds. i know that next summer i want to intern with an NGO. i know i don't have to figure out right now what i want to do with my life, but being here makes me just want to be able decide on something as a way of coping with the hard things i see.

have to go, time is up! as always, a million more things to say.
Can't wait to see Ghana tomorrow. especially accra because NYU has a study abroad program here that I can do my junior year!


theresa b said...

Oh so beautiful! Everything sounds like a dream. I cannot wait to go and see the things youve seen, and to hear all of your stories upon returning to the states! I couldnt love these blogs anymore than I do, they are so inspiring and motivational, and I know I want to help in Africa after everything you have been writing about. If you ever start an orginization I am so in*

theresa b said...

AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! What a perfect sounding birthday, Im so happy for you*