Thursday, June 12, 2008

Only in Africa

This will be my last blog from Hohoe. The last week has flown by, and my time at the school has been wonderful. I regret thinking I hadn't made left a mark here; for my last few days they have been baking me cakes, making me my own batik fabrics, giving me beer at lunch, and every minute demanding that I return very soon. Most of my work (research and application) will actually begin when I get home so I know that I will remain in close contact with them. Still, I find myself trying to ingrain even the smell of the school in my mind.
A huge storm hit us in the afternoon on Tuesday. I have seen all kinds of storms but the ones here are breathtaking. In the mornings it is always so sweltering you think the sun has a personal vendetta against you and then, around 2, the whole sky begins to change. The white puffy clouds come in and slowly start to move closer. Then the wind picks up and the air changes - always my favorite part. When I felt the breeze come into the house on Tuesday, I knew that I had to be outside. I walked down the main dirt path and dust kicked up in my face while the bushes on either side of me started to sway in the wind. The lightning and thunder always happen before the actual rain; lightning every 30 seconds and deafening, frightening thunder. It is always a small dark cloud, almost black, that brings the rain. As I was walking aimlessly, children were scurrying past me trying to get to shelter before it poured. And then, drop by drop the rain began to fall. It happens so slowly you can barely contain your excitement, but then it finds its groove and really begins to pour. The drops are so loud but always soft when they hit you. And so I stood in a field in the middle of nowhere for the next 20 minutes and got absolutely drenched. It was amazing. I remember Monique telling me that the sky in Africa feels bigger than it does at home and I couldn't agree more. The other night staring at the stars (all of them twinkle here too!) I felt as if I were either in the world's largest planetarium, or a picture ripped out of the book Le Petit Prince. The sky may be what I miss the most.
Every time you greet a Ghanaian, you shake hands and during the release, you snap your middle finger with the other's middle finger. I love this. They also have annoying habits, like asking me "Are you back?" every time I return to the house. Yes, I'm back, don't be stupid. They are a kind, generous, content people who do work hard, but in their own unique way. I find it frustrating that they do adapt to Western ideas, but always the wrong ones. They don't have working toilets and if they do, you have to throw the toilet paper away in the trash can instead of flushing it. Yet every single one of them has a cell phone. Their trash and irrigation, education, healthcare and political systems are all progressing bit by bit, but most of their time is concentrated on emulating the latest American fads (well, sometimes not the latest - R. Kelly is a big hit here). I can't tell if the best way to assist is to change American priorities at home or to join the African system and help them refocus their priorities. The U.S. has paved the way for so many developing countries but capitalism does hit a harmful tipping point. Developing countries like Ghana that have left corrupt politics behind them, should they strengthen their economies, are positioned to make a huge leap in the sustainability movement. As Ghana continues to grow and to decide what its personality really is, I hope it will leave R. Kelly and tight jeans behind, and think more of the social welfare of its citizens.
I can't really articulate how I feel today. I walked through the buzzing town last night with the overwhelming worry that perhaps, just perhaps, I will never see these sights again. And in a way that makes it all the more beautiful; Hohoe will always be in my mind as a sort of trippy dream, a haven, an escape worlds away that I can never return to. It's a reminder that we can never hold on to a moment; the more we try to, the quicker it passes us by. Living that way ensures that every moment is really enjoyed. No thinking, just living.
Tomorrow I will take the 24 hour journey back to the Island, where the Isle of Wight Festival is taking place, and then Tuesday I'm off to Puerto Rico by way of Madrid. I do believe I will continue writing, as I am sure Puerto Rico will be a whole new adventure.


  1. Thanks for taking us along for your journey. I can't wait to hear about IOW, Madrid an Puerto Rico!

  2. There are quite a few words here. Would you mind highlighting the parts that are about me, so I can get to the important stuff? -Devo