Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lesson 3: Even if you're running late, things will be okay [or: don't drink all the wine they give you on the plane]

Okay, so yes- I am here and safe. The darbar was a welcoming ceremony. There was music and dancing and food. The food is really spicy. That might prove to be a problem.

My trip was fine. I was a little late getting to the airport, but it all turned out alright- I got into the elevator, and there was my friend Sarah, who was also going on this trip! Her late arrival was due to a late shuttel from Gatwick to Heathrow and she was pannicking. Having pannicked unnecessarilly many times during this trip, I told her to calm down, and we got through all the bag checks and check points in about 15 minutes- not bad for Heathrow!
My sister Lauren advised me that British Airways gives out wine like Shriners tossing candy at a parade, and I found that this was true. I asked for some white wine when they brought around the beverages, and the flight attendant gavbe me two bottles! Always the thrifty one, I wasn't going to let them go to waste, so I drank them both. THEN they came by with the dinner cart and gave me another bottle with my meal! I tried to drink that, but didn't have the heart or the pure alcoholic resolve, so I sent it away with my uneaten salad and sat back to watch stupid movies and watch the moon rise over the Sahara.

Some random points of interest:
-I don't have a roommate yet. I am told that she will be coming in the next week (Monday is the first day of "serious" classes for the Ghanaian students, even though classes have been in session for 2 weeks. I don't pretend to know what's going on, though.
-The sun sets at 6:30 pm every night, and rises at 6:30 am every morning. This is not unusual, for the sun to rise and set, but I have never been this close to the equator, so the punctual equivalence seems strange. Plus, the sun wakes me up when it rises. I need to invest in some curtains today.
-I found an internet cafe which is very good and fast, etc. It is a little bit expensive, but completely worth it, I think.
-Today I hope to buy a cell phone. That will be good.
-There is a VEGAN food stand near my hostel! I got a good meal yesterday for the US equivalent of $1.50. I consider this well worth it.
-There are lots of international students here. Well, more than 100, which seems like a lot to me. However, in a campus of 30,000 people, white people are a very visible minority.
-Today my group goes to the market to buy some essentials. These include buckets for washing our clothes, clothes hangers and clothes pins, notebooks, cooking supplies, etc.

My address is:

Audrey Kelly
Attn: Calvin College, c/o Dr. Jelks
Institute for African Studies
University of Ghana
PO Box 73, Legon, Ghana, West Africa

I'll post pictures and my phone number soon!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I'm here, but I have to go to a darbar. What is a darbar? Who knows. I'll know when I come back.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lesson 2: Ask for directions before you're lost [or: know exactly where you're going, and don't try to go there on Carnival day].

Wow. What a crazy day- crazy but good. Actually, it's been a crazy couple of days. My Spanish is getting much better- it's all coming back! Last night I had a real conversation with my Spanish roommates. Apparently, Paco lives and works in Andalusia, on the Mediterranean Sea where he and his male family members are olive oil farmers. We all sat around last night and ate cookies and walnuts that their father grew and talked about culture and accents. One interesting thing that I've noticed is that you can have two accents at one time- a British accent and a Pakistani accent, for example. I guess it never really occurred to me before, for some reason.
Today is my last day in London- I leave for Ghana at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon. I have had an interesting time here, but it is much too expensive, and fairly impersonal. I have taken to wearing my iPod earbuds and sunglasses a lot. This makes me look like a Londoner, but then I get out my tour books (which have been indispensable, thank you Daddy and Lucy!) and give myself away. Oh well. It seems like half the people in London are tourists, just like me, so I don't care. It seems to be a very anonymous place
Yesterday during the day I went to a music festival, where I saw M.I.A., The Go! Team, Peter Bjorn & John, and if I had stayed longer I could have seen The Streets (a UK hip-hop act which is really quite excellent), but I was tired and wanted to go home. I finished reading 'All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes' by Maya Angelou and watched 'Flight of the Conchords' (a TV comedy show about a novelty band from New Zealand in New York) on my iPod.
Today I intended to go to the Rough Trade record shoppe, but unfortunately it is in Notting Hill. Usually this would be a good thing- a convenient location, interesting neighborhood, etc. Today, however, the Notting Hill Carnival was happening. This is a huge celebration of Caribbean culture. I figured that I would go and hope for the best- maybe the shoppe would be open and not incredibly crowded. Well, first I had to find the stupid thing, which I didn't actually accomplish (I found the street, but then it was too crowded to walk through and I couldn't find it again). So I bought a beer (at 1:00 in the afternoon) and walked around the Carnival, getting exhausted by the crowds and music and people blowing horns. There were rasta's and people in flags and people smoking pot and selling pot and police at every corner. The police were really there functioning as direction-givers. I asked one of them how to get to the nearest Underground station, and he directed me. Then I got on the train and then got off, tried to find the other station to board another train, couldn't find it, and then walked around Hammersmith for a while. That's where I am right now, in an Internet Cafe. I bought food, juice and socks at a grocery store.
I am debating whether I should go to the British Museum this afternoon, or just go back to my hostel. Probably I will go to the Museum because I don't want to appear a loser to the people at my hostel, staying in every night. But really they don't matter much to me, and the hostel owner insists on calling me pet names (baby, angel, dear, etc), and you all know how much I like that. I know that I'm going to get a lot of that in Ghana. Maybe I should start dressing in a bourka. It'd probably be too hot, though.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lesson 1: always bring more socks than you think you'll need.

I'm writing from the pub beneath my hostel. A band is playing, but I'm tired and want to go to bed. It's 10:30. I have been waiting to write this post for the whole night, but a guy has been on the computer watching youtube videos all night. I asked him to use it earlier and he let me, but I said that it would be only 5 minutes, which is not enough time to check my email and write a blog entry. Anyway, in attempt to save time and make things more coherent, I wrote the following earlier this evening.
I am sitting in my hostel room in London (to be transcribed later tonight). Old punk rock music is drifting through my open window- the Sex Pistols and what I think is the New York Dolls. Today was a good day. I have a blister on my right heel, but that is only because I walked a lot today and wore shoes without socks (I apparently didn't bring enough socks).
I went to Portobello Market and \Hyde Park with my hostel roommates, who are from Spain. There are two women and a man (who isn't my roommate). He is an olive oil farmer in Grenada! I think that's really cool- his father and grandfather and on and on and all of his brothers have been and are olive oil farmers. He doesn't speak a word of English, and neither does his sister Elena. \Susana speaks only a little (she is younger, and a friend of Elena). I am finally glad that I had to take Spanish in school.
After Hyde Park, I set off on my own to see the British Museum. I didnt' spend much time there- maybe 20 minutes and then it closed. Then I TRIED to find a vegetarian restaurant I had read about called |Food For Thought, but for the life of me I could not find it and kept getting lost. Finally I just decided to eat at a Thai restaurant where the prices were pretty good (£3.95 for a meal, which actually turns out to be $8.00, but I was tired of walking and looking). I had steamed vegetables in a ginger sauce. THat was really good, but they charged me £.90 for a glass of water, and then my waitress filled it again, and they charged me double. So I spent over $3.00 on tap water. One more item to add to me 'waste of money' list, which is now up to about $30.00 (most of it spent yesterday on unnecessary transport cost). But I guess I saved dinner yesterday and lunch today by buying a baguette and chease and pears at a grocery store.
Mommy and Daddy, sorry I haven't called you yet- I have to get around to buying a phone card and figuring out how to use it, plus it's the middle of the afternoon when it's night here, and vice versa. Maybe tomorrow morning your time? We'll see. Love you.
It's time for bed. Tomorrow I go to a music festival which will be a good part of my London budget (£30, which = $60), but will be completely worth it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My British tour diary

I wrote this in my journal this morning:
To repeat an often-heard phrase from this morning's commute, this is absolutely bloody awful. I am exhausted (it being 5am EST) and did not sleep at all on the plane. I have been in transit for more than two hours, and have gotten lost, bungled the connection, and otherwise fallen further into this hole of self-pity and desperation. At least I don't have both of my big bags with me, as I left one of them at the airport in Left Luggage storage. I hope I get there soon.

It is 4:10 pm London time, and I am now sitting in the pub, feeling tired but not nearly as desolate. I finally found my way through a street lined with open-air vegetable and fabric and all other kinds of stands. It seems that this is an ethnically diverse neighborhood, so that's neat. Then, I got to sleep on the common room couch for a few hours, and that did amazing things for my morale. I was absolutely exhausted. And now I suppose that I will explore the neighborhood with a girl from Texas who is also traveling alone.
I am having a hard time typing on this computer because the shift key is a little bit different. I'll live, I suppose. Or maybe just stop using caps?
I have a headache, and I'm tired of typing, so I'm going to try to find something to eat. I got here all in one piece, although my trip has been an exercise in patience. Hopefully the next few days will be much more refreshing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let's get out of this country!

I am leaving tomorrow! I have been walking around in a daze today, unable to focus but desperately trying to concentrate on the task ahead. At 5:44 am tomorrow morning, I will depart from Grand Rapids. My friend Brian is taking me to the airport. He assures me that it will be no inconvenience- he just won't go to bed until after he drops me off. I marvel at his version of college-aged insomnia.
This week in Grand Rapids has been good for me. I am reassured of my place in the world, and happy to be in with people who are happy to be around me. More than that, though, it has been a segue to the next step, and then the next, and finally, I will find myself in Ghana, wondering where the time went.
Really, this post is just a filler- a fluffy note to reassert the fact that I am still alive and moving.
I need to buy an address book, because I have recently realized how dependent I am upon my phone and computer to save information. I will have neither phone nor personal computer in Ghana. Yikes! It will be an adjustment, but not necessarily a bad one.