Titania K

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Prayer in the Newsroom, Deep-Kissing & Other Strange Happenings

In 1 on August 27, 2009 at 1:32 am

Journal entry – Aug. 24

I’ve become somewhat of a social misfit in this town, especially at work.  Apparently, every Spectator staff meeting held on Monday mornings at ten begins and ends with an unironical prayer. All the news writers gather in the editor’s office, take their seats and the managing editor has everyone bow their heads and close their eyes for a “word of prayer.” All I can do is follow suit and not aggravate the tranquil scene with my raging discomfort. “When in Rome.”

After work, I hitched a ride towards the orphanage in a shared taxi for one cedi fify peswes.  The driver maneuvered through the road like a maniacal speed-freak, side swiping the edge of the street to pass traffic. The three passengers riding with me  yelled incoherent obscenities at the driver, but it was two late. He grazed the side of a maroon Mazda whose driver immediately stopped in the middle of the highway to verbally lash the cabbie. We got out of the car in the middle of this scene, and I eventually hitched a ride on a double decker bus along the road. All the seats were taken, but I found a prime corner on the floor of the top deck where I recorded these strange happenings in my journal.

I’ve underestimated how inundated by Christian dogma this place is. I can’t even sit down at work without someone hassling me about my thoughts on life after death, which was the topic of this week’s published questionnaire. While I edited the page, Addy, the Spectator’s managing editor, asked me whether I believed. I said “Sure”  just to get him off my back. “Well, technically, nothing really dies. It just transforms into something new,” I told another newswriter when he asked. He smiled, but explained it was sarcasm. A few days ago, I told Mary, a Jehovah’s Witness and Spectator news intern, that I didn’t agree with organized religion. This may explain the evangelical mobbing I’ve been experiencing ever since. I’ve entered a vacuum, a sort of Twilight Zone, when it comes to free thought and expression, something I’m not accustomed to after wallowing in San Francisco’s freak-loving warmth.  I just hope my articles aren’t rejected because of their non-denominational bent.

Uncensoring sex education is going to be a daunting task in this place. Newspaper headlines read “Are Ghanaians Dressing Properly,” “Pastor urges youth to be obedient.” One article read: “People are displaying deep-kissing  in public as normal. Formerly we were seeing white people doing these shameful things but today, black people too have joined the disgraceful display. On our television screens we are forced to see close up shots of couples in ads that are better done behind closed doors because of our status as human beings.”  Ghanaians are so in denial of their unabridged potential as human beings, the place is a paradoxical box, where conservative Christianity thrives alongside unplanned pregnancies and child prostitution rings and desperate poverty, et cetera et cetera. “Don’t let a few rotten apples taint your view of Ghana,” the Times editor said when I pitched him my child prositution story.

Drum Lessons, Beaches & Obama: My Orientation

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Albert, my tour guide in Ghana

I forgot to mention that all of the photos from the previous post were taken Aug. 19 during my orientation and second day in Ghana. My plane departed from LA at 6:30 am, Aug. 17  and arrived in Accra at 9:30 am, Aug. 18! The orientation was provided by Albert, a spectacularly sharp man and practicising Buddhist. It included a 20 minute drum lesson at the Cultural Center in Accra from bonafide rastafarians, a tour of the government ministries and historic sites, a trip through the Makola and Okaishie outdoor shopping malls, lunch at a popular local restaurant where I delighted in Fufu (a cassava and plaintain dough), enlightening conversation and a short romp at Koko Beach. Oh, and I wore my new cowboy boots the entire day, which had locals pointing and shouting at me with delight! But enough of the jibjabber. Photos:

 

African drumming at the Ghana Cultural Center in Accra

 

 

Too rad! This isn't your hippie uncle's Santa Monica beach drum circle. But check out those boots.

Too rad! This isn't your hippie uncle's Santa Monica beach drum circle. But check out those boots.

 

Drum Maker at the Cultural Center in Accra

Freedom and Justice Independence Monument in Accra

Me with the Unknown Soldier at Independence Square in Accra

Ghanaian President Atta Mills and Obama billboard on a roadside

“Akwaaba” is Twi, a common regional dialect, for “Welcome.”  The cow is one of many free-ranging animals wandering Ghanaian streets.

So this is Africa…

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm
It's absolutely rad what a perfect state of equilibrium allows you to balance on your head.

It's absolutely rad what a perfect state of equilibrium allows you to balance on your head.

There’s turmoil in the house. My roommates, Hannah, Philippa and Sarah, scream they’ve been hoodwinked by the director of the program, Prince. The scoundrel’s been keeping the money we’ve paid him for himself instead of giving it to Cephas, the head of our host family and the orphanage. This has made the girls feel guilty about staying at the orphanage and eating the food intended for the children. I’ve tried to quell their fury by reminding them that regardless of the program’s politics, their intentions are what really matter, and the children who Hannah and Philippa teach love them.  Later today though, we’re having a conference with Prince to convince him to hand over the money  to Cephas. Besides this emotional speed-bump (early tears of concern have been shed by some), we had an awesome time out last night. We went to the Irish house in Osu, a town in Accra that’s sort of an after-hours red light district in Ghana. At the House, I mimicked the locals on the dance floor, swiveling my hips and contorting my body to the traditional Ghanaian beats played by the house band, which consisted of saxophonists, trumpeteers, tribal drummers, keyboardists, and multiple singers. A Guinness in one hand and a whiskey soda in the other, it was great fun, despite the sex-trade seeking Euro tourists crowding the bar and dance floor with awkard shuffles that imitated dance moves.  I wore my uber-ethnic black and white pearl necklace and my sleeveless polk-a-dot dress top, but the Ghanaian men I danced with still pegged me as a foreigner. I beamed when one said I danced just like a native.

My first day at work started yesterday. I have been re-assigned to the Spectator, a weekly weekend publication associated with New Times Corporation, for the first two weeks of my stay.  After this tenure, I will transfer to the Times, which is also owned by New Times Co. Apparently, before my arrival, someone from the program told the Times’ editor that I solely covered sports stories. This bold lie nearly cost me the enire internship. I had to make a deal with the editor  to even get on the staff: write two investigative stories for the Spectator, then if they measure up,  I’ll be moved to  the Times’ daily roster. My first story will cover the Lebanese refugees living in squalor in Circle, another town in Accra that ‘s a broad, bustling hotspot for merchants of every stripe.  The Lebanese Muslim-garbed women with their begging children in tow are rumored to be the product of old-fashioned laziness. “They think because of the color of their skin they don’t have to work, so their fathers send their children out to beg,” my editor speculated.  I’ll get to the bottom of it. Arnaud, a French volunteer at the orphanage, has agreed to be my interpreter on this beat.  This could be the story that earns me my stripes.

And now,  pictures from the the Makola Shopping Mall in Accra. This place puts downtown LA to shame:

 

On the way to Makola Market, Aug. 19. I'm obviously awe-obsessed over the balance and head strength of shopkeepers.
This is a typical pedestrain crosswalk  in Accra, by the way. But moving on…

 

 

Makola Market, Aug. 19.

 

 

Makola Shopping Mall

 

 

 

Makola Mall Mayhem!

 

Makola market, Aug. 19

 

 

I’m no mall rat though, so let’s move on…

Welcome to Ghana!

In 1 on August 20, 2009 at 12:17 am

Twenty or so hours ago, I was downing whiskey sours and dramamine cocktails at JFK airport in a desperate attempt to calm my nerves. Flying 35000 feet above the ground at 350 miles per hour, a girl’s got to do something, and sedatives help. Now, I am in Ghana (!!!) living in an orphanage where I sleep in a room with three volunteers from the UK.  In the morning, I meet my editor at the Ghanaian Times, where the fun finally begins. Life is good.

 The New Life Orphanage International is a modern setup located in Nungua, a town 30 km from the capital Accra. The lodgings are not what I expected. I was told I would have one roommate in a middle-class house where other volunteers also live. I’ve been bamboozled, but it’s okay. I can’t complain. My mission remains the same.

So far, each day a different young girl at the orphanage has brought me a tray of breakfast, lunch, and dinner cooked by the resident chef Vivienne, despite my pleas that I can serve myself. I feel strange being served, but this is Ghanaian hospitality, and guests are expected not to lift a finger. It’s late here, and my first day at work begins tomorrow, so I better pass out. Here’s a short list of the sites and sounds I experienced today during my orientation:

  • Koko Beach (Rad!)
  • Makola Market (puts Downtown LA to shame)
  • Merchants (the human head can balance more weight than I thought)
  • The Cultural Center (had my first drum lesson today here by bonafide rastafarians)
  • Independence Square (Ghana announced it’s independence here from England in 1957)
  • The Mausoleum (I forget whose body was exhumed from this place, but it’s pretty important)
  • the children caught a monkey today. It was pretty brutal to watch.

 More groin-grabbing details will come later, I promise. I’m still getting the knack of this thing and place. What a test in character this trip is going to be. Rad!

Titania’s African Journey/Traveling Is Hard

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I leave in less than a week for Ghana, a country I know almost nothing about; and I still need to buy a new pair of jeans without crotch holes, a vest, flats, basically a respectable outfit that doesn’t weird-out the locals.  I still need to buy a ticket to vist my mom in Orange County. I need to pack. And I need to mentally prepare myself to adapt. This trip not only involves tapping into my productive zen zone, but adapting to and absorbing a culture I still know virtually nothing about. Do I need to leave my place right now to buy a travel book? Definitely.