Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dancing My Way Out of Ghana

When I arrived in Ghana, I was told by everyone and their mother I would have a blast here. It’s lived up to the hype. There’s been great food (the best I’ve had in Africa), hilariously awkward situations, and memorable nights. But beyond the pure fun of the place is how I’ve developed scholastically, professionally, and personally.

I’d say, probably for the first time all trip, that I am beginning to feel my fellowship goals are bearing some resemblance to completion (note that my goals are to better understand poverty and development approaches…I don’t expect, as a Western male Caucasian, to ever fully understand poverty). At the same time, after volunteering with TechnoServe, I am more confident in my skill set, yet just as keen to improve upon it. I have a better idea of what I want my future to look like in terms of what purpose I have in my life, and what that looks like as a career. Personally, I am more confident than I’ve ever been in who I am and who I’m not. I know better what I want in life and what I don’t want, but of course answers still remain.

Another volunteer had, a few days after my TechnoServe contract finished, moved into my room, but my flatmates, who are now great friends, were willing to put up with me crashing their couch for a week. Not wanting to overstay my welcome and giddy to trample the red soil of some other African country, I booked a bus ticket to Cote d’Ivoire, the once regionally prominent neighbor of Ghana.

The bus had a departure of 5:00 am, meaning I had to be at the station at 4:00. Jana, my flatmate, noted that given the night’s planned festivities, the only logical thing to do was to not sleep. That wasn’t a hard sell for me. The night started out at a cocktail at a couple of Swedish guys’ apartment who worked for a telecom company implementing a mobile cash platform in the country, a concept that is sweeping Africa. As someone who has dealt with the hassles of a cash-based society, I can attest their work is really valuable. They’ve rearranged their living room to include a ping pong table and have commissioned a local painter to paint “the best” person in each field, including the top Swedish ping-pong player and Jay-Z so far. “Are you a big Jay-Z fan?” I asked. “Not particularly,” one of the flatmates answered. Cool guys.

From there we headed to the beach for my last glance at the Ghanaian ocean and the last supper – a delicious meal of chicken and rice. We met up with friends who worked for Innovations for Poverty Action, and my Ghanaian friend Isaac, who I met through the reference of fellow Vanderbilt friend Jessi Solomon, who’s a rock star in her own right. A college student studying business at one of Ghana’s top universities, he’s worked extensively with autistic children and is currently doing an internship with IBM in partnership with German university students. Later this month he’ll travel to Germany to present his work. Extremely friendly and speaking fluent English, Isaac has been an invaluable help and friend to me during my stay in Ghana. Oddly enough, while at the beach I ran into a random Ghanaian who claimed he remembered me from weekends before in another town. This was the second time this had happened in the same week. Apparently I make an impression on some people.

The night finished – or rather got started, at Bella Roma, where a friendship I’d previously made with the bouncer Cyborg (awesome) got us in for half price. The dance floor was pretty empty when we arrived, but Ariana, Jana, Isaac, Richelle, others and I got things moving in no time. Perhaps it was my terrible dancing that made others lose their inhibitions, but more likely it was just the alcohol. That’s one great thing about traveling internationally – as big of a fool as you make yourself out to be, you’re probably never going to see 99% of these people again. At 3:00 am, soaking from sweat (that picture was just the beginning) and entirely exhausted, we headed home so that I could pack (Apparently earlier that day I’d used my standard reasoning of “I’ll let Future Rob deal with that”). I said my goodbyes and darted out the door, arriving at the station with plenty of time since – like anything in Africa – the departure wasn’t on time. I fought exhaustion trying to make sure both I and my bag made it onto that bus, and when I finally did as the sun started to rise, I did the impossible, and passed out cold on a low-budget African bus.

No comments:

Post a Comment