Friday, April 23, 2010

Lasting Impressions

There are many incredible images stockpiling in my memory that I want to begin putting into writing. They are powerful, moving and still pictures and feelings from Ghana that will stay with me forever. Some are not so favorable, most are exquisite, all pretty exotic.
• The light glinting off Dezmond as he takes his cold shower just before bed (his new nightly routine). The power is off so he shows me by the light of a small battery operated light how the water splashing off his hands make it look like he is Spiderman shooting out his webs. • Watching Riley perfect his front crawl, a stroke that I have only given him the odd bit of advice on. He swims around the perimeter of the pool slowly turning on his side to breathe, relaxed, kicking, his whole body staying on the surface, powering forward with his muscular upper body and strong kick, moving athletically yet with grace doing all the things I have been trying to do for years. No one told him to do it; I just noticed him trying it one day and encouraged his efforts. He loves it and it seems to come so naturally.

• The ghostly, silent noise the fans make as they come to an ominous stop when the power goes out during the day.
• The view I have walking to the kids’ school along the canal, of the Cathedral steeple in the distance surrounded by palm trees and other tropical greenery against a perfect blue sky & the view I have when I look just a bit lower and see all of the garbage in the open sewer which is what the canal actually is.

The games the kids’ come up with as they play with each other and their friends who live below us, creating kings and queens out of sticks and sarongs, a make believe world of people who live under the shrubs, are made out of rocks and have homes decorated with found objects like single earrings and pieces of glass. The kids playing cross dressing with each other and the friends they have made; Riley, Dezmond and their Ghanaian friend Jim looking like beautiful young girls and Lilianna, Josephine, with their Ghanaian friends Sessi, and Christy-Anna looking like very cool dudes. Playing Drip Drip Drop (Duck Duck Goose with water), Red Light Green Light, Truth or Dare, school and house.

• The girl who cleans/does laundry for me once a week, speaks virtually no English, and often carries her baby on her back as she cleans. This week she stops in the middle of dusting our bookshelf, completely fascinated with one of the kids’ books on Dinosaurs. Her baby is hungry and tired and irritable, but it does not matter, she is completely engrossed.
• Watching my girls grow stronger, wiser, independent and more beautiful every day, while still holding on to their charming youth and innocence.

• Long, lithe, muscular, naked little bodies as they get ready for bed each night.
• Bedtime stories on the balcony.
• The young woman with her baby, who sits in the shade of her wooden table/shelf where she sells fruit near the busy ring road on the sewer canal. Every day we walk past her in the exhaust and heat, but she always has a big smile and hello for us, which never fails to brighten my day.
• Kokrobite: the laid back rastafari beach we hang out at whenever we have the opportunity.

• The cultural performances at Alliance Francais. A highlight last week was a show from Toulouse, France. It was a fascinating dance piece that had a girl and a guy playing off each other physically and emotionally. It was completely mesmerizing for the full hour using dance, song, circus, playing with rhythm and light while telling a very personal story which was different for each person in the audience. I was transported to another world and inspired by the art of it. It was wonderful to watch such innovative Art performed in an intimate outdoor amphitheatre with a cold beer in hand surrounded by Terry, the kids and a large mixed crowd of expats and Ghanaians.
• The kindness of so many people here:
The director of Scholars International who was full of support and understanding when I told her I would pull the kids from her school to go to Merton International. She had done so much for us in letting the kids’ go to her school for 2 weeks at a discounted price. She had begun a renovation of her school which I think was a result of our kids going to the school and possibly with the assumption that more money would be coming as the kids continued in the final term of the year. She also fired a teacher who had been problematic with the girls (see my next blog for more on this). She said she was happy that we were happy.
Who lives across the road from us and charged only $2.75 to braid the girls’ hair with extensions, which took her and another girl together 2 and ½ hours.

Cynthia, Maggie, Eunice & George (photo below, from the right, w/o George)
The landlords who live in our compound: Cynthia is studying to become a seamstress and altered a dress for Josie for free. Eunice has brought over bananas, a flashlight (for when the power goes out), and ground corn and corn flour with which she taught me how to make breakfast cereal. Maggie gave us curtains and Eunice brought them over with a hammer and nails. George has had a stroke but always says hello with a big smile.

Henry (next to Terry)
He is the artist who lives below us and any time we need advice about the neighborhood or how to take a trotro anywhere, where to find a bank, pay a bill or fix my cell phone. He is always there for us and if we need last minute child care we can usually count on him or his family to help.

Anna Hughton
Sight unseen, she invites us to dinner our first Saturday after arriving in Accra. She continues to invite us for meals and to meet her other friends and family. She also has given us a microwave to use, pillow cases, towels, pots, pans, and dishes. She let’s us use her “driver” when needed and we know she is always a phone call away if we need anything. She is extremely kind and friendly with Terry, myself and the kids, a very good friend here in Accra.
Aunty Baby
The local grocer lady who keeps us in cold beer and who helped us when a stranger followed us home from the market one day hoping to get money from us.

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