Sunday, December 25, 2005

It's a beautiful day in Costa Rica. In fact, all of the days have been beautiful. The light rain showers in the afternoon are very refreshing. The town of Fortuna is beneath Volcan Arenal and at night you can see the lava glowing red! We went on a boat ride and saw many exotic animals. We also went to a wonderful hotsprings and soaked for hours and hours under the starry sky. The locals set off fire works last night for Christmas Eve. It was quite the show. Today we are off to the cloud and rain forests of Monte Verde.
Merry Xmas all!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hello my darlings!
I am speaking to you from the ever wonderful, the ever green Costa Rica!
After a lot of unwanted and uncalled for delays we finally pulled into town today at 2:30 pm. That's right, over 24 hours worth of travel.
But Costa Rica is warm, beautiful, green and completely different from anything I've ever experienced before. The aunt, the mom and I went for a walk along the road (busy as hell and no sidewalks) to a little restaurant were we ordered up some bebers (drinks) and some chow. A wonderful mix was on the radio and we had a varied assortment of dishes including little tortillas with a relish tray and a whole roasted garlic, enchilada, stuffed chilis and heart of palm salad. MMMmmm. The people here a really nice. I can't say that I have seen a lot of the real culture, mainly just a busy road but I have high hopes for the next month. Tomorrow, we head to the grand Volcana Arenal, which is still lively as all get out and soak in the hot springs there abouts, go on a night tour looking for animals and generally bask in the "bad" feeling one gets from hanging out within death's grip right under an active volcano.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dodowa Road

Lapping dogs with lamenting dirges
called to me from sunburned Savannah
hills. Thirsty dogs, dry as sand and wind-
streaked tongues, with paws cracked
in Hamartan heat, pad up and down
the blood red road. Back and forth
they oscillate, circle round and round,
dead dogs. They haunt the side of the road,
rotting like war, rotting like rinds
of salted roast. Day after day, electricity,
cascading neurons, vanish with five
o'clock sunset. Hair and eyebrows gone
like a two year old's birthday cake.
Muscle and skin, toenails and eyeballs
are devoured like a fine book at one a.m.
Nerves and muscle, cartilage and soft
organs are pulled from cavities like precious
jewels and day after day, the road reaches
long to the north, and south to the sea.
The entire walk, rotting dogs decay
to dusty bones and dripping dreams.

Monday, December 12, 2005


It all began on a rocking horse.
The story of my life, a talking horse,
started slow, like a second date,
a secret wish served on broken
plate, a golden coin, flattened
on railroad steel. I twitched
and conceived a critique
of consciousness. A cactus of truth
pierced my skin, drooled out
a foreign friend. Transposed
in a perspiring melange,
we painted a tapestry
of terracotta pearls and timid
paper and plastic,
expanding like a wicked
little shadow, inebriating
me like a salty sailor.
The curve of a smile puckers
in carefully colored calendars.
Teeth on Tuesdays, grins
on Mondays and chortles
on Fridays.
Week after week a sad
love song whispers
on my shoulder like an evil
demon, urging me to your
cracked egg shell smiles
and flakey pastry prose.
We both know that making
the sun rise is like muting
a silent monkey.
It has already happened.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ripping Off a Whiny Song

A three pronged hat and a tin roof
sunday ice cream strolling
in Central Park, a chapeau
and a fatty dairy product,
it's true, but what were
the chances, of them strolling
in Central Park.

Come to me in a satin scarf
and robes of milky cream.
Come to me and listen
to my ditherings, my digressions,
commas, quotes and quid pro quos.
Six thousand words I have scribbled
with a million, trillion, gazillion
to follow. Hanging clauses,
compound sentences without
a pound, raw, unfinished.

If you came to me
in the hollow honeydew
haze, you would scare away
the spider webs of Easter egg
shadows and render me
a loquacious fool with your
enchanting cantations.

One for puppies and two
for pain. Another for love
and three for flying angels
raining fairy dust and subjunctives.
I am counting crayons,
each one a different color.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

the leaves have fell off all the trees and despite the fact that i can see through the naked branches, i still can't see the stars for the fog. it the kind of fog that creeps up on you around corners and taps your left shoulder and quickly moves to your right side when you turn your head. outside is a death trap and i can't get used to the cold. i want to love it, to embrace it, to cuddle in front of a fire or walk briskly down the trail, feeling the coolness on my cheeks but knowing that i am warm. have you ever looked closely at hoar frost? it clings to pine needles like nylons in humid southern afternoons. it clings but it also pulls away like a thousand jagged saw tooths or a layer of sharks teeth. i've never seen anything so polar, clinging and pulling. it's like me in a way. stretching with all its might, pulled by some unseen force towards the mysterious future yet grounded, rooted to the tree afraid to take the first bite that will eventually devour the elephant. if i can't see things through to a successful ending, i terminate them before they begin and in the spring, i melt with the warm sun and trickle into the thawing ground. some wise wit once said, nothing ventured, nothing gained. well, my angels, he was right.
{From a documentary called Africa: A Triple Heritage}
The whole universe has been created in the image of god. In fact, the universe and the creative process are a kind of autobiography of god; god telling his story chapter by chapter, tree by tree star by star stream by stream. All of the different elements in nature can be expressions of god. The sun rise can be god’s smile, the draught, the wrath of the ancestors and thunder and lightening could sometimes be a divine orgasm.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

If you believe in this
then the following is of no
consequence but if you
think that it is nothing
more than grey swirls
in the bathtub
then it is only a ring
'round the rim to me.
I repeat it over
and over, believe
with all my energy
and I can tell you
twice if not thrice
that there is no
difference between
you and me whether
they think so or not.
You have never
uttered a word
about it before so I
do not think it
matters anymore.
Tomorrow was the same
as yesterday and today
is coming faster then
I want to say. Let
them all wash away.
Now, weeks are like
petals on a flower.
I will not concern
myself with hours.
They cannot be there
and be here with me
so I leave them to
regimented minutes.
Because I believe
it is true. If you
do not...
simply be,
so that we can
be together.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The World According to Dan Dustin:

I am the the old original iron-jawed, brass-mounted, copper-bellied corpse-maker from the wilds of Arkansas! Look at me! I am the man they call Sudden Death and General Desolation! Sired by a hurricane, dam'd by an earthquake, half-brother to the cholera, nearly related to the smallpox on the mother's side! Look at me! I take nineteen alligators and a bar'l of whiskey for breakfast when I'm in robust health, and a bushel of rattlesnakes and a dead body when I'm ailing. I split the everlasting rocks with my glance and I squelch the thunder when I speak! Stand back and give me room according to m y strength! Blood's my natural drink, and the wails of the dying is music to my ear. Cast your eye on me, gentle-men, and lay low and hold your breath, for I'm 'bout to turn myself loose!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Rolling Stones rocked. And be assured that I told you all about them and then promptly lost it all in an unexpected computer freeze. I'm just not really interested in rewriting the masterpiece so I'm going to give you some highlights from other peoples' masterpieces...

"Pasted on my open window, I see the sky above me, raw."
"I'm hoping to find a plug for my heart's leak."
"We are nothing but common souls, crying common tears."
"The paintings on the wall were filled with my blood."
"As a child, I thought we were all going to become famous."
"I've broken my laws too many times. Do it. Shoot me. I'm beginning to find my music."
"A leaf brushed my face on its way to disintegrating."

Out of context, they crinkle a little bit, a little less potent.
I danced in the oval last night under the half moon. I was alone, again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hey ol' buddies ol' pals.
I'm on my way to Seattle this coming weekend, Friday -Monday. Why? You ask. Because Sarah's darling dad found two tickets to the ROLLING STONES and he's giving them to us. So if you're a Seattlite, let's meet up, that is when I'm not rocking with Mic and Keith and Bill and Charlie!!! You know you can't always get what you want, but I did this time!
Thank you RICHARD!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jules is in Ghana for a semester at Legon University. She has sent numerous emails about her time there and they echo so many of my experiences! She has been to so many places that I also went to. It is so cool to think that my footsteps fell on top of Sarah's and then hers on mine. Three friends have ventured to this place on three separate occasions and it is nothing but infinite and who knows who will follow? I am toying with going back for school. It think Jules has the right idea. She is taking classes which include Twi, indigenous religions, Ghanaian history and drum and dance. And what is even cooler is the fact that Jules is visiting Orphanage Africa. When she writes about the kids and the women that work there I just want to burst. I am overwhelmed with jealousy and excitement. Africa was such a nothing. I never thought of it. I never cared and now it is so huge. The African studies class that I am taking plus Jules' emails are reminding me everyday that I have only done half the work for my time in Africa. I want to set up something permanent. Saralita and I have tossed around ideas for Engineers Without Borders and I have been trying to think of something meaningful that I could coordinate with the school. But my thoughts need to be turned into action.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Do you want to meet my red HOT crew, the North Bend Berserkers?

Chris, Kyle, Maloney, MJ, Ryan and Rachel

Do you want to see what we do?

Bake apple crisp cakes...

and clear logs off the trail ...

Scale high rock faces....

carry heavy tools...

transplant ferns...

throw rocks...

and light ourselves on fire...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It is a measurless hour,
quiet, like a stream at twilight
is quiet, murmering its own sound,
murmering its watery prose.

The yellow light is ripe
on my face, spilling
over my lap, dripping down
to my toes.

It is the kind of light meant
for empty stores
and halloween nights.

If it were not for the people
permeating the darkness,
I would be a ghost.

I have never wanted to be
so much at once. A rip
tide pulls me back
to a feeling I forgot.

It is the midnight hour,
the stillness,
the frictionless love,
that pulls me like a cord
down into this deep caldron.

When there is nothing
in the noises of night
but isolation.

When there is nothing
in my heart but a need
to be, I think the noisless
night is breathing a song.

I try not to listen
but it is not there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Has life been happening? I feel so tired I could sink through the cement foundation like honey in hot water. We all know summer is over. It happened last Friday and even though the temperatures may reach 72 degrees and the sun shines with all its might, there is snow on Lolo Peak and there are dead orange and red leaves in our yard. It smells different out there; summer is broken. Sleeping with out a sleeping bag, shot down dead, alpine lake swimming, murdered in its sleep, napping in the burning hot sun, stabbed straight through. Fall rises out of summer fire. No more burning dreams. I'm not anywhere new except beneath my house surrounded by cement feeling like Fortunato, all bricked in with irony. There are three ways off a merry go round. I don't think that I'm going to let it slow down, I'm going to burn it down. It isn't Fall in Seattle...

Monday, September 05, 2005

"Recreate your heart hour after hour for the tired hearts go blind"
(from the Hadith)

Friday, September 02, 2005

the spring break of our freshman year, sarah patrick and i flew to new orleans. it was the same day the war began. i cant find my journal from that time to refresh my memory about the people and places. but i dont need to. i remember that we almost stayed. a lot of people do. half the kids in the hostel originally had a plan ticket home. we took the ferry across the mississippi dozens of times, played sharks and pirates with the local kids, tapped our feet to strumming guitar and grating washboards. this poem was for sarah now its for memories, music, travel, the kids at algiers point, the piano player, the lovely people at india house and the partiers and the circle bar and all the people who lived in new orleans.

The Big Easy

The war is starting and sticky air breaths on our faces,
arms and stomach. Snaking brown river laps our feet,
curling over each toe like sifted powdered sugar
and every breath we take fills our lungs with hot pungent
Cajun spice. We blithely chase our fears with sips of mango
and spilt plastic cups of New Orleans’ cheapest brew.

Night falls slowly in a lazy southern city and street bands
play for old men, young girls, witch doctors, palm readers,
accountants, homeless and wonder lust teenagers alike. Dance
in the moonlight, swing our arms like monkeys and skip
around, through and under while jazz strums and girls yelp
and raucous laughter spills under the moon’s streaming beams.

Catch the rainbow beads dripping from the torrid sky,
wring the strands from our hair and watch the dripping
puddles form on the cool, cement floor while piano players
tap out an easy pace and children scramble like sharks over
yellow and red and blue metal. We call it life and let it slip
away into peyote smoke. We call it home and never leave.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

So...Yesterday, the 27 of August was my 21st birthday. But the good birthday vibes seemed to have soaked into the entire week. My last trip with the NBTC was amazing. We hiked into the most beautiful glaciated valley I have ever seen. The jagged mountains were laced with snow and glacier remnants. The river was clear, so clear I could not see it. The only evidence that it really existed was the steady rumble of water flowing. The work was fun and challenging but not killer. We secured a floating bridge and did drainage work. On evening MJ and I took off up the steep side of mountain, scaling talus slopes and gaining ridge after endless ridge to finally arrive at the most beautifully juxtaposed barren high alpine lake. We could see for miles and miles including my old Skykomish playing grounds. We hiked home in the dark and the night was so cold and clear you could taste it. In the morning, we had back country baked apple crumble cake with a single candle in it to celebrate my birthday and Rob's anniversary. We worked half the day and took the rest off to play in the mountains. I feel like I could dangle them from a string and bat them about like a cat does with a mouse. We went straight up. I had to schmear. I had to pull myself up with whatever I could grab and when we finally emerged on a talus slope we were below jutting granite cliffs and below was a glacial valley full of morains and rounded boulders and cobbles. The valley looked like a waste land and I stayed there while my boys hiked even farther upward and onward. That evening we played the most incredible game of pinochle and Kyle and I won by the skin of our teeth. It was a roller coaster game with us in the lead and then trailing by a devastating number and then sprinting towards the finish line and barely pushing our chest through the red tape before Chris and MJ. The drive from the trail head takes around 1 and half hours and we rocked to the Killers and George Clinton and I could not have been in a better mood. On Saturday, my birthday, I was assailed with happy birthday wishes from my bunkmates. Willow and I went to the NB farmer's market. I took off for Seattle to meet up with my aunt and uncle who fed me lunch and a lemon drop, which made me dangerously loopy. Then I met up with wonderful friends, Sarah Patrick, Chris, Aaron and Dan. I love my friends, I do. We hung out at Pike Place and Discovery Park. When I walked into the bunkhouse in NB, my entire crew plus some were sitting around the table with 21 small shot bottles full of a variety of drinks. Baileys, Kahluha, Absolute Peach, Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort etc...21 different kinds. We stuffed some in our pockets and purses and headed to the Mount Si tavern to have beers and play horse shoes. A band was playing all the country rock classics like Sweet Home Alabama. The band got word it was my birthday and had me come up on the stage. We all sang happy birthday and then they gave me their pitcher of beer to chug. I didn't though. Not good at that kind of thing. We moved on to the NB bar and grill and I had a birthday cake. Which is some kind of mixed shot that you guzzle and then chase with lemon. It didn't taste good but it smelled just like cake batter. I was very reluctant to drink it. Our last stop was the Pour House, a common hang out for my boys. We had beers and arm wrestled. I didn't win once but what can I expect? The music was spiced with Imagine by John Lennon. I can't help but wonder about that song. It has been played at every keystone point in my life. Paris, Ghana, Birthdays, last days, sad days...I started to get very sleepy around 1:30 so the mile or so walk home was a bit of a challenge. I could walk a straight line, no problem. It was staying awake that was difficult. And as we all looped our way home, laughing and reminiscing, the crescent moon rose over Mount Si. It was all so very ethereal and I felt strangely transcendent (probably just drunk). What a wonderful ending to my season.

Monday, August 22, 2005

it is finished...

the sleepless nights have returned and i once again find myself in a time of transition. for the first time, i am able to identify the changes in my attitude and energy that come with certian types of stressful situations. the real me has been exposed and i'm not sure i like it. i am finally recognizing how self-conscious and critical i am. my physical and mental inferiority on the trail crew has really given me a lot to think about as have recent interactions with my peers. i am passive in certain circumstances and assertive and in control in others. i like that fact that i can interact with a lot of different people but not that i can't be the same person for all of them.

and that was all leading up to this announcement...drumroll please...i will be turning 21 on saturday! no that wasn't the real announcement. i finally decided to move back to missoula and embrace all of the wonderful opportunities that the u of m has to offer. i'll be home sunday.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I have the most bizarre dilemma and it is one that I am most ashamed to admit. Over the course of the past couple of months, I have been trying (but not very hard) to decide whether to attend school at the University of Montana or Seattle Central Community College. Now deadlines are approaching and the shit is about to hit the fan. My dilemma sounds fairly black or white, easy to decide right? WRONG. I have a whole host of factors, pros, cons, desires and fears attached to each school. To summarize, and believe me, this onion is chalk full of layers:

UM has home, family, comfort, personal space, is in state, long term possibilities, friends, personal refocusing possibilities such as getting back into yoga, exercise, guitar, planning Nepal, getting some Ghana projects started and NOLs.

But it also starts earlier, I'm not registered and have a lot of hoops to jump through to become registered.

SCCC has a later starting date(so I could work for the forest service longer and go out on fires) and shorter quarter length, friends, new living arrangements, excitement of a big city where I am no longer a minor, a really cool 18 credit collective learning on Southeast Asia, possibility to work at Great Harvest again, I have already registered and paid and Ghana project options.

But it costs more, would be a lot of intense courses that don't offer much in the way of a career, a dead end, more stress and personal compromise, harder to work on planning Nepal and not home.

Two days ago, I was planning on SCCC but yesterday and this morning I was dead set on going to the UM. Right now, I'm staying in Seattle and just finished paying my tuition at SCCC. I'm playing both sides of the field here folks and I just can't make up my mind. I'm sure everyone is feeling so sorry for the poor little girl who has options and opportunities and the financial capabilities to screw around like this but just for laughs and sympathy and shear curiosity, where do you, dear reader, think I should go and why?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I'm too lazy to write coherently so I'm going to streamline.

Summer So Far
a beginning and an end, school morphed into the woods
an evergreen dish loaded with boys and tools and fireschool
hotspring secrets, bubbling water spilling with a pumpkin breeze
fireworks with family, the queen called for her lemonade
we stirred the lake with long sticks,
magiked fish sizzling in sauce
mud covered, wet and tired, building bridges to Eden
mosquito bites covered in chocolate pudding
bikers and chicks, studs and choppers
blues in the middle of Washington.
others and feet,
music and beats,
German lessons, pensions and religion
leave without pay to I can heal.
long open roads and quiet empty woods,
nights at rest stops and coffee spots,
Safeways and thriftsways
Spicing friends with curry and naan
rooftop performances, the curtain opened
with chocolate and spells.
Undefeated pinochle champ and unsullied swimmer
Biking to the sea and salty tears, letting go
Peppered with salsa and BBQs, I wore a toga
and crowned myself with ivy.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dim red light permeates the room and smoke floats in a striation about six feet off the ground. A bean bag is positioned under a large green umbrella tree. The tree has ornaments hanging off of it. They are fairly indistinguishable but the set dresser should use ultimate care when choosing them. They are perhaps the most important and integral element. Voice from the darkness begins and then character in a rather brackish colored bunny suit strolls in. The irony of the bunny discussing the qualities of people should not be forgotten. The actor should be directed to emphasize the importance of tragedy in relation to the genocide occurring on our highways as cars drive through bug hatches. The actor should also keep a picture of a durian in the back of his mind, because the audience will subconsciously be reacting to this. It is most important.

People are fascinating. The past month has been packed and the general theme has been experiencing people both physically, mentally, verbally, from a distance and right up close. Amazing business...This field work. Some people are horribly dull to look at and maybe at first conversation but give them some effort and their life slowly unfolds as an amazing tapestry of deeds and dreams. Others are wild, they put everything out on the dance floor. Both personality and body type are displayed and your imagination only gets to fill in their past. The present is all they care about. But even here, these people have a story, amazing stories, inspiring stories. Sometimes it's hard to really listen to other people but its better than reading a book though a bit more exhausting. I highly encourage random conversations and bouts of selfless conversation. Fascinating stuff, Burns, fascinating stuff. Yes...hmm...(takes a large drag on a vanilla tobacco filled pipe)

Lights fade as curtain closes.
The End

That was a fopping kickass play, by the way!!!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Emerging blubber and flubber, six feet and drowning in mass media. Dreams of silicon marmalade but I have Aphrodite and Cleopatra, strong ancient beauties, lingering in these veins.
-Joellen Buccat

Saturday, June 25, 2005

It has been a long time coming. Funny how my muse comes and goes like a carnival or a rainstorm. It's bright and flashy, a party for awhile and then my mind is a veritable desert and I have fragments that pop around like a ping pong ball. My emotions were on hold but now that I'm out in the woods my freedom to think is also my freedom to dwell. Getting to know people always makes me wonder who I really am...I think I constructed myself out things that I thought were admirable and artsy and pensive and intuitive and beautiful. But I think I misinterpreted those things somewhere along the line which is okay because now I'm just that weird girl that wanders with the wind. I can deal with that, it's artsy... so that isn't what this poem is about. I am a big fat hypocrite. Writing this poem is the very act of contradiction to my poetic resolution. And I don't think the title of my poem is at all appropriate and I need to dwell on it a bit more so it is absent.

Silver clouds are far
behind that icy stare
and love is a stupid
thing all wrapped in jealous
gauze. A hopeless wish,
a rainbow fish flashing
beneath the foam,
too big for the line,
too vibrant for death to dull.
I waited on the horizon
for a gale to hurl me
off the edge of the earth,
space goggles on
and adrenalin high.
The plunge was near
and oxygen zero but I
could breath and I knew
the abyss was an idea
you made. It was a depth
masked by the stars
in my eyes but I saw
the moon last night,
emerge from the haze
and nothing but my laugh
on the wind will tell you
that I have gone cold
and rigid on the rim.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

no words, just music...

What Happens When The Heart Just Stops
The Frames

So what happens when the heart just stops
Stops caring for anyone
The hollow in your chest dries up
And you stop believing

So what happens when the heart gives up
But the body goes on living
The blood crawls to a slow and stops
And flows away
Well we got no-one to meet
No love we would beseech

We only have ourselves to blame for everything
There was no answer in the dust
And I'm missing you so much
And now you're sleeping
And I'm leaving
Empty-handed waiting
Time it will subside and we'll agree
It was a given

Well there was no standard we could set
And the world it does regret
To have to leave you in this state of bereavement
You see I'm feeling everything
Nothing gets by

There is a hollow in my chest
The time I won't forget
There is no comfort in the eyes
They put us always to the test I can't prepare myself for that
But I work it out in time

There is a love that flows between us
Ever-changing everyday I worked myself up to a crawl
But I'm not fearing it at all
I have no reason left to stay

And that's why I'm leaving
And there was no answer in the dust
And the one I feared to trust
There is a lie that drags me
Beating and pulling into disappointment

Thursday, June 09, 2005

You might think that my life, or at least my outlook on life, is pretty bleak. However, things are not always what they seem (like Aladdin, the diamond in the rough). I thought I would share a diamond, not to make us all feel better about myself but because it is so funny. Names, dates, locations and actual events have been altered to protect all involved, including myself.

Fact 1: My friend, who shall forthwith be known as Anna studies early in the morning in a public quiet place that shall be known as the X Spot. Generally, she studies until her friend, commonly known as Friday arrives. They procede to chat and then she goes to class.

Fact 2: Friday lives in what shall be called Boulder Snout, about 30 miles out of Seattle. This just happens to be the very same village that I will be based out of this summer on my trail crew. Anna and I thought it would be cool for me to meet Friday and bond over our similar summer digs.

So here's what happened: I was at the X Spot at 7 am but Anna apparantly has no self control when she sleeps and turns off her alarm without actually waking up so she was a no show. I worked on my paper while casually wondering if any of the boys around were Friday. I had no idea what he looked like. After a while, I started squirming around on my chair and at one point I was squating and then stood up on the chair to reposition and when I tried to sit back down in a sort of half pigion pose, the chair tipped and slid backwards. I flailed my arms in an attempt to save my fall and the momentum twisted me into a rather sideways position. I crashed to the floor and lay there like a stunned beached whale for a moment. The whole ordeal made a huge racket in the solomn silence and I made matters much worse by laughing histarically. I was horizontally spread on the ground with a toppled chair under me and scattered papers fluttering about and I certainly was not alone in my laughter.

The next morning, Anna actually got up and we managed to convene at the X Spot. Friday came right on schedual, introductions were made and we bonded a bit over our mutual residence. But time was such that I had to leave and I made a quick exit, leaving Anna and Friday to their conversation.

Two days later, Anna mentioned that Friday had recognized me because he had seen me tumble of my chair the day before. He found it odd that he should see me participating in mildly unsuccessful acrobatics one day and then meet me the next, having never known or seen me before. But it is even funnier because as I reflect on the people present, he certainly had been right there in front of me, he just hadn't fit the Friday description. He even asked if I was ok and gave me a somewhat sympathetic smile. So it boils down to my incredible ability to make a fool out of myself and laugh over it and my horrible feature recognition and I am laughing as I type this. What fun...
I guess you had to have been there...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Well, here I am.

I have been sitting in front of my computer constantly for the past week and now that I only have two reflection-type papers hanging over my head and have successfully handed in two grade defining papers, I find myself sitting (or rather hunched on the floor in an awkward zen pose that is not only making my left foot fall asleep but is making the waistline of my pants cut into my stomach significantly) in front of my computer wondering what to do now. The thought of any physical activity is way too much to even bare. My exhaustion seems to be an all-encompassing one that manifests in my lack of enthusiasm to even go for the simplest walk or make a simple bowl of soup. I have not been very healthy lately, but I'm not really complaining. I cannot complain about something that I do intentionally. I am very poor at balancing work, school, friends and myself. Instead of holding even one up and forsaking the others, I let them all drop. I am like a giant snail with a rotten foot and I am stinking up my own shell with my puss. I am most unhappy about how I have been treating (or not treating friends) and how I have been bolled over by the American way of life with out so much as a backward glance at Africa.

But today I am thankful for my family and friends who have taken so much of their time and themselves to buoy me up these past few weeks. I am thankful for my lap top (monsieur ecriver) and Microsoft word. I am thankful for the wonderful hugs that have been sent my way and I am thankful that other people pay attention when I am driving. I am thankful for music and jam sessions and the wonderful emotions that flow over me and I am thankful for strangers who invite me in and I am thankful for sunny days when my mind is in shadows.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I wish it was raining. I realized just this second that I have been listening to an unprecedented amount of music that mentions the rain lately. Coincidence...?

10000 Maniacs
If I were you,
defiant you, alone
upon a troubled way.

I would send my
heart to you to
save it for a rainy day...

The Killers
We took a walk that night,
but it wasn't the same
We had a fight on the
promenade out in the rain

Maroon Five
I don't mind spending
every night out on the
corner in the pouring rain.

Nora Jones
And I want to wake
up with the rain
falling on a tin roof.

I'm bringing down my suitcase now
I'm shining up my good shoes brown
cause no-one knows my name
Now, no-one knows my name
So look out into the morning rain
cause I'm on the mourning train

It's raining men, halejula
no just kidding... I don't even know who sings it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

According to Mohammed, Anthropology Professor extraordinaire:
When we say I romantically love you, we mean a host of things including, but not limited to, I care about you, I will be loyal to you, I will protect you, I like who you are, I can rely on you and you can rely on me, I admire you, you inspire me, you make me feel good...etc.

But we also mean, I like being physically intimate with you. I like kissing you and having sex with only you. Physical intimacy is a defining factor because in its absence, we could be describing how we feel about our best friends. When physical intimacy is a factor, jealousy is a factor. We are jealous because, according to Freud, humans lapse into mental psychosis. Romantic love makes rational human beings irrational.

All of us twitterpated, romantic fools are on the pathway to mental psychosis where a good majority of us have already gone. Mohammed and Freud aren't saying anything new here. We already knew that love drives us crazy. But I think that being sane and out of love is much worse.
Crazy? I was crazy once...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Not Talking

Storms brewing on the western shore
with clouds of doom, precognoscente
of a fatal electric strike. Thunder echoes
in between glassy towers streaming
with sleeting peril. Tears of rain, tearing
like a knife.

Storms brooding like an old maid
rocking, rocking...
darker, darker
threatening to read my mind
threatening to take me down

Storms of screeching birds, plummeting
wings on an ashy wind. Smelling of intense
fear like a musty, threadbare tree,
a slinking cat with wide, yellow eyes, tail
tucked in howling fear.

Storms ripping chemical rain and steely ice.
hotter and colder
There is a life cracked open and bleeding,
sweeping down the metallic streets
with green downpour. Charcoal dreams
are muddied dust in a quivering sky.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I don't know what to do!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Do you ever feel like you are going to burst? Maybe that is not the word for it. Essentially, I mean, do you ever feel so overwhelmed by all the problems and issues, big and small, that need your attention, immediate attention, that you can't imagine being able to attend one of them much less all or any of them? So you retract. You don't do anything and waste away your life, slothing through the motions. You live your life, but you don't live it for anything or anyone. That's how I feel. The world is dying and I can't do anything about it. This beautiful world, this amazing sphere of people, music, dancing, oceans, houses, forests, freeways, markets, beads, books, flowers, universities, espresso drinks, pierced ears, marriage, color, saltines in little plastic packs, airplanes, tro-tros, terraced farming, commercialism, pollution, snails, rice paddies, sun set beaches and marmalade analogies. This world is dying. There are 6.4 billion people in the world. One recycled aluminum can will power a television for three hours. Flying from Seattle to New York will completely nullify an entire years worth of recycling. The coral reefs and glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone during my lifetime. In 20 years, the world population will more than double. Our road less wildernesses are no longer going to be protected but harvested instead. The Mexican wolves have all but become extinct. The last wild Mexican wolf, named Lobo, was lured into a trap by his mate's carcass. His captures tethered him in a field and humiliated and tortured him. In the morning, they found the leader of the pack stone cold and dead. For years he had out-witted them, avoiding their poison and steel traps. And in one fell swoop, they killed him; they broke his heart and his spirit.I am a white, blond, green-eyed female. Therefore, I have an accumulated advantage. I will be more likely to get a job, buy an apartment, make a better deal on a car and hail a taxi than any other non-white person. I will not be as likely to be sentenced five more years for a crime or pulled over for speeding. I know all these things. I know that there is inequity and injustice and poverty and pollution etc. The picture is bleak. As individuals we are good but we manifest a society full of discriminating bigots who consume 65 gallons of water a day and over 1/3 of the world’s resources. I feel like crying and I left out so much that I do not know. I am going to get it out right now. I am a polluter, I drive a car and throw away trash and sometimes get bags at the grocery store. I use paper cups and too much toilet paper. I buy things that were not made locally. I am not a conscious consumer and I would rather keep my shower water on while washing. I have expensive, unnecessary things and I think my world is coming to an end when I have to pay 9 dollars to see a movie. At least I have nine dollars to spend on a movie. I am a huge part of the problem. I am sorry but just being aware is not going to make any difference at all. Look at me, I am aware and I still drive my car to work and I still buy Tevas from China and I still blow hot air out of my mouth while sitting on my butt, probably conuming more than my share of petroleum products.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I just have a lot of fragments today. I am fragmenting, I think...

The Sarah's and I, once again, kicked butt in Bloomsday. We did almost everything exactly the same as last year on May 3, including frisbee, dinner in Coeur D'Alene and crashing at Gramma Joyce's house. However, we were down one woman. Our dear darling Rena forsaked us for her ever-so-important work. And instead of running the race at the same pace we all beat our times from last year. I finished the sucker in 1:15 on the nose, making that my second fastest of my four races. We also had the pleasure of meeting up with our neighbor, Hilary. Saralita left her CDs in my car and I discovered that she has been hording an old friend. We have been catching up. This is what we've been discussing.

Have You Seen Me Lately
Counting Crows

Get away from me
this isn't gonna be easy
but I don't need you
believe me
you got a piece of me
but it's just a little piece of me
and I don't need anyone
and these days I feel
like I'm fading away
like sometimes when
I hear myself on the radio
Have you seen me lately?
I was out on the radio
starting to change
somewhere out in America
it's starting to rain
could you tell me the
things you remember about me
and have you seen me lately?
I remember me
and all the little things
that make up a memory
like she said she loved
to watch me sleep
like she said,
"it's the breathing
it's the breathing in and out and in
and..."Have you seen me lately?

Probably not... I've been too busy rolling my sticks of gum up in little spirals and then biting off each end so that the cylinder forms a square. I've been too busy using/consuming an average of 65 gallons of water a day. I held hands with someone during a casual conversation. It reminded me of Ghana. I've forgotten a lot. I have it all written down somewhere and when I'm not fading away, I will remember. Someone told me today that this might be the last day that we have together...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I wish I was feeling more articulate because I have some fairly complex, weighted and emotional issues roiling around in my head and I would like to sort them out. Here's the tip of the iceberg: Currently, I am in the midst of processing myself for the acceptation into two institutions. The first of which and the source of much of my internal angst is the University of Montana. Lately, the U of M has been littering my mail with acceptance letters, financial awards and orientation notices. The onslaught of letters is suddenly making it painfully obvious that I will be living and going to school in Montana in a little over three months and that the Seattle era is drawing to a close in a matter of weeks. After attempting to make this city my home for three years, I am finally pulling out. At the risk of sounding corny and pathetic, I'm going to confess that it is tearing me apart. I love Seattle and Seattle wouldn't be nearly as cool if it weren't for my Seattleites. I love my Seattleites and as selfish as this sounds, I don't want their life to go on without me. Enough...listen to me wail about my opportunity to go school when some people will never even have the chance. Moving on to the second institution, the US Forest Service. After an unmentionable amount of long distance minutes on the phone to places like Kooskia, ID and Darrington, WA and Sula, MT, and hours on the gov. website filling out the generic application form and days worth of silent agony, I was offered a job on a trail crew in North Bend, Washington. For lack of a better word, I am stoked. North Bend is the ranger district directly south of the ranger district that I worked for last summer. I will be busting my butt in a different area of the same beautiful Alpine Lakes Wilderness. So there you have it: As of June 13, I will no longer be a Seattleite but a nomad of the forest once more and after that, well, I'll be too far away for regular weekend trips that's for sure. I would love to delve into the icy waters that hide the rest of the iceberg but I haven't the intellectual prowess right now and oh, look at the time, I have to get up for work in an hour...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

{God speed all the bakers at dawn may they all cut their thumbs,
And bleed into their buns 'till they melt away. }

Last night, I had a nightmare. This is the first nightmare that I have had since my premonition. I dreamed that while I was cleaning the meat slicer at Great Harvest, I lopped off my thumb. I woke up instantly and found that my entire hand was asleep. I really hope that this was just a bad dream and not a glimpse into the future. Though I must say that I have increased the odds substantially by operating and cleaning a slicer three times a week. On another interesting note, my entry from April 23, 2004 is all about a previous digit-wounding experience.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

{If I can learn things like this in school then it's all worth it}

Compress the entire 4.6 billion years of geologic time into a single year. On that scale, the oldest Earth rocks we know date from early February. Living things first appeared in the sea in the last week of March. Land plants and animals emerged in late November, and the widespread swamps that formed the Pennsylvania coal deposits flourished for about four days in early December. Dinosaurs became dominant in mid-December but disappeared on the 26th, at about the time the Rocky Mountains were first uplifted. Humanlike creatures appeared sometime during the evening of December 31st, and the most recent continental ice sheets began to recede from the Great Lakes area and from northern Europe about one minute and 15 seconds before midnight on the 31st. Rome ruled the Western world for 5 seconds, from 11:59:45 to 11:59:50. Columbus arrived in America 3 seconds before midnight, and the science of geology was born with the writings of James Hutton just slightly more than one second before the end of our eventful year of years (Geologic Time, 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1978)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

On my run today (I'm up to thirty minutes a day) on the Burke Gilman trail, I was astounded by the sight of two merganser ducks, one male and one female, flying side by side down the trail at a break-neck speed of 15 miles per hour about two feet off the ground. They were plummeting right toward me without any sign of swerving to the side. Not quite comprehending that I was directly in their path, I kept plodding away while musing over their close proximity to each other and the ground. It finally donned on me that they were on a race to the death and that they weren't going to part ways to avoid a collision with me. I jumped to the side as they zoomed by. I turned around, mouth gaping, to watch them fly wing tip to wing tip down the trail and out of site around a bend. Later, on my cool-down walk, I saw the pair languidly floating in a swamp. I feel like this is some metaphor or sign but I'm not sure what. Any ideas, serious, funny or lame (I could use a laugh)?

Monday, April 11, 2005

what have i been up to lately?
i've was working at the SCCC bookstore. that was an interesting experience. at least we listened to the RHPS soundtrack and prince. i've also been working at Great Harvest Bread Company. i am a barista/sandwich maker/bread server. customer service is a bit of a drag but i like the customers and the employees and i really like making drinks. i've been hiking up and down and around. most of the days i've gone it has rained or hailed or snowed. but no matter. i have been schooling. yes, that's right, schooling and homeworking. i like my classes, i think. so far they are interesting. i will explain why humans don't have fur and the "universal timeline in relation to a year" someday soon. i appreciate incentives to learn new things. i went to see Finding Neverland. i also went to cry. sometimes i need a release. i still need a release. i spent time with my dad. we went to cafes and listened to live jazz. we went and saw colorful tulips in the skagit valley and we dined on indian and thai cuisine. i went to a concert. i'm going to more concerts, most importantly, The Shins. i'm training for bloomsday on may 1. times a flying and i've only just got my fairy dust. now it's time to think happy thoughts.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I dare you to ask me what it is like working two part time jobs and going to school full time...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Time is always moving forward but why do I feel like I'm stuck in the past year? I'm not bemoaning it, wishing it different or celebrating it, I'm just dwelling there, reveling perhaps...I guess I'll take The Shins' advice and skip with it...

Gone For Good Lyrics

Untie me, I've said no vows
The train is getting way too loud
I gotta leave here my girl
Get on with my lonely life

Just leave the ring on the rail
For the wheels to nullify

Until this turn in my head
I let you stay and you paid no rent
I spent twelve long months on the lam

That's enough sitting on the fence
For the fear of breaking dams

I find a fatal flaw
In the logic of love
And go out of my head

You love a sinking stone
That'll never elope
So get used to the lonesome
Girl, you must atone some
Don't leave me no phone number there

It took me all of a year
To put the poison pill to your ear
But now I stand on honest ground, on honest ground

You want to fight for this love
But honey you cannot wrestle a dove
So baby it's clear

You want to jump and dance
But you sat on your hands
And lost your only chance

Go back to your hometown
Get your feet on the ground
And stop floating around

I find a fatal flaw
In the logic of love
And go out of my head

You love a sinking stone
That'll never elope
So get used to used to the lonesome
Girl, you must atone some
Don't leave me no phone number there

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

the things on my mind:
commuting-gas, parking, permits, traffic
current jobs-too many?
imminent classes
physical condition (or lack there of)
sasquatch festival
stagnant relationships
summer jobs-not enough
traveling/teaching abroad

Friday, March 25, 2005

I found it nestled in a giant tree that overlooks the Sound and the strangely warm sun that makes my plastic hair smell like Ghana. I found it on a hill top while the full moon waved in the water of Lake Union and the city formed a bridge of light between the blackness of the water and sky. I found it in a conversation with good friends, home cooked curry and a guitar/bass with 9 strings. I found it in random visits and planned ones too, the pigeons of Pioneer Square and incredible generosity from my friends and family.

High Spirits

I hid for an hour, high
in a tree and I found him
sitting right next to me.
And when I turned my head,
I found him all around,
basking in the bright yellow
buds, sunlight searing high.
Making no sound,
he grasped my hand,
held it tight, and then
slowly let it go again.
And the yellow petals
scattered windward,
while white clouds washed
the bright sky like words.
Alone, I sadly thought
and scrambled silently down
to the waving field of clover.
But I felt a weight on my palm
and so slowly turned it over.
Painted there in pastel nectar
was the shape of a dove,
a symbol of peace, a reminder
that I am loved.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My senses are making me dizzy. How can one single solitary scent conjure images from so long ago and how can a song throw me into a reel of memores? I never knew there was so much information buried in a sound or lurking in a faint perfume. Life, my life, is everywhere.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

News from the front!
I have made it 3 slobbery nights in a row in an effort to wear my retainer consecutively for a month. In addition, I have moved into my poor sleep cycle where I fall asleep late, wake up and am restless in the middle of the night and awake for good around 7, 8 or 9 am. So far, the adverse effects of this aren't rearing their ugly head. I have made positive contact with several life forms within the US forest service and baring any mishaps, miscommunications, time constrictions and bad luck, I just may have a crew job this summer. But who needs a job for the summer if they already have one in the Spring? Which I do! I guess I should add that it's a conditionally temporary job. I am only guaranteed one week of work at the SCCC bookstore during rush and buy back but it has the potential to be extended, if I'm not voted off the island. Last but not least, I'm putting on my glasses, picking up the pen, cinching up my backpack straps and going back to school. I hope I don't get eaten.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I am learning things. See...

Black Bart
The "Po8"

To distinguish himself from garden variety bandits, Bart would leave peoms in place of the treasure boxes he stole from Wells Fargo. Beware of the man in a flour sack and derby hat. Once when a panicked womean tossed her purse to Black Bart, he refused it and said, "Thank you madam, but I don't need your money. I only want Wells Fargo's." Black Bart was eventaully caught on his 28th robbery and imprisoned for four years. After his release, when asked if he was goig to rob any more stagecoaches he replied, "No, gentlemen, I'm through with crime." Another reporter asked if he would write more poetry. He laughed and said, "Now didn't you hear me say that I am through with crime?"

Here I lay me down to sleep,
To wait the coming morrow.
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow

I've labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches,
But on my corns too long you tred
You fine-haired sons-of-Bitches.

Let come what will, I'll try it on,
My condition can't be worse
But if there's money in that box--
'Tis munny in my purse.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Scientific Impossibility

This town holds no comfort
for me. Cold buildings sting my eyes
like jalapeno stained fingers.

This grassy dale echoes with our footsteps
and the ocean retracts the toppled
stones into its belly.

This book whispers our names
like a bee searching for a hive. I can't
read the words, the page is blank, bitter.

This street rolls along, numb to the measured
chants of our atom-repelling shoes. We never
touched. It's scientifically impossible.

This sky is littered with golden
coins giggling like seagulls, worthless
currency in a moneyless communion.

This town is stale, an empty shell littering
the drain. I love to swing from a song.
I entwine myself in music, finding a friend

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I think that my trip to Mole National Park was the last you heard of my saga in Ghana. So even though I am home in Seattle and have jumped from Coeur D'Alene, Missoula, Moscow and San Diego, I want to send out a closure email on the Ghanaian chapter. My memories are already fading. I have these vivid pictures in my mind but they are like iceburgs rising out a sea of vagueness. It's depressing really. So I need it, even if you don't.

For those of you who haven't seen me yet, my hair is a bright blue and blond Rasta, a hair style where fake hair is braided into your own hair in many dangling plaits. I added some silver cuffs and super glued cowry shells at the ends. Corn rolls are similar in that fake hair is added but instead, the hair is French braided tight against the scalp. I had my friend Lily plait my hair. It was quite and ordeal and I had to sit for five hours while she braided and he brother chattered on and on about wanting to come to the US, liking my smile, liking my skin, liking my eyes, liking my skin, liking my skin, liking my skin. After having Rasta for about a month, I have grown attached to them. At first they were incredibly itchy and I would walk around slapping my head but now they are comfortable, at least for the most part. I will be sad to remove them because they are great conversation starters, I don't have to wash my hair and it is physical tangible proof that I was actually there. After my braids are gone, all I will have left are memories and a Teva tan.

I went to another church service with my friend, Christopher who I profiled in an earlier post on my journal. The priest was engaging, funny and inspirational. He cracked jokes and made the congregation laugh. The sermon was about living in the light instead of darkness and I felt like I was listening to a motivational speaker. I really could identify with his message on a personal level. In sharp contrast to my earlier Ghanaian church experience, I felt truly motivated and inspired.

I reached a zenith in dealing with Ghanaians when I returned to the post office. If you will recall, my first trip to the post office was miserable and unpleasant. So when I received another package notification I cringed and actually decided to wait for my post office parents to return from South Africa in hopes that they would pick up my packages for me. My curiosity and my general get it done myself attitude won out and I ventured into town as the very picture of Jeanette, my post office mother. I was oozing with goodwill, sugary smiles and generosity. I called each employee by name and I spoutedTwi. I gave them toffees and little gifts for their children (everyone has children). As a result of my selfish generosity I gained two packages full of goodies whose taxes cost a fraction of the taxes of the first post office trip. I walked away from the smiling employees in a wonderful mood. There is no question that I played the system or sucked up but I have to say that approaching the whole ordeal in a positive manner was much more effective then frowning and complaining about the fees. Thank you to my post office parents and Auntie Teri for showing me how to interact and react with/to Ghanaians in a positive rather than a negative manner.

My last week was a flurry of activity; developing pictures, meeting friends for final goodbyes and spending every spare moment at the school or orphanage. I realized at that point that I had made somefriends that I really didn't care to say goodbye to. It was the friends that eventually brought me to the bright side, as it were, and made my time memorable, enjoyable and a learning experience. For the first month, I was miserable and I seriously considered going home early. As I reflect upon the feelings I had during that time, I realize that they were a complex mixture of culture shock, heat shock,and isolation. While I had Cynthia to commiserate with about the dismal tree planting affair, the heat and the vast cultural differences and my host brother to escort me and get my feet under me, I was feeling trapped in a hole of cultural isolation. It wasn't that I wasn't accepted or even welcomed. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was met with enthusiasm on all sides and people eager to talk about the US. However, I didn't blend in, and that is what I wanted most of all; I wanted to experience Ghana as a Ghanaian does, not as a sensationalized Obruni.

Gloria, the teachers and the children at Tuskegee International Schoolshared themselves and their culture with me. At TIS, I wasn't ananomaly for long and the kids and teachers, after their initial awe (Iwas the first white person many of them had ever seen including television and pictures), relaxed into their normal behaviors and routines. At the school, I think I was able to interact with them as a person and not a "mystical" American. Gloria and I fascinated each other and she delighted in teaching me about her Ghanaian culture. We spent countless hours in the shade of a lime tree exchanging ideas and describing our customs and traditions. She taught me Twi and explainedthe traditions surrounding marriage, child birth and rearing, politics and sexism. We delighted in comparing our cultures and picking out the similarities and their gaping differences. The children, too, sharedtheir games, songs and dances with me. I'll never forget our feet sending up clouds of powdery red earth up around our ankles as we giggled and played Ampe in the school yard or their hysterical laughter as they watched me "shaky shake my body."

The last day at the school was a crazy and I was pulled in every direction. A photographer took pictures of me with each class and then all the teachers. I was trying to teach class 1 how to write andillustrate their pen pal messages and I was teaching class 2 how to weave with construction paper. I never knew that writing a simple ten line letter could be so excruciating and time consuming. I really didn't help matters by telling the kids to put bus stops at the end of their sentences instead of full stops (their word for period). Emmanuel, the poor kid, desperately drew Xs at the end of each sentence and looked at me with wide eyes for approval. I was frustrated and growled "no, bus stop, bus stop, mark a bus stop here."I finally realized that I was saying the wrong word and futilely tried to explain to these kids who are afraid to speak up when they don't understand that teacher is not always right and they should say something if they are confused or the teacher is wrong. I don't think they will remember my message for long but I did get them to laugh.

The American pen pals sent Montana post cards and stickers. The kids were fascinated by the pictures and rightly so. They have never seen stickers much less snow capped mountains, conifer trees or wild bitterroots. They kissed the post cards and waved them around in the air, such joy from such a simple thing. I was whisked into the nursery for a surprise goodbye ceremony. The older kids performed a traditional dance and Auntie Josephina formally thanked me and adorned me with a Kent ceremonial scarf with my name embroidered on it in gold thread. They also gave me a corn husk basket with a tailored batik tie dress, a carving of a figure thinking (so that when I looked at it, I would think of them) and a wooden penholder in the shape of Ghana inside. I had a parallel experience at the orphanage in that I was able to assimilate myself into their community. Though it seems funny to be excited about this, they sometimes even ignored me or left me by myself. There were kids of all ages at the orphanage and while I spent a good deal of time playing with the 3-14 year olds, I "hung out" withpeople of my own age like Fatima, Agnes, Doreen, Aaron, Ricardo, Joe, Emmanuel and Jewel. This was very valuable to me from both a cultural and emotional perspective. It's amazing how desperately a human feels like they need to fit in and/or be accepted. As a more often than not loner, I was surprised at how relieving and comforting it was to have kids my age to laugh, chat and confide with.

One evening my friend Joe was walking me home and I told him how much I wished I had a white person to talk to. Cynthia had left a month ago and I really wanted to dissect my feelings and observations oncultural differences. I liken this feeling to when you are in agood/bad stressful situation. When you are alone, your perspective is warped and internalized. However, if you are with friends, the gravity you are able to joke and make light of the situation. In addition, you can say "remember when" ten years down the road and laugh about it. Anyway, Joe was perplexed and I futilely tried to describe some of the more obvious differences like temperature, sun rise and sun set times, the info structure (or lack there of), poverty, food, school system and transportation system. Hell, even the moon is sideways in Ghana. There are more fascinating and amazing differences to point out than negative ones.

In many cases, the differences are so subtle. It's like Plato's theory of forms and the subsequent perversions of said form in each earthly medium. For example, the perfect form of a chair exists in the eternal ether. The carpenter constructs a chair based on his vision of the eternal one and then the artist paints the chair as he interprets it from the carpenter's. So there is the eternal chair and then there is a Ghanaian chair and an American chair. Both chairs are made for sitting in, made from the same materials and even look the same but they are still interpretations of the eternal. They are inherently different just like the physical chair is inherently different from the painted chair. I guess I could use transportation as a better example. Both USA and Ghanaian transport get you to the final destination, if you know how to work the system, but the method is so different. Ghanaians go by tro-tro or shared cab whereas Americans goby bus or taxi. Both are perversions of the eternal transportation system in the ether. The same is true for cuisine, English language, manners, washing clothes, retail, music…etc. Joe was genuinely sympathetic in a non understanding way and encouraged me to exclaim to him like he did understand. So I went off for at least a half hour, marveling, complaining, declaring, questioning and generally creating a monologue of a whole list of things that were different and amazing to me. Joe laughed and listened and I was purged.

Saying goodbye to the kids at the orphanage was perhaps the most poignant and sudden farewell of all. Instead of talking about my leaving and saying goodbye over a period of time, goodbyes occurred all in a flurry. They sang "thank you and goodbye from the kids at the orphanage" at evening prayers. I gazed at their faces as they sang and realized how small my impact on them had been compared to their impacton me. I managed to hold back my tears as they sang but when they dog piled me, arms encircling every part of my body and faces smiling, I just couldn't keep my tears in anymore. They laughed at my tears and hugged me tighter, pulling me to the ground and sobbing fake tears. I hugged Emmanuel so long that I thought that my arms were going to break and Eben clung to my legs. As I hugged each child good bye individually, Abraham decided to give me a kiss on the cheek. All of my boys followed suit and some even lined up for seconds. I swear there is a little smear mark still on my cheek where they each kissed me. *tear* They are too young to realize or really care that they will never see me again and just as quickly as they surrounded me with their love, they scattered to do their homework and respective chores.

As I sat on the courtyard bench underneath the sideways moon, I thought about how easy it is love and what an amazing impact their love had on me. Granted, life doesn't start and stop with every volunteer that comes and goes at the orphanage and the kids' memory of me will fade into a blur but I do hope that they remember deep down that they were loved and played with and read to. I, on the otherhand, will never forget my kids, their smiles or that Christmas Eve, full moon glowing, choir voices ringing in the humid stillness, when my boys crowded around me and called me mommy, small words to them but big words to me. I am amazed at how much I attached myself to these boys and how they attached themselves to me. Suddenly it was cleart hat life is sharing not consuming and criticizing. Humanity had a purpose and being at the orphanage was all I cared about.

We arm wrestled, read, roller bladed, played football, basketball and tag, wrestled, had thumb wars, tickle fests, spelling bees, hangman games and human acrobatics. They taught me to play Ampe and I taught them to twitch their fingers by probing tendons in their arms. They taught me how to swallow fufu without chewing and I taught them the Itsy Bitsy Spider. They read to me and I brought them toffees. They taught me how to drum and I taught them how to whistle and hum at the same time. They taught me how to eat with my fingers and I taught them how to make it look like their thumbs were cut in two pieces, how to do back bends, dance with chicken legs, make monkey noises, swing dance. They taught me playground songs and I taught them how to do secret handshakes…silly things, we exchanged… but that is all I have to supplement my pictures of them… memories and the things they taught me.

I am and will forever be changed by my kids and at this juncture I can't say how I will act on what I have learned but I am finding connections in America to Africa that I never knew existed. My friend Zach, who has been volunteering in India for the past couple of months, compared his assimilation of his experience to that of the art of photography. It's a process, setting up a picture, snapping the photo, developing the negatives by soaking them in chemicals and waterand hanging them out to dry. Who knows if the contrast will turn outor if the pictures will be centered? I think my pictures are still in the darkness of their film canisters. I can say that I have a renewed appreciation for many of things that I took for granted before. I have never been so delighted to have goose bumps, go for a run or chat freely with my friends face to face and on the telephone.

Today while I as running to Volunteer Park in the chilled breeze withthe clear sun in my eyes, I realized how wonderful it was to be free, free to run, free to open my eyes in the sun's glare, free to stretchin the park and drink in the ocean, skyline and green, green grass. I am free to soar down the pavement on my bike, wind in my face and time on my side, free to sit in a café, undisturbed and write away the day, free to leisurely browse the internet or dance to blaring music in my living room, free to cook dinner, turn on the light in the kitchen inthe middle of the night, and visit friends. I am free to make phonecalls, drop in on friends and family and be the one to approach new friends. The world is amazing and the diversity of my own world is amazing.

I am so lucky to have choices and my future at my fingertips. I am free to be myself and strive to stand out in the middle of acrown. It's amazing how normal my blue hair and bright green Converse shoes are in the middle of Seattle's freak scene. I am reveling in it. I love every shiver, every shower, hug, glass of water from the tap, every phone call and email and minute spent alone and unnoticed in a sea of white, black and brown.

(I do want to say that I'm sure that if I spent enough time in Ghana or even made it my home, I would find a way to make these freedoms that I currently enjoy in America a reality in Ghana. By the time I left, I could imagine and even wanted to live in Ghana for a longer period of time…still do. But it would be after I visit and explore more cultures. After all there are bikes in Ghana and green grass and air conditions and kitchens and radios; I don't know…it's that film coming out of the canister :) )

So how was Ghana? Ghana was a rollercoaster of emotions, a pallet o fcolors and tastes and smells and senses, a spectrum of poverty and guilt and struggle. It was an eye opener, an experience and collision of worlds. It was a dream come true, a goal accomplished and a personal battle won. It was hot, humid and uncomfortable. It was a lesson in humility, generosity, compassion and my own selfishness. I feel like I am being cliché but I desperately hope that I will takewhat I learned about my culture and the culture of the world and apply it to my life everyday, whether it's pausing to admire the beautiful blue sky like my host father or participating in random acts of generosity and kindness like my post office parents or sending metal pencil sharpeners to the kids at TIS.

I will never be able to thank my Ghanaian friends enough for their love and for sharing themselves sototally on so many levels. But Cecilia, Amanor, Dan, Eddie, Laud,Ishmael, Cynthia, Kingsley, Charity, Mary, Precious, Marin, Darrin, Prosper, Lily, Gloria, Charles, Clinton, Millicent, Linda, Josephine, Justina, Yaw, Bufa, Pearl, Christina, Veronica, Lisa, Teri, Baba, Florence, Evelyn, Oba Yaa, Emmanuel, Phyllis, Peace, Comfort, Mary, Bra Joe, Yaa, Eben, Joseph, Ricardo, Jewel, Baba, Doreen, Fatima, Agnes, Abraham, Selasie, Katdyatu, Prince, Kwasie Nanna, Mommy Essy, Stella, Gloria, Abinchee, Victoria, Grace, Bena, Peter, King, Adua, Esther, Rose, Patience, Abraham, Carlton, Caleb, Stella, Gifted, Lydia, Abigail, Pamela, Portia, Christina, Aaron, Moses, Daniel,Godwin, Musah, Sadik, Sena, Felix, Bafa, Archibald, Christopher, Frank, Junior, Zion, Lover, Bless, Belida, Angela, Beatrice, Anita, Michael, Amadu, Benedicta, Jeanette, Charles, Ben, Priscilla, Berther, Isaac, Mercy, Florence, Esther, Monica, Rookie, Adzo, Kwamie…you are amazing. Even though we will never physically meet again, I will hold you in my heart always.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What is love? I honestly don’t know the answer, not that this is a new revelation, but I always had some idea of what it should be from the movies and songs. You know, TV is real life…

In Ghana, when a rastapherian says he loves me it is because he is high and it goes along with the religion. Raspapherians love everyone, one love, you know. If they declare their love and don’t receive a similar response, they call it racism or animosity. Neutral or liking or “getting to know” don’t is not part of the culture. If a girl says it to me, and plenty have, it is not meant in a homosexual way. Woe to you if you are a homosexual in Ghana. However, some girls are quicker to say it then the men. Charity initially wanted to be my friend so I could find her a husband in the USA. They seem to be just three words that are supposed to lure me into shedding some of my supposed wonderful mystique like a prize. Honestly, they collect addresses like trophies. I don’t like to think of it this way but the constant emptiness; racism or opportunistic ness behind these words is causing me to lose faith in the concept I had before.

When the theory that I identify with most, god is love, is nullified by the Ghanaian mis and overuse of this word, I become more and more convinced that love doesn’t exist and therefore, god does not exist. If love does exist, and god is love, then love isn’t something I want to believe in.

On a similar note, I have never been so inundated with Christianity in my life. Honestly, I’m exhausted by their constant scrutiny and attempts to convert me to full blooded Christianity in a single conversation. One of their favorite questions is “where did you come from? Oh, then where did the primordial goo come from?” I don’t know, where did god come from? Why do we always have to define god, religion and beliefs? To me it’s an entirely personal matter and what works for someone doesn’t work for someone else. I feel like their dependence on god is almost more dehabilitating then helpful. Sure, if you believe that god is in charge, then he is, but you have to help him to help you, right? Sometimes I just want to say, “why don’t you just do it yourself instead of praying for it?” and “for crying out loud, if you did manage to do it, don’t go and credit it all to god’s plan. Have some self empowerment and confidence.” I should put a disclaimer here. Either supplement your actions with prayers or pray for the things you personally can not help yourself with. There was a guy who said he'd been praying his entire life to go to the USA. But he'd never thought about saving money or completing his high school education or even talking to the embassy. I mean, come on.

But now I am just being hypocritical and we know what god does to hypocrites. As I said, religion is a personal thing and I should not down play their faith that god will take care of everything.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

One Love
Raggae Rasta man, ears full of Jamaican heat
headphones always on, music melting in
wearing Chaco’s,
tie dye pants, pretty cowry shells.
Playing drums in the dark, beat,
guessing songs, taking too long
follow the notes like soldier ants
a long song.
Tie dye pants, white and blue,
Reggae rastapherian dancing drumming, true.
Hand shake, hand shift, hand snap
holding hands.
Rasta man, Rasta hair, beaded, dreaded, faded.
Walk her home, remind her here how
a swinging beat swallows, heals, hurts, now.
New friends and feelings, shy smiling,
softly up, smoking down, dancing all around.
Tickle her hand, hold her hand, holding helping hand
whistle away into the wasted day
crinkle, fickle, stop
Not here forever, no never
she can’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t stay, so she stays away,
inverse Rasta girl, ivory skin, emerald eyes,
smile, cry, corrupt music drums, dancing feet
turn around, around, around about.
Forget her Rasta reggae man,
you will never meet again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I finally made it to the huge game reserve, Mole National Park. After planning to go with Cynthia twice, I traveled with Teri, an American who works at the Orphanage Africa Well Woman Center in Accra. I was nervous for the trip because I had heard tales of armed robbers, faulty buses, high prices and long, cramped tro-tro rides. In light of this, I certainly wasn’t keen to go by myself and was excited and greatful to join Teri.

Ghana is about the size of Oregon and has a thorough transportation system. It is very, very easy to get around if you are willing to deal with long queues, uncomfortable/overcrowded vehicles, late departures and bumpy traffic filled roads. Tro-tros run from all the major cites and they also drop in all small towns. They don’t have a schedule or rigid route with planned stops. They leave when there is one too many bodies crammed in and stop wherever you tell them or when someone from the road signals them. The State Transport System, which connects major cities (STC), has movies, schedules and air conditioning. They are less frequent, more expensive, depart late and make me carsick. I prefer tro-tros and, call me crazy, but I am going to miss the tro-tros and my triumph every time I commute successfully. Not only that, I going to miss the comradeship of my fellow riders and getting a face full of their butt or vice versa while maneuvering on and off.

The STC bus to Tamale from Accra leaves around 4:00pm (really 6:30) and alights around 9:00am the next morning. There are three stops and the total distance is around 250 miles. While waiting, some flirting firemen gave Teri and I a ride in their fire engine. I didn’t sleep much on the bus but it was so cold at the 2:00 am stop that I had to put on pants! As the sun came up I noticed the striking difference between the north and south. The hamartan has been severe in the north and it was brown, leafless and hot. The villages are much more remote and untouched by westernization. We passed mud hut and after mud hut with naked, open-mouthed children loitering on the roadside. The huts were situated in a circle and connected by thickly thatched grass fences and the roofs were made with similar thatching. There were no comm. centers, convenience shops, salons or tailors to clog the roadside.

In Tamale, Teri and I visited the Cultural Center and browsed through sheds full of local art and I learned how to play scrabble at an adorable “small chop” bar, the likes of which cram the streets and tro-tro stations. These chop bars consist of a central table with pyramids of Milo, Ideal milk, tea boxes and loaves of bread. There are low benches on three sides for customers and the vendor prepares eggs, omelets and tea over an open fire on the fourth side. In the early morning light, it was hauntingly eerie to see so many chop bars illuminated by blue or green florescent light. The bus from Tamale to Mole National Park left around 2:00pm and we arrived five bumpy hours and fifty miles later.

Our arrival in Mole reminded me of Jurassic Park. As we entered the park we passed through a gate, nothing like that of Jurassic park but I was imagining the huge solid doors slowly swinging open with torches lighting the way. There were bush fires all around and the air was dust-filled and dry. In the twilight, the land was foreboding and harsh. I would think “well, we’re back in the car again” every time we boarded a bus or tro-tro.

Teri and I were quickly drawn into a boisterous group of Kiwis and Aussies who were drinking next to the pool. There were around 25 of them traveling in a huge overland truck from Spain to Cape Town, South Africa in seven months. No one in the group has ever done the trip before, not even the driver. They had tents set up and a cooking fire going. They let me roast a plantain that I had found on the bus and forced beef curry down my throat. They have been on the road for three months. I don’t think I could or would enjoy participating in such a tour especially since I would never be in single country for long. The crowd was very crass and every other word was a swear word. My ears have become very sensitive in this highly conservative, god-fearing country.

We went on a walking tour at 7:00 am. Our guard led us through the bush with a rifle carelessly slung over his shoulder or on his back. The first thing we saw was a water buck (similar to a deer or antelope). Over the course of the three hours, we, or rather the guide spotted wild boars, bright blue birds, guinea fowl, egrets, crocodiles, monkeys and a very close elephant. The elephant was small and old and the last thing we saw. I had been taking pictures of massive elephant tracks in the mud thinking that would be my closest encounter. He was about 15 yards away and grazing on brown leaves with his trunk. The first thing that I noticed was his enormous penis. Of course it was proportionally correct but we couldn’t help but snigger over its length and width or cracking jokes about inferiority complexes. It’s a good thing that elephants lives in warm climates because hanging it out to pee in a snowstorm would be pretty dangerous. Then I started thinking of the poor female elephant and how large her vagina must be to accommodate that massive penis. Yikes! If elephants used condoms or tampons it would cause a “huge” depletion of rubber and cotton resources.

The second thing I noticed were his ears. He would flop them about periodically or twitch one and then the other. Someone said that African elephants have ears shaped like Africa and that Asian elephants have ears shaped like India. Let’s all think about that one for awhile…though an interesting thought, Africa and India have a very similar shape and for practical animal viewing purposes this theory is useless. Besides, if you’re in Africa, it’s and African elephant, right? The elephants name was On-E-Pieue, friend of man. He is usually by himself and the guide thinks he is an outcast and retarded. I could have watched him forage with his dexterous trunk and flap his ears all day.

When I was leaving our room to go for a swim, I was delighted and very startled to see a monkey pawing through the trash can directly outside our door. I swore (thanks to the overland truck’s influence) and dove back into our room. Teri, on the other hand rushed out, armed with her camera. I composed myself and did the same, forgetting to close the door behind me. The monkey, being no fool, looped around and strolled right into our room. It jumped up on the table, pawed around, jumped down and rifled through the clothes on my bed. Teri and I helplessly watched. However, he left as abruptly as he entered, leaving only paw prints in the dust on the table. We rushed out after it and found the entire compound over-ridden with red monkeys and olive baboons (or bamboos, as the locals say). They were hopping on cars, peering into garbage cans, drinking from the pool, sitting on walls and trees and pilfering salt shakers and ketchup bottles from the restaurant. One baboon climbed onto a truck, pooped on it, climbed inside and stole a loaf of bread which was promptly stolen by another baboon. It sat and chewed and watched all the people watching it. It was regarding us with such understanding yet perplexed eyes that I wondered which species was more fascinated with the other.

About the time the monkeys were retreating into the trees below, a crown of elephants meandered into the watering hole in direct view from the complex. They plunged into the water and bobbed up and down. They formed a circle, butts inward and floated there. Eventually, someone pointed out several sticklike forms in the water and we realized that the elephants were assuming a defensive position because they were feeling threatened by crocs. Over the course of our stay, the elephants came often, two or three times a day. One morning there were twelve elephants splashing, playing, trumpeting, sparing and even mating at the water hole. I will never forget the sound of distant displaced water or forcefully exhaled air from their trunks. Friend of Man showed up right next to the complex one evening. Apparently the elephants have been known to drink from the pool, though rarely. Three mother warthogs and eight babies foraged through the campsite. Though I as delighted to see the warthogs up close, they weren’t nearly as exciting as the monkeys and elephants. They just pawed through the grass and slowly grazed away.

We stayed three nights in Mole, swimming playing scrabble, viewing wildlife and talking with the other tourists. In addition to the rowdy overland crew and the Dutch couple driving from Holland to Cape Town, there were three kiwi boys creating a doco/film to gain funding for a school project, Darren, a brit who has traveled the world over and Erin, a volunteer with the same NGO as me. Luckily, she chose to go to the Liberian refugee camp and not some wild tree planting scheme. Being a tourist was a completely different ballgame and I have to admit that I really enjoyed being with white people and only occasionally chatting with the locals. Teri has been in Ghana for almost two years so I learned a lot from her on how to cope with some of the cultural differences in a more healthy way. For example, when people call me obruni, I ignore them, grimace at them or secretly flip them off. But Teri says, “May paw cho, mem pay ca obruni. Ye fremay Teri.” This means “please, I don’t like obruni. I am called Teri.” It works a lot better than my method and is friendlier. I think the best way to experience Africa, though, is to live with a host family, take the local transportation, eat the local food, and learn the language.

Teri is a piece of work. She mainly talks about herself and past lives. I actually find it all very fascinating. She also cleared up some of Orphanage Africa’s history and told me some of the orphans’ backgrounds. I can’t believe that some of my kids are still able to smile. One was burned by his mother, another abandoned for weeks at a time. A brother and sister were made to choose between school and being beaten or staying at home and doing chores. Another girl was raped at a nearby orphanage.

There is one girl, in particular who I am seriously considering sponsoring or bringing over to the US. She just turned 19 and is in middle school. She wants to go to high school in the USA. Her mother died and she was left with her two brothers and her very sick grandma when she was 12. She stayed at home for four years doing god knows what and then she was taken away by social services. She has been at Orphanage Africa with her two brothers for a year now. Recently, she told me that the girls here age at OA who have completed school are being integrated into independent life. In other words, they will still be supported by OA but they will live in a hostel and be expected to find a job or go to university. She is very worried that she will be sent away too because of her age. I don’t think she will be as she has not yet completed school and that would be very irresponsible and illogical to send her away.

Our bus out of Mole left around 4:50 am. It was supposed to go at 5:00 and we almost missed it. We alighted in Tamale and, as planned, we caught the next buss out of town. It happened to be a tro-tro to Kumasi and Darren joined us. The tro-tro was stifling hot because, for some reason, the Africans don’t appreciate the cool breeze from open windows. During the seven hour ride, I did my best to shove myself into the small crack of the window in order to block the complainers from the wind. My neck was wrenched and sore for several days. Along the way, the three of us decided to take the night train to the port town of Takaradi, about 150 miles from Kumasi and 400 miles from Tamale. The train left at 8:30pm and we shared a compartment with Marin, a kiwi volunteer in Kumasi.

I had massively disturbing dreams on the train. I even wrote them down in the bumpy darkness. In one dream, I was visiting my grandma in order to plan a family vacation. Grandma was living in her old KOA trailer court in Missoula and as I walked to her place all of the kids called me Ob-b-beenie (black man) and ran away from me. Completely the opposite of real life. There was a beautiful new silver jeep, displayed with a ribbon like on the Price is Right in the middle of her living room. But despite this new vehicle, she gestured to a rather dumpy red convertible on the patio and raved over it as a gift from my aunt and uncle. I stole the monkey barrels full of snacks and candy from beneath her table, which we were all crouching around. I also smuggled a huge jar of peanut butter from the table. As I was standing to leave, dad came down the steps silently sobbing. He was wearing an olive green army uniform. I ran to him and he cried that my dog, TJ was dead. I clung to him and screamed. I think I must have done it out loud because I woke up then, breathing hard, cheeks wet with tears. I was so turned around and discombobulated by the moving train that it took me several seconds to calm down and convince myself that I was only dreaming. Apparently, I wasn’t though, because when I returned four days later, I learned from and email that my dog had been hit by a car. Has anyone else had weird coincidences like this happen to them? I hope I never dream again and if you have any shocking or tragic news, please wait until I am near sympathetic and loving ears to tell me. My system is on overload.

Oh my, I got sidetracked. The train alighted in Takaradi at 12:30 pm the next day with four obrunis hanging their heads out the window drinking in the refreshingly green foliage and decidedly humid air. Ghana has moved into the hamartan, or the dry season so it is never really humid but the air had more moisture that in the north. During the ride, we found the perfect destination, Ellis’ Hideaway, and we took the necessary transportation to the beach oasis, including a rather sloshy, mildewing canoe propelled by two small boys walking at the front and back in the water. I am honestly surprised that we didn’t capsize. Ellis’ Place, rastapherian paradise… I was instantly adopted by Zion, a blubbering but cute, ganja smoking Rasta man who couldn’t keep his hands off my hair. There is no reasoning with a blubbering Rasta man. If you say don’t touch me, it means you are racist or at least don’t love, respect or even like him. I didn’t really mind him touching my hair because I wanted to touch his. Dread locks are a fascinating thing for me and he helped me find a spirit in the bonfire on the beach while blubbered interestingly enough about his rastapherian tenets. Most of the Rasta men I meet blubber the same thing over and over. They repeat “you understand,” “one love,” “respect,” and “rastaperian” over and over again while doing special hand shakes and hitting their chest with their fist. For most of them, I think, they are playing to the stereo type. They dread their hair, listen to reggae and Bob Marley, wear tie dye, cowry shells and anything red, green and yellow. There is more to being a rastapherian than that though. They have a Christian basis while amending and extend the belief to include an Ethiopian king and the wisdom weed. I actually heard a program about them on BBC’s Network Africa.

The next day, after wading through the inlet and trekking in the pepper and banana plants to a nearby town, I met a root man. I told him he was my first root man which made Marin and Darren burst into laughter. Apparently, the word root has a different sense in New Zealand. Anyway, in Ghana, root is Rasta without the blubbering stereotypes, wisdom weed and repetitiousness. He and his friends latched on to us and took us to see their house where they made palm wine. There were six felled palm trees in their small yard. They bored holes into the trunks and then held a burning stick in the hole while scraping the sides. A five liter jug positioned under the hole collected the dripping palm wine. They strained the clear liquid into a cup and gave us a taste. It reminded me of vinegar Easter egg dye with a hint of coconut. The alcohol content is apparently low but they can distill the wine to create a much stronger drink called apertishi. I was not crazy about the taste but I was very glad to taste the illusive, local drink after searching high and low for it. I realize now that commercial palm wine doesn’t exist and you must search it out on the roadside in ex Frytol or Voltic water plastic bottle.

The wade back across the inlet was terrifying. The sun has completely melted the glue in my tevas and so there is precious little holding the sole to the pad and the current from the sea pulled my shoe into an unwalkable contortion. That, coupled with the frantic shouts of the locals gathered on the shore and the chest-deep water made me so nervous that I called for Darren to come save me or at least my camera. Of course, as soon as he surged into the water, I stepped into the shallow and calm.

The four of us spent two days there, swimming, exploring and walking the beach. Despite the confusion with meals and drink tabs, the place was heaven. I especially liked the nearby fishing towns, complete with wooden boats declaring their faith in god. The villages were, like in the north, completely free of commercialism or westernization. I met the chief’s wife and his daughter, Princess Leia. One particular old woman, setting up crab traps, metal basins in the sand lined with bait, and who spoke very little English sprite fully and joyously danced as I sang her namesake song, Cecilia. Her rotten teeth and leathered skin struck me as beautiful in the moonlight. Cecilia was dancing with genuine joy.

These villages are self-sustainable in that they harvest or raise their own food and make most of what they need. Though these villages are probably the poorest monetarily, I think the people are content and happy. They actively work to provide for themselves by fishing, planting, washing and doing other chores. In the heat of the day, they rest and they are not constrained by schedules and time tables that are necessary in western culture. The atmosphere is decidedly lively and joyous not sleepy and malcontented like in the villages near Accra where semi westernization has created an awkward tension between the slow African nature and the structured west. I think that the bulk of Ghana’s problems are caused by this partial westernization and the idea that everything not African is infinitely better and richer. Africa is not meant to be “western.” It just isn’t and while westernization brought health care and primary education and other things that seemingly improve quality of life, it has also created a rift by leading people to believe that they are lacking something beautiful and amazing that can only be found outside of Africa. I want to snap Africa back to the way it was with no western influence. They wouldn’t know what they are missing. Are they really missing anything at all?

We left Ellis’ by canoe, taxi and tro-tro. At Takaradi, Maren went to Kumasi and Darren, Teri and I went east to the historical town of Elmina. We toured a castle built by the Portuguese for gold trade and then captured by the Dutch who used it as a holding tank for slaves. The disregard for human life during the time of the slave trade appalled me. I was standing on centuries old human waste and bodies. I was horrified to learn that the Africans acted as middle men, enslaving weaker tribes and then selling them to the Dutch and Portuguese for further trade. The eating hall of the castle was within earshot of the moaning and smelly slave holds. Women were regularly lined up and raped while punishment for uprising males was starvation, dehydration and eventual death in solitary confinement. Women were shackled in the blazing sun all day and raped for similar reasons. Our tour guide was knowledgeable but rushed and non-linear. He presented plenty of facts but there was no final cause or order. As a result, I was discombobulated by his tour and the museum did very little to rectify my linear confusion.

Elmina, however, is decidedly the most colorful village I have visited. There are flags, banners, fishing boats and people everywhere. The inlet is lined with fishermen untangling nets and selling fresh fish. There is a cute little bridge packed with people and vendors and a football pitch in the sand lined by palm trees.

Teri and I made our way back to Accra by tro-tro. The ride went quickly, three hours for 80 miles. In Accra, I waited four hours for a tro-tro. The queue was ridiculously long and around 11:30pm the cars started parking for the night. I was really worried that I was going to have to spend the night in the most dangerous station in Accra. However, a fellow queue mate assured me that a car would come. At 1:30 am, I was trying to figure out which tro-tro driver looked likely to let me hole up in his rig for the night when a private van pulled up. It was a distance from the queue but I ran for it as soon as I heard him call Adenta. Just when I thought there was not room for me and the pushing and shoving was becoming animalistic, a man pulled me into the front seat with him. The driver capitalized on the supply and demand theory and charged us 4000c instead of the usual 2000c. There was plenty of yelling and shouting and some people even got out of the van in protest. The trip that normally takes two to three hours in traffic only took thirty min! From Adenta, I walked home, pepper spray in hand. The road was deserted but I was nervous and walked quickly. Presently, a police car crawled by, stopped and four police men with rifles and decked out in green fatigues offered me a ride. So my trip started in a fire engine and ended in a police car.