Hearting Ghana

October 30, 2012
On a night w/o power nor water
I am almost getting tired of having both power and water outage. Especially when this means melted ice cream packs and stinky bathroom. U said it is hard to tell if she is dehydrated because of all the accumulated urine in the toilet. I suggested that she watch the stream of her urine instead.
But moving on. I watched with bated breath, the unfolding of Hurricane Sandy back home. I am happy that DC (where my plane will land), MD (where my parents are) and PA (where our Filipino house is) were all spared from destruction. Since I am aware of how ‘lucky’ I can get with transits, I am also hopeful that my flight out of Frankfurt will not get pushed back (as it is I already have an 11 hour lay over during which I cannot leave the airport because I have no German visa) and that by the time I arrive in PA we have both power and water (because I need a break).
I still find it hard to believe that I am now tangibly talking about departures and flights and such. Having only 2 full days left here in Ghana, I feel the nostalgia seeping in. Now every place I have frequented, every habit I have acquired, every food and drink I have ever consumed since coming here have attained a certain finality to it. Today was the last time I would go to Country Side Orphanage. Today might have been the last time I would buy chocolate at Mama Joyce’s. Today was the first and last time I would carry 15L of water on my head. Tonight might have been the last time I would receive lessons on Azonto dance under the moonlight. Yesterday might have been the last time I would eat red-red. And who knows, tonight might be the last time I would not have power nor water (power of positive thinking). And pretty soon I will say, today was the last time I rode a trotro.

Today for the second time I played doctor to the children at the orphanage. It was refreshing to talk to teenagers and tweenagers this time around, because they could talk and tell me if they had health concerns. My favorite was a 15 year old boy whose concern was not being able to wake up at the time he wanted. He said he would like to wake up at 4am but has difficulty doing so and wakes up 1 or 2 hours later. I asked why he would want to wake up at such an hour, and he said it was ‘for learning.’ He puts me to shame, this boy. It must have been at least 7 years since I last woke up early in the morning to study. The closest I have come to this is staying awake during a night call to study. I don’t think it counts, because with this you don’t rouse yourself from one of human’s most satisfying delights. You just stay awake; you do not awaken yourself. It turns out that he sleeps late at night (10pm). I explained that his body needs at least 8 hours of sleep each night and that waking up at 6 when he slept at 10 is just his body’s way of saying — I am the boss, listen to me let me sleep.  I then asked him if he was good in class (I hoped he was, to give justice to his efforts) and he said yes. His classmates corroborated this. He said he would like to be a medical doctor when he grows up. I chuckled and said he was starting early; indeed, I said, doctors are sleep-deprived.  He apparently is the top in his class, but he did say that he and his friend compete with one another so that sometimes he is second to him. He said it so lightly, I had the feeling that for him learning is a fountain of fun and play.
Another favorite is a 16 year-old girl who was complaining of having menstrual cramps. I asked her what she takes when she has it and she said, ‘banku.’ (mashed cassava and corn)
Again I was amazed at how nice their teeth were! None of them had bad teeth. None. Like I said I think it is because they don’t eat candies nor drink a lot of soda here. Though their diet is carb-heavy they themselves are not heavy. Today was the first time I saw an obese teenager. He stood out. It took every ounce of my will not to stare at him.

With Joyce (nurse), Uncle Joe, Mama Emma, Uncle Anes

Ordinarily in the States I would talk about sex with my teenage patients. Here though it seems odd and out of place to do so. They all seem so unadulterated. As an example, our helpers reportedly asked one of the girls if you can get pregnant by swallowing sperm. They also wanted to know what the color and taste of it was. I think this might have been when they read parts of Fifty Shades of Grey that one of the girls brought here before.  I don’t know if they also asked about S&M stuff, which I think the book is heavy on.  If they did, it would be like getting a PhD before getting your high school diploma.
Condoms here are referred to as romantics. I think this name is too presumptuous. It assumes that all sex are motivated by romance.  But at any rate, can you imagine summoning a romantic in the middle of sex? Saying it is too long and tedious. I wonder if it’s one reason why condom use is not common here. I remember one female patient with HIV whom I spoke with. She confessed that she had not informed her partner yet about her HIV status (can you imagine; it is almost criminal to withhold such a thing).  Initially she said they always used condoms. Finding this hard to believe (I know that patients lie. I know the fail rate of condom use), I quizzed her again and again. Later she admitted that maybe sometimes they didn’t. It makes my head spin, how people can be so stupid and imprudent.
Unbeknownst to me until tonight, the Azonto is a dance style that Ghanaians have popularized. It involves a twisting movement of your feet and legs while gyrating your hips. In the meantime, your upper body remains free to rave in different combinations; sky’s the limit. My favorite one at the moment is the Azonto style they rendered on ‘Chop my Money,’ Akon and P-square’s hit and hip single that is so catchy everyone here’s into it.   So tonight to while the time away I asked J to teach me the steps. J is the girl who lives with us and whom F sends to school. And so in the darkness of power outage, the two of us were dancing in our front porch to the music blaring from P’s cellphone. I tried hard, but in the end I felt like a white dork next to J who looked very cool.
By now I think you might have sensed how I have hearted Ghana already. Ghana, the land of trotros, Azonto, romantics and plantains; of peace, easy brotherhood and religiosity; of haggling and colorful fabrics; of beautiful smiles and straight spines.
It will be difficult to leave.


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