Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia University’

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Learning from Ghana

June 8, 2010

After my first week here in Accra, I feel that my perspective on the world is changing rapidly. The first thing to really note is that Africa, to Americans, is not the real Africa, at least not here in Accra. Yes, it is an impoverished country. Yes, people live in what, by American standards, we would call shacks or lean-tos. Yes, you have to barter and bargain with every salesperson you see on the street and yes, they will chase you through town trying to sell you some small trinket. But that is Africa through American eyes. What is happening it that I am starting to see Africa for what is is, perhaps not through the eyes of an African, but certainly not through the eyes of an American tourist. This change seems critical now.

I had a long conversation with a very educated man outside a bar here in Accra about how Ghana relates to the rest of the world, and it opened my eyes to what is really going on. The man told me that Ghana, and other developing countries like it, are caught in a trap set by the industrialized, developed world. He said that nations like France and the U.S. hold all of the power in the world, and that they use the smaller less powerful nations like Ghana for natural resources. As long as this is happening, those nations can’t develop on their own and can’t form their own industry because they are essentially treated as farms for the nations that hold the power. He also told me that the solution, for Ghana, lies in the global climate change issue – that Ghanaians had to start ruining the world in order to get the attention of nations like the U.S. and France, and that the media in these countries won’t point their eyes and cameras to Ghana until it becomes a global problem. This is why, according to this man, deforestation, pollution, and over-population are allowed to continue in Ghana. Once the country is in crisis, once things fall apart, and once the resources the rest of the world like to take are no longer there, the world will turn its eyes on Ghana, stop taking from the nation, and begin trying to rebuild it into a modern society.

All of this, of course, has to be taken as the opinion of one man, but there is something to his ideas. Americans don’t think too much about Africa. We stop learning about its history in school when the American slave trade stops, and I think in our minds we still see it as the Africa of colonization, not the independent Africa of today. This mindset allows us to continue justifying the first world’s use of resources from these third world countries. The media doesn’t cover Africa until there is a crisis, and even then the attention given to the issue is small and skewed to incorporate the American perspective on Africa.

It’s saddening to me though, that Africans think they have to ruin their land before they can advance in the world. From what I’ve seen, the people of Ghana are some of the most hard-working people in the world, and the happiest to be working too. The nation is at a point where, if it began to develop, it could easily take its place among the powerful nations of the world, and also be an example to the rest of the developing world on how to gain power and join the industrialized world in a way that incorporates new, greener technology and avoids the mistakes made by other nations in the past. The people here know what is going on, they just need the rest of the world to give them their chance.

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Greetings from Ghana!

June 3, 2010

Well, this is the first blog I’ll have the pleasure of posting from teh wonderful country of Ghana! The trip has been going well so far. There was a bit of an incicent that involved a poor combination of malaria medication and a plane cominging for landing after a 7 hour flight, but I suppose everyone has to vomit on an airplane sometime. And now I know better than to combine those two things ever again. Malaria meds are for ground use only.

The initial drive from the airport was fascinating. We got off of the plane and walked down the steps into the tarmac and into a sweltering night. After a long wait at customs, and the anxious search for our baggage, which passed through the black hole that is the Paris airport, we piled into the tour van our group is using to get around for the duration of the trip, and headed off. The roads here vary from major highways and throughways to bumpy pathes made of red dirt or mud, and you can go from one to the other in an instant.

Our hotel is incredibly comfortable, but still different than anything you encounter in the US. Water conservation is clearly an issue here, and you have to milk the faucets for everything they’ve got just to wash your hair. The showers seem to be set up to accomodate a style of bathing where you get yourself wet, turn off the water, soap up, then rinse yourself. But, there’s an air conditioner directed directly toward my bed, and that’s really all I need.

The people here are the most friendly, welcoming, peaceful, and proud that I’ve ever encountered. During a trip to the beach, we were greeted by many vendors, and several of what our guides call “dreadlock boys” who were curious to learn about why we here here, how we liked Ghana, and in general just hang out and talk. The vendors, of course, wanted us to buy stuff from them as well, but once they figured out we were done, they also took to just hanging out and having a good time. Everyone here will tell you that Ghana is a country that is founded on peace and brotherhood, and they are so proud of their nationality. Almost every car has a Ghanan flag displayed somewhere in it. People paint their stores, merchandise, cars, and even houses with the colors of their flag, and incorporate it into their clothing as well.

In addition to the beach, we visited two sites: Independence Square, where Ghana declared its independence in the 1960’s, and a garden where the first President of Ghana, the man who declared independence for the country and led Ghana into its current democratic form, is buried in an elaborate tomb, beside his wife, and surrounded by luxurious fountains and beautiful gardens that hold some of the most beautiful flowers and birds (peacocks, and others). We also took a trip to the art center, which is a market style series of shops where you can buy carvings, jewelry, and paintings from local artists. I picked up an abstract painting of a line of African women preforming a traditional African prayer. I’ll try to post a picture of it later.

All in all, from these first two days, it’s difficult to get a real feel for the culture of this place. You go from traditional style African living to a completely modern area, like the one I’m in now. It may say something about the state of African society today just in that, that in one city the standard of living can change so vastly, and yet melt together to form one complete society. But more thoughts on that later, my time for my internet connection is running out, so probably best to get this published.

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TuneinTurnoff: Africa

May 30, 2010

After a long hiatus, due mostly to substantial burn out from spring semester and a sleepless finals week that resulted in some fine final papers, I have decided to return to my blog site and start posting again.

These new posts may not meet the standards of the original mission statement I used when setting up this page for the blogging class I took last semester. I’ll probably still be posting about art, technology, culture, etc, but for the time being will be incorporating a bit of personal experience journal-type writing into the posts. Why? Because I’m going to Africa for the next three weeks, and while I will be blogging on a class site for the trip, I want my own account of the trip that I can look back on when it’s over without having to filter out posts I wrote as part of the class assignments. At the same time, though, there’s a lot to be learned about African culture, art, society, technology, etc. while on this trip, and I’ll be reporting on that here as well as on the class site (which you can find a link to on my facebook page).

So, to kick things off, since I’m taking off for this trip tomorrow: a quick run-down of what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be going!

The group is leaving tomorrow at 6pm from Pittsburgh, flying to Paris, catching a connection to Amsterdam, then the final leg of the flight to Accra, Ghana, landing at about 6pm on Tuesday. I’m not all that thrilled about being on a plane for 16-18 hours, but I guess a cruise to our destination was a bit out of the question, so I’ll cope I suppose. Once in Accra, we’ll be spending a few days touring the city, bumming around at the beach, and doing some shopping while getting acclimated to the time shift before we kick off the class-aspect of the trip, and start touring newspapers and TV stations to get a better understanding of how the Media operates in this region. We will also be taking side trips to tour a nearby rainforest, a couple of old castles, and near the end of our trip, will be driving to Benin to tour another newspaper, and to check out the market in Lome, Togo and do a bit more shopping.

I’ll be posting pictures from the trip, taken on my old, trusty Nikon D-40, on to my flickr account as often as I can. We should have open internet access at our hotel, but not really sure how that will work out when we get there. If not, it will be intermittent trips to internet cafes, but I’ll still try to sneak a few in every chance I have. The group will also be tweeting this event, which you can follow on the hash-tag #SOJWA, short for School of Journalism West Africa.