DionRabouin.com (sort of)

The Ghana Diaries: day Thirteen

Posted in The Ghana Diaries by dionrabouin on August 14, 2010

I think after you’ve been somewhere for two weeks you stop looking at a place like a tourist. I’m beginning to feel less like I’m in a foreign country and more like I’m out at my grandparents suburban inner-city townhouse in Green Valley Ranch.

The problem with where my father lives here is that it’s far from the action. This is why I have always been and will always be a city boy. I don’t understand for the life of me how anyone voluntarily lives in the suburbs. It makes getting into town such a hassle. You have to figure out transportation to and from wherever you’re going, constantly watch the clock to make sure it’s not too late to get back, monitor traffic conditions and generally make a bunch of additional preparations anytime you want to go to the city to do something. And of course, everything worth doing is in the city. What do you get in return?

I will never, ever, ever understand people who move to the suburbs. Maybe when I get old and I just want to stay in my house and go to the market around the corner to buy pineapple and melon every couple days, I’ll get it. Maybe that’s who the suburbs are for – people with nothing to do and nowhere to go. The fact that my dad lives in the suburbs may be more difficult to deal with than the fact that I’m living in an African nation. Although, being in Africa has affected my lifestyle as well.

Living here the past couple weeks has really changed my habits. In the mornings I’m always looking for fresh fruit to eat. When there’s no fruit I get annoyed. I drank what my dad calls hot chocolate tonight, but it’s not the hot chocolate I drank in the US, it’s actual cocoa powder mixed with pure sugar in hot water. It’s different. Everything is like that now. What I think of as breakfast has completely changed. What I think of as a meal in general, or a leisure activity has completely changed. The way I think about transportation has changed. I’m still not like my father, though.

What’s strange about my dad is that even though he lives in this very far away land he still lives almost exactly the same way he did in Denver, except sans the American creature comforts. I always knew my dad was cheap, but he’s cheap here in Africa where the cost of living is significantly lower than it was in Denver.

He doesn’t seem to care that there’s no hot water, he literally slept on the floor – which is made of tile, by the way, and is insufferable to sleep on, trust me, I know – for two years, his daily dinner consists of tuna, rice and water every night, he still takes tro tros everywhere he goes despite the fact that taxis are quite cheap here. He’s even got tenants staying in the chalets behind the house that ostensibly pay his property tax, so I think his monthly expenditures are something like $100 a month and he’s getting a pension, which I’m positive is significantly more than that. It’s like frugality is so ingrained in his blood that even when he goes somewhere he could live the good life or at least the better life, he’s still cheap.

I’m cheap, but I’m not that cheap. If I were living here I would definitely shell out the 100 cedis for a mattress the first day I got here. It’s odd that people say we’re so much alike. On a visceral level we are very similar. I have a lot of my dad’s mannerisms and I even talk like him sometimes. I think he’s picked up some of my habits too. It’s also strange how since I’ve been down here I’ve reverted a lot to the person I was growing up. I never noticed that when I would go visit my mom, but that may be because I never really stay that long with her.

I guess it makes sense because the people who say it don’t really know me much beyond a surface, superficial level.

I went with my dad to the University of Ghana, Legon yesterday. What was most surprising was how much like any other university it was. It’s like college never changes. No matter where you are, it’s all the same thing. Nothing changes but the faces and the technology. It’s crazy to make that statement at 24, but I feel so far removed from college at this point in my life that I think I can objectively make comments about college from a distance.

I saw students getting ripped off on book prices, saw freshmen checking into their dorms, doing typical freshmen things, etc., etc. Of course, there are all the little things that are different that international students will have to get accustomed to – the food, the accents, the trash disposal – but when it comes down to it, everything is the same as it always is at every college in every town, everywhere. I wonder who will have a more difficult time adjusting, the freshmen or the international students.

On the home front, work is going well. I’ve already got interviews set up with a few people for my radio piece and I sent in pictures for my website article (I can’t say where they’ll be appearing until they appear, so stay tuned), so that’s going well. It’ll be interesting to see how much of my next two weeks is devoted to work and how much is devoted to play. It’s been about 90/10 play to work so far.

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