Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hey again,

Last night all the girls went out dancing! It was so much fun and, as to be expected, an experience. One of the Canadians we met, Jessica, is dating a Ghanaian who shows her all the good places to go. Last night he took us to a dance club called The Corner and we NEVER would have found it on our own! It was weaved inside this side street, that side street, and looked like a little hole in the wall. Once you got inside, though, it was a really spacious air conditioned (wicked bonus) dance area with black lights and bathrooms with toilets! (Not to say that made them “good”.) Us five girls did a really great job of keeping a constant eye out for one another. It was nice because if a guy came up dancing and you weren't loving the situation, you knew you would be saved in a matter of moments. That said, we told the guys we are all married and felt bad dancing with guys who were not our husbands so we tried to keep it as everyone dancing in a circle. To be honest, though, it wasn't the guys who had issues keeping it appropriate. It was the girls! The guys, who are the most amazing dancers I have ever seen in my life and put all the guys in the States to shame, were so into dancing they tend to dance with each other and not really pay attention to the girls. The girls, however, have no issues coming right up and totally invading your space. I had to get forward with one because she kept saying “you likey! you likey!” while grabbing me and physically pulling me from my friends so I had to yell at her and let her know that, no, I didn't likey. Around 2:30 the sea of guys got more intoxicated and graby so we decided it had been a fun night but it was time to go home. Marielle had found the ONE highly respectful guy who spent the whole night dancing with her by holding hands and skipping around the dance floor (even bought her a beer!) and, fortunately, he had his own taxi and was able to give us a lift home, free of charge. (Not exactly free of charge, he told Marielle he was in love with her and gave her a kiss on the cheek... that's kind of a fee.) No doubt, it was a wicked enjoyable night and I'm really happy that's how we got to spend our last Friday night in Tamale! Tonight we have a group of traditional dancers coming over to our house to give us a free show with drums and (I think) costumes. We're all really excited for it because we know they are wicked talented dancers and very handsome, to boot.

Last weekend, while I was being tortured and made into a joke (braids), the girls went to a futbol game at the new stadium in Tamale. (This stadium was built last year by Chinese architects to host the Africa Cup this past February. It clearly cost a pretty penny and really upsets Dr. Wanye because the hospital is falling down and couldn't be a less appealing health care facility. He said it clearly shows the priorities of the people and it's a shame.) At the game, they met a girl who Dr. Wanye has told us about because she has a very sad story. The strikingly beautiful eighteen year old girl has one eye constantly shut and can only open her other eye a little bit, but prefers to keep it closed. During a traditional celebration in the streets this past March, she was an unlucky victim of a misfired shotgun. The incident left eight people injured and one dead. This girl, a senior in high school, was left with seventeen shotgun pellets lodged in her eyes causing her to lose her sight forever. Dr. Wanye did extensive operations on her eyes to remove the foreign bodies and try to minimize her pain. She still feels pain but it is not that bad, she said. The girls went by her house on the way home and the mother warmly welcomed them and showed them x-rays from the accident. They were all very moved by the sad story and felt for the girl.

(On a side note) I don't know if I mentioned, Dr. Wanye is the only ophthalmologists for over two million people in the Northern Region. For this reason, he is very well known and greatly loved by all. He was fortunate enough to travel to Europe to go to college on scholarships. There he met an ophthalmologists from Russia who appreciated his dedication and wanted to sponsor him through medical school and ophthalmology school. He humbly accepted and received the rest of his education in Moscow where he met his beautiful wife. He spent twelve years practicing in Russia and, after a lot to convince his wife, finally moved his family to Ghana. He felt an obligation to use his specialties in his home country where it is so badly needed. It's really sweet to hear him talk about certain luxuries he buys (such as spending ten dollars on a block of real cheese and importing quality chocolates) for his wife because, as he sees it, she compromised so much to let him practice here and wants her to not miss anything. You can tell he is very well off my Tamale standards and is very generous with his money and takes great care of his employees. He's a man of great integrity and we've all fallen completely in love with him and find him to be an inspiration.

So, as you can probably assume, it is pretty rare to see fair skinned people around here. We've estimated that we have seen no more than twenty other “whiteys” around town. When we travel to far villages on outreach, we are certainly one of the few, if not the first, fair skinned people the children have ever seen and, in some cases, the adults too. Because of this, we become an attraction. (Apparently this is why we do what we do for volunteer work. A few weeks ago we asked why local people don't do the work of screening, refracting, and acuity because it seems it would go a whole lot faster without the language barrier and they explained that it is because we are here that the people take it seriously and actually show up for the screenings.) They run up and say “salaminga! salaminga!” (“white person! white person!”) and usually touch our hands. Some kids are scared and cry (I had to get used to this because I felt really bad the first few times I made a kid cry by looking at them) and some kids are completely enthralled by us. At the village yesterdy, though, the kids were horribly suffocating. They circled around us and would grab this and that and say “give me” or “I want” or “water!” One girl even tried to take CuRi's hair! They wanted our rings, water, clothes, earings, hair... anything and everything, all while yelling “salaminga” at us. It wasn't the day for this, though, because it was wicked hot and our Trooper (which we have to push start whenever the engine gets cold) finally died completely and we pushed it down the road, up the road, down the road, and back up the road before finally accepting the fact that we were stranded an hour away with no way home. The kids worked our nerves and we finally had to yell at them and tell them to give us room. It's not uncommon for the locals to ask for your possessions right off your back, though. When I was getting my hair braided, the woman loved my Chacos (shoes) and told me to give them to her. Later she and her friend noticed my rings and told me to give THOSE to her. They even had the audacity to start moving it up my finger (which are swollen from the humidity and heat, so there was no chance of it coming off so easily). I've had a woman at a village tell me she liked my hair clips, give them to her. Lots of things like that happen. It's kind of an awkward situation because, no doubt, I have more than these people but it doesn't mean I should feel obligated to give them my possessions. If it is something of little value to me or easily replaceable, that's one thing, but my ridiculously nice sandles that I don't have the money to replace and my priceless family rings?? Hell no! I always just laugh and say, “I like them even more, sorry.”

Getting hollered at around the city being called “salaminga” gets old, for sure, but not as old as what poor CuRi, Yue, and Jessica have to deal with. What do you see around here even less frequently than Caucasians? Asians!! While the three girls do get called salaminga (which they respond with, “we're not white, we're yellow!”) they also get “China! China!” or “Japan!” CuRi and Jess, being Korean, yell back “wrong country” but Yue, who is Chinese, proudly states, “they guessed right!” We had one funny experience when our car was parked and we were waiting inside with our windows open. A man comes up and pointed to CuRi and said “From China?” and CuRi said nope, she was from Korea. The guy then laughed and said, “Don't you all look the same? Isn't it the same?” She laughed, rolled her eyes, and said “I guess so.” CuRi said she's going to make a shirt that says, “I'm not a country” or “If you can guess right, I'll be impressed.” It's a daily annoyance we all have a good time laughing at.

CuRi and I have been doing a really good job of running everyday for the past week and a half. We run just around our neighborhood, staying to the dirt roads and avoiding the main streets to minimize the number of people we see. There is a school that we pass, though, so we do see end up seeing a fair amount of people and their reaction is always so priceless. You won't find any African here just exercising like that. They don't need to. They do so much manual labor as a part of their everyday life that they certainly do not need to lift weights or go running. Plus, every single person under the age of thirty plays soccer at any spare moment. They get enough physical activity just living and find it totally strange that we actually go out and run for a period of time on our own free will. We get a lot of laughs and smiles and a fair amount of confused expressions. It's funny.

One last thing before I go. As I've mentioned, the kids love to hang around us on out outreaches. They LOVE to mock us and repeat what we say. “Palm” when we are telling them to cover one eye with their palm, “other eye” and “you're good!” What they really get a kick out of, though, is when we (try to) speak Dogbani. My accent sucks and I'm not great at distinguishing between similar sounding sayings that come in sequences (like the typical Good morning, how are you, good day. If someone puts those out of the expected order, I'll respond incorrectly and give the person a good laugh). What we have down PERFECTLY, though, is “debyerra” (is there pain) and “dezasarah” (is it itchy). Obviously we have to ask every patient these two important questions and can understand a head nod and shake. If they respond with a full explanation, though, we're lost. I usually politely smile and nod my head because they are going to see the nurse either way. The kids think it's so funny that these are the only words we really know, though. They'll be behind us mocking us in a high pitched voice, “debyerra?? dezasarah?? hehehehe!” At one village, a whole group of young men who never got their eyes checks but just sat on a bench watching us do acuity spent the whole day laughing at us and repeating those two sayings in a mocking tone. Annoying and funny, but much more enjoyable to go with the funny aspect so we just laughed and rolled our eyes.

Alrighty, that's all for now (as if that's not enough)! Sorry I've been writing a novel for each entry, I didn't realize how much I've been writing until I scrolled down my blog the other day. I'm long winded, nothing new :) Dr. Wanye is taking us to the crocodile pond tomorrow!! Apparently we can sit on the crocs and hold them my their tails... I'll get some epic pictures. After the croc pond we are going to his house (which has to watch the Ghana National team (futbol) play on tv and then we're all going to make fufu for dinner at his house! I'm pretty sure I've talked about fufu and the involved process of pounding the boiled yams with a huge oversized morter and pestle, slowly adding water until a gelatinous ball of yumminess is made. We're excited for our day with the doctor!

I hope everyone is doing well! See you soon!


Daddy – I'm getting wicked excited to play cribbage with you in less than two weeks! Get ready to be skunked!!

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