Well it appears that I have Malaria. A few days ago I went to the hospital and had my blood tested. I have since been immobilized with fever, chills, body aches, weakness, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. They loaded me up with meds and I’m feeling better, I suspect a full recovery before I leave for the states on Saturday (the 27th).
The cause for the malaria can be attributed to me missing a few days of my anti-malarial medication. A few times I genuinely forgot but I always figured I’d be ok. Dr. Tayie calls this the “Jungle Illusion”. The strongest (or those who think they are the strongest) always go down first because they think they can overcome anything, this way of thinking results in not taking proper precautions.
Number 1 travel tip from this trip: DON’T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR PILLS
I’ve had a strange craving for pickles all day.
Today we met with the Deputy Regional Minister of the Greater Accra area. Basically the Ghana version of an governor. It was great having one on one time with a individual of such high status but the format of the discussion irritated me. In America we would be questioning him on issues and his policies to improve these issues. In Ghana, not wanting to disrespect him, the conversation was limited to flattering each other. All the officials (including Dr. Tayie) were talking about was how good of a job they were doing and the improvements they had made. Ghana is much better off than most African countries but it is also full of flaws. Almost backwards by American standards. How is the standard of living for the people supposed to increase if politicians will only talk about how jolly everything is?
Ghana has an democracy which shares characteristics with Britain and the US. It has a parliament but the president has 4 year terms and holds its elections in sync with those in America. The minister made great efforts to ensure we understood that they were a democracy where the people made the choices. (No doubt so that we would spread the world back home and garner more support). I asked clarification on how he was appointed to his office, I was told he and practically every other governmental position was put in place by the president upon his election. In America we vote in our governors, senators, representatives and pretty much everything else. The Ghana system seemed, to me, to be susceptible to a president just putting his friends and supporters in positions of power, regardless of their merit or ability. Not to mention the president is currently in a supreme court case in regards to accusations of him stealing the election by adding votes. Even though the American church leader we met at JFK Airport described him as a “good christian man”.
I also asked about the newly discovered oil in Ghana. Their first president whom I mentioned earlier, Kwame Nkrumah, wanted a Ghana that wasn’t capitalist and didn’t rely on western powers to survive. Thats why the CIA allegedly ousted him. So when I asked whether Ghana’s oil was nationalized or privatized I was not surprised to hear the answer. It is mostly owned by foreign oil companies like Exxon. The westerners are taking Ghanian oil from (literally) underneath the Ghanians feet, and selling it. The Ghanian government does get some money but not nearly as much as they would. Exactly what Nkrumah was fearing. The US and its allies has done that to countless countries. Good for western businesses but tragic for the countries they take advantage of. I care a lot more for these historical and geopolitical matters than the nutrition I am here for.
The mosquitos here are a special breed of mean. The potency of their venom must make their insectoid ancestors proud. I don’t have a shockingly large amount of bites but those I have are much more large and red than those back home. They itch horrendously, making the American mosquitos I’m used to look like lightweights. The fact that some carry malaria and yellow fever makes them all the more appetizing. (NOTE May 7 2014: these ended up being bedbugs not mosquitos)
The group that was temporarily MIA returned around 21:30 last night safe and sound. I’m not entirely sure what took them so long.
The “Rooftop on Fire” was quite a good time. There weren’t many people there when we first showed up but that soon changed. There was live music and the singer even had Erin and Anne sing a portion. Erin and Anne were in a very “good mood” and Erin was particularly hilarious to watch. She is a horrific dancer and was dancing with a fire and intensity I’ve seen few mimic before. She was also doing all sorts of hilarious hijinks which included forcing a European to chug his drink until she spilled all over him. Great fun.
The bathroom was a small room with tile flooring… and thats it. It was just a small room where you did your business on the floor. I had to hold some New Zealander’s beer as he conducted his.
It was a monthly party targeted mostly towards expats. As a result there were Non-Africans everywhere but four caught my attention in particular. Marines have a great ability to pick each other out at a distance and although I was in disguise (unshaved with out of regulation haircut) these gentlemen were not. I predicted they were guarding the embassy but I had to find out for sure. While one was getting drinks I came up to him and asked “Are you an American?” he turned surprised and said “Ya! Are you?” I replied “Ya, you in the military?” and before he could respond I cut him off “Marines?”. Slightly confused but amused he answered “Ya… what are you a fuckin spy or somethin?”. That is when Erin blew my cover “He’s a Marine!” as she tapped me on the shoulder. As most Marine reservists who have been in for a while, I try and stay incognito as much as possible by blending in when off duty. My identity disclosed I admitted to being a Marine as well. We talked briefly and he confirmed he was in fact on embassy guard duty. MSG as we call it. I told him why I was in Ghana and he was bewildered as to why I’d come here on my own time. I bought him a beer and we parted ways.
Although we didn’t interact for the rest of the party I kept an eye on them for the remainder of our time there. I was in a constant low state of stress. Like almost all Marines feel, it sucks to be around each other when your in the civilian world. I’m not sure why, possibly just because they just remind you of the hardships you’ve had to endure and that wherever you are and whatever fun your having, it won’t last because the green machine will soon call you back to her. The whole situation is just proof that the Marine Corps can find you wherever you are… even if you change continents.
July 19 18:20
Today we visited UNICEF, it was pretty informative but thankfully short because I’ve felt pretty sick all day. Today I did some laundry via a bucket of water and some packs of detergent I brought. They’re currently drying on some lines outside. Found out the power outage yesterday was city wide.
Erin & Anne bought rings in order to masquerade as married women. They are doing this with the hopes of deterring the zealous local men.
July 20 19:16
Today we went to a Turkish restaurant. It was called DNR and it was very delicious. Outstanding actually. I’ve never had turkish food before but I will make a point to visit more in the future. The service was actually very good. Average for America but stellar for Ghana. The one negative occurance happend upon our departure. Anne and Erin got boxes for their food and written on them were “fat” and “slim” respectively. Anne is a larger girl and hers was the one that had “fat” written on it. Once her and Erin were alone she started balling crying. I don’t know if the waiters didn’t think we read English and they were trying to keep the boxes apart or what but I feel horrible for Anne.
Emily, Danielle, and Liz went at 12:00 with some random guy they met yesterday to some forest 45 minutes away. They said they’d be back by 16:00 and its now 19:00. We’re going to call them at 20:00. I was not present to try and dissuade them when they left. I doubt I would’ve been able to convince them anyways due to Emily’s headstrong personality. Danielle and Liz pretty much do whatever she wants. I’m sure they found something cool to do on the way back and are safe as well as having fun. Nevertheless they should have shown more caution in this country.
We’re going to some expat rooftop party in Osu later. “Roof on Fire”
I hope everyone reading this realizes that this journal is constantly evolving. Its full of first impressions and immediate reactions. It is made at the end of that day and there is not much reflection. That will come at the end of this trip. As a result of this kind of writing, you are right here with me in regards to emotions and thoughts. But just be conscious that everything I say is subject to change due to the new experiences that occur every day.
Today we visited the Kwame Nkrumah monument and museum, he was Ghana’s first president (circa 1957). He was a major proponent of Pan-Africanism (uniting Africa), making Ghana economically independent (not relying on Europe/US), and believed capitalism was bad for Africa in the longterm. Looking at his policies and how the people here revere him, he seems to have done a lot of good here. However, he was trying to establish close ties with China and U.S.S.R. so he was accused of becoming communist. Due to this and an independent Ghana economy hurting western interests, it is alleged that the CIA instigated a coup. Its been said that Nkrumah was given forged documents by the KGB to make him think the CIA was involved so essentially there is no evidence that the CIA really was there. But due to the CIA’s track record of these types of operations and the motivations making sense, I personally believe they did. But regardless if they did or not, there was a coup led by the military, Nkrumah never returned to Ghana and his dreams were never realized.
I had an idea today while musing over a map of Africa. Has anyone traveled to every country in Africa? That would be a crazy trip. I’m not saying I’d go to every country but even half of them would be awesome. Prepare for a year or two in order to have adequate knowledge and resources, get inoculations, grab a friend, and be careful haha. I want to go to the dangerous places. The perfect person I can think of for this expedition is Erik G (last name omitted for privacy reasons). I met him in SOI (school of infantry) and one freezing night on post – one of those long posts where you talk about every topic in the universe – we agreed to travel the world together once we were out of the Marines. At first I didn’t think he knew how serious I was, but then I realized he was more serious than I! Haven’t talked to him in a while but he’s the kind of guy you could call years later and he’d be excited as hell to hear from you.
We all just got back from Monsoons. Its a seafood restaurant in Osu that Erin & Anne randomly stumbled upon a few nights ago. We sat outdoors on a patio bathed in blue light. The whole environment of the restaurant was pretty high class. It was obviously an expatriate hangout, I haven’t seen so many white people in one place since I landed in Ghana. We all had different types of sushi and were hooting and hollering the whole night, it was a good time.
Our power went out for a considerable time again today. It just wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t.
Water is out again.
Water went out again for a couple of days but we got it back so I finally got to take a shower! Feels good.
Today we went to the Cape Coast (about a two hour drive) where we observed a nutrition program, visited the slave castle, and did the canopy walk. I was getting frustrated at the nutrition program because it was exactly the same as all the other ones and we just listened to them lecture the local mothers. This lecture was in the Fante language so we just stared blankly. I was thankful for our departure.
Finally away from the world of nutrition this trip, we passed into the realm of history upon arrival to the Cape Coast Castle. I was totally immersed. Our guide was incredibly intelligent and full of good information. The castle changed a lot over its life. Built by the Swedes it was the seat of British power in Ghana from 1664 to 1957. But before the British it was captured from the Swedes by the Danes, then captured by the Dutch, and then the English. It was used for a slave castle and for hundreds of years souls destined for the “Gate of No Return” passed through. The conditions were as so that one really has to go there and see it to appreciate it. I found it more interesting than the Tower of London to be honest. One thing I found particularly interesting (and twisted) was that the castle church was built upon the dungeon. The singing worshippers could hear the screaming slaves below and vice versa. Crazy.
Besides history I love adventure and the canopy walk was able to satisfy that thirst. We were on a bridge in and above the treetops of Kakum National Park. The “bridge” was little more than a wooden board. The bridge had nets along the side and was suspended from cables that run to the highest trees. Dr. Tayie didn’t accompany us due to his fear of heights.
It appears the germs have launched a new offensive and the defenders are falling back. I’m hoping my body will rally soon. I don’t feel sick (yet), I am just sent running to the bathroom every couple of hours
We have water now. Dr. Tayie made a big fuss because this time last year they were supposed to run a pipe to this bungalow and they didn’t. Now they have so we have water but it isn’t reliable and there is no hot water.
Sonder. definition: The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own – populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness – an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives you’ll never know existed , in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
(Not sure who the author is, I wish I had wrote that haha)