Friday, October 1, 2010

a dream?

I had the strangest dream. I was rehearing singing a canon with someone. Rehearsed until I was super clear on my entrance and the part. But then all of a sudden I started to mess up. I would forget my part and come in singing 'aktupa dekka elak'pata me', which is that ewe song I sang with my KG kids.
And we would stop the rehearsal time and time again, everyone would get annoyed, I would remember my real part, sing it once out loud to memorize it better, but as soon as we would start as a group, I'd forger the tune and go right back to 'aktupa dekka..."
It's been a while since my last African dream. I understand why now.
I am on my way to see the doctor. She's trying to identify the African Queen. That's what I've been calling this strange illness, which feels like something alive and active, like something that found a comfortable home in my ignorant white body. I keep imagining how lucky my Queen must feel. Out of millions of resilient African bodies that would've beat her in a second, knowing how to deal with her, instead, she found me. And has now had a good life there for over two months.

And I guess I am scared a little. So my spoke to me in my dreams.

The next morning (now) I get on the bus to go the Jacobi hospital to see the doctor, and the driver has a beautiful face and a very familiar accent.
"Where are you from?", I ask.
"Ghana", he says.
I knew it. I tell him about Give to Grow, he invites me next time visit his his home town in Ashanti region. I'll go I say. And I will, too.

And here we are, on the bus, the three of us, Almita the driver, my African Queen and myself, three strangers, strangely connected crossing the Triborough Bridge to the Bronx. The rain outiside is fierce, the air on the bus is cold, but the silence in it is full of some strange warmth, somehow.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

closing speech

Closing Speech by Mr Sam Tumaku, Ketu-South District Director of Education

Africa My Home - Give to Grow Final Perfomance


give to grow 2 (142 photos), by Milica Paranosic

here are some of the photos from the trip. i used snapfish. doing a mot of photo and film editing these days and on the way, testing different services. (snapfish requires you to sign up with them and log on in order to view the photos. which is a drag, i know...)
I wish i could post a comment under each photo.
been busy and a bit sick since I returned. fearing that i have brought a virus, a bug, a parasite, SOMETHING real back form africa (as if the experiences, the memories, the constant dreams and gigabytes are not real enough) - I named her, the virus, the bug, the parasite, the SOMETHING 'my african queen'. I decided to write a song in her honor. she is tough one. my african queen. wouldn't let go. wouldn't leave me alone. had a big party in here for weeks. 'ohhhh, a new playground' she must've been thinking. a new, white, clueless body to play inside of' she danced. ironically, once i made a peace with her existence, once i actually did write her a song, she was gone. Ha! Ubi me prejaka rec!
The song was based on a recording I made with singing by one of my pupils, a girl named faustine, a precious girl who sang beautifully, but then got shy one me and deiced not to sing it in performance because she didn't have all the lyrics right. so i partly wrote it to inspire her to sing it next time. for real. for the next give to grow CD, to be produced in Rita Marley's studio. (seriously, I'm on it. The other album I'll work on in the next four years will be world s... uhm. i better keep this one secret. )
This blog doesn't take audio, so I'll post a movie of it soon. With Faustine dancing to it.
You're my african queen

Click here to view photos

Friday, August 13, 2010


Sunday, August 1, 2010

a lesson

two days before the final concert, one of the Ketu district education officers came to meet me and confirm his presence at the the performance, along with the director.
after a brief introduction and a handshake, he decided it was time for the real talk.
"How will I personally benefit from what you have brought to Kopeyia?"
Nice. I was expecting this.
"You will benefit by ensuring better education for your youth, so that they can grow to be educated and productive citizens that will take care of, and improve the entire community" i replied.
"But, what about our office? Is six not enough for you?"
"For ME? This is not for me, Sir. None of it. It is for you. For your community. For your children."
"Well, I meant, for you, for Give to Grow. I was hoping I we could hijack one of your computers".
"That is absolutely out of the question" - the headmaster at this point started to feel uncomfortable, not knowing whose side to take if anyone called him responsible. (Which no one did).
And I was starting to enjoy it.
"What I brought for the school, remains in the school".
"OK, let this be as it is. Now let's discuss the future."
"What do you mean?"
"I need a laptop badly", he said. He just wouldn't let go. I suppose my disobedience pushed him to push, and I was happy to push back.
"Very well. May I suggest that you put that wish in writing and hand me that request. Next time when I fundriase in NY and ask for donations, I will make sure to tell them about your wish. If anyone decides to give a computer to you instead of the school, I will be happy to bring it over."
He was starting to get it. Nevertheless, he continued.
"A-ha, so you want to be really specific... We can just say 'It's for education'"
"I HAVE to be specific, Sir. If I get things and and promise to use them in a certain way, that is how I will use them. Otherwise, I would betray the trust of my partners and donors and that would be the end of donations. For anyone."
"OK. I understand."

The day at show, he showed up, along with the director, and behaved properly. Neither him nor the director ever mentioned their personal (or office) need.
They enjoyed the show, then asked to take pictures with me.
The director (who seemed like a really nice guy) gave a touching speech about the benefits that the community gained by the efforts and generosity of "our sister milika".

I won. Tough I never fought - it tasted like a victory. I felt like a have thought children some music and computer lessons, and just as successfully, a lesson in morals and respect to their elderly.

I am back now, and will post more. About the show itself, about Prinscilla singing Kisa Pada in perfect Serbian language and 7/8 meter, about my rebel boys who dared to do something different on stage, about next G2G steps....

I am happy to be home. But I miss the shiny smiles of Kopeyia children already.

Monday, July 26, 2010


the last few days were good. fun. exciting. (more in the "private" blog. coming soon)
last weekend i stayed in the village to do some creative stuff on he school performance and rehearse with the pupils that wanted extra time with me, and not to go to accra to a wedding i was invited to.
i made a wonderful. chime-like multi-hanger out of lime tree and rosewood branches, suspended on a another branch, all wrapped in colored paper. The idea was to hang and display the pretty dresses one of the pupils' mom made in the school exhibition. To present the work of women more. Inspire the young girls to do the same.
I hang the dresses and went to the house of the women who made them to show the whole thing to her.
She wasn't at the house, but a bunch of other villagers, mostly men and boys were around.
They all liked it a lot and helped me hang it. We took photos which I will post later.
I was excited.
I asked the boys if it was safe to leave it her for the tailor-ess to see.
They said it was.
The next day (this morning) when i went beck for it, I found the dresses in a pile, thrown and wrinkled.
The remains of the hanger were lying on the ground, ribbons thorn to pieces and the shiny blue ribbon that bound them together ripped and taken off.
I was hurt.
I picked it up and headed towards my room.
On the way I ran into one of the boys that were there the day before and asked what happened and why.
Then I ran into the lady and asked her the same thing.
Neither explained the turn of events, just apologized.
I was hurt.

When I was back in my room, the dress lady came and knocked on my door.
She apologized like crazy. She said it wouldn't happen again and then she started to kneel down.
I asked her to please please do not kneel. She was my friend. I did it for her because I liked her and cared for her. She didn't owe me anything. We were equals. We were friends. I just didn't understanding why nobody would they take one moment to put the damn thing away safely.
When I realized - she never even saw the entire piece.
It had either fell down and noone bother to pick up it up, or (please, let it not be that), the boys, or one of them, for whatever reason destroyed it on purpose.
Envied the pretty gift for his friend. Or sister.
She said, fighting tears, "they want to destroy and take away what i have." she then quickly changed the subject realizing it was a sin to speak like that.
"Please smile", she said,' if they see that you are crying they are going to blame me"
I was hurt.
But more then that, I was said. And disappointed.
I care about you all people, but I cannot teach you to care for each other.
I remembered Kobbi telling me how people here wish each other bad.
I didn't believe him.
Should I?

I want to go home...

Friday, July 23, 2010

things picking up

the kids' exams are over and my computer lab (Give to Grow computer lab) is crowded with children again.
We are composing, producing and rehearsing about a dozen pieces with the Garage Band accompaniment.
These will be performed on Wednesday, July 28th, at an interdisciplinary performance, along with about ten other pieces (excerpts from plays, poetry, songs, drum and dance numbers).
Along with that we'll have an official Give to Grow computer lab launch to which the Director of Education of Ketu district will come (if he is to be believed. he sent me official letter confirming his presence). This weekend I'll be preparing an installation which will run on six G2G laptops simultaneously.
Kofi will assist me.
We'll also have an art exhibition.
Kids are drawing, and you, my dear supporters and donors will get some of these drawings as our thank you gift.
I bought some material in the hardware store today to make signs and to re-organize and decorate the computer lab and the exhibition room.
Kopeyia artists will exhibit their work too, alongside with the students.
Women will show their dress designs. Kobbi will show his puppets and masks.
So I am finally in my element, busy and a little bitchy.
I stick to my rehearsal schedule like crazy and send student that are late back.
Send teachers out if they are interrupting.
Shhhh the "master" is he's talking during the recording.
so what?
What are they going to do, fire me?


looking forward to the rest.
when i come back I'll fill in this blog with the details, including the ones that will be open by special request only.
For close friends.