Friday, June 26, 2009

And just like that...

... I am back.
It is really strange, how all of sudden, if feels like I only went for a blink.
The last few days were vary emotional. For me and for my Kopeyia friends.
A few of them had that gaze, the look of sadness, the look if knowing that they will most likely not leave Kopeyia, maybe for the rest of their lives.
The look of having had a month of something a little different, a taste of New York, a quick shake from the ordinary, only to go back to the usual, a life that promises little change, development, excitement...
I am not judging thier life style. Just recognizing the look because I have been seing on Serbian people for years when there was no possibility for them to travel.
Most of them don't have passports.
The headmaster asked me before I left - "what usually occurs on the airplanes?" And "Was this your first time on the plane?".
I said it wasn't, but consoled him that it was the longest flight I have been on.


The kids all gave me a warm good bye and I promised them to come back. They have never been on "stage" before and Kopeyia never had a performance before ever. For days after "that Friday" (as they refer to it) I have been running into people asking why they haven't been invited to such a great event.

When I go again - I will start a festival. Along with the music tech program, so I'd seriously appreciate any direct contact with someone in marketing in apple.

The night before I left, a young lady, named Gifted, came by the center, politely knocked on my door: "Madame"
I was happy to see her. She was this beautiful girl, with sparkling eyes. We once had a conversation, and she asked me if I had children. I explained to her that I didn't and that I wasn't married.
It is very unusual in Ghana, and at the beginning I felt really uncomfortable saying it. I felt like lying. And making it all something other then my choice.
But I realized - That's exactly why I was there. Not to try to become African (though I really hated being THIS white in some occasions), not to adopt their customs if I don't like them (but yes - to learn about them) - but to tell them about mine.
It was not my gaol to teach few classes at school, but to use the time to educate them about the rest of the world, or as much of it as I know. To give them INFORMATION.

So when Gifted and I had a conversation about my being single and childless, I told her that there are places where that it not such an unusual thing.
She explained to me that in Ghana, women are many times ridiculed and sometimes punished for not having children or husbands.
Then she walked away and I thought I lost her kinship.

So when she knocked on my door that evening, I was really happy to see her.
"I will miss you so much" - she said.
I told her I would miss her too (as I do, right now as I am typing this).
I asked her if she liked books and she said yes. I gave her a copy of Maya Angelou's "All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes", which I had just finished reading a few days earlier.
I think she will like it.
She gave ma CUTE necklace with a huge pink sparkly hart pendant and asked if I had another blank thank you note so she can write one. (I asked a few pupils to write a thank you note to my sponsors).


That evening, the entire village came out to say goodbye, including the kids. I bought as many beers, malts and fantas as I could (I had only had a few Cedis left, and had to save 20 for my trip to Accra the next day) and everyone shared.
I also brought out a bunch of small gifts and everyone picked what they liked.
Victoria came all them way form another town.
It was a great night.

I spent the next day in Accra and it was truly unforgettable.
I realized that I had missed and needed a bit or urbanity, in order to keep the balance. So I fully got it that day. I had gotten together with someone I met a few weeks earlier at the Internet Cafe, and we spent the day at the beach, with a group of his friends - playing, singing, dancing. We visited his family house and had a traditional meal his mom made.
He gave me a fabulous drum his friend made.
And in the evening we went to the greatest beach party I have ever seen, with a big reggae band, tons of people jamming and dancing, drinking and eating. It was a warm and cloudy night. It was perfect. Everyone was happy. I was ecstatic.
No pix from there - by the final days I felt so integrated that camera didn't fit anymore. And some of the most precious moments will remain undocumented. Digitally. But the prints of them are all over my smiling face and heart.

And now - for planning the return!!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

full circle

day 3 and day 26

yesterday afternoon, I was walking back from the internet cafe to the center, lazily (the first free afternoon in weeks), feeling relaxed familiar with everything and everyone on the way.
Children and families were waving and saying hi, and my most basic ewe freed its way from the back of my mind through my throat and mouth and into the heat of koepya air.
I was happy.
I have been wearing the same shoes for a month and they now have the shape of my feet.
It will be fun to climb up into the highest of the high heels the moment I land to NYC.

When I got back top the center, I saw that the new group of students had arrived. From Vancouver.
12 white people. It was very bright in the center!
And I remembered the day I arrived.
A hot afternoon about a month ago, a group from Boston was just about to leave.
I was pale, confused, eager, clueless, just about to take my first lesson.
Now I was about to leave and the group had just arrived, and they were taking their first lesson.
I sat down with the drumming group and casually joined in.

In the shady part of the deck, my favorite family, my 10-year old friend Kofi, his cute sister Priscilla and their mom were lying on the cool concrete, listening to loud drumming, chilling.

The mom gestured to her foot - letting me know that her cut hasn't quite healed yet and that she needed another band-aid (about 10 days ago, I gave her one or two, she has gotten a nasty cut somehow).
I went into my room and brought out a bottle of antiseptic liquid, a piece of gauze and a 3 large band - aids.
I helped her clean the wound and put the band-aid on. She thanked me in (she new how to say good morning and thank you in English, but her smiles talks million languages).
A little girl who was lying together with the family showed me that she had had a cut too, so I helped her clean it and put another band-aid on her tiny foot.

I was happy.

Then Kofi said -
Now, your friends are here and I will not play with your computer again (he would come to the dining room every night at my dinner time and we'd work on my laptop together. he wanted to learn EVERYTHING and was really good at doing it too. sometimes Priscilla would come with him and the two of us would dance or clap or just goof around to the music Kofi was exploring or making).
Of course you can still play with my computer! And they are not my friends. I've never seen these people in my life - I told him.

I know, but they are... like you - he said.

They are white? I laughed. He smiled. So what? You about a 1000 times are more my friend then them. I don't even know them.
He smiled more.
And you can just come in with me and play on my computer - they have another hour of lesson before they'll even go into the dining room.

But he shook his head no.

Don't be afraid, you can come in with me. No one is going to be angry at you.

My brother will be angry with me - he said, and my heart stiffened. His older brother (I'm still not sure how is he related to the rest of the Agbeli family, which seem to range from quite well off to the extreme opposite) had told him to stay away from the white men territory.

I went in and brought my laptop out for him to play.
For the next hour hour Kofi, Priscilla, mom, the little girl and I watched videos and pictures of that day's performance.
Including the ones in which Kofi and I performed together.
They were extatic - Kofi on FILM!!!! In a movie!!!!

I was happy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

And yes

My new hair is FABULOUS!!!!!

perfomarnce never fails

So today was a BIG day. Both for me, and, what's more important, for Kopeyia.
We had a performance.
a wonderful show, in which the pupils and the staff of Kopeyia Bloomfiled School performed their songs, poems, dances, raps and sketches (skits).
It was a two-hour celebration of African culture. Exploration on styles and aesthetics. Old and new.
We had a great weather (meaning, it didn't rain, but it was a very hot day! can't tell. 110 maybe? amazing how one adjusts to the heat. I kept thinking about bikram yoga and the teachers' words - this is nothing. you do it for one hour. there are people who have this heat 24/7, everyday, and they work hard jobs in the heat. daily. leave the sweat alone. it will keep coming, so you may just as well leave it there...).

As soon as I get home I'll make a myspace page with some of the pieces we performed today.
Highlights: Deti Xoxo, Be good, do good, be one and Arfica, my home (which I lifted as the title of the whole perfomance), and Ghana (which I sang along with the KG class and Mensah Ali)

The headmasdter gave a touching speech of gratitude. Important people of Kopeyia came. They clapped and laughed, and grew goose bumps.

The children dressed up (or I should say- some did, the others chose to wear thier school uniforms. As perhaps, the best clothes they had. Some wore costumes - Kopeyia Bloomfiled Cultural Troup had the traditional costumes on.)

Somehwhere near the end, Madame Christy announced that Madame Rojoice and myself would go out on stage. A total shocker. By that time I had already performed my song - Lastavice (aka ISH! - which is now something like Kopeyai jingle!), accompanied by my main man here, Kofi Agtbeli, who played the drums, and I didn't have another number ready.

It was a surprise! The school had given me a formal thank you and gifted me a wonderful dress designed and made for me.

I felt like crying, but didn't - No holywood moments please. No one cries here.

the whole program ended in such JOYFUL dance on the Kopeyia Dance floor, everyone celebrated and and was happy as they can be. I will never forget this day.

I did end up renting the amplification, (Mr Emmanule Agbeli helped with the cost, which I appreciated, more as a gesture of support, then the mere financial value.

The guys with the amp came at 7 am to set it up and brought the speakers, the mixer and 2 mics.
(speakers all pied up in one spot, again. I tried to explain that wasn't the greatest way of doing it, and some got the point. but some just said - that's how we do it here. so typical! next time we do iot my way. that's the thing - all is good, all is manageable- I just needed to be clearer at occasions. but I am getting it now.)

It is weired how things are. Hope time is.
I did need all this time, this entire month, just to get the real feel. To adjust. Today - I feel I could stay for a year, no problem, whereas a week ago, I felt like jumping on the first plane to NY.

You can't always force things. Much less - control them. At least I can't.

But now, 4 days before I would leave, I feel my heart posisitvely stolen by the Ghanaians.
Even though I did get frustrated at times. So much so, I wanted to scream.
Instead - I drummed.

More in a minute - have about 300 email to filetr out.

Just wanted to have the last post here be a happy one .

Monday, June 15, 2009

a crash

OK, so 3 weeks in and one week prior to the end of this adventure, i crashed.
I just don't understand why is everyone expecting that any expense comes about- I should be responsible for it.
Why is everyone assuming that i bathe in money and that my one and only mission here is to spend dollars.
Because I'm white? Because I live in NY? Becuase how it was with Robert's teachers. for which there might've been a big budget?
Is t because I am generous and share what I have, that now everyone just keeps informing me how much I should pay?
This morning, before I finished my breakfast (for which I had to call for and remind, even though I said i need nothing but a piece of fruit and a coffee, but that I DO INDEED NEED that much. And every morning.), so we're talking by 8 AM, I had 5 poeple come to talk to me.
Will you take more lessons?
Will you buy my designs? And sell them in New York for me. I know that Americans like african things.
Will you get me something nice from ACCRA?
You need to leave your cell phone for me.
You Ipod.
Finally - the amplifier for the perfomance will cost you 50 Ghana Cedis.
OK, now, wait a minute.
Let me rewind.
I am producing a school perfomance.
I presented a proposal to the headmaster 3 weeks ago.
I requested speakers.
No mention of renal fee - just an enthusiastic agreeing.
2 weeks later, after I have created about 30 minutes of music and sound pieces with students and teachers, which I cannot present wiothout amplification, I am informed that that will cost ME rougly $50.
So I can choose not to do it, and not present a month worth of work.
Or I should take even MORE money from the bank tomorrow, (I ran out of $$$ becuse last week I bought color printer for the school. OK, I needed to use it too. The school needs it. The kids learn to use technology. I will want to have flyers and pictuers and programs printed. OK so I forgot that I didn't by a new printer for MYSELF, that I still use an old piece of shit so that I could save to be able to travel here, and give. give. give... And so I did. I recieved no thank yous. It was just assumed to be normal.) - so tomorrow I should take more cash so that I am able to complete my project. And I could even do that. But you need to tell me in advance, ask me if I can, not fucking treating the whole thing as if I am doing you a favor. "I'll do it for you" - he says (leaving the name out for now). No, I am doing it for you brother. I am teaching your kids some hot new shit and have them show it and share it get them to realize how fucking tallented they are, instead of being beaten all the time and treated like, DON'T MAKE ME USE THAT WORD!!!
Last night I suggested we get togehter and party before I leave.
a minute later, P was making an estimte of how much money I should put asside so that I can by the food and drinks for the entire village.
Ever since I came here, ever single night I had a drink in the village bar - anyone that was with me would order on my account.

OK - gotta stop, Chirty is here, getting my hair done, treating myself today!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


and a wedding

what a difference...
so this week a friend offered to take me to wedding.
I was excited.
A Muslim wedding - he pointed out. I didn't know what that meant. In a sense - should I prepare, dress, behave some special way?
In any case - I couldn't, even if i wanted to.
I am SERIOUSLY low on clothes. It's been raining every night and some days in lats five days, and my clothes never dried.
So I put on my only clean dress - (Mensah picked the fabric for me, and Josephine made a dress), and went on.
The wedding was in Aflao, so we took a trotro there. Turned out we arrived early (the part for men was over with, and the past for women and the final joint one hasn't yet begun) so we took a walk in the village. WONDERFUL!!!
We went to the beach, I climbed the coconut tree (well, almost, but I made a brave attempt), drank coconut water, took wonderful shots, dipped my feet, OK legs into the ocean, had cold Castle (delicious dark Ghanaian beer) at the beach bar, listen to Ghanaina music from the 60s, took more pictures (or hot boys swimming - OMG. OOOO MMMM GGGGGG!!!!!) (and some beautiful village children (girl LOVE to pose, boys too, but they pretend they don't care, just shoot their ball with extra spice), and then at some point we returned to the wedding.
The girls started celebrating.
No men were allowed. So I went in (it's all outdoors, but I went into the area - a space between the houses, with some benches set-up in a square and a set of five HUGE speakers, all set up on top of one another (???).
No live music. Just loud pop. Beyonce. Akon. Sean Paul. 2Face. A few more I by now recognize but haven't memorized the names yet. Local bands.
Girls dancing. Me shooting.
Until,someone shouted form the megaphone - white woman, come out and dance. We want the white woman to dance.
And so I did.
What else could I have done?
So I danced with 3 sisters.
I didn't disappoint.

In a while the Bride came out (she was not allowed to exit the house for the last 3 days).
Wearing all pink. Danced a bit. A few men rushed on the "stage" and showered her with money.
Then she came back in.
the other girls continued dancing.
After a while the bride came out again. This time wearing blue.
More men came out, crowded her and her girlfriends from all sides and more money was thrown. One of the lades surrounding the bride was collecting the bills into a bucket.
At one point the bride sat down - I was able to get close to her and took a glimpse of her - she appeared to be in a trance of some sort.
From there, the girls started escorting her towards her house.
A big crowd was following.
I was right there, trying to get a good coverage.
(something I've been enjoying lately. my new role. milica - the reporter. sometimes i get confused by so many roles here. Milica the teacher. milica the ambassador. milica the reporter. milica the student. Should I focus?)

In a while, the whole thing turned pretty violent. The crowd all entered the brides family front yard.
I couldn't understand why, but all of a sudden there was pushing and pulling and yelling and men fighting and animals screeching.
I got pushed by a goat and kicked by a man.
The bride was crying.
One man was pushed out.
I got nervous.
More so - disappointed.
If last weeks event, a funeral, was was one of the happiest, most festive events I have ever seen - I imagined the wedding would be even more so.
But it was quite bitter actually.
Oswald explained it to me later- the groom family was supposed to pay a certain sum of money for the Bride before they would take her away.
Some Friends or family of the groom's tried to get inside the house and take the bride by force.

He told, me - oh, don't worry, it's normal. It's part of the tradition.
C'mmon. It was SCARY!

Also today - there was another ceremony I attended in the same village - a Christian worship ceremony. about a 100 people marched around, sand and played drums and BRASS instruments (haven't seen one here yet!). At one point they walked by the Muslim wedding.
It was a wonderful meeting of two culture peacefully passing one another.

No problem there - got a good video snippet of that.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

june ?

surprize surprize.
i'm in aflao rt now, a much bigger town, in an inernet cafe and connection is twice as slow, and the price per hour is twice as high.
i lov u kopeyia.
finished another busy week.
my project is coming nicley - we perform next friday - I have a few students and teachers do a poems with electronic accompaniment, several original student songs, some video materail, a few dances to hip-hop and po hits and big dance number by Kopeia Bloomfied Cultural Troup.
The whole town is preparing fore the big event.
I completed 2 week drumming and dance course with Dgbe teachres and am now pretty good at Gahu.
Pablo, watch out.
Yuri, you too.
Tuseday, I'm going to Accra for a day and top be quite honest I am looking so forward to it.
Urbanity. Concrete. Street lights. HOT shower.
Tomorrow - my new friend from American Village (I'm not kidding, thst's the name of the village next to Kopeyia) is taking me to a wedding.
I have a new dress which I'll wear.
I'll be kicked out of this machine soon - my hour has expired in filtering my Gmail inbox.
I'll continue from Kopyia latr today or tomorrow.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I went to a funeral yesterady. Which meant - crowds of people, dancing, singing and drumming like I have never seen before, a big celebretion of live, caused by a death,
The guy who was burried died alsomst 2 months ago - they keep the dead in the morgue for a while before, sometime as long as year before they finad a good day for a funeral. Weeknds are good choice.
When i asked Paul what the guy died form, he said he didn't know.
I hear that often - people not knowing the cause of death, even for relatives.
Oh, he just fell ill - they say.
EVERYONE I talked to, not MOST of the people, not some, mot 90 percent or even 99 percent, EVERYONE I talk to had someone in the family died prematurely.
Some car accidents, but more from health realetd issues.
M's mopther died from an ear infection. Hello, EAR INFECTION.
I told him that was curable. He said he knew it, but they didn't catch in time.
She fell in, and within 48 hours she was dead.
His father died form tibeculosys.
They couln't affird the treatment or a vaccine.
My favourite little studen's brither died in a car accident last year.
His eyes not even as much as water and his voice doesn't tremble whern talking about it.
Brave child. Clever and good spitrited. When older boys tease him, he just keeps quiet and does his thing. I protected him. He walked back home with me and told me he'd followme everywhere.
Today I spent good half hour watching him, his mother and little sister sing, cook and clean togehethger.
The little girl posed for me later and corrected my way of washing my clothes. She doesn't speak english. But we manage just fine.

Back to funeral- I was happy to see a few gay man and noone picking on them.
I wondered about that.
BTW - gorgeous people and most are so well built, as if they train all day. Men and women. Lean, mascular. Those who live long - live veeeery long. 105, and still doing stuff in the house and garden.

So duringthe funeral, the dead men is seated in a tent, dressed pretty and people dance around him and fan him. It's a hot day after all.
At the end of the festivites (cca 5PM) they take him out and out him in couffin.
Then about 8 young men carry the couffin around the village after one of them kills a cock and sprays somne blood on it.
As they carry him - they sing and shout and everyone folows.
When they reach the cemetery ang greaveyard, a few men speak, drink and our some gin on the dead one, then, put the couffin along wioth the gin bottle in the grave. Childern are sent away.
Thenm a loud sound announces the end of the festivities.
I saw 2 studnents who asked me if they can work with me on sunday and who's going to be teaching the computer music class when I'm gone...

I will be back

Saturday, June 6, 2009

june 6 (I belive)

not quite sure...
I cannot make it to the internet caffee more then once a week.
I'm REALLY busy here if you can believe it.
I teach english and computer music (the class I started, just with my own laptop with Logic= HUGE follow-up) and am preparing a performance for june 19th, the last friday before I leave.
The students will sing and perform their compositions, reciter poems, ehxiubit their drawing. Some faculty members will participarte too (Myself, Emma - computer teacher, Mensah - KG teacher, maybe madame Chrisy - English teacter).
Will tape that.
At 2:30 the school finishes so I do extra work with kids thay want it. Most do.
At 4PM I take dancing and drumming lessons with the Dagbe Center teacher and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that.

At 6 I have dinner, edit recordings and correct children's homework.
After that I go to one of 2 village bars with the boys for a beer.
The beers here are gigantic. 680ml.
But not always cold.
Go tobed early. 10 ish.

Ot has rained fot the last 3 nights - so it's a bit less humid then it was the fist week, but I have alos totally adjusted to the heat. The humidity. The food. The mosquitos. The bad dreams - not nifghtmares, but yes, every night I do have a bad dream. But funilly, even while dreamng, I know I shouldn't take it seriously.
Am I trained or what?

Tomorrow I have a day off.

Will post something again soon - have older notes that I have been saving on thje flash drive. Stuff from last week.

Do i miss NY. I miss certain things about it. But only for a moment. If I could have an evening im NY and come back- I'd take it. Otherwise - I breathe more life here right now then I have been in years...