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.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

a week to go...

it was hard getting online - my appologies to anyone that waited.
the internet cafe has been having problem with their provider.
for a month.
bob said - "you are here to practice patience,"
he was right. i have been practicing it.
but i don't think i have gotten good at it.
i think practicing patience had made me become more eager.
the truth is - i am missing new york.
i made a mistake, or a few on this trip, this time around.
one of them was not to have budgeted for my drumming lessons.
big mistake. big. huge.
also - the laptops I have brought created a sense of competition and greed among them. all of a sudden, they are fighting over who will own them.
all opf you, i keep telling them.
it is for the school. for the community. for all of you to share.
they now want their own.
even though they don't even know how to use them.
they think they want it. they think they will become sothign if they own a material thing. a tool.
it is not the "goal", it is "means".
but we are a long way of understanding this around here.
and it is hardly my place to teach them that. I mean, I am trying, but perhaps that's where I've been wrong.
who am i?
a white lady with laptops?
strangers come to me in the dirt raods, saying, please, i need some money.
my collegue teacher, says to me the other day - oh, i am so sad, i have no money.
that sucks - i told her.
btw, it is the same one who didn't show up to work the last week, on the final day before the final exam of her students (the very exam that for some will determine whether the kid would score high enough to continue with the school or not, so she didn't come to work because she wanted to go to benin for fun, but in the end she didn't even go there, just took a fucking day off, to sit at home. now she asks me for money. yeah, right. what is she teaching????
the headmaster (btw, everyone calls him "master"!!!) doea NOTHING all day but sits on his chair with one leg up on another chair's arm rest, which is a discussting image, btw, and "calls" for students to do thinks for him.
get him food.
charge his phone.
and all he's been telling me all month is - madam milika, we need more dollars. more american dollars...
so do i my friend. so do i.

i am preparing a show with the kids and this gives me pleasure.
so does working with students - they will learn things form me that will improve their lives if so they choose.
and so does playing with the children in the village in the afternoon. and talking to a few adults that i consider friends.
but what i learned this time around about the majority of mostly the adult ones is not happy news.
more details when i get back.
there have been some priceless moments, of course.
and the successes of G2G mission is indubitable.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

back online, with Kofi ;-)

painfully slow but working.
kofi, at the other corner of the interent cafe, learning about the www. just set him up with a gmail account so we can stay in touch!
i'll make him as account with the owner - and he will, along with emmanuel zagbede be my point person - partner for G2G.

needles to say, as soon as i left him by himself to work and 4 older boys came in, they started giving him hard time.
Then i stood up.
"what's up?"
"ooooh, i'm sorry" one of they said...
I forgot about that. I need to make sure someone watches over him when he comes here by himself.

Yesterday was a bit depressing. Continuous rain helped.
When i came back to the center after the session in the cafe and just rested my head on the dinning room table, Kofi came over. He said: You are tired.
A little bit - I said.
Ten minutes later he came back with a "bingo" look on him face:
"Let's get a coconut for you!"
We got three!
I was not tired.
Or depressed.

Today Pricsilla, her mom and I prepared Kasawa dough together.
And it's a bright sunny day!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

problems with internet

not sure if i'll be able to be blogging this time. this is my first attempt yo get online in about a week and it took about an hour to even get connected.
in short - everything is fine. but, although i may be just imagining this, things have gotten worse here.
this kids look even poorer, their clothes dirtier and more ripped, their bodies skinnier.
The young adults aged.
The ones that are better off look the same or better.
Emma lost weight to look better.
Kofi lost weight because he grew a lot, or because he's not eating enough.
Mesnah aged ages - he had an bike accident a few months ago and had lost a tooth.
Here - if you loose a tooth - you've lost it. You will not get it replaced. The few ones might, but you, the regular, everyday you, even if you are a teacher in both KBSchool and the Dagbe center - you won't.
Nevertheless - Mensah was lucky to have stayed alive - Rueben found him, Emma took him to Aflao hospital. Him, and the other guy - it was a clash!
Blood everywhere. At the hospital - the doctors didn't want to start anything (surgery was needed on both kids) until someone paid. So Emma did.
Today, they are both alive, although noone showed up to visit the other kid in the hospital, so his recovery took longer...

The brightest, happiest ones around are the youngest ones. And this time - I am realizing very clearly, they are to be my focus.
Laptops are installed, and working properly. I did not have any problems getting them in - noone asked me anything.
Once I got to Kopeyia - the problems began.
Emma told me he needed to pay about $15 to the education office in Ketu to write a letter that will ensure I get through the customs without problems.
They considered writing such letter to be favor to Emma, then me, so they asked for money.
Once again - I am stunned as to who is doing a favor to whom in this chain. And that is only the beginning.
Did you bring anything else - the headmaster asked once i arrived to the school.
NO sir, I did not.
Anything nice for me?
no comment...
The next day he suggested that we both go to the education office, where they have written that costly letter, to "express our gratitude to the director".
I said it was a great idea (thinking - great, I'll shake hands, take photos and "officialise" the whole thing. The we would invite the office the come to Kopeyia for the official opening of the new computer lab.
Even better. The Give to Grow computer lab launch. A little presentation.
Kofi is already on it. He's been on one of the laptops 24/7 so far. So much so that I had to tell him to stop and go spend time with his family!!!
Then the headmaster said the director wanted to know if I brought any "similar items" for his office!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Allright -
he works for the government.
the government supports the school.
He - through the help of the government supports my supporting the school.
Therefore - I should support him - the government back.
Is that the logic?
Are we partners here?
I'm lost...
What are you seeing in me exactly?
I cannot wait to meet the guy and hear him ask me that question.
But then again - if i answer rudely - who's going to write the letter next time?


on a bright side -
the kids are AMAZING!
They are learning so quickly and are so excited about the gear.
As a side activity - I am working with the KG kids (preschool) on reciting English and EWE poems and nursery rhymes.
Their smiles light up the dim hazy air of the rainy-season colored Kopeyia.
With Mensah - I'm developing a G2G Line - this afternoon, we will work some T - shirts designs, which he'll batic and I'll take to NY to sell and fund raise as well as help him earn a little bit.
Next time - we do the kids line!!!

OK, so the three hour block of internet for the day is near expiring, and I still have some 200 emails go through. (the first hour and a half was just me and the owner trying to get me online...)
Will look for a better way - and to blog again soon...
but in the meantime, please bear with these not being edited.
Absolutely no time for that rt now.
There is work to be done.
I need to go hug a few more kids today!!!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

off today

and nervous. i have 2 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 2 cameras, Ipods, sound recorders three phones and an iPad (I am keeping that one ;-)
the suitcases are heavy as hell and with all my ny friends, there;'s noone ton help me down the stairs with them.
ok, maybe i never asked... but why do i have to?
i just hope i don't get charged (much) for the overweight language - money is tight this time (when is it not?)
too bad ghana lost - it would be great to watch the next game in kopeyia.
reminder to self, for next year - needed to go to my bank and notify them of my travels. otherwise, they would call me at a time of my attempt to withdraw money in ghana and then cancel my card if i didn't answer.
arriving to accra tomorrow evening, staying over in a hotel, Bob Dawuni (Rocky Dawuni's brother) is picking me up.
The next day I'm taking the bus to Kopeyia.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Last night, i had a G2G benefit at the Harlem Library.
Performance, presentation, reception. Two hours total.
Short and sweet (15 min getting in mingle, 30 min performance, 15 min presentation, 45 minutes reception, 15 min strike - load out).
mistakes -
the event was not publicized enough - not enough audience
(i was counting on mt marketing person whom i hired to do it for me, which i shouldn't have)
no good photos taken (????)
the first 15 mins i didn't have a good concept for.
people were bored and waiting around
good performance, great performers and energy among the artists
(thank you thank you thank you allen, ana, brandon, carmen, chris, lauri, margaret - can i keep you all? wanna be a g2g band? and thank you all the G2G fans and supporters - claudia, eric, stephaine, andre, tawnya, ben)
solid presentation, people listened and reacted
good venue - libraries. hmm i haven't thought of those before
eventbrite is a good way to promote and administer events!
vistaprint is a good print service - i have my gifts (G2G mugs and flyers) printed by them

now - as soon as i get back from ghana, i'll start doing one of these a month.
hitting a different neighbourhood each time.
if i raise $500 each month, which should be attainable, since i'd be set for my next trip.

we continued with an afteraprty at billie's black until 2 am.
it was fantastic. I am so fortunate. I have very special, precious friends.
I was looking across the table at one point - an amazing group of people, all ages and backgrounds, celebrating life and one another in such a passionate, joyful way, and most of them didn't even one another before the benefit.
G2G brought them together.

and i was happy.

now let's go wath ghana beat germany and serbia beat australia.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

some of you

might've not seen echoes and developments of G2G throughout last year:
wonderful arts-electric article:
my article for juilliard journal
and our FB page.!/pages/Give-to-Grow/119680858072254?ref=ts
also - a film form of a final performance i produced and performed with the kids in Kopeyia

hmmm - links don't work, wonder why...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

flight booked

not confirmed yet.not sure what's up with
booked yesteday, still awaiting the confirmation.
looking for prescription for malarone or doxycyclone rt now.
no health insurance, trying to save up and not pay for the doctor's visit.
today bought a few small gifts for the children and my egnlish madams - rejoice and christy.
next is talking to the embassy and the airlines about the computers and allowed baggage. ghanaians tell me - just put them computers in the suitcases. noone will open or care.
two in my carry on, two in each checked bags.
pay for extra bag. that's it.
need to install all the software onto the computers too.
then the final benefit, june 22nd.
leave on july 4th. everyone will be coming into NY, i will be leaving it.
arrive to accra on the 5th, 6PM.
spend the night in accra, continue in the morning.
that's the plan.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

aaaand - awake!

if any of you are still around, interested and want to keep following this adventure of mine - I'm happy to be back.
after a year of trying to raise enough $$$ to go back to Kopeyia and continue with what made me, by far, feel the most alive and purposeful in the last decade or so, I have finally come close to taking another step. in about a month I will be on the plane to Accra again. and my body trembles with excitement.
Two days ago (minutes after The Sandbook Studio - THANK YOU SO MUCH< ERIC!!!!) told me they would sponsor my next trip, the phone rang.
"It's me. Kofi." i heard the the sweet, familiar voice say. Shyly.
My heart started beating like I had been on a treadmill for about a week. On an incline.
"i wanted to ask you... when are you coming back".
I started crying and I haven't stopped since.
Kofi doesn't own a phone. His mother or sister don't speak English. Kofi, a 10 year old is the head of the family.
Kofi found a phone (someone staying at the Dadbe Center, an american had one), found out what y phone number was, including the area code, and called me.
He called me because I promised him I'd be back by May of 2010, so called to find out why am I not keeping my promise.
I wanted to explain how difficult it was to come up with the $$$ to go, how my grants fell through, including the one form Juilliard that I was SO sure sure i would get,
but he didn't need all the words. He wanted an answer.
"I will be there in July!" I said fighting the tears in my thought form being heard.
Kofi never cries. I have to be stronger.
"which day?"
"5th", I said.
"July 5th" he repeated.
Kofi, dear, i can't wait to see you. Do you need anything form here?"
the line is breaking, there's silence.
"I miss you" he says.
I've had family, friends, lovers say that to me. It's a common thing to say.
But now, it felt like I was hearing and understanding the words fro the first time.
"I miss you too, Kofi. I miss you so much. And I will see you very very soon."