Friday, February 17, 2012

Changing Venues

I glanced at my watch: 4:28 P.M.—two minutes until lecture. I took the steps entering the New Lecture Theater two at a time, lengthening my stride as I crossed the naturally lit expanse of its main floor. My eyes fixed upon NLT 2 while my thoughts quelled my incessant internal call for punctuality. However, to my surprise, as I reached the threshold, wooden doors ajar, a chaotic yet empty collection of desks and chairs greeted me. Quickly reaching into my bag, I found my planner, already knowing my search’s futility. My eyes rested on the bracketed timeslot within whose outline, boldfaced and underlined, was NLT 2. In denial of the inevitable, I took a seat at the nearest desk and hoped in vain for other students to fill the hall. Seconds turned into minutes, and yet, I remained alone. Finally, standing up with a slight grin, I left the hall and backtracked to the History Department block. I entered its courtyard and casually approached the department bulletin board, locking my gaze upon the lecture timetable—a hard copy listing of the locations and times of all available courses in each department respectively. In the last two weeks, I had managed to develop a love-hate relationship with this particular timetable. That night I discovered that both the time and location of my elusive 4:30 P.M. lecture had been changed.

Two weeks prior, this incident would have elicited some frustration in me, but since, I had quickly learned—after multiple similar experiences—that lecture locations and times could be expected to change with as much certainty as the continuous crashing of the nearby ocean waves. Luckily, I am fortunate to now have Ghanaian friends in each of my lectures who have taken it upon themselves to ensure that I am kept in the word-of-mouth information loop.

Outside the lecture halls, I have been personally touched by the sincerity and graciousness of each Ghanaian with whom I have interacted. No personal interaction is overlooked, undervalued, or glossed over. A trip to the market is not simply an exercise in consumption, the sole focus to find a good at a reasonable price. Rather, it is about community, about building relationships, and understanding that we are all one. Regardless of whether or not I intend to buy anything or not, there are vendors whom I visit each time I stroll through the market simply to say “hi” and talk about the day’s happenings.

In the last four weeks, in addition to figuring out lecture schedules and meeting many wonderful people, I have managed to transition to living in a significantly different environment. The campus of University of Cape Coast (UCC) is divided into two sides—Science and Old Site. As its name implies, Old Site was the university’s original campus and is where most of the administration buildings are located. Following the palm tree lined drive to the West Gate at Old Site and just across the main road is the Atlantic Ocean, an unbroken expanse of blue all the way to Antarctica. The newer side of campus is Science which is home to department blocks, numerous lecture theaters, and many residence halls. Unlike most of the other U.S. exchange students who live in Kwame Nkrumah Hall, I live in the Graduate Hostel.

A short distance from the Grad Hostel is the Science market and taxi station. The market itself is made up of rows of steel storage units that have been transformed into small stores, forming a maze of narrow walkways beneath roofs of corrugated metal. Though the Science market is hardly as comprehensive as those in town, there are places to by snack food and meals as well as different vendors ranging from Xerox services stores to a mobile phone shop. Just outside of the market is the taxi station with routes to Old Site, Elmina—a town just west of Cape Coast, and to different neighborhoods in Cape Coast, specifically Kotokuraba and King’s Way. With the help of Francis, I learned how to use the system of taxis and navigate my way through the Kotokuraba Market in Cape Coast. It is roughly a ten minute taxi ride to both King’s Way and Kotokuraba and costs one Ghana Cedi and fifty pesewas, or just under $1.00, for a round trip shared taxi. A shared taxi is always filled with at least four occupants besides the driver with each occupant paying a fixed fare depending on the route. Sometimes the wait for three other occupants is lengthy, but most of the time it is minimal.

In the next month, I intend to travel to Kumasi—the capital of the Asante Empire. Overall, my time in Ghana has been unbelievable, and I am eager to add to my ever growing collection of incredible experiences. –February 17, 2012, Cape Coast, Ghana.

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