Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First impressions, in chronological order.

The movie Invictus -- about Nelson Mandela and, of all things, Rugby -- moved me deeply on the plane. South African airport sniffer dogs are trained for fruit, and found two apples in my guitar case.

The townships are everywhere, and look miserable. Much more so when you're really there than when you see them on TV.

There is only instant coffee. The two tea options are black and rooibos.
Vegan food may damn well be impossible at AIMS. Scotsmen have a very different idea of "healthy food" from mine.

One student won't shake my hand, because I am a woman. The bathrooms in our apartment are gender segregated.

There is no internet at my house. There is only one single socket in my room. I can't walk the 5 minutes between my work and my home by myself after dark.

There are sharks in the ocean. The beach is ridiculously beautiful.

Racial separation/segregation/discrimination makes me unhappy. So does the fact that I'm suddenly aware of being white.


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  2. That movie is amazing. It really really needs a better title.

    I can't imagine how segregated SA must be-- it's such a central part of its history, no? The really funny thing is that Ghana strikes me as very un-segregated.

    Sure, the numbers are much different in Ghana compared to SA, and here there are a whole lot of whites living in little enclaves, but being one of the whites who doesn't, I feel very comfortable out and about in Ghana. The atmosphere is different.

    Maybe it's just that there aren't enough whites in Ghana to produce enough services and opportunities for whites to self-segregate, but that's being a little too pessimistic.

    Did I mention I am white? Yes, here in Ghana, if you ain't black, you white. People here have a hard time distinguishing between the different whites. For example, they asked if a swiss girl was my sister and if my american boss was my father.

    I think in Ghana, the racial "harassment" goes the other way (it's not really harassment), everyone's always yelling at me "hey white man!" and making hissing sounds to call me over. People are always asking me to buy them food or gifts.

    Sometimes the way they communicate with me makes me feel really quite guilty about my whiteness and well-offness...whether it's how they offer to cook local food for me or invite me to their homes, or just make me feel I'm obliged to buy things for them (or sellers at the market asking me to buy things from them) because I have money. I know it's all laughs and fun but it yanks me in funny ways sometimes.

    Some people tell me they really think I should "marry black" and other people ask me if I have a "Ghana wife" (I find it quite a hilarious proposal to offer an almost complete stranger)

  3. You're so white! Although, did you realize here it's all parted three-ways? Being black is very different from being colored is very different from being white. I suppose East-Asians are most commonly still lumped in with the whites though.
    Also, of course, a lot of the resentment that makes me uncomfortable is very much directed against "Afrikaners", i.e. Dutch heritage. So there's even a division between the different types of Caucasians.

    Gah. But yes, I've definitely posited the same thing, that the sheer number of descendants of colonials here makes it worse in a sense. If you're just an odd-looking guy among a bunch of regular-looking people, that's one thing -- but if you're part of a clearly identified minority with a very questionable history, it's quite different.