Tonya In Ghana
2012 Recipient of the Cora Craig Young Woman Award
Today would make it the 3rd week since Ive been in Accra, Ghana. As soon as I landed in Kotoka International Airport, I knew that the over sized NYU hoodie I had on was a mistake. It was if the weather were telling me to leave unnecessary weight in the suitcase.
The NYU-Accra staff met us at the airport and drove us to our respective dorms. I live in Solomon's Lodge (a.k.a. "Song of Solomon" a.k.a "La Familia") The best part about it all...every room has its own bathroom!
After Laryssa, my roommate, and myself were settled in, our Residential Assistants took us on a tour around the neighborhood. The term "obruni" came up several times. Obruni means "foreigner" or "white person" in twi (pronounced "tree"). I was unsure as to if i should be offended at this term.
Let's get one thing straight: GHANA HAS THE BEST PLANTAIN CHIPS IN THE WORLD. Forget what you've tasted at your local bodega because the woman carrying a basket of plantain chips on her head knows the deal. One bag of chips cost me 50 pesossas, which is less than 40 cents!
Oh, let's not forget about vanilla fan ice! Fan ice is a mixture of yogurt and ice cream, but before you turn away from this idea, throw some pineapples in the mix. TREAT YO'SELF. (Caution: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT have cookie dough and chocolate fan ice for breakfast or the results will be rather messy. Just ask my roommate. She had to smell it.)
There are several restaurants near our academic center that I have come to love. Di-di Pa (which I definitely believe is owned by Diddy) is where I tried "red-red". Red-red is a traditional Ghanaian dish made up of black eyed peas, plantain and bean sauce.
When I'm not consuming plantain chips or devouring red-red, I'm eating chicken and rice. All of this to say, I had to go to the gym. Me and my friends (a.k.a. The Squad) made an especially needed trip to Pippa's Gym.
Now, if you know anything about Tonya Simone Ingram, you know that I am the opposite of the party girl. However, since I've been in Ghana, I have been to one night club and a reggae party/concert on Tawala Beach. The newest dance craze is the "Azonto", which I am having the hardest time learning. This is not a surprise since it took me 4 years to learn the Harlem Shake. I may not be the best dancer in the world, but I am the best hype (wo)man this said of Accra has ever known. G-TOWN STAND UP!
What does it mean to be African-American in Africa? This is the question I have to ask myself everyday that I am here. Two days ago, a local called me and my friends "white people". None of my friends are white. None of my friends look white. We were especially offended because he was yelling at us, as if we were doing something wrong.
Coming to Ghana I thought I would be automatically accepted because I'm black. Before I came here, I decided to shave off all of my hair and go natural. I've even been told that I look Ghanaian, but I still feel like an outsider. Here I am seen as an American, not as "part of the family". During orientation, my professor told us that African-Americans are viewed as the people that went away.
Learning Africa is a process. How she moves. How she cradles a sobbing child. How she has sobbed herself. How she keeps her love on repeat. Being black in Africa I am learning that sometimes it's not what I thought it would be. It is a double-edged sword. It is an oxymoron's moron. It is beautiful. It is confusing.
The trip continues to be very eye-opening and has made me aware of African history and my place in it.
I have yet to master the art of bargaining. I've been ripped off four times at the markets. AND I will never have to worry about not catching a cab here. They are everywhere! So far, I've been proposed to twice. Don't worry, mom, I said no.