After class, Adrian and I decided to go back to Jamestown and Bukom because we hadn't seen James, Henry, and all of the other boxers for a few days, and they kept asking when we were going to come back. They don't start training until four, and we had some time to kill, so we decided to go down to the beach by the lighthouse for a little while. There's a section of the beach there, and I forget what it's called, but these two Ghanians decided to clean it up and use it as place for children to come after school to play in a clean and supervised area. Previous NYU students have gone there to help with programs, so when they found out we're with NYU, they told us we were welcome and we just walked around and talked to the kids. They were all excited we were there, and of course we then became the main attraction. I'm reading the book "The Shadow of the Sun" right now, and this Polish journalist travels throughout Africa in the 50s and 60s, when all of the countries are gaining back their independence. It's a really great book so far, and it's amazing how many of the little details are still so relevant. There's a part of the book where the author, Kapuscinski, is describing the children, and calls them "aggressively curious." These are the perfect words to explain how many of the children act when they are excited to see an "obruni"...especially if you have a camera. The kids pulled on us, asked for us to take their pictures, wanted to take pictures of me with the camera, and basically all just competed for our attention. It was fun, but got a little bit overwhelming, and when we tried to leave that area of the beach, a group of them just continued to walk with us. The older boy of the group, Emmanuel, was incredibly sweet though, and he really liked Adrian and made him promise to go back to play soccer with him. For some reason the dogs on that beach were unusually friendly for here, and one of them wouldn't stop following us. I felt really bad, of course, and if there was any way I could have brought him home, I would have.
After the beach, we then walked to Bukom to meet everyone at the gym. They were all really happy to see us, and the training was a little different from how it usually is. Some of the guys sparred one another, and it was fun, but also kind of intense, to watch them finally fighting. We got some good pictures, and as usual, it was just awesome to hang out with everyone there. Every time I go, I just keep realizing more and more how sweet Joseph is. He just seems to have such a paternal instinct, and is so kind to all of the children, and even to me. At one point when I sat down next to him, he kind of patted my back in this very fatherly way and asked me how I was doing; it was just very touching. I know I keep repeating this over and over, but I cannot get over how genuinely warm and welcoming they are to us. Lawrence was wearing a hat, and I told him I really liked it, and he insisted that I have it. I tried explaining that I just meant I thought it looked good on him, and I wouldn't be able to wear it, but of course he wouldn't take no for an answer. After training was over, James and Lawrence got a cab for us, and I made plans with Henry to go to the stadium Wednesday morning to watch the boxing and kickboxing practices. Tuesday night we all just stayed in, watching movies and doing some work.
Wednesday morning I woke up early and met Henry in Jamestown around 8:30. There was a little confusion about which post office we were supposed to meet at, but we both finally met up, and then walked for a little while towards the stadium. I finally found out some background information about Henry, and his life hasn't been the easiest. I found out that he's 24 years old, he's the oldest of 5 children, and they've lost both of their parents. His siblings are all spread out now, with some of them living with his grandmother and one of his sisters is married, and he lives with cousins. He said that he goes to where his grandmother lives every month to bring her money for the younger ones. He had to stop going to school when he was 17, which is when is father died, I think. Boxing is considered his job, and I'm not really sure how much money he makes or how that works out, but between that and just doing odd jobs here and there for people sometimes, he manages to live off of it.
We got to the stadium, and there were probably around 40 or so men in the training room having a boxing practice. Henry introduced me to a bunch of people, and we just sat and watched for a little while with him pointing out different boxers to me and telling me about them. I met his good friend Reggie, who won some kind of boxing championship in Africa. Henry and Reggie showed me the actual stadium, where the national teams play football, and then we walked through Independence Square and down to the beach. After the beach I went with them to an internet cafe, which is where they have to go to check their email and everything since they don't have computers of their own. After we were done there, Henry wanted to show me where he lives, and we walked through all of these neighborhoods in Bukom, and people seemed surprised we were walking together. When we got closer to his home, these three people were sitting outside on little stools, sitting around a bowl and eating, and when they saw me the woman yelled, "Friend! Friend! Would you like to come eat with us?" She then got up to offer me her seat. The people in these neighborhoods struggle to provide enough food and necessities for their families, and yet they still will not hesitate to be as welcoming and hospitable as possible. I politely declined, and told her I had to follow Henry, who seemed amused at the whole situation. His home was just up the road, and I met his cousin, and he showed me everything. I feel weird going into detail, but it just made me feel so unbelievably guilty. After we hung out for a little bit, I took a cab back home.
Wednesday night we all decided to go to this resort called Labadi Beach, where they have reggae nights certain nights of the week. It ended up being a lot of fun, and we just sat around on the beach, listened to live music, met people, and watched some of the dancing.
Thursday we had planned to have one of the drivers take us to this place called Bojo Beach that some of the students had unintentionally discovered last week. It's outside of the city, and over an hour away, but it was completely worth it. It wasn't a very sunny or warm day, but that ended up being perfect because we were able to just relax on the beach without being disgustingly hot. I read a little bit and walked down the beach to take some pictures. The beach is kind of this little island of sand that just sits in between the ocean and this little bay/lake area, and as we walked further down, we found a few little fishing villages. There were men bringing nets in and preparing to take boats out in the water, kids playing football in the sand, and women just going about their day. It just seemed like a really calm and beautiful place to live. We spent most of the day there, came back for dinner, and then I just spent the night in again.
Tonight I'm going with a few other people to the premier party for a Ghanian reality show that we were invited to. I have no idea what to expect, but it should be a fun experience.