Sunday, May 23, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

Tuesday, 18 May 2010, Nairobi, Kenya--

It’s Tuesday morning, 18 May 2010.  I’ve turned a page.  I am an engaged woman, less than six months away from my thirtieth birthday, and still pretty fit considering my vices.  My shoes are off, my hair is down, my watch is now set three hours ahead to reflect the correct time, and I am sitting in my guesthouse room in Nairobi, Kenya, sipping on a hot cup of Nescafe.  I’ve just flown in from Ghana, where I’ve lived for the past seven months.  I’ve moved here to work with refugees, which is what I want.  My fiancĂ© is matchless, my friends are loyal and my family is fun love come to life.

Ugh—gag.  Next. 

If I were reading about my life in a novel, I’d be bored.  Blah blah blah.  Another one of those women who probably eats organic and lives expensively frugal; who wears L.L Bean cotton and looks at the stars from her place in the grass as she contemplates her place in the cosmos.  It also sounds like the kind of thing I’d hear amongst a cocktail hour circle for a non-profit benefit or something trendy that would make me pity the woman verbally vomiting on and on about herself.  You know, both situations being the whole “I have it all, I can live rough and have love, listen to me deliver my exceptionality,” kind of thing. 

Truthfully, I can’t stand what I’m saying sometimes.  My life.  What it must sound like to other people.  It all sounds so swollen and grand.  Arrogant.  As if the life path I am on is a better choice than planting a garden in my backyard, raising healthy children and treating them to homemade pie, or reading a book on my porch as the sun sets.    

Joke’s on me, I guess.  Despite how things in my life may sound, I am 100% more or less 90% mess and muddle.  I am a flipping disaster.  I have essentially no idea what I’m doing.  I can’t even tell you anything about myself without immediately releasing rivers of tears down my face. The man I love is in another country across a great, wide ocean.  There’s a bag of wet clothes in my suitcase, and I tried to pay for a phone chip this morning with the wrong currency.  Boarding passes and receipts and used, crusty Kleenexes litter my purse and pockets.  I am here doing what I have struggled to be here to do because I want to do it, and yet somehow I feel flicked through and unsteady. 

My life seems to be moving so fast.  Most people, upon reaching a certain age, would agree that’s true.  Life is something you breeze through.  Maybe, momentarily, such an account sounds fabulous--life moving fast.   But life moves FAST, whether you realize you’re on a journey or not.  What I have not prepared myself for are the deceptive, basically split-second decisions you have to make as life whips you forward.  Whether or not I am aware of it in the moment (yes and no), some of the paths I’ve conscientiously set foot on are paths I’ll ultimately have to choose between. 

Ugh—again.  I don’t want to have to stand it sometimes. 

I suppose, at the very least, the truthful shit I’ve just put out there makes for a better read than the first paragraph, if we were developing a character and plotline.  Sounds more interesting and dramatic, anyway.  Given all that I've just laid out, where would such a character go?  Africa, or what?  What will she feel when she goes there?  Where will her fiance go?  Will she be okay? 

I wish someone would turn the page for me so I could find out. 







Saturday, April 24, 2010

Seeing the Finish Line

 Thursday, 22 April 2010, Last Week in Accra--

About ¾-mile away from my home in Accra yesterday, I got caught in a dark, heavy rain.  I had been wanting to go on this run for weeks (weeks!) and was not about to let the maddening may-teem-now/may-teem-later rainclouds keep me from reacquainting myself with the sanity and satisfaction yielded by a good, long run. 

So after work, I set off on my usual route: across busy Ring Road, through Labone neighborhood and into Cantonments, behind the blockish US Embassy, past Togo Circle where prostitutes will later prowl, and back through Labone.  According to my rough estimation, the loop is a bright 5.5 or so miles, which is a perfect post-work, pre-sunset length if conditions are favorable, but which can also feel like a leaden 15 if the weather is oppressive or the traffic is belching exhaust or you’ve had one too many Club beers the night before.  As with most things in Ghana, never assume you know what you’re getting yourself in to. 

That being said, I wasn’t at all surprised when the rain actually came, but I was surprised at how far I’d gotten.  Considering the distance I intended to cover, I made it pretty far before the sky went completely black and the rain twisted the roads and footways into assorted-sized pancakes of slick, reflective evil. 

I watched the rain fall steady and generous from underneath an awning.  I thought about how hard it would be for me to see my surroundings once I decided to make a move; how the darkness would totally compromise my vision and depth-perception.  But then I realized that—entirely exclusive of the weather and shocking in profundity—throughout the course of my seven months in Ghana I have gradually and amazingly become blind to the things around me. 

I haven’t “seen” a woman carrying anything on her head in months—and women carrying things on their heads are everywhere, everyday, all the time!  Everywhere!  I haven’t “seen” garishly decorated taxi cabs or tro tros, I haven’t “seen” Purewater satchets littering the streets, and I haven’t smelled the curdled, fetid, stagnant waste in the gutters.  I haven’t noticed chickens or goats at my feet as of late, and I can’t even tell you the last time I saw a stray dog.  I don’t hear taxi cab drivers when they honk in my direction anymore, nor do I acknowledge strangers who yell “hello” as I’m walking.   

What the heck?!  What is going on?  Am I “assimilated” or something?  Indifferent?  Is it really possible that all the differentness of Africa has become familiar? 

Desmond came to visit last week and it was so great watching him “see” and experience things for the first time—the goats, the women, the gutters.  I planned a million things for us to do and shared my ideas with my friends here in Accra.  One of them very wisely advised me to go slow and keep my enthusiasm in check so as not to overwhelm Desmond or freak him out.  Africa can be tough, and having to adapt to or accept the vastly different ways of doing things can be really intense. 

As weird as this recently realized lack of enthusiasm and response seems to be, it isn’t abnormal or regrettable—at least that’s what I’m telling myself.  On the contrary, I think its most people’s natural response to routine and everyday-ness.

For me, it’s kinda bittersweet.  I’m finally feeling somehow settled, just as I’m packing up moving to Kenya. But then again, maybe it’s time.  Maybe, among my travels and roadtrips and Club beers and dinners at friend’s houses, the mosquito bites and the rashes and the water shortages and sweat-drenched nights, I’ve seen all that there is for me to see in Ghana.  Maybe it's time for me to tap into my final reserve of energy, focus, and call it a good run.  

Sunday, February 7, 2010


7 Feb 2010—Krisan Ride, Accra—

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on an OPE circuit ride.  The term “circuit ride” is actually, in my experience, a euphemism for the term “bitch-slap.”  When you’re on a circuit ride, you work like a dog with precious, few personal minutes and hours of intense, detail-delicate, one-on-one, rather invasive interviews with refugees.  One casework interview, with an applicant (aka, refugee) on his own case, at the very minimum takes one hour.  However, in no way does case-size determine how long an interview will take.  Maybe this applicant has two brothers, or maybe he’s got 22 full- and half-siblings.  Maybe his persecution story is simple, or maybe it is complex.  Perhaps he came straight to Ghana from Liberia in a car, and he is sure about this.  Or, perhaps he arrived in Ghana three years after leaving Sudan, having transited through Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, first.  God forbid the interpreter sucks, but maybe he does.  In circumstances like those, my seemingly quick interview with one applicant can take f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  

Circuit rides usually occur in locations other than Accra (where OPE is located) because it is much, much easier to transport a small team of individuals with valid passports and expendable pocket change than handle travel and lodging logistics for x-number of applicants and their respective wives, children, grandchildren, uncles, brothers, sisters, etc.  However, it was decided by OPE’s Powers That Be that, for this particular ride, the refugees from nearby Krisan Refugee Camp in the Western Region of Ghana come to Accra instead of the other way around.  After a few initial hiccups (the applicants arrived to OPE three hours late the first day, for example), the ride more or less went pretty smooth, and my colleagues and I successfully processed 98 Sudanese applicants. Their cases are now getting checked, reviewed, organized and cleared for the next phase of immigration interviews. 

While circuit rides can suck the life out of you, there are moments of unexpected, unadulterated levity that, I’d wager, you’d be hard-pressed to enjoy in any other line of work. These moments tickle me to the core and I am filled with a sense of rightness about the work I do on this earth. 

Humor.  It’s everywhere.  Embrace the living daylights out of it. 

The workplace humor I’m mainly referring to, here, are the seemingly bizarre snippets of interviews—overheard as you pass by the interview-in-progress, or that you absentmindedly catch while wrapping up some paperwork—that, when taken out of context, seem like the most absurd, odd and amusing expressions EVER.  Some of these amusing conversation bits derive from misconstrued interpretations, and some of them come from exasperated caseworkers at the end of a long, stressful ride.  Others are details of stories told by applicants that come out of nowhere. In some instances, the degree of humor, for me, is contingent entirely on tone. 

Here are some gems from this and other circuit rides I’ve been privileged to appreciate:

  • “Sir, let’s just forget about the camel.  I want you to forget about the camel…let’s leave the camel there for a second and focus on the horse.”
  • “So…you’re telling me…that YOU can’t go back to your country because…let me get this straight…your father says you have a deep fear.  Is that why YOU can’t go back to your country?”
  • “Where are the diamonds.  Where are the diamonds.  Where are the diamonds.” (this one cracked me up because the caseworker read it in monotone)

This next gem is my own.  Ultimately, it was just misinterpretation, and a particularly amusing one at that, but at the time I was getting frustrated:

ME: Sir, can you please tell me how you crossed the border into Chad?

INTERPRETER: interprets in Arabic

APPLICANT: replies in Arabic

INTERPRETER (to me): On a monkey.

ME: What?  Oh.  No.  My question is, how did you cross the border—you know, by foot, by car, how?

INTERPRETER: interprets in Arabic

APPLICANT: replies in Arabic

INTERPRETER (to me): On a monkey.

ME (looking straight at the applicant): I’m sorry.  So…you’re saying that the six of you crossed the border into Chad…on monkey?

INTERPRETER: interprets in Arabic

APPLICANT: replies in Arabic

INTERPRETER (to me): Yes, on a monkey.

(The applicant, meanwhile, is beginning to look a bit confused by the length and repetition of this exchange)

ME (clearing my throat, shaking my head): No, no, that’s not what I’m asking.  Maybe the monkey came with you, that’s fine.  But there’s no way all six of you could cross the border ON a monkey.  Sir, I need to know—how did you and your family cross the border into Chad.  By foot, by car, by canoe, by bus—how.   

INTERPRETER: interprets in Arabic

APPLICANT: replies in Arabic

INTERPRETER (to me): On a donkey.

ME: DONKEY!  A donkey?

INTERPRETER (to me): Yes, donkey.

ME: A donkey—is that what we were talking about? 

INTERPRETER (to me): Yes, a donkey.

ME: Okay, okay, a DONKEY.  So you crossed the border on a donkey.  That’s much better.  Moving on…

There are also moments so touching and so tender that your heart grows big with love and emotion, and no sense of rightness on this earth makes sense.  Some applicants affect me more than others, and I remember their stories, their eyes, their names.  For whatever reason, they make a lasting impression on me and I am more drawn to them than I am to others (a quick aside: I would like to mention that I do not, cannot play favorites.  The work that I do is not designed to foster favoritism.  Also, I have zero control or influence over who is and is not accepted for immigration to the United States.  Zero). 

Usually, it is not the depth or breadth of sorrowful or painful or traumatic experiences that attracts me to an applicant, although some of the people I interview have witnessed and endured such unbelievable, inhumane and degrading atrocities I am involuntarily moved to regard each of them with a unique level of respect never bestowed on anyone before.  No, what generally impresses me is industry.  Conscientious drive.  Hard work.  Ambition.  For me, these are fibrous, human characteristics that are natural, inbuilt, and inescapable.  EVERYONE has these traits embedded within, be they free or refugee.  It’s what a person DOES with those characteristics—with that gumption and courage—that impresses me.  I think this can be said of me in all facets of my life, not just relevant to the work I do at OPE.  The people I admire most have always been nervy, present-of-mind, dedicated and determined individuals.

I met one such individual on my first circuit ride in November 2009 in Cote d’Ivoire.  He struck me immediately as honest and tireless, yet fatigued.  He told me his story in earnest.  I could tell he was at his end, having tried and tried and tried again and again and again to build a solid life for his family.  At the end of our interview, this grown man with three children rested his forehead on the edge of my desk and silently sobbed. 

I followed his case with anticipated interest. 

I learned on Friday that his case was approved by immigration, and that he and his family will soon be settled in the United States. 

Embrace THAT!  

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Me Mine

Monday, 18 January 2010, my new digs in Accra--

Every weekday, I call Desmond at noon or just about after.  It’s 7am, then, for him, and his alarm is—without fail—going off every five minutes until it’s 8 o’clock, when he has to be at work.  I wish him a pert good morning, as I’ve already been awake and moving for about six hours, and chirp on about how my sleep was and what I dreamt about, and how my day has been thus far or how hot it is—you know, basically all the simple, routine topics that aren’t really that important because I know he has yet to take a piss or brush his teeth or probably even open his eyes, meaning he isn’t really awake…which means it’s possible that nothing I’m saying is being registered…which means I should keep the conversation small and light. 

The point for me is that I get to wake him up.  It’s a part of my daily routine that I take unconditional delight in because it’s sweet and it’s comforting and it’s mine. 

I don’t know what time it is where you are—perhaps you’re just awaking or perhaps you’ve been data inputting for a few hours—but did you hear what I just said there?  Did you hear the key word in that last sentence?  Routine!  BAM.  I somehow have a routine these days!  As in, things that I do on a regular basis…favorite spots that I frequent for dinner or drinks…familiar roads that I travel, and people I pass.  I know what time to expect hundreds of bats to leave the trees near 37 Military Hospital and take to the dusky sky, and I watch them return to their branches every morning on my way to work.  It’s as if, you could say, I’ve settled in.  Adjusted.  Finally taken the clothes out of my suitcase, separated them accordingly and put them in actual, functioning drawers.  It’s a good feeling, comforting and mine. 

I made my official “move” to Accra this past Sunday, renting a room in a breezy, third-floor apartment in Nyaniba Estates.  I was told—and given pitiable expressions when being told—that finding decent, affordable housing in Accra would be difficult, especially considering I’ll only be employed, and therefore living, in Accra through June.  Apparently most landlords in Accra insist that you pay, at minimum, one year’s rent upfront—a popularly rigid, ludicrous prerequisite for many and, for me specifically, absolutely incompatible with my timeframe. 

It was serendipitous, then, that I met Ryan at a bar in Osu as I was returning to my table after having gone to find the toilet (side note: NEVER go into a bar or anywhere else in Ghana for that matter with a preconceived idea as to what the bathroom facilities will be like).  Ryan, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, had just moved into a new place with his girlfriend, Asha, and their dog, Cleo, and they were looking for a temporary roommate to help defray the cost of furniture, water, digital satellite (sweeeet; American football!), etc.  

Enter me.  Excited me. 

Ryan and Asha’s place is a dream of an offer for someone in my position: new to the city, late-twenties (notice I did not say “young”), flexible, semi-transient, possessing NO furniture, cutlery, dishware or awkward artwork, etc.  Available to me in this apartment is an actual bed, a bookshelf, a set of drawers, a WASHING MACHINE, two leftover crates of beer from a Christmas party, a pet, and—I’ve been told it’s coming soon—the Internet.

What’s more, Ryan and Asha are awesome.  Ryan’s been living in West Africa for the past six years and gave me a tour of my new neighborhood on his motorcycle…a ride that was exhilarating, yes, and utterly unnerving.  Almost unbelievably, a conversation we had about his PC stint in Guinea revealed that we have a friend in common: a fellow intern of mine at the State Department was a fellow PC Guinea volunteer with him.  Small, crazy world J Asha is beautiful and cheery and chill.  She’s from the Central Region in Ghana, which means her family is nearby and I hope to meet everyone sometime before I leave.

I’d also like to meet my crazy neighbor and strangle him.  The first few nights I spent in my new bed were miserable, as some man was chanting himself into a feverish frenzy about God and Jesus going on two hours straight, from about 1am-3am.  Truly, I’ve never wanted to choke someone as much as I wanted to choke this man and stop him from wailing.  He’d start low and even, speaking gibberish or in tongues or in a language that doesn’t sound real, then his wails and chants would get louder and faster until he was “PAAAAA  PAAAA PAAAPAAAPAAAPAAAPAAA”-ing nonstop and THEN he’d launch into English ravings about God and Jesus and thank you this and thank you that. 

It was beyond maddening.  It was infuriating.  It was horrible.  It was sleep-depriving and hate-inducing.  I’m not kidding, I wanted to march down to wherever that man was and tell him where to go and how to get there, and please, don’t mind these 4 cedi I’m shoving down your throat, sir, it’s for the taxi fare, so go keep someone else up for hours on end with your lunacy. 

Believe me, the pleasure would have been alllllll mine.  

Testing, Testing...

Thursday, 7 january 2010, Alone in Accra--

A cold Star beer, hot white rice dressed up in bright red Sriracha, one smoked-and-dried, bought-off-the-street-side fish, a quiet house and an excellent day: that’s what’s for dinner.

I had a good day today.  One of those days that everyone has every once in awhile, when you feel good about the decisions you’ve made that have lead you where you are. 

I love Africa.  I love Africa!  I love that I’m here and that I can say that I’m here.  Despite its intensity, I love what I do here.  A friend of mine who works with the International Red Cross described Africa as a place that is “so violent, and yet so fragile,” and her portrayal couldn’t be more accurate.  You see stuff here that you just don’t see anywhere else—which is crazy to say because there’s stuff exactly like this going on everywhere in the world, every day, all the time. 

But Africa is different.  It’s always different.  I’ve developed various, unoriginal theories as to why this is so—the insidious impacts of colonization, riotous corruption at every level of subsistence, relentless and protracted ethnic warring, the fact that Africa’s the place where AIDS came from which makes it kinda okay to not give much of a humanitarian shit, plus they’re black people anyway, etc. 

Ultimately, though: what the hell you gonna do about it?  ANY of it?  What am I gonna do about it?  Why does anyone even really care?  What—on Earth—can possibly be done to fix the intricate and innumerable problems that obstruct the growth, development, education, health, democracy, racial equality, and on and on and on, in Africa?

For starters, I can eat this dinner, drink this beer, say nothing.  Perhaps that sounds callous and base, but I mean it.  Sometimes, that’s the only thing I can do here that feels right enough to me, because, really, who the f*ck do I think I am, living here, somehow enjoying myself? 

I don’t have an answer.  But I have a theory…

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Trophy" Wife

Tuesday, 5 January 2010, Just Woke Up:

First off, welcome and warm birthday wishes to Parker Ryan Melin, who turns celebrates his first birthday today, and to Lauren Strickland Akesson, who’s age shall not be revealed as I have not been given verbal or written permission to do so.  We are, however, the same age now, so use what you know of me and figure it out yerself.

That being said, despite how well you think you know me (uh, most of both sides of my family and lots of my friends), let’s see how well you do on this pop quiz:

  1. Where am I in the world right now?
  2. Do I have a boyfriend?
  3. What is his name?
  4. Have I recently become engaged to said possible boyfriend, and if so, how in the crap did THAT happen?

The answer to the first question is: Africa.  It’s hot-ass noon on Tuesday in Accra and I have just woken up from what seems like a long, strange-with-dream winter’s nap.  Only a few days ago, I was in snowy Amsterdam, visiting beautiful bout-to-burst Birgit and the-man-who-dutifully-puts-on-her-shoes Manu, enjoying a midmorning snack of eel and drinking multiple REAL coffees.  Less than a day after that (and without my dadgum camera, which I had left in the dadgum Netherlands), I was back in America…in Tallahassee…in the arms of my boyfriend, Rev. Desmond Ares D’Angelo (Leisa was there, too!), who was waiting to pick me up at Tallahassee Regional Airport in a green tuxedo…with a ring nearby which he very soon intended to put on my finger, and which I would very soon agree to wearing.

Huh, I guess that whole paragraph pretty much answered most of those pop quiz questions save: how in the crap did all this happen.

Desmond accomplished the unthinkable, in my opinion, when he sold enough stuff on eBay to buy me a ticket home for the holidays.  I had sincere reservation concerning his ability to:

a) make enough money, as round-trip tickets from Accra to Tallahassee were running $1700 at the cheapest

2) make that amount of money in time

d) understand exactly what sort of feat he was undertaking

On the other hand, I never doubted his resolve or determination to get me home, as he’s a stubborn sonofabitch of tireless, albeit occasionally belligerent and aggressive effort, if he wants to be.  And, as it turns out, I should have given more consideration to his degree of Absolute and Unapologetic Nerdiness, as Desmond has unofficially mastered the field.  Someone give the man a diploma!  Or better yet, a trophy!  Apparently, my fiance has more nerdy, of-demand, packrat bullshit—er, I mean, Prince CDs, a ridiculous variety of Muppet collectables, Jay and Silent Bob figurines and other bizarre paraphernalia (such as molar extractors)—stowed away in boxes and closets throughout his house than I could have ever imagined.  I was positively f*cking amazed to learn that all the crap—again, sorry, I mean, the beloved stuff he’s collected for years and years and years and years—he posted for sale on eBay fetched way more than the necessary $1700, and to this day, he’s STILL cashing in. 

So, anyway, long story short, he bought my plane ticket (in fair exchange: I’ll buy him a ticket to come visit me in Africa sometime later this year), picked me up at the airport late on Christmas Eve, took me home and popped the question.  I said yes, and there you have it: betrothed people J  Check out our pictures on facebook.  We’re colorful, and, in some, a bit tipsy.  Fair warning.   

I could go into the romantics of it all, but there really weren’t many clichĂ© moments in either our courtship or his proposal.  He proposed to me with a plastic Green Lantern ring (look it up.  Green Lantern.  It’s a comic book thing), which I accepted out of sheer love and appreciation for it’s distinction.  It also nicely offsets my huge knuckles, so that was a bonus.  I, uh, er, also kinda had an idea what type of ring to expect, but that’s a whole other story…

He didn’t get down on one knee—at first—but stood in the doorway of his kitchen and took the box out of the fleece he had brought to the airport for me to wear if it was chilly (which it wasn’t; ah, weird Tallahassee weather, how you often and impenitently thwart) and presented me with the offer.  Later, when I was on the phone with my relatives in Kansas on Christmas Day, Grandad Leis asked if Desmond had gotten down on one knee.  Desmond was within earshot when I answered, no, Grandad, he hadn’t—at which Desmond promptly got down on his knee, pointed directly at me, and winked.  

Award-winning move. 

Also, come to find out, the Green Lantern ring was just a decoy and my actual engagement ring is an untraditional stunner that used to belong to his grandmother: filigreed platinum band with a rectangular face that flips sides, from either a pearly cameo to a setting of onyx and diamond.

Success!  You win!  Take your place among the family, Desmond.  

Sunday, December 27, 2009

An Un-White Christmas

Saturday, 19 December 2009, Accra:

 Where have all the obrunis gone? 

I didn’t really notice it at first, but there are hardly ANY of us white folks here in Accra anymore these days.  My guess—and I’m probably right—is that most are traveling away for the holidays.  What could also be contributing to the seemingly fewer number of white faces ‘round these parts are the rapidly increasing number of Africans traveling IN to Accra for Christmas and New Years. 

Whatever the case, Accra is chiefly obruni-less.  

What immediately tipped me off to Accra’s whitelessness was the eeriness of Osu.  Osu is a part of Accra that primarily caters to whites, tourists and better-off Ghanaians.  There’s a gelato-and-espresso place, if that gives you some sort of an idea what I’m talking about, and a rather upscale restaurant that sells pricy yet decent sushi—until, that is, when it’s turns into the hot spot rooftop watering hole for ex-pats who want to get piss-drunk and bitch about things they love about Africa.

The main road that runs through Osu is Oxford Street, and both sides are bunged to the brim with tourist-trap-type vendors and kiosks.  Ghanaian football jerseys, DVDs, African masks, sunglasses, shoes, jewelry, “original” art, pineapples, fruits, vegetables—and number of vendors is out the wazoo.  I’m staying: vendors out the MOFO waZOO!

The vendors, typically male and nauseatingly complimentary about your “beauty” until you walk away, are everywhere on Oxford Street and they are, to be as mild as possible, maddening. 

“Oh, my beautiful friend, come look at my jewelry.” (he grabs my wrist)

“Oh, beautiful lady, I have some beautiful artwork.”  (he grabs my wrist)

“My sistah, my sistah, come, come and take a look.”  (he grabs my wrist and gives it a tug)

This is not to say that all the vendors who clog Oxford Street are disingenuous or rude, but in general, the vendors/money-chasers in Osu are on you like white on rice.  And it’s unfortunate for you if you happen to be just the color of rice they’re most actively pursuing. 

So, when I was walking through Osu earlier today, I was stunned, nay, flabbergasted by the lack of attention I was getting.  NO ONE seemed to notice I was there!  I mean, I may be relatively tan and seem of curious ethnicity, but I’ve got obruni branded on my face, clothing, gait—absolutely everything about me screams obruni.  And yet not one man, one vendor, not one single person hassled me or uninvitingly introduced him or herself into my personal space as I walked down Oxford Street. 

It was a strange phenomenon, to be sure, and I briefly wondered if my malaria meds were doing something extra weird to my mind and vision or if, truly, I was walking in a winter weird, African land.