Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Face In The Crowd

Fall is a shockingly beautiful time of year in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Marquette is alive with activity- NMU students cram every moment of the precious few remaining warm days with biking and hiking and cliffjumping, strolling through the picturesque downtown for coffee at Babycakes or a view of the sailboats spread out across Lower Harbor. The wind is brisk more often than not now, and the trees down 550 are just starting to ignite into a riot of color. Lake Superior hasn't faded to the steel gray it will be for most of the year; it is still a shade of rich, dark blue. Everywhere you turn is yet another view that looks like a postcard.
Here, I am a college student with neon-colored laces in my sneakers, a nosering and a mug of coffee perpetually in hand. My days consist of dragging myself out of bed for my 7 am shift at the group home, and pouncing on my unsuspecting housemates to perform the otoscopies (ear exams) required for my Audiology class. I frequent Black Rocks, a local brewery, and spend most Sundays catching up on homework. The contented humdrum of my routine is no different from that of any number of other college kids in Marquette.

Half a world away, the days are getting hotter. The rainy season has begun, and soon the streets of Awakorme will begin to routinely flood. 300 students at a little school called Success International have started another term. Five days a week they perch in a precarious jumble of splintery desks, scribbling furiously in flimsy notebooks bearing the faces of Hannah Montana or President Obama while Worfa copies another reading lesson onto the blackboard. The palm trees towering over the tiny school building have not changed. The wind rustling their branches still smells like sea salt and onions from the nearby farms. The ocean waves never pause, and neither do the fishermen in their constant rhythm of casting and gathering their massive nets. Sundays, the air is filled with the sound of church services that carry for miles.
I know these things as surely as if they were still happening right outside my window.

But there, I may dress in traditional, bold-patterned cloth, but the skin underneath will always be white. I can braid my hair, but it will still be blond. I may have found a home and a family in Ghana, but there's little chance of me ever passing as a Ghanaian. Although I miss Africa already, there is a certain comfort in being back in a world where I blend in seamlessly.
...Until, of course, someone asks me what I did this summer.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Beetle Battle

Sorry for the belatedness of this post. It got lost on a flashdrive in the transition from Ghana back to Michigan. Better late than never, I hope!

I should just give up and rename my blog “Attack of the Bugs.”

I was woken up yesterday morning by a curious whirring sound, like the buzz of something caught in my spinning fan blades. The whirring was followed by a smack, and then a momentary silence. This pattern repeated several times and I am not ashamed to say that I literally hid under my covers. Despite the repetition, I had vivid images of a flying cockroach getting sucked into my fan and being spit out the other side and landing on me in a mangled mess. Who needs alarm clocks, eh?
When I finally had the courage to creep out for breakfast, I noticed a large, hard-shelled brown beetle about the size of a ping-pong ball flailing upside down on the floor. I wonder if that’s what made the noise, I thought. Victoria said they come from the coconut trees. It was quickly killed and thrown outside, where the body was soon carried away by- who else? The ants.

Fast forward to last night. I was laying cozily in bed when there it was again. Whir, smack, silence. Whir, smack, silence. Again, I retreated to the bottom of my sleep sack. It’s just my fan malfunctioning. There’s no need to get all creative imagining a bug zooming into your bed, I tried to reassure myself. When it continued, I finally decided I was being ridiculous and hopped over to the light switch- still inside my sheet- and retrieved my glasses.

There it was.

Another ping-pong coconut beetle struggling like an overturned turtle in the far corner of the room. My best guess is that it kept flying around, hitting the ceiling, and getting smacked down to the floor.
Well at least my imagination wasn’t too far off…

Never taking my eyes off it, I eased out of my sheet and got a shoe and the length of fabric that I wrap around me to go bathe. My plan was to dive under the fabric if that creep took flight. Thankfully, it was still incapacitated, but as I crouched over it with my shoe poised the only thing I could think was, The crunch this thing makes is going to haunt you until the day you die. I have too much self-respect to go wake up Worfa over a bug though. “At least it’s not a cockroach,” I said out loud for courage. WHAM. The force of my blow seemed to do nothing more than flip it over so it could start limping away. WHAM. Still moving. WHAM. Now I am not talking about sissy little love taps. I was whaling on this thing and it’s just a freakin’ tank. I hit it about six times before I thought it was probably almost-dead enough to leave alone. Then I reconsidered and figured that if it did somehow crawl away and disappear, my paranoia would never let me hear the end of it. So I flipped my small bathing bucket over the top of it, hesitated again, and then weighted it down with my shoe.
Anything strong enough to live through that kind of beating is strong enough to flip over a bucket and come find me in my sleep; I’m not taking any chances.