Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Peace one love
Monday, December 28, 2009
Soooo, I was the luckly first to get sick on the trip. I was very fourtunate to get sick when i did because it started on Friday which was the first day of our 3 day “break”. The weekend was a break from our classes but not from new and exciting information. On Satarday we saw an exciting soccer game where the Dagbe team played against the Watee team from a nearby village and we won whcih was very exciting. Then later that day we got to watch a Babobo drum and dance which deffinately surprised all of us. The enthusiasm and passion that the locals had for the music was quite a sight. Many of them were yelling and screamming at the top of there lungs and i really got a good sence of the love and dedication these people have for their traditions and music. Then later that night i got a little dehidrated and fainted. It was a weird experience. On Sunday I woke up feeling so much better which made my day. Later that day we got to watch the Kinka association preform Kinka and some other songs. I really enjoyed this because they had big Atchimowu’s and the conversation between the two while they imporvised was incredable.
Friday, December 25, 2009
its been a very interesting experience so far, its christmas already and i cant belive that its almost the new year. I have continue to have classes at the art center. Yesterday though it hit me that i am not in America anymore, people were talking in Ewe and i really was confused. I dont know but sometimes i feel sort of out of my element, here. Well i am excited cause tonight we are going to cook dinner for the cooks as a present for them. I love to explore more and learn everyday while im here. I hope everyone has a beautiful brand new year and may all your wishes come true...
Peace One Love
I see the students learning so much about relationships and village life in Ghana, something that I never could provide from a classroom. What a blessing.
So we are all healthy and happy, and looking forward to another week non-winter. Be well and more soon!
Ive been taking a lot of good photos and have gotten some nice shots so far. Photography is kinda my thing so Im hoping to make some kind of photo story book of my entire experience and travel here.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I've never learned as much in this short of a time, less than a week in and we're over halfway through a completely new piece, Togo-Atcha, and spending our nights with Wisdom pounding out Borborbor rhythms one at a time. Visiting Ho yesterday, a town about two hours northwest of our new home, gave us a sight of the countryside and one of Ghana's larger cities. Watching villages flash by in the backdrop of a fiery setting sun punctuates the beauty of this region. Even the car horns, which get used quite often here, don't carry the aggression that they possess in the states.
Hope you're all enjoying Christmas,
P.S. Judju, hope you're doing well (and havn't driven the family too crazy yet, I still need to have some fun with them when I get back).
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
-Athena (Tina) Matos
Monday, December 21, 2009
Just kidding. I am absolutely loving it here in Kopeyia! Just a few of my favorite memories...
Yesterday we went walking down to the beach. It was beautiful, but hard to believe that we were looking South! Everywhere you stepped you could see sand crabs making their way towards the crashing waves. A couple of the friends that we made here gathered piles of sand in their hands and hauled it at the helpless crabs to slow them down to make them easier to catch! It was such a riot! I also made friends with one of the cooks whose name is Mary. She is a lot of fun to joke around with! After dinner last night, we were hanging outside under the gazebo. We brought over the drums and everyone in the village came out to sing, drum, and dance! The girls put on a little dance called Kpanlogo, and I taught Mary a little bit of swing dancing! Today we went to the market; it was very busy. I bought some cloth to make a dress out of, which I am very excited for. One thing that Emmanuel, the director of the Center, said to us the first day we got here was that whenever people travel to a new place they are searching for something, they have a "question mark". It is such a great feeling to know that through all the wonderful staff and amazing people that have embraced us here those question marks should soon be washing away!!!
A converstation with Emmanuel as we spoke about how the music has changed over the past few years: (paraphrased, but you get the idea)
"you can't change the music you play, if you want to make in faster or slower thats too bad; if you change the music, you change the whole song, it becomes a different song all in itself. the only thing you can change is the dance. music is the language, you cannot change it; if the word is "come" and you change it, it means different, it becomes something else, it becomes "go." you can change the dance, though, just as you can change how you "come." you can walk, you can skip, you can crawl.. but the word "come" is always the same. that does not change."
We arrived safe after a mildly chaotic flight; a direct flight is wonderful, from JFK direct to Accra, but the chaos of loading everyone on the plane was really amazing to watch. We actually left 1 1/2 hours late, but since we had a strong tail wind we arrived in Accra on time, 7:30 the next morning. The Dagbe center had 2 cars waiting for us, and they took us direct to the center, about a 3.5 hour drive. The road was really great till the town of Achimota (you can find it on Google Maps) and then it was red dust and potholes the whole way. (Katie managed to fall asleep while bouncing in the back seat; I have to learn how to do that!)
Since arriving that night, we've played drums with the folks of Kopeyia, gone across the street to watch a huge Pentacostal Christmas "convention" (a service with drumming and song that lasts all day/into the night), gone to the beach, toured Emmanuel Agbeli's farm to see how our sprinklers will work, had both dance and drum lessons, went to the local market, and much more. Hopefully I'll be able to post some photos at some point, but for now we're lucky to find a good internet spot that has a reasonable connection very close to the village.
Speaking of which, the village and Dagbe center are amazing, and much has changed since I last visited years ago. They have electricity; they ALL have cell phones (so those of you worrying about whether or not we can contact you if need be - oh, we could, and so easily!) So we are absolutely comfortable.
Tomorrow we continue our lessons; Wednesday we visit the town of Ho to watch a performance of a very beloved music called borborbor. We are happy, healthy, and having a great time. Except for some certain students who are trying to dash our hosts and convince them to write their blog entires for them.... STOP THAT!!
See you all again soon. From now on one student will post per day....
living in Kopeyia: sot aroun a gazebo filled with drums that sound as happy as the people around us drinking as much water as you can to sustain yourself in the humid heat. watch lizards scamper about with children, bobing their heads to the music and keeping cool in the shade. welcome to a place where you ask the time and the best responses are "afternoon...ish." welcome to a new place, welcome to a home.
It is difficult for me to choose an aspect of Ghanaian culture that I like best, but I must say the strong sense of community and family here is something that I adore and wish was a more prominant aspect of my own culture. Even though we are not from this country we were welcomed in as part of the community without any hesitation, which has made this place feel almost like home to me. I have already learned so much and there is still so much more to learn. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity and I can't wait for the adventures and relationships that I have yet to experience.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Recently, I have been reflecting on a community dance class that I attended in early December, led by Johnny Scovel. He taught us some Haitian dances, most of which are influenced by West African dance styles. I was amazed to find that many of the women in the class had been dancing for about fifteen years. I was glad that I accompanied them, let my guard down, and had fun. One woman even gave me a sarong to make me feel like a part of the group. It improved my dancing, of course!
At times I didn’t understand what I was doing or if I was executing the dance moves correctly. While I may have found this frustrating it caused me to reorganize my apprehensions. A most important thought, that I am sure I will be reminding myself of while in Ghana, is that music is meant to involve people with their community, promote social interaction, and encourage participation. I’m ready to become actively engaged in my surroundings and not worry about the fact that I will not always understand what symbol or message is being conveyed. Having completed our Ghanaian Arts and Culture class I am confident that being immersed in what we have been studying will make this a very special endeavor yet!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Royal was not only an inspiring teacher, he helped open the door to an experience that changed the course of my musical career, and led to my work as an ethnomusicologist today. Before I graduated he took me aside and suggested that since I'd learned so much in his drumming ensemble, I should consider going to Ghana and learning from the source. He had a teacher, the late Godwin Agbeli, who was a master musician of the Ewe, who reside in the Volta Region in Southeastern Ghana. Royal's opinion was that if I wanted to go further, I needed to work with Godwin.
".....O.K.:, I said... how do I go about doing that? He gave me Godwin's info - I had to send a telegram to the nearest larger town by his village - and I got something back from him that basically said "Send your flight info and when you get to Accra, I'll be there."
"....O.K..." I said again... and sold my truck and my entire collection of hard-to-find European choral music CDs (I'd been a vocal major/choral conducting focus before this), and anything else not nailed down, bought a plane ticket, telegraphed the info to Godwin, and hopped on the plane. Alone.
Landing in Accra, I found him waiting and spent the next year, 6 hours each day, playing music. On weekends/evenings we attended events all over the Volta Region. I came back changed forever, in love with Ghana's wonderful offerings and went back as often as I could, usually every 1-2 years. It's been 9 years since my last trip, though, as since I've moved to Vermont I've been focusing on home life instead of travel. I miss Ghana, and really feel the need to go back and "re-fuel" (a positive side effect of having students who are hungry for what I teach: the need to stay on top of my game!)
Last year my colleague Lorrie Smith and I decided to go for it - we'd take students on a trip to Ghana. Over the summer we interviewed, accepted/declined applications, and ended up with a great group that I am very excited to travel with.
So here we are in early winter. Somehow we've escaped the colder temperatures of November, and are enjoying unusual sunlight and a few more afternoons on the front porch. Still, it's hard to believe we'll be in the heat of Ghana's dry season in less than a month.
I met some of the students here in the group in my Ghanaian drum/dance ensemble, called Akoma. Others I have just met this semester after they went through a rigorous application process to get into the trip. A fall course called "Ghanaian Arts & Culture" was a required element for the trip; in that class we've been exploring readings about Ghanaian traditions and learning some of the music and dance as well.
Time is flying, and the trip draws nearer - it's been enjoyable to work with the group to prepare for our journey, and I often think back to my first trip to Ghana (I was an undergraduate, too) and remember how intense it was to imagine what was in store.
Anticipation is always so strong for something so new. Our visas arrived last week, back from the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington D.C., stamped and signed for our single-entry into the country. We leave December 18th out of Kennedy Airport and fly directly into Accra, Ghana's capital city. This is a new thing - in my earlier travels, it was always necessary to stop somewhere in Europe, such as Amsterdam or London. The total trip time was something like 20 hours; now, we step out onto Ghanaian soil in 10 hours - that is a welcome change!
So stay tuned - posts will be occasional until the trip is really in gear, but we hope this will allow you to be a part of our journey and experience some of what we encounter through posts and images. Thank you for all the support!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I've never traveled far from my New England region; never missed a color-filled fall, nor a white Christmas and New Year. I've never spent either of these holidays away from family, never missed a slice of coffee cake beside the family's decorated tree, never missed my grandfather's phone call around noon.
Traveling to Ghana will be a first for many things such as these, and probably many others I've yet to anticipate; it's the apprehension of these that get to me the most. Living in a world that contrasts so much with the tiny bubble that this campus traps us within ... I can hardly wonder what it will be like leaving... I can barely fathom what it'll be like comming back.
The music, the food, the dance, the culture that I have yet to see from within but have read and drempt of ever since it was shown to me three years back, I'm already trapped by its worderment- already so curious, already so nervous.
I guess I feel like a soon-to-be freshman packing to leave home for the first time-
A rabbit about to be pulled from the magician's tall hat.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I just wanted to thank all the people who have helped me get to Ghana. I appreciate the people who are going there with me, as well as all the events we done to help prepare us. I just wanted to say that I am excited to go there and I cant wait.....
I am 21 years old. I am currently a senior at college. I want to go to Ghana because I love to travel and discover new cultures and places. In Ghana, i will love to dance and continue to learn to Drum. As well as I will love to help out in any way i can to improve the lives of the Ghana people. I look forward most of all to just being there in that moment present in time.
I can still remember sitting in the St. Ed’s lab, fingertips hovering over the keyboard, trying to think of how to tell my parents that I wanted to go to Africa. To my surprise I received a responding e-mail with the words, "carpe diem" - go ahead and seize the opportunity, from dad. Wow, how can I anticipate what is in store for me...
My name is Danielle, and I am a senior psych major here at St. Mikes. I have always seen traveling abroad as a very enriching experience, and I am extremely fortunate that this opportunity has been presented to me. Having the chance to study the language, traditions, and ways of life in the classroom has been truly valuable. I have really enjoyed learning important historical events and customs of Ghana so that while I am there I will be able to combine experiencing present day Ghana with understanding how it has been formed by the past.
It has been wonderful getting to know the five other students and two professors whom I will be traveling with. We got to spend a weekend at Button Bay campgrounds talking with each other about the trip and building camaraderie. We also put together a dinner to raise some funds, and share with the St. Michael’s community a little “taste of Ghana”. It was apparent through our hard work that we each foster a genuine interest and determination to spend time in another culture; which was positively supported! Thank you!
We were also lucky enough to participate in a dance lesson from Peace Elewonu, a woman who grew up in Ghana encouraged by her parents to pursue dancing. It was easy to become invigorated by her energy. I kept thinking to myself, “Whoa, I don’t even sweat this much during Rugby practice.” I can’t wait to attend festivals to watch the dancers, and even learn the steps so I can join in!
I am also looking forward to our home stays with families in Kumasi. It will allow me to mature mentally by appreciating elements of the Ghanaian culture by example. I hope to expose myself to new ways of thinking and living, and in return, share some customary traditions of my own. Through open dialogue, sharing experiences and exploring traditions we will cultivate a sense of community, friendship, and mutual respect that could last a lifetime.
I’m ready to have fun… taste new foods…smile with the children…sweat with the dancers…laugh with the group…visit with the people…and experience the Ghanaian culture! Can’t wait!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Meghan Kerrigan, for her kind and selfless support throughout our dinner planning and evening
Ray and Laurie Clemente
Joan and Steve Wry
Dave and Karen Lyon
the folks from the M.O.V.E. office for helping us cook!
Tom Keefe for more cooking help
setup, maintenance, and breakdown assistance from the MU359A class
Shaw's supermarkets in Middlebury, Vergennes, Colchester, and Winooski
Price Chopper, South Burlington VT
Greg's Market, Middlebury VT
Shelburne Meat Market, Shelburne VT
Ledge Hill Farms, Weybridge VT
Middlebury Discount Beverage (Joe Controneo)