Sunday, March 31, 2013

through a glass darkly

I am in Ghana right now.  But this post is not overtly about my trip.  You will probably read that above this post if i get around to writing it any time soon.

It is election  season in Togo. I keep getting text messages on my phone telling me that registering to vote is my civic duty. Legislative elections were slated to be held sometime last year, but the government has been postponing them.  Now, however, there is a country-wide drive to register voters in anticipation of the elections in a couple months.  So, in Nampoch, the canton, not just the village, this looks like a couple of people setting up shop in the primary school with a computer and a generator.  I was surprised by their set-up.  a new Dell computer (well, i'm typing this on a 3-year old netbook, so it looked new to me), a webcam, photo screen, and printer.  The registration equipment came from the Congo.  They fill out each person's biographical information, take her picture, and print out his registration card on the spot.  It takes about 7 a person, with one computer, in a canton with a population of maybe 5 thousand+ people.  the people entering the data didnt know how to touch-type.

Petite got dressed up to go Monday afternoon.  He wore one of his best polo shirts and a pair of khaki pants I'd given him.  I went with him to check out the process.  We got there and I snooped around while he got his card filled out.  It was kind of weird seeing this old woman from my quarter sitting between a webcam and photo screen. It was also neat to see how many women were there registering to vote.  Anyway, there was a line to fill out the registration forms.  Petite jumped that somehow.  Then he came inside.  There was a line of about 8 people waiting to get their cards issued.  He points at me and is like "my friend is in a hurry, I'm going next."  everyone gave him crap for it, but it worked.  We were out of there in about 20 minutes. 

I asked Petite why everyone has to get new voter ID cards--their old ones were issued in 2007.  He shrugged and said he didnt know.

I realized that I have been here for going on 3 years and i still see everything like looking through a dark glass. I see the shape of reality, but not the details

I just finished watching Oliver Stone's documentary "The untold history of the United States" or something like that.  biased obviously but really well done.  thought provoking.  humbling.  it should be required watching.

This documentary shows the US, in part, how the rest of the world sees it.  Us.  I am forever surprised that people are as welcoming of Americans in some parts of the world as they are.  They certainly have reason not to be sometimes.  I've had people come up to me wearing bin Ladin t-shirts, his face superimposed over a picture of the burning twin towers.  Ive had people ask me why the US killed Qaddafi, ect.  These are not a reflection of me as an american but rather of an engrained perception of the United State resulting from its relationship with the post-colonial world since the beginning 20th century.  As a representative of the US abroad, I have nothing to demonstrate any inherent goodness of my country in the face of its own hubris and post-colonial imperialism/domination except for my own smile and actions.  This is a good part of the genius of the Peace Corps.  Here, i am the glass.

One thing I am most looking forward to back in the States is getting a new computer.  I think that there are now smart phones with more processing power than this thing.  They can at least run simultaneous apps.

The biggest adjustment that I have had to make in Ghana, apart from speaking English all the time, is to the number of expats and tourists here.  they make me nervous.  I am used to being unobtrusively prominent and to having my own secret language.

house building

Bliki's wife and her new double improved cook stove.  she didnt want to be photographed looking like this, but I told her she looks good.

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