Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Leaving Luv

August 31
Kumasi, Ghana

Leaving a place is difficult, leaving when you know you probably won’t return even more so. The goodbyes at LUV FM were a little more poignant, the hugs fiercer and the desire to hang onto the memories stronger as compared to other goodbyes from workplaces, cities or communities.

Strange that just a few short eight months ago I couldn’t wait to leave this place; today I long for another week. Another week to understand, to help shed light on stories that eight months ago I knew so little about and to be part of a newsroom that I am proud to say I was part of.

I’ve been reluctant to share my day-to-day experiences at LUV FM and my general thoughts on working with Ghanaian journalists on these pages. It is the Internet, after all. Bizarre, shocking, hilarious and sometimes painful experiences happened during my time at LUV FM; these stories aren’t easily translated here, or perhaps anywhere, but rather will unravel with time. I’ve also been incredibly frustrated, disappointed and angered by much that I’ve witnessed both within the radio station I was placed and within the non-governmental organization that I was working for. Hasty blogs full of ranting is not the place for these musings.

Days at LUV FM were often hilarious: grown men who by night deliver live commentary on football games crooning with Celine Dion; entire mornings spent dancing or reading the paper; the irony with which one reporter typed a story about corruption and later accepted an envelope of cash from a high-ranking police officer. So too were days when I felt as if I had very little to do and no real purpose. Often the most I would do on those days was eat a bowl of fufu with a colleague.

The communication and frequent miscommunications are what I will remember.

The debates about a woman’s role in society; the show host who declared on air he’s never masturbated and to do so would be to sin against Jesus; and the ongoing Twi lessons (me saying I had sex with the king when I meant to say I at a rice dish with groundnut soup).

There was a randomness to my work that I will now relish. All newsrooms have fluidity, an urgency to report breaking news, but in Ghana the news is often so bizarre, it’s comical. The 13-year-old boy and his mother who brought hundreds of spectators into luv fm’s studios because a doctor claimed he had a “pot belly.” The doctor who refused to tell his patients they were HIV-positive because it made him (him!) feel uncomfortable and numerous stories on witchcraft and chieftancy disputes, which required a certain amount of patience and a flexible mind to understand. Stories that seemed comical on the surface were really just so foreign, all I could do was laugh to make sense of it all.

And then the randomness of not having running water (no toilet) or power, or the chickens running through the car park.

There were times that also weren’t so funny. The incidents of sexual harassment on my female colleagues were daily. I had to fight hard to carve a niche for myself – a white woman with a husband, no boyfriends thank you very much. I had to find the line between a culture that believes men are better than women and blatant sexual harassment. I had to fight for my own personal space but also be welcoming. I made a few enemies at LUV FM, but I made far more friends, dear friends some of them.

I have learned much from my Ghanaian colleagues. They say they’ve learned a lot from me. I have no idea. I do know I’ll miss the dancing, the heated debates on homosexuality and even the fufu lunches. (T)

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