Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Music in Ghana

I’ve had an interesting experience with the music here. There are many similarities between radio programming in the United States and here in Africa. The radio stations here feature political talk programs, sports, gospel music stations, preachers, rap, and lots of talking. 

Soon after I arrived her I was shocked to hear "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers while our driver was flipping through stations. I actually heard a couple American country songs that day and I have to admit it was the first time I didn’t want someone to change the station while listening to country music.

We have a neighbor across the street who plays music very loud with outdoor speaker very early in the morning until late at night. After several hours, you can sort of tune it out but those big bass notes are hard to ignore. When you go to the quieter parts of our house it still sounds like a tuba playing off in the distance. For months he played the same 3 songs over and over all day but I'm glad to report he has started listening to the radio more so we finally get some variety now.

One difference between our radio DJs and those here is how often they interrupt the songs they are playing. Back home we've all heard DJs cut songs off early as they speak or ramble on for the first few seconds when a song starts but nothing like it is here.

Sometimes I will be listening to music and I hear the DJ yell a few words as he mutes the song and then it will continue again for second or two until he hits pause on the song and says a few more words. Luckily not all songs are this way but it is something I hear quite frequently on the radio. It sounds like a teenager who wants to listen to music and a parent who wants to hear a talk radio and they are pushing buttons back and forth in the car fighting over which station to listen to.

I've included a brief sample you can hear on the video clip below.

Another thing that has surprised me is that Ghanains play loud music at funerals. Funerals here are close to all day events and actually include hiring a DJ and playing music for the guests. I've only seen serious, reverent funerals back home so this was a big cultural switch for me. There is plenty of mourning and sadness when someone dies but they also turn it into a celebration of their life. When I'm driving around and hear really loud pop/dance music booming from speakers I never know if it's a party or a funeral until I can see if the attendees are dressed in red and black, which is the traditional dress for a funeral.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tropical Weather and Climate

Our front yard
When I left Utah to come to Africa at the end of July, the temperature back home was averaging between 90-100 degrees each day. When I arrived here in Ghana in early August the weather was a constant 85 degrees. It was much more humid, and actually felt much nicer than the dry heat back home. Since I’ve been here many people have written things like “I can only imagine how hot it must be for you in Africa.” I guess people must think I am living in Egypt. It does get hot here but I arrived at the end of the rainy season so it’s not too bad. 

During the first month that I was here I only recall seeing my shadow a handful of times. Despite it being very warm, there always seemed to be cloud cover so it’s not like the sun was beating down on me. I’m used to cold weather and snow from November to March so it will be a nice change adapting to warmer weather year-round.

In October I noticed a slight change with the weather. It is starting to get dryer and hotter. We still get occasional rain showers but they are very brief and not as frequent as the rain storms we've previously had. The temperature has only gone up about 5 degrees and I can't recall a day over 90 but it sure feels much hotter than it was months ago.  Our fans are always running now. On a positive note, I have noticed that the mosquitos, cockroaches, centipedes, and other crawly friends have decreased significantly in the last month. I imagine it is due to the dryer weather but I'm not sure.

A couple months ago we got the great news that two of our sons back home are getting married in December so we will be coming back for a visit much sooner than originally anticipated. I am a little anxious to return in early December since I have been wearing flip flops and shorts for the last 4 months. When we moved here our family got rid of all of our winter clothes. It should be interesting showing up at the Salt Lake Airport in the middle of winter dressed like we are going to the beach. 

One thing that has been an adjustment for me is the equal time for night and day. It starts getting light before 6 AM and the sun sets around 6 pm. It is an even split of light and dark over 24 hours. Since we are near the equator, the summer days are not longer and you pretty much get the same sunlight year round. 

As much as I like the warm climate, I still dislike having it get dark at 6 like it used to back home in the winter. Last week the US changed their clocks back for daylights savings. Africa is having none of that foolishness so now we are 7 hours ahead of back home which makes things a little more inconvenient since we have to wait until 3 0r 4 in the afternoon if we need to call home and that only gives us a 5 or 6 hour of window after that until we are falling asleep on our end here.

Sometimes late at night I feel exhausted and ready for bed and then I realize it is only 8:30. The early sunset plays a role in making me feel tired so early at night but so does my almost 50 year old body. I can see why aging people enjoy the warm weather. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Technologically Impaired Life

I am going to be very honest and vulnerable with this post. I am confessing some embarrassing things about myself so please don't judge to harshly. When I was a kid I remember helping my parents work the VCR since they found it to be too confusing. Perhaps it is genetic, but over the years I have slowly been afflicted by their malady to the point that I now find myself in their shoes and am technologically challenged. Here are just some of the examples:

I find myself now asking my younger kids to adjust my digital watch each daylight savings time change as I used to do for my father.

I used Wifi for the first time last year and it made me nervous.

I don't know what blue tooth is. I think it's what allows people with the dumb built in ear pieces to answer their phone hands free but I'm not sure.

I don't know how to back up anything on my computer or phone. I've heard about "The Cloud" but I can't believe it is that simple I and don't trust it.

I have several friends who are network engineers, programmers, coders, etc. and they intimidate me. I try to only talk to them about the weather or current events instead of trying to understand what they actually do.

I hate iPhones! Their supposed simplicity has backfired on me and I can't even get past the main screen. Luckily I use a Samsung phone but my other family members have iPhones. Trying to navigate an iPhone is like playing with a Rubiks cube for me. On a good day I can get one side the same color.

I don't understand when people talk about measuring data, memory, or whatever that Internet stuff is they are talking about. I have no idea what a kilobite or gig is. I understand it even less than I do when people make metric system references. I've at least seen a liter of soda before and have run a 5K, but I have no idea what a bit or byte is. All I know is that the higher the number on your phone the more expensive it is (and the cooler you are.)

If I went undercover at a tech convention like Comdex, I would be discovered within the first 5 minutes and they'd take away my lanyard and lead me out of the building. It would be like how I feel when I hear someone who knows nothing about sports say "that guy bounced the ball really good during the basketball game."

While reviewing this post I looked online and saw that Comdex actually ended over 13 years ago and it is The International Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas I was thinking about. Just another fitting example how behind the times I am with my tech knowledge.

Things are just way too complicated. Look at any remote control these days. They have about 64 buttons. There should only be power, channel, volume, mute, and skip buttons. The rest is just showing off and sheer confusion.

I really hate it when I have a question and have to call  an IT help desk and they ask which version of Windows I'm running.  It is at that point that I have to explain I am completely illiterate when it comes to technology. I also can't stand it when someone tries answering a tech question for me by sending me a link to an article about it. I need a person with a gentle voice to hold my hand and show me how to tackle these difficult problems in life like how to change settings on an app, not some cold heartless memo.

So there you have my confession. My name is Tom and I struggle with technology. Thank goodness I have younger kids who understand all that stuff as a matter of instinct.

PS- On the bright side, I stopped saying World Wide Web recently.