Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

July 31, 2005

Back Home in Boston

Filed under: Personal News — Andy Carvin @ 10:23 am

It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve been back home in Boston since Wednesday afternoon. My trip to Ghana was truly extraordinary, but it’s still good to be back in Boston with Susanne and the cats. And for the first time in a long while, I don’t have any other trips breathing down my neck – I’ll be home all of August, and for my next overseas business trip (Glasgow in late September), Susanne will come along for the ride, so we’ll be able to make a brief holiday out of it.
We’ve had a really fun weekend; yesterday was my birthday and Susanne planned a surprise dinner with our friend Hallie, my cousin Peter and his husband Tim at Red Fez in Boston. I had no clue what she had planned for the night, so it really was a great surprise.
Today, I’m heading up to Lowell for a few hours to take pictures at the Lowell Folk Festival. It might rain at some point – it’s looking pretty gray out right now – but I’m sure it’ll be fun nonetheless…. -andy

July 27, 2005

Another Milanese Layover

Filed under: Italy — Andy Carvin @ 3:33 am

It’s 9:30am here in Milan; my flight from Ghana arrived about three hours ago. I’m taking advantage of the airport’s wi-fi to kill time as best as possible, trying to avoid getting bored or sleepy. Unfortunately, I’m not having much success.
Really looking forward to getting on that plane to Boston. Time to go home. -andy

July 26, 2005

Signing Off from Accra

Filed under: Ghana — Andy Carvin @ 12:42 pm

It’s just before 5pm here in Accra, which means it’s time for me to leave BusyInternet and return to the guesthouse one last time to pack, eat and head to the airport. If all goes well, I’ll be back in Boston in about 24 hours. Sometime after that I’ll try to wrap up my final posts about Ghana, particularly the video clips, since I’ve had bandwidth issues the last couple of days.
Until then, this is Andy Carvin signing off from Accra. :-) -ac

Mandatory Web Filtering to Fight Temptation?

Filed under: Sundries and Such — Andy Carvin @ 11:39 am

Each day driving into downtown Accra I pass the Fighting Temptations Internet Cafe. I wish I had time to visit; would love to find out if they filter Internet access as a way to be true to their name. -andy

The Most Diversified Businessman in Ghana

Filed under: Ghana — Andy Carvin @ 11:34 am

Seen on the streets of Accra this morning: a man walking through traffic hawking three items:

  • An industrial sized collection of super glue
  • A Suzanne Somers tummy exerciser, original box included
  • An enormous TV antenna shaped like a 1950s sci-fi death-ray gun

I took a picture of him with my mobile phone, but alas, no Bluetooth, so I’ll have to upload it once I get back to the US…. -andy

Country Music in Ghana: Who Knew?

Filed under: Ghana — Andy Carvin @ 11:24 am

One of the things that’s struck me the most during my trip to Ghana is the sheer amount of country and western music I’ve heard in the country.
It’s no big surprise that lots of radio stations play African American musicians here – you can’t get through the day without hearing R. Kelly, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige or Missy Elliot singing about her boomp-a-boom-boomp. But the Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith? I’m really not sure what to make of it. I asked a taxi driver today why he was playing country music during our drive into Accra this morning. He looked at me like it was a dumb question and replied, “Because it is good.”
Perhaps the funniest thing about all of this occurred when David and I were driving the 150 miles from Accra to Kumasi. Somewhere half-way through the trip, in the middle of nowhere, we couldn’t get any radio signals – except country music. Who knew? -andy

Watching the Space Shuttle Discovery from Accra

Filed under: Personal News — Andy Carvin @ 10:48 am

Just finished watching a live video stream of the Space Shuttle Discovery launching from the Kennedy Space Center. I’m very envious that my family got to step outside and watch the launch in person, as I did so often as a kid; it’s just amazing, though, that I can can watch it live over the Internet from West Africa as well. I’ll have to step outside in a few minutes and wave as they pass overhead. :-) -andy

Patriensa Tour

Filed under: Ghana — Andy Carvin @ 9:57 am
Patriensa children

Children in the Ashanti village of Patriensa

I spent Sunday morning interviewing half a dozen students at the telecentre. Most of them were college-age, working in various jobs around the village while they completed their computer studies. I was impressed with the range of skills they’d learned – over the last seven months they’ve gone from almost no computer experience to being able to construct computers from spare parts.
Osei arrived later that morning, along with a colleague from Imperial College named Jon. I joined them for a late breakfast to talk about digital divide issues in Ghana. We then went on a tour of the village itself, which was about a kilometer up the road from the telecentre. The village was busy with activity; with a population of 4,000 people, there were lots of people milling about. When we stopped for a few minutes at the chief’s palace, a group of more than a dozen kids gathered to watch us. All of them were very friendly and encouraged us to talk a few pictures.
We drove a few blocks to the edge of town, to Osei’s family home. Inside, we met his mother, sister and brother-in-law. We spent some time chatting inside their living room. Much of the conversation had to do with funeral preparations for Osei’s father, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this month. Though the burial had taken place, the funeral would occur later in August, giving them enough time to prepare for a ceremony that would easily attract the entire village, plus hundreds of visitors from Accra.
Leaving the village, we drove onward to the town of Agogo, which has to be the coolest name of any town in West Africa. The town was located high up on a hill, with a stunning view of Patriensa and the surrounding valley. I’d always been under the impression that Ghana was flat – so much for that idea.
In Agogo, we stopped at the local chief’s palace. Osei knew the chief, who was one step below the Ashanti king. Unfortunately, the chief wasn’t home, but one of the caretakers invited us in for a walk around the grounds. As was the case with the Asantehene’s palace in Kumasi, this palace served as home to a squadron of peacocks. The house was quite modern from the front, but in the back was a giant courtyard used for official ceremonies. Osei pointed out the location where the chief would sit, as well as the official talking drums.
Beyond the palace, we stopped briefly at the regional hospital. Osei needed to talk with one of the doctors who had treated his father, so it gave us a chance to walk around the campus. The hospital was a sprawling complex of one-story buildings subdivided into quadrants. Many visitors (or patients?) were napping on outside benches; a group of women sang inside the hospital chapel. We walked all the way to the entrance of the operating theatre; for a moment I thought we’d actually have to meet the doctor inside the surgery room itself, but thankfully he came outside to meet us. The door leading to the operating theatre had a large KEEP OUT sign, with added emphasis provided by a greeting card photo of a golden retriever puppy with a yellow flower in its mouth. Consider yourself warned.

cacao tree

A cocoa pod hangs from a cacao tree

Departing Agogo, I asked Osei if there was any chance if we would pass a cocoa farm along the way. Apparently we’d passed several already and I hadn’t even realized it. A few hundred meters further down the road, he pulled over and point to some trees on the right side of the road. Each tree had several large green pods, not unlike a cross between a pear and an avocado, hanging from the trunks.
“Those are cocoa trees,” Osei said. “Would you like to take a look?”
We found a place to park the car and crossed to the left side of the road, where the cocoa tree orchard was less cluttered with shrubs, allowing us to explore it safely. There was a mild citrus smell in the air, something I didn’t expect. Each tree had at least four or five cocoa pods, most of them a dull green color.
“Are these cocoa pods ripe yet?” I asked.
“No, they’re still not ripe,” Osei explained. “The ripening season is usually in the autumn. But we might be able to find a few ripe ones. They will be bright yellow.”
A few seconds later, someone spotted a yellow pod. The color reminded me of a citron. It was firm, but fleshier than the unripe pods.
“I wish the farmer were here,” I said. “I’d love to buy one just to see what they’re like-”
Before I could complete the sentence, someone had pulled down a yellow pod and smacked it against a tree trunk. The pod cracked in half, revealing a network of fleshy bulbs. The smell of citrus increased significantly; oddly, I couldn’t smell anything recognizable as chocolate.
“Are they edible?”
“Yes, you should taste some,” Osei said.
Jon and I both pinched off a piece. The bulb was slimy and pinkish-brown, with a hard center. I put it in my mouth and again felt a citrus sensation. Biting into it was quite different; the inner seed split and half and released a bitter taste. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but the bitterness finally revealed a hint of the chocolate flavor I’d been expecting. Apparently during cocoa production, the bulbs are removed from the pod, piled up and allowed to ferment. The fermentation process withers away the outer pulp and softens the harshness of the seed; then, they’re dried out and crushed.
Carrying the remaining cocoa pods back with me for a snack, we returned to Patriensa. Some time later in the afternoon we’d return to Accra, though no one seemed to be in a rush. -andy

Discussing Podcasts and Video Blogs on Radio Ghana

Filed under: Ghana,Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 8:09 am

A few days ago at the video blogging/podcasting workshop I conducted near the University of Ghana, I was interviewed by a journalist from Radio Ghana. I checked out various news casts several times, but never heard it, so I figured I must have missed it or that it never aired.
Well, last night I was driving back to my guesthouse in northeast Accra. We got lost while trying to take a short cut, so it took longer than usual. Just before we arrived at the guesthouse, though, I heard the evening news announcer reading the daily headlines, and he began talking about an American “Internet expert” helping Ghanaians create podcasts and video blogs. As I searched frantically for my digital audio recorder, I asked the driver to stop, saying they were about to air an interview me. Though skeptical, he shook his head and pulled over. Then, we heard my voice on the radio. The cabbie started laughing and gave me a congratulatory handshake.
Eventually, I managed to find my audio recorder. Here’s what I was able to capture. -andy

Accra Update #4 – So Much for My Final Podcast

Filed under: Ghana,Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 7:46 am

Changed plans today, so I’m still in Accra rather than Cape Coast. So last night’s podcast wasn’t my final podcast after all. Unfortunately I’m unable to access my FTP server so far today, so I’m trying something new – uploading my podcast to a file folder. Seems to work just fine – for now, at least….
Music by Ghanaian drummer Obo Addy, from his album Afieye Okropong, used with permission from Alula Records. -andy

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