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Photos and history

There’s a box of old photos and slides in my office. Because they’re on film, not in bits, I never look at them. It occurred to me, a few weeks ago, that is was dumb, and I sent a pile of slides off to dvdmyphotos.com, who scanned them for $0.69 apiece.


And now they’re on Flickr. And I’ve spent the evening reliving slices of 1993-4, which I spent living in a sweltering apartment in the Osu neighborhood of Accra. I was a Fulbright scholar and, theoretically, was studying at the University of Ghana at Legon. But the University was on strike almost the entire time I was there, so I spent most of my time hanging around the National Theatre downtown, catching lessons from musicians there when I was able.


It was not the easiest year of my life. I was twenty, fresh out of college, homesick, and a hell of a lot less adventurous than I am today. Most of the shots are from trips I took with my housemates – other Fulbrighters – or from around the house. Evidently, I didn’t carry my camera around the neighborhood or around town. (In fairness, it didn’t exactly fit in my pocket the way mine does today.) I wish I had photos of what Accra looked like in those days, to compare to Accra today, but there are very few shots that help me set context.

There are some beautiful photos from the Odwira Festival in Akuapim, which my housemates and I went to in the fall of 1993, and of the yam festival in Dzolo Gbogame in 1994, where my housemate Jessica Vapnek was named Queen Mother of the village. The final photos in the set are from my friend Bernard Woma’s first wedding – he and his bride are no longer together, but they’re a wonderful memory of my last week in Ghana on that first trip.


An obvious observation – I was a lot thinner then. That’s what dysentery will do to you. Bottled water wasn’t widely available in Ghana in those days, and I lost 40 pounds in the course of a year to bacterial and amoebic dysentary, as well as to ghiardia. When I kick myself for not travelling more, I have to remind myself just how ill I was most of the time…

The photos are a great reminder of a year of my life that changed me forever, set me on the path I’m on today and helped open my eyes to a much wider world. I’m very grateful to have them.

In another historical note, I’ve moved over most of my old posts from my Harvard blog to this blog – if you explore the archives, you’ll find lots of posts from 2003 and 2004 that weren’t here before. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my first post, dismissing blogging as a phenomenon and claiming that I wouldn’t be blogging more in the future. Perhaps in a few more years, I’ll be eating my words about Second Life…

6 thoughts on “Photos and history”

  1. “…changed me forever, set me on the path I’m on today and helped open my eyes to a much wider world.” I could say the same thing about Ghana, where I spend a semester abroad in 2001 during college. Isn’t it amazing how a country can have that effect on people?

  2. Hi, I was looking for pictures of Accra on google and came across your weblog. Nice pictures. I didn’t know “the obruni house” went back that long! I lived there in 2002-3 and had a great time there with a mix of people: English, American, Canadian, Dutch, Danish, French, etc.

    Auntie C must be really rich by now, doing good business with the house…!!

    Cheers, Lothar.

  3. Its stuff like this – old photos that tell off things long gone – that makes life that much better.

    Looking back, wondering what happened to old colleagues and friends, maybe even re-establishing contact and getting together.

    Even better is being able to think back and see how much you have changed since then.


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