Friday, January 30, 2009

Last week was one of the worst...

It was last week ago thursday.....

I had my ipod, which has a powerful microphone attachment that I can use for recording purposes. I was attempting to transfer the files to my laptop through Itunes. I pressed Sync, not knowing that the fact that no files on Itunes means that itunes will replace all the files on Itune with what is on the computer.....

The computer erased my recordings from Nov. to Jan!!!! Almost 30 GB!!

I cried for about two days straight. How could I have been so dumb to do that? Why didnt I back up my files sooner? Why didnt I transcribe the interviews sooner? You know what goes on when things like this happen.....all sorts of defeatist and self deprecating thoughts cross your mind like...."Why the hell am I here?" "Can I even do this project?" "Why am I such an amateur?" Basically, I am now force to traipse around the radio stations and collect their recordings from around election time, which has led me to another conclusion..... People in the radio business keep poor records of their broadcasts and transcriptions, which will be a problem for those who attempt to do media research, and even for the stations themselves to monitor themselves. Its about to be a herculean task to go around teh country retreiving recordings, but ill do the best I can.

Ill say, with about 5 months left, that Ive become more focused on my project. I think that even though this mishap occured, its made me realize what is important for my peject and what is not. My thoughts and ideas are clearer, and I think what I want out of the research is more defined. I think without the recordings the data may not be as scientific as I would have liked, but I think it will still be good. As for the interviews I lost, I can reinterview, but unfortunately I cant get back the timing, the in the moment responses I would have gotten with teh elections hanging in the background. Ive also realized that even though CDD is great, I think I got too caught up in being an intern and being dragged into the election whirlwin that I didnt know what I was doing. But I am in talks with the African University College of Communications to set up an office there and make that my new base. It will be better, because there I willbe working with people who study media and who are training future journalists in communications and journalism. Its a better environment, I think.

But for now, im hustling, and after 5 months, parts of my project are taking shape. I have some great interviews back on record and some more good ones coming up. I think ill be okay.....

xoxox Karen

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

FRUSTRATED! Advice welcome.

Okay, so I keep telling people there are pluses and minuses to staying with my family here in Ghana. I love them to death, and they have helped me in so many ways with this project, especially in 2007 when I was here on the Northwestern summer grant. But lately, I have been running into conflicts with them, concerning my goings out and my comings in.

I'm going to be 23 years old this year, and there are times where I'm still treated like I'm 13! Just last night, I went to visit someone who was ill and I came back around 1 or 2 am. This morning my grandma was upset like "Where were you so late, why? blah blah blah". Its true, I'm learning by Ghanaian standards that is late. But I make a point to tell the old lady (grandma) and the Uncle where Im going, and with whom. When I go, I try as much as possible to go with my driver, and when I have to take a taxi, I dont take it alone at night. Even most of my friends have numbers of taxi drivers they trust to call. Its come to a point where I dont go out to shows, or concerts because I'm so tired of either me being interrogated or my driver being interrogated about where I was or what I was doing. I dont even go out much with the Ghanaians I meet around. Even when I traveled to Cape Coast, my grandma was so scared, like " Take care of yourself! Dont go out at night!" etc etc....

I'm 22, I like to have fun. But at the same time, Ive been on my own long enough to know how to take care of myself. I realize I'm in a different culture, where I may not speak all the languages. But how am I supposed to learn about the culture when my family is so overprotective? I remember even when I first got here, my family wouldnt even let me cross the street by myself because "They know youre American, go with your cousin!" Its at a point where I dont even know my own neighborhood that well, or even have many connections with the people in my neighborhood because going around "isnt safe". Its getting ridiculous.

Im in a house where my Uncle is a pastor, and they run quite a strict household. I notice my teenage cousins dont go out, and their friends, if they have any, never come over. So perhaps to them, the few times I go out on the weekends, or the times I travel seems rebellious. Culture clash?

I dont do anything that I wouldnt do in a big city at home. But I dont know how to make them understand that in the States, people my age already have jobs and live out on their own. Its true, I know I have to respect them. But at the same time, I wish I could have a bit of freedom! I help pay for food, water, electricity and other things around the house. I dont think im being that unreasonable. But I wish they could understand that Im old enough to take care of myself. Hell, half this fulbright project is learning how to adjust to a new culture and learn about it. Im not saying all the learning to be done about Ghana is done after 1o pm or anything. But they forget that I lived for a while in Spain of all places, where I didnt fit in because of my skin color, and not a lot of people spoke English. And I survived. So why all this mess in a country which is essentially my homeland, where the people look like me, and most speak English?



Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year, new direction....

Ive been on holiday from CDD for the past two weeks or so, and Ive realized Ive had so much more time to focus on my own project. Ive gotten more contacts at Radio Gold (Pro NDC station) , more contacts with others in the media, gone on interviews, etc etc. Ive been contacted by the African University College of Communication to come on board with a project that is being funded by the World Bank to look at coverage in the media of developmental issues during the election period. This could be something really huge for me to do, and its right in my research interest alley. But I have to remember not to overload myself. I did get an opportunity to take a little bit of a break to visit one of the other Fulbrighters in Cape Coast not too long ago. She took me along on some of her interviews and I was inspired by how passionate she was about her project and about the future plans she had for her work. Not that Im not passionate about the media, but I think for the past months leading up to the elections, I was distracted by alot of things. CDD has been a great place, but honestly, a lot of the (hard) work I did for them had nothing to do with my project. I got so caught up with elections, I didnt really have the time or the space mentally to focus on my own project. So Ive decided to reduce my time at CDD drastically.

So now, Im trying to make up for lost time. Im trying to go on more interviews, more recorded interviews, for sure. I dont know what my problem is, but sometimes, I dont record my interviews and just resort to taking notes. And then I look back at my notes, and Im like, what was I doing? Im going to do more in terms of getting quality audio, just so that I can transcribe better.

Im learning that I have to really be an independent self starter with this project. Its not like college or high school where you have professors or teachers checking up on you like "How is your paper coming" or "Remember there is an exam coming up". Here there are no deadlines, no tests, no one checking up on you. I bet the whole time could pass by before someone from my family or friends is like, "Oh yea, by the way, what did you find about about phone in radio?" Sometimes I get discouraged. There is sooo much to learn about the media here. I didnt get my degree in journalism, and there are times I feel like im in over my head.There are also times where I wonder, what am I doing this for? Do I want to take all this research and go back to the States and get a MA/PhD and just begin the academic track? Do I just want to leave here and go back and use the Fulbright as leverage to get me into a good law school? Or do I want to stay here in Ghana, and work more in the media?? Because honestly, fam, this is what Ive always dreamed of doing. Doing research radio? Its been something Ive wanted to do since high school. And I beleive in my heart that media and communication will be the thing to study in Africa and other so called "developing nations".

Not only do I really need to buckle down on getting a decent project, but I need to think about my future....

I mean, Ive gotten a lot of information. Theres no way I dont have anything. But will it make sense? Am I missing something? But all I can do is do my best and pull out all the stops right?


Monday, January 5, 2009


Ive emerged from the election abyss......

NDCs prof. John Evans Atta Mills was declared the president elect on Saturday, the 3rd of Jan, after a long drawn out election. For those of you who dont know, Dec. 28th was the runoff between Atta Mills of the NDC and Akufo- Addo of the NPP. Though the Dec 28th polls came through with Atta Mills with a slim lead over Akufo-Addo, 1 constituency, Tain in the Brong Ahafo Region did not vote. Thus a reelection was held in Tain on Friday the 2nd. Even with Tain's results, it was clear that NDC gained the mandate of the people (look, Im becoming Ghanaian....using "mandate"). I think the NPP made some key tactical mistakes in their campaign and took the electorate for granted. People were ready for a change, that is for sure.

I spent the good part of the week "embedded" at various radio stations. I was there at the station when Joy FM made the controversial projection for NDC. I was there when Citi FM was going around reporting from some of the polling stations. I was at the Electoral commission when the results were finally announced. I was there with pro-NDC Radio Gold immediately after the Electoral Commission announced, and masses of NDC supporters surrounded the station, singing, dancing and jubilating.

Im so glad and thankful to God the elections were peaceful. Its true, vicious rumors, inflammatory statements, and allegations did make their way onto the airwaves. If I could do a cursory grading of the media, I would give it a C+/B-. Various stations and print houses were obviously biased, airing unsubstatioated rumours, using militant rhetoric and playing music that was obviously used to rally the people for a particular party. Its true, even my being at the radio stations during this sensitive time was not 100% safe. There were reports of journalists being attacked and beaten by angry party supporters who viewed their media house as being biased for calling against the NPP. There were rumors of threats against radio stations, notably the threat to burn down Peace FM, and the allegations that police were coming to shut down Radio Gold. I tried to stay away from the EC for the most part, and chose not to go to Tain, just to make sure I would be safe.

I have so much audio to go through and transcribe its not even funny. So many interviews to go through.... I just want to take a break and travel...sit on a beach, hike a mountain, swim, see an animal park....I dont know....just to get out of Accra.