Monday, February 23, 2009

Polyester is for shopping bags

I've written a lot about the heat. There are many things more worth mentioning, but there is nothing more stressful for us in adapting to our physical surroundings. And you have to learn to adapt to your physical surroundings before you can do much else, so please forgive the frequent obsession with the heat in the blog. It's great to hear from you all and we appreciate the encouragement and sometimes even the smiling faces on the blog follower photos!

So far I haven't worn many of the things I brought. Granted, I didn't expect to need the turtleneck five degrees north of the equator. But I thought that maybe the knit top would work, or the skirt. Let's face it, so far my wardrobe planning has been a disaster. Now I'm not willing to pan it completely – we still have 3/4ths of the way to go, but I think the writing is on the wall... I should have listened to my brother. He said no matter what you do, you'll forget something. Well how about everything. It wasn't so much about forgetting as about choosing the wrong things. Even the non-cotton red and black dress I brought won't work here because in Ghana, you only wear red and black to funerals...... on Saturdays. So if I wore that dress, which I wouldn't, on a week day people would look at me oddly and if I wore it on a Saturday, they would ask me who died.

I've analyzed the problem. There were two failures here. The first was a failure of imagination on my part. I never imagined that I could be this uncomfortable all the time in clothes that I had worn with great comfort in fairly warm weather. The second and most important miscalculation was made in ignorance. I had no idea how important it was that clothing be able to breathe and wick moisture away from your body. I knew cotton was preferable in the heat, but I had no idea how critical it was. I now know that polyester and nylon are the enemy and should be reserved for shopping bags and sailboat sheets.

Students here wear full length white cassocks to class and to services, morning, noon, and night. Faculty teach in them. Indeed faculty sometimes leave campus in them when they go to take care of their churches. They are much more comfortable if they are made of cotton. No washing machines, either. They are immaculately clean and white, and it's all done by hand.

I went in search of cotton clothing on my first day in Cape Coast. I found an overpriced and not very flattering blouse and an equally unflattering granny skirt. I should have been tipped off about the blouse. I entered the only air conditioned store I have been to in Cape Coast, then or since. The racks were distinctly Euro looking. I bought Craig a cotton Ghanaian shirt whose repeating stamped design was a word, a symbol really, that I was told meant “freely given” I thought that sounded alright. But when Craig put it on, our two jolly flat mates, members of the faculty here, intimated it might have something more to do with “Luv” than any pretty idea or altruism. Oh well, we're cool now.

1 comment:

Eleanor said...

I feel bad! I wish I'd known your dilemma in packing, and perhaps I could have been of help. I grew up in the desert valley on the Rio Grande River. In that area, on both sides of the border, long, cotton dresses that fall to the ankle from the shoulder are the preferred dress. They are elaborately embroidered at the shoulder. They are lovely, and highly practical. This being Mexico, they are also very colorful and fun. I have two, and would have been happy to loan them to you if they fit.

At least you will be able to layer up and be comfortable on the last leg of the trip! For now, may I recommend talcum powder and tea (for the outside and inside, respectively)? Good luck!