Tagged: Audrey Hepburn

On How to be Audrey Part III

So I’ve been working on my self-control with not snacking during the day (which is harder than I thought! But apples are a good and healthy snack to fool your stomach. Not quite as good as peanut butter cups though), and my discipline with exercise. I’ve even decided to go to a gym once a week and work with a trainer. It’s something I’d thought about in the past but it seems like now is a good time to just do it. I know I’ve got the potential to be healthier and stronger than I am, and I don’t want to regret waiting any longer than I have! It’s one of those things I never felt that I could afford, but I feel like my body needs it, and what better time than now? I have to fit into all of these gorgeous tiny vintage dresses that I adore!

In this post, I’m going to cover Audrey Hepburn’s style, and look at how I can apply her fashion sense to my own wardrobe. What we choose to wear, or how we choose to wear what we have, is one way in which we shape the image of ourselves that we present to the world. Everything we wear says something about us. About how we see ourselves, or how we want to see ourselves. About our status, our preferences and priorities. It is in many ways an outward projection of our inner selves. Or at least as much of ourselves as we want to let others see. And personally, my wardrobe has not always really reflected who I was or am. I had always wanted a large vintage wardrobe, because that was what I loved, but it was always easier and more affordable to buy the latest trends. In high school I would shop at the Goodwill and other thrift stores, but usually what I found was not in good condition. I’ve finally decided that it’s time to revamp my wardrobe into what I’ve truly been wanting. However, even putting together your vintage style takes a little thought and planning! Audrey to the rescue…

“Some people dream of having a big swimming pool – with me it’s closets!” Audrey

On How to be Audrey, Part III – Style

In 1949, when Audrey was living in London and working in the theatre, her wardrobe was quite different from how most of us think of her.

“She had one skirt, one blouse, one pair of shoes, and a beret, but she had fourteen scarves. What she did with them week by week you wouldn’t believe. She’d wear the little beret on the back of her head, on one side, on the other side – or fold it in two and make it look very strange. She had the gift, the flair of how to dress.” Nickolas Dana, High Button Shoes dancer

1949 – Audrey with one of her scarves!

Audrey had less than most of us do in her closet when she was starting out. And her method of making it work for her was to get creative! You can make almost any outfit look new and different by changing up your accessories. I would love to see what Audrey did with those scarves (I could use the inspiration). She was so innovative with clothing that at one point, to earn extra money, she would purchase plain little hats to embellish and re-sell. Now that’s inspiring me…. and making me wonder where all of these hats ended up. A hat made by Audrey Hepburn, wouldn’t that be a treasure!

1953 – Still loving scarves!

When she left for France to work on Nous Irons à Monte Carlo, her co-stars Geraldine and Cara gave her some of their own clothes, seeing as she didn’t have much of a wardrobe. And apparently they all bought their first bikinis at the Monte Carlo Beach Club!

Eventually, with more work and more money, and a new friend in Givenchy, she settled on what would become her signature style. Casually, she would be seen wearing pedal pushers or cigarette pants, with a button-up shirt tied around the waist. Formally, she favoured dresses without patterns or details that would date it, in flattering cuts with very defined waistlines.

In 1962 she gave an interview to the Baltimore Sun and went into great detail about her fashion sense. I will let Audrey take over now.

“I have come to realize two important factors about myself. First of all, my coloring lacks definition. I therefore prefer to wear black, white or muted colors such as beige or soft pinks or greens. These colors tend to make my eyes and hair seem darker whereas bright colors overpower me and wash me out.

Secondly, I am quite tall and of angular build. Therefore I don’t wear padded or squared shoulders and often cheat on my armholes and collars to give an illusion of narrow rather than wide shoulders. I wear low-heeled shoes to give the impression that I’m smaller than I am.

Another thing I have learned, in order to avoid the cliché, “I don’t have a thing to wear” in spite of a closet full of clothes, is to prepare a clothes chart for the coming season, just as I do when handed a script of a new movie. I start by writing down all the things I have and then eliminating the ones I feel I’ve worn out or outdated. Then I try to visualize what my needs will be during the upcoming season, all, of course, depending on where I might be. I then go about buying rather purposefully just the things I need to fill any gaps, such as a new suit or a coat or dinner dress.

As I rarely have time for shopping, I have to plan ahead, which saves me from being tempted by that one dress I shall never wear.

Also, I have a problem which is peculiar to my nomadic existence and that is packing. I try to travel with as little as possible. This brings me to my next point, which is to buy things adaptable for many, rather than just one, occasion. That is another reason why I like conservative colors such as beige or black, which will look right at almost any hour of the day or evening and in almost any weather.

This enables me, too, to cut down on accessories. I have only black or beige shoes and bags and wear only white three-quarter-length gloves. The only exceptions are an evening purse and one pair of white satin shoes.

The principal contributive factor to the way I dress is that I am fortunate enough to be married to a fashion-conscious man by the name of Mel Ferrer, whom I think has infallible taste.

It is tremendously rewarding for a woman to have a husband who notices. Mel has a real interest in clothes, and we enjoy choosing my things together. I have become greatly dependent on his taste and guidance. After all, I think any woman dresses mostly for the man in her life.” Audrey

And as a bonus, she gave “Four Rules for the Hepburn Look”

 

Four Rules for the Hepburn Look

Audrey also didn’t wear much jewelry. A pair of hoop earrings were a favourite early on, and she always had a pair of pearl earrings on hand. Occasionally she would wear a bracelet, and never a watch (She had been noted saying that she strongly disliked the initial cold of the metal when touching her skin and the heaviness of the watch).

I also have to mention that Audrey did NOT always dress up. She wore t-shirts and cozy sweatshirts and sweaters like the rest of us when she wasn’t expecting to be photographed. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

So to distill it down to a few points, and to analyze my own habits and see what adjustments I should make…

Audrey Hepburn’s Rules of Style

  1. Know your colours. I have similar colouring to Audrey and upon examination of my closet do find it quite full of muted colours, black, and white. I don’t know if it was really intentional, but I do see a pattern. Most of the more colourful things I own, I don’t wear, and are in the “to go” pile now as I pick through my closet. I will definitely make note of what I feel is more complimentary to my colouring.
  2. Know how to create the proportions you find pleasing. Although Audrey and I are the same height, I don’t have a big problem with being tall, except when I’m around women who are much shorter than I am, or men who won’t match my height in heels. I like the look of heels with certain skirts and dresses. However, flats are always more comfortable and practical! I also have wide shoulders and hate any kind of shoulder padding or puffed sleeves, so those are avoided. Perhaps that’s why I’m not a fan of the ’80s.
  3. Go through your closet regularly and visualize how to have the wardrobe you want with the least amount of pieces. This, I am in the process of doing. I have way too many pieces of clothing that I don’t actually wear anymore. I want to simplify and only have clothes that I actually love and wear. Living in California for so many years, I never felt a need to separate my winter and summer clothing. I just added coats. And in France, well, I usually lacked any storage space, so everything hung out together there, as well. I do sometimes examine my wardrobe and think of something I feel is missing, and go on a quest for it. But I also went on spontaneous shopping trips with nothing in mind, and returning home with bags of new garments. I’m cutting down on that! Which brings us to:
  4. Shop with purpose. For several years I have had a major Crossroads Trading Company (it’s a secondhand store with amazing finds) addiction, and would just walk in looking for buried treasures, nothing specific. And this is how I end up with more than I need. But I haven’t set foot in a Crossroads in at least four months now! I have been shopping with purpose on etsy. Pat me on the back.
  5. Buy quality over quantity. I’m getting better at this. Slowly. However, with Crossroads, I felt like I could have both quality and quantity. Dior shoes, Mark Jacobs jackets… but now my closet is full.
  6. Buy tops and bottoms that are interchangeable and versatile, especially for travel. This is something I have to pay more attention to now that I’m not wearing jeans as much. Jeans go with nearly every top. But now that I’ve got a green skirt, and a tan skirt, and a navy skirt… I can’t just wear the same white shirt with all of them all the time, I need at least one or two other shirts that could go with them and create twice as many outfits. This is already how I travel… seeing how many different outfits I can create with the least amount of clothing. And I usually stick to two pairs of shoes – the black and the white, unless I have room for one or two more. With the cost of vintage clothing (which I’m buying more of nowadays) being usually more than the things I find at Crossroads, I have to pay extra attention to how many outfits I can make with each piece.


So those are my challenges.

Get rid of the things I don’t wear and narrow down my closet to pieces that are versatile, interchangeable, timeless and loved. Simplify and organize.

And perhaps…

buy more scarves.

 

 

 

If you’re interested in shopping from my closet, you can find my vintage things at http://onamae.etsy.com and my more modern clothing on the app http://www.depop.com under username @kendalinwonderland.

On How to be Audrey Part II

In my first post about Audrey Hepburn, I went over her eating habits and outlined a diet for myself to follow. So far, so good, although I got thrown off the other day when I had to be on set at 7am (way too early to be hungry…) and then gorged myself at the lunch buffet. And also had some snacks from craft service. But other than that, it’s going well! I’ve added my own discipline to it and am trying not to eat after 7pm and definitely no earlier than 7am. Not snacking has been a challenge, but I think with practice it will become easier.

Today I want to cover Audrey’s exercise habits. Less is known about this aspect of her life than her diet, it seems.

On How to be Audrey, Part II – Exercise

Audrey grew up immersed in ballet, however the only reference I’ve seen to ballet class in her adult years was one mention somewhere of her attending class while she was working on Broadway, in New York City. She also danced for her film, Funny Face.

During the filming of Green Mansions, she did a spread for a magazine showing her in various stretching poses similar to yoga.

A couple of websites claim that Audrey discovered yoga and made it a part of her daily routine, however, I haven’t found any mentions in her biographies or official sources that this is true. It’s always mentioned on yoga websites, so I’m not sure how accurate their information is! I can imagine that being a former dancer, she probably did have some kind of daily stretching practice, but perhaps we will never know for sure.

However, dancing and stretching will be part of my “emulate Audrey” month. I already have a history with ballet (in my early 20’s) and yoga (a couple years ago), and recently have started back up with both.

My Saturday morning view.

I suppose I won’t be adjusting my habits too much when it comes to exercise. Saturday morning ballet (and eventually back into the adult pointe class, I hope) and daily stretching/yoga.

Again the key here is discipline. Audrey was very disciplined, very focused. According to her,

“I have often thought of myself as quite ugly. In fact, I used to have quite a complex about it. To be frank, I’ve often been depressed and deeply disappointed in myself. You can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or just plain too ugly. I couldn’t seem to handle any of my problems or cope with people I met. If you want to get psychological, you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found them only way to get the better of them was by putting my foot down, by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive.”

And it served her well. So throughout this exercise, I’m hoping to adopt a similar more concentrated drive by introducing more discipline into my everyday life. I know I have always had an issue with focus – so many exciting things to explore in life! It’s a constant battle I fight. What I enjoy about ballet and yoga is the fact that once you get into the “flow”, you stop thinking about anything else. You’re focused solely on the present and being in your body. It also feels good to regularly set aside that time for yourself, as if telling the world, “I care about myself and want to treat my body well. I insist on taking this time out from my concerns to open up, and to dance and to breathe and let everything else go for a while.” Afterwards, I feel refreshed and focused and motivated and ready to tackle the world! And so I shall!

Stay tuned for part three…

On How to be Audrey

Hello, all! It’s been a while, I know. I have started a few blogs in the past and I’m disciplined for perhaps a year and then I trail off. There are times in my life where I feel I will have plenty to write about, and times when either I don’t, or I simply don’t feel like writing! Which is why I will never be a professional, full-time blogger, I suppose!

So I was watching a video on YouTube recently, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill and when he came to number 18 (the video picks up there, if you click on the link) I immediately thought of Audrey Hepburn. Oh yes, there are plenty of things I admire in other people, like Katharine Hepburn with her strong, independent spirit, but when it comes to choosing a role model for myself, it always comes back to the other Hepburn. Perhaps because our basic quiet, anxious natures are similar, so although she has many traits I aspire to, she is also relatable. I’ve always sort of viewed her as something like a cousin whom I admire but never get to spend time with. You’re told stories and you see pictures and you wish you could spend time with her and you want to be like her… at least that’s how I felt about my actual older cousins growing up, and it feels much the same with Audrey. I didn’t have an older brother or sister, but always wished I had.

Oh, don’t let me go on like this! Let’s get to the point of this post!

So I was watching that video and when he came to number 18, I thought of Audrey. I thought, OK, let’s do that, why not. And I decided that, to keep myself accountable, and to perhaps inspire and help someone else who may be having the same idea, I would blog about it. So I started making a mental list of what I knew of Audrey that I could apply to my life, and decided that I would make a very conscious effort for at least one month to follow in her footsteps. Because she’s been my role model for years already, I have a head start on some things. But we’re going full Audrey for August.

The original script was more of a “princess and the peasant” kind of thing. 😀

Good timing too, because it will put me in a good mindset for my next few adventures, which I will tell you about soon!

There are several aspects of Audrey to be covered, and rather than making one giant blog post about them all, I will cover one at a time. I will cover diet, exercise, philosophy and style in four separate posts. Today, I’m going to start with diet.

So let’s get started, shall we?

On How to Be Audrey, Part I. Diet

“She was always very careful about her diet, did not drink alcohol except an occasional glass of wine with dinner, and avoided desserts. She chose her diet as a dancer would: plenty of protein and lots of vegetables and salads. She ate sparingly and rarely splurged. But we did have a yearly feast of caviar in a baked potato.” Mel Ferrer

Audrey’s slim figure is one of the things she’s well-known for, generally being quoted as 5’6 ¾”, 110 pounds, 32-20-35 (although I know someone who owns one of her dresses from the 1960’s and the waist measures 23 inches. This is a weird fixation for me, because the 20 inch figure seems very off and I can’t resist solving a mystery).

Fortunately, I don’t have to really wish for Audrey’s figure, being 5’6 ¾” myself, between 112-116 pounds, and 32-25-35. But because diet is such an integral part of everyone’s lives, it’s important to me to incorporate her eating habits into this challenge. I want to see how changing up my diet and adding additional discipline might affect me.

Audrey’s diet changed throughout her life (as is true for most of us), so I’ve taken the information I’ve gathered and created my own Audrey-based diet from it. In general, her rules were:

  1. No snacking between meals
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Fresh, organic, seasonal and local items are preferred
  4. Eat small portions
  5. Only eat until you’re 80% full
  6. Watch the sugar intake

“I eat everything. I eat a great many vegetables, fruit, and…um…otherwise, I eat meat and fish and all those things. I like chocolate and sweets but they are not good for my skin I noticed, so I can’t eat very much of them.” Audrey

While Audrey ate everything, I on the other hand, am mainly vegetarian (and sometimes vegan), so I will be making some adjustments to suit my own dietary preferences but still stay close to her diet.

Snacking: “Don’t build this bad habit!” Audrey says. Yes ma’am. This one is also difficult, but I’m going to make a conscious effort to avoid snacking.

Drink plenty of water. This has been a struggle for me for ages. I know I have to drink more. I just hate spending so much time in the bathroom! This is the month to get into the habit though. Being properly hydrated is very important!

“It isn’t very interesting to eat something that is completely white, so it also can’t be that good for you.”  Audrey

My meals normally include fruits and vegetables, so as long as I don’t get lazy, I’ve got the colour thing down!

 

“She was crazy about the pasta, she would eat it almost every day. Her absolute favorite was spaghetti with tomato sauce. She could live on that alone.” Luca Dotti

I’m always tempted to buy pasta for my meals, however I am not entirely sure that it’s a healthy thing to regularly eat! I believe her pasta addiction appeared when she moved to Rome, as I haven’t seen mention of pasta in earlier accounts of her diet. Although I will include some pastas for dinner occasionally, I won’t be eating it all day every day! As for tomato sauce… I was raised on a lot of spaghetti with tomato sauce and now as an adult am taking a long hiatus from that particular combination. However, seeing as it is my month living like Audrey… I will make an effort to include it in the menu. In fact, I started with a pasta lunch today so we’re off to a good start!

“She was very strict. When it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, her feeling was, you should take your time for meals and stop what you are doing.” Luca Dotti

Sometimes when I’m eating, I do so in a rush, standing at a table, or eating while working or watching a video… but for this month at least, I will stop everything when it’s time to eat, and focus on the food. This is actually a healthy practice. According to some studies, we tend to over-eat when we aren’t paying attention to what we’re doing… if we’re eating while watching a movie for example. When we slow down and enjoy our food and eat mindfully, we don’t over-fill ourselves.

On Sundays, Audrey would have breakfast in bed, with “homemade madeleines, quince jelly, or cherry jam, along with toast, coffee, milk, butter, a small rose from the garden in a tiny vase, and on the side of her tray the International Herald Tribune.” according to her son, Luca. I may not do this, as it’s my Sunday habit to go to Lake Shrine temple and then have lunch with a friend, but perhaps I’ll find a day for it! And I’ve got her recipe for madeleines in Luca’s book, Audrey at Home!

One of the most specific menus I’ve found for Audrey states that for breakfast she would have a glass of water, 3-4 cups of coffee (with hot milk… cafè latte… café au lait), 2 hard-boiled eggs, and a slice of 7 grain whole-wheat toast. For lunches she would have either yogurt or cottage cheese with raw fruits and vegetables, and for dinner she would have a meat and cooked vegetables (Good Housekeeping, 1959).

 “I don’t like fancy food at all. I much prefer an extremely simple meal that’s exquisitely done; a perfectly cooked steak, a beautiful salad, some raspberries.” Audrey

Simple and easy, just how I like it when I’m cooking at home! However, when I go out to eat… I love finding things that I would never take the time to make for myself!

As for her daily meal plan, I will be following this with some adjustments. I tend to prefer fried eggs, sunny side up, so that I can dip my toast, so I will most likely continue doing that on most days. However, I will hard-boil some eggs as well. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but for you, Audrey, I will try a cup in the AM. With soy, almond, or coconut milk though, since I try to limit my dairy. For lunch, I will have yogurt or cottage cheese with fruits and vegetables. I’ve already started doing this, and it’s quite pleasant. I like the predictability and not wondering what I’m going to make for lunch. I’ve purchased various brands and flavours of yogurt, and have found some vegan options as well. As far as I know, there are no vegan cottage cheese options. For dinner, I will be replacing the meat with other sources of protein (although I might occasionally have fish).

“I have seen her resist the most tempting dessert to guard against one inch more on her extraordinary size eight,” friend Radie Harris

I have a confession to make. I am a fruit tarte addict. I love desserts. Love love love. However, I have been watching my processed sugar intake and will continue to guard myself against it this month (and moving forward). If Audrey can do it, so can I.

“Chocolate was my one true love as a child. It wouldn’t betray me. I’ve always said it was either chocolate or my nails in those years. There was a lot of anxiety.” Audrey

Audrey also loved chocolate, but she managed to discipline herself and have only one square a day. Personally, I’m addicted to my homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and I’m going to limit myself to one a day as well. Oh this will be hard!

I think perhaps chocolate is my replacement for nail-biting as well. I think I only managed to stop shredding my nails in my mid-20’s. These days my nails are doing well, thanks to my ever-present nail-file, but those peanut butter cups go fast! Not this month, however! *sigh*

However, there is a glimmer of hope for me…

“Mr. Ferrer was a little fussy about food, but she ate everything and always wanted to experiment. For a tiny woman, she had an enormous appetite. I really doubt those bulimia or anorexia stories. She loved to eat, and they had all kinds of things with butter and cream. They liked chocolate soufflé, roast duck, rich things.” Florida Broadway, her chef for 2 years.

Apparently dessert wasn’t always off-limits. Big sigh of relief!

I’ve read some conflicting things about her eating habits, including this story of her lunch with Sophia Loren that perhaps took place during periods of her life when she was having problems with anxiety. Because of the war, her relationship with food was greatly affected. Audrey tended to eat less when she was under a great deal of stress (as is my own tendency as well, so we’ve got that in common), but we are focusing on her healthy habits right now, and emulating them!

“I associate food with happy times, primarily because those times when I was unable to eat were so miserable. I guess in some convoluted way, I’m afraid if I eat when I’m sad, I’ll be feeding the sadness.” Audrey

I’ve also heard various things regarding alcohol consumption. Mel, above, mentioned only the occasional glass of wine. However it seems that later on, she did like some whiskey, as her friend John Isaac told me. And to quote from a recent Facebook post of his (got to show my sources, right?!):

I told them a story about how Audrey Hepburn and I used to have a swig from my whiskey flask while we were in Bangladesh. And one time I said to her that it is only 2 O’clock in the afternoon and should we have one for the road?  She said to me, “I am sure it is 6.pm somewhere in the world” John Isaac

As I said, we’re being a bit picky-choosy here and following the healthy habits, so drinking and smoking are not on my to-do list!

Once a month, at least later in her life, Audrey would go on a detox. She would drink a gallon of water, and for meals eat yogurt with grated apples.

“She did it once a month, but usually to get over a jet lag, because you feel bloated after many hours sitting on a plane. … Like a lot of people, she was coming back from trips in Africa and was exhausted — this would help with that.” Luca Dotti

I’m going to pick a day to do my detox and do the same, with or without jetlag, although perhaps I will make it more routine to do an Audrey-style detox after my long flights.

So I think that about covers the diet part of this challenge! Stay tuned for Part 2…

For more references on her diet, please check out the websites below:

Everything Audrey – Audrey Hepburn Diet Rules

Everything Audrey – Anorexia?

Rare Audrey Hepburn – I eat everything!

Audrey Hepburn Diet in a Day

 

 

Not the Next Audrey Hepburn

So, back to Africa!

Here is where I admit that I adjusted to Africa like my dog would adjust to swimming in the ocean. Which is to say, you toss her in and she gets out as fast as she can (or she’d probably drown). It appears with a quick Google images search that there are no other Yorkies that enjoy swimming in the ocean either.

And I feel terribly guilty about it. Not throwing my Yorkie in the ocean, but how I handled my time in Africa. The people were wonderful, and it was amazing to experience something so different from my own life, but it was way outside of my comfort zone. Yes, that’s partially what draws me to foreign lands… a chance to get out of my comfort zone, to stretch myself, to humble myself, to see things rather than to just hear about them… but it’s not easy. I’m like a new pair of toe shoes that needs to be worn in. I’m stiff and shiny and I need to be bent and softened, cut and beaten down a little bit before I am ready for use. Before God can dance in me.

I would love to react to life the way Audrey Hepburn did. She was always thinking of others first, it seemed, and wouldn’t mind her own discomfort. Of course, she grew up during World War II and had a mother drilling into her that “others matter more than you.” I’m sure she handled Africa much better than I did. Though, to be fair, she did request to have an air conditioner shipped to Africa during the filming of The Nun’s Story, and also that “quarantine laws in the Belgian Congo would be waved for [her terrier] Famous […] and most important of all, that a bidet would be installed and waiting for her… It was probably the only bathroom fixture of its kind in Central Africa at that time.” (I read this ages ago and found this particular reference Here)

Mr Famous in Africa
Mr Famous in Africa
Having fun!
Having fun!

The above photos are from the Leo Fuchs gallery.

I, however, did not have a bidet or my Yorkie. So perhaps Miss Hepburn’s trips to Africa were slightly more comfortable than mine. I did my best, but I felt that two weeks was enough to experience major culture shock and not really get acclimated to a new country such as Ghana. I admit that my own discomfort really took over my thoughts at many times. Many, many times. But what drove me crazy about that was knowing that many, many people have traveled to Africa, have lived in Africa, spend their whole lives in Africa… and probably do it without complaint. I mean, I’m just assuming. Maybe I’m being hard on myself. I don’t know. I can adjust to things. It doesn’t mean I like them, but who says you have to like everything? Perhaps I was just not sufficiently mentally prepared for this.

I knew there would be no running water in the village. I knew the internet situation may be sketchy. I was prepared to bend the rules on being vegan or vegetarian. I was not exactly prepared for other things, however.

I haven’t known exactly how to approach all of this in a blog post. To me, it was another world far from my own. To those who live there, it’s life as usual and people seem generally content. I don’t want to gloss over my experience there and only share the positive, fun stories, but I also don’t want to focus only on the negative points. Because it’s a completely different culture that I’m not a part of and won’t completely understand or agree with. To me, it’s shocking to see the living conditions of some people, and I feel the urge to change things. But I don’t know what it’s really like to live there, or if they even want to change. I’m sure there are aspects of my own culture that Ghanaian people would witness and say “that’s terrible!” and they would be right. We all have things we can learn from each other, and ways we can help each other. This could be it’s own topic….

That said, let’s move on. I’m going to just start with some of the things I wasn’t prepared for. 🙂

I rode in this way too many times.
I rode in this way too many times.
Oh my gosh, a TV in the trotro!! Now where's my seatbelt....
Oh my gosh, a TV in the trotro!! Now where’s my seatbelt….

Transportation. I actually did not get a photo of the exterior of the trotros, which are large white vans that can seat over 20 people inside. They go down the road in set routes, with the mate hanging out the front window making signs with his hands to tell people along the road where they’re headed. You hop in and pay about 25¢ for a ride.

From the junction near our town, we would get a taxi (see above). Several of them would line the street, waiting for either enough people to fill it up, or someone willing to pay for all 4 seats. Somehow, most of the time we got a taxi, it was the one above. The inside was terrifying. You could touch the rolled-down window through the inside of the door… because there was no inside of the door. I don’t recall if it was this particular taxi or another one, but I’m pretty sure there was a jug of gas with a hose stuck in it on the floor of the passenger side. Every time we’d pass a sign saying something to the effect of “slow down! 12 people died here” I was pretty sure they were talking about a trotro accident.

The issue here seems to be that cars are imported to Ghana, and a heavy tax is levied on them, making them unaffordable to most people. So they wring every last bit of life out of the cars they have. Even if in the US, they wouldn’t even be allowed on the street. Here, apparently, if it starts and you can still move it… continue on.

According to Road Safety Services, a few of the major causes of road accidents in Ghana are, in fact:

•    Most accidents are caused by broken down vehicles on our roads.
•    It appears in Ghana there is a leeway for drivers to drive on worn/second hand tyres.
•    The unworthiness of some cars on our roads also invariably leads to road accidents.
•    Over-loading of vehicles beyond their expected gross weights is a known cause of  accidents.

And according to Irin News:

Road accidents are among the top causes of death in Ghana, with malaria, diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases, according to deputy director of the Ghana Health Service, George Amofa. Road accidents kill more Ghanaians annually than typhoid fever, pregnancy-related complications, malaria in pregnancy, diabetes or rheumatism.

Eek.

At The Department of Social Welfare
At The Department of Social Welfare

Sanitation. I don’t know why I thought nothing would be different. Sure, in the US and in France you run across the idiots who pee in the street or don’t wash their hands, but I was practically in shock here. Men, women and children used places other than covered toilets to relieve themselves, and don’t seem to see the importance of washing their hands after. I witnessed a small boy at the marketplace casually relieving himself on the ground not far from where food was being sold, and the toilet above was found on a visit to the Department of Social Welfare, with a little sink out in the hallway. Toilets in this part of Ghana seem to be treated the same way as kitchens in Paris – an afterthought.

I got a lot of use out of my organic, lavander-scented hand sanitizer spray on this trip, and cringed inside every time somebody wanted to shake my hand. I loved the children and let them touch me, but I also knew that they probably hadn’t been washing their hands either. I’m not a mysophobe, I swear, but I must have seemed like one. Even with all my precautions, by the end of the trip I suffered mild diarrhea and major stomach pain during my flight home. I’m better now. But so many people are not as lucky.

According to UNICEF:

In Ghana, diarrhea accounts for 25 percent of all deaths in children under five and is among the top three reported causes of morbidity…. Nine million episodes of disease could be prevented each year by washing hands with soap.

Ghana Business News adds with a quote from Mrs. Theodora Adomako-Adjei:

“In Ghana it is even critical because most of us like eating with our hands, because of the type of dishes that we cook. So when it comes to handling food we use our hands a lot. Secondly, surfaces [transfer] to palms a lot of germs. It can be a door knob, even our computers, the ATM cards…people use their hands a lot so there is the need to create awareness. Look at the food that we eat – fufu, kenkey, banku and all those things – we don’t enjoy eating with fork and knife, so we have to eat with our hands – therefore we have to keep the hands very clean.

I’m really glad to see that there are efforts to promote hand-washing. Global Handwashing Day has even been established by GlobalHandwashing.org. It’s just one of those things I never even thought about… I naively assumed most people knew you get sick less often if you keep your hands clean. Even last year I learned my lesson once more. After months of winter illness, I started carrying hand sanitizer and not touching anything on the public transportation. Add to that a morning smoothie, and I have not been sick in over a year (though there was the one time I fell ill from lack of sleep). Sometimes I forget that we are not all aware of these things. Heck, there are still things I could learn.

European supermarkets rock.
European supermarkets rock.

See all that fruit up there? That was not to be found in Ghana. Apparently I’d missed mango season so really all I had were tiny bananas, avocados, apples…mmmm am I missing something? Oh, some papaya but I really don’t like papaya so I couldn’t finish it. My friend had told me diets were different here, but I thought really… so close to the equator… there wouldn’t be tropical fruit to eat? I’d find something. I was a little wrong. I am realizing my love of fruit is so strong that now I’m researching tropical paradises I can live happily ever after in. Kauai?

Ghanaian cedis - I'm rich!
Ghanaian cedis – I’m rich!

 

In Ghana, I’m rich. Fair enough, I understand. I do earn more than most of the people I met. But the cost of living is much higher in the US and EU. And right now I would not be considered rich in either of those places. lol But in Ghana it was assumed that I am rich, and that prices can be higher for me. I suppose it’s like that anywhere for a foreigner…. the other day I bought a little toy from a man outside of the Pompidou Centre and we got to chatting… he told me that he sells the toy to Arab tourists for 10€ because to them it’s nothing. It’s all relative. I don’t mind so much when I’m buying bananas or some fabric, but when they want to charge you oohhhh like, 500% more to enter a fort and then the equivalent of $100-$200 to take pictures…. I’m wondering exactly how rich they think we are.

I'm so whiiiiiite!
I’m so whiiiiiite!

I’m white. And that’s weird. lol. There is no walking around unnoticed. Even in my nice new dress.

Yep, still white.
Yep, still white.

I love that dress. The niece of a friend of my friend made it for me from fabric I’d bought at the market. Other than that dress I wore for Manon and couldn’t keep (it was a costume), and my “Belle” Halloween costume when I was about 12, I think this is the only time someone has ever made a dress specifically fit for me. I usually buy second-hand. But anyway, yeah, there’s just no blending in. You’re white, and you’re rich. Get used to it. 😛

Now we’re moving into the cool unexpected things… 🙂 I mean starting with that dress. I’ve even worn it out in Paris, and I’ll wear it out in L.A.

Still white.
Still white.

Water… baggies. What do you call this? This is pretty cool.

Why didn't I take a better photo of these?
Why didn’t I take a better photo of these?

 

OK, I’m going to say it, still a little unsanitary because you have to bite it to open it, but if it’s fresh from the bulk package, it’s cool. What I think is great about it is the reduction in plastic waste. Sure, you still see a ton of them littering the ground, but it’s probably better than a lot of water bottles littering the ground, right? And think of what you can do with these things. 

Trashybags.org is even doing what I had been thinking about as I stared at all the bags along the streets and outside of the villages – collecting the bags and upcycling them.

Sorry to go back to the negative zone, but this does bring up the issue of trash collection in Ghana. I found an article focusing on waste management in Accra here, if you care to read it. In the village I was at, there was no trash collection, and in my meanderings around the community center I stumbled upon a trash heap (on which someone was, er, squatting, to top it off….). Walking along the beach, I would see buried trash beginning to peak out after a high tide. I didn’t take a photo but I found one online to illustrate:

Under the sand...
Under the sand…

Anywaaaaay. Since I knew where all my bags would end up, I decided to take most of them home with me. I’m using one of the bags as a soap holder, and the rest are awaiting inspiration.

Moringa seeds!
Moringa seeds!

I’ve been learning about natural cures (specifically in the tropics but some apply anywhere, you can learn more at anamed.net) and one powerful plant seems to be Moringa. It grows in Ghana! In fact there was a tree right behind the community center. Sadly, the pods were very dried up and the seeds didn’t look so good, but we did find some in Cape Coast!

New food!

Yummy stew
Yummy Ghanaian stew, on a Parisien stovetop.

I was taught how to make a certain veggie and fish stew that I found tasty, and it’s been my easy go-to meal to make since I’ve gotten back to Paris. I’ve had to adjust because of differences in the availability of ingredients (those whole cooked fish, not sure where to find them here. Short grain rice? Seems different in France…) but I like to have this new African dish in my recipe book.

mmmm palm wine
mmmm palm wine

Seriously. I’m going to start hacking down palm trees when I get to L.A.

Obama biscuits. Yes they can.
Obama biscuits. Yes they can.

I don’t think I actually ate any, but I’m including it here because it’s funny.

I forget what this was called but it was tasty. :-)
I forget what this was called but it was tasty. 🙂
Talapia. I even tried to eat the head.
Talapia. I even tried to eat the head.

I believe this was the first time I’d ever eaten a fish that still looked like a fish. And I’d do it again. So un-vegan of me….

Well, this blog post has taken hours, and I should start packing up my things for another move this evening.

In closing…. I’ll say of course there is more to say about Ghana… good and bad. It was my first time in Africa, my first time in a really, truly completely different culture…. I was almost going to say “I hope in some ways it’s changed me for the better,” but then thought how self-centered that seems to me… what I really wish is that somehow I could have gone and returned having made someone else’s life better. But perhaps it’s just given me things to think about, and a better idea of what I can be a part of in the future to make someone’s life better. Some sort of reconnaissance mission, in a way. There must be a better phrase for that. But I think with first-hand experience it helps one to understand the world better than you can simply by Googling things (duh). And some day the pieces of the puzzle that you’ve gathered simply by being open and curious will come together and help you fulfill your purpose.

I’d like to leave you with one of Audrey Hepburn’s favourite poems (and one of mine, too) by Sam Levenson…

audreysomalia

Beauty Tips

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.