Saturday, January 1, 2011

Volta trip #2 and Benin

Volta region was so great I had to go twice. This time we hit up the bat caves and climbed up rocks and down ropes into small rock caves in the side of a beautiful mountain that housed bats flying around our heads. Very fun. There were really no safety regulations and at one point the trail on the side of the mountain got so thin I slipped and almost fell off the mountain. I caught myself on a thin wire that had been strung from tree to tree. Close one.

We also went to Wli waterfall which was gorgeous. We stayed in cheap hotels and hitchhiked with a rich Ghanaian man from Vermont who kindly shared with us his philosophy on life. He drove a truck so we were squeezed in on eachother's laps but it was free! He took us to the Tafi Monkey Sanctuary and we spent the night there and played with Mona Monkeys in the morning before riding back.

The Last month:
Classes picked up regularity and everyone as studying for finals. Most classes could be studied for easily in a few days by reviewing class notes and readings. International students got to take our exams earlier than the Ghanaian students who may still be taking them as I write this blog. Most exams were essays that were very open ended and seemingly easy. It is hard to tell because I never did get a grade back all semester so I have no idea if my quizzes, papers or finals were written in a way that fits with Ghanaian grading standards.

We traveled to Togo another time to try and extend our visas but were sent away bc we had got our visas at the Togolaise Embassy in Ghana instead of at the Togo border. They wanted us to pay all over again and we wouldn't have it. We needed the Togo visa so that when we went to Benin we could just drive through Togo but I am glad we didnt get our visas bc when we did decide to go to Benin we had so crazy fun at the border.

We go to the border, Ghana side and Togo side, filling out forms like pros. The togo border guy sends us past the visa check line to the desk where we are supposed to pay for new visas but when we get there the desk man looks at our old visas and sends us through without a word so BAM! We are in Togo as illegal immigrants(with stamps) and we didn't have to pay for a new visa! We also got through the health services check point by shuffling our 2 health cards among the 3 of us. BOOM. We felt so cool which was just magnified by the Togo tradition of buying a Fan-extra frozen yogurt and riding on the back of a moto-taxi to the market. We got really good deals on taxis to Benin. Benin was also a French colony and their French is much easier to understand. Their taxis are miserable because the driver waits until his car is packed with 2 people in the front and 4 in the back. After many hours our taxi comes to the city of Ouidah, the voodoo capital of the world. Our driver took us past where we told him to turn and attempted to drop us off at the Museum of History. When we said " NO, take us back to the visitor center" for the 7th time, he drove us straight to where we wanted to go and said we owed him more money than we had agreed on bc he drove us in circles. Jarett, like a true Ghanaian, argued until both were shouting in that distinct fake-angry voice. A Beninoise man crossed the street to get involved and Jarett explained in his best Ghanaian English to the bystander that we were being ripped off. A few minutes later and the taxi driver goes his away and we go to the visitor center without being gypped. This was typical for almost every moto or taxi ride we took in Benin. If I had been by myself or if this were the first trip of the semester I would have been very upset- but by this point it was all a game to be enjoyed.
We spent the night on a straw mat in an upstairs room after getting dinner in the city square. It was very french-looking with cobble brick streets and people all around. We went on a search for fan-extras and found the headquarters. We went to the Benin Museum which was an old Portuguese slave fort which housed the first church in Benin. So crazy to me that Christianity and slavery came together. Portugal and France fought for power and presently the religious make up is Catholic and voodoo practiced simultaneously by many. We went to a python temple and I could understand the whole tour given in French. There was one building that was just a big snake pit and they woke up a few of the sleepy snakes for us to hold :)

Ready to see another city we took motos to the nearest taxi stop which turned into a big fiasco. The taxi men were all trying to push us towards their own taxis and the moto guys were telling all the taxi drivers that we owed them money. One man told us to get in his car and he would work it out. He talked to the crowd then came back over to ask if the moto men had taken us to the beach. We told them our side of it and sort of let them duke it out in the local language, occasionally shouting "fraude!" or "cheat" out of the taxi windows. It was a lot of fun. That man settled it and all the moto/taxi men drove away laughing.

Next stop: Possotome- a river village with natural water springs and beautiful beaches. This small village was a massive contrast to the larger city of Oiudah. The people there were SUPER nice charging us a third of the already reasonable price to camp and to learn the local fishing techniques. Out on the lake the fisherman ride in small wooden boats and use long sticks to propel the boat by pushing off the mud of the river-bottom. To fish you take a huge circular net and you loop it around your hand and spread your fingers through the bottom of the net before you fling it out in the the water where it hopefully unfolds into a nice wide circle. I wasn't that good at it and I almost fell off the boat throwing the net :) We didn't catch anything because it was Sunday and as our guide said "all the fish are in church!" The boatmen told us a local hippopotamus legend and that was pretty cool to hear in French and English. We headed back to shore and ate cheaply from the market up the road. There were a lot of kids swimming on the dock so we sat and tried to talk to them in broken French. They were all Evangelical Christian but their community had many signs of local voodoo protection so I assume they practiced both. They were playing a game where one kid would hold his breath underwater while another kid turned an empty 2 liter upside down until the breath-holder surfaced. The were competing to see who could hold his breath longest and using the water level of the bottle to measure time- Pretty creative, huh?

On the beach we practiced handstands and attempted flips and learned how to climb coconut trees. They got some down for us and we ate while unfolding our tents. The stars were beautiful and the night was warm. We had two bottles filled with the local tap water and I put iodine tablets in to purify them. My pills to neautralize the iodine flavor had gone bad but I didn't notice until I had already put one in. I drank some from that bottle and had horrible diarrhea and vomiting for the next 3 days. So if I look skinnier- that's why! PS. it is NOT fun to travel sick while traveling on public transport. We made it back eventually but it was a hassle stopping to relieve myself at random towns in crappy bathrooms.

The last week in Ghana was so good. I felt so immersed and practiced in the culture. Mo and I spent some of our last days going to the local wood markets and using amazing bartering skills to get many masks and other gifts for home. I saw him off at the airport and it was so sad after which I got the first taxi back from the airport for FIVE cedis, which is a great deal. The driver was the nicest I had ever driven with and I felt so happy with Ghana. The next day I went to Makola market with Jarett and Anna Rose and bought the Ghana jersey that I have been searching for all semester and some cheap Adidas tennies.

On my last day, I wrapped up my internship and got a certificate that was really nice except that it read " this certificate certifies that Caitlin Stevens has completed his internship..." SO close.... I brought my roommate, Tsugumi with me and I think she wants to work there in my stead. It was her birthday and we spent the day together getting all my classes stamped and eating together. I also stopped over at Sala's house and I gave her all my extra stuff and a little money. We went to the night market and bought 20 pencils to give out the the market kids. They were so happy it made me sad. I wish I had done things like that a lot more often. I gave my cell phone to my favorite fruit seller, Grace, and she introduced me formally to her mother and they all were blessing me for the gift which was small for me and huge for them. I said goodbye to friends hoping I would see them again and wishing them the best on all their adventures.

Apparently reverse-culture shock hits the immersed the hardest and is best avoided by anticipating the return before it comes. That would have been nice to know :/ Being back in the States is strange. I love variety of food and hot showers and driving but I miss spicy food eaten by hand and tro-tros and cheap travel. I have learned that our culture isn't all that superior to theirs. I have learned that "shoes have nothing to do with happiness." That having internet doesn't necessarily make you more efficient or less bored. That having less than enough money may be healthy for an individual. That hot weather is way happier than cold. That freedom and justice and morality are not values owned my America. That dogs will be as you raise them. I am glad to have had the opportunity to go to Ghana as a student and I am glad to be able to graduate with some of my best friends. It is a huge shift and while I will miss Ghana and all the adventurous times I had there, I know it is because I was blessed there and that this time has been to open me up and teach me to feel much more free to chase my dreams and adventures with a hopeful and carefree spirit.

This has been my experience abroad. I hope you have enjoyed this peek into my time as a student at the University of Ghana. Thank you for letters and kind words and for giving me another incentive to record my trip. As they say in Ghana: All the best!

The End

Shai Hills and Northern Ghana

Shai Hills is a national park an hour away from campus. We caught a tro there and it started raining as soon as we got to the main office. When the rain left two huge baboons came out from the woods, the female baboon had a baby clinging to her underside as she walked. We fed them bread and started our hour tour following the baboons and their clan. We fed them chocolate crackers and it was so crazy to be that close. The babies stayed away and jumped from tree to tree often times falling off branches. Mind blowing. We left and waited about an hour to hitch a ride with a passing tro. Great day.

Jarett, Anna, Mo and I head out again to make our longest trip through the North of Ghana. We decided to ride Mass Transit buses up. The bus we got smelled like insecticide and cockroaches were crawling all over our seats. Disgusting. I just tried to sleep through it. A girl brushed one out of my hair. Definitely the grossest thing we encountered. The 5 hour bus ride took way long than scheduled and we waited in Kumasi for another bus. Kumasi is a lot like Accra but the population their is mainly Muslim. From that bus we barely caught our transfer- running to catch it. We ended up in the city of Larabanga and we stayed at a lime green house owned by the Salia brothers. We wanted to see the local mosque that is said to be the oldest in Ghana. (
Unfortunately, the villagers were fighting with each other over who could accept our tour money so we were not allowed to see it.

We rode motos to Mole National Park and took a walking safari in hopes of seeing Elephant. We saw monkey and antelope but no elephant. Sad day. The monkeys were a let down after Shai Hills and the antelope are like deer. We did go up to the staff quarters and hang out with the kids up there who had warthog walking their streets and monkeys eating their left-overs :)

We spent that night on Mr. Salia's roof and left the next day traveled to Wichau Hippo Sanctuary. The kids entertained us while we waited for guides by teaching me their language and showing us how to roll metal bike-tire rims with a stick. They really liked posing for pictures and I will post mine soon.

We took a ride to the most remote city we had been to and took pictures in the sunset. We then hiked 45 minutes with our guide carrying our mattresses on his head and stopped at a tree-hide that was about 30 feet off the ground. From the tree we could see the Black Volta River and while we slept we listened to the hippos slip in and out of the water. The next day we took a boat out and I took on the job of emptying the boat of the rising water with a half gourd. We spotted a hippo and boated next to him as he swam up stream to 3 of his friends. We couldn't go close but it was cool to see their heads and ears pop up above water.

We caught a tro-tro back to Wa and Mo and Jarett rode on top of the car. I was super jealous. At Wa while waiting for our last bus home we saw a local mosque and took off our shoes to go on a full tour of the minarets and go up on the roof. Our tour guide didn't speak any English and he hobbled around showing us every room and flicking the light switches to show off their electricity. I really enjoyed it.

One more bus ride all night long and we were back in Accra once again. The buses kept playing horrible Ghanaian movies that you couldn't help but watch- sooooo baddddddddd. The actors are just horrible and it is quite funny. Best bus ride of the trip was from Upper East to Upper West. One guy was standing in the front telling jokes to the whole car and he would sit down and collaborate with his friends before standing up and telling another. It was great.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Western Ghana Beach trip

My Dad wants me to finish up my blog but considering I didn't write for the last 2 months of my stay in Ghana it could get tricky. I've decided to give lots of detail instead of a massive sum up but to lessen the load of a long blog by dividing it up into 3 sections. Here goes:

Part 1/3 Green Turtle Lodge
Mo and I traveled to the western part of Ghana with the final destination of Takoradi. Jarett and Anna Rose were to follow on his motorcycle the next day. Mo and I were a bit excited to attempt the confusing travel route without our expertise leadership of Jarett. It took all day in vans of various sizes and with the help of a innocent small girl named Sophie we found a bus rather than a taxi to the the Lodge. We gave her some coins for her help. As her friends came up to sell us berry tea in bags we declined. Sophie, seeing this, offered us our coins back to buy the tea at which point her tea-selling friends smacked her in the back of the head saying "Sophie!" It was adorable.

From Takoradi we took Sophie's tro-tro to The Green Turtle Lodge which you can check out here: This eco-tourism lodge was started by a young British couple that works to do research on the sea turtles there and be an environment friendly tourist stop. The beach was unbelievably beautiful like some kind of Corona commercial. Locals walked by with buckets on their heads. One child picked up her small pup and placed him too on her head. We camped in mattressed tents in an open building for 5 cedis a night. Did you catch that? A honeymoon type location on a secluded gorgeous beach for 5 CEDIS A NIGHT! Staying in a lodge house was only double that price. I always imagined a place like that costing an arm and a leg and here we were. I didn't bring enough money so we had to scrimp our funds and find cheap food at the local village until Jarett and Anna Rose arrived. We walked 20 mins to the village and a young boy said he could take us to buy rice. His tour lasted 15 minutes as we crossed a bridge and walked through the mud houses of 3 villages catching sights of puppies and bathing children all excited to see us. That walk was maybe one of my favorite memories. The food was great and cost us only 60 pesewas (42 cents). That boy Joshua also gave us coconut to eat and we bought whole pineapple to eat on the beach later. AMAZING.

Mo and I were a bit worried when Anna Rose and Jarett didn't show up and when we got back to the University having only spent 40 cedis(29$) each on our 3 day trip we found them bruised and bandaged from a motorcycle accident. They were fine and we had fun making fun of Jarett's shaved eyebrow and quasi-modo like bruise. We weren't the only ones to have fun-Ghanaians were extremely curious about his bandage and people he didn't know would constantly cross the street to stop him and ask "OH sorry! What happened to you? Weren't you wearing a helmet?" Eventually Jarett stopped leaving his room because that small village custom of knowing everyone's business still very much exists in the big city of Accra.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10-15-10...didnt get to post this till today


The 2 month mark has been passed! Lots has happened. Here goes. I seem to be posting once every 2 weeks. I know it’s a lot-Space it out!

2 weeks ago:

The weekend before last Jarret, Mo, Anna Rose and I went to Togo. And it was awesome. Togo is on the Eastern border of Ghana and things are a bit different there. You tro-tro 3 hours, wait in line and fill out repetitive forms, get your visa checked and BAM! You are now in a whole new country! Togo’s streets are beautiful. You won’t see any curbside gutters, which makes it so you rarely smell that septic smell so present in Ghana city streets. You need to go somewhere? Flag down a motorcycle taxis and whip out your best French skills because Togo is French-speaking and they have CRAZY amounts of motorcycles filling the streets. While walking on one block around 7pm I counted all motorcycles that passed and I got up to 53. Yea- Sweet, right? It is the best feeling in the world riding on the back of one in the sun with the wind in your face. Look to the right and what do you see? Only a white sandy beach littered with Palm trees, fisherman and naked children. We had a great time, much to the fact that we were generously hosted by Sean’s couch surfing friend Kokouvi. One of the highlights about Togo was the food. God bless the French for croissants and bagettes…Real bread, mmmmmmm. We also got fresh healthy hamburgers and crème cakes. Yum!
Ohhhhh I forgot about the Fetish market in Togo. Fetish markets are for local medicines and magic. Like local voodoo. They have little wooden dolls and leopard skins and dog/cat/bird/alligator/monkey heads, porcupine needles (for asthma), dried lizards, a gorilla foot (to help you be a better goalie), ostich and elephant foot, sea turtle head, bulls heads. CrAzY stuff. Kinda gross. We got to meet the voodoo priest and our tourguide explained a lot of local beliefs. Really interesting.

Last week:

I finally got to interview with the microfinance community development NGO that I was interested in. I start that on Monday and I am a little nervous about traveling independently even though it is super easy to get to. I really hope that this will work out. I have felt restless because this has taken so long to get set up and I have felt a bit disappointed because the internship was one of my main prerogatives for this semester.
Day after my interview: I flew to AMERICA!!! My beautiful Mom and Oma picked me up from the airport and I spent the next few days eating glorious American food and hanging out with family in preparation for my brother’s marriage on that Saturday. The rehearsal dinner was great and everyone got up and told stories about the couple. Oma’s was my favorite I think. Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves and I loved it. The wedding was beautiful. I was a bridesmaid and I cried like a baby up there. The sermon was solid and the ceremony was brief. The organ filled the wooden church with music and I was overflowing with Joy when they walked down the isle as man and wife. That whole 3 days was a whirlwind. I am so thankful that I got to be a part of Luke and Anna’s wedding ( I even got to sign their marriage contract as a witness!) and I am so thankful that I got to see so many friends and family at the wedding. Family from Canada, Michigan, New York, North Carolina all in one house at times .
It was strange to be back in the US. In some ways I prefer Africa. It was a lot to see so many people at the same time and to try to answer the question: “How’s Africa? What’s it like?” I try but I think it is one of those things that you really have to see for yourself. All the quirky differences are nothing when you live somewhere. It is all normal. I find it interesting how little we know about other cultures. Even here in Ghana many Ghanaians I have met have never been 3 hours to visit Togo. They think they won’t be able to communicate and they have no desire to visit. In my mind I feel sorry that they will never ride a moto-taxi, play on those beautiful beaches or eat that great food. Same with Americans, like me before this semester, who have no idea about Africa: there is so much goodness missed out on when all we think about Africa is a tribal National Geographic episode or a Compassion commercial. I didn’t even really care to travel all that much before now but I am glad I came somewhere so unknown as Ghana and so mysterious as Africa.

On arrival back to school , I felt weird about being in the US. In some ways I prefer America. It made me homesick pretty bad for a few days. It sucks that I can’t live two lives at the same time. It sucks that I have to miss out on my life there to expand it here. The visit from school friends on Sunday was so great. It made me want to call home more so that when I get back there isn’t a question of how I am doing or where I have been. It is so hard to communicate it all at once. I love those girls. On the plane I opened a second packet of love letters from friends (and Grace) in the States who couldn’t visit but wanted to send a word. Reading so much love for me was unbelievable in some ways and I am extremely blessed to have it even if I don’t deserve it. I think that’s what made me more dissatisfied with Ghana on second arrival-the reminder that I have so many people and responsibilities and an impact back home. Here I still feel like a visitor and not one who really gives back all that much. I hope that my internship changes that.
One thing to readjust to is the inefficiency of time. Teachers are still on strike and I think they are meeting today so decide whether to end it or keep going. It is pretty perfect for me because I didn’t miss any class while traveling home. We are still guaranteed credit and most of my classes are still meeting for the international students. I still have a history test tomorrow. Blehhh.
There is a 13 year old girl whose house is right next to my dorm and we play soccer with her a lot. We have been calling her Sarah. She kept asking to come to my dance class so I picked her up before class. She loves me. I know because she wrote me a note telling me. It also had 10 sentences about giraffes and monkeys. :D. So, I take her to dance and on the way I find out her name is Salamat, shortened to Sala, NOT Sarah. Hilarious. My deal with her was that she could come but I had to be able to see her at all times. She loved watching the circles of movement and the singing of songs. She wants to join next week so I am going to bring her a white shirt so that she will fit the dress code. At the end of class the drummers got up like they usually do and corner different T.A’s who show off their moves. Then the drummers turned to students and a few got up to show their stuff. Sala wanted me to dance. I said no. The drummers moved towards different white girls and they kept shying away. I thought in my head I would bring the chicken wing to Ghana so I jump down, shake around a bit and next thing I know- I am doing the coffee grinder. They absolutely loved it and went crazy yelling and it made me laugh inside. Ahhh good day.

Water was out in the dorm again so I just bathed near the spicket that works 24/7. This week we have had a lot of time to practice hand stands and steal couches from the TV lounges for our rooms. We are lazy so we take Jarett’s motorcycle across campus to the internet café. I have also been treating everyone to my huge suitcase full of about 35 lbs of All American goodness. Macaroni and cheese mmmm, oreos mmmm, chocolate bars mmmmm. We made oreo milkshakes the other night. Our blender was broken so we put the cookies in a zip lock (also from the US) and banged it around on the floor. We fine crushed by rolling my Peanut Butter over the chunks. The boys churned FanIce vanilla and chocolate and we stuffed ourselves with way too much sugar when it was done. It still feels like summer here. I wish the pool was open on Sundays. The pool has unbelievably high diving platforms. Higher than 50 feet for sure. I really want to jump off the highest but the ladders up are roped off. Hmm… One day…..

Update on the Rasta school for poor kids:

Sean has gotten really close with the Rasta guys and he volunteers there a lot. The people that were letting the Rasta’s use their shell-of-a-building have decided to recommence building so the school no longer has a building. Sean got together with the guys and they bought some land a mile down from the previous building. They have begun building and in a month they should have a school building of their own. Rumor has it that Sean is paying for it all out of pocket. 1,000 US is the estimate cost. Great kid that Sean. One of the coolest I have met by far.

Love you.


Ps. I have been really bad about sending letters and postcards and I feel bad about it. So don’t be mad. I wrote like 5 cards but they got out of date real quick. So who knows….I’ll work on it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random Update!

After my last posting I went to check on Sean and I ended up taking him to the local clinic. Checking him in I learned his last name for the first time which was so odd considering we had been friends for a month already. It was a fun experience seeing the place and chatting while waiting. He stayed overnight and now he is better.

Since my last posting I have traveled yet again, this time to the Volta region which makes up the lower eastern border of Ghana during which I:
saw Lake Volta
saw the hydroelectric dam that powers the country
had Mona monkeys climb/jump onto my arm and eat bananas from my hand
climbed the tallest mountain in Ghana Mt Afadjato
marveled at the beauty of mountains
swam in Adagbo Falls waterfall-indescribable
stole a shiny rock from the shore
went to a small town's Dubar festival
ate local banku
ate local bushmeat called Grasscutter-which looks like a beaver-groundhog mix
weaved some kente cloth
made a batik fabric with wax stamps and dye

Amazing right?? It was a great weekend. Unfortunately, my camera battery died before I could take any pictures so I have to rely on my friends photos to aid my story. Here is a link to some of Christine's facebook photos but idk if it will work for you :

Since that trip I have stayed here for the weekends. Gone to big markets, gone to the pool, gone to dance shows. My friend Jarett got a motorcycle this weekend and I got to ride on it for 5minutes yesterday. woohoo

I wish I had better internet/phone linkage back to the US. Mail is so slow. I have written postcards but by the time I mail them they seem so out of date. Mo figured ou that he can take videos and post them to Youtube so maybe he will let me use his camera and I can put up some videos. I come home soon for Luke's wedding and I am excited beyond belief about it.

I had my first test yesterday night in History of the Black Diaspora. It was on about 20 pages of reading and I think I did really well.

I have 6 blisters and 20 mosquito bites.

This weekend I am going to Togo the country East of Ghana. Since they are francophone I am now going to study up on french travel phrases and relearn my verb conjugations.

Au revoir mes amies! Je t'aime. Tu me manque.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Poker & Malaria

We have a small group of people who are interested in playing poker and surprisingly, I am the only girl I know who knows how to play poker and enjoys it. Yesterday, we finally got a game going with a 5 cedis buy-in. We made "chips" out of paper. After 2 hours of play, non other than yours truly won the 20 cedis pot. OH yeahhhhhhhhhhh. :D
You have taught me well, family. I think if I keep this 20 and use it to play poker with for the 4 weeks to come I can get a good income going here.

Two of my friends have malaria. That will be 3 ppl thus far who have gotten it :Megan, Sean , and Bjorn. I have been taking my pills religiously so hopefully I wont get it. I haven't seen Bjorn yet but Sean is fine he is just feeling like he has the flu. 2 weeks ago I took a malaria pill without water and laid down to take a nap. SO dumb. You are supposed to drink plenty of water but I was out and you are not supposed to lay down after taking the pill, which I know now. My esophagus was sore for about a week and a half and every time I swallowed the food/water would just get stuck on the way down. Breathing was uncomfortable sometimes and I was burping a alot. I got worried about it when it didn't go away but as of today I am 100% better.

I am going to go check on my sick buddies and do some reading.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cape Coast Weekend Extravaganza

Independent Travel Adventure 2

Cape Coast is a cool city about 4 hours to the West of Accra. They were having a festival this weekend and we wanted to see it. My travel buddies had been the week-end before but decided to come again bc of the circulating rumors that there was going to be a bull sacrifice. Also, it was Mo's 19th Saturday and we wanted to go big.

Saturday morning, Mo (Texas), Jarett (Tennesse), Anna Rose (Wisconson), and I packed up our book-bags and signed out of our dorm for the weekend. We walked to the main road and hopped on connecting tro-tros for 3 hours costing us about 4 cedis. Right before we reached the last station the tro could barely make it through the streets for all the people marching in the road. One group was pushing a huge paper mache whale through the streets and squirting water on passer-bys. We get off the tro and almost immediately we see some people carrying what looks like a tub full of a bull's body-SHOOT. So we kinda just walked against the massive crowd staring at these random groups of people wearing the same color (red or green or blue or black) that were dancing and playing trumpets and following or carrying some type of chief looking person, who was identifiable by all the bling they were wearing. Kinda weird to just watch but we weren't about to dance like crazy with big book-bags on. Also, Cape Coast smells like poop so you don't really want to stand still.

We eat at this cool beach-side place and wait about 40 mins for food and 10 min for the check. 4 cedis. We ran into a lot of kids from our school and left our left-over food to the lingering kids around the table. This one kid kept doing eye-brow raises back and forth with me and it was hilarious. We heard rumors that the president was coming in 20 mins. Mo and I decided that meant he wouldn't be there for at least an hour so we went to the Cape Coast slave castle.
This castle is so cool. It is made out of some white rock in Portuguese style and it has old rusted cannons lining the walls with piles of rusty cannon balls all around. There were 2 plaques at the front chamber: 1 plaque of apology from chiefs of the Ashanti tribe who acted as African agents to European slave traders and 2 a plaque comemmorating the visit of Mr. and Mrs. President Obama. I went down into this dungeon where the men were kept. No light. Small rooms with cobble-stone floors. There were chalk lines 1.5 feet off of the ground to show how high the human waste had reached since prisoners were not allowed to go to the bathroom anywhere. We saw a priest guy do a prayer and a ritual to honor the dead. That whole experience was very surreal. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for those men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. So many people shuffled through small cargo chambers. We walked to the top of the castle towers and that was strange too. What was it like for the people who ran this place? Did they feel guilt for what they were doing? What about the religious people? Did they even think they were doing something wrong? I kept thinking about the Holocaust the horrific ability of humans to blind themselves and dehumanize others. It also made me think about some current economic practices that are still in effect because they render profit even though they paralyze the lives of people. I don't want to be blind.

The view from the top was beautiful. You see the fancy buildings on the left, and as you sweep right you see the crowds of people, the slum buildings, kids lifting a weight bar with cement blocks on the ends, puppies wrestling, the boats on the shore, kids playing in the waves, and rocky coast and the ocean. We saw the President Atta Mills' crew drive through the streets.

We call Anna Rose and Jarett and find out that they got seats next to princes and chiefs-SO COOL. The prez was no big- it's not like we understood a word he said and it started to rain so we just left to catch a ride to the forest. We get a crazy good deal on a taxi to Kakum National Park and it was super dark by the time we arrived. Luckily, we are able to find someone to pay for a campsite and we follow him through the forest as he marches forward with a mattress on his head. We post up on a little covered platform and a malaria net. We walked down to the the center and since no one was at the canopy walk gate and it was 9pm, we snuck up the trail with our flashflights. Amazingly, the lock on the canopy walk was still open so we did the canopy walk in the pitch darkness! Jarett and I are like giddy kids, Mo is meowing to woo out some leopards, and Anna Rose is freaking out with her Wisconsonite accent. I just put my arms up and loved my life in that moment. So yea, I spent the night in the wild African bush. No big. ;) I didn't sleep all that much bc of all the insects and animal that screamed like a small child every so often. GREAT DAY.

The next day, we ate breakfast at a Rasta guy's coffee shop. We ordered egg sandwhichs and then he left to go to the market to get the ingredients. Needless to say, we waited a looooong time. It was okay though because there were 4 adorable kittens to play with. Okay, maybe they were skinny and dirty but they were still kittens and they were desperate for some loving and some food. We got a cocoa fruit from the street vendor kids. Cocoa fruit is yellow and the seeds inside are covered with a starburst flavored goo that you suck on. In the words of my friend Sean, "It will change your LIFE." We saved the seeds to attempt homemade chocolate.

I got to do the canopy walk in the sunshine and it was unbelievable. I was on top of the world. You are walking on a shaky board that has a rung ladder thing underneath it and is supported by ropes. The boards are strung between tree tops about 200 ft off of the ground. Hard to describe. Most people were clinging on for dear life but I was totally trusting in that rope and I just danced my way around the trees thinking about Tarzan. I think that view is better than a mountain top, and that is saying something.

On the hike back I picked up some Palm wine. This stuff is made locally and it tastes like Smirnoff Ice but better. They chop a tree down and let it ferment and then drain it. All natural, baby. On the way back to the city we caught a free bus ride with some high-school teachers who explained that the festival was a way for all of the people of Cape Coast to remember where they came from. All the chiefs come together to talk and celebrate a good year. We said good bye to our friends and slept our way through our last 3 hour tro-tro ride home, occasionally buying snacks from the street sellers, passing coins and food through the van windows.

Fantastic trip. Everything just fell into place the whole week-end. If only gas was this cheap in the US... in any case I am not afraid to travel anymore (well, mostly).

The End.

tidbit about this week since I am already on here:
Went back to the school Tuesday and gave the kids books and pens. Made dinner for Sean's birthday and had a cake!!

Alrighty, folks. Enjoy your days. Appreciate all the variety in your diet. Appreciate fast food and toilet paper and fresh air. Get out there and leave it all behind sometime.