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.


Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm alive!



Topic 1: Ghana church
I have been to two churches thus far. This past week I went to the interdenominational church on-campus and it wasn’t as fun to describe so I will pick the first church I went to. I went with Christine to a family friend’s church called Vinyard Chapel that took about 30 mins by taxi to get to. The building they meet in is still being built so it is a bare frame of cinder-block and a few ceiling fans hooked up. There were about 500 people there all dressed up. We came in for bible study and everyone was in in groups of 30 going through a booklet from Assemblies of God that I was very impressed with. Announcements in Ghana include the tithe and giving counts from the previous Sunday. They also drone on about every possible meeting time and include lost and found shout outs- haha. Worship had a full band and a choir. Everyone was so excited to get up and sing and dance- I loved it. I was just taking it all in as they sang songs I didn’t know. They did Worthy is the Lamb and it was a really surreal experience to sing such a familiar song in an unfamiliar place with hundreds of strangers. It moved me a little and I found a lot of refreshment in that moment. As worship went on, I knew less of the songs and I am pretty sure they weren’t in English. Overall worship is very celebratory. You don’t see a lot of somber or serious faces. No one looks like they need to be convinced that God is real to worship- it is more like everyone, man and woman, has been waiting all week to come together and sing and dance up the isles and raise their hands and wave their handkerchiefs. It is pretty great. Sometimes I wondered if they were just getting caught up in hype but that was generally during the songs in which I couldn’t understand them so I would say they were legit.
The sermons was –eh. At the beginning, the pastor asked us to stand and introduced us to the church which was cool. I mean, it was pretty obvious considering we were the only white people in a crowd of 500 but still. I think my favorite part was when everyone was told to greet their neighbor and so we kinda marched around to the music and sang and shook hands and smiled at everyone. It was super friendly and zero awkward. I always find that part kinda weird in the U.S. Not to say there wasn’t any awkwardness. After service one man told us to save ourselves and marry the church and by that he meant marry a man from their church. I had to tell him that I was already married to the coconut guy. SURPRISE!

Topic 2: Marriage
I am married! Here is how that went:
Me: Thanks, this coconut water is great. Hey, will you take a picture with me?
Coconut man: Only if you marry me.
Me: OK.
Coconut man: Let me see the picture… ahhh we make a beautiful couple!
Done. Who said it was hard to find someone? Come to Ghana. Mo got a serious offer from the lady who is doing his dreads. She brought her daughter over and said, “This is my daughter. Will you marry her?” I think they were a little offended when he laughed.
The guys here are so forward and extremely persistent. Here gender roles are very strict which I think adds to the pressure for them to pursue girls. I have also learned about thing called “stretching” that Ghanaian girls do where they will turn down a guy even if they like him. This process can go on for as long as TWO YEARS! Thanks girls. Now no one believes us when we say “Really, I don’t like you.”

Topic 3: Short hair
Great decision! Thanks everyone for encouraging me to go for it bc I love it here. I wake up and put some water in it and go. I can also throw my head out of the taxi anytime I like and not worry about my hair getting messed up. Yessssssssss… Bjorn says it is very “exclusive and cute”-ahhh made my day.

Topic 4: Dance
Dance class is pandemonium. I am in a class of about 150 people. When you get there this sweet old man with a cool cane stands up and says stuff you can’t comprehend and then everyone starts singing and you kind of just have to catch on and sing back. One song goes: Key-key-re, key-key-re, jo ja jo jajajaja, O-my-ooooooooooooooooooo O-my-ooooooooooooooooo, O-my-o O-my-ya O-my-ya O-my-o. It is so great to sing crazy loud with so many people. You fade into the crowd and it is once again a lot of happy people dancing and singing. It isn’t very hard to pick up but the movements are so repetitive you are bound to run ragged eventually. It gets really hot and with so many people you can just see and smell the sweat everywhere. There are about 12 TA’s in the class and I think they have more fun than we do. The old man gets really excited and kinda fist pumps around the room. I think it would be more fun if I were in there with some friends. Also they can shake their butts amazingly fast. They break into solos sometimes and dance up towards the drummers who are also super happy and they kinda shake around to the beat and everyone screams and laughs. Haha

Topic 5: Outings
I haven’t traveled a whole lot but I went to this beach with 7 friends by tro-tros and taxis. In the middle of these street towns with goats and chicks running around we found a compound from our guidebooks called Big Milly’s where we stayed overnight in a bungalow for 6 cedis. It rained about 30 minutes after we got in the water but it was still a great trip. We played cards and complained about the price of the food compared to campus. We made friends with a wild dog and a kitten who we shared our food with. The compound put on this drum and dance show for about 3 hours. The whole local town came out to watch and I enjoyed watching the locals as much as I did the show. That was the first adventurous trip I have done outside of road trips in the U.S. and I loved it. Yea it wasn’t the most comfortable and it was a little scary navigating a place you have no idea where you are or what ppl are shouting but it was really exciting and I felt accomplished after it all. Travel in the US will be nothing after this. I love confidence!

This past weekend, my program group of 3 (Christine, Jessica and I) went by minivan again up to the mountains. It reminds me so much of Honduras. We went to the Aburi gardens and it was so beautiful. I tried to take pictures but when trees are that big there is just no way to capture it. There is a tree there that has been there since at least 1875. It was massive. Some of the roots were 15 feet high alone. I touched it in hopes that some magical tree wisdom would pass to me. They had all kinds of trees that they let grow naturally. I saw Cocoa and nutmeg trees and I tasted the bark of cinnamon, and smelt the leaves of barley, and all spice (which amazingly smells like a pumpkin pie-SCORE). The coolest thing by far is kinda hard to describe but it is worth trying. Okay, so there are these parasite vines that attach to trees and root in around the ground of the tree to steal nutrients. The vines sort of hug the tree and shoot up above it to steal the sunlight. Eventually the vines spread all around the tree and starve out the host. I got to walk inside this one Parasite tree that had been going for about 30 years and its host tree had deteriorated inside so it was hollow. Looking up, it was a twisting tunnel with holes all around. Mmmm

We stopped at a street market and I bought a lot of cool African masks at a street market for super cheap. Score again. It is hard to shop in places like that bc everyone is so desperate for you to buy something. They also work all day and hand-make all their awesome stuff so I want to buy from them. One guy gave us 3 small masks for 8 cedis (about $5.50 US) because we were done shopping but he said he needed to eat for the day. I just felt kinda sad leaving there. I wish there was a universal market where awesome hardworking skilled people could compete. That feeling hits me a lot. You see street acrobats and entertainers that will just rock your socks off for free and ask for donations. They may get like 14 cedis from the crowd but I know that I could pay 15 cedis myself to see a circus show with the same amount of talent.
We left from there to see a bead village that exists by handmaking beads from bottles and I got some cool beads. Once again, very hard workers.

This weekend there is supposed to be a huge festival in Cape Coast which is about 4 hours by tro-tro. I have heard rumors of a bull sacrifice and there is a national park where we can go on a canopy walk. 3 friends and I are going to venture out with our guidebooks and make a trip of it . I have mapped out my weekends and there is little time to do all I want. Togo is yet to be visited and there is a huge national park in the North called Mole where you can see wild elephant. My program has scheduled a trip to the East where we will hike and go to a monkey sanctuary and a kente cloth weaving village. WHERE AM I? Monkeys and elephants? Awesome.

On the smaller scale of outings there is Reggae on the nearby beach every Wednesday. I go occasionally but I can only handle so much Reggae. People love it here. You see guys with dreads wearing green, yellow and red all the time. They will fist pound you and bring it to their hearts, saying “One Love” and you just feel so cool and ridiculous.

Topic 6: School
Classes have started and I am taking:
African Traditional Religions
Introduction to Drumming
Traditional Dance
International Organizations
Political Economy of African Colonization
History of the Black Diaspora
The class sizes are pretty big and classes meet once a week for 2 hours. I like how the professors are usually 15 minutes late. A few classes are really great and epic feeling because the prof has a beautiful voice and they want to challenge us. Other classes you have to fight to stay awake in. Those bad teachers will dictate notes to the class and it is like the students don’t know how to take notes bc they write every word down. EVERY WORD. If you really listen the teachers usually only get about 4 points across in 2 hours. Daghhhhhhh I am getting really good at dots.

Topic 6-part B
I volunteered at a school in a nearby town called Adenta. The school has about 30 street kids in it and it was started by 3 rasta guys about 5 years ago. I there is a picture of me teaching on facebook. I walked into the 4 room concrete structure and was told to teach. The girls I had were 10-16 and I taught them from their book about poultry. This one girl Joyce asked me to give them quizzes. So I gave a spelling quiz and a sentence dictation test. It was cute to see how thirsty they were and how they shared their paper and pens. We read for a long time and I had them switch off every once in a while. At first I thought they were a bit slow but then I realized that English is their second language in most cases and I was impressed. 3 hours later they gathered with the Rasta guys and said the Lord’s Prayer, sang a song or two and ranout screaming and asking for candy. I bought some books and pens to bring back. That day was one of the more spiritual experiences for everyone.

Topic 7: Poverty
It is such a weird topic. What we would call poor is so different from what they would call poor. A lot of it is in perspective. I like the simplicity of the typical people around. Who needs 30 pairs of shoes, really? When I went to Honduras in 2003 I thought everything was so sad subpar. When I drive through a hut town now watching kids without shoes kick around rolled up plastic bags I am not sad. There is still joy. Now, obviously intense poverty is still sad but generally when I meet “poor” people I am talking to hard working ambitious positive people and there is little to pity.

Topic 8: Daily Life
Daily life is chill. I hang around with kids from ISEP (international student exchange program). I hang out Americans generally, with some Europeans in the mix. We play soccer or Frisbee and as of yesterday we registered to go to the campus pool. WHOOP WHOOP! The pool has a 50 foot or higher diving platform that I am pumped about. The other day we managed to make Ramen with a plug-in plastic kettle and a pot- that was exciting. I play cards and read on the lawn. I wash my laundry by hand. I drink tea. I walk to get food at the market. When the power goes out everyone gets together in the courtyard and plays games. We got a movie disc from the market called “Super Epic Film Series No.2” and we watch movies from that, crossing our fingers and hoping that of the 30 films they have- the good ones will be in English. There is a lot of down time but not a lot for internet. I went about 2 weeks without it because the connection as soooooo slow it generally wasn’t possible to find time to post when it takes so long to check email and facebook.
I call home and think about my friends and wish that I had their phone numbers so I could call them. I am not homesick anymore. Friends here helped a lot. It is weird though to be here. Everyone thinks it is weird that I had long hair. Generally, they aren’t ever going to visit my family. We will never know each other’s hometowns or group of friends. It is so weird when your environment does nothing to define you. I would say I have definitely adapted to Ghana life and I am happy to be here.

Phew that was a lot. Space it out. I may not post again for a while ;)


Friday, August 13, 2010


To follow up from the last blog we got back at 4:15 from our meeting the other day. Boo-yah! Total of waiting hours for the day= 3 hours. I am going to take up knitting.

Onto the good stuff! I went out for the first time 2 nights ago. In a group of 12 we taxied to Osu Street which is like Hillsborough St for Accra. To take a taxi you have to wait for a little car with 4 orange corners to come by. Then you point to the ground with your right hand which means you want to do "dropping taxi" which means they drop you off at point b without picking anyone else up on the way. You have to barter before you get in or they will rip you off. I tried a Ghanaian beer called Black Star and I thought it was pretty good for a cheap beer. We sat at little plastic tables outside of a store so I guess that was a bar?? Anyway it was nice to get out.

I felt so homesick the past few days. I hate to say it bc it has only been one week since I left and I want to be more independent than that but I am not. The reality that I was coming here was so distant even as I was on the plane out but it has settled now. It is a huge shift to go from always being around people who love you to always being around strangers. Talking with others, I am not the only emotional person here. Homesickness is supposed to get better the longer you are away. I have found that chocolate, prayer, and watching The Office with a friend is the best remedy(no matter how guilty-pleasure/western it is :) haha) I kinda gave myself a peptalk and thought about how missing home so much is the result of being so blessed at home. I also thought about the nature of adventures being conflict and that they don't feel so adventurous when you are living it. (shout out to Donald Miller's book: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

Yesterday was a big turn around. I am excited to be here again. I met a girl named Vlasta from the Czech Republic and helped her find things on campus. Instant friend. Bjorn the hilarious, huge German guy is a good friend now. He likes to call me Queen Elizabeth. I met about 15 new people playing games at night and laughed like crazy. I think my favorite thus far is a Texan friend named Mo. His parents are from Lebanon and he likes soccer and conversation requires zero effort. Finally!

We have no schedule this weekend and I am so relieved. Sunday I am going to church with Christine and Jessica and some locals that Christine's family knows. I can not wait.

And a shout out to everyone back home. To family that supports me and makes me laugh. To friends who know how to make me smile and who throw parties for me. I love you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So Mom wants me to put my daily schedule on here. Which is funny bc 1) that is a very cute mom thing and 2)I don't really have a schedule.

For example today:
Last night, Gaby(our grad student tour-guide/friend) tells us that Dr. Akotia will be back on campus tomorrow and would like to meet with us. She has something that should be over by 11 so Gaby said he would come by ISH and walk over with us at 10:30. It should not take long.

7am Wake up naturally. Force self to sleep more.
9am Get out of bed. dress. go to the bathroom (not forgetting toilet paper). brush teeth/wash face. decide shaving is too dangerous here :D
9:30 breakfast at hostel kitchen
10:00 take malaria pill. read bible a little bit, clean up room, put on sunscreen followed 20 mins later by deet.
10:20 hear jessica say that Gaby will be late. Play soccer in the courtyard with 7 yr old Justice (son of the cook). get all sweaty.
11:00 leave ISH. walk 15 minutes to Dr. Akotia's office. 1 hour meeting to address any registration issues we have encountered.
...after that it gets a little muddy. We went to the bookshop twice for some reason- 1.5 hours. We walked for 10 minutes to a pizza place and waited 30 min for 2 pizzas. At this point it is 3:00. carry pizza back to eat while watching a movie. hungry.
3:15 Gaby needs to stop at the bank. Wait outside for 10 mins. soo hungry.
after practically running back to the Hostel we eat at 4. watched UP.
5:00 felt homesick. go to internet cafe.

We don't really know our schedules for the next day. It always takes 45 minutes longer to leave in the morning for some reason or another. We always walk about 5 miles from 10a-3p. Even if there was only one thing on the schedule. We go to get food when we are hungry and wait a long time. Little stops here and there take forever. When they said the concept of time was different here they were NOT kidding! Even the internet is slow-haha. I think 20 people have come in here and asked about wireless internet only to be told that they should come back tomorrow. suckerssss... better get used to it.

Registration was yesterday. We brought passport photos to each department. Looked at which approved courses we had were actually offered this semester. Found that class times would not be posted till Wednesday. Walking to 7 departments takes a lot of time (5 hrs). You COULD use a map but it is not to scale so... We went to the mall by tro tro and I waited 10 minutes in the checkout line. Back at the hostel we sat around with kids from all over and talk about registration- our program is good so we share all the info with the students who came without a program.

Sunday we didn't have the opportunity to go to church. We were to be picked up by a guy named Wisdom and shown outer parts of Accra and the port city Tema. Tema is full of big trucks and transport bins. Not quite sure why they wanted to show us that but we did get to stop at a place on the beach for a few minutes and he showed us the point of 0 degrees latitude. SO COOL.

No one rushes here except the taxis. Everyone just kinda mosies(sp?) around. This is the first day we have watched a movie. We are usually so tired that we nap for an hour or so and hang out around the hostel with residents. There is a market right outside the hostel that we go for 1 dollar dinners.

Tomorrow we have a group orientation from 9-11. Then Gaby will meet us at 12:30. Medical meeting at 2. 5 bucks says we won't be home till 4.

Right now things are so slow bc we are not in classes yet. They start on the 16th. Apparently some professors don't start the first few weeks but there is no way to know so you just have to go and see. Dr. Akotia said that once we are fully registered we can talk about options for internships. YESSSS I can't wait to have a schedule and to know my way around.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kwame Nkrumah and reaction to Discomfort

Okay so this guy, Kwame Nkrumah (said Kwamay Enkoma) is super famous. I went on a tour through his memorial site and it gave me a lot to think about. He declared Ghana independent in 1957 and he was the president from 1960-1966 when he was overthrown by a military coup that was funded by the CIA. ouch..... This guy was amazing, he was all about uniting Africa and making Africa for the Africans. He built major highways and even made a 1/4 of the parliament for women. We Americans were threatened by a united Africa. We were threatened bc the West had businesses and companies in Africa and we didn't like that Nkrumah was so close friends with Communist nations. So we pay some militants.

I feel very irritated with that and I know that Ghanaians do too. In America, communists are viewed as evil. They need to be dealt with or they will corrupt the system. But I think it is all a facade. Communism threatens the wealthy who love the capitalist system. It demands sharing of wealth. Or you hear that communism just doesn't work and it infringes on the individuals rights which seems quite true. So why interfere when a country seems to go that way? Is it possible that America simply cared too much for this developing nation to let it go down the path of communism? I don't think so.


How many actions are based on profit alone? How about in our own lives? When people here ask me for money a few thoughts run through my head:
If I give to one, I will have to give to all and I can't afford that. I need money.
They may not use it well.
Just don't look at them and they will leave you alone.
I have been convicted of these thoughts recently. When I trace them to their start I simply don't want to share. Last night I read the first 7 chapters of Matthew or so. Take a look and see how the poor are to be treated, see how money is to be viewed. ( I am to give to those who ask of me and trust in God's provision. What harm can $1 or less be to each who asks? Jesus calls for compassion not sacrifice. I am to look at these people. I am to see them and have compassion.

Ghanaians are friendly people. I wonder if I were black and dressed poorly if the treatment would be the same. Or is our friendliness directly realted to how much someone will benefit us or how little someone will ask of us? I know that I naturally smile and look at the people who will not ask me to buy something. I have been convicted in reading Matthew and by seeing by own discomfort with others instead of what should be love. At the trade market today I made myself look at everyone I passed and to address them directly even it if was only to say "Hi! No, thank you. Have a good day."

I don't feel like I am here to help or teach these people. I feel like they are teaching me.

Friday, August 6, 2010


i just wrote so much and then my hour of time ran out and I saved it but it is gone.

take two!

Okay. I am in the 24-hour internet cafe for our dorm. It is 1 cedis per hour which comes to about 80 cents. My computer is a super old school Samsung and this one is pretty fast thankfully. There are "internet cafes" all around campus but that typically means a little room with about 15 computers where 12 work and 10 have mouses( mice?).

I have learned much in the past few days. Christine, Jessica, and I have been guided by Gaby on how to get a taxi and how to use transportation around. Yesterday we rode a tro-tro to the Mall. Which means we hopped into an old stuffed van and paid 1 ghana cedi (80 cents) till we stopped at a point and crossed crazy traffic to get to the mall. The mall is crazy big and very nice. Prices are surprisingly high. 2 teflon pans go for 80 cedis and one bed sheet was 17 cedis! I got a soccer ball pump for 11. I also got a cute little phone for 19 cedis so that I can call my director or Gaby or text a friend if I need help. Learning the transport, where internet is,and having a phone really has given me a sense of empowerment here.

I felt very fearful the first few days. I had heard so much in terms of security and that I should be wary of friendly people. HMMM. How then does one make friends??? After a brief cultural orientation I was told that greeting each other is a way of life here and that little truth has relieved so much insecurity. Those faces before that were blank or staring now turn to toothy grins when I smile or nod or wave (with my Right hand of course) and mumble out an attempt at the local greeting: Itesen! (Which means "how are you.") The response is usually "aya" which makes me laugh because it sounds like "HEY YA" from the OutKast song.

Food here is fantastic. They eat like farmers which suits me just fine. At breakfast Dr. Akotia told an Anansi story and it made my day. If you don't know about Anansi- He is a clever spider famous for his shenanigans in old folk tales throughout Africa. Ghanaians like to laugh. Especially when I say "medasi":thank you.

I have about 15 mosquito bites which is a good amount. It is hard to resist the urge to scrath. I rigged my net up nice so hopefully from now on I will be good.

The weather is best described as beachy. Gaby says it never gets below 20 degrees Celsius. Heaven. I wore shorts today for the first time. Most Ghanaians wear jeans, slacks or skirts. They also take very good care of their possessions probably bc every nice thing is super expensive. I did get 4 passport photos for 4 cedis though. ohhh yeaaaaaa

Today's highlight: Singing Hakuna matata super loud on the road back to the hostel.
Funny tid-bit: They call the International Student Hostel : ISH. Like how Americans say "Don't give me that ish!" When they are trying to avoid saying sh*t.

Today we ate dinner at the Nigerian food place on campus. (Campus is humongous by the way.) The wait was only 30 mins for food which isn't bad here. At one restaurant I waited 1 hour for my food at which point they asked me to change my order :) Patience is a virtue here. The Ghanaian food is way better than Nigerian food. A typical meal is rice, fried plantains, chicken/fish, and a spicy tomato sauce. The sauce makes my nose run but it is good.

One shocking thing from today was meeting the son of the Nigerian cook, Kofi. Gaby introduced us and Kofi was sooo cool. Mom, you would have loved his clothes rack- it was beautifully organized ;) His room was small but he had a sound board, a guitar, a mac laptop and desktop screen and a big camera for videography. It was the nicest stuff and his internet was crazy fast. He was really fun to talk to about music and he said we could all come and record some music sometime. I am hoping that I can buy a uke or a guitar and get lessons.

I also met a guy named Richard Nordi and he is the darkest person I have ever met it is so cool how many variaties of skine tone there are. Amazing. He talked with Gaby about 9/11 and conspiracy theories and not liking George Bush and about the trinity too. He said he saw God in a dream and he was surprised bc there were 3 figures. He said he only recognized Jesus"because I had seen the picture" but also God the Father and the Holy Spirit were there. It was funny that no matter where you go NOBODY understands the trinity. He goes to a Pentecostal church and he said he could take us there someday. Don't worry Dad. I won't go alone and I will get a more in-depth background check than the one I have before I go anywhere. There are churchs on campus so I will check those out first. Almost everyday a church is meeting or having a conference on campus and you can hear the worship from almost anywhere. Ghana is %60 Chrisitan.

Check it out real quick so I am not your only resource:

There is much more but that is enough for now.


Caitlin Stevens
room #20
International Student Hostel 1
University of Ghana
West Africa, Ghana

Send me something. I can't be the talker all the time. Yea, it might take 3 weeks to get here but I promise to send you something back so it will be worth your while.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hello from Accra!

I made it! Flying was amazingly easy and I really enjoyed it. Clouds are so beautiful, especially at sunset. As soon as I passed through security I found another student from my program, Christine Crowther, so we traveled together. I sat in seat 14b and thought about LOST as the plane began to move and the safety instructions scrolled on the screen. On the flight out from Dulles I sat next to a girl from UNC.

Linda Passah picked us up at the Accra airport. A beautiful woman with a pretty African dress and tiny dreds. Walking around I didn't hear much English. The ride home was fun. Beautiful paved roads with people on the street-side who walk by and offer goods when traffic stalls. The women had huge bags and trays balanced on their heads. I want to learn to do that.

The student hostel is a big hollow rectangle, with a beautiful grassy lawn in the middle. I will post pictures when I figure out how. There are a lot of other international students here about 6 that I have met from California. We don't have permanent room assignments yet but we did get a little bucket full of things to get us started. Buckets for bathing, a soap dish, plates and cutlery. They held up a mini bucket and laughed when we said we didn't know what it was for. Apparently, the shower water does not come from overhead and sometimes and you have to collect it in the big bucket and pour it over yourself. They don't have heated water or AC. I don't think I will mind.

We just had a great meal for $2 and now we stopped to get on the internet for an hour. Gaby is our tour guide and I am really glad we have one. We met a friend of Gaby's named William who went to NCSU College of Textiles. We did the wolf pack sign to each other. YES! Walking through campus the ground is a orange clay, the trees a deep green, the sky bright blue. Little white birds stand out against the backdrop of the trees. The people are all dressed nicely. The air smells a bit like copper. I like it here.

That's it. I am safe. Now you know ;)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hey Everybody!

As you know, I am studying abroad at the University of Ghana for the Fall semester. I am following orders and making a blog so that whoever is interested can read what I have been up to. Disclaimer: I do not promise to be deep or exciting.

As of right now, I am finishing up packing and having a sleep over with my little sister. I think I should have read more about Ghana because right now I feel like I have no idea what I have gotten myself into.

A little back story:
I wanted to study abroad but I probably would not be unless I had switched majors into International Relations where it is a requirement. I wanted to go to Ghana because it was a little out of my comfort zone. Europe would have been great for political involvement but right now I think I want to work more in the international development field so Ghana seemed like a great place to go to learn about successful modern development. I wanted to go for the summer and visit Togo and Benin because I am minoring in French and I thought it would look good on my transcript that I had spent time in a francophone country. So I applied for the summer trip and with the help of great letters of recommendation I got in. At the pre-trip meeting I felt weird as we went over a fully-loaded itinerary. I felt like one month abroad, no matter how much was squeezed in, would not really give me the experience I wanted.
A week later I was talking to Nick Yelle who had been to Ghana for a semester and when I mentioned wishing I had applied to the semester program he arranged a meeting for me with Brooke Ashley the coordinator. She graciously allowed me to submit an application. Many weeks, letters, meetings, and phone calls later I finished the application and more weeks later I received my letter of acceptance from the University of Ghana.
It has taken a lot of work to get to this point and I have had a lot of help along the way from teachers, co-workers, advisors, friends and family. I can remember 3 times where I felt like it was impossible to complete it all in time and praying to God that He would help a disorganized, scatter-brained kid do something like this and here I am.

So thanks to everyone who helped or encouraged me when I felt like giving up. I may not know exactly what I am getting myself into but whatever it is: I am jumping in. I am determined to get the most out of this amazing opportunity.

I'll miss you America. Ghana here I come!