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!