Jan
30

Bring it on, French.. Let’s Do This.


So…. As most of you know I am currently learning French, so that I can actually participate in life in this great francaphone country. I think it is important to gauge a person’s  starting level when attempting to delve into a new language. Before deciding to move to a francaphone country,  my command of the French language was limited to that scene with the French chef in the Little Mermaid. The one where is chasing Sebastian, the crab around the kitchen. I think he says a total of six French phrases in that scene and I knew three of them. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you can click the lovely link to the song and scene below,  courtesy of You Tube.

link  to song –> The Little Mermaid, Les Poissons

Thank you, Disney, for my totally useless introduction into the French language (unless of course I need to talk about how much I love fish, then I am set!) So far I am finding the most difficult part about mastering this language is not the words themselves, but the pronunciation! Oy. Everything is in the nose and throat. I have, however developed a very nice French accent when speaking English. I think I accidentally picked it up when talking to French people who speak English… now if that  was an marketable  skill, it would be AWESOME. But alas, it just makes me sound like an idiot with a fake french accent. I am using a great method for learning a new language. It is an online site called www.livemocha.com. It is kind of like Rosetta Stone, but online and doesn’t cost $250. It also provides an online community of people who are also trying to learn a language, be it English or whatever, and you can converse with them. Very cool, I highly recommend it. My friend, Boris, who has been a guardian angel providing me with a place to stay and community of people, has a friend who works at UNICEF here in Cotonou. I met her at the gym the other day and she said that there is a position opening that I may be qualified for, but I need to speak French.  So I am working on it ASAP. Wish me luck!

Jan
29

Good-bye, Ghana… Bonjour, Benin!


Last Thursday I packed my two suitcased, taught my last class at Naa Kordey Memorial Primary and headed to Accra to board my  bus to Benin.  It was really hard for me to say good-bye to my students, but to soften the blow, I left each of them with an American coin. I had so much random change in my wallet when I arrived and no Forex would exchange it all, so I figured this was a good way to use it. The kids LOVED it, and kept asking me how much each one was worth. By the time I had to leave, I said good bye and they were so entranced by money that they hardly cared I was leaving, LOL. Thank goodness kids are so resilient.

Then I bid farewell to the school’s youngest pupil, Emanuella. She is four months old and stole my heart… I can’t wait to see how much she has grown when I come back to visit.

Early the next morning, I boarded the ABC Transport bus for the nine hour ride across Ghana, Togo, and into Benin. I purchased  my Benin visa last week to avoid problems, but yours truly didn’t think about the fact that you have to go Togo  before reaching Benin, and I did not get a Togo visa. (Go me, really smart.) I have also heard and read really scary stories about bad things that happen to people at borders in Africa, like their things get taken, they get robbed, passports stolen, etc. Thankfully we had a personal bus escort who was there to help me get through at the border…(as  you are about to read, this did not prevent my own momentary nightmare.)

So, we get to the Togo/Ghana border. And the escort lady asks me to get off the bus. Me, alone, no one else. I guess that I was the only person that did not have a Togo visa. So we get off, and I leave everything on the bus except my passport and money. She walks me to the border control and I apply for the visa. She waits for me to finish and the bus drives through the border and stops a bit  down the road so we can catch up. THEN, after I get my visa, she says, “Give me your passport for safe keeping, people will try to take it from you. Walk to the bus and I will meet you there.”

She walks away, and I turn to walk to the bus. I look around, left, right, the bus is GONE. Like, nowhere to be seen. Then I turn to call to the lady and SHE is gone, too. (mini panic attack starting…) So I start walking down the road and a man walks up to me and asks me, (in French, because Togo is also francaphone) where I am going. I told him I was looking for the ABC bus. He smiles and says, “Ok! come, I show you.” Whew, ok. Then he gets on a motorcycle and motions me to sit on the back. I tried to explain that the bus should be close by, but he insisted that I should get on so I did… We drove along the beach highway, and the farther we got, the more nervous I became. I started screaming at him, “Turn around! Go back,” But he wouldn’t… it was about then that my life flashed before my eyes.. here I was, NO passport, NO phone, speaking basically NO French.. I kept thinking, “OMG, I am going to be one of those missing person’s that becomes a 30 second segment on the six o’clock news back in the U.S.” As I was imagining my demise, a woman that I recognized from Accra pulled up on the moto next to me. She waved and said, “ABC this way! Come!” So basically the bus had driven 7 frickin’ miles down the road and the “escort” lady did not think to explain to me that I was going to have to take a motorcycle taxi to get to it… Go figure, African customer service!

Needless to say, I was VERY happy to see the bus and arrive safely at the Togo/Benin border a few hours later (pictured below.)

As we entered Cotonou, which is the cultural and business capital, (the technical capital is Porto Novo, but everything including Embassies and UNICEF is in Cotonou)  we passed the largest Muslim cemetery in the city.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I love cemeteries. I think they are beautiful, spiritual places. I know I am weird…

The bus dropped me off at the Stadium, where I had my first Beninese beer while waiting for my friend, Boris, to pick me up.

Castel beer is eh, okay…. Not as good as Star beer, which is the most popular beer in Ghana. I have so much more to share with you, but for now will leave you with my laundry list of first impressions and comparisons of Benin to Ghana:

1. Holy Mosquito! Those little guys are aggressive here! You can actually feel them bite you and the bites are smaller but way more itchy. I have also been told by a guy who works in malaria prevention that the mosquitos here are far more malarial… guess I will be wearing extra bug spray.

2. Police Corruption. While it does exist in Ghana, it is far more severe here. I know this from both watching the police demand money from my friends as they are driving, and from stories that Boris has told me.

3. Pigs!? In the five months I spent in Ghana, I saw one wild pig. One. In my first day of being in Benin, I have seen a bagillion..(yes bagillion is a word.) While walking through the trees near the beach and watching the pigs, I felt like I was in that book, Lord of The Flies.

4. Beaches.  The beaches are nicer here with less trash. I assume this is partly due to the fact that Cotonou is much smaller than Accra.

5.Muslims.  Benin has a much higher Muslim population at almost 30% where as Ghana is about 16%. In fact, the house where I am staying is across the street from the largest Muslim mosque in Cotonou. It is beautiful!

6. Drinking Water.  People here, especially people who have lived here a long time, will drink the water from the faucets. In Ghana, everyone drinks  water out of those little plastic bags I posted photos of earlier in my stay. I am going to stick with bottled water until I know my guts are 100% acclimated to a new environment.

I know I have so much more to share, but I will stop here for now. More to come soon. Au Revoir!

Jan
25

Short (true) Stories: A Digest of My Experiences in Ghana


Over the past five months, I have jotted down notes here and there about things I find interesting about my experience here, be it a cultural observation or just an interesting conversation I have had at one point or another. As my time here ends,  I hope this provides you with some insight into a “day in the Ghanaian life…” :)

Hand Shakes

In Ghana, people don’t just shake hands. There is a special handshake that is used; I imagine kind of an equivalent to the fist bump in the United States.  It starts with a hand grip, then a handshake, then a snap that is created by your fingers pulling against the other persons. It seems to be a sign of my assimilation to the culture that when I shake hands with a Ghanaian, they seem to give me a wink of approval when I shake hands the “Ghanaian” way…

 

Race Relations and Youth

I went to a birthday party in my first month here, and I met a little girl who told me I was the first white person she had ever seen.  She said she had seen “ones” like me on tv, but never up close.  She grabbed my arm and poked it. Then she shrugged in approval like I passed some secret test. She asked, “Do you have bread?” I thought this was a strange question. I told her no. She seemed bewildered and said, “So then if I cut you what comes out?” Bread, blood, it sounded the same to me, “Oh, you mean do I have blood?” I smiled. I explained to her that everything about us was the same except the color of our skin. The answer seemed to please her and she followed me around the rest of the afternoon.

Education

One day in class, I wrote the word “poverty” on the black board. I asked my students to raise their hand if they knew what it meant. No one raised their hand. My plan was for them to draw and write about what it meant to be in poverty. Since they didn’t know the word, I then wrote, “Poor” on the board. No one knew what that was either. I found this so interesting since most of them live of less that $1 a day. Over time, I have realized that my students really don’t view themselves are poor or lacking. They eat at least two meals a day and sleep under a roof, and while they know people in the U.S. and other Western countries have more, I don’t ever see them complaining about what their lives lack.

Work Ethic

Having a strong work ethic is considered to be part of what makes a person moral here. Often, you will see signs on taxi’s or tro tro’s that say, “No food for the lazy man.” Meaning if you are too lazy to work, than you are also to lazy to eat. It is actually really interesting to observe how this belief plays out in everyday life. Hardly ever do you see homeless people just sitting around on the street begging for change like you see in the U.S. While there is plenty of poverty, almost everyone makes some effort to work, even if it is hawking stuff from a bowl on top of their heads, or selling knick-knacks to people driving by in their cars. Also, after my wallet got stolen in Accra, my coworker, Patience said, “You need to be careful in certain areas of Accra, some people there don’t like to work, so they want to take your money instead.” I don’t know that if the same thing happened to my in San Francisco on NYC, I would naturally go to that train of thought.

 

Friendliness

Yesterday I checked into a hotel in a nearby village outside of Accra. A very friendly woman who works here let me in my room, and later came to take my order for dinner. People call her Ayisha, but her given name is Comfort. I chatted with her a bit, using the few Twi phrases I know.  I told her if she was around later, I might come down and chat. Later that night as I was falling asleep, I heard a light knock on the door, but didn’t get up as I was sleepy. Then, I heard a key turn and the door open. It was Ayisha, she came in, and sat down on my bed as if she was staying here with me. She patted my head, I said hello and that I was sleepy but would join her for breakfast. She leaned down and kissed my forehead before slipping back out the door. Funny that if I was in the U.S. and a hotel worker slipped into my room was I was sleeping, I would freak out! But here, it just seemed like nothing was out of place, as she was simply bidding a new friend good night.

The next morning she came in again and sat on my bed, I could tell that she was sad. We talked and I learned about her life. She said she was badly mistreated here at the hotel.  23 years-old, she had a baby boy and husband who both live up in Kumasi (about 5 hours north) and there was no work in Kumasi. Her mother knew the owner and sent her here to work. But she desperately misses her son and wants to return home. Though I had just met Comfort here at the hotel, talking with her felt like  I was talking with a friend I had known for years.

Jan
22

Dancing for Jesus


 

 

 

 

This morning I had my first “Ghana church experience.” I have mentioned in previous posts that Ghana is a very “praise Jesus” country. It is written on store fronts..

And on cars…

Even boats…

Every Sunday morning, you can hear church bells or microphones and the voices of a distant congregation. After five months of living in Ghana,  I decided it was time to see for myself about what Jesus is up to in Ghana. (Note, I was raised Unitarian, it’s kinda like Christian Light, if religion was a soft drink, or beer for that matter.)

I attended a service in the village where my school is located. Rebecca, the woman who runs the school took me with her. The service was held in a smallish open room with cement floors, a corrugated metal roof and single ceiling fan.

 

As We took our seats, a woman on a microphone was singing to begin the offering that day. Almost every Ghanaian church I have  heard of takes offering as an opportunity to shake your booty. :) Women form a line and start dancing their way up to the collection plate. Some drop a few peswas (coins) and others pull out small cedis bills.

Then comes the real dancing. Oh my Lord, these women can shake it. There were also a few men present, but the group was majority female. I went along with it, joining in the celebration for God. After all, I feel pretty grateful for  my new found freedom and all the people who have been so supportive of me during this strenuous transition. So I got down for the sake of expressing gratitude for a higher power (be it Jesus, Allah, Goddess of Creation… whatever you want to call it)…

 

After the dancing and singing and what have you, a member of the congregation brought up her little baby to be baptized. Now, this sermon was completely in Twi, which I don’t understand much of, but I got the point.

 

After church, Rebecca and I met Matthew for lunch (because people always go for lunch after church, it is just what you do, right?) Sadly, today was Matthew’s last day in Ghana, as he flies back to Minnesota tonight. But he and I shared one last beer and reflected back on the last “intense” six weeks that he has been here.

 

So that is it. My official experience dancing for Jesus with the women of Medie!

 

 

 

 

Jan
21

As the Winds Change, So Do I…


“Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that is what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything  do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.”- The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak

At the end of every West African December, the rain disappears as the winds change. Sands from the Sahara Desert  are lifted up and carried thousands of miles, floating over Ghana, Benin, Nigeria and further. A fine dust covers palm leaves and roof tops, creating a hazy blanket and turning the sun from a formidable force to a light dull bulb in the African sky. They call this the harmattan.  As this  natural phenomenon ends now with dying winds and settling dust, it has ushered an omen for a change in my own life.

Sometimes life gives us an unexpected turn. I have left Joy2theWorld as the Program Director. I will miss my wonderful friends in Medie and at Naa Kordey school and plan to keep in touch. I cannot discuss the reasons for my abrupt departure, as I signed a confidentiality agreement which I will, of course, honor.

I can, however, say that I am safe, happy, and richer for all the experiences I have had here, and am that much more ready to embrace my future. In five short months in Ghana, I have enjoyed the local cuisine (and increased my tolerance for spicy food), learning how to cook such dishes as light soup, okra stew, and palaver sauce with plantains. I have tumbled in the waves of Takoradi and climbed the ominous (to me, at least) Upper Falls at Wli. I have transformed some students’ relationship to the English language, and alerted the administration to learning disabilities of others. I have fallen in love with my class and been equally heartbroken by all that I cannot accomplish to affect change in the educational system as a whole.

While my the beginning of my sixth month in Africa has ushered the end of one chapter, I am not done with my love affair with this great continent. I have received an invitation from a wonderful family in Benin, thanks to a good friend. So it is with a happy heart and open mind that I will take a eight-hour bus ride through eastern Ghana and then Togo before arriving in my new home city of Cotonau. With a new visa in  one hand  and a French-English dictionary in the other,  I will start another chapter of my West African journey. I leave in one week, and before I depart, intend to blog as much as I can about all things Ghana I have not yet shared.  I may come back to Ghana before I leave for the U.S., but I don’t want to forget anything or take any chances. Thank you for continuing to share this journey with me, like the quote from Forty Rules of Love ( a beautiful novel about Rumi and Shams), I have no idea where this road shall take me, but “fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step.”

I have included some of my all time favorite photographs of my time in West Africa so far:

From school days…

To polio vaccines…

To Cape Coast…

 

And Kakum National Park…

And my Mom’s visit and trip to Ada Foah…

And of course, some wild animals…

And a very Happy New Year’s in Accra..

I have fallen in love with this country and the people who have so warmly welcomed me…

I am so looking forward to the new experiences to come. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan
19

The 9th Annual Open Forum


On January 13th, Joy2theWorld held its 9th Annual Open Forum. This event, which takes place every January and August, is an opportunity for all current and new clients to meet and express any questions or concerns regarding the loan and scholarship program. This Forum also focused on the new changes in our staff with the addition on Helena, our new Office Assistant, and Matthew, our new Executive Director.

Starting at 9:30 a.m., women starting to wander in. Our event started at 9, but no one actually comes when you ask them to. This is referred to as “Ghana Time.” We opened the service with a Ghanaian prayer.

We gave special tickets to the first 50 attendees and then raffled off children’s vitamins and head scarves for the women.

Also, we have developed a strong relationships with some members of the medical community and nurses from Kumasi volunteered to give free breast exams to all the women. We transformed our office space into exam rooms and the nurses showed women posters with photos of the devastating affects of breast cancer.


Afterwards, they set up registration tables and women lined up to get examined!

It was so great to see people work together to benefit the community.

Jan
04

New Year’s Eve in Accra!


This is the first year I have spent New Year’s Eve out of the United States and I have to say, for the most part, it was awesome! Matthew and I met up with some friends from Spain in Accra. They were staying in Kaneshie near the famed Kaneshie Market. Matthew and I managed to navigate our way through the vendors, who sell mainly produce and livestock. I saw at least two people holding chickens upside down thrusting them into our faces asking us to buy them. They shouted in Twi, I imagined them saying, “Why will you not buy this live chicken? It is New Year’s Eve, everyone needs a good chicken on New Year’s!” They looked so disappointed when when turned them down, replying, “Dabi Dabi Dabi.” (No no no.)

Our friends Bruna and Arnau had been traveling for the past three months through Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana. We had first met them a few days before through one of my best friends, Phoebe, who also lives in Spain. We met for dinner and drink, after which Matthew taught them the game, “Zumi.” It’s a coordination game that is a lot of fun. I think I first learned it when I was in the Girl Scouts, but Matt’s version is more oriented as a drinking game.

So New Year’s we starting by drinking some palm wine. It was my first time having the local spirit, but it is very common here. It is obviously made from palm and has a cloudy white appearance. It almost reminds me of unfiltered sake, but it is a little sweeter. Definitely good, and also mixes well with Guiness. (I know it sounds gross, but it is actually pretty good.)

After drinks we traveled to Osu, which is known as the Obruni District because of the large populations of expats. We had dinner at this amazing Talapia restaurant. I had heard the fish there was good, but this was like off the charts seafood. So yummy.

My friend who runs an Italian Restaurant had told me to go to a new bar that just opened but, but first we decided to gamble a little at a bar/casino called Hemingway’s. Matthew taught Bruna and Arnau how to play roulette, though it was a partly computerized version without chips. :(

We arrived at the new bar, and the uptight bouncer wouldn’t let our friends in because they weren’t dressed well. So lame, but we persuaded them to let us in anyway. I was shocked how empty the bars were for New Year’s. I knew that it was a big tradition to go to church in the evening, but I thought that people would at least come out after. The bar also did no official countdown, so we have our own according to our watches at midnight. Here is a pic of Matt and I before the countdown.

I know that Matthew’s favorite part of the night was the fireworks. No, not the big fancy kinds way up in the sky. I am talking about the smaller one’s that make you deaf. Here, children throw them at each other in the streets… the future mother in me nearly lost it. I kept waiting for someone to lose a finger. Near the bars, young men would throw them into crowds of people, and Matthew of course wanted to join in the fun. Meanwhile, Bruna, Arnau and I sat in the corner fearing for our lives.

Sadly, at some point during the night, my wallet got swiped. It had a fair amount of cash, my bank card, and my driver’s lisence in it. At least I still have my passport!

We headed back to the hostel and finished our drinks on the balcony that overlooks the market. I took this pics the next morning.

I also made a new friend on the tro-tro on the way home. I complimented him on his traditional Ghanain outfit. He apparently was so please with himself about it that he insisted I have it and started taking it off right there on the bus. I waved my hands around insisting he keep it, and that I appreciated his intent.

Definitely a great way to ring in my international new year! Thanks for reading.

 

Jan
02

My first Ghanaian Christmas… and a dead goat.


While there was no snow, holly, or Christmas trees, there was still Christmas in the air here in Ghana this year. In mid December, our new Executive Director, Matt Brady, arrived from Minnesota to spend six weeks taking on his new role. While we are hoping to have him full time in Ghana soon, for now he will be working mostly from the states. Matt has been here several times before and has gained quite a bit of knowledge of the local language. On any given day you can find him chatting with the locals in Twi, which Ghanaians totally get a kick out of. While I am still stuck on the basic “How are you?” and “Thank you, please..” I hope to soon be at the same conversational level.

Kathleen, Matthew and I spent Christmas here in the village. Matthew and I put Christmas lights on outside, which was quite the challenge since we had no nails or hammers to hang them. But with push pins and I a lot of dedication, we got it done.

Kathleen was sad that we didn’t have a Christmas tree, so I asked the students in my class to draw some pictures of Christmas trees. Matthew and I hung them on the arch in our living room and then put the presents in corner.

We had all gathered presents for each other, but had a very limited supply of wrapping paper, so we all got creative. I used the wrapping paper tube for one present and a yellow plastic grocery bag for another. I got both Matt and Kathleen alcohol that comes in little plastic bags here.

I also made homemade Christmas cards.

Santa brought me The Help dvd and a great book that I just started reading called Father and Son. I was definitely a happy girl. I got Kathleen and Matt these really great cloth boxes, but they thought they made better hats.

 

Even Kathleen’s cat, Isabelle, got a gift. I bought her a Corona. I know cats don’t usually drink beer, but Corona’s are very hard to find here, so I hope she enjoys it.

We made a full Christmas meal with turkey, stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, and coco yam leaves, which taste like a cross between spinach and collard greens.

Matthew later regaled us with his story of spending Christmas Eve with his Ghanaian family (our neighbors that he is staying with) and their adventures in the Volta Region. Apparently it is tradition to kill some sort of animal of Christmas Eve, the animal of choice for our neighbors was a goat. Matthew helped with the whole process and showed me the video he took, which I couldn’t watch much of with all the bleating and blood spurting everywhere. Let’s just say I am glad we ate first, and now my nick name for Matt is “Matt the Goat Killer.” He also showed me how they use almost every part of the goat including the intestines, but only after they hand squeeze out all the goat poop. Yummm. I’d insert a picture of the goat slaughter here, but I’ll save you from the grossness and move on.

After dinner we watched Elf (a cornerstone of any Christmas celebration) and started in on some of the delicious alcohol that we got as Christmas gifts.

All in all, it was a really terrific Christmas, I even got to call my mom, sister and nieces and wish them a Merry Christmas. I felt very blessed!


 

Dec
29

Sir, Some Water, Please?


I had a week of lonely moments after my mother left us here to journey back to the land of modern civilization. The majority of my time after she left was taken by managing to live without running water. I reside in Koans Estates, with my boss Kathleen. It is grand looking community if you don’t get to close to anything. Rows of stucco houses with iron rod gates line the road and outside the gated establishments stand half built cement houses inhabited by squatters and families. That seems to be the case inside the Estates as well, since many homes are not yet purchased and once the local workers finish building them, they take it upon themselves to move in until they are properly claimed.

My mother and I returned from our adventures in the Volta Region to waterless faucets. So I pulled out the buckets from the pantry and took them around the corner to the spigot that is owned by the Estates Manager. I managed once to carry a bucket back to the house on my head, just like the other locals do, but Ghanaians must have flatter skulls because I had a bruise on the top of my head for a week after just one bucket. So I recruited the local squatters to assist me with the other two. For almost two weeks, I lived my life three buckets at a time. Of course Kathleen and I had to share the containers. I now have bucket showers down to a science. I can do it using only two full large water bottles per shower. (Quite the conservationist, aren’t I?) Running water now comes and goes. If I am feeling the need to pamper, I pull out our one large pot and heat some water on the stove. We don’t have water heaters here, but most of the time I don’t see a need for one. After sweating and collecting dust in the African heat during the day, a cold shower refreshes ones spirit.

As I said before, the Estates look quite luxurious if you don’t get up to close, but once you look at the details, you see that construction here is almost always done half-assed. The doors in our homes were built in without weather stripping so when the torrential rain comes it slides all the way to the middle of the hall. The interior paint looks like it was done by a drunk monkey, splashed here and there without order or intent. When we moved in there was a hornet’s nest crafted carefully in the corner of our living room. I alerted the landlord, and his simple reply was, “Yes, but the hornets don’t live there anymore, so no need to worry.” Ummm… not the point! But this first experience with the management of the estates was just one small example of the way many people think here. Why should someone care if we have a sewage system or running water when they don’t have any in their own home? And why should we complain when we are living with a nice cement roof over our heads and tiles on the floor when most people sleep in the dirt? And lastly, if a bug’s nest in the corner of a house poses no immediate threat to your health, why ask for it to be removed?

I may seem to complain about the standard of “customer service” in Ghana, but it has been an important lesson to observe the difference in how culture operates and affects the productivity and progress of a society. Whether it is good, bad or ugly is up to the person who interprets the behavior. To the managers of the estates, I am a bit of a snob who expects every modern luxury that is paid for, such as nest-free houses and running water at the snap of a finger. This became a discussion of race relations on the day after Christmas.

Two days straight without water, again, and no one to help us with the buckets either. Usually Kathleen is the one to take up arms, but this time it was yours truly. By 2pm, I had called the manager three times, explaining that I understood the pump was broken, or what have you, but could you please help me get some buckets filled so that we could shower and do the dishes. With music in the background he shouted, “Listen, we are having a party at the office, no one wants to come help you today. Maybe tomorrow we get some water, yes?” Then he hung up on me. NO! No, no, no. I took my three plastic buckets and marched right to his door in my plaid boxer shorts and PJ T-shirt. He was sitting at his desk drinking a beer and laughing with this worker buddies. I dropped the buckets at his feet and said nothing.

That’s when it all went to hell. He put his beer down and asked,”What is this? You think you can push me around like some slave?” At the mention of the word ‘slave’ I could feel the tension rise in the room. He continued, “Order me here and there? You have NO respect for the black man.” I thought my eyes were going to pop right out of my head. I explained to him that this had nothing to do with the color of his skin or his gender. It had to do with him being responsible for the people of the estates by providing such basic necessities like water and electricity. This fell on deaf ears as he continued to elaborate on how “us” whites think we can just run the show. As the conversation progressed the decibels of our voices grew until two men came behind me, picked up the buckets and asked me to leave. I walked back to the house with anger boiling tears in my eyes and plopped down on the couch,  tucking my cravings for a shower underneath me. Five minutes later there was a knock on the door and I open to find three plastic buckets filled on my doorstep, like three small gifts.

Dec
11

Mom and Sy’s Ghanaian Adventures: Final Edition


This is the last of three blogs detailing my travels with my mother throughout the Eastern Region of Ghana. After the Wli Waterfalls and the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, we took a taxi to the nearby village of Tafi Abuipe (kind of a fun word to say, Tafi  Abueeepae.) Tafi Apuipe is known for being the village where weavers make the traditional Ghanaian Kente cloth. It is a beautiful handwoven  fabric is festive bright colors. The fabrics are used for women’s head scarfs and are woven into large pieces for men’s traditional robes.

The guide showing us around the village demonstrated how the women wear the clothes by tying one around my head.

We then took a walk to the large, light-filled building where about thirty people sat at loomes with thread stretching all the way across the floor.

My mom and I had a great time trying on all the different scarves and she bought a bunch to bring back to friends in the states.

We left Tafi Abuipe and headed for the Eastern Coast! I was definitely ready for some beach time. But first we waited on a stationary tro-tro in Ho. Ho is  hub known for it’s art of alligators. There is man who keeps them as pets there. I had heard stories of these friendly alligators, but had no need to see them for myself.

Finally we got to Ada Fouh, a beach town near Togo. We checked into the Coco Loco Beach Hotel. We I plopped down on the bed and stared up at the straw ceiling of our hut, I could see the sky through the straw… and then crossed my fingers for no rain during our stay.

Then we walked across the way to walk on the beach as the sun went down. I got some really great shots of the beach.

And this shot by momma Martin is AMAZING!

Photograph courtesy of J.J. Martin

That night we had dinner at the hotel, which took FOREVER. One thing that is really frustrating about Ghana is the state of customer service. If you order a meal, expect to wait at least an hour before it arrives. But when it finally got there, it was good!

We woke up super early the next morning to catch the sunrise and it was equally as impressive as the sunset. Thousands of glass like crabs scuttled back and forth along the tide. My mom got this great shot of one.

Photograph courtesy of J.J. Martin

She also got some amazing shots of the sunrise

Photo courtesy of JJ Martin

And we got a great mom and daughter shot, too!

We checked out of the hotel and headed to a  boutique hotel on the river front that had pool. Tsarley Korpey was beautiful and for 10 cedis, was ours for the day!

While we were basking in the sun and reading out latest novels, we met an Italian-Ghanaian man named Peter, who invited us onto his speed boat for a tour of the mouth of the river. Of course, we said yes and journeyed out onto the water. I think this  may have been my mom and my favorite part of the whole trip. Mom in particular got some amazing shots  from the boat of the fisherman and their villages.

Courtesy of JJ Martin

Courtesy of JJ Martin

As we were driving near the shore, we saw people waving their arms and yelling at us. As we got closer we saw a ball floating in the water. It was a group of Indian businessmen and their families on vacation. Apparently they were playing water volley and their ball went out of reach. We drove up to it and I threw it back to them. It fell short of the group by maybe ten feet so I yelled to them to swim to it. Then, they all yelled in unison, “We cannot swim!”.. Oy, I threw it again and the all applauded us when they caught it.

There were some AMAZING homes on the islands that dotted the mouth of the river. We decided to go ashore on the beach where one side is the river and the other side meets the ocean. It was there, as I walked along the beach, when I heard someone yell out, “Syambra!!” I turned to see Peter, the guy from D.C. who we met at the monkey village. Such a small world!  We sat with him and the other Ghanaian- Italian Peter, and had a Star Beer under the shade of a hut on the beach with this as our view:

Peter and his friends brought my mom and I back to the hotel in time for us to travel back to Accra. We waiting at Ada Kasseh for a tro-tro, but there was this big funeral (which to Ghanaians means a HUGE three day party..) So a tro-tro to Accra was hard to find. Finally one bus pulled up and my mom and I made sure to be first in line. Then, out of nowhere, this woman came up and shoved us out of the way and took one of the last remaining seats on the bus. I followed her on, and got in her face about it, telling her that it was very rude. The other people on the bus turned to us and realized what the woman had done. I got off the bus, since there was no room for both my mom and I. The bus pulled away, but stopped about 15 feet down the road. You could hear arguing, and then the doors opened and the woman got off! The bus driver told her, apparently, he had not room for rudeness on his vehicle. HA! So awesome.

Anyway, my mom and I caught a more comfortable ride on the next bus and arrived by in our village of Kutunse by  Saturday night. Unfortunately, there was no water in the house when we came home (just a trickle enough for us to both muster a quick shower..)

My mom left three days later for the United States. I was sad to see her go, but happy that she got to go back to cooler weather and a hot shower!

I am excited for visitors to come and experience all the wonder that is this great country, and even some of its fall back. It is Africa, after all, but it has been wonderful.

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