Category Archives: Ghana

My Journey West

This past week was my mid-semester break, I was able to travel to the Western Region and I got to experience a whole different kind of life style than the one I have been living for the last few short months. I was able to go stay with a friends sister in a town called Sekondi and got to see how my friend Dorcas and her family live their lives. The village I stayed at was right along the coast, so the biggest source of income for most people is fishing. My friend’s father happens to be a night fisher and he told me that the fish were plenty! I also got to see some of the fishermen repair their boats and nets which took hours and hours.

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I think while I was in Sekondi, I experienced the most overwhelming sense of being the minority. Literally from half a mile away people were yelling “Obruni! Obruni!” (White person or foreigner) which normally never bothers me, but this time it was extremely overwhelming how many children and adults were calling me. When I got the village of my friend Dorcas about 15 children surrounded me, dancing for me and saying all kinds of things in the Fante language and enjoying that I could not understand. I was also getting my hair braided and about 20 people came to watch that and several women introduced me to their brothers who were by no means shy. The last dinner I had there I was again surrounded by another large group of children and old women who were not yelling at me, just yelling as if it was my hearing instead of a language barrier. In my time in Ghana, this has by far been one of my most uncomfortable moments. I just kept trying to remind myself that I am something as new and unfamiliar to them as they are to me.

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The point of my journey was to reach a small village called Nzulezo on the Amasuri Lagoon, yes ON the lagoon. The entire is village is built up on stilts using rubber trees. The stilts are replaced about every five years and there is about 24 small houses, a school from 1st to 6th grade, a community center, and two small worship rooms that can hold about 6 people each. Once you get to the town before the stilt village, there is about a 40 minute walk and then about a 45 minute canoe ride. The landscape was tropical and beautiful. I was able to spend the night in Nzulezo and it was a great experience, but I think once was enough for me. The lagoon water is used for everything- bathing, drinking, going to the bathroom, brushing your teeth, cooking- EVERYTHING. The bugs were big! I even had a surprise visit from a mouse! However, I had to keep reminding myself that even though this was new and uncomfortable for me, the people here live normal everyday lives this way. It brought me a great sense of appreciation for the small things that I lack where I stay in Accra (like not having power or water for small amounts of time) I think the hardest part for me would be to not have access to certain things like food or fresh water or a toilet, or to have an emergency and not be able to get help. Unfortunately that is true of most rural areas around the world.

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Opportunities.

Where do I start?

I got the opportunity to be a part of the wedding for a woman I work with at the Beacon House. Her colors were pink and sea blue and it was beautiful. It was a Christian ceremony and, WOW, do Ghanaians get excited. There were about 8 pastors there simply to bless the marriage and pray on the newly weds. There was a lot of screaming and praying, there is no such thing as talking at these weddings. Everyone uses a microphone to yell their praises to God and it is as if the speakers are right behind your head! It was different from American weddings in that, there was only a Bridesmaid and Best Man up at the front with the Bride and Groom. However, there were typically about 4-8 people standing right behind them taking pictures of the first kiss (often even blocking the view of the parents). The couple went to the back of the church to go sign their marriage certificate, and then danced their way back down the isle for more praying. Everyone was dancing and praising and it was like the reception had already began! I got to escort the Beacon House kids to the wedding and on the way there, one of our cars got a flat tire! I had to pack 8 kids in a small taxi with me! They all had so much fun though! They got to dress in their nicest clothes and go see a part of Accra they had never seen before! It was cool to see them in a different environment and interact with other kids and adults!

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Also, I was asked to participate in a panel session for a conference my site director here for AHA was putting on. It was an educational conference for staff members of study abroad programs. People from all over the US and even some from different parts of South Africa came to hear new and interesting information to help them be more involved in what the Accra programs do here for students studying abroad. I was part of the session for “Students Ventilating”. Two other students and I spoke of our experiences thus far, all having been here for different lengths of time. People were very interested and happy to hear what we had to say, so that they can know first hand what their students may experience when they come here to Ghana. I was even asked to speak again the following day, which made me feel very honored. I had a lot of people coming up to me to tell me how well I did and that made me feel so good! I even unexpectedly got paid! :)

Some of the attendees to the conference ended up coming to stay with me so that this big house did not seem so empty! One of which is my AHA contact from U of O, Jena Turner! It’s been so awesome getting to finally meet her in person, especially since we have met on the opposite side of the world! I got to do a lot of networking and meet some very intelligent, and well travelled adults! They even took me out to dinner! :)

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Febru-where has the time gone?

It has been exactly a month that I have been here in Ghana. I am frequently asked, “How do you see Ghana?” as in how do I like it here. I see Ghana as a an ever changing atmosphere of some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Throughout the day, you can see the city slowly rise with the crow of roosters. People begin the hard days work early before it gets too hot. The city slowly turns into a hustle and bustle atmosphere before you know it.

When I respond to people of how I see Ghana, I tell them how much I am enjoying my time here. I love the that the streets do not have names, I love how people are so interested to speak with me and tell me how much THEY love Ghana. I love the food so much. I love that we eat mainly with our hands because it really indulges all of your senses. I love the little kids who yell to me “Obruni! Obruni!” (which means foreigner, or white person). I love responding to them with “Obibini!” (a non-slandering word for black person or African).

When I go to my internship at the Beacon House Orphanage, the kids and house mothers are as happy to see me as I am to see them. They have warmed up to me so much and so quickly, but even more so because they know I will be here longer than most of the people that pass through. I am by no means a teacher, but the kids see me as one and everyday they show me more and more respect. Something I believe is earned and not given. It can sometimes be stressful because I am the only volunteer there currently, so I have a lot of my plate as far as what needs to be done. Thankfully I can consider myself a jack of most trades, so anything I do I can do well. The other day, they had a water tank delivered. I knew before coming here how precious water was, however I did not fully grasp that concept until I saw how excited everyone was for that water. The kids, the housemothers, they were all jumping and screaming. It really put things into perspective for me. Beacon House

This weekend, I traveled to Cape Coast, the capital of the Central Region, to visit the Elmina Slave Castle. The castle was built by the Portuguese and also used by the Dutch and British, and was the last waiting place for slaves before they were smuggled to Europe, South America, or now the US. The castle was used for 3 centuries, and it was quite the experience to see where millions and millions of people were held for months at a time in horrendous conditions. Some were even placed in solitude to die of starvation and dehydration. Female slaves were forced to have sex with the guards, and if they refused, they were tied to a cannon ball in the middle of a courtyard to be beaten and tortured. It was so quiet there.

I also had the opportunity to visit Kakum National Park. Here they have a 7 bridge canopy walk. I am not particularly afraid of heights. However being held up so high about the earth on nothing but rope and planks was an experience that made me think about how little we need to rely on in this world. It also made me realize that everything in life serves a purpose. We are all part of a greater universe and interdependent on one another whether plant, animal, human being, or one of the elements. DSCN0270

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Okpongolo

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This is the road just outside my compound, which I am now becoming more and more familiar with. This road makes many people upset and leads to a bigger issue faced in Ghana. This scene is an example of unfinished government services. From what I have been told, this road was in better condition before construction began. The plan was to pave the road, using this red dirt as the base layer. Unfortunately it has been sitting like this for some time now. With dry, windy days and speeding taxis, there are frequent dust storms that can dry your eyes and get dust in your mouth and nose (not to mention stain your skin, shoes, and clothing). In an effort to control the dust, rather than just completing the road, they have laid out tires and pieces of drift wood in a way to force people to slow down. However it causes more confusion and traffic jams than it does actually minimizing the dust. This is just one of the many roads that are in poor condition. The other day there was heavy rain which ended up making this dirt road more like mud. Cars were getting stuck and tore up the road. The road had dried out by the next day, leaving the road stuck in worse condition. Many Ghanaians are not pleased with how the government begins projects and leaves them unfinished and often very unsightly. One of my professors was telling me about how a bridge near his home was experiencing the same issue, except someone was able to speak about the widespread disapproval of the incomplete bridge on a major radio station. The very next day, construction on the bridge began again. If the people pressure their government to do what needs to be done, the people of Ghana would see much improvement in their daily lives. This is especially important for Ghana because it is still a young democracy.

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