5 Weeks Left?!

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Here is a little update on what I will be up to with my last bit of time in Ghana…

1) Finishing up my internship at West Africa AIDS Foundation (WAAF), a small NGO near my school. While carrying out research on how religious communities support/stigmatize people living with HIV/AIDS, which is really cool because I get to interview clients at the clinic, I also get to learn more about the ins-and-outs of running organizations, especially non profit ones and ones in developing countries. Although it was a hard adjustment to doing work in an office after working all kinds of hands-on jobs, it was an amazing experience and I will be sad that this is my last week. 

2) Planning trips – although I’m not really sure where or when. Next week some of my friends and I are going to go the “Village on Stilts” and “Green Turtle Lodge” – two sort of tourist-y but still cool sights that we have been wanting to see. I am also working out some day trips here and there, including Shai Hills (a nature reserve) and the Ghana Chocolate Factory (included in the tour is a 30 minute block of time in the “Hospitality Room” where we will be able to hang out and eat as much candy as we want! I’ve always wanted to live the Willy Wonka life and I guess this is the time. Also eventually northern Ghana, maybe Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, etc? 

3) Learning how to cook yummy Ghanaian dishes thanks to some one of my Ghanaian girlfriends here. Unfortunately our room has experienced the death of both our hot plate and Mr. Potts (our beloved water boiler) in the same day, so cooking is becoming more of an adventure now learning how to improvise with whatever kind of cooking things my friends and neighbors can lend for a bit.

4) Getting my market on  – this weekend, I went with some friends to Makola Market, one of the biggest markets in West Africa and definitely insane in some places, and then we went to Kantomanto (not sure if the exact name), but long story short besides getting to buy lots of cool, nice stuff, it is also a great way to practice my Twi (Ghanaian language) and just get to meet interesting people in general. My frequency of market visits is definitely about to increase as time goes on for so many different reasons.

5) Studying for final exams! This includes cleaning my room so I can study in it (ha) and also visiting different friends I’ve made in classes to compare notes, trade slideshows, etc. We have a week off to study, which is this week, and then I have exams on Nov 19, Dec 1 and Dec 5 (freedom is so near!).

As my time winds down here in Ghana I am definitely starting to get to moments where I know I will miss being here so much, but I am trying my best to make every day worth it 🙂 Which also means it’s time for me to stop writing this entry right now so I can go off and enjoy the rest of my evening 🙂

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One Month and Five Days Later…

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…I have finally written another blog entry!

I started writing this last evening, although my computer keeps shutting down when I try to load pictures to my blog and I also had to sleep early for Volta Hall Sports practice. (I am now a collegiate athlete! Ha.) Since it is so hot here during the day and many people have lecture, practice is held from 5:30-7ish am because that is before the sun comes up so the weather is cool. I am playing handball, a sport popularly played in the US in prisons apparently. Today was my third practice & although I mess up a lot because I have no ideas what the rules are (the team has decided, I suppose, the best way of learning is just to play and figure out the rules as I go), today we played our first little match against another team and it went pretty well if I must say so myself.

Anyways, here are a few things I have been up to this past month in Ghana:

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Our program took us to attend the Ghana vs. Malawi qualifying football match for the African Cup! For 5 USD we were sitting in the “VIP” section, which means we had good seats for all the action, and also got to see the Vice President and various other spectacles like these guys who were sitting by us who tried to light a little hot air balloon. Unfortunately it was too windy and it started blowing towards us, and then I freaked out because I thought I was going to get set on fire by it but all turned out well 🙂 The crowd was really excited the whole time even though the score was 2-0 (Ghana won!), everyone was cheering for all the attempted goals by Ghana and going absolutely crazy when there were goals scored. In the other sections there were also lots of big groups of people in matching shirts with their own personal drummers and bands doing organized cheers and dances the whole time. We also bought lots of Ghana swag to cheer them on (or at least my friend Hannah and I did, as you can see…), and overall the football game was a crazyfun experience and maybe I will get to attend another one before I leave in December. Not really sure of the schedule I think it’s sort of a word of mouth thing, but next month the Black Stars (Ghana’s football team) will be going to Malawi for another match, so I am not sure how often they will be having home matches.

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This is my friend Mariah and I watching a football game (a football themed post so far, I suppose), at our friend Mina’s town. The game was between her town and the neighbouring town. Mina invited us and two other obrunis (that is Twi, the local language spoken in Accra, for foreigner) in our hall (my roommate and Mariah’s roommate) to her town for Homow, a traditional Ga festival. Ga is one of the many tribes that people identify with in Ghana. We enjoyed dancing the Azonto with all her relatives, all her very small little boy cousins decided I was their girlfriend and followed us in a big gaggle around town (it was very adorable), we got to pound fufu, a delicious (spicy!) and traditional Ghanaian dish, meet her dad who is the chief and also the Queen Mother of the neighbouring town, meet Mina’s family and watch part of a funny movie. It was really fun and I am glad and thankful she invited us! 

Our program also took us to Cape Coast, which is about a three hour bus ride from Accra, for the traditional New Year festival. It was absolute INSANITY! We got to see traditions like the priests and priestesses being possessed by spirits, a parade of all the chiefs of various towns and some people possessed by spirits and a bull sacrifice. Besides that there were so many people, at night all the streets were completely packed, and everyone was just dancing with anyone everywhere! We met and danced with a lot of interesting people (people dance a lot here), including a group of aunties (any older woman one meets here is referred to as auntie or mama), who gave us chairs and we sat on the side of the road yelling, “OBRUNI!!!!” at all the foreigners who passed by which was funny because we are foreign too. The obrunis reactions to getting yelled at were very funny, ahah. We danced with little kids, adults, older women and men, sat down and hung out with entire families who were sitting on the side of the road, danced around all the cars which we stuck at a standstill in traffic because there were so many people….basically, it was a crazy experience and hands down one of the best experiences I have had in Ghana so far. I also met a rastafarian who made delicious chocolate pancakes at his restaurant who lived in Seattle (in Fremont!) and some Ghanaians who lived in Tacoma for a bit. Small world! In Typical Lindsay Fashion I took absolutely no photos, but thankfully my friends did. These are my roommate’s pictures of the first night we were in Cape Coast when we saw the possession of the priests and priestesses by the spirits:

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So, that is just three adventures I have had in Ghana lately. It is so hard to explain everything that goes on here, but every day is an exciting adventure here and something interesting and worth telling always happens, but for now I will have to end because I need to head off to lunch and then class! I hope everyone reading enjoyed the entry, is having a great time wherever they are in the world, and I will try to update more often 🙂

More to come in the next few days!:
-An entry about my friends and I going to climb Mt. Afadjato, the highest point/mountain in Ghana from sea-level. We encountered ALMOST getting caned due to the aftermath of a disagreement between Christians and Muslims, some locations named after Obama, learned Ewe which was the local dialect there, stayed in a “comfortably shabby” hotel with one giant bed for all three of us and a very endearing horse blanket, cool Spanish travelers, secluded water falls through cocoa plantations, cute children, adventures in cars on roads not meant for cars and more, so it should hopefully be very interesting to read.
-Today basically marks two weeks from my birthday (maybe a little less…my calendar is far from where I am typing) (hint, hint it takes two weeks for mail to reach Ghana from the US!!! :D), but because my roommate, Ainsley, is also having her 21st birthday this week and neither of us will be in the US to celebrate our 21st in a true United States fashion, we are just drawing out the celebrations over two weeks. Festivities planned include: delicious dinner and cake (already happened yesterday haha…), cute new dresses being made (just went to my seamstress, Auntie Nana, just before writing this entry to plan the dress!), a Traditional Ghanaian Dorm Room Birthday Party with our new international student friends and newer Ghanaian friends, and of course an attempt to recreate a United States 21st birthday for both of us out in the city.
–Many people have asked what my living situation is like, what day to day life here is like, etc, so perhaps a blog entry on that (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, obviously I am not too good at the current at updating this…)
-Yesterday I got to start two arguments (totally allowable in the culture here): one with the tro-tro mate who was trying to rip us off (the tro-tro is form of private yet very public transportation here, basically an incredibly crowded van which zooms around the city which I will make an entry about how that works later), and then our cab driver who tried to rip us off. There will probably be an entry about how fun it is to start arguments when getting (attempted) ripped off – I am waiting for the day I get to have an entire argument on the tro-tro and fellow passengers join in (on my side, hopefully!). 
-On the 28th my hall is having a fashion competition with outfits made from our hall’s cloth (blue and yellow cloth with the hall crest and the motto “Ladies with Vision and Style” everywhere), so wish me (and my roommate!) luck as we compete with our fun new dresses!Image

 

Azonto

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Here in Ghana they have a dance called Azonto (think of it as equivalent to popular kinds of dances in the US, such as jerking or Spongebobbing or whatever it’s called), so we are trying to learn it. My friend and hallmate Eunice decided to record some of our morning practices:

Obviously we still need to work a lot on it so in the meantime I suppose we will just feast on mangoes before the season ends. You can’t tell in the photo below, but that mango was originally about the size of a small child’s head.

I will post some updates of our amazing Ghanaian pop culture dance moves as time progresses!

Tafi Monkey Sanctuary & Wli Falls

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As one last hurrah for our orientation class (there is also a festival we will be attending in Cape Coast in September as well), we spent our Saturday traveling to the Tafi Monkey Sanctuary and the Wli Waterfall (located on the Ghana-Togo border. Togo is a French-speaking country next to Ghana).

We began the day at 6am, with our University of Ghana sports bus (which did not break at all this time! What a good little bus :D). The  bus first picked up students at ISH (International Student Hostel, where all of the international students in the school live except for us 7 girls in Volta Hall, the all-girl dorm on campus, and then 2 guys in Legon Hall, the neighboring hall), meaning that we spent a while sitting outside our building waiting for the bus to coming and missing out on precious sleep time while bees for some reason kept swarming us all. Anyways, the bus got us and we were on our way!

First was the Tafi Monkey Sanctuary, about a 3-4 hour drive. Since I spent last summer living next to a forest filled with monkeys, this was not too crazy exciting for me, but we also got to see some very cute baby goats and chickens and such. The cool part about the Monkey Sanctuary was it’s history, in my opinion. It was started by a Peace Corp volunteer in the 90s, and now the sanctuary acts as a tourist site, with 50% of the revenue going towards development projects in the community, and the other 50% going to necessary things like the worker’s paychecks, Ghana tourist commission and such…

Here are some monkey-feeding pictures, of before and after the monkey ate my banana (the monkeys

didn’t come out too much for us since a lot of other groups had come in the morning and therefore the monkeys were sort of full of bananas):

After the monkey sanctuary, we quickly got back on the bus because the drive to Wli Waterfalls was also a few hours. When we arrived at the waterfalls, our tour guide let us know that the strikingly different hills next to us was actually Togo! How cool. We actually met a cute little boy who spoke French and helped some people in our group cross the waterfall later on.
We took about a 30 minute walk through the rainforest to get to the waterfall, passing across several “bridges” (sometimes a log across a river or a few stepping stones and such), and many other groups of obrunis (foreigners) along the way, so playing “guess the obruni” was a good way to pass the time. Basically we would listen to the conversation of those who passed us and when they were gone we could guess what country they were from.

Then, we came to the waterfall. And I must say it was absolutely AMAZING. I have a waterproof camera so I brought it along to take pictures within the waterfall since it hit a pretty hard mist because it was absolutely huge as the pictures demonstrate. We met a big group of partying Ghanaian guys who helped us do things like back all the way into the waterfall, which hits so hard you can’t walk face first into it. We danced and splashed for a long time with them and also a lot of school children who were on a field trip to the waterfalls as well. It was the best experience I had in Ghana thus far because of the breathtaking beauty of it all and also the sheer spontaneity and joy of the entire situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, we loaded back onto our bus with Fan-Ice (the delicious ice cream here that costs about 30 cents US that I consume at every available opportunity) and lots of fresh bread and other snacks (ex. avocados!) for the bus ride home that was 6-9ish hours. (But at this point I have mastered the art of sleeping on these bus rides, which is good because a) they are great for catching up on sleep and b) the bus driver was going ridiculously fast and apparently it was scary so I missed that whole thing).

First Day of “School” Tomorrow!

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So this week we were slowly weaned off of our extremely (but awesomely) sheltered orientation life, which meant it was also time to register for classes, since school “starts” tomorrow! (The reason start is in quotation marks will be explained later…)

So here at University of Ghana, registering for classes is possibly done by hand and also sort of online but possibly not. (It is a good practice in the Ghanaian way of patience and flexibility.) Here, I will try, in the easiest way possible to explain to you how registering is done:

  1. Register online as a present student at the university. This requirement involves submitting things like receipts, health insurance, etc. UC-EAP (my study abroad program) took care of all of that so this was the easiest part. Or so you think! The online registering system is down so I haven’t registered yet. No one is in too much of a hurry to fix it, partially because the general administration is on strike and also because the country has been mourning the death of the president/celebrating the life of the president these past few weeks so no idea what’s going on with that.
  2. Look through a big handbook of all the classes offered. They are all listed by department, with level 100 classes corresponding to freshmen, level 200 corresponding to sophomores, etc…and then odd/even numbers corresponding to the semester they’re offered. (Ex. 323 would be a class for third-year students offered in the first semester).
  3. Go to the department on campus. There will be a notice board with the courses being offered and also a timetable with when the lecture times are.
  4. Except, sometimes, these timetables and course listings aren’t offered (not everything in the book is offered every semester). So come back another day.
  5. Sometimes, several days in a row.
  6. Sometimes the course list is up but the timetable isn’t available.
  7. So come back some other days until both are up.
  8. Once these are up, pick the course you want and go inside to the secretary to register. Sometimes, they tell you to register online (skip to step 11).
  9. Fill out a form to register as a student with the department.
  10. Fill out a form to register for the class.
  11. Find a lecturer/professor and ask how to register online.
  12. The lecturer/professor will say they really have no idea.
  13. Leave the department in confusion and come back another day, comforted by the fact that no one else has classes yet either.

Anyways, it’s the night before school starts and basically no one has moved into Volta (the Ghanaian all-girls hall I am staying in..although they all came and registered for their rooms early in the week and then went back home) or Legon (the neighboring all-boys hall some other UC students are living in) , my Ghanaian friend is at home because it’s apparently a holiday tomorrow and all the Nigerian students come two weeks late because the professors don’t show up for a while…so that is what I mean by school “starts” tomorrow.

Here is a picture of some of my friends and I taking a break from registering:

I have an internship!

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Hello readers 🙂

Just a quick update (probably a much longer one to come very soon), I have an internship! I will be interning at West Africa AIDS Foundation while also carrying out research in the challenges of implementing preventative public health measures relating towards HIV/AIDS in Ghana. 🙂

Feel free to look at where I will be working! 🙂

http://www.waafweb.org/

^Link to West Africa AIDS Foundation website^

The adventure begins…

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Hello from Ghana! So this is my blog, unfortunately for you (the reader), I am actually really horrible at recording most of my experiences when I travel, so we’ll see how this turns out. To start with, above is a picture of myself and my current roommate (to the left) and former roommate (to the right) here in Ghana. We are at a beach in Accra, near the President’s Palace, and also the first time on the trip we had the chance to touch the ocean over here, and where I officially (sort of exciting-ly…not really, but I guess its a fun fact) managed to touch both sides of the Atlantic Ocean within about three weeks of each other (I was in Boston a few weeks before heading to Ghana).

Right now we are in orientation, so most of our time is spent in lecture. Orientation counts as a four credit course but is only for about 2 and a half weeks, so imagine fitting in 40 classroom hours in two and a half week! We have a lot of lectures on Ghanaian culture, economics, politics, basically everything. But, lecture is usually held in an air-conditioned room (yay!), with snacks like watermelons, pineapples and mangoes in between so it is a comfortable way to get to learn about the country I’ll be living in for the next few months.

This is the day we all got to wear snazzy UC (blue) and CSU (green) t-shirts to lecture because we headed out to do volunteer work that following afternoon.

And that’s a picture of the school we went to volunteer in. After this, there was an assembly-type thing where the different grade did dances and then we had a little dance party with the kids. (In Ghana, there is a lot of singing and dancing. I think the world would be a better place if all places did this). The kids spoke English, Spanish, their local language, Hausa (a Muslim dialect used in this region of Africa), some Chinese and more! They were all very cute and smart but we only had the chance to spend a few hours there.

When we’re not in lecture, we get to go on trips! So we started a three-day trip, with our first stop being Elmina Castle in Cape Coast. This was used for many things, among others trading and military training for various European colonizers like the Portuguese, Dutch and British, but the somber reason we went was because it was used in the height of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The tour was really moving and brought a lot of insight into the inhumanity of slavery, and we had a professor from the University of Cape Coast lead us in a discussion after to debrief about the heavy material within the tour.

Above is the promise that we all said we’d keep after touring the castle which is displayed near the entrance.

After Elmina Castle, we continued to drive to Cape Coast to spend a night camping on the beach. This is my friend and also one of our student assistants, Mina, and myself on the beach after dinner. After this night, I can now also add to my random list of fun facts that I have slept on beaches of both sides of the Pacific Ocean, and also next to the Atlantic Ocean (not sure why all my fun facts are relating to the beaches and ocean, but I guess that’s what it will be…). I can also add that it is definitely not fun to have sand all over your bed, but that is a small price to pay to fall asleep in a big giant bed next to the ocean! It was so nice to wake up next to the ocean, even brushing my teeth while I was standing in the waves and watching the sun rise. I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or anything so far in Ghana!).

Along our journey, we traveled by a classy University of Ghana Sports Directorate Bus that had some sick air conditioning vents, a tiny aisle that resulted in us all mastering the “bus shuffle” as I like to name it, front and back doors for ideal for speed exiting and entering, but it broke down quite a bit due to overheating. It was an interesting practice in patience when our bus officially was too broken to go on, and so we were going to have a metro bus pick us up, take us to the University of Cape Coast where we would pick up another bus that would take us on the rest of our journey, but when the metro bus showed up we found out the University of Cape Coast bus was coming to get us directly. Then, the metro bus was cancelled. Of course, in the way of bargaining for everything here, there was quite a controversy on how much the cancellation bus for the metro bus could be, and about three hours later we continued on our journey.

Also, these bus rides were longer than you’re thinking. Our longest was on our way back home with was about 7-9 hours (because who keeps track after a few hours honestly?), but other trips were 4-8 hours long, and therefore we all mastered the art of falling asleep on each other. Above is my seat buddy and I for some trip we were taking, probably trapped in traffic.

Another time our bus overheated in the middle of nowhere, we made friends with some girls who lived nearby who showed us cacao plant and we got to try some. Cacao is the plant used to make chocolate. It is like a yellow small melon that you pick off a tree and then smash against the trunk to crack the shell. Inside are a lot of seeds covered in a fruity flesh that I think taste like mango but lighter and better. Biting the inside of the seeds produces a bunch of seed-guts (don’t know the name of that?) that are really bitter, just like dark chocolate. For the most part, everyone and also myself would just eat off the fleshy fruity part and then spit the seed out into the forest.

We started off one our mornings at Kakum National Park, where we hiked up 180 metres to the highest point in Ghana (I think?) to walk across seven creaky (but safe!) canopy bridges on the tree tops of the rainforest.

Also on our trip we went to the birthplace of Kente cloth, an important cloth here in Ghana and also the most expensive. Every cloth has a meaning. All us obrunis (foreigners) came in and flooded the shop which must have been a kick for the weavers so they could make a lot of money. We bargained hard and I came out with a short and long Kente cloth with the meaning of “knowledge is power” and also a short one that means “woman is divine”.

We also had a chance to see the making of dhinkra cloth, which is another important cloth in Ghana. Dhinkra is stamped with different symbols all that have significant meanings. We first learned how to make the dye, which is made from pounding red bark in a big container, and then later on it will be boiled to make different colors. The one I bought has both a combination of dhinkra symbols connected by kente cloth so it is the best of both worlds. We also had a chance to stamp a dhinkra cloth all together (there are 23 students here from UC and CSU combined), with each of us getting to pick one stamp. The stamp I picked was a center circle with four circles conjoined around it, sort of a square shape, meaning “service and humility.”

Unfortunately I can’t load photos of the dhinkra cloth experience because my Mac is going through a kernel shutdown every time I try to load photos (but I am grateful that it is trooping as usual and surviving all the traveling and adventures I put my trusty laptop to). This week holds in store orientation for all the international students and lots of preparing for classes which begin August 13, along with many more adventures I’m sure as we are set free into the world after having our hands comfortably held for a while through a rigid orientation schedule. More to come 🙂

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