Archive | June, 2012

Hospital Headaches

18 Jun

Well, today was definitely an interesting one…several good contacts, but hardly any progress on the research front…not to mention a rather persistent marriage proposal. After another great run with Sydney, we took our bucket showers and then headed off to Cape Coast for the day. The roads were pretty muddy from the recent rains, and everything was slippery, so maneuvering a Tro Tro packed with people was a difficult feat. As we were struggling up a rocky hill, we saw a large truck caught in a ditch and another equally large truck trying to pull it out with a rope. Needless to say, the truck wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

We arrived in Cape Coast around 10:00 am and then headed to Koto Kuraba station, where we parted ways to take cabs to the New Side and the Old Side. Upon arriving at the campus, I met up with Jacob, the president of the Student Nutrition Association, and he decided to take me to the Cape Coast Regional Hospital. It was quite secluded, and I likely would not have found it without his help, so it was great to have a local who knew the ins and outs of the area. The hospital was quite an experience in itself, and upon entering, I knew I was NOT in Kansas anymore. Nurses were dressed in old-fashioned white outfits, people sat in packed rows like the DMV, and children were coughing and crying at every turn. We headed upstairs to the nutrition office, where several of Jacob’s classmates were spending the day, and tried to speak with the lead dietitian. She was incredibly cold, however, and told us that we would need to speak with the head administrator…so off to his office we went. He was busy when we arrived, so we waited until he returned, and then Jacob introduced me. For a minute it seemed like I would be in luck…but then he told me that I would need to write an official letter stating my purpose and intent…so I will be trekking back tomorrow with hopefully more success (and Jessie to accompany me on my journey). After finally leaving the hospital, Jacob and I took a cab back to town, and then I left to meet some of the fellows at Baobaab House. I had a delicious omelet with boiled plantains (yes, I’m officially obsessed) and worked on my letter to present to the hospital administrator tomorrow. After printing it out at an internet café in town, we met up with Sydney and left for the Tro Tro station. It was especially busy this afternoon, and we had to wait quite a while for our Tro Tro, during which time EVERYONE tried to sell us something. Pretty soon, the shouts of “Meat Pies,” “Water” “Mentos” “Rolls” all started to blur in my head. Our Tro Tro finally arrived, but when we went to get on, there was a sudden wave of people who were all headed for Yamadam! Fortunately, the stationmaster jumped in the front and saved it for us, which was awesome.

Paula and John made a delicious stir-fry for dinner, and the rest of the evening has been devoted to research and paper-writing. I’m currently sitting in the conference room eating a FanChoco (frozen chocolate milk) and falling asleep on my computer. Off to join the spiders and crickets that are currently inhabiting my bedroom…woohoo.

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Beaching in Busua

17 Jun

It’s 10:30 pm Ghana time, and we’re back at Asuansi after another amazing weekend. The fun started on Friday morning, when I had a group of about 20 kids following me on my run. Their stamina is truly mind-blowing. We spent the rest of the morning packing and finishing up last-minute cleaning before heading off on our journey to Busua. We had to split up since Lorenzo had all of his luggage to bring back, so the majority of us went to catch a Tro Tro in Yamadam, while Natalie, Lorenzo, and John took a taxi. It was a bit of a dis-jointed trip, as we had to go to Cape Coast, then to Tacarati, then to Agona, and finally to Busua, but after several hours of packed Tro Tros, we finally pulled into the beautiful seaside town. It was small and humble, as are most of the towns I have visited thus far, but the vibe was significantly different than anything I have experienced here. It was definitely more laid-back and peaceful, and people seemed less likely to stiff you at every turn. We got settled into our quaint hotel on the beach, called Dadson’s Lodge, and then went to explore the town while we waited for the rest of our group. When they still hadn’t arrived after an hour, we called to see what the holdup was and found out that their driver had been pulled over by the (extremely corrupt) police for apparently running a stop sign. Always a lovely feeling. After the appropriate “tax” was paid, they were free to go and arrived shortly after. We spent some time exploring the beach and then headed to Busua Inn for cocktails and dinner at their French restaurant. We were staying right next to an NGO called Teach on the Beach, so they invited to a beach bonfire following dinner. It was a beautiful night, and we had a great time meeting new people, dancing, and sampling interesting African drinks. Sydney and I tried a lemon liquor with coconut rum, and I was definitely a fan.

Saturday morning, Sydney and I both happened to wake up super early, so we went for a beautiful run on the beach. It was so peaceful, and I loved the feel of running barefoot for the first time in a while. Following our run, we headed back to the hotel for SHOWERS (no hot water, but at least it was running) and then went down to breakfast with Colin, John, and Lorenzo. While the rest of the group slept (and slept and slept), Sydney, Colin, and I went for a rejuvenating swim in the ocean. We swam out past the break and bobbed in the swells, taking in the incredible views on all sides. We were about to head in when we were suddenly attacked by a clan of naked Ghanaian children who wanted to play in the waves with us. We played Ampeh ( a jumping game), gave piggy back rides, and danced in the water until we were all too tired to move. Then we headed back for shower number two and lunch at the beachside restaurant next door. They served burritos, so everyone couldn’t wait to get a slight taste of home. They weren’t exactly American/Mexican burritos, but they at least bore some resemblance. We spent the afternoon reading, talking, walking, and pondering life on Busua’s beautiful shore. Then it was back to the room for shower number three (hey, this is what happens when you are deprived of showers for three weeks!) and dinner at the burrito place again. It was Lorenzo’s last night in Ghana :(, and we wanted to send him off with a bang, so we bought some coconut rum and went in search of dancing. While walking through town, we heard music and stumbled upon the only swanky resort I have seen so far in Ghana. Our ears led us to an incredible pool with no one in it, so we took it upon ourselves to start the party. At one point, a hotel attendant came walking toward us, and we thought the party was over, but she asked where we were from and if she could join us! I love Ghanaians. After the impromptu pool sesh, we walked back along the beach and headed to our hotel for shower number four and bed.

I woke up at 5:00 am this morning to the sound of thunder and torrential rain, and while it wasn’t ideal beach weather, it was certainly a wonderful way to start the day. When the showers let up, I went for another mind-clearing run and then an early lunch at the burrito restaurant before saying goodbye to Busua. Our trip back was relatively uneventful, and Asuansi was in good shape when we returned, so things are looking up at the moment. On the research front, I just got a great email from a woman at the Hunger Project who has offered to help me with my topic! I also just booked a hotel in Accra for Wednesday and Thursday, and I’ll be heading to the University of Ghana with three other fellows to speak with professors in the nutrition department. Lots to think about, but things are slowly coming together. I’m excited to start week number four!

Plantain Overload

14 Jun

I tried to post last night, but the internet failed…so here’s an update.

6/13/12

It’s 9:40 pm Ghana time, and today has been pretty darn fantastic. Sydney and I started the morning with another beautiful run and great conversation. I think I’m actually starting to get used to the massive hills here, even though they still leave me breathless. There were no buckets when I went to shower, so I headed over to the well to fill one up and automatically put it on my head to carry it back. After some laundry and oatmeal, Sydney and I headed to Cape Coast for a day of research. The Tro Tro dropped us off at the wrong station, but we got our bearings and walked over to the “Agric-Junction,” a collection of agriculture and food-related offices located near the town center. We had been referred by a professor at the University of Cape Coast, but when we got to the massive row of haggard-looking buildings, we realized that we had absolutely no idea where we were going. After some wandering, we finally located the right building and found Madame Esther Akomaning, the head of food production and perseveration. She seemed like she was in the middle of a million and one things, but she whisked us into her office and spent over an hour discussing our research. Although I read several articles before arriving in Ghana, nothing compares to the information I’ve gotten directly from Ghanaians who understand the idiosyncrasies and customs of their people. She spoke with us about nutrition, family food production, food processing, and management of resources, and she was definitely the most articulate and well spoken person I have met here so far.

On our way back into town, Sydney and I shared a grilled plantain from a street vendor, and it was so delicious! I’m definitely trying them when I get back home. We were both starving, so we headed to Castle Café for lunch overlooking the water. I was craving more plantains, so I ordered vegetable stew with boiled plantains…definitely the best thing I’ve had here so far. I could seriously eat plantains every day.

We were on our way back to Agric-Junction to meet with another department official when we ran into Megan and Lorenzo at a clothing vendor. I ended up buying a beautiful Ghanaian dress, and I can’t wait to wear it on our next night out. Our second interview was with a fertilizer expert, and while his expertise pertained more to Sydney’s research than mine, he had some really interesting things to say about food security.

Tired but full of great information, we headed back into town to catch a Tro Tro home. I feel like I’m getting to know Cape Coast fairly well and growing accustomed to life here. I never thought I would say this, but it’s going to be weird to leave. I’m even getting used to the constant shouts of “AuBruni” (white person) from the village children and “Hey! You. Whereyougoing?” from the hoards of taxi drivers at the “station.”

Paula and Jessie made French toast with bananas and nutella for dinner (YUM), and now I’m back in the conference room attempting to do some reason before I fall asleep on my laptop. That’s all for now… I can’t believe I’m halfway through the trip already!

 6/14/12

So I’ve finally started to get my bearings and solidify me research…and then it hit me that I still have to write a paper. Yikes. With that in mind, Sydney and I decided to devote today to getting organized and working on our outlines. We went for another great run this morning, and it started to rain midway through, which was awesome. After chilly bucket showers and breakfast, we headed to Cape Coast again and started wandering. We walked past Cape Coast Castle and ended up finding a peaceful spot on the beach to sit and talk. We explained our research in detail and gave each other suggestions and feedback on our progress and future direction. It was extremely helpful, and I feel like I actually know where I’m going and what I’m looking for over the course of the next few weeks.

When we got hungry, we headed to Castle Café again for another plantain fix. When the plantains arrived, however, they were hard and bitter, and we both left them on our plates 😦 When the waitress lamented about our lack of plantain consumption, and we explained that they tasted different, she suddenly understood. Apparently there are two different varieties of plantains, and if they’re cooked when they’re still green, they taste like starchy, underripe vegetables. Oops. We know better now though because she told us to specify that we want “soft ones” next time. After our disappointing lunch, we found an internet “café” (ie. little upstairs room with wifi for 1 cedi an hour), and we’ve been working on our research ever since. I found a lot of potential contacts in Accra, so I emailed them to see if I could meet with them next week…fingers crossed for a response that does not follow the Ghanaian sense of time.  We’ve been here for the past three hours, but we’re about to head back over to Castle Café to celebrate John’s birthday. Plantains round two.

I’m hoping to get in some more work on my paper tonight and then get packed for the weekend. Off to Busua for some beach bumming tomorrow!

Rainstorms and Research

12 Jun

Well today has definitely proved that animals know a lot more than we give them credit for. We were about to go to bed last night when one of the fellows noticed several streaks of water below our front porch…or so he thought. The “streaks” were about 10 feet long and three inches thick, and they branched into bizarre patterns, somewhat like gnarled trees. Upon taking a closer look, however, we soon discovered that they were actually massive lines of flesh-eating ants. Welcome to Ghana. Oh, and apparently they can kill a person in under three hours…so much for going to bed. We armed ourselves with mops, brooms, and buckets and went to battle (or rather, Lorenzo went to battle and tried to derail their lines with a mop). We thought we had made some progress, but the lines soon began to reform thicker than ever, so we gave up and went to bed. A few people set alarms for 2:00 am to make sure they hadn’t marched their lines into our rooms in the middle of the night.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 am to the sound of a torrential rainstorm. Then it hit me that the ants had come out to gather food (in the form of dead bugs from our porch) and then weather out the storm underground. Smart little creatures.

I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I did some yoga and then took a freezing cold bucket shower to wake up. It took us a while to get going this morning because of the disastrous weather, but a few people managed to head over to the junior secondary school at Asuansi to interview teachers. They came back five minutes later with the news that teachers don’t come to school when it rains because it’s too loud on the tin roof. Apparently they found a bunch of screaming children running around unsupervised for the day. Party time. Since the school plan wasn’t an option, Paula, Natalie, Jessie, and I decided to head to Cape Coast in search of a health clinic and a high school. When we got to Yamadam, I reached out to grab the handle of the Tro Tro as I climbed in…and the entire door fell off! Oops. The whole Tro Tro filled with Ghanaians started laughing at me but assured me that it was not my fault. That fact was solidified when the Tro Tro broke down halfway to Cape Coast, and the driver dropped us off at the side of the road to wait for another one. We eventually made it to Cape Coast, and Jessie and I immediately found a large health clinic. The director did not have much to say about either of our topics, but he sent us to the Metropolitan Health Directive in search of more information. It was quite a walk, and we got lost several times, but an incredibly sweet Ghanaian woman took pity on us and walked us the rest of the way. The directive had an on-site nutrition center which deals primarily with severely malnourished children. I spoke with an intern who was extremely helpful, and she explained many of the barriers to proper nutrition in rural Ghana. She also showed me a photo album of their patients, which was incredibly disturbing. I have never seen such emaciated and helpless-looking children in my life.

Following the clinic, I headed to Baobab House to meet Paula, while Natalie and Jessie took off for a nearby high school. Paula was caught up in a meeting, and I thought I was going to have to head back alone, but suddenly Sydney and John arrived out of nowhere. We had some lunch and then Sydney and I headed to the University of Cape Coast to talk with one of the agriculture professors. He was incredibly knowledgeable and well-spoken, and we both got some great information. After another long walk and a very tiresome day, we finally caught a Tro Tro headed for Yamadam. As we neared one of the station stops, there was a man lying face-down on the side of the road, and the driver did not even acknowledge his presence, let along stop. I don’t know if this apathy is a product of the bystander effect or simply ignorance, but it is rather disheartening.

When we were all back safely at Asuansi, Megan made eggplant with tomatoes, avocado bruschetta, and pasta. It was quite a feast. We’re currently all in the conference room, working on our papers and enjoying the fans. Another successful day of research completed 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Bus Drivers, Water Holes, and Warthogs

11 Jun

I have been internet-less for the past five days…but here is an update on life in Ghana.

6/6/12

I’m currently sitting at the Ashanti Gold Hotel in Kumasi, and I must say, it’s been a very interesting past two days. Yesterday morning, Sydney and I went for a great 6:00 am run before our long journey, and then we headed off to Yamadam to catch a Tro Tro. After waiting for quite some time, a Tro Tro finally arrived, and we were off to Cape Coast. The bus station was bustling as usual, but we found a bus headed for Kumasi and hopped on. As usual, things were running on Ghanaian time, so it took two hours before we actually left…but we bought some bread, eggs, and snacks from the vendors who were circling outside the bus. The ride was long and rocky, but I got quite a bit of reading done, as well as some studying for the GRE. The arrival in Kumasi was definitely a bit of a culture shock. The streets were full of burning trash, countless vendors, and clouds of exhaust. Children followed us with open hands, tugging on our clothing and looking up with desperate eyes.

When we finally arrived at our hotel, we discovered that the price had “suddenly” shot up, from what we were quoted, and they also no longer had five rooms. Eight of us set out to explore the city and search for more hotels, while Megan and Lorenzo stayed to try to bargain the price down. We ended up finding a small, cheap hotel, but just as they told us that they had power, everything went dark…so we made our way back to the first hotel several hours later, exhausted and out of luck. It ended up being pretty awesome though…we went out on the town, sampled some Ghanaian brandy, and then piled into the “family suite.” This morning we explored the cultural center, and we’re currently waiting for lunch (which is always a long process) before we head off to Tamale!

 

6/11/12

Well all I can say after our five day adventure to Northern Ghana is… life just keeps getting crazier by the day. It’s been a fantastic past few days though. Our original bus driver in Kumasi decided to up the price at the last minute (surprise surprise), so we ended up leaving several hours later than intended. Our new bus driver, however, was totally awesome and definitely worth the wait. He didn’t speak very much English, but he was incredibly nice and seemed quite amused by our conversations and antics. It was a six hour bus ride to Tamale, which was fine until it got dark and sketchy. We were driving down a rather deserted road when suddenly lights hit our bus from all angles. It turned out to be a police checkpoint, which was all well and good…that is, until we found out that the police were on the lookout for bus robbers. Apparently it was fairly common in that area for 10 or 12 men with guns to blockade the road with boulders and jump on the bus. Needless to say, the rest of the drive was a bit tense. We arrived safely in Tamale though, and as soon as we stepped out the bus; it felt like yet another different world. The sky was lit up with stars, and everything was peaceful and quite. We were greeted by Ilbrahim, the owner of the Greenhouse, and he welcomed us graciously into his eco-village, which consisted of a humble circle of yurts. It was 11:00 pm, but he had a delicious hot dinner waiting for us, and he had set up mattresses on the roof of one of the yurts so that we could sleep under the stars.

The next day, we each cooked our own guinea fowl egg for breakfast and then headed out to assist the community with their latest project – building a dam. There was a group of men shoveling, a group planting grass, and a continuous train of women carrying buckets of mud on their heads. It looked incredibly intimidating, but I jumped into the line and spent two hours balancing several pounds of mud on a small cloth on my head. It was definitely an experience, but I think these women are onto something with the head thing because this mud was WAY too heavy to carry by hand.

That night, we sat around a gigantic fire and listened to the village storyteller until late into the night. After another peaceful night under the stars, I randomly woke up super early and went for an amazing run around the village. Following a rejuvenating bucket shower and breakfast, we headed out with Ilbrihim for a tour of the village. He took us to the local school, the library, and then to meet the chief. We brought him an offering of shea nuts and approached on our knees while clapping to a rhythm that Ilbrihim dictated. It was definitely a strange experience to say the least, and we all agreed that the chief was a bit self-centered and egotistic for our liking. After saying our goodbyes to the Greenhouse, we piled back into the bus, and we were off to Mole National Park. The last several hours of the drive took us on a road that could hardly be considered a road, and the jostling easily beat out any roller coaster I’ve ever been on. Upon arriving, however, we immediately saw antelope in front of our hotel, and I knew it was going to be a great weekend. We woke up super early the next morning and headed out on our walking safari through the park. We were soon greeted by a beautiful herd of elephants, who did not seem bothered in the least by our presence. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of standing ten feet away from a wild African elephant. The vet school motivation definitely hit harder than ever. We saw warthogs snorting through the brush, baboons carrying their young, herds of antelopes leaping through trees, and bright blue soaring above us. The highlight by far, however, was the watering hole. When we arrived at the edge, an entire family of elephants was bathing and playing in the water. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen, and we all sat, mesmerized, until our guide led us on.

We spent the rest of the day in the pool, which felt ridiculously amazing after two weeks of bucket showers. In the late afternoon, most of our group (ie. the boring people :-P) decided to take a nap, but Sydney, Colin, and I went canoeing instead. The “river” was a brown, murky, barely-moving body of water, but we saw crocodile tracks, which was pretty exciting! Our guides were awesome, and after the canoe ride, they took us into town to buy some bread and snacks for the car ride the next day. We also located a secret stash of bagged gin and rum shots, which is a fairly rare rind in Muslim regions of Africa. We had a great night of music, talking, and sampling our various town findings (The coconut rum with pineapple juice was by far the best). The next morning arrived way too soon, and we piled on the bus once again for our 12 hour drive back to Asuansi. We stopped in Kumasi so that we could pay our driver, but we soon discovered that we had been screwed over once again. Despite a written contract, our driver’s boss insisted that we pay him 10 times the amount that we had originally agreed to. Yeah right. So we squeezed into a crowded public pus and continued on our way. The drive back home was riddled with calamities, including an awful truck accident and later a man lying face-down in the middle of the road. We almost ran over him, and I was appalled that the driver didn’t stop! If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s to throw my expectations and ideas societal conventions OUT THE WINDOW.

We finally arrived back at Asuansi, and Joyce arrived shortly after with a pot of Red Red and plantains on her head. YUM. We also discovered, however, that all our windows had been slashed in attempt to steal items off the windowsill. We think it was a group of mischievous elementary school boys, but it was incredibly disheartening all the same. After a thorough house cleaning session, we headed to bed, ready to wake up and get back to research.

Today was a fantastic day on the research front! When we went hiking in Kumasi last week, I randomly happened to meet the president of the nutrition association at the University of Cape Coast. I gave him a call when I arrived in Cape Coast this morning, expecting to make an appointment for later this week, and he told me to head over as soon as I could. Just when I though I was lost, he appeared out of nowhere, and spent two and half hours taking me around the campus and introducing me to everyone in the nutrition department. I interviewed several fascinating professors, and I’m currently working on a new angle for my research. More on that soon. After saying my goodbyes to Jacob, I met a few other fellows for lunch at the Baobab House, where I tried tofu and veggies with boiled yam – so delicious. We did some grocery shopping, and by that time it was getting late, so we set off to catch a Tro Tro back to Yamadam. Tonight Joyce made us Fufu, a traditional Ghanaian dish of boiled dough balls with soup, and I must say I was not a fan. It tasted a bit like an oversized wad of flavorless gum…but, by all means, don’t let me give you bad impression. The rest of tonight has been filled with massive amounts of laundry, bucket showers, random power outages, and of course, working on our papers. I’m so excited for new research possibilities! I hope everyone has a fantastic week 🙂

Research Has Begun!

4 Jun

I went to bed feeling a little on the burned out and overwhelmed side last night…but today changed everything. I went for a great (but very hot) run with Lorenzo this morning and took the most refreshing bucket shower ever (that was not sarcastic!) After a quick breakfast, Paula, Megan, and I headed over to the nursery at Asuansi to observe and meet the kids. We had been invited last week by Solome, one of the teachers at the primary school, and she was so excited to see us. The classroom tiny and packed with about 30 rambunctious toddlers, but the kids were in disbelief when we walked in the door. All of their eyes were like saucers, and most had probably never seen a white person before. We observed Solome for quite some time and then learned that they teach English through song and dance because they don’t have any school supplies. At one point, Megan walked over to a young boy, and he started sobbing. She asked Solome what was wrong, and she said he was frightened of the color of our skin and afraid we were going to take him away. It was an incredibly disheartening reality. Most were very curious, however, and I soon had children surrounding me and climbing on my lap. I felt strange about just walking into a school and doing research, but we got permission from the headmaster to start today. I ran back home to grab my equipment and came back armed with my scale, measuring tape, growth charts, and data tables. I was soon mobbed by kids who were all eager to step on this strange black device. It was incredibly overwhelming at first, but I finally figured out a system and ended up measuring 20 students. Many had swollen, hard stomachs, characteristic of edema, and it was incredibly eye-opening and sad to see in person as opposed to in a textbook photo. One girl in particular, Priscila, grew extremely attached to me and did not want to be set down. She had gorgeous brown eyes, and when I left, she followed me with her gaze until I was out of the building. A few minutes later, we were talking to the teachers, and she suddenly appeared at my side. I promised her I would come back, and even though I don’t think she understood me, I’m going to make every effort to visit a few times a week.

After leaving the Asuansi school, we stopped home for lunch and then headed out to the Abakrampa Senior High School. I wasn’t expecting to do much research there, as the students on the upper end of my age range, but I ended up running right into the food and nutrition teacher! We had a fantastic talk, and she told me all about their program. She also said that religion plays a significant role in the malnutrition problem here because some Ghanaian religions forbid people from eating certain nutritious foods, such as beans and legumes. She was incredibly knowledgeable and also very grateful for the research I’m doing here. She asked if I would please come back in a few weeks and share my findings with her.

After heading back to Yamadam, I packed for our five day journey, took another rejuvenating bucket shower, and watched the sunset on the porch. After a delicious dinner prepared by Joyce (which she brought over on her head), we had another cleaning sesh, and now we’re all working on our research. I don’t know how much internet I’ll have this week, but I will try to post when I can. Off to Kumasi tomorrow!

Weekend Ramblings

3 Jun

So the power’s been out again…but here’s an update on life in Ghana!

6/1/12

The past two days have been extremely productive on the research front! Yesterday morning, Sydney and I went for another beautiful run, and it was so incredibly peaceful. We passed a small village of women making clothing, and they began singing and dancing as we ran by. On the way back, the hills were starting to tire me out, when all of a sudden I heard footsteps behind me. This time, not one but waves if schoolchildren were running after us giggling. They were all wearing sandals and carried their book bags on top of their heads.

After a quick bucket shower and breakfast, we headed to Yamadam to catch a Tro Tro to the district office in Abura Dunkwa. After a long wait and two Indiana Jones style rides, we arrived in Abura Dunkwa, and I was immediately taken aback by the striking district office building. It was quite a change from the tiny hut-like homes and broken down buildings that make up most of the villages, and everyone was dressed in sharp business attire. We met with the District Head of Education and each wrote up an outline our individual research for him to read. He was extremely helpful and told us to come back the next day so he could look over our summaries and figure out how to best assist us.

We took a Tro Tro back to Asebu and bought some groceries to have at the house while we waited for the next Tro Tro. They had delicious homemade wheat bread (the first I’ve seen here), which was exciting. When the Tro Tro didn’t come, we started to ask around, but no one seemed to know what we were talking about. Despite having just taken one from there, we were told that there was no Tro Tro back to Yamadam, only cabs. The from whom we had bought groceries helped us bargain with a cab driver to take us for the same fare as a Tro Tro (1 cedi each)…so the five of us packed into the tiny car and headed on our way. As we chugged up steep, muddy hills, the dashboard started smoking, and I wondered if the poor little car was going to make it Yamadam. Sure enough, we eventually arrived and met up with the rest of our crew, who had gone to meet with the district officials in the department of agriculture. After a quick lunch of hardboiled eggs and bread (and nutella), Paula, Jessie, Natalie, and I headed over to the school on the Asuansi Farm property. We could not find the headmaster anywhere, so we walked around the property and got our bearings. On the way back, we ran into Lawrence, the new head of the farm. He had not seemed incredibly pleased at our presence initially, but we then found out that he had no idea what we were doing in Ghana. Once we told him about our research projects, he became incredibly excited and told us that he would help us with whatever we needed.

We then headed over to the Asuansi Technical Institute, which is a little ways down the road, and it is a beautiful school. It is a three-year trade college set on a huge piece of property, and we ran into a herd of goats that were absolutely hilarious to watch. We wandered around for a while until we found the principle and asked if we could talk with him. He was also extremely helpful and told us we could come to the school anytime and he would help with whatever we needed. Although some Ghanaians seem to be irritated by the presence of Americans in their country, most are incredibly generous and show a genuine interest in our work. We met Kwe-que, a mechanical engineering professor from Cape Coast, and he was fascinating. He was very proficient in English, and he walked back to the farm with us so he could tell us about Ghana’s economic status.

We spent the afternoon getting organized and visiting with John and David, two students from ASU Tech who like to come by and hang out on our porch. I was on dinner duty with Sydney and Lorenzo, so we tried our hand at pasta with sautéed veggies and homemade sauce. It was a success, but just as we were bringing the pots to the table, the power went out…so we had a lovely candlelit dinner. We were all pretty tired, so we spent a few minutes planning out our weekend and then went to bed.

After another invigorating 6 am run, we had an early meeting with Lawrence and a few of the teachers from the school on the farm. He told us about his current research on sharks, and then we went around and discussed our own research topics. They were all very helpful and even offered to let us sit in on their classes any time.

We then headed back to the district office to meet with the District Head of Education again, which was an extremely long process but very successful. We spent three hours sitting in the office conference room, but by the time we left, we each had letters validating our research, and I got a list of school feeding programs in the area (well, kind of in the area – the term is apparently relative). We ended up having to take another cab from Asebu to Yamadam due to the lack of Tro Tros, but it was a much better ride this time. Still squishy, but the car was in significantly better condition, and the driver decided to blast some awesome African music. I got my second marriage proposal from a man in Asebu, but I quickly showed him my ring, and it worked like a charm.

Once we got back, we attempted to visit the headmaster at the farm school again, but she had gone home for the day, so we spent the afternoon working on research. Lawrence gave us the key to his conference room (which has fans!), so we’ve all been sitting in there typing away. AND, good news of the day – Megan got my phone working, so I officially have a Ghanaian phone now (take that, marriage proposal guy).

Natalie and I were on dinner duty, but when we started to cook our rice, we realized that it was full of bugs. Welcome to Ghana. So we sent a few people back to town, and then brought back spaghetti while we sautéed veggies for sauce and cut a delicious pineapple. Everyone came into the kitchen to help, and we blasted music, which helped us forget about they gross, buggy rice. The power just went out again, so we’re about to have a candle-lit card sesh. Yay for the weekend!

I also want to wish my mom and dad a very happy 37th anniversary! Miss you guys!

I hope everyone has had a great week 🙂

 

6/3/12

I can’t believe I’ve been in Ghana for a week already. Despite the overwhelming amount of newness, I feel like I’m starting to get adjusted to this unique place. We’ve had no power for the last few days, but it finally came back on…so here’s a recap.

Yesterday was definitely one of my favorite days of the trip so far. Sydney and I woke up early to do laundry, and then six of us decided to beat the midday lack of Tro Tros and head out. We caught a Tro Tro to Cape Coast, got some hardboiled eggs on the street, and then attempted to locate a Tro Tro to Kakum National Park. We bargained the driver down from three cedis per person to two and then began the squashing process. The seats on the end of each row flip down so that people can get off, but mine seemed to be missing a hinge, so I spent the majority of the ride sideways, gripping the seat in front of me. At one point, the driver veered off the main road and onto a dirt path behind a village, and I started to get a bit nervous. Apparently the road was just though, and he had taken a shortcut to avoid traffic. When we arrived at Kakum, we saw several groups of school kids in uniforms taking field trips to see the park. We walked through the historical museum and then went on a beautiful waterfall hike through the rainforest. Everything was so lush and green, and it was incredibly peaceful. We sat by the waterfall and talked for a while and then headed back to the museum area to meet up with the rest of our group (aka the sleepyheads). We shared a Ghanaian beer while we waited (which was actually really good) and then had lunch at the park restaurant when everyone had arrived.

While we waited for our canopy walk guide, we met a rambunctious group of schoolgirls who wanted to meet all of us and take pictures together. They really do look at us like we’re a different species sometimes. They were really sweet girls though, and they taught us some great dance moves! When the guide finally arrived, he led us up a steep trail until we reached the first bridge. Stepping down onto the shaky wooden slats held up by a rope 400 feet above the forest was definitely terrifying at first…but I loved it! It was amazing to be walking above the treetops, and even though it was too had to see animals, the view was breathtaking. I also happened to meet the president of the Nutrition Association at Cape Coast University, and he offered to talk with me and help me with my research! I’m planning to set up a meeting with him for the week we get back from Mole and hopefully sit in on some nutrition classes.

Following the canopy walk, we decided to go to a nearby monkey sanctuary, so one of the employees at Kakum gave the owner a call, and he said he would come pick us up. His name was Dennis, and he was a Dutch man who had come to Africa with his wife (nicknamed Mrs. Doolittle) to start a sanctuary. He arrived in a beaten up minivan, and when we told him there wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, he laughed and told us to pile into the trunk! Half of us climbed into the back and the other half into the trunk, and off we went…trunk open, doors open, and wind blowing in our faces. The sanctuary was incredible, and Dennis reminded me a lot of Steve Irwin. He had monkeys, crocodiles, Sevit cats, bunnies, turtles, snakes, spiders, daikers, and of course, cats and dogs. His monkeys understood Dutch…and they sleep in the bed with him in wife! He told us it definitely puts a damper on his love life.

After the sanctuary, we caught a Tro Tro back to Cape Coast, and this one truly felt like Indiana Jones. The traffic was heavy, so our driver decided to get around this problem by simply driving in the other lane and dodging oncoming traffic. It was great fun.

When we finally made it back home, Joyce had delivered dinner – “Red Red” bean soup and plantains, which was delicious. The power was out, so we decided to have a candlelit/flashlight cleaning sesh, however, our plans came to a halt when we were bombarded by a swarm of GIANT flying bugs. They were the size of butterflies but looked like a mosquito-dragonfly hybrid. When we finally fought them off, our night ended with an incredible thunderstorm.

Today was another great day, starting off with a rejuvenating run with Lorenzo. We spent the rest of the morning doing laundry, cleaning, and getting our lives organized, which was really nice. We set off for Cape Coast around 11:00 and headed straight to BaoBob House for a delicious vegetarian lunch.

After lunch, we went to Cape Coast Castle, the largest slave trading post in the world. The white stone castle overlooked the ocean, and it was incredibly beautiful but also extremely disturbing. We walked through the slave dungeons, which held 500 people at a time, and then saw the punishment cell, which housed those slaves who had been sentenced to death. When we entered the tiny, dingy room, our guide shut the door after us, and everything went black. He told us that 50 people at a time were forced into the room and left to die with no food or water. The stone wall was covered in teeth marks from slaves trying desperately to escape. It was a horribly sad experience but definitely one worth seeing.

After the castle, we were all exhausted, so we caught a Tro Tro home, and Jessie and Paula made a delicious Ghanaian dinner of vegetables and rice with hard-boiled eggs. I’m currently sitting in the conference room about to fall asleep…but it’s been a great past few days.

I’m exhausted, but I’m putting off going to bed due to the GIGANTIC spider that is lurking somewhere in my room…joy.

A few memorable quotes from this weekend:

“I feel like it’s us against Ghana right now.” (In reference to the bug attack)

“Everyone just flush your own s**t. It’s not that hard.”

Have a great week 🙂