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 🙂

 

 

 

 

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