Reflections

6 Jul

Well, I officially failed at blogging for the last week-and-a-half of my trip… but internet became scarce, and my research paper was calling my name. I wanted to make sure that I reflected fully on this journey, however, so here are two more posts about my final days in Africa. I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing this adventure with me.

6/22/12

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, but so much productivity (and fun!). Internet access and power have been spotty for the past several days, but here is a recap of the past few days in Ghana. Last Tuesday the 19th was another successful day of research, and I was finally able to speak with someone at the Cape Coast Regional Hospital about their nutrition services. Jessie and I met Jacob (my nutrition contact from UCC) there in the morning and then proceeded to spend hours waiting for the wrong hospital administrator…but we were granted access eventually. The clinical dietitian was extremely helpful and gave me a comprehensive summary of the hospital’s malnutrition treatment program. The AIDS coordinator was not as helpful for Jessie and gave her a rushed interview while standing outside her office door, but it was better than nothing. Following our never-ending morning and afternoon at the hospital, we headed right to Baobab for some sustenance. It was delicious, as always, and I got my daily plantain fix. We spent the afternoon and evening working on our papers and, of course, getting pumped for our Accra adventure.

Wednesday morning I went on a rejuvenating early run and then headed to Cape Coast to write at an internet café. While walking through town, a woman appeared with a gigantic platter of dead goats on her head, and it was definitely one of the more disturbing sights I’ve seen. Apparently it was a Ghanaian holiday during which one must offer a goat sacrifice…so sadly it was not a good day to be a goat. Jessie met me shortly after, and after a quick lunch, we met up with Colin and Sydney at Tantri station. The Tro Tro to Accra was packed to the brim, and the man who informed us there was air conditioning evidently did not know what air conditioning was… so it was definitely a long ride. My purse also somehow managed to get dunked into a puddle of blue paint, so I had to leave it by the side of the road at the station. A taxi driver tried to pick it up, but upon getting a handful of blue paint, quickly set it down again. We had made reservations at a new hotel right on the beach…but soon discovered that we had left the guidebook with the address and phone number back at Asuansi. Oops. The cab driver got completely lost, so we got out in the middle of nowhere and went in search of help. Fortunately, we happened upon the La Palms hotel, which was by far the most luxurious place I have seen in Africa thus far, and their staff graciously set us up with a new driver. He called himself Big Boi, and it was definitely fitting.

We decided on the Rising Phoenix Hotel, since it was familiar, and it felt like an oasis in the desert. After settling into our room (which was an awesome joint suite) and freshening up, we ate dinner overlooking the ocean and relaxed under the stars. Despite the fact that it was Wednesday (and we had spent the day traveling), we decided to explore downtown Accra and find the hot spots. After taking the wrong Tro Tro and bargaining with several cab drivers, we eventually made it to Club Macumba, a hip bar and nightclub in the city. The bouncers seemed surprised yet enthusiastic about our presence, and the reason behind their excitement was soon revealed when we walked inside…we were the ONLY ones in the club, but the music was blasting and the dance floor was beckoning. Sydney quickly befriended the DJ, and it was by far one of the best nights of the trip so far. We danced until 2:00 am and then headed back to our hotel to sneak in a few hours of sleep before our long day of research. The next morning, Sydney and I headed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to interview some professionals about nutrition and sustainable agriculture. It was a very successful day, and I gained tremendous insight into the problems faced by farmers and laborers in providing proper nutrition for their families. After dinner at the Rising Phoenix and a much-needed nap, we decided to hit the city again and stumbled upon Jokers club. It reminded of a Los Angeles nightclub, and as I walked passed women in skin-tight mini dresses, I felt extremely overdressed in my long skirt. It was an amazing night, and we danced until we were about to fall over. When we got back to the hotel, it was time for a few hours of sleep and then packing for the waterfalls!

7/5/12

I have been home for two days now, and I am already missing Ghana. Before I share some final thoughts on this incredible journey, here is a recap of week #5:

Our weekend at the waterfalls in Wli was amazing. The bus station in Accra was the definition of insanity, and the drive through Ha Hoi was equally nerve-wracking due to the recent riots, but the waterfall lodge was an oasis in the desert. It was owned by a German couple, and I knew I was going to enjoy my stay the moment I saw an aviary with a beautiful African grey parrot. Saturday morning, we woke up early and met our guide for the hike to the upper falls. We chose to take the longer route so that we could see more of the villages on the way, and the scenery was more than worth the strenuous climb (although I don’t know if everyone would agree with that!) The falls were like nothing I have ever seen before, and the water pressure was so intense that it was painful to stand near the spray. We all swam anyway though, and it was definitely the best exfoliation I had all trip. We were all exhausted by the time we got back, so we had a relaxing afternoon and an early dinner before going out to the local bar. It was great to meet some of the villagers, and we had a very entertaining evening.

The next morning, several fellows left early to head back to Asuansi, while the rest of us waited to catch a later Tro Tro back to Accra for another day of research. A few members of the Accra contingent decided to sleep in, but Megan, Colin, and I were feeling adventurous, so we decided to climb the highest peak in West Africa, Mt. Afadjato! It was a fantastic hike, and when we reached the summit, we were surrounded in a thick layer of fog that obscured everything from sight. It was strangely surreal and somewhat reminiscent of heaven. We headed back to Accra that night, but upon arriving at our hotel, we quickly realized that we did not want to be there. We randomly chose something out of the guidebook, which turned out to be a hostel…but we decided to stay there anyway, especially given the air conditioning and running water. We met a few other international travelers, so we invited them to dinner and then out on the town. It was quite an experience, and we definitely discovered the happening club location in Accra.

Monday morning was another productive research day, and I visited an NGO called Plan Ghana, which focuses heavily on food security. We left Accra that afternoon, stopped in Cape Coast to pick up food for dinner, and made it back to Asuansi in record time. The final week was somewhat of a blur, as I spent most of it at an internet café writing for hours on end. My paper turned out to be 28 pages, and I’m still finishing the final touches, but it was an overall successful endeavor.

We spent our final weekend at Oasis in Cape Coast, dancing, talking, laughing, and reminiscing about the past month of our lives. Then Sunday afternoon we took our final bus ride back to Accra for our very last night in Ghana. We decided to dress up in our Ghanaian wear for dinner, and it felt amazing to put on clean clothes for the first time in a while. We happened upon an Italian restaurant in town, so we devoured several surprisingly delicious pizzas before hitting the streets to go club-hunting. The night was going wonderfully…that is, until I tripped and fell waist deep into a sewer in my floor-length green dress. I spent the next hour at Kentucky Fried Chicken (the only fast-food place I saw in all of Ghana) icing my leg and washing my dress in the sink. I refused to let the sewer de-rail my plans, however, so off to the dance floor we went. We stayed at the club until 3:00 am and then stayed up the rest of the night to soak up the last of each other’s company. When we arrived at the airport, it suddenly hit me that I would be leaving my newfound Ghana family, and it was incredibly hard to say goodbye.

As I stepped onto the airplane, into a world so familiar yet so foreign, my mind was flooded with memories from the past five weeks. Children chasing after me on my morning runs, the station master helping me find the right tro tro, children holding out their hands in desperation, mothers carrying their babies through crowded streets, men dying in the road, rainstorms pounding the earth and reminding me what it feels like to be alive.

I don’t know how to articulate the impact that this trip has had on my life, but I do know that it has changed me forever. It has changed my perspective and my priorities, my outlook and my insight. Most importantly, however, these five weeks have proven that beauty, generosity, and hope can be found in the most unlikely places. I will miss you, Ghana.

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