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Going Going Ghana…

I’m a few weeks behind but I wanted to post a bit about my last few weeks in Ghana.

The other students from Seattle joined us with just a little over a week left in Ghana.  It was interesting having 5 additions to the group as I had just gotten used to the way things were going.  Mostly, my freedom.  Ghana had officially started to feel like home. But I must say, the new additions were wonderful.  The group had a very good dynamic and everyone had a lot of character…something that was necessary if I was going to share “my” Ghana with them.

We traveled to Kakum National Park in  Ghana to do the Canopy walk and I must say..my fear of heights was truly tested.  There are 7 suspension bridges about 130 feet in the air.  The bridges shake and wobble and feel completely unsteady.  I almost had a heart attack about 7 times!  I think I held my breath the whole time.  The views from that high were beautiful, at least something about the experience was worth it.  You can see the top of the tropical rainforest and animals if they were out and about…I however, didn’t see any because I was so petrified.  At least I managed to finish the trek, otherwise they may have had to airlift me out.  Kind of embarrassing considering our 71-year-old professor had no problems and just kept on walking.

I’d love to show you some pics (and hopefully will find a reliable internet source so I can add some) but as of right now the computer won’t let me upload any.  Quite the experience.

The girls and I took the study tour gang to Pleasure beach for Reggae night and I think they were all grateful to have some guides that knew the layout and hotspots.  Otherwise they might have spent their nights drinking inside the compound. Boring!

About a week into the study tour we took a mini-trip to Kumasi, the Ashanti region and cultural hub of Ghana.  Yaa Asantewa, my Ghanaian name, is from the Ashanti region and I’ve been looking forward to seeing her legacy and learning more about the strong queen who led the men to war against Britain that I was so adamantly named after.  Our trip to Kumasi turned out to have many hidden surprises.

After finding a new place to stay we set out to a village about 3 hours away to learn about this thing called a “Twig Light.”   However, on our way there we got our THIRD flat tire in one week.  We ended up stuck on the side of the road for about three hours.  Lucky for us, and not necessarily my stomach, there was a food stand nearby.  They were selling grass-cutter soup.  Grass cutter is a bush rodent and I figured I had to try it at least once while I was in Ghana.  It was disgusting.  That’ll be the first and only time my tastebuds experience that.

Back to the twig light. It is being used in a few villages to provide light where there is no electricity.  The device is fueled by using “live” hot coal and water.  You stick the device prongs in each, making sure they are separeted and voila! electricity.  The women use the lights to prepare their foods, when they wake early in the morning there is not light for them to see.  These twig lights have made a huge difference in their lives.  Yet another project to ponder when I return.

Our second day in Kumasi we visited the Palace museum where I learned about Ms. Asantewa.  The guide even closed the door and told me that I needed a picture with her statue, even though it was strictly prohibited.  I’ve learned that in Ghana you can have anything if you just ask for it.  There is no such thing as no.

Our second night in Kumasi will have to be discussed over beers.

The last few days in Ghana I started to get really sad at the thought of leaving this beautiful country that had welcomed me and allowed me to call it home.  The people that I met made such an impact and the experiences I had cannot be rivaled.  I have always had a hard time saying good bye and this was no easier.  Our last night our dear friend Prince threw us a party at the compound.  A bunch of his friends came with their drums and guitars and we played music and drank, all the while avoiding the words “goodbye.”  I prefer “I’ll see you soon.”  As they say in the song, “Africa is beautiful but Ghana is most beautiful.”  I couldn’t agree more.

On to Kenya!

Greetings my peeps!  Sorry for the delay in posts but hey, I’m in Africa!

So much has happened since the last post but I’ll try to recap to the best of my abilities…and right now I’m not sure what those abilities even are.  I’m running low on cohesive thoughts at this point.

The crew and I took a trip to Ghana’s Volta Region last week.  If you are unfamiliar with this do not fret.  I’ll fill you in.  The Volta Region is located in Eastern Ghana, along the border of Togo.  The area is much much different from where I’ve been residing for the last 6 weeks.  It is plush and forest-y with cocoa, coffee, mango, banana and plantain trees EVERYWHERE.

Our first day we traveled out to Wli waterfall, the highest waterfall in W. Africa.  Our guide, who’s name was Wisdom was quite the character.  He was a sprite little fellow and very talkative.  I heard him humming to himself and handed him my Ipod to listen to…the selection was set to Kid Cudi…he didn’t stop dancing the whole way through the forest.  I was worried I wouldn’t get my Ipod back…that has been a common theme when I offer it out.  I often share with people on tro tros and they couldn’t be more excited.  It has been my special treat to those around me.  Since they love love love music here, its the least I can do.  But, several times I’ve had to wrangle it back from folks and one time was certain I would never see it again.  However, I have a way.

The hike through the forest took us about 45 minutes and when we got to the waterfall, we had it all to ourselves.  On the cliff next to the waterfall are hundreds, if not thousands of fruit bats.  Apparently from time to time they decide to fly about and I have to admit that I thank my lucky stars they decided to stay put that afternoon.  Bats are not my friends.

Here’s some pics from Wli.  The waterfall was beautiful.  Knowing that I was in Africa and it was an African waterfall made it that much more beautiful.  I don’t know how I’m going to leave this place.

The crew

On our way home, we asked our new friend Wisdom if he would take us into Togo.  Gladly, he said.  The hills near Wli waterfall mark the border between Ghana and Togo.  It only took us a 30 minute walk to get there.  After walking for about 15 minutes through what is known as “No Man’s Land” that literally is not Ghana and not Togo, we arrived at the border.  After some finagling with some random guy sitting there (no uniform, no official border badge) we left our passports with him (definitely not the smartest decision I’ve ever made) and set off to explore some of the villages near the border.  From what I got to see of Togo, it is beautiful.  It is surrounded by mountains on all sides.   And the language literally changed from English to French the moment we crossed the border.  Those that live along the borders are from the Ewe tribe and they all speak Ewe with one another.  I had to use what little french I know which didn’t get me very far.

Here’s a pic with one foot in Ghana and one foot in Togo! Exhilarating right?

Here’s a few pictures of some babes on my excursion to Togo.  My favorite is obviously the little babe with her little bucket.  She followed me for a while and then I gave her candy and she ran off…I hate it when that happens!

The next day we went to visit Mt. Afadjato, the highest mountain in Ghana.  We hiked up to Thagbo falls at the base of the mountain for another fun filled waterfall day.  This hike took about an hour and we made enemies with some ants along the way.  Poor Jenny had them crawl up her pants and in her trousers…the tour guide got a peek when she took off her pants in the forest.

Here’s Thagbo!

Our last day we went to visit the monkey sanctuary.  The guide made some strange noises and all of a sudden you saw the trees moving and Poof! mona monkeys everywhere!!!  The came down from the trees and climbed on our arms to peel and eat the bananas…I was in heaven.  It is believed that the forest is a sacred forest and the monkeys are there to protect it.

And last but not least , our friend Nii!  Our last night in the Volta region, Nii and his friends took us to their house to learn how to make ground nut soup with rice balls, my favorite dish in Ghana.  I will be testing it out when I return so anyone who is interested let me know!

I love you all and Friday I head out to Kenya for the next leg of my African adventure.  Stay tuned.  Can’t wait to see all your beautiful faces in three short weeks!  Muah!

Beachside in Kokrobite

Here we go again!  It’s been a long week and a lot has happened.  I’m still trying to internally process it let alone regurgitate it to folks back home.  I’ll start with our first excursion to a far off place called Kokrobite (ok, not really but it still took us three hours to get there!)

Kyla and I set off in the early Friday afternoon to hit the beach.  Jenny wasn’t feeling well so she stayed behind and came to meet us the next day.  We caught the tro tro to circle (the main transport, ever-so-whelming, hub) and tried to find the tro tro that would take us the beach, Kokrobite.  After about an hour waiting in line, we were on our way.  Step one, complete.

Once we arrived we had to take a taxi to the main lodging spot and the driver had told us it would be 5 cedi.  I knew better and told him 70 pesewas…he told me I was smart.  The car ride down the long bumpy road with the three other passengers in the back seat (Kyla and I were stuffed in the front with all our luggage and such) made for quite the taxi ride.  Along the way we picked up this rasta dude, name Nii (“not like this one” he said as he pointed to his “knee) who helped us find a  place to stay. Apparently it is always advised to have a Ghanaian with you when trying to book lodging, otherwise they try to gouge the obronis.  We had tried to book ahead on the internet but that would have been too easy now wouldn’t it? That’s not how things work in Chafrica. We found a little, cheap, place to stay called the “Dream” however, it  was more reminiscent of something out of a nightmare but I just needed a place to put my stuff and rest my head.  Step two complete.

The one awesome thing about our “Nightmare” lodge was that just on the other side of the adjacent building there was a surprise for us.  MONKEYS!  A nice little British couple called our attention to them and gave us a few bananas to feed them.  The lodge apparently had three monkeys. Two were tied up which was very sad and the third one we were told, always escapes.  It makes sense now as to why he was trying to untie the other two while we were watching.  I am always mesmerized by monkeys, especially ones I can look at without glass separating us.  This is the first time actually.  I felt like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story.” When asked what kind of monkeys they were, Nii responded, “I’m not good at monkeys.”  My vocabulary has taken quite an interesting turn these days.  I plan to have an entire post dedicated to my “lowcabulary” that has been germinating. When I get home I might have a hard time communicating with y’all but send any African my way and I’m good.  I’ll be taking a lot of cabs for sure.

Friday night we found a little Italian place and had a bottle of red wine!  First wine these lips have tasted in over a month.  Schwing!

Saturday morning we walked along the beach shops perusing the goods, while Nii showed us all his friend’s crafts.  The people here are very competitive when it comes to business and will do anything to take your business away from another.  It can be quite cumbersome when you have 3 African business folk in your face saying “buy something from me.”  I’ve learned that “No thank you, I don’t like that one” works very well.

While were having some food I noticed a large crowd gathering near one of the fishing boats that had been brought in.  I had read that if you help pull in the day’s catch you were allowed to eat for free.  I walked over to see the process and watch the community pitch in.  The men were sorting out various fish from the nets.  Long skinny silver fish. Tilapia. Something that resembled puffer fish and various other sea life.  The women were standing in a line waiting for the fish to take in and start preparing the meal.  The kids now were jumping all over the place and trying to get their hands on whatever small fish were discarded.  The children were all walking around with little plastic bags of water with their fish in them.  Just like I did whenever I would come home from the fair!  I was told that the kids get the fish, then they all collaborate and put them together to try to sell.  They then split the money.  These kids learn from an early age.  Smart little guys.

The fish is then prepared for the community that helped with the catch. It is very much a shared process. The men fish, the women cook, the kids hustle.  There are several boats that line the shore and the process is very much the same from boat to boat.  The only variance is the size of the boat and the people manning it.

Here’s a distant view of the process and the people gathered around the boats.

Jenny managed to find her way to us with no roadblocks and the three of us set up shop on the beach for the day.  This was the first chance I felt like I had to just relax and take it all it in.  The ocean was beautiful.  So peaceful, even though it was very crowded and people were constantly trying to get our attention.  I’ve become accustomed to pretending like I don’t hear people saying ‘hello white woman,” “how are you. let me be your friend,” “hiss (they actually hiss at you to get your attention) – come talk to me.”  They eventually get over it and go back to doing whatever they were doing before.

While we were lying on the beach some small children came and asked us if they could have my bottle of water.  I can’t resist the children’s requests for water.  However, after this particular account I may rethink it next time.  This small boy who I was immediately enamored by, grabbed the water from me, opened it and poured it on his soccer ball to clean it off.  I tried to explain to him that he should drink “this water” and use the ocean “that water” to clean off the ball.  In response to this comment he held the water at chest level and ninja kicked it.  No joke. I couldn’t believe it but I also couldn’t help but laugh.  These kids I tell ya.  I started to take pictures of them and they went crazy. One of the girls came and sat on my lap and the next thing I know I had little African babes crawling all over me. One on my shoulders, one in my lap and loving every minute of it – even though I was covered in sand and it was like sandpaper on my skin.  I’m a sucker for these little guys.

After they departed I noticed my little guy playing soccer with a grown man.  I decided I should stop staring at him and go play with the two of them, even if my football skills are sub-par.  The little guy was good (the one on my shoulders), I could barely get the ball away from him. The older man didn’t take it easy on me either.  He kept calling me in to try to get the ball from him only to then kick it between my legs to the little guy (who was about 3-5 mind you). My first lesson in futbol – don’t mess with the Africans, they know what they are doing. I lasted all of about 20 minutes and said my thank you(s). I think I’ll stick to softball.

Saturday night was reggae night at this place called Big Millies Backyard. Apparently it is a hot spot for all the Obronis.  Evidence of the truth was there waiting for us.  More obronis than I have seen in a while, since being back home actually. Girls with their hair braided.  Girls with African men hanging off their arms…most of them were much younger and it was apparent.  I kept thinking about all the warnings I was given and wondering if anyone had given them any.

However, the band was amazing – they played lots of Mr. Marley and covered all the top hiplife songs that are popular in Ghana at the moment.  We once again, danced our hearts out! After a while we walked down to the beach with our friend Nii and saw some of the fishermen sending the boats out to sea.  I sat in the sand and watched this delicate process.  The men (most all of which were completely naked) have these long boards that they used to prop up the boat and roll it forward until the tip is eventually in the water.  Then, they wait for a big enough wave to help carry the boat out before they jump in.  Then, they all hop in and paddle as hard as they can…and then…spend the night in the ocean.  When morning comes they pull up the nets and bring in the boats to start all over.  Their organic way of surviving was very humbling.  This is their livelihood, their way of life.

Sunday it was pouring rain when we set out for home.  It was really the first time it had rained that hard since I’ve been here.  It’s surprising because I guess it is the rainy season…that was just the beginning. More rain was on its way.  I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the rainy Sunday by relaxing, watching TV, doing laundry and reading my book.  Almost felt like home.

Futbol action photo

Primary school children in Ofankor

Flava Flave!

I have to give a shout out to my baby brother!  His birthday was a few days ago and I wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY RYAN!  I love you and you are the best baby brother (even though you are way taller and stronger than I am) a sister could ask for.  I hope you had a wonderful day – you deserve it.

Ish – you also deserve a shout out for contacting Dick’s and seeing if they could ship me a deluxe cheeseburger and fries.   Too bad they “are not set up to ship food” according to their response.  I love it.  You rock!  Upon returning to Seattle I will be having my taxi make a pit-stop pronto!

So, now that I’m quite settled in, I wanted to note some quirky little observations I’ve been making.  I want to give you a view into the “flavor of Africa” that has been my home for the last three and next five weeks.

First, the people.   The people here work very hard, sometimes 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week.  However, don’t let that fool you entirely.  They take time to socialize and harangue any and everyone.  We are prime targets.  Also, everyone here has a cell phone, everyone.  You will be in the middle of a transaction and the person’s phone will ring.  No “excuse me, hold on or I’m sorry” is said, they just answer the phone and you wait.  Sometimes you could stand there waiting for your change for some time.  I’m told this is normal. Their idea and my idea of normal is obviously worlds apart.

(Grace, our seamstress)

One day we were in the middle of interviewing and our interpreter, Joyce, answered her phone.  The women being interviewed didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned and just patiently waited.  About 5 minutes later we continued with the interview. Normal.   A word I don’t feel very familiar with these days. I’m adjusting as necessary.  African time should be given its own time zone entirely.  The concept of time here has been perhaps the biggest adjustment. No one is ever in a hurry for anything.  Also, very different than what I’m used to.

The people here as I mentioned before, are very, very religious.  Everyone throws God into conversation any time they get a chance.  People in the village are always talking about juju.   It is believed that some people are able to cast spells/juju etc.  I’ve been warned so many times that I shouldn’t talk to strangers because the next thing you know you will have given them your bank account information or done something for them that you didn’t want to do and you will have no control over it.   I immediately laugh and tell them they are crazy and I don’t buy it…I’m sure that’s offensive but seriously?  I try to explain to them we have the same thing back home and they are called “con artists.”  They insist on tying some magical aspect to it….I’m really not buying it.  However, I was shown where the witch doctor lived and told that he can give you potions for various things…I think I have someone in mind who deserves a not-nice potion mixture.  I’m taking requests as well…

In the city, people roll their eyes when you mention juju.  Just another quirk of living in the village I guess.

Sleep.   I have this theory that because the people works so hard, they are always tired.  People sleep EVERYWHERE.  I was first amazed at Joyce who managed to slip in a cat nap on the tro tro.  Her head was bobbling this way and that and yet she managed to continue to snooze.  You should never be alarmed if the man next to you rests his head on you while en route to your destination.  One night we were taking a taxi home and the driver had to stop to get gas (also normal if your taxi stops several times to run errands, grocery shop etc. while taking you home).  It was very late/early and we pulled into the gas station.  Here, they do not allow you to pump the gas yourselves.  They are concerned with thieves.  The two attendants were sleeping on the ground next to the pumps and did not appear to be bothered by us pulling in.  When the driver got out of the cab and tried to rouse them they both just brushed him off and told them “we are sleeping.”  Our driver insistently to try to wake them and after about 10 minutes they finally got up to supply us with the fuel.  Jenny, Kyla and I were in the backseat laughing our heads off.  The whole concept was hysterical to me…This is Africa.

I’ve seen the light though.  I am always tired and I’m not sure if its because of the heat, the change of diet or my lack of sleep.  Most likely it is a combination of the three.  I’ve started napping on tro tros, in taxis, or even in the office while I’m waiting for Sami to arrange the interviews.  I can now close my eyes and poof! I’m in Oz.  We’ve started calling it “taking a little Afri-nap.”  Also hilarious.  The other night we took a taxi into Osu (ex-pat party spot on Accra) to buy a cake for a friend’s birthday and when the taxi pulled into the shop, the three of us were all sleeping.  I imagine the other white people on the patio were laughing at us but that power nap helped me get through the night for sure.  Napping, a long lost art.

Water.  Everyone told me only to drink bottled water here.  For the first week or so I heeded that bit of advice ardently.  I would brush my teeth with bottled water etc.  Now, forget it.  I use the tap water to brush my teeth but I don’t swallow.  I gave up (not entirely) on the strict advice of bottled water and have been drinking the satchels of water that are sold everywhere.  The water has been filtered and treated so I deem it worthy.  The water is very cold and much much cheaper.  This is pretty much the only water the African people drink, and I want to assimilate.  My stomach once again has passed the Africa test, the water doesn’t bother me at all.  I’d like to think the people smile at the Obroni drinking the bag of water that so many others are afraid of.  I like that feeling.

The girls and I have also discovered booze in a bag.  It comes in this small satchel and you can get a bag or them (about 24-1 oz bags) for 3 cedi…or about $2.  Schwing!  They have whiskey, gin (which is more like vodka) and a few others.  They are a hit and much cheaper than paying for beer at the  bar.  Although, you just pay 50 pesewas…34 cents when you order a bag-o-booze or “tot” at a bar.  You can have a gin and lime with two ‘tots’ for the low price of one cedi! Steal.

Food.  Oh the food.  It is spicy and ricey.  A lot of rice.  My quest for the African (come home skinny) diet is NOT working.  The food is delicious. I went to the beach for a weekend where they had an Italian restaurant and both nights we had pizza and pasta.  The western food was a nice little break but after the second day I was on the tro tro dreaming about ampesi (cocoa yam leaves with yams and plantains) and ground nut soup.  Ghanaian food never looked so good.

(Ground Nut Soup)

I was also strongly advised not to take the street meat.  Another belief/bit of advice I have thrown out the window.  The street skewers are a delicious little snack.  However, sometimes when you order beef you might get chicken or vice versa..therefore I have just started calling it “MEEF.”  Perhaps it is neither chicken nor beef, I guess I don’t care.  Whatcha don’t know won’t hurt you ( I can hear my grandpa now).  If I see an African eating it I’m sure I can handle it.  Street meef. Mmm.  They put this ground red pepper on it and it is da bomb!  The street food is one of my favorite things about traveling and it is also very much a part of any culture..how could you ignore this?  I couldn’t stand the thought.

Alright for now…a little glimpse into my day-to day.   Here are just some random pics…I’m going to try and organize the massive amount I have taken on picassa to share with everyone.   Stay tuned.

This little girl took one look at me and this is what happened next

Man napping in tire pile?  Just a little Afri-nap

Fishing boats at Cape Coast

Obama biscuits…He’s a big hit here.  Tell anyone you come from the U.S. and they reply, “Obama!”  Take that George W.

My next post will be dedicated to my beach weekend…Uh-mazing.  Talk to you all soon…love and happiness to all!

New Soul

The words to Yael Naim’s song “new soul” have been on constant repeat in my head.

“I’m a new soul. I came to this strange world hoping I could learn a bit ’bout how to give and take. But since I came here found the joy and the fear, found myself making every possible mistake.  See, I’m a young soul in this very strange world, hoping I can learn a bit ’bout what is true and fake. Trust and love is not always easy to make.”

Distinguishing between true and fake may be the hardest thing we never learn to do.  Life is all about trial and error and I’m proud to say, I’m learning from my mistakes.

It’s definitely hard being far away from everything I know.   I found myself reflecting the other day and thinking about what this trip means to me.  The imprint that has already been made is quite profound – and, I’m not even half way there.  I’m learning a lot about the relationships I keep and what that means to me.  Everyone said this trip would change me, I just didn’t think it would happen so fast.

Luckily, we’ve made some quality friends in Accra.  And that’s not as easy as it sounds, considering everyone wants to be your friend.  Our new friends are showing us the tricks of the trade and I even had a women selling jewelry the other day say to me, “Hey, who taught you how to do that” when I told her I was only paying 4 cedi, after she told me 8.  Some little boys the other day took me for a fool and I fell into their trap. They were asking me to buy them water and I did, but paid 10 times what one should normally pay. Here are the culprits.

Next up – I want to be the tro tro attendent for a day and scream “circ circ circ” and “cra cra cra” to let folks know where we are headed. It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.  Usually we head out a few nights a week to break up village life and mix it with some action. I’ve having to learn how to adjust to the pace of life here…I’m not very good with idle time and there is an abundance of it here.

The other day we were invited to a client’s home for lunch. Her name is Akosua and this woman lights up a room.  She made us groundnut soup with fish and cow feet (I hurriedly would transfer said foot into Joyce’s bowl when Akosua was not looking). After lunch I asked her if she could show me how to tie a headdress that I see all the beautiful African women wearing. After just two attempts, it’s official, I know how. The headdress is suprisingly cool considering the amount of fabric being worn on your head. As awkward as I look I guess I will share a picture or two.

Akosua declared several times that she is our African mother and introduced me to her brother, my African uncle. She speaks English very well and is going to show us how to make traditional Ghanaian dishes so we can bring the flavor back home. One stipulation she said, I find her and bring her a husband. I have a feeling she was not joking. I told her I’d do my best. Any adventurous middle aged men you may know, send ’em to me.

So, remember when i said I was going to have a little African babe kangaroo-wrapped to my back? My wish came true. The other day when we were at Cape Coast a little girl was carrying her sister on her back.  I asked her if she would show me how and she, without hesitation, strapped that little peach onto my back.  I was nervous that the babe was gonna fall over and off but they just innately know to hang on. It was surprisingly comfortable and secure, now I know what the fuss is all about. Western world – you can keep your overpriced Baby Bjorn – I have 1 yard of fabric that’ll do the trick. I’ve been wanting that moment for long before I ever arrived in Africa. I can’t begin to describe how elated I was in that moment in time…Here’s the proof….

More soon – Miss you all and thanks for all your support! I love hearing from everyone, makes me feel at home in this wild wild place.

Yay, another post!  I’m as excited as you are…’cause I know you’ve all been sitting at your computers anxiously awaiting news from, as Mike Roney calls it, “the dark continent.”

This last week has been a busy one, not to mention a very emotional one.  We made our first trip out to the Cape Coast which is about 3-4 hours West from where I am.  This trip had both pleasure and pain attached to it – this is where all of the slave castles line the coast and the slave trade began.  While the coast line is beautiful and something out of postcard, I couldn’t shake the sick feeling I had in my stomach. 

We visited Cape Coast castle which is this beautiful structure plagued by its history.  I am not kidding when I say the place feels haunted and the memories follow you around. We visited the various quarters and cells which are basically just underground concrete rooms.  Much of what the guide relayed to us was lost due to the fact that I was continually trying to hold back my tears.  The worst ones were the “door of no return” and “the cell.”  This was where they took the slaves to die.  They were put in a very small room with no ventilation or windows.  They basically slowly suffocated and left to witness the suffering of those around them.  The bodies were not cleared until the last breath had left the room.  We had the door open, standing half way in and I could feel the thickness of the air…it made me sick to my stomach.  Just writing about this I’m finding myself having to hold back the tears…moving on now.

After the tour we wandered around the beach playing with the kids.  Some small boys kept asking for me to take their picture and about 7 or 8 surrounded me.  This is the trick, distract the Obroni with her camera so I can dig in her purse.  Needless to say, I caught on to them.  I will not be duped again by 8-year-olds…some other small boys at the castle begged me to buy them H2O and told me it was 50 peshawas.  I later found out you should never pay more than 5 for a satchel of water.  I bought them 3! For some reason, I’m not that bitter. 

Also this week, I got my first up close and traumatic glimpse of the poverty that is embedded throughout much of Africa.  Here in Ghana people do quite well for themselves.  The poverty is nowhere near that which much of Africa faces. That is why they call this “Africa for beginners.”  However, it does exist and I had it thrown in my face. 

There is this teen boy that comes into the office frequently.  His english is not great and most of the time I cannot understand him, but he is ALWAYS smiling.  His eyes wear the look of a hard life but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him.  He just kind of quietly sits there until Sami or Ben send him out to fetch something for them.  I don’t like that.  One day I gave him my ipod to listen to and he looked so incredibly happy – I almost didn’t get it back and had to ask several times for him to hand it over.  Suddenly my ipod doesn’t seem so significant. 

After the office closed Sami took us to our first chop bar (a local little restaurant if you can call it that).  We sat down at the table and the young man sat off to the side away from us.  I asked Sami why he wasn’t eating with us and he replied “because he doesn’t have any money.”  This was just unacceptable so we called him over and the girls and I said we’d split his meal, all of like $2.  He looked so happy to be joining us.  When the food arrived I was in for perhaps my most eye-opening experience here in Ghana.  I have never seen someone eat with such fervor.  He gobbled it down and even crunched some bones.  I offered what was left of mine and he graciously accepted it and devoured it.  Followed by Jenny’s and then Kyla’s.  The satiated look on his face is hard to describe. The whole time Ben and Sami were laughing at him.  I had to hold back my rage.  He kept calling them “master” which infuriated me even more.  We paid for the meal and left as a group.  That image of him eating his food hasn’t left my mind. 

Check back soon and I will post some pics from both days.  Internet is slow now so uploading new pics that aren’t on my thumb drive isn’t happening…

I’m wrapping this one up, it has been my least favorite post but perhaps the most influential.  This is only the tip of the iceburg.  I can only imagine what takes place in the rest of Africa.  This is just a glimpse.

To detract from my Debbie-Downerness…this will make you smile!

I bribed him with candy🙂

Phew,  it’s hard trying to figure out where to start! I want to give you an update on EVERYTHING..for now this will have to do.

So, work has been going well, Jenny and I have interviewed almost all of the women we need to for the first part of our research/impact assessment. We’ve gotten about 17 women from the original group and around 10 or so for our control group – our plan is to compare the two groups (more interviews will be done) and see what sort of impact, in actual terms, the microloans are making.  The report we write up when we get home will hopefully be published and used to aid fundraising efforts so we can get more money from donors for the organization.  Fingers are double crossed it works.

So that’s work.  Now on to Ghana!

We’ve seen a lot of the rural villages because each day we travel some distance to interview the women in their homes or businesses ( by this I usually mean a small stand or tiny shop that barely holds two people).  We’ve pretty much traveled around Ofankor, each day a different location.  On our second day we were taken to Ofankor-7day where we helped one of the women peel the kassava that she sells.  It is used to make local foods like Banku (fermented kassava and maize) and Fufu (plantains and kassava).  Pretty much staples in the Ghanaian/African diet.  My stomach is adjusting.  No real problems yet luckily.  Here’s a shot of me “as part of the family.”  Jenny and I put our work in.

The landscape here is not quite as I imagined Africa.  There is a LOT of hustle and bustle and its very dusty so I’m always sticky.  I guess I had envisioned more of a Kenya safari type landscape but I’ll have that soon enough.  For now, it reminds me of Thailand actually.   Very busy with people selling anything from baby strollers to bathtubs and couches to food and water.  My eyes are always wide to take it all in.  I love looking around at the clothes people are wearing…the old t-shirts that Americans discard make their way to Africa and people sell them as second-hand.  I saw a little  boy about 8 years old wearing a shirt that said “Sex two times a day keeps the doctor away.  1st lesson FREE.”  Not sure he knew what exactly that means.  I’ve seen Viagra, Mod Squad and a variety of nike and Michael Jordon torso coverings. Not to mention the beautiful African clothing.  I’ve actually had three dresses made and can’t wait to sport them in Seattle.  Here is Jenny and I in our dresses.  I wore mine out one day and people were yelling at me in Twi (which Joyce then translates) that my dress looks beautiful on me.  Its probably pretty comical for them.  I’ve been laughing at myself a lot…we are continually the brunt of the jokes.

The streets are very dirty as everyone throws everything on the ground.  The only place I’ve seen a garbage can is in our hotel and in the TVN office.  Most of the garbage goes into the open sewers that line the streets or the canals that run through the villages…you can only imagine the smell.  That hurts my stomach more than the food.  I’m certain that with mine and Kyla’s gracefulness, one of us will end up in the sewer at some point.  Ghana’s version of the bog of eternal stench.  Only this is real life.  TIA.  This is Africa.  I think a new project when I return would be to implement some sort of trash/recycling program.  It would also generate jobs which the people so greatly desire…this is how my brain has been working since I arrived.  Nonstop.

People urinate everywhere.  You see people on the side of the road, in the midst of a huge crowd urinating.  Its almost as if  by urinating outdoors it is their way of telling the earth it will return to it completely someday.  There is an aspect of spirituality behind it I’ve been told.  The “washrooms” consist of a partitioned off concrete area.  Toilets are very hard to come by. We usually try to hold it and wait until we get back to the hotel…otherwise I walk around with urine on my legs the whole day.  Once again, TIA.

The people are VERY religious.  The business names all have some connection to Christ.  “Aroma of Christ,” “His Lord the Saviour Motors.” etc.  I’ve been to church once and am going again this Sunday…I’ve had my fill.  I trying to assimilate  but its not really my thing.  And, the services last over 3 hours…they sing and dance and sing and dance, pray, sing, dance, pray.  Once was probably enough but they insist I go and I figure its rude not to take an offer.  It would appear my Sundays are booked until I leave.  All of sudden I feel a “stomach-ache” coming on🙂

I’ve seen a lot of lizards, every time we leave the compound to head to Ofankor I go “lizard-hunting.”  Jenny is quite entertained by this. Goats are everywhere.  They run around in packs and you’ll  be walking down the path and voila! a goat runs in front of you.  The people in the villages own the goats but they run free.  You can find goat on any menu..the meat is actually really good  but certain establishments I question the preparation process.  Kittens also run around and I’ve been told that they also eat cat and that the meat tastes like chicken.  Most people I’ve asked tell me they “take it once in awhile.”  I keep thinking of my sweet little Finn back home.

When we travel into Accra, which is actually pretty frequently, it is unlike anything you can imagine.  Men continually scream “Obroni” and if you look at them they tell you that they love you and will marry you and put a ring on your finger.  I’ve had 6 marriage proposals so far and Sami had to chase a man out of the office after he followed me in.  Pretty sure its not me, they just want a VISA so they can go to America, land of the white man.  They also reach out and grab you to to try and get your attention…I’ve gotten quite good at wriggling free and loudly yelling “let go of me.”  All in all, they really are harmless and I don’t feel threatened at all.  We have Joyce as our bodyguard and she’s quite ferocious.

The colors are so vivid here.  The  clothing, the food, the animals.  Here is a picture of some of the peppers and okra ( I think that’s what it is) that they use to make soups.  Groundnut soup is my fave…spicey peanut soup that they serve with rice balls.  Mmmm.

So, the last two Wednesdays (my 2nd night here and two nights ago) I’ve traveled into Accra to go to the Reggae beach party at La Pleasure Beach.  Ummm can we say fabulous? Its packed with African, Europeans, one Asian usually and other Americans.  Refreshing not being the only white person.  the music is amazing as well as the scenery.  We drink Star beer (local Ghanaian beer) and partake in the festivities.  Both times we’ve made friends that give us the lay of the land.  We met an employee that is going to take us to a sushi restaurant (YUM – I could really go for some sushi right about now) in Osu.  Osu is the ex-pat part of town where all the western restos and clubs are.  Other Obronis!!  Kyla and I sat in the fishing boats that line the beach drinking our beers and having that “ah hah” moment.  It was that moment that I’ve been looking for since I arrived.  Africa, my dream.  That moment was realized.

So, to sum it up we’ve got a small entourage that we roll with on a daily basis.  We’ve got Joyce (aka Joy Joy) the leader, Jenny (J-Dizzle), Kyla (K-Bizzie because she’s an ongoing list of projects) and Me (Chah).  I’ve had to shorten my name because Chasity is just too much for people to understand.  Now, whenever I walk into the office or the compound everyone says “chah chah chah.”  I think I’ve acquired a new nickname.  I’m diggin’ it it.  The 4 of us together are pretty goofy.  We have a really good time every day.  I couldn’t ask for a better crew to share this with.  A lot of laughing and self-entertainment.  Why?  Because TIA.