Akwabba! Welcome to Ghana!
This is what I thought Africa would look like when I pictured it in my head- dusty, no traffic lanes, goats everywhere and beautiful, beautiful people!
Once again in Ghana we have a slightly inconvenient port where we have to take shuttles into Accra which is an hour away. The ship is actually berthing in Tema where you can see all the ladies dressed like the Chiquita banana ladies with plantains, coconuts and telephone SIM cards on top of their heads... its actually quite amazing. Ghanians start to carry things on their heads around the age of six when they are coming back from the farm, it's practiced by men and women. Some of the veterans can carry up to 50 KG (110 ish lbs) on their head!
On my first day in Ghana I went to meet with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) for a class field trip for my International Law class. We sat through an hour presentation and learned that most of the refugees in Ghana came from Liberia in 1990 and continue to come till this day. The UN is actually trying to shut the camp down which is something I found very interesting.
After the presentation, we boarded the bus to go on the hour drive to the Budubram Refugee camp. I honestly had no idea what to expect other than listening Tom Petty's song and seeing some scenes from 'Blood Diamond'. Upon arrival I was shocked; the people have a fully functioning community going for them including schools, hospitals, shops and playgrounds. Ghana allows their refugees to roam freely meaning they can move all over Ghana and in and out of the borders. We got to meet some of the refugees and they were so happy, it was very humbling to see their happiness and made me strive to show that happiness in my life. It also made so thankful for the country I live in, actually this trip as a whole has made me appreciate America so much more which I never thought could be possible.
Speaking of America, Ghanians have such a love, admiration and sense of pride for Obama. There are billboards all over that say 'Akwabba Obama' which means 'Welcome Obama'. All the street vendors that attack you as soon as you get off the bus had oodles of Obama stuff they wanted to sell. I mean I was not having any of that and the fact of their love as they told me was what I know got him elected-his skin color. They loved holding my arms and saying 'my sister you see black and white can live together! Long live Obama! Black Pride!' and I thought to myself, well yeah I'm pretty sure we established that a long time ago? Ghanians also like to get close- very close. They grab your arms, shoulders, hands whatever they can really. That was shocking the first couple of times but you tend to get used to it which is so weird. It just seems as though they do not have any concept of personal bubbles. The other thing they say is 'It's nice to be Nice' that got old real fast when they just started draping bracelets on your arms and putting them down your v-neck. Needless to say, I have a bunch of bracelets and other knick knacks that I bought just to get them to go away. Not all of the vendors were that pesky though. I met some cool men like Oliver who is from the Kenti Village and is studying Electrical Engineering at the University. He also just talked to me and did not nag me so that was very nice and he gave me a bracelet as a way to remember him until we meet in heaven, as he told me. All the Ghanians wanted my e-mail so thank the lord I have a junk account!
On the second day in Ghana I had the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity and build a home. We had to travel by bus for about 3 hours to get to the Eastern Region of Ghana which looked like Tarzan's home. I was amazed. Lush green plants, banana (thanks gwen) trees, and large mountains in the background, it was utterly beautiful. We spent hours building this home with clay bricks and mortar which seems a little sketchy to me because usually I like to build things that last but I guess thats just how Ghana does it? It was really rewarding to work along side the woman who's home we were building, she was so grateful. One of the tasks was to carry the ten pound bricks from where them make them to the home which was about a mile. It's not that the bricks were heavy but just cumbersome and the walk started to feel long after the third brick. The woman Mercy who we built the home for showed us all up by putting a leaf on her head and then carried the brick all the way back to the site! It started to rain during the end of the day and it was cool to hear the pitter patter on all the leaves, I had a wonderful time.
My other favorite day was when I had a drum lesson with some locals. We sat around in their shop played some beats back and forth, I was in heaven! It was so cool, one of the highlights of my time for sure! Another highlight was today on our last day when my friends and I were on a mission to find a chocolate bar (which Ghana is known for) and some banana chips a few hours before we were supposed to be on the ship. The port city of Tema requires a shuttle ride so after being all turned around we were dropped off in a sketch area and this man approached me telling my he liked me and I was his favorite. He told my friends and I that he would take us to go complete our mission so we walked until he got out his keys and walked over to his sketch ass blue run down car. He opened the doors for us and told us to get in. We all looked at each other knowing all of our lives to not get in the car with strangers but we figured, hey we're in Ghana and we need some banana chips so we piled in avoiding the front seat as if that would have prevented a 'Taken' like situation. Smart I know but it was legit, I mean his name was Tony Montana (I'm guessing the Ghanian version of Hannah?) so I knew we would be fine. Actually he took us to a grocery store to locate the luxury that could have lead to our abduction. As you can tell, I am alive and well so thats a good thing and got our mission accomplished. Mr. Montana took a few photos of us on his camera phone and a special one with just me after getting my e-mail. So I'll keep you posted on that...
Ghana is amazing and each port gets better. I have made some really solid friendships with my neighbors Allie and Anna, we are always together and I really love their company, we can do whatever and just hang! Tomorrow we cross the equator and that should be exciting with all the head shavings and fish guts.. don't worry my hair will stay! I hope this finds you all well and that you are not too disappointed with my lack of pictures. I plan to add some of those when free Internet can be located, or rather just any Internet off the ship. My next week will be spent heading to South Africa and I cannot wait!! I love you all and I will try so much harder to keep this updated! muah!