TIA: Part 1

This is just Part One because I am still writing the last two days of Ghana and I figured I would at least send this first part, since it’s already pretty long. Enjoy!

For those of you wondering, TIA = This Is Africa. It is from the movie, Blood Diamond, and has been used on this trip in accordance with crazy situations, funny situations, ones that we have absolute no control over, and just ridiculous stuff… 🙂 good times

Anyways, Ghana was amazing. Favorite country so far, for sure! 🙂

DAY 1 – –

After waking up at six in the morning to watch the sunrise, only to find out it was too foggy for a sunrise, we grabbed a very early breakfast while watching the ship come into the harbor and dock in Tema Port, and then headed back to sleep for another hour or two to wait until the ship was cleared by customs.

Then it was time to get ready for my overnight trip to the fishing village of Winneba, which was only about 30 miles west of Accra (which was actually 10 miles west of Tema), but since traffic and roads in Ghana are horrible, it takes about two hours to get there. Once it was finally cleared, a large group of people from the village of Winneba came onboard and several of the people in our group toured them around the ship before we all got on the bus around 1pm. After a two-hour bus ride on a cramped, hot bus bus, we finally arrived in the village. After stopping at the local municipality building and being greeted with a prayer and welcoming ceremony, we checked into our hotel. My roommate was Jill, a girl who I had met on the riverboat trip in Brazil, and we had a nice big room with a big bed to share. After we rested up and got settled, a group of us went out to go find an ATM in town, about a 15 min walk down the road. Shortly after finding the ATM, we found out that no ATMs in Winneba, or anywhere close to us, took Visa or MasterCard. In fact, MasterCard was hardly taken at any banks, and Visa was taken at the big city ATMs in Accra and Tema, back where the ship was. So we decided to just wander around town and saw a big soccer game going on right outside the National Sports College, which sounded like a pretty cool place to attend school. We learned from some guys watching the game that many kids starting training for sports as young as 8, but many of the guys going to the school (no girls) were learning health education so they could go out and educate the people of Ghana about it. After two hours of wandering we headed back to the hotel for dinner. A group of 6 kids didn’t show up for dinner for over an hour because they had gone out in a taxi looking for an ATM, ended up driving almost halfway back to Accra, and then got stuck in traffic on the way back to our hotel. Their taxi driver also sideswiped a car while trying to drive through the traffic, and kept going… Haha. Then after dinner, we headed to the University of Education Winneba, Central campus, where we were given an amazing performance by a group of adults singing and dancing in these beautiful outfits of green patterned fabric. After they were done singing, playing, and dancing, we talked with the dean of the school and a few students about their school and then they asked us questions about Semester at Sea and how our school works while traveling around the world. After talking for a while in the auditorium, we then had yet another performance by a new group of student performers who went absolutely crazy. They were dancing so hard and just belting out their songs that by the end of the hour most of them were dripping with sweat. The guide told us that that was actually a short performance and the students usually go for over five hours singing and dancing. That’s dedication right there. Wow. After the amazing performances, we headed back to the hotel. Most of the group went to sleep but a small group of us decided to stay up and hang out. We grabbed some beers, and some kids bought what they thought was whiskey, it turned out to be a Bitter, and the rest of the night was just fun card games and talking. We finally headed back to the rooms and passed out. After a boiling hot day, we ended up turning our A/C up and by the middle of the night we were both freezing because all that was on the top of the bed was a sheet.

DAY 2 – –

The next day we got up nice and early for a 7 a.m. breakfast, then we left for the waterfront part of the village to speak with the chief fishermen at about 8 a.m. We made a quick pit stop at a beach, which was right next to a Police training facility, and I almost got in big trouble because we weren’t supposed to take pictures but I snapped one without knowing. Luckily some other kid got yelled at and not me. The beach was so gorgeous and it reminded me of Hawaii but it was completely empty all the way down both sides of the beach. I guess “tanning” isn’t as popular there, for some reason… 😉 Then we bussed over to the meeting spot with the fisherman. We got off the bus and walked about a half mile down the road and along the way I saw quite a few interesting things. So in Ghana, most of their gutters are completely exposed and have all kinds of strange things floating in muck, and that goo has been sitting there for who knows how long. Some of the gutters are small and shallow or even covered, but many are complete traps that are easy to fall into because of how traffic-y and crazy the streets get. Well as we walked past one of the gutters, they were actually being cleaned out and the lady was shoveling out the smelly, black goo. I almost got splattered with it because she was just dumping it onto the side of the road right next to it, where we were walking. It smelled so horrible I could barely handle it and had to hold my breath as we walked by. When we walked over to our covered tent area, the village children began to swarm us because a woman on our trip had brought little toys and trinkets for the kids. It was almost scary how aggressive they got as I was trying to pass out the silly bands rings. Several of the kids tried ripping them out of my hand and wouldn’t share with the little kids. They were also very interested in my camera and liked having pictures taken of them and being able to look at them. One of them even started to push the button to take pictures of the other kids. We finally sat down and talked with the fishermen and learned about their fishing culture, and after that they actually started asking us a lot of questions about the American fishing industry. They had quite a few misconceptions about the industry, like they thought the government pretty much pays for everything: fixing boat problems, paying the fishermen even if they didn’t get fish, paying for gas and other expenses. The list really went on and I was actually quite surprised by many of the questions because they were just full of false assumptions about American life. I really enjoyed how many two-sided conversations we had with many of the groups of people we met, rather than just us asking them questions. When we shook hands and said goodbye, I had one guy ask if I had a husband and tell me the next time I come back to Ghana that we would get married, another guy told me I was beautiful, and another guy told me he loved me. I soon found out that kind of talk was very common while interacting with many of the men in Ghana. After the waterfront we moved on to the local market, which was open that day for anyone in surrounding villages to come and sell their goods, rather than just locals, like on all the other days the market was open. The smells of exposed, sun-dried, fly-covered fish was awful. The heat just beat down upon the raw foods, and the mix of that, sweat, and the gutters was quite a nauseating smell. And we were only there for about an hour or two. I can’t imagine sitting there all day, simply hoping to make a sale, while sitting in the hot sun. After speaking with the “Market Queen” and other women vendors about market happenings, we walked up the street a few blocks to the South Campus of University of Education Winneba for more drumming and singing and dancing in their performance hall. This one was much more dance related and the students showed us many different traditional dances. On the last dance, a few of the students went out into our group and grabbed people to go dance with them. I ended up being grabbed and learned several traditional dance moves, and a few more popular ones. I will of course be bringing those dance moves to the US and breaking them out in the dance clubs. No clue what the moves are called, but I will call one of my favorites the “Hammer Punch Twist.” And yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds 😉 Then we headed back to our hotel for lunch and then it was time to head back. We said goodbye to the delegates who had stayed with us for much of the trip, said goodbye to the mayor, “checked out” from the town and headed back to Tema Port. We were supposed to get back around 8 that night but because we ended up leaving so early, we got back around 5:30. That night, Valentine’s Day night, I headed out with a few friends to find an Internet café and then we headed back to the ship, changed and headed out to Manila Bar, where a ton of SAS kids ended up. We had a great time dancing to the funny music and stayed up pretty late.

DAY 3 – –

The next day I headed out with 5 friends and we took the shuttle from our ship all the way to Osu, a town just northeast of Accra. All six of us hopped in a taxi from Osu to Accra, which was quite a funny, cramped, and sweaty ride. But we first had to find a working ATM, and one that took MasterCard, because only a few places in the whole city took MasterCard. Luckily I have a Visa, but one girl with us had a MasterCard. From the bank – which actually ended up being quite a far drive – we headed to the Arts Center, the market where all the crafts were sold. We arrived and decided to grab lunch at a restaurant right next to the market. I tried the popular local food, Fufu in some sort of nut soup (can’t remember the name), which is a soup with a chicken breast and then a doughy ball made of mashed up cassava and plantains. It pretty much tasted like raw bread dough and had a strange consistency so I didn’t end up eating much, but it was something that you definitely have to try once. Lunch was also so cheap! For the meal, a drink and plantain chips, I paid less than 5cedi, which is about $3.50. Then we walked through the art gallery next door, with some beautiful paintings and then continued on to the market just past the gallery. The market was pretty overwhelming to shop around in. The salespeople in Ghana, or at least in Accra, were very aggressive in trying to get us to buy their goods. Everyone was pretty much selling the same stuff, so in order for them to make a sale, they tend to pull on our arms and try to herd us into their shops. So we would have to dodge around the people to keep walking. It was pretty hard to buy stuff because I felt so bombarded by the people, and I felt that if they were less aggressive, I would have felt much more inclined to buy things. We still ended up buying things but it was pretty exhausting. At some point, we ended up meeting a guy named David while shopping around. He was a local who was selling thing sin the marketplace and started talking with us and followed us back to the restaurant with us where we grabbed drinks and he had lunch. We had such a great conversation with him, talking about the Ghanaian culture and we talked to him about our American culture. We had such a great time with him and then we followed him to his drum shop where he and his friends gave us a drum performance and then we all got to learn how to play the djembe, and just hung out for a while. Then we bought drums and everyone got them engraved and personalized with their names and African symbols. We waited around watching them carve the drums and just chatted with all the guys there. One of the guys, Stephen, told me he was in love with me and gave me a bracelet “from his heart.” Another one of the guys, Daniel, bought us oranges. The way they eat oranges is the vendor slices off the skin so it’s not too tough on the outside, but is still intact, and then the top is cut off and you squeeze out the juice and suck it out the top. We had such a great time hanging out. Since we hadn’t bought everything we wanted because we ended up running out of money, we decided to come back the next day to get more things. Then we hopped in two taxis, because apparently 7 people in a taxi isn’t allowed, so the 6 of us split up and took the taxis to Osu, where the shuttle bus picked us up to go back to the ship. Because we had some time to kill before the shuttle bus arrived, we decided to head to Global Mamas first to pick up some items at the store where they sold all kinds of goods made by women in Africa. Global Mamas is a fair-trade NGO, started by two women who met in the Peace Corps and met up years later and decided to start this business to help women in Africa help support their families. Everything there is hand-dyed, hand-sown, and the organization is big on sustainability so they recycle and use fair-trade practices as much as possible. After shopping around there and picking up some cool items, we headed to the shuttle stop to wait, but for some reason our 7 o’clock shuttle had left early so we ended up waiting for an hour until the next bus came. When it arrived, a few of my friends got off from the ship and they were headed to a live reggae music night on the beach, which a bunch of the guys and vendors had been talking about all week. So instead of getting back on the bus, I ended up hopping in a taxi with Caroline, JP, Josh and Cameron and headed to Labadi Beach for some great food and great music. And what’s an excursion like without hagglers trying to sell us stuff. We got bothered by one guy who tried to sell us necklaces for over 45 minutes, and finally got the price down, but nowhere near where it probably should have been. It was definitely a funny experience. Caroline and I both ended up buying a necklace and bracelet. The beach we were at was pretty cool. The restaurant had all their tables and big chairs set up on the sand, with a huge stage off to the side with music videos playing. We also ended up meeting these local guys who were there for a birthday party that night and talked with them for a while and ended up exchanging email addresses. Part way through dinner, the live music finally started up on the stage but we had already been there for a few hours and decided it was time to head back to the ship and get some rest.

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