*I was told this didn’t send but I sent it not long after part 1… sorry for the delay!
Again: TIA = This Is Africa (refer to previous blog post)
DAY 4 —
Thursday was yet another free day and Katy and I had wanted to visit the City of Hope Refuge, which was an orphanage somewhere near Accra but we weren’t able to contact the owners, and an FDP had headed there earlier that day so we sort of felt like we didn’t want to overwhelm the kids. So after trying to figure out how to even get to the orphanage, because it ended up being quite far away and sort of in the middle of nowhere, we decided to turn it into another Accra day. We headed out after sleeping in a little bit and missed the shuttle so we decided to walk through the port and grab a taxi. But we stopped outside the ship at all the shops that had been set up to sell us things and I bought a cool over-the-shoulder bag with a fun print. Along the way we ran into one of the TAs for Global Studies and the Communications guy for the ship so we ended up joining them to go ride a tro-tro, the local mini-bus. After a 30-minute walk through the blazing heat, we finally found the station. The busses pretty much just leave when they’re full and the “bus yard” was pretty much an unorganized parking lot in the middle of a marketplace. The area was full of the small busses with big windows and tons of people walking around and selling things. Because we weren’t all able to fit on the bus in front of us we ended up waiting for the next bus for at least 45 min. Even though it was extremely hot and we were a little cramped, it was still a very fun experience. It was pretty funny sitting in the bus and being able to reach out the window and buy whatever the people outside were selling. They would come up to the window with all kinds of things in baskets on their heads, totally balanced. I ended up buying a water bag. They sell small bags of water that you just bite the corner off of and drink, in addition to bottles of water, and I really want those to become popular in the US! They are so fun to drink and more eco-friendly! I also bought an ice cream pouch, and we bought two mangoes, which they slice, cut up, and toss in a little bag with toothpicks for you to eat. We talked to a few people who were on the bus and one of the guys we met knew a ton about geography, because he had studied, so he knew where Seattle was! He was also a pastor. We met another pastor, Pastor Albert and right after we left the station, he stood up and began to pretty much give a sermon on prayer. That was very interesting to experience as many people on the bus actually responded to his sermon, saying amen and other things he asked people to repeat. It was a kind of cool thing to listen to but it was also a little awkward because he was quite radical in a lot of the things he said. But, like he kept repeating in his sermon, he was there to keep us safe on our drive as a messenger from God, and we were safe the whole time. We finally arrived in Accra at the Tema Station-Accra, right in the middle of Makola Market, which was the food and random items market. Katy had already been there and said it was really overwhelming, which it did look super crazy, so we decided to just go straight to the arts market, which was just around the corner. We parted ways with the guys and headed to go look for an ATM, which ended up being a ways down the street. When arrived at the market, our friend David was waiting for us! He greeted us with the Ghanaian handshake and hugs. (**Side note: Everyone in Ghana does a special handshake. The only way I can think of describing it is they do it with a normal handshake, a hand grab and it goes away with a joint snap. A little hard to describe but I’m definitely bringing that to the US!) We decided to grab lunch first and he joined us because, like he said, “It’s good to get food before stress.” We went back to the same restaurant from the day before, Manna Restaurant, and I got the chicken and rice, rather than another serving of the Fufu. Throughout the whole time in Ghana, or at least when we would go to Accra and Osu, we were continuously running into SAS kids so that was always fun. We ran into a couple girls at the restaurant and sat down with them. We chatted with David over lunch and then he pretty much became our personal bodyguard as we headed back to the market to get our last few trinkets. It was so nice having him with us because he took us to straight to specific shops to buy the things we wanted and knew the people at the stands so they gave us great deals. There was MUCH less hassling as we had had the day before, although still a little as we walked through the stalls behind David. Katy and I kept saying how lucky we were to barely be bothered by the people because we were with a local. Before we left, David gave each of us a beaded ring so that we would “never forget him”. That was definitely the first time I realized how hard it would be to make friends with someone in the country and then just leave. After shopping around for a little longer, it was time to go. David was so sad to see us go, but we exchanged emails and hugs and hopped in a taxi back to Osu. When we got to Osu, we went to Global Mamas so Katy could pick up a few more things and then we went to the grocery store and picked up some snacks for the ship. We also got a little fancy and bought a baguette, and sliced cheese and meat from the deli. Then we headed to the Internet café for half an hour to quickly catch up on Facebook and then we randomly decided to go across the street to KFC. It was funny to see how different it was than in the US. There were very few options, hardly more than two different kinds of fried chicken and fries or coleslaw for side options. The biggest choice you had to make was what kind of drink you wanted. Then we headed to wait for the bus nice and early since the bus has left early the day before. We settled in for the long ride back to the ship. Once we got back, around 8:30, there were a lot of people getting ready to go out for the night, but after a long day of walking in the heat, we decided not to go out. It was nice to just shower, get in cozy clothes, watch a movie, and head to bed early
DAY 5 – –
On the last day I got up early for breakfast before heading out on my FDP to Global Mamas. We got on our shuttle bus and our tour guide gave us a lot of information about Tema, Accra, and Ghana in general. We arrived at Global Mamas (yes, third time’s a charm) and looked around the shop for a little while because most of the kids hadn’t been there yet, and some of them had no clue what it even was. After looking around, we had to cram ourselves into the back of the shop because there was nowhere else for us to go talk. We listened to the founder talk about how she and her friend, who she met in the Peace Corps, decided to start this organization to help out women in Africa. The NGO/Fair-Trade organization empowers women by giving them the tools necessary to help support their families. GM employs seamstresses, “batiquers”(sp?) who dye the fabrics with patterns from white cloth, and other women who help in the process of making all the goods that GM sells. One thing the founder said in her talk is that the reason they chose to focus on the women of Africa is because when you help out a woman, you’re really helping the whole family. She said when a man in Africa is given money or opportunities to achieve success. The man’s first focus is not usually on his family, like a woman’s focus is. She will put food on the table, clothes on the children and keep a good home if given the opportunity to support her family. The organization, which has a large number of boutiques in the States, sells all kinds of products. The items range from hand-sown nursing covers, to dog collar neckties, to clothes for babies, children and adults, to recycled-beads trivets, to wristlets and other items made from recycled water bags and food packaging. It was so interesting to learn about the background and mission of this non-profit and to be able to see the handiwork first hand. A unique aspect of the organization is that, unlike most Fair-Trade organizations, over 30% of the profits returns to the workers who actually make the profit. That may not seem like a lot, but compared to the 1% most workers receive, that is quite a significant price. The organization also works a little with micro-credit lending, but more in the sense that they loan money in advance to help buy fabric for the women to dye. Because their fabric orders can be split across large numbers of people, with several yards to each person, GM pays for the white fabric the women need and then they are paid back once the women make their money from the return profit. As a huge advocate for all things NGO/non-profit/fair-trade/micro-credit loans, I absolutely loved being here. And of course I got quite a few gifts to bring back so my shopping habits were supporting an amazing cause! What’s better than that?!
It was finally time to leave the shop after about two hours and we waited outside as everyone made their final purchases. Of course, while we were waiting, there was plenty of time for street vendors to come find us and become “friends” but then try to sell paintings. After heading to Makola market and walking around for 30 minutes, I ended up buying a pair of “Roy Boms” (no that’s not a spelling error) for 4cedi and it was finally time to go. Another two hour drive and it was back on the ship for some rest and relaxation after a crazy five days of non-stop culture!
Going back to the street vendors, one of my friends commented how it was interesting that although I became “friends” and was called “my friend” by the street vendors more times than I can begin to count, our “friendship” relied on a purchase of said “friend’s” items. Had I not made actual friends with locals, who weren’t bombarding me with their wares and trying to get to me to buy something “for good price,” I might not have thought many of the people were capable of sincerity. It was a hard concept to grasp, that of the sales-warfare tactics, but as our friend David explained, that is their life. If a salesperson wants to survive, they need to sell their items, and in their culture, with such a lack of personal boundaries and bubbles, grabbing onto someone to show them what they are trying to sell is normal. In our culture, such aggressive sales tactics are looked down upon, and that really manifested itself in a lot of the students who went out shopping. I counted myself lucky to have somewhat experienced this culture in places like Mexico and Guatemala, and even in Italy, so I was able to grasp what was going on. Although it was easy to feel pity for these people, because they seemed so desperate, or to just get horribly annoyed to the point of being rude, I never felt that way once. I simply held my head up high, pushed my way through the crowds of people, stopped if I wanted to look at something and politely gestured and kept going if I didn’t. I was honestly stunned when I overheard people talking about how Ghana was too overwhelming and that they would never go back because of how rude the people were. I completely loved the country. It was an amazing place to be, and it was hard to only stay for five days, and only in the more metropolitan areas. I know people who traveled far outside the main cities and said in was an absolute blast. I am pretty excited to see Cape Town and see a different side of Africa. Although I will really only be in Cape Town for two days, I will be able to experience other parts of the country. It will be very interesting to see the contrast of the township and the rich wine-country villas. I can’t wait for everything ahead! Three ports down, 10 to go!
Hola from the middle of the ocean!
P.S. Any questions or comments can be referred to the inbox of Mackenzie Weber. The inbox is never full, she would LOVE it to be 🙂 Questions, comments and more are GREATLY appreciated. Ship life is not always exciting! Email as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S.S. or is it P.P.S. ….. Anyways, yesterday we went directly over where the Equator crosses with the Prime Meridian. In fact, the Prime Meridian goes directly through Tema so I crossed the Prime Meridian a few times during our trip. So we were at 0”Latitude & 0”Longitude at about 12:45 yesterday. Picture coming soon!