Welcome to blog number two. After blog.com failed to load on the very slow computer connections on campus, I decided to follow the crowd and give travelblog.com a try. So far, so good. :)Akwaaba! This is my first Ghanaian post, but I’m already three weeks in, so I’ll just give a little background (maybe a lot) and then some details from the five-day trip we just came back from.The sun rises at 6am and sets at 6pm, so the world outside my room is bustling by the time I deign to open my eyes. It’s been warm but not too hot (except when you’re in direct sunlight midday). There’s often a wonderful breeze, so it’s really not as miserable as I anticipated. The mosquitos are our big fear, but we haven’t seen too many of them and jungle juice (100% deet) is a favorite of my USAC family.
There are ten of us that came with USAC and we are all very close at this point, so I’ll give you a little summary of each person since I’m sure I’ll reference them a lot over the next three and a half months. Meet my USAC family:Jen- my roommate, goes to school in California, has traveled extensively (mainly South America), is fluent in Spanish, talks to everyone, gets along with everyone, always finds the places to go/things to eat/etc., is dating MikeMike- goes to school with Jen in California, has also traveled pretty extensively and speaks sufficient (fluent”) Spanish, musician (studying something musical), originally from western MassRachel- friend of Jen’s from childhood, lived in India for a while by herself back in high school, also well traveled, has no patience with the guys that swarm us trying to sell bracelets with our names (or Obama) woven in red/yellow/green among other things like bracelets or paintings, will argue passionately in favor of measuring success in terms of education and health care for the entire population rather than in national economic growthHolly- from Salt Lake City, really good at yoga, is now dating Aqui (a guy from Mozambique who lives down the hall, a lawyer, is now writing his thesis), a flabotomist (spell”)- and the only science person among us- Holly is desperate to start working at a local hospitalHayley- from Reno, really into music, the baby of the group at 18, just starting to get into economics, doesn’t really know what job/grad program she wants but is thinking a lot about the future at this point (but she has time), grew up in Niger for a while and wanted to return to West Africa as a resultKristin- from Pittsburg, political science and English, very tiny blonde who has had her hair petted in the market at least once because of it, the sickling of the group since the first full day when she had to go to the hospital (lightheaded apparently due to low blood pressure), addicted to deetMaia- from Chicago, our oldest member, went back to school after working for a few years, the only USAC African-American (comparing her experience to that of the other nine of us has been interesting), easy-going and a homebody but has made more friends than most of us at the same timeEric- from Las Vegas (and very proud of that fact), an economy major who can talk about economics all day long (I finally understood how exchange rates work after a demo with toothpicks, a water bottle, and a ketchup bottle) but is just as likely to spend his time singing the lyrics to just about any song in a high pitched voice (especially on long bus rides- which happens often thanks to Accra traffic and poor roads)Sammy-from Chicago at the moment but lived in Seria from age 4 to age 10 and then in multiple US cities after that, fluent in Arabic, has no intonation so figuring out when he’s joking requires familiarity with him, jumps right in and does whatever he wants but also requires some looking after (Eric and Sammy are roommates and Eric has become Sammy’s keeper- fortunately, they are already an old married couple)Alright, I think that’s all of us. Feel free to ignore this portion of the post for now, but when I throw those names around later you can look up who I’m talking about so I don’t have to keep explaining who’s who. Really, I’m just thankful to have all of them to go on adventures with and to come home to at night. Only three of us aren’t vegetarians in the states (some eat meat here who don’t at home)- enough said.Other key players:Ruth, Joshua, and familyJoshua is a 7-year-old autistic boy whose mother (Ruth) contacted the university looking for volunteers to work with Joshua. They built Joshua a playroom with a one-way mirror so as people work one-on-one with Joshua in the room (for no more than 2 hours at a time), they can observe the interactions and give feedback. So far, I’ve only been to the house twice and inside the playroom one of those days (twice, but only for 5-10min). It’s a little overwhelming because Joshua has such a short attention span and I don’t know all of his games yet, but I think it will be a good experience. At the very least, it’s fun to meet people outside of the university and to be in a Ghanaian home. Plus, I have to take a tro-tro and a taxi to their house so it’s a good way to get used to public transportation.Annaemieke- At this point, I’ve had a buddy both times I’ve gone to work with Joshua. Annaemieke (pronounced ana-mee-ka) is from California, lives in my dorm, and will also be working with Joshua (but we always go into the room seperately to work with him).At this point my Ghanaian contacts are limited, but our guides around campus, Accra, and Kumasi/Mole (Gina and Akyaa- fellow students; Vivien- works for a travel agency) have been wonderful. And we’ve had a few good short-term encounters: Samuel drove up to Kumasi with us and gave us a history lecture on Northern Ghana before we drove up to Mole National Park the next day; Koni led us around Larabanga- near Mole, home to the oldest mosque in West Africa; Issak lives in Larabanga, is a student in Tamale, and walked around Larabanga telling me bits and pieces about the town and his experiences.I’ve definitely got a bit of a routine on campus now, so I’m hoping to meet more Ghanaian students now that classes are underway and to expand the areas that I visit on a daily basis (there’s a market right outside our dorm so that’s made food easy but I need to find more variety in food and more places for entertainment).There are flyers up for auditions for shows, but I haven’t figure out who to talk to yet to find out if there are ways I can get involved or people I can talk to about how the rehearsal/performance process works here. We visited the National Theater the day a bunch of us took a tro-tro into Accra. I talked to the in-house stage manager for a little bit, so I have gotten a little bit of info on how theater works in Ghana, but I’m definitely curious and have tons of free time (classes are only once a week for 2 hours).Classes are starting up now. The first week the teachers were on strike. And then the second week most of them still didn’t show up (which is apparently typical for the first week of classes here). We did start Twi last week, so that’s a lot of fun. I don’t know much, but I made the woman who cleared my bowl after dinner at the night market (the market outside my dorm) laugh a lot when I said thank you in Twi. I’m not sure why…Our trip up to Kumasi and Mole National Park the past five days was pretty awesome. It took forever (Kumasi is in the Ashanti region in the center of the country; Mole is further north) because we were traveling a distance and because the roads are so bad. The final road before Mole took about 3 1/2 hours; it was a long bumpy dirt road.Watching the landscape change was really interesting. The vegetation is fairly similar, but the types of houses change dramatically. In the south there are a lot of rectangular, probably cement houses while in the north the homes tend to be little round buildings with mud/clay (“) walls and roofs that look like thatch. The north is primarily agricultural and a lot poorer than the south. And the north is predominantly Muslim while the south is more Christian.The wild animals at Mole are pretty cool. We saw two elephants about ten minutes into our two hour morning hike, so that was awesome. We also saw monkeys and warthogs. And we walked through a baboon troop- a very cool experience. The most exciting/scary moment was when we came too close to an elephant in the bush and he issued a warning noise and stamped his feet at us a bit. That was startling, but it made a good story.Alright, I think that’s good for now. I’m growing more comfortable here (things that I was very aware of at first- like the deep gutters beside all the roads- are barely noticable now). I’m still very aware that I’m white, but the only times it’s really a nuisance are little things like when sellers won’t leave you alone. When they call me obruni, I just call them bebini back and it usually makes them laugh and then that’s that and I go on my way.I’ll write more later in the week- or next week once we’re back from our Cape Coast trip.Lunch time… 🙂
17 Oct 2011 – start of travelblog
posted Tuesday September 2008