Well, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Ghana. I can’t wait to visit the people who became my family there. My sister (well, she’s my ghanaian sister) Tory has been there for 5 MONTHS! I only stayed for 2 and a half.. the things I would do to go back for another 5 months. But anyway, I miss her everyday and constantly stalk her on facebook. Tory comes back in 4 weeks!!! She posted these amazing photos of the sun setting during the dry season. When I visited, it was rainy season so the skies weren’t always clear. This set of photos was taken in Cape Coast. Some of them are from the Cape Coast Castle, others were taken in the highest hill in Akoto Kyir just past Abura. Enjoy!




My last night

My last night in Africa was a quiet one, but I prefer ‘chillin' more than a big 'wild party’ anyway. Tory and I were a little shaken up about being held at knife point and the brothers had all gone off the solve the situation.

Christina had a going away party for me, but it turned out to be much less lively than the other volunteer’s parties. Because of the upcoming Cape Coast Festival, for the month of August there is an ordinance that prohibits public loud speakers. It has been a quiet month, much different without music blasting 24/7, but we were not able to have loud music. We were also not able to rent a tent for the roof because they are all leased out for the upcoming festival. So, we had the party downstairs inside around the dining table. Right before we sat down to eat, the electricity went off- so we had to eat in the dark. The brothers ate fast, got their army together, and left to go “talk” to Kweku. My going away party was just Tory and me, sitting on the roof talking about the mugging and awaiting the return of our brothers.

Around 11pm, the heros finally returned with Tory’s stuff! What am I going to do when I get home and I don’t have my posse of 6 big, black bodyguards for brothers? 


Creepy Kweku

Well, my last day in Cape Coast was interesting… to say the very least. As I have previously blogged, Tory and I have been walking around Cape just exploring to fight the boredom of lazy hot afternoons. Usually we go to the highest hill in Akotokyir to listen to music, take pictures and walk around. The scenery is beautiful and you can see every little region that makes up Cape Coast, even the palm trees in El Mina and the ocean beyond. 

Around 3, in broad daylight on the main road, we saw our friend Kweku, who also happens to be Tory’s old neighbor (she recently lived in Akotokyir but moved to Christina’s house 3 weeks ago). Kweku walked up the road with us and insisted that he come with us but, getting a creepy vibe from him, I told him that we would rather walk alone. He continued to insist that he join us and even warned us of the dangers of the area. He was a little too pushy for our liking and we felt unease, so we nicely told him we would call him later and we watched him walk off. 

About fifteen minutes later, Tory told me she saw somebody in a white hood. She knows how much I hate scary movies so I thought she just was making another joke from “The Strangers,” a movie that we watched recently. I walked forward on the path, part of me thinking it was a joke another part of me all fired up and ready to kick someone’s ass, exclaiming something about similar to “I’m not gonna wait for someone to come jump me, I’m gonna surprise them and kick their ass first!” Then I saw a man hiding in the bushes wearing a white hood over his head that covered face. I started to back away but then he came at me with a huge knife, like a pointed butcher knife with an 8 or 9 inch blade. We immediately threw our belongings on the ground, which consisted of some gum wrappers, only 5 pesawas, but also a phone and an iPod (both of which belonged to Tory). Before the walk, just by chance, I put my money, all 130GHC, in my bra so luckily he didn’t get my money. With his knife he demanded us to “give it up” but we couldn’t understand him. I almost gave up my hidden money but then shook the knife at Tory and demanded her camera. BUSTED! Only Kweku knew that we were there and that we had a camera. She threw him the camera and he told us to “get a head start running” so we bolted, Tory even left her shoes there. We ran home and told our brothers the whole story.

Sam, who happens to be a police officer, led the other 6 brothers to Kweku’s house to confront him. We went over to the “crime scene” and reenacted everything with them. While there, we discovered multiple secret pathways in the bush that were marked with blue paint. The brothers told me that the blue paint was a ‘gang sign’ so that must have been the ‘gansta lair’ for that area. Sam crawled into the tunnels that were made in the bush and found the clothes that Kweku had changed clothes into, the white hood, and other miscellaneous things, showing that somebody set up camp in the bush.

The brothers are taking care of everything and going back over to find Kweku tonight. From what it sounds like, they are going to beat up Kweku and get Tory’s stuff back. There’s nothing like having 6 Ghanaian brothers to run home to! I am going to miss having them around… someone is getting their butt kicked right now (sucks for you, Kweku)!


Eat all!

The weirdest thing will be going home to mirrors. I have one small mirror with me, but besides putting in my contacts in the morning, there is no use to use it. I kind of don’t want to look in one haha! Ghanaians, you will know what I mean when I say, “Ghana likes fat chicks!” Africans eat a lot of carbs and favor being overweight to being skinny. About 75% of most Ghanaian meals is made up of carbs- and they expect you to eat every last bite. Wasting food is frowned upon and it is considered an insult if someone invites you to or serves you a meal and you do not finish it. Mother Christina always says, “Eat all!” when she serves us or when she sees that we are struggling to take another bite. In attempt to be in good graces with my family and embrace Ghanaian culture, I have tried to finish each meal and my waist line has suffered a bit (not that it wasn’t suffering before I came.. Haha!)

So, with that in mind, I will coming home from Ghana a bit fatter than when I came. Ghana has been very refreshing in that sense. I attend a university that has ‘higher standards’ than most- even when it comes to something as shallow as looks. So, it has been nice to receive praise for tipping the scales a bit and get a break from the strict environment back home. Being here has really helped me get over any insecurities I once had. Ghanaians have very blunt honesty so from day one I had to just get over being insecure..When my sister Kelsey and I met our first host mom, she exclaimed “OH! My big fat baby!!” to me and gave me a warm embrace. To Kelsey, she winced, gave her a weak smile and said “You are…okay.” In Ghana, one of the best compliments you can be receive is “You are looking fat today!” That means that you are looking healthy, strong beautiful. I explained to my brother, Nana, how I will be running and slimming down when I get home. He replied, “Oh, why?! Why would you want to do such a thing?” Then he proceeded to explain how his greatest wish in life to be so fat that he can’t even stand up. He said he would hire people just to bring him food 24/7. It is amusing how Americans and Ghanaian have different opinions on weight and body image. I am happy to say that Ghanaians have made me feel very comfortable in my own skin. I am kind of diggin’ the whole “no makeup, frizzy hair, roll out of bed and put on dirty clothes” look that I have been sporting for the last 75 days. 



the countdown begins!

Well, it’s about that time. I’m down to the final countdown and I admit it- I am ready to come home. Today I cleaned my room and separated the things I am leaving from the things I will be bringing home. My entire backpack is filled with Ghanaian stuff- mostly fabric, beautiful fabric from kente to batik to original Ghanaian prints. I am also bringing home some clothes and things I had made from my seamstress, Josephine, as well as my African drum and African jewelry. I have to walk to town for my last trip to the bank.. So sad!! Good bye, Barclay’s, it’s been real!


My maggot

I am coming home with all kinds of weird bites/cuts on my legs that have turned into mysterious infections. One of which, I believe is a bot fly. Yes, you read it correctly. I have a maggot in my foot. Bot flies are very common in more tropical parts of the world and especially in West Africa, where the climate is more rainy and the environment has more tropical rain forests than it’s South African and Saharan counterparts.

Basically, ever since I went to the farm with my brother Sam I have had this strange bite. At first, it looked like any other mosquito bite but for 4 weeks now it has been oozing and looks something similar to a bullet hole. So, there is just a hole in my foot. I thought it was staff, but it just does not look like that. Tory and I did some research and it seems as though a bot fly must have laid eggs my open wound. I have covered it in duct tap for 3 days now. This is supposed to suffocate the larva so that it rises to the surface. Tomorrow I will peel off the duct tape and (hopefully) pull the little bloodsucking maggot out.

Why do I NOT find any of this disgusting?


Culture

I will miss Ghanaian culture for sure. The people here are so nice, so simple. Babaa (Sam’s girlfriend and my Ghanaian sister) and I were discussing the differences in American and Ghanaian culture over breakfast the other day. She said that I seem to understand Ghanaians and the things they do more so than volunteers she has met in the past. I think this is because I like Ghanaians and I love Ghanaian culture. Life at home would be so much easier if everyone adopted Ghanaian customs. For example, people in Ghana are very upfront and very honest. If they do not like you, they will tell you. If they have a problem, they will tell you. In the States, we too often act fake towards others or will avoid unwanted situations by just sweeping them under the rug. Ghanaians do not waste time with petty things like that- they just put everything out on the table. They are real and genuine and, if you sit down and have a a conversation with one, you will see that Ghanaians are very down to earth. Ghanaians love to converse, especially when it is a long heart to heart. From all of my long conversations with my brothers and sisters, I have learned so much about life- the simplicities and truths. It is going to be strange going home where people are closed off and not as involved in each other’s lives…


Home security system

The other night, after a late night partying on PRT (for those of you who don’t know- PRT stands for Palace Roof Top- it is what we named our roof top that overlooks all of Abura), Tory and I were locked out! I guess whoever came in last locked the door thinking that we were already asleep. We attempted to break in our own home and discovered the elaborate home security system that kept our compound safe at night. Though it seems shoddy and homemade, it is actually quite ingenious. 

So, here it is: There are three big stones behind the door, a stone right inside the door, and a coke can. So, let’s say that someone is trying to break in. First, they have to pull and push the door to move the stones. That alone will wake up the entire house. Just incase it doesn’t, there is a stone that they have to step over and right behind that stone is the coke can. So, once the person opens the door, they will take one step inside and step on a coke can that will crunch loudly, waking everybody up. 

It’s odd knowing that I live in a place where we don’t even need locks on our doors. Ghanaians are too nice to break in a rob somebody’s house. 



Right hand

In Ghana, there is a distinction between the left and right hand. The left hand is the ‘dirty’ hand while the right hand is the ‘clean’ hand. When you receive or give something to another person, you must use your right hand. If you wave to someone, you use your right hand.  If you shake a person’s hand, you must use your right hand. When you eat, you only eat with your right hand. However, if you can’t use your right hand there are a few courteous ways to avoid an awkward situation. If you can’t use your right hand because it is dirty, you turn your wrist down and place it under your left hand while you use your left hand to give something to someone. If you are eating and someone comes to shake you hand, you just give them your right wrist or elbow. In any case, if you forget to use your right hand, you can always just apologize and be forgiven easily. It was hard to do at first and I used many techniques to try to adopt this custom. For example, I would always put left hand in my pocket or carry something in it as to avoid using it inappropriately. However, two and half months down the line, any time I hand or take something with my left hand by mistake I murmur “Kosei” (sorry) without noticing it. 


You’re invited!

Another fun Ghanaian custom is extending an invitation when eating. In the States, eating might be social thing where we all have separate plates, sit around a large table, and talk about each other’s day. In Ghana, eating is not a social thing. And, rightly so, eating is for survival, it is nourishment of the body. Food is for eating not for talking. Ghanaians all eat out of the same bowl using their right hand, the natural spoon. Usually, they don’t talk or at least not like Americans do during a meal. If you happen to be eating and other people are around, it is polite to either invite everybody to join you or to go somewhere else. Christina has been so patient with the volunteers who have lived here. She has had to buy more bowls so that everybody can have their own and she has even bought new silverware. She noticed that we like to talk during dinner so sometimes when I am eating alone she will come sit next to me and give me company. In my last few weeks here I have adopted the Obibinyi-style of eating, from one bowl using the natural spoon. I always invite the brothers to join me and help me eat whatever huge plate of food Christina has served me. Brother Brown explained to me that eating together represents unity. So, when you invite someone to join you, it means more than plain generosity. Saying, “You’re invited,” means that you respect them and that you want them to feel welcome. From my experience, whenever I extend an invitation to a Ghanaian they will usually decline so I am usually pushy and force them to take a bite and join me in my meal. I do not know why they usually decline, but I suspect that they assume I am just being respectful and do not really mean it since I am Obronyi and we usually do not invite others. But I am not the average Obronyi.



yɜyɜ kor

On one of my adventures to town I met a woman named Ekua, same as me! She owns a small fabric shop in town just near the Crab Statue between Akotokraba and Kingsway. I stopped to buy some fabric because I wanted 2 yards to use as a wrap/blanket. She began to explain to me the meaning of all the different prints. I ended up buying 2 yards of a beautiful blue, red and lavender fabric. It means that we are all different yet all the same; we all have a little good and a little bad in us. The way the lady described, we are all stone and steel- we are different but we are all the same. So, in Fante, “yɜyɜ korwhich means “We are one.”



Ten days out..

Now I am back in Cape Coast, finishing work and 10 days away from returning home. All in all, I have had a very good time living in Ghana. I am torn about leaving. I cannot bear to leave Christina and the family and I want to continue working with the NGO. However, there a few things that I am looking forward to. That is: a haircut, a mani/pedi, maybe even a massage, air conditioning, my car, toilets, another semester at Vandy… I can’t believe that in ten days I will be coming home.

I can already tell that I am going to have a bad case of RCS (Reverse Culture Shock). Already I have begun to show severe symptoms… For example, last week in the middle of having dinner, I picked up a spoon having realized that my hand was unbearably dirty. After one bite, I subconsciously put the spoon down and started eating with my hands again like second nature. Even today, I was handing something to Tory with my left hand and replied quickly, “Sorry!” and switched hands, thinking nothing of it. I always find myself talking to other volunteers in “Fanglish.”. Fanglish is the mix of Fante and English along with some cultural slang. For example, This morning I said to my boss, “Morokↄ ProWorld to pick you.” Which means, “I am going to come pick you up at ProWorld.” I will not leave Ghana the same as when I came.. I am going to come home acting weird, talking weird, eating weird, most likely smelling weird for a few weeks. But I like to think of that as a good thing!


Accra: take 2

Tory and I went to Accra last weekend for the second time. We stayed from Thursday to Sunday at this cool Rasta joint called the Rising Pheonix in Ussher town. The hotel was so cool.  It was very ‘magical’, themed around the cosmos with a tiki bar and lounge overlooking the water. There were nine rooms, all with their very own front porch over the water looking out onto the fishing boats. Each room represented on of the nine planetary spirits. Tory and I stayed in Saturn, spirit of plants. It was very hippie and Rasta- I loved it! The weekend was spent walking around Accra. It was the “poor traveler’s guide to Accra.” We had absolutely no money so we walked everywhere- Osu, Makoala, Independence Square. We survived off of fruit, ground nut paste (like peanut butter), and the occasional meal we bought. This time we got to see more of Accra and the historical places. My favorite was the Nkrumah Memorial on February 28th Street, even though we were too cheap to actually pay to go in and took pictures from behind the wall instead! Like I said, it was the “poor traveler’s guide to Accra.” 

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