Welcome to West Africa!

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Dec 13, 2010

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Where I stayed
Port of Takoradi

Flag of Ghana  , Western,
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ghana Ghana Ghana.

The home of Pan-Africanism and the oh so popular kente cloth. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ghana but I was very excited to see what adventure it would hold. There was a Ghanaian student on board who told us to drop all the perceptions and expectations that we had in our minds of Africa and just enjoy the experience.The first thing that caught my attention in Ghana was how friendly the people were. The locals welcomed all the student with open arms and didnt hesitate to go out of their way to say and hello or see if you needed anything. There were merchants set up right next to the ship for our shopping convenience selling African art, clothing, postcards, and anything else we could ask for (except shot glasses).Before arriving in Ghana the medical team gave this big speal about malaria.They claimed if you didn’t take the $126 set of 12 pills over the course of the 12 weeks, you would be sorry. So not only am I not into drugs, but I’m cheap…excuse me… frugile. Not to mention the side effects were yeast infections, rashes, bruises, esophagus pain and so on and so on. I’d rather take the malaria.  So instead of warm vanilla sugar, "Off" bug spray became my scent.

There is no where else on land that one can get closer to the Prime Meridian and the Equator at the same time than in Takoradi, Ghana. Knowing this before hand I was a little worried about the heat because I'm (as my Mother says) "a fair weather girl."   I don't take heat well but luckily we arrived during the mild rainy season so the climate was just perfect. The on and off showers had left the air crisp and vegetation vibrantly green with a bit of a tropical feel.

 The first day I was there I went on a tour of Takoradi and its twin city Sekondi. Both cities had their small  somewhat developed areas but aside from those areas there was a lot of what appeared to be poverty. The average income for an African in an area like this is 1.28 US dollars a day.  But when interacting with the locals I was taken back by how happy they were. As long as they have a place to stay and food for their families nothing else mattered.

I was fasinated how gracefully they could balance any object on their heads. Even children of all ages knew how balance bowls to packages to piles of wood on their heads!  Many of the neighborhoods and villages were built from sticks and mud or metal sheets.These neighborhoods ran perfectly without any electricity or running water. Most people had to travel miles for their daily water supply. I’ve always heard that people live like that, but to see it in person and witness how finely tuned and coordinated their societies are without modern technology was amazing. I also visited the local market which was extremely busy and crowded but interestingly, it wasn’t loud or chaotic. The sound level was very low, the people were calm and things ran very smoothly.  The people I spoke with were very proud of their heritage and how the country has come. I was often asked if I was Ghanaian or which African country I came from and when I couldn’t give them an answer they would say, “Okay then you are now Ghanaian” then give me something, usually a coin.

It was interested to drive through the cities and see that most of the local businesses and stands had names with Biblical references like "God Will Provide Beauty Salon". Many of them just said, "God is Good" or "God is King" and you would have to go into the store to see it was clothing store or what ever else they were selling. On one of the tours I went on, the tour guide explained that there weren't too many actual church buildings and many services we held outdoors on picnic tables or in abandoned buildings.  In 1957 when Ghana gained its independence, the British left many finished and unfinish building thourgh out the city along with slave castles and dongeons. Ghana was at the heart of the trans-Atlantic slave trade which hundered of thousands of African slaves passed through oon their way to America. Although there are such promonate reminders of the horrible things that took place there the people I talked to didn't seem to be bitter about slavery the way some black Americans are and claimed it has made them a stronger people.

Normally it's very difficult to find someone to do even most adventurous things with so I planned a day trip with 4 other students for my second day in Ghana. The plan was to go to the city Cape Coast then to Kakum National Park. Simple. So when the morning of the trip  arrived, everyone flaked! So after threatened to take the 4 hour trip alone, my roommate dragged her feet out of our cabin but as along as she came that was fine. SAS advised us to rent  a cab for the day for day trips such as these and for this excursion the price would have been 200 cedis ($1=1.4 cedis).For whatever reason SAS told us, “DO NOT TAKE THE BUSES.” So my roommate and I got on the bus and paid 2.50 cedis to get to Cape Coast  which was about 2 hours away. The people on the 10 seater bus were very friendly, had good conversation, and when we asked for directions they were very helpful. After arriving in Cape Coast we look around a bit then paid 15 cedis for cab to take us to Kakum and back to Cape Coast. Kakum was breathe taking! It was like a green misty wonderland with beautiful flowers and color butterflies in every direction. We took a 35 minute hike through the forest where the guide told us about the plants and animals that inhabited the park. At the end of the hike we arrive at our first suspended bridge which hung right through the canopy of the trees. There were seven different bridges which took about 45 minutes to cross all of them. It was an exlierating experience as many of the bridges were shakey and swung back and forth while you were hoovering over 100 feet above the forest floor. Hands down, the trip was well worth every cedi!.... Btw I did ask about the buses and was told they were safe.

 A group of Semester at Sea students went to the Amankwa Village in Elmina which was about an hour and a half away from Takoradi. When we arrvied at the village we were greeted by the sound of drums and plenty of children. We were infromed that it was customary to awknowledge the village Elders before sitting down. When shaking their hands they would say, "Akwaaba, medasi," meaning Welcome and thank you for coming. Then we were to respond "Ya," meaning that we accepted their welcome. The children were absolutely adorable! The were a bit timid at first, but after we were there for abour 15 minutes the children surrounded us and asked for their picture to be taken. They were so excited to be in front of the camera and love seeing the pictures. Many of them had never seen their reflection before so when they saw their faces on my camera they would just blush and smile. Later in the day we participated in an African naming ceromony which is traditionally done when a baby is 8 days old. When given my name one Elder announced it to everyone then all the seated Elders chanted it about 5 times. In the Fanti language, my African name is Aba Ansaba. Aba means "Girl born on Thursday. After our naming ceromony, those who participated were now considered members of the Amankwa Village!

When the ship left the port of Ghana the people gave us an amazing send off. They drummed, danced and cheered for over the 30 minutes and waved good bye from the dock until we could no longer see them. I had an awesome time enjoying the sights and the people of Ghana. The country may not be very wealthly but the people have a rich culture and the "Joy of the Lord" which is worth much more than any monetary amount. 

 "I'll be back!"
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