Elmina, Cape Coast, and Kakum

Trip Start Apr 01, 2007
Trip End May 10, 2007

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Elmina 4/9/07 10PM Almond Tree Guesthouse
It's been busy since Melissa arrived.  We've been playing tourist since Sunday but this afternoon finally got down to some work.
We've moved into Elmina.  Lisa and I are staying at the Almond Tree Guesthouse which is right next to the Elmina Beach Resort (where Melissa is staying).  We don't have A/C, but a lovely corner room with a nice ceiling fan, and a little screened in back patio - and it's less than the price of the Elmina and really quite adorable.  And amazingly even without the A/C this morning I had the sheet on me because the air felt a bit chilly (that didn't last long J)
So yesterday after checking in we all set out to check out Elmina.  Of course Lisa knew were we were going already, it makes it so nice to have a tour guide.  We walked down into town and along the beach - Elmina is a fishing village right on the coast.  It was so gorgeous, palm trees on the beach and then the ocean.  No big hotels or buildings just beach!  We kept saying how nothing this beautiful would last undeveloped in the US.  We walked along the beach dodging 'football' games and getting our feet wet.  Melissa had her first dose of how everyone wants to know 'where are you from?', 'what is your name?'  'are you married?'.  (oh yeah, by the way, I've made up a pretend husband.  It's so much easier to say you're married to avoid proposals of love and marriage from guys who want to talk to you.  People just really love Americans and want to go there.  Even when I've said I'm married I've still had men say they want to come home with me!  I tell them my husband wouldn't really like that.)
We visited St. Georges Castle in Elmina on the shore.  It's one of the remaining castles that was built and used by the Europeans for shipping slaves to the Americas.  There were many on the western coast of Africa and a few still existing as protected landmarks in Ghana.  There's one also in Cape Coast.  Not too much to see there now, although they do have a museum.
On our way out we found our favorite, pineapple and got a bag for each of us - still my favorite daytime snack.  It's actually usually lunch - when it's so hot in the afternoon we really have no desire to eat anything, so have found ourselves just snacking during the day and getting a good size dinner.  Unfortunately as we had been walking in one couple young men had said hello and asked us our names, as many people do.  Then on the way out they had decorated a shell with our name and gave it to us as a 'gift' then asked for money to donate to buy jerseys for their school football team.  I was annoyed but feel for it - it's hard to say no when someone puts something in your hand.  Then I was really annoyed after I gave the one guy $2, another one came up and said he helped make the shell too, so he wanted a donation.  Then I really knew it was a scam and was annoyed to be too trusting!  I'm going to try to not be so gullible next time J
We walked around town a bit.  Then back to the hotels and had a quick dinner.  Melissa was tired from having just flown in that day so went to bed pretty early.  Lisa and I checked out the beach at the Elmina (which is really an artificial beach just above the natural rocky one at the resort).  They sky and stars were absolutely amazing stretching out across the Atlantic.  There's no little artificial light in Elmina that you can see the Milky Way!
Today was more touristy stuff - we went to Kakum National Park about 1 hour north of Elmina.  They have a great suspended canopy walk above the rain forest that was AMAZING!!!!  So beautiful, even if it was a bit crowded (today, the Monday after Easter was also a national holiday).  To get there we introduced Melissa to the wonderful world of traveling by trotro.  We had to wait a little bit for the trotro to fill up going up there, but grabbed one back just as we were walking out of the park.  Trotro gods were smiling!
We came back to Cape Coast around noon and walked around town a bit.  I realized quickly that we've been doing pretty well at staying out of the mid-day sun and after about 30 minutes of walking I was feeling drained.  We stopped and got some water and hung out in the shade for a bit, before continuing on our search for pineapple and an ATM machine (the banks are all still closed for the holiday).  Lisa had to go back and make a few phone calls to set up a meeting to later tonight and Melissa and I went to the Cape Coast slave castle.  It's interesting to walk into a place were millions of slaves were kept, shipped out and died in horrid conditions and the tour guide smiles and says "Hello, Welcome!"  It's a very sobering tour against, again the beautiful backdrop of the ocean.  I guess it must be similar to touring Auschwitz?
We got back, jumped in the shower to hose off and went to meet one of the owners of the company that is near where we are thinking of starting the clinic.  It was wonderful to meet him and hear about the needs in the area, which was different than what we had seen in the cities.  We all were very excited by the meeting, especially because he offered to take us to some of the rural villages in the area and talk with some of the women there about what their needs are.  The 3 of us had a great dinner afterwards and talked about the project and what we needed to do over the next couple days while Melissa is still here.  Guess the vacation part of my trip is done for now.  But we did come here to do some work and learn some things, so I guess it's good to be getting started.
Still weathering Ghana pretty well overall.  The food has really been good - tonight I had red red and chicken with fried plantains which is a local bean dish - it was great.  Still keeping relatively sunburn free, although the back of my neck and left shoulder got a little pink today.  Not really bad for over a week in Ghana now.
We walked back from dinner and the streets were crazy filled with people.  There were two different 'dance parties' that seemed to be going on right on the street with a DJ and loud music.  Of course I got pulled into both of them and had to reluctantly pull myself back out.  If I wasn't so tired maybe I would have "shaken what my mama gave me" as one guy told me they do in clubs here J
Heard it's cold in Chicago - hope you're enjoying it.  I can't take two steps here without breaking into a sweat.  Till the next entry!  XOXOXO
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