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I firmly believe that Yao is my rasta soul mate. He believes in truth and the soul, music, art, and he loves dave matthews. What more could a girl ask for? I’ll tell you what, a Ghanaian shaman. Oh, i’ve found him.

Kate and i decided to make the long and difficult journey up to Mole National Park this past week. In theory, it sounds awesome. In reality, it was a bit of a nightmare. John warned us that this trip would take us a while and to make sure that we really wanted to go through with it before we went. Our position was that we could possibly only be in Ghana once and when in Ghana, eat coconuts and go to Mole. So to Mole we went. To make the trip, we left Ho Tuesday morning and 4 a.m. When i say “left” i really mean that we waited around the metro station until 8 a.m for the metro to fill up. A metro is like a big coach bus without the “coach” status. They don’t leave until they fill up and they’re cramped, uncomfortable, and exhausting. We took that metro to Kumasi, a big city the the Ashanti region. We were going to have to stay the night in Kumasi but we didn’t have a place to sleep yet so we were hoping to reach Kumasi before dark and find a place. We made it around 4 or 5 and asked around for a guest house. The men at the station pointed us in the direction of the Ducor Palace, a hotel 5 minutes down the road. And a palace this place was. For 22 cedis (or roughly $19) a night we stayed in a beautiful room with a huge, king sized bed, wonderful fan, and a TV. We even watched some random Amanada Bynes movie that was terrible but also amazing at the same time.

Well, we stayed there for the night but had to get up at 3:30 a.m to catch another metro to another city called Tamale. We got that with little to no problem, but didn’t end up leaving Tamale until around 6 or 7. When we got to Tamale around 12:15 we were told that the bus to Mole would get there around 1:30. Time really means nothing in Ghana, because the bus didn’t arrive until about 5. We waited and waited and kept asking and asking where the bus was and we continually got laughed at and told that this was “Africa time” and that the bus was “coming.” Well, our plan was to get to Mole that afternoon so we could catch the last safari, stay the night, and then head out super early the next morning. Since it’s another 4 hours from Tamale to Mole, we didn’t reach the park and our hotel until well after 9 and well after the last safari had ended.

There was nothing we could do, so we sucked it up and went to bed. By this time i was pretty livid and annoyed and passed out like a freakin’ log. We woke up early and asked the receptionist if we would be able to catch the metro to Tamale after our safari but we were told that the one and only metro out of Mole leaves at 4 a.m and that was that. So to the safari we went. It was a walking safari of about 2 hours. We saw some elephants and baboons up pretty close and walk through the beautiful savanna. It was pretty incredible to see the elephants, and i guess you don’t always see them so we were lucky.

There were probably 3 good things about our trip. The coffee that we were served at breakfast, the elephants, and our meeting my new shaman John. During our safari a little man started asking us if we’d ever been to the Volta region. We told him that yes, in fact, thats where we’ve been living and he started to call us his “volta girls.” This little Ghanaian man was John, and he was traveling with an Italian named Eugene who we hung out with for the rest of our trip in Mole. They were both unbelievably nice and interesting to talk to. John had an NGO that worked specifically in women empowerment and health advocacy. He believes that disease education and prevention is the way to protect his people and he tries to recruit volunteers to help. We talked about many things, and discusses many cultures, and eventually, like most things the conversation turned to religion. I honestly don’t think i’ve discussed religion so much as i have here. But like Yao, John is not a catholic and does not believe in God. Only the second Ghanaian i have met that doesn’t. When we asked him why, it was as though he was almost ashamed to tell us. With Eugene’s pushing, he finally told us, “I believe in three things. Understanding, love and peace. With understanding, one can understand and find love, and through love, grows peace.” Kate and i looked at each other like we had just heard the most beautiful thing that anyone has ever said. He explained it so eloquently and he has such an interesting and unique perspective of his world and the world around him that is was surprisingly refreshing. When Kate and i talk to Charles about his religious beliefs he just says them because that was what he has been told to think, he doesn’t necessarily question what he has been instructed. I am all for believing in what you want and to have faith, but i respect people who believe something for a reason. John believed in his three things for a reason, and i really liked that about him. It’s awesome when you meet someone who really makes you think, and that’s what he did for me.

We went to bed pretty early that night because we, once again, had to get up a 3:30 a.m to catch the 4 a.m metro. The road from Mole to Tamale is a dirt road that is shot to absolute hell and it was a painful ride. When we got to Tamale the real nightmare began. There were dozens of people trying to get on the metro to Kumasi and only so many seats. We were pushed and shoved out of the first metro that left and laughed at when we started to get defensive and it was one of the most frustrating experiences i’ve ever had. I’ve never been so turned off by a group of people than i was with the patrons and staff in Tamale. After we were refused tickets for the first metro they started selling tickets for the second, and we were forced out of line for that one. Kate and i were both on the brink of tears at the thought of having to spend the night in Tamale. I literally hounded the workers in the booth, and went into their room every 5 minutes telling them that we needed to get on the bus with no exceptions until finally the woman took my money and gave us tickets.

I can’t quite say if the trip and money was worth the elephants, but there’s no reason in doubting it. You never know until you go (heh, i just made that rhyme up) and i don’t regret it. Plus, i’ve never been so close to a wild elephant or baboon in my life and don’t know if i ever will again, so there’s definitely something to that.

This is probably my last post until home so i just wanted to say thank you to everyone for reading and i can’t wait to see you all! Lovelovelovelove 🙂

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SO, i was rereading my last post and although i feel as though i should perhaps re-write it a bit to make it more exciting, i instead want to write about some small things that have worked its way into the inner workings of my mind. Get ready, my mind is one weird place.

One of my favorite people in Seviefe was Divine, he was the architect who designed the school that is being built and he’s also just an all-around nice guy. He’s also one of the the drummers who performed for us last week. I find him refreshing because he is genuine in a way that not many Ghanaians are, he says whatever is on his mind and is not afraid to ask us whichever question pops into his head.

We were talking yesterday about how kate and i would love to come back for a couple weeks next year and see how everyone and everything is moving along. At that, divine looked to me and said, “You could find a husband here, you know?” Kate automatically gets exempt from comments such as that because at this point they all know that she has jon, but because i’m single, i am expected to marry a man in town and bring charles his little white baby. It’s pretty funny, i take no offense and they say it in such a lighthearted manner that it’s amusing. Well, we all know how i feel about marriage and so when i told Divine that i didn’t think i would be marrying a man in the village his response was a somewhat surprised, “Eh! Why?!”

I told him that i don’t know if i want to get married and he asked me if i wanted to be lonely with no family. I said, “No, i don’t want to be lonely. Not at all, but i have too many things that i want to do with my life before i even think about marriage. I want to go back to school, and make a career, and i want to make sure that i really, really, love someone before i marry them.”

“Ah, this is something that we Ghanaians don’t understand, we don’t understand love. We don’t marry for love, we marry to make families, or we go to bed with a girl and she gets pregnant and we have to stay with them. We don’t have much love.”

It’s interesting, because this is something that i’ve actually noticed. But i do think that they have love, but love is measured in different terms than the way that you and i account for it. Ernestine absolutely adores Enyonam, but the relationship between her and Charles is not necessarily one that i would consider to be made out of love. The members of the communities love one another, they watch out and make sure that everyone is alive and well.

Divine was explaining to us how he missed the Ghana/Nigeria football match last week because he was too busy in the bush (the woods) the next town over looking for a man that had gone missing. “He was a…how do you say? Crazy man, but he is still another man and he was missing for three days but we found him alive. We had to bring him back.” I think that is love. I think this was something that Divine admired about our culture, and i have to say that it is something that i admire about theirs. All people are considered to be valuable enough to look in the bush for three days for. To them, many things are about necessity, even love, whereas for us it is a luxury. Makes you think, eh?

Divine also found is fascinating that we have poor people in the states. To most people here, any yevu is made of money. One thing that bothers me that i have to tell myself to get over is the fact that people see our skin and think that we have everything. Don’t get me wrong, we have much more than many people here, and if i’ve learned anything it’s to be so so grateful for what i have. But if kate and i gave up everything we’ve been asked for we would leave Ghana with nothing. Divine was literally shocked to learn that people live on the streets and there are some who have no money or means to feed their family. He thought this was something to only happen to Africa. Our worlds are very different, but in so many ways they are the same as well. Our country as a whole is wealthier, but the individuals in it can still be as unfortunate.

Divine was completely unabashed when asked us about what we have and what we don’t have, it made me realize how differently people think us to be. Sammy too, who was the painter for the school. You would think that to them our white skin was made of porcelain, by how afraid they are for us to complete the same tasks as them every day. When we were carrying the cinder blocks  for the house last week, Set (Charles father who lives next door) made us take a small small (they say ‘small small’ instead of ‘a little’) break every two or so blocks because he thought we couldn’t handle it. When we asked Sammy if we could help him on his farm he told us that “Nooo, no no it is too far for you, too long a walk.” Even when we told them that we would be going on hikes or traveling around the country by ourselves they thought we couldn’t handle it.

 

As Ben likes to say, “You like the adventures, no?”

 

 

 

 

I only wrote last week but i feel as though it’s been years. Let me start with a little story from a few weeks ago and work my way back.

There were several advantages in staying in Ho as opposed to staying in Saviefe. We spent every weekend in Ho mostly because we were traveling, but also because 1. there was a working shower, 2. we found ipod speakers and could jam out, and 3. it was a nice place to hang out without feeling like a constant guest. Well two weekends ago, i woke up from my inch-thick mattress on the floor to a COCKROACH scurrying it’s way across me. yeah, you just read that sentence correctly. after the initial shock of that unpleasant wake-up (and if you know me you should know that there is nothing that i hate more than being woken up in an unappealing manner. i prefer to be nicely woken with the sound of “Awake My Soul” by Mumford  playing and and a cup of coffee awaiting, not by the tiny little feet of a cockroach piddle paddling across my back.) Anywho, i didn’t wake kate because i’m actually the braver one when it comes to these bugs (she kills the spiders, i kill the cockroaches) and i thought i’d let her sleep. After i got over the initial shock i killed that fucker and managed to fall back asleep. One can only assume that this brought the house in Ho down a few notches. Additionally, this particular weekend, the town decided to shut the water off and we also had no showers, and the ipod speakers mysteriously stopped working ( i blame the cockroaches.) So things really took a turn for the worse. I’m telling you this because today kate and i ended up back in Ho and bought some “cockroach medicine” from a nice man who was selling it out of his trunk on the side of the road. I’ve had many “firsts” here in Ghana and i can certainly say that this is now added to the list.

I don’t know why i decided to relish you with this certain tale from the Ghana crypt, but as I was sitting in the cab, next to a Ghanaian man wearing a Red Sox hat (hell yeah baby, represent) on my way home from Saviefe for the last time, i decided that i would write about it. Yes, today kate and i left Seviefe for good. Although we’re technically not leaving for another ten days, we’re starting on a five or so day journey up north to visit Mole National Park and check out some elephants on Tuesday and wanted to give ourselves enough time. Mole should be a whole different trip of it’s own and quite the adventure so i can’t wait to share the tales.

Last weekend we took an impromptu trip to Akosombo, which is a town in the eastern region and the site of the the Akosombo Dam. The dam is the world’s largest man-made dam and pretty much created Lake Volta. It has a really interesting creation and history and we had no idea what to expect or what we’d be doing when we went so we just winged it and hopped in a tro tro. We had heard talk from Yao about being able to go on a river cruise on Lake Volta so that was our main mission. We accomplished it just nearly in time. Our tro tro dropped us off and we hopped in a taxi to the town, then hopped in another taxi that brought us to the river boat and got on just in time to make the one and only river cruise of the day. It was pretty awesome and i’m glad we did it. For 40 GHc we got a four hour cruise, lunch, and a drink ticket, while being able to enjoy the live reggae band on board and dancing to our liking. It was really fun, and we met a fello American and yevu who is doing a semester abroad from law school, so he was cool to talk to. The half way point of the cruise was docking at this little island that inhabits a small village of people. The island was really beautiful but the situation itself was really weird, kate and i felt extremely uncomfortable as the hoarded the tourists from the boat along this small path on the island lined with locals (mostly small children) begging for money and playing instruments.  It was sad and made us feel…weird to say the least. I did however, give a small boy 3 cedis in exchange for a $2 bill he somehow acquired. My first $2 bill and i get it in Ghana…ironic. Since the whole trip was pretty last minute we had no idea how to get back to Ho so we hitched a ride with a guy who brought us back to the junction and just so happened to be a police officer who worked aboard the ship. He was super nice and gave us his contact information just in case we ever needed anything. Everything that day just worked out pretty perfectly. It was awesome.

We went back to Seviefe on Sunday night and the local drumming circle played for us. That was awesome, tons of people from the community came and danced and played some awesome music. Kate and i mostly danced with the kids, Charles went on the drums for a while, and it was wicked cool.

We taught in the school all week. The nursery school is still being worked on so we didn’t get to partake in any of the painting, which is a major bummer, but teaching is interesting. I say “interesting,” because i now realize why i stopped playing teacher all those years back. I dont really like teaching, and i think i like kids less than the average person. Ok, i love some kids (Colin&Teagan, Robert&Lorelai to name a few) but when they poke and prod at your white skin and ask you question after question, they become too much for me. I revel at kate’s patience with them, she’s better with the kids than me, i’ll tell you that much. Don’t get me wrong, i like kids, i find their minds fascinating and admire their innocence, but they’re a lot. Teaching itself is exciting when i would actually teach, or when the kids would actually listen, but i have a far greater sense of respect for anyone in the teaching profession after this experience.

Additionally, i started with a new teacher because Erickson moved to another classroom. My new teacher sucked. He was younger than Erickson, and walked around with a swagger like he owned the whole damn town and looked at me in a creepy, uncomfortable way. He was also a terrible teacher. He beats the kids far too much (corporal punishment is used on the regular) and is wrong half as much as the children are. Plus, he’s lazy and i just have no respect for him. I told Charles i didn’t like him, and even he agreed with me. Working in the school was really frustrating sometimes because the school is run quite differently than ours, kate and i have talked a great deal about education reform since being here, because although their community is in great need of materials we would consider to be standard, their level of educational standards is far too low to be productive. That was probably one of the hardest things.

The teachers were really nice though, and yesterday on our last day they prepared a feast for us of fufu and light soup. This was the first time that kate and i ate fufu and actually enjoyed it. It’s basically this doughy ball of mixed kasava (yam) and plantain that they beat and boil until it’s reached the desired consistency (sticky uncooked dough.) We ate it though, not until Erickson took us to his spot (spot means bar in Ghana) and had us take a shot of his special akpateshi. Yes, us teachers left school during the day and took a shot before lunch, but its ok because none of us did any actual teaching that day. After the fufu Erickson had the kids go and gather fresh coconuts for us to eat/drink.

Yesterday was a pretty surreal last day. In the morning, George took us to his sister’s house who taught us how to make kosi – one of our favorite foods. Its basically this fried bean patty and its absolutely delicious. We learned well and we’re takin it back home! After school, we took a nap because akpateshi knocks us right out and woke up to Ernestine cooking us rice balls and groundnut soup. Groundnuts are basically peanuts and she makes this delectable spicy soup out of groundnut paste (something a little like peanut butter.) Then we bought a bottle of akpateshi to take to Spain, but first made Charles drink with us first. He doesn’t like akpateshi but since it was our last night we made him toast. I think he secretly liked it.

Another list of things you didn’t know about Ghana because i’m running out of time and getting far too overwhelmed with information in this post:

1. Ben is building a new house right next to his current one and has had hundreds of cinder blocks delivered for the building. When one person needs help so many members of the community join in and so everyone was helping to move the cinder blocks (on their heads of course.) Kate and i joined in and carried a few cinder blocks on our heads to help out – i don’t know how they do it. Its tough work!

2. Since the water is undrinkable we drink “pure water,” which come in plastic bags about the size of a large sandwich bag that you drink by ripping off the corner and pouring the water in your mouth. A pure water costs about 10 cedis – less than 10 cents in the U.S. In a country far poorer than ours, where water is not readily available, they charge a mere fraction of the price of what we charge for bottled water. Makes you think, eh?

3. Women carry their children on their backs, tied on with a large cloth that the babies just sit comfortably in. It looks so simple, if i ever decide to have kids thats the way i’m doin it.

Thats all for now. This post is rather scattered and i might come back to edit it later but i needed to send out an update. Missing everyone back home. Keep it classy.

Two posts in four days? Clearly i have too much time on my hands.

Kate and i have been hanging out in Ho for the weekend, we were planning on going to a small village called Aburi in the Eastern region on Saturday but we got roped into going to a wedding instead. Let me tell you a little bit about this wedding. First of all, before he left, John introduced us to a woman named Mama Suzie who runs the McCollins school in Ho that some of the other volunteers had been working at. She’s a short, stout woman with a big, loud voice. She’s extremely welcoming and even though she couldn’t remember our names she introduced us to everyone that she knew (which was everyone at the wedding) like we’d been old friends for years.

Mama Suzie lives in an apartment complex in Ho, he brother Victor came to pick us up and bring us there. When we arrived, she was wearing an elaborate  yellow African-style dress with a beautiful yellow and black headdress. Kate and I were clearly very under dressed in our cotton skirts and Teva sandals. Nonetheless, she greeted us with open arms and fed us an eclectic breakfast of jolof rice (sort of a spicy, mexican-style rice), a hard-boiled egg, peas and carrots, and a piece of fried chicken. Then she took us to the church. It’s fairly ironic that she took Kate and I to an offensively large and religious Christian church because Kate and i too of the least religious people you will ever meet. This wedding solidified my disdain for organized religion.

God was everywhere in that church. I mean even more so than any other church. The ceremony lasted a grueling three hours. I dont know if i would have felt differently if i were raised with any certain type of religious background, but be it a bunch of Africans or yevues loudly praising the lord jesus christ, it just doesn’t sit well with me. I spent a majority of the time trying to avoid looking at the man in a white robe standing before me preaching the sins of homosexuality (a sin my ass) during a WEDDING. A time to celebrate love and they make it an opportunity to equate homosexuality with bestiality. I had to bite my tongue throughout the entire ceremony. I’ve never quite had a church experience so repulsive before, but i suppose if i’m going to have it it should be in Ghana, no?

I don’t have many qualms while being here, but i will mention one that irks me the wrong way. The inferiority of women that i see so naturally applied to the culture. During the ceremony the minister (or pastor, reverend, or priest – i couldn’t even tell you the difference between them) looked to the bride and asked: “Do you allow a piece of yourself to die for your husband in the name of this marriage?” First of all, are you really using marriage as a comparison to death? Second of all, it took every fiber of my being to not stand up and proclaim, “If you’re asking that absurd question of the bride, you better turn to the man sitting next to her and ask that very same thing.” I waited, but no such question was asked of the groom. Not.cool.with.me. But it’s not my culture, so i can only simply observe and report back to you. Alright, i’m done venting and will tell you about some cool stuff now.

Before John left, he also introduced us to an artist named Yao who has his own African Culture Shop in Ho. Yao is awesome. First of all, he’s a Rastafarian, second of all, he’s an amazing talented artist. Kate and i have bought way too much from his shop already. THIRD of all, we’ve been hanging out with him and he is unlike anyone else i have ever met in my life. Sometimes i seriously question whether or not he is a real person or a fictional hallucinatory character from my imagination. He’s real though, i assure you. On friday night we went to his house to hang out for a bit since we really have nothing else to do in Ho and the ipod speakers we found in the house just shit the bed on us.

Anywho, i will try my best to describe Yao to you until i get home and can show you the pictures of him and his incredible house. He truly is an artist in every sense of the word. He lives, breathes and exudes art. He makes jewelry, masks, paints, makes any type of instrument, and he built his entire house himself from the ground up. Walking into his house is like walking into a museum. It’s built out of cement and plaster, but the walls are painted with African murals  and pottery is embedded into his stairs and roof deck. His work hangs everywhere, clothing and tapestries, masks and jewelry. He’s house could double as another shop. The roof deck is a whole other story. It took him seven years to built his roof deck and it is so worth it. It’s made out of cement columns and bamboo, with a roof of dried palm leaves. He has a homemade hammock and a table that sits in the middle with beads and jewelry making tools. He’s pretty badass. Our first time there he took out a papaya and orange that he grew in his backyard and starting cutting it for us to eat. Yesterday we went back to hang out and we met his three pet alligators. Yup, he has pet alligators. Four if you count the one that he skinned, dried, and painted and hangs on his wall as a surprisingly interesting piece of art. For the rest of the night he fed us and chatted while we drank coke out of a glass bottle and made jewelry with him. I made some pretty sweet bracelets for a couple people and one for myself 🙂 Pretty much Yao is my favorite part of Ghana – is that bad to say? He’s also making me a drum and a moracca to bring back, i’m totally gonna start jammin.

Finally, yesterday Kate and I made it to Aburi to check out the Botannical Gardens. They’re about a 4.5 hour tro tro ride from Ho but they were absolutely beautiful. We saw some interesting trees and flowers and that sort of thing. It was a nice day trip to walk around and see some nature after being in Ho for a while.

Now i will leave you a list of interesting facts/ironies that i bet you didn’t know about Ghana until just now:

1. The day of the week that you were born on is very important. Many times people are named after the day of the week. Yao is named after Thursday for the day he was born. I was born on a Monday so many of the guys in Deme call me Ajua.

2. People carry EVERYTHING on their heads. Food, bags, clothing, crates of eggs, luggage, buckets of water. You name it, it’s on their head.

3. They use brooms made out of palm branches tied together and often i see them sweeping the ground outside of the shops. The ironic part is that the ground is made out of dirt so they’re just sweeping dirt off of dirt. Makes me smile.

4. God literally is everyone. The two main religions in Ghana are Christianity and Islam and most of the shops are named after god in some way or another, even if it makes no sense as a name.

5. There is no cheese anywhere, but this new restaurant called KCS just opened up. It’s sort of a like a piece of fast-food America in Ho and has hamburgers WITH CHEESE. And delicious french fries.

6. When i say “fast-food” place, I really mean that it takes way longer to make than any street food you can buy. It’s pretty contradictory to what fast-food is in the states.

7. Most houses are made out of cement and what i think looks like hardened wet sand. Some have the dried palm leaves for roofs, some of tin roofing sheets. In Ho, we have electricity and running water which is awesome. In Deme, we have electricity and no running water so we take bucket showers.

Alright, i had more but my mental list has escaped me. Until next time 🙂

Disclaimer: this post may or may not be rated R due to explicit language. children under 17 should stop reading now. (sorry, dad. i know you raised me with a better mouth than this but some things just call for it.)

I am a yevu. In Ghana, being a yevu is being different. It’s being shouted at on the street, or followed by lines of children while walking home, or even being treated more kindly by folk at the market. Being yevu has its vantage points, but sometimes it can get to be a lot. Can you guess what a yevu is?

Well first, let me tell you about this little yevu’s past adventures. So as i mentioned in my last post, Kate and i were traveling to the monkeys and the mountains. First stop was to be the monkeys.

This was our first excursion without John being here (only second excursion overall) and i think we were both a little apprehensive about how the traveling might go. It went fairly smoothly except for the beginning. To the monkeys we went, and the monkeys were in a village called Tafi. To get to Tafi we had to take a tro tro from Ho to a junction on the outskirts of the village. From the junction, we were to take a motorbike (which i seriously cannot get enough of) to the town of Tafi. When i say we take a motorbike somewhere, it usually because the roads are not good enough for a car to travel down. They’re either not paved, not paved well, or full of potholes and obstacles that cars can make it through, but prefer not to. The problem with getting to the junction, however, was that we had to tell the driver where to stop. John assured us that so many yevues go to the monkey sanctuary that chances are, the driver would automatically stop for us. Well, he didn’t. He didn’t even stop for us when we told him that we wanted to go to the junction for the monkey sanctuary. About an hour and a half into our ride a couple women in the tro tro finally stopped the driver and told him to pull over for us. The problem was, we were not stopped at the junction and really had no idea where the junction was. I had a moment of internal panic, but thankfully we flagged down a motorbike driver who was so so nice and drove us to Tafi. He was really sweet, and was really going in the opposite direction of where we needed to go, and Kate and i seriously questioned whether or not he was a driver who took passengers or just felt sorry for us, but we made it.

The sanctuary was pretty awesome. It wasn’t like in the states, where a “sanctuary” is a caged in area where they keep some lonely monkeys. Tafi is where the monkeys actually live, they’re not in captivity and no one watches over them. You walk down the road of the village and look over to a little seating area and there are just monkeys hanging out. For 6 GHc (less than $5) we were able to feed the monkeys some bananas. They jumped all over us and ate those bananas just like little people would. They were simply adorable and their little hands made me so happy. After the bananas were eaten, our guide took us for a nice nature walk through Tafi. It was all-around quite the enjoyable experience.

Now let me tell you about these fuckin’ waterfalls. The Wli waterfalls are the tallest waterfalls in all of West Africa. No, not just Ghana – all.of.west.africa. They are twofold: the lower and the upper falls. You can’t go somewhere like the Wli waterfalls and only go to the lower falls, that’s just plain wimpy. So we did the upper falls. We got a guide, and his name was Michael. He was an adorable little man who was wearing flip flops thinner than my worn-in old navies and climbs this mountain several times a week. How he does it, i have no idea. When you get there, they warn you about how the hike takes about 4-4.5 hours round trip and it’s a douzy so you should load up on water. We did, and we were well on our way. When we first started we were on a delightful little nature walk through the woods and i’m thinking to myself, ‘Well, this really isn’t so bad, i could do this all day.’ We were going over cute bridges, and observing the pretty butterflies (which were everywhere.) Then Michael comes to a stop and turns right up this cascade of tumbling rocks and looks down at a pile of sticks.

“Choose your walking stick,” he says.

And so it begins. The most arduous hike of my entire life. I’m no experienced hiker at all, but i’ve been on my fair share of hikes and this one fucking killed me. I’m not kidding you, i wanted to cry and die all at the same time. Kate was hiking up ahead of me like a fuckin’ pro and i’m huffing along trying not to collapse, with Michael behind me most likely cursing my existence because i kept making him stop. He acted like it was no sweat off his back, smokin cigs and walkin in his flips flops while sweat was pouring off of me and my lungs are about to give in.

But then we made it. And the waterfall was spectacular. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. and while climbing the mountain you can see everything around you for miles and miles. It truly was one of the coolest things i’ve ever done. Despite how considerably miserable i was during the actual hike, it was completely worth it. And we concurred that fucking mountain. One of the greatest feelings in the world.

From there, we trekked back to Ho for the night and then made it back to Seviefe on Monday. When we got to Seviefe we went for a walk with Charles to the next village and wandered around their high school. I don’t believe the school is being used right now due to lack of attendance but it was interesting to see. To me, it looked forgotten. It was made of crumbling cement blocks surrounded by overgrown shrubs. If it were something i stumbled upon by myself, i certainly would have taken the time to explore it.

On Tuesday, Kate and i did our laundry by hand for the first time ever. Everyone was laughing at us and showing us how to do it because we’re silly americans who use washing machines. Ernestine told Kate that next time, we should just leave the washing to her because she had to wash everything over for us anyways. You can’t blame us for trying.

Tuesday and Wednesday we went to the school to teach. The feeling of not really wanting to teach is unfortunately coming back because i feel as though i’m not making as much of a difference as i want to. It really is hard for the students to understand me, and even when i try i think Erickson can do a far better job. Either way, it i suppose it’s a nice experience.

On Wednesday George got us out of school early because the carpenters finished the roof on the nursery school and he wanted us to be present for the finished ceremony. The Togbe (chief) of the village was there, as well as Ben (who is Charles uncle, and the owner of the house we’re staying in, also a prominent member of the community), George, Sammy, Divine, and all the workers of the nursery school. Togbe said a few words (all of which we could not understand, but George translated for us) and then there was a round a rum shots and then palm wine. Everyone though Kate and i were drunk off the palm wine (ok, we might have been a little tipsy) but the stuff is actually pretty delicious. It’s sort of a light milky color, that tastes sweet and smokey at the same time.

Yesterday Kate and i didn’t go to school but wandered through the farms and explored the nearby rivers a bit. There are two notable ones around us and we had been to the first and still wanted to see the second so we did that. Today (Friday) George took us on a hike/walk up to this village on the top of a nearby mountain. I wish i could remember the name of it but it escapes me right now. This was another hike that kicked my ass (apparently i need to do more hiking) but it was awesome. We followed an extremely steep, extremely windy road for a little over an hour, me huffing all the way to the top. It was incredible how steep this thing was, and yet cars and motorbikes were still passing us without a care. At the top was a quaint little village that was very different than Deme. It was very rocky and tight-knit, George seemed to know everyone. He introduced us to many of his friends, and took us to the top of the mountain that had a view that i wish all of you could see. I felt like i was on top of the world, we could see everything and it was amazing. After poking our heads in here and there, he took us to meet the Togbe of the village and we took some akpateshi ( i swear – George loves feeding us this stuff.) Then we hitched a ride home with one of his friends so we didn’t have to walk. This was especially nice because about ten minutes after we left the skies opened up and it started to downpour.

Well, folks that’s all that i got for this week i think. This little yevu (which, if you were wondering – means ‘white person’ and they shout it at us everywhere – mostly children) is gonna go hang out with this artist we met, whose name is Yao, and apparently has a sweet roof deck and some drums. So i’m gonna go learn a little drumming tune to bring back to you all.

I’m going to leave you with this absolute HIT of a song that is on the radio everywhere – ENJOY!

I remember when i was little and my mom would take me to the teacher supply store off of john fitch highway in fitchburg, she would take me fairly frequently because i absolutely loved playing teacher in the basement. I would buy those little borders that would go around the bulletin boards, and flashcards, and all other crazy important supplies that every teacher needs. Other kids wanted dolls or fancy toys, and of course being the strange little thing that i was/am…i wanted teacher supplies. I would set up my dolls or stuffed animals and talk to my imaginary friends like i was the best damn teacher there ever was, and i think i meant it. I don’t remember when i slowly transitioned out of my “wanting to be a teacher” phase but eventually it happened and i hadn’t really thought about it since. Until yesterday.

You may be asking yourself : “well this is all cute and nice robin, but what the hell does this have to do with your life in ghana?” bear with me, i will explain.

Kate and i started teaching at the primary school in Deme yesterday. For now, most of the work building the nursery school is work that the skilled laborers have to do (laying the roofing, plastering the cement, ect.) Hopefully by the time we leave we’ll be able to get started on the painting so we can do something to help. In the meantime we go over to the school (which is so conveniently located right across the street from our house) and “teach” at the school. Schooling here is quite contrary to that in the states. First of all, it really starts at no particular time. We were told 8, so we get up at about 6:30-7 (which is complete torture for me, and there is no coffee, and most mornings i want to immediately fly home so i can sleep in and call it a day) and then we end up sitting around and waiting until the students and teachers show up. They kind of keep us around just in case a teacher doesn’t come in or doesn’t feel like teaching (both frequent occurrences.) Second of all, teaching in Ghana is nothing like teaching my dolls and stuffed animals in my basement. There are no bulletin boards to make fancy with my cool borders, there are barely any supplies to make fun name tags, and i’m thankful when my students have a pen to write with. The school is very simple, concrete floors and walls, a blackboard, and small desks that fit two students.

I’ve been teaching what i would consider to be the 6th grade. To be completely honest, i wasn’t really looking forward to teaching. I’m not really sure why, but that soon changed when i actually started. I’m teaching with a man named Erickson who John introduced us to the first day we went to Seviefe. He’s actually a great teacher (which is rare) but yesterday (my first day) he basically left me alone to travel to Ho. It was just me and my students and it’s very hard for them to understand me, with my american accent and all.

Despite not really wanting to teach in the beginning, i find myself loving being alone with the students. They’re all so sweet and respectful, calling me Madame or Madame Robin. I wanna cry every time one smiles at me and answers a question. I started teaching them math yesterday and we moved on to english today. I think i now understand why people become teachers. It is so rewarding when you see that flash of understanding come across a child’s face. I had them write me letters today, I gave them prompts and they completed the sentences. My favorite student, Promise (yes, i already have a favorite) wrote five perfect sentences, the last one being: “My best friend is Robin.” Talk about a tear-jerker. She’s spunky yet shy and absolutely beautiful. It’s fun to teach them and play around, they automatically think i’m funny by default so that’s also a plus.

I’m trying to think of what else we’ve been up to. We pretty much hang around the house. Ernestine cooks us all of our meals, but usually her and Charles don’t eat with us. We’re working on that though. We’re still eating a lot of rice and stews, which are delicious but getting a little repetitive. Last night we ate Banku, which is like like sour dough-type ball thing that you eat with your hands and dip in stew. Kate and i aren’t really fans. We’re trying though. We’ve also been drinking akpateshi (definitely spelled wrong,) which is their local moonshine. They make palm wine (which is what you get when you tap a palm tree) and then distill it to make akpateshi. They drink it a lot as a sign of respect to people such as the carpenters or works at the nursery school, or just at the end of a long day. Its is extremely strong and makes my insides feel all warm. It also puts me right to sleep.

Speaking of sleep, we’ve been going to bed around 8:30 or 9 most nights, so needless to say our social life isn’t exactly hoppin over here. Things are great though. The village is so nice. Charles looks after us like we’re his own children, as well as George and two men named Divine and Sammy. Deme worships John (literally, they call him Togebay – which means he is their chief of development) and because of him they would never let anything happen to us. Sammy is probably one of the most adorable old men you will ever meet and is slowly teaching us Ewe (we’re not half bad!) and he cares for us so much already. We’re in good hands for all you out there.

John officially left us on Wednesday so it’s just been Kate and me since then. We left Deme today after school and traveled to Ho where we’re staying for the weekend. Apparently there is a chief’s festival tomorrow which we’re going to and then Sunday we’re going to check out the Wli (pronounces blee) Waterfalls where we’re gonna hang out with some monkeys and hike up an awesome mountain/waterfall. Can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Miadoego! (We’ll meet again soon) 🙂

I have so much to say and only 38 minutes left in this internet cafe to say it. I’ll probably have to buy some more time, but let’s see how it goes. I also don’t have my journal with me and that’s where everything is written so i hope i don’t leave anything out for you all (i’m talking to all my avid and dedicated followers of course.)

So, John came and got us from the airport Thursday morning and we started our journey back to Ho from Accra. Thinking back, that seems so long ago but in reality (which i find that i’m really not living in these days) it was less than a week ago. We got some bowl fruit, which is really not fruit at all but actually a ball of scrumptious fried dough/doughnut type thing. Then we got in a tro tro (which sounds like cho cho to me) to Ho. So, you may ask, what is a tro tro? Well, its a big van that looks like it’s been gutted on the inside and beaten with a couple of sledgehammers, but it still runs and it is a main mode of transportation here. You can pretty much take one anywhere, and that’s how we’ve been getting around most days. You catch them either on the side of the road or at a station and they don’t leave at any particular time, but instead whenever they fill up. The drivers here drive like you wish you could in the states, fast and recklessly. It’s pretty hilarious ( don’t worry dad, i know you’re reading this and i’m fine.)  The tro tro is about a 3 1/2 or 4 hour ride from Accra to Ho, which is long but we’ve been so hyped up on travelling adrenaline that it’s really not that bad.

When we got to Ho we checked out the volunteer houses that John has, which are really nice and right in town. We’ve been sleeping there for now but we’ll be moving to Saviefe Deme (sp?) tomorrow to move in with our host family, Charles and Ernestine. They are probably some of the sweetest people that you will ever meet and I can’t wait to spend more time with them. I’ll talk more about them later though.

After the volunteer houses we browsed Ho a little bit and John showed us around. The language in Ho and the surrounding areas is Ewe so we’ve been working on that. So far, i definitely know how to say ‘thank you very much,’ ‘this is good,’ and that might be it. We’ve been writing things down in my handy-dandy notebook though so hopefully we’ll get pretty good in the next five weeks. Many people speak pretty good English, including Charles and this man named George who we’ll be spending a lot of time with, so that helps with things a lot.

We slept in Ho that first night and then we left early early for Cape Coast the next morning  – the first of our many excursions we’re going to be going on! Cape Coast trip consists of one tro tro to Accra, which is about 4 hours, and then another tro tro to Cape Coast, which is almost another 4 hours. By the time we got there it was just in time to see the slave castles on the water and catch a tour. The castle is a beautiful, white building with a dark, ugly past. It was where the British would harbor the slaves while they were selling and transporting them over to America and other places. Pretty gruesome but it was really interesting to see. After that, we hung out by the ocean for a bit and then made our way back to the guest house that we were staying in and had dinner at their rooftop restaurant. We’ve been eating a lot of rice and chicken (which is pretty delicious so i’m not complaining) and drinking local beers which are pretty good. Cape Coast it a nice city, it reminds me of something between Accra and Ho. Accra is very big, very crowded, and very busy. Ho is smaller, and little quainter, but still busy and crowded. Cape Coast is a happy medium.

The next day we took a short taxi ride out to Kakum National Park, which is this massive, beautiful rainforest where we did this absolutely terrifying but absolutely awesome canopy walk. It consists of seven 2-foot-wide rope and plank bridges high above the tree tops. Apparently Kate and John didn’t think it was nearly as scary as i did and they took a video of me on Kara’s flip. I haven’t watched it yet out of sheer embarasment but i’m sure it will come out sooner or later.

Ok, now comes the good stuff. The day after Kakum (yesterday) has been my favorite so far. We traveled out to Saviefe Deme to go to a soccer (football to them) match between Deme and a nearby town. To get to Deme we need to take a taxi to a junction about 20 minutes away, and then a motorbike down a small dirt road into town. I am now officially buying a motorbike. This was when we met Charles and George for the first time and a couple other people from the village. The match was about a 15 minute ride from Deme and we took a big tro tro with the team and all the other spectators from the village. It was really amazing to see, all the players were pretty amped up, playing drums and singing the entire way. There were people on the top of the bus and hanging out everywhere. It was awesome. I’m pretty sure the match was in a village called Afuerte (oh my, that’s spelled just so completely wrong i’m embarrassed,) and when we got there we had some time to kill so George brought us over to meet his cousin, Price. Price lives in this amazing house and was so welcoming to us it was unbelievable. We sat and talked for a bit, he asked Kate if she believed in God, and when she said no he asked her about heaven and hell (everyone is VERY religious here.) But he was so sweet. He took us out back to where he grows oranges, coconuts, papaya, guava, and bananas. He gave us a a big bag of oranges (which are in fact, not orange but green) and George cut down some coconuts for us. I’ve never tasted something so fresh and delicious in my life. If you haven’t had fresh coconut juice, go fly to where they grow coconuts, cut one down and go at it. You won’t regret it, i promise. Then after we drank the delicious nectar, George cut open the coconut and we could eat the fresh coconut right out of there. The texture was a little difficult for me, but i sucked it up because hey, when in Ghana – eat a coconut, right?

After the coconuts and company we went back to the match, Deme won 1-0 with a sweet goal and the team was super excited on the way home. They were singing and drumming up a storm. The best part though, was that Kate and I rode on the top of the tro tro on the way back. This may not sound that fun, and we had to convince Charles that we wouldn’t fall off, but it was one of the funnest things i’ve done. Especially with the excitement and music coming from the team, it was amazing. By the time we got back it was too late to catch a taxi back so we spent our first night at the house. Ernestine cooked us an amazing dinner of rice, chicken and this delicious stew and from there we were fat and happy.

Things i learned/heard from Charles last night:

When you yawn, it means 1 of 3 things. Either you’re tired, hungry, or you miss home. So ask yourself which one it is whenever you yawn.

He taught us the old Ghanaian adage, you have two hands. The right washes the left, and the left washes the right. So in order to fully accomplish anything, you must work together as one.

He made me eat a banana (this isn’t anything i learned but i had to throw it in somewhere.) Charles is a teacher by profession, and somehow he guilt-ed me into trying a banana. It was just as gross as i remember.

I have to marry a man from their village and pop out a nice white baby so he can have it as a souvenir. I’m thinking this will be one that he wont be convincing me to do, but i suppose you never know what can happen in five weeks…(just kidding.)

Alright. I’ve written a lot and i still feel like i’m missing everything. I hope some of you made it through that. We got some fixins’ for guacamole from the market tonight so we’re gonna go make that.

Love and miss every damn one of you.

So kate and i are sitting in the airport in Accra, eating shawarma and waiting for our pickup to bring us to where we’re staying, which is in a little town outside of Ho. Ho is in the Volta Region and is almost three hours away from Accra. We’re um…just waiting patiently. But the shawarma was pretty good, couldn’t tell you what the hell was in it and it was nothing like the shawarma i ate in Israel, but it’s good.

I suppose there’s not much to report on so far but i might as well get this thing started while we’re doing absolutely nothing and paying for this internet. We flew into Heathrow yesterday, got a beer and some breakfast and then boarded our plane to Accra. Six hours later, here we are. I slept like a baby most of the flight to Accra, but kate and i weren’t seated next to each other and i met some pretty cool guys that were sitting next to me.

 

I’ll leave you this little anecdote about my flight. So i was talking to the man to my right. He was kind of a stalky, middle-aged Ghanaian man who was wearing a bright blue and orange polo shirt with a popped collar. We got to talking and he was asking me where i was going, what i was doing  – the norm. He apparently splits his time between Ghana and London doing business and his family lives all over the world. He told me to go to his city (which i can’t remember the name of) and look for the biggest house – and that would be where i could find him. Cocky or real? Hard to say, really. But i liked him. He also told me that Ghana was the best country and all of Africa and that “other countries used to call us cowards because we were peaceful and didn’t like to fight. Our response? But life is so sweet, what is there to fight about?”

I think i’ll take a nation of cowardly peacemakers any day. That’s all i have to say. More posts will be more exciting (hopefully?)

Stay classy, Amurica.