Friday, October 1, 2010

Semester at Sea_Ghana


Because if you don’t laugh…you cry-Desmond Tutu

September 22, 2010
I woke up at 5:30 to watch the sunrise with Loryn. It was beautiful and so exciting to see the west coast of Africa. While we were out on the top deck there were small little fishing boats everywhere. It felt like we were going to hit all of them but we didn’t of course. I finally saw dolphins there had to be at least 10 dolphins swimming together jumping and it was so perfect. It made getting up at 5:30 am worth it. Quickly Loryn and I ate breakfast just in enough time to see the pilot boat pull up to the dock and run back outside to watch us pull into the port of Takoradi. The port was similar to Casablanca it was Industrial. It took a couple of hours for customs to check all of our passports because they had to make sure that everyone had a yellow fever vaccination card and a visa. Because I was doing a Semester at Sea day trip I was allowed off the ship before most people. A group of about 25 of us boarded a tiny little bus and went to go meet the Queen Mothers of Ghana. When we arrived to a little house it was not what I had imagined for a Queen Mother’s house but when we walked in, it was a definite change. The outside was white and brown and the house looked battered. When you walked inside there was gold everywhere from the curtains to the mirrors and all over the 8 Queen Mothers that sat in front of us. There were two rows of Queens and we went through a line to shake their hands. The front row of Queens was the elders and spoke the most during our conversations with them. In Ghana using your left hand is taboo so I made a conscious effort to not use it AT ALL in the presence of them. After that it was very strange. Two linguists that sat on both sides of the Queens were how we had to talk to the women. It was bizarre, we could hear what they were saying but the linguists would repeat it any way. It was very strange but very Traditional and amazing to witness. When the Queens became comfortable with us the dynamic of the room changed immediately. All of the sudden the linguists stopped “translating” for us and we were allowed to ask any question we wanted to them. It seemed a majority of the conversation revolved around the fact that women need to be educated. Queen Mothers are the most powerful women in their villages and these specific Queen Mothers were all educated. We took a break from the questioning for lunch and when we returned to our conversations the dynamic was back to the traditional ways and we were speaking through the linguists again. After another 30 minutes of this it was time for us to be leaving and they asked us a few questions and then it was a photo shoot. We went outside and took a big group photo will all the Queens and students from the class. It was amazing and all the women looked so beautiful in the traditional Kent cloth dresses. We boarded the bus after an amazing morning with the Queen Mothers of Ghana. On the way back It was amazing to see Takoradi and Sekondi. EVERYONE is friendly. It was much different from Morocco, everyone wanted to talk to you and know where you were from. All the locals waved as we drove past and it really made me feel welcome in Ghana.
Once returning to the ship we dropped off some stuff and a few girls and I headed towards the “Market Circle” which is the center of Takoradi. It was very different from the souks of Casablanca. There were no tourist traps really and I think that is because Takoradi doesn’t usually experience many tourists but it was really great to walk around the market. Everyone wanted to know your name and where you were from. Most of the market consisted of shoes, soaps, and food. When we were walking through the food portions there was everything you can imagine. Flour, spices, fresh fish, grilled fish, charcoal, tomatoes, and pretty much every vegetable you can imagine. It was pretty insane and there were so many smells that I am not used to smelling but nothing compares to the stinky tofu from Taipei. At one point this little girl walks up to me and just holds my hand. The children of Ghana are amazing, they are all beautiful and the most adorable things ever. They are all just playing in the market and every time you pass they wave. Once we figured our way out of the market we walked around a bit and they headed back towards the ship.
After a few hours on the ship we all figured out a plan for the evening. A ton of kids from the ship were going to Ocean Bar so we figured we would go too. It was Kate’s 21st birthday so we had to get a little crazy. So we grabbed a taxi and went to Ocean. When we first got there I was a little apprehensive because were so many SASers but after a while we started talking to everyone and the night did a 180 . I made friends with George the Manager from Accra and he was awesome. I also made best friends with the DJ which helped so much throughout the night. Everyone was dancing and just having an awesome time. I didn’t plan on going out but I am so glad I did the night was amazing just dancing and getting to meet some awesome Ghanaian people. It was crazy the taxi driver from the way home was awesome. He gave all my friends and me a hug when we got out of the car.
I would say my first day in Ghana was a success everyone is amazing and just so FRIENDLY. I LOVE GHANA!!

September 23, 2010
today brought so many new things. A group of girls and I volunteered at an Orphanage After a little bit of an adventure but we finally arrived. When we walked into the orphanage everyone was starring at us, and I almost felt as if I was intruding. The director gave us a tour of the children’s rooms and the common space. Since it was raining we couldn’t do what was planned so the afternoon was dedicated to playing with the children. I sat on a bench with Loryn across from 3 young boys. Isaac, Likki, and Thomas -instantly became our friends. It was amazing how these children didn’t need anything to love you instantly. The next two hours consisted of a million of pictures, dum dums, and lots of laughing. Some of the girls kept pressing the light on my watch like 15 times in a row. Even though it was raining a group of boys and I played soccer indoors they kicked my ass. The three boys Isaac, Thomas, and Likki all wrote their names on little scarp pieces of paper. It was incredible to see how much attention these kids craved. 52 boys and girls in this orphanage and 4 caregivers The director started setting up the tables for dinner and the women were making dinner in the kitchen. Dinner consisted of rice with a red tomato paste over the top-called Manku. It was such a tiny bowl of food and it just made me sad, all afternoon Thomas one of the boys kept telling me how hungry he was and asked me constantly if I was hungry too. So when we served the children dinner, it just made me sad. All of them looked half their ages and I had to wonder if it was due to their diet which was basically rice. Shortly after we served dinner it was time to go back to the ship, but I would be returning the next day. When we pulled out of the orphanage all the children came running behind us waving, it was precious.

September 24, 2010
Today I saw a part of Ghana that changed my perspective on the world. Without the rain clouding my views the trip to the orphanage brought much more clarity to how the Ghanaians live. First off there are dozens of baby goats roaming the streets, which are adorable, and a lot of them look like little cows. But right next to these adorable creatures are some of the worst things in the world. The village that the orphanage was in had a very long road that showed how a majority of the people of Takoradi lived; dozens of straw and mud shacks lined the road. The road was in terrible shape too and when it rains the 760 children who go to school at the end of the road have to walk through this no matter what the conditions are. We were invited to go and visit the village’s school and as soon as we walked up the muddy road they were all poking their heads around the corner to see who we were. Rex-the headmaster invited all of us into his office and while he was introducing the school to us dozens of students kept poking their heads into the office. Once we had the introduction the headmaster separated each groups of us to go into different classrooms. It was terrible 760 students and 13 teachers. This school needs help, badly. The classroom would be similar to how we imagine a 19th century schoolhouse-all wooden desks with one chalkboard. The minute my group walked into our classroom, every single student stood up to welcome us. We went through our names and introduced ourselves to the students and in return they did the same thing. As soon as the formal introductions were over I had the opportunity to interact with a group of students. I sat down with a group of about 15 boys…the grade six boys who I fell in love with. They spent the next hour telling me their names, ages, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. A majority wanted to be football players while some wanted to be pilots, lawyers, or soldiers. They kept asking me when I was coming back and if I could bring them with to South Africa. At one point I pulled out some paper and wrote down my name for them and in return they did the same thing. When out time was finished at the school it was time to go back to the orphanage. When we began leaving the school Thomas and Cecliia-two of the children from the orphanage recognized me and held my hands as we made our way back to their home. Once back at the orphange it was time to color with all the kids. As soon as we got back though they had to change out of their school clothes and into their home clothes-which were the same clothes I had met them in the day before. The next few hours were fun, since I had been there the day before I didn’t need to establish any relationships with these kids, I had already done it the day before. A group of older kids ended up playing soccer and volleyball with a bunch of us and I got my ass kicked by some Ghanaian boys in soccer. When things started to wind down for the day a few of my buddies from the day before game me drawings that they had done for me. And my little friend Cecilia had fallen asleep on my leg and refused to let go but we had to say goodbye, It was so hard to leave them all.

September 25, 2010
The final day was quite the adventure a small group of four of us went to Elmina. We left around 8 am and took at 1.2 hour cab ride along to the coast to the old slave capital of Elmina. St. George’s Castle which sat directly on the water just didn’t make sense. The surrounding area was beautiful so I don’t know but it felt sort of awkward that such terrible things went on during this time period. Portuguese were the first to establish St. George’s Castle and only used it for trading of textiles and spices. Then the Dutch came along and used the castle for the slave trade. As soon as you walk into the Castle there is a Portuguese church the right and then surrounding the entire bottom floor is the actual dungeons where they kept the males, which was in the main courtyard. The tour guide led us to the left which is where the female dungeons where, they were conveniently located below the governor’s house. The one thing that connected to female from the male dungeons was the room of no return. It was a tiny room and the doors were only big enough to allow one person at a time pass through. There was a narrow doorway facing the ocean that was the exact location that thousands of slaves had gone through to head to the western world. It was insane that I had the opportunity to stand in the exact spot. After our tour finished we jumped back into the cab to head to Takoradi. As soon as we got back we hitch hiked our way back to the ship, grabbed a quick lunch and went to go find some Internet. After a few hours later we realized Ghana was not the most prime location for Internet and gave up and decided to spend our last cedis on the
Markets. It was amazing, you spend 15 minutes talking to a man in Ghana and the next thing you know, he is your best friend, regardless if you spent any money at his shop or not. When it was finally time to go back to the ship I did not want to leave at all. But after dinner we went up to the top to say goodbye to Ghana and the men that had all met earlier were there to say goodbye. They spent the next 45 minutes drumming and dancing as we pulled away. I actually cried, I did not want to leave at all, Ghana has probably been the most amazing place I have traveled in the World,

The details I have provided in the blog don’t give Ghana any justice. What I saw, experienced, lived I don’t think I will ever be able to describe to anyone who wasn’t right there living it with me. I saw Africa, a way most people in the world wont see it. The people were so friendly and welcoming that in the 4 days I was there, I would have easily committed to living there in a heartbeat. AND THE CHILDREN. the children, now that is true beauty. Just thinking about it makes me want to turn this ship around and spend the next 3 months there.

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