Monday, July 8, 2013

Hello everyone,

This past week has been very fun! I have been discovering new things around Accra and getting a few souvenirs to take home. This past week I had my regular classes Twi, Policies Society and Government and then I had my dance class. In that class we learned a new dance that we will finish learning this week. We have a dance recital next week on Thursday and I will be sure someone records this so that everyone can see us dancing!

Aside from that I went to the Bush Market last week to have a dress made for myself and my mother. I also went to the Medina market where they too have an assortment of fabrics, soaps, goods, food, and more. The smells were very similar to Kumasi, there was still raw fish, cooked fish wrapped, fried fish, some chicken, a lot of peppers for sale, people walking around with bowls on their heads, grocery bags, and food for sale.

To go to the market or mall or just about anywhere in Ghana we take these public “buses” called tro-tro’s. It is not really a bus but more like a van with anywhere from 9 to 20 seats people pay from 40 pesewa’s to 2 cedi’s depending on where you are going. There is a driver, another person in the front seat and then someone who is in charge of the door and collecting money. This person who opens the door and collects money will use hand motions to show people if they are going to downtown Accra, the circle, Medina, La Paz, Legon, and more. Then when they come you basically push your way onto the  tro-tro trying to get a seat! You have to be very aggressive which is intimidating to do. We used the tro-tro this weekend to go to the mall, Medina Market, the circle, the art center, and church. Compared to using a taxi you could only spend 2 cedi going to a destination and back compared to spending 20 cedi on a taxi!

On Friday half of the people in the USAC program went to the Volta region to see a monkey sanctuary where the fed monkeys, hiked a mountain to look over the forest and swam in waterfalls! I stayed in Accra hanging out with the other half. We decided to go to the art centre which was a journey. After arriving there immediately the craftsmen and women in the market run to us selling bracelets, gold, wood carvings, paintings, postcards, key chains, kente cloth and more! It can be very overwhelming but you have to be firm here telling people that you are not interested. It is also helpful to stay with a partner or in a small group when walking around so you do not get lost and can go off of one another to find things or if you are overwhelmed you have someone to walk away with. We were at the market for about 2 hours and we purchased several items. Here at the market you bargain with people. Typically you can cut a price in half and then go from there and bargain a price. For example, I bought a painting and he wanted to charge me 40 cedi. I said no 5 (I know this is not half but I am a college student) then we kept negotiating and I eventually bought it for 15! The other thing is that since we are foreigners they can tell and will sometimes inflate prices for a larger profit so it is important to bargain well and know what you want to spend while you are there and what you originally came searching for.

On Sunday, I went to a Baptist Church with a student leader and 3 other people from my program. I had wanted to go to church and be able to tell my family the differences. It was very fun and upbeat being able to go. Women wore their Sunday best with traditional African dresses. We were welcomed with Sprite and a pastry after services concluded.  Later on Sunday I had a few items made for myself from a seamstress for only 21 cedi which is about $10. Such a steal!

Now I am going into week 5 with a few classes just reviewing for finals that are next week. There are no field trips planned for anyone this coming weekend. I am sure we will all find something to do or we will be studying. Some people will be going back to Cape Coast or Mole which is a national reserve with elephants baboons and more in the upper Northern region of the country which is mostly dry savannah compared to the lower portion which is more rainforest and humid.

 I will post again next week!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Hello everyone,

It has been a while since I have posted but let me update you on what has been occurring recently during my week 3 in Ghana. I finished my third week of classes which was great. Then on Friday, June 28 we left at 8 am for Kumasi, Ghana. It took us about 5 hours or so to get there because of dirt roads, unfinished highways, and traffic in Kumasi. Once we were there we went straight to the Ashanti King Palace Museum. Here we saw where several previous Ashanti Kings had lived.  We saw the importance of the King to the people, how they have impacted their country, how traditions are still kept alive through this, as well as seeing photos and hearing of the Kings interacting with royalty from other countries. After this we later returned to our hotel. There we experienced power outages a few times. We had a catered dinner which was great and relaxed with one another.

Saturday we started off with breakfast at 7am then proceeded to several villages! The first village we came to is called Bonwire. Here we saw the locals making kente cloth! We learned that from a young age they teach boys around 5 or 7 to learn how to properly stretch the thread, maintain the machines, and use them properly. They slowly start to learn how to do this, almost like an apprentice. They will later start mastering traditional designs as well as very difficult ones. After that short presentation they showed people actually making kente cloth then allowed us to try. After having us try we then bargained for items. I was able to get a necklace and some cloth to take home. After this we then left the village and came to our second stop, Ntonso.

In Ntonso we met with a leader who showed us Adinkra. The first have to get wood from the Northern region of the country, they then boil it in a pot for 4 hours ,later mash it, boil it again for about 2 days or so then it will eventually turn from a deep red to jet black color. With this they keep it in a pot and select various stamps that have many meanings and either use kente cloth, or other fabrics to create a message or put meaning into this. We made a very large stole then they allowed for everyone to stamp two symbols. After we completed this we were allowed to make our own personal ones with the help of the craftsmen there. I choose several symbols that represent my religion, patience, love, getting back to my roots, and enduing hardships throughout life and maintaining strength and knowledge. After this it began to rain so we loaded the bus with our fabric stoles completed and started to the third village Ahwiaa.

In Ahwiaa, the main craft done here is woodcarving. The woodcarving looked amazing with such detail, some had colors or beading attached while others were stained or painted. Once again we practiced our bargained skills here which I love and made a few friends from those that gave us great deals. We only stayed here for a short period of time and then later loaded the bus going back to Kumasi.

In Kumasi we had a packed lunch on the bus and walked around a small market looking at art, dresses, drums, and other traditional items. We later walked to the Asafo Central Market (largest open market in West Africa).  Here we witnessed it all! We saw cow pelvis, raw fish, raw chicken, pigs feet, shea butter, various smells, people baking, making clothes, selling home cleaners, women caring bricks on their heads. We literally saw so many various businesses and people selling items that it was hard to catch. On top of that the walkway was anywhere from three feet wide to as small as six inches with two lanes of people going opposite ways, also having to duck under women caring items on their heads. It took us about thirty minutes to get into the center of the market then we walked around it and back to our bus. It was an experience to say the least! Here they are famous for their fabric as well as soap and other goods.

On Sunday we had breakfast again then set out going to the Zoo in Kumasi where they had baboons, lions, turtles, snakes, eagles, a baby elephant, camels, donkeys and more. It was interesting because we were so close to the animals compared to zoo’s in the U.S. but the set up was very different from the U.S. as well. There were no restaurants, gift shops, tour guides or photo stations. After about 3 hours at the zoo we loaded it and started back to Accra, this ride took us about 4 or 5 hours to get back.

Currently, it is our week 4 of classes, other people in the USAC program are going to the Volta Region this coming weekend but I will be staying in Accra with other people in the program. Here we will be going to the market or finding other things to do. I plan on attending a traditional African church to see cultural differences on Sunday!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hello everyone this weekend we had a trip to Ada beach! The trip started with us leaving around 8:30am. We drove to an area of Accra where it meets the Volta region of the country. We arrived at a resort where we were escorted to these small wooden motor boats and were taken to the area were the Volta river meets the Atlantic Ocean! We walked along the beach the exact point where they river and ocean meet and while we walked there were crabs running along the beach, from full grown adults to small babies the size of a quarter running on the beach. Afterwards we went to a separate part of the island where there were palm trees and on one side of the beach was the Atlantic Ocean and on the other was Volta River. I

After about 3 hours we then made it back to the resort guest house and here we had a buffet of local food. I was able to try banku, pepe (type of spicy pepper), tilapia, and other yummy food. After we had dessert we all walked to the pool in the guest house and relaxed. Others played games but I got a nice golden tan. We then were on our way back and we had a very interesting night!

Getting back to our Hostel we discovered that our water and power was out. I then used my bucket and filled it to take a bucket shower in the days to come.  A group of us decided to get food from the market but their lights were out too and they were running out of food to sell.  I just bought a loaf a bread and a coke for dinner. Coming back the lights were on and water but as the night progressed it went out one more time shortly.  It is now Tuesday morning and we haven’t had any problems yet with either.

This coming weekend I will be going to Kumasi at 8am on Friday till Sunday. I will try to update as I am there with pictures and stories. Also, I am reaching the half way point on my trip. After this Friday I will have been here 3 weeks and have 3 weeks left. Time is going by so fast!
Let me know if you have questions!

It has been a great Friday so far, I was able to go on a field trip to the National Museum today. I really enjoyed it because we were able to learn about Ghana from artifacts found in excavations that dated back to 500 B.C.! It was so interesting. I really like that this was built around the time that the first president was voted in and that Ghana declared their independence. The museum was very basic in its structure but overall it showed so much about the culture of the African people, unity amongst them, and important part of history like the slave trade, their development as a country and even explaining ceremonies. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to witness this! I wasn’t able to take photos because they charged extra for it but my friend will be uploading photos she said I could use.

Later on I went to a store called Global Mama’s that is fare trade! It was great being able to support other women in this country. We then walked down a street called Oxford street (equivalent to a Michigan Avenue in Chicago). This street had the pricier items and bigger restaurants with more American food which is priced much higher than local food since they have to import it.

For the first time ever I washed my clothes in a bucket of water this afternoon and hung my clothes on a clothing line after wringing them out several times to get the water out. So far so good!

This Sunday I will be going on a trip to Ada Beach. More to come!

When I can I will upload photos! Let me know if you have questions or comments!


Rainforest and Cape Coast

Hello everyone, These past few days have been crazy but here is an update on what has been going on:

Just finished my first week of classes and think that the language class Twi will be my hardest just because it is so different than anything studied previously in school or heard before. I am excited for the challenge. In my other class Society, Government and Politics we started by learning about  the history of Ghana as well as the slave trade and seeing the impact the Atlantic slave trade has been having on various African countries. Then Thursday we learned more in my dance class and almost completed memorizing a dance. We had a chance to see a dance company performing on our first day of classes. On my second class of dance we saw 3 Ghanaians making drums outside and preparing them to be sold.  Thursday was also the night of the welcome dinner at Villa Victoria, they were really late on serving us about 1.5 hours late, I had a lot of mosquito bites leaving and couldn’t eat dessert because I am allergic to watermelons. Then Friday we left the International Hostel at 9am to go on a city tour of Accra!

At first we were stuck in traffic in Accra but we started by going to go see W.E. Du Bois home in Accra. I learned that he moved to Ghana and helped with their government, society, and other countries as well. He died in Ghana and is buried on the property where his house is located and his wife’s ashes are next to him. Later, we walked through the slums were we saw how the poor lived, worked, and survived in such harsh conditions with waste around them from rotting items, to feces, urine, smoke, chemicals, and still trying to make a living by selling anything from car parts, to onions, to water, to peanuts on the side of the road. These people going about their business trying to sell to us grabbing us to look at their items and consider their goods. It was shocking to see how people live, it made me really think of how fortunate Americans are even when w complain to see how others live and to be able to compare it to our living shows me what I have been blessed with acquiring from privilege and the country I was born in. We saw the memorial of the first president Kwame, his grave, a brief explanation of his impact in the history of Ghana and to know his impact on other African countries as well while he was in exile when he was overturned by his army generals as he was serving as president. Lastly, we went to the Art market and learned the craft of trading were I was able to purchase items for my family and save money as well!


On Friday we left to go to Cape Coast at 8am in took us about 3.5 hours due to traffic on the way out of Accra. We saw the slave castles which was mind blowing and amazing to learn more detailed information about slavery and my roots. It was amazing to know that my ancestors could have very well walked through there as well as know that so many people suffered, died, and fought for freedom whether on the continent of Africa, on the ships, or on the Americans or Caribbean soil. It made me proud to be African American as well as knowledgeable about an important part of our history that explains why we are citizens of our countries. At Cape Coast we started off by going to the Men’s Dungeon where there were 5 chambers. They said that archeologists came a long time ago to see the remains of the castle and do renovations and get this… at first the dungeons were supposed to be held anywhere for 50-150 slaves but in peak season they would hold 300-1500 slaves depending on the time of year! Also, they only had three small holes at the top for ventilation and sunlight. The holes were about 12x12 in size. On the floor originally they fed the slaves 2 times a day and let them outside to exercise and stretch while servants cleaned the rooms, well towards the end of the slave trade to save time they just put down sand to cover the feces and urine which piled up and left a nasty sent. Think of that being piled up for over 300 years!

Then we saw that there was an underground tunnel where they let us stand and we saw that they walked the men down there to  outside where the Door of No Return is, had them on small boats to the big shops 2 miles off shore. They stacked them in 4 levels like sardines and went to the Caribbean islands and Americas to sell them for profit, trade for ivory, gold, goods and rum or other liquor. We also heard that they only wanted slaves 15-35 and if someone had grey hair they would shave them or if it was a young child around 12-15 or as old as 17 depending on how they looked they were kept with the women. Also, they had a chamber for the women were they were held if they were being sold and a separate for if they were bad. They said that European men would rape some of them, if they became pregnant before they left for the ship they would keep them and have the children stay in the castle to learn also so no one in the Americas saw a mixed baby because it would look bad. Also, if a woman was found pregnant on the ship, they’d throw her overboard in the ocean or if they had too many slaves on the boat and couldn’t fit their goods like gold and ivory and liquor they’d throw weak Africans overboard into the ocean.

We saw the ankle, wrist, and neck shackles they used on them. The saddest thing was where they kept angry, fighting, rebellious slave men. It was a room the size of your bedroom, had 3 wooden doors to the outside, no holes, no light, no air. They left them in there for 7-10 days till their souls left their body then would throw them into the ocean! He said they called them rebellious but Africans call them freedom fighters because they gave up their life for their freedom.  There was a lot more I can tell you later if you post on my blog about it!

We stayed at the beautiful resort in Cape Coast on the shores of the Atlantic ocean only a 7 minute walk from my front door of my hotel room which was a cement hut with Air condition, flushing toilets and a working shower! What a treat (seriously it was)! There was a pool, horseback riding, crocodile area, a bar, and so much more. We went into town at Oasis and had dinner, saw a live performance of traditional African dance, and had great food! After we went back to the hotel and in the morning we were served breakfast buffet style on the shore of the beach! We then left to go to the rainforest area to do the canopy walk.

This canopy walk had been making me nervous all week but when we arrived we were given name tags an passes and started our short .5 mile hike to the canopies and given explanation that this rainforest once stretched from Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. It now is much smaller do to countries developing and cutting down the forest for the lumbar and for manufacturing goods like rubber and what not. The canopy was several hundred feet above the ground. I have never been so scared in my life and I crossed bridge 1 and then took the left one to the exit still ascended several hundred feet while many others continued to the other 7 bridges! I was proud I was able to do those small 2.5 but I can say that will be my first and last time being that far off the ground unless I am in a plane. 

We then made our way back to campus, next weekend we will be going to the Beach on Sunday.  If you have more questions let me know!

P.S. Happy Father’s Day! ( in Ghana they say this to all males because of their potential to be fathers to others or in the future)

-Alexandria Doss


Just finished my first two days! Leaving from Phoenix and arriving in Ghana took about 19 hours of flying and 10 hours of layovers. By the time I arrived I was exhausted, hot, my feet were swelling, anxious and nervous at the same time. I feel great now that I am here. We checked into our rooms and were able to choose our own roommate which was fun and were told to meet at 7:45 am sharp to prepare for orientation the following morning. At orientation we went over Ghanaian customs like funerals, festivals, taboos, using the left hang, spirits, religion, family, births, and the 3 main regions of the country just to name a few. We had a doctor come talk to us about staying healthy and given our class schedules, insurance information, and course materials. We also had a chance to go to the mall and buy some groceries since we do not have a meal plan. The rest of the day we made friends with one another as well as the Ghanaian students who volunteered to be our guides for the 6 weeks.

Overall, these past two days have been filled with information and there is a culture shock especially with hygiene. I currently have the sniffles from all the dust but I am excited to see what else is in store.

If you have questions feel free to ask or comment!