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!