Jun 14 2009

GHA-NA!

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Last night was our first legit thunderstorm here in Accra.  The lights flickered every now and then, as the electricity went in and out.  Luckily it was bedtime by then after a long trip to Cape Coast that day.

Now that we only have two more days in Ghana, reflections from our group are starting to take place.  Yes, it has gone by fast, but I think we’ve accomplished so much within these nearly two weeks of being here, both while volunteering and not.

I learned that I am tougher than I thought.  Parading for about two and a half hours, under the African sun, through a Ghanaian village, dueling it out with sellers at the market, and most importantly, actually setting up these mosquito nets, are testimonies to my own will and ability staying and experiencing life here in Ghana.

At the same time, I learned that I am able to put myself in risky and uncomfortable situations.  I’ve discovered that I have a fear of heights from the rainforest canopy walk, and a fear of being over 800m underground from the gold mines; nonetheless, my group and myself has successfully completed both.  I am also able to deal with the natives here who may not understand or communicate with me effectively, for the sake of setting up mosquito nets, as well as handling strange men and women who point out my American-ness and ask for my information.

I am looking forward today, as I woke up earlier than expected.  We are going to the beach and the market again.

Be back soon!

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Jun 10 2009

Traveling

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Yesterday we had dinner with a group of students from BMCC who are studying at the University of Ghana. They arrived in Ghana one day before us. It was refreshing to meet others with similar backgrounds and discuss how we are experiencing and understanding this country. Tomorrow we begin our travel outside of Accra and I am extremely excited to visit the rain forest at Cape Coast.

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Jun 09 2009

Anopheles

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Today we began putting up the mosquito nets around the village by the school.  Seeing how the previous day went – complete with heat, humidity, and sun – we had no way to gauge the level of difficulty of our task at hand, but can only hope it was not as strenuous as our approximately 7 mile parade through the town.

One visit in one of the houses struck me the most.

Previously today, I asked one of our hosts, Bismark, if Malaria was like the Chicken Pox, that if a child contracted it he could not get it again.  He said no, and that one child can contract the disease as much as 10 times a year.  Bismark then said that the house we were about to enter was the home of one of the students, a young boy who is home today because he had Malaria.

The entrance to his room where we would set up the net was the first room from the back door.  The boy, who looked about 10 years old, was laying on a couch, his face dripping in sweat from a fever.  As our hosts entered the room, they asked the boy how he was feeling; he replied he was fine, and then asked us how we were.  I nervously slapped my arms and neck every few seconds to shoo away mosquitoes and neatly wrapped the rope we used to hang the nets from hooks around my left hand while Lena installed the net.  It was one of those awkward moments, like when we trudged through the village on the previous hot day, where I felt like a helpless American so naive to these sights and not knowing how to cope or react.

The day was relieved when we met up with other CUNY students from BMCC later this evening.  They’re here studying at the University of Ghana for about three weeks or so.  I discovered we already share similar experiences in Ghana during this week we’ve been here.

Tomorrow I’m ready to set up more nets now that I know what to expect.

Goodnight!

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Jun 08 2009

Day 3

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We began the morning by going to visit a small fishing village on the beach. It’s wasn’t exactly comes to your mind when you think of a beach. It was nice to go off the beaten path and see a bit of the real Ghana. There were lots of people working, catching their fish for the day to sell at market. There was a woman caught a massive, massive cassava fish. She was glad to show us her prized fish.

We ate at weird restaurant that was clearly meant for non-Ghanaians: burgers, fries, pizza. I love the food our hosts have been cooking for us, it’s so spicy but flavorful. I really didn’t need the break.

After lunch we went shopping. It was extreme. I thought I’d be prepared from my time in India that has similar markets where you bargain the prices. I was a little rusty. The shop owners were friendly. They’d called you sister and shake your hand, but it was part sincere and part strategy because they would hold your hand and lead you to their shops. They didn’t appreciate when we asked our local hosts whether the deal we were getting was fair.

The markets were empty and it really made you wonder how they made money. You could tell they were happy to see us because they knew we would buy souvenirs and would probably not know the value of anything. I felt a little bad bargaining since they needed the money more than I did but after a while you just don’t want to get taken for all of your money.

I bought two paintings for 35 cedis. I later found out that they usually go for 10 cedies each.

Ghanaian Market: 1
Me: 0

It’s fine. I’m ready for round two.

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Jun 08 2009

Day 3

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We began the morning by going to visit a small fishing village on the beach. It’s wasn’t exactly comes to your mind when you think of a beach. It was nice to go off the beaten path and see a bit of the real Ghana. There were lots of people working, catching their fish for the day to sell at market. There was a woman caught a massive, massive cassava fish. She was glad to show us her prized fish.

We ate at weird restaurant that was clearly meant for non-Ghanaians: burgers, fries, pizza. I love the food our hosts have been cooking for us, it’s so spicy but flavorful. I really didn’t need the break.

After lunch we went shopping. It was extreme. I thought I’d be prepared from my time in India that has similar markets where you bargain the prices. I was a little rusty. The shop owners were friendly. They’d called you sister and shake your hand, but it was part sincere and part strategy because they would hold your hand and lead you to their shops. They didn’t appreciate when we asked our local hosts whether the deal we were getting was fair.

The markets were empty and it really made you wonder how they made money. You could tell they were happy to see us because they knew we would buy souvenirs and would probably not know the value of anything. I felt a little bad bargaining since they needed the money more than I did but after a while you just don’t want to get taken for all of your money.

I bought two paintings for 35 cedis. I later found out that they usually go for 10 cedies each.

Ghanaian Market: 1
Me: 0

It’s fine. I’m ready for round two.

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Jun 08 2009

Day 3

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We began the morning by going to visit a small fishing village on the beach. It’s wasn’t exactly comes to your mind when you think of a beach. It was nice to go off the beaten path and see a bit of the real Ghana. There were lots of people working, catching their fish for the day to sell at market. There was a woman caught a massive, massive cassava fish. She was glad to show us her prized fish.

We ate at weird restaurant that was clearly meant for non-Ghanaians: burgers, fries, pizza. I love the food our hosts have been cooking for us, it’s so spicy but flavorful. I really didn’t need the break.

After lunch we went shopping. It was extreme. I thought I’d be prepared from my time in India that has similar markets where you bargain the prices. I was a little rusty. The shop owners were friendly. They’d called you sister and shake your hand, but it was part sincere and part strategy because they would hold your hand and lead you to their shops. They didn’t appreciate when we asked our local hosts whether the deal we were getting was fair.

The markets were empty and it really made you wonder how they made money. You could tell they were happy to see us because they knew we would buy souvenirs and would probably not know the value of anything. I felt a little bad bargaining since they needed the money more than I did but after a while you just don’t want to get taken for all of your money.

I bought two paintings for 35 cedis. I later found out that they usually go for 10 cedies each.

Ghanaian Market: 1
Me: 0

It’s fine. I’m ready for round two.

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Jun 06 2009

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Night three.  I think after two days of driving around Accra, visiting the school, going to the markets, and experiencing the nightlife, the fact that I am actually here in Ghana, in Africa, has actually sunken in.  The first night, our third floor bathroom was experiencing some plumbing problems, waking under mosquito nets, and the sound of howling dogs.  It reminds me so much of the Philippines.

I noticed immediately from exiting the airplane that many people were staring at us.  We come as a diverse group, and I wondered if any of them has ever seen anyone who looks like me.  It’s one thing going to a foreign country as an American where the environment and standard of living is completely averse, but it’s another thing when the country you’re visiting is not a place you can relate to ethnically and culturally.  When I go to the Philippines, I see people who look like me; here, no one does.

I am so thankful of all the hospatality here in Ghana, and also so overwhlemed.  Visiting the school yesterday definitely is my favorite thing so far.  Hearing the screams of exitement definitely is a welcome I have never experienced anywhere in the U.S.

But it’s only day three!  I’m starting to miss everyone back home from Hunter and LI, but I have a feeling these next couple of days will fly by fast.

Dinner time..

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Jun 04 2009

A chance meeting

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Honorable Mayor of Accra Alfred Vanderpuije

Honorable Mayor of Accra Alfred Vanderpuije

Well, synchronicity being what it is, the mayor of Accra is visiting the U.S. at this time.  On the day of our departure, it just so happened that the mayor of Accra was having breakfast with our service partner, Japhet, at a notable restaurant in Harlem.  That restaurant, Sylvia’s,  just happens to be one block from my apartment.  And, it just so happened that I called Japhet while they were still at the restaurant, and was invited to join them. 

So, I happened to stop by to tell the mayor about our group.  He was very glad to hear about the reason for our visit and what we hoped to accomplish this journey (and, perhaps, in future ones).  He also expressed interest in meeting with the group was he returned to Accra (we have a day’s overlap in itinerary so we’ll see).  Since my camera happened to be on me, I thought we should document at least this encounter.  

A picture, a chance meeting, a good omen for things to come.  Indeed, we landed in Accra without incident.  So, we all await what more synchronicity has in store.  Stay tuned for more from Accra!

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Jun 03 2009

Today’s the day

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In about seven hours my fellow Ghana travellers and I will be boarding a plane. I’m yet to get myself worked up about where it will be landing as I still can’t believe we’ll be on it for 11 hours. When we get to ghana our watches will jump ahead 4 hours which shouldn’t be too bad. I’m more worried about how other new conditions in Ghana will impact me. Having to drink bottled water all the time will be strange. Here in New York I just stick my face under the faucet. There will plenty to adjust to from the time, and heat to the culture and local language.

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Jun 02 2009

24 hours and counting

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With less than 24 hours left before the flight, one would think that I am completely packed and checking over my lists to make sure I didn’t miss anything. But one would be completely wrong. In fact, as I write this, I can see my completely empty suitcase from the corner of my eyes, a constant reminder of all that I still have left to do. But I’m feeling lazy, but more importantly, I’m feeling far too excited to pack. My brain would rather dwell on everything we’re going to do and all the places we will visit, rather than on the mundane details of how many pairs of jeans I need to bring. But I suppose I should tarry no longer, and actually start the packing process.

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