Month: August 2018

Last Days in Ghana

By: Lianne Novak

Thank you for being patient this week while I wrote the week 5 post for our team blog!   We left Accra on Sunday (August 5), and while the rest of the group spends a few weeks vacationing in Europe, I’ve been home unpacking, and fighting a “bug” that I picked up somewhere along the way.  Anyway, on Monday we headed back to the dressmaker to pick up the dresses that we left with Nana.  They all had longer zippers now, and fit really well when we got them home and tried them on.

Emmanuel came by that evening to say his farewells, and to tell us that his driver would pick us up the next morning at 5am to bring us to Cape Coast.  There is no direct bus to Cape Coast, and transferring buses can be a pain since they do not all have a set schedule (some of them leave as they fill).  We got a group photo with him (below), along with some individual photos.  We chatted for about ten minutes, and loaded the items that he stores for Pavlis groups into his car, too, before he drove off.  An inventory of these items was taken so that we can give accurate information to next year’s Ghana group about what’s left for them.  We left some cooking supplies including silverware, a hot plate, rice cooker, pan(s) and some dishes, along with 4 standing fans.  These were left for us by last year’s group, and Nana and Emmanuel are nice enough to store them in their house for the groups each year.

We finished up our packing that night and went to bed for a relatively long nap before our alarms started going off at 4am.  We finished stuffing stuff into our suitcases (ie toothbrushes and PJs), picked up our bags, said our goodbyes to the hostel room, and headed out to meet the driver.  The drive to Cape Coast wasn’t very long (about 5 hours), but it was quite bumpy.  We made it to Cape Coast and finished checking in at the first hotel by 10:30am (Orange Beach Resort).  We still had most of the day to explore the area and see what was around Cape Coast.  We headed out going towards the Cape Coast Castle (though from my understanding, it’s being renamed the Cape Coast Dungeon, which might be a more accurate name).  Being a tourist town, and the Dungeon a tourist attraction, there are plenty of people trying to get you to either buy their paintings and artwork, as well as children who want you to sponsor them in school.  Our understanding from Nana is that school in free in Ghana, and the children all carried around copies of the same letter with their name filled in, so we were suspected that this money was not really for school.

We weren’t warned about this, so we stopped and looked around at the paintings at the various stands, and had to resist purchasing all the paintings.  I know that I spent more than I meant to at one of the shops, and had to be very conscious after that outing that this was a tourist destination, and just like any other major tourist area, there would be more than enough souvenirs around, and to resist the temptation to buy every single souvenir you see and like!  And, like any other tourist area in the world, there are lots of people trying to make money from the tourists.  This was also where a lot of Ghanaians want to be your friend.  They want to know your name, and then want to know your number, or address.  If you don’t want to give out your information, you have to stand your ground, make up a story if you have to (can’t get/make international calls), and eventually they will go away.  You can also be more direct, and flat out say “no,” but I personally felt that they were harmless and 10-15 minutes later they’d go away if your “polite lie” was convincing enough.

We spent a lot of time on the beach relaxing each day, though sitting on the beach and reading wasn’t an option if you were looking for a nice peaceful experience.  Kids would come along asking you to sponsor them, or native Ghanaians would come asking you to be their friends.  It was a bit easier to relax on the beach at our second hotel (Oasis Beach Resort).  The group went out with Evans (staff at Orange Beach, not the same Evans from Babianeha), and another visitor from Norway the first night to the Dungeon.  There was a lot of drumming that we could hear from the lounge area and even our room, and so we headed to the Dungeon (almost next door).  It was the 20th anniversary of the emancipation of the Door of Return event.

The Dungeon has a Door of No Return, which is the door that the slaves walked out of on their way to the ships that they were shipped out on.  In 1998 the Door of No Return got a sign on the other side that reads “Door of Return.”  At this ceremony, in ‘98 the bodies of two of the former slaves who had walked through the Door of No Return, returned home through the Door of Return.  We stayed for most of the documentary (I think) before we headed home around 10pm.   We headed back the next day for the official tour and to see the museum.

The museum was really interesting; they had diagrams and illustrations of the ships and what the slaves had to endure during their time at the Dungeon.  There were also photos of some famous African-Americans who are Heroes of Diaspora including Duke Ellington, Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, and Stevie Wonder, and Martin Luther King Jr.  The tour itself was very eye opening.  We were shown the various rooms where slaves were kept for months at a time.  These rooms had no windows, usually 1-3 small holes (maybe the size of a window) at the top of one wall that had to be at least two stories high to let light and air in (for 250 men), and there were no bathrooms or latrines.  We were also shown the rooms for the women and children over age 13, as well as the Door of No Return.  It was hard to think about how those people had suffered.

The next day (Thursday), we moved to the hotel next door (Oasis Beach).  We took a trip to the ATM, and also gave Josh and Charles an opportunity to look at some of the shops for souvenirs.  We spent a lot of the day relaxing on the beach, writing in journals and reading.  We took a trip to Kakum National Park on Friday to go on a canopy walk, which had been highly recommended by the previous group.  The canopy walk itself was really fun, and the incline of the hill wasn’t bad, but the stones were not evenly laid, and you had to pay very close attention to your footing to make sure you didn’t slip and trip!  Charles took a group selfie (below), and Sonja captured a photo of Lianne and herself on the 2nd or 3rd suspension bridge.  We enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing and packing up to head to Accra on Saturday morning.

We didn’t realize that you had to pre-purchase tickets for the bus to Accra from Cape Coast, so we ended up taking a mini-bus (12 passenger van) to the outskirts of Accra where we picked up a taxi to take us to the Airport View Hotel.  We spent most of Saturday relaxing at the hotel before our travel, and reshuffling some luggage.  Sunday we checked out, and spent time in a lounge area working on our final project report before departing for the airport and our journeys to Europe and the States.

Sonja and Lianne on one of the suspension bridges at the canopy walk.

Group selfi on the way up to the canopy walk (PC: Charles)
Group selfi on the way up to the canopy walk (PC: Charles)

Many Meetings

Many Meetings

Hello and welcome back to Team Ghana’s Travel Blog. This week has been incredibly busy, so let’s jump right in! We started the week off running, meeting with the headmistress of the basic school at UENR about a possible summer youth program on Monday. Also, our phone call and check in with our fabulous leader, Mary Raber, went very well. The team departed from our hostel in Sunyani early Tuesday morning and arrived in Babianeha just two hours later after a minor mixup with our taxi driver. From there we were greeted by our friend and guide, Evans, along with his “brother” Solomon who runs the community center. The women’s health workshop we put on in both Babienaha and Badukrom went so well that in the latter we had to bring in additional seating due to how many girls wanted to join in! After two amazing (and exhausting) workshops Team Ghana went back to the Opuni household and took a lunch of fish stew in tomato sauce before heading back out to Badukrom where we met the chief. He and his son, nicknamed Sacrifice, told us the story of how the town was founded by a man who was running from french slavers and ended up in Ghana. The people of Babienaha ended up giving him a plot of land as well as a kingship, and his descendants still live in the town to this very day. After out interview with the chief we said our tearful goodbyes to the people of Babienaha and returned home.

Group Picture from Womens Health Project
Group Picture from Womens Health Project
Meeting with the Chief
Meeting with the Chief

After waking up so early to go to Babienaha, we thought our one meeting on Wednesday would be pretty easy and low intensity. It was not. We met with Charity, an african studies lecturer who was introduced to us by Dr. Asamoah at the University of Energy and Natural Resources. She lead us on a whirlwind talk, bouncing between different subjects like different Ghanaian customs or the English translations of some nearby villages, and even ended up introducing us to the people who ran the cultural center in Sunyani. While we got more than we bargained for, the team felt that the meeting was one of the most productive and thought provoking they had had thus far. Following the meeting, all who attended promptly took a nap for at least a couple hours. The following day, the boys became very ill but the girls continued to soldier on meeting with Dr. Phyllis Opare to discuss design thinking and STEM workshops. It turns out UENR already had a STEM fair in the spring semester but they were open to the idea of collaborating with us to do one in the summer! Sonja continued being awesome that night, frying up yams that we had bought in the market to make delicious yam fries which were heartily eaten by all.

Yam Fries!
Yam Fries!

On Friday we picked up the gorgeous hand-tailored Ghanaian outfits we had ordered the previous week. Everyone was super pleased with how their outfits looked, but less pleased on how they fit. Sonja even had to cut herself out of her dress with a pair of scissors and Lianne couldn’t even put hers on. Never fear though, they’ll be sent back to the tailor and all will be well. Additionally, we found out how to make dough for Buflot, a kind of Ghanaian donut. Nana, one our hosts, taught us along with her extended family. We’ll have to try making some when we get back to the states! On Saturday morning, we made the early trek to see the Buflot being fried, which was done in the kitchen on a charcoal oven. The Buflot themselves were too hot to eat there, and had to cool while we met with Prince Bonnah Marfo at the cultural center. At the cultural center we learned how the center uses the power of theatre to teach lessons and bring about social change through what was basically human centered design. They were also very excited about the village name project and were willing to turn the stories into radio plays or even ones on stage.

Frying Ghanaian Donuts
Frying Ghanaian Donuts
Team Ghana with Prince Bonnah
Team Ghana with Prince Bonnah

Sunday was our day of rest from our long, eventful week. We washed clothes, wrote in our journals and generally took stock before our long trip on Tuesday of the next week. It’s so odd to see how much of your life can fit into a couple bags, and it’s hard to believe that we’ve been here four weeks. Nana and Emmanuel also had us over for a Ghanaian feast at their home, with groundnut and tomato soups, fried chicken, plantains and yams, as well as egg salad and rice. It was some of the most delicious food we had eaten all month. Literally everything was cooked to perfection and every single plate was practically licked clean. In addition to eating amazing food, it was fun to see Emmanuel and Nanas family as well as just hanging out with them. We talked late into the night, talking about Michigan Tech, Russia and plans for the future, and we were all really sad to leave at the end of the night.

Nana's Amazing Cooking
Nana’s Amazing Cooking

That’s all for this week, keep watching for next week’s report. We’ll be in Cape coast touring slave dungeons and hanging out on the beach!