By Lianne Novak
We left the USA on July 1 flying out of Detroit with a layover in New York (JFK). We got into Accra on Monday morning at about 8am. The plane deplaned from both the front door and back door in Accra. Customs was a breeze, and Andrew met us once we got our bags and were through customs.
[Team Ghana Before Getting on the Plane in Detroit]
Accra is a beautiful city and is the capital of Ghana. We stayed at the Airport View hotel which was about a five minute ride from the airport. Andrew took us to the Accra Mall, which is just like any mall in the States. We got cheap Ghanaian cell phones (think a basic phone from around 2003), exchanged money, and had lunch at a local “chain” fast-food type restaurant. They serve various chicken meals, some of them come with rice, and bottled soda. The hotel is beautiful, and the staff was wonderful. We were able to meet with one of Sonja’s contacts, Akwesi, in the afternoon. He is actually moving to the States in August, but he was able to connect us with some other people at KNUST who could talk to her more about biomedical engineering projects that future Pavlis students could work on. We all watched one of the World Cup games and had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant buffet. The hotel also had a breakfast buffet which had rice and little sausages at it, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
We took one of the hotel’s vans to the VIP bus station where we were able to catch a bus to Sunyani. The seats were huge, and some reclined (others no longer worked); it was like “the old” First Class. The traffic in Kumasi is very heavy. It’s like getting around Chicago, but on surface roads; there are no interstates. We went through Kumasi, stopping at a gas station that was attached to a KFC (yes, I mean Kentucky Fried Chicken is sold in Kumasi!). Every town and village has speed bumps as a way of controlling the speed limit. Some of these bumps are massive, while other villages have 3 bumps in a row. Each town/village has multiple speed bump locations. I think we all thought that the bus ride was bumpy, but our view of “bumpy” would change the next day.
Nana (Emmanuel’s wife) met us at the bus station in Sunyani and helped us move into our hostel room. We’re on the 4th floor, and have 2 rooms with a shared bathroom at the back of the hallway. We went to the Eusbett hotel, where Andrew is staying to have dinner with him and Nana; Emmanuel was out of town that night, so we weren’t able to meet him. Our group got a Hawaiian pizza, and most of the group tried some Ghanaian beer. Drinking age is 18 here, and it amazes me that nobody that orders beer is asked for some ID.
The next day we ate breakfast at the Eusbett hotel, met Emmanuel’s nephew (also named Emmanuel), and then took a taxi to the Wednesday Market (it’s insanely busy!) to catch a tro-tro going to Dorma, a little town (or village?) about 20 minutes away from Babianeha. The tro-tro is an old 15 passenger van, and they stuff as many people in one row as possible (this can mean 14-18 people). Since the van is old, and has now been a tro-tro for a while, it has virtually no suspension, so you feel every pothole, and speed bump. The visit in Babianeha itself was very nice. We were able to meet Emmanuel’s extended family, and some of them showed us around the village, and helped us (legally) cross in to Cote d’Ivoire. The town Gronnokron is a little town that straddles the border with Ghana. You can visit the town without having to go through Cote d’Ivoire customs. We also met some of the teachers at the school. The school kids got very excited to see “Obrunis” (aka not Ghanaians).
We ended up getting snacks on the way out of town since we missed lunch, and then caught a bus to Dorma, and tro-tro back to Sunyani. After we washed up, we returned to the Eusbett for dinner, and got to meet Emmanuel (Nana’s husband). It was the 4th of July (American Independence Day).
Thursday, we stayed in Sunyani. We were able to meet up with Emmanuel (Nana’s husband), and he took us to the Ridge Experimental School (one of the schools that Josh will be doing a workshop at). We also went to the Central Market to purchase some items that we needed for the hostel. We got some bottled water, toilet paper, rice, onions, garlic, soap, and clothes pins.
We went to Kumasi on Friday, where we said goodbye to Andrew, and met with Josephine, Isaac and Solomon, and Dr. Ahmed at KNUST. Akwesi knew Josephine and connected Sonja with her. Sonja and Andrew were able to talk to them about the possibility of future Pavlis students collaborating with KNUST for biomedical engineering projects, and what this would mean for both Tech and KNUST. After we were done with our meeting, we said goodbye to Andrew and he departed for the VIP bus station to catch a bus back to Accra. The students took us around campus, showing us different buildings, and the ventilator that Akwesi and previous Pavlis students worked on. They took us to a little café on campus called Icy Cup and treated us to yogurt smoothies. Once we wrapped up at KNUST, Emmanuel’s driver drove us back home. Traffic was insane in Kumasi (of course), and I’ve noticed that checking your blind spots or mirrors is a foreign idea in Ghana. When we got home Charles and Josh made us dinner from the bell peppers, onions and rice that we bought at the market.
Yesterday (Saturday) we went to Melcom, a Walmart like store in the middle of Sunyani. We purchased some packaged food (like Pringles) and also got some household items that we couldn’t find (or forgot to get) at the market. We all kind of expected to walk into a Walmart, so I think we were all a little surprised when we found out that the store is 3 or 4 levels high, and doesn’t have a very big floorplan. In the evening, Emmanuel came over and taught us how to make fried yam. He brought some fish and tomato sauce that we could use with the fried yam, which were thick and crunchy. He also boiled some of the yam, too, which was kind of like eating a baked potato.
Next week we are hoping to do a few Women’s Health and STEM workshops at the Ridge Experimental School here in Sunyani, as well as travel to Babianeha for a few days where we will also do a few workshops and stay with Emmanuel’s extended family.
Thank you for following our journey so far!