Sunday, August 28, 2011

hi everyone

first of all, you should all say happy birthday to my mama! she is the best mom in the entire world and i cant be there for her birthday which is difficult so you all have to celebrate with her for me!

since we do not have class on thursday and friday, and i have not been able to visit SafeWater yet, i have had quite a few days off.  i havent been doing much so this post isnt very exciting but you know i am alive.  i got a lot of homework done and continued to hang out and bond with the group.

on saturday, we visited the village of Adenkrabi.  we met another chief and got to play with children all day which was so wonderful.  Adenkrabi is the village where we will be doing our week long homestays so this visit was to meet with them and see where we will be staying.  6 of us will be going at a time starting the last two weeks of september and going until the first week of october.  so a total of 3 weeks, 6 each week.  just to review and clarify :).   im excited to see how that goes!  oh and we also tried palm wine as part of the welcoming shin-dig thing when we visited.  it tastes like coconut milk mixed with sprite mixed with lemonade and something else.  its very different-  and hard to drink a lot of.

not too much to report for now but there ya go.
i still miss you all like crazy!
love you all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

first week of classes

hello all

classes have begun this week and i can not explain how excited i am to have a routine again. we have classes monday-wednesday from 10:30 until 9pm on Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday we go from 10:30 until 5:30.   Long days but then we get Thursday and Friday to work on our research and go on all our trips.
many of you have asked what classes i am taking so here is a little summary:
Peoples and Cultures - This class is made up of all guest lecturers coming to each class and teaching us about the people and culture of Ghana.  Its very interesting so far and I am excited to learn more as the semester goes on.  For this class we also do a little research on a side about a cultural topic of our choosing.  I am really excited to pick a topic and start learning more about something there.
Culture and Ethnography - This course is all about learning what ethnography is and how to do it.  For those of you who dont know, ethnography is research in the form of observing and interviewing people.  This class goes along with the research/internship work that I will be doing at SafeWater.  So by the end of the semester I will have an ethnography project done on something to do with SafeWater.  I still haven't been able to go to SafeWater yet so I am not sure what my ethnography will focus on but I think it will be really interesting.
African Politics - Our professor for this class is great.  Its a long class but its pretty interesting and is all discussion based on our readings.  (ALOT of reading).  We also do a research paper for this class as well and although I am not as excited for this one since politics is not my thing but the professor is interesting and I am ready to learn something interesting.
Twi Language - Twi is the local language here.  This class is terrifying.  Im not exaggerating. The professor is very stern and intimidating but he is (trying) to teach us useful phrases.  The pronunciation is difficult but hopefully it will fall into place soon.  I think we are all quite afraid of this class.
African Dance and Drumming - Umm ha.  So we havent had this yet, our first class is pretty soon.  I have no rhythm at all but I am going to put in my best effort and maybe I will pick up on something. maybe. if all else fails im sure it bring out some good laughs and great exercise.  we have seen some students leave the class dripping sweat. cant wait. love the sweat.

So those are all my classes.  A few others are taking an african literature course but i chose not to take it.  The routine is helping make our weeks go faster and helps with the settling in.  We also have quite a bit of homework ahead of us so we will be really busy with that as well.
Overall, the rough patch of transitioning is ending and it seems like it will be a good and busy semester.  Im excited to learn a lot and maybe come back and teach you all how to african drum and dance! :)
I miss you all like crazy and I cant wait to see you again.

love to you all.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

homowo festival

Let me tell you what- rainy season is over.  The sun finally came out for the first time and the haze went away.  That African sun is a doozy.  It was hot and sweaty so naturally we headed to a festival.  We have been spoiled in our first week here with the temperature being comfortable and the sun not being out (the climate is changing so rainy season lasted longer than normal.)  Now we are getting into the dry season with the heat.  They did not exaggerate when they told us we need to get used to being sweaty. 

The festival was insane but worth being in the heat for the experience.  We arrived in the Ga area for the Homowo festival.  This festival celebrates ancestors and the end of hunger.  At least that’s what I got out of it.  Here in Ghana, funerals are a really big deal and last many days.  They are a party to celebrate the dead person’s life and everyone wears red and black.  The red represents danger and the black represents loss and mourning (I think I got that right, don’t quote me for anything on that.)  So we arrive there and the streets are jam packed with the entire town and nearly everyone wearing red and black.  A processional begins with what I can only think to describe as the elders of the town, I don’t know their official title.  They shoot off guns and yell and make their way to the chief’s palace.  Here we were told to join in the processional.  In Ghana, having an obruni (white person) at the funeral is a pretty big deal.  We were then shuffled through to shake the hand of every important person in the chief’s staff and made our way into the chief’s palace to greet the chief himself.  It seemed like a pretty big deal although no one really knew what was going on.  After we met the chief we were told to sit in his living room area so he could come out and greet us.  While we were waiting for the chief, it was explained to us that during the festival there is a certain corn meal made (only once a year for this festival) and that all the women in the town were busy preparing it.  At this point I was terrified that we would have to try it but thank goodness we did not – we were told it would upset our stomachs.  Then we made our way down from the chiefs palace and back into the streets.  The chief led the processional this time and began to make his way to the homes of all his family members.  At the first one he would bless the home by sprinkling the corn mix in front of it.  That part seems calm….and then everyone behind him would turn around and sprint to the next house to get out of the chiefs way.  This was pure chaos.  There were so many people running all over and it was just madness.  One of our guides there just took a few of us girls out of the way and said instead of running with them we could stand by and wait for them at the next house.  Thank goodness for that guy because it was terrifying.  There were also guns being blown off at each house and it was loud.  They ran to quite a few homes, and half our group managed to make it with them.  We were then led back to the main street by our guides in front of the processional by our guides to be seated.  Once we were seated everyone else quickly came back to get a seat and the chief, one other guy, and a women were carried in on chairs.  Then a ceremony began with a priest dancing a story and it was explained that the corn made each year was to symbolize the end of hunger because they make enough of it to feed the entire town.  Ghanaians are quite symbolic and it is very interesting.  We did not stay for the rest of the ceremony because it was hot and we were all quite hungry and we were told it was just talking. 

Before heading back, we were invited to the mayor’s office and he welcomed us with drinks and we met many other important people with big fancy titles.  It was pretty neat and the mayor said that he would like to come back and visit us sometime in our class which is just pretty cool.  I mean, has the mayor ever visited your classroom? Didn’t think so.

We finished off the night with a nice dinner out for Steph’s 21st birthday! It was a great dinner out with everyone and I love this group.  It’s still not home but it is a pretty decent alternative to be surrounded by these great people.  Happy Birthday Steph!

Love to you all!

Friday, August 19, 2011

christianity in akropong

Hi everyone!

Many of you have told me that you read this email and I would just like to quick say that I really appreciate the support.  It means the world to me knowing that I have so many people back home thinking of me! I can’t thank you enough. 

The past few days have been a retreat to the town of Akropong.  On the way we were able to stop at the botanical gardens.  It was beautiful to see so many different trees and feel the fresh air outside of the city.  I even got to eat a starfruit picked right from the tree- washed of course!  It was very tasty.  We then finished our very beautiful bus ride up to Akropong to the Akrofi-Christaller Institute.  It is a seminary school with a focus on missionary work.  Akropong is where Christian missionaries first began to spread Christianity in Ghana- very fascinating history.  It is located in a beautiful area and the people are wonderful in the town.  I will post more pictures on Facebook soon.  Our first night there we learned about the history of the school and began to make a covenant as a group.  We discussed our challenges and fears so far on the trip and also how we can improve our spiritual disciplines through our experiences here.  It makes me even more excited to see what God has in store for me while I am here. The next day we had a series of lectures.  The first lecture was about Chistianity in Ghana and how they maintain their traditions.  It was quite interesting.  The next lecture was about Ghanian culture, customs, and gender roles.  That was very interesting to learn about and very useful.  Interesting fact: in Ghana it is considered very offensive to use your left hand to greet, gesture, point, receive something, or give something.  The left hand is considered dirty and the right hand is the clean hand.  This is incredibly hard to remember and I try so hard but I realize I use my left hand quite a bit.  This definitely will need to take a lot more practice.  Our final lecture was about Christian-Muslim relations in Ghana.  Unfortunately all I got out of that one was that they get along well here.  Sorry people my attention span was losing focus.  After finishing up our group covenant we watched a documentary on Christianity in Ghana that was pretty interesting.
After the lectures we went for a walk through the town.  As I said before, the town is so beautiful in its own way.   I will post pictures so that you can maybe attempt to see what I mean.   The kids are all so wonderful and adorable. 
Today we had a hike up the highest mountain in the world.  That is a slight exaggeration but it was quite the hike and the sun came out for the first time today so it was hot.  It was beautiful though.  The hike was also more fresh country air away from the city so I loved it.  We were also able to hike to waterfalls and go swimming below them.  God is such an amazing God and creates the most breath-taking scenery. 
It was a good retreat and I am excited to start classes on Monday and get into a routine.  I am ready to learn about this culture more and see what experiences present them selves to me.  I still miss home terribly, especially all of you people, but I am learning to appreciate where I am.  I thank you all again for the prayers and support.  I would not be able to get through this without you. 

Love to you all.

Ps. The internet is being lame so pictures will be on Facebook sometime soon. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

a little bit of home in ghana

Hello all!

Here is a list of things that you take for granted back in America:
  1. Toilet paper in the bathrooms provided for you and not having to take it every where with you.
  2. Clean water and not having to but it or purify it.
  3. Mosquitoes that don’t want to kill you so you can sleep in the open and not under a mosquito net.

Things that are awesome in Ghana:
  1. The exchange rate is awesome so food is really cheap.
  2. There are lots of seamstresses who will measure you and make you pretty dresses. Already done that. Beautiful fabrics!
  3. It’s a great weight loss program with the abundance of walking and lack of processed food.

With each day we are becoming more accustomed to being in Ghana and we are figuring out life in a new country.  Sunday night we were able to go to the seamstress and she measured us for dresses that we got to pick out the style and fabric on.  I can’t wait to get it next Sunday! She does a wonderful job making these clothes.

Monday we had the day off so we all headed to the mall to relax.  We weren’t quite brave enough to jump back in the tro-tros quite yet so we took the taxis which are a tad more expensive but not so scary.  The mall here is just like the malls back home except even bigger and nicer.  We went to the food court and I was able to get some pizza to eat so I was a very happy girl as you all can imagine knowing how much I love my pizza.  It was comforting having a little piece of home here.  I wouldn’t want to make it a habit just being an American here, I want to experience the Ghanaian culture, but it is nice to know that it is there whenever I need a comforting reminder of home.  They also have a grocery store in the mall so we wandered that for a bit, comparing prices and experiences of the market.  I also got peanut butter as a staple comfort food to eat with bread.  Filling and delicious, and the bread is from the market so I got the best of both worlds.  Before leaving the mall we all decided we wanted to just sit and relax and continue our little snippet of home so we went to see a movie.  We chose Horrible Bosses which was a decently good comedy and it was good to laugh.  The theater was very nice and I nearly forgot I was in Ghana being in there but it was good to laugh and relax and turned out to be a very good day.  For dinner we had the group eat at the professors flat which was nice to sit and eat together and we learned a little bit about the home stays we will be doing sometime in August.  We will be living in a village for a week (more on that later when it actually happens.)  Then we played some Phase 10 and talked to conclude the night and continue bonding. 

Today we had a final orientation.  We learned where our classes would be, where the library is, and met some of our professors.  We also got a schedule of our classes and went over our first syllabus.  We have classes Monday-Wednesday from 10:30 until 9 except Tuesday when we are done at 6.  We will have a lot to do it seems like but I’m ready to learn a lot of very interesting things.  Thursdays and Fridays will be left open for our weekend trips or our service learning/ research topics.  Im excited to meet with the SafeWater team here in Ghana and learn what I will be doing but I have not been able to meet with them yet.  Ghanaian culture isn’t quite on time or good at scheduling.  You would all be so proud of me for adjusting to that. Oh and after orientation we headed to the market for lunch and I got another chicken kabob thing.  These things are so good.

Now we are relaxing until we leave for our trip tomorrow afternoon for our group retreat before classes begin on Monday.  I will update again when I get back on Friday or Saturday.

Love and miss you all!

Here is a picture of the night market across the street from our dorm where we get most of our meals

Monday, August 15, 2011

akwaba ghana.

Hello everyone

Akwaba is welcome in twi, the local language.  Although many can speak English as well. 
I have arrived safely in Ghana and here is my first chance to update my blog for you all! 
It was a long plane ride here but we made it safely and got settled in.  It has been quite an overwhelming couple of days for everyone as we settle in and everyone is experiencing serious homesickness and culture shock.  As the days go on we are adjusting and finding our way around and also connecting as a group.  Thank you so much for all the prayers and support through these days.
Our first day we had an orientation on the campus, health, and safety.  Pretty basic stuff, except the doctor started off with his health lecture saying in 4 months you can die pretty easily.  Not the most comforting words there doc.  We then received a tour of campus and the city of Accra.  Both the campus and the city are incredibly large and taking it all on was a lot so we are going to get another tour of the city because I think most of us missed quite a bit of it. Campus is huge.  I am living in the International Hostel (dorm room) which is on one end of the campus and our church and classroom building are on the other and it takes a good 30 minutes to walk to each.  Our feet are all sore from the walking but we will get used to it. There are little markets on campus where we can get food, which was a big struggle for a lot of us as our stomachs adjusted to figuring out what we can and cannot handle. Ghanians like their food spicy. My room is just me for now but we will all be getting a Ghanaian roommate sometime this week so hopefully that goes well and we can learn a lot from them.  After all that orientation and tours we were able to finally use internet to quick reach home which helped immensely in the homesickness department.  Then many from the group watched Kung Fu Panda together which was a good fun movie to lift spirits and get a taste of home.

Sunday we went to church which was wonderful and not what I expected at all.  They sang many hymns that I knew and was more reserved than I thought it would be so it reminded me a lot of home church which I miss greatly so it was great to know I can find a substitute while being here.  One sign it is an African church- it lasted 2 ½ hours.  Yeah imagine that next time you think church goes a little over an hour.  After church we found some lunch at the market or the little store we have (we have named it Johnny’s in honor of Calvin).  Then we trekked back to our classroom which was by the entrance where we can get on the tro-tros.  Tro-tros are the main form of public transportation around here so we needed to learn how to use them.  They are terrifying.  It is basically a van that yells out where it is going and if its where you want to be then you cram in, literally cram.  It’s a van packed with about 15 people in it.  So we split up in groups each with a guide and took a tro-tro to the Medina market.  The market was crazy busy even though it was the slowest market day.  People were everyone selling everything you can imagine, including dried or salted fish.  Imagine that smell.  Lots of people staring at the groups of white people and calling out obruni (the twi word for white person, no idea if I spelled that right). It was quite the adjustment to get used to.  They also like to proclaim their love to us and we are told that we should anticipate getting many marriage proposals before we leave.  After the market we were all quite exhausted so we napped and skyped and relaxed. Skype is a life saver. I will forever be grateful to the person who invented that.

Monday is a free day for us so we are going to venture off to the mall and see what adventure we run in to.  Getting there is going to be an adventure in itself but we have to learn sometime. 

Once again, thank you for all the support and prayers.  It means the world to me and the others here as we struggle there first couple of days in a new country. 
I miss you all greatly!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

here i go!

hi everyone!

my bags are packed and i am heading to the airport soon!  thank you family, friends, and church for all the prayers and support while i have gotten everything together- it means the world to me!
i am so excited to start this adventure and see what comes my way!
many of you have asked my flights so here ya go...
i am flying ohare to washington dc and then i will be leaving dc about 10:45 eastern time arriving in ghana sometime friday morning.  i will let everyone know when i arrive once i get the chance!

goodbye for now united states! next post will be from ghana!!!! :)