Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Part 2: Volta Region

Part 2 and a Side note: 

Side note:   September 22 is my dad’s birthday so make sure you all say happy birthday to him for me!  Happy Birthday a few days early dad! Love you!

Part 2: This past weekend we had an excursion to the Volta Region in eastern Ghana.

We started our travel setting off for Cedi beads.  Here we learned how to make beads and we were even able to make 4 of our own glass beads and 1 other bead made from powder of…something.  Not helpful but it looks cool and it’s colorful.  I don’t know what it’s made of.   Cedi beads probably loves us though because we nearly emptied their shop.  They have some very beautiful jewelry.

Our next stop was the dam on the Volta River.  This dam has created Volta Lake which is the largest man made lake in the world.  You can look it up if you really want.  The scenery in this area is beautiful (the dam is just really big and concrete- not so pretty).  The dam does however provide electricity for most of Ghana, as well as the countries of Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso.  That is pretty impressive.  The dam does have some negative impacts as well though.  While it was being built and the Lake was being made, many people were displaced to another area.  We were able to travel to one of these villages to see the impact that the dam has had on their lives.  They have to deal with traveling farther for fishing, which is their way of life, the children are taken into slavery, and they have to deal with occasional flooding that can be very destructive.  It is terrible to hear about how something can be so helpful and destructive to a group of people.  The village was very friendly though and it was fun to watch the women get water from the lake, the men loading and unloading their boats, and the children playing.  It was a really fun little village.

After that we headed to our hotel for the night.  We got to go swimming in a pool and we had hot showers! Words cannot express how wonderful both of these things were.  A hot shower was the greatest feeling in the world after not having had one since being here.  We only have very cold water in our hostel on campus. 

The next day we spent a lot of time in the bus.  A lot.  But we were able to stop at a Kente cloth factory where we, of course, bought more things and ordered our stoles that we get to wear at graduation.  I graduate in May by the way, that’s really weird to think about.  Anyway, after that we headed to the Wli waterfalls.  I stayed back from the hike though because I did not want to injure my back and so did a couple other girls.  The view from the reception area was still very beautiful and we were able to watch a storm roll in over the mountain which was really cool to see. 

We then headed to our next hotel for the night.  Not so cool fact:  the road up to our hotel on the top of the mountain was too muddy to get up in the dark so we drove about an extra 2 hours to get there and it took us 5 minutes to get down the next morning because the road was open.  Not cool.  All we could do was laugh though at the ridiculousness of it. 

In the morning we headed to the monkey sanctuary!  This was so much fun.  We were given bananas and the monkeys would crawl on to us and eat it right out of our hands.  It was scary, funny, and really cool all at the same time.
It was another great excursion and we were able to learn a lot and see another part of the Ghanaian culture. 

Now we are back to another school week – another short one.  Turns out there is another holiday on Wednesday so no classes!  Ghanaians love their holidays. 

Love and miss you all! 

Picture 1: Me with the monkey! 
Picture 2:  Beads!
Picture 3: We live on this bus sometimes
Picture 4: Kente cloth.  So beautiful and intricate
Picture 5: Storm rolling in over the mountains.  Volta Region is so beautiful 

Where have I been? Part 1: Safe Water

Hi everyone!

Where have I been?  Very busy!  I will split this up into 2 posts so that you aren’t reading a novel at once.

This post is going to be all about the beginning of my work with Safe Water. 

This past week James and I were able to travel to one of the communities where the water filters are set up.  They have a water filter set up in a clinic and two homes.
One of Safe Water’s problems is that they do not have any transportation options to bring the filters to the communities.  Fortunately they found a connection through a taxi driver who was willing to bring them to the community for free because he had relatives there.  The taxi driver, named Abbot, and the leader of Safe Water in Ghana, Josephus,  were able then to bring the filters to this community about 3 months ago but have not been able to go back to do a follow up.  The community is a little over 3 hours away so public transportation would be costly and difficult.
Fortunately, we were able to drive up there with them and finally do a follow up with them.  This also provided an opportunity for James and me to do a little interviewing for our research.  
The first filter that we checked up on was the filter in the clinic.  One filter there provides enough clean water for the entire clinic a day and they never have a problem of running out during the day.  This is good because it shows that they are using the filters properly, since the more they are used the better the filters are.  The filter system was working well and the water was coming out clean, however, someone must have knocked it because the spout was broken off.  We will have to try and make it back there to fix it for them but for now it is still usable. 
The second filter that we checked on is used by about 7 families and other members of the community as needed.  They also informed us that the water is cleaner and their health is improving.  We did notice that there seems to be mold of some sort on the piping though and we will have to look into ways of avoiding that in the future.  They also showed us where they get their water from to filter.  The water was very dirty and unfortunately that is what they were drinking before.  Water is a major issue for Ghana and hopefully we will be able to set up a few more while we are here.
The final filter was working great and had no mold or problems at all.  This was really encouraging because it shows that there can be good success with them and they will not all have problems if used properly.  I am glad that we were able to report that at least one is going smoothly. 
Our research will be interesting as we begin to continue interviews with everyone involved and find the root of the problems. 
Sorry, this may be one of my more boring posts but it was interesting and I know some of you will think it is cool J

Love you all.

Picture 1:  Josephus with the filter in the clinic
Picture 2:  The second filter, the clear hose is where the coloring is
Picture 3:  Their water source
Picture 4:  The third filter

Sunday, September 11, 2011

one month in and the adventure continues

Hi everyone!

It has been awhile since I have updated and I apologize!  Internet was of course down again and I was unable to get to the internet and the week ended up just flying by.

Classes went well in the beginning of the week.  Monday was another long day of class and nothing too exciting to mention.  Tuesday was our last day with our scary Twi professor- he is very old and quite sick so we are getting a replacement now.  We are sorry he is sick but he is not the best teacher so we are all a little bit excited for a new professor.  Tuesday night our night class was cut short because one of the girls had an allergic reaction and needed to be brought to the hospital.  Thankfully, she is doing well now! Only down side is she can’t have Ghanaian ice cream which is really good.  Wednesday morning went well.  In the afternoon we had our fourth person go to the hospital.  Aside from the allergic reaction, 3 girls have also gotten bacteria infections from the food or water.  Hopefully we don’t have any more hospital trips the rest of our trip.  Drumming class was really fun, we now know an entire song and it sounds really good – for beginners anyway.  Dance class = not so good.  Unfortunately, I hurt my back in dance class and I have been lying down icing it since Wednesday afternoon.  Aleve and ice are my best friends right now.  The pain is slowly getting better but I will have to take it easy for awhile. 

Thursday was a strange day.  Nearly everyone started their NGO work this week so there were only 4 of us left at the hostel.  It was very quite and weird when you are used to the group of 18 of us.  I laid in bed all day and watched some Modern Family and worked on homework.  Friday morning I was finally able to go meet with my NGO.  After getting there in double the time it should have we arrived at SafeWater in Tema, Ghana.  I will be there with one other student, James.  We were taught how to put the filters together and learned a little bit about the structure of the organization.   James and I will be working on research for them for the next couple of months.  Many of the other students are doing service learning along with their research but there is not much for us to do at SafeWater so we will be focusing on research.  I was a little disappointed at first because I was looking forward to doing more work but I am getting more excited to start the research and it will be really helpful to them.  This upcoming Thursday we will be going out to the community to see where the filters are installed and what is going well and what could use improvement.  The rest of the semester will also include interviews and who knows where that will take us. 

Friday evening many of the people went out to a really cool Irish pub that is owned by a British guy.  It has a lot of similarities with home so I am really looking forward to going to that.  I stayed back because my back had been hurting and Shelby’s ankle is still in pain so we were able to hang out.  Shelby sprained her ankle just before leaving for Ghana and it is still bothering her at times. 

Saturday was spent working on homework together.  Saturday evening a few of us made spaghetti and it was so good.  That may be a new tradition.  We also went to a play.  It was a one man show and very… interesting.  There was nearly no dialogue and the beginning was really good, then it got really trippy and no one really knew what was going on.  It was an experience for sure.

This morning we met with a man who talked to us about Christian-Muslim relations throughout the world and how that has changed after the 9-11 attacks.  We followed the talk by a time of prayer and worship in honor of 9-11.  It is strange to not be home on a day like today and yet still feel connected.

As always, I love and miss you all dearly.  I have been here over a month now and there are still new things to experience and adjust to every day.  For those of you at Calvin, I hope you had a great first week of classes! 


Sunday, September 4, 2011

cape coast

Hi everyone!

The past couple days I have been at Cape Coast and it was awesome.  It was so beautiful and relaxing and I got to go swimming so of course I loved it!  We were also able to learn a lot about slave trade which was really interesting.

We headed out super early Friday morning for our 3ish hour bus ride.  (I can now sleep on a bus no matter how crammed in I am so you can all go on road trips with me now.)  Our first stop was Fort Amsterdam which is an old fort that held slaves.  It was located right on the ocean and had the most incredible views.  Inside the fort was absolutely beautiful but at the same time so hard to imagine all the slaves that went through there.  There were still some chains on the walls that held the slaves in their rooms.  The women were held on one side and the men on the other with the general’s room on the second floor as well as all the guns.  I will post pictures on Facebook of course because that is really the best way to understand it.  We were also shown the “door of no return,” which faces the ocean, and this is where the slaves were brought through and loaded on to boats and sent away.  It was hard to imagine that such a beautiful place held so much cruelty years ago.   The views of the fort were beautiful overlooking all the fisherman and little villages.
After the fort we drive over to Elmina Castle which was a slave castle.  It was huge and you had to pay to take pictures inside so I don’t have any pictures except for the outside view.  The castle held up to about a 1000 slaves at a time and was ruled by the Dutch and Portuguese.   The history of the castle was fascinating learning about who ruled it when and the changes that it went through.  After slave trade the castle was used to train British police men.  Our guide told us some horrible stories about what some of the rooms were used for which made the castle almost haunting despite it being rather open. 
Surrounding the castle is a bay.  The bay is so filled with boats and people that you can’t even see the water.  It is so beautifully colorful and hectic but not a city-hectic so I actually really liked it.  The town of Elmina is filled with old colorful buildings and the people almost reflect the village that they lived in. 
Following the slave castles we went back in the car and headed to Hans Cottage which is the hotel that we stayed at.  Once we got there we got to relax, take a little nap before dinner, and some went swimming.  We also found a pen of rabbits and fed them grass, later we realized those were the rabbits used for the restaurant.  Not as adorable after that.  Oh, and there is also a giant crocodile pond there with about 40 crocodiles and you can pay to touch them and take pictures with them and I did!  It was scary, obviously, but I survived!  We had a delicious dinner together as a group and then relaxed afterwards by the water just hanging out.

Saturday was another early start as we headed to Kakum National Park.  Oh, and before that we had a large breakfast at the Cottage.  Awesome fact:  the Kumasi Soccer team (professional) was there as well and ate right next to us.  That is really cool just so you know.  One of the team members was also pulled up the night before to the national team to play in the Ghana vs. Swaziland team which Ghana won by the way. Anyway, Kakum National Park is a rainforest packed with trees and supposedly animals and birds although we didn’t see any.  We did a canopy walk while we were there followed by a nature walk.  The canopy walk was rope bridges and the nature walk was a legitimate hike.  They need to get their vocabulary fixed.  Both were great experiences though and the trees were so exotic looking and beautiful.  The rope bridges almost killed me, but be proud I actually did it.
After that we headed back to Cape Coast for an afternoon at the beach and best lunch I have had since being here.  The waves here are huge and so much fun to play in, but also really strong so we had to be careful and although we felt like we were way out there we only stayed where we could touch.  The waves knocked us down numerous times but it was a blast to play around in the water and on the beach.  Best afternoon in Ghana ever.
Our way home was supposed to take 3-4 hours but actually took 6.  Let that sink in.  Crammed in a bus for 6 hours and the last 2 not moving ever.  That wonderful chunk of time led to some quality time together. 
It was a great trip and I learned a lot and had a great time doing so.  And the beach was just the best thing ever, even with the gallons of salt water that I ended up swallowing.

Today has been a day filled with finishing up homework as we actually have our 3 full days of classes this week.  No Labor Day for us in Ghana L.  
As always, I am always missing you all and I wish all of you about to start school the best of luck! I wish I could be there with you more than anything. 

Love and miss you all. 

Fort Amsterdam,  Elmina Castle, and Cape Coast Beach: 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

goodbye august, hello september

August is over! Internet has been down for awhile (which, for me, is really hard to deal with not having any communication with home) so I have a bit I can catch you all up on J.  

We had classes on Monday and that was good.  We had Twi class on Monday and our professor was 30 minutes late…. Let me try and explain how afraid we all are of this class.  Every time the door opened during that 30 minute period we all froze in fear and jumped because we thought it was our professor.  It was as comical as you are picturing.  Tuesday we were supposed to go on a trip to observe the Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan but that got pushed to Wednesday so we ended up not having classes on either Tuesday or Wednesday.  Thank you 1 day class week!  So Tuesday and Wednesday we spent working on homework and relaxing and watching movies together (like Passport to Paris- thank you Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen for that hilarious childhood memory).  We also went to the mall again to compare the Shoprite (reminds me of a K-mart) and the local market for a cultural essay to right.  Plus on Tuesday pizza is buy one get one free at the Pizza Inn and we all know I will never pass that up. 
Wednesday morning we woke up bright and early and left at 7am to head over to independent square.  Wednesday was a holiday here to honor the end of Ramadan.  All the Muslims gathered and lined up to pray to end the fasting.  There were so many people and it was very interesting to see.  I can’t even think how to describe it.  They all prayed in unison and moved together, it was just incredible.  Afterwards we headed over to the craft market to browse, shop, and waste time because there was no way we were ever going to get out in that traffic.  It was a good afternoon and a lot of fun.  The craft market is geared towards tourists but hey that is what we are so I don’t mind too much.  There are still a lot of locals there and its fun to joke around with the shop owners. 
Wednesday afternoon we finished up homework and then headed to group dinner at the professors flat.  We had a lot of guests with us last night but one in particular was amazing.  James is the founder of the NGO called Challenging Heights were 2 of the girls in my group are interning.  Challenging Heights is an organization that rescues children from slavery in Ghana and also works on prevention and education of child slavery.  James started this NGO with his own money and has now passed a few laws and is working on passing more to save these children.  If that is not incredible enough, James started this NGO because he was a child slave himself.  From the ages of 6 to 13, James was a slave in the Volta region of Ghana.  He tried to escape a few times and was caught, and when he was caught a rope was tied around his neck and he was dragged around to show the other children what would happen to them if they tried to escape.  At age 13, he tried to escape again and succeeded.  He is such a remarkable man.  He then went on to get amazing grades, graduate from University of Ghana, work for a few years, and then start an NGO that is continuing to grow.  This man is just beyond remarkable.  I am even more excited now to start working at my NGO and help in any way I can.  Being here to help reminds me of why I chose to do the Ghana semester in the first place.  I cant wait to see what other amazing people God has in store for us to meet.

Today is another day of relaxing and working on homework.  Tomorrow morning we head to Cape Coast for 2 days.  I am so excited for that trip!  I will of course blog about it when I get back! 
As always, I miss you all so much and I cannot thank you enough for the support.  You are all in my prayers just as much as I am in yours. I can’t wait to see what September has in store for our group. 

Here are a few pictures from the Ramadan festival,  this is like a 1/4 of the amount of people that you could see.