Monday, October 31, 2011

northern trip brings us to november!

Hi everyone!
Once again I apologize for this going to be a long blog post but we were gone for a long time on this trip so there is a lot to tell!
Happy Halloween and goodness gracious it is November! I don’t know where the time has gone but I am excited to be in the home stretch now.  I never thought I would miss fall but the heat here has been getting more brutal everyday. 
And on to the Northern Trip blog:
We left at 5am on Friday and headed up to the town of Kumasi in Central Region.  On our way we made a few stops to see culture.  Our first stop we headed to a village to see how bauxite beads were made.  The beads are made by chipping off bauxite into pieces and then rolling them into beads.  After visiting a few ladies who did that we headed back to the wonderful bus for our next stops.  Our next stop was visiting another Kente cloth factory.  They are the masters of selling so bartering with them was quite amusing.  I like to think I am getting pretty good at bartering.  Its going to be a problem going back to the States and having to pay the price they want me to! J.  After a lot of money spent by our group we visited an adinkra fabric place.  Adinkra is bark from a certain tree melted and then stamped on to fabric in different symbols.  Then we were back on the bus and finishing up the drive to Kumasi where we stayed in a great hotel with pizza.  Happy Kaylee right there.
Saturday: We woke up and went to Kejetia Market in Kumasi.  It is the largest market in West Africa.  It is a total zoo but so much fun.  There are people absolutely everywhere and stuff being sold everywhere you look but it was fun to wander through and see what we could find.  Most random stall we found had a Hope College sweatshirt and a Grand Haven sweatshirt!  The rest of the day was spent driving to Tamale in the Northern Region.  Tamale is probably my favorite town in Ghana so far.  It has so many NGO’s located there and is more calm than Accra and Kumasi.  We ended Saturday night by having dinner on a roof top overlooking all of Tamale.  Beautiful.
Sunday: Quite the day.  Our first stop was a school where we observed something that resembled a spelling bee but with questions about the constitution.  Not really sure what happened there.  After that we headed to the witches camp.  The witches camp was started by an NGO to create a shelter for woman who are exiled from their villages after being accused of witch craft.  Witches are accused after someone dies unexpectedly in a village and there is no reason why, therefore they blame it on witch craft.  The witches are put on trial.  This trial consists of killing a guinea fowl (chicken-like-thing) and depending on the way it falls when it dies it means you are a witch.  The witches we talked with all claimed they were falsely accused and have been there a long time.  It is very rare for the woman to be forgiven and welcomed back into their homes so they stay in the camp until they die with their children.  The children here are all very malnourished and they struggle to get health care there.  It was rough to see the shape these women are in.  After the witches camp we made a stop to see some gonja players.  We all had to take a turn dancing by ourselves to the music in front of everyone.  Yup. We also had a little movie night of watching Enchanted.  Go watch that movie.  For some reason I am in love with it right now.
Monday:  We traveled basically up to Burkina Faso (literally could have walked across the country border) to visit a few NGOs.  Our first NGO we visited took us to a few villages amongst these crazy rock formations that were a mix between Stone Henge and another planet.  Before this NGO (sorry, I cannot remember the name) the woman in the villages were all making shea butter and selling it separately but now they all make it and sell it together and share the profits. We visited the different homes by traipsing around the savannah. We even got a turn at trying to make the shea butter.  My hands have never felt so soft.  Amazing stuff.  If you want some, let me know.  After that we headed to another NGO that sells pottery from the local villages.  We visited a few homes and got to see how Northern tribal homes are set up and the way they live.  After that lovely day we headed to a town that was called Navrango (or something to that effect).  We stayed in the worlds worst room ever.  Love sleeping with them bugs. Yummy.
Tuesday:  We woke up after not sleeping much and headed to a very early morning Catholic mass.  It was the first Catholic church in Ghana and it was pretty neat to see.  It was so colorful and early in the morning.  After that we headed back to Tamale to the craft market.  We spent lots and lots of money and are fully supporting Ghana’s tourism economy.  So lovely.  Then we stayed at a fantastic hotel where we found the air conditioning after about 4 ½ hours of laying there in the heat because me and Kate are genius roommates and enjoyed some yummy pizza again.  I like hotels with pizza.  Also note.  It sounds like we didn’t do much but there is a lot of driving involved in this little scenario. 
Wednesday:  We once again woke up very early and headed to Mole National Park.  The road there is the worst road I have ever experienced for 2+ hours but the end result is so fantastically worth it.  We arrived and started out on our afternoon safari walk.  Our guide picked up on an elephant close by so we followed the trail through the forest and tracked down the elephant! Absolutely incredible.  There were also lots of warthogs (which if you don’t know – I love them) some antelope and many species like them, and those awful baboons which once again stole food from right in front of my face.  This has to stop happening.  I hate baboons. 
Thursday:  I woke up early and was heading to breakfast and looked out over the watering hole and was lucky enough to see 5 elephants walking out to the watering hole.  It was the most breath-taking, God is so amazing moments ever.  Nature is just out of this world.  It was so remarkable to sit there watching the elephants – two of them even were fighting!  That afternoon we drove to Larabanga which is right near by and we saw the first mosque that was built in Ghana.  Islam is the majority in Northern Ghana so this was very interesting to see.  It is really old and made of mud but it is so historical looking that it was sweat.  After that we finally got to relax by a pool which was very much so needed. 
Friday:  Once again, woke up early and headed our drive back to Kumasi.  After 9 hours we got there.  That’s all that happened.  It was a long day.
Saturday:  We woke up and headed to the Ashanti King’s palace in Kumasi.  We got a tour there and learned some history.  Basically the Ashanti people controlled West Africa and the King set up camp in Kumasi.  End of history lesson.  There were peacocks strolling around too.   Then we headed to the cultural center in Kumasi and of course contributed some more to Ghana’s economy (it was a lot of shopping on this trip.) We finally made our way back on the bus and finished up the final 7 hours back to the University. 
It was a really exhausting, fun-filled, diverse-filled experiences, and a lot of bonding on that bus but it was really great and it brought us to November!  Northern Ghana is a whole other world from Southern Ghana and it was so interesting to see the comparison.  Northern Ghana is so much more North African than West Africa.  Northern Ghana is majority Muslim, much more rural and traditional, a thousand degrees hotter, and more desert but also has the coolest National Park ever.  I am so glad I got to have this experience and it was a great final group trip for the semester.  I can’t believe we are in November already. I will see you all before you know it!
I tried to keep this shorter so I hope you stayed with it! Have some Halloween candy for me! 
Love and miss you all so much! 

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