Monday, December 23, 2013

It’s Gonna Take a Lot to Take me Away From You……

My exact thoughts about our next two African ports. Toto was spot on when they wrote that song haha but first things first, here is a brief slice of the amazing times I had in Ghana.

Over the summer, I learned about homestays in a village in the middle of the country that past Semester at Sea students had done. I looked into it and booked it. Turns out, this was the only trip I had planned for the whole voyage – and most certainly the experience and port I was most looking forward to.

Some of my new friends from the Senase Village and host family. 
It’s hard to use words to describe our time there. I just LOVED it. The village was maybe 10 hours (you lose track after awhile!) away from our port. Yes it was far but time may not be indicative of the actual distance travelled, as some roads are not paved and traffic is plentiful. The ride was still a blast though. Especially near the toll booths, many people carry things on their heads to sell. They walk up to the window and you can just buy things through there. Like a personal drive-thru haha - and by “things”, I really do mean any and everything. Windshield wipers, bobble head dogs, fried foods, hats, car decals, it really varied quite a bit! We did buy some plantain chips off of a young girl’s head which were delicious!

When we arrived in the village, it was pitch black dark outside and a downpour. This was kind of cool though because the next morning we would wake up and get to see where we were. We were told the children would not go to sleep until we arrived. So some of them were waiting where our bus would arrive and were jumping up and down when they saw us pull up. I was just as excited as them!!! We also learned that this would be the first time some of the children saw white people. One little child actually cried in the coming days upon seeing us. That was really remarkable to me. We lugged our stuff in, didn’t even worry about getting drenched (because it was inevitable!) and found our way to Fred, the organizer of the trip’s house. Dinner time! I asked Fred’s mom if I could help serve everyone since they had been prepping for us all day and they were more than happy to give me the reins! I had no idea what I was serving/what I ate but it was delicious and warmed us up. They passed out sealed bags of water, only to realize that was the purified water we would drink the next couple of days. I actually think this “sachet” water is the best tasting water I’ve had of my life! You just hold the bag and bite into the corner to open and sip up! It was fantastic and about 7-8 US cents per serving, a cost that for some, was too high for many of the Ghanaians we met.

My bedroom actually had a bed, along with a refrigerator and desktop computer. We kept the windows open but it got very stuffy at night. I woke up to pounding rain during the middle of the night and even took a video because I had never heard rain that loud!!! It was awesome. 

We were up and eating breakfast by 7 AM. I learned that once the sun starts to wake for the day, you do too, especially because it is completely dark by 6 PM. Roosters roaming around helped to wake us! We had a crème of wheat-type hot cereal and sweet bread for breakfast. Oh my, the bread was GOOD. It was soft and velvety like pound cake and had a slightly sweet flavor that was just wonderful. I wish I could have brought some of it home with me!!!

By 8 AM, the village was buzzing and we had a few minutes to explore our new surroundings. My friend and I walked over to the neighbor’s house to say hi (our presence got many stares) and the teen boy raises rabbits. We got to see some of the bunnies which were so cute! His mother then brought out a teeny tiny puppy dog! I loved all these animals. Oh, there was also a wild dog who stayed in the room next to our bedroom who had had puppies earlier that week. So cool! I learned she lived in the kitchen of the home…..

Here is a young lady performing a dance for us....she could move it!
Our first full day in the village was a packed one. We met the village elders which is a really big deal in many African societies. We presented them with our donations and they were so thrilled. The money we paid to go on this homestay is given to the schools around the village, our host family and wherever else the village elders see fit for their community. From there, it was time to visit some schools. My mom mailed a package of goods that didn’t fit in my luggage and we were both THRILLED it made it!!! Yay! There were generous donations from her friends at TD bank with school supplies, as well as some trinkets I had gathered from my room and tons of stickers from my Aunt Lisa. A. I did not think we would see as many kids as we did and B. I did not foresee the craziness that would ensue with having these things. Within the box, there were pencils, sharpeners and eraser caps I hoped to be able to give each child. However, due to the massive quantity of the school children, I only gave them one piece each. I felt really bad about doing this (because what is a sharpener without a pencil) but I wanted to try my best so that everyone could get something. I was attacked when passing stuff out and one of my young host brothers had to pull me away to help me out. I was laughing but terrified at the same time. Their teachers ran out of the classrooms and had to beat them off of me with sticks. I really could not believe it was real life. They also learned I had candy, or toffee in Twi (the local language) and would just try to grab it out of my bag. It was really crazy and wonderful.

The next day, we performed a dance we learned for the schoolchildren. We had matching costumes and everything! Didn’t mean we were good though haha! It was hard saying goodbye to them – they were so enthusiastic and full of life.

The last day in Ghana, my music class went to the University of Ghana to learn drumming and dancing. I *really* had a leg up on people – lol. The university was really big and cool to see. We saw a baboon across from the campus on a leash hooked onto a tree haha oh the Ghanaian sights!

There are direct flights from NYC to Accra (the main city, though 11 or so hours away from the village I stayed!) and I really hope to return in the future. It’s really hard to grasp the fantastic-ness that I found in Ghana. I met so many wonderful people and loved everything about it that I hope to return and spend some more time there in the future. Thanks for helping to make it happen to everyone at Can Do Land Tours! J
The children would not leave our side, even after we were on the bus 

A beautiful sunset one night
There were soooo many goats in Ghana - these two were soooo cute!!!

The children were SO much fun

I cannot wait to visit their schools again to spend more time with them

Hanging out by the main street

The schoolchildren were so funny - they would not stay in their classrooms once we arrived that day!

Although they were trying to appear tough, they were sweet at heart :)