Tag Archives: Ghana

Accra Accra!

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Hello,

I’ve been home for almost a week and thus have been really lazy about updates. Here’s a bit about my last few days in Ghana:

After bidding adieu to CRAN and my ProWorld family, I had one final goodbye left. I decided to head to Accra early and spend my last few days there. Thus, I hugged Auntie Alice goodbye on Saturday morning and left Cape Coast. Fittingly, it started to rain. I joked the Cape Coast was crying because I was leaving.

I decided to take the Metro Mass bus to Accra because of my two large suitcases. Caleb, KC, and I had to wait about an hour to get on the bus, but I only had to pay an extra three cedi for my suitcases! It was one of the most uncomfortable rides I have ever experienced. First, I was kicked out from the front row seats and forced to squeeze in between two rather large women because “No ladies in the front!” Really. Secondly, I spent the entire ride simply praying that we would make it alive. We passed several trotro accidents, a bus accident, and an exploded gas tanker.

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park

Eventually we made it to Accra and were able to head over to the Salvation Army Hostel, or as I affectionally call it, Sal Val. We had terrific pizza at Mama Mia’s and went to a spot for a drink. We then felt obligated to visit a bar called Hemingway’s, which happened to be a casino (My first!). Both KC and Caleb won playing roulette and I mostly stood around for good luck.

These flowers smelled divine!

These flowers smelled divine!

While Ghana isn’t exactly a tourist mecca, it was on my bucket list to visit the more touristy attractions in Accra. Luckily, Caleb and KC were game and we first headed to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park which hosts the tomb of Ghana’s first president and his wife. The park was gorgeous with flowering trees and statues. Strutting around the mausoleum was a peacock. After snapping some pics near the tomb, we visited the Nkrumah museum. It held random objects that the president used, including his desk and a mirror. I was most interested in the collection of photographs featuring Nkrumah with other world leaders such as JFK and Fidel Castro.

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The back of the mausoleum.

The back of the mausoleum.

After our visit to the park, we walked to the National Museum of Ghana. Of course we got lost along with way, but Ghanaians are always willing to point you in the right direction. The museum was okay. It had some arts and crafts like carved stools, woven fabrics, drums, and weapons. The museum had an interesting section on the slave trade. I was a bit perplexed by the second floor of the museum. It hosted quite a few Roman artifacts and a few Egyptian ones. I’m not sure how those two connect. Outside the museum was a lovely sculpture garden which we took a quick tour around.

The National Musuem

The National Museum

Sculpture Garden outside the National Musuem

Sculpture Garden outside the National Musuem

When Monday rolled around, it was time to say goodbye to Caleb and KC as they were catching a flight to Tamale, or so I thought. KC had been having sharp pain in her abdomen and wanted to stop at a clinic before the flight. It turns out she had appendicitis and needed surgery. Obviously they didn’t make their flight and they spent the day in the hospital. KC is fine and is currently at her homestay recovering. I spent Monday hanging out with my Ghanaian hostel roommates and watching movies. Caleb came back and took me out for my last dinner in Ghana. Before my flight on Tuesday, Caleb and I stopped at the hospital to visit KC and watched a movie. One of my roommates bargained to get me a cheap taxi and I headed to the airport. As I drove through Accra for the last time, it finally hit me that I was leaving this amazing country.

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Capstone Presentation

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Hello!

 

I made it home on Wednesday after an eight hour layover in London. Now that I have fast Internet, I can upload my capstone presentation about my experience at CRAN. So feel free to check it out by clicking on the link:

CRAN Capstone

 

Goodbye CRAN Microfinance!

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Yesterday was my last day at CRAN Microfinance.  It’s been an amazing and challenging four months and I’m sad to leave this group of amazing people. Everyone was so welcoming and kind at CRAN. They put up with my incessant questions and were always willing to help me with any issues.

Devotion!

Devotion!

During our daily devotion, the entire office surprised me with a party. Everyone went around the room and thanked me or offered me words of encouragement. It was so sweet! Then they presented with a gift and we had a toast. It was easily the nicest thing any employer has done for me.  The gift consisted of two dresses and a pair of sandals that I promptly changed into. One of my coworkers wrote a song about me, which he made everyone sing. I almost died laughing.

Here with Jomo, our driver, and Veronica

Here with Jomo, our driver, and Veronica

KC and I

KC and I

Earlier this week, I had to do a capstone presentation about my experience at CRAN. I’ll try and upload it when I have better Internet connection.

The toast!

The toast!

Overall, my experience working at CRAN has been fantastic, and I learned so much from everyone here. I’ve been able to witness so much change within the organization and have learned how to adapt. Mostly, I’ve learned about the inner workings of a MFI and the challenges that arise with clients and donors. I feel that my experience working here had better prepared me for working back home and I look forward to putting the skills I’ve gained here to good use.

Getting my present

Getting my present! Isn’t the wrapping adorable?

With my supervisor, Cecilia. I'm really going to miss her! This is also one of the dresses I was given.

With my supervisor, Cecilia. I’m really going to miss her! This is also one of the dresses I was given.

Getting serenading by my coworkers!

Getting serenading by my coworkers!

Wedding Bells

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This weekend I had the opportunity to go to a Ghanaian wedding. One of the ProWorld staffers, Osman, invited us to his sister’s wedding. Attending a wedding or funeral was on my Ghana bucket list, so of course I agreed. Plus, Osman is from the northern part of the country and is Muslim. I’ve never been to a Muslim wedding before, and was interested to see how they were conducted.

Osman told us that the wedding was supposed to begin at 8AM, which I though was incredibly early for a wedding. We weren’t exactly sure of the location, as the only directions we got were the “UCC taxi station” in town. The two new interns, Caleb and KC, and I decided to meet at 7:45AM and call Osman to figure out the exact location. Since this is Ghana, we figured that the wedding wouldn’t actually start until at least 9AM.

Of course the cell phone network was down, and we were unable to call Osman. After waiting around a bit, the network came back online and we were able to get a hold of Osman. We had assumed that the wedding would be in the Mosque in town, but it turns out it was literally at the UCC taxi station. They had set up four tents in the parking lot. When we arrived, Osman greeted us and introduced us to father and brothers. We were then led to the tents and given seats right in the front. The tents surrounded a rectangle area covered in prayer mats and there were three drummers to entertain the waiting guests. As we anticipated, the wedding did not start until close to 10AM.

 

Listening to the drummers before the ceremony

Listening to the drummers before the ceremony

The first thing I noticed was that everyone in attendance was male. KC and I were the only females and I was also a little unsure if I should’ve brought a scarf to cover my hair. Being the token obruni, however, insured that no one would rebuke us. The ceremony began with a large group of older men removing their shoes and sitting down on the prayer mats. As the father of the bride kindly explained, the men were Islamic scholars who would help consecrate the marriage.

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After the men prayed, the bride and groom were processed in and seating on two plastic chairs. Osman’s sister is apparently a graduate of Islamic school, and was therefore required to recite a passage from the Koran. The next session of the wedding consisted of the men showering the bride with money. This was done by literally sticking bills on the bride’s face and collecting them in a trash bag as they fell off. I was a bit horrified by the idea of the bills touching her face due to the fact that small bills are often very dirty and covered in germs. We asked Osman about the practice later, and he informed us that the practice was for good luck.

My favorite part of the ceremony: the money-sticking

My favorite part of the ceremony: the money-sticking

Once the men were satisfied with the bill-sticking section, the bride and the groom left. The Islamic scholars took over and recited parts of the Koran and prayed for the prosperity of the couple. After about twenty minutes of prayer, the ceremony was over and the couple was officially married. A small amount of money and some candy was passed around to the scholars and some food was passed around to all the guests. It was easily the shortest wedding ceremony I had ever attended, and the first in which the ceremony took place without the couple present!

Awkward wedding photo

Awkward wedding photo

After the ceremony and some more drumming, Osman led us to the bride as well as all of the female guests. We awkward took photos with the bride and her attendants. I had no idea where the groom went. Osman took us back to his house where we cooled off and chatted about the significance of different parts of the wedding. We were then invited to next section of the celebration, which mainly consisted of the women dancing. Since we were exhausted from our Impact project from the previous day, we regretfully declined and went home. I wish we had stayed for the dancing, but we would’ve had to wait several hours for it to begin, and we were very hot. I was glad that we went to the ceremony and wish Osman’s sister and her new husband happiness in her marriage.

The gang with Osman

The gang with Osman

Living Arrangements

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While I’ve written previously about my homestay family, I’ve yet to describe my accommodations. My homestay family is part of Ghana’s upper middle class, and thus has a very nice home. Auntie Alice has a profitable job working for the Department of Transportation and her husband works in Accra. Papa Kofi is lucky enough to attend one of the best primary schools in Cape Coast, Flowers Gay. My other host brother, Ben has is masters degree and is going back to school again in March. Until then, he has been doing a lot of traveling. I think he is currently in Egypt with his father (no one is exactly sure).

 

Papa Kofi hanging out in the family room.

Papa Kofi hanging out in the family room.

So, I live on the second floor of a building that is extremely close to the ProWorld bunkhouse. It’s a nice location because it’s very close to Abura market and only a short taxi ride from town. Our house consists of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family room, and a small kitchen. My room is conveniently connected to one of the bathrooms and I have the ability to lock my bedroom door. The house itself is locked up like Fort Knox. The door leading outside locks and we have iron bars that lock outside of it. Our building is surrounded by an eight-foot gate that is also locked. Needless to say, I feel very safe.

 

I use my desk to put all my stuff on.

I use my desk to put all my stuff on.

Due to the dust that is tracked in on a daily basis, the floors are tile. There are strong ceiling fans in the bedrooms and family room to keep up cool. My bedroom is only a little smaller than mine at home and has a comfy bed. Random fact about Ghana: fitted sheets are not the norm. Instead, you tucked a top sheet under the mattress to hold it in place. Since I tend to roll around a lot in my sleep, I have to re-tuck the sheet every night.

 

I still don't make my bed.

I still don’t make my bed.

The bathroom consists of two small rooms that are divided into the toilet and the shower. The toilet is nicer than most I’ve used in Ghana and is basically the same as home. As I’ve mentioned, I do have to take bucket baths. I found this challenging in the beginning (Especially hair washing), but now have no issues. It’s amazing to me how much water I conserve when bucket bathing.  Generally, I can use less than a gallon of water per shower!

 

Toilet-- So exciting, I know

Toilet– So exciting, I know

Bucket Bath!

Bucket Bath!

Generally, my workdays begin with me getting up at 6:30AM. My grooming habits have been streamlined due to the fact wearing makeup is pointless in this heat. It simply melts off your face. I’m ready for breakfast at 7AM and leave for my brisk (and sweaty) walk to work by 7:30. CRAN has devotion, or daily prayer, at 8AM, and then I begin work. Lunch is not a formal affair at CRAN and is anytime between 11:30AM—2:30PM. While I technically get an hour for lunch, I rarely use it and spend the extra time chatting with my coworkers. I usually leave work around 5:15PM and am back home before 6PM. Auntie Alice gets home at the same time as me and begins making dinner. I usually have dinner around 6:30PM and then watch the nightly news with my family. After some more TV or reading, I go to bed around 10:30PM. Thus the cycle begins again!

ProWorld Day of Culture

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I apologize for the lack of posts. I managed to get a stubborn bacterial infection and was sick most of last week. After surviving some super strong antibiotics, I’m finally starting to feel normal again. Regrettably, I was stuck spending one of my last weekends here in Ghana in bed. C’est la vie.

Before me bedridden weekend, I had an eventful Friday. Along with the two new CRAN interns, I bowed out of work and took part in several traditional Ghanaian activities.

Caleb carving like a pro (or at least better than me)

Caleb carving like a pro (or at least better than me)

In the morning, we met Ebo, a master woodcarver who has a shop within Cape Coast Castle. He was going to try and teach us the basics in woodcarving. First, we stopped by his shop to check out the final products and learn about the different types of wood he uses. Ebo mostly carves with mahogany, ebony, and a local type of wood whose name I cannot pronounce.  His work was extraordinarily beautiful. He had sculptures and wall hangings of all different sizes and colors.

Ebo led us to a workstation on the beach with three small boards and a variety of tools. We were to practice using basic woodcarving tools and make a wood etching of a beach scene. Ebo had already drawn a picture of a boat in pencil for us to follow. We first carved the border, and followed with the boat. Next, we each could add our own designs. We carved our names on the back and then finished with a border around the edge.

Woodcarving is hard and I am terrible at it. I was easily the worst out of the three of us, and poor Ebo had to keep helping me. After a disastrous attempt at hollowing the seat of the boat, Ebo promised to fix it for me. After asking him if my carving was alright, I learned that Ebo is a lousy liar. He gave me a hesitant, “It’s nice,” which really meant, “My toddler could have done a better job.” Despite being very difficult, I really enjoyed our woodcarving workshop and am interested in seeing the results once Ebo “fixes” mine and applies varnish.

My attempt at woodcarving.

My attempt at woodcarving.

After lunch and brief tour of Kingsway for the newbies, we headed back over to the beach for a traditional drumming and dancing lesson. We were joined by the Missou University students, which helped limit my embarrassment. First, we were talk some simple drumming rhythms by our instructor, One Ghana (Yes, this is his legal name. I asked).  I really enjoyed the drumming and hearing the different types of drums.

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I take drumming very seriously.

I take drumming very seriously.

Next was the dreaded dancing portion. It was especially awkward as we drew a crowd of Ghanaians watching us for their nightly entertainment. We were asked to dance barefoot, which was uncomfortable due to the many pebbles on the ground. After a brief warm-up, we were led through a short routine that had lots of clapping and jumping. Being tall, I was able to hide somewhat in the back. Since, I was sick at the time and had just started my antibiotics, I really wasn’t thrilled with the dancing. I was super tired and just wanted to sit down. Luckily it was over fairly quickly and was only somewhat embarrassing.

Warming up for dancing

Warming up for dancing

Overall, I really enjoy participating in some traditional Ghanaian activities.  For me, the highlight was definitely the woodcarving. While I’ve always known that woodcarving is difficult, actually attempting to make something simple was very humbling and gave me new respect for the master craftsmen. I wasn’t a huge fan of the dancing, but a majority of that was because I was feeling so ill. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if I were healthy!

I tried to hide in the back.

I tried to hide in the back.

Proworld Ghana's country director, Shawn showing off her moves.

Proworld Ghana’s country director, Shawn showing off her moves.

Back in Ghana!

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Hello,

I flew back to Ghana this past Friday and spent the night in the lovely Travella Lodge. The owner, Auntie Sheila, is incredibly hospitable and even remembered me from when I first arrived three months ago! For the next two and a half weeks, the ProWorld House is hosting a study abroad group from Missou, and I happened to meet a few of the students at the airport. Sarah asked me to show the newcomers around in Accra and help pick-up another latecomer from the airport. It was interesting to see the first impressions of the new students.

 

I am really happy and slightly relieved to be back in Ghana. Who knew that I’d come to think of Ghana as home in such a short time? I was particularly excited to see my ProWorld family, my host family, and my coworkers. My vacation in Spain and Portugal didn’t go that well. For example, I was pickpocketed on Christmas and lost credit cards, my debit cards, and my IDs. It could have been worse though, I didn’t lose my passport!

 

Anyways, since this blog is about my experiences in Ghana, I’m not planning on writing long posts about my trip. I went to a bunch of museums, took some walking tours, and ate a lot of pork! Unfortunately, it rained almost the entire time and I was frequently cold from the dampness. I did love looking at the beautiful architecture and learning about the history of Madrid and Porto. I took a million photos during my trip, but here are just couple: