Sunday, December 11, 2011

Musings on Friendships

Dear future potentially married self,

I'm not trying to make any assumptions here, but there is a chance that you'll be married in the future.  And this IS something that your current single self wants (in the future).  That being said, please remember that you have freaking awesome friends that you have made as a single person.  And please don't ditch them when you get married.  I know that when people get married they sometimes say, 'I didn't know what love was until I got married', etc etc, or stop spending time with their friends because all they want to do is look googly eyed at their true love. There might be a separate letter to you asking you to please not do that too much in public. But I digress.
Don't forget your friends.  They are seriously awesome.  They have laughed with you, cried with you, carried you through hell and back, worked with you, played with you, tried to change the world with you.  These are the people that you can build silly gingerbread houses with and form the group that bursts out laughing in the middle of studying scripture.  You've said you can call me at 2am and they did, and then they returned the favor.  These are the people you sat in the hallway of your apartment and talked for hours on end with.  These are the people that supported your decision to go sledding in a shopping cart, and to do hurricane relief work after Katrina.  The ones that know the crazy stories from your childhood, and college, and grad school, and are also good friends with your mom.  The ones that challenge your beliefs and make you grow as a person.  They are your co-workers, roommates, mentors, and the people of all ages that fill your life.  These are people your current single self hopes you will spend the rest of your life knowing, and growing with, and spending time with and keeping in touch with.
So if you fall in love and get married, don't say you didn't know what love is until that point.  Because that's really not true.  Romantic love is different, and so please remember to throw that adjective in there.  Because agape and philos love, the love of God and friends, you've know your whole life, in ways that many people never even glimpse.   Hang on to that.  It's just as if not more important than a spouse.
You've got the best friends on the planet and then some.  Don't throw them under the bus for a boy.

(Single) Me

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1.  It's been a really long time since I've blogged.  I keep thinking of all of these things to write about, but I never have time enough to write that 'perfect' entry I'm conceptualizing.  So one of my new goals is, in the words of The Frugal Girl, a blog I follow: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good".  So here's to more imperfect blog entries.
2. Speaking of imperfect, I feel like something is wrong with the space key on my laptop.  So if there are two words run together give me some grace, I promise it's not that I failed 4th grade grammar.
3.  I'm just short of being halfway through this semester (yikes?), and it's awesome.  It's a lot of work, but I really like my classes.  Mental note to expand on those in another post. I'm not currently working, but debating a job or internship for next semester- we shall see.
4.  Um, I'm back from Ghana?  Maybe that should have been #1 on the list.  My summer in Ghana was awesome and although I only posted about half of what I wrote about the summer so far, another one of my goals is to rectify that in the future too.
5.  I forgot how much I like to write.  Somewhere an English class (or two or ten) scarred me from writing and it's taken me years to realize that I actually really enjoy writing.  It's another form of creativity for me.
6.  As I am writing this, I am swaying back and forth to the music stuck in my head, Michael Jackson's 'Beat It'.  I think listening to a big 80s weekend on the radio has lasting side effects.
7.  It's fall break!  Which means I didn't have class today, which is nice.  Fall break extends into tomorrow also, but since I don't have class on Tuesdays, today is the real break.  And since half of my classes are on Mondays, it's a real break indeed.  It's also following a rather insane 2 weeks, so it's much appreciated.  So far I've been to the zoo, the Stone Mountain laser show, church, and the grocery store.  And slept a lot.  I've also been cleaning, scrap booking, baking, and catching up on some neglected friendships.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I alight here

That's the Ghanian way of saying this is where I get off when you're in a car.

I fly home to the States tonight, arriving sometime tomorrow afternoon EST.

I know I've been very bad about keeping up my blog, mostly because our internet situation got scarce these last few weeks, which makes uploading pictures impossible (we're charged on bandwidth).

So, I hope to post a lot more pictures and stories when I'm back home.

The research this summer has been awesome, as have the people I've gotten to work with.  I've been able to see quite a lot of Ghana, although I didn't make it up north this trip.  I've bought a lot of arts/crafts souvineers.

I've traveled by plane, bus, taxi, tro-tro (old beat-up van crammed full of people), car, canoe, and motorbike.  I've walked a lot.  I've seen a lot of toilets (my research was on sanitation).  I've gotten one marriage proposal from an assemblyman.  I've gotten and recovered from malaria.  I've worked on a lot of spreadsheets.  We've had several dance parties. I've learned to make 1 Ghanian dish, red-red (bean stew and fried plantains).  I've taken pictures of lots of goats, which I've seen in yards, houses, gutters, streets, trees, and car windows.  I've eaten a lot of mangos and pineapple.

I've had lots of crazy adventures, including canoeing on 2 lakes, getting caught in a rainstorm and subsequently having a water fight, tracking down a cab driver for the better part of a day (and then spending the night at the house of another cab driver's grandmother), seeing numerous beaches, waiting hours for a tro-tro, meeting people from all over Ghana and the world (Gambia, Togo, China, Denmark, England, Canada...), visiting 2 waterfalls and frolicking in one, visiting 2 museums, climbing a lighthouse, seeing 3 forts, crossing a canopy walk, and touring the University of Ghana campus.

I've learned a lot about conducting research involving people, and with people of another culture.  It was fantastic to be able to work along side of Ghanians for this survey, and they had a lot more experience surveying than I did.  I've made friends that I really really hope I keep in touch with (on 3 continents).  I've learned that GIS mapping is super cool.

I've gotten to look poverty in the face, and realize that not all poverty is equal, and that people here in Ghana are better than I am about not judging on appearances.  I've seen how frustrated people are when they think they have no power to change things in their community.

I've been able to see a beautiful country filled with friendly people and a lot of opportunity.  Ghana is heading in the right direction, and its wonderful to see.  There is also still a lot to be done.

I'm sad to leave and happy to be seeing my family and friends soon, all at the same time.

To my Ghanian friends that may or may not be reading this, please stay in touch and come visit me! 
Akwaaba.  You are welcome.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My apologies for being a delinquent blogger

On Friday night Mie (pronounced Mia) arrived from Copenhagen, the 4th summer intern for SUSA. So yesterday we did a lot of sightseeing in Accra. We went to the Makola market, the biggest one in downtown Accra. It was like the one I went to in Kumasi, except much cleaner. We didn’t buy anything but walked around a bit; once you actually get inside it’s actually less crowded than the perimeter on the street. I think this is because a lot of the food stuffs are sold on the street and those are the most popular items. All kinds of vegetables, live snails, live crabs, chicken pieces, goat, smoked fish, everything.

After the market we went to Jamestown, a fishing village on the coast. It’s sort of advertised as a timeless village, meaning that it hasn’t been modernized; it’s still a traditional village. Honestly it reminded me a lot of Prampram, except I think it’s poorer, judging on the building materials of the houses. I was able to get some good pictures though; I’ve been reluctant to take a lot of pictures at our research site because the health center will continue to work in the area and didn’t want us taking lot of pictures. At Jamestown they are most used to tourists and we went with a guide. We first climbed to the top of a lighthouse and got a magnificent view of the surrounding area and coast. From there we sort of picked up a guide who took us through Jamestown for an hour or so.

On our way to getting a cab to independence square we stopped for a few minutes to watch some men drumming and lots of children crowding around wanting to dance. It was very sunny so we kept moving to find some shade and a taxi after a few minutes. We walked around independence square and down to the beach there, where we could see were we had just been at Jamestown, and had a better view of the Christiansburg fort where the government resides.

Finally we went to a shop called Wild Gecko near campus that we’ve been meaning to check out for a few weeks. It was a little more expensive than the cultural center we went to a few weeks ago, but had some different things as well. Then we took a cab to the mall where we ate Chinese food at our new favorite restaurant and Mie got some groceries.

Today we slept in and did some work. I’ll try to post pictures when I get better internet.

It’s crazy that I’m only here another 2 weeks!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Stilt Village (May 28th)

Since we got into Beyin late on Wednesday, we had to wait until Thursday to go to the stilt village. Our trotro driver from the previous night said the earliest you could go was 7am, so we woke up around 6:15 and were ready to go at 7. Someone at the hotel gave us a ride, squished into his pickup truck, through the small village of Beyin to the dock where you go to the stilt village. We paid in a small building and then boarded a canoe, me in the front and Diana in the back with a guy rowing in the very back, to the stilt village.

Are we really getting in this??

Sunrise on the water
Through the swamp to the lake.
 The stilt village reminded me a little bit of the floating village/stilt village I saw in Venezuela, except this one seemed poorer.
Not a minute after we stepped onto the dock we saw a cat run by, leap to another piece of the dock, miss, fall in the water with a huge splash, and literally shoot out of the water away from us, with villagers laughing all around. This was a dry cat.

The village doesn’t have electricity and they use the lake as their water source. I didn’t get all the specifics from the guide, but apparently they keep it pretty clean since they drink from it. They only have one boat with a motor for emergencies; otherwise they make the 45 minute journey by canoe whenever they want to go to land. There is a primary school in the village, as well as a nursery (which looked more like a preschool), but kids that want/get to go to high school do it on the mainland. Although the water looked very clean, there were piles of trash around the docks in the marsh, and chickens and goats and other animals roaming the docks and the trash.
I can’t help but wonder how they keep the water clean enough to drink if there is so much trash, and if its ever been tested to see how clean it actually is. Our guide scooped some up to drink on our way back, but Diana and I knew that if we drank it we’d have serious stomach issues. The people in the village were very polite and almost ignored us, going about their daily activities. Apparently they can get up to 150 people a day visiting the village, so I guess they are used to it and don’t have time to stop whenever someone comes. There were signs and verbal warnings not to take pictures of the people unless you asked permission, which seems to be the norm in Ghana in general.

After about 1 ½ hours we left again by canoe, and there was a dug-out canoe of villagers leaving at the same time.  They said we could take their picture, so I have a few shots.  I have some videos of the canoes also, but I don’t have the internet bandwidth to upload them here in Ghana.  Maybe after I get home.

After returning to land, we walked back to our hotel through a small village- I could imagine myself living somewhere like it in the Peace Corps.  Then we bounced back to civilization on a few Tro-tros and taxis, and spent the night in Takoradi with Diana’s cousin at her apartment.   We visited Diana’s Grandmother and also met her aunt, who were both super nice.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Feeling better and a tourist-y day

I guess I should start by saying I’ve felt pretty good the last few days, and that I was able to go to the field on Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday is our day for data analysis so we don’t usually go to the field that day anyway.  This week we switched Friday and Saturday, so yesterday we actually went to a large craft market.
I know a lot of people have been worried about me and the fact that I got malaria.  However, I’ve been in good hands and seem to have recovered pretty well.  I’m still waiting on the results of the rest of my bloodwork to make sure it wasn’t anything else, but since I finished the malaria medicine and now feel better, I’m calling my illness malaria until I hear otherwise.  What makes it complicated is that I had malaria tests run three times and they came back negative.  However, a negative malaria test in a malaria endemic area doesn’t rule out the diagnosis, because the tests aren’t perfect.  Anywho.
Yesterday I was a typical American all day it was was nice :)  I slept in and then Diana and Sylvie and I went to the Culteral Center in downtown Accra, which is a large semi-tourist-y craft market.  You can buy almost anything in the normal open air markets, but most people don't sell a lot of crafts there, its more like food and household supplies and clothes and such. 
The craft market was very large, and really the first place people were trying to get us into their shops to buy things since I've been in Ghana.  Even then they were pushy but not completely in our faces (mostly); I know a lot of other places in West Africa are much worse.  We walked around and haggled and bought some things for about 3 hours, and then took a taxi to Oso, a tourist-y part of town where we found a rather western restuarant and I got a good hamburger.  We also got ice cream there, my first since I've been in Ghana.  Then our on cab ride home we sang along to random country songs and Christmas carols off my friends' iphones.  I think our cabbie must have thought we were a little nuts.  We continued to listen to Christmas music once we were back at our house, and started planning other sightseeing adventures for the rest of the summer. 
I was also able to briefly talk to my mom and then my uncle for a while, so all in all it was a very good day.  Yay for not being sick!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Not currently on fire

The short version: I'm not positive it's malaria so I'm going to get a few more tests run tomorrow to make sure its not something I would need antibiotics for or another drug.  I'm still running a low grade fever 2x a day, but I haven't felt on fire in about 24 hours (but that could change with a moments notice).

All of the Ghanians are taking good care of me and are sure its malaria and I need to eat more and give it time.  The Americans and Danes are worried its something else and want me to see another doctor. 

I'm in the middle, I wonder why my fever still comes and goes, so I'm okay with verifying its not something else. 

Also, quinine is a really rough drug to be on.  Just saying.  My ears are ringing, I'm exhausted, dizzy, my vision was funky yesterday, and my blood sugar drops every now and then.  These are all expected side effects of the drug and I'll only be worried if they don't go away when I stop taking it.  But damn.  It rivals the actual malaria in how it makes me feel :P

I spent today at Diana's house because it was her father's birthday in addition to fathers day.  Her family is great and I have a room there for the summer, so I could go lie down when I needed to.  And her mother is a fantastic cook; I ate more at dinner than I think I have in the last 2 days total.  And I was getting a serious case of cabin fever being cooped up here at Denmark house, so it was great to get out.

More tomorrow in the saga of the sicky.  Try not to worry, I've got people on 3 continents looking out for me :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sorry I haven't posted in a while

We were pretty busy with training last week and then I think I got malaria.  My lab results have been negative, but my symptoms are a textbook case.  So I've started some drugs and we'll see what happens.  My roommates are starting work tomorrow, and I hope I'm well enough to join them Monday.
And yes, I have been taking my malaria prophylaxis- that might be why my blood tests are negative.  It might also be why I'm still feeling okay some of the time, because my roommate tells me that malaria can be much much worse than what I've experienced (which is kind of a scary thought, because it felt like part of me were on fire last night until my fever broke).  I have good spells and bad spells.
But if I'm not on fire tomorrow, I'll try to catch up on some blogging.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


This has been a great week of training, getting to know the people we are working with, learning about equipment, and trying to sort out as much of the logistics as possible before we start the research.
I haven't had a lot of time to write about it, but I'll try to catch up this weekend.

Also, African rainy season is not to be messed with :P

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Traveling Day 3

(May 27th)
Wednesday we got up late and checked out of the hotel.  We didn’t want to give them any more of our business so we went back to the restaurant near the castle for breakfast/lunch, where I discovered I’m not a huge fan of Ghanaian omelets.  Then we went back to Cape Coast Castle to see the museum and gift shop, and got slightly wet as it was trying to rain.  After the museum we called our cab and started the journey to the stilt village.  We took another cab for 2 legs of the trip and finally a Trotro.  For the last part of the trip we were literally bouncing down a dirt road towards nowhere, Diana and I laughing and trying not to panic about how far away from civilization we were.  On the way we saw small very rural villages and passed a UN refugee camp for Ivoirians.   By the end we were the only two left on the trotro besides the driver and his assistant.  They were like, there are 2 hotels in Beyin; one is concrete and one is wood, so we chose the one made of concrete.  It was also expensive, 60 cedes a night for air conditioning and no breakfast.  But we figured it was only for one night, and we definitely didn’t want to spend the night in the stilt village or the wooden hotel.  We ate at the bar at the hotel and it also took more than an hour to get our food, but the pizza was better than the last night at Cape Coast.  We attempted a game of pool while we waited and discovered that we are both really bad at pool.
                In the hotel Diana found a gecko on the wall and started freaking out that it was actually a person that was going to kill us during the night.  Apparently the area we were in in the western region is known for believing in voodoo and witchcraft and stories of people turning into animals and such.  It led us into a really interesting conversation about faith and family and myths.  I slept really well for the first time since I got to Ghana, although I did wake up when the generator shut off and it got hot around 3am.

This was in the Cape Coast Museum.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And then Africa Happened

So after my nice cheery post about things going so well yesterday... Africa happened.  You could also call it Murphy's law, but yeah.
We called our driver who was supposed to be free to take us to the store and he was having the car serviced, which just turned out to be a big miscommunication because he didn't know we wanted him to be free.  Then at the mall when we were trying to buy food, my ATM card wouldn't work.  Ack!  I had specifically called my bank* to tell them to NOT shut off my card when I went to Ghana, and I was ticked.  Although I had a phone, I didn't have enough minutes to call the US to talk to them, and it wasn't working on Diana's phone either.   Then I tried online in an internet cafe and the online form wasn't working. Ticked ticked ticked.
Then Diana tried her card and the ATM... ate it.  !!!  When she went to the ATM's bank, they told her they would have to mail the card to her bank in the US, which will then contact her and mail it to her here.  This will probably take months.  Luckily her dad can cover her this summer.  Then I tried that bank's ATM... and my card worked!  So apparently it only works with certain ATMs?  At least it wasn't shut off.
Then there has been the water.
When we woke up the first morning at the University on the 2nd, we had no water because the tank had run out.    We were told not to worry that it wouldn't happen again.  Well yesterday the gardener somehow busted a pipe and they had to shut the water off again to fix it, which they managed to do in only a few hours.  Diana and I had decided to spend the night at her parents house anyway, and when we got there- their tank had run out also.  Seriously?  If there is a water god, I think we angered it somehow.

As a completely off topic side note, I graduated from high school 10 years ago yesterday.  And while I've had ups and downs since then... I had no clue on the day that I graduated that 10 years later I'd be in Africa- how cool :D

*The point of this is not to bad mouth my bank, which with the exception of an aggravating online form, did nothing wrong, so I won't mention it by name.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Settling In

When I post about traveling I'll try to backdate the posts or something; just saying 'last Tuesday' will get very confusing very quickly.  However, this post is not about traveling.... so there! :)

Diana and I moved into the annex of the Denmark House at the University of Ghana on Wednesday afternoon.  The house belongs to the U of Ghana, but the University of Copenhagen has a deal that they can rent it at certain times, including most of this summer.  The main house has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large-ish kitchen, and a sitting room.  The annex has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen and small living room.  We will move to the main house in about a week and a half; until then there are various people from Denmark coming and going and its just easier this way. Both places have an AC unit in the living room that we turn on at night which cools that living room very well and our rooms slightly- but all of the bedrooms have good ceiling fans so it's quite comfortable.  When I first got to Ghana, all I could think about for several days was, I need air conditioning!!!!  Now I think I'm good with a good fan.

Yesterday Diana and I went with our supervisor Michael to Prampram, where we'll be conducting sanitation research.  We met some of the village assembly men and asked their permission to talk to people, which they readily gave.  This community is used to being surveyed because something similar to a DHS (demographic health surviellence) survey occurs there frequently.  This is one reason this place was chosen for the study- they are used to answering somewhat random questions from surveyors.  Our study will be using some of the same people that conduct those other surveys, so they are familiar to the community.

We also went to the Dodowa health research center yesterday, which is where our week of training will occur next week.  Learning how to work with the translators, testing the survey questions, learning how to use the electornic devices to put in the survey answers and capture GIS data.  I'll try to get some pictures of Dodowa and Prampram, but we are very limited in picture taking at the research site for privacy reasons.  I'll post some latrine pictures I'm sure :)

Today through Sunday is our last free time for a while- we pick up Sylvie, a friend of mine from Emory, at the airport tomorrow- she's the 3rd student doing research this summer.  Sylvie and I are doing surveys with 4 Ghanaian translators, and Diana and another translators are doing interviews and more qualitative research.  Today I'm trying to acquire a phone, internet (I'm in an internet cafe), groceries, and a working GI system- Ghanaian food/something finally caught up with me.  But there's a housekeeper that does our laundry and I had a hot shower for the first time in 2 weeks last night, so there are no complaints about Ghana here :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cape Coast, Day 2

                 Tuesday we slept in until around 9 and called our cab driver from the previous day.  Diana worked out a fare with him that he would take us to several places for one fare; essentially we rented him as a driver for the day.  First we went to Kakum nature reserve.  After paying about 15 cedes (Diana paid 2, everything is more expensive for foriegners) we hiked up about 10 minutes to the canopy level of the forest.  We walked on a canopy walk that had 7 suspended walkways with trees at each stop.  There were no harnesses or anything but instead there was rope netting on each side so you wouldn't fall. 

Supposedly you could see lots of animals on the nature reserve, but there was a group of about 50 Ghanaian hair dressers right behind us that were yelling and screaming to each other, so any wildlife that was around would have been quite scared away.  It was still really cool though.
                After the canopy walk, we decided we didn’t want to buy any food there, and that there wasn’t a good chance of seeing animals if we did a different nature walk (the other option was one on the ground), so we left.
                On our way out of the nature reserve we saw a sign for a monkey rehabilitation center, so we had the cab driver pull up to the gate and honk.  A Dutch man came out and we asked if he was open and how much, and he said it was free but asked we give 7 cedes each for food for the animals.  The taxi drove in and we got out, and the guys assistant gave us a tour.  There were several monkeys, 6 crocodiles, a lot of turtles, 2 pythons, and some rodents that looked like raccoons and deer.  

We are cute and very sleepy.  You are bright.

 I am not comfortable being on this ledge.
Lots of different turtles, not the best place to display them. 
Do not like!  Please turn me over!!
The Dutch guy really didn’t want us taking pictures of the animals in the cages, and didn’t want to be called a zoo even though when I asked if they had any sick animals or animals they were planning to release his assistant said no.  It seemed a bit sketchy.  The guy was very nice and did let us take pictures of his pet monkey that he had chained to a tree, 
and I think his point was to teach the locals that monkeys and some of the other wildlife were good for more than just food.  I asked him why he came from the Netherlands to start a monkey reserve in Ghana, and he said he hates what his government is doing and he’s been here about 8 years.  He also says that he doesn’t have mosquito nets at all and gets malaria about once a month, which is no big deal to him.  He was interesting, to say the least.
                After we left the monkey place we stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the university in cape coast, and then headed to Elmina Castle around 4.  They were technically closed when we got there but they let us in and started a new tour for us.  It was similar to Cape Coast Castle but older, and Dutch instead of British.  There is a church in the middle of the castle, on top of the slave dungeons.  If there was ever an example of religion being in the wrong, we were standing on it.

                After seeing the castle we went back to the hotel and the drama began.  We had told the hotel the previous day that we were students and would like a cheaper room for the second night.  So Tuesday night Diana talked to a different person who said they didn’t have a cheaper room but they have a dormitory.  Diana was mad that they didn’t tell us about it the first night, because the dorm was 9 cedes a night per person instead of 24 per person.  So she said we would like to switch rooms, and we decided to shower in our old room where we had our own bathroom, and then switch rooms.  Diana told them I wasn’t in the room but when I came back we would eat and switch rooms.  So we sat down to eat around 8:30… and didn’t get our food until after 10.  Our waiter took our order and didn’t turn it into the kitchen, and then preceded to not check on us for more than an hour.  In the meantime 2 Ghanaian guys joined us at our table for what wound up being a crazy conversation of one of them hitting on Diana, and ticking her off instead of picking her up, and the other trying to explain why he wants to run for office in Ghana.  His reasoning was that he could do good and still make money off the top of federal projects, and we were trying to point out that its people like that that screw up politics.  He was also trying to explain American government to us, saying that Obama didn’t really make decisions as president of the US, there were 4 men that did instead.  But he couldn’t tell us the names of any of the men, so it sounded really ridiculous. 
                After eating we went to change rooms and they wanted us to wait until the next day, but we both complained about how long dinner had taken and they let us switch.  After moving our stuff into the dorm, which we had to ourselves, we were about to turn off the lights when I saw a rat.  And screeched.  Diana was already half asleep so I just climbed onto the top bunk and attempted to sleep.  I saw what I thought were more in the shadows after I turned off the lights, and I heard them rustling a plastic bag.  So I put in earplugs and hoped that the mosquito net would also keep out the rats.  I maybe fell asleep at 2; I kept jumping thinking one was going to crawl on me.  It was a good day overall, just could have ended better is all :P

On to the University

Diana and I got back to Accra from touring on Sunday night, and have been lounging around her parents house for the last 2 days.  Tomorrow afternoon we move to a house at the University of Ghana in Accra (less than 30 minutes away) and will begin training for the research we'll be doing.

I've written most of what we did the past week, but internet is slow here and uploading pictures takes a while, so I'll sporadically post about our sightseeing when I have the time to wait on the interwebs.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cape Coast Day 1

A week ago Diana and I got up and left by about 6:15am to ride into downtown Accra with her dad on his way to work.  It took us about 2 hours to get there because of the sheer volume of traffic and the condition of some of the roads. He dropped us off at a gas station where we bought some snacks for breakfast and got a taxi to the bus station.  We took an air conditioned bus to Cape Coast, I think it took about 2 hours.  Buses here, you buy a ticket, get on, and wait for the bus to fill.  It will only leave when it is full, so sometimes there is quite a wait.  Luckily on a Monday morning it only took about 1/2 hour.
When we got to Cape Coast, we got a taxi to Diana's old boarding school and walked around for a few hours, taking pictures (they are doing some building and renovations), talking to students, and talking to some of the staff she knew when she was a student there. The school was pretty big and apparently one of the best in Ghana.  The dorms looked small to me- I think they were smaller than the ones I stayed in at summer camp, and the girls weren't allowed to have a lot of personal items.  But that's apparently how boarding school works here; Diana loved the school and the girls seemed very happy, so it was a neat place to see :)

 Most places don't have city plumbing, so they buy large tanks of water, which are sometimes connected have running water, and sometimes you just go fill up a bucket for whatever you need to do.
 Some of the kitchen staff Diana knew when she was a student.

After 3 hours at the school we decided the next order of business was getting something to eat.  So we took a cab to Cape Coast Castle and picked a seafood restaurant right next to the castle and preceded to not order seafood.  I'm just not that bold with my GI system yet.  As tourists (and me being white) we had children flock to us when we got out of the bus trying to sell us things and asking our names to write on seashells. One kid entertained us as we ate, turning cartwheels on the beach, and constantly forgetting Diana's name, which she told him was Cecilia.
After eating it was late in the afternoon, so we took a tour of the Castle but didn't have time to see the museum- we caught that later in the week.

Cape Coast Castle is enormous, grand, and horrifying at the same time.  It's surreal to walk around in a place that is so old (1500s) and where you know so much suffering occurred and so many people died.  It seems impossible the amount of people that were crammed into the dungeons, and then made to live in their own filth for months without a bath or being allowed to leave the dungeons.  They have excavated some of the dungeons all the way to the stone, and left others with several inches of sediment on top that is blood, vomit, feces, bones, etc from the slaves that lived and died there.  We walked on it.  It was disgusting to think about. The indentures are canals for all of the above to run out of the dungeons.

This is out tour group looking into what used to be a dungeon, and is now a well.

We saw the door of no return, where slaves were led to the small boats taking them to the slave ships, never to return to their homes again

After seeing the castle we walked down the street to a resort called Oasis that obviously catered to foreigners since the first thing we saw at the bar was a pool table.  They told us the only room they had was an expensive one, about 48 cedes a night (32 American dollars, I know it sounds cheap but its expensive for here).  It was a little hut with a fan, a double bed, and a mosquito net.

The bathroom at least had running water though.  We ate at the bar and tried to sleep in the small bed- minimal success on my part since my body was still mostly on East Coast time. 
This is the view from the resort- that's Cape Coast Castle down the beach.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ghana by Taxi and Trotro

Hello blog world!  In the past few days Diana and I have been to Cape Coast where we saw the infamous castles with slave dungeons, Kakum nature reserve to walk a canopy walk and see a zoo with monkeys, farther west than Axim to see a village on stilts, and are currently in Takoradi.

If you want to know where those places are, go here

Otherwise wait a few days and when I can upload pictures, I'll post them and more information on each place.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mangos and roaches and cows, oh my!

I saw my very first HUGE roach a few minutes ago.  Diana said that when they fumigate the house, it clouds everywhere and roaches will come out to die.  Hopefully most of them will do that out of my eyesight :P

I'm still trying to get my body on Ghana time, but it really wants to wake up at noon and go to bed at 4am (there's a 4 hour time difference here).  This is sort of problematic as people go to bed around 11pm-12am and get up around 7am.  And the roosters get up way earlier.  At least I have these few days of downtime to sort out what time it is :)

Diana and her family live in a large single level house that is walled in, and there are lots of fruit trees in the compound.  I had fresh mango yesterday, and there are also coconut, cinnamon, and orange trees.  The neighbors have bananas, plantains, and tangerines.  It's like living in an orchard :)

Today after Diana's parents came back from Mass, we went to the PramPram beach about an hour from here. We picnicked and played in the sand and let 4-year old Kate splash in the water.  I learned a new card game that seems to be a combination of hearts and something else, playing with Diana's father and her brother Andy.  Also Diana, Andy and I played the spelling game on the way home where you start with a letter and the next person adds a letter, except we could only spell countries.  This might be a new way to get my uncles arguing over geography at Thanksgiving :)

And my first TIA- This is Africa- moment: Driving back from the beach today with the whole family (Diana, Andy, sister Nat, her mom and Dad, neice Kate, and me).  We stopped at a toll at dusk, went under a bridge on a major highway, and Diana goes, COW!  cow cow cow!!! and we swerve to miss several large cows meandering across the road, and then look behind us hoping no one else hit them either.  And everyone in the car starts going, they should NOT be crossing the road there...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Made it to Ghana!

                 Well, I made it to Ghana and have been here about 24 hours.  After some relatively unexciting flights (the best kind), I arrived in Accra about 8pm last night.  Several stops to check visas, luggage, and customs later, Diana found me as I was leaving the airport, about to get enveloped into a throng of people.  Diana is a George Washington University student working on the same project I am.  She is from Ghana and her parents are nice enough to let me stay with them before we travel and before we can get into the house we are staying in at the University of Ghana.
                After dozing most of my 2 flights, I was somewhat awake when I got to their house and then stayed up until 1am playing scrabble with Diana and her brother Andy.  There’s a 4 hour time difference between here at the east coast, so it felt like I went to bed at 9.  It also felt like I woke up at 8, but it was noon . Oops.  Diana and I slept in the family room where there is a big fan, and I migrated back to my guest room around 8am.  Today we went shopping around 3, picking up Kate, Diana’s 4-year old niece from school, and then getting groceries and some other things including a fan for my room. 
                Currently I’m listening to a wonderful African rainstorm outside, a real gully-washer.  That itself might cool things down a bit.  It’s very muggy but not actually as hot as I thought it would be- low 90s I’d estimate.  There’s no air conditioning in the house, which is quite large, but there are screened windows in all of the rooms for a nice airflow.  And since they just had the house fumigated, I don’t have to sleep under a net either.
                I’ll be hanging around their house a few more days before Diana and I travel around the coastal and western regions and maybe as north as Kumasi for about a week.  Later in the summer we might try a weekend east towards Togo, and a weekend north if Diana’s parents will come with us.  Research begins on June 1st through the end of July.  More on that later.
                Happy to be in Africa :D

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On my way...

Leaving for the airport in about 30 minutes, and arriving in Ghana sometime tomorrow night.

Will be staying with a woman in my project for a day or so, and then traveling around for a week before the project starts.  Internet may be spotty, but there will be pictures at some point :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm going to Ghana! and other random news

It's been forever since I've updated this- graduate school eats all of my free time and then some.
7 Quick Takes:

1. I'm going to Ghana!  In 2 days!  For my practicum for grad school I'll be helping conduct a survey about baseline water and sanitation usage/access in a small fishing village outside of the capital, Accra.  Much more to come on this later.

2. I survived another semester of grad school.  This one seemed to be about 3x as much work as the first one, but it was great and I learned a lot.  And worked a lot.  Maybe I'll post on classes at some point.

3. I got back to Atlanta last night after spending a week and a half at home in MD.  Note to self: driving most of 11 hours on about 3.5 hours of sleep is not the best plan. Made it, but so very tired.

4. I have such good friends in many places.  I managed to drive up to Delaware to see Meghan, hang out with Matt and Babs in Gaithersburg, see a bunch of college friends at Julie's wedding, -be- at Julie's wedding!, and see lots of friends at church in Gaithersburg and Blacksburg.  Also got to see youth Sunday in Blacksburg and hang out with the Hunters over lunch.  Good times!

5. I got to see lots of my family too- Dad's side of the family came over for lunch last Friday, minus Stephanie and Arlene in California.  Kate was right, we should have tried to call or Skype them with everyone there. :)

6. My cousins are a lot of fun.  It was extra special to have Kate in town and we got to hang out a lot driving to and from Arlington and at our parents houses.  I'm an only child, but she's the closest thing I have to a big sister, and although I'm sure I get on her nerves like little sisters do sometimes, she's awesome.  Spending time with Charlie and Allison was also great (more cousins), including gallivanting around the Rio shopping center and making our own puppet show with the stuffed animal golf club covers.  Its the closest I've come to being kicked out of a store since college I think :)

7. It's weird being in Atlanta and not in school, and weird that I'm alone in my condo.  I know in a few days this won't even cross my mind, but the few days between visiting home and leaving for Ghana are this weird limbo of feeling like time is crawling yet having tons of things to do.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pensacola Florida in January

From our impromptu we-need-to-get-out-of-ice-covered-Atlanta roadtrip in January.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dude, where's my car?!

If only this were a comedy story.  In hindsight, it's very entertaining, but believe me, at the time it was looking like a tragedy.
So several times I have driven to a shopping center, parked, and caught the bus onto campus.  Now... having seen other people do this, and having done it many times myself with no problems, I thought it was an okay thing to do.  Worse case scenario, I thought I might get a parking ticket. Ha.
So yesterday I come back from class, get off the bus... and my car is not there. !@$@!!! Frantically look around the parking lot, scan my brain- did I drive and park here this morning? I know I drove and parked... it couldn't have been on campus, I don't have a school parking permit... Okay.  I must have been towed.  Trot over to the sign that says such-and-such company will tow if you have been in the lot for more than 24 hours (which I would never do).  It also says private property, will tow if you aren't a customer, etc, etc.  I've seen those signs everywhere and never seen anyone towed. Til now I guess.  So I call the company.  Um, we haven't towed anyone today ma'am.  You should call the police.
....... omg my car is stolen. At this point, I politely hung up and tried not to freak out in the parking lot. Did I lock it? I always lock it, and my car automatically locks anyway.  What else is in my car. @#%! My passport is also in my car from a recent errand.  Who do I call? Roommate to pick me up.
So I call my roommate and ask her if my car is parked outside our place.  She was like no, is your car missing? Yes, I think it was stolen... and proceed to explain. She is also flabbergasted, and agrees to pick me up in a few minutes.  And gives me the police non-emergency number.  So I call and they tell me a different number, which I call and report what happened.  Since I can't recite my license plate number off of the top of my head, they said they will have an officer call me back in a bit and I can give them whatever information they need when I'm home.
So roommate picks me up and drives me home.  Where I proceed to call my insurance company and start the claim process.  I decide not to call my mother until I sort some things out, because I know I'll probably have a break down when I talk to her and need to be professional on the phone to others.  As I'm finishing up with the insurance company, alternating between trying not to freak out and mentally planning how I'm going to live without a car for a while, my roommate comes flying in from her room.  Unbeknown to me, she had been on the phone with the shops where my car was parked trying to see if any of them had a security camera.  About 4-5 calls in, one of them was like, I can't believe there was a theft in broad daylight right in front of our store (this is a very busy intersection).  That's never happened before; are you sure it wasn't towed? Roommate: well, she called the number on the sign and they said they hadn't towed anybody today.  Store: I'm pretty sure I saw a wrecker out there earlier, so someone was towed.  Here's the number we have for a towing agency.

Which is different than the one posted on the sign in the lot.
So my roommate calls the number, describes my car, and low and behold, it sounds like its there.  When she ran in and told me this, I explained it to my insurance agency and said I may have found my car.  They were super nice and were like, that's great!  Call us back and we can either cancel the claim if you have your car, or set you up with a rental tomorrow if it's still missing (presumed stolen).  Geico is awesome, for all of their annoying commericials.
So my roommate takes me into Atlanta into the epitomy of sketch where the car lot is and... it's there!  YAY.
I pay $125 to get my car back, glad to just have my car.  On the way the police calls me back and I explain and they said that's fine, call us back if its not your car, otherwise you are fine, you aren't in the system yet.  This morning I called and canceled my insurance claim.  Still glad to have my car!

So there are a few times that it is not better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.  And I've never been so happy to hear that my car was towed!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1. There will be an epic story of losing and finding my car tonight, but I'll save that for tomorrow.
2. My classes look interesting for the semester, but a LOT of work.
3. I have no idea what I'm doing this summer for my practicum and its beginning to freak me out.
4. My roommate is completely amazing.  Will expand tomorrow.
5. Trivia is my new favorite hobby- go team Tuskegee!
6. It's really fun to road trip somewhere on 24 hours notice.
7. I sent my Christmas cards out this week.  They were only what, 4 weeks late? :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Downtown Atlanta last Wednesday, 3 days after the snow.  Also the first treated road I had seen.

My poor neglected blog...

I'm sorry for disappearing for almost 2 months; things got crazy, and then not, and then I got lazy, and now that spring semester is starting, it's going to get crazy again.
But these are my goals for the future.
Monday: Public Health tidbit
Tuesday: Storytime.  Often from the previous weekend, maybe something I read, maybe something from my childhood.  Who knows.
Wordless Wednesday
Thursday: 7 random things
Friday: Thoughts on something