Thursday, 31 May 2012

Body and Mind

Well, there are a few new developments in that would fall under the "Health" department.  My sunburn is virtually gone and I have quite the nice base tan, which is good.  By my arms seem to have developed some sort of rash?  It's not itchy, nor does it hurt--it's just there.  I am almost positive they aren't bug bites.  Without knowing exactly what it is, I have been applying some aloe (Solarcaine aloe!) to it as the bottle says that it "temporarily relieves pain and itching due to: minor skin irritations (check), sunburn (...sort of check), minor cuts, minor burns, scrapes, and insect bites (highly unlikely check), so it sounds like my bases should be covered.  I am unsure if I had this during the day or not as I wore longer sleeves yesterday, but tt has improved quite a bit since my shower last night. 

Since I have stayed away from beef products since Monday, my stomach has seemed to calm down quite a bit and the nausea has subsided.  Yay!

Perhaps of more pressing concern is my second toe on my left foot.  I was sweeping the floor last night with a shoe brush (haha details to come later), and so I was squatting down sweeping, and all of a sudden my toe started hurting, and it hurts to put any weight on it.  I think I have had something similar in the past, but it always went away the next day.  No such luck today.  I tried walking to work on either side of my left food (avoiding putting pressure on my toe), but that didn't work so well, so I tried curling my toes in, and that seemed to work a bit better.  Hopefully this improves because it's quite a pain walking anywhere--and we do quite a bit of that around here!

Amanda and I haven't done laundry since we arrived here (me two weeks ago, Amanda three) and it's too far to take our laundry someplace and have someone wash them for us.  So last night we went to the Mall and bought a bucket and some laundry detergent and we are going to try our hand at it tonight!  We also picked up some AfricaN cider called Savannah Dry and we are excited to try that as well. 

Our floor in our dorm is very difficult to keep clean due to the red dust that keeps blowing into our room throughout the day.  We once tried sweeping the floors with the sides of our feet with shoes on, and it worked out fairly well, but it was not up to Stacy-clean-standards.  When we were at the mall yesteray, our intentions were to buy a broom, but we knew we didnt want a full-size broom because that would be slightly awkward to take on the taxi, and we already had to carry a large bucket.  So we were looking at one of the smaller brooms that usually come with dustpans.  They were 11 Cedis and we didn't feel as if we wanted our floor cleaned for that type of cost.  Then we saw the shoe brushes....1.98 Cedis.  It was soft and the bristles moved much like a regular broom's bristles, so we thought we would try it.  It actually worked out surprisingly well!!  Despite my toe problem, the room was fairly well swept.  We were happy with our bargain purchase.

There are also these beverages which seem at first glance to pass as flavored milk (Strawberry, chocolate, and banana) and they always seemed to look so tasty.  So we each bought one yesterday (I bought strawberry and Amanda bought banana), and when we got home, we realized it wasn't milk....but Strawberry Drink and Banana Drink.  They were not good.

The Balme Library where I work
In other news, the Balme Library is looking at starting an Institutional Repository so that their students and staff can submit their papers and theses to it (among other document types) which will not only provide permanent and safe storage for the files, but will promote greater access to them for not only members of the University, but for researchers around the world.  U of M has their own similar repository called Deep Blue and Amanda actually mentioned it in our seminar we gave last week. 

Anyway, in order to establish an institutional repository, a policy needs to be written which outlines not only the mission and goals of the repository, but all the information pertaining to submission requirements, instances of withdrawal from the repository, privacy, copyright, etc needs to be layed out so that the library and the community are aware of such policies and can follow them. 

There was a draft version that was written up, and over the past two days, Henry had asked me to look over it, edit it, make improvements and suggestions, etc.  So that is what I have been doing and it's not only been really educational, but it has been fun too.  Another great thing to add to my resume! 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Rain, chocolate, and books

Since Monday, the weather has been cooler and much more manageable, mostly because it's been cloudy and threatening to rain.  The storms here are much cooler than in the U.S. and I have no explanation as to why this is.  Each day I keep hoping it will storm, or even rain, but it held out until this morning.  It rained...but did not storm. 

When it does rain here, our walk to the library becomes much more interesting.  A great time is spent walking on the clay ground, and when it gets wet, it becomes a sticky, slippery, enjoyable little trek through campus.  One day, Amanda almost slipped and fell in the mud, but I was able to grab on to her arm and the two of us made sure she stayed upright. 

Sammy the snail
Today on our walk to the library, not far from our dorm actually, we were watching the ground as we walked, and we were rewarded with a little treat.  I saw a cool sea-shell (or so I thought) and it looked as if it was sitting on a stick.  I looked closer and it was definitely a snail!  Amanda and I have yet to see exotic African elephants, but we have been fortunate enough to see plenty of animals that we can see in the U.S.  Just as any tourist might do, we stopped an took a picture of the African, Sammy the snail. 

Last night, Amanda and I were budgeting our money to see how we were doing and if we might be able to afford an excursion to Mole National Park to see a few more exciting animals than the lizards, goats, chickens, and snails we have come across on our journies thus far. As it turns out, when I planned for this trip, I thought the costs we were given for the trip were in USD, when in fact they were in Cedis.  So I planned for about 900 USD, (about 1600 Cedis), when really I only need 900 I have some extra funds for the trip to Mole National Park (and money to bring back home, which is ALWAYS good when you haven't been paid in a month)!

We looked at the travel guide I brought along, and were trying to figure out the best way to get to Mole National Park.  The best way (hopefully!) would be to take a few buses.  The trip is about 12 hours (not accounting for the time it takes to get the bus running again if it breaks down on the unpaved road) one way, and that's assuming we make it to all the stations on time to get the buses we need to get to Mole.  It might be a hot mess getting there, but every review I have read on Mole, and even after talking with some people here in Accra, it is all worth the hassle. 

We talked to Henry today, and he said we could take next Friday off to attempt our journey to Mole.  It will be nice because that is my last weekend here, and it would be great to finally get to see some African Savannah before I leave on the 13th!  The trip right now is in the beginning stages of planning, but I hope it works out better than our trip to Cape Coast.  We are a bit more street-smart and know where to go in Kaneshie to get our bus and our tro-tro back to campus (and where we need to get off the tro-tro to get to our dorm).  So hopefully, it will be much easier this time for us.

Before I left for Ghana, I was at home for Mother's Day and my brother's birthday and my dad and stepmom (Jennifer) and I were talking about Ghana and how it was a large producer of cocoa.  I said then that I wanted to try and find some, but since I landed here, my brain has been preoccupied with other things.  Jennifer emailed me this morning and asked if I had found the chocolate, and at that point we had only found imported chocolate from South America, Netherlands, and the U.S. (maybe a few other places as well).  This morning, I asked Henry where we could get some Ghanaian chocolate made from Ghanaian cocoa, and there's a place right across from the library.  So for 3 Cedis, I bought some! 

It is quite different from a Hershey's bar, it has more of a cocoa taste to it than Herhsey chocolate...and it definitely won't melt as quickly.  It's not bad at all (it gets a bit addicting after a while), but, like many things we have tried so far, it wasn't what we imagined it would be. 

When I packed for this trip, I only packed 4 books, 1 book for each plane I would ride on my trip to and from Ghana.  All four books where in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and sadly, I am on my last book.  It gets dark here so early (and we are exhausted from work), that Amanda and I tend to stay in and read on weeknights.  As a result of that (and the addicting nature of the books), I am running on empty.  Luckily, there is a bookshop right next door to the Library we work at.  It is probably comparable in size to the Lansing Mall Barnes and Noble (smaller than Ann Arbor location) and it has a lot of different books from fiction (a lot of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Patricia Cornwell) to non-fiction, textbooks, and a (not surprisingly) large collection of African heritage materials.  We were planning on stopping there today at lunch, but it was raining.  So we are stopping there tomorrow! (My brother proceeds to point out that I work at a library, but because we are not students and our time here is short, we are unable to check out books.)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Halfway through already?

It's really hard to believe that my plane departs from Accra in 15 days....where has the time gone?!  I think it's really cool, but I wish there was more time to see the really cool things you come to Africa to see, such as the wildlife. 

We went to Kakum National Park where we should've seen elephants, monkeys, birds, butterflies, and maybe a warthog, but because of how many kids were on their field trip and all the yelling they did on the Canopy Walk, I think the animals were scared away.  Amanda and I really wanted to see the elephants.

There is another, much larger national park here in Ghana called Mole National Park (pronounced Mo-lay), but it's about a 12 hour bus ride....and rumor has it the roads are absolutely atrocious and a lot of times the buses and tro-tros break down for several hours, which adds to the time it takes to get to the park.  There are also several different transfers we have to make and with how unscheduled the public transportation is here, it is unlikely we will be able to try and get to Mole without a longer 3 or 4 day weekend.  It looks like during our time here we won't have another holiday weekend.

So, we have been trying to find other places where we might be able to see the Elephants.  Other animals of course would be desirable such as a lion, leopard, zebra, giraffe, warthog and all the animals from The Lion King, but we want to see the elephants the most.

At Cape Coast Castle
We had a meeting with a staff member here at the library, Mrs. Adanu (she LOVES hearing our tales of woe and success) to talk about our upcoming presentations, and she asked about our long weekend.  We told her we didn't see any animals (she, like everyone else was shocked to hear this), and she said the absolute best place to see animals in Africa was in Kenya.  If only our stay was longer, and we had our visa for Kenya.  Oh, the tales we would have to tell. 

I found this extremely helpful and informative site for Ghana's Wildlife Division which lists some of the national parks and wildlife reserves.  I checked out all of our viable options, and the best bet might be to go to Digya National Park as it is much closer to Accra than Mole is, and it's right near the man-made Volta Lake, which would be pretty cool to see as well. 

I pay Amanda for my half of the dorm cost later today, and then I can see how many cedis I have left, and budget the rest of my stay and see what type of excursion we can afford to do/have time left for.  Hopefully we can squeeze in an elephant siting here in the next 15 days!

Anyway, during our meeting with Mrs. Adanu (she is great, by the way), we found out about our remaining presentations we had to give.  I was originally slated to give a presentation on how to use Endnote and another presentation on how to use Mendeley.  Last week we were told that the Mendeley presentation was pushed back until after I leave Africa, so Amanda would be handling that one, but I was still on for EndNote. 

Yesterday, however, I was told that the presentation for EndNote was pushed back until the 15th, which is two days after I leave.  I was a little bummed about this because I have already put some work into preparing for the presentation.  Mrs. Adanu said that I would probably present to just her, and then she would use that information to teach the students and staff here once classes resume. 

I have been working on the digitization workflow for a few days now, and I think I am making some progress.  We have a meeting with a woman tomorrow (I can't think of her name right now) to go over what we have so far, and then I think we hopefully get to help her draft a document for the library's workflow.  We also get to check out a book scanner here tomorrow!! 

A few random thoughts I had earlier today that I wanted to share before I forgot:
Beef Burger at Castle Restaurant in Cape Coast
  • While we were on our way to Kakum National Forest, I saw a few men on the side of the road clearing away some brush with a machete--this reminded me of the machete we got for our dad for Christmas this year and it made me smile to see a machete actually being real life (I've seen it in movies, but this was cool)
  • Since the much desired burger was eaten on Saturday, my stomach has been on the rocks, and was made worse yesterday when we had some beef with our lunch (small stray away from Chicken and rice like usual. Henry showed us how to get to a place called Time Out which serves Ghanaian food, as well as Chinese!). I think I will stay away from the beef here, and wait until I land in Atlanta to get a burger from McDonald's! 
  • They eat a lot of spicy food here, and during the week (M-F), Amanda and I can grow a bit tired of it from eating it for lunch.  However, the weekend arrives and we struggle to find food to eat as dining halls are closed and places to eat are a really far walk (at least a half hour), and we don't have a fridge.  So food is slim pickin's on the weekends and usually consists of bread rolls and Danish butter cookies.  But come Monday or Tuesday, we are quite excited to eat the spicy food.  I'm actually getting quite used to it, and thought to myself today that I could probably move up to a hotter sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings when I get back! 
  • Trevor asked me how hot it was here today, and it's about 81F with a humidity of 84%, so it feels like 87F.  I think I am getting used to heat because it definitely feels more like 79-80F. Yesterday I hear Ann Arbor was 95F--it was definitely hotter in AA than in here in Accra! 
  • Speaking of global, I remember when I was in Amsterdam how I really wanted to buy some ceramic blue and white dutch shoes made in the Netherlands, but chose not to because I wanted to make sure I had enough money for here in Ghana.  That was a silly idea.  ALWAYS buy Dutch shoes while in the Netherlands....even if you're in an airport.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Holiday Weekend Part II

So we set out from Cape Coast Castle and started walking to our hotel.  We had to stop and ask some ladies if we were on the right road, and she said that we were, but that the distance was too far and we would want to take a taxi.  We were doubtful of this as the previous woman also suggested this to us, and we could definitely walk that distance.  Plus, we wanted to save a few cedis.  So we decided to walk.

Amanda had her backpack on, and I was carrying my duffle bag.  After a short while, it became quite painful to carry my duffle bag, as I couldn't carry it on both shoulders.  According to our guidebook, the walk should have been about a mile and a half. 

We kept walking. 

We kept walking.

And we kept walking.  Soon it was dark and in Ghana, it gets dark around 6, 6:30 and that just made the walking a bit more interesting.  I just checked on Google maps and we walked 3.2 miles and it took us about an hour to get to our guesthouse.  We should have taken a taxi.

About a 100 yards away, we saw this couple walking in the same direction to the guesthouse, so we asked them if they knew how far it was.  They said it was just up the road and that they were staying there too.  The guy saw that I was grimacing from carrying my duffle bag, so he offered to carry it the rest of the way.  They were both really friendly and showed us where reception was.  We got there, and we told the man beind the counter, Charles, that Amanda had called the night before and reserved a room.  He looked a bit surprised at this news, and said that they were all booked up for the evening (we were hoping we were included in the booked up part), and he wanted to call and ask his colleague. 

It was confirmed that his colleague thought we were due one night earlier, and there were no rooms for us.  We walked so far, only to find out we didn't have a place to stay.  Charles was talking to us for a bit, and we found out that he went to school in Minnesota and lived in the U.S. for 30 years, but now he's returned to Ghana.  So that was neat.  He knew about U of M and about Ann Arbor and it was nice to have him there to talk to. 

Charles apologized profusely and offered to take us to another guesthouse that might have a room available for us.  The three of us took a taxi to the C-Lotte guesthouse, only to find out that all 16 of their rooms were full.  We then took another taxi to another hotel, of which we can't remember the name of, which was also booked for the night.  We took another taxi to a third hotel, Fespa, which had 60 rooms, all of which were booked, because it was a holiday weekend, and because there were a lot of events going on in Cape Coast.  We called all the numbers in our guidebook for places to stay, and all were booked.  Charles offered to take us back to Sarahlotte and he said we could stay in his small single room for the night, and he would sleep elsewhere.  We didn't know what else to do or anywhere else to go, so we took him up on the offer.  My sunburn was peeling and we were gross from walking, so we really needed a shower, and some sleep. 

We went back to Sarahlotte for the night, and had our showers.  Only the shower only worked sporadically, and the water would keep shutting off, and for me at least, wasn't very strong.  It was a really short shower.  We had new sheets on the bed and fell asleep almost instantly.

The next day, we had breakfast at Sarahlotte and it was...thunderstorming.  We had breakfast which consisted of two bread rolls and some eggs.  When we were done eating, the rain had stopped.  We went to pay for our stay, but Charles said it was their fault that they didn't have a spot for us, so they only wanted us to pay for breakfast. 

A family tradition of taking pictures at park signs!
We took a taxi to a station where we could get a tro-tro to Kakum National Park, which was about a 40 minute ride away.  We hadn't ridden a tro-tro on our own before, so we were a bit nervous about it.  We asked one of the other passengers how much it cost (2 cedis) and when we should tell the driver to let us off.  Luckily, the driver knew we needed to get off at the park, so that part was easy.

We arrived at the park, and had to pay 1 cedi to walk to reception.  At reception, there was a huge line because a lot of students were there on a field trip.  It cost us I think 12 or 15 cedis to enter the actual park.  I checked my duffle bag at the desk and we got our little badges that let us into the park. 

Canopy walkway
We were the last to join a group, and we were off.  Our tour guide was a self-proclaimed tree expert and he knew a lot about the trees in the park....which isn't all that surprising because he had worked there for 30 years!  We had a huge hike up to the top where we loaded onto a tree platform.  What is really neat about Kakum is there are 7 walkways built by Canadians through and above the canopy, so we could look down on tops of trees.  Amanda has all the pictures of me walking along the canopy on her camera, and I have all the ones of her on my camera.  Go figure.

Looking down on trees from the walkway
We were supposed to be able to see monkeys and elephants, but we saw neither.  We could only cross the walkways in groups of three.  I was with these two people who were both from Sweden.  They were both so nice.  We crossed all 7 walkways and found out that the walkway is more than 1,000 feet long, at it's highest point, we were about 130 feet from the ground on the walkway, and at its lowest, about 75 feet from the ground.  The last man in our group, was 79 years old, and as he was crossing the last bridge, he said he saw an elephant down below.  We were a little disappointed we didn't get to see any. 

Another view of the forest from the walkway
After we finished going through the forest, we knew we needed to get back to Cape Coast so we could take a bus back to Accra.  We thought we could take a tro-tro back, but because it was a market day, all of the tro-tros that came to Cape Coast returned to Accra with food to sell in the markets.  Our only other option was to take a taxi back.  The driver said it would be 20 Cedis (!) back to Cape Coast.  He saw two people and asked if they were going to Cape Coast and they were.  And it was the Swedes we met on the walkway!  So we shared the taxi with them so it only cost each of us 5 cedi, which was much more doable. 

We dropped off the Swedes and then arrived back in Cape Coast.  Our driver told us that the buses stopped running at 1 (it was now 2:30), so our only option of getting back to Accra was to take a van....which is a bit bigger than a tro-tro....but still sits 20 people.  We bought our tickets (6 cedi) and waited for the van to fill up with people.  We were in the very back seat of the van, and in between me and Amanda was this woman and her 2ish year old daughter, and next to me was another woman and her 5 or 6 year old daughter.  There were A LOT of women in this van with a fair amount of kids; only 4 men.  Oh, and there was definitey a goat under our seat in the back of the van because someone was selling the goat in Kaneshie.  So that was fun.  We don't usually allow goats on public transit. 

The van ride was fine for the most part; less comfortable than the bus ride, and a far more breastfeeding that I could have lived without seeing, but it was fine.  Until we hit traffic just outside of Accra.  Luckily, our driver didn't want to sit in traffic, so we off-roaded it along with a few other vehicles.  This saved us at least an hour's time, but was far more bumpy and really taxing on the van....I know I would never put my car through that!  One of the vans or tro-tros got stuck ahead of us, so one of the guys from our van went to help push it out. 

Inside one of the tro-tros we rode in over the weekend.
It took us a really long time to get to Kaneshie, but we arrived around 7:30, 8.  It was already dark.  And with how busy Kaneshie is, it was quite stressful because it was dark, there were people every which way trying to get you to buy stuff (two guys even grabbed me by the arm quite forcefully to try and get me to buy stuff, and I yanked it back), we weren't sure where we needed to go, and we were trying to figure out exactly where we were.  It was as stressful as our trip got.  And we were tired.  But we asked a bus driver where to get a tro-tro to Accra.  He pointed us in the direction we needed to go, and from there we further refined our search by asking a few more people for the right tro-tro. 

We got on the tro-tro and just had to wait for it to fill up with people before we could leave.  We got off at the University (at the opposite end of where we wanted to be) and had to walk through campus to get to our dorm.  It was a very long weekend, and it was nice to not do a single thing on Sunday (besides go to the pool of course and work on our tans!).  Both Amanda and myself slept a lot on Sunday, and were even in bed by 9 last night. 
At Kakum in the walkway

Holiday Weeknd Part I

In the U.S., we celebrate Memorial Day today.  In Ghana, they do not celebrate Memorial Day today, but on Friday, they celebrated Africa Unity Day, so we also had a long weekend this past weekend.  Since we had a 3 day weekend, Amanda and I decided to try and see a few things further out from Ghana.  We decided to try our hand at checking out Cape Coast

Cape Coast, Ghana
Thursday night, we called a place called the Sarahlotte Guesthouse and tried to make a reservation for Friday night.  Amanda was talking to the man on the phone, and he said we were confimed for Friday night for two people.  We were relieved we could do this on our own without having to ask a friend here to talk with the person on the other end.  It's a bit challenging trying to understand the accents here, and it's definitely 20 times more challenging while trying to do it over the phone.  We used my Ghana travel guide to figure out where we needed to pick up a bus, and where the important spots were for us to go.  We did a wee bit of packing Thursday night as we were leaving bright and early Friday morning.

Friday arrived, and we woke up and finished gathering our things.  Amanda packed her stuff in her backpack, and since I forgot to bring my backpack, I had to use my duffle bag I got from has turned out to be quite the useful little thing.  We took a taxi to an STC bus station near the Kaneshie market, about 30 minutes away.  We were dropped off at the bus station, and we found out that we had just missed the bus going to Cape Coast.  Our travel book had said that they usually leave at 9:30, so we wanted to be early.  We arrived at 8:40, and should have had plenty of time.  For whatever reason, the bus left early that day.  The next bus wasn't leaving for Cape Coast until 2:30....that was too long of a wait and we needed to get their sooner.  The lady at the STC counter helped us figure out where to get a different bus, a Metro Mass Transit bus, and so we walked about 20 minutes to that station.

To do so, we walked through Kaneshie which is a true market place, with people everywhere trying to sell you something.  It was best if we kept our heads down and ignored the people who were trying to get our attention...otehrwise we would be there for a really long time.  We finally arrived at the area where they had the buses, and we just had to find the bus we needed.  We found the bus, bought our tickets for 4.50 cedis, and took our seats.  There were probably seats for 60 people, and I believe the bus was full.  We started our trip to Cape Coast!

Cape Coast was a 3 hour bus ride from Accra.  It was rainy the morning we left for Cape Coast, which made for a semi-pleasant bus ride because it was cooler, but less pleasant when we had to walk in the rain to get to the bus!  The ride was pretty uneventful which was good.  People started requesting stops about a half hour out from Cape Coast, so we knew we were getting close.  The bus system and tro tro system is a bit undefined here.  If you need to get off, I think you can just yell, "bus stop!" and then they stop shortly after that.  Because they do speak their own dialect, this part is still a bit confusing to us.

Cape Coast Castle

We arrived in Cape Coast, at a stop different than what was shown in our book. We walked up a road trying to find the Cape Coast Castle, which is a castle built by Swedish traders for trade in timber and gold. Later the structure was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which it is more notably known for today. We kept walking and found a loadge which was listed in our book, and decided we needed to turn around and go back the way we came. So we started walking back the other way. The road started to go uphill, which didn't make sense to us if we needed to go down by the ocean. So we stopped and looked at our book (it was still raining at this point), and this woman asked us if we needed help. Apparently being an Obruni and looking at a book screams "Tourist!" She said it was too far of a walk to get to the castle, and that we wanted to take a taxi. Conviently, a taxi pulled up. He offered to take us to the castle for 4 cedis. We decided that was fair because she said it was far away.

We got there shortly after that, and decided that we could have walked it.  But we were dropped off at the Castle, and the taxi driver asked if he could pick us up tomorrow and take us to the Kakum National Park.  We said we weren't sure and he gave me his number so we could call if we decided we needed a taxi. 

While I was getting the number, Amanda was approached by two men who had market stands just outside the castle.  When I was finished getting the number, I turned around and then they approached me.  My new friend's name was John, and I don't know the name of the guy who kept talking to Amanda.  But they asked us to check out their shops after we were done eating. 

View from our table of the Atlantic
We walked to the restaurant which was right next to the Castle, called Castle Restaurant.  On our walk to the restaurant, we finally saw the Atlantic Ocean!!  We were really excited.  We took a few pictures, and then went inside.  It was a nice place with ocean side views, and we of course took one of those seats.  Our guide book said that this place had Beef Hmaburgers, and by golly they sure did!  We were so excited, and we ordered ours with cheese.  We also haven't been able to find much cheese here either. 

Pig on the beach!
As we were waiting for our food, we watched the ocean and the actions taking place on the beach.  We saw a dog with a collar, a pig, a goat, a sheep, and some birds.  We also saw a few people.  The pig was the one that took the cake, as we hadn't yet seen one of those walking around.  There was a little boy down on the beach who asked me to take his photo.  I agreed, and then he asked me for something to drink, which I didn't have.  It was quite sad, actually. 

Our food came, and our burgers were so delicious!  Our buns were real thick and they put ketchup, onion, lettuce, tomato, and (I think) goat cheese on it.  It was perfect.  After lunch, we walked back to the castle, and were approached by the two men who first approached us, carrying jewelery they wanted us to try on.  We said "no, thank you," and walked into the castle.  We paid for our tickets (7 cedis for entrance, another 2 cedis to take pictures), and checked our bags so we didn't have to carry them anymore.  We checked out the museum first and learned a little more about the castle, and refreshed our memories on the slave trade as well as the triangular trade (which I was surprised at how much I remembered from 8th grade!).  After we checked out the museum, we met our tour guide, Isaac.  He did a great job with our tour, explaining all the ins and outs of the castle.

Condemned slaves cell door
We learned about the oldest door in the castle was over 300 years old and was still used today.  The door led to the condemned slave cell, where those slaves who tried escaping the castle were kept until they died.  It was a small room which  housed 100 men at one time.  There was no light, no food, no water and the men relieved themselves on the floor and they were kept in there.  Isaac said it took about 5 days for them to die, and when they died, their bodies were thrown into the ocean.  While we were inside, he shut the door and turned out the light for 5 seconds so we could see how dark it was in there.  He said many of the men were blind by the time they died. 

We also saw the female slave dungeon where they were kept until they were sent overseas.  I think there were 2 chambers for about 500 women, and they were fed through a small opening to the left of the door, and there were 3 tiny window openings up near the top of the chambers which were their only sources of light. 

4 out of the 5 chambers in the male dungeon
We then saw the men's slave dungeon, which held 1,000 men in 5 different chambers.  The first chamber was separated from the remaing 4, and was reserved for the strongest slaves. The men kept in the other four chambers could move about them (assuming there was room to walk).  The line on the floor going down the center of the doorway to the chambers is actually a small drain which would carry the urination and the feces out to the ocean.  The slaves were kept together with their own waste.  There was not much ventilation either.  One tiny window up near the top of the chamber was their only source of light. 

The 5th chamber had a tunnel that led to the boats the slaves were put on. It was narrow tunnel, and they were shackled and chained together in single file lines, and walked their last steps in Ghana before getting onto the boat.  There is a shrine now where the entry used to be.  It was sealed off after salvery was abolished in Europe.  There is a line of flowers on the left wall for those who passed through here.  When President Obama and the First Lady came out here in 2009, they left some flowers here as well (and they are still there).  As a side note, we talked to Henry, and we found out that Ghana loves Obama.  We see billboard with his and Michelle's picture on them quite frequently, more than we do in the U.S. 

Fishing boats at Cape Coast
When our tour was finished, we explored a little bit of the Castle on our own and got some neat pictures.  Just outside the Castle to the right where a lot of fishing boats and we saw a few men preparing their boats and fishing nets. 

After we took some pictures, we decided we needed some pictures by the ocean.  So we lef the castle (after stopping at the gift shop where I was able to buy a hand sewn purse and a Fante mask!) and walked to the beach just outside the restaurant we ate at for lunch.

We were really excited about seeing the ocean, so when we got there, we walked out too far, and a huge waves crashed into us and we almost fell over in our clothes!  It was SO fun and the water felt really great.  We relocated a bit and took a few pictures of the us and the water. 

I'm a regular old market woman
As Amanda was taking my picture, two boys selling stuff to eat approached her and started talking to her.  When I showed up, they asked if we wanted to try putting the plate of food on our heads.  So they let us!  We see a lot of Ghanian women sell stuff in the streets using their heads and it is really cool. 

Kids asking Amanda for money
After these two guys left, a herd of little kids came running up to us and asked if we could take their picture, and then asked for some pesawas for some water.   Amanda looked in her purse for some loose change, but didn't have enough to share.  They had tiny little hands, and tried to pickpocket Amanda, and one little boy hit my butt to see if I had any money in my back pockets.  I did not.  It was getting a bit late, so we decided to try and find our Guesthouse where we were hoping to stay for the night.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Small Bout of Homesickness

I have officially been here in Ghana for one week, and I am already feeling a little homesick.  I started to notice it a little bit on Sunday just after Amanda and I walked a half hour to Bonjour for dinner.  I was really missing my family and being at home in a place that felt familiar to me.  I know I still have 20 days left here (which really isn't that much!), but I thought if I wrote about it a little bit, then I might feel a little beter. 

It's been nice having Amanda here to talk with because we both seem to miss the same things.  One of the things we miss the most (besides our family and friends) is the food in the United States.  Particularly, red meat.  The only meat we have had here has been chicken, which is fine, but once in a while all you need is a hamburger or a steak.  The places where we have gone to eat have advertised beef, but each time we ask for it, we are told "no" or "we don't have it."  We have been told no so many times that we are starting to wonder if there will ever be beef on during our time here. 

While there is a pizza place here, we miss the great variety in types of food in the United States.  We realize now that that we have taken that for granted.  With the exception of the banku we have tried the other night at Chez Afrique, we have mostly eaten chicken and rice (the chicken here isn't boneless, which we aren't particularly used to as we tend to eat and buy chicken breasts in the U.S.), a few fried plantains, and a few cookies that we have bought from the various stores here.  We were able to find Oreos here and some Lays potato chips, so that is pretty cool.  It's kind of funny, but every night Amanda and I talk about all the food we are going to eat as soon as we land in the U.S. airports.  I think McDonalds is high up on that list.  Birthday cake has been talked about a lot too.  We miss birthday cake and soft serve ice cream.

It's a bit challenging for us to find food to eat here (more so on campus than anywhere else) because the buildings aren't labeled as they are say at Calvin or at U of M.  We aren't sure what door to use and if the building is even the building we think it is, and so it can be a bit unnerving, but luckily people here are nice and we can ask them for help and most of them will help you.

Another thing I really miss about the U.S. are the road rules.  No so much the driving rules, but the pedestrian right-of-way rules.  There is one particular road we have to cross within campus that isn't particularly wide, but there is a lot of traffic that moves through it.  We always fear for our lives as we cross, because as I mentioned before, the cars here won't stop.  They will hit you.  It's terrifying.  Another aspect of the road we miss is in the U.S., when you use a taxi, there is a certain rate per mile that you pay, regardless of where you go.  We miss that aspect of traveling so much.  As obrunis, we always feel like we pay more than we should, even after we try our hand at bartering.  I definitely did not budget enough transportation money when I planned for this trip.  Yikes!

I like to travel and see new things and try new things, but I feel a little lonely at times and am excited to come back to the U.S. and see everyone again.  And sleep in my own bed!  There are definitely parts of Ghana that I will miss when I return home such as the friendliness of the people (the American girls we see on campus are not so friendly....they actually pretend not to see us, which is a bit odd and doesn't make us Americans look all that great).

For now, things are definitely more than okay.  Neither of us have yet to get sick from the food or the mosquitos, so we have that to be extremely grateful for. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Dreams in Ghana

So during my time here, I have had some crazy dreams, (some of them reccuring) but the one I had last night definitely takes the cake.  I was telling my friend from UM about it, and she said I should include this in my blog.  So here goes!

A few of my friends from Michigan came to visit me here in Ghana.  We were at this restaurant eating and watching the news because Accra was due for a severe thunderstorm.  There were a line of tornadoes to the west of Accra, so we were now under a tornado watch. 

I hate tornadoes.  Apparently the bartender did as well, because he gave everyone free samples (about 4 ounces) of beer.  We were drinking our beer and watching the TV.  I was saving my little 4 ounces until it was confirmed we had a warning.  My brother Trevor then appeared...seemingly out of nowhere, and I was happy to see someone from my family there.  He sat next to me and as I was talking to my friend George about the weather, (we took a meteorolgy class together at Calvin) Trevor had consumed my beer.  I was not happy and may have raised my voice and hit him the shoulder.  He then left the table (I assumed to get me some beer) and at the point, the meteorolgist on TV showed some weather arrows and confirmed that we had a tornado warning. 

All of my friends from UM had dispersed in search of the tornado shelter (it was about a 30 minute walk from where we were eating).  I went to go get Trevor because I didnt want to get in trouble for not getting him when I got back home (in the off chance that he died in the tornado, of course).  But as I got Trevor, I saw my dad there!  I was so happy!  The three of us started to walk to the car (apparently he drove the trailblazer over the ocean) and looked up at the clouds.  We noticed that the clouds were actually HUGE waves from the ocean.   They started to crash into the area where we were and everything was being flooded (these waves were more than 12 stories high!!!).  As we were standing still in awe of our impending doom, my brother Brandon approached us.  He walked with us to the car, but he wouldn't get in.  I tried my best to persuade him to get in the car because it was much quicker at this point to drive to the tornado shelter as opposed to walking.  He still refused to get in the car.

My dad then just started to drive and apparently this caught Brandon's attention, and he finally jumped in the car.  I get a phone call to my cellphone and I answer it.  The woman on the other end says to me, "Hi Stacy, it's Grandma.  How is your time in Disney World with Kelly?"  (Kelly is my cousin) only the voice didn't sound like my Grandma's sounded like a wavering Kelly voice.  I found out Kelly was trying to impersonate our Grandma's voice.  As I was trying to figure out what was going on, my dad was driving and there in the crowd was Kelly, wearing her Michigan State sweatshirt and some shorts. 

My dad stopped the car, and Brandon and I ran out to her.  Kelly was in a dazed state, and we were trying to tell her what was going on with the floods and tornado.  It was a struggle, but Brandon and I convinced her to get in the car with us. 

My dad pulled up to the tornado shelter which was similar to a big cave.  We each piled out of the car and started to enter the cave with the other Ghanaians around us.  We heard this huge noise, and there were flood gates which were probably close to 40 stories tall that were being shut to try and keep the water from coming in and drowning everyone (or at least give everyone some more time to get to safety). 

For some reason unbeknownst to me, there were a few glass windows about a story tall within the walls of the floodgates.  These started to shatter and water flowed in through them.  The five of us started to run into the cave.  At this point, Brandon commandeered a rogue camel, and tried fighting the bad guys on the other side of the floodgate (beacause, apparently there were bad guys who were controlling the water and the floods?).  I yelled and yelled for Brandon to get into the cave, and decided that I couldn't save him and ran into the cave.  Brandon then got off the camel and said, "Okay, I have done all that I can" and headed into the cave.

Then I woke up. 

Mid-week adventures

Chameleon at the Library
I know in yesterday's post, I mention not yet being able to take a picture of a chameleon, but we were able to at lunch!  There was a really cool, large, blue and pink chameleon running around, but he was too fast to capture on film.  We will get him sometime before we leave.  However, I was able to get a picture of a smaller, less colorful, slower moving guy.  We see them all over in the library courtyards and it is really cool.   The bigger, more colorful ones are more fun to try and chase.  We have seen a few outside of the library--and actually, last night, one snuck into our room!!

We had just arrived at home after walking our half-hour walk from the library.  Amanda was getting ready to head out to the International Students Hostel (ISH) to grab some dinner, and I was preparing for my nightly shower.  Just as she shut and locked the door, I saw a chameleon (this one was blackish with some colored spots) scurry into the room just as she shut the door.  I wanted to make sure I saw what I thought I saw, and I did.  Amanda had the key and locked the room (apparently by locking the door from the outside, you are locking the other person inside the I could get out).  I quickly yelled, "wait, open the door!" and Amanda came back.  I told her what I saw and she peeked under the ledge on our Armoire and saw the lizard who wanted to be friends with us.  We both agreed that we didn't want to touch it with our bare hands, Amanda even admitted that if it touched her skin, she would scream.  It was close the floor, so we both switched into closed-toe shoes as we thought the best idea would be to try and coaxe it out of our room by using our feet.  He was far to big to squish (and would probably leave quite a mess).  We grabbed plastic bags and wrapped them around our hands in case it came down to that.

Amanda after we cleared the room of our lizard friend
Amanda tried nudging the little guy out of the door, but he wouldn't move.  I gave it a go, and he still wouldn't move.  We didn't have any large sticks or hangers to try and persuade him to leave at a distance, so we used one of our 1.5 Liter water bottles.  I used the top of the water bottle and he moved.  He dropped to the floor, and then I think Amanda nudged him once more with her foot and he finally ran outside.  We were safe from the lizard in our room. 

Later that night other nature things came to stay with us.  We had a hopping spider which set up came right next to my bed (he was later eliminated), Amanda was haunted by a lone mosquito during the night.  Several times she kept trying to squish him with her book or her hand, and every time she kept missing.  This morning, I killed a mosquito in our room; Amanda thinks it was a different mosquito than the one she tried to kill. 

One of the birds found in Ghana
There are also some really beautiful birds that live here in Ghana.  On our walk home yesterday, we saw one of them sitting on the head of a statue just outside the library.  This particular bird has a really pretty blue color.  There are other birds around here that have a deep blue and green color to them, and it's shiny, almost metallic-like.  They are so pretty and I hope to get a picture of one before I leave.  There are black birds which have a white feather collar around their necks, and a little bit into their chests: I was thinking of describing it as a tuxedo bird (similar to a penguin), but I think a black bird wearing a white neck tie is more descriptive.  These birds are quite large and we've seen them near our dorm..actually by the termite mounds!

This morning Amanda and I had to present a seminar to some graduate students and senior library staff on digitization.  We gave introductions to ourselves, our program at the University of Michigan, as well as our library system.  I then gave a brief introduction to digitization, based on what I have learned from a few of my classes while at SI.  I think I did a fairly decent job of trying to give an overview of the digitzation process, as well as a few different types of digitization scanning projects.  Amanda then covered information on Metadata and the Access sides of digitization.  We then provided some examples of digitial repositories online and gave them a few insights into the potential of digitization at any given library.  We were reminded in the beginning to slow down our speech, because the Ghanaians aren't used to our accents (it's weird to think that we have accents!).  I think we both struggled with this initially, but were better at it by the end.  Henry, one of the guys we work with here at the library, said we did a very good job with our presentation and he was impressed.  He then joked (hopefully) that we would give another presentation to consulars and heads of the university because we were so good at it.
The Director of the Library, Henry, Me, and Amanda before our presentation
One last thing I wanted to mention for now was the library is still undergoing a little bit of construction.  A lot of the stairs were built for skinny people, so they are constructing another set of stairs and making them wider.  We have at times seen some men working on the new staircase, and how they are constructing it is quite cool, I thought.  To the left is a photo now of what they are doing.  I am not sure if this is common in the U.S. to do concrete construction this way (as I haven't seen much!), but I thought it was cool to see how they build their buildings.  It is really impressive how they have the wooden frames up as they do near the top of the photo. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Picture Commentary

A few days ago (I believe on Friday), I noticed that the computer I am working on had a slot for camera memory cards.  I stuck mine in and because I have a Memory Stick Pro Duo, it kind of got stuck.  It was no big deal as I am the only one who uses this computer, and I had another memory stick. 

Here is my sunburn! 
The plan was for me to bring some tweezers yesterday after some failed attempts at trying to remove the memory stick with a bobby pin, a toothpick, ballpoint pen, and a key.  With my sunburn I had obtained over the weekend, I was quite sore and not even sure I was well enough to make it in to work yesterday.  As a result, the tweezers were forgotten. 

I did, however, remember them today!  Amanda has been much better at taking photographs than I have been (I keep forgetting to bring my camera along), but that will change as of today.  During my time here, I have been able to snap a few pictures, but none worthy enough to warrant a really cool Facebook Photo Album yet.  As a result, I will post a few of the good ones I have been able to take here. 

The first picture above is of my sunburn I obtained on Sunday.  The entire time we were outside was completely overcast.  I remember my dad telling me that you can always get a tan so long as you can see your shadow.  I mentioned this to Amanda, and we looked for shadows, but couldn't see any (and it wasn't even noon yet!).  So we thought we would be okay.  As it turned out, I was not.  After we jumped in  the pool the first time, Amanda said that I was starting to look a little pink.  I then sprayed A LOT of sunscreen on my back and rest of my exposed areas.  Alas, it was too late.  I was looking okay until late Sunday night.  Yesterday on our walk to the library, I wore a cardigan to cover my back, but because it was so hot outside, I developed a few small blisters on my upperback near my right shoulder.  Ibuprofen and aloe are my friends.

Chickens at the pool
I am not sure if I mentioned this earlier or not, but here in Ghana, there are chickens, horses, and goats roaming about freely, and we actually saw some chickens chilling out by the pool on Sunday!  I have seen chickens before (for a few weeks in my neighbor's backyard!) but never just out and about.  If they were my chickens, I would lock them up in my own yard.  Interestingly enough, there may have been a third chicken running about before be got there, because we when arrived at the pool, there was a man definitely grilling some chicken skewers.  We have also seen a gecko or chamelion at the libary, this has yet to be captured on film though. 

Termite mounds
There are these huge mounds of clay that we thought were ant hills, but when we asked Justice what they were, he said they were termite mounds.  They are kind of neat because they are so tall (most that we have seen are taller than me and Amanda!), but it's a little gross to think that there are that many termites in one area....and so close to the dorms here.  This particular photo is on our way to the library from our dorm.  It was a very hot and muggy day and I think it actually rained a little after I took this picture.  But here are two termite mounds quite close to each other.  Just to the left of where this photo ends and on the other side of the path is another termite mound.   Justice said the termites love the clay.

Purple Preston
For those of you who have been to my apartment before, you know that I have 6 plants.  For those of you who haven't been to my apartment before, I have 6 plants.  One of the plants I have is called Purple Preston (because I have no idea what the actual name of the plant is!).   The first day I walked home from the library, I noticed something purple growing out of the ground.  It was a Purple Preston!  I was so excited to see it grow in the wild...and in Africa of all places! that I needed to take a picture.  I actually just looked it up and it is called a Tradescantia pallida 'Purple Heart' (Purple Wandering Jew) with it's origins in Mexico and North America.  Slightly disappointing, but still very cool.  

For the last picture of the day, here is a photo of me and Amanda from Friday when we went to Chez Afrique with Justice.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Library Work

Here is a little bit on the things I will be working on while here at the Balme Library.

My first task (due Wednesday with Amanda) is to give a 1-2 hour seminar to graduate students and Senior Staff members on digitization as a technique for libraries to perserve their materials and collections.  We found out about this presentation first thing this morning.  We have to give our seminar at 10am on Wednesday.  For this, I am looking at some documents and readings from courses I have taken at SI and going over some old lecture notes (good thing I emailed these to myself before I left!).  We will be giving an introduction to digitization (as many students here don't know what that is), and then talking about our own experiences with the process.  I will be mentioning my work I did over Spring Break at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. with their Luna BookReader Views, as well as my research project with Professor Conway on the HathiTrust Digital Library Repository.  Amanda will be talking about the works done at U of M's Bentley Historical Library and the Deep Blue Repository for papers published by U of M's research community.  We meet this afternoon in our office to consolidate our individual outlines and produce our PowerPoint slides.

My second task is to develop a workflow process (based off of similar processes at U of M) for the Balme Library to use when they digitize materials.  This will involve a more indepth look back on my previous coursework from my classes at SI.  I am excited about this aspect of the project because this part is in direct conjunction with what I want to do when I graduate with my Master's! :)

I also have to give two presentations on two different citation management softwares: EndNote and Mendeley.  These two presentations shouldn't be too bad, because I have learned how to work with these quite a bit during my time at Taubman Health Sciences Library, and I have actually sat through an EndNote presentation and been able to play around with both softwares.  A date fr this has yet to be set, but it will be sometime before I leave for home. 

Day of Sun: Sunday

After all the traveling Amanda and I did on Saturday, (and all the money spent getting from one place to the next) we decided to check out the university's outdoor pool which is about a 15-20 minute walk from our dorm. 

As we left our dorm at about 10:30, it was quite overcast with some storm clouds starting to form.  We decided to venture to the pool anyway as the water would help cool us down from the heat.  When we arrived at the pool, there appeared to be a swim practice going on for kids, and there were a few older people practicing as well.  It was an olympic sized pool (I can't wait for the Olympics to start!!)  with the lanes being used by swimmers. It was still quite cloudy when we arrived at the pool, but we were determined to swim.  We had nothing to do besides lay down our towels and set up camp.  I read Janet Evanovich's To the Nines, and Amanda read The Girl who Played with Fire

As we were waiting and watching the swim meet and reading, three Australian girls came up to us and asked us how long we had been waiting.  We told them about 20 minutes, and they decided to find out more information about the wait time, and then sat near us as well.  They were quite nice and pleasant to be around.  They are here in Ghana for a year volunteering in the city, so they aren't staying at the University. 

Finally, around noon, the pool started to empty as swim practice was drawing to a close.  The pool was quite deep,  (having dive boards up to four stories tall!) but we are unsure as to how deep the pool actually is  there were no depth markers on the sides of pools like we have in the U.S.  We had to pay 4 cedis for a swim cap (these are NOT flattering), and 3 cedis to swim.  The Australians jumped into the pool before we did, and stayed in for a short amount of time.  Other Ghanaians showed up to swim from kids to elderly people.  There were also some Asian and White people at the pool, so it was a little more diverse than what we've seen since our planes landed here.  There were probably about 30-50 people at the pool. 

Amanda and I jumped into the pool and stayed in the water for about an hour.  It felt so good to have some relief from the heat (and today, the clouds!) and just be in the water.  Our dorm only has a shower (which doesn't drain that well), so there arent many bath opportunities.  We got out of the pool and Amanda told me that my back was starting to get pink.  I then dried off quite quickly, and then covered myself from head to toe with sunscreen.  We read for a while and then jumped back into the pool for a short amount of time.  At this point, I was paranoid about getting sunburned, so I kept applying sunscreen. 

We left around 3:30 in search of food.  All the cafeterias we tried were closed
 and so we stopped back at our dorm to shower.  When we returned to our dorm, we discovered that we didn't have any electricity.   We weren't sure how much water we had left because in the States, you usually don't have that much water left once power goes out.  I showered first real fast, and Amanda did the same.  We seemed to have water still!  After our showers, we started to turn pinker as our sunburns were starting to set in.  Aloe and lotion was applied along with taking some ibuprofen. 

We decided we really needed food and at 5, we walked about a half hour to a place off campus called Bonjour. There they had a pizza place, a chicken place, and an ice-cream place....all in one.  Amanda and I both ordered pizzas (their pizza portions here are quite small with respect to their larger portions of everything else.  A regular pizza is 10 cm, a Medium pizza is 20 cm, and I am not sure about the large pizza).  We both ate our Medium pizzas, and by this time it was dusk.  We decided to walk back to the dorms.

The mosquitos started to come out, but because it was breezy and we were constantly moving, I don't think either of us were bit by any (which is great because we didnt spray off with bug spray and we were already sunburned!).  It definitely turned quite dark on our walk home, and Amanda's cell phone had a torch light/flashlight which we used to help us see on some of the unpaved paths.  The walk home seemed to go by much faster than our walk to Bonjour, so that was a relief at least. 

When we returned home around 7, we were still without electricity.  I was washing my hair in the shower and we finally ran out of water.  We had nothing else to do but read (like we do most days, which is also why I am running out of books to read already!) with our booklights and our phones. 

There were three other dorms without power and so our compound was quiet--which is quite unusual as there always seems to be noise, talking, and singing going on.  Finally at 10:30, our electricity came back on and everyone within the four dorms in the compound cheered was really cool.

Saturday's Change of Plans

We had originally hoped to go to the ocean on Saturday, but remembered that neither of us had beach towels or sheets to take to the beach. The temperature when we woke up was quite cool as well and so we decided it would be a good idea to run some errands.

After seeing the quilts on the tables at Chez Afrique, we decided we wanted to look at some African crafts. A great place to do this in Accra is at the Centre for National Culture. Because we have yet to learn the tro-tro system, our only option of getting there was by taxi. The taxi ride was about 30 minutes, and cost about 15 Cedis. We thought this seemed reasonable. 

Once we got to the Centre, there were many many many shops set up with crafts made by the locals. We stopped at the first shop on the right where the guy who owned the shop had hand-carved wooden statues of people and animals, jewelery, masks, and clothes. As we were perusing the tables, two Ghanaian men approached us and asked were we were from. We told them the United States and they asked which part, and we told them Michigan. They then asked "Detroit?" And we decided that was a good place to tell them because not many people would know about Ann Arbor.

At the sound of Michigan, one of the guys was really excited because his brother had married and moved to Michigan in Grand Rapids to live. We talked about Michigan for a bit and he asked us to stop by his store once we were finished looking at the first man's store. We persued the rest of the items and left. The guy with the brother in Michigan directed us to his store and he was so nice!

Once we got into the store, he asked us to look around and take our time, and to ask questions if we had any. A lot of what we saw in this store was very similar to what the first shop had...except this store had no pricetags on anything! Amanda and I looked around, not really seeing anything that caught our eye. The owner said he also had paintings done by another brother who was still in Ghana (and whom we met, along with a sister). I got excited to see some paintings, and they pulled out four rolls of canvas paintings that had at least 50 paintings in each roll. The rolls were unfolded and we looked at the paintings, the painter and the brother were explaing what a lot of the shapes were and what some of the signs and symbols meant. They liked to paint their women with "big booties" or big butts. It was really funny when they were talking about it. 

As we were looking at the paintings, the one guy called his brother in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had me say hi and tell him that I was in Ghana and it was kind of neat actually.  A little strange, but cool at the same time. 

I found a black and white painting I really liked and it was a night scene on the ocean side with some native huts and a few people bringing back baskets from the market. I fell in love with this painting actually and asked how much it was. The brother said 90 cedis, and I said I definitely did not have that much. He asked me how much I had and I said 30 cedis. He told me he couldnt sell it for that low because it took a week to paint with the different layers and time to dry. The man with the brother in Michigan stepped in and persauded the painter to sell it to me for cheaper because I was a student, 90 cedis was too much. He futher went on and said, "she is from Michigan, so she is our sister. It doesn't matter the color of our skin, these two girls are our sisters." The painter asked me one more time and asked for 50 cedis. I said I only had 30 and he said okay. I was definitely done shopping for the day.

Ashanti Mask on Left, Fante Mask on Right
As the bartering was going on, another shopkeeper, Ramone was watching. He asked us to come to his shop next and we did. He wanted to show us the masks that were a big part of Ghanaian history. He showed us two main types, Ashanti masks, and Fante masks. He gave us a history on both masks and why they were important. I was not so much a fan of the Ashanti masks, as I was of the Fante masks. Ramone didn't pressure us too muh into buying anything, which was nice. There was one more Ghanaian who pressured us into purchasing, and Amanda and I held our ground and said "no thank-you" several times. People in the market were so pushy, which I suppose is to be expected. This wore me down much quicker than I anticipated.

We decided to try and stop at the mall and purchase our towels or sheets for the beach. As we were doing so, our first thunderstorm came! The power went out in the mall for about 10 seconds which was kind of neat. We waited to leave until the storm subsided. Finding a taxi on the way back was much more difficult as people were charging 10-20 cedis to drive 5 or ten minutes. They said their rates were so high because the traffic was so bad. We couldn't walk home because we needed to get on some highway to get to the dorm. After many failed attempts, we found a driver who would take us home for 6 cedis.

On our walk back to our dorm, we were called obrunis for the first time, and it was nice. Amanda and I both enjoyed it. Obruni is an affectionate term the Ghanaians use for foreign travelers (both white and black) into their country. We knew it was going to happen at some point, but as Ramone in the market place told us, it is definitely an affectionate thing, and not an offensive word. Quick research online confirmed this.

When we returned back to our room, everything was covered in this fine red clay dust that must have blown into our room from the storm. We don't have a broom, so Amanda and I tried sweeping the dust with our shoes. Then we wiped everything down and tried to clean up our room a bit.

We then tried to go to the International Students Hostel (ISH) to try and grab some dinner at their cafeteria, but as we have come to discover, cafterias seem to be closed on the weekends here at the University.

Chez Afrique

Friday evening, Justice picked us up and we went to a nice restaurant/bar/nightclub called Chez Afrique.  It is an outside open air bar with many colored Christmas lights strung about the place.  A few of the tables were covered with these beautiful African quilted fabrics (I hope to buy one before I leave!).  There were some nice tables under an awning area, and then there were some plastic patio furniture in the open areas.  He wanted to take us there on Friday because there was a live band playing music there for the evening.  As we were preparing to eat our dinner, we listened to some songs we recognized from America, and home didn't feel so far away. 

Chicken, Banku, and Pepper Sauce
Amanda and I both tred a Ghanaian beer, Star beer.  It reminded me of PBR a little bit, but it wasn't bad.  For dinner, the three of us ordered a Ghanian dish called Banku.  Amanda and I ordered ours with chicken, and Justice ordered his with Tilapia (which had not been skinned and its mouth was still attached to the body!).  To eat the banku dish, you are supposed to pull apart a small piece of dough, dip it in the pepper sauce, pop it in your mouth, and swallow without chewing.  Chicken is eaten with your fingers.  After awhile, I didn't like the taste of the banku, so I focused more on the chicken.  All of the chicken they serve here that we have had, have had spices to add some awesome flavor to the meat.  The pepper sauce helped as well. 

After dinner, the live band started playing some Ghanaian music and people started to dance.  Amanda and I really didn't want to dance, but after enough encouragement from Justice, we decided to give it a go.  Ghanaians don't particularly do much of the dirty dancing that is found in most bars in the United States; they generally hold hands and step left to right and the guys love to spin (twirl) the girls.  Amanda and I decided to try and introduce the Ghanains to some classic American moves such as the Sprinker, Shopping Cart, and Lawn Mower.  The Ghanians around us loved it and it was fun.  After an hour or so of dancing, we were quite tired and Justice took us home. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday afternoon out of the office!

As promised, Justice took me and Amanda out of the office for a good chunk of the afternoon.  We had lunch at the University of Ghana Guest Center which consisted of fried rice, chicken, and a teeny tiny salad.  As Amanda noticed, it seems that the rice is the main entree due to the sheer size of the portions they provide--really it's enough food for a day! 

We then took a taxi to Madina so that I could purchase a cell phone.  There was construction on the road there so traffic was very slow going--and the heat was intense inside the taxi.  I just checked the weather and it is currently 88F with 64% humidity, so it feels like 95F.  Hot hot hot.  Especially in jeans.  The dust from the road was blowing around and I just took off my flats and I can't tell if I am tan, or if my feet are covered in dirt.  I think we are going to go with the tan theory for now. 

Madina was really neat--there were lots of little markets set up with people trying to sell clothes, sandals, water, fruits, almost anything really.  It would have been a bit more enjoyable had it been a tad cooler and my eyes weren't caked in dust.  All of this is part of the Africa experience though and I wouldn't change a thing!

We took a tro-tro (a tight mini-van with seats for 15 people!) back to the university.  The taxi ride was 6 cedis to Madina, and the tro-tro was 1.4 cedis.  What a bargain.  They seem to drive faster too, partly because I think they are bigger and if it came down to two cars colliding, the tro-tro would have the upper hand. 

We did A LOT of walking this afternoon and we are both quite tired.  I have a slight headache and I think it might be from the heat.  Justice bought us some water and we are now in our air conditioned office! 

Tonight Justice is taking us to this restaurant with live music so we can experience more Ghanian food and music.  I think Amanda and I are both excited, but a little tired.  Tomorrow we are thinking about going to the Atlantic Ocean! 

First Nightly Excursion

Last night, Amanda and I ventured a little bit out into Accra.  We needed to go to the Accra Mall so Amanda could get a pillow and a towel and I was hoping to be able to find some sort of breakfast food I could eat that didn't require the use of milk (as we don't have a refrigerator yet--hopefully next week when we switch to a dorm with A/C!).  The mall was too far to walk to, so we decided we would try our hand at trying to catch a taxi.

We didn't have a number for a taxi company so we decided to walk until we were able to catch one in a New York type of fashion with the whistling and the waving.  There are usually some taxis waiting outside our dorm, but we were uncertain if they would take us all the way to the city or not.  It was about 7 pm when we left and it was already dark!  We walked to the edge of the city and stood there for a minute or so.  A taxi came through in the roundabout and honked it's horn.  We went up to the taxi and asked if he would be able to take us to the Mall.  He said he could and off we went.

I read in a travel guide that a lot of taxi drivers don't have their driver's license and so when picking a taxi to ride in, you should look for a taxi that appears to be in good shape, the driver is dressed professionally or nice.  It's a little difficult to tell the licensed drivers from the unlicensed drivers as no one seems to follow the traffic rules anyway!

When we left, we immediately hit stopped traffic.  It took us a good while of sitting in a hot taxi before we could drive 60 km/hr down a four lane road.  The breeze from the open windows felt so nice!  As we neared the mall, traffic became congested again and loud honking of horns filled our ears as drivers honked to try and get the other cars to move, or to notify the other drivers that they were trying to switch lanes or that their car was there when someone else was trying to come into their lane.  It was nuts.  It took us a while, but we made it to the mall safely.  The driver didn't seem to be in the best of mood, but we were relieved to be in one piece, so we tipped the taxi driver (tipping isn't usually expected like it is in the states so the extra cedi we tipped him made him smile) for a total taxi fare of 5 six cedis...about $4 USD.  We thought this was a decent price. 

We had some luck with the pillow and the towel as there was a Ghanian Walmart store in the mall called Game.  I also purchased my first bottled water for 40 pesawas (.40 cedis).  A lot of the stores in the mall were closed, but there was a store that had a pair of painted giraffes carved out of wood and I fell in love with them!  For 40 cedis, I decided to wait to purchase them until the end of the trip in case there were any other souvenirs that might catch my eye. 

While we were at one of the stores, a younger boy about 13 approached us and asked if he could get us a shopping basket for our items.  We said no thank you and that we were about to check out.  We continued up the last aisle, and then he approached us again and asked for our names so he could find us on Facebook.  We decided it was safe to give him our names as we don't have to accept his friend request.  Then three of his friends came up and asked for our names too!  As of this morning, we have no friend requests.  I read in a travel guide that kids in particular will go up to foreigners and they used to ask for their addresses, but now it must be they ask for Facebook names.  One blogger said that it was akin to them asking for an autograph from a celebrity and that most times they don't follow through with sending mail, or sending friend requests.  It was a little strange to us, but I don't think we will share our names again.   

For dinner, we ate at this burger joint, which wouldn't let us order hamburgers for some reason.  So we order chicken sandwiches and some fries which weren't terrible.  We also got two chicken wings with our value meal....all for 5 cedis.  This meal was not nearly as delicious as the true Ghanian lunch we had--and I believe there are rumors floating around that we might get to have the same thing (or somewhat similar) today for lunch!

We decided to try and head home as we were both tired from the long day (more so me than Amanda because I think I am suffering a little bit from jet lag).  As we walked out of the mall, a taxi driver approached us and asked where we needed to go.  I told him we need to go to the University, and while he didn't go there, he asked the other taxi drivers around if one of them could take us to our dorm.  We found a taxi driver and the trip back to our dorm was much shorter than our trip to the mall.  Once we arrived, he asked us for 8 cedis, which we thought was a bit high compared to the 4 cedis we paid on the way to the mall.  We paid it anyway, as neither of us is comfortable enough yet to barter.

This morning, we talked to Henry and Justice and told them about our first taxi excursion, and they said we were charged too much.  They chuckled in disbelief and they gave us a few tips for next time.

Amanda and I walked to the library this morning and it was definitely warm at 8:30 am.  We are still uncertain about the acceptable length for shorts, so I opted to wear jeans today.  I knew it would be hot, but I always see Ghanians wearing long pants and jeans, and thought it wouldn't be so bad.  It was a bit too warm for my liking.

Justice is taking me to downtown this afternoon so I can get my cell phone to use during my time here.  I'm not quite sure yet whom I will call, but I am excited to feel a bit more connected to the community.