The Accra Mall and Bojo Beach Jan 28

Blog Post Jan 28
Our first morning back in Accra, we woke up at the Pink Hostel to a lovely breakfast of eggs, pancakes, bread, vegetables, pineapple, and watermelon. After spending time relaxing, Kwabena (our bus driver) and Abdulai’s brother Soale showed up to show us around town for our free day. We split up into two groups because some of us wanted to check out the beaches and others wanted to go into the city to explore Accra.

The group that decided to explore downtown Accra were accompanied by Soale Iddrisu. We happily crammed four into the backseat of Soale’s car, as well as an additional taxi. Soale lead us to his house, allowing us to meet his wife and baby girl. He had forgotten to arrange a ride for his kids to get home from Arabic School, so we went to go meet his other kids and arranged a taxi for them to get home. While we were waiting, we got to experience some meat pies and vanilla frozen yogurt, which tasted exactly like birthday cake batter. From there, we went to the Mall of Accra, where we shopped around, found some souvenirs, and even stopped into the grocery store to get a few snacks.

On our way to our next spot, we experienced some lovely sing-along tunes in the car, including a guest feature by Prof. Iddrisu himself! Our next stop was lunch, we had rice balls, peanut butter soup, fried rice, fufu, and fish. Johnny created a nice tutorial of how Ghanaians eat such a meal.

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When we finished lunch we made a quick stop by the Jamestown lighthouse, which was built by the British, but we did not spent too much time there because we planned to return with the rest of the group.

The 7 of us that went to the beach including Fauzia and Kwabena headed out in the bus to go to Bojo Beach, the beach that trip advisor had recommended. It was about a 40 minute drive out of the city. Once we arrived we learned we had to take a boat across a canal to get to the main part of the beach. Fauzia was terrified to get on the boat, but with some handholding (metaphorically and literally) we made it across.

As we stepped off the boat, we looked at the beautiful sight of the ocean, sand, palm trees, and a volleyball court we would soon play on. After finding a place to put our things, we headed towards the water to dip to our feet in and walk along the beach. We got some coconuts and laid in the sand. Soon, we were hungry so we ordered some food. While waiting for our rice, chicken kabobs, spring rolls, and a meat pie, we played some volleyball.

Within seconds of starting, we had many children join the game. After lunch, Kwabena called a horse over for us to ride. Kaya and Gail were able to ride the horse along the beach. After dipping our feet in the water a few more times and soaking in the sun one last time we got back in the boat to get to the bus.

Upon both arrivals of the two groups back at the hotel, a few of us decided we’d like to go attend a church service. Olaf found the Accra Ridge Church, a inter-denominational congregation his wife attended when she was a child! It was a nice service and as we left, a few friendly members found us a ride home, which just so happened to be the Church’s very own van.

Back at the hostel we all had a small dinner while sharing stories of our various excursions. Soon after we were all asleep in bed preparing for our day in Cape Coast.

To the airport in Accra Jan 30

There is no better word to describe our last day in Ghana than bittersweet. We woke up this morning to send Andrea off on her morning flight, as her adventure continues to Liberia and Sierra Leone. We enjoyed our last breakfast of noodle stir fry, pancakes, eggs, bread, and pineapple. Abdulai, Fauzia, Olaf, Jazee, and Kwabena were presented with homemade cards (painted by our craftiest group member, Maddie) and we expressed our gratitude for this month’s countless incredible experiences. After breakfast we packed our suitcases, and checked out of our rooms.

We waved goodbye to the gracious Pink Hostel staff and rolled away in our teal bus to an Accra mall, where we made some last-minute souvenir purchases before our evening departure. (We had to distract Abdulai from getting sucked into the Apple Store.)

Our last lunch in Ghana included all of our favorites: spiced chicken, Jollof Rice, noodle stir fry, fried plantains, and yam chips.
Because traffic was congested and we didn’t want to deviate too far from the airport, we returned to the mall to spend our last few cedis and enjoy a birthday celebration for Jazee, who is turning 43 on Friday.

We enjoyed cake and Abdulai’s favorite local drink, Alvaro.
Our group continued to the airport and said our final goodbyes to our new friends, Fauzia, Kwabena, and Jazee.


No words can completely describe the strong senses and emotions we experienced this month. But we thank you for following our journey across the beautiful country of Ghana through this blog. We will cherish these memories for a lifetime.

Emma and Laura

Last Day in Tamale Jan 25

Blog 1/25/18

The day started like any other, but there was one noticeable difference, it was our last day in Tamale. After a wonderful breakfast provided at the usual space, Miliki Micool, we got a picture with Fussey and started our day.

Our first stop was a brief stop at a funeral where we were introduced to Prof. Iddrisu’s uncle who happens to be the minority leader of the Ghanaian parliament, Lawyer Haruna Iddrisu. We then had Abdulai take us past his houses in town. His first house is being rented out but we had the chance to walk around the compound. It was very spacious and there were mango trees planted all the way around the property. We then went to the other house where Fauzia lives in, it was a smaller house but it was on an equally large lot. It was fun to see the inside of a typical Ghanaian house.

We met the director of Little Flower. Upon arrival at the school, we were greeted by the director of the school, Anna-Maria Fati Paul. She explained many of the aspects that led her to found this school and how it has been running for twenty-five years. The school originally started as a school for girls because at the time of its founding the illiteracy rate for girls in the area was 98%. Anna-Maria had been in the government education department but decided to change that statistic with her own work. She also introduced us to one of her students who just had a book published, a book which we were lucky enough to receive some copies of before the release date.

Another program at the school that was unique and transformational was one that provided full scholarships to students who had become orphans. These students would otherwise have most likely dropped out and lost the opportunity to become educated. The cost of these scholarships are covered by other student’s school fees, currently there are around 40 or so students on this scholarship.

After saying goodbye to Anna-Maria and some of the children we headed to lunch. This was a very special meal that we got, there were fried yams, fried Plantains, a delicious egg sauce, and a specially made Pineapple-Watermelon juice. We all left feeling very full and grateful for all the wonderful meals we had eaten. A group of us then proceeded to the market and spent time looking for the last of the items we would get from Tamale. After returning to the hotel and having some down time to pack and rest we headed to supper. We got a delicious meal as always and said goodbye to all the people we had gotten to see repeatedly over the last month.

 

There were exchanges of Facebook accounts and lots of pictures, but we left our friends with well wishes for our trip back.

At the Elimina castle Jan 29

Blog post 1/29

Hello blog readers! We continue to write to you from Accra. We are nearing our day of departure but continue to enjoy every second of our time here in Ghana.

Today we started off eating breakfast served by the pink hostel. Along side the hostel cat, we enjoyed our meal outdoors among the company of each other.

We departed the hostel to Cape Coast in our trusty Toyota coaster.

First we started off our day at the Elimina castle. It was a white fort-like complex on elevated land overlooking the ocean. Accompanied by a guide, Alex, we visited various parts of the castle. The castle is the oldest and largest of the three castles located in West Africa. The others are Christianborg and the Cape Coast castles. It was created by Portuguese pioneers in the 14th century. These early settlers had the intentions for trade and to spread of Christianity. The discovery of the New World in the 15th century and suggestions by Friar Francisco de Las Casas, Africans became the most appropriate to work the plantations in the New World.

Demands fit African labor opened up the trans Atlantic slave trade. This event brought many changes to the use of the castle. A majority of the ground floor of the castle was turned into a dungeon that acted as a holding area for slaves until they go through the infamous “Gate of no Return” for the journey to the New World.

They also had their church on the ground floor as well. Those that survived the period of time until the ships were ready were deemed fit.

In the 16th century, the Dutch overtook the Portuguese and the castle continued to expand.

We were ushered into small dungeons. According to the guide approximately 600 male slaves and 400 female slaves occupied the spaces at a time.

The walls in the dimly lit cells were covered in age stone. A blotted green layer covered on what seemed to be a painted surface and was present in most of the holding areas. Holes in the walls were present and it was apparent that these were used to shackle the slaves in place.

We were told that the female slaves that were in those dungeons were often victims of sexual assault. Those who did not comply were often subjected to forms of punishment that were used to set an example to other slaves striking fear in their hearts on hopes of obedience.

After passing through multiple tiny entrances within a dungeon, we ultimately arrived at the gate of no return. It was here where slaves would depart the castle only to make it to a boat that would mark the beginning of their journey across the Atlantic.

The condemned cell where recalcitrant slaves were imprisoned until death laid it’s icy hands on them.

Questions that came up from this tour includes the following. What’s the relationship of the local community to the castle? We were informed that local patronage is very poor. How many students are educated on these past atrocities committee bybman against man? Are the stories told by the tourist board only told to satisfy the emotional curiosity of the foreigner or people from the African Diaspora? In any case we noted these and other silences still hindering the study of slavery in Africa.

As hunger creeped in we settled for a restaurant within the cultural center of Cape Coast. We enjoyed traditional Ghanaian dishes that were familiar thanks to earlier meals in the month including our beloved Jallof rice, fried rice, meat sauce, banku, tilapia and red fish.

We then relocated to the Cape Coast castle and briefly toured the outside before diving in the coastal city’s market.

With the ocean less than a mile away we witnessed the importance of fishing in this city. Fishing nets were found everywhere. This was quite a change in scenery being used to the structure of the markets in Tamale.

The group ended the night after a 3 hour drive back to the capital, Accra. Traffic really got us this time.

By Alex, Kosey, and Oscar

Out of Tamale Jan 26

We started the day bright and early, meeting up at 5 a.m. and leaving Tamale at 6 a.m. We headed on our way to Kumasi, stopping a few times for fruit and a bathroom break. Although the drive was six hours, it seemed to go by pretty quickly and before we knew it, we had arrived in the second largest city in Ghana.

Our last night in Tamale. At the dinner place.

Arrival at Davellen Hotel in Kumasi.

Our first stop was a big lunch at the Engineering Guest House of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. It is the second largest university in Ghana with over 40,000 students. It was founded by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. The university offers both undergrad and graduate programs in science and technology and has recently expanded to include more areas of study.

Checking out the Kwame Nkrumah University of Sceince and Technology after the lecture.

After lunch, we received a lecture on Islam in Ghana by Dr. Yunus Dumbe. He informed us of the religious demographics of Ghana, with Christianity being the predominant religion, however people of different religions coexist without conflict. He continued by explaining the processes of Islamization and Africanization. Africanization is essentially the rooting of faith in African culture. Islamization is the process of introducing Islamic faith into a community. He described two of the different ways of doing this: one being the colonial intervention and the other being migration, most commonly from neighboring countries. Northern Muslims are considered indigenous to Ghana whereas Muslims in the south are mostly migrants.

He then went on to break down the differences of Islamic faith within different regions in Northern Ghana. He began with the Gonja region. The main motivation for spreading the Islamic faith within the region was for spiritual prowess to expand the kingdom. Because of this, it was deeply intertwined with the class system of the Gonja people. This involved three divisions: The Gbanya (rulers), The Nyamase (pagan commoners), The Karama (local Muslims).

Next he explained the Dagbon region and the Ashanti region. Islam in Dagbon has its foundation in the institutionalization of Muslim leadership. Essentially, the intertwining of the political and religious spheres. Islam in the Ashanti region started in the late 16-17th century and was concentrated in specific communities. It has since expanded throughout the region. Muslim merchant clerics first came for trade but continued the Asante conquest in the north, fighting to expand the Muslim empire. They recruited Muslims for administrative work in the royal palace. Before ending his lecture, he briefly touched on the Revivalist Movement.

We left the university and went to the Davellen hotel. We had a few hours to relax before getting pizza in town.

At the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi Jan 26

After a wonderful night stay at our hotel in Kumasi we had oatmeal and egg bread for breakfast along with our favorite drink milo, to go along with it. We packed up and loaded the bus and headed off to Manhyia Palace. Here we watched a short video on the culture and traditions of the Asante people. The palace, now a museum, was very big and well kept. It was presented to the Asnatehene Prempe I upon his return from his 28 years in wxile. First imprisoned at the Elimina castle, taken to Sierra Leone and fit to Sychelles Islands. We were guided through the palace and were shown many artifacts, many of which are still in use. For example, a few of the talking drums were still in use as well as the palanquin (used to carry the king to places because walking was said not to be king like).

Anyway, through questioning we noticed that the talking drums are not originally Asante but borrowed from Dagbon, neighbors to the north. The talking drums are native to Dagbon and used as substitute language. Annually, the Dagbon linguist recount the history, origin and formative challenges the state of Dagon encountered over the years. It is through the talking drums the Dagombas store their collective memories and history. Another question raised issues over whether the palanquin was original to Asante or European.

We were given information about many of the traditions of the Asante. One of the important traditions was that the golden stool was conjured from heaven by Okomfo Anokye, the chief priest. It symbolized the soil and unity of the Asante people. to the king. The British demand for the still was to lead to the Yaa Asantewa war of 1900. It was also very interesting to find out that the Asante people are ruled by both a king and a queen. They believe that it is important to have both a male and a female in power so that the king is able to understand the issues and complaints of the males and the queen is able to address those of the females. They are not married and have their own spouse(s). The next generation of power is then derived from the queen’s side of the family, so none of the King’s lineage can become royal. We finished our tour and headed back to the bus where we were greeted by a group of peacocks. Pictures are not allowed inside the museum. The following pictures were taken in the yard.

 

We headed to the cultural center where we were able to do some shopping. Everyone was able to find something to bring back to the United States. After our shopping we bought some cut up pineapple and mango before we headed to lunch.

We ate lunch at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where we had lunch the day before. After 2 hours we finally hit the road for Accra.

Everyone took bets on when we would arrive at the Pink Hostel. It was an uneventful drive to Accra, until Kosey spotted a suitcase hanging off the bus. We made an emergency stop on the side of the road to fix the falling luggage and resecured the loose ones.

We ate bread with butter, and mango. We headed to bed after an exhausting trip and a few early mornings.

We have a free day to roam Accra tomorrow, Jan 28. On Jan 29, we head out to Elimina castle,  the oldest, largest and one of the three in West Africa,  all in Ghana.

Last day in Tamale: Cultural Display Jan 24

Blog post for Jan 24. Cultural display

This morning we were surprised with good news! Our very own Laura Lyke was accepted into two grad schools! Congratulations Laura!

We started out the day again at the usual breakfast place. The combination of the assorted food has since been our staple and has not yet gotten old.

Since today is our last day in Tamale, we paid a quick visit to Abdulai’s mother, Hajia Adisah, to drop off some towels, and bid her goodbye. A few of us remained in the bus. Jonny somehow managed to get his hair braided by Maddie. It surprisingly looked great!

Youth Home 

Upon arriving at the Tamale Youth Home, we were ushered over to the nearby handicraft store where different articles of clothing and various items were hanging outside the shop. Although the youth that worked at this shop were not paid, they were compensated through learning necessary skills through hands on experience. A few of us bought bags, headbands, and other articles of clothing.

After shopping we watched a local cultural performance of drums and dancing. From the very start you could see the level of engagement from the performers. Each of the performers seemed to be completely immersed in their dances. The smiles from them were never ending.


Soon the performers were asking for some audience participation. In small groups we each attempted different dance moves while being taught on the spot!

 

After the performance we learned that the dances were about harvest, rain, and friends. It is believed that if you surround yourself with friends the devil cannot get you. We also learned that because Dagbani is a tonal language, the drums are meant to act as a substitute language by “talking” through the sounds and beats created by the drummer.

We then had our lunch and headed back to the hotel. A few of us grabbed aloe juice and ice cream from a nearby gas station. We ended the night by eating all together with Abdulai, Jazee, Fauzia, and Olaf in the common area of the hotel.

Alex, Gail, Emma

The Archive and Tourist Board

The Archives and Tourist Board

Last night was the big Vikings game and many of us stayed up to watch them play. We were pretty disappointed by the loss and gave in to going to bed in the middle of the 4th quarter. But, we were excited to see Professor Olaf Holt in the morning, who is a computer science professor. He’s Prof. Iddrisu’s friend and here to conduct his own research on the teaching of maths at the basic level. He will also give a talk at the Ashashi University. It was fun to go to breakfast with him and show him what we’ve been eating since he told us he has been following the blog and we mention it everyday.

We were then off to see the Archives and Public Records Office. We met with Helen, the director of the Office and she took us through their holdings. They collect documents from district administrations and departments (including water, labor, health, lands, animal health, and public works) as well as justice systems (local and district) and educational institutions.

The oldest record they have is an 18th century book, and they showed us another old book from the 20th century. It was an old colonial registry for letters and was about 25 lbs! Some of the entries that we read were about prisoners and others relayed messages to chiefs.

We made a quick stop in the repository, where they keep all of the confidential documents, but we got a special pass to go in! Most of the documents are not yet available to the public. The holding time is 30 years. The bookshelves were filled with criminal and civil records.

We then went to the digitizing center, where they are working to digitize some of their documents. To do this, they take a picture of the document with a nice Canon camera, add it to the computer, and back it up. The photos all included a color wheel as well. They have been working on the project for about a year and are expected to complete it soon. Below is a picture of our own Alex and Laura helping digitize some  of the documents.

We were then taken to the research room, where Prof. Idrrisu spent a considerable amount of time doing research. He told us that he was in and out of the building for 20 years!

To use the resources provided by the Office, researchers need to have a recommendation from a teacher or a certification. Typically, this includes scholars and people working in the justice system and they usually spend about one year doing research. They can request up to three documents at a time and there is no fee, unless the Office has to authenticate documents. One issue that they face is a lack of space – they have other storage locations around the city, but the digitization of documents may help to alleviate this problem.

Tourist Board

The Office of the Regional Tourism Authority was right next door and we met with the director of the Tourism Board for the northern region of Ghana, Mr. Nketia.

There are at least 63 slave sites throughout the country, but many are not developed. They are resources rather than attractions because they are visited mostly by foreign tourists and are sources of revenue for the communities in which they reside. He expressed his frustrations with the board – there are disagreements between the tourism board and local governments (including chiefs) about the importance of various sites.

One major sites with problems is Babatu’s grave, which we visited a couple of weeks ago in Yendi.  A young member of the family wanted to develop the site into a store to get some additional income, thus effectively demolishing the grave. The tourism board told them that they couldn’t because of its historical significance. According to Nketia the community is not very much invested in the site because they think it doesn’t benefit them in any way. This problem appears at the national level, too. No one has taken much time to study slavery or the northern Ghanaian factor in the slave trade. Visitors to the site, both local and foreign, are not informed that the slaves came from the north and that Asin Manso and the forts and castles song the coast were just holding houses for slaves. There is no sustained program of education and preservation of the material cultures of slavery. Attrition at the tourist board is equally high. Service Personnel sent there, gain knowledge about preservation and what’s going on, only to leave after a year. And for those who are employed with tjmem, the pay is terrible and there is no incentive since most of the slave sites are visited by foreign tourists.

To conclude his lecture, the Director told us about the wells in Salaga, which we visited. He described the speculation surrounding the wells since they all seem to be connected underground. Were they tunnelsbfot hideouts or used only to provide water? More research is necessary to find out.

After a long morning, we picked up our long awaited laundry. Most of us had been wearing the same clothes for a few days and we appreciated our crisp, clean clothes. Our late lunch consisted of yams and the classic egg sauce, which we’ve had for the past three days. We rested and had dinner before going to bed early because of our 4am wake-up call for Mole National Park!

P.S. We wrote this blog post with a chicken on Marquis’ lap! We named her Milo after the drink we have each morning.

Marquis, Maddie and Jonathan

Damongo Game and Larabanga Mosque Jan 23

Damango Game reserve on Jan 23, 2018.

We had a bright and early start leaving the hotel at 5 a.m. We made our way west with the sunrise at our backs. About three hours later, we arrived at Mole National Park, one of the ten richest national parks in Africa. We drove into the park to immediately find a beautiful vista with elephants at the watering hole. A family of elephants was swimming and playing in the water, a fun sight to see. It was the best way to wait for our breakfast of vegetable omelets, toast, apricot marmalade, and tea. Following breakfast, we divided into two groups and mounted our safari jeeps, on a cage like structure atop the cars.

With the wind blowing through our hair, we headed into the reserve, bumping along dirt roads and rocky terrain. Within minutes of starting our adventure, we saw a warthog cross the road right in front of our jeep. Soon after, we saw a group of antelopes hidden within the trees. We learned that there are four species of antelopes within Mole, with a variety of sizes, antler shapes, and markings.

As we continued along, we saw some movement in the trees and our guide focused our attention to the Velvet monkeys playing on the branches. Our jeeps turned the corner towards the watering hole to reveal a majestic elephant drinking right in front of us. Our guides climbed off the jeep and motioned for us to follow. We excitedly dismounted knowing that we were about to get an even better view of the incredible creature. We observed the elephant in its natural habitat, drinking water and spraying mud on itself. We learned that African elephants are actually black but appear gray because they cover themselves with mud to protect themselves from the sun and insects. We took the opportunity to snap many photos and even a few selfies. Although we kept our distance, Professor Iddrisu constantly reminded us to stay back in order to not engage in ‘risky business’ (one of his favorite quotes of the trip).

Our guides led us over to another watering hole where we encountered many crocodiles lining the shore. We learned that crocodiles and elephants are mutually threatened by each other and keep their distance when possible. Elephants can step on crocodiles and crocodiles can bite the trunk of an elephant while drinking. We saw a few more warthogs and antelopes on our way back to the jeep. We continued our ride through the reserve, heading back to the community where our guides live. We spotted many different species of birds, identified by our guides. We were excited to see some baboons, surprised by how large they were in person. We were all looking to see if they really did have colorful butts (they do).

We saw a family of warthogs in the same area picking through the dirt and sharing food with the baboons.

We ended our time at Mole with a guided tour of the museum which included many bones and skins found in the reserve or confiscated from poachers.

Although poaching is illegal, it remains a problem within Mole as the park has over 600 elephants and there is still great value attached to ivory.

Larabanga Mosque
On our way out, we stopped at a famous and unique mosque. It is one of the oldest mosque in West Africa, however in order to respect the Muslim faith, we did not enter the mosque. It’s cinstruction dates to the 15th century. It also has a Quran, whose origin is unknown. The mystery of the Quran and mosque has drawn worshipper to Larabanga annually. At our visit, the people were in the process of sharing meat from a cow that been offered for sacrifice.

 

After this quick stop, we headed over to the Mystic Stone, or the hanging stone— a stone of many stories and symbolic meanings that came before the existence of the current community.

The stone is now used as a place for prayer to God. After briefly visiting these two important sights, we returned to Tamale for our favorite yams and egg sauce lunch. After this long but exciting day, we headed back to the hotel for a nice cold shower and a restful nap.

Andrea, Mckenna and Kaya

Sunday Jan 21 Service

Blog Post 1/21/17

Emma, Marquis, and Kosey

Happy Sunday everyone! We had the day off today, so it was pretty relaxing! We began with breakfast at 8:30am at the usual spot. They gave us a chocolate spread today for our bread. It was really good and kind of tasted like Nutella— except with coconut instead of hazelnut!

After breakfast, half of the group went to the service at Ola Catholic Cathedral Church. We arrived at 10am, but it seemed as though the service had started before we got there. We think we arrived for the second half of the service because we did not hear a welcome or a sermon. It began with singing by the St. Cecilia’s Akan Choir and was then followed with an offering. Rather than having people collect the offerings, people could go up to the front and put their offering into a basket.

The priests then went through the weekly announcements. Most of the announcements were regarding where the funds were being allocated within both the local church as well as within the mission of the greater Catholic Church. The priest also emphasized that if people could not afford to give an offering/donation, they should still come to church because God will provide them with the means to give back eventually. Other announcements were about upcoming Church events. At the end of the service, newcomers were called up to the front of the Church. We were the only ones, so we all went up and introduced ourselves to the congregation. The service then ended with singing.

At around noon, a group of us went on a short walk around Tamale. We all enjoyed the exercise and being able to explore the area.

After the walk, another group of us went to pick up lunch at the usual spot. We got fried yams and a tomato-egg sauce for everyone and then brought it back to the hotel for the entire group.

Shortly after dinner, some of us went to play basketball at the Tamale Cultural Center. When we got there, there were already some locals playing, so we joined their game. It was really fun, and they were all really good! They also gave us some good basketball pointers.

To end the night, we played cards in the main lobby area until the NFC championship game between the Eagles and the Vikings. We played a few rounds of Nertz and then BS. At midnight, we all tuned in for the football game and cheered for the Vikings. The game did not go as hoped, but we all had fun watching it together!