Sunday, February 26, 2012

Love, Some Love, & No love

Things I have learned to love in Ghana:
    Bananas. For anyone who knows me, I really don't like bananas...I think it's something about the texture. Unfortunately for me, bananas are one of the best snack options here. They are inexpensive, readily available, and safe to eat since you peel them yourself.
    Yogurt drinks. Calcium is really difficult to come by (it's hard to find cheese and I'm not crazy about powered milk), so I buy these yogurt drinks every once in a while. They are 2 cedi and come in several flavors including pineapple, strawberry, and yogurt. Strawberry is my favorite.
Things I am still in the process of learning to love:
    Heat. The past week or so has been really hot, and we've been told that it will only get hotter until we leave and the rainy season begins in June. The harmattan is slowly coming to a close, so there is more direct exposure to the sun. I have developed a heat rash, #wompwomp. It comes and goes and is not particularly serious, but it spreads from the back of my right hand up to my shoulder and it itches!
Cold Showers. Cold showers do feel really nice after a long, hot day, but I never feel totally clean. My feet look extremely tan because there is a layer of dust/dirt that seems immune to any type of cleansing (yes, I do shower daily hehe).

Sundays. Ghana is a very religious country, almost everything comes to a standstill on Sunday. Stores are closed, stalls in the market are closed, and transportation options are fewer/more expensive. A girl has gotta eat!

Things I do not love:

COMPLETE LACK OF SWEETS. I knew I should have studied abroad in France...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Prez Carter

I was surprised when my professor in Poverty and Rural Development clicked to a slide titled "Prez Carter."

Looking back on my AP U.S. History days, Jimmy Carter = 39th U.S. President and Iran hostage crisis.
Believe it or not, there is a lot more to the guy than that. His non-profit, The Carter Center, has done some great things for Africa, Ghana included.

In class, we were examining the crippling effects of disease on poverty and rural development. Our focus was primarily on two parasitic diseases: Onchocerciasis (aka river blindness) and Dracunculiasis (aka Guinea worm).

We viewed several documentaries that were quite hard to watch. I am very thankful that we had made spaghetti for dinner the previous night, because I am not sure I would have been able to stomach it after seeing these noodle-like worms. Unlike your average piece of spaghetti, however, these “noodles” can be up to 800 mm long. They can cause fevers, nausea, vomiting, blistering, and ulcerations that persist for months, in addition to permanent disability...more than your average case of spaghetti sauce induced heartburn. 

I try to make light, but there is really no way to escape how horrific and destructive these diseases can be.

Luckily, they are preventable (either through medication or water purification techniques), and steps have been taken in recent years to significantly reduce the number of cases of both river blindness and Guinea worm. The Carter Center has played a HUGE role in this. Way to go, Jimmy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I have now tried all three of Ghana's most popular dishes: kenkey, banku, and fufu!

Fufu is cassava, platain, or yam (or a combination i.e. cassava and plantain) mashed relentlessly until it forms a gooey ball. The fufu is then cooked without water, becoming ever gooier! It is usually served with some type of soup or sauce.

The large gooey lump is the fufu, it is submerged in groundnut soup and accompanied with goat meat.

The texture of fufu is very feels quite strange going down as the consistency is between that of paste and play-dough. The flavors, however, were great! I really enjoy groundnut soup, it's like melted, spicy peanut butter. I was surprised by the flavor and tenderness of the goat meat, quite tasty really.

Believe it or not, you eat this meal with your hand! I say hand because you are only supposed to use your right hand while eating, in fact, you really shouldn't use your left hand at all. While it is becoming less taboo, using your left hand is a bit of a faux pas because it has been associated with bodily functions/waste in the past. Until fairly recently, children who were left handed were beaten until they became right handed.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I attribute most of my success to starting the day with one of Auntie Louisa's banana chocolate muffins.

Today, I...

1. ...successfully acquired the first set of readings for my history course.
2. ...spent two hours in the departmental library working on a project for my music class.
3. ...heard back from the other group with whom I want to volunteer! They asked me to report at 8:00 AM (eeeeek) a week from today.

It felt reallyyyyyyy hot today. I'm feeling pretty exhausted. Don't worry, I am pushing the fluids. By my estimates, I drink about 2 liters of water each day. Consequently, my body wakes me up around 6 AM, telling me it's time to pee. Had to go there...sorry.

Time to make dinner and do some school work...

...A demain!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

One Month Anniversary

On Friday, Africa and I celebrated our one month anniversary, what a momentous occasion! I'm sure you are wondering how I spent this special day.

 My friend Kelly had been feeling pretty badly for about a week, so on Friday, in a fitting "Ode to Africa", I took her to the hospital. Six hours later, she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection and most likely Malaria as well. Kelly and I were both exhausted and hungry come six o'clock when we got in a taxi to head back to campus. At the end of the day, however, Kelly had medication and an explanation for feeling so crummy, and I had read almost an entire book!

The trials and tribulations of the day were all but forgotten when Katie's roommate offered to take us to get dessert. We went to an upscale, hip and happening restaurant and ordered brownie sundaes. On a normal day, I could eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the price of this sundae, but it was SO WORTH IT!

On Saturday, while Kelly got some much needed R & R (much to her dismay), a group of us headed to Krokrobite, a small fishing village about 15 miles outside of Accra. 

The beaches on this stretch of the coast are absolutely beautiful! Palm trees swaying in the wind, white sand, crashing waves, the whole nine yards.

 The sun here is HOT. I lathered up in copious amounts of SPF 45 and still came away with some sunburn. To escape the sun for a few hours, we went to an amazing place for lunch, a restaurant owned by two Italians who moved to Ghana. We treated ourselves to authentic Italian pizza, iced tea, and mango milkshakes. YUM. 

I'll add here that I am becoming more familiar with tro-tros. To get to/from Krokrobite took a combination of 6 tro-tro rides. Today, we hoped on a tro-tro to go stock up on fresh veggies, something we have been seriously lacking lately! We made a pit-stop at the mall on the way back to stop at the "Obroni" grocery store, and made our way back to campus. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I am building confidence and learning the system a little better each day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


 I like to think I am quite the jokester. Making people laugh makes me really happy. That being said, there is that difference between making people laugh and getting laughed at. 

In Africa, you have to get used to people LOLing (Laughing out loud) at you...more than with you.

We stand out for obvious reasons, like the color of our skin and the way we dress, but there are countless other, more subtle things, that give us away as outsiders as well.

I was walking home one night, and passed a group of Ghanaian students. Having made eye contact with each and every one of them, I said "hi" as I walked past. Several feet behind me, I heard a Ghanaian girl repeat back "hi" in an exaggeratedly high voice, amid fits of laughter from the group. Apparently the pitch of my voice when saying the word "hi" was lol-worthy. That material wouldn't have gotten me any laughs at home, but hey, I'll take it.

In one of our lectures today, my friend Kelly responded to a question posed by the professor. Her response was eloquent and correctly answered the question. Yet, Kelly was met with loud laughter from both the class and the professor. As she was putting herself out there and trying to participate in class discussion, that was a little disheartening for her. 

Moral of the story? I think I could be a really successful comedian here... if success was measured by total laughter and not the direction of the laughs...LOL.


If I may say so, I feel like I have a bit of a knack for languages, and I like to think I am fairly adept at French.

 Here in Ghana, however, language is not coming so easily!

Akan is the most widely spoken language in Ghana. There are two main Akan dialects: Twi and Fante. Twi is spoken in 6/10 administrative regions in Ghana.

Just FYI, those administrative regions are as follows:
1. Greater Accra*
2. Volta Region*
3. Central Region*
4. Western Region
5. Eastern Region
6. Ashanti Region
7. Brong Ahafo Region
8. Northern Region
9. Upper East
10. Upper West

* = regions I have been too thus far

Twi has 7 vowel letters and 10 vowel sounds.

10 vowel sounds seems ridiculous, but English has over twenty!

Think about bow (for your hair), bow (to the king), and book. All the same vowel letter, o, but all different vowel sounds. Aigh yigh yigh.I do not envy those who study English as a second language!

In terms of consonants in Twi, there are familiar letters and sounds, familiar sounds but different representations, new sounds, and missing letters.

Familiar sounds, different representations:
The "sh" sound in English is "hy" in Twi
"ch" --> "ky"
"j" --> "gy"

 New sounds:
The closest I have come to finding equivalent for "hw" in Twi is "shh" in English.

It seems natural to try and find a similar sound as a point of reference, so I have been using both English and French to phonetically represent the new Twi sounds.

Just to make things a little more interesting, the letters q, j, z, v, x, and c don't exist in Twi.

It's tricky stuff!

At this point, I can say please, thank you, I'm sorry, yes/no, some basic food items, and respond to basic questions (i.e. How are you?). 

Introductions and greetings are a big part of Ghanaian culture, a greeting can be a twenty minute conversation. Inquiry by both parties is very important...this is where I am currently struggling. Someone will ask how I am, I respond, and then my mind is totally blank, unable to remember the words for "And you also?" It's like when you pass an acquaintance walking on campus and say, "Hey! How are you?" You say it, but the person is usually three feet behind you by then and they really never answer how they are. There is not much else to do at that point, so you just keep walking.

My goal for the next few days is to avoid situations like the one above and commit a few response questions to memory.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Volta Region

On Saturday morning, Kelly, Katie, and I set off for the Volta Region with two other international students. We accomplished quite a lot in two days!

Our first stop was the Wli Waterfall.

It was beautiful!!! There is an upper falls that you can hike to as well, so we might go back sometime and do that!

That evening we stayed at a monkey sanctuary, located in a village of about 2,000 people. The profits from the sanctuary go the the community, funds have already contributed to the construction of a school and access to electricity in the village.

  The sanctuary is home to over 600 Mona monkeys. These monkeys live in groups of about 45, and the biggest monkey is the "commander" of the group. We woke up at 5:45 AM on Sunday morning to go feed the monkeys.

To my delight, there was a baby monkey!!! 


Our next stop was Mt. Afadjato, the highest mountain in Ghana! We climbed 885 meters to the top. It was ROUGH. The Ghanaians do not appear to know much about trail building, because the majority of the trail was straight up.

I made it!

In addition to showing how sweaty I was, the picture also shows how horrible the harmattan is in Ghana right now. None of my pictures from the top of the mountain really turned out since it's so hazy and the air is full of dust.

A major shout out to my parents who will be hiking to way higher elevations on their trip to Tasmania in May.

Ghanaian Pit Stop

This weekend, we traveled to the Volta Region via tro-tro. From just outside of campus, we took a tro-tro to Medina, where we could catch another tro-tro to Hohoe.

The ride to Hohoe should be about four hours, but you really never know how long it will take you to get anywhere in Ghana. You have to plan accordingly in terms of food and drink consumption. If you eat or drink too much, you might not have the opportunity to use the bathroom. However, if you don't have enough to eat or drink, that also makes for a miserable tro-tro ride.

I had a granola bar for breakfast and picked up a Bofrot just before leaving.

Brofrot, the Ghanaian donut

Along the way, the tro-tro stopped twice. The first time we stopped, all of the men exited the tro-tro and lined up along the side of the road to relieve themselves...some times it would be nice to be a man... We stopped again, and the tro-tro was swarmed by men and women selling things, everything from toothpaste to dried fish. Several minutes later, after a flurry of hands reaching out the window with money and returning with food, we were back on the road.

Miraculously, we arrived in Hohoe in only four hours.

We were not so lucky on our return trip. On Sunday, we left Hohoe around 2:30 PM. I was seated directly behind the driver, and about an hour and a half into the ride, I noticed the driver was having difficulties switching gears. Sure enough, about thirty minutes later, we pulled over at a road side "repair shop." For about an hour, a few men fiddled under the tro-tro and added some sort of fluid to the clutch. 

While waiting, I enjoyed a fresh coconut.
We were on the road for another hour or so when we all started to realize we were riding the struggle bus. I really don't know much about cars, let alone those with manual transmissions, but it seemed like the car kept stalling out. The tro-tro was unable to get started following a complete stop. The solution? We tried to avoided coming to a complete stop at all causes. As we neared a toll booth, one of the men in the tro-tro got out, ran in front, gave the money to the attendant, and hopped back into the moving tro-tro. I couldn't help but laugh. We were hungry, tired, and cramped, but it still seemed so funny. Luckily, our stop was not too much farther along. We exited the tro-tro (while it was completely stopped, so I am not entirely sure if it ever got going again), and grabbed a taxi the rest of the way to campus. We arrived at our hostel around 8:00 PM tired, sweaty, dirty, and cramped, but quite impressed with ourselves and the adventures of the weekend.

I'll take a moment here to talk about "rules of the road" in Ghana. Long story short, there really aren't any. There are very few speed limit signs, and when there are, they are hardly ever followed. Ghanians are speed demons! Most Ghanaian roads aren't in great condition (even when paved), so driving is like an obstacle course--avoiding pot holes at all costs. This means you are often driving on the wrong side of the road, or in the shoulder.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Muffin Lady

I think it is about time that I post about Auntie Louisa, the muffin lady.

To be completely honest, Auntie Louisa is a little sketchy. She just has a look about her that makes you wonder a little bit. 

All international students engage in a little jig with her as we walk back to our hostel  in the evenings. She is seated on the curb, next to her plastic bin of homemade goods. Occasionally, she will be standing up, performing a dance/aerobics number. As you walk past, she speaks out, "My brothers, my sisters, you are my only real friends." She entices you to look at what she has brought, "tantalizing" is one of her buzz words. 
While the whole affair seems questionable (rightfullly so), Auntie Louisa's reputation precedes her. Students who have studied here previously swear by her chocolate banana muffins. While these muffins were rumored to cause bad dreams, I happily report that I am now a regular customer and have yet to experience any adverse side effects.

Tragically, by the time I arrived last night to purchase my banana chocolate muffin, she had none left. WHAT?!? Heartbreaking. As expected, she convinced me to try something else, and as a consolation to the muffin disappointment, gave me a mango scone for half price.

The mango scone was good, but it was no chocolate banana muffin.  

The things I will do for sweets...

Hi, my name is Emma and I'm a sweetoholic...nothing we didn't already know!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mixed Messages

I had two lectures scheduled for Wednesday afternoon/evening.

I arrived at my history course, Ghana in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was elated to see Ghanaian students in the classroom...and two professors!


...For twenty minutes.

After distributing the syllabus and providing an overview of the class, the Professor dismissed us "in the name of Ghana," as the football match was about to start. Ghana had advanced to the semi-finals of the African Cup.

The equation seemed simple: football > school

Two of my friends and I proceeded to a restaurant to watch the match. We made it to the 70th minute of the game, and a minute before the scheduled start of our next lecture, before we headed up to the lecture hall. At this point the score was 0-0. We assumed no one would be in the classroom, the game was ongoing and still tied for goodness sake.

Low and behold the professor, and many students, were in the lecture hall. The professor proceeded to start his powerpoint. The second slide, "rules of engagement", informed students they should arrive for class at least five minutes before the scheduled start time.

My simple equation was reversed: school > football

This professor lectured for the full two hours. TWO HOURS. A two hour lecture...OMGGGGGGGGG. I can barely get through 75 minute classes at Tech.

Thing I have realized I take for granted prior to coming to Africa #234: chairs with cushions

The U of G classrooms feature good, old fashion wooden benches or those wooden chair/writing arm piece combinations. Two hours in class. Two hours in class on a wooden bench. Two hours in class on a wooden bench when the fate of the Ghanaian football team is unknown.

A lot of shifting around/fidgeting later, I had made it through my first full lecture at the U of G! We covered some interesting topics, including the UN Millennium Goals. There is a lot of work to be done before 2015...

Today, I had my religions course, Islam in Ghana. I really liked the professor. While he also taught for the full period, the class went by pretty quickly! I didn't find myself checking Kelly's watch every five minutes. Two hours and several pages of notes later, my hand was a little sore.

As an Obroni, I have a little trouble understanding the professors, but I think my ear with adjust with time.

I'm kind of a of those people who likes school. I took my job as Scholarship Chair for ADPi pretty seriously...hehe lols. I like learning. I'm really excited that classes are underway and I'll be learning about things that are totally new to me.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Driving the Struggle Bus

Describing difficulties in terms of struggles is a classic Emmaism, or TEM (total Emma move). I routinely say, "I'm driving the struggle bus" or "Struggle city"...or, if I am really struggling, I say "The struggle bus is parked on my head."

Today, I was driving the struggle bus.

My day started at 6:40 AM. After pressing snooze twice, throwing some clothes on, and grabbing breakfast on the street, I arrived at my 7:30 AM lecture. I had high hopes for the second week of classes, but to my dismay, the classroom was empty--not a professor or student in sight. I waited for 45 minutes and then trudged back to my hostel. 

Dear University of Ghana,

I would actually like to see what your lectures are like! I actually want to go to class.


Around 10 AM, I ventured outside of the University (by myself) to visit the place where I would like to volunteer. While most Ghanaians have email and cell phones, if you want something done, face-to-face communication is your best bet.

I proceeded to the tro-tro station and waited for an hour until the tro-tro I was looking for arrived and had room for a passenger. The tro-tro took me to a junction called 37, about half way to where I needed to go. Usually, I could find another tro-tro to take me the rest of the way; however, I growing impatient in the now afternoon sun and didn't want to find and wait for another tro-tro. I decided to take a taxi the rest of the way. I found a driver, but he was not having any of my bargaining. I eventually accepted his inflated Obroni rate, and was finally en route to my final destination.

Upon arrival at the center, the administration had not received my email and attached CV. I had cced myself on the email and asked if it would be possible to log onto my email to resend it. Unfortunately, that was against the center policy. The woman informed me that there were several internet cafes down the road.

...Forty five minutes down the road I had not seen a single internet cafe. I asked for directions and followed them, but only found myself twenty more minutes down the road and still without internet access. I proceeded to ask another man for directions. He said he didn't want me to be misdirected and accompanied me twenty more minutes down the road, delivering me to the doorstep of an internet cafe. I was so appreciative and really touched by his kindness. I'm not sure what would have happened had I not found this man.

I paid for thirty minutes worth of internet. After less than two minutes, I had forwarded my original email to the center and called to verify that they had received it this time. I then made the trek back to the school. I met the principal administrator of the center, she was impressed with my CV and told me to expect a call sometime tomorrow. We shall see if I get a call...

I walked out of the center and considered my transportation options. I was unsure where the nearest tro-tro stop was and I was really not in the mood to be taken advantage of by another taxi driver. I hate assuming that people take advantage of me. There are exceptions, but many Ghanaians know that we don't know their system and will ultimately pay to get where we need to go. My stubbornness kicked in. I can be quite hard-headed at times and I really value independence. So, I walked back to 37. It took about 30-40 minutes.

Along the way, I was hissed at, whistled at, approached by men asking to be my friends, and someone even threw something at kind of bounced off me/squished on my knee, so I think it might have been a grape.

When I arrived at 37, I caught the correct tro-tro within fifteen minutes. I could see light at the end of the tunnel. Then, the tro-tro driver skipped my stop. The next stop after the one adjacent to the edge of campus is about twenty minutes up the road, so I got off there and walked back. 

STRUGGLE BUS. Aigh yigh yigh. At the end of the day (literally, this expedition took over four hours), I made it safely to and from my destination by myself. #victory

Upon my return, I rewarded myself with a fanchoco, a Ghanaian treat in a plastic rectangle that resembles frozen chocolate milk. I thought I had earned it.

Every day here is an adventure.Nothing I can't handle, but let me tell you, my dogs are barkin'! If you have never heard that expression, my feet really hurt. I wish I had a pedometer, today would have been a bofo day!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Crew

This isn't a great picture, but I thought it might be nice for you all to see the group.

Top row, left to right: Turner (from Portland), Brendan, ME, Collin, Ian, Ni Marmah (Guide), Patrick
Bottom row, left to right: Edwina (U of G student), Susan (ISEP director), Kim, Kelly, Avery, Katie, Teresa (ISEP director), Stephanie, Ciara, Audra, Awushi (U of G student)

Kissemah and Mawuvios

Two of my friends and I ventured to Kissemah for our first day of volunteering. Kissemah is a very poor section of Accra. It is only a ten minute drive from the University campus, so in recent years, wealthier Ghanaians have started building mcmansions there as well. Consequently, it's a stark illustration of the two extremes here.

A lonely street in Kissemah.

Since I have yet to hear back from my other volunteer program, today, I tagged along to Mawuvio's Outreach Programme. Mawuivo's is a NGO established by a young American woman who participated in my study abroad program here three years ago. On Saturday night we celebrated this woman's 23rd birthday...

In partnership with a Ghanaian man, the two have created a school for those who cannot afford education. In Ghana, primary school costs about 30 cedi (roughly 20 U.S. Dollars) per student per semester.

The school currently has just over 60 students, ages 4-14. There are four classrooms, divided loosely based on grade level. However, since many of the children have never received any type of formal education their ages and grade levels do not necessarily correspond. The classrooms consist of benches and stand alone white boards under one of several canopies. Mawuvio's is currently constructing a six room school at Ayikuma village, about an hour away from Accra. The new school will feature two dormitories and several classrooms—classrooms with walls!

The kids were nothing less than incredible. Many of their bodies showed signs of difficult lives, but their smiles and laughter told a totally different story. I worked with one girl, Shalom, who started at the school just two weeks ago after moving from Togo knowing no English. Today, she was counting with me past thirty.

The school is short staffed, but they are very lucky because two of my friends are going to be incredible assests. Kelly is an elementary education major, so she is right at home. She has more energy and enthusiasm than all of the kids combined, one of those people who is honestly made of sunshine. I seem like a prickly cactus in comparison! One of my other friends, Katie, knows sign language and will be working with two brothers who are deaf. Both Kelly and Katie are brainstorming activities and lesson plans as we speak. I know it is going to be an extremely worthwhile and rewarding experience for all parties involved.

As for me, I just love the kids. I will help at the school when and where I can with whatever needs to be done. I'm still hoping to work at the other place as well, I plan on following up with them tomorrow...if I have any energy after my 7:30 AM class. That's right people, I need to leave my hostel by 7:00 AM. EEEEEEK. I'm not a morning person.... zZzZzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Inching Along...

For anyone who knows me, I love a good to-do list. I have been known to add something to the list simply so I can cross it off. The act of drawing that line is just so satisfying.

When on Ghana Time, a to-do list is always overly ambitious. A Ghanaian shared this with me the other night, "A European has the watch, but a Ghanaian has the time." I do not think I have heard a more accurate statement while in Africa!

My friends and I set out early this morning to finish registering for classes, we needed to visit three departments. We have visited each of these departments at least four times previously, all in vain, and this morning was no exception. We had planned to spend a majority of the day volunteering, but returned to campus early in hopes of finally having a concrete academic schedule.After another hour or two revisiting the departments in the hot, afternoon sun, we were mostly successful! VICTORY! The Ghanaian version of a thumbs up is the peace sign, so feel free to throw up a peace sign for me as you read this.

As of now, barring any unforeseen and entirely possible changes, I will be taking the following courses this semester:

History: Ghana in the 19th and 20th Centuries
Religion: Islam in Ghana
Sociology: Poverty and Rural Development
Music: Music of Southern Africa
Dance: Intermediate Traditional African Dance Technique (Speaking of ambitious...time will tell if I should have gone with the beginner class...)

I will also be taking a Twi class, one of the main native languages. Even if I master Twi, and I certainly will not, there are over 40 other languages spoken in Ghana! 

In other news, my roommate has finally arrived! Ann is from the eastern region of Ghana. The youngest of eight children, she is in her final semester here as a Linguistics and Psychology major. Psychology, imagine that! She told me the psychology professors here are "very stingy" with grades and was happy to hear I was taking other courses.She brought a mini fridge, microwave, and rice cooker, I don't even know what to do with myself!

I don't have much more to share on the roommate front, however, I was awoken very early this morning by Ann's gospel music. I have really lucked out with roommates in the past, so I am a little unsure how to proceed in terms of compromising/coexisting on issues like gospel music in the room before the sun comes up.  I will take a moment here to express how excited I am to live with Emma and Sarah senior year and have my own room again, YIPEE!

Running with the gospel music, I have found women my age in Ghana to be particularly religious. Ann, and the Ghanaian roommates of my program friends, sleep with the bible directly next to their pillows. They also carry a version of Our Daily Bread with them in their purses. The men do not appear as outwardly religious, but several of the guys in my program have had their roommates ask some very personal questions about their religious beliefs.

Religious phrases and symbols can be found everywhere in Ghana, from taxi windshields to shop names to huge billboards. I say found, but you really don't even have to look. Sunday church services typically run a solid three hours! I had the opportunity to go to a Ghanaian friend's Christian church a few weekends back. It was an interesting cultural experience and it was very apparent that the church is an extremely important part of a Ghanaian's life and sense of community. While the majority of the country is Christian, Islam and African Traditionalism have a very strong following here as well. I really enjoyed my introduction to Islamic culture in Turkey, and I look forward to my religions course here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ghanaian Eats II

On Saturday, the University hosted the Welcome Durbar for international students. The Durbar showcased Ghanaian culture with multiple musical performances and lots of food! Following the food, more drumming and dancing ensued, but my friends and I had taken advantage of the free food (buffet style) a little too much to take part...hehe. I think our priorities were in the correct place. I am taking a traditional African dance class, so I will have plenty of time to dance throughout the semester.

One of my favorite dishes at the Durbar was this unidentified soup.The tomato-like base was spicy and the meat was really tender! I assumed the chunks of meet were beef, I was later told it could have been goat...regardless, it was good.

Today, two of my Ghanaian friends made us Red-Red, fried plantains and beans, for lunch. For a real treat, they also added fish. I took pictures (my internet is pretty weak right now, so more pictures to come!) and made mental notes, so I can make it for them next time!

Palm Oil
Vegetable Oil
Fish (optional)

Step 1. Cook beans
2. Combine palm oil, salt, onion, and tomatoes in saucepan over medium heat
3. Peel and cut plantains and soak them in salt and water

4. Add plantains to simmering oil
5. Turn each piece of plantain when the other side is brown and crispy
6. Remove plantains from oil and strain when both sides are brown and crispy,
7. Add fish and beans to saucepan and combine
8. Grab a bowl/plate and enjoy

The recipe is pretty simple, but it is delicious!

Additional notes: I think the bean mixture would also be really good over rice. I also prefer thinner slices of plantain (nice and crispy!), so I might cut mine that way the next time I make it.

Give it a shot, Ashleigh Zuke?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Street Food

For me, street food is a less expensive, more authentic way to experience a country's culture through food.

This morning, on my way to try and complete class registration for the umpteenth time, I grabbed a version of Ghana's breakfast sandwich. The two, large slices of bread are thick, warm, and slightly sweet (it would make for some delicious french toast); the fried egg with pepper and onion and a little cheese complement the sweetness really nicely. YUM!  If I haven't sold you on it yet, this breakfast cost me the equivalent of about eighty cents.
As the first "official" week of classes comes to a close, I report, with a little pleasure, that I only had one class this week. The pictures below show how two of my classrooms looked when I showed up at the scheduled time. Per university policy, I waited thirty minutes passed the scheduled class time in case the professor showed up. Thirty minutes later, the pictures remained the same.

"Ghana time" at its finest, better luck next week!

One Word

I find it difficult to describe myself in one word. While many things come to mind (daughter, sister, girlfriend, student, "foodie", athlete, etc.), I don't feel like one word captures everything that makes me, me. 

During my time here, I have heard one word over and over describing me: Obroni, meaning white or white person.

Yesterday, my friend Kelly and I took a tro-tro (sans a Ghanaian friend/guide) to Medina market. Quite a feat for a such a confusing, disorganized system! I think we both were a little impressed with ourselves.

For me, this sense of accomplishment dwindled a bit after a few minutes in the market. We, like every Ghanaian there, wanted to make a few purchases and be on our way. Instead of quite passerbys looking for mangos, we were "Obroni." We were walking through the market to a constant chorus of Obroni!, Obroni! Children, who could not have been old enough to have more than 10 words in their vocabularies, knew and called us Obroni. 

It's true, I am white. In fact, I am whiter than the average white person...SPF 45 (or higher) is my friend. It's also true that we can't blend in, we were quite obviously the only white people in the market. I guess I just found myself a little discouraged that even after doing things the "Ghanaian way," at the end of the day, I am still just Obroni. 

On that note, I think I will go put sunscreen on and start my day!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

GT...It's a Waiting Game

Happy February, everyone! 

It is hard to believe I have been here almost two weeks. While the days seem to fly by, I must admit that "Ghana time" (GT for short) is far from the accelerated pace a typical college student in the U.S. experiences.

Classes technically started on Monday...thus far, I have been to zero classes. Many professors/Ghanaian students simply don't show up the first week of classes. Additionally, I still have classes that have not been assigned time slots. I check daily with the departments and always receive the same response, "the timetable should be up by (insert day here)." I have two classes scheduled this afternoon, but I am not holding my breath!

Speaking of students not showing up, I have yet to get a roommate! Ten of my 12 program members are happily settled with their Ghanaian counterpart. The luckiest of the them now have access to a mini fridge in their room*! As someone who has been drinking about a liter and a half of warm water everyday, I am very envious. For me, it looks like tepid water will stay the norm. There are many worse things in life, one of which being limited access to sweets. I must pick my battles, and cold water is simply less a priority than satisfying my sweet tooth.

I am also waiting to get started with my volunteer work. The organization I am most interested in is a school/center for children and adults with "mental disadvantages." As the organization's wording is a little vague, I am unsure if that means learning disabilities, mental illnesses and/or everything in between. They requested a copy of my CV, so I sent that off and I hope to get started soon. I am a little apprehensive because corporal punishment is not uncommon in Ghanaian schools.

On a happier, conclusive note, I am not waiting on Mumee. It's official, she is visiting Ghana!  She arrives a month from today, WAHOO! Many of my friends here have family or significant others visiting, but my parents are off to Tasmania this spring and Thomas is in Rome. I have simply come to the realization (not for the first time), that Mumee loves me more than they do! Hehehehe. I can't wait to share and explore Ghana with my number one travel companion.

*International Student Hostel 1, my place of residence, is a hot commodity. We have been told it is one of the nicest places to live on campus . From what I can tell, living in ISH1 has a similar prestige to living on the lawn at UVA, and the Ghanaians who live here seem to be fairly well-off. My friend Katie's roommate has a car, SCORE!