Thursday, March 29, 2012



I want to make a return trip to Budapest/Hungary and also explore more of eastern Europe. 

The city (orginially two, Buda and Pest) is divide by the Danube River, Buda is hilly and to the west and Pest to the east.

 From Buda, looking over the Danube to Pest

 Three primary bridges link the two.

Our hostel was incredible! I believe it was rated the number one hostel in Europe in 2009.

 The location was also fantastic. We were on the Pest side at the base of the White Bridge (the central bridge), right next to a metro station and close to many of Budapest's sites and some great restaurants.

We spent a day at the famous Szchenyi baths.

 The rest of our the time was split between eating and seeing sites like

 St. Stephen's Basilica,

 Szechenyi Chain Bridge,

 Matthias Church,

Fisherman's Bastion,


 Hereos Sqaure,
Buda Castle,Vajdahunyad Castle, Andrassy Avenue (Budapest's Champs-Elysees), and Liberty Bridge.
Hungary was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, the Germans, and the Russians, and the influences of all three can be seen throughout the city. The buildings in Budapest bear witness to many years of turmoil, some are crumbling while others still host bullet holes.

Now for the food.  Before our trip, we had heard mixed reviews, but Hungarian food far exceeded our expectations! The cuisine features meat and potatoes, and paprika is the spice of choice. Goulash, a soup/stew with meat, potatoes, and paprika, is one of the most prevalent dishes. They also love pork, lard, and sour cream...I can't complain about that.

Hungarian fried bread (Langos) with sour cream and cheese, on top of a garlic soup

Pork with cottage cheese pasta and paprika sauce

 Goose leg, Thomas tried it because he'd heard Hungary had good waterfowl

 Chicken paprikash was one of my favorite dishes. It consists of chicken pieces, browned in butter, cooked with onions and paprika, then served with a little sour cream mixed in #YUM. Budapest also had a lot of pastry shops, including one right next door to our hostel, so I was a happy camper.

Snack we picked up in a metro was like a soft pretzel sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. You could also get them sprinkled with coconut, walnut, and a few other things.


The Oregon Trail & Page Numbers

I'm about to head to class, but I have two things to report this morning.

1. Cases of Cholera have been reported on the U of G campus. There are flyers across campus urging us to make sure the food we consume is hot and prepared/handled in the most hygienic way possible.

Personally, when I think of Cholera, I think of the Oregon Trail computer game Alex and I used to play. I remember Alex would take very special care when selecting his wagon party; however, in spite of copious amounts of planning/strategizing, someone always seemed to get Cholera. As shown by the Oregon Trail, and noted so kindly by the woman at our health orientation, "If you get Cholera at 8 AM, you'll be dead by noon." TIA.

2. This morning, over two full months since the start of classes, I received my first grade of the semester! 

I got an A on a paper I wrote for my Music of Southern Africa class. There was only one comment on my paper: you did not page your work, a serious omission. Apparently not paging my work was in fact a serious omission, as it cost me 15 points off my grade. #Yikes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Respite in Rome

While I am finding myself increasingly more comfortable and confident with the chaos that is my daily life in Ghana, I was ecstatic to travel to Italy.

The trip allowed me to see two new countries, two incredible cities, and to see Thomas, of course!

My bias aside, Thomas was a fantastic tour guide, and we covered a lot of ground in the short time I was there. Some of the highlights were the Roman Forum, Pantheon, 


Trevi Fountain,

Spanish Steps,

Top of St. Peter's Dome,

Villa Borghese, and several famous piazzas. 

I loved Rome because its history isn't limited to a few sites throughout the city, it's everywhere. The new and the old are intertwined, making for a beautiful and fascinating place.

I also loved Rome because of its incredible eats. First and foremost, I had gelato every day. My favorite flavors were mixed berry, coconut, tiramisu, and nutella. I was in heaven, especially since, as I have mentioned countless times, I am deprived of adequate dessert here in Ghana. I preceded my delicious desserts (I also had a few canolis, a piece of tiramisu, and several other Italian desserts) with lots of pizza and pasta! I like the Italian style of eating because it allows you try a lot of different things in one meal, and since there are multiple courses, portions are typically smaller.

My favorite antipasto was bruschetta. For primo, I had three favorite pasta dishes: carbonara, arrabiata, and a red sauce with bacon (I'll have to ask Thomas for the name, I can't remember it). Arrabiata is a spicy red sauce, it was served with Bucatini (thick spaghetti shaped pasta that is hollow in the center), al dente, of course! For the meat course, or secondo, my favorites were roasted chicken, sliced beef, and meatballs. We also had ox tail twice, it was very tender and flavorful. Thomas lives in a neighborhood that isn't touristy, so I got to try some really great, authentic places.

I have to give Thomas a lot of credit, because Italy is not as western as I anticipated it would be. Outside of the tourist-heavy areas, not a lot of people appeared to speak English. Thomas ordered all of our meals in Italian, one of our waiters complemented him on his Italian. #GoThomas.

One of the things I like to try and explore in each place I visit is a local market. I have seen some interesting markets from Turkey to China to Ghana. Thomas took me to one a few blocks from his house, where he typically buys bread and fruit. There were tons of stalls selling everything from freshly butchered meat to underwear. There were some pretty adorable older Italians, whom I liked to observe whilst they did their daily shopping. 

I really can't say how wonderful this trip was, words just don't do it justice. Thanks for having me, Thomas, I love you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Tomorrow night I'm off to Italy!!!
Thomas is going to show me around Rome, andddddd we're jetting off to Budapest for a few days.

I'm in Ghana, I had a visit from Mumee, and I'm going to Europe...I'm livin' the dream :)

I'm not sure if I'll be able to blog while I'm gone, so don't worry if you don't see a post for a while.

As Tigger always says, ta ta for now!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Russian Roulette

My experiences with Ghanaians in Accra, specifically those outside of campus, have been all over the place, I never quite know what to expect. 

On numerous occasions I have been "hassled." I have been hassled by hawkers on the street, vendors wanting me to buy their goods, adults and children alike asking for money, men professing their love and asking for my hand in marriage, etc., etc. 

This weekend, while Mumee and I were walking downtown, I had a man grab my tush. I'm not talking about a casual brush or pat, cheeks were squeezed. Say whaaaaaat? I was a little flustered. There are times (like these) when it all seems like a little much, I just want to be left alone, able to walk down the street without attracting attention.

I have also found many Ghanaians who are friendly, helpful, polite,and respectful/conscious of personal space (and parts), haha...

Today was a good day. Every Ghanaian Mumee and I encountered was wonderful, taxi drivers, restaurant employees, and people on the street included.

YAY :)

Weekend with Mumee

What a wonderful three days I have had.

I really can't explain how nice it was to see a familiar face, let alone Mumee's. I am so appreciative of her visit for many reasons. While I hope you are getting a good sense of my life here, you cannot fully understand  without experiencing it. After 8 days on her own throughout Ghana, and 3 days here in Accra with me, Mumee was exposed to "the Ghana way." It was so nice to be able to share everything that comes with this adventure with a loved one. Her companionship was invaluable.
 It just so happens that these two companions are strong believers in the pairing of good company and good food. In three days, we did not have a meal that was anything less than wonderful. While I enjoy Ghanaian food, I find there is little variety. This weekend, however, we manged Ghanaian, Italian, Indian, American, and Turkish. I had waffles one morning for breakfast and cinnamon banana crepes another, so I am tempted to say Belgian and French as well.

We went to two of the top four highest ranked restaurants in Accra. We also visited an authentic Italian gelateria...twice (Mumee knows how severe my sweet tooth is...thank goodness someone understands). I am convinced that the quality will be on par with what I consume in Italy next week. I know that is a bold statement... I'll let you know if it also becomes a true one.

Needless to say, I was LIVIN' THE DREAM. 

There is so much more I could say, but I will leave it at that. The visit has left me renergized, with a happy tummy, and in a fantastic mood.


Here are a few pictures from the sight seeing we did around Accra. 

Independence Arch

View from the parade grounds looking towards the Independence Arch, we thought the red/yellow/green structure could be the Ghanaian eternal flame.

Messages from Mumee, A Guest Post

Ghana is developing its tourism industry and has made a great start.  Land for parks, preserves, forests has been set aside to prevent it from being cleared and developed.  Hotels and guesthouses are being designed and planned for the time when the economy picks up. Ghana is just as prone to the ups and downs of the world's economy as the rest of the world and right now everything is on hold. Ghana is looking for investment from other countries and many of the current road  projects are being funded by loans from China, Brazil and Canada. A new super highway, a six lane divided highway in Accra, is called the Bush Highway for Pres. Bush 2.  No explanation needed as to who provided the funding.

If Ghana hopes to compete in the world for tourism several major things need to change...I visited several eco tourism sites that had so many plastic water bottles and water sachets strewn about that it was hard to visualize exactly what I was there to see.  I only saw litter bins at one site in my entire trip and most people just toss their refuse on the ground and claim it is the Ghana way.   Air pollution is exacerbated by the cooking and field fires which cause a murky haze and obliterate the views.  Last but not least is the lack of public toilet facilities throughout the country.. Men urinate wherever they please, often in full view of everyone. A canal of sewage runs along side most streets.  Granted sanitation is a big investment in infrastructure, but a start with some recycle bins and porta potties would go a long way to making this country more pleasant as a tourist site.

Final Verdict: Not quite ready for prime tourism

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Independence Day

Today marks 55 years since Ghana gained independence from Great Britain on March 6th, 1957.

It astounds me that most African countries did not gain independence until the latter half of the TWENTIETH century.

The national holiday meant no classes pour moi! 

With the day to ourselves, Kelly, Katie, and I went with Renee (previous ISEP student, co-founder of Mawuvios) and five of the Mawuvios kids to Aburi. 

On the way there, we experienced a very Ghana moment. In Ghana, there are security check points each time you cross into a different region. At these check points, vehicles are stopped "at random" by police officers. If you are white, however, "random" equates to being stopped every time. The police officer who stopped us asked to see Renee's Ghanaian drivers license. Renee does not have a Ghanaian drivers license. Obtaining a Ghanaian drivers license requires a large some of money, but driving school is not compulsory...that makes sense, right? Foreigners can opt to obtain an international drivers license as an alternative, but the application process is slow and chock-full of red tape. Each time she is stopped, Renee explains that she is in the process of getting her international license. This time, the officer accepted this as a suitable answer, and we were allowed to continue on our way. Previously, Renee has had to pay officers to avoid being arrested. TIA (This is Africa).

Aburi, situated on the Akuapem Hills, is about an hour inland of Accra.We spent the majority of the day at the Aburi Botanical Garden. The garden is planted with both indigenous and exotic trees.

Being the chocolate lover that I am, I had to take a picture of a cocoa tree.

When I think of holidays I think food...shocker. Independence day in the U.S. makes me think of bratwursts, watermelon, and some sort of sweet. Ghanaian Independence day wasn't far off. I tried a sausage khebab that was very kielbasa-like. 

I also had local Ghanaian ice cream!!! It was more like icey sherbert, but I'm not complaining and I will admit to having two cones today.

The picture isn't even in focus... I was more concerned with consuming it than with the quality of my documentation! 

In other news, I heard from the professor who will serve as my adviser for my summer internship! He told me that our research will examine how experiences in close personal relationships may protect (or place soldiers at-risk) for post-traumatic stress disorder following armed conflict. I'm pretty excited about it!

Monday, March 5, 2012


On Friday, at 7 AM, we set off for Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region and the second largest city in Ghana. The traffic-induced six hour bus ride was particularly interesting on windy roads. To get to Kumasi, you climb and descend  several substantial hills. The switchbacks were not doing much for a lot of our stomachs!

While Kumasi appeared as chaotic and congested as Accra, for some reason, I think I prefer it. Kumasi seemed more vibrant and inviting. We saw the city and its HUGE central market and went to the Asantehene Palace and Cultural Center.

 Kumasi is the epicenter of Ghanaian trades/crafts, so we stopped in several craft villages.

Stop one: Bonwire, Kente Weaving

Fun fact, only men weave kente cloth because women do not fit in the looms when pregnant. The looms brought back fond memories of the carpet weaving Mumee and I witnessed in Turkey.

Stop two: Ntonso, Adinkra Cloth

Ink made from the bark of baobab trees is used to stamp symbols onto cloth. 

I didn't do any stamping here, so I had some extra time on my hands while others stamped and waited for their cloth to dry. I befriended some local boys and took this picture of them before leaving. I think it is my favorite picture I have taken here so far.

Stop 3: Ahwiaa, Wood Carving

Villagers work in open workshops outdoors, each specializing in a particular type of carving.

You don't see this type of craftsmanship in the U.S. very much anymore, you're lucky if you don't see "Made in China" stamped or printed somewhere. These crafts I saw (and purchased, hehe) were made locally and embody the richness of Ghanaian culture. We value industry and efficiency, and that can be great, but you lose a lot in the process. 

New Snacks

While traveling this weekend, I came accross some new snacks sold by hawkers along, or in, the road. 

1. Tigernuts

Grown in Ghana, the tigernut  is not actually a nut, but a small tuber.
Apparently, tigernuts are recognized for their health benefits, as they are high in fiber, proteins, and natural sugars.You chew on them to extract a sweet juice, and then can either spit out the remaining ball of mush, or eat it. 

2. Sugar cane

Sugar cane is one of Ghana's main crops. Fresh, bite sized pieces are sold in little plastic bags everywhere. You enjoy the sweet liquid until only the taste of the woody stalk is left. This made me think of you, Gen!

I have already posted about fresh coconut nut, but I will reiterate that it is amazing!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bon anniversaire !

Today is my Dad's birthday.


If I were home right now, I would be in the middle of baking you a chocolate cake with mocha icing...rain check in May.

A quote inspired by, and in honor of, the man of the day:

"Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value."
-Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 1, 2012



Many hours after leaving Portland, OR, Mumee is in Ghana. She had a six hour lay over in D.C., so she was able to spend some time with my Mom before the final leg to Accra.

I met her at the airport this afternoon, and we arrived back on campus around 3:30 PM. Upon arrival, we relaxed for a bit and then went on an abbreviated campus tour. Mums met Auntie Louisa (and made several purchases, stay tuned for her reviews) and saw my humble abode. We had a nice dinner at the University Guest Center, chit chatted a little more, and called it a night.

I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW...did the caps lock give it away?

How cool is Mumee? She is here, with me, in Africa, AND she is heading off tomorrow for a week long tour to do some exploration of her own. #worldsbestgrandma

I hope and pray that I am this adventurous and awesome at her age.

As if life weren't good enough already, Mumee came bearing gifts. Thanks to the combined effort of Mumee and my mom, I now have a supply of candy, peanut butter, granola bars, and GIRL SCOUT COOKIES.


New Horizon

I started volunteering at New Horizon on Monday. The center provides basic day school education for children and vocational training and employment for adults who have intellectual disabilities and autism. Over 100 children, teens, and adults are currently enrolled. 

There are small school/transportation fees to attend the center. Many of the children come from poor and/or single parent homes and cannot afford these fees, so the center has an "Adopt a Student" scholarship program. In Ghana, quality of education is really dependent on socioeconomic status, so it is really nice to see New Horizon make an effort to provide for those from all backgrounds. 

All in all, it seems like a great environment. The teachers appear enthusiastic and passionate and there are more of them than I expected, one for every 6-9 students. The students have P.E., music, computer lab and other activities to supplement their classroom time. 

I will have the opportunity to work with a group of nine students twice a week. The youngest person in my group is sixteen and the oldest twenty one, the majority of them have down syndrome or autism. Intellectual ability varies greatly within the group, some aren't able to spell Monday or February and some are practicing multiplication time tables.

The experience was a little bittersweet. The school is great; it is making a difference in hundreds of peoples lives, but I also know there are so many others who don't have access to resources like it. Ghana barely has the resources to educate "normal" kids, let alone those with special needs. In the past, and still today, those in Ghana with mental disabilities/illness were treated pretty poorly and most still don't receive any type of special care.

I know these things take time, particularly in a developing country. 

A little food for thought:
"All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem. "
-MLK, Jr.