What a week! There is so much that has happened since I was last able to access the internet.
I am learning my way around town nicely, especially considering there are no street names or house numbers in Ghana. To give directions, you tell a story, and you have to know landmarks, like “Blue Gate,” “Living Room,” “Banku Junction,” “Oponglo,” and the like. I rode my first trotro a couple of days ago when I took my broken computer to the Apple Store in the mall, and look forward to future trips on the rickety minivans. There’s something about careening down a red dirt road in a vehicle packed with people while the mate is yelling our destination at pedestrians in hopes of picking them up while holding onto the van door so it doesn’t fall off, that makes me glad to be living in this country. I think travelling in the trotros and shared taxis is my favorite thing to do in Ghana; you meet so many interesting people and see so many sights.
I have grown used to all the women (and often men) carrying huge loads on their heads around town, to the babies slung on women’s backs, and to the religious names of all the businesses. “God is Good Hair Salon,” “Faith and Love Electronics,” “Jesus is Alive AutoRepair,” and “The Lord is my Shepherd Market,” are all extremely common names. I have also learned to hop out of the way anytime a car/van/truck is coming my way or whenever I hear a horn; the drivers here will stop to let baby chicks or a cat cross the road, and they will make the sign of the cross over their hearts while they wait, but if it’s a person, there’s no mercy. Get out of the way, or get run over.
A few days ago CIEE took us on a field trip to the first cocoa farm in Ghana, the botanical gardens, and a woodcarving village. On the way there we drove by Rita Marley’s house, Bob Marley’s wife. At the cocoa farm we got to taste the cocoa fruit and the dried beans, and learned the process of how cocoa is grown here. At the woodcarving village we got to shop around and look at beautiful masks and statues that people make for a living, and I learned that you can trade ballpoint pens for beautiful pieces of art (I asked Mom to send me a packet of pens.) At the gardens we got to pick leaves and identify things like camphor and all-spice, experience a scratch-and-sniff tree that smelled like cinnamon, and play with a plant called memosa that curls up its leaves when you touch it.
Two days ago I witnessed the most violent thunderstorm of my twenty years on earth. A group of us were walking out of campus to find dinner and a place to watch the Ghanaian national soccer team play their first match of the African Cup of Nations (a HUGE deal around here), when we noticed a wall of black, swirling clouds on the horizon. Thinking we would surely make it home before it caught up to us, we were somewhat surprised when they were on top of us 10 minutes later. Four of us quickly hailed a taxi, and the second the door closed, the downpour began. Earth-shaking thunder, blinding lightning, and an ocean falling from the sky. Running across the street into our friends house when the taxi let us off left us drenched, even though we were only outside for about 20 seconds. The electricity was out for a couple of hours, which meant wandering around in the pitch dark and missing most of the soccer match (which Ghana lost), but it was an experience all of its own.
Eventually the rain stopped and the power came back on, and I headed back home to find a guest in my bathroom. A cockroach as long as my thumb was hanging out in my shower space, and a hunt of about 10 minutes ensued; me wielding a flashlight in one hand (there’s no light in the bathroom) and a shoe in the other, shaking and freaking out a bit, and it scurrying around my toilet and shower bucket, freaking out even more. When it crawled into my shower sponge I drew the line, informed it that hiding in my cleaning supplies was unacceptable (yes, I was talking to it,) and proceeded to slay the fiend with my Chaco. Even though half of it was squashed all over my shower floor, the front half of it lay there wiggling its antennas and legs for a while, until I scooped its squirming remains up with toilet paper and threw it in the trash. Thus is the tale of my first personal encounter with the Ghanaian wildlife. Cockroach: 0. Sara: 1.
Yesterday I attended my first worship service in Ghana when my host Grandpa took me to his Presbyterian church. I had SO much fun taking it all in; although I couldn’t understand most of it because it was in Twi, I loved listening to the music and watching the people pray and sing and laugh and greet each other. There was organ, drum set, African drums, trumpet, bass guitar, and a couple of choirs, so it was by far the most diverse church music group I’ve seen. The service was two hours, and then they were inducting their new reverend for an hour and a half after that. Afterward Grandpa took me to his friend’s house for a birthday party, where our “brief visit” lasted the entire afternoon. Lots of food, lots of beer, and lots of people; all in all, not unlike an American celebration.
Yesterday evening was the official CIEE Akwaaba (Welcome) Dinner on campus. CIEE surprised us by bringing in a group of professional drummers and dancers, which were fantastic to watch and listen to. Some even learned to dance with them toward the end (the alcohol was flowing there as well, as it is everywhere in Ghana.)
And that brings us to today, the first day of class, and my only class of the day has been canceled because the professor wanted to work on planning the class instead of actually teaching it today. Fine by me! I’m looking forward to becoming fully adjusted, but so far I am loving my time here. The story continues to unfold…