Wednesday, September 2, 2009


July 25, 2009

Left Accra this morning at 9:00am. Received my drum before we left. It is super beautiful, although not perfect… there are a few chunks that I am not 100% happy with, but oh well, it just adds character right? Arrived in Dagbamate around noon… we all expected to be living in mud huts or something, but instead we are in the nicest hostel that we have seen yet! The kids here are very aggressive but absolutely adorable. There is a little boy here named Kobi who just comes up and holds your hand and hugs you and is just the cutest, most cuddly child ever! We had a very long drum lesson after lunch, but Kwasi is such an amazing teacher that it seemed to go by really fast! We each learned the bell, rattle, and small medium and large drums (which all have Ghanaian names…), plus the songs that go with them. Kwasi is a very intense yet inspirational teacher; he gave us a speech about how paying attention to your teacher is not for your teacher, but it is for you and your future. Also, that there is a young boy named Try, and you will never get to meet his sister named Success if you don’t what? Try. There is always somebody in your class who gets good marks, but you can too, because you are also somebody. These topics really get through to you when the right person is preaching them. There were times when his face was very straight, but every time he was drumming or dancing his face just lit up, and you can just tell that he loves what he does.

July 26, 2009

Woke up at 3:00am to get ready for Kwasi’s daughter’s wedding. Left at 4:30am, and arrived at about 8:30am where we were greeted with alcohol made by Kwasi himself (called Red…it’s disgusting), eggs and bread with Milo and bottles of water. At 10:30am we headed to the church where we were a part of the wedding ceremony – all sitting on the stage of the church. Unfortunately, it was at least two hours long, and we later found out that they were already married. However, they were only married in the African Traditional religion, not in Christianity, which the groom’s mother insisted on apparently. Culturally it was very odd, the sermon mentioned being submissive to your husband - an idea that Western culture would not agree to. After the ceremony we went to the reception lunch where I was happily provided with free alcohol and food. The venue was absolutely beautiful – in the middle of paradise almost, and the air was a bit misty, which just made everything look mystical. We had to leave around 4:00pm because Kwasi didn’t want us to be driving in the dark, as our headlights were not strong enough (and ironically we were pulled over by the police). We eventually made it back. This was a horrible first wedding experience. I want to elope so that I do not have to put other people through the pain and agony that I sat through today… but I want a big reception (obviously).

Wedding reception

July 27, 2009

Today we drummed from 8:00am-noon, and 2:00pm -5:00pm… Kwasi is a super interesting person in the sense that he is one of the most intense drum teachers I have ever encountered, but also because as soon as he sees you getting tired he pulls out this amazing smile that just makes you have to smile back, which actually works as a method of waking me up. He told us today that he wants us to remember everything we learned about the village EXCEPT his own daughter’s wedding because he thought it was that bad, and he went on for about ten minutes about how women shouldn’t have to be submissive to their men and etc. It was hilarious! After the drum lesson we went back to his house and he gave us all more shots of Red, which we have all discovered is gross at any time of the day (not just 8:30am). He then took us on a tour of the village. Later on in the evening, we went to get some chocolate, but instead, we encountered a bunch of kids ranging age five to fifteen approximately, dancing and drumming in the middle of the village. Girls of all ages were performing, and every single one of them was working it and was fantastic! The boys were doing pyramid tricks and kept falling, and all the other kids would just burst into hysterics every time they fell, where I feel that in Canada, the kids would be a lot more worried for their well-being. However, in Canada the circumstances are totally different and therefore kids aren’t quite as daring, especially in front of their parents.

July 28, 2009

Went to the community drum competition today, which consisted of choral singing, poetry readings, drama, dance drama, etc, and it lasted the entire day. We got to know a lot of the children in the village and talked to lots of people, so it was interesting. However, most of the topics in the dance drama were about killing, sexual, or about drugs, and although the point was that these issues are bad, the little kids still only see their role models pretending to do all these things. So, when I was doing readings in the lobby I asked a little boy to draw me a picture and he drew me a picture of a man smoking with the word “OK” all over his clothes. It just goes to show, actions speak louder than words, and children don’t always understand the point. I made an appointment for an interview with the Chief Priest at the shrine for this Saturday at 8:00am, I am very excited to speak with him! The shrine is kind of spooky – there is a fire pit in the middle that topless women were sitting at very openly, and also a man with a very inflamed thigh. I hope to check it out again soon.

Drum Competition

July 29, 2009

Today we had only two hours of drumming in the morning, then at 10:00am we headed over to the school to give our donations. The school system, we learned, is very similar to Canada’s in regards to the subjects and rules & regulations, terms & reports. However, when we gave our donation, there seemed to be no “thank you” from the teachers, almost as though it was expected of us… as well, I headed over to the building with the three oldest groups of kids to give the rest of my jewelry to some girls, and none of them said thank you to me. The only response I received was when I pulled out a really long necklace that had big green beads, where they all said “AY!” and grabbed for it – and the girls grabbing were all of the girls that had already gotten something! I grabbed it back and gave it to another girl who had not yet received anything from me. And even as I was leaving, no “thank you” or “goodbye”, nothing! I feel like some girls in Accra would have been more appreciative, but this was my only opportunity to give my things away so I had no choice. I’m sure the girls appreciated it, but I expected at least one of them to smile or thank me at least. After lunch we had three more hours of drumming and I was exhausted. Kwasi singled me out a couple times, but that’s all right, he can’t really think that every person can pay attention for the entire time. Well, I definitely can’t anyway. We feasted at dinner for Cathy’s birthday ☺. They set up the tables outside and a table of elders came to feast with us and they supplied pop and red (of course) and lots of great food!

July 30, 2009

This morning we drummed with Kwasi, learned a new piece, it was fun… except Kwasi kept catching me not paying attention again – he was telling a story and started quizzing me and when I shook my head because I didn’t know the answer, he forced me to answer… so I guessed, and got it correct, so he went on a ramble about how I am shy and how that is not a good quality of a student . In the middle of our drum lesson, the Diviner sacrificed a goat and a chicken, directly behind us. I will never forget what I saw. I don’t really have a huge problem with their sacrifices, as I realize it is a large part of their lifestyle, but I really did not like how it happened right before my eyes. The blood that poured from the goat was very bright as well, almost a bright pink, and it never sank into the ground, and it just stayed, thick and pink. A bit later on, what looked like a leaf fell onto Derek’s head while we were drumming, but it turned out to be a snake! All the girls were standing on the benches, like OMG! But yeah I was kind of just checking out how awesome it’s colourings were. They threw stones and drums at the snake until the decapitated it, which seemed really unnecessary to me because it wasn’t a poisonous snake. After killing it they threw it away somewhere. After lunch we went to the market in Akatche where I bought two bottles of Cardinal and some Milo to take home to Canada. Once we arrived back, I went to the shrine and was talking about initiation with one of the men there that I had talked to a couple times before. I was thinking that I wanted to become a member of the shrine, but am deciding against it because it would be disrespectful to the people (whether they knew my motives or not) because I do not know enough about it and therefore my heart isn’t in it (and I just wanted to do it for anthropological reasons anyway). The shrine here is not like the catholic church, and therefore it is a bigger deal when someone joins it, and I do not want to disrespect the people of Dagbamate just so that I can have an experience. Kwasi also advised me not to join because I do not know enough about it. Kwasi then took Cathy and I to the Diviner because I wanted to find out firstly what religion meant for me, but after a speech by Kwasi I decided to change my question to a general “is my life going down the right path and am I pursuing everything I should be?” The answers that I received were first that I have a divine spirit in my head, and then that I will soon be going through a spiritual war. My life, according to the Diviner, is going the way it should be, but there is a human being who is a friend of mine that is trying to sabotage it. In the end, I have to make a pledge to the Shrine, but I am not sure what that will entail yet. And I cannot eat groundnuts because they are bad for my spirit. After thinking about things with Linda I realized that at the very beginning I was told that there is something that is stopping my performance level from being the best it can be. I immediately thought of my anxiety at the time, but they immediately asked if it was in my mind and the answer was no, and I wasn’t sure what to think. → a person stopping my performance…!? The weird thing about it was that it could have been a probability game the way that they were asking yes and no questions, but the odds of something constantly being correct is impossible!

me playing with Kobi (probably should be drumming)

July 31, 2009

Drumming and dancing were both very frustrating today, as Ledzi was our teacher (Kwasi and Michael had to go to Accra). He is such a talented man, but sometimes the most talented people are not able to teach well. I just cannot seem to keep my mind concentrating on drumming and singing and dancing for 3 or 4 hours each morning and I end up getting so frustrated with everything (mainly the singing). The songs are so difficult for me to pick up, as I find it very hard to memorize sounds in a sentence, as that is all it really is to me since I do not know what the words mean. The dancing today was fun but it was so hot and for some reason I had no energy to put my all into it ☹. After lunch we went to a slave castle in Keta, which was a very powerful experience. The size of the rooms that they all had to stand in, and the bathing procedures was difficult enough to look at, let alone imagine it happening to people. They had to bathe in water and then use the filthy water for drinking afterwards. The most difficult places to look at were the dungeons of no return – people had tried to dig themselves out by picking at the concrete with their fingernails. Within maybe two minutes of being inside these rooms you start sweating so much because there are no windows to have air circulation. Basically, these slaves were suffocated and starved to death. People wrote quotes that were made by black slaves on the walls, which just made everything more emotional to look at. The perspective of a person who endured such pain while looking at the room that they might have been in is really hard to do. The governor would sit in a room at the top and look over a balcony to see which woman he wanted, and would then take her and rape her. If she was good enough, she was kept for housework, but if not, I believe she was just thrown back into the crowd. Once we got home I broke my one-day streak of being a vegetarian – haha. There was beef in the stew for the rice… However, I didn’t really care for the taste, so maybe I will try it out at home where I have food selection. Day one of no groundnuts went well. After dinner I did a lot of homework – only two more readings left!! First interview tomorrow at 8:00am! Oh, P.S. my braids are all out ☺ ☺. Washing my hair was luxurious. Also, I held a baby goat today that still had the umbilical cord (which Linda told me is spelled “chord” but I’m not sure about that… thanks Dr. Sun). Anyway, it was cute!!!

holding a baby goat!

August 1, 2009

My day once again started off frustrating. I shoveled two pieces of toast into me within about one minute and rushed over to the Chief Priest’s house to only find out that he was in a very long meeting and would not be able to have an interview with me. Then we went to drumming and I found the teaching style very hard to learn from. Playing the Kagum drum beat may seem easy but it ends up being the most difficult rhythm to understand because of the starting point of the rhythm, and when people are constantly trading bells and the rhythm slightly changes, it is very hard to catch on. I become very easily frustrated when I don’t catch onto things, which I realize is a bad quality, but anyway it just made learning that rhythm really hard. Once we put the drumming and dancing together it was a lot of fun. After lunch, we went to Djolagi (spelling?), which is a small village near Dagbamate. When we arrived, and looked out the window of our van, all the children in this village just started running towards us. We sat and played with the children until Michael and Kwasi arrived. The kids are all so happy, and they just want to hold your hand, which I find slightly culturally different from Canada because 1) I don’t think we would really be that phased by all these children if they were Canadian children and 2) I don’t think the children would be as cuddly with us if we weren’t obruni. However, in the African culture people are okay with people touching eachother in the sense that men and boys will hold hands and so will women and girls. A woman named Larita came up to me and immediately wanted to be my friend and she held my hand while we walked over to the performance location. This was uncomfortable for me because of the Western idea that if two members of the same sex are holding hands, they are homosexual, and although I am not homophobic, and realize that I am in a different culture, it is still a slight discomfort as these Western ideas are embedded in my mind. The performance that was put on for us was absolutely spectacular! They performed the Adzabeko dance that we had been learning yesterday and this morning, which was amazing to watch from a perfected ensemble. The kids (ranging from age 7 to about 25ish I would say) who put on this performance were so enthusiastic, energetic, and professional with what they were doing. If you have ever been to a dance recital in Canada, you would never expect a 7 year old child to even remotely know the dance, let alone have perfected it and be performing it as a duo without mistake. It was really interesting to watch a dance be performed by Africans that we had been learning, as you never really see the finished product with our group (we aren’t so hot at transitions). The Chief of this village was wearing a long Kente cloth wrap, which must have cost so much money! Kente is a hand-weaved cloth that costs about 10 Ghana cedis for one strip! When we left for Dagbamate, the children all ran after our van until we had picked up enough speed – it was like a movie watching these kids running after us and eventually stopping and staring until we faded off into the distance… My interview with the Chief Priest is now set for tomorrow at 8:00am, so hopefully it will be good!

Kobi playing the drum

August 2, 2009

Sunday means Shrine-Day here in the village of Dagbamate. I went a little bit early to see if I could interview anybody, but that horribly failed as usual. I waited about 45 minutes to an hour for the service to pick up, but while I was wasting my time I was talking to a girl named Monica. Monica is a 22 year old Christian Ghanaian who is not from Dagbamatey, but insists that she did not move here for the Shrine, and claims to never sit by the firepit because she does not need healing (the firepit is also a fetish where the gods smoke away your sickness). As much as I would like to believe this, I see her walking around with her breasts falling out of her shirt all the time, and she always just sits and watches our drumming class for hours – every so often she might stand up and slowly flash people, but then she casually walks away and eventually wanders back. Regardless, she is a nice girl and enjoys talking to me and using her English skills. The ceremony begun with a lot of singing and some agbadza dancing. The Chief Priest shakes a bell at the fetishes, which evokes the spirits, then he blesses the fetishes with shots of gin that he first kisses. The people then call upon the priests through song/chant, and by kneeling and praying. The way the people here pray is by kneeling on all fours, touching their forehead to the ground, then tongue to the ground, then right elbow and left elbow, and stand up. After some singing, two people made personal offerings to the Shrine, including Kwasi (who’s foul would not lay still, so he had to give about $300 before the gods would accept his offer). The way the animals are sacrificed is by a man holding up the foul/goat by it’s neck, and “not strangling it.” The gods just take its life right then and there, and if once it is laid down on the ground, if it stays still, the gods have accepted the offer. About twenty people were lined up in a semi-circle to do this, and that was only the first batch of people. By this time it was about noon, and I had spent 4 hours at the Shrine, so I left for lunch. After lunch some initiations had begun, which consists of each person bringing one foul to be sacrificed, along with 2 cedis. I was told the other day that nothing happens to the chicken, but sure enough it gets sacrifice. After the sacrifice, the new member has to endure the decapitated foul’s spine being tapped on their tongue three times. Yes, that means that the blood of the foul is flowing into their mouth. Each new member then has to dip their fingers into one of the fetish bowls and lick them clean. The fetish bowls are full of gin mixed with the blood of each and every goat and foul that had been sacrificed that morning. After seeing enough, I left to get my hair done for 6 hours.


August 3, 2009

Last full day in the village. This place has changed my life. This morning we drummed a bit, and practiced our dances that we performed at 4pm for the entire village (and soccer team full of hotties might I add). I must say that during our performance was the worst time I had ever danced our dances, as we had not practiced for about 5 hours previous, and the Ghanaian leading our dance, Oliver, dances slightly different than Ledzi, and although Oliver is also an amazing dancer, the slight difference makes all the difference (ha…). During the afternoon I got chatting with Kwasi about my pledge to the Shrine that I was supposed to make. It turns out that the price of this pledge was a bottle of gin and two cedis. At this point, I had thought that I would not need any more money, so I had about one cedi to my name. Kwasi took me to the Diviner because he really wanted me to make the pledge so he was going to see if there was any way that I would not have to pay. This was not the case, so Kwasi paid my bottle and two cedis for me, and even tried to give me 8 cedis that he said was “my change,” but I did not accept this money as I knew that I did not need any money to get home. How nice of him though. The pledge service was a bigger deal than I thought. Every priest in the community had to come along. The Chief Priest started by shaking a bell and evoking the spirits, while i sat on my knees in front of the Priests. I was asked to kneel and pray, and then Kwasi asked me to give an estimate of how much my pledge should be worth, which i stated as 100USD, and he chuckled a little bit, so thinking I should over-estimate, I said 500USD, and was told that the correct amount told by the Chief Priest (who was told by the spirits) would be 800USD, one fowl, one goat, and one bottle of gin. When I pledged I had to hold onto some seeds (one of them was shaped like the head of a chicken, and freaked me out at first because I thought it was one)
After I was finished pledging, I went back to the Diviner so that he could ask if the gods would accept my pledge. The gods accepted my pledge, so now I am protected from the spiritual battle that I am supposed to be coming upon. I then went back to Kwasi's house where he taught me how to pray to the God Apetorku. You don't have to pray often, and you only need to pray when you need something that you feel you deserve. When you pray, you have to kneel in any corner of your room, with a shot of gin, take half the shot and pour the rest onto the ground, and then kneel and pray, and speak to him about what you would like.
After this was finished, we had an amazing feast that the cooks prepared for us and the Elders, and then some of the girls and I had some drinks. It was a great way to end off the trip.

me with Kwasi, Chief Priest, and another Priest in the Chief Priest's house (which looks like a Nollywood film..)

August 4, 2009

Today, we got up and packed everything into the vans to head back to Accra. Leaving Dagbamate was very emotional for me, as it had a very powerful impact on my life, and I feel like I learned a lot about myself while being there. During the trek home, we were stopped by the police, who wanted to check our passports, which was annoying and took a bit of time, especially because Roshanak was running a bit late for her flight, but we made it in time.
Once we arrived on campus, Linda's friend Junior from Afrikana had brought our Obama Ghana t-shirts, so we bought those and then went to say goodbye to Johnson, Aaron, and Nathan. This was also really hard for me to do. And then saying goodbye to Roshanak, my roommate for the first 2.5 weeks, was very emotional. It's hard saying goodbye to so many people that you feel so attached to who live on the other side of the country.
After Katie R, Heather, Andrea and I had a nice Chinese lunch, we headed off to the airport, in Noah's taxi, who we called all the time for rides, and he liked us so much that he offered to take us for free because we were leaving the country. Of course we paid him anyways, but he is just such a nice, kindhearted person. A lot of Ghanaian people are the nicest people you could ever meet, it's amazing what they would do for you.
The airport was one of the worst experiences ever - my bags were way overweight, and so I had to buy a check-check bag and repack everything in the middle of the airport, and afterwards, both bags were still overweight by two kilograms each. The woman was nice enough to not charge me, but then told me that my drum was too big to carry on. I was very frustrated at first because Linda had told me that all of her volunteer friends had taken drums onto the plane with them, but she would not budge - I had to check it. I started to cry, as to check another bag is 250USD. Two Ghanaian women ran over to me and were rubbing my back, and finally the woman working for Lufthanza told me she would check my drum for free. Right then and there, I had escaped 400USD of charges (250 for the extra bag, 150 for overweight baggage). Then I made my way up to immigrations, where I was informed my visa was not extended. There was a penalty to pay, but he said as long as I say please, he would let me go for free (I said please). So, at the end of the day, I should have had about 700USD on me at the airport. After that episode I just hung out and had some drinks at the bar, and eventually met up with Michael before my flight left. I was very sad to leave Ghana, the best experience of my life, but it would be nice to get home (especially after all the struggle at the airport). I slept the entire way to Frankfurt, but had troubles sleeping on the way to Toronto. It was a really nice day when I arrived, so the climate didn't really affect me much, except the breezes are much colder here in Canada.
It is good to be home, but Ghana holds a special place in my heart, and I will never forget such a beautiful country and it's amazing people.


July 17, 2009

Tonight a bunch of people went out to the clubs and did not get back until 6:00am! We left for Kumasi at 7:00am! I could not have done that, but props to them for all being on time. On our way to the Botanical Gardens we drove by Rita Marley’s house! The Botanical Gardens were absolutely beautiful! We saw a cocoa tree, and a hollow tree that we could walk through and look up to see the sky at the other end! There were some really amazing scenes – men trimming already designed hedges with machetes, hibiscus flowers, humungous tress that people sometimes would build houses off of, a tree covered in leaves that looked like the tree of life, etc. It was actually the way that I pictured all of Ghana to look like. After 5 hours we arrived in Kumasi, at the most ghetto hotel possible – Frank David Hotel. 4 cedis per night. Ew. The room I started in would not lock, so we got switched to a room where neither the main light or the bathroom light worked, and even though I requested another switch, they just came in an did a little handy work and fixed the lights in about 10 or 15 minutes. Oh, and there was a condom in the toilet. Yay. Steph even saw blood on the floor at 1:00am in the lobby. Sketchy!

really big tree!

July 18, 2009

Started off the day by going to the old Palace Museum where the tour guide really wanted to make our tour snappy. I learned that the Queen Mother is the chief’s Aunt or Sister or whatever woman in his family he chooses. We went to the Culture Centre, where there was a bunch of really cool shops. Then we ended the day with dinner and drinks for Erica’s birthday. We attempted going to a club but it was pretty lame – not enough people. The market in Kumasi was unreal. The people who actually went into it said it was horrible and that they could not walk anywhere without being pulled and touched, so I am glad I just looked upon it from the bridge.
Market in Kumasi!

July 19, 2009

Today we got on a bus at 10:00am to take us to Tamale. Once we arrived in Tamale we got our rooms, and my room has AC! The heat here seems pretty unbearable, but it is a different kind of heat as it is drier than Accra. Tamale is an Islamic town, which is very interesting to me, so hopefully I will learn a lot in the next couple days. Dinner tonight was AMAZING! I can’t believe I have been on this adventure for 18 days now. Yesterday I was feeling very angry and hostile towards the shops people that would try to push me into buying things, but I am feeling a little bit better today about everything… just trying to accept and get used to the harassment, which feels really difficult now that I am out of my “honeymoon” phase. I think I will really enjoy this next week though, so hopefully that will change my mind. I can’t believe there are only 17 days left!!

July 20, 2009

Drumming and dancing was really fun today! The performance we watched was incredible. The costumes that they wore were so nice, and really added to the dances and entertainment for the audience. The performance was located right beside a preschool of happy, singing children who were absolutely adorable! They knew every word to every song that the teacher would start singing, and they absolutely loved that we were videoing them. After the performance we received dancing and drumming lessons. The dancing was a lot of fun and a great work out, but very long and it was really hot outside! The teaching style of the drumming was horrible – the drummer just started playing and we had to just catch on ourselves, which to me wasn’t that difficult, but for some of the other girls I think it was quite a challenge. After our morning work out we went for Ghanaian food. Everything tasted like fish. It was gross. I barely ate. After that lovely experience, we went to the market where I bought some really nice fabric and got a man name Master Salaam to make me two skirts and a headscarf on the spot, which was so nice of him because he dropped everything he was doing to make my clothes. This week, I am becoming an African Muslim woman.

Tamale dancers

July 21, 2009

Drumming and dancing today was fun but it seemed to go on forever – 3 hours of dance and 30 min of drums. We polished and completed the dance that we started yesterday. However, getting to dance today was a bit of a hassle as there was a torrential downpour all morning, and only one taxi to take us all by driving there and back three times. This was one of the first times that I have ever been “cold” since I have been in Africa (but as soon as the danced commenced I was sweating buckets again…). The drum teachers were still poor at teaching but the beats were not too difficult today. After we cabbed back and got some GOOD food at the guest house (as usual!). After lunch we went to a Shea Butter Co-op, which was a very educational and eye-opening experience. Ghana is where major companies like The Body Shop import their Shea Butter for their products, and these women who spend an entire day to make one bag… they have NOTHING. We all purchased quite a bit from them, which will make very nice gifts, and is just nice to have supported them. They are all such nice, beautiful women and they work so hard that it breaks my heart to see how poor they are living. I don’t think that I can support the Body Shop anymore after seeing where their products come from and how they rip these women off. Some girls and I went back to the market once we were home from the Co-op, and I bought two large, sheer headscarves. Once I had the veil around me in the style that their women wear them, it was as though I had transformed. I walked out of the shop to hear “OH! You are so beautiful!” from the girl across the path. Every single woman who passed by stopped to tell me how beautiful I am and shake my hand and look at me. It was an experience I have definitely never felt before – as thought I was a celebrity. As we continued to walk through and out of the market, it got very loud. Everybody wanted to talk to me and called me Ama Lia. I am not sure the meaning of this… somebody said it meant “just married” but I don’t think so because so many of the young girls were wearing the scarves in that fashion. The respect I was given once I was no longer showing skin, and blending in is magnified immensely. Religion is such a fascinating part of life. Getting attention from women in Ghana was a very odd feeling, and since I was covered up, the men left me alone!

Shea Butter Co-op and Cathy, Linda, myself, and a woman at the market

July 22, 2009

The road to Mole was long and bumpy. 90km took us about five hours to conquer, but it was totally worth it. When we arrived we immediately were greeted by warthogs and baboons. Heather, Derek and Katie went on the afternoon safari while myself, Roshanak, Steph, Erica and Deirdre hung out by the pool. This was the first day that I was completely and totally relaxed in a very long time. The view from behind our room is incredible! It overlooks a cliff, where you can look down to see the horizon.

July 23, 2009

This morning we woke up before 6:00am to be ready for our foot safari for 7:00am. As I forgot my shoes in Accra, I was forced to wear rain boots, which was instantly sweaty and gross, but thankfully they fit me properly, as Derek got a huge bloody blister the day before from them, and some of the English girls that were on the tour said that their feet hurt immediately. Our guide’s name is James, he is a small Ghanaian man with a shotgun on his back, fully dressed in a green safari styled Mole uniform. He first explained to us some rules and then we were off to the greenery (I would say jungle or forest, but neither of those terms really define the landscape, as there were patches of trees, and thicker-bushed areas, but never really “forest” or “jungle”-like areas). Within the first five minutes off the trail we encountered five elephants! They are absolutely beautiful – such calm, giant, peaceful animals. We then chose a new path where we came across antelopes and bush bucks. The bush bucks have a very strange bark-like call. They almost sound like dogs – this is strange because their appearance is almost exact to the North American deer. After all of the skittish deer we hiked down a hill with a destination of the waterhole. We saw a hyena footprint (which you can distinguish from a lion’s foot print because lions do not have claws in their prints where hyenas do), an elephant footprint, and more elephants Once we hiked back up the hill, we realized that we were right at the look-out from the residences, and the elephants by the waterhole were clearly visible. After returning my boots I sat at the look out with Erica and Roshanak for a bit and just watched the elephants. What a view! Mole was definitely an experience I will never forget. While we were walking on the safari this morning, Katie woke up to noises that sounded like people were trying to break into our dorm. After a slight panic attack she opened the front door to find about thirty baboons destroying the residence, peeing on a truck, and throwing bottles all over the place. ONLY IN GHANA!

baboons, warthogs (puumba!), elephants, and antelope on the hike!

July 24, 2009

Took a 16 hour bus ride to Accra straight from Tamale – was supposed to be 12 hours, but our bus had lots of problems (of course) so it took some extra time. Something interesting that I noticed is that most of the shops here in Ghana have religious names, and depending on the city you are in, the outcome is on different religions. In Accra/Legon it’s all about Jesus, but in Tamale and locations nearby, they praise Allah. At the bus station in Tamale there was a shop called “Sister Mary’s Store: Who Praise Jah No One Cares.” Rasta haters!!

July 2, 2009

Finally arrived in Accra, Ghana after two long flights from Toronto and Frankfurt. Four other girls from Alberta were also on my second flight from Frankfurt so the University of Ghana sent a van to pick us up and take us to the campus in Legon. During the ride over, I felt very overwhelmed when I had arrived, and was very silent during the drive. All over the streets there are women with baskets on top of their heads that contain various products that they sell to people in the cars that are driving by, which at first I thought of in the same regards that people from Toronto think of the “squeegee kids” that roam the streets – to be very cold and not buy their products. However, the Ghanaian people seem to find it an effective way of getting their hands on a quick snack or drink. I expected more buildings than what I saw on the way to Legon – although I realize that Ghana is a third world country, I thought that the capital would be a bit more developed than it was in the areas that we were driving. The heat here is unbearable! I’m hoping that soon I will get used to it; as soon as I stepped off the plane it was like a heat wave hitting me, and my body just started sweating instantly. After a nice, freezing cold shower, I feel a lot better, and am currently getting used to sleeping in this mosquito net. It feels a bit like a protective cover almost… my room is alright, nothing like what I am used to at home, but I expected nothing more, and in reality it has all the essentials that a room would need anyways – a desk with a chair, comfortable chair, bed, shelf and armoire. The luxury is having a balcony, as at residence in Queen’s there aren’t any buildings that are equipped with them. It was nice to finally see Linda after hearing about her first two months here!

Roommate Roshanak in her mosquito net ready to hit the sac.

July 3, 2009

Met up with Michael for lunch today and had the general idea of the program explained to us, and then we took a tour of the campus (which is huge!!). In the evening we went into Accra for the night (we first went to a region of Accra called Osu), and I bought some canvas paintings and a bracelet that says Ghana – which I received for free but was then asked if I had two cadies because he was hungry, so I gave it to him, and he then told me he would sell me a bracelet that was the same with my name on it for five cedis, which I didn’t really agree or disagree to, so I hope I just never see him again. Linda took us to a great place to eat that was right on Labadi beach. She described it as “the best chicken in the world,” and it was not an understatement! This restaurant was right on the beach with these blue lanterns that turned on when it became dark, it was beautiful. My room is starting to feel more like home.

July 4, 2009

Today we went on a tour of the musical places of Accra. We started off at the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre of Pan-African Culture where we learned about Dr. Kwame Nkruma and Dr. DuBois (who lived until 95 and was a professor at Atlanta University). At the mausoleum there were stools that had symbols on them that all represented something (except God, prudence, love, looking to the past, and death awaits us all). Our next stop was the National Museum of Ghana where we learned that at ceremonies, Ewe people display that they are protected by God by showing that knives can’t cut through their tongues, holding snakes in their mouths, and other daring stunts. There were many displays of the old currency, musical instruments, kente weaving, and other various cultural activities. We were also informed about the slave castles and the “door of no return” from the dungeon to the ship where they were taken away to never come back. After the museums we went to Jamestown, which is a harbor area where the fishing boats are located. No words or pictures can really capture what it was like there – poor families with their amazing, happy children running around saying “how are you” to us, and giggling to themselves when we responded with “I’m fine.” These children are probably not going to be very well educated, and it was as though it was a myth that white people (or “obruni” as they call us) say “hello, how are you, I’m fine,” so when we responded they got all excited that it was true. At lunch I tried fufu, it was interesting… very unique texture… I’m not sure if I enjoy eating with it, or eating with my hands. We then went to the Art Centre, where there are just a bunch of little shops. The people just constantly harassed me because I am obruni, when all I wanted to do was look, and they just throw out prices at you “I will give you my best price!” meanwhile they are giving you the highest prices possible because they think we are stupid (which I am still, as I have not been here for long and do not realize the prices of things yet). I like it here, and am looking forward to the lectures on Monday.

Jamestown fishingboats

July 5, 2009

This morning I woke up early and went to the Legon Interdenominal Church, which is an interfaith church. It was a lot of fun! There is so much dancing and clapping and singing, it has a very gospel feel as they sing songs of prayer and when the very passionate people really feel it they raise their arms and close their eyes and just sway and sing to the music as loudly as they can. Some of the prayers that were sung were in English and others were in Twi and Pidgin (according to a few sources that I spoke to outside after the service), but there is always an English translation underneath. All Ghanaians seem to love God so much more than even the most passionate people in North America. They have so little, but appreciate so much, and expect nothing. It was amazing to see such honest faith, rather than the false front that is often seen in the West. There were a lot of singers with mics placed amongst the crowd of people, and one man in particular got up and spoke about how he was thankful that it rained the previous day, so that his crops got water and he could feed his family. This is a huge reality check and really makes me appreciate what I have at home, where water is less scarce and there is plenty of food for all. In the afternoon we went to the beach where we were bombarded by Ghanaians who were selling their jewelry or whatever. I felt forced to buy quite a few things, and ended up spending a bit… I need to get better at saying no to these people. It’s just so hard when they pressure you so much, and when you understand the lifestyle that they are living. The bracelet guy hassled me again today and I didn’t buy the bracelet that he had already made with my name on it (even though I didn’t tell him to) and he sat beside me the entire time and begged me, and when I settled at 2 cedis he was not happy with that amount and kept saying “no” and “I thought we were friends” and “you know, black and white is like a piano…” It made me feel bad at first but after a while it just became annoying. He eventually went away, but made a comment of “see you on the streets” when I walked by him later on in the afternoon, which concerns me, but I probably won’t be back there for a while anyway. After the beach Linda took us to the TV3 taping of Ghana’s Most Beautiful, as the volunteer group that she is with has that activity as part of their orientation, and we were allowed to tag along. The episode that we were watching was on the topic of motherhood, so each candidate went up on stage and had to perform the ways of motherhood that are used in one region of Ghana, and they were judged on how well they portrayed it. After their skit was finished, they each made a speech about the right and wrong things that they were doing, which is excellent as it teaches each viewer about what they might possibly be doing wrong as mothers. Some facts that I learned during the filming are that some stepmothers hurt and even kill their children, nurses can be too impatient, care-workers do not care for the children like they are their own, Grandmothers breast feed to make babies stop crying (even though there is no milk), and teachers are too consumed in themselves to care for the children they are teaching.

July 6, 2009

We started classes today, my favourite is Ewe class – it is so interesting! Nketia is a very inspiring person to receive lectures from as well, but is very quiet and I had some trouble hearing everything that he had to say.

Me with Professor Nketia

July 7, 2009

Today I was horribly sick and had to leave the afternoon lecture because I was throwing up. I felt so bad, and apparently it was a really great lecture so I was kind of upset about missing it, but there was no way that I could have sat through it. I ended up curling up and napping on two very uncomfortable chairs in the hallway, and when I woke up, a Ghanaian man was staring at me and started hitting on me! Probably the last thing that I wanted after a morning of hell. Roshanak was nice enough to take a cab back to the room with me and buy me water and everything, I’m lucky to have such a caring roommate. I am still a bit weak and shaky and I think I am running a fever, but hopefully I won’t miss too much class tomorrow.

July 8, 2009

Missed the first class today so that I had enough rest, and I am definitely feeling much better! Class was good today, I really enjoy listening to John Collins lecture. He reminds me of the stereotypical old British traveler of Africa with his safari shirts and little glasses, he is super cool. Drumming again today was fantastic, I love it! After class I got my hair braided, which took 5 hours! It looks okay, I’m not really sure how I feel about it yet… and it HURTS! I invited the girls who braided my hair to come out to the club with us tomorrow, and gave them both some jewelry that I brought from home, which they loved. It feels so good to give little gifts to the people here, even if it isn’t much, it’s nice to see a smile on their faces.

July 9, 2009

Today in Johnson’s drumming classes we had a lesson on a new drum! It was fun but I like the first drums better I think… Tonight was outrageous! We went to a nightclub called Aphrodisiac, it was the nicest club I have ever been to by far! Joan, one of the girls who braided my hair came out with us, even after she spent 5 hours braiding Roshanak’s hair! She is a lot of fun to hang out with. The music they played was amazing – all African and Caribbean music. The only thing I’m not sure that I enjoyed was the amount of attention that we received purely from being obruni.

July 10, 2009
Today we woke up at 7:00am, with merely 2.5 hours of sleep, and left for Kokrobite. We made a stop at a Liberian Refugee Camp where Michael is currently working on a CD project with some rap artists who live there. We went to see their village and the recording studio that is there, and we met all of the artists. The most interesting person I spoke with was a man who told us his name is Sweet Africa. He used to be a professor at the University of Liberia until he became a refugee here, and is now writing a book about his life as an independent person who is not receiving any help from the government in this camp, which will be named “Sweet Africa in Ghana.” He makes and sells jewelry and other various items that he makes himself out of corn husks (which he claims to be the first person to ever do). He also gives inspirational speeches at the University of Ghana every Wednesday morning at 8:30am, free of charge. He was so interesting to listen to, I wish I could go hear him speak at the University but I don’t think that I will be able to due to our own lectures. We left the camp for Big Milly’s Hostel in Kokrobite. It is so nice! The girls and I are sharing one big house (called “house”). We just hung out all evening. Linda and I ate shark for dinner – it wasn’t really anything special, but definitely interesting to try for the first time. After dinner we watched a drumming and dancing group perform, they were amazing! They must work so incredibly hard to perfect the dances to that level.

Liberian Refugee Camp

July 11, 2009

Today was possibly the most fun day on our adventure so far! While waiting for breakfast, Katie M and I went for a walk on the beach, and on our way back, we went a bit too far and stumbled across a group of people pulling a fishing boat onto the beach. It looked almost like a tug-o-war, two long lines of people holding ropes and heaving and hoeing the boat in. The coolest part was that there was a man playing drums on a propane tank and everybody was singing songs as they pulled the boat in. One of the men waved Katie and I over, and we joined in and helped bring the boat in! I can’t even really described how interesting it was to be a part of. After breakfast we walked up the hill to a shady area where we received drumming and dancing lessons from the group that we watched perform last night. The drumming started off a little it slow, but it picked up and was excellent! I really enjoyed how they focused on the quality of sound that we were producing as well as the dexterity of our hands. I am having a hard time with the slap, but apparently it takes a really long time to achieve. After the drumming ended we had our dance lesson, which was so much fun! The dance moves had a Caribbean feel to them, and were super tiring in the heat. Right after, we went for a swim and played in the waves of the ocean. I bought a dress from one of the shop owners, who gave me a huge hug and exclaimed “I love your body! Marry my son so that I can have grandchildren who look like you!” Because a lot of Africans are unhealthy, a bigger body is appreciated because it means your family feeds you well, and I seem to be getting a lot of attention because of it. I’m not sure if I like it, but it is supposed to be a compliment so I will just take it for what it’s worth. I also bought some things from the Rastafari shops on the beach. The Rasta people are so chill, I’m really fascinated by their lifestyle and want to learn more! After dinner was reggae night, where I was talking to one of the drummers named Otchie for a really long time. He is also a Rasta, and was telling me (for probably an hour and a half) about their lifestyle, where I learned to always “be positive” and to teach new people that you meet, and to always have my mind set and not change it out of guilt. I want to become a Rasta (maybe).

Pulling in the fishingboat Katie and Rasta me, after our boat experience

July 12, 2009

Woke up early again today for drumming, and after waiting over an hour for breakfast, we were all late for the lesson. The drumming was alright again, and the dancing was really difficult for me because my body hurt so much from the day before! At 4:00pm they put on a performance at a run-down hotel called Aama’s, which was awesome to once again see them play. We even had the opportunity to dance with them at one part, which was so much fun!! I love dancing, it always puts such a huge smile on my face. It took us about 4 hours to drive the 35km back to Legon. And we drove it with a flat tire the entire way! After the long bumpy drive back I got my first dresses from Miss Elizabeth, a seamstress who comes to our hostel every night, and I think I am going to become addicted to buying African clothes.
Drumming group in Kokrobite

July 13, 2009

Lectures are still good, but getting hard to handle as it takes a lot of energy to pay attention for such long periods of time. I bought a pan logo drum today though! I got two symbols put on my drum – “you must remember your past to move ahead in the future” and “democracy and unity of diversity.” Finally finished the cue cards… I’m starting to miss my family and friends… After class today we went out for dinner with Joan, who brought me and Roshanak dresses! Roshanak’s suits her very well… mine is a bit ugly… but it’s the thought that counts (I’m going to get it altered asap). We went for Lebanese food at Frankie’s in Osu, it was delicious! We all feasted, and it was fantastic. I currently dislike African food and would rather not eat than eat it, it just doesn’t settle well in my stomach.

July 14, 2009

A lot of lectures.

Katie and Heather taking flute lessons from Kofi

July 15, 2009

Today after lectures our Kokrobite drummer friends came to visit us and go to reggae night with us. Apparently drinking a lot on malaria pills doesn’t work well with me, and so, I was in bed by 11 after a horrible hour of being sick. How embarrassing. Auntie at the desk checked on me all night, which was really nice of her. Still, embarrassing.

July 16, 2009

Today was good, we began studying xylophones which was a little bit slow for me because I’m a pianist, and have played marimbas, xylophones, and vibraphones for a few years now. However, it was still pretty interesting because there were no “black” keys, and it only played C D E G A. Aaron, our professor, was so amazing at playing them. It would have been really cool to have had a private lesson with him. Today we also had our final lesson with Johnson ☹.

Drumming in Johnson's class