Hello everyone. We recently got back from our great expedition to Ghana which was a huge success. We accomplished the project that we set out to achieve, building summer huts and laying the foundations of what will be a Discovery Center in the few years to come. Our African experience was full of the thrills which make life exciting, the near death experiences in Accra’s taxis, our bus almost toppling on it’s side as it progressed along treacherous roads, and baboons waking us up from a night under the stars. It was quite the adventure. Here I’d like to give everyone the opportunity to express their views on their experience in Africa:
Ghana… When I hear that word now, loads of memories and first impressions of Africa return to me. The kindest people I’ve ever met pop into my head—their sweet hospitality, their earthy musical drums, their colorful garbs; the little children running around with mango strings in their teeth, enjoying pure and simple fun together. All this instantly brings a smile to my face, while at the same time I practically begin to sweat when remembering the other side of my Ghanaian experience—with the extreme heat and humidity, and for one instance, the stress of worrying about emergency toilet breaks while bumping along in a cramped van pressed against 20 people.
The shock of the hot weather was unfortunately too draining for me to do very much in the construction work of the Resource Center, which we had come there to build. Instead it was mainly done by the local villagers who volunteered. The toughest thing for me was to accept the fact that I physically couldn’t help as much as I wanted to. But equally or more importantly, I spent my time with the children of the village and school, who will benefit from the finished product of the resource center. The children alone show a huge difference to me in the way they are brought up from that of children in other countries. They delight in the simple pleasures of life, they seem to love to have contact with new people, and they undoubtedly have an unspoken respect for their parents and elders. This was very special for me to witness.
Underlying the whole culture of Ghana, there seems to be a deep sense of care and community amongst the people. Without each other, they are helpless and have little happiness. There is a subtle care and kindness everyone has towards each other and it reflects in the numerous greetings that are exchanged daily, with the indefinite response of “Naa” meaning “Fine”. They always want the other to be well and cared for and Ghanaians seem to always do whatever they can in order to improve the other’s situation.
I look forward to coming back to Ghana sometime in the near future, and I owe that fact to the wonderful people who’ve represented the kindness of Ghana greatly. They’ve made my stay such a generous and warm one—something that I will remember for a long time. At the end of those two weeks in Ghana I found myself missing the people we had come to know. That shows me that close relationships and good memories can be made between completely different people and cultures, even in such a short time as two weeks. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of fully experiencing the Ghanaian culture, land and people, and now I definitely hunger for more.
So we finally have done it! For the past few months going to Ghana has been something that we have talked about almost everyday. Weeks of preparing and fundraising brought us to our goal of going to Ghana. Our plan was to do service work and social programs but I also learned a lot about their culture and how people lived their life.
We arrived in Accra in the late afternoon and were immediately greeted outside of the airport by locals. They offered to carry our bags and it was easy to find a taxi and drive to the Salvation Army Hostel where we spent the first night. We had some delicious fruits for dinner, some mangoes, bananas, and pineapple. The next morning we got up early to go to the bus station and the drove over 12 hours to Tamale. The bus ride was one of many bumpy ones to come. We arrived in Tamale in the evening and saw where we would be living for the next 2 weeks. The only thing we were told beforehand was that we would be staying at a “camp site” in the Katariga area. I was quite impressed when I saw that we would be staying in a house!
The first week we were introduced to Peter, Jonah, Elijah, and Mr. Jacobs. They were definitely a good part of my experience in Ghana. They are all really nice guys who work with CPYWD. They showed us around the area and brought us to some of the places where YSI was last year. They took great care of us: cooking, bringing drinks and water, but mainly always having a friendly and accepting attitude. They were always ready to give you a smile and ask how you are doing.
Our main work was at a nearby school. We would be building a center for kids to discover their talents and different ways of learning. We would usually go there each morning after breakfast and either do some physical work (moving bricks, painting, shoveling) or do activities/play with the children. The weather was very hot so that made it a bit more difficult to give your full effort. But when you needed a break it was no problem to take one. There were local people from the community who constantly wanted to help out. I felt that the general attitude in Ghana was to accept your environment you are put in and to be happy with it. There really is no complaining about anything. And they are such hard workers! It was hard for some of us to see that we were contributing and making an impact because we really did want to do work but our bodies thought otherwise. But I noticed that from just us being there and wanting to give our help, it inspired the local people.
We also had a few group discussions throughout our time in Ghana. The themes and audiences were different each time. Sometimes it was with young students about how they wanted to see themselves in the future. Another time it was with students our age who were all preparing to soon become teachers. We discussed the differences and similarities between western and African education. One discussion was with a whole community; children all the way to elderly. Through these forums and talking with people I learned a lot about how life works in their society. They use a chief system. Basically, every decision that is made has to be approved with the chief or sub-chief. There is a lot of respect for elderly people in Ghana. I really appreciated seeing that.
Some other fun things we got to experience were going to the ocean, Mole National Park, a community’s bee-keeping project, and dancing with the locals. I saw some animals that I have always wanted to see! Elephants, crocodiles, wart hogs, lizards, gazelle, and baboons! And having the opportunity to do a traditional African dance was pretty awesome. It made them laugh at least! We finished our trip with a last day at the ocean, which was a great way to end it. I experienced a lot of things in Ghana and I’m still learning from them now. I really enjoyed seeing a society that was so happy with what they had and so generous and loving to a stranger they have never before. I just got a taste of Africa this time but hopefully I get that chance to go again in the future!