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Published: October 2nd 2005
Shea Butter Co-Op
Visited a village outside Tamale that was supported by a women's Shea Butter Co-Op and got to help in part of the process. It was a really interesting process and felt so good on my hands!! The majority of the women in the village worked to produce and sell the shea butter and all their proceeds went into one fund. When any family in the village needed money, they could ask to take it out of the Shea butter account. I bought some to bring home!
I have been in Ghana exactly one month as of today!
We arrived back in Tamale yesterday evening after a very long 4 hour Tro-Tro ride home from Mole National Park. There were 21 of us in the Tro-Tro and all of our backpacks and food; thank God for my iPod and neck pillow. Mole has been one of the major highlights of the trip thus far! We arrived at the park's entrance on Friday afternoon reading signs that read "Don't feed the Elephants, They are Not Tame," "Kill your speed, not the Antelope," "Do Not Enter the Park With Out an Armed Guide." Mole is Ghana's largest park at 4840 sq km and protects 90 mammal species and over 300 hundred bird species. We went out on a safari walk with a guide carying a shot gun and saw 4 elephants, a water buck, antelope, wart hogs, baboons with babies, and another kind of crazy monkey with blue balls. Our hotel was the nicest place I've stayed in Ghana. Running water, fans, really nice beds and towels, a deck over looking a watering hole frequented by all the parks animals, and a swimming pool! I'm pretty sure we all
A goat itchin' him self on a taxi at the market I ate lunch at in Tamale.
spent more time in the pool than on the land. Someone would scream out a sighting from the deck and we would all jump out of the pool, run over to the deck in our bathing suits, watch an elephant wade in the water and then cover himself in dirt with his trunk to keep the flies off, and then we'd run and jump right back in the pool. We met some really fun travelers from London, Australia, and a group of California kids who are students at the University of Ghana, Legon for the semester. They knew Mike's friend Steve, small world once again.
Before and during dinner a pack of baboons mischeviously wandered on to the hotel grounds and caused havoc. They stole 3 ketchup bottles off the tables and were chased by 3 hotel employees whose main job was to chase baboons. They carried sling shots and attempted to keep the crazy baboons away from the tables, but in the end they lost and just laughed along with us. It kind of reminded me of my family's Heathcliff days when Leo battled the geese. Those smart monkeys figured out how to pour the ketchup on the
My main mode of transportation and source of happiness in Tamale. Here with some of my favorite SIT friends Eric and Becca. Note the head wrap; not exactly my best look, but appropriate for a predominantly Muslim area.
ground and lick it up. We swam again after dinner and just watched more monkey bussiness go down all around the pool.
I would have loved to stay in animal paradise longer, but we have to make it to our Ashanti village homestay by Monday. I am now in Kumasi, after a 7 hour drive today, trying to fit in one last journal entry before I leave for the village. It will be 2 weeks of no computer access, cell phone service, electricity, or running water. I'm actaully looking forward to an escape from civilization for a while, but it will definitely be a challenge. I will be sleeping in a family's thatched roof hut (under my mosquito net) conducting a mini independent research project during the day. Thankfully we will have an SIT "friend" in the village to cook along with us instead of eating with our families. I have a feeling village cuisine is just too different.
This past week in Tamale was awesome. Riding bikes to school everyday in my African dresses and enjoying the slower pace of life with out being called "Oburuni" every where I went was so great. Despite the good times,
Kate and Mohammed
The 15 year old boy that some SIT students and I helped pay for his school fees and other things he needed to attend school.
I was confronted with a pretty difficult situation that ended very positively. My first day in Tamale, our group met a 15 year old boy named Mohammed. He was pretty much omnipresent since the day we met him and a few of the kids in my group and my self became pretty close with him. He would show up out of no where unexpectedly no matter where we went. Our SIT directors informed us of the young boys in the community who befriend western travelers and act as their companions and guides in hopes of getting tips. At first, Mohammed hung out with us, showed us interesting places and found everything anyone in the group needed. At first we assumed he was trying to scam us like we were warned, but eventually he started to let us in on what his motives really were. He wanted us to help him beable to go to school. At first, we all thought he was full of elephant dung, but he proved to us his motives were pure through never excepting money straight out. He wanted us to accompany him to the book store, fabric stall and tailor for his uniform, for dinner
Shopping for fabric (ntoma) in the Tamale market clad in one of my Traditional West African outfits.
at his grandmother's house, and just two days ago he convinced me to go speak with the head master at his school.
Through spending so much time with him we slowly found out his story. His mother died when he was 10 from a stroke and he lives with his 18 year old sister who is training to work at a salon braiding hair. He was kicked out of his International school because he could not pay his fees every term and he had sores on his legs that the teachers thought were contageous. Public school in Ghana is beyond horible and Mohammed knows he has so much more potential. He deserves a decent education just like every one else, but because he is on his own with no support, his sense of determination drove him to try and find us. His English is beautiful and he passed his entrance exams on Friday with flying colors. His grandmother, who sells oranges roadside, is his guardian but does not live with him. Long story short, (since I am due to my family's house for a welcome back dinner in 5 minutes,) After a tough decision, Mohammed is starting school on
Kent and his Bike
Biking to get lunch with my SIT friend Kent (wearing a traditional Northern Ghana smock)
Monday thanks to the support of myself and a few of my group members. My friend Traci and I split his registration and term fees for the whole year and the rest of the group split up the cost for his shoes, uniform, books, pens, school bag, toilet paper and soap. For his birthday I covered his excursion fee to go to Mole National Park with his class so he can experience what our group did last weekend. I have never seen a happier boy in my life!! We both cried when I helped him fill out his registration form last night and it was really sad to leave. He promised to send me the receipt and pictures of him in his new uniform with his classmates.
When I discussed my plans of helping out Mohammed with Yemi, the academic director of my program, he agreed that it was a good cause and that Mohammed was a needy boy whose life would be changed with our help. Meeting his teacher and Grandmother closed the deal. Haha Johnny G., if you're reading this, I gave Mohammed your E-mail address, he said it was his dream to have an American guy
Village near Tamale
The Shea Butter Village with Northern style round huts. The door jams were decorated with pieces of cracked plates!
friend his age, so you are the man! I can't wait to post pictures of me and him after we closed the deal and signed all the papers. I'm hoping I can make it back up to Tamale to check up on him in school during my independent research month.
So, I must go to dinner with my family tonight to check in with them and tell them of my adventures this past week before its off to the village. Esther, who is friends with my family, told me today that I'm invited to my sister Abina's wedding on October 15th and that I will get to leave the village a day early so I can attend! I was fitted for my wedding dress today right when we arrived! Abina's going to design it! I am soooo excited! I will hopefully beable to write an update on the 16th when the rest of the group returns from the village and we have a night in Kumasi before our next excursion. Until then, think about me as I live in the bush for 2 weeks!
Side note - If you leave comments on the blog, I don't
At a village dance right out side of Tamale, before the main performance, the entire village was entertained by the Oburunis dancing. No laughing - I'm better than I look!
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