Another Week Gone By

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April 28th 2008
Published: April 28th 2008
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Hello Everyone,
First off I want to apologize to those of you who have sent me comments on my blog. If I have not responded to you it is because I figured out how to respond to messages, but not comments and have just realized it. But thank you just the same for sending them, I love to read them.
This past week went by frighteningly fast. On Monday I pulled myself out of homesickness by listening to catchy tunes by Queen, Crosby Stills and Nash, CCR, and other up-beat bands. At my internship I was very entertained by the girls as they competed in spelling bees that I set up for them. I was amazed at how competitive they were and at the end it was the word "perspective" that stumped them. The learning curve of these young women is phenomenal and I am so proud at how far they've come in such a short time. I was scheduled to continue working with them for three more weeks, however, because of their two week May Day holiday starting this Thursday, my time with them will be cut short.
Throughout the rest of the week it dawned on me how much I really enjoy tro tro's. I have to take four tros to get to and from my internship and I always enjoy the rides. Despite everything always being dirty and sweaty, I very much like being so near people and striking up conversations. You're constantly touching at least three people at all times and will have to shift around to allow people to get on and off at each stop. It feels as though everyone in the tro works together like a well oiled machine. The "mates", who are the boys that hang out of the windows yelling the tro's destination and are in charge of collecting the money and keeping track of where people want to get off, always help the women who are carrying large loads, and always protect babies' heads as mothers clammer into the vehicle. May I remind you that these tro tros are very old and are almost always falling apart. On one tro the side door fell clean off and the mate gingerly tied it back on with some twine. In another tro the front door wouldn't open and so the two passengers had to climb out of the window to get out at their destination. It is also not uncommon to find an assortment of animals in tro tros, be them alive or dead. I will truly miss these blundering contraptions that I've grown so accustomed to.
This weekend however, instead of traveling in tro tros, our CIEE group headed up to Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region, in air conditioned buses. We left early Friday morning and after a five hour ride, arrived in the city. It was much smaller than Accra and due to the significantly smaller population, the streets seamed cleaner and the overall city seemed to be more taken care of.
We split up into two groups and our headed to the old palace of the first three Ashanti kings, which is now a museum. The palace was actually a small house set in a large courtyard dotted to our surprise, peacocks! I myself have heard that if provoked, peacocks can be quite vicious and so I recoiled at the shrill, obnoxious squawks that escaped their beaks. But when the males opened up their tails in manly displays of ego, it was hard not to admire the beauty that nature and evolution teamed up to create.
After getting over the brilliance of the exotic birds, our group was ushered into a small pavilion where we were shown a short movie about the history of the Ashanti. We learned that the Ashanti religion is centered around a legendary Golden Stool that must remain with the tribe or else the population will crumble. The Ashanti kings are always chosen through the matriline of the Queen Mother, the mother of the king, and are the only ones who know the secret location of the Golden Stool.
As we wound our way through the house we were shown old photographs, dishes and books were still intact, wax sculptures were on display, and various other Ashanti artifacts peeked out from behind glass casings. The kings lived in the house from the 1930's to the 1960's until a new palace was built behind the old one where the current king still resides.
After visiting the gift shop, we all shuffled back into the bus and were shuttled to our hotel. With a pool, air conditioning, hot water, and coffee at breakfast, I was quite pleased. After dinner, Lizzy and I promptly fell asleep after watching an episode of the Closer which our small television aired on it's limited cable channels.
The next day our groups split up again and while one was in an Adinkra village, the other was in a Kente village. Adinkra is a type of print stamping that people do on colorful cloth. At the village we were given a short lecture on how the dye is made from boiled tree bark and the stamps are made from hollowed out gourds. Each stamp has a different meaning and are dipped in the dye and pressed into fabric to make patterns. Each of us was able to try printing and could make our own pattern if we wanted to.
Though learning about and seeing the Andinkra made was very enjoyable, being the the small village was actually a bit stressful. Almost like they had memorized a script, children were constantly swarming us and asking for money and other goods they thought we might have had. When some children came up to me and asked for anything I had after telling me they hadn't eaten yet that day, I broke down. I gave them an empty plastic water bottle, a pen, my hand-sanitizer, and a travel tube of toothpaste I found in the nether-regions of my backpack. However, I wouldn't yield my watch, sunglasses, or precious few pieces of American gum. They were so happy to have these things that I would eventually have thrown away, however, when I was completely cleaned out, I started to get annoyed with everyone who was asking me for money, and so I sought refuge in the bus and waited for other stressed souls to file in.
The Kente village proved much of the same, children begging for money and other things, however, Kente is quite different from Adinkra. Kente is a very colorful cloth oven in the Ashanti Region. It's history goes far back and each pattern is representative of a different story and meaning. Again, after buying gifts and souvenirs, I darted back to the bus.
We then headed to a famous lake outside of Kumasi called Bosomtwi that was created by a crater impact. As we wound our ways in to jungle covered hills the lake slowly came into view until we were peering down into a glistening valley. It was absolutely breathtaking as we took a boat-ride around the water. We were a bit angry at what appeared to be garbage floating in the water, however, the boat driver informed us that the bobbing plastic bottles were actually tied to submerged fish traps and served as markers for the talapia fishermen. Our anger quickly turned to interest a the creativity of the locals.
After lounging in the sun and eating lunch, we stopped at what Ghanaians claim to be the largest market in West Africa. As our bus pulled into a sea of people, our director informed us that we had 45 minutes to wander. Lizzy and I went on a quest for shoes, she was successful at bargaining for two pair, however, I gave up and just marveled at the sheer size of the vicinity; the market seemed to go on for miles, like it was it's own little city. As the colors, sounds, and smells became a bit too sensory and overwhelming, Lizzy and I fought the crowd back to our bus. We then headed back to the hotel to relax for the evening. After dinner we were entertained by a local jazz band playing by the pool, however, the highlight of the night was when people began to jump into the pool with their clothes on. One by one people were being picked up kicking and screaming and were thrown in. I, seeing my impending doom, slipped up to my room after narrowly escaping a sneak attack by some of my housemates. If it weren't for the fact that I didn't want to lose the jewelry I was wearing, I would have been happy to consent to being dumped in.
Unfortunately the next morning I woke up with some bad stomach issues and an aching head which did not bode well for a five hour bus ride. As we all packed and filed back into the bus, a storm broke out similar to the one raging in my abdomen. As rain streaked the windows I coaxed myself to sleep. An hour later I woke up to find our bus surrounded by misty mountains. The rain had deposited a layer of thick clouds close to the ground with gave off a very "Gorillas in the Mist" vibe. For the next four hours I listened to music and tried not to think about the waves of stomach cramps that hit rather consistently.
Finally we arrived back in Accra and I was able to find comfort in the sweetness of slumber. Today I am happy to report that I am feeling better. I cannot believe that I only have 7 weeks left in Ghana! The days just keep going by faster and faster, which means I better get going!
I apologize for the delay in picture posting. Unfortunately the laptop I use that belongs to my friend is having an episode and so I must wait until we can fix it. I promise to get pictures up as soon as I can. Thanks so much for reading and take care!

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