We decided to live in Ghana… Permanently.

Why should we go home? Why do we want to go home? Well, if you speak to some White Americans in my study abroad program or to some Black Americans who live in my hostel, you will receive a very interesting answer to these questions. They do not want to go “home” to America because Ghana is now our home. Earlier in my blogs I wrote, “Living here is 100 times better than living in New York because here in Ghana there is a deep human connection you find with others, even with strangers and new people. I feel like the human spirit is more alive here in Ghana then it is back in America.” Once you come to Ghana, you experience a deep love, connectedness, and passion between people that is very rare to find in the United States. Deep, meaningful conversations pop up everyday and you do not have to wait until the weekend or the holidays to see your best friends.

It is very hard for me to articulate in words the warm feeling inside of my mind and my soul. I was unhappy in New York because I was never satisfied with things. I could teach inner city youth full time and even volunteer teach an additional 6 hours a week in the evenings. I could shop and party and go to bars. I could travel to see friends on occasion and visit my family on the weekends. But still, there was a cold and empty feeling inside of me, despite my struggle to live a balanced and fulfilled life. I felt like a deep person who was searching for a deeper human connection, but since I could not find what I desired, I settled for less, and I participated in meaningless, superficial things. I was hoping since other people were satisfied with clothes, money, and many superficial friendships, that maybe I would be satisfied with these things as well. I was wrong. They say everyone has to find what’s best for them and pursue that interest. Well, Ghana is everything I could have ever dreamed of, and more.

When I speak to some Americans about why they want to live in Ghana permanently, it has partly to do with the deep human connectedness. Two of my friends really enjoy teaching Ghanaian students. The children are very respectful and very passionate about learning as much as they can. They love participating in class and they always ask for more homework! Although some Ghanaian teachers still use physical punishment, my American friend decided to use “tickle punishment” with her kindergarten students instead. Whenever a student misbehaves or doesn’t do what they are supposed to in class, she tickles them for a while and they giggle and giggle until they agree to behave! The children are so grateful for their education. Their outlook is so positive, despite many obstacles that may be in their way.

The difference between life in Ghana and life in America is that here, people are satisfied. Maybe people are not rich or they do not drive fancy cars, but people have meaningful relationships and share love, laughter, and conversations, even with strangers. Yesterday I sat down for lunch with two African American women who live in my hostel that I have never spoken to before. They both told me that they are moving to Ghana permanently. One woman said this was her 11th time in Africa but her second time in Ghana. She planned to move to the Eastern Region and get married to her fiancé there. When she told me her plans, I felt the joy radiating from her smile, and I smiled with her. What a beautiful life! It makes so much sense that people should be happy, satisfied, and in love. It makes sense that people should love openly, without regret and should trust each other and build a future together. To me, love is the greatest joy in life. Although my career is important to me too, love is equally (if not, more) important. Why are American’s so dissatisfied with their love lives and why are they so obsessed with their careers? I realize that after feeling immense, unadulterated joy in Ghana, I can never return to the unhappy, dissatisfied, restless state of mind I experienced in New York.

Now, you could argue I am simply in love with my Ghanaian boyfriend and that’s why I do not want to leave Ghana.You could argue that my internship at the West Africa Aids Foundation has inspired my career decisions to be a doctor, and that Dr. Naa has become a positive mentor and role model and I want to become exactly like her. Or, I am so in love with the cute 3 year-old babies at the Daycare Center where I volunteer on Mondays, and I want to continue spending time with Ghanaian babies. Or you could say, since I am living a SuperStar Lifestyle, appearing in music videos with Ghana’s top hip-life artists, V.I.P., that’s why I do not want to leave. But my connection to Ghana is even broader, and deeper then that. My boyfriend told me, “Ghana is your home. You are always welcomed here”. Americans never told me, “Welcome home”. What is home really? It should be a place of comfort, love, joy, and satisfaction. The only thing I miss at home is the food. I think I can get over that with time. I love my friends and family at home, but it is obvious to me that I was not satisfied with the limited amount of time I got to spend with them when I was in the States. I feel like everyone in New York is constantly competing, trying to advance their careers, and reach their goals. I realize these are can be positive attributes and aspirations in moderation, but I personally think that taking out the time to be with loved ones and sharing deep moments is more important. You only live once, so why spend your life feeling trapped in a superficial “battle to the top”?

So where do I go from here? Do I still want to apply for Teach for America and attend post-baccalaureate pre-medical programs in New York City? Do I still want to go to medical school in New York? Well to be honest, I am not sure anymore. I have to see how things go. I know that foreign students attend Korle Bu Medical School in Ghana and it only costs about 6,000 a semester (WOW, no debit after medical school)! So at this point, I must say, I am very open to new possibilities. I am sure if I follow my heart, then all of my love, passions, interests, and my dedication to making a difference will steer me along the right path. From day one, I knew I wanted to be different from everyone else and I knew I was open-minded to everything the world had to offer me. I no longer think solely as a New Yorker, New Rochellian, or Cornellian—my mind is now open to a global perspective and global possibilities.

I LOVE GHANA! <3 GH <3


Inequalities in Ghana- University Stike, Police Bribes, and Gender Discrimination

Things have gotten very interesting in Ghana over the last 3 weeks for me. Unfortunately, some of these stories are too personal to discus online. But in short, COME TO GHANA!!! All the people here, including young adults, men, women, and children are very hospitable and friendly. The parties are amazing and the men believe in chivalry still!  Ladies, if you come to Ghana you will be treated like a Queen and will be respected (I can’t emphasize enough how well you will be treated by the guys here in comparison to the guys in colleges in the U.S.). Of course there are always exceptions, but I am speaking for me and my international female friends, based on our experiences in The Sates and here in Ghana. Anyway, I digress. I just wanted to be honest about that part of my study abroad experience.

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I have noticed that the Ghanaian government turns the other cheek to many inequalities.  For example, all public university teachers in Ghana are on strike now.  This is the third week of the strike. According to the rules, if the strike lasts 3 weeks then all of the public Universities in Ghana will be closed for a whole year.  According to my Ghanaian friends, the strike started because the government refused to pay the university professors the advance payment they agreed to in their contracts.  One friend told me that the government owed 5,000 Cedi to each professor, and there are approximately 3,000 public university professors in Ghana.  In other words, the government owes a lot of money and either the government does not have the money or they are refusing to allocate it to the professors.

It is very interesting how the universities have temporarily dealt with this problem.  The Ghanaian students have no classes at all and they are spending the majority of their time sleeping, hanging out with friends, and relaxing.  However, the international students still have classes because the professors agreed to teach only the international students.  This is simply one example of inequality here.  The international students are generally catered for, yet the Ghanaian students are left behind. The international students will write final exams on time, leave on time, and receive their grades on time.  However, the Ghanaian students (especially the level 400 students) may not even graduate in 4 years.  Who knows what they plan to do if they have no school for a year.  Most students here do not have jobs and do not work, so most likely they will continue to relax with friends and help out their family if the schools shut down.

There is corruption all over Ghana, especially with the police.  The police look intimidating in their blue army print uniforms, and they all carry rifles strapped across their chests.  I noticed that whenever the taxicabs pass through certain checkpoints, they have to negotiate with the police. They usually wind up giving the police 2 or 3 Cedi.  For example, one taxi driver did not have his new registration stickers for his car. As a result, he was charged 3 Cedi every time he passed through the checkpoint. In his case, it would have been a better idea if he simply got the sticker replaced (since it was not very expensive to do). Another time, the taxi talked to the police for literally 20 minuets because he had 5-passengers in a 4-passenger car.  I am sure he had to pay for that mistake.  He knew we had 5- passengers so it is unclear why he would chose to go through the police check point rather than taking an alternative route.  Also, taxis that do not have a University sticker have to pull over into a parking lot and pay 1 Cedi every time they enter the University at night. Although this rule is pretty standard, it is not clear what that money they are collecting is actually going towards.

Other inequalities I am noticing on campus are seemingly random.  International Student Hostel 1 is better that International Student Hostel 2 in many ways, even through the buildings are supposed to be the same.  For example, the rooms in ISH 1 are more spacious and have tiled floors in some of them.  The restaurant there serves larger portions, the food is better, and the food comes a lot faster.  More importantly, ISH 1 always has flowing water. They never have to carry buckets to an outdoor faucet to get water and take bucket baths like we have to.  However, even more significant than the water issue is the issue of electricity.  ISH 1 ALWAYS has power and ever experiences “lights out” because they have a generator.  This entire side of campus will have no lights, but if you look across the parking lot at ISH 1, they will ALWAYS have lights.  It makes absolutely no sense why ISH 1 would receive all the upgrades before ISH 2, if they were supposed to be the same quality buildings.  At least the price of housing should reflect these obvious inequalities between the two hostels.

The oddest example of gender inequality occurred to me a few weeks ago at the University pool.  The university has the strangest rule about swim caps.  They only require women to wear swim caps and men do not have to, regardless of their hair length, and the swim caps cost 8 Cedi (which is relatively expensive).  I saw an international guy swimming with shoulder-length hair and he was not wearing a swim cap.  Upon further inquiry, I was first told that women have cream in their hair and it will mess up the pool if they swim without a cap.  I was not happy with this answer, so I went inside to speak to one of the managers.  Then, I was told that women have perms in their hair and that the chemicals in the perm will mess up the pool.  However, this explanation makes absolutely no sense because there are no chemicals in your hair after you receive a perm (otherwise I am sure your head would be burning pretty intensely).  According to what my Mom explained to me in the past, when a person gets their hair relaxed (chemically straightened), the chemicals denature the protein in the hair, making it straight (then of course you deactivate the chemical cream and rinse the hair very well).  I though it made absolutely no sense that women (all women, regardless of whether they have a perm or not) would be required to purchase a 8 Cedi swim cap because of the “creams in their hair” or the “chemicals from the perm”.  I am sure you could imagine I was annoyed by this rule and immediately labeled it as an example of gender inequality.  The only rule that would have made sense was if all people were required to wear swim caps to prevent loose hairs from falling out and clogging the drain.  But as you could guess, I was hot and wanted to swim, so I bought the swim cap and went swimming anyway.  I learned that in Ghana (and in life) you have to choose your battles, and arguing over a swim cap and unfair pool rule are not on my list of things to do this semester.  However, I have not seen a more obvious example of gender inequality since I have been here in Ghana.


Dance, Cape Coast Slave Castles, “Some Things, Only in Ghana”

I)     Boogie Boogie – Rhythm, Dance, Reggae Night, Salsa!

Most aspects of Ghanaian life are accompanied with dance, song, and music.  I really love this aspect of the culture, and it is clear that people share joy and a strong human bond through music.  I have the best dance class EVER! There are easily over 100 people in the class, and my dance instructor’s energy level gets everyone to boogie and unleash their wildest feelings through dance.  The teacher is an older gentleman who has decades of experience teaching dance in Ghana as well as in California.  He carries a cane when he walks, but as soon as he begins to dance, he drops the cane and boogies like no other!  He also teaches us the meanings behind the dances and he encourages us to mix and mingle and unify as one group (the class is very diverse, with a significant number of foreign students as well as Ghanaian guys and ladies).  He also teaches us the words to the songs (in Twi) that we sing to accompany our dances.  We dance in several concentric circles, both on the floor and on the stage.  Our teacher explains, “These circles represent family. Live, die, live, die, live. [It also includes] the extended family.  In Ghana, we say if you have not danced then you have not lived… Dancing is not just boogie-ing, it is about reaching your humanity”.  Every ceremony has some kind of dancing involved, including church ceremonies and funerals.  Dancing brings the community together.

Now on to my favorite dances! I love this one part of our first dance, where you pair off and stand in front of a guy.  You chest-pop 3 times (sorry, I do not no any other way to describe the movement lol) and you look over your shoulder while sitting on his lap.  The key is that when you turn around to look at him, you have to give him the biggest smile EVER, and he smiles back! I think it is hilarious and fun!  Then you skip joyfully over to the next guy and you do the same thing, sit on his lap and smile too! The dance is so much fun and the rhythm of the drums is so deep.  When you dance you can’t help but feel the blood pulsing through your veins, as you feel the sense of unity shared among people who would otherwise never meet in this lifetime.

I also have a big drumming class of mostly foreign students. We all meet outside on a concrete platform, carrying drums and drumsticks with us.  I came to the class late so I still have a lot of catching up to do.  We borrow the drums from the music department, but I think I am planning on buying my own Congo drum before I leave 😀 Ghana is filled with so many different rhythms! I am so happy I decided to take drumming and dance classes because when else am I going to get this incredible opportunity?

LOL so of course I couldn’t discuss drumming, dancing and rhythms without discussing the wild Ghanaian parties!  I was told that University of Ghana was a party campus (well I was also told that Cornell was a party school).  To be honest, I haven’t been going out to party much, if at all (I’ve been a sweet homebody lately).  But, I can tell you about Wednesday nights, Reggae Night at Labadi Beach! I went there last time I came to Ghana as well.  There are a bunch of Rastas chilling on the beach, doing what Rasta’s do. There is a live band playing old school reggae music, and there is always a large crowd of Ghanaians and foreigners dancing.  There is a bar on the beach and also some people selling crafts (all Rasta/Jamaican themed).  It was very funny, I was already “in the zone” when I was going to Reggae night, and I told all of my friends at ISH that I was “going home to Jamaica for the night!” Good times, great times! I took a lot of adorable pictures on the beach that night and I posted them on my Facebook page.  I LOVE GHANA!

Another fun dance experience was Friday Night Salsa at the Aviation Recreation Center!  I went with my roommate and a bunch of her friends and I literally had one of the best times of my life! It was amazing to see all of these gorgeous Ghanaian men and women work their hips to salsa music! It makes sense that a culture of people who embraced music and dance so much, would be naturals at picking up other dance forms.  The class was so energized, and the instructors were so helpful! I brushed up on my basic salsa moves, and for the second half of the class I danced with some experienced salsa instructors and students to improve my moves! I will always remember that night! The best part was when they took a break from salsa and put on the Ghanaian line dance music, like the song Wengeze by Eazy (my absolute favorite song)! Now picture a dance that is a billion times better and more sensual then the Electric Slide and Cha-cha Slide, and add in a bunch of Ghanaians who are all really good dancers, who keep a perfectly synchronized formation! It was amazing, too great for words! Let me just say I had one of the best nights of my life and I would like to plan a Girl’s Night Out again soon so I can go back with my friends!

I have one more story to add about dancing!  Last night I went to my first Room Party on campus (they are also called “Drink Ups” LOL).  They are the essentially the same as Cornell’s parties (similar to “Sweat Box” in Ujaama).  The biggest difference is that the ratio of guys to girls is 5:1 and the guys don’t mind dancing with the lights on! One of the non-traditional words I learned from my friends in Twi is “ntwia”, which means to dance close (grinding), which was all they did at the party.  It was really a fun time though. The birthday girl was very sweet.  She introduced herself to us and made sure we had everything we needed.  It was funny! I think we only stayed for about 20 or 30 minutes (which is the shortest time I have ever spent in a good party), but we had just enough of the experience so we could say we went! Good times, great times at University of Ghana!

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II)     Cape Coast, Slave Castles, and Coconut Grove Hotel/Resort on the Oceanside

Cape Coast is a gorgeous place stamped by an ugly history.  I went to Elmina Slave Castle (the first and biggest one) last time I came to Ghana, so I decided to take a tour of Cape Coast Castle this time.  A lot of the sights and stories are similar, but I think Elmina had a deeper presence and longer lasting effect on visitors.  I am not sure why, but if you have to choose, I suggest you go to Elmina.  I will not go into details about the stories of the Slave Castles here on this blog, but as you can imagine, there was a lot of abuse, sickness, rape, dehumanization, death, and separation of loved ones.  If you want to experience the history of the Slave Castles, you should come here for yourself and see them.  The history is heavy, but these facts and emotions CANNOT be ignored.  Not only should African Americans come here, Africans, Europeans, and people from all over the globe need to understand the severity of the slave trade and the horrible conditions people were forced to endure. I hope history does not repeat itself. However, there are still incidences of people capturing and enslaving each other, and these atrocities are occurring all around the world right now.  How long will it take for the world to become a place of peace, diversity, and acceptance?  Who knows.  All I can hope for is that every person will take out the time to educate themselves on the injustices around us.  We should all do our part to make this world a better place.

Now Cape Coast the place… WOW.  All I can say is wow, wow, wow! What a gorgeous place! It reminds me of Cancun, Bahamas, and other amazing vacation spots near the U.S. The beach is beautiful, the sand is clean, and the ocean is clear! There are palm trees everywhere and the ocean breeze whisks me back to Cancun (memories of chilling in the hammocks with my family and friends on the beach).  We stayed at Coconut Grove Hotel and it is definitely a 6++ star resort! I told my girl friend that this spot should be our future honeymoon location! The pictures cannot do the place justice.  You truly have to be here in order to smell the sweetness of the flowers and to experience the fresh ocean breeze.  I apologize if I am making you jealous right now, but I hope if you are a student considering studying abroad, you realize that CIEE’s program at the University of Ghana is the best study abroad program EVER!  We lived in mini houses/bungalows that were ascetically decorated and furnished.  The bathroom was made up of three rooms (the shower wasn’t a stall, it was its own room). And yes, HOT WATER! Not to mention, the food was all catered, buffet style and was quite delicious!  We spent countless hours on the beach playing beach volleyball, swimming in the ocean, going on walks, and burying each other in the sand. We only spent one night at Coconut Grove Hotel in Elmina, but  that day and night were so memorable! I am sure I will be going back again in the future  🙂

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III)     Some Things You Can Only See In Ghana

I can’t help but laugh or shake my head when I see and experience certain things that only happen here in Ghana.  Some things are funny, some are upsetting, some are amusing, and some are very different.  I will continue to add to this list every so often.  I already listed over 30 different things in my notebook, but I will include 20 here right now:

1)     When you vote in National Elections, you dip your finger in ink so that they know you have already voted. The ink doesn’t come off for a week!

2)     Learn how to make a low-cost water filter using rocks and sand

3)     The random things you see people selling right before you get to the location called 37 ( I will make a separate list for this one in the next blog entry)

4)     Some things are better said in Twi then in English. Some people can express more of their feelings and ideas in Twi (hence the reason why becoming fluent in Twi is so important to me)

5)     Showering with wall geckos (they always have a way of surprising me!)

6)     Shoving people out of the way and running down the street to catch a trotro; Having to wait over 30 minutes to get a trotro that is going to your destination

7)     I saw a big lady running towards a trotro, so I ran passed her and got in before her (there ended up being enough space for her too); Moral of the story is: Get in the trotro as quickly as possible, and ask questions later!

8)     Big orange and black lizards doing “push ups and head-bobs” to scare off smaller lizards

9)     A mommy chicken with 9 different colored baby chickens, walking dangerously close to the busy street

10)A heard of giant bull cattle with huge horns running along the sidewalk

11) People urinating everywhere, including in the open gutters and in the grass along busy intersections; You even find messages written on buildings that say “No Pissing Here”

12) People running up to your vehicle /trotro when you are at a red light to sell you various things

13) When you walk on campus at night, you heard giant toads croaking, but you NEVER see them in the night or day

14) Tiny black tadpoles in the open gutters, swimming in murky water and trash (who knows what else is in those open gutters! I wouldn’t want to fall in, but I know some friends who have fallen in) 😛

15) Pay 1.20 for a big 1.5L plastic bottle of water or pay 1.30 for literally 10x that amount of water, but it comes in individually sealed mini plastic bags. You end up throwing out the little bags shortly after purchasing them, since you only used them to refill your big plastic bottles

16)Everything comes in a plastic bag in Ghana

17) FanYogo is the BEST EVER! Frozen strawberry yogurt yumm, I bet it has no equivalent in the U.S. that tastes as good 😉 It is so awesome, I have no idea why!

18) If you want to get to work by 9am, don’t plan on making it there on time (even if it is less then 20 min away) unless you leave at 7am… the traffic is that horrible

19) Pineapples are white and oranges are green, but they are probably the sweetest you have ever tasted in THE WORLD!

20) Trotros range from a van (“bang bus”) size to minibus (“hood-bus”). Either way, you are going to be squeezed in and the trotro will not leave the bus stop until it is filled beyond capacity.


Kumasi, Sacrificing Chickens, Wrap the Baby, Mystery Bathrooms, and More!

Wrapped Fresh Boy in KumasiGood Day!

My fun adventures in Ghana continue! Here are some entries for this week:

1)     Welcome Home to Kumasi

2)     Wrapping Fresh Boy

3)     The Curse of the Antoa River

4)     The Mystery of Ghanaian Bathrooms

5)     The Golden Stool- Kings, Museum, Culture Center, Sword in Ground

Feel free to leave comments and email my blog site to your friends. You can sign up to automatically receive emails whenever I post a new blog entry (see option on the right side of the screen). Also, I will begin fundraising for the West Africa Aids Foundation Ambulance Fund starting early next week. Email me if you are interested in getting involved or giving donations.

Enjoy!

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1)     Welcome Home to Kumasi

Well, getting to Kumasi was quite the adventure as well! Let me start off by saying that Ghana has a lot of imported things, and all of their vehicles are imported. I felt like I was riding in luxury in the big coach bus. The seats were twice as big as normal seats and even reclined and had a footrest. However, we did wait about 3 hours before even getting on the bus.  Arriving in Kumasi feels like returning home (homeland, home, that is).  I am staying with K and his family. His parents are so sweet! Also, a family friend, cousin, and his nephew also live there. Part of what makes a home in Ghana feel so warm and inviting is the strong family dynamic. There are more people to love in an extended family and each person of course brings their own dynamic outlook on things.

His Dad asked me how did I see Kumasi compared to Accra. Accra is a big city, bustling with activity and Kumasi is the homeland. Also, everything in Kumasi costs fractions of the amount you would pay in Accra. Transportation is a lot cheaper and trotros are a billion times easier to catch in Kumasi. I always feel so much warmth, laughter, love and support when I am with a Ghanaian family and so I always connect Kumasi with these happy feelings. And it’s true, if you are a guest in a Ghanaian family’s home they will certainly overfeed you and make sure you have the best, freshest, tastiest food ever! Everyone in the neighborhood knows everyone. The community is very close-knit.

I certainly felt like a Queen, laying on my bed under the round-shaped mosquito net. Everything in the room was pure white, and there was a dreamy feeling that came over me. Life is so good here, it feels too good to be true! It feels like the sweetest dream has actually become reality.

All of the food was amazing but I must say that the chilled pineapple for dessert was THE BEST PINEAPPLE I HAVE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE! Wow. Over the weekend, I also had pasta with tomato stew and steamed fish; peanut soup with fufu, beef, fish, and mushrooms; pasta with apples; eggs, buttered bread, tea with cream, and salad with fish for breakfast; yams with my favorite vegetable stew for dinner; the list goes on. I learned that there is a particular way that Asantes eat fufu. First off, you have to eat with only your right hand in the bowl (no utensils are used when you eat fufu). Apparently I was eating it the wrong way because you are supposed to swallow fufu, not chew it. Also, you are not supposed to chew fufu and meat at the same time (I love to mix my food so I was not very enthusiastic about this rule). You have to “cut” the fufu in the blow, meaning you break a small piece with your fingers under the soup before you lift it to your mouth. My friend stood over me and watched me eat, which I did not enjoy. However, now I can say now I know the right way to eat fufu!

I know this is pretty random, but I must say, the roosters are so confused here! They start cock-a-doodle-doo-ing as early as 4am and they continue to make noise throughout the afternoon.  They are very strange. I also woke up a lot to the sound of loudspeakers around 4am because the Muslims get up very early to pray.

Something else unique about Kumasi is the way people bargain.  I was looking for kente cloth, which is usually around 100 Cedi for 3 pieces (long enough to make over 3 dresses). When I was in the store, my friend told me not to say that I would look elsewhere to find a better priced product. He was talking to the store owner, saying that he used to live near him and that they might be neighbors or family friends. People in Kumasi will give discounts if they think of you as family friends or close neighbors. There is so much to learn about culture in Kumasi!

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2)     Wrapping Fresh Boy

I am so fond of Fresh Boy, I had to give him his own chapter! He is 8 years old and is in second grade in a private school (if you know my cousin Stephon, he certainly reminds me of him). He never fails to impress me with his fluency in both English and Twi. We were watching a Ghanaian movie together in English, and he would describe the scenes in Twi, until he eventually asked if I could speak Twi. I told him I was taking a class to learn it but I certainly couldn’t understand that much yet. I love how I was being tutored by an 8-year-old!

Fresh Boy loves to dance.  K told me a funny story about Fresh Boy’s antics. On his first day of class at his new school, Fresh Boy lined up with his grade after an assembly.  As usual, the teacher played a drumbeat and all of the students began to march in line back to their classrooms. However, when Fresh Boy heard the beat, he jumped out of line and started to dance and boogie! Haha Fresh Boy is just like his uncle—fearless, outspoken, never shy, and loves to dance!

Fresh Boy is also very sweet. I thought it was absolutely adorable when I told him I was going to brush my teeth, and he came into the bathroom with me to brush his teeth at the same time! Aww! I wish I could do that everyday. I love how close-knit the family is.

One night I got a dose of the ultimate Ghanaian experience—lights out, no water, and pouring down rain. However, it really didn’t matter what the conditions were around us because we had such a blast! I was sitting with Fresh Boy and the rest of the family in the living room and we were all crowded around one lantern. Fresh Boy and I started playing the “Shadow Game” and I was making huge monsters with my hands.  I would make my shadows eat him and he would start giggling and rolling all over the place! He would then make shadows back at mine, and his shadows would eat my shadows. We even added in a storyline, dialogue and sound effects! I think we must have played that game for hours. I didn’t even realize I was sweating from moving around so much. We had so much fun! I will never forget that night in the dark.

Wrap the Baby! Now that was certainly a Kumasi highlight.  For a while now, I always wondered how Ghanaian women managed to wrap their babies on their backs so well. The babies are always so well supported and the women have their hands free to carry tons of things. I was really lucky that K’s cousin showed me how it is done! As you can imagine, Fresh Boy is pretty big but he was the closest person we had to a baby’s size. I managed to wrap him on my back, but he was so big! He actually just held onto my waist with his legs so he wouldn’t fall backwards when I stood straight up. The pictures are hilarious! I am going to post them on Facebook and I might put some on the blog too (if my internet ever decides to work). Good times, great times with Fresh Boy!

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3)     The Curse of the Antoa River

** This description may be considered graphic, viewer discretion is advised**

The Antoa River is very powerful. The belief goes that if people are cursed by the river, they will begin to develop a large belly and swollen limbs.  They will die if they do not perform the necessary sacrifices.  Many local people are afraid to even visit the river and have no interest in going near it because they are afraid of its powers. We had a guide show us everything and explain the process.  We walked along the dirt road for over 25 minutes before we got to the river.  Along the way, I saw people walking with pans on their heads and the pans each contained a live chicken.  When we finally got to the river, everyone removed their shoes behind a wall, then walked up to the ceremony.  There was a line of about 15 men and women holding chickens by their legs or wings.  There was a chief in charge of the river and he was directing the sacrificial process.  Another man stood by the river’s edge and he held sharp knives.  The smell of fresh meat and blood was overwhelming. The smell reminded me of a dissection lab in biology or in animal science classes (eww).  The procedure started with the cursed person washing his/herself in the river with their clothes on.  Next, the man by the river’s edge took the chicken and sliced its neck with the blade and let the blood drip onto a rock.  Then, he tossed the dying chicken into the river and it flapped around for a while.  After a while, it began to slow down and it stopped flapping entirely.  He picked it up and cut the limbs and head off and tossed the pieces into a pile.  He also poured Schnapps (libation) onto that same rock he dripped the chicken blood on. The people all said a chant in unison, and then the sacrifice was complete.  The next person online proceeded with the same ceremony.

I was surprised to see that people brought their young children with them.  The children stood in line next to their relatives.  I was also surprised to hear that some people had to pay up to 100 Ghana Cedi as a sacrifice for the river.  However, I was happy to find out that the chief would use the money to pay for the school fees for children in high school and for young men and women from the village who wanted to attend a university.  I also found out that people overseas could also be cursed by the Antoa River.  For example, if a person curses you and you are in the United States, you can send a close relative of yours who is in Ghana to break the curse for you.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the chief and other important people eat the chickens that were used in the sacrifice, so they did not go to waste.  As a former president of the Animal Rights Club in my high school, I certainly did not approve of the way they killed the chickens.  They could have killed them in a different way so that they did not have to suffer and flop around with blood dripping out of them.  But anyway, it is what it is. Different cultures have different practices and I am glad I got a chance to take a glimpse into the belief system of some Ghanaians.

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4)     The Mystery of Ghanaian Bathrooms

One time I was instructed to take my shower, but I wasn’t sure quite how. I entered and saw the buckets placed in the corner, as expected. However, I was confused when I did not see an actual shower. Under closer inspection, I noticed there was a drain and a showerhead in the far right corner, but no shower stall or shower curtains. The toilet was in the left rear corner. I closed the toilet lid and took a warm bucket shower. I think I probably splashed water all over the entire bathroom, since I am so used to having a shower stall. Either way, I am very grateful for the hot bucket showers I took in Kumasi. It felt so amazing and relaxing. I can’t believe I haven’t taken a warm shower since the first day at the hotel.

Another example of bathroom confusion occurred when I was on a trip with my study abroad CIEE program. We went to a small rural town to buy carvings. I asked to use the restroom and I was led to a small restaurant. They led me to an interestingly shaped cement wall. The wall only came up to my waste, and it shaped like a maze. When I walked inside of the maze, I noticed three holes the size of a ping-pong ball. Ladies and gentlemen, that is your “toilet”!

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5)     The Golden Stool- Kings, Museum, Culture Center, Sword in Ground

I learned a whole lot today! First, we went to the Palace Museum and I learned all about the Golden Stool and the belief that falls onto the lap of the next Asante King.  I found an Asante symbol I really like called Funtumfunafu and it is a picture of two crocodiles heads that share the same stomach, yet still fight over food.  It is a really cool symbol and I am looking for fabrics and jewelry that have this symbol on it. If I ever decide to get a tattoo one day, I might want to use this symbol because I like its meaning and design. It represents unity and diversity.

Next, we went to the Cultural Center and I got a few small gifts for my family. Then, we walked through the hospital to get to the famous site of the sword in the ground. It is believed that the person who can remove the sword will be a very important person in Kumasi (I forgot the exact description but I will get back to you on this). Muhammad Ali and other famous people tried to remove the sword in the past to no avail. Now, people are no longer allowed to try and pull the sword out of the ground. Supposedly, there was a curse that was causing the people who tried to pull the sword out to die.  Very interesting. After that, we went to a traditional Asante funeral. It was incredible to see men and women adorned in layers of traditional funeral cloth.  The close friends and family to the deceased wore red cloth.  The people who went to the same church as the deceased wore white, and all the other guests wore dark brown and black.  Even the chief from that village attended the funeral and performed a ceremonial dance and greeting.

There is so much to learn in Ghana and in Kumasi and the best way to experience life here is with a close friend and their family.  I am very grateful that I met K and that he has welcomed me into his family.  He has shown and taught me so much in the past month.  All of the fun, laughter, and experiences have been priceless 🙂