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 🙂


The Truth is Blunt- Poverty & Inequality

First off, I would like to acknowledge that I got a lot of feedback concerning my last blog entry. I am glad that my last blog caused some controversy and I got an array of productive feedback, comments, emails, and opinions. Some people may have felt my last blog post was offensive, critical or felt as if it was designed to target particular people. I will always be direct and blunt on this blog because I am here to expose the TRUTH. There are many ways people can get involved in making a difference in the world around them. You don’t have to volunteer or chose a service-oriented career to make a difference in the lives of others. You can ALWAYS give monetary and supplies donations. No matter your interests, profession, career, or social status, it is UNACCEPTABLE for any person (especially Americans and people who can afford to have their own laptops) to not do their part in making this world a better place. If you are following my blog, you will get pure, unadulterated truth. Here is a sad example from the International Health Care Clinic:

A young HIV- positive mother brought in her young daughter, Deborah. She was already in the later stages of AIDs and little could be done to help her as the disease took over her immune system and her small, young body began to deteriorate. One wonderful family from the UK decided to sponsor this brilliant young lady so she could attend school and receive the anti-retroviral drugs she needs each day. However, Deborah was still very sick. One day she began vomiting and was straining when she tried to use the bathroom. Deborah passed out when she was in the bathroom and did not wake back up. Her mom begged her neighbors until she raised enough money to pay for a cab to take Deborah to the clinic. By the time her mom collected 3 Cedi (less than $2.50) from her neighbors, 3 hours had already passed since the time her daughter passed out in the bathroom.  When they finally arrived at the clinic, it was already too late. Dr. Naa Ashiley Vanderpuye pronounced Deborah dead.

Now I can tell you exactly why I may sound frustrated or bitter in my blogs when I write about injustice and inequality, or when I discuss Americans’ selfishness and failure to take action. Can you imagine a mother having to carry her dead daughter’s body on her lap in a taxicab? Dr. Vanderpuye and a volunteer from the clinic accompanied Deborah’s mom, as her daughter’s body was shuffled from place to place in a taxi and in a friend’s truck. They had to obtain a death certificate, autopsy, and burial permit. It is unbelievable to me that they had to take Deborah’s body in a taxi with them to obtain all of these permits because the clinic cannot afford to purchase an ambulance or used truck to transport patients. This inequality is tragic and unacceptable.

My goal is to raise 12,000- 15,000 (Cedi or Dollars) before January 1st 2011 and donate this money to the West African AIDS Foundation so that the International Health Care Clinic can purchase a used truck. After speaking to Dr. Naa Ashiley Vanderpuye and her Mother (who helps her run the clinic), it is clear that they would be very grateful and appreciative if our goal becomes a reality.  I know I will personally be donating a portion of my earning to this greater cause. I know everyone who is reading this blog has 20 or 100 dollars/Cedi (or more) that they can donate. I know fundraising can bring in even more donations.

There is a saying that “Ignorance is Bliss”. That’s fine for some people. But again I will emphasize that my blog will always tell you the truth the way it is. Yes, I will discuss topics like religion, music, dance and other interesting and fun topics. However, I will also elaborate on the inequalities I encounter. Rather than take offense to my messages, think of my passionate criticism as a CALL TO ACTION. Ask yourself the question, “How can I make a difference this week?” You can give money, vitamins, Band-Aids, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, clothes, shoes, etc. Virtually anything that is good quality can be donated. The clinic has 500 patients and Dr. Vanderpuye is the only full-time doctor at the clinic. She has four young children and lives a busy life. She is a fantastic woman and I would love for you to read more about her so that these images and stories become more vivid for you.

Please copy and paste the following description into an email and send it around to your friends. Our goal is to raise 12,000- 15,000 by January 2011. I need your help and the help of your friends and family to make this goal a reality. I will look into setting up a PayPal link for the organization. Tell me in an email how much you would like to donate (whether it is in the form of money or supplies) and I will further coordinate with you via email to determine how we will collect your gift.  My email address is KML65@cornell.edu

If you would like to read more Dr. Naa Ashiley Vanderpuye, I will include part of her story at the end of the blog entry. If you would rather read her complete introduction, please go to her personal site at http://www.aandachtvooraids.nl/ihcc.html ).

Here is the website for the West African AIDS Foundation and for the International Health Care Clinic: http://www.waafweb.org/ .

Also, if you would like to read the complete, vivid description of Deborah’s story, visit this page written by a study abroad student volunteer from last semester. Scroll down to where it says “In Memory of Deborah Sarchie” and click where it says “Read Deborah’s Story” http://www.waafweb.org/news.html

Before you fall asleep tonight, take 5 minutes to reflect on what you can do to make a difference. Reflect on what the words “Peace, love, and justice FOR ALL” really mean to you. Peace and Love <3

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Here is the beginning and select parts from Dr. Naa Ashiley Vanderpuye’s story:

“About the International Health Care Center (IHCC), a community clinic
at Roman Ridge, Accra Ghana.

Since April 2003, I have been working as a full time doctor at IHCC in Accra. My name is Naa Ashiley Vanderpuye. I am 34 years of age. I was born in the Volta region of Ghana. My father was a Ghanaian and my mother a Dutch. We had a wonderful simple life in Ghana untill my father suddenly died of perforated appendicitis. My mother, left alone with 4 daughters and not working at the time, decided to move back to Holland. All four children accompanied her.

Leaving Ghana so suddenly, at the age of 14 and under those circumstances was not easy. I had therefore promised myself that I
would oneday return to my motherland. The circumstances under which my father died also motivated me. He, after being diagnosed had to be operated upon immediately, but there wasn’t a surgeon around so he would have to wait for the next day and that was just too long. He died in the early hours of that morning.

My goal was to come back to my country and help as much as I could.” …. (to read her complete story, please click here http://www.aandachtvooraids.nl/ihcc.html ) … “IHCC is now treating over 500 HIV/AIDS patients. These people are from the lowest social ladder in our society and have very little or no access to any kind of health care. Even transportation fee is a
problem. Many times, patients actually ask us for some little money for them to be able to pay their transportation back home. Food is also a serious problem, financial constraints again being the main reason. Most people cannot buy common fruits and a high protein diet, what they do need is not part of their diets. At our clinic we offer the in-patients free meals.

Occasionally it does happen that we do not have certain medications and have to prescribe these for the patients so they can buy it themselves from the pharmacies in town. They mostly end up either not buying these at all or buying just a few, at least what the money they have can buy. This does not enhance treatment and rather worsens it since in such cases resistance easily builds up. Sometimes they show me prescriptions they have been carrying for months, medications that were prescribed by other doctors and what they could not buy. People walk around with the same medical problems for a long time because of
this, only ending up getting worse and even in certain cases dying.

At IHCC, most of our services are free. Since we started our clinic, we have received only one big funding solely for the treatment and care of HIV/AIDS patients. This came from Barclays Bank Ghana. In the proposal we estimated to treat about 200 people with the disease with the money given, which was twenty two thousand pounds but we ended up
treating well over 400. With the funding, we are able to purchase medications generally and frequently used in the treatment and care of opportunistic infections, food supplements, which is very essential, since most of the patients are malnourished and cannot afford to buy the right food. We also use part of the money in paying the staff and in buying disposable items. We frequently have to squeeze here and there but we manage to survive and carry on… In some cases when the patients get better and have to be discharged they do not want to go. Reasons being that at the clinic, they have people to talk to, they feel comfortable and at home they are going to end up thinking too much and be shunned by the family… We are very much in need of an ambulance and another extra transport. The ambulance will enable us do our Home based care programs, meaning visiting the people at home. We are trying to encourage this as a means of getting communities involved in the care of their loved ones. It will also be used to transport patients from the house to the clinic if necessary and from the clinic to other hospitals for, for example, diagnostics and also if we loose a patient to enable us send the body to the mortuary. Currently, when we loose a patient, we have to charter a taxi, which most of the times is a burden. The taxi drivers charge a lot for this, if they do agree to take the corpse and also getting some of the bodies into a taxi is not an easy task and also not a nice sight. The other transport will be used to do our rounds. At the moment we have to rely on only one car that is mostly used for the NGO and charting cars every day is not cost effective…”(Due to space, I did not include her whole introduction here and I left out some paragraphs but please read the rest of her story on her site http://www.aandachtvooraids.nl/ihcc.html )


Inequality, Voodoo, AIDS, Prostitution, and more

Hey Everyone!
Sorry it took so long for me to post again. I’ve been writing a lot and taking notes about things I think you might be interested in hearing about in Ghana. Unfortunately my computer broke, but that problem should be resolved in the next week or two. Here are the topics I will cover in this blog:
1) Educating “Carefree” Kids
2) Pregnant Man Gives Birth to Baby Girl and Ghana’s Voodoo
3) Ghana Guys & Campus Inequality (8 Men Really Live in One Dorm Room?)
4) Prostitution in Ghana
5) AIDS Prevention and the West African AIDS Foundation/ Clinic
6) What I Don’t Miss About America

🙂  Please read all my entries this week! They are all really interesting and I think you will enjoy them. Peace and Love!!
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1) Educating “Carefree” Kids
I’m making deep connections with people here in Ghana. Whites, Ghanaians, blacks from all over the U.S., Caribbeans, Norwegians; the list goes on. Our conversations are so dynamic because people here have so many different perspectives they bring to the table. A lot of people are open-minded and down to Earth and have a strong desire to affect positive change globally. I love that. Speaking to fellow educators also can be quite interesting. One person was telling me that she taught students in Louisiana and in cities in the south. She agreed that students could be quite rude, obnoxious, inappropriate and spoiled, similar to some of the students I have encountered during my summers teaching in the inner city. Some students in the north and south seem to share a similar attitude about their education. It’s almost as if we want them to have a good education more then they even care about their own futures. In contrast, the students here in Ghana are so attentive, engaged, and thankful for their education. I even heard of some students asking for MORE homework from volunteer teachers! It’s incredible to me how people take opportunities and things for granted when they have everything at their fingertips. While at the same exact moment in time, there are people who are struggling in order to secure their basic human rights and needs for survival. Unbelievable!
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2) Pregnant Man Gives Birth to Baby Girl and Ghana’s Voodoo
I heard there was a pregnant man in Ghana who gave birth to a daughter this week! The man was on the front of every magazine and newspaper here in Ghana. My friend (I will call him K) explained that spirits can be born from within people and that it isn’t unheard of for a man to give birth to a child. He compared it to the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus, yet she is still a virgin. He also told me if you believe in certain spirits or voodoo then they are real. For example, there is a belief in Ghana that if a person steals from you, you can perform a certain voodoo spell which involves breaking an egg on the floor and saying a chat about what you want to happen to the thief (i.e. death, break leg, return the stole object etc). One time someone stole K’s sneakers. He said a chant over an egg and broke it on the floor. However, he did not actually perform the voodoo spell. But, the thief saw K break the egg and say a chant, so he got really scared for his life. He went up to K and begged him to please not kill him, and he returned the sneakers to him right then and there! The power of belief is so strong here in Ghana. Be careful who you cross, and be cautious about what you wish for!
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3) Ghana Guys & Campus Inequality (8 Men Really Live in One Dorm Room?)
The guys here in Ghana are usually really friendly and nice! Many of my friends have had guys walk up to them and complement them or start friendly conversations about school, where they are from, etc. It’s not at all like walking on 125th street in Harlem where I am constantly being harassed by men of all ages, who say creative, yet corny pick up lines like “Come here pretty toes” or “I want to be your knight in shining armor”. A lot of people in Ghana stare at us because we look like foreigners but no one has said anything obnoxious or rude thus far.
I like how the guys greet each other here in Ghana. They give each other hugs or a handshake (they press their middle finger and thumb with your fingers to make a snapping sound). They are also really excited and enthusiastic whenever they meet their friends. Whenever I am walking around with K he always stops every few minutes to say hi to all of his hundreds of friends (LOL). It seems to me like he knows everyone on campus!
K used to lead protests at school in order to secure equal rights and fair distribution of resources for Ghanaian students. The housing and water situation is a serious issue. For example, , he told me that everyone wants to live in International Student Hostels (ISH) because they are guaranteed to have only one roommate and have water at all times. However, if you are a Ghanaian student you are only allowed to live in ISH for one semester and you have to have a GPA of at least 3.0 (first class students) and you also have to write an essay. In comparison, in Commonwealth Hall you might run out of water altogether and would have to walk a long way with your bucket to get water from another Hall. He also said that grown men have to share beds and guys have to sleep head to foot with each other. They also have two bunk beds in the room, totaling up to 8 men in one dorm room. These conditions are not fair and living in the International Student Hostels is like living in royalty in comparison.
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4) Prostitution in Ghana
I learned quite a few things about prostitution in Ghana. I learned that women who stand on the corner in dark areas, wearing short shorts are usually prostitutes. They charge between 5 and 10 Ghana Cedi (around 3.75 dollars to 7.50) for sex. I heard it costs more if you order a prostitute from a hotel rather then picking her up off the street. The craziest thing is that it costs more to have unprotected sex, even though you are clearly gambling with your life. It’s a sure way to get HIV. One person told us a story about a guy he knew who bargained with a prostitute and ended up paying her only 4.50 Ghana Cedi for sex! It is crazy, sad, and unbelievable that women are resorting to selling their bodies in order to make enough money to feed their children. It is even more of a shock to me that they are doing so for such cheap prices. What can be done to end exploitation of women and the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ghana and worldwide?
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5) AIDS Prevention and the West African AIDS Foundation/ Clinic
I am so enthusiastic about my internship at WAAF, the West African AIDS Foundation, and at the accompanying clinic. Although I have to get on two trotros and trek for quite a distance to get there, I know my time spent at my internship will be worthwhile. I met a doctor who seems like a fabulous person and a future role model/mentor for me. Her mom is from Holland and her dad is Ghanaian. She went to medical school outside of Ghana, and decided to marry a Ghanaian and work here for her career. I cannot wait to get to know her better. I could envision myself having a career where I help people in the states as well as abroad (especially right here in Ghana). I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I plan on spending time in the clinic with patients who have AIDS as well as teaching HIV prevention and sexual health awareness curriculum to young teens and adults. I love interning and I believe I learn the most from hands on experiences. This will certainly be an awesome opportunity for me to discover my passions for working with NGOs and in medicine, teaching, and empowering women.
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6) What I Don’t Miss About America
I don’t miss home. And to be honest, I probably won’t. Of course I have people I love dearly at home, but other then family, there is very little that really captures my interest for long in America. I feel like people are constantly busy and they are so worried about how they are going to make money or are so consumed with securing high paying jobs. They are trying to get into prestigious programs, competitive grad schools and high paying entry-level jobs at large corporations. Who really has time (or interest) in volunteering with kids or animals or to improve the world around us? Everyone is so consumed with their own education or career that they allow it to define them and to dominate their time. New York is so cold, so empty, sometimes. There are thousands of people who walk past each other with their shopping bags and don’t say a word to each other. They rarely take the time to connect with others or realize that we all are people who should be treated with respect and kindness. Only in America can people spend an entire day without saying a word to each other. They order food from a kiosk or on a computer, pump their own gas, have their headphones in their ears at all times, use a GPS for directions and talk to people on facebook or text messaging rather then in person. In Ghana, we ask at least 3 people for directions each day and we share fun and elaborate stories with each other. We laugh, we dance, we sing. New York, on the other hand, feels like a constant race to the top. I notice that I tend to meet a lot of superficial people in New York and at Cornell. People are so busy and have limited time for each other. It is rare to find people who make sacrifices for each other. It is even harder to find people you actually trust. Some “friends” or “so-called lovers” are here one day and gone the next; longevity is hard to achieve in college it seems. Who would ever want to be stuck in a world like that? NOT I! When I was in The States, I noticed myself getting sucked into a never ending vortex of meaninglessness. I am SO HAPPY I have my time here in Ghana to escape from it all. I believe in life we all want to be satisfied each day and we want to be happy. I realize I am quite unique. I am a person who would find life to be a lot more enjoyable if I pursued a service-oriented career. I want to allow my heart and mind to be open and free enough to explore fascinating places and meet incredible people from all over the world. It would be impossible for me to be satisfied with piles of money, knowing that there is so much injustice and inequality around the world. I don’t understand how it is possible for Americans to sit on their butts all day, watching flat screen TVs, when there are children around the world who are not receiving a good meal, a decent education, or satisfactory healthcare. Although I can not solve all of the world’s problems, I can certainly try my best to make a difference. I refuse to live as a wealthy, sheltered, spoiled, narrow minded, greedy American who lives each day in comfort and who puts blinders on and ignores the injustices in the world around them. In New York, I have spent tons of money on meaningless things and I have had billions of conversations with people that progressed nowhere. Privilege and meaninglessness… I am glad to be away from it all, and when I return I will remain focused on what matters most– family, love, volunteering and making a difference. Until then, I will enjoy every moment here with friends and continue to believe in the deep power of human connectedness. It is so important to be open-minded and friendly. Put on a smile and hold your head up high! Happiness is a state of mind we can all enjoy each day <3


I LOVE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA :-D

<3 I love this country so much! I’ve been without internet since I got here on campus. I apologize if you haven’t heard from me this week. Everything is great! 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. I have met so many amazing people from all over the world, including Norwegians, Ghanaians, Nigerians, and people from all over USA. I couldn’t ask for a better experience. Being surrounded by inquisitive, adventurous, open-minded people is an amazing feeling. Even the people I am meeting who left home for the first time to travel outside of the country, I am impressed because they are so courageous and open-minded! We are all broadening our comfort zone, and I am having so much fun exploring Ghana and navigating the campus together with other study abroad students.

The first morning I woke up in International Student Hostel II (ISH II) there was no running water AT ALL. I also did not exchange any more money, so all of my dollars were completely useless. I couldn’t even afford to buy a bucket from the market so I could use it to carry water to wash with. So, I decided I needed to improvise! I consolidated all of my liter water bottles I kept from the hotel. I used an empty one and I filled it up with well water from the outdoor faucet.  I am glad that I am very flexible and that I am a low maintenance girl! I took my “shower” (washed up, that is) using only that 1 liter bottle. I was quite proud of myself and I realized I would have no problem adjusting to life in Ghana! The water did not return until 3 days later but I was fine taking 1 liter showers for the week. Another funny thing happened when I was brushing my teeth that first morning. I was so concerned with the water that I did not pay attention to the tube of paste that I grabbed. I started brushing my teeth and tasted a nasty cream in my mouth. I realized that I grabbed the tube of Cortisol Cream instead of toothpaste—ewww!! Smh (shake my head).

The Night Market… All I can say is YESS! I am so happy that my dorm is on the ground level on the side that the Night Market is on. Remember when I was back at Cornell and I was yelling about wanting to live on the livest part of campus? I was so happy when I was placed in Sheldon in Collegetown right above the bars lol. Well I am happy to say that my dorm in Ghana is definitely located next to the LIVEST area on U of Ghana’s campus! Although it is open all morning, it gets to be pretty exciting at night. The people at the Night Market blast great Hiplife and other Ghanaian music, and they also played P-Squared! He is a Nigerian singer who is hot everywhere, including in Harlem (I often heard Manna’s on 125th street knocking P-Squared). The Night Market is an open market that sells anything you could ever want, including kabob, plates of fried chicken, plantains, beans, vegetables, pasta (YES), beef, Jolof Rice, and many other traditional Ghanaian foods. Ghana has the BEST pineapples and coconuts in the WOLRD! The pineapples are so sweet and they are white, not yellow. It is amazing how great the food is here 🙂 I think I found heaven on Earth. I made a great friend who has a booth at the Night Market, named Vivian. She hooks us up with sales. I got a great egg sandwich from her for breakfast. It had sausage, eggs, vegetables, and cheese and it was super yummy.

Now that I was able to exchange money, I love going to the Night Market. I got a purple bucket and the prettiest bright neon pink scrubbie! I love it so much! Anyone who knows me well will know how much I am OBSESSED with my scrubbies. This one is so bright and colorful. I think I am in love. My bed is very cute! We got hand made sheets and pillowcases from a local woman, who happens to be the Host Mother whom my friend Kareen is staying with. I also have a light blue mosquito net over my bed that is quite attractive as well. I put my twin babies, AKA my teddy bears, on my bed with my two Victoria Secret doggies. My room feels quite like home for me. I am still waiting to meet my roommate. I heard that she is Ghanaian and YESS I am so excited about that! I definitely was praying that I would get a Ghanaian roommate instead of an American or European because I want become close to her and spend a lot of time with Ghanaians. I already made friends with a lot of the Ghanaian men and women who work with our program and they are all so warm and friendly. I feel so comfortable here in Ghana and I realize that I am even more relaxed and at ease here then I am in America.

We do a lot of walking here in Ghana. We had to walk to all the different departments to register for class. I decided I want to take a Ghanaian history class, a dance class, Developmental Studies, internship, Sociology of the Family, and Twi Language class. Sometimes the walk can be long from one side of the campus to another. But if you are walking and talking with a friend, it is as if time doesn’t even exist here in Ghana. Today we rode the trotro system! It is pretty wild and exciting. The driver has a mate who yells out the window of the moving van and he says where the trotro is heading. The mate also makes sure that the trotro is as full as possible, with 4 or more people smashed together per row. It was quite an experience but I feel comfortable now taking the trotro.  I like how my program shows us around and then allows us time to explore on our own. I could not ask for a better study abroad program. Everyone thinking about coming to Ghana for study abroad, make sure you choose the CIEE program! All the people who work for CIEE are so helpful and friendly.

Tonight our program as a big banquet for us! I am sure it will be awesome. I also heard there are two after parties, so I am sure I will check those out with my new Ghanaian friends. Last night we went to the Accra Mall and saw the movie Inception. Best movie EVER!! It is like The Matrix on crack, it is so amazing. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and I was even shaking, I was so engaged. As you know, it is rare for me to watch a whole movie unless it is very engaging. I highly recommend that everyone sees it. The action scenes are awesome and overall it is so freaky, it plays with your mind and stretches your imagination. You leave the movie wondering if the life we are living is real or if it is all just a dream.

Today we had a really fun Ghanaian dance class. We were crumping, bootie-popping, arm swinging and stepping all over the place. It was great and I can’t wait to take my dance class. I am considering auditing a drums class too… you know me, I always sign up to do too much. Well, time for me to enjoy my cold shower (we only have cold water in Ghana) and I am sure it will be quite refreshing! Peace and Love to You All.


The Mystery Question: What Am I Doing in Ghana Right Now?

Well, pretty much I am doing the same thing I would be doing on a day off from work. I get up early (as always) and I eat. Then I do some things (like meet people and attend orientation), and then I eat some more. Then I take a break, nap, and eat again. Its kind of like a never ending buffet haha. I think my friend was right, I better hope I don’t get fat in Ghana 😉

We did some other things today. We learned about safety in Ghana. We learned that we would be better off purchasing the most basic cell phones here so that we do not become potential targets for pickpockets. I want the really cool, basic cell phone with the light that shines out of the top (ooooo ahhhh). I think it can be used to blind your opponents in case they try to steal your laptop.

What else… hmm… There was a cute and tiny clear-skinned lizard! He tried to come into my front door and I had to block him. I rescued him and set him free in a near by bush. He was certainly a cutie!

So at the end of the day, the day will end.. with a little Sims 2!! My roommate thought I was crazy because I like to talk to my Sims on my computer. Well to be honest, I tried 10 times to video chat on Skype but the internet is so terrible I kept getting thrown off. I am hoping the internet is better at the University. Otherwise I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of late nights with the Sims rather than with friends and family at home. But, hey, its Ghana, not USA. I will make the best of the limited communication whenever possible.

Tomorrow is the big day! Good-bye luxury hotel; Hello International Student Hostel. I will be moving in tomorrow and meeting my new roommate at the University of Ghana. I hope we get along well and I hope she likes to have a good time (like me)!

*******I JUST FIGURED OUT SOMETHING! This whole time I thought my blog looked really pretty and attractive. I thought I could change my backgrounds everyday and you would see the differences. However, I just learned that you have the freedom to choose your own background! See the pretty squares at the top of the screen? Choose your background and make my blog pretty (please do this, it will make it more enjoyable to view). Maybe you are feeling like a bubble today; click on the blue bubbles. Or perhaps you are in an African desert mode; click on the brown desert. When I left, I chose the clouds background to symbolize my travels above the world. Choose whatever you like, but please remember to make it FUN!

Peace and Love to All. And to All a Good Night 😉


Akwaaba! Welcome to Ghana

I arrived safely in Accra! The weather is uncharacteristically cool and overcast; not your typical beaming sun and scorching Ghanaian heat. We are staying at a nice hotel for two nights for the orientation. It is called Coconut Grove Hotel in Accra. I was so exhausted after my 10-hour plane ride. I met a few people and then I took a long, several hour nap. I felt great and relaxing. It was nice to wake up when I felt like it, rather then having to go to work. Everyone is super friendly here. I am enjoying meeting new people in the CIEE program and I like meeting the Ghanaian people too. The hotel’s restaurant was excellent. We had a buffet style beef, chicken, fish, pasta, vegies, and rice dinner with the creamiest vanilla ice cream for dessert!

One of my Ghanaian friends already came to visit me, which was quite a surprise! Good times. I am happy to be out of New York (at least for now). And my roommate Kareen is awesome! We are having a lot of fun together, as I predicted 🙂

As far is communication is concerned, email is still your best bet. However, Gmail is very slow. If you get iChat or Skype we can probably chat on there. I am hoping that the University has good internet for video chat. I am planning on getting a Ghanaian cell phone tomorrow to keep in touch with all my local friends. Thanks for reading my blog. You can sign up to get email updates if you like (look at the link on your right). Check out my post I finished writing today, underneath this one.  I wrote about Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy Teachers Retreat and also some of my reflections my career interests.

Just as a reminder, there is a 4-hour time difference here. It is about to be midnight for me. Have a great night! I am looking forward to orientation and more adventures this week. I hope you have a great week as well. Please email me or post comments. I want to keep in touch as much as possible. Peace and Love!


Inspiring Young Minds- Harlem Children’s Zone + My Future Career

I really love my job as a tutor at Promise Academy Charter School in Harlem Children’s Zone! I spent the last two days at the Annual Promise Academy High School Teachers Retreat, staying at the beautiful hotel, the Hyatt on the Hudson in Jersey City (quite a contrast to where I will be staying in Ghana next week). Last night I went out with the coworkers and we had our usual fun times. I am pretty slow with card games, but they explained to me how to play Spades. I am sure I will spend some nights in Ghana playing card games, so I am glad I got a head start on learning how to play them.

Anyone who knows me in the slightest knows that Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, is one of my favorite people in this world. He is like the God of Education to me. I love hearing him speak and reading his books. Every last word he says lingers with me, even after the conference ends. He told us that we are making history now with our 11th graders (they are the oldest Promise Academy students currently) and that the whole world is watching to see how successful they become. Part of what makes Canada such an inspirational and moving speaker is that he incorporates real-life stories and experiences into every example he talks about. For example, he explained in vivid detail about his trip to the White House to meet with Obama. Rather than giving him a handshake, as was customary with all the other White House guests, Obama went up to Canada and gave him a brotherly hug. Obama seems to be fascinated with Canada and his mission with Harlem Children’s Zone.

Obama says that replicating Promise Neighborhoods is the answer for ending educational inequality on a national scale. Obama would like to see Promise Neighborhoods replicated in over 20 different cities across America. As you could imagine, I am honored to be a part of an organization and a school that is so successful and is making national headlines for making measurable differences in the lives of inner-city, minority youth. It is exciting and refreshing to see the eyes of Americans viewing the Nightly News and seeing stories about educational reform rather then repetitive stories about school dropouts and violence.

Promise Academy consists of two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school, all of which are in Harlem.  Promise Academy is part of Harlem Children’s Zone, a social service organization founded by Geoffrey Canada whose mission is to employ a community-based approach to educational success. One of Mr. Canada’s philosophies is what he calls the “conveyor belt system”. This philosophy was realized in the creation of programs that target children of all ages and keep them academically and socially connected to Harlem Children’s Zone from birth to high school graduation and college.  There is programming for every age group, including “Baby College” for expecting parents to learn more about child development, and the Beacon Community Centers to provide after school learning to children who are not enrolled in the Promise Academy. As a tutor for the high school and 4th grade students, I am getting a feel for the entire conveyor belt system and seeing how students perform at different points throughout the system depending on how long they have been involved in HCZ’s programming.

**Disclaimer: All the above views and interpretations are my own and are of no way a reflection of the views held by members of the aforementioned organization. For more information visit the site directly @ http://www.hcz.org/

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I plan to continue to explore many of my career interests and passions while in Ghana this semester. I plan on volunteering in school and designing a project that will help me analyze obstacles faced by Ghanaian youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, while also exploring the role of educational and health intervention projects in improving the lives of these at risk children. Also, as part of the CIEE program’s Developmental Studies tract, I plan on interning with doctors in fields such emergency medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Although I am not completely sure about what I would like to do with my future career, my dream would be to become a medical doctor and also a leader of a nonprofit organization addressing issues related to educational disparities faced by youth of African descent. Since I only have one chance to live my life, I want to make the most of it and impact as many people in a positive way as possible. I refuse to be the person simply handing out money—I want to be part of the team designing and implementing strategies to fight urban and global poverty and inequality. Although my dreams may seem broad, I am confident that I will blaze my own trail and figure out what career path is best for me. I never wanted to be exactly like everyone else or follow the same academic path. I always wanted to explore the world and try out things in a different way.

Even though I often complained about Cornell’s rural location, I am happy that Cornell provided many opportunities for me to travel. I got to go to Las Vegas with NSBE and network extensively at the engineering conference in ’09. I also got to go to Ghana December ’08 to donate computers to a rural school and teach workshops on how to use Mircosoft Office. For Spring Break 2010, I went to Kingston, Jamaica with Jamaica Difference and implemented fun, educational workshops for 1st through 3rd graders from an underfunded school.  Also, I really love Cornell for their Urban Semester Program! I couldn’t imagine a better, more rewarding Cornell semester. I got to live in the city and experience New York City life, while interning at Lawyers for Children and volunteering with youth in Brooklyn. Basically, whatever urban college experience I though I was missing out on, I got to enjoy my Spring 2010 semester. And of course, now I am in Ghana WOW! I am spending a whole year away from campus but I am enjoying every moment of it. I am a very hands-on learner and I would rather be out doing fieldwork and making an immediate impact on children and communities then staying on campus. I want to make a difference and stand out from the crowd. I love that Cornell provided the foundation and opportunities for me to travel all over the world and make a difference in communities I feel the strongest connection with.

Now that I am in Ghana, I will begin a new chapter in my life. I hope that my dreams become realized as I explore Ghana with an open heart and open mind. Peace and Love 🙂


Deuces NYC.. 4 Days Before Ghana-Time!

From Slope Day to Ghana.. Time Flies!

Summer 2010 was a typical summer! I had tons of fun and it flew by at lightening speed. I spent the majority of my summer at the front of the classroom. I taught 4th graders at Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy and I also tutored the high school students in Biology and Math. After work, I volunteered for Let’s Get Ready and was a Head SAT Math Coach at the Harlem site and also taught at the brand new Greenwich site. During my free time I went to Jones Beach, swam at the pool, hung out with friends and family and shopped more than a little. Overall the summer was cool but as the time got closer and closer to my departure, I really started to reflect on who I am, what I am about right now, and where am I really trying to go with my future.

For one, I deactivated my Facebook a few times. My reason for doing so is because I feel like real friends can keep in touch without it. I’d rather reach out to friends directly via phone/email/video chat and keep in touch rather than get wrapped up in all the drama that comes along with Facebook. By default, Facebook provides too much information that I am not interested in knowing about people. That being said, I really do appreciate emails and posts! I hope my friends figure this out sooner than later.

Another reflection—my focus. My time in Ghana will allow me to put my past behind me and really get a chance to focus on where I want to be in the present. There are probably a few people or situations that will change while I am gone. People ask me how do I feel about leaving NY to live in Ghana for 4.5 months. Right now I feel nothing unusual. I am not excited or nervous, scared or worried. I think homesickness is a state of mind that can be overcome. If I live in the NOW and enjoy each moment, homesickness couldn’t be an issue. I plan to become so immersed in my new friendships, activities, travels, adventures, internship and volunteer work that I have no time to think about home much. I plan to use this blog as my means of communication with the public. The whole point in me going away and not having Blackberry Messenger, free text messaging, and limitless shopping sprees is to get away from all superficial and materialistic aspects of the conspicuous consumer culture that I am surrounded by. People take communication for granted, and I realized many of my friends have never written a complete sentence to me because they are so used to “text talk” LOL.

I only have 4 days left before I fly out to Accra, Ghana. I will certainly miss my friends! I will miss Ace, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Pop, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone else in my family.  My coworkers at Harlem Children’s Zone are so awesome and I will miss you so much! Of course, I will also miss my dog Jessie, my 5 gerbils (that I am still looking for a pet sitter for) and my turtle Max.

Yesterday I hung out with Kareen. She is also going to Ghana with me and we are on the same flight. We met up in NYC and went to Pinkberry (my favorite frozen yogurt place) and we took a long walk and talked. I can tell already that we are going to have an amazing time in Ghana and make life-long memories!

I’ve already been in Ghana before and I have a few best friends who are from Ghana. I am looking forward to reconnecting with old friends in Ghana and strengthening my ties with the culture and community. I’m sure no other experience in the world could compare to the adventure I am about to embark on. I love my Ghanaian friends in NY and I am very thankful that I met you and that our friendships are so deep and meaningful. You have inspired me to go abroad and live in your country to really get a feel for what it is like to be Ghanaian and to love openly, to appreciate the simple joys in life, and to learn to find peace and satisfaction from within myself.  Thank you for the advice and the inspiration. I love you and I recognize that strong friendships will last a lifetime  🙂