Where to begin? The past few days since my last blog so much has happened!
Saturday morning the group got up early and we planned to travel to Winneba for a birthday party for Annie (a GVSU student who has been here since May) and Fred, the Ghanaian that Annie is living with during her stay. We had supplies to bring to Winniba, so we had our overnight bags and several boxes that we planned to bring. We were told that it takes some time to find a city bus that will take us, so we left around 12pm from the hotel. We needed two taxis, so Kaylee and I nabbed one while Janaan, Christine, and Eric traveled in another. Since there are several different bus stations, our taxi driver was clearly confused and took Kaylee and I to the wrong place. We had no way of contacting the others, so we held tight to our belongings and waited it out. The workers at the station kept trying to convince us that we should get on the bus to Cape Coast (far from Winniba) and to help us with our bags. That is a constant theme here, many people want to help you with your luggage, in hopes for a tip. Debi means no, so we have learned very quickly to refuse. Anyway, our group thankfully figured out what happened to us and came within 20 minutes to our rescue. We all got back in the taxi and went to the Acrra junction/market area to learn about the busing system in Ghana.
Now, in the USA there is an actual station with schedules and tickets and lines. Here, nothing but a mass of people and vendors and garbage and yelling. There are buses, taxis, and tro-tro's - which are simlar to large vans, that decide on a desdination by demand. Since there are no schedules, you basically wait until the bus or tro-tro becomes full, beyond capacity, to being the organized chaos of driving here. We waited for the longest hour of my life for a bus, so we decided to take a tro-tro. Because this area is in the same region as the market, there are vendors everywhere. Touching you, trying to sell to you, hissing at you (how they get your attention here), hollering OBRUNIE! (which means white man) at you. You have to be constantly on guard. There are thousands of people and little vending shakes. It smells, its beyond hectic, and its nerve-racking trying to keep track of everyone and everything. Although our tro-tro wreaked of sweat, was on the verge of breakdown, it was a wonderful break from the chaos of the market. That was the first and only time this trip that I was legitimately scared.
After over an hour of traveling through and outside the city, we welcomed the clean air of the countryside. We saw poor villages with thatched-roof huts and farms, massive termite mounts, rivers, rolling hills, etc. However, this beautiful landscape was at one time all forest that has been harvested and essentially eliminated.
Winniba is a smaller city, with mostly shacks and small shops. Even though it is relatively large in comparison with most communities in Ghana, it has a refreshingly slow pace and the people are very hospitable and welcoming. We met the rest of our GVSU companions there (it was so great to reconnect with Uma and meet the infamous Annie!) and Fred took us out for some chicken and rice (I skipped the chicken). He gave us an orientation and filled us in on the culture a bit, even though Accra has ingrained much of this knowledge already, it was helpful.
Around 6 we went to a local bar/club to watch the futbol match. I have never seen fans like this in my entire life! It was crazy! We all cheered for Ghana against the USA - it was a lot of fun. It was complete pandemonium, nothing I have ever seen - screaming, sprinting, crying, dancing, and cheering - by all the Ghanaians. I don't think a single person missed that game here. It's nice because it gives us something to talk about with all the locals. They love that we are rooting on their team. The country pride is outstanding.
We are still slowly learning the phrases here. It's taking me longer than expected, but I am picking it up slowly. By the end of our time, I should be able to hold a small conversation with people in Tle, pronounced tree, which is the language nationally shared. There are over 46 tribes in Ghana, so one way they can tell where someone came from is through their accent - local dialects leave a little accent on each Ghanaian, much like we can tell where an American is from in the south or north. I have also seen some tribal scarring to indicate one's origin.
I should also mention my working list of things one should expect in Ghana:
1. chaotic driving, traveling, and walking
2. ridiculously loud music
3. incessant honking, for no reason. You honk if your cab is full, empty, to clear the road, etc.
4. drinking water from bags
5. chickens, goats, and dogs randomly roaming the streets
6. cold showers
7. public urination - any place, any time - there is no shame
8. hissing - there is only one way to get an obrunie's attention - hiss at him/her.
9. curious, curious people! Everyone wants to know where you are from, where you are going, how are you getting there, when you will be back - its not to be intrusive - everyone is beyond hospitable here.
10. sleep where you can - we have so far only slept on the bare floor once, but we are open to the possibility to have it happen more often soon.
Overall, it is hot (but not unbearable) and we are all bracing for bowel issues, emotional breakdowns, arguments, stress, and trying to have group solidarity. It is very hard to let go of the western notion of schedules and regimens. We are working towards group strength to deal with the level of poverty and struggle witnessed everywhere. This, understandable, is a slow process, but I have faith that we are all going to gain so much from this trip. We have so much to absorb from the culture and from eachother, it is going to be a hellofa ride! I will blog more tomorrow about the things I forgot to mention today - let me know what you want to know and I will respond!
Love from across the world,