Saturday, March 17, 2012

From My Mom...

My Spring Break Trip

During my spring break I traveled to Ghana to visit Nix and reassure myself
that all was well. Getting ready for the trip while working full time and
chairing the Biology Department was challenging. I hesitated because I did
not want to cut class.  The result was that I submitted my visa application
at the last minute and agonized over getting approval for days before my
departure.  I had to make an appointment at St. Louis Park for the
compulsory yellow fever vaccination and the malaria preventive medications.
While at the Travel Clinic I got three other shots for good measure.  I was
also waiting for the delivery of the books that I ordered from Amazon for
Dima.  In the end everything clicked except for one of the books. 

On March
2, I was on the overnight KLM flight to Amsterdam.  After a few hours delay
I boarded the plane to Accra.  The plane arrived in Accra at 9PM local time,
but we spent another hour waiting in line to have our passports and luggage
checked.  At first I did not spot Nix at the airport; she was waiting just
outside the terminal.  We spent the night at Afya Village Hotel. 

The next morning we boarded a tro-tro van and headed out to her village.
The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the teacher¹s house was the
children. They were lounging and watching TV in the living room.  Several of
them came up to Nix and greeted her warmly.  There was one adorable 2
year-old boy who had only a shirt on.  We unpacked the games and candies I
brought along and shared them with the children.

Nix informed me that there was no running water and we would have to use the
water from the barrel in her bathroom to bathe etc until the flow resumed.
In the afternoon we took a walk through the village and out to a couple of
lakes nearby.  I was grateful that we had waited until the temperature
dropped a bit. Even so, it was quite hot. The houses in the village are
either built out of cement or mud.  The mud dwellings have thatched roofs
and a dirt floor.  Chickens, goats and sheep wander around freely in the
village.  There is rubbish scattered everywhere.  At the lake we spotted,
egrets, herons, hawks and vultures.  We examined a termite mound as we
walked along and picked blackberries.  One of the boys caught a colorful
striped grasshopper.  He let it go unharmed after Nix photographed it. We
came across a few baobab trees as we continued toward a smaller, more
picturesque pond.  By then I was getting a little anxious because I did not
want to return in the dark.  However, we made it back in good time and were
served a fine supper the Keke prepared.

I slept well that night.

Over the next few days:
·     We went to the market at Kasseh.

·     Purchased colorful fabric for matching outfits for Heinrich and I.

·     Witnessed the marching celebration on Independence day.

·     Returned to Accra for an overnight stay at Byblos hotel in the
Lebanese district.

·     Flew to Tamale in the North.

·     Took what is alternately described as the ³bus ride from hell² or an
³African adventure² from Tamale to Mole National Park.

·     Spent two nights at Mole Motel and went on walking and riding safaris
while there.

·     Saw elephants, baboons, crocodiles, antelopes, warthogs up close.

·     Sampled Star beer each night of our stay.

·     Decided against visiting the famous mosque at Larabanga.

·     Returned to Tamale by taxi.

·     Arrived covered by red dust.

·     Cleaned up at Gariba hotel.

·     Flew back to Accra in the morning.

·     Traveled to the village by taxi and tro-tro where a funeral was in
full swing.

·     Ate fufu for supper.

·     Relaxed at the beautiful beach in Ada Fao

My impressions of Ghana are the following:
·     The people are friendly, helpful, good looking and strong.

·     Both adults and children appear healthy and adequately nourished.

·     Outside of the capital there are very few whites.

·     The climate is hot; it barely cools down at night.

·     In the South the landscape is flat with alternating scrub and

·     Long-horned cattle graze in the open pastures.

·     It is more wooded in the North, but trees are being cut and converted
to charcoal at an alarming rate.

·     Termite mounds are everywhere.  The taller ones resemble Gothic

·     Large wild animals are not encountered outside of the game preserves.

·     Traditional villages look very picturesque but the lives of the people
living in them are neither easy nor comfortable.

·     Funerals are big, noisy, expensive, 3-day affairs.

·     Children are required to do a lot of fetching and work on farms during
school holidays.

·     Markets are exciting and colorful venues where women, children and men
sell everything from sunglasses to boiled eggs that they carry around piled
up on trays posed on their heads.  Babies are strapped to the women¹s backs.
The women wear long, beautiful, close fitting dresses at the market.

·     Both men and women wear their hair short.  Long locks, if present,
consist of artificial hair that is woven into the short curly strands of the
wearer during a lengthy, painful session at the hair dresser.

·     You can tell young boys and girls apart by the fact that, in addition
to dresses, girls have their ears pierced.  Other piercings and tattoos are

·     Women may expose their breasts somewhat, but never their midriff or

·     Buses and other modes of transportation make travel within the country
fairly rapid and inexpensive. However, there is no air-conditioning or
toilets on the bus. Even a long, hot, smelly, uncomfortable bus ride can be
bearable with the right companion at your side.

·     Ghanaian cooking is spicy and flavorful.  Eggs, chicken, cassawa,
rice, beans and soft bread are common staples
Though I did not enjoy the heat, if you asked me whether I would go to Ghana
again, I would say, yes, in a heartbeat.

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