So…..Ghana. So much to say! I had an unbelievable time and so many amazing experiences! The first three nights Summer (my roommate) and I couch surfed! If you are a traveler you should look into it, is an amazing organization and I have had some awesome experiences doing it!
Interesting things about Ghana:
- EVERYTHING is in rasta colors!
- Every third shop is a hair salon…they said that it is because the women want to have hair like the American’s and they got weaves put in very often. I got my hair pulled and touched constantly while walking around.
- Morad said that the job of a house-mom is the most highly valued job in the country!
- I have never felt so comfortable and welcome in a foreign country than Ghana. I didn’t feel nervous or scared at all, everyone wants to get to know you and they want you to learn about their culture and bring it back to the states.
- Morad made a good point: he asked why we (the U.S.) always call ourselves world champions when we just play within the U.S. He said it is because we think we are the best. Haha, so true!
- He also asked why we love hiking and walking around so much. He said they don’t do things like that in Ghana because their work day consists of a lot of physical labor, whereas we just sit in an office on the phone and computer…very true.
- I also noticed that everyone in Ghana knew SO much about Western culture. I find that so interesting because I feel like in the U.S. we are so sheltered and we learn so much about the U.S., but not enough about the rest of the world.
- Morad has been to the states once and he said he never would go back. He said that it was fun, but once was enough. He said he would be walking on the street in NYC and wanted to help this old lady cross the street, but he was nervous that if she fell and broke her hip that she would sue him because everyone in American sues everyone else!
The ship docked in Tema, Ghana and we got off early in the morning to meet P-Kay (our couch surfer’s roommate). He was standing at the entrance of the port with a sign that said our names. I know this all sounds sketchy and risky, but that is what traveling is about. You have to trust people you barley know sometimes and just hope it works out for the best, which it did! So, we got into his car and it wouldn’t start…ha. He got out, popped the hood, gave the battery a good hit with his fist, and then we were on our way…
He took us around Tema a little bit- it is an industrial city, so there really isn’t that much to see there. He took us to his house and we got to meet his mom and his sister. We looked through family photo albums, chatted with his mom, went to his Aunt’s store, and walked around the town for a bit. His sister won a beauty pageant in Ghana, she was gorgeous! One of the first things she said to us was, “See, we don’t all sleep in trees with the monkeys like all you Americans think, we have homes!” His mom was so nice, she is very Christian (along with the rest of Ghana) and she goes to church every single day, wow!
Then we drove to the University of Ghana, which should be a 10 minute drive, but the traffic is ridiculous there so it took about an hour and a half. When we got to the University we meet our couch surfing host- Morad! Morad and P-Kay are roommates and they live on campus. The university basically owns a hostel right on campus and that is where all of the students live, so essentially it is just like the dorms. They got us a room one floor below them for $45 total for 3 nights…wow. The room was HUGE compared to Alice Lloyd (my freshman year dorm for all of you non-Michiganders). We had a bathroom, a sink, a fridge, and 2 beds….sounds nice, right? But then we also had a broken fan, a broken toilet, a broken mirror, a florescent lightbulb that didn’t light anything up, and only one pillow between the two of us…so it had it’s ups and downs haha.
After we walked around the University (it was HUGE- 30,000 undergrads) we went to the Accra Mall to look around. The mall was really nice and everything there is so cheap it is crazy! We went to the movies that night and the theater was awesome, better than the ones at home! $8 for a ticket, popcorn, and a fanta- can’t complain.
The next day was VALENTINES DAY! Morad took us to his university (he lives at U of Ghana, but goes to Ashesi University). His campus was BEAUTIFUL, it was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. We got to sit in on his Service Marketing Business class, it was very interesting. His professor was awesome, we had to introduce ourselves to the class and we even answered a few questions! Class got interrupted once because someone delivered a huge stuffed dog and chocolates to a girl, cute! Morad travels 1.5 hours to class everyday; two buses and a taxi…wow. He said that University of Ghana is 1,000 Cedi a semester (about 670 USD) and Ashesi University is 2,500 Cedi a semester (about 1,676 USD)…cheap! How about I study abroad there for a semester and save you a ton of money Mom & Dad? 🙂
The professors at Ashesi are from all over the world, there is one from the University of Michigan who is a guest professor for a year, but I couldn’t find him on campus. So then we ate in his dining hall. I had Goat & Fufu…yea, not the best. The goat was great, I loved that part, but the fufu was GROSS! As many of you know, I have a texture issue, and this was like a giant piece of soggy/doughy stuff in the middle of a bowl of soup…needless to say, not the biggest fan, but I had to try the local dishes! They also eat with their hands…ha. So, afterwards I got some ice cream and plantain chips to even it out 🙂
Morad is the coach of the Ashesi University football (soccer) team, so he showed us a trophy he had won and he also writes a blog about the Chelsea Football Club that is very well-known. Then on top of all of that him and his friends buy and sell electronics…Hmm? who knows! But, overall a very interesting guy!
That night we went to a University of Ghana drama production. It was called “What would you do for the love of a women” in honor of Valentine’s Day. It was put on by the students and it was really funny. Sometimes it is hard to understand them, they all speak English, but they also speak the local language of Twe and they speak Pidgin English…like their own slang, so it is hard to follow the conversations sometimes.
After the drama production we went to the Purple Pub! We drank some Star beer (very tasty), we played pool, and we taught the Ghanians some drinking games! We taught them Kings and they thought it was hysterical. It is funny how the U.S. is really the only spot in which drinking games are so popular, that is probably true because Americans binge drink so much, maybe if we lowered the drinking age…? Anyway, we all had a blast and they told us that we had to write down all the rules before we left.
We came back that night and Summer & I went to go to bed and we went into our room and there was luggage that was not ours sitting in the middle. We opened it up and there was a blow up alien doll, some weird water bottles filled with some odd colored liquid, and then clothes. We didn’t really know what to do and it was already late, so we barricaded the door with our luggage with the thought that if someone tried to come in, we would wake up to the luggage falling over…aren’t we just brilliant. Well, nobody came in that night….I will return to this part later.
The next day we toured all around Accra, it was like we had our own personal tour guides! We went to the memorial park of the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah. We went to a museum that was dedicated to him as well. We also went to W.E.B. Du-Bois’ (an American) old house. He was the first African American to earn a doctorate. He was a Pan-Africanist who fought for equal rights for blacks. It was really interesting because most of what we saw had been untouched since he had lived there- pretty neat! We also got to see independence square, this HUGE open space where they celebrate independence day on March 6th every year. Then we went into one of the big football stadiums, there wasn’t a game going on, but it was really cool just to walk around and go down to the field.
Next came the Makola Market….mamma mia! This place was a mad house. I couldn’t even look at what people were selling because if you took your eyes off of where you were walking you would run into someone carrying gallons of water on their head, step on a chicken, accidentally kick a little kid, run into a grill, get hit by someone chopping coconut with a machete…you get the point. It is hard to shop around in the markets because if you go up and start looking at something the person will not let you leave until you buy it, they are very in your face and they grab onto your wrists until you buy something…wasn’t used to that. They would also trick you…they would ask you your name, and ask you to spell it, just out of curiosity, then they would leave and weave you a bracelet, come back and find you and put it on your wrist…at that point you really don’t have an option but to buy it, this happened to a bunch of kids on the trip.
It was also so sad to see the poverty in the city. The cutest little kids would come up to you and latch onto your legs and beg for money, but you just have to ignore them and tell them that you don’t have any. Their parents send them out during the day because they know that they are more likely to get money by begging than they are, it is all really sad. Buying things at the markets is also a challenge within itself because they told us before we got there that they associate white people with money and that we are going to get ripped off on every single thing that we buy, so they strongly encouraged us to bargain, which we all did. But, it makes you feel so bad to bargain down a few Cedis because to us that is just pocket change, but to them that can mean the difference of eating dinner or not.
So at this point we returned to our hostel and the luggage was still there…in addition to that, someone had used our shower because there was a pair of shoes and a towel that were not there the night before. Once again, NO idea who was using our room while we were, nobody ever showed up when we were there and it was just the weirdest thing in the world. That is the end of that story, it will remain unknown!
That night we ate dinner at Morad & P-Kay’s favorite restaurant (perks of traveling with locals!) and it was DELICIOUS! You ordered your food and they cooked it right in front of you. I got ‘Beef Sauce’…basically just beef stir fry with rice…everything comes with rice! And everything is SO spicy! After dinner we went into the back of some bar, paid 1 cedi to get in, and when we walked in it was like a mini movie theater. There were chairs set up everywhere and two huge projectors and we watched a football match in the packed bar, it was awesome! People get SO into the games it is crazy. We were watching the Champions League; AC Milan vs. Arsenal. AC Milan won 4-0, it was a very exciting game!
After the game we went to Reggae Night on the beach, amazing! They had a huge stage and a local band set up right on the beach and then a bunch of tables and chairs for everyone else. We meet some awesome locals and drank some palm wine. Palm wine was SO bitter and tart. It is extracted from palm trees and it is 2 cedi ($1.34) for a HUGE water bottle full of it, once again- SO cheap! They played a bunch of Bob Marley and it was a relaxing, awesome last night of couch surfing!
Our last night in Ghana could be simply described as the GRAND FINALE. Through a friend of a friend of a friend…we ended up at this guy’s house for the night, ‘King’ as he goes by, and he threw us all a party. He owns a bunch of night clubs in Ghana and he also distributes alcohol, all in all he is a very wealthy man in Ghana. So, a friend’s dad knew him and she also plays international water polo with this girl’s sister, so we got it hooked up! He basically wanted to throw a party for us. So, about 20 SAS students went to his house that night (after traveling for 1.5 hours, trading taxis, getting lost, etc.) and it was unbelievable. He had security guards, he had AC (very uncommon in Ghana), he had 3 dogs that were bigger than me, he said he had 35+ pairs of shoes, he had a Louis Vuitton motocycle, and some fancy cars…wow.
The next day we got up at 6:30am because I had to make it back to the ship for an FDP (Faculty Directed Practica- basically a field trip) We took a 1.5 hour taxi back to the ship costing us only $13 in total and they don’t tip in Ghana. My field trip was to the Social Theater Environment. It was a presentation on this NGO that a woman started that puts on drama productions, writes poems, etc. to help communicate to children about the important social issues going on today. It is interesting; they use performing arts as a medium to educate children about values. The organization is called Values for Life and the woman who runs it receives no funding for it (it runs on support from her family and small donations). She does it because she wants to help children become educated, she doesn’t make any money from it so she also owns a restaurant on the side…incredible woman!
He had cooked us dinner, fried rice & chicken- yum! And when we walked in there were 30+ bottles of Cristal Champagne sitting on ice waiting for us…he really did throw us a party! He was so fun, so welcoming, and so friendly! He invited a bunch of his friends over, we met a model from Canada…it really is all about connections! After that we went to a little club in Tema, back towards the ship, danced the night away & enjoyed the last little bit of Ghana that we had left!
The next morning I had to wake up at 7:30 for an FDP. We went and talked with the Queen Mothers of Ghana. It is an old chieftanicy tradition that the Akan of Ghana have developed their own hierarchy. Their system exists along with the democratic structure of the country. The Queen Mothers aren’t necessarily the chief’s mother, but their role is to control and manage the social conditions in the community. The main problem that they said they are dealing with now is teenage pregnancy and trying to keep children in school.
Overall, I Loved Ghana! It has so much to offer and I wish that we could have stayed longer to continue exploring.
The food in Ghana is spicy! I was not expecting that at all, but I still thought that it was really good. The Joll of Rice with Chicken was one of my favorites! The fufu with goat…not so much. Plantain chips are incredible, I want to bring them back to the U.S. Another favorite: 50 cent beef kabobs off the streets, WOW! They were SO flavorful, so cheap, and so delicious! And of course, fanice! Ice cream in a bag, yum! 30 cents a bag…if they had that back home…oh boy.
I know this is long, but I had so much to say! Ghana was incredible and I still can’t believe it came and went so fast! Back on the ship now…4 more days until South Africa!!!!!!!!
Submitted by Theresa, Abroad101 Global Ambassador on Semester at Sea