Monday, March 25, 2013

Inland to Kumasi

March 16-17, 2013 - Kumasi

We're sitting in a restaurant waiting for our food and have decided that this will become one of our blog times as we're all together with plenty of time. Meal times tend to be an extended affair. After finally selecting from a 19 page menu (which is the norm) all the food is freshly prepared and therefore comes when it's ready, making for staggered eating! Yesterday we arrived in Kumasi after a 4 hr bus trip on which we tried to catch up on sleep. This proved interesting as we got our first experience with Ghanaian tv at full blast :) as well as experiencing the driver dodging both potholes and oncoming traffic- we were happy to reach the bus station! We hiked up to our guest house which is beautiful - we love the green grass and shady trees. After settling in, it was off to the Chief's palace to learn about the traditional Ashanti tribe people and try to catch a peak at the current king. Our guide invited to introduce Kirsten to the king in hopes of becoming one of his wives, she politely declined :). This morning we went to the local Presbyterian church. It would have been handy to know that the first service was in English, but we got treated to the Twi service instead which was so fun and the congregation really welcomed us in. They brought us to the front, Muriel introduced us, and then they prayed for us (mostly that we'd survive the heat). After lunch we're heading off to the local market and cultural centre for our last day of tourism before heading to Tamale and settling in.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jungle Fun - Kakum National Park

March 15, Cape Coast/ Kakum National Park

Today was a new day and we enjoyed some lighthearted fun. We went for a jungle hike - both on ground and in the air. We walked through the lush forest and our tour guide expertly pointed out the various trees and their traditional uses. The ingenuity on the traditional forest people is incredible. The fact that one tree can cloth you, heal you, and shelter you is so cool. Other uses were primitive telephones (hitting on hollow bark with rocks), tooth brushes, mosquito repellant, fashion canoes, shoe glue, and make your stomach "flat" after pregnancy!! There were hundreds of students at the park and we were celebrities for the afternoon. One group was guessing our ages as we walked by, most of us were 14 except for Rose who was 15 (for those who don't know, Rose is 6 feet talk). We got tons of high fives, photos, and a few marriage proposals - Robyn was quite the hit with the Ghanaian teachers. We made it safely over the canopy rope bridges. They ranged from 18-40 metres above the ground although the forest is so dense we could never see the ground. All the views were impressive but one in particular stands out as we saw an endless expanse of tree tops. We were sad to learn though that this conservation area is one of the few remaining "old forests" with much of the forests in Ghana having been logged or clear cut for agriculture use or poaching. The weather was cooler than the previous day and we were treated to an African rain storm on the drive home (accompanied by some Toto). We are missing rainy season here but caught a brief glimpse as red rivers formed on either side of the road.

Back at our hotel we took advantage of the main attraction - the crocodiles!! We took turns getting our pictures with one and thankfully all walked away fully limbed and full of giggles and adrenaline. A few of us took a dip in the pool but got mobbed by various school groups coming to see the crocs.

As we write this we are out to dinner at a beautiful beachside restaurant. We are enjoying the ocean breeze and the waves one last time before we head inland (most of us have wet bums from playing in the surf). At the end of dinner we got to enjoy an amazing performance by a young man and a little boy. They did a mix of cultural dancing, acrobatics, and fire tricks. The show had cameos by a few beautiful girls in our group - Tori got to help with some of the fire show, Lisa showed off her jump roping skills, and Megan got called up for some pictures at the end. We're heading home soon to pack and have a quick rest before getting up at 330 to catch our next bus to Kumasi. Bye for now!

West to Cape Coast

March 14 - Cape Coast

After a quick bus ride (in air Conditioned luxury!) we arrived at Cape Coast which is 2-3 hours along the coast from Accra. We met our trusty taxi drivers for the next few days and one of them promptly fell in love with Muriel. We went to our hotel and settled into our big dorm room, yay for giant sleepovers! Just steps from our room is a lake full of crocodiles (dont worry parents, there's a fence) and there is a pool right outside of our door. Perfection with the exception of some precarious rickety fans spinning over our heads. Did we mention yet the heat wave that hit us the minute we stepped off the bus, goodbye air conditioning...

After settling in we headed back into town to visit the beach and the Cape Coast slave castle. We were all so excited to see the ocean and play around in the waves, but it was weird to be in the shadow of the castle.

After lunch we headed into the castle.
There are no words to describe the emotions and sights we saw and the terrible things that happened there. You can read about it, but standing on the same ground is totally different. Even though the slave trade ended in the 1800s, there was still a presence in the castle. It's impossible to imagine yourself in the situation, even when standing in the same room. We were dripping with sweat while in the "condemned room" where up to 50 strong willed slaves would be locked behind 3 doors without windows and left to die of suffocation or starvation. To try to make sense of the system and atrocities that happened there is not possible. The closing message was on a plaque outside of the entrance into the male dungeon - "... May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity. We the living, vow to uphold this."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Accra Adventure

March 13, 2013   - Accra

Our day started off in true Ghanaian style, with us leaving 45 minutes after planned. Sinbad had graciously agreed to act as our tour guide in Accra.

Because buying bus tickets here has to be done in person, the day before, and as Muriel and Sinbad are both better at navigating the system, they went off to buy our bus tickets. The first item on our agenda was to go see the cultural market. In the daylight, the hustle and bustle of the city was even more pronounced. Cabs and tro-tros are 12 passenger vans that are used for cheaper transportation than taxis - although we soon learned that the 12 passenger part is more of a guideline :). It seems that the general theory behind driving is to drive as fast as you can (which is never very fast as there are so many cars) and then brake quickly, swerve from side to side to avoid potholes, and yell or honk for many reasons. Once arriving at the cultural market, we were greeted enthusiastically by the many local vendors. Lets just say it is a lot different than shopping in Canada, as prices are not absolute and people were very excited about the possibility of us buying their treasures. A group of girls got the opportunity to have a drumming session which was fun and refreshing. The Ghanaian people are very gracious and helpful. We ate fried chicken at a restaurant in the market and then we walked through a small neighbourhood towards the ocean. Seeing the ocean was almost teasing as it is very hot here and the water was not safe to swim in. Nevertheless, it was beautiful and offered  nice breeze.

Afterwards, Sinbad lead us throughout the vibrant and busy streets of Accra! Our walk was filled with us counting our group multiple times to make sure we didn't lose anybody. We eventually made our way to one of the poorest areas of Accra where many people have traveled far from the north to find opportunity for themselves or their family. Many of them are alone with no one to care for them during times of illness. Children were seen playing in less than sanitary conditions and very little ones were walking far from their homes to stay with us.  It was fun to take pictures of the kids and show them their photo, hold hands with them and say hello. The houses were mainly constructed of scrap wood and metal, with cooking happening in the front of the house, and open sewers running throughout. Despite the condition of these people's homes, they were very excited to see us with many hellos and waves from them; never once did we feel anything but welcome.  It is encouraging to see how strong the human spirit can be and we saw so much beauty there.  This was inspiring and reminded us to appreciate all the luxuries we take for granted back home and even here as we enjoy many privileges as travelers.  One image that has stuck in all of our minds is the view of a large river or garbage and waste flowing through the city in which there were two small children happily playing. Who needs x-boxes?  We all felt small and humbled after this experience, but it was priceless to witness these places first hand.  So thankful we had Sinbad to guide us through that days adventures!  Safe to say all of us have had our world views expanded.

- Ghana Gals
(Lisa, Tori, Robyn, Marisa, Rose, Megan, Kirsten, Kristen, Crystal, and Jess)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Akwaaba (Welcome!)

March 12, 2013 - Accra

         We don't know if it was our imaginations or not, but our flight from London to Accra seemed warmer than normal. Maybe it was a subtle way to prepare us for the wall of heat that greeted us the moment we walked off the plane. We then went through customs, where we all got our fingerprints scanned and luckily there were no problems :) We were greeted at the airport by Muriel's sponsored Ghanaian son, Sinbad, who traveled down from a northern city to meet us. We were extremely grateful for this, as our first real Ghanaian
 experience  was organizing cabs to get us and all of our bags(2 or 3 a person!)  to our hotel. Let's just say it was pretty overwhelming to have more people loading bags than there were of us! Everyone was super friendly, wanting to know our names and welcoming us to Ghana Akwaaba! ('welcome' in the local language) To add to the confusion, as Canadians, we are unaccustomed to the prices of everything being up for debate! Luckily Sinbad was a pro and got everything organized:) Once we were all packed (literally) into our 4 van cabs, we were off to our first hotel. Our first experience with Ghanaian traffic involved a lot more honking, dodging, and swerving than were used to!  Once safely arrived we were glad to find our first hotel had air conditioning which was a nice way to ease us unaccustomed folk into the heat. The AC brought the air temperature down to a cool 27 for sleeping!

Internet is spotty here, but we have been writing blog drafts together and will update soon on the rest of our Ghana adventures! Everyone is safe, sound, and sweaty!

- Ghana Gals 

Tori, Robyn, Kirsten, Jess, Rose 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A hop over the Atlantic

 Vancouver International, about to embark on our journey! (minus Tori and Lisa!)
Top of the Morning!
We have made it safely to London, where we stayed for the night in between flights! Last night a 4 of us explored downtown London, while 8 of us enjoyed a quaint British pub experience just outside our hotel. Walking in the -2 weather with bone chilling winds, I am sure we will be wishing for some of that cool air this evening when we land in Accra. Hopefully the 33 degrees will be welcoming after freezing in thin coats here in England!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pre-departure Prep - Ghana 2013!

 In order to prepare us for everything we may be faced with while abroad, we have spent this past week in seminars learning about tropical disease and culture shock, discussing ethics surrounding international nursing,  and participating in emergency birth simulations. In a very short time I am sure we will all be in situations that will challenge us to remember not only the teachings from our prep seminars, but also the skills and knowledge we have acquired over these past 4 years.

With our medical supply bags packed and ready, we now only have to worry about fitting all our own personal belongings into our travel packs! T-2 days until departure.

We would love for you to follow us through our adventures and practice experiences via this blog spot. All group members will be contributing throughout the trip and would love to hear your feed back and questions through the comments you can leave below!

:) UBCO Ghana Gals