Sunday, March 12, 2017

And So It Begins.....

And So it Begins….

Breakfast at New Haven in Accra
Our first few days so far for this placement have been full of travel and making our way to Tamale. Throughout the trek over, we all were feeling excited and slightly nervous for what is to come. Our first trek of travel was from Vancouver to London, where in our 24 hour layover several of us had the time to do a speed tour of the sights. The next leg of the journey was from London to Accra, where we had a day to settle in to life in Ghana, get our phones set up, and get comfortable on our bus…Buster. We spent the nights playing Dutch Blitz and avoiding mosquitoes at New Haven in Accra.

After two nights in Accra, we began our trip out to Elmina, along Cape Coast. The bus ride was beautiful, through small towns and along the Gulf of Guinea. There were beautiful carved boats all along the beaches, and our first view of the Elmina Slave Castle was stark white walls against blue sky. The beauty on the outside was a juxtaposition to the pain that we were about to see within the walls.
Elmina Slave Castle

The history of the Elmina Slave Castle we learned is a painful one. Erected in 1482 by the Portuguese, it was seized by the Dutch in 1642. Slave trade continued until 1814. The British took control of Elmina in 1872, and the castle fell out of use until Ghana’s independence in 1957. Now the site has been converted into a museum.  In 2004 it was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site.

View of Elmina from the Castle
The part of our tour that affected us all included going into the dungeons, and closing the door. Our guide shared with us that 30 or so women, many chained together, all would have to go to the end of the room to relieve themselves. The women came from different areas, many not speaking the same language. The guide described a rough estimate of 40 million individuals that died in this castle, which was approximately 2/3 of all those held captive. This is more than the current population of Canada and has left a mark in African history beyond comprehension. Of course there is no way to know for sure how many men and women passed through the doors of Elmina, as much of its trade was conducted illegally. The ‘door of no return’ was the last they saw of their beloved country: a narrow door, with a view of the beach and ocean.  We were all touched by this plaque at the entrance.  It gave us a lot to reflect upon.  We've come so far....and yet we haven't. 

We left the castle on a lighter note, with kids joining Mikaela as she did handstands in the courtyard outside the castle. One of the kids whipped off a back flip from standing without even trying! We had our first bagged water, saw beautiful artwork before getting back on the bus for the rest of our drive to Kumasi. Our beloved driver Jacob stated “DJ keep the music flowing!” whenever there was a brief pause in the music that was playing. We bought plantain chips from our bus window, saw a goat freshly born that Andrea could have bought for 5 cedis, and had multiple team pees on the side of the road.
(Plantain Chips for Dinner)

We are so thankful for our driver Jacob and his helper Clifford for our safety, getting us where we need to be, and feeding us frozen yogurt and ice cream when it’s hot. Here’s to more adventures in the days to come as we settle into Tamale and begin our practicums!

Posted by: Carolyn Grinham, Kelsey Bellerive & Emily Plant.

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