Final stretch

Students are working on their final exam now, so no posts from them. Tomorrow students will continue to work on their exam and in the afternoon we come together for a debriefing with our very able and much appreciated on-the-ground colleagues, then we’ll gather for a farewell dinner. Saturday is reserved for packing and any last minute nearby errands before we depart for the airport around 5:00pm.

We have learned and experienced so much it is hard to realize its all been within a three week span. The lessons learned while being immersed in Ghana’s warm and welcoming culture will continue to be revealed to us long after our departure. Me daase paa!  and there is special emphasis on the paa which intensifies the message of appreciation. (Thank you very much)

Tour of Nima: Photo Gallery

We took a walking tour of a section of Accra called Nima. This is the most economically challenged area of the city filled with immigrants from northern Ghana. It also has a high percentage of Muslims. Among other things, we went through the crowded, chaotic marketplace and visited the home of our tour guide, Charles. In the middle of this part of the city, we visited a remarkable school and met a number of charming, lively 4, 5, and 6 year-olds.
after-reciting-poems-in-Fre
Anani-Memorial-Internationa
Charles-(our-guide--in-Nima
learning-the-hand-shake
nima-market-woman-and-baby
nima-market-woman-and-baby2
waiting-for-the-tro-tro-to-

Wow!

Wow!! All I can say is wow. I’ve never thought in a millions years I would be here. I’ve dreamt many times coming to Africa and being in a continent where my father has once gone to. But it was exactly that, a dream. Now I’m living it. I’m here getting whistled and tsk-tsk at so they can grab my attention if I need a taxi ride. Taking the Tro-Tro to and from the university was an experience, I feel “so close” to people now than I ever had before. Hahaha! I’m like a magnet to guys who want to marry and flirt with. I’m swarmed by kids with smiles on their faces like kids on Christmas morning. I’ve gotten the chance to learn one of Ghana’s native languages, Twi. I love buying something from a store or getting food and saying “Medase,” thank-you, and then seeing them smile and chuckle with gratitude.
One of my fondest moments here is when this past weekend we went to Cape Coast and was offered, along with my fellow companions, to do some dancing and drumming there. I was automatically up for the opportunity. That’s something I will never pass on. We were meeting the first and only Ghanaian woman master drummer. I met Antoinette at the Sammo House where we were staying in. Antoinette gives off that motherly appearance; full of hugs, passion, welcoming, inviting, and warm. We all hopped in her van with 7 of us sitting in the back, back. The ride was a half-hour on a wobbly dirt road and having my insides jump all around like bouncy balls. We pulled up to a two-story grand yellow house. We all got out and were told that the house belonged to her sister. As you walk in, there’s this space among space. Upstairs led to other rooms of space and a pathway to a huge outdoor patio. It was on the patio we watched some drumming and dancing, and then got to dance and try some drumming ourselves. Learning one of Ghana’s dances was amazing. Our dance was connected to a story told many, many centuries about a man kidnapped by dwarves. I believe I was so pumped up and ready to dance that that’s all I remember about the story, hahaha.
It felt so good to dance. Dancing is a way I project more of myself. Through dancing I’m me, I don’t care what people think or how I look because I’m doing what I love. Throughout out my life dancing has been there for my ups and downs. It’s been my escape if school’s been hard or been in conflict with my parents and brother. I put all the emotion I’m feeling and let it out with dancing. It’s my release because suddenly after I dance I forget what I was so upset about.
African dance is something I recently just picked up on. My mother did it years ago and says it was one of her many joys in her life. I started in high school and never stopped…well I I sort of did when I hit college but I’m going back into it. African Dancing is the main dancing style I’m really good at besides hip-hop, tap, and jazz. It’s the only style that I know I’m really good at. So being able to do it here in Africa of all places is treasure I will keep dearly close to my heart.
To my wonderful family who’s supported me on this trip, my mother’s, brother, to Geoff Burgess and his wife Karen who this past Monday just celebrated their 29th anniversary, to Debbie who’s been a rock and a gem through planning this whole trip, to my new Ghanaian family, Papa Attah, Kwakotche, and lastly Kwame. Also to my fellow attendees, you were a great group of people to enjoy this experience with. I couldn’t ask for any better.
Hugs and Kisses to everyone!

by Jessie Lewis

Gender Issues in Ghana

During my stay in Ghana Africa, my group was fortunate enough to have a guest speaker come into our classroom and teach us all about teenage pregnancy and gender issues. We were greeted by a very well educated woman for about an hour and a half and she shared some very intense but important information to us. Some of the information that I heard about was very extreme and upsetting however I was glad that I am not aware of it. We learned about the percentages of girls who are mothers by the age of 19, some of the living arrangements for children in Ghana and how certain things are being taught to children now so that they can be safer. Some of the information that I found interesting was that 30.9% of girls who are mothers by the age of nineteen are not educated at all. This is because they must stay home and take care of their kids and the family. Five percent of women do not have children, which is very low. The average number of kids in a family is about five, the most children a family will have are about eight and the lowest amount of kids would be three. Most families in Ghana have a large number of kids. We were also informed about the percentage of children who live with both parents. The kids from ages zero to four had a percentage of 65.2, ages five thru nine had 54.4%, kids ten thru fourteen were at 47.3%, and fifteen to seventeen were at 41.4%. In addition, eighty to ninety percent of women will have kids while they are working.
Some of the gender roles that females play are very extreme and this was where I had the most trouble when listening to her explain these facts. For instance, girls from ages twelve to fourteen, people will come up to them and curiously ask them if they have had any kids yet. Some girls of the same age range will not use condoms or any form of contraception because they cannot buy it from the store. Most of the time, these girls will have sexual relations with men that are way older than them. I noticed that this specific information we were being told about left the entire class with open mouths and even some tears in some people’s eyes. This was very serious material that none of us were aware of or even really prepared for.
We did discuss one more topic which was about abortion in Ghana. In Ghana abortion is liberal and restricted. Culturally and traditionally in Africa, abortion is not allowed. Ten percent of women die from having an abortion. Ghanians believe in polygamy, which is having more than one wife. The husband can only get one wife pregnant at a time and he cannot do anything sexual with that specific wife until after she is done breastfeeding which takes about two to three years. Finally, the most shocking information that I was taught about was that fifty four percent of women give birth in a hospital, and forty four percent of women give birth to their kids in their own village. If you choose to give birth in a hospital one should expect it to be a very slow, long and very expensive process. This is the main reason why a large number of women will decide to give birth in their village because it is surprisingly very fast (within minutes), and less expensive. I found this to be incredibly interesting but very sad at the same time. Although giving birth may be a faster process in a village, in my opinion, nobody especially a pregnant woman about to give birth should have to be outside in an uncomfortable environment. There should be no reason why women cannot enjoy the birth of her child in a safe, comfortable area. It is upsetting to me that this still goes on in Africa and I wish I could do something to help change this whole process and to make their experience more enjoyable and to most importantly make sure that the women be in good health while being pregnant and giving birth.
Overall, this was an incredibly amazing experience with tons of great information and I am very thankful that I was taught about the gender issues and teenage pregnancies that are currently going on in Africa. I hope that in the years to come, more contraception and forms of protection for young girls will be available and that more, less expensive hospitals and other safe places are built for women to go while pregnant or in need of help. This has been an unbelievable experience for me and something that I will never forget. I hope to be able to share this information with other people and hopefully get them to understand what is going on in Africa and hope that they will help out in the future.

by Sara Fradkin

Cape Coast Notes

Our group left GRNA in Accra on Friday the 9th and ventured to the Cape Coast which required a tight fitting tro-tro, Landmark College crew, and two SIT staff members. This being a three hour journey I realized I would have to get comfortable, as we started moving along as usual Landmark students got a bit antsy. The decided to bring back old songs as we enjoyed our lovely tro-tro (the singing lasted quite a while). After this three hour journey came to a close we ended up at the Sammo Guest House which is where we stayed for the next three days, that is quite a lot of three’s. Anyways, we all went to our rooms and settled in, some of us went off to adventure, some wanted to nap Tyler, Kwame, and I (SIT staff) took it upon ourselves to have some manly time out and so we did. After looks at the area with all the crafts shops and local stands and restaurants we decided to relax at the Oasis (a fairly close hotel with a beach). We did what all guys would do and did some window shopping along the beach sands while chilling under a straw or palm umbrella with rotting wood while sitting in thick wooden chairs. I challenged Kwame to a game of pool…I lost, but it was close and that is when we headed back. Following was that was venturing to see the fishing boats and I got to say it was the most amazing thing that I have seen. Ghanaians getting ready to go out to find their designated fishing points where they would fish from early afternoon to early next morning. Later that night we saw an amazing acrobat who ate fire and did things I didn’t think were humanly possible The following day we ventured to the slave castle and boy was I blown away, to think one human can treat another human so harshly, we have no right to do that. After the castle we took a bit of a break and then headed back. The biggest highlight for me though was Sunday’s Canopy walk. Imagine walking across the planks that pirate’s use for hostages except there were ropes on each side of you and a net underneath the planks, oh and also they were lot longer and there were seven of them. If you are afraid of heights though this would not be your cup of tea, I was in the front with three young girls from some big tour group. Overall the trip and fun and the group had a blast!!

By Mike Esposito

Slave Castle

So far being in Ghana has been so amazing and eye opening for me. From mastering haggling with market merchants and crossing busy streets with no traffic lights. To spending a weekend at a homestay with a family whose children act like normal six to sixteen year old growing kids when mom’s not home but instantly become capable, polite, non-back talking little workers the moment mom pulls in the driveway. With all this, the experience I’m most effected by was our visit to the Cape Cost’s Slave Castle. Being one of two African American students on this trip I knew I would be a little more sensitive to our visit to the Slave Castle than others but I didn’t expect to feel some of the emotions I’m feeling now. Walking into the Castle I felt very anxious and uncomfortable. Even now I’m having a hard time continuing my blog because my emotions are overwhelmingly strong. Just the thought of standing in the same dark, cold, putrid dungeons that thousands of Africans were thrown into is emotionally draining. I believe the moment that really left me consumed with sorrow was the moment I walked through the Door of No Return. I found myself trying to imagine what these people, my ancestors, were feeling as they were torn away from their homes, lives and families and led through that door to a fate worse than the Castle dungeons. I began feeling nauseous, scared, sadness, anger, and then relief. Relief that it was over, relief that unlike the people I share the same kinky hair and dark skin color with, I could turn around and walk back through that Door of No Return and return; return back to my nice little tour of the Castle; a piece of history that forever changed the way Africans and African Americans view themselves and the world around them.

By Nicole Smith

Back from Cape Coast!

We had an amazing 3 days in Cape Coast and the surrounding area. Photo uploads will follow later today if I run out of WiFi time now. 

We traveled just over two hours to Cape Coast from Accra on Friday August 9th and felt welcomed by the sea breeze and the salt air of the coastal city of Cape Coast, the former capital of the Gold Coast (the name of the country before Ghanaian Independence in 1957) when the British ran their administration from here. Once settled into our guesthouse we explored our surroundings on foot, and discovered the sea was really close, crashing waves and all. We learned that the land around Cape Coast is very hilly with limited access to flat land for cultivation of food which is why the capital city was moved to Accra at the time of Independence.  Late afternoon we went to the nearby fishing village of Elmina where fishing has been a way of life since the 1300s. We also took the opportunity to climb St. Joseph’s Hill, known to be home to the first Catholic Church brought here by the Portuguese. We enjoyed the casual atmosphere of the area eating dinner next to the sea.

On a serious note, Saturday morning we visited Cape Coast Castle, more aptly entitled a dungeon, which calls for a pause when one stops to think of the horrors that went on here during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Later on Saturday we transitioned to a drumming and dance workshop with Antoinette who is well known as the only female master drummer in Ghana. Traditionally it is a taboo for women and girls to be drummers.  Sunday morning found us heading off early to the Kakum National Park to experience a canopy walk through a rain forest and a hike to learn about traditional uses of medicinal plants in the forest.