I am now entering into my seventh week of being here. I am feeling so at home and at times cannot believe that in only eight weeks I will be back in Canada. At one time this thought would have made me so happy because I was feeling so homesick and out of my element (especially when I was sick!). But now the thought fills me with a very bitter sweet emotion. I miss everyone from home and I am very excited to go back and see family and friends, however in doing so I will be leaving behind new friends who have become a family to me over here. Life here is becoming very familiar and I am getting very used to the way things happen here. Things that used to throw me off so much no longer phase me. The frequent power outages here used to drive me up the wall, but now it just seems normal. The bugs are another thing that used to drive me crazy. They are everywhere here especially at night. Now I only really notice them when they go down my shirt… not an experience I like at all! When that happens I still freak out. I do not think I will be able to get to a point where I won’t freak out when that happens. But can you really blame me? I do not think anyone really wants to have a strange African bug crawling down their shirt =)
The rainy season has most definitely begun now, and we often get rain at some point everyday. The rain is always a welcome relief. It cools things down which makes me very happy, and it also makes the crops grow and ensures that the bore hole of water does not dry up. Yes, I now understand why that song Africa says “Bless the rains down in Africa”. The only time the rain is unfortunate is when you get caught in it, or trapped somewhere. When it rains here it does not joke around. It is torrential down pour like I have never seen before! I have had several days when I have been trapped in the school unable to make it back to my room. It does not sound that bad, however there is no bathroom at the school. When you have to pee but are stuck instead just listening to rain pouring down all around you… it is definitely not the most fun experience =) But I have learned to hold it like a champ haha! Last night I experienced my first Thunderstorm here in Ghana, and I must say the raw power behind it was magnificent! I am so grateful that I am not scared of storms because I think I would have had a heart attack otherwise. The thunder was so loud that it shook the building and whenever the lightning flashed it illuminated my entire room. It was an incredible storm (even though it kept me awake the entire night). I am constantly aware of Gods amazing creation and sheer power here. It is hard not to be when surrounded by such extraordinary nature and all of the religious slogans on vehicles and businesses. It is always a comforting reminder to rely on God when things get rough. There already have been some rough patches here and I am sure there will be some more, but I know that by relying on God I can get through anything.
A few weeks ago I traveled back to Accra and then to the Volta Region for the weekend. It was most definitely nothing but an adventure! Friday night we went out in Accra to several different places. One of them was an Irish Pub that they have. It was the most bizarre experience! It felt as though I had entered an alternate universe (or travelled all the way to Ireland!) There was no way we were in Ghana anymore. It was a very strange experience, though nice to be able to have some food that I recognized haha. We were out with some British Rugby coaches that Amelie has befriended in the city. They sure are crazy when they start drinking！ The night was nothing but boring that is for sure!
The next day we got onto a bus and headed out on what we thought would be a 2-3 hour journey to Volta. 6 1/2 hours later we arrived. Time here really doesn’t mean much and I am still getting used to that. It was a beautiful drive though! It was amazing to be able to see different areas of Ghana. I have now been to 4 out of the 10 regions in Ghana. I am hoping to make it to at least 6 of the regions by the time I head home. On Sunday we hiked through a crazy forest with a lot of different river crossings to get to the Wli waterfalls. It took about an hour and a half, and was a very educational trek. I ate cocoa. Not like the cocoa you get back home that tastes like chocolate. I ate the cocoa right out of the cocoa plant. It looks like a white seed in a way and you suck on it until you get the entire outside is off. However you do NOT want to bite it! The inside is a red centre that does not have a very pleasant taste to it. Nick tried biting it (he always does everything he is told not to!), and his facial expression was enough to ensure none of us followed his lead! There were also butterflies everywhere! They were some of the most beautiful butterflies I have ever seen before！ So colourful! I am most definitely going to miss the nature that I am constantly surrounded by here. I know we that we have nature back in Canada, but it is not quite the same. Once we made it to the falls we spent the majority of the day swimming and hanging out on the shore near by. It was one of the most spectacular sights and experiences. I wish you could have all been there to experience it, I am not sure if the pictures will do it justice. The rock face of the cliff next to the waterfall was absolutely covered in bats! It was a crazy sight to see! I do not think I have ever seen so many bats all congregated together in one place! It was nice to know that they were eating all of the mosquitoes though!
After spending the day at the falls we headed back to our guest house to relax. A day hiking and swimming in the sun sure does take a toll on your energy level! Not to mention the fact that I had only had about 3 hours a sleep each night for the past 2 weeks! I am not impressed with the fact that I have become an insomniac here! But I digress, after eating dinner we decided to pass the time playing cards. There was another guy (Tuen) at the guest house who was there alone so we invited him to join us. He was a very interesting guy from Holland who was just finishing his 4 month stay in Ghana. He taught us a new game called Farmers Bridge and we played late into the night. He shared some amusing stories about his time here and gave us a glimpse into village life in the North of Ghana. He lived with a family where the Father had two wives and 9 children. It is amazing the diversity that exists within one country!
Our journey back to Accra the next day was yet again full of adventures! I have never been so scared while riding a tro tro before! We had to take two different tro tros to get back to the city. The first tro we took was by far the most terrifying experience of my life! Not only did they pack it so full of people that someone was actually sitting on the roof, but the driver was a maniac! Think of everything that you should not do while driving and that is exactly what he did. I do not even know how fast he was going because the speedometer was broken… slightly disconcerting! He also would always pass on corners! You could not see if someone was coming the other way at all! Part way through the ride smoke started to come out of the engine… =S The driver did not stop, someone else sitting in the front seat simply pooped the dash board open and began to pour water onto the engine to cool it down. The floor was so hot that Amelie and I thought our flip flops were going the melt for sure. I have never been so grateful to arrive at my destination! The second tro was a lot more normal. We had more room the sardines in a can which was nice and the driving was relatively tame. Everything was going smoothly until we came to a police road block. Much to my dismay a police officer holding a very large gun leaned his head through the window and said “We want the white ladies”. It was definitely not what I wanted to hear! So needless to say Amelie and I were pulled out of the tro. We were then taken to an immigration officer who demanded to see our passports. (We currently do not have our passports because they are with the immigration office of Ghana getting out visas extended). They are not legally allowed to demand to see your passport once you are in the country; however he decided to hassle us anyways. We explained our situation to him, but he was still not willing to let us go. He wanted a bribe, but Amelie and I are unwilling to get into that game. We played dumb until he let us go. It all turned out fine in the end; however I was definitely petrified while it was happening! I do not like having huge guys with big guns half interrogating me on the side of the road in a foreign country… not exactly my cup of tea! But I suppose it increases my street cred so it is ok =) All is well that ends well right?
On Tuesday I went to the library to find all of the work that I had done to organize it completely undone! I felt like I wanted to cry! I was so close to having a break down that I had to leave and go make some lesson plans for English instead. I could not stay and see all of the work I had done gone. I am having a hard time organizing the library because I keep being told to make it like a library back home, but then whenever I make a suggestion or try to do something to take the library to the next level it gets rejected. It is frustrating when you have such a vision for a place and someone else keeps holding you back. I am hoping it gets better and we are all able to have pieces of what we want in the library, but in the end it is not my decision and I will organize it however they want it to be. I just worry that with their organization system they will be unable to keep the library in an organized manner. Fingers crossed we can find a way to do it their way, but at the same time ensure it can stay organized for years to come.
Tuesday night I went down to Nick’s place for dinner and I learned how to make Fufu. It is a traditional Ghanaian dish and it was so much fun to make! It is very labour intensive and is quite possibly one of the best upper body workouts I have ever had! I really enjoy hanging out at Nick and Bellas. It has become my nightly hang out place. They have a very nice front porch that we hang out on. They are close to the road so they can still see what is happening and feel connected with the world; however they are so surrounded by nature that you feel like you are in your own little world. I love the school, but it is nice to have some quiet time and not always have people running all around you. I have my special spot on the back porch of the school where I am able to go and take a few minutes for myself to rejuvenate. I am discovering that alone time is essential if you do not want to burn out!
Wednesday night I was back at Nicks (surprise) and his neighbour Julie came to visit with her little baby Grace who is 2 months old. Grace is the cutest thing of my life! Julie put Grace on my back and wrapped her up with a big piece of cloth (the traditional way to carry a baby here). I got to carry her around for almost an hour. It was such a cool experience! I love babies and being able to spend time with Grace really made my day! On Friday night I was able to hang out and play with Grace for hours! I am so thankful I am in the village and can have these experiences. I have a sneaking suspicion that I probably would not be doing things like this if I was in Accra. Julie informed me that I am not going home until I can tie Grace on my back by myself, and carry her while sweeping, cooking, washing and fetching water on my head! I will be truly Ghanaian by the end of it all. On Sunday night I was able to tie Grace to my back by myself! It was very exciting (and also a little scary! I was afraid to drop her!) =) Yesterday (Monday) I once again successfully tied Grace to my back and also carried her all the way from Fotobi to my village of Obodan on my back. Everyone in both villages thought it was the best thing since sliced bread (actually I have not seen sliced bread here before so maybe it was just the best thing haha). They had never seen a white lady carry a baby on her back before and the reactions I got were priceless! Grace is quickly becoming one of my new best friends here in Ghana. She is not much of a conversationalist but she is one of the best listeners I know =)
Bella is also teaching me to dance like a true African woman. We have had many sweet dance parties at their place and I am sure there are only more to come! It is a lot of fun and also a good work out! Not that I really need to lose any more weight right now, my pants have already become to big haha. But I am happy to report that this past weekend I ate more then I think I have eaten since coming to Ghana! I cooked with Nick for almost every meal and we were able to make some really good food that did not have sea food and was not super spicy! It was a very exciting thing in my life. This weekend I also had street meat off the side of the road in Nsawam. Nick and I discovered something that is like sausage on a stick and it is one of my new favourite things.
On Saturday I got my hair braided and I now look even more Ghanaian then before. It was a very long and painful 3 hours, however it was totally worth it. I now know why everyone here braided their hair. It is so much cooler (temperature wise) when it is braided!
On Sunday Nick and I headed to a village/town called Aburi which is about an hour away by tro tro. There are some breathtaking botanical gardens there that we went to visit. Aburi but be one of the coolest towns I have ever been to. It is on the top of a mountain and as a result the view is SPECTACULAR! Unfortunately it was so humid that the pictures probably will not turn out, but just close your eyes and imagine standing on top of a mountain and being able to see everything around you for hundreds of miles. Such a cool thing! We also discovered a lot of local artisans and spent some time hanging out with them. It is so nice to know the people who carve the items you buy！ I much prefer that to buying it from a vendor in the city.
It was a great weekend of hanging out in the village. I am feeling more and more at home here everyday. I am learning so much about the culture and traditions of Ghana, which is extremely interesting, though at times also frustrating. However there is no doubt in my mind that I am gaining a greater world understanding which is exactly why I came here this summer. I am having many experiences that I am not writing about, so you will have to wait and here more stories when I get home! It is so hard to believe that I will be back home in less then two months now. Time sure does fly!