So Much to be Thankful for

DISCLAIMER: Yes, guys I’m playing catch up– so forgive if these next couple of posts seem out of context!

Thanksgiving in Ghana didn’t seem off. Instead, it felt perfectly placed. When I was much younger, Thanksgiving was a big thing to me. I would put on my most elaborate dress of poofs and sparkles. It was a show for me– a time for me to see all of my relatives, family friends, neighbors, etc. After that childhood phase, I started feeling completely indifferent towards the holiday. It was still a little exciting for me to gather around my family and friends, but I’m excited when we do that on normal days, so what made this day so special for me?

Honestly, nothing. 

The day itself represents a horrific time in American history, which gets shifted around to be “Happy Turkey Day” or “Happy Spend Time With Your Family Day” “As If You Don’t Already Day.”

So when Thanksgiving Day came upon us here in Accra, I didn’t think much of it, but the day turned out to be special nonetheless. 

It was first time spending Thanksgiving outside of the United States, so I wasn’t bombarded with the hype of Macy’s sales, Black Friday promos and 12-hour work shifts at Nordstrom. Instead, I was able to take the day for what it truly is: a day of thanks. Everyone in the program, including the 17 students and staff, came together for a catered dinner (but it was dinner)! Like a huge family, we sat at long tables, which were all dressed and prepped with crisp, white table cloths and polished cutlery. The sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, vegetable dishes were passed around along with jokes, smiles and expressions of gratitude from each of us. 



That was the first time I wanted to shed a tear at any Thanksgiving dinner. Each of us offered what that day meant to us and what we were thankful for. And it felt that each of us honestly and thoughtfully took the time to reflect on the semester and how far we came. 

After dinner, we danced and laughed the night away until we were kicked out the party (actually, the DJ packed up and went home). But I would have to say that Thanksgiving 2012 was one of my most memorable Thanksgivings– not only because I was spending it in Ghana, but more importantly because of the people I was spending it with.

                   Abigail (CRA) and I

TOGO or Not To Go.

Beautiful city of Lomé

When I decided I was coming to Ghana, I knew that I would want to travel to another country once I got here.

I planned that my fall break would be dedicated to experiencing another country on the continent and since Togo is right next door—why not? As the break approached, my excitement weaned. I had to apply for a visa? And pay? And what about transportation? Travelling in between countries in Africa is not as easy as one would like to think. Since you’re already on the continent, one would assume that airfare would be cheaper or crossing borders might be relatively easy process as compared to travelling from outside the continent. However, this is not 100 percent true.

19th Oct., Martina and I set out with only our weekend bags and a couple hundred Ghana cedis. That’s all we had. We had no clue how we were getting to the country. We had no visa, no place to stay, no hotel reservation, and most importantly, no knowledge of French!

The rain drenched us. For the two months that I have been in Ghana, it has never rained that hard or that long. We thought it was an omen—one we didn’t take heed to.

Onward we went. Took a taxi for 8 GH¢. Got to the the bus station. Paid another 9 GH¢

for the three and a half hour tro-tro ride to the Ghanaian border. It was smooth sailing. We got to the border around 8:30pm and were greeted by cheery Ghanaian officers who assisted us in acquiring a Togolese visa.

Now this is where things got tricky. CFA or West African CFA Franc is the currency used by many French colonized countries in West Africa. In Central Francophone countries, Central African CFA Franc is used.

The visa was about $30 USD, 60 GH¢ or 15,000 CFA. The conversion to CFA became a bit complicated, and even more so because Martina and I were totally unprepared.

However, crossing the border felt like such a liberating experience. We finally reached our destination and immediately saw a difference. We even met a Nigerian friend, who stuck with us the entire trip.

Continue reading “TOGO or Not To Go.”