Tag Archives: Africa

Girl Power, Part II

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After a month long hiatus, I’m back.

I would be lying if I wrote that nothing has changed, because although I didn’t realize it in Ghana– so much had changed, but let’s pick up where we left off: my girls.

Natyna. The girl with the golden-kissed skin, dyed, kempt locks and cherub cheeks– she’s all you could ever ask for. She will tell you, “I smile this way because I know I have messed up teeth so I had to embrace them.” And so she does. Every inch of Natyna exudes confidence–not to be confused with arrogance. She’s humble, and coming from Philadephia, pursuing a double minor at NYU in Africana Studies and dramatic writing– she’s eloquent in her speech, fluid with her vowels and adjectives so that her words caress your ears when she speaks. One thing that she doesn’t do is fall short of things to say, but I always wonder what’s her trick? How does she know exactly when, where and how to soothe your hurt with a rhetoric of solace, wisdom and youthful optimism gelled into one?

Natyna and I

Natyna and I

I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out– how she balances the weight of her family on her back, caring 100% for everyone (and everything!)– again, never falling short of that. She’ll admit, “I worry too much,” not afraid to put her darkest, most horrible flaws out to the world because in the end we’re all human. Being vulnerable doesn’t scare her like it would most and people gravitate towards that– that uncannied realness that you can’t find even if you travelled to the center of the earth. LOYALTY. At heart, she’s a mother– always feeling the need to lick wounds, offering comfort and her nurturing presence. I think she was born to have babies actually! All in all, no one can top this girl. She’s the perfect fruit juice blend of nature, nurture, loyalty, insanity, creativity and direction in one whole person. Natyna Siobhan Osborne.

God First.

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                 Dr. Abdulai pictured with one of his patients.

 

Would you offer absolutely free medical services, shelter and food for the poor and mentally estranged? 

Honestly, I don’t think most of us could– or would. Think about not expecting any–and I mean ANY– sort of monetary compensation for your services. Think about the operation costs of your establishment? How will you pay your staff? Feed your patients and maintain the land? How will you support yourself and your family?

 

Well, David Abdulai is a man with a heart of gold. This man sees past all of these questions and relies first and foremost in God. The strength of his relationship with God manifests in his work and his reputation as a brilliant, humble and selfless man. When asked how he treats his mentally ill patients, Dr. Abdulai looked at the students sitting in front of him and said, “With love.” 

I know there may have been some skeptics around us who were thinking, no drugs? no psychologist on board? But Dr. Abdulai was there to show us that he is a testimony to his own virtue of love and faith. 

A woman, whose name I cannot remember, walks into the open structure where Dr. Abdulai is lecturing us on his work. Her clothes drape over her tiny frame, her one eye scans the room–smiling with rotten, decayed teeth at all the youthful, bright faces she sees. Although she doesn’t speak English, she opens her mouth to share stories of her own life. Dr. Abdulai translates all of her witty, spunky commentary and continues to laugh and engage with her. The air is made light, despite the tense burning sensation to find out where this woman came from and how is she managing?

The charismatic woman found her way to the clinic when Dr. Abdulai took her in. He said she did not like to wear clothes. She had sensory issues, and at times, she would use her fecal matter to draw and write on the walls. The woman also would not open up and Dr. Abdulai found it difficult to communicate with her. According to him, all that it took for her to get well was for him to show her that someone cared for her and her well-being. Without the administration of drugs or injections, Dr. Abdulai said it was love that cured this woman. 

She shuffled away from us and returned shortly with a new outfit on and a smile on her face. Not once did her smile dull.

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Splash Waterfalls

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Wli Falls

The last excursion of the semester turned out to be the best trip of my sixteen-week stay in Ghana.

Wli Falls is hidden by rolling hills and lush, tropical forests in the Volta region of Ghana. Walking through the beaten trail, I was able to fully take in the scenery and the foliage that surrounded the area. Pineapple patches, spider webs and stretches of Ceiba trees guided the path. It looked like an illustration out of a movie, with dense forests and hilltops peaking out from behind the greenery.

The fall is sustained by the Agumatsa River and is located near Hohoe, a town in the Volta region that sits between Lake Volta and Togo.  Approaching the fall, hundreds of bats covered the stratified, moss covered rocks. The cool mist freckled the lenses of our cameras and sunglasses, offering a reprieve from the sun’s rays. This sanctuary of water was teeming with life with an array of butterflies, dragonflies, smooth multi-colored stones, and gradients of foliage to prove it.

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Watching the white water plunge from about 70 meters (about 229 ft) was inviting!  Immediately, I wanted to strip down to my bathing suit and jump into the clear pool that the fall produced. There were some shallow spots, but other parts of the pool were over 6 feet deep (about 2 m). Splashing in the water, I could feel the wet, soft earth under my feet.  The current was manageable (if you know how to swim) but it made floating impossible.

Being there, I felt like I was in a film—or at least I wanted to be in one. All I needed was a vacant cottage that sat by the water with my castaway partner. The experience felt surreal

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Now I see why they say save the best for last.

TOGO or Not To Go.

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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.

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