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?
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.
Well, it’s about that time—time for many of my colleagues to ship out.
I didn’t think the day was going to come… Actually, I did, but not so fast.
The bond that I had developed and shared among the 16 others in the group was strong. I had memories for each and every one of them.
6th Dec. just 9 days before majority of the students were leaving, we had our farewell dinner. Everyone sat with their group of friends, reflecting on the entire semester and what waits ahead for us back home. Some were anxious—tired of the trivial issues that sometimes inconvenienced us. Others, like myself, weren’t yet ready to throw in the towel. Personally, I was fighting to hold on to every last drop of Ghana that I could. Being here felt like my home away from home. It felt like Barbados, but better.
You ever ate your favorite dish by your mom, but your aunt or some other female relative makes it a little better. A shadow of guilt follows you and you feel like Benedict Arnold—a traitor…how can you like someone else’s cooking over your mom’s? Well that’s what Ghana reminds me of. I almost like it a little better than Barbados—in a guilty yet pleasurable way.
I know as time approaches for me to leave, I will still try to hold to Ghana as much as I can, and the bonds that were created among the 17 of us will continue to strengthen back home.
For certain, this is not going to be my last time here. Stay tuned for Ghana part III.
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.
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
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.
Back again for my infrequent updates of my travels while studying abroad in Accra, Ghana.
To say that I am enjoying myself is not only an understatement, but also an insult. I am taking in every experience possible, without hesitation or question. And in doing so, I’ve managed to be safe and have a ridiculous amount of fun! For certain, if I was in NY, I would be stressed, swamped in work and more than likely, bored out of my mind.
Here, however, it’s the absolute opposite.
I’ve immersed myself into the maze of public transportation, and like other developing countries some Ghanaians use a form of informal transportation via the tro tro ‘service‘– and I use the word service very loosely. Because to be very honest, for some Ghanaians customer satisfaction is not the number one priority in providing services. So when getting on board a tro tro be sure to ask clarifying questions like,“where is this going?” And provided that you know where you are going, you can declare in an uncertain voice “Osu?”
Sounds obvious right? But it is so easy to not only get lost in a place where you are totally unfamiliar, but also in a place where–like many cities– people are simply trying to get through their day, get to where they’re going and to make a dollar. So far, I haven’t gotten lost, but I know a couple of other students who have.
Standing a designated bus stop (or simply by the street side) with traffic whizzing by, vendors and peddlers bustling up and down the sidewalk and in between cars– suddenly a 13 seater van pulls up. Some passengers hop out, others stare on, eyeballing the oncoming passenger. The mate, or the guy who serves as the driver’s assistant in collecting fares, among other things, shouts Osu! Osu! Osu! Osu! aggressively pointing at the van. Before you know it, another van pulls up, over flowing with people–elbows and black faces jutting out of cloudy, sliding windows. The other mate persists over the voice of his rival, Osu! Osu! Osu! Osu! pointing even more insistently than his counterpart. Now you’re left with the choice, but you have one concern: you aren’t sure if the place you’re going to is on the way to Osu. What do you do? You can ask, but the matesare in such a hurry to gather new passengers to replace the old ones in the midst of everyone shuffling to get on.
You can imagine how you can easily get swept in and end up at the wrong destination–not to mention if the mate dupes you. He can easily not give you back change because he knows not only are you an obruni by your accent, but you more than likely don’t know where the hell you’re going. Nonetheless the fare will more than likely be less than 1 cedi, which is roughly about $.50 USD. At times, you’ll even pay as little as 30 pesewas –about $.15 USD.
In all of this, I must say I have a love-hate relationship with the tro tro system. Sometimes they can even break down, or the interior may be so rusted and tattered, you have to be careful where you step or sit. But once you do find that tattered seat in which you’re comfortable, riding a tro tro is a fun experience. You can meet friends; you may even see some of same people on their daily route. Eyeing traffic and seeing women carry a basket full of plantain chips on her head are all scenes and interactions that can easily be overlooked when riding in a chauffeured, air-conditioned car service. There is more of a distance created between us and them when sitting in an avis rental versus a Twi inscribed tro tro among average, everyday Ghanaians.
To me, it’s crucial to any abroad adventure that you take part in the activities and mundane experiences of the locals. So live a little, sweat a little.