Friday, September 22, 2006


finally I have uploaded my pictures. Unfortunately, they are out of order. I appologize, but I spent thirty minutes trying to re-arrange them to no avail. I hope you enjoy.
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by justinesghana

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Development, Hezbollah, Obrunis

Thanks everyone for all of the lovely comments. I really feel special that people take time out of their days to read my blog.
Last week was an eventful one of sorts. I was invited by one of my fellow interns to a cocktail at a German NGO's office (FNF). It was very classy...waiters bringing you drinks and little hors d'ourves. I munched down because it was free and A) wasnt spicy and B) very tasty. The organization, FNF, supports and partners with organizations in Ghana that want liberal government. Liberal, p.s., means something completely different here than it does in the states. Liberal means privatization of businesses and the economy, de-centralization of the government, democracy. Conservative, on the other hand, is equal to socialist. To explain further, conservative means keeping the status quo. The status quo in Ghana has always been socialist, authoritative regimes. Liberalism means change from the status quo. You can apply these simplified definitions to the US as well, just the opposite (the status quo has been capitalism, privatization). Anyway, the reception was nice and I met some interesting people. A lawyer who studied at Tulane told me that she thinks that Ghana should be able to play a larger role in its development. She complained that when the West comes to "develop" Africa, they send over a consultant who tells the governments what to do, then takes 10% of the "development" budget. Though this may be an exageration, it made me think. I have become increasingly discouraged with the idea of Western Development. A) I don't want the world to be like the US. B) What right do we have to tell another country how to develop? C) who determines what is development? Honestly, I don't think we should play a role in it at all. The only problem is we have all the money. And you do need money to do things. Its a tough dilemma, but i have decided that i don't want to do international development as a career. I don't feel right telling people how to live their lives or how to become developed.
Friday night I hung out with a South African fellow who is working at CDD also. He taught me some Xhosa (the clicking language), how Christianity is totally different there than it is here, how he got to hear Ian Smith speak(former white leader of Zimbabwe during the War of Liberation...yes I was telling him about my SURE research, oh i am so proud! ), good African books to read. I also tried palm wine, which is huge in West Africa. It was a bit sweet and unlike anything I ever tasted before.
Saturday started with a bang...literally. 7:30am, there is singing and yelling and chanting outside of the hostel. Then there is someone shooting an air rifle. It was startling because i had no idea what was going on. I look outside and there are 30 guys trying to get into our hostel, yelling something about Hezbollah, dressed in traditional outfits and shooting the air gun. Sound scary? Well, its actually kind of funny. The group, "the Republic," is infamous for their renaming of new buildings. Since our hostel was new, they had to "christen" it and the recently re-opened Night Market. Our hostel was named Torog, a cocaine dealer prominent in Ghanaian news, and Night Market was named Hezbollah. They name buildings on campus, and require that every student only call the buildings by those names. So that was my wake up call. Everyone was outside watching these crazy kids. Then a Christian parade marched through our hostel. They were singing and playing trumpets and other instruments. Then a man stepped forward and began to preach about how even though we are international students, we can still accept Jesus.
So, my saturday morning was extrememly eventful. Since we were tired, we decided to just chill on saturday and visit...MaxMart. Yes, I said it. I went to the dreaded Western grocery store. And, some of the items I saw...they made me very homesick. Like Duncan Hines blueberry muffin mix. Salsa. Cheese, real cheese like cheddar, sliced and shredded. Ben and Jerrys (get this...$10 a pint, good joke!). We went to the coffee shop and had cappuchinos, sandwiches with vegetables and mozarella on wheat bread. It was the greatest. But it was kinda depressing because it was only Obrunis (foreigners, mostly white) in the whole place.
Saturday night we went to a bar that was opened up by a friend of a friend's. It was a very nice establishment in Osu. Then we went to a night club that apparently only lets in Lebanese or non-African people (the friend we went with, TJ, wasn't allowed in until the owner of the bar (an Asian guy) told them he was with him). It was kind of strange, but I met the co-owner of the club who was African and she studied in London and wanted to be our friend. Everyone in Ghana wants to be my friend. haha. Crap. the purpose of this blog was to talk about the hospital visits of this week. um...I will write one on that tomorrow. haha.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why I love Ghana, part 1

Last thursday, we attempted to get to the Indian restaurant in Osu (nice part of town, near the US embassy, tons of overly expensive restaurants) however, while we were searching, it began to pour. We run into the closest restaurant, Tsing Tao Chinese, to look at the menu. Meals were like 100,000cedis (a little more than $10) - too much. So we get up to leave but its still pouring so we stand outside waiting. The co-manager of the restaurant, Steve, comes up to us and asks us why we are leaving. We explain to him that we are students and 100,000 is too much for us to pay for a meal. He says, don't worry about it, sit down, enjoy the food and drinks and its on the house. Sweet! So we got food for free and it was amazing.
Friday we leave for Hohoe. We take a tro-tro from Legon to Tudu station and find a tro-tro that is almost full (so we only sit for an hour waiting to leave). The tro-tro ride to Hohoe was an interesting experience. Right before we got to the bridge that crosses the Volta river, the tro-tro pulls over, about half the dudes get off, and then we are attacked by women and children selling various items. 2o women were shoving bread in our faces, one girl was shouting "puuure water" and a couple of boys were selling what looked like small squids on sticks. Then the driver got back on, and we left. It was crazy. We arrived in the dark town of Hohoe after a 3.5 hour ride. Thinking we were going to avoid the power outage by departing from Accra, we were disappointed that Hohoe also didn't have power from 6pm to 6am. A guy on our tro-tro directed us to the Grand Hotel, which didn't have any rooms, so we start walking towards the Pacific Guesthouse. We ask someone for directions and instead of giving them to us, he hails a friend with a car and asks him to drive us to the hotel for free. We get to the hotel, its 100,000/room/night, which would have been okay if there was power, but since there wasn't it was kind of obsolete to have to pay for a fan. There was a bathroom in the room, however, and that was nice. There was nowhere to eat except this Lips bar place who totally ripped us off (40,000 for chicken and rice). Saturday morning: We found a nice woman selling egg sandwiches on the street (3,000 cedis) We bought a loaf of bread from her (5,000 cedis) and bought some chocolate (9,000 cedis) for our journey up the mountain. We checked into the Grand Hotel (61,000/night/room) and then found a tro tro to Mount Afadjato and Liati Wote (the city at its base). We get on the tro-tro at 12:00pm. We sit. We play cards. We sit. We eat chocolate. We sit. Its 2:00pm and we haven't left yet. We are worried, because we don't want to hike in the dark. The tro-tro is waiting to fill up. The driver asks us to pay for the other four people so we can leave (8,500/person). We didnt want to pay for it all, so we paid for three and the other Ghanaians already on the tro-tro paid for the fourth. Then all hell broke loose. Five people got on the tro-tro, which would indicate that we paid for someone to ride the tro-tro for free, and the Ghanaians flipped out ("these girls paid for three, we paid for one, you are scamming us!") There was multi language yelling and we were just sitting there, totally in awe. The ride to the mountain was really bumpy and we stupidly sat in the back and kept wacking our heads on the ceiling. We get to the mountain, finally, and start hiking at 4. Its a short mountain (800 m), but it was sooo steep. I almost died. I think I was dehydrated, but it was horrible. It only took us an hour to hike to the top, even though we made stops every five minutes. It was a beautiful view. The Volta Region is so green and lush and beautiful in comparison to dirty, dusty, dry Accra. We hike down, but at this point we are a little nervous. Apparently, there aren't any tro-tros that run from the mountain back to Hohoe. All our stuff, and the hotel room we paid for, was in Hohoe. We were slightly concerned we would have to stay in Liati Wote with nothing. Luckily for us, there was a church group bus headed to Accra and we came down the mountain in time to bum a ride from them to another town where we could catch a tro-tro. We were extremely lucky, because we would have been stranded had it not been for the church group. We ate street food (rice, beans, boiled yams) for 6,000 cedis and hung out at the hotel with a Swede who bikes the world and a Canadian from Burkina Faso.
Sunday: Woke up at 6 because the hotel played LOUD gospel music. Headed to the same breakfast lady, bought some more bread from her, and ran into some british girls we had met at Kokrobitey beach. Found a tro-tro going to Wli falls (6,000) and weren't ripped off this time. Got to the falls, was asked if I would marry this guy and was told that I wasn't going to leave Ghana because this is my home ("one of our lost sisters returned") by the staff at the park entrance. Hiked for forty-five minutes to the falls, ate some cocoa straight from the tree (tastes really sugary), met some Californians studying at UofG as well. The falls were massive and gorgeous (pictures soon). There were a ton of fruit bats flying around, as well as soldier ants (gigantic black ants) all over the ground.
We caught a shared cab back to Hohoe (shared meaning, five people in the back seat and two in the front for 7,000 each) ate more street food (rice, beans, spaghetti and salad for 6,000) then found a tro-tro back to Accra (40,000). We got back to accra around 7 after a three hour, slightly uncomfortable and a bit cramped ride, and arrived back on campus a little after 8.
We were really surprised by our luck...always finding rides, always arriving on time, and not spending too much money (except for that one meal). That's why I love Ghana. because everything works out. and people are always friendly and welcoming (except for scammy tro-tro drivers and sketchy taxis).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"America is oppressive"

So as of today I have been in the country for a month. YAY! How am I celebrating? I had class at 7:30 and now I am at my internship. Maybe tonight we are going to get Indian food for dinner. mmm. Things for me have been good thus far. No sickness (knock on wood), classes are good, food is good. My top ten favorite foods so far: 1. Fried Plantains 2. Red Red and Plantains 3 . Waykie and rice 4. Fried Yams 5. Ghanaian chocolate 6. Omelette and plantain pancakes 7. meat pies 8. Burgers ground nuts 9. butter bread 10. banana cake. Two nights ago I fried my own plantains. they were amazing.
After a month of solitude in my room, I got a roommate. She is a med student from Tema, in Accra, and her mother is Nigerian. She wants to go into either hematology or surgery, i think. She wants to go out of the country so that she can specialize in something and she was thinking about the states. But she had quite an interesting view of the states that I wasn't expecting to hear. She said "America is oppressive." I ask her to explain. She said that in America she couldn't walk down the street and say "homosexuality is wrong." Here she could say that and everyone would agree with her. I think she means oppressive in that if you said that, someone would disagree and probably argue. I told her that there are people who would agree with her, but that just as she has the right to say that, someone else has the right to tell her they disagree. On a divergent note, can we discuss this homosexuality issue. Since you probably don't follow Ghanaian news, you wouldn't know that this has come to the fore front as a big issue because a group of gay advocates were trying to host conferences in Ghana and the government wouldn't allow it. It has been in all the newspapers, radio and tv. Homosexuality is not accepted in ghana, point blank. Politicians and church leaders have said that gays have horns and will ruin society if they come here to have their conference. There is no point arguing, it is totally unacceptable. So that is why my roommate knows that if she said it in the streets in Ghana, everyone would agree.
She also said that if she was in America she wouldn't be able to spank her children. This made me laugh as I told her I was spanked, many a times. I told her what I believe, that spanking will always be accepted as a mechanism for punishment in black homes (haha) but that yes, if you do it in a public place, you could get in trouble (I also found out that spanking is illegal in Norway). She also doesn't think that America is very Christian. She didn't think that she would ever be able to find a boyfriend because the boys in America don't go to church and wouldn't be able to challenge her and help her grow spiritually. She also didn't think that black men in America were very attractive, since they put all the attractive ones on tv. Americans, or white people as she said, are cold, unappreciative, unfriendly and selfish. She said that if a white was walking from a store that was closed and she was walking to the store, the white wouldn't tell her it was closed. I don't necessarily see this as rude, because how would you know she was going to the store? But I do agree that we are very individualistic and we try to figure out things on our own and as a whole we aren't very willing to ask for help and sometimes not very accepting when it is offered to us. We also don't pay for each other when we go out to eat (which is really common here, one person pays to take their friends out and doesn't expect reimbursement) and we will harass you until you pay us back if we do pay for you.
She also told me that she would NEVER approach a boy if she was was his role to approach her (she said that approaching him would compromise herself and send the wrong message....).
This conversation really enlightened me about Ghanaians. It also drew attention to issues that I wouldn't think about, but are very important to her where America is lacking. It is tough though, because I am holding my tongue on many things that she has said because I don't want to insult her or her culture. I do try to offer her some insight on my beliefs and thoughts without encroaching on hers.
This weekend we are going to Hohoe in the Volta region. We are hiking up the tallest mountain in Ghana (which is supposedly a hill, not much of a mountain) and going to Wli falls, the tallest waterfalls in West Africa. Hohoe is right on the border with Togo and is a five hour tro-tro ride from here. We are leaving tomorrow afternoon. I am excited, its the first time we are going into the country and not to the beach.