We got to visit some of the schools that CRAN sponsors children at, and they were definitely enthusiastic about our arrival!
I meant to write again last night, but once again the power had gone out. It wasn’t for the entire night this time though, it ended up coming back on around midnight. But I was already asleep by then; I’m starting to get used to the idea that the power goes out quite frequently, and that when it does, you just have to make due.
Yesterday was pretty great though. Jasmine and I got to travel to the Western Region of Ghana to visit some schools. At the schools, we took pictures of the children who we’re seeking scholarships through CRAN, so that their faces could appear next to their profiles on the website.
They all looked at me with amazement, I guess it’s not every day that someone who is fair-skinned visits them. They were also really interested in our phones that we took pictures on, and they swarmed around Jasmine when she showed them what they looked like through the camera.
We also got to explore down by the beach in Shama, the area where a lot of the kids live. It’s mostly a fishing community, and that’s how a lot of people make their livelihood. The community’s been ridden by pollution of the water though, and I was told that the water there used to be completely blue. Now it’s an off shade of brown, and a lot of that is attributed to illegal mining practices that still go on today. Because of this, these families have trouble not only paying for school, but surviving off their income in general, and it’s a sad thing to watch.
The kids we met, they go through a lot. They don’t have much, and they’re not guaranteed an education in their culture. But they fight to get one. They work to go to school, and they actually look forward to it every day. They have hopes of being doctors, engineers and even in the Ghanian military when they grow up. They want to get good jobs, have families and more than anything, a good education.
And when you watch them, you want to see them make it. You want them to get a good education. You want them to go to college, explore their career choices, and thrive in their communities. You want them to have better, and it’s a shame thinking some of them won’t solely because they don’t have funding to do so. You want more than anything to be able to keep those smiles on their faces that they greet you with, and all that will take is being able to keep them in school.
Seeing these kids and reading their stories has taught me to not take my right to education for granted, because it’s not available everywhere. Kids in the U.S. always complain about school, but they don’t realize that there’s worse things out there.
I’ve read stories of 7-year-olds who have had to drop out of school and start working in boat yards. I’ve read about kids who say their favorite memory is getting exercise books, or when they were given money to be able to pay for school. I’ve read about kids whose parents refuse to pay for their schooling, and so they’ve been kicked out and unable to take examinations.
There’s worse things out there, and nothing we have in the U.S. should be taken lightly.
The canopy walk was by far my favorite part of this trip thus far. The view was absolutely gorgeous.
It’s been difficult to write the past few days. One, because I’ve been so tired. And two, because every time I do finally feel energized enough to write, the power’s gone out.
We had power outages, or “lights out” as they’re called here, twice in the past two days. The worst one was last night. It started around 7 p.m. and lasted for 12 hours, coming back on right as we had to wake up the next morning. It was definitely an experience trying to sleep without the fans, but I kept telling myself that it was like camping, and that I had to just deal with it.
This trip is really teaching me the difference between a need and a necessity. We got by without AC, and power, and wifi and even running water. These things are nice and I definitely wouldn’t want to live without them in the U.S., but going without these kind of luxuries is an every day thing for people who live here. They don’t miss it because they never have it, and in a way, I think they might be lucky that way. It makes them complain a lot less, and a lot more grateful for what they do have.
The surprising thing to me was that it’s not just the power that goes out here, the water will also stop after the power’s been out for so long. A few people were able to shower before it was lost, but the rest had to do without. I ended up washing my hair this morning with satchet bags of water, which we predominately have for brushing our teeth.
Despite the last of what I used to think were necessities, the last couple of days have been pretty great. On Saturday, we toured the Cape Coast castle and the area where the slaves would have their last bath.
It was an eye-opening history lesson being able to see everything first-hand, because before Saturday I had only read about it in books. Plus, American history classes tend to gloss over everything that doesn’t happen directly in the states; it wasn’t until I took on the AICE curriculum in high school that I was introduced to a change in perspective.
Sunday was more sight-seeing, but this time we went to a stingless bee center and Kakum National Park to do a canopy walk.
The bees were intimidating to me, even if they don’t sting — I don’t handle bugs very well. But it was interesting hearing about all of the things that the research the center does helps the community, and they also teach farmers how having stingless bees on their farms can increase the crop growth through pollination.
The canopy walk was breathtaking for me. I have this ridiculous addiction to heights, and seeing the natural beauty of Ghana was an incredible experience. I was hoping to see elephants while we were there, but there were only a couple hundred of them in the park according to our guide, so our chances seemed slim. The trip’s not over though, so there’s still hope!
Last night before the power went out, we did a reflection exercise about our first week. We discussed what we were struggling with, what we hoped to accomplish in the next week and what our favorite part of the trip was.
I knew I was struggling with the culture shock, but it’s starting to ease. I knew my favorite part of the trip was the canopy walk, I had been looking forward to that more than anything. What I had to think about more deeply was what I wanted to accomplish.
I want to help CRAN get their website up-to-date with the campaigns. I hope that we can get their Facebook page up to 100 likes by the end of the week. I hope we can get a video created so they have some multimedia presence on their website, so it’s not all just copy at the students. Some visual appeal would be nice.
But I think more than anything this week, I just want to focus on finding commonalities between myself and the people in the community. I learned in peer mentoring last semester that it’s easier to find the differences in other people and ourselves than the similarities, and I really want to be able to find both, so the divide between us doesn’t seem so great.
The Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN) office, the location of my internship in Cape Coast!
Yesterday we started our projects, and at first I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect out of it.
Jasmine and I are interning at CRAN, The Christian Rural Aid Network. They have a head office in Cape Coast that was built just last year, and it’s where all of the head office staff works. CRAN supports individuals in the Central, Western and Volta regions of Ghana, which covers pretty much the southern half of the country.
They provide scholarships to school children so they can remain in school, because here in Ghana it is the responsibility of the student and/or their families to cover fees for classes, uniforms and lunches. They also provide micro financial loans to business owners who need some assistance with getting their feet off the ground or their finances in line. They do a lot for the people in Ghana living in poverty, and their impact can be seen from the success stories on their website.
CRAN has one vision in mind: “Communities without poverty.”
Their vision is inspiring, and they got us started right away on the profiles that we’ll be writing. The teachers who work at the schools already interviewed the children, so a lot of what we’re doing is just pulling everything together, and making the stories appeal to a western audience, so that CRAN can achieve its fundraising goals. We also got started with working on their social media pages, so that we can try to spread the word on the organization’s fundraising campaigns to a global audience.
Hopefully during our time here, we’ll be able to meet some of the children that are in the program, and visit one of the villages in the Western region, which is about an hour away from Cape Coast. The Volta region is about 6-7 hours away, so while we don’t have time to visit there, I was told it’s a pretty interesting place to visit, and from the pictures I saw online, it looks absolutely gorgeous.
I’m starting to adjust more to life here in Cape Coast. Waking up in the morning at 7 a.m. doesn’t seem so crazy and unpredictable anymore, and I wasn’t as intimidated when we had to walk through town yesterday and today. I’ll be honest, the culture shock comes and goes, but it’s starting to ease itself with the more time I spend here.
Jasmine and I even walked back from CRAN to the bunkhouse on our own, and it was about a 20 minute walk through town. Everyone was impressed when we got back without difficulty, but we actually preferred it. It was interesting seeing everything during a busy point in the day, beyond the view of a bus or taxi window.
Yesterday, one of the guys we work with at CRAN asked us how we like it here, and I told him I’m enjoying myself so far. He asked if I had ever been to Ghana or Africa before, and I told him no.
“That must mean you are a Cape Coast girl, then,” he said before returning back to his desk.
While I’m not sure if I could ever get used to living here full time, I’m definitely starting to become more adjusted to it.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
— Gustave Flaubert
We got to see the beach in Cape Coast today. It’s definitely not like the touristy hot spots that I know and love from back in Florida.
Today we got our walking tour of Cape Coast, and a lot of what we saw reminded me of what we saw on the drive from Accra. Busy markets, lots of traffic and a lot of people.
The goal of today was to help us understand where we were so that we could find our way back to the Pro World bunkhouse after our projects every day. We can take taxis in the town, either a shared one with other people, or what’s called a “drop taxi,” or a private one that will take you to where you need to be. Drop taxis can be more expensive because you have to compensate for there not being other people in the cab to split the fare with.
As we were walking through the market, children would often smile and wave at us as we passed. One child actually walked up to me, grabbed my arm and kept saying “Obroni,” to me; which means foreigner in Fante, the local language. It’s a fairly common thing in the community, and I found it pretty adorable.
We walked through a market area so that I could buy a water bottle to take to my project site. The bottle cost me about 8.50 cedi, which is a little more than 4 U.S. dollars.
Ghanian currency. The bills are called cedis and the coins are called Pesewas. A U.S. dollar is worth about 2 cedis right now.
After our tour, we had lunch at a restaurant right by the castle. We’ll be getting a tour of it later in the week, and it used to be a prominent location during days of the African slave trade. The food at the restaurant was good, but I had to eat slowly because of the spices used. Don’t want to risk upsetting my stomach!
A lot of the food here is fairly spicy, and meals never really consist of what I would expect them to. This morning at breakfast, we had citrus and pancakes; but we also had avocados and some other vegetable along with it. I never considered avocado to be a breakfast food, but my friend Giselle would be very pleased!
We walked on the beach after lunch, and right away I noticed how different it is from the beaches back home in Florida. There was a lot of garbage that got dumped, even though there have been laws passed by parliament to arrest people who are found dumping trash. We also saw pigs all along the beach rummaging to through the trash.
Pigs? That isn’t something I would expect on the beach.
On the way back, our tour guide had us show her how to get back so that we would know our way. It’s a lot easier to remember something when you have to teach it to something else. We managed to find our way back when we worked together to remember the landmarks, which mostly consisted to certain plants and buildings, but it’ll be a few days before I completely remember how to do it all on my own.
Today’s a little bit of an early day because of our tour, so a lot of people are taking naps and relaxing in their rooms. A few people are also getting some dresses custom made in the market. In the market, we were all contemplating what kind of souvenirs we’re going to get before we leave. I was eyeing a few painted prints at a small shop by the Oasis restaurant, and some jewelry I saw at a shop by the bunk house. At least I have time to decide!
Mery and I picked up souvenirs during our impromptu stop in Savannah.
On the plane:
It’s always a good time and a bonding experience when your direct to JFK adds an emergency stop in Georgia.
Not even 45 minutes into the air and we’re making a stop in Savannah due to fumes coming out of the plane. I had my headphones in watching Finding Nemo, but I guess the smoke detector went off and I completely missed it.
At least it’s never boring.
My ears are popping. So far, no need for Dramamine or nausea pills. I’m really not worried by this, because at least this means that we’re killing some of our layover in JFK.
Hopefully it doesn’t kill all of our layover though. All I kept hearing was people saying “that’s never happened before!”
In the Savannah airport:
Our flight has been rescheduled for 6 is what I’ve been told, but the Delta staff said they’re trying get us going as soon as possible, but I’m not worried. Our flight to Accra doesn’t leave until 11 p.m., so from my perspective this just kills some of our layover.
Everyone’s hanging out at the gate, joking around just like we were in Tampa. Delta gave us complimentary snacks and drinks, and also some playing cards and coloring books too. We’re keeping the cards, but planning to donate the coloring books to the schools we’re working at.
A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is – full of surprises.
Isaac Bashevis Singer