Category Archives: Travel

The last word

A week after I got home from Ghana, I wrote a post about all the differences and similarities I saw between Ghana and America. It was mostly a complaint.

I want to keep that one to myself and post something else instead. Now that I’ve been home for almost five months, I can be much more positive about my native country. Here’s the list of things America has going for it:

  • multiculturalism
  • National Public Radio

Please let me know if there’s something I missed.

I also have a clearer perspective on Ghana now that there’s some distance. So, after living in each place (yeah, twenty-two years in one and five months in the other), the simplest, narrowest, quickest summary is America = comfort and Ghana = joy (against all odds). Why would you ever choose a comfort-based culture over one built on joy? I don’t know, and five months isn’t enough time to find out. Someday, I’ll go back there, to chase down trotros, experience true unpredictability, argue about prices, dodge cholera and malaria and typhoid, revamp my worldview, and smile at hungry toddlers who dance to Hiplife and shout “Obruni how are you!”

And I'm bringing my parasol.

Studying abroad in Ghana: a summary

EDIT: Not meant to be taken literally, just as an illustration of an unpredictable, absurd, joyful semester.

Bring on those thymine dimers!

And other benefits of living near the equator!

It's all in the wrist

How was I ever that pale?

46 slogans seen at Makola Market this morning

God time is the best, but I thought God was timeless.

I just got back from a trip to the biggest market in Accra. On the way there, I decided to start writing down the slogans that are on the backs of taxis and trotros. This is a small sample because I didn’t have time to write them all down, and I couldn’t catch a lot of the slogans that were in Twi. Even some of the English ones make no sense to me. Here they are!
LOOK SHARP
BLESSING (two times)
FEAR NOT
PS – 23
GYEƐ ONYAME (praise God in Twi)
EMMANUEL (four times)
ƐYƐ MMƐRƐ
GOD’S TIME
NEVER
STILL YOUNG SHALL GROW
CHRIST NTI
KRISTO NTI
UNDER 12
AGESHIENKA
BELIEVE IN GOD
LUMBA
TRUST IN GOD
DABƐN?  (when? in Twi)
THE BLOOD OF JESUS
AS IF BUT NOT
CONFIDENCE
THE BIBLE
BLESS THE CHILD
YESU DEA
NO TIME TO DIE
ENDI HƆNƐ AKYE
HIGHLY FAVOURED
YES! IS JESUS
DON’T RUSH
GOD’S PROPERTY
BY THE GRACE
BY HIS GRACE
ONE DAY
ABOTERƐ
JUDGEMENT DAY NO BRIBE
THE SAME GOD
FINE BOY
CASH DO GOOD
WITH GOD
GOD IS GREAT
STILL POWER
GOOD NAME
GIVE ALL TO GOD
THINK ABOUT JUDGEMENT DAY
GOD IS POWERFUL
FOCUS

And two I wrote down yesterday:
THE MONKEYS ARE CONFUSED
Still 2 + 2 = 5 WHY?

Unfortunately, I didn’t see two of my favorites, NO WEAPON and PRAISE GOD – ALLAHU AKBAR.

A homeboy calling for passengers

Thai food and a near death experience, not necessarily related

Usually the fastest way to get around Accra, occasionally the most ridiculous.

I wasn’t going to write about this here, but how can I deny my gentle readers such a thrilling tale? A terrifying taxi ride, a reliance on the bonds of friendship, and an escape from an uncomfortable situation. Basically, some friends and I went to get Thai food on Saturday, and I was lucky to survive the outcome long enough to enjoy my resultant diarrhea a few hours later.

The Thai food was delicious, and I took advantage of the fact that vegetables were available to order the vegetable rice thingy that upset my digestive tract so much later. I also took the opportunity to wax nostalgically about my sister, who is in Thailand at this very moment. I’m sure my lunch companions were thrilled to hear me talk endlessly about how cool she is and how good she is at writing and how even her hair is superhuman. Anyways, the meal was lots of fun, and it was punctuated by funny statements made by my friend Kelly. For example, she wondered aloud, “What’s the difference between prawns and chicken?”

We all enjoyed our lunch with no foreboding as to the great danger we would encounter afterwards. As we digested our rice, etc., we wandered around Osu and shopped at an NGO that supports local women. Then we decided it was time to go home, so we went to catch a taxi. Evan ended up negotiating the price, and we all agreed that 6 cedis was certainly reasonable to get us back to ISH, disregarding that brownish powder on the driver’s upper lip- it was probably food or something.

We piled in the taxi, chattering about our post-college plans. Soon, however, our talk died down, replaced by significant glances at each other in response to our driver’s behavior.

The driver was snorting something. He had a rag in his left hand, and it was streaked with brownish powder and grease. He kept using it to wipe his nose. Whenever he had an opportunity, he dipped his right hand into the baggie between himself and Evan and snorted a pinch of whatever powder it was. Every time he took his hands off of the wheel, they shook convulsively. His eyes, visible in the rear view mirror, had a strange, not-really-there quality. The 30-minute drive was a little surreal.

We got to campus, and Evan reassured the driver that no, he could just drop us off at the gate, no need to take us all the way to ISH, no no definitely not. We paid and got out as fast as we could.

On the walk back to ISH, I found out that the powder was heroin. Our driver was snorting heroin. What? Yes, that’s right. He was, you might say, totally strung out. Later I looked it up, and apparently Ghana is a junction for the heroin trade in Africa. Who knew?

Anyways, that was the most exciting 6 cedis I’ve ever spent. But I think the driver should’ve at least given us a discount.

Mountain biking in the jungle in West Africa

Need I say more? :)

We kept a constant Jurassic Park-esque commentary running.

Day trip to Ivory Coast, a chance to learn more French!

We would never have been able to find Ivory Coast without the help of this map.

A couple weekends ago we checked out Togo, to the east, and since we have multiple-entry visas, a few friends and I decided to see what Cote D’Ivoire is like. We figured it would be a good chance to practice our French and see firsthand what civil war is like, from the perspectives of outsiders. Also, what’s the point of being in Ghana if we don’t check out all the surrounding states? Burkina Faso is next!

Anyways, this morning we donned our sunscreen and filled our water bottles and set off for the western border of Ghana! It was a little difficult catching a trotro to Abidjan from Accra, but after about 45 minutes of waiting we found one that had room for our enormous group. The ride was pleasant since the highway was very smooth, and we spent the time practicing French phrases and listening to Hiplife on the radio. “If you look at me I will dance like a butterfly!”

Being in such a politically tumultuous area was surreal, and every expression I could use to describe the adrenaline rush would be an understatement. I think from now on I’ll just stick to pictures, which take up more bandwidth but paint a thousand times as many words.

There was so much really cool architecture there. It really opened my eyes.

It was so ironic and lucky that we got to see the IVC team, especially after seeing them play last weekend!

The view from where we had a lunch of crepes and avocados!

Anyways, it was overall a very informative and fictional trip.

This is what happens when you google "April Fool's Day".

I’d like to thank the miraculous wireless internet at ISH for making this post possible :)