Thursday, April 22, 2004

Hello from Ghana!

Hello all! Here goes my first journal entry. I think this is a modem connection and the keyboard is all messed up, so this might not be the prettiest little essay.

So let's see, how can I put this without making you all insanely jealous? Ghana is amazing. I have had a string of luck stemming from the fact that the people here are more kind and open and generous than any I have met anywhere. My office mates (Hi, Lotus!) very generously gave me a going away present of two nights at a very nice hotel in Accra, which I was very glad to have when I arrived late at night, tired and hot. Had a little problem with the people at the desk, who tried to kick me out at 10:30 at night, but got that resolved eventually (Thanks for your help, Kerry). However, the next morning the woman I had been sitting next to on the plane and made friends with, called me and invited me to the beach resort of Elmina. Well, since she was going with work to a UNDP AIDS workshop and had two extra spaces, this meant free transport, free lodging in the nicest hotel in Elmina, and several free meals. Not to mention the chance to hang out with a bunch of Ghanaians and learn all about the culture, the customs, the traditions, the surroundings, the language, etc. So I decided I should take advantage and have been in Elmina for the last two days. Yesterday I went to see the coastal castles (Cape Coast, St. George, St. Jago, and Fort William) where slaves were housed for export. It was as disturbing as the scenery was beautiful. And today was Kakum National Park, a tourist trap but an unavoidable one, in which you walk on little rope bridges suspended 30 meters above the forest. There's not a lot of wildlife visible here during the day, but it was a nice walk anyway.

But of course, most interesting are the little things I'm learning about being here. First of all, those of you who are scared of Africa, just quit it already. I (knock on wood) feel so safe here. People want to take care of you so much (in fact, my friends wanted to give me a cell phone today to call me EVERY HOUR to make sure I was ok). I told them I already have a mother in the US (no offense, mom). Everyone wants to talk to you and help you out and invite you into their homes. I'm not being indiscriminate, but I have met some wonderful people, including the director of the National Theater and a TV/movie actress. The bad side of this, however, is that I have not had one moment alone since I arrived. I tried to go to the beach and just look at the ocean, and I was descended upon by people selling stuff. It's hard to harden yourself against it, especially the little kids, but I'm learning to do it. Some kids are cute - they run up and touch my arm and then run away (I guess to see if my skin feels the same as theirs) or they wave at me and say hello until I return the greeting. But others really are all over you for donations or just shouting "cash" or "money" and barely letting you walk forward... so it's taking some getting used to.

Apart from that, some observations: the people are very hard working - just about everyone I've met has at least four jobs. The food is interesting... I haven't had fufu yet, sorry to disappoint. But I have eaten some extremely sketchy goat parts and my friend promised to make me a stew out of some blackened dried little fish after I pointed at it in the market and asked what it was. Now it's a "special treat" her mom will make for me... great. And it's very hot here. And humid. Not my favorite, but perhaps I'll get used to it. Going to be some lovely pictures someone can use to blackmail me someday.

Anyway, I guess the long and the short of it is that Ghana is a wonderful place, not at all scary, and more developed than I had expected, especially along the coast. I have, however, seen many people in traditional dress, including a few tribal chiefs this morning who came in to breakfast in full regalia. I would recommend anyone to visit here, without hesitation. There are some things that take getting used to, but having been adopted by these people has really helped me to learn some of them quickly. Well, I suppose I've rambled on, but hopefully that gives you a good first impression of how things are going. Given the speed of this computer, I think I may forego trying to upload pictures this time, but rest assured, it's beautiful here.
Tomorrow it's back to Accra, and from there to the Volta Region and over to Togo.


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