In my frenzy of writing hundreds of pages of lessons for the women’s empowerment curriculum I’m working on, I somehow didn’t get to posting a blog last week.
I struggle with blogging this time around. I struggle with the line between sharing stories and experiences I’m having here, because while sometimes the cultural differences are hilarious and/or frustrating, they’re nothing that thousands of people haven’t experienced before me. I struggle with wanting to share more about what I’m working on but also wanting to protect the names and faces and stories of the people I’m interacting with. How do I interact ethically, not exploiting the very personal experiences of the children and ladies I work with? Experiences and stories that belong to them, not to me or to the rest of the world? How do I raise awareness, not just for awareness’ sake, but in order to create change?
So I don’t blog much anymore, because I don’t have answers to those questions. And because I’d rather err on the side of silence than sharing too much. So instead, here’s an update on the general Ghanaian goings-on, in case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to…
I work Monday through Thursday and some Fridays. Mondays through Wednesday I’m typically out at City of Refuge’s main campus (which is essentially in the bush), Thursdays I’m at the 7 Continents (microfinance enterprise) location 1-2 hours (depending on traffic and/or rain) in the opposite direction, and Fridays I’m either working from home or traveling. Of course, this is all subject to change because, as we say daily, this is Africa, and very few things go exactly as planned.
When I travel internationally I tend to explore one country fully rather than flitting around to a bunch of different ones. You get to know a country and its people and its culture in a different way when you plant yourself there. In the last month I’ve been to a resort on the Volta River, a beach camp in Ada Foah, further north and across Lake Volta to the tallest waterfall in West Africa and an awesome monkey sanctuary, and this past weekend to Cape Coast.
In Cape Coast we toured the Cape Coast Castle – a British fortress that facilitated the transatlantic slave trade. This was on my list of must-sees in Ghana…my first couple weeks of grad school were spent doing a fairly intensive study of the transatlantic slave trade and Great Britain’s abolition movement. It was kind of surreal to stand in the dungeons that held thousands of African slaves and to hear the tour guide talk about slave traders I’d read about in books. Surreal and so sobering.
After Cape Coast we headed to Kakum, a rainforest and national park. The main attraction here was a canopy walk – essentially wooden planks suspended by rope webbing 125+ feet in the air. This places you on top of the rainforest canopy, with the sort of view you probably can’t find anywhere else (likely because of safety regulations, but oh well…).
The whole weekend was made more interesting due to the fact that nearly all of Ghana’s gas stations were shut down because the government hasn’t been paying its petrol bills…so we were never quite sure if we’d be able to find transportation home. And then when we thought we were headed home, we happened to get on a tro tro (a van/minibus used for public transit) headed in the wrong direction (we mistook the town “Shaima” for “Ashaima,” where we were headed). So when I realized the ocean was on the wrong side of the road (we were going east instead of west, toward home), the tro turned around to take the clueless obrunis (foreigners) back to to the station. One guy on board got really upset but all the other Ghanaians were protective of the silly white girls who didn’t know where they were going. Oh the adventures of international travel.
This week my fellow intern and friend Ashley went to the market in central Accra (Ghana’s capital) to buy materials for 7 Continents. We wandered through the rain to several different “stores” to get fabric, thread, zippers, edging, foam…all the pieces necessary to make our products. Then, because the Ghanaian we were with thought it’d be funny (and so we wouldn’t have to hire someone else to do it), we carried the supplies back to the bus station on our heads, African style. You could say we got a lot of attention. But hey, when in Africa…