Posted by Emily Block | 1 comments

Reflections

Before I get too far removed from my time in Ghana, I wanted to write a post about all of the random things that didn't fit in with my other posts.  Most of these are excerpts from my written journal and I'm not going to even try to fit everything together nicely.  Also, I just stopped by the photo lab and Brain Scannell, the ships photographer, gave me a bunch of pictures that he took from the home stay trip!  (All photo cred. to him for this post.)


Driving
One thing I didn't really talk about yet is the exhilarating experience of driving in Ghana.  Here's from my journal:
"I am a very easy going passenger, but even I was white-knuckling it at some points on our drive yesterday.  Most of the trip was on the highway which was a bumpy two lane road (with no divider of course).  There was constantly cars swerving into us coming head-on to dodge a slow, overweighted truck or a broken down car (there were many of those) or even person.  THe skilled bus driver navigated what to me seemed like a very difficult level of Mario CArt with the help of his horn.  I'm becoming quite interested in how people in different countries se their horn.  In Dominica, the drivers used the horn to greet drivers that they knew or to warn oncoming traffic of our presence on a blind curve.  In Brazil, the horn was mostly used as a rebuke for bad driving (though used more liberally than in the STates.)  In Ghana, the use of a horn seemed to be its own language and served many purposes.  The main use of several quick honks seemed to say, "coming through and I am bigger than you so MOVE!"  Our driver used this liberally when passing slow cars, as Tros-Tros (bus taxis) started to pull out in front of us. or when people were walking in the street.  We had one close call where I swore we were going to hit someone., but he leaped out of the way at the last second.  Then there was the "thank you" honk, the "hurry up" honk, and the "you almost killed us, you crazy dillhole!" honk.  Did I mention there were no seat-belts?  The driving was quite an adventure in itself, but there was still more to experience in Ghana."  Good times!


Cocoa
I may or not have had the experience of eating raw cocoa fruit.  Anyone in the know feel free to correct me if I am wrongly referring to this fruit as cocoa.  There was some confusion in translation, but I'm pretty sure what I ate was from a cocoa plant.  Anyway, as I was sitting watching the evening meal being made at the home stay, Sara brought me a strange looking fruit that she had picked from a tree by the river.  The fruit was slightly football shaped with ridges around the outside.  It fit nicely in an open palm to give an idea of the size and was yellow with a tint of green at each end.  The treat came from the inside of the fruit.  Sara expertly broke it in half and showed me the inside.  It was filled with neatly organized rows of coin sized seeds.  The seeds were coated in a slimy off-white substance.  I was surprised when Sara said it was cocoa and I should eat some of the seeds.  She showed me how to suck the slimy white stuff off of the seed and then spit the seed out.  The texture was frightening for sure, but I tried it and it was actually ok.  Not something I would seek out to eat, but I didn't gag or anything.  I was expecting it to taste like chocolate, but it tasted just like fruit.  Sweet and organic tasting.  On my second seed, I remembered that chocolate had caffeine in it and I couldn't remember if the cocoa plant would have high amounts of caffeine or not.  Not wanting to risk it, I only had a couple more seeds.  It was a short experience in terms of time, but pretty cool to (maybe) have tried the fruit that chocolate comes from.  


Warmth
  I managed to finally stay up late enough for a post-port reflection after Ghana!  A post-port reflection is basically a time where anyone can go to the union (the place where all the seating is for large gatherings and classes) and discuss what they did and how they felt about the previous port.  Much to my horror, we had to go around the room and say one word to describe our experience in Ghana.  I tend to dislike forced exercises like this where I always feel like I'm saying the wrong thing.  This time, I feel like I actually came up with one word that covered my experience fairly well.  The word was "warmth."  The easiest component of the warmth was the weather.  It was warm, or to take away any glossing over, it was way flipping hot.  So there's the easy part.  The more complex reason for me choosing that word came from my interaction with many different people while in the port.  In general, my fellow travelers are extremely warm people.  We look out for each other and have fun together.  We see, discuss, process, and experience so many new things with each other and help make each other's experiences a better one.
   The culture I experienced in Ghana was also one of warmth.  I could see the warmth in the family bonds at my home stay or in the support neighbors showed for each other.  One guide said that the political problems in Africa, particularly Ghana come from different places than those in the West.  He said that people in the West seek power for themselves.  They take from others so that they can have more.  In Ghana, if an individual were to find themselves in power or affluence, they would take money in the same way as a corrupt senator would, but they would be doing it to give to their family.  Families are so tight here that a successful person wants to not only give things to his or her immediate family, but to his or her grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins, and third cousins.  This guide said that it was done out of love, not selfishness.  We didn't really get into how this impacted the nature of power struggle and wealth divide in our two countries.  It was just a statement sent out to the world.  I cannot attest to whether or not this is true, I can only pass on what I guide told me and think about what it means.  
   The warmth I witnessed was not only shared between Ghanaians.  I saw it in how the guides, my home stay family, the students and professors at the University in Winneba, the sellers at the market all showed certain aspects of warmth.  Never before have I been to a place where such an emphasis was put on sharing a part of yourself.  Bargaining was in terms of ceti AND in terms of a token from a distant country, a handshake, a hug, a story.  I was taking something home from "The Ghanaian", and I made a point that they would be able to take something home from "The American."  When I went to the university excited to hear some of the faculty give talks, I was surprised and excited that the question asking went both ways.  It was the same in meeting the market queen or in talking with the fishermen.  It wasn't all a show, it was all an exchange.  Both sides left those experiences with a head full of new things to think about and the satisfaction of sharing a part of yourself with another person.  I think that is so often the goal of travel, and so rarely something people actually experience.  To me, this is warmth.  

Picture time!
  
About to receive my Ghanaian name and welcome gifts.


Dancing after the naming ceremony.


More dancing!

Group photo with the village elders and my little friend I snuck in for the pic.  (We are upper right.)


My two beautiful tour guides discovering my camera.


Out on the town!  

More dancing!  My home stay mom made sure I was dressed well for the occasion.  (Pants were a no-no so she let me borrow some cloth to fashion a skirt with.)

In the bat cave!  (I'm lower right.  And the sitting is actually a pose for the photo and definitely not because i just climbed up a ginourmous hill and am recuperating.  Totally just a pose.)


P.S.  Check out the SAS blog post featuring two of my friends!  http://blog.isevoyages.org/2012/02/15/deaf-student-shares-sas-experience/

1 comment:

  1. The seeds of the cocoa fruit are the chocolate. They don't have caffeine but chocolateine haha it is a variation. Have fun!

    ReplyDelete

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