akropong & the odwira festival

well, these pictures are chronologically backwards. week before last we were gone up to akropong to attend the odwira festival. we stayed at the akrofi christaller institute once again, and their staff held sessions with us where we learned all about the history and rituals in the odwira festival. basically, odwira is a cleansing festival which culminates with the start of the new year, according to the traditional calendar. we spent many hours just sitting in the palace waiting for events to begin, some of which included traditional dancing (in which each dance move carried a message or meaning), a processional of offerings carried to the ancestors in the mausoleum, a parade of chiefs, many different libations, and a goat sacrifice. the photo above is from the last day of the trip, when we went hiking in shai hills.

great view from the summit of our hike

creepy-crawly wildlife...

this area has many baboons, and the were not shy- they came right up to us and picked at all our banana peelings

some of our group walking through akropong to dinner
(dont worry, that hand-holding is entirely *agape*)

especially towards the end of the week, the small town of akropong was alive with the celebration. a few nights some of us walked around to talk with people and check out the revelry. i cannot describe how much alcohol was brought into town for the festival. interestingly enough, the people out and about, dancing in the streets were nearly all men. i counted less than 10 women. so, on the main "party" night we agreed it would be best not to go walking around- we didnt want to tempt disaster. i did appreciate having the akrofi staff there to walk us through all the aspects of the festival- i comprehend much more now than i ever would just as an observer.

today we had a class canceled so al our classes were done by lunch. arent those great days? with my free time i explored the library. i absolutely love libraries, and i checked out some things (as if i needed more to read), but i had a hard time spotting any books which looked more recent than the 1970's. so that made me kind of sad. yet another privilege i am accustomed to...
i know when i get back to calvin The campus will seem SO OVERWHELMINGLY WHITE!

strange similarities

i try and go running here twice a week. nothing strenuous, and only if i feel like it. its a new approach for me. i love running and i dont want to leave it out of my life, but for the last part of the summer i was really burnt out on it.


i got off the road and onto one of the numerous dirt paths leading out of campus, and guess what surrounded me as i surveyed the beautiful sunset? jungle. and telephone poles. jungle of the more authentic, african variety.

its funny how some themes just keep returning to me.

ill try and get you some pictures of it.


the effort of positivity

along with my new attitude policy, i've begun a practice adopted from one of my favorite bloggers, ginny branch

write down things you love, things that make you happy, things you're grateful for, small things, large things. keep them somewhere where you can see them every day and share them with others.

here are some of mine:

*i'm enjoying early evening breezes and slanting warm sunshine

*i love having yogurt and fruit for breakfast

*i get to see my family and friends in a few weeks

*i can do yoga in my room with friends

*i received an email from a long-lost friend

*i'm learning more about myself, pushing my limits, discovering tiny things i never thought i'd miss

*i'm honing my creativity by finding little ways to keep myself sane

*it completely baffles people when they see me knitting, and it makes me smile inside

ginny branch's inspiring blog is my favorite color is shiny.
other blogs which keep me going are wish jar and a new blog about the creative process behind the making of the movie "the wild things are". it's called we love you so.


a random one

these are all old and scattered. this is ben and rachel with their lattes at maxmart, a couple of weeks ago. maxmart is sort of a department store/grocery store, with a coffee shop. i had a double shot of espresso, which was delightful.

snails at the madina market. we go to madina once every week, week and a half, or so to get vegetables and spices- its much cheaper than shopping on campus.

we saw a football match a few weekends ago, ghana's black stars versus sudan. ghana won, of course, 2-0. i hope to go again!

here's our group, eating in the night market. there's not many choices by our first-world standards, but the food is always good and the place is hoppin after dark. it gets dark consistently between 6 and 6:30 pm, every day. did i mention that? i'm finally getting used to it.

i'm still overwhelmed with paper writing and events i need to attend (i say this as i'm actively avoiding homework). i still miss my friends, especially those who are difficult to keep up with. receiving emails and facebook messages revives me from time to time. also, i receive a big morale boost when our group bands together to do something, like last night. we went to a bar called champs for friday night karaoke, and good times were had all around. we relaxed, we sang (i got to sing! something i've missed immensely, being away from choir), we danced, and made new friends. i'm sure we'll go back.

i've instituted a new policy for myself, for my attitude. it's called
"suck it up and stop complaining and push through it. be a good friend, be selfless, get the papers written and be done with it. be aware of your surroundings and spend your time well. make it to december, and remember this may be the only chance you'll ever have to be here."

i hope the policy sticks. i'll make it work.


canopy walk and fante festival

sorry these photos are all mixed- blame blogger. not much to say, besides the view way high up in the air at kakum national park was spectacular, and i wish the canopy walk could have lasted longer; at the festival we remained wide-eyed for over an hour as group after group, chief after chief after queen mother after drummer after dancer walked past. it was very fun and entertaining. these are the reasons people love this semester- the excursions, not the classes in between.

slave castle post

a few weekends ago we visited two slave castles in cape coast. the photos above are from elmina castle, the most famous one, and the photos below are from cape coast castle. we learned about the different hands the castles passed through and the conditions of castle life during their active periods. most striking i think was standing in the dungeons, seeing the tiny window that was the only light and ventilation source, and trying to imagine being crammed in with 300 other people, standing 3 feet deep in refuse. in elmina in the womens quarters the room still stank because the stone has absorbed the horrible smell f the suffering and it still lingers today. we saw where the governor would stand on his balcony and select a slave woman who was made to climb a staircase and bed with him in his expansive, airy chambers. interestingly, the ghanaians we have spoken to do not dwell on slavery, preferring to leave it in the past, and they believe whites are not all to blame.we have learned of some notorious african slave lords who made a living transporting their countrymen to coastal traders. the strong contrast between the picturesque tropical surroundings and the horrible history of the castles has left a lingering impression on all of us.


more! more! okay, enough, enough

the boys using their mad drumming skills

we enjoy it

rachel with her birthday cake


unless i have unforeseen free time on monday, i probably wont be posting for awhile...like a week and a half. but we'll see. have a good weekend!

ok, these are old. but im workin on it

2 weekends ago (2? no, i think 3) on our way back from akropong we went hiking and saw boti falls. the hike was pretty hard-core (yes, i did just use "hard-core") and strenuous- at times we were simply climbing up rock- but it was certainly rewarding. atop a huge rock we gaped at the gorgeous panoramic view of the forest. these measly photos do not do it justice.

ben enjoyed dangling his feet over the edge

a small farming village we stopped to see

vivid color photo of boti falls. dunno why blogger underlined that...


it's a peaceful weekend. yesterday 2 people went to a funeral and 6 of us went to a store called maxmart. it had a coffee shop, so i had a double espresso, which was delicious, and we chilled for a bit and did homework. we later found out the funeral lasted 8 hours. yep. glad i was on the good side of that decision. i like the selection of groceries at maxmart, and enjoyed greek yogurt with cinnamon fresh pineapple in it for breakfast this morning.
today was working out and laundry. i still havent returned to homework...yep. it's hot here today. AFRICA hot. who would have guessed?


and more...

these are from a former Danish (?) slave plantation we visited in the Ga district a few weeks back. we were each obliged by the locals to buy 1 expensive postcard.

blogger uploaded these out of order! this is from our visit to the pool in the shangri-la hotel (which was quite westerner-oriented and ostentatiously outfitted) on the weekend before ou classes began. of course, the one day we went it was cloudy, cool weather.

these are the chief and right-hand elder of the village performing the libation ceremony before we were allowed to go up and see the plantation. libation is a ceremony which involves the pouring of schnapps as a outward sign of prayer to the ancestors.

countryside in the Ga district

hello again at last

some babies in the Ga district. the children here are all incredibly adorable. in fact, last week in Cape Coast I made eye contact with a girl, maybe 8 years old, and the next thing i knew she had her hand in mine. she was pretty quiet; we talked a bit but mostly she just patted my hand and rubbed my arm, and walked me 10 minutes to the bus, where i had to say goodbye. i wont lie, it was hard, but the experience made my day. the feel of a child's hand in yours, especially across so many cultural boundaries, is a very special thing.
me, happy to be at the beach, on the other side of the atlantic!

most of the shoreline is rocks, and in places no land at all. ghanaians dont "go to the beach" like westerners do, so for us to beach here, we have to drive somewhere made specifically for that purpose, which we got to do last weekend (that's coming later)

2 weekends ago we journeyed out to a friendly, westerner-oriented part of accra called "osu" and ate at this restaurant called frankie's. i ordered this salad, which was ridiculously overpriced but i've been in serious salad withdrawals. even still, i'll probably not pay for another one while i'm here. more to look forward to in december! ill admit ive already been making a list of things i did not think i would miss that i do, and things i want to do and eat!

when we were trying to leave osu, all the trotros were full or not going our way. we had almost resorted to taking taxis when this empty trotro drove up, headed to legon (where the university is), so we all piled in, filling up the whole bus! they made good money off our load of obrunis (which is what many of the locals call white people. we hear this term A LOT).

i splurged on some granola from the shoprite (western-style grocery store) in the accra mall.

palm trees from the botanical gardens.


I'm resolved to make the best of my time here, but that doesn't mean I have to relish all my classes! I truly value my experiences outside the classroom- that's where the true learning is. and I already knew that--somehow I thought things would be different here, I don't know why. this weekend is packed with a funeral, a trip to maxmart, church, and ever-looming papers and readings. some people also have gone to the movies tonight (yes, the movies! but i hear they're frightfully expensive) but I've elected to stay here and write to you... thank goodness we have only 1 day of class next week before leaving for the homowo festival in akropong. this break couldn't come soon enough for me! this group of people here is quality, and I also look forward to the life story night we're planning for next week. after having a lovely dinner with kids from trent university on monday, 5 of our group were horribly sick for about 2 days. being here, everyone is likely to get food poisoning or a stomach bug from something or another...we were told it's practically nevitable, but certainly not welcome, so please keep us in your prayers.