Thursday, November 27, 2014

Discovering some great finds in Osu

                                   HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE BACK HOME 
                                         AND TO ALL OF YOU AROUND THE WORLD!

When I first arrived in Ghana, everything felt so foreign; the places, the food, and the atmosphere.  Now that I’m beginning to learn my way around, I’ve been able to explore and see things through the eyes of an expat and a local.  Last week when I visited Osu, I didn’t know I would be in for a triple treat—finding a lovely shop that serves a great cause and finding a fun Mexican restaurant!  Here’s a look at what I did last week.
In my travel book, I had read about an organization called Global Mamas, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower local women by educating them with vocational skills for a better life.  I’d been wanting to visit the store for a while, so last Saturday I decided to take the time to pay them a visit.  On one of the local websites, I also discovered that they were having a huge sale on their clothing—so the choice was easy!  I had a little trouble locating the store when I got to Osu, but a friendly police officer asked his friend who asked his friend where the store was and before long, I had a personal escort to the shop!  The store was lovely with friendly Ghanaians and a woman who appeared to be an American.  The shop was nicely laid out with all of the discount clothes clearly marked.  I was tickled to death when I found really attractive pieces in my size.  I almost fell on the floor when I tried them on and they fit me perfectly.  While in the dressing room, a woman who had a Dutch sounding accent knocked on the door and said, “We’re waiting.”  I calmly said, “I have a lot of clothes to try on here but I’m dressing and undressing as fast as I can.”  She quickly said, “Okay!”  The store also featured Shea butters and natural soap, which I love.  I decided to purchase the attractive Rosemary-scented soap on my next visit.  I loved the shop and was thankful to have found it.  To learn more about the great work Global Mamas is doing, check out globalmamas.org.


Lovely clothing from Global Mamas, November 22, 2014
I'll wear this one next week, November 22, 2014
If the amazing shop wasn’t enough, as I walked out of the shop, I looked to my right and found a Mexican style restaurant!  I looked up to heaven and said, “Thank you, God!”  Inside, the restaurant was extremely clean with comfortable leather chairs and what appeared to be teak-wooden blinds.  The music was American which took away from the Mexican feel a bit, but overall, a gorgeous place.  Once I sat down to make my order, I looked at my phone and realized my friend, Addison had given me a call.  I quickly called her back and she told me she was in Osu down the street.  I told her to come have dinner with me and before long, we were laughing uncontrollably about stuff I don’t even remember.  When she came to the table she said, “Did you know Global Mama’s is having a crazy sale?”  I simply pointed to my huge brown shopping bag and we both laughed.”  The food at La Casa was muy delicioso (very delicious)!  I know I’ll be going back!


Out front of the Mexican restaurant, November, 22, 2014
Lovely inside, November 22, 2014

Beautiful Taco salad, November 22, 2014 
Unfortunately, the menu didn't describe the fire inside the salad, so I had to end up ordering something else.  When I asked the server if she could just take the spicy meat out, she said, "Please, without meat the salad won't be nice!"  Meat does make things tastier, November 22, 2014 
So I ended up getting this beautiful bacon-avocado burger.  First time I've seen avocado in months, November 22, 2014
I kid you not, this is the first cupcake I've seen with icing since I've been in the country.  The icing was clearly the best part!-November 22, 2014

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably keep saying it—it’s so important to find opportunities for relaxation and familiarity when one is so far away from home.  As I’m making this post on Thanksgiving day, I miss family and friends back home, but I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.  This experience in Ghana is certainly one among many.  I’m thankful for all of you who read my blog and support me with your kind messages and prayers.  Thanks for keeping up with me as I explore a foreign land!  Next week, I’ll share how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend in Region number 5-the Upper East Region!  Until then, be blessed!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Finding comforts of home

          Being so far away from home, it's nice to have some comforts around.  Although I brought as many things along with me in my suitcase as possible—comfy bedroom slippers, hair accessories, my favorite pajama set—it’s nice to walk in a store and see something familiar, such as imports from the US.  So last week, when I saw a familiar kitchen staple, I knew I had to have it.  Along with cooking some traditional American dishes, bit by bit, the transition is becoming easier.  Here’s a look at my experiences last week.
Since my time in Ghana, I’ve been surprised to see lots of brands from home.  Dark and Lovely, for example, has the monopoly on hair care products.  There’s also personal care products like Nivea facial, cereals like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and even restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken!  Being able to have these products available has been wonderful, however, the best product I have seen thus far was found at the shopping center a short distance from my hostel.  As I walked through the store the other week, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Auntie Jemima’s pancake mix!  I was the happiest person in the world when I saw that red box.  It was quite the splurge, but once I got home and made myself a pancake, it was the best comfort I’ve had thus far in this foreign land.  

Oh the joy!  The plastic bag is to protect the mix from getting spoiled by 'kitchen critters' (that's code for roaches. I can't seem to get rid of them) November 8, 2014
The delicious finished product with syrup.  I forgot to take a photo before I took a bite-couldn't resist!  November 8, 2014
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but finding food to eat is a serious challenge for me.  Most traditional eateries pack “Peppa” or spice on everything possible.  This includes Guinea Fowl, fried chicken, fried rice, okra stew, and so on.  They even have a stew called Pepper Stew!  And when I explain to servers that I want NO pepper whatsoever, they either stare at me or nod their heads in agreement and then end of bringing me a dish loaded with pepper that I can’t eat.  So, knowing I had a long day of classes before me, last week I took my time one morning and made myself a delicious omelet.  I filled it with spinach, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and cheese.  I had a piece of bread and juice along with it.  By the time I finished, I was quite satisfied.  That hearty breakfast took me all the way through lunch!

A well balanced diet.  Wish I could eat like this all the time, November 13, 2014
A tasty omelet with raisin bread.  Yum!  November 13, 2014
The finished product, November 14, 2014
Ghana presents weekly challenges for me, but through prayer, spending time with new friends, and quite a bit (a lot) of ingenuity, I am surviving and finding some comforts of home.  We’ll see what next week has in store!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Giving my third Rotary Presentation to the Rotary Club of Accra-East

         






 Last week was pretty low key as I continued to work away to finish the semester strong.  Between group assignments, papers, and the daily struggles of African life (transportation, the heat, indoor bugs and lizards, and water and power outages) sometimes I look around and wonder what to tackle next!  I did, however, have a chance to break away from studies last Thursday and give a Rotary presentation at the African Regent Hotel.  Here’s a look at my experience.
An American friend of mine had been asking to come along with me to a Rotary meeting for about a month.  I was glad when she was able to attend last Thursday’s meeting  Addison is FUNNY so she kept me grinning throughout the meeting.  This was my second time attending a Rotary meeting at the African Regent Hotel.  I enjoy going there because it’s sort of like being back in the States, except the hotel has a very African vibe.  There are African masks and artwork everywhere.  African crafts and pottery line the entrance.  Even the doormen are dressed in traditional African clothing!  It is always very clean, lively, and enjoyable.  There was actually a jazz band setting up when we arrived.  It would have been nice if we could have listened to some nice jazz music, but by the time the meeting was over it was quite close to my bedtime. 

Opening the presentation, November 6, 2014

Pointing out dear old South Carolina, November 6, 2014

I was probably talking about food here, November 6, 2014

Presenting Rotarian President, Alex, with my sponsor club's banner, November 6, 2014

The Rotary Club of Accra-East was well attended for their Thursday meeting.  After the main speaker discussed different levels of giving, I had my chance to present.  I always enjoy giving my Rotary presentation.  I never get tired of talking about landmarks, family, and friends back home!  Everyone was attentive and I also got a few laughs out of the crowd.  After I gave a presentation to the Rotary Club of Accra East, a group of Rotaractors immediately came up to me and thanked me for giving the presentation.  One of their members, James, gave me the meeting place and time of his Roteract Club and said he’d love for me to speak to his Club members.  I happily obliged and hope to be able to schedule a meeting with them soon.

Although life is quite busy and hectic right now, I’m always thankful to take a step back and engage in Rotary.  It’s a nice change of pace and a welcome one.  Next week, I’ll talk about adding some familiar staples to my kitchen!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Vacation to region number 4-the Volta region!

     
          Last week I visited region number 4 of Ghana—the Volta Region.  The trip provided a much needed break from the craziness of papers, projects, and group assignments.  (I was meeting with my group last Friday and had already spent much too long at the meeting.  I finally stood up and said, “Sorry guys, but I’m heading out of town today…I have to go.”)  On a bright Friday morning, I was itching to get out off campus!  Here’s a look at my adventures this past weekend.

     The Volta Region has captivated me for a few years now.  I originally wanted to do a service project with a non-profit in the region, not realizing just how far away it was from Legon.  So when I finally had the opportunity to travel there, I was very excited.  I had read in my travel book about Wli Falls, the tallest waterfall in West Africa.  Not wanting to treck or swim in the waterfall alone, I called on a friend and together we made the four hour trip—by bus—to Hohoe.
    
          The trip to the Volta Region was an adventure in itself.  My friend, Selasy had warned me that the road to Hohoe is in sore need of repair.  But of course I had to experience it for myself.  After about an hour of calm travel, the roller coaster ride began.  We must have hit a million potholes, and I don’t think that’ s an exaggeration.  We, along with the other 12 or so passengers were rolling around with our luggage like rag dolls.  There were moments when I was suspended in air from the jolt of a wheel caught in a pothole.  It was a bit annoying at the time, but looking back, it was kind of fun.  At one point we sat in a traffic que while we waited to be taken by Ferry to the other side of the city where we were traveling.  As soon as the bus came to a complete stop, squawkers raced to our bus to sell us food.  I had never seen squawkers so anxious to sell there wares.  My friend explained that selling snacks, loaves of bread, and other goods were these people’s main, if not only, means of income.  They had everything from lobsters to candy to meat pies to plastic bags filled with tiny fish that resembled sardines.  
          When we first stopped a passenger told me we would be there for about twenty minutes, so we took the opportunity to stretch our legs.  Little did we know we would be sitting in the que for two hours!  Although it was a long wait, it was a lot of fun.  I was in a city where I had never been, eating Abolo, completely submerged in the culture.  Riding on a dusty old bus, being stuck in a que, waiting for the ferry to take us to the other side while listening to the loud thud of African music at a nearby bar on a hot African night really made me feel like one of the locals!


Squawkers anxious to sell their wares (October, 31, 2014)


Lots of traffic on the way to Hohoe, October 31, 2014
My first time eating Abolo, A wheat-based snack made of flour, sugar, and probably a few other things, October 31, 2014


The Abolo was quite tasty, October 31, 2014


Waiting in the que to be taken by the ferry, October 31, 2014

Still waiting in the que.  Beautiful scenery, October 31, 2014
          One of the passengers got out to take a look around and never made it back to the bus.  We later discovered that he had walked so far away that he had forgotten which bus he was traveling in.  He found his ticket in his pocket and called the driver.  The driver explained that we had already left the que and he would have to meet him in Hohoe the next day to pick up his suitcase.  How unfortunate! 
          When we finally arrived in Hohoe, got a bite to eat, and made it to the hotel, I was more than happy to take a shower and go to bed.  As soon as I had laid down, I was fast asleep.  Because we had arrived late at night, I hadn’t been able to see much of the hotel.  The next morning, I awoke to serene quiet.  As I looked out the window, I saw a well manicured courtyard with green grass, colorful flowers, and a plush sitting area.  I couldn’t wait to get dressed and get something to eat.  For breakfast, I had a very large, crepe-style pancake.  Selasy had an egg salad sandwich.  Paired with two big cups of coffee, by the time I finished, I was well satisfied.  


Glad when we made it!  November 1, 2014


Lovely courtyard area, November 1, 2014

I've always appreciated a well manicured lawn, November 1, 2014


One of the guest rooms, November 1, 2014



Crepe-stype pancake.  It's no IHOP, but it wasn't bad...Oh, how I miss IHOP!! November 1, 2014


Egg salad sandwich, November 1, 2014
After breakfast we put on our swimsuits and headed straight for Wli Falls.  The tourist center was an easy 10 minute walk from the hotel.  The walk itself was special because Wli Falls is tucked away behind a community, therefore, we got a chance to interact with the local people.  Folks stared at us as we walked by (I’m sure with my camera it was obvious that we were tourists).  They shouted good morning to us as we made our way to the visitor’s center.  Our tour guide, Matthew, asked if we wanted to take the calm 45 minute walk, the hiker’s journey, or the 5+ hour trek.  I quickly said, “45 minutes, please.”  As we made our way through the foliage I was in awe of the absolute beauty before us.  Butterflies literally lined our path.  Bananas, cocoa plants, and pineapple plants were everywhere.  The sun was bright in the sky, but because of all the trees, the walk to the Falls was easy, comfortable, and enjoyable.  We crossed over seven bridges.  Matthew was very patient as I stopped every few feet to take a photo of an intricate spider web or a parasitic tree.  


Cute little house made by the locals.  Impressive how they use natural resources to survive, November 1, 2014



Visitor's center, November 1, 2014

Path to Wli Falls!  November 1, 2014
A banana plant. the hanging object produces some sort of flower.  I never knew, November 1, 2014

Lovely spider's web, November 1, 2014

A cocoa plant.  Too bad it wasn't ripe, November 1, 2014

Beautiful pineapple plant, November 1, 2014


Selsasy and I posing beside the pineapple plant, November 1, 2014
One of the seven bridges we crossed to get to the Falls, November 1, 2014 
A parasitic tree.  Matthew explained that the parasite will eventually wrap all the way around the tree and suck all the nutrients out of it, causing it to die.  Then there will be a big whole in the middle of the parasite.  Sad, but fascinating, November 1, 2014
Lovely puddle crossing on the way to the Falls.  Yes, that's my foot!  November 1, 2014

In "The Bush," can't remember what we were laughing about, November 1, 2014
Selasy trying to touch the sky, November 1, 2014
I was terribly excited when we made it to the Falls.  I couldn’t wait to jump into the rushing water and swim!  Visiting the Falls was one of the goals I had set for myself for my time in Africa.  It always feels good when your goals become a reality.  The rushing water was extremely cold!  One girl had gone almost completely under the water.  All that could be seen was her head.  I wanted to do the same, but Selasy objected—I think he was afraid I might not come back!  The tour guide got some great pictures of us.  I was surprised at his skill with the camera.  He had clearly done this before!
       
Wli Falls, November 1, 2014
Fun!  November 1, 2014
Posing for the camera, November 1, 2014
          The mist and sound of the rushing water off of the Falls was so relaxing, I wished we could have stayed longer.  It took us about an hour to get there, but it seemed to take less time to get back.  On our way going and coming, we encountered what appeared to be foreign exchange students.  Everyone was nice and just happy to be a part of nature, if only for a few hours.  As we were about to leave, a man stopped us and gave the tour guide a bag of apples I had left on the bench.  I was so glad he returned them to us because Selasy and I were very hungry!

Posing for the camera, November 1, 2014
On a dirt road in Africa, November 1, 2014
Here I am one more time, with a new hairdo, thanks to the Falls, November 1, 2014
          Once we arrived back to the visitor’s center, I was able to get some beautiful beads as a keepsake and a couple of postcards for my mom.  We said goodbye to Matthew and made our way back to the hotel.  That night, we stumbled across a woman who was grilling beautiful tilapia.  When I tasted it, I was very glad that she had listened to Selasy and didn’t put any “Pepa” (pepper) on it. Because she didn't, I was able to really enjoy it since my tolerance for spice is 0!  We were both tired from a long day, so we didn’t stay out very long.  I had every intention of going dancing that night in Hohoe, but I didn’t realize how exhausted I actually was!

Back at the gift and crafts shops.  Why am I the only one smiling?  November 1, 2014

Beautiful tree in the community.  Selasy explained that the fruit act as gourds.  When they fall off the tree, the juice inside dries up.  Then people cut them in half and use them for bowls, saucers, or whatever else they need.  Very clever!  November 1, 2014

Tasty!  November 1, 2014

YES!  November 1, 2014
          The next morning, we had some breakfast at the hotel, grabbed some snacks from street side vendors, and began to make our way home.  Because we traveled during the day this time, I was able to get a good look at the landscape.  The Volta Region is a lovely, green, place.  As soon as we crossed over to the region when we had first arrived, I could tell a difference in the air; it was very clean thanks to all of the foliage.  

Ferry crossing on the road back home, November 2, 2014

I was terribly happy for the much needed break and vacation to the Volta region.  Now I've been to four regions and have six to go!  I can’t wait to see where my journey will lead next.  But for now, I’ll keep my head in the books, as there’s only about a month of classes left, revision week, and then exams!  Next week, I’ll share my experience giving my third Rotary presentation the Rotary club of Accra-East!