Saturday, February 28, 2015

Meeting with the Rotary Club of Accra-Achimota

          Last week I spent time with the Rotary Club of Accra-Achimota.  The Club definitely ranks in one of the livelier ones I’ve visited.  Their was laughter throughout the meeting, with some inside jokes which was clear to only some folks present.  Here’s a look at my time with the Rotary Club of Accra-Achimota.

When my professor introduced me to the Dean of my department last semester, we discussed my program, life in the US, and how I was adjusting to life in Ghana.  Our conversation quickly moved to Rotary and before I knew it, he was connecting me with one of his Rotarian friends.  Very soon, I had a chance to meet Dr. Achempong.  We discussed my visiting his Rotary Club and a few weeks later, I gave a presentation.

Beginning the presentation, February 19, 2015
          After Dr. Achempong picked me up at the Okponglo Taxi station on campus, we made the short drive to the hotel where the meeting was held.  We arrived early enough for me to work with the secretary to set up the projector for the presentation.  This was quite a relief because so often there are projector problems and not enough time to troubleshoot issues.  There were again, projector issues, but enough time to solve them.  At 6:30pm, the meeting room was still quite sparse and I wondered if there would be a large crowd.  By the start of the meeting at 7:00pm however, the room had filled considerably and the meeting was underway.  About 15 minutes into the meeting, I gave my presentation.

Sharing something here, February 19, 2015
          The club, like the Rotaract Club of Accra-East, was very attentive and interested in my experiences back home and in Ghana.  They were especially pleased to know I had tried Abolo on my first trip to the Volta region!  At the end of the meeting, I was presented with the Club banner and a gift—two lovely patterns of cloth—enough to have two dresses sewn!

Students from the Sociology department at the University of Ghana (Legon) at the meeting, February 19, 2015 
A closeup of the students, February 19, 2015
Presentation of the Club banner.  The Club member explained that the reason for the color of the piano keys (black and white) at the top of the banner symbolized opposites attracting, or inclusiveness.  In other words, regardless of people's differences, we all have something to contribute and must find ways to work together.  February 19, 2015

Receiving the club banner, February 19, 2015
          After the meeting, my host, Dr. Achempong, not wanting the Dean to give him a hard time about not feeding me, suggested we grab some dinner in the hotel restaurant.  We ordered salad and something I thought I’d never try—tuna pizza.  As gross as it may sound to some of you back home, it was extremely delicious!  Who knew such a major twist on pizza could be so yummy!  Listening to Dr. Achempong’s stories about living abroad, studying in the UK, and working in the US was informative and eye opening.  It made me remember how much fun Rotarians have.  After dinner, I was given a ride back to campus where I headed home for the night.

Each time I have the opportunity to visit a Rotary Club, I meet lovely people who are eager to learn about my homeland and experiences in Ghana.  It feels great to create cultural awareness and take a reflective look at the culture I am gaining from Rotarians.

This ends this week's post.  Next week, I'll discuss visiting Boti falls and a cocoa farm with a new friend!

Friday, February 20, 2015

My first Rotaract meeting with the Rotaract Club of Accra-East

     Of all the Rotary Clubs I’ve interacted with so far, the Rotaract Club of Accra-East has definitely been the liveliest.  Last week, this small, but exuberant club welcomed me with open arms, had a million questions for me after my presentation, and made me feel right at home.  Here’s a look at my time with the Rotaract Club of Accra-East.

Preparation for the meeting, February 10, 2015

          I first met the President of the Rotaract Club of Accra-East, Samuel Deho, at a presentation I gave last year to his parent club, the Rotary Club of Accra-East.  He introduced himself after the meeting, took my card, and promised to stay in touch.  He did just that and invited me out for a club meeting as early as I could attend.  Knowing that school work was accumulating in the first semester, I told him I’d prefer to come out ot the club in January when I would be refreshed fully ready to address the club.  He agreed and together, we set February 10th as the date for my presentation.

My presentation to the club, February 10, 2015
   The meeting was held at Barclays Bank Clubhouse.  I was familiar with the clubhouse as I had been there before to take part in a Rotary service project last year.  Shortly after I arrived, I met the past president, current president, and some of the other members.  The meeting was originally supposed to take place in a room without a projector; lucky for us, the Lions Club wasn’t meeting that day and we were able to snag the room with the projector, view of the tennis court, and lush leather couches.  

          After getting set up the meeting began.  Typically one of the first activities includes singing a couple of songs from the Rotary songbook.  I expected this.  What I didn’t expect was for the club to sing a special song for me!  President Deho urged the club members to make the song especially lively so I could get a real feel of how much fun they have—needless to say I was impressed!  There was clapping, singing, and lots of smiles.  

Laughing at a joke about something, February 10, 2015

          Everyone was extremely attentive during the meeting.  They were very interested in my experiences back home and abroad.  As with the clubs I’ve presented to, one member commented that I have been to more regions of the country than she herself had been to.  At the end of the meeting, I was presented with a lovely certificate of participation.

Receiving the club certificate, February 10, 2015
Hugs from a Rotaractor, February 15, 2015

        After the meeting, I was able to get some details on a service project to the Western Region, coming up next month.  This would be my first service project in an actual community so I am hoping I will be able to take part and lend a hand.

        I left the Barclays Bank Clubhouse that evening feeling so enriched.  This club was so lively, so fun, so warm, and so welcoming.  Perhaps because they are all around my age, I am able to relate to them in unique ways.  I’m looking forward to getting involved in their projects and getting to know more of their club members. 
Group photo!  February 15, 2015

****Music Segment****

The great side of Ghanaian music is that it's so rich and different.  The down side is that usually when I hear a song I love, I don't know what it's called so it's hard to search for it.  Fortunately, a friend plans to make a mixed CD for me next week with lots of local songs.  I hope to pull from it next week for the music segment.  Stay tuned!

****End of Music Segment****

This ends this weeks posting.  Next week, I'll discuss giving a presentation to the Rotary Club of Accra-Achimota!
They called this one a group selfie!  February 10, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Speaking at the Rotary Club of Accra-Dzorwulu


Last Wednesday I gave my fourth Rotary presentation to the Rotary Club of Accra-Dzorwulu.  Here’s a look at my interaction with the Rotary Club.

     I'm no stranger to the Rotary Club of Accra-Dzorwulu.  My professor, a member of the club, took me as his guest to one of the meetings last semester.  The president, Ms. Yvonne, also invited me to take part in a fundraising walk last year.  Needless to say I was happy to return to club, this time as the main speaker.

Wish I could remember what I was laugh-talking about here! February 2, 2015
There were some familiar faces as well as new ones.  This time around, I revamped my presentation to include a more extensive list of my hobbies and interests and activities I’ve taken part in while in the country.  The club seemed to enjoy hearing about the regions in Ghana I’ve visited.  So far, I’ve been to seven of the 10 regions: Greater Accra (which is where I live), Central, Eastern, Volta, Ashanti, Northern, and the Upper East.  There are interesting stories to share about my visits to all the regions, but for the sake of time, I gave an overview with photos from the regions and gave more detailed information on the Upper East and Coastal regions. 

An attentive crowd, February 2, 2015
The club members were attentive and showed great interest in my adventures at home and here in Ghana.  Some members were surprised at the amount of travel I’ve been able to experience and shared that they had not been to as many regions themselves.  They also had questions for me after my presentation about my views on Ghana, the people, and the culture.  The President Yvonne asked me if there was one thing I could change about the way people perceive Africans and Africa, what would it be.  I told her that several people back home watch news reports on regions of Africa that are biased and incorrect.  I went on to say that large stakeholders of many media outlets have certain viewpoints and agendas when supporting news stories, and those opinions and agendas often come out in reporting, whether they are accurate or not.  Therefore, folks back home (and all of us) should always consider the source of where we’re getting our information from about other cultures, and not just accept what we see on documentaries and reports.  Several of the club members nodded their heads in agreement.
After the meeting I was able to chat with the club members and pass out my business cards.  The members said they looked forward to getting me engaged with projects for the year.  All in all, it was another great time of fellowshipping with club members.

Presenting my sponsor club banner to President Yvonne, February 2, 2015
****Music Segment****

This week I’ll share a little on an old traditional genre of Ghanan music, known as Hi-life.For other uses, see Highlife.  Highlife was born in Ghana in the late 20th century.  Its roots are found in the Akan (a Ghanaian people) ethnic group and its popularity is known throughout West Africa.  Drums, guitars, and lots of singing is typical to the style.  I’ve been in Ghana long enough to identify Highlife music when I hear it.  Unfortunately, I don’t know what the artists are singing about unless one of the locals are near to translate for me!  However, I was able to find one song that is typically Highlife.  Not sure what they’re saying (let’s hope it’s nothing bad) but the music is wonderful to listen to.  Take a listen by clicking (or copying and pasting in your browser) the link below:

****End of Music Segment****

This ends this week’s blog post.  Next week, I’ll discuss giving my 5th presentation to my first Rotaract Club—the lively Rotaract Club of Accra-East!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Moving to East Legon

Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my home of six months at the student hostel and moved to a residential home in East Legon.  Since that time, I’ve gotten to know the family and was also invited to a christening ceremony.  Here’s a look at my move and a family celebration in Ghana.
 After all the noise and chaos that comes with a student hostel (dorm), I knew I had to act quickly if I was going to find a new place to live before second semester.  While making some calls about different places to live in East Legon, a colleague overheard my discussion and suggested she help me find a new place.  She said she used to live in a house in East Legon for four years, but moved out once her landlord became married.  After she took me to meet the husband, wife, and the dog, and to view the property, I got a good feeling about the place.  In addition, I was able to find someone to fill my room at the hostel.  Thankfulness filled me as I thought about the smooth transition.

Moving out of the hostel.  Hard to believe I've accumulated so much in six months, January 27, 2015 

          The room in the residential home is better in s ways.  There’s a generator that’s turned on every night when the city power doesn’t come on.  The generator allows time for everyone in the house to charge electronics, enjoy television, and eat dinner in the light before bedtime.  There are also not one, but two poly tanks.  If that weren’t enough, tree’s even a washing machine.  Apart from these essentials, one of the best parts of living in the home is the location.  The neighborhood is so peaceful and quiet during the day and throughout the night.  This especially means a lot now that I will be spending long, tiring evenings at the university.  

It's a girl, January 30, 2015
The start of the christening ceremony, January 30, 2015
The infant, January 30, 2015
The infant giving what looks like a thumbs up, January 30, 2015
Time to eat, January 30, 2015

A new snack I tried at the ceremony--fried groundnuts.  They were quite delicious.  January 30, 2015

My first event with the family included a christening ceremony for their six week old baby.  The sun poured down on the green lawn as people came to support the family.  Family and friends filled the house from eight in the morning till late in the evening.  The ceremony was spoken in one of the local languages.  Although I didn’t have a translator, I was able to follow along when the baby was bathed in water and the pastor, parents, and family members offered their blessings.  At one point, each person stood up, said something in the local language, everyone clapped, and then the person sat back down.  As my turn was drawing closer, I was trying to figure out what they were all saying.  Based on their mannerisms, I decided they were introducing themselves.  Sure enough, when my turn came, Ama (the wife), turned and asked me to introduce myself to the family.  I did so and told them I was glad to be a part of the ceremony on my third day living in the house!  Everyone laughed and clapped.  
The hostel provided a place to live for a season, but I have outgrown campus living.  The house in East Legon is in a wonderful location and is easily accessible to campus.
All said and done, I hope this room will serve me well for the remainder of my Rotary year.

Family, friends, and tenants of the house, January 30, 2015

****Music Segment****

The final song in the popular music portion of the music segment is “Chingam" (chewing gum) by Sarkodie.  Based on the translation I received from a taxi driver, Sarkodie is saying that in order to survive, people must be strong, resilient, flexible, and not easy to break—like chewing gum.  Chingam is therefore a metaphor for the strength it takes to thrive and be successful in the world.  To take a listen, simply click on the link below: 

****End of Music Segment****

This ends this blog post.  Next time, I'll discuss giving my fourth rotary presentation to the Rotary Club of Accra-Dzorwulu!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Weekend at Cape Coast

          Visiting Cape Coast several days ago was—as always—a refreshing and amazing treat.  This time was particularly special because I slept, ate, and made new friends right on the beach!  Here’s a look at my third Cape Coast adventure.    


           My plan two weekends ago was to head to Takoradi for a Festival.  My rerouted plans took me to Cape Coast instead, which is always a good time.  I headed out Friday morning on the Cape Coast road, enjoying a peaceful journey.  As far as the eye could see, blankets of leafy palm trees dotted the nearby hills and fields.  Make shift straw roofs provided shade for women who sold yams, tomatoes, plantains, and watermelons on the roadside.  Nothing but foggy radio stations, heat, and clear blue skies guided me along the road.

After a comfortable three hour ride, I made my way into the sleepy village town.  I began asking every other person I saw how to get to Oasis Beach Resort (pronounced ‘Oaahsis’ in Ghana).  The resort is a place I’d been trying to reserve a room at since last September.  After calling a couple different numbers, the front desk attendant informed me that someone cancelled their Friday night reservation.  I was more than happy to fill the spot!  

          Upon arriving, I checked in and took my book bag and snacks to an adorable room that was literally a stone's throw away from the beach.  Larger than the room at Kokrobite, the round hut was spacious, colorful, and modestly decorated.  After unpacking (which consisted of pulling out my beach hat and camera) I changed into my swimsuit and headed to the ocean.  The white waves crashed almost violently, bringing with them a soft, cool breeze.  The waves were moving too swiftly for a swim, but sitting in the sand was great for my skin.

My hut, January 23, 2015

Inside my hut, January 23, 2015

The view from my hut...Yowza!!  January 23, 2015

A little while later, I headed to the Boabab house for a light lunch.  Upon taking my seat at the 
outdoor space, I was surprised to see an all vegetarian menu.  Although I'm not a vegetarian, I decided to try some vegetable pizza and tea.  Let's just say, next time I'll just visit for the tea and   
   fresh juices!

Once I got back to the resort, I placed an order for dinner, then took a walk around.  The breeze from the beach, paired with the sun and a number of volunteers and backpackers made for a lazy afternoon.  Before I could even take a nap, it was time for dinner and Friday night activities.  For dinner I enjoyed steak, chips, garlic butter bread and vegetables.  All I can say is that it was delicious!  A few hours later, music and dancing followed.  Popular tunes flooded the resort and people seemed to come off the beach and from all over town to chat and dance.  The vibe was great and the people friendly.  All in all it was a wonderful time.

Fisherman on the beach, January 23, 2015
Closeup of the fisherman, January 23, 2015
Steak and chips...delicious!  January 23, 2015
The next morning, I awoke to the sounds of the waves gently rolling off the coast.  It was all I could do not to spend the whole morning resting in bed.  But after a while, I decided to have breakfast and then take a walk on the beach.  By the time my toes were in the sand, fisherman were already hard at work pulling nets out of the water.   Another day of perfect weather seemed to be at my fingertips—or so it seemed.  After checking out of the resort, heading back to Boabob for wifi and some delicious Moringa juice, I was back on the road again.  This time, it began to rain.  Although it’s rare that it rains in Ghana outside of the rainy season, it was a welcome break from the heat.  Everything was nice and cool after about 30 minutes of rain.

Breakfast of chocolate banana crepes...sensational!  January 23, 2015
Sweet puppies laying around the corner at the resort, so precious, January 23, 2015
Once I arrived back at the hostel, I had a chance to reflect on my day’s escape to Cape Coast.  The beautiful coastal city never lets me down; it’s always filled with warm people and beautiful weather.  There’s never a dull moment in the laid back town.

Guess who, January 23, 2015
****Music Segment****

Continuing with the popular music theme, “Odo Carpenter” is a song sung by Ghanaian artist Bisa Kdei.  Most of the song is sang in one of the local languages, so I’ve had to rely on the local people to translate for me.  Accoriding to my translators, Kdei sings about how hard life is for him working as a carpenter.  He says times are hard, and sometimes he wonders how he can go on.  Then he thinks of the person he loves (a woman who is wheel chair bound).  When he thinks of the love of his life, he knows that he can’t let her down and that he must ‘stick it out’ for her sake.  The link to the lovely song is pasted below.  Simply click on the link to listen:

****End of music segment****

This ends the posting of my adventures in Cape Coast.  Next week, I discuss making a move to East Legon and attending a Ghanaian Christening ceremony!