I am currently back home in the states. It has been an adjustment back into the american culture. I remember hissing at people in the US airport to get their attention. People in Ghana hiss to get other’s attention. I will truly miss being in Ghana. I will definitely miss getting marriage proposals everyday. While on my way to the airport, i thought i wouldn’t recieve any more marriage proposals but I thought wrong. While going through immigration, the man asked me for my number. Also, while going through security twice with two different men. I got another one from the man that was putting the luggage on the plane. I was actually sad when i didn’t get marriage proposals on the plane. I wonder what would have happened if I would have said yes to any of these men.
I am happy to be back in the states but I plan to go back in December. I know it is sooo soon. But I loved it soooo much. It is so full of culture. It was totally different from america. From people carrying things on their heads, selling food on the street, the markets, women carrying babies on their backs, the language, everything. I feel like Ghana is my second home!
As my friend and I sat it the car last night wait for our other friends to meet us so we could leave, a truck of about 5 men pull up. They are all wearing camouflage and had huge rifles in their hands. The man with a flashlight was the 1st to approach the car. He shined the light in my face and instructed me to open the door with his rifle. I did and the man started speaking to me in Twi. Scared, I just starred at the man absentmindedly and thus he brought the flashlight closer to my face and seemed to get angry. My friend then started speaking to him in Twi. I still am unsure of what they said because my friend did not tell me. I assume they just wanted us to move the car because my friend simply started the car and parked it someplace else after the men walked away. I believe they thought we were smoking weed. We were at a beach house party where people were buying, selling, and smoking weed freely. It was reggae night, which I extremely loved. All the females there looked like American girls. I was so surprised. During the day, all the women I see dress in African fabrics and wear conservative clothing. Tonight, these women appeared to be just like all the women I encounter in the states, long weave, short dresses, and no cares in the world! My night was such a blast! Did I forget to mention that I am allowed to drink even though I am only 18. I decided to buy a drink just because I could. I am still afraid of the police though. They look like soldiers whom are ready to fight any time of the day.
This past weekend I visited the Volta region in eastern Ghana. Among viewing a waterfall, a dam (the way they get electricity), and how Ghanaians make beads by hand, I got to climb the tallest mountain in Ghana. The funny thing was that right beside us was an even taller mountain but it was in Togo, Ghana’s eastern neighbor. This one-day trip was amazing. The only thing that scared me was that in the neighborhood, there was fighting between two religious groups. Thus we had a curfew of 6pm sharp and could not leave until 6am sharp. This fighting between the two groups started after the exhumation of the body of a chief Imam of the Muslim community by Asafo companies of the Gbi Traditional Area. A few days before we arrived, there were riots and cars being set ablaze. As my group crept into town around 6:30pm, it seemed like a ghost town besides the few police officers that were about. Just thankfully, there were no riots when we were in town. I read of the many civilians being killed. I am thankful that I was one that did not have to encounter such terror. I am shocked to know how Ghanaians call everyone their brother and sister but yet these same brothers and sisters are fighting. I simply hope there can be a settlement of the dispute. Maybe these two groups can conquer the “mountain” that divides them, just as I did this weekend.
I slip off my shoes and place my bare feet on the hard ground. The leaves under my feet crinkled. I was told that this was how slaves knew if a place was safe or not; they would look at a certain plant to know if someone was there recently. It would close when stepped on but open back up later. I feel the pain of the sharp twigs pierce the bottom of my feet. I cringe with pain because of the objects being stuck in my bare feet. I walk to a river only 15 minutes away. A place where slaves were marched hundreds of miles to take their last bath. This place was simply a river. I walk to the where the water meets the grass. As I look into the muddy water, that the surrounding community calls “dirty” I see an unclear reflection of myself. A feeling of pain penetrates me as I think of the rough scrubbing of the leaves against the slaves’ bodies. I think of who I consider myself to be as my tour guide tells us of how slaves were taken around a tree 7 times so they forget where they came from and their identity. Their capturers wanted them to forget their identity; however, my identity is the reason I am here in Ghana. I remember a quote I saw on the walk of a dungeon I visited: “Without a history there is no future and without a root, it is difficult to know who you are.” I must figure out what people or events built the foundation for me to exist and where it started, so I can better understand the path that I am meant to follow in life.
I’m not sure if you heard, but there’s a revolution going on in Africa. Not a war, but a movement overtaking the youth that embodies the basic ideals that started the US. Oh, I’m also living five minutes away from this little party.
June 2nd, 2012 - it was live.
This summer, I am participating in DukeEngage in Cairo, a civic engagement program that works with community partners to improve social conditions. We are working with three non-governmental organizations:
- Ana El Masry focuses on rehabilitating street children through a summer school program that both houses and teaches the children
- Al Resala is the largest NGO in Egypt that has various objectives ranging from teaching English and housing orphans
- Al Kayan is a local NGO that helps children with disabilities that have been ostracized from their communities
In normal people talk that means we’re helping little kids and adults be more awesome than they already are.
It’s obviously a precarious time in Egypt. Our program is under strict conditions (no drank, curfew, buddy system, etc.) – and for good reason. We do stupid s**t under the influence. One wrong move and we could end up dazed & confused, and not the happy kind. Tomorrow, June 5th, the restrictions will be critical with the onset of the Million Man March. If it were up to me, I’d be right there with them, but I’ll save that for another blog. Last April, tens of thousands of people sardine-packed the Square to recapture their country from military hands – “this is our country, and we must change.” Tomorrow, the youth will continue their fight for the future.
Being an African witnessing other Africans joyously root for the democratic promise of their country, while helping other Africans help themselves, is an opportunity I will forever be grateful for. It’s a little difficult to be my usual sarcastic self because the situation goes beyond a joke. It’s real. It’s happening. And I’m here to witness.
Stay tuned and you can too.
The past two days was spent visiting two of the 48 slave forts here in Ghana. I still feel the same pain I felt during the first visit to a slave fort. I hear that slavery was almost always left out of history here in Ghana. The elders don’t talk about it and the younger generation doesn’t know it even existed. Just recently was there discourse about the event. Our tour guide says she didn’t know it existed until she first saw a slave fort in her teens.
In the slave forts, the dungeons have little ventilation. The floors have holes in them from the slaves digging in it with their nails. I see scratches on the walls near exits of rooms. The smell of feces still linger.
I can’t imagine having to sit in fecal matter, urine, and menstruation blood that belonged to me and everyone else in the dungeons and also having to drink water off that same floor. The last stop in all the dungeons is always the “door of no return”. It is small, so that only one person can exit at a time. On the other side of this “door of no return” I see the beautiful ocean. It eases my soul. I simply wonder if the slaves got to see such beauty.
I love it here in Ghana more everyday. Although the traffic is always bad and it is raining almost every day, I am in love. I have only been here for barely a week but I already want to extend my stay. The men here are crazy. I love it though. Lol. I get a marriage proposal every day. The men will just walk up to me and ask my name. Then their following statement is something like “I love you, Marry me.” I am not sure if this is just how Ghanaian men are, so I simply smile and say I can’t do that. I don’t want to seem disrespectful but I am also don’t want to marry someone that I don’t know.
I love walking down the streets here in Ghana. People are selling things along the road (while carrying their babies on their back), chickens and goats run free, and the taxis always blow at you. If you listen beyond all the traffic and horns blowing, you here Mates calling out of the windows of a vehicle that resembles a minivan. If the van is going to Accra, the Mate is yelling Accra-cra-cra. About 26 people ride in the minivan at one given time. There is no air-conditioning and personal space does not exist. However, it is really cheap. One trotro (the name for the vehicle) will never cost more than 50 peswes (which is equivalent to about 20 cents).
I knew slavery existed. I learned it from textbooks, discourse, etc. Slavery is something that the current and future generations must make sure it does not happen again. I thought I knew a lot about slavery. However, what I knew, could not amount to what people felt when going through it. Today, I visited the Keta Slave fort. The white, gray, and black walls tower over me. There is green mold near the top of the walls. The smell of urine and feces still linger within the castle. In the room of no return, I place my hand on the cold hard wall. Although the castle is old, the mold feels slightly moist. There is a chain on the ground. I pick it up and I feel the weight of it pulling me down. I place my foot in the loop of the chain and I feel its cold, muddy, rough texture against my skin. I begin to cry. It is almost as if I feel their pain. I am told that if you are in these castles at night, you can still hear the cries of the victims. I don’t want to stay here any longer. Although I know I must stay because in order to have a future, I must first know my roots.
As my plane began to land in Accra, Ghana, I look out my window to see 6 Ghanaian flags in a row. My heart starts to beat faster and I feel a rush of emotions all at once. I am scared but yet ready for what I am about to experience. However, of all the emotions I felt, one that stood out the most was my feeling of being home. I felt like I belonged and I have only just landed. I step off the plane and I no longer see the white faces of America. I see only dark faces; ones just like mine. I walk to a bus-like vehicle that takes me to the entrance to the airport. I was not told to get on the bus, but I simply followed the rest of the crowd. I get in the airport and after I collect my things I have to go through customs. A man is talking to me so he can see my passport, get my fingerprints and get a photo of me. Although he is talking in English, I don’t understand anything he is saying because of his accent. With every statement that he says to me, my response is repeatedly “huh”. Finally, I was able to leave the airport and continue to my home stay. Traffic was so bad, the taxi I was in, was simply sitting still for ten minutes. I hear sirens getting louder from behind me. I then see I truck pass by with men on the back of it wearing camouflage. I realized why the packet I received before arrival told me to not wear camouflage. I see women walking in-between the traffic carrying all sorts of things on their head. Men are walking through selling phone cards. I arrive at my homestay and the first thing I see is a wall that is about 9 feet tall. There is barbed wire on the top of it. A man comes out to help me with my luggage and takes it to the guesthouse. A guest house?! I definitely love this. I have my own kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom. I go to the main house to meet the family. My host mother is at work, so I just meet her kids and a woman whom I believe is the “help”. She cooks me dinner, which is jollof rice and chicken (best food ever) and then I go to watch King Kong with a child in the house and Ruebe (a member of DIG). I later go to take a “shower”, with COLD water and a bucket…. Which is then followed by the electricity going off. Welcome to Ghana.