My study abroad experiences in Ghana, West Africa

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Okay now for other stuff…that includes a trip to Kumasi  around a month ago..(ha! I know it has been such a long time) Where I learned how to make the kente cloth and stamp fabric. One of the professors at the University here always commented on how you cannot say you have gone to Ghana until you have been to Kumasi.

I have also joined the University of Ghana swim team. It is so nice being able to get into the water before class, it is so nice and cool. That is one thing I have noticed about living here is that waking early isn’t nearly as hard as it is in the United States. The sun is up at around 6 am, and it is brightly shinning by 7!

There was Ghana’s Independence Day two weeks ago. I went with a group of Internationals from my hostel, and fellow Scottie, Alanna and we walked down to get a taxi at around 5:30 am to get to the square by at least 7 because we heard how hard it would be to get in. Not the case at all. Our group of five was the only ones there at 6:30 and one of the guards showed us where he thought the best seats were. The  actual ceremony was a massive wave of colors, marching and exuberant people cheering in the stands, as the president traveled around in a motorcade. Queen mothers, chiefs , big men and all other leaders in Ghana came to celebrate their independence. That is one thing about Ghana, they are very proud of their heritage, they love who they are.

Alright so I have not posted in an incredibly long time….

But let me start where I have left off,

First Off…

It has been really busy here, and amazing here are some pictures to help catch anyone interested up on what I have been doing. But first I want to direct to the link for WAAF (West African AIDS Foundation). Three weeks ago there was a large rainfall here that caused a massive flood at the foundation. A good deal of equipment was ruined, and almost all records and files were either badly damaged or lost. It was inspiring watching and being with the doctor (who is possibly one of the most inspirational women I have ever met next to my own mama) and her staff while the mess was cleaned up. You would not believe how amazing it looks there now! Below is the link if you want to know more about WAAF.

http://www.waafweb.org/

If you want to help out and learn more about the flood that hit:

http://www.waafweb.org/flood.html

alright ready for more???

Here I am working with the OVC (Orphan Vulnerable Children) program portion of WAAF. It is another great part of WAAF to learn more about it please look at,

http://www.waafweb.org/programs.html (it is under “Care and Support”)

Those kids you see are strong, determined and absolutely fantastic, if I have got you interested look at

http://www.waafweb.org/support.html

or you can email me at kcurtiss1989@gmail.com….now I’ve got you thinking I hope 🙂

Keep on Learning

Week three was incredibly exciting, I saw the Volta region, got to transcribe stories from a community, found myself in the middle of a flood and celebrated a friend’s birthday.

This week I learned that Valentine’s Day here, in Ghana is called Chocolate Day, and got to celebrate another friend’s birthday. It was a little more relaxing this week with more down time, but I am going to volunteer tomorrow and going to a Ghanaian Jazz Club tonight (live music!) and next week I get to go to Kumasi.

I think it was the fact that this week was not as action packed as the last one that I am fearful that I will slowly begin to stop learning about what is going on around me.

What I think is the most difficult part of this trip is knowing that no matter how much I see or how much I do that  I will always lack the basic and innate knowledge of what it is truly like to be a Ghanaian. I went to visit one of my friends in the hospital last night, Kasey from North Carolina, and the group I was with constantly went back and forth telling jokes about life and the type of references only a person in the United States would know.
Would my roommate and the people I meet here, ever get to share jokes, or are these jokes the mistakes I make (for example having dirty feet) that are unexceptable and child like. I guess this is what it means to be a foreigner, not having that same culture to share a joke and understand the basic rhythm of how a conversation can flow.
I just want to keep learning, I feel a little like I will whither away and shrivel up if for one day I am unable to learn about something. But then I realize that everytime I step out of the room I learn something, whether it is through communication with another person, or it is just by watching the mannerisms and reactions that people have to situations.
I think what I like the most is the way Ghanians walk. They look forward and pick their feet up and move their arms slowly back and forth. They do not in any way slouch, they instead look at what is in front of the them, I was told that is the way Ghanians walk by a friend a few weeks back. “Katherine, do not look at your feet, in order to walk like a true Ghanian you must look ahead at the road and trust that you won’t fall”.
I found it funny how the way people walk here represents how I feel a great deal of Ghanian people react to bad situations, they move forward, don’t look down and press on. I find that encouraging.
I want to be a sponge, and realize that even when I am talking to a student here at the University that it is an opportunity to learn. A group project that I participated in at the beginning of the week, allowed for about four hours and waiting for other members to join, something that would seem odd in the United States. The time flew by, just by the large amounts of questions I asked to the members of our group. “What are the stories in your community?”, “What is the place you come from look like?”, “What kinds of produce grow there?”….well what would you expect me to do, I do not come from here, and I feel the best way to learn is to hear what people are saying and watch how they are saying it.
It is nice to know that I can share a little of my culture as well, whether it is sitting next to a new friend on the bus and we both listen to my ipod and talk about how Lil Wayne and Drake are amazing artists, or bringing my roommate to the Superbowl where they end up showing the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest before the game even begins. “Katherine, is THIS (points to the television at the two men sweating after consuming 58 hotdogs) the superbowl?”
While, I may not be able to travel, and move around constantly, I am beginning to realize that I am learning here everyday, and absorbing more about the place around me than I realize. I will get out I will see more, because I have the desire to do so.

 

The Volta Region

Alright so I have had a really incredible past two days that might take more than this post to explain, but here goes what happened on Wednesday of this week.

 

My theater for development class had twenty spots open to go to the Volta Region to study Ethnofolk within the area. The University of Ghana students would learn and share their own stories from their ancestry with students at Jaskin Teaching College. Our professor wanted to show how the use of story telling and drama is beneficial in the teaching of children, and how learning such as that can also connect students to one another through history.

It was soooo fantastic, and I was so excited to go, but as with all things in Ghana it became an adventure! I woke up with my friend Caitlin at around 4 20 to walk to the theater department because the bus was leaving at around 5. At 7 we finally left only to get lost and stopped by the police at around 1 pm we reached the school, and were served a large quantity of red red. I was made fun of by the students and by the professor because I could only eat half of the food, while the other students were grabbing seconds…but beans are heavy and I think there was fish there too.

After lunch all twenty of us filed into a large open section of the school where we sat on a stage facing all of the teachers in training. We introduced ourselves stating where we were from, what we were studying and from the request of our guests whether we were , single, dating or married. When each student would announce their relationship status loud claps and shouts would come from our guests. It was hilarious both groups really got into it.

Then our guests did the same, but this time they had to say where they were born and raised and if there is still story telling in that area. It was sad a lot of them spoke of how they had not seen stories being performed since the introduction of cable to their area. Most of them would stand up quietly state where they were from and respond, “no stories, just TV.” It reminded me of my class last year that I took at Agnes where we talked about the introduction of things such as electronics kills certain traditions in areas, and how regions loose parts of their history.

Some of the future teachers did know some stories from when they were young, but explained that the last time they had heard them were in the early 1990’s.  Finally, the University of Ghana group and Jaskin College came together to each share one story, where both groups would perform.

I was placed in a group to transcribe both stories, because I do not know any West African folk tales. It was so great, at the beginning of the stories both groups would dance to introduce the story, and sometimes in the middle of a person telling the tale, another group would break out into song when a certain word was said.

After three hours we left Jaskin teaching college and were on our way back to UG. We did not get stopped by the police, but we did stop to get Aboloo, which is grounded maize placed in a banana leaf and served with really small fish that are crispy. It was really good, and it was the same stuff that I ate with Maureen in Benin that we could not think find the name of, but we ate it with something else (I think beans) last time.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, that it was Caitlin’s birthday and that everyone on the bus was playfully threatening to pond her while on the journey. Caitlin luckily avoided being “pond” or sprayed with water and said she had the best 21st birthday ever.

 

I will write more, there is still a lot more to come

there was still the tradition of story telling from their region

 

Akwaaba Spot

Alright, I apologize for the in space between my first blog entries and this entry, I have been very busy and an internet connection that would allow me to post on here was hard to find, but I did find it!

Alright I have had the most amazing two weeks in Ghana so far, I have been to multiple markets around Accra, visited the beach (in January, how many people can visit the beach and swim in January?) , gone hiking through a rain forest, done a ropes course, and toured two castles, and this is not when I was busy learning about the University of Ghana and meeting people around the school.

What I have enjoyed the most here, is the time that each person takes to develop relationships. Ghanaians are extremely personable and friendly, whenever you pass someone or make some sort of non verbal contact with a person a good morning, good afternoon, good evening usually follows. There are various languages that I hear people speak on campus and around the city, everyone is multi-lingual. My favorite part is when non verbal gestures and hissing and mouth clicks are used to get a person’s attention or in place of phrases such as “come here”. I was told by a few of the international students that it becomes easier to understand some of the pidgin english that some Ghanaians speak instead of Twi, Ga or English, but so far I am still at a loss.

I may, but I again have only been here for two weeks have started to get used to the weather. It is really warm outside, but today it is around 92 outside, but it feels cooler than it has been. There is a nice breeze that usually comes because it is the dry season. The earth is so red here and everything is so saturated in color and bright, yesterday I saw the biggest mango I had ever seen in my life, it was the size of a nerf football and a beautiful shade of light green and orange-red. It is really enjoyable passing through and being in the markets here, and among the women and the children. I like talking to the women in the market they teach me TWI words and the kids help me with the snapping handshake. They play music there, I heard Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and it was nice to know that I was in an African market, as opposed to jamming to it in Bristol TN …a bit more acceptable here, but I did hear Tim McGraw the other day, I guess it just depends. The bananas here are so good they do not taste like plastic. My best memory of the market so far is in one of the markets in the middle of Accra, near the city’s central post office (the name escapes me now). It was so busy one man was selling Ghanaian soccer shirts, while two others would be pulling on you doing Lil Wayne impersonations “Motherf***er I’m ill…” all while people are close, and it is hot out there, but it is the most fun ever. There is a rhythm and a beat that goes with the market, making a deal is a fast transaction, but it depends on the location. It depends on where the market it is, it is almost as if the setting and background causes the vendors to sell and speak at a certain pace. The bush canteen about a mile from the campus has a rhythm and a beat that feels, sounds and looks more relaxed and moves more slowly. The Market in Accra seemed to move slightly faster pace.

After what seemed to be an eternity, I finally got a roommate on Monday. Her name is Sophie and she is a double major in linguistics and psychology. She was so nice she introduced me to a bunch of her friends and today we went out to eat at a small place on campus. She ordered a Ghanaian dish called “red, red”. Red, red is a really tasty Ghanaian dish that consists of fried plantains and red beans, it is sooo good. Fried plantains are good, but the best are the grilled ones from the street vendors, the vendor cuts the plantain in half and places it on what looks like a part of a metal cage over an open fire, and waits until the plantain is crispy. It is so tasty, and even though the food is hot and it is got outside it tastes perfect.

TWhen you go over to someone’s house to visit you are told to bring something “nice”, what you give as a gift could represent how well you know the person, or show how well you do not know a person. I went to one of our group leader’s dorm rooms to visit earlier this week and she told us to bring something nice, so we brought sparkling cider, I hope she enjoyed it.

Well this was an extremely long entry ….and I cannot wait to fill everyone in on more!

Under African Skies

Hello for those who are reading this thank you. I am your tour guide today, Miss Katherine Curtiss. I am currently a junior at the glorious and fantastic Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA. AND if you were wondering yes, we are all fabulous, classy and smart women there.

I am a double major in Theatre and Anthropology/Sociology and I am headed to Ghana (located in the north west part of Africa, sandwiched between Cote D’Ivore and Togo) to study for the semester. I am so excited to go and study in Ghana, words cannot even describe. For you, you and you, what I want to do is give those reading this blog is the opportunity to travel to Ghana through me! So I hope  I do a good job of explaining what I am seeing and experiencing. 

I have been busy packing, and seeing all of my beautiful, talented, wonderful friends before I leave on Wednesday…and right now I am sitting in the middle of a huge mountain of stuff that I have to cram into a suitcase (packing is the worst). I am so excited I can’t even sleep. I have been waiting for months and months to go to Ghana and now it is so very close, I feel so very lucky.

So  here I go, and when I write something new on here, I will be beneath that huge, gorgeous African sky.

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