Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ghana Update #5

December 24/25th, 2014

For those that celebrate....'twas the night before christmas and all that, so merry christmas to you....for those who celebrate something else...happy holidays....this holiday season i am in the states with my family celebrating - and it has been a long time since i have done this....so my folks' have gone all out....we have a decorated tree, we are seeing lots of family and friends and doing fun things in this holiday season....even have watched some christmas specials....things i have not done in a while....so i am enjoying it :)  before i get started with this update, i just want to wish all of you who take the time to read my updates a happy holiday season and all the best in 2015!!!!  without you, i doubt i would bother to write these fun adventures of mine out....

things were pretty crazy at the end of the semester at school....from grading and writing comments for all of my students, to a field day of track and field events and giving presentations to my kids about antarctica.....i do this at every school i go to, and i invite my colleagues to come as well...i am always surprised at who shows up for the presentations and for this particular school, i was again surprised....it's fun reliving these stories and that adventure from my life year after year and i love that folks are still interested in hearing about the south pole and mcmurdo...i got great questions and realized it has been 10 years since i summered at the south pole....man, how time flies....but it was a fun way to end the semester and i think everyone who came enjoyed the presentation and realized how much they want to go or do not ever want to go visit.....

i figured my last update of 2014 would focus on the place i currently reside in....ghana, as i have only done 3 updates about the adventure i am currently on....there are many things about ghana that i really enjoy and even though it's getting hotter and hotter by the day, i feel like i have settled into things and am trying to explore more in the town called accra and in the area around....hopefully that will continue during the second semester....i am hoping to get to the cape coast and to some of the western beaches over some of the long weekends....but for this update...its all about accra....which has about 2.4 million people living within it....here are some of the things i see day-to-day and what my daily life is like....


Accra is a town with a lot of art....and people are extremely creative with what they create and what you can buy....just around the corner from our school is a metal smith who is amazing with this art....and at one of my favorite shops are these pair of elephants that greet you at the front door...they are made from recycled and reworked metal and are taller than me....simply awesome....


and of course, some of the most skilled people in ghana are the tailors and the weavers...i have not included much about kente cloth so far, and will need to take the time to do that....that is created by the men of ghana....the fabric above those is what the women of ghana use to create the amazing clothes worn by the entire country...including me....so colorful....but so thick, so i do not wear many because they cause me to sweat a lot...but i sure love the colors....
 

in one of the markets i visited i saw a woman making a shirt on this sewing machine....very old fashioned, but very ghana....there is a lot of pride in this country and for good reason...people work hard and actually as has been pointed out to me, there are many entrepreneurs in ghana who are starting to get the word out about the styles and fashion and ability found in ghana...it's cool to be there for that....


one of the things i am always amazed by is what people, both men and women, can carry on their heads....they must have super strong necks....but everyone can do it....some people, like the women above, put a ring of fabric on their heads to help steady what they are carrying, but not everyone does this....the women above are carrying plantains and bananas...two of the staples of the ghanian diet....
 

one of the other things that happens at every stop light on the way to and from places is the selling of things on the streets....done by carrying things on the head as well...in this shot you can see the woman in red on the left carrying plantains - fried - the woman in the middle is carry water packets - we are not supposed to drink the water from them, but everyone who is ghanian does, and the woman on the right, well, i am not really sure what she is carrying....they are  selling their wares to the people piling on the tro-tro...and the two men in the middle are charging the folks on the tro-tro and are letting them know where they are headed....this is the way ghana functions....



same stoplight....more ladies carrying things...the one on the left, plantain chips...the one in pink - ground nuts - which are probably roasted and are like peanuts....the men are all waiting for the correct tro-tro to take them on their way....there are no public buses and no metro in accra....so tro-tro is the way people get around, unless they go by taxi....


this last shot of the same streetlight is what happens when the cars start to stop....the women and men selling things walk up and down between the cars selling their things....it is sometimes quite scary, as they get caught between the cars when the traffic starts to move....but luckily i have never seen anyone get hurt....the women generally sell the food - plantains, donuts, water; and the men sell the funny things - wind shield wipers, blinking santa hats, bath mats, massaging wands, furniture, bubble wands....it's wild....

i took this shot as i was walking up to the store where i was having some framing done...this woman is carrying a wooden box on her head that held underwear and socks and things to put your hair up....as you can see, she is also carrying the stool she will sit on when she needs to take a break from walking....just amazing what they can effectively carry on their heads....blows my mind....
 

i apologize for the quality of the picture above, but i have been trying to take a great shot of the bats at night for months now and have not been successful....every night at 6pm - almost on the dot - the bats come out and start to head north from the bat trees they sleep in the daytime....there are hundreds and possibly thousands of them and are incredible to watch...it is one of my favorite things about accra...the sheer number of bats that fly at 6pm....this and the loss of power of our house are what help me set my watch...not really, but it truly is incredible and it happens every night :) i am hoping to get a better picture of this flight path, but this will have to do for the moment....


the other animals i see daily are the lizards....whether they be geckos on my wall at school or home or these agama lizards running across the street, up the walls or across campus....lizards are everywhere...the one above is a female agama....at some point i will try and get a good shot of the males, as of course they are prettier in color...most male animals in the world have this claim to fame, as they have to win the females and therefore have to show their stuff...the females are beige and the males are black, orange and beige....hopefully i will get a good shot of one for you to see....but here's a link to a nice shot of one by someone else.... http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-6EHequIpf6g/UEJfTx-ki3I/AAAAAAAAAxk/JO38uElTbQM/s1600/P1200734.jpg  


some of the other daily things i see in ghana are the tro-tros and they always have religious sayings on the back of their windows....does not matter if the driver is christian or muslim....they all have god or allah somewhere mentioned on the tro-tro to help them drive safely...
 

here is another shot of me and one of the girls from DUNK....thanks so much to everyone who wants to donate things to DUNK...and really, i am still trying to figure out the best way to help and what exactly is needed, but the organization is rather disorganized...when i figure out a way to get stuff to us effectively and that it really goes to the kids, i will let you all know....but until then...i thank you for your willingness to help.....anyway...this is me and mama-tah....she is over 6 feet tall and the center of the girls basketball team of course....i took this picture for a friend in croatia because this was going to be used in a poetry reading about snow....she has never seen snow before....thought that would be cool....



here are some more of the crazy girls i work with at DUNK....we took out a map of africa to go through with them...and none of them knew it...which was a bit crazy....so then we showed them a map of the world....and really they had no idea about what it looked like....they can name the countries and the continents, but visually had no idea where anything was located....it was eye-opening for me....when they asked where i had lived....they were shocked to see all of the places....we have now figured out, that visuals are things we should be using to teach....because all they ever get is words, words, and more words - verbally or from a book....never pictures....and you should have seen how great they were at coloring the maps...works of art i tell you!!!!



one of the other things i have done in ghana is become a member of the ghanian astronomical society....we actually have a planetarium in ghana and this is a picture of it....the man who built it is extremely passionate and really wants to help ghanians learn about astronomy, so he and a few other kind donors built this planetarium.....i have been to one show....very different from my seattle center days....i am hoping to get more involved with this over time....
 

walking to a friend's house one day this past month i came across this truck....what you see in the foreground is a truck that is fine...but in the background an 18-wheeler truck had its payload slump to the side when it took the corner....crazy view....


someone recently asked me to take pictures on the walk to school from my house...so the next two pictures are those....as you can see, i have a sidewalk i walk along, next to an open sewer (that's the water on the right side)....sometimes it can be pretty smelly and my biggest fear is falling into one of these...it has been known to happen....i just hope it does not happen to me...on this particular day there was also a guy with his donkey and cart picking up recyclables....everything in ghana, like china, gets recycled....the only issue here in my opinion is the amount of plastic in the system....bags and containers litter everywhere....and i do not think they are recycled....some of them get turned into the water packets, but when people finish their water they generally throw the packet on the ground....its a total bummer...


after one block i turn the corner and walk another block up to my school....this is shot of the far corner of the gate of the school....so not a far walk, but its starting to get really hot now in ghana....so it is a sweaty walk for me....
 

these last two shots from ghana are some of the christmas shots i took while there....i love the santas....got one for my mom and one for me....they were everywhere before i left for the holidays and they just make me smile :)
 

this shot was taken at a cool cafe (cuppa cappuccino for those in the know) who decorate their cafe for the season....it was really weird for me to be in such a hot place to get ready for the holiday season....i have to tell you i was really looking forward to being chilly, instead of sweating...and now that i am back in the states i am just enjoying wearing a coat every day....but i did enjoy the places that tried to get me into the holiday spirit even though the weather was not correct for me :)


so here we have made it to the last shot of 2014...in accra i have now found a real chinese restaurant/hole in the wall...run by two chinese families...the menus have "chinglish" issues, they have cctv from china playing in the background and only 7 tables are in the whole place...i love it and i love that i can order tasty chinese treats in my really bad chinese from these older women....and crazily enough, they even have tsing tao to drink......so i am not missing that aspect of shanghai and china....there are many things i miss, but the food, i got that covered now....

so again....happy holidays to you and yours....hope to have the next update out in a month or so, but it also means i need to get out an experience more of accra and ghana....i wish you all the best in 2015 and thanks as always for reading the updates :)

peace out....dani