Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sure is hot out here....my last day....sniff,cry/jump for joy

Well here we are…last day in Ghana. But first, let’s look at the last few days...

Wednesday: I ended up going to the pool with Erica, Katie and Beth. The pool was at Unique palace, which is around the corner from my hostel. The place was nothing special but it was a big thing of water that we could submerge ourselves in! We hung out, chatted and played cards until the sun started going down. We then all went home to get ready for salsa night. I usually tried dressing pretty low key when we went out because I don’t need the extra attention but this night I just though, “oh well, I’m going to get attention either way!”. So I threw on my African skirt and a crop top showing a little midriff. I grabbed a taxi to Afrikiko and met up with the gang. During the night, more and more familiar faces joined us. The dancing spirit was not too high in the group though. That didn’t stop me from hitting up the dance floor and being twirled around a bit. I just get so sweaty so quickly from the combination of the heat and the dancing. A large portion of the group went home and I was left with Aaron chatting until Tolu came around midnight. Aaron went home and Tolu and I closed the bar around 3 just chatting. He gave me a ride home afterwards and I was in bed by 3:30. My roommate was leaving at 4 but I was so out I didn’t even notice her leave!
     
 
 


Thursday: I went to the hospital in the morning to get my paperwork done. I’m lucky I didn’t push it to Friday since I realized on my way that Friday was a holiday. I went to administration to get the stamp. They went through their records and said they didn’t have me in them! I told them I signed in at the OBGYN office. After some calls and waiting around for 2 hours….I finally had my stamp. I headed to the OB wards to meet up with Erica and see if a doctor there would give me a signature. I found one of the doctors I had worked with on the labor ward. As we walked on to the labor ward, a dead body was being carried past us. I got a weird chill. The thought that had that woman not been in these circumstances, she might still be breathing is a weird feeling. Erica and I headed back to her hostel to get the others and leave for Osu. We were all really hungry and headed to NutriLab Smoothies. They have really delicious smoothies (something like 40 flavors to choose from) and yummy salads. An actual salad! It was so good. We did a bit of fabric shopping afterwards. Well, they did. My suitcase is full. We got some frozen yogurt for dinner. Aaron met up with us and took us home. We then got ready and grabbed a cab to +233. It’s a live music venue and bar and grill. Katie, Erica and I went. The taxis we were flagging down were giving us outrageous Obruni prices like 20 Cedis. We eventually found a cab driver that would take us for 8 Cedis but didn’t know where the place was. Thank god for Google maps. Along the way he took a detour to go around the round about which I am pretty sure judging from the Google map, did nothing for us to save time. He was getting really annoying saying the ride would cost more and we said no. Once we got to the place, he asked where our husbands were (we said they were on their way) and he asked if he should join us for protection… thanks, but no thanks… we’re good. The music being played was Highlife, so African. The band was really good and there were some great voices. We ordered drinks and a pizza. I have been drinking Alvaro nonstop. It’s a malt drink with fruit flavor. Aaron joined up with us again and after chilling there a bit, he took us home.







Friday: Since it was a holiday, most of us didn’t go to the hospital. I walked over to the Osda house to the others because I wanted to take them to the Kaneshie market. Katie, Greg, Erica and I grabbed a taxi to the market. Outside was bustling as always with all the vendors selling their copious amounts of fish and other produce. I even took a picture of the others with one of the butchers there…there was a cut up goat spread across the table. The hoofs and face were the worst things to look at. Sadly the actual market inside the building was closed due to the holiday. We grabbed a taxi to the M√∂venpick hotel. This place was heaven on earth! The lobby was done so nicely and was so cold! We went to the pool area and were met by the pool guy. The entrance on a normal day costs 40 Cedis and includes two towels to use and a drink. Since it was a holiday it cost 60 Cedis (about $24). We all hesitated at the 60. We had thought it might even be 100 but 60 wasn’t little either. The place looked SO good though; big pool, comfy lounge chairs, sun, waiters, palm trees. The pool guy noticed our hesitation and said he could let us in for 50 each. SOLD! We felt so luxurious. The towels even got me excited…yes…it’s that bad. We spent the next few hours lounging, swimming, eating and drinking and loving life. I may have gotten a bit burned. It was really hot and lets not forget I am just a bit above the equator and we were in the noon sun. I had to go jump in the pool about every 10 minutes to cool off and would be dry after being out of the pool for 2 minutes. We had such a good time and it was totally worth the money. 





Around 4:30pm, we headed back to the Osda House to get ready for the night. I exchanged pictures with Katie and put on my African strapless dress. We all got into a cab and left for Osu. We originally wanted to go eat fish (and I would eat couscous and fried plantains) but it started drizzling outside and we did not want to risk sitting in the pouring rain outside. Our backup plan was the Indian restaurant we had gone two about 2 weeks ago. The food was delicious once again. We shared a bunch of dishes, which offered a lot of variety for us. After the restaurant, we headed to the Paloma hotel for Karaoke. We got there around 8:30 but it wasn’t starting until 10. Some friends of ours started to show up so we spent the time chatting and seeing who would actually sing. I was all up for it because I love karaoke. Doe said he would sing with me. After a few performances, Doe and I went and rocked “I will survive” together. It was a good crowd that would actually sing along. I later sang “Umbrella” as well. While I was walking off the stage, I got pulled back up again to sing a song with one for the local guys. It was a great time. After karaoke, they went into a really long streak of Ghanaian and Nigerian music. Granted it is very lovely, I can only dance to so much of it. At some point, I gave the DJ three more songs and if by the third it wasn’t American, I was going to go to bed. Lucky for me, the third song started an about 20 minute period of all the songs I knew and loved. After that little period, a group of us left. I easily could have gone to bed but the others wanted to go check out a different club. I wasn’t about to be the party pooper. We got to the club and could already hear from the outside that it was only playing Ghanaian music. Luckily Tolu’s friend didn’t feel like going in either. No one was really motivated or just indifferent as to what to do next. We eventually agreed we would all just go home to bed. 


I hate having to say good-bye. I kept my good-byes short and sweet. I met some really friendly, kind, funny, energetic people here that I will miss. Thanks to today’s technology I can keep in touch!

Today I am finishing up packing, showering and cleaning and will head to the airport around 4. My flight isn’t until 8:35pm but I still have to check in and try to get exit row seats again!
It has been a really great experience in Ghana. I’ll reflect a bit and then post one more post about the experience when I am in Germany. That way I also have Internet and can post lots of pictures! See you on the other side!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sure is hot out here....I'VE BEEN ROBBED!


 
Well.....what an adventure yesterday was!
I hadn’t slept very well again. I still can’t tell if its due to the lack of fan, the lack of breeze with the mosquito net, the not so comfy mattress, the pillows that feel like they were filled with sand or just a combination of it all. Either way, I was up at 6:30am and happy it was bright out so I could get up. I threw on my bikini and went for a morning seashell hunt on the ocean side.
Having learned that if I give the guys on the beach the slightest bit of attention that I can’t get them away from me, I put in my headphones and walked with my gaze on the ground…I was looking for seashells… so it just looked like I was really into it. I found some fantastic shells again. I think my suitcase will consist of wood, fabric and shells.

 
After collecting so many shells I couldn’t fit any more into the bag I brought along, I went to have breakfast… same old two omelets and bread. They ran out of coffee so I had tea. It’s so interesting. A lot of the time, just because it says something on the menu does not mean they actually have it. That doesn’t only happen in secluded places like this resort but also in the middle of Accra.
I spent the rest of the morning sketching and tanning. I actually think I finally got my feet (which were mostly covered by sneakers or sandals) caught up with the rest of my body color. I didn’t have any observers today but the manager did stop by. He was taking a group of Obrunis from the other resort out on a boat trip to see the rum factory.
I decided I’d rather lie in the hammock. Around lunchtime, I went and sat on the deck where food was served. Usually the two girls working there would then come ask me if I wanted lunch. They did do that this time however some fruit sellers stopped by and they asked if I wanted to buy something. I told them I would have to run to my bungalow quick to get some cash. I went and took 20 cedis out of my wallet (as you will see later in this post, I’m glad I took so much more than the 1 Cedi I needed to pay for the bananas and peanuts.) A bit later, the little kids that had been selling me mangos the last two days stopped by again. It breaks my heart that they have to go around carrying these big trays of fruit on their heads so I give them more than they ask for and usually a few Cedis each that I tell them is just for them to use as they please. I bought another mango and since they didn’t have change for my 5, I took a few wafers as well and told them the change was for them. After another little chill session in the hammock, I decided to go back to my room and get ready for a bit of tanning.


 
I unlocked my bungalow and entered and sat on the bed. I was confused as to why my shirt and pants were on the floor, and then I noticed my contact lenses case and toothpaste had “fallen” off of the table as well. Only then did I realize that the pillow on my bed was out of place and then my glance drew up to the window. Shock. The net had been cut and two windowpanes broken. I immediately shot my attention to my wallet. It was luckily still lying on my bed but all my cash, all 300 Cedis, were gone!! I was shocked! Luckily, they left the wallet with my credit cards and ID still in there and I had my electronics all with my in my big purse. I ran to the girls to tell them what had happened. They looked equally shocked and came back to my bungalow with me. I could tell they didn’t know what to say to me. I told them it was a situation that we couldn’t change now but that we needed to get in touch with the manager because I would be leaving for Accra that same night. No point in hanging around with no money and a bed I can’t sleep in since I was planning on leaving in the morning anyways. They went to look around the premises and came back with a wallet. They said they found it near the tent of the people camping near my bungalow. If there had been Cedis in there, they were gone but the thief left about 100 US Dollars behind. This very much surprised me since that is a lot of money. Whoever the thief was must have really only been on the look out for Cedis which makes me believe it was a local who didn’t know what to do with credit cards and either didn’t know the worth of US Dollars or didn’t know where to exchange them.


 
I packed up all my things and went to wait for the manager at the main building. I had informed all my friends back in Accra what had happened. They were all very supportive and some sprung into action to help me. Felix organized a money transfer. He had been at the neighboring resort the week before and had the manager’s number. He made a deal with him that if the manager loaned my 40 Cedis, Felix would send 50 Cedis with the next group of tourists coming to his place. Pablo helped my plan my journey back home. My phone was at about 3% so I really needed the manager to turn on the generator as soon as he got back. It took a while but eventually he did return. The girls had already called him and told him of the incident. He felt really bad about the whole thing. I told him it wasn’t his fault and when he started accusing the girls (I assume, it was in their native language) I sprung to their defense. I had been outside closer even to the bungalow than they had been so we all should have seen it equally. There was just a regular passing of people between the river-ocean junction and our place. Besides, the thief easily could have come around on the ocean side, not being seen due to the huge sand mountain separating the ocean side from the river side, snuck around behind the bungalow and tent and then crawled away again the way he came.
I had him throw on the generator so I could charge my phone. I wanted to get to about 50% before leaving for Accra. David, the manager from Maranatha, the resort next door, came over and gave me the 40 Cedis. All in all I had 55 Cedis to my name. My phone only made it to 30% before the generator started giving up. Just my luck. We got ready to depart for Ada Foah. Well, I got ready and was sitting in the boat but then the two Germans from the tent came back. I asked the guy if they had left any Cedis in the tent and he said they had all their Cedis with them. Good. So no loss. So I thought. The manager went to the tent with them. I was getting annoyed at this point. I wanted to leave. I wanted to be on my way to Accra before it got dark. Let’s go!


 
David and the manager went to the tent and did god knows what for about half an hour if not longer. I was getting so extremely frustrated. David gave me a little update from afar saying her diary and flashlight were missing. SO! Its not like we can change it now and I WANT TO LEAVE! I was feeling very German at this point with my impatience but lets look at the facts: whatever is gone is gone, its starting to get dark, they can look and make a comprehensive list of all things missing while I am being taken to Ada Foah and I can get on my way. The standing around discussing whatever and delaying my departure was doing nobody any good and just worsening my blood pressure. I was close to punching the boat. Eventually the two guys strolled back to the boat and mumbled something about asking other guys to take me to Ada Foah but then luckily got into the boat and we started. The second we started heading towards Ada Foah my mood was back to normal as well as my blood pressure. I just really despise wasting time.


 
The boat ride back gave me a really weird feeling. I felt like I was in some history channel documentary about indigenous tribes. The ride to Ada Foah started off with the resort I stayed at and the Maranatha resort next to it. The scene quickly transitioned into a lake from view of houses built from palm leaves and any other natural building material around. The sun was setting and it was getting dark and I saw no electrical light anywhere. People were strolling along the water. Boys were playing in the water. Mothers were hanging up laundry. It gave me a feeling as though time had stood still in this part. The scene moved on to what looked like more of the meeting center of the villages with the big colorful fishing boats. The laundry hung from the ropes and boys were playing in the water. So many boys around, I wonder were all the girls are. The next part along the river becomes a huge contrast. One second you see colorful wooden boats and housed made of palm tree leaves and the next you think you have been transported to the waterfront in Miami with huge houses, lights, gazebos and landscaping. It is the weirdest thing but those houses really make you want to be friends with who ever own them. The scene then goes back to a more basic one before turning into somewhat of a harbor with a few huge metal ships. This is where we stopped to get off. I thanked the manager for his help and David walked me into town. Again, I felt like all I saw was boys. I asked David about it and he said I was very observant. “We have so many boys and not a lot of girls so the boys have no girls to play with.” I thought maybe the girls were forced to do house chores while the boys played soccer.


 
My journey back to Accra was a lovely chain of helpful people. The manager had taken me on his boat to Ada Foah, David walked me into town and made sure I got a Taxi to Ada Junction. The taxi driver was going to help me flag down a trotro that drove by but I ended up getting that done myself before he could park his car. The last lady to get off the trotro in Accra told the trotro driver and his money collector to take me to Kaneshie market and make sure I got a taxi to Korle Bu. At Kaneshie, the money collector got out, hailed a cab for me and told the driver where I needed to go. The taxi drove me to Pablo’s house. Its nice to know how helpful the people can be here.


 
The journey took about 3 hours. I was the only white person on the whole trip. It was also dark so most people, myself included, tried to nap. I couldn’t use my phone because I was conserving the battery incase I needed it and my iPad was basically drained as well. This led to me having an about 3 hour-long inner monologue. It was rather entertaining and I wish I could have recorded it. The topics of my conversation included basically anything. I analyzed my current situation, my current relationships, relationships I have recently lost, the work coming my way as soon as I land in Germany, what presents I want to get people for their birthdays, future business endeavors, recipes I want to start making for breakfast and so on.
At Pablo’s, I made myself some spaghetti with ketchup (my comfort food) and watched while the others got professional salsa lessons from Pablo’s salsa teacher. I was too hungry to join in and the steps they were working on were natural to me. Pablo gave me a ride home a bit later and I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. Even if it meant knowing I would probably be awake by 5:30am due to noise.


 

And so it was, this morning my roommate was up and at it at 5:30. I didn’t really pay attention to what exactly she was doing but it was a combination of showering, organizing and talking on the phone. She left by 8 and since I wasn’t falling asleep anymore, I packed. My suitcase will probably be overweight and I already removed all the fabric to be put in my carry on. We will see what happens Saturday. Erica and I plan to hit up the Unique Palace pool today. I would have gone into town and did some shopping but after having 300 Cedis stolen and realizing my suitcase is filled to the brim, I opted out of that. Erica did the night shift in OBGYN so she is taking a nap and then we are off to chill together. I’m excited for the few days I have here in Accra with my great friends and have plans for every night but a part of my is also excited to be going home. But I will miss it here once I’m gone.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sure is hot out here.....I just can't get a break...at least the weather is great!

So, I've decided besides wanting a private jet someday...I am definitely going to need a private island. I came to this resort at the end of the peninsula thinking I'd be quite secluded. I'm sure if I wasn't white, the locals wouldn't approach me as often but it's getting really tedious. Usually they want to get to know me or they are interested in what I am working on. I just think its weird to just walk up to someone and stand there observing what they are doing and not say a word and stand or sit there watching for a good half an hour if not longer (unless you are a street artist and then that is the whole point). I don't like it when people watch me work creatively. So while I was sketching today and weaving my next attempt at a little basket, one or two men, usually older came and literally starred at me the whole time.

Monday:
I woke up around 6:30 because it was bright out. I decided to get dressed and take a stroll. I found so many amazing seashells! I diverted from two guys that wanted to talk to me. I've simply had to resort to not looking  at them and just say good morning and move on without giving them further attention. If I even glanced at them, I wouldn't get them off my back and would have to start answering a hundred questions ending in a sort of marriage proposal or offer to have their children.

I ordered two omelette, bread and some coffee for breakfast. While that was being made, I read in the hammock. 

I spent some time tanning after breakfast and once I needed to get out of the sun, my morning creativity time began with sketching.

For lunch I had some yam fries which unfortunately weren't that great. After eating it was time for a little swim and another tanning session.

Again, once I needed to get out of the sun, my afternoon creative session began with weaving a basket. The manager came over at some point (an old man had already been just watching me for half an hour) and asked where I learned to do something like that. I told him I didn't and that I was just making it up as I went.

The whole day I seemed to be the only guest at the resort. In the evening, two Germans arrived however. I feel that there is a crazy amount of Germans traveling in Ghana. I don't intend on making friend with them. Not because they aren't lovely people maybe but because I want to make sure my privacy is somewhat insured for the time I am here.

The rest of the night was spent eating dinner, finishing my book, charging my phone and looking at the full moon from the hammock.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sure is hot out here....catching up!

We have some catching up to do, don't we?

First off I'd like to apologize that I didn't add pictures to the lat post but let me just say the Internet situation in Africa isn't the easiest,

So I did take that personal day on Friday. I washed some laundry by hand, packed my suitcase (and realized just how much fabric I had boughten....and wooden penises, let's not forget those), cleaned my room and wanted to upload pictures but due to the fact that the hostel had run out of Internet codes, this was not possible.

I headed to the art market with the girls in the afternoon to pick up my other wood carvings and I some gifts as well. Afterwards, we headed to Osu so that the girls could meet up with Joyce. Joyce is a designer and seamstress that was recommended to the girls. She was such a cool lady. She took time to listen to what the girls wanted, looked at their pictures and took their measurements. She is going to improvise a bit with embellishments so we are all excited to see what happens. I had her take my measurements as well because she told us it was possible to just call her and order clothes and then she would send them. She seems really busy because she is actually booked full for the next two months and is graciously squeezing the girls in.

Afterwards we headed to Pinocchio for dinner. It was so very delicious! We ordered iced coffee and it arrived in a cocktail glass. I had a veggie burger and tropical salad which were both so good. 

After dinner, we all cabbed back to their hostel to chill before going out. The plan was to go karaoke singing and I was psyched. Sadly, Aaron picked us up too late for us to make it. We got to the club and it was packed! The music was right up my alley as well. I ordered a shot of Henney and coke, Katie bought me a double shot of Henney. So there I stood with a full glass and a bottle of coke....my dad would be proud. I was approached by a few guys that would tell me I must have some black in me because of how well I knew the songs and my dancing. Tell me something I don't know.

We headed to a second club and were out until 4:30! We had originally planned to leave for Ada Foah early Saturday morning, but getting home a bit before 5 seriously made me doubt that would happen. We decided Aaron would get us at 9. I quickly got into bed and slept a few hours before the alarm went off.

Saturday:
Aaron eventually picked me up at around 9:30 and already had the girls in the car.  If traffic wasn't bad and you believe google maps, it should only take 1.5 hours.

It took us about that time just to get out of Accra. There was a bit of traffic along the way. We eventually arrived around 12:30 or so. The resort looked nice with its little huts on the beach. I quickly got into my bikini and went to check out the beach. The walk towards the ocean looked promising, until I passed the ledge and saw that the whole beach was under construction and the water looked filthy with seaweed. So disappointing. I went back to break the news to the others. They were equally disappointed. We decided to order food while we wait for the others. A thing I have learned here in Ghana is that is takes forever for food to arrive. This might have been the longest wait with about 2 hours from ordering to getting the food! It took so long that even the others had arrived in the mean time. We were all completely on edge because we were so hungry. The whole situation was rather ridiculous. 

After we had all eaten, we hopped in the cars and drove to a boat. This boat took us out on the Volta river to the end of the peninsula to the Maranatha resort. There we took some really fun group pictures. Resort might be a bit of an overstatement. It consisted of little huts with beds in them on the beach. Little did I know at the time that I would be staying in the resort next to it the next few days.

The boat then took us to another island where a man showed us how he made his sugar cane rum and then let us try it! It was rather strong stuff. 

After that we hopped on the boat and drove home. We ordered food at the resort which took another half a lifetime to actually come. So much so that we just had them box up the food that was taking so long because we weren't hungry anymore and just wanted to go to bed.

The beds were comfy but I had some crazy dreams including dinner with the Danish queen and a lecture from prince Charles. Crazy brain.

Sunday:
We all got up early so that we could leave for the beach by 8. We got out of the resort by 8:30, so not bad for Ghanaian standards. The resort that I had originally wanted to check out apparently has been under construction for 4 years. We had decided to go to the end of the peninsula anyways and although it might not be as luxurious as the other place was supposed to be, I decided to get a room there. While waiting for our breakfast, we saw the sky get really dark in the distance. Not soon after, it was thundering, lighting and pouring rain. I felt bad for the others since they came to have sun and were now sitting in the rain. It cleared up by the time they wanted to leave though. 

Around 1 the gang left me at the resort. I spent the day collecting shells and palm leaves. I wove a little basket (not really any good, should have taken a college basket weaving class) while being watched by two small local boys. In the time of making that basket, four guys stopped to chat with me and were saying they wanted us to be "friends".....mmhmmm. I told them I had a boy friend and I was sure he wouldn't be ok with that. One didn't really seem to care too much  and wanted me to be his baby momma. Not...gonna...happen.

I ordered some dinner and read in the book Katie had so kindly let me borrow. Afterwards, I chatted with the manager a bit. He had to take one of the workers to an island up the river because he had to go home to do funeral arrangements. They asked if I wanted to join. I didn't have anything else to do and a little lake ride sounded nice. They told me of all the rich people who owned their own islands around here and have giant houses build on them and on weekends the place is full. It was a pretty long ride in all but lovely enjoying the breeze in the night. I'm off to bed now although it's early to catch up on sleep and be able to enjoy the early sun when I can actually do something. 

My rough plan for the week is to return to Accra on Wednesday and I have social plans every day before I fly back on Saturday. But first I will enjoy the beach a few days!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sure is hot out here....except it wasn't today....it rained....it was lovely

(I will add pictures tomorrow if the hostel internet decided to work, its a pain to do over my cellular data)


Salsa night was a blast!!

Mobola, my Nigerian friend from my hostel, and I grabbed a cab to Afrikiko. Pablo was already there with a few when we arrived. The place was a big open seating area with a few buildings around it that were little restaurants and a bar. There was a dance floor full of people salsa dancing. There were some really, really good dancers out there. At first it made me not even want to try but then I reconsidered and thought, F-it, no one knows me here and how hard can it be to shake your hips a bit….have you met me? I came out shaking my hips at birth.

We found Pablo and shortly after the gang of Americans arrived as well. We ordered drinks (they were not good, my mojito looked really promising but I felt like I was drinking water) and food (of course fried plantains). There were a lot of synchronized line dances going on. Mobola and I went to dance to a few. I thank Betty Hayes Dance School and years of cheer leading for my quick routine picking up skills. It was so much fun. When it switched to partner dancing, it did not take long to find a partner. I was always hoping my partner was really good and he could lead me. I had some fantastic dance partners that got me spinning, twirling and dipping all over the place. It was great. Every so often I had to take a break because I was drenched in sweat. Around the end of our visit, they even played "The Wobble"!. The Macarena was played and they added some cool African twists to it that I will totally be doing from now on. They just know how to move their hips and be really rhythmic compared to the stiff Caucasian way of dancing sometimes.  We stayed until about midnight.

This morning, I wanted nothing more than a good filter coffee with some real milk. I was exhausted! (I found out during the day that the rest of the gang was absolutely tired as well). I headed to the labor ward in a very comfortable temperature. I had to stop and get some phone credit for my phone so that I could get another 2.5 GB of data. It took me 3 weeks to use it up last time and was constantly on my phone so this time I will have to FaceTime a lot to use it up! The corner I bought it at had multiple people selling things. One lady asked me what my name is. I introduced myself and then she asked me what day I was born. I could have told her the day of the month but I knew she wanted to know the day of the week. I looked it up on my phone. I was born on a Monday, so one of my African names would be Adjoa. From that point on, they said I had to introduce myself as Adjoa.

I got to the labor ward and got changed. Shortly after it started to rain and be really windy outside. I still really wanted a coffee. I was so unmotivated. I went to the second labor ward to see if I could finally see a spontaneous birth. Today was the day. I walked into one lady giving birth and saw the baby be born and then while walking around looking in the rooms to get an overview of who all was there, I walked into another birth. The other women were not even close to delivering so I headed back downstairs. I was mad at myself that I was so unmotivated but honestly, I have seen enough C Sections and now two spontaneous births that unless I am actively doing something….I am bored. Luckily Katie had her rotation on the labor ward today. We hung out a bit and while she chatted with her consultant, I walked around looking for something to do. The doctor from yesterday that I had not assisted with, asked if I wanted to scrub in on the next case…..Uh, yes!

I found myself some rain boots (since these are their labor ward shoes) and was waiting to be told to scrub in. Scrubbing in here consists of using hand soap and cleaning up. I tried being as thorough as one can be with hand soup in an OR setting.

The C Section was rather standard. The time went by a lot quicker since I was actually doing something.

Afterwards, Katie, Erica and I headed to MedDiner for some lunch. Greg joined us as well. We headed to their place afterwards so that they could change into normal clothes. We were all so extremely tired and still had to wait for Beth, so we took a quick nap. I was so out of it.

When we did eventually leave, we grabbed a taxi to the Makola Market. None of us had been there but it was recommended for fabric shopping. The traffic got so crowded the closer we got that about 850m before the market, we decided to hop out and walk the rest of the way. There were so many street vendors but our destination was the actual mall. This mall was more of a really run down building with little stores. I couldn't resist and bought some more fabric for family…..they are just so pretty….I can't stop. I am only allowing myself to buy for my family however because I won't have time for it when I get back to Germany.

The others got some fabrics too and then we headed to the Osu area via two taxis. Our friend Aaron, whom we had met last night, told us to come eat ice-cream with him. It took us a bit until we found the place but so worth it! I had coconut and Accra (chocolate with chocolate chips). It was delicious. The place is called Pinnochio on 11th Street off of Oxford Street for anyone interested.

After the dessert before the dinner, we walked back to Shoprite to go to the fish restaurant behind it. It is the same place that we went with a huge group two weeks ago. I had really hyped the place up to the gang so I was really hoping they liked it! We ordered and within the next two hours we were joined by Felix, Amilia, Pablo, Michael, Nana and Nika. Most ordered the fish and some the chicken. I got an order of fried plantains (go figure) and couscous and a side of tomatoes with onions. It took about an hour before the food came but we had good conversations to keep us occupied. When the washing bowls for our hands came, we thought our food would be up next. It took a while (Africa) but it finally came and was soooooo yummy. The gang loved it too, so it really is worth the hype. Go there if you are in Accra.

Aaron drove the gang and me home. He might join us on our weekend trip. It would really make me happy since he drives a comfy truck and likes playing his music and singing along. We sang some JT, Miley and old school songs on the drive home.

I might take a personal day tomorrow and get some laundry, paperwork and packing done to be fully prepared for the travels coming up. We shall see.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sure is hot out here.....we are trespassers O_O

The beach on the road on the way to town

Light House in Accra

The Memorial we trespassed on....opps
Well, today has been a lot more interesting than I thought it was going to be. I thought it would just be hanging around the labor ward, grabbing lunch, maybe a trip to a market and then go out. Let us take it one step at a time.

What I wore: I decided to wear one of my dresses today. My roommate complimented me on it. The porter at the front desk complimented me on it. The random guy talking to the porter said I looked really good in my dress. While walking down the road from my hostel, a girl was coming my way and when she passed me she complimented my dress. Down the street a little further, a doctor stopped his car and asked where I was going and gave me a ride. So many people kept telling me how much they loved my dress. The dress really is beautifully made but I also think they liked that fact that I decided to wear an African style dress.

Erica and I were on the ward together today. One of the doctors from my team were there as well and told us we would be assisting today! Finally!!! Erica got first dibs because she actually wants to do OBGYN. I wasn't mad though. It turns out my patient was a 17 year old and her baby had a hydrocephalus! The doctor decided he wanted to do an ultra sound of the baby and find a heart beat before they call the pediatricians. They have an ultrasound machine?! On this very ward?! Why don't they whip that thing out more often!?

I got scrubbed in and helped the doctor perform the C section. It went well. It was the first hydrocephalus I saw live I think. I don't know how well he will be taken care of here. At the very end I even got to do one suture. It was the first C Section I have assisted on and I was not prepared for the amniotic fluid to be so incredibly warm!! It was bordering on hot.

I watched Erica assist on her second one and then we headed to lunch. There we met up with Katie and Beth. I tried something new today and ordered noodles with vegetables and shared it with Beth. I also had a banana and pineapple smoothie made. Yum.

We headed to their place quick so that the others could get changed and then we headed to the art market.

I warned them it would be chaos. We hardly got out of the car and were already bombarded by people trying to sell us stuff. They would ask us what our name is, where we were from, if we had a boyfriend. By the end of our visit I was living in Hong Kong, had a boyfriend who was here in Ghana with me but was back at the hotel and we were volunteering in the hospital. I bought a woven bag for my mother and I, two bracelets and made an order with my wood carving friend and said I'd be back to pick it up and pay him since I had no money at the time.

We headed to the memorial that was around the corner. We saw visitors inside but couldn't find the right gate. One of the last ones we saw was closed but it was easily opened. We headed in hoping we weren't trespassing. We walked to the center monument and were approached by a man who wanted a picture with us. Heck why not. Then I walked to the center piece where a group of kids were. They all seemed really happy for my arrival and all wanted to group up and get a picture with me. I obliged. Then I was approached by a man and he asked for my entrance ticket…..uh-oh. The other girls came to my rescue but we were at a loss. We explained to him that we didn't have a ticket because we were let through a gate and there was no sign of an actual entrance existing. He told us we had to pay 10 GHC each. We explained to him that we literally had only a few GHC to get home. This wasn't even a lie on our part, we had really spent all our cash at the art market and only had enough to get home. We argued and apologized and tried to explain the situation for a pretty long time. We apologized and said we didn't know, if we had we would have paid but they need to put up a sign or something. He thought we were trying to scam him but eventually realized that we really weren't and then turned the whole thing into a lesson of us all coming from the same place and that we have to stick together and such and when we thought he would let us go with a lesson well learned, he wanted any change we did have and started saying something about lunch and dinner. We were so confused by the end of it all and didn't know if he had just scammed us or what the deal was. He did have a whole ring of keys though which made it look like he might work there. Regardless, he got his 3-4 GHC and we got to go and have a story to tell for it.

We grabbed a taxi back home. Now we are in the process of figuring out what we want to do tonight. Salsa is the plan. Discussion of dinner is being had right now. We will see what happens and I will let you know tomorrow.

Totally forgot to mention this yesterday but my baby boy was released from the hospital! I hope he lives a good life. I'd love to check on him in the future but I don't see that actually working out for me. All I can do is hope my help helped him!

Sure is hot out here.....babies, mall and movies

I've come to terms with the fact that I probably won't know how to do a C section on my own by the time I leave here. The reason is a combination of the doctors not being really inviting to assist, the limited supplies and me not asking because of the knowledge that I would be using up their supplies. I plan on being on the labor ward all week however and at least assist in one.

I spent the morning on the labor and delivery ward with Beth. Since I still haven't seen a spontaneous birth, I went to the 2nd floor in the hopes of seeing one. All I saw in my time there was a doctor examine a lady pregnant with twins and three C sections. I kept walking around checking on the patients to see if anyone was in labor but they were all just hanging out.

I'm at the point where I really don't want to watch another C section unless I'm assisting. I'll probably end up watching more today however. I will try to get every step, every cut and every suture memorized to keep me interested.

I went and picked Erica up in the OB clinic and we went to lunch. At MedDiner, we met up with Katie and Greg. When I went to order, the waitress finished my order for me. I think I might just be the only person who orders white rice and 12 plantains. We chatted while eating and tried to figure out what we wanted to do with the rest of the day. Some wanted to go back to the hospital, Katie and I decided to get some office work done. I stopped by Yaa's store to give her the money for my dresses. I felt really rich carrying 800 Cedis around with me. There were a lot of bills….but in the end it was "only" 300 US Dollars/ 215 Euros.

Back in my room I did some research on possible last year elective spots in the US. IT IS SO HARD! First, there are hardly schools that take international students and second, the ones that do all seem to have factors that make them not work for me: too expensive, their dates don't work with my dates, they don't have Urology as an option (although I might just have to do the general surgery part in the states if I find a program), they are highly competitive spots….there just hasn't been a program yet that looks like it'll work out. I still have a lot of looking around to do.

I had planned on maybe seeing Nana before she left but it was all getting too late for that. The gang and I decided to go to the Accra Mall. They needed to exchange money and wanted to see the mall. I suggested going to the movies as well.

The taxi ride out there took very long because the streets were packed. When we did make it, we went fabric shopping at a fantastic store called Woodin. The prints were a lot more suitable for clothing than a lot of the prints at Kaneshie. I went ahead and bought some for my mom and aunt. I could have taken one of each for me but I know I don't have time to do anything with it when I am back in Germany.

We went to the food court for dinner. I was really craving pizza. It was my lucky day in that the place has a Two for One Tuesdays. Because of this however, it took me a really long time to get my food because there were so many customers and I am sure everyone was having two pizzas made. Two pizzas for 23 Cedis…not bad at all. It took so long though that I didn't have time to eat them and I snuck them into the movie theater with us. We went and watch "About Last Night". I had already seen it in Miami but liked it so much I wanted them to see it and I would watch it again. They enjoyed the movie as well. Even though their were some technical difficulties with the sound at times. (We had had a perfect Captain America experience last week so I felt the difficulties yesterday were a bad first impression for the gang.)

The cab ride back home was much faster because there were no cars on the road.

I'm about to get ready (going to wear one of my new dresses!) and head to the labor and delivery ward to hang out with Erica!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sure is hot out here...again...and my dresses are done!







It was incredibly hot today. One of the hottest days since I've been here I think.

I went to the Gyn Theater today because I knew Erica was there and I was not about to go to the Gyn clinic and just sit around. We watched a hysterectomy (uterus removal) and a myomectomy (removal of little muscle growth balls from the uterus). I would usually be bored just watching an operation (and at times I was) but the extent of the disease is usually much more progressed than what I would see in Germany and thus interesting. Erica and I left before the finished up sewing the last patient shut to have some lunch with Katie, Michael and Felix. I had Red Red again. So yummy but due to the heat I couldn't actually eat a lot.

Afterwards we headed to Nana's store to pick up my dresses. They looked amazing in the bag so I was so excited to see what they look like on. When I asked how much they cost I was thinking it would be about 150-200 Cedis….it was 800! So about 300 US dollars but lets be honest…these things are so nicely made and there is so much detail that if they fit…its worth it. I got three dresses, a skirt and pants.

We headed to their hotel to chill a bit and have a fashion show. The stuff fits great! Totally worth it.

I headed back to my place afterwards, walking a bit of a detour because I missed my gate but I enjoyed the stroll.

I hung out in my room until Isaac and Eugene picked me up at 9:30pm. They drove me to Nana's cousin's house. There, a few other cousins and Nana were just hanging out having drinks. I wore one of my dresses because I was so excited about them and was overdressed but it was fine. I only caught about 40% of the conversations but it was a good time. I was back in bed by 1:30.

Now I am wearing my new skirt and about to head to the labor and delivery ward to see what happens :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sure is hot out here.....another fantastic weekend...so good!

As with most of our plans here, we didn't quite leave Accra when we wanted to. Greg (one of the Massachusetts students) was held up in the hospital. I had gone to Micheal's place to hang out and wait for Erica and Katie. Once they both got there, we grabbed a taxi to their hostel. These guys live in the lap of luxury compared to me! The have AC, warm running water, the place is clean and beautiful. We hung out in their room until Greg made it.

We grabbed a taxi to take us to the Kaneshie Station. Its right next to the Kaneshie market where I bought the fabric. There we found the trotro that would take us to Cape Coast. It was really hot outside and we had to wait for the trotro to fill up. Little kids would come by and touch us and a mother came to my window, tapped me on the shoulder because her son wanted to say hi to me. He was very shy though. A few minutes later he was standing behind the bus (the door was open and I was in the very back seat) and I waved to him. He looked at me for a second and then burst out crying. I felt so bad. This kid is terrified of white people.
Winneba Beach

Google maps in America always seems to over estimate the time of my travel. Here, I feel it only tells me half of the time it will actually take to get somewhere. We were anticipating a 2.5-3 hour drive. It ended up being around 4 hours. In Cape Coast, we had to find our way to the hotel which was a bit out of town. Pablo had called his taxi driver friend Maxwell for us. Since we only wanted to go to the hotel for the night, we didn't want to bother him and just take the first taxi we found. When I told the driver we wanted to go to Brenu Beach Resort he said it would cost 10 Cedis…..per person! Mind you we had paid 11 GHC to get to Cape Coast. I was not having it. I told them it was in absolutely no relation to what we paid to get to Cape Coast. Then Maxwell walked up out of nowhere and introduced himself. He wanted 8 GHC per person. I still thought it was ridiculous but we didn't really have another choice.

Winneba Beach
The problem was also that we were 5 people plus Maxwell requiring four of us to squish in the back. Along the drive, Maxwell told me that we would pass through a police check point (there are a lot of those in Ghana, especially at night and I don't think they are that effective). He said it would be best if one of us got out and walked through the check point and then got picked up on the other side. He said this and looked at me. I thought he might pick out Greg because he is the guy but after Greg said he is terrible at lying…..I let my inner actress emerge and hopped out of the car. My mom and grandma are probably having a heart attack at this point reading that last sentence. I walked past the officers and said good evening. They asked where I was going (they were probably shocked to see an obruni walk the streets in this deserted area alone at night) and I said I was just going to a friends house. (I had no Idea what was past the border..houses? farms? nothingness for miles to come?) They asked where exactly and I told them I didn't have an exact address and wasn't from here so I wasn't sure how to explain it but that they were on their way to pick me up and it was no problem. They seemed to be either satisfied with that response or too shocked to do anything about it. On the other side of the barrier was another police officer who asked if I needed an escort. Not quire sure if he said that out of pure concern for my safety or if that situation would have ended in a marriage proposal. I told him I was just fine and kept walking. It was really dark and the starry sky was beautiful but having semi trucks pass you on a road in the middle of Africa in the dark is not the safest feeling in the world. A taxi passed me and honked. I had no idea if that was my taxi or just any taxi in Ghana that wanted to get my attention. It pulled to the side of the road in front of me. I figured it was them but the thought of a super sketchy situation definitely crossed my mind. Luckily it was them. I got in and we continued on. They told me that they didn't take their eye off of me the whole time and were freaking out to Maxwell when he drove past me thinking he was leaving me. He just needed to get passed the second officer though.

Winneba Beach, Isaac photobombed us


The road down to our hotel was long, bumpy and had lots of holes. It was well worth it though. Even in the dark the place looked nice. We got our two rooms and they even still made us food although we didn't get there until 9:30. The food was delicious, really surprisingly good actually. We sat around a bit longer for drinks but then went to bed knowing we had to get up at 5:30 to be picked up by Isaac to be taken to the funeral. The beds were amazingly comfortable so I slept like a rock.


Saturday:

I had told Isaac to call me when he is in Cape Coast so that we would have about a half an hour time to get ready. All I did was braid my hair, throw on my jumpsuit and put on some mascara. Isaac came with his friend Eugene. The drive to Winneba took about an hour and forty-five minutes. We three slept most of the way. The funeral took place in a huge enclosed square. Red and black tents where set up around an open square area. The first familiar face I saw was of Nana's "crazy" aunt. Isaac had told the ushers we were with the family and they wanted us to sit in the elevated area at the front of the square. We all felt that was not necessary and wanted to be more in the back as observers. The aunt asked where she was supposed to sit and apparently the organization was switching at the moment moving the family members directly opposite from where the signs had hung. We positioned ourselves in the third row and waited. We probably sat there two hours before it actually started in which time we observed things still getting set up, people arriving, the different groups of people (distinguished by their identical groups of clothing) greeting the family members. Nana, Sandra and Sarah eventually arrived and introduced themselves to Katie and Erica. The other aunts and cousins that I had met a few nights ago recognized me (lets be honest, in comparison it is not that hard being the only obruni around) and said hello. We three were starving and sweating incredibly and were so thankful when they started handing out water bottles to the guests. Nana also handed us little pamphlets. We had felt a bit awkward attending a funeral of a person we didn't even know so these pamphlets were great. I later learned that families who have the means tend to make these books. It consisted of the program, tributes from the widow, the children and the grandchildren, a biography about the passed and a photo gallery. After reading through it (not trying to cry during the written tributes) I actually felt like I had a sense of what a great man this person was.
At the reception after the ceremony with Nana

The scene was filled with commotion with a choir singing, the music system playing music and the MC announcing various things through it all. Nana told us that we were getting ready to see the body. We got up with her and went to the tent that was at the top of the square decorated with flowers and a red carpet leading up to the door. We walked silently through and passed the body and then retired to our seats. A bit later the actual ceremony started.

There were multiple priests there that were introduced as though they were rock stars. A prayer was said and then a hymn was sung. Afterwards, the respective people read their tributes. I am amazed they made it all the way through without breaking into tears. The widow did as soon as she was done reading but had that been me, I would have been weeping in the first sentence. The rest of the ceremony was build around gospel singing, preaching, lecturing and what seemed like a lot of chaos at times. It was definitely an experience we were glad we had.
Sunset at our Brenu Beach Resort

Nana arranged for Isaac and Eugene to take us to the beach while the family went to the grave yard for the lowering of the body. We grabbed some drinks and headed to the water. The beach was gorgeous. We rolled up our pants and held up our dresses and ran to the water. It felt so good after feeling so hot. We took a lot of pictures and drank our drinks. It was rather odd being on the beach in complete black outfits though.

After a bit, we headed to the reception. There we found Nana and the rest of the party. They had set up a buffet of Ghanian food. The line had gotten pretty long so Nana put us in the front of the line. I felt really bad budging the others (those stupid obrunis) but Nana insisted. Being a vegetarian, I got white rice and plantains (classic. although she really didn't want to give me a lot of plantains, probably confused by the fact that my plate was not filled with meat), fufu and some sauces. Nana had her own basket of stuff and gave us some of her homemade sauce and asked what we wanted to drink. I asked for Baileys thinking it would be a sip….she filled up a red solo cup. After eating, they gave us corn wine (corn, sugar, salt and water, locally brewed) to drink. Not so much my favorite. There was a little 6 month old on Eugene's lap and I asked if I could hold him. I still hadn't held a child since I've been here so that was exciting. He was precious. He didn't protest at all when I held him and just looked at me with big eyes probably confused as too why I looked so weird. He didn't really seem to care though and laid is head on my chest to nap a bit. So. Cute.

We decided to head back to the resort after eating. Before we left, Nana asked if I wanted to dance with the tribal dancers who were there. I headed over with her and there was a man, a woman and a little girl getting their African tribal groove on. I joined them. Just that simple. I probably looked like a complete fool but I didn't care. When would I get a chance like that again? Some guest actually complimented me afterwards.

We grabbed Isaac and Eugene and headed back. The drive took a wee bit longer due to traffic but we were back in time to throw on a bikini and hop into the ocean. The waves and tides where pretty strong so that we didn't venture out far. Some locals came and wanted to chat and swim with us and have their picture taken. It seems a lot of people here love having their picture taken. The rest of the day was spent eating, relaxing and talking until about 11:30pm.

The Wisconsin Badgers played the Kentucky Wildcats in the middle of the night.‚ I had dragged my computer along the whole way hoping I would have internet and could watch the game. My mom did a great job at representing my though and got all dressed up back home and actually watched the game!!! Her and my dad went to friends house and watched. Sadly they lost by one point. My mom informed me of this and for about 20 minutes I laid in bed devastated. This game was a personal one for me….but I'll survive….sniff….cry.

Sunday:

I had originally planned to watch the sunrise at 5:45 but I must have fallen into a depressed deep sleep after the game results that I didn't hear my alarm and woke up at 6:20. I quickly got changed and went to the beach where I ran into Katie. She had missed the initial sunrise as well but said it was fairly cloudy so I didn't miss anything. I pulled a lying chair onto the beach and into the morning sun and laid there. Eventually Erica joined us and then Beth. Breakfast was included and consisted of an omelet, pineapple and papaya and toast with butter and jam. We had missed breakfast the day before but Beth said they had french toast!
Fresh coconut!

We spent the next four hours on the beach tanning, swimming, taking pictures and talking. I boy climbed up one of the palm trees and got me a super fresh coconut for just 1 GHC, I gave him 2 for risking his life. It was DELICIOUS! The waves were not as strong as the day before and Erica and I had some fun getting knocked over by them. At 11:30 my alarm went off to head to the room and get packed up.
Playing in the waves
Getting my coconut!
Cape Coast Castle
Cape Coast Castle
In the mens dungeon in Cape Coast Castle
On the other side of the Door of No Return, Today happiness
Panorama at Cape Coast Castle

Winneba Beach making Uncle David Hasselhoff proud




When I got back to the group and wanted to pay, I was informed that there had been a little misunderstanding. When Katie had read the website and made the reservation, the site said "100$ in Ghana Cedis". She (and I would have done the same) interpreted that as 100 GHC because she thought the dollar sign just meant monetary value. If they had used it correctly, the $ would have stood before the "100" or after would have been "USD". Apparently they really meant 100 USD in Cedis (so about 250 GHC). Well….$100 and 100 GHC is quite a difference. We all only had around 220-250 Cedis with us because we thought housing and food would only run us about 170. Now our bill was 1240 GHC and all our money pooled together was only 1197! Katie and Greg went to talk to the manager to see what we could do. She agreed to take all our money and tolerate the 44 GHC difference. So there we stood with absolutely no money!

I had called Maxwell, the cab driver, to come to the resort at 12. He drove us to Elmina where we wanted to see the castle but first had to find an ATM. The ATM in Elmina was shut off. So we drove to Cape Coast. The first bank we stopped at the one ATM was out of order and the other one was shut off. A sign directed people to either the university or Elmina (haha, because that one totally works). Luckily, there was a Barclay Bank around the corner. To add to the fun, me and Katie were the only ones with Credit cards on us. I went ahead and got money since I had to anyways. For the rest of the day I felt like a mother of four children paying for everything.

With money in my hands, we went to the Cape Coast Castle. We had heard from some people that they liked the Elmina tour better. Although I can't compare the two, the tour we got from Francis was absolutely great! It was so informative. Cape Coast Castle is one of three castles in Ghana and was the main point of slave trade a few hundred years ago. The story of this castle is truly sad and what happened there is horrific. He did such a great job explaining everything and showing us the different aspects. I highly recommend a visit to anyone in the area. Even the Obamas were there and have a  plaque on the wall stating they were, in fact, there.

We were rather exhausted afterwards because it was so hot. We had Maxwell take us to Oasis for some dinner before he took us to the trotro station. There was a bit of discussion and inguiries before we found a bus to Accra. It was a bus with actual individual seats and since we were the first, we all got seats with AMAZING leg room! It took about a half an hour for the trotro to fill up and we were off.

I don't know how the bus driver managed to do so but we got back to Kaneshie Market in about 2.5 hours!

We all headed back to their hotel so that I could do the math and get the money from them. After collecting my money, I headed back to my room. A new person moved into my room on Friday but I had missed her since I was gone. I was a bit hesitant to meet her because I wasn't psyched about the whole getting to know your roommate game all over again. She seemed very nice though and is also here for exams so she will be studious. I took a shower and tried to tidy up the hot mess that is me.

It was a great weekend, even if we did pay a lot more than we thought we would. The funeral, the beach and the castle were all great experiences I can add to my list!

Good night!