Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sure is hot out here.....another fantastic 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.


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.


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!

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