A Travellerspoint blog

10th July (by Ben)

On the drive to Denu, Simon took us the long way, to see some of the beautiful scenery Ghana has to offer. Ghana has everything that you could possibly want out of Africa. It has the little villages, where people stay in huts with straw roofs. Or rooves. I'm not quite sure. It has the forests and mountains, and we even saw some jungle. Don't worry dad, I was not eaten by a lion. Not even a little bit.
One unexpected thing was that Ghana is obsessed with mobile phones. The 2 major networks that are competing are MTN and vodafone. They do absolutely everything to advertise, and the strangest thing is driving through a small village to see that all the houses are painted red with vodafone logos. Apparently the people are paid by the company to paint their homes, so some villages are completely red with vodafone logos, and there are some MTN villages, where almost every house/hut is painted yellow.
On the way, Simon pulled over the car to get some food that he said he would like us to try. Many women run to the windows trying to sell you their food. The name for white person is "Yavoo", so many say "Yavoo, would you like to buy some bread?"... "Yavoo, do you want sweet potatoes?"... After a while, I heard one look at me ans hout "Yavoo, buy something for your wife", pointing at Emilie. Brilliant.
Simon bought us some meat on a stick, from an animal called grasscutter. It was really nice, and tasted like roast beef. After we had finished, Emilie looked it up in the guide book to find that it was a large rat. Iam happy I didn't know that at the time.
Later we stopped in Ho, where Simon said he wanted us to try Tilapia. You get some Banku (quite a heavy starchy ball, made from maize I think) and a spicy tomato-ey sauce, and a full fish. I asked how much of the fish you ate, and Simon sid we had to eat all of it, even the head.
I laughed.
Simon did not.
We ate it African style (with your hands) which is actually much better for eating fish, as you feel if there are any bones before you put them in your mouth. After we had ate most of the fish, only the head was left. Simon said that you did not actually have to eat the head, you just pulled the meat from the head (basically the fish's face) out from the skull, and suck the juice out. It was very salty, and I am quite surprised that I did it.
When we arrived in Denu we were greeted by the host family. In ghana it is usual that a family has a very large house, which is more like a compound with a collection of small flats in a communal building for all of the family to live in. So when we arrived there were lots of people there, and lots of names to (try to) remember. Poeple have an Ewe name (Ewe is the local language spoken in the Volta Region of Ghana, and in parts of Togo) and also a Christian name. And also a name depending on the day of the week, which is not so often used, although some people choose to use it, like Kofi Annan. I can't remember which day Kofi is, but I think it is Thursday. My name would be Kwame, as I am Saturday born, and Emilie's name would be Yawa. The christian names are often religious. Living with us is Bless, and an Innocensia (Innocence), and Courage. I have also met people called Gifty, Happy and many others like that.
As we arrived quite late, we went to bed quite early. Well, we had woken up at Ghanaian time, which means 7am at the very very latest.
I should say that I am still confused trying to work out the time difference between Ghana and the UK, or Canada.
Ghana is on GMT (the same as Britian), but as it lies colse to the equator, the days are light from 6am to 6pm all year round so there is no need to change the clocks by 1 hour because of seasons. So I know that there is a 1 hour time difference with the UK, but I can't remember which way round it goes.

Dad, don't worry, I have still not been eaten by a lion.

I have run out of time at the internet cafe, so will have to continue later.
bye.

Posted by Fat Face 10:05 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (2)

8th to the 13th of July (by Emilie)

We love Ghana!

sunny 28 °C

Hello dear subscribers,

I am very sorry to have made you wait such a long time, but squeezing in a trip to the Internet Cafe has proven more difficult than expected as we are so busy enjoying this beautiful country and its welcoming people. But here I am!

7th and 8th of July were spent traveling, which doesn't really leave much interesting to say. The drive to London was exhausting. but quicker than expected, the flights were comfortable and good and the arrival was also as good as can be. The only aspect that was not enjoyable at all, was the transit in Tripoli in Libya, but I am not going to dwell on it.
The first night was spent with Captain Ecku at the Salvation Army Hostel in Accra, the capital. Needles to say that after welcoming the other people in the dormitory, we quickly went to sleep.

9th of July: I wake up at 5am, because of the sound of people rummaging around outside the dormitories. Yes, Ghanaians wake up extremely early every day and it's no shock to hear some people say they wake up around 4am or even earlier. This is mainly so that they can avoid working in the hot midday sun. I wake up a very sleepy and confused Ben and we tell Captain Ecku that we will be having a walk around the area, before meeting our coordinator, Simon. The first impressions of Accra is that it is a crazy city that never sleeps: taxis all horn at us to welcome us as well as to make sure we don't get lost and we get stopped numerous times by people saying: "You are welcome!" When we return, we meet Simon. He is a Ghanaian living in South Africa, who has come over especially for us and we quickly realise our luck: Simon is a true example of the Ghanaian spirit: proud of his country and people, honest, committed, funny, loving with an amazing love for life and humour: no matter what he has to say - be it serious, bad, happy or sad - everything is followed by a roar of laughter. We have breakfast together and he gives us our orientation briefing, which includes all the information we may possibly need to know, including safety issues, work, host family, etc. He makes us feel at home in his country straight away. We then go to Accra and after buying a Ghanaian sim card, we have our first roadside lunch. It's absolutely lovely, but I realise too late that my stomach is not made for such spicy food and so I end up hill at the hostel all day. We were meant to go to Denu to visit our host family, but thanks to me we had to delay it. No more spicy food for me! So the first day is not really worth mentioning any further.

10th of July: Wake up at 7am and set off with Simon in his shabby little car. We have a roadside breakfast and yet again the food doesn't deceive us: delicious butter bread with a vegetable omelette and a cup of 'Milo' (hot chocolate).

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We stop somewhere to have the car fixed at a car repair centre.

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Instead of driving from Accra straight to Denu on the coastal road, Simon takes a detour so that we can experience a little of the lush green Volta region. We stop at 'Ho' (capital of the Volta Region) and have our first proper Ghanaian meal: Tilapia Fish with Banku. The fish comes fresh with head and everything and we are suppose to eat all of it... with our right hand. It's delicious, despite the fact that the head keeps staring at us and Simon makes us suck the juice out of it. Yes... we sucked a fish's head! ;) Banku is a different matter: a ball of dough made of grinded corn and water. It is very heavy and probably the only thing Ben and I aren't too keen on. But at least we tried it.

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Along the way, Simon buys something from a street vendor that looks quite meaty. It's not until we have finished it, that he reveals we have eaten a big rat, or what they call 'grascutter'. I have a picture of it in my guide book and it looks hideous. Thankfully we didn't know this while we ate it! It's delicious though! After that culinary experience, we set off to Denu and finally get to our Ghanaian home. We briefly meet some of the family, but get quickly dragged to our room so we can have a good long sleep and leave the acquaintance-making to tomorrow. We have a great first night in our big bedroom with double bed and fan keeping us cool through out the night.

11th of July: first day in Denu! We wake up and our host-sister, Bless has already prepared a hearty breakfast. Unfortunately we are accompanied by an elderly American, who stays with the family every weekend. His name is Godfrey and even though he comes to Ghana on a regular basis to teach and fund a boy's school education, we have never met a more negative person. We eat as quick as we can so that we can enjoy the sun and the company of Bless and some of the other people living in the compound around the house. Bless decided to take us to the beach, which is a short walk away on the hot sand. It is stunning: the sands are golden, the people along the way welcoming and the strong waves crash down on the beach from the ocean. We relax under the coconut-trees and have a wonderful time. Everyone greets us with an excited: "yavoo!" (white person), followed by: "how are you?" or "eh foa" (in the local Volta language Ewe).

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As we return Simon awaits us to take us to Keta, a lovely town a couple of hours away. Keta used to be the former capital of the Volta region, but most of the city was washed away by an enormous flood that washed half of the town away. We have another beach walk in the lovely sunset, while Simon crazily chases the crabs. What a wonderful first day! We help Bless cook dinner and have our first meal together at the house and feel right at home!
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12th of July: Happy Birthday Mama! We get woken up by a church service held in the church next to the house at 5am. It is full of excitement, chanting, drumming and you couldn't ask for a nicer and more vibrant wake-up call. After breakfast, Simon comes over to bring us to the bank so we can change our money into the local currency: Cedi. The rest of the day is interesting yet rather tiresome as we visit the neighbouring border town Aflao and go to the construction site to help out with some measurements and other organisational stuff. We just want to get our hands dirty straight away!

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The rest of the day is much nicer: we have lunch in a lovely restaurant and then visit one of the other volunteers who works at a hospital: Julia from Germany. Then we wait around in the area while the Ghanaians have a meeting regarding the projects that they run. We meet many local people: a family from Togo, excited children asking us to take pictures ("yavoo, snap a picture of us!") and we learn as much Ewe as we can from the locals.

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As we return home and have dinner, we at last meet our host mother Celestine, who was away for the weekend. She is the stereotype of a loving big 'African Mama' and she screams with excitement as she meets us and cuddles us to death! :) She is as lovely as the rest of the family!

And unfortunately my time has run out, so I will have to pick up on the blog when I get a chance to make another trip to the internet cafe. Hopefully it will be sooner, so that we don't have to make you wait such a long time anymore, but hopefully this will keep you going!

We miss you all very much, but are having an amazing time here. Ghana has treated us with kindness and much love and we are treating it as our second home. We love it here! :)
We hope you are all well, much love from Emilie (a.k.a. Yawaa (meaning Thursday in Ewe, as I was born on that day). Make sure to read the entries by Kwame (a.k.a. Ben, meaning Saturday in Ewe, because he is Saturday born).

Posted by Fat Face 09:45 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (1)

9th July (by Ben)

Ghanaians wake up early! Emilie woke me up at 6am (she was slightly confused, so I had to explain to her that there was actually a 6 at the beginning of the day, as well as at the end, as she has never woke up so early) and everybody was already awake. Emilie said that she asked and that the people said that everybody in Ghana wakes up this early. hmmmmm. I just wanted to check, so I asked someone (sounding quite concerned) if it was true that all Ghanaians wake up this early. He was laughing while he said yes, then I heard him telling his friends what I had just asked. Later I was telling them how well I thought Ghana had done at the World Cup. By 7 or 8 they were dressed in uniforms, and leaving. I was quite surprised, and was telling Emilie that I didn't think that the Salvation Army actually had an army. And I can't imagine what that army would do either. I asked someone who told me that they were Nigerians training to be in the Navy. So the Salvation Army probably does not have an Army. And they probably do not care how well Ghana did in the World Cup.
Captain Eku said to us that we should go down to see Simon (who is the co-ordinator in Ghana). I did not know that Simon was sleeping, and we were puhed in his romm, while Captain Eku was laughing, and told to wake him. I think that Emilie was the brave one who prodded him, and then Simon sprung into life. He said that he had only arrived at 5am, and was still quite tired, so he would sleep just a little bit more before we go to Denu (where we are staying).
Once we had finished the initiation and had Ghanain breakfast (quite sweet bread, and some English tea) it was getting towards midday. Later we went out and ate Ghanain style, by the side of the road. As you walk along the street, there are people cooking food, and you just sit down on a bench there and eat. It's really cool, and the food is much better than the fast food that you would get in the UK, like burgers and crap like that. Ghanaians like their spicy food, and even a mild dish (by Ghanaian standards) was enough to make my mouth burn, and upset Emilie's belly. Lightweight.
Later on that day, Simon took us out to see Accra. I discovered the single greatest snack ever made. Plantain. It looks like a banana, but is literally twice the size. You can get them chopped into sliced and fried so that they are like crisps, and they are really delicious. I should also say that you order them the Ghanaian way, by shouting "Plantain!" as loud as you can out of the car window, then a woman with a basket on her head (carrying the plantain in it, not just wearing the basket. That would be strange.) comes running along to the car window. You have to get money out and give it to her as she frantically gives you the Plantain and the change, all while running alongside the car.
We slept in Accra for the night, because it would be dark while we drove to Denu, and driving in Ghana is dangerous enough while it it light :)

Posted by Fat Face 09:44 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

7/8th of July (by Ben)

sunny 30 °C

So finally we are here in Ghana!
Getting here was not without its hassle though... We forgot (well, at least I did) that you had to pay a deposit on rental cars, and it's quite a lot, so there were a lot of "what if" thought's in my head. Luckily they were nice enough to drive us home and to the bank, but it was definitely very close to being a premature end to our trip.
Once we had the car, we were both too excited to go for a sleep like we planned, so we watched the Germany vs Spain game and ate pasta bake. After a few last minute preparations we were on the way at 10pm for an 8 hour drive to London Gatwick. The whole journey was really easy except for the M6 around Birmingham, where Emilie decided that she would really like to go for a tour around Warwick instead of driving to London. She insisted that she knew where she was going though. I thought it would be rude to point out that she was holding the map upside down, so I just followed the signs for London ;)
After driving through the night, I was so tired that I was actually asleep before the plane took off. We had a brief stop over in Libya for 2 hours (that felt more like 5) which was certainly... different. I was seriously worried that they would not let us out of the airport, because of the way that almost every single worker in the airport stared at us suspiciously. I knew it was quite a closed off country, but still I am surprised how severe it was.
Actually, in Gatwick airport while we were in the long queue waiting to check in the luggage, a woman who worked for the airline came up close to us and covering her mouth said in a hushed tone "are you with the group?". We were confused and when I asked her what group she meant, she said "The CIA". There was actually a long queue of middle aged men wearing sunglasses, chewing gum, and frantically looking around and over their shoulder. Americans are good at making movies, but clearly not so good and being inconspicuous. I hope that is the right word, because I really dont know what it means.
Once we landed in Ghana we were picked up by Captain Eku.
Captain Eku.
Yes, that it his real name.
Captain Eku.
The more you say it, the more African it sounds.
Captain Eku took us to the Salvation army hostel, where we spent the night, in Accra. Ghanaian people do whatever they want on the road. there are basically no rules, and I dont think that there is a Ghanaian equivalent of an MOT, but if there was they would only check that the horn is working. They use it constantly, in the same way that you would use a bell on a bike, just to let people know that you are there.

Posted by Fat Face 09:19 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Travel Itinerary

After being freshly graduated from the University of Glasgow, there isn't much time left until we are going to Ghana! We can hardly hide our excitement! But before we can set foot on African ground, there is a very long day of travelling ahead of us. If you fancy counting the days and hours until our adventure starts together with us, have a look at our itinerary:

[Note: All times are GMT (Greenwich Main Time). So, as you can see: Libya is located at GMT +2 hours. Because Ghana is located so close to the equator, they do not make use of day-light saving time, meaning that even though they are located on the Greenwich/ Prime Meridian (GMT time zone), during the summer months they are one hour ahead of us: GMT – 1 hour. So, as an example: if in the UK it is 17:00, in Libya it will be 18:00, and in Ghana it will be 16:00. Easy peasy.]

Wednesday 7th July at 16:30 - Pick up the rental car in Glasgow.
Wednesday 7th July at 17:30 – Charge our batteries and dream of what's to come.
Wednesday 7th July at 22:00 – Start of the long drive from Glasgow to London.

...traffic and rush hour around London permitting...
(estimation) Thursday 8th July between 06:00 and 08:00 – at London Gatwick Airport.

Thursday 8th July at 09:00 – Check-in.
Thursday 8th July at 12:30 – Departure Gatwick Airport with Afriqiyah Airways.
Thursday 8th July at 17:00 (16:00 GMT) – Arrival at Tripoli Airport in Libya.

Thursday 8th July at 19:55 (18:55 GMT) – Departure Tripoli Airport with Afriqiyah Airways.
Thursday 8th July at 22:35 (23:35 GMT) – Arrival at Accra Airport in Ghana! At last!

We will be picked up from the airport by (wait for this...) Captain Eku! What a brilliant name! Because we land at such a late time, we will be staying the night in Ghana's vibrant capital. The next morning, we will apparently have breakfast with Simon, the main coordinator in charge, who will then take us to change our money in Accra, before driving us to Denu. We are very happy with these arrangements for several reasons: First of all, it is nice to be able to have a good night's sleep as soon as we land, so that we can arrive in Denu fresh and happy. Secondly, the local currency, the Cedi, is only available within Ghana itself. All the travel guides have recommended we take along American Dollars, as this seems to be the most stable and most common foreign currency, but seen we will be located in a small village, it will be important to have some local change at hand. And lastly and less importantly, we doubt that we will have seen much of Accra after 24 hours of travelling, but if the opportunity presents itself to have a snoop around, we will definitely seize it and try and get a feel for the city.

Even though it seems rather peculiar to mention the return journey before even having set foot in Ghana, I have also added the return itinerary for those wondering when we will be returning:

Monday 9th August at 23:35 (00:35 GMT) – Departure Accra Airport with Afriqiyah Airways.
Tuesday 10th August at 06:00 (05:00 GMT) – Arrival at Tripoli Airport in Libya.

Tuesday 10th August at 08:30 (07:30 GMT) – Departure Tripoli Airport with Afriqiyah Airways.
Tuesday 10th August at 11:00 – Arrival at London Gatwick Airport.

Tuesday 10th August at 17:00 – Departure London Gatwick Airport with British Airways.
Tuesday 10th August at 18:20 – Arrival Glasgow Airport.
(estimation) Tuesday 10th August at around 19:30 – Taxi home.

Wednesday 11th August until about 13:00 - Do NOT disturb, we will be asleep! ;)

But we'll cross that bridge when we get there, because only ONE more sleep and we are setting off to go to Ghana! With a bit of luck and the "cyber gods" on our side, the next entry should hopefully be directly from Africa! Yes! :)

Much love,

Ben & Emilie xxx

Posted by Fat Face 14:23 Archived in Ghana Tagged preparation Comments (1)

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