Right now I am currently on my one-week vacation. So far I have traveled through five regions of Ghana (though I have only stopped in the Eastern Region at a rest stop between Accra and Kumasi) and will hit one more before I head back to Kumasi. My holiday started with a trip to Accra, then one night rest in Kumasi, up to Tamale, then over to Mole National Park, and now I am back in Tamale. Later today I’ll be heading up the Bolgatanga to do some work in the Upper East Region and then stop in Bawku to visit a friend.
Will be writing a lot more once I am in Kumasi with consistent internet connection. There will be pictures of an elephant, warthogs and other animals from the walking safari in Mole to come.
Chris and I are currently in Accra reconnecting with some other jhr interns to kick off our week+ vacation. We finished off our week on Friday at Kapital Radio with a celebration of Canada Day, Republic Day and Kapital’s 14th anniversary. The day was a lot of fun, and Chris and I even got to read a brief news bulletin, complete with a Twi introduction.
Last night we decided to trek out to the Accra Mall, which several of my Ghanaian friends have been encouraging me to check out. After waiting for a tro that didn’t actually regularly frequent the stop we were at, we got better directions and tro-hopped to the mall. While we were heading to the other end of the city from where we are staying, it felt like we took a brief trip back to North America for the night.
For anyone suffering from many of the common misconceptions about what life in Africa looks like, they would be surprised by going to the mall. Surrounding the mall there were several modern, sky-scraper apartment buildings under construction. Though many of the stores carry the modern versions of Ghanaian clothing, there are also western stores, such as Puma, a Nike store and a recognized Apple dealer. For Chris and I the big excitement was going to the movie theatre to watch Bridesmaids.
One of the rules we’ve adopted during our time in Ghana is from the movie Zombieland. While Ghana is clearly nothing like Zombieland, #32-Enjoy the Little Things, has been key to staying happy. After arriving at the mall we decided to dedicate our whole night to good ol’ Rule 32. We enjoyed North American fast food, saw a movie and walked around a store that is kind of like Walmart.
Being in Accra is definitely a change of pace for us. Both times we’ve come here since heading up to Kumasi we’ve decided to indulge ourselves and enjoy the little things. They may seem as minor as having a massive salad, but it’s a nice way to incorporate a little home into our Ghanaian lives.
On Sunday I went to a church service for the first time ever. My HR manager took us to his church, which is not too far from Kapital Radio. Religion is a huge part of Ghanaian life; most people revolve their Saturday nights and Sundays around going to church, and religious slogans are prominently featured EVERYWHERE.
I’ve officially become used to being grilled about my lack of a religion. The first time I expressed my non-believing status in the newsroom my co-workers actually laughed at the absurdity of it all. The next day I actually got grilled on my beliefs by the gospel host at our station. I hold my ground when it comes to religious discussion, but bottom line for me is that I respect everyone’s right to have a religion and I likewise feel like my right to not have a religion should be respected.
The church service Chris and I attended was extra long, as it was a joint English and Twi service. I have to say I probably would have enjoyed a strictly Twi service more as I would have preferred not to understand what the sermon was about. To the church’s credit it wasn’t their Reverend preaching, but instead a guest sermon done by a man from the UK who runs an NGO in Ghana.
I really enjoyed the singing and dancing at the church, but sermons aren’t exactly my cup of tea. Especially when they preach religious supremacy. Which is exactly what happened on Sunday. There is a high level of harmony between Christians and Muslims in Ghana (the two most prevalent religious groups), to the point that I think many other countries need to take note and see how it’s possible to exist peacefully despite religious beliefs. I think trying to show the way of Jesus Christ (I’m paraphrasing here) is dangerous in a place that religious coexistence is so peaceful, but that’s just my opinion.
What’s been interesting for me as a non-believer in a highly religious country is that people are quite interested in how its possible for someone not to believe in God, Jesus and all that comes with the bible; forcing me to think about my lack of religion more than ever before. Coincidentally a couple of the podcasts I listen to have been about the decrease in religious association in select countries around the world, and I, not surprisingly, agree with what Phil Zuckerman (who I’ve heard interviewed twice) says about religion. Zuckerman is a professor at Pitzer College, which just started a school of secular studies.
Anyways that’s my two cedis on religion for today. Wisconsin Public Radio’s, To the Best of Our Knowledge, just had an interesting podcast called Losing Religion. You should check it out.
I’m pleasantly surprised by the food in Ghana. I have a fairly standard menu for my meals based on what we are able to eat.
BREAKFAST: I usually take breakfast in my room at the guest house - I found a powdered maize based cereal at the market, which I like, and I also make instant coffee in the morning. Nescafe instant coffee is the norm here. Alternatively we can get eggs and bread either at the canteen at our place or go find a street vendor. The bread is quite sweet here, but I enjoy it.
LUNCH - The radio station I work at has a subsidized canteen, so for 1 cedi (approximately 65 cents) I can have an entire meal! Our cook Mary makes different things every day. A standard meal is plain rice, stew (tomatoes, onions, sometimes groundnuts, etc. blended) and salad. About once a week she makes omo tuo (rice balls) and groundnut soup, which is my favourite meal. Other foods here include banku (fermented maize and cassava dough) with okra stew, plantain and palava.
DINNER - By the time we get off work the canteen at our place is closed, as are most food places in the area. Pretty much every night we go to see Chris, a fried rice vendor in Adum. He makes us a massive plate of fried rice with salad, beans and chicken (which all goes to Chris). It’s very filling, not horrible for you - definitely not extremely healthy either though - and costs only 2 cedi! Other foods I’ve eaten for either lunch or dinner are jollof rice, red red and beans, fried fish and fufu.
SNACKS - Other things we like to eat in Ghana are Fanyogo or Fanice (frozen strawberry yogurt or ice cream in a bag), cream crackers (more just a filler), groundnuts, plantain chips and fruit - bananas, mangoes, oranges.
There’s a Wikipedia page on Ghanaian cuisine that has good descriptions if you want to know more! We don’t have access to a kitchen to cook, but food is so cheap here that it doesn’t really matter. So far I’ve only been shown how to make Fufu (Chris has made a video on this, which I will post later) but I’m interested in making more.
I’m in Accra for a few days, and will not update again until I’m back in Kumasi. In the meantime if there’s anything you want to read about, feel free to drop me a line on my Ask page. If there’s anything you want to know more about let me know and I’ll get to it as soon as I can!
This week we had a shortened work week as it was African Unity Day on Wednesday. We went in for a half day on the holiday and spent almost full days the rest of the week (8:30 a.m.-6ish p.m.). Some highlights from the week were having an in-depth conversation with the gospel host of the station on religion and my lack of belief in Christianity (I’ll talk about religion more later on), having my first Star beer in Kumasi on Friday after a staff meeting, and helping clean out the office on Saturday in preparation for newsroom painting!
I’m really enjoying my time at Kapital Radio. Everyone is extremely friendly and more than willing to try and further integrate us into Ghanaian life. One of my coworkers is extremely keen on having me learn as much Twi as possible, each day I come home with a few new words. He has finally given up on teaching me nonsense and useless terms (80 per cent was his favourite for a few days). Yesterday we were formally introduced at a staff meeting, after which the guys told Chris they are anticipating his departure to France for a few days. I’m hoping the sports team follows through with saying they will take me to the Black Star game and take care of me while I’m there.
Tomorrow I am heading back to Accra for a few days. I am hoping to attend a press conference on Right to Health, meet up with the IYIP interns and maybe meet one of the Ghanaians that worked with my cousin Lyndi. We’re planning on staying near a good internet cafe the first night I’m there so I might get a chance to update while I’m away. If not look forward to some of my first photos when I get back on Tuesday!
Here is the link for the radio station I am working at over the summer in Kumasi. If you tune in on Saturday at 6 p.m. GMT you can hear the only human rights radio program in Ghana, aired by Muftaw Mohammed. I will be working on the show every week.
In North America we go through a lot of clothes. We buy them, we get sick of them, and then we get rid of them. So, what happens when no one buys you’re pre-loved clothes from Goodwill and Value Village? It comes to Ghana.
Previously clothing of all types that was unable to sell at charity shops was shipped to countries such as Ghana. In the fall, the Ghana Standard Board enacted a new law saying that as of February 2011 used undergarment and other “sanitary ware” can be imported into the country. Yep, Ghana doesn’t want your dirty underwear.
The rest of your used clothing is however, still okay.
While walking around in the Kejetia Market in Kumasi I noticed some amusing examples of second-hand clothing clearly from North America. I started a mental list and I’m sure I’ll be adding to it over the summer.
Ikea employee shirt
Duff beer slippers on a mascot from the press conference I was at (read about this later on the jhr blog)