Author Archives: laurenlowers

Month of September

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I just realized that is has been an entire month since I have written on here. I am super sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been trying so hard to immerse myself in the culture of this place so I have had barely any time with Internet. Where do I begin??

Ok first updates with school. Honestly, there kind of is still no school. There are lectures…sometimes…but no big assignments or work. It had its ups and downs. Sure, no school leaves time for traveling and adventuring, but school was how I got here in the first place. So that is kind of a disappointment. All of my classmates have been super helpful and are reassuring me that there is nothing to worry about. Praise The Lord for their encouragement. It is very strange to think about how at home, I would be starting my third month in about a week, and I have barely started for maybe a week here. Patience is a virtue, right? Well I sure am learning that now. I know everything will work out how He plans it. I ain’t got no worried.

The first week of the month was the cape coast festival. This is the biggest festival of the year for this town. And that is NOT an exaggeration. Since there was no school, I went out every day and experienced the entire festival week. What an experience!! The first night was awesome. It was filled with cultural dancing and drumming that was a dance for the gods of the ocean and the lagoon. The reason for dancing was asking for prosperity in the coming year. Not too sure what kind of prosperity but I’m pretty sure it was for fishing. Anyways, it was interesting and fun to watch but it was hard to understand exactly what was going on. But that was just the first night. The rest were different. On Tuesday, the second day, there was a boat race in the lagoon. They raced these very colorful wooden canoes that are typically used for fishing. Once again, it was very difficult to understand the meaning of the race or what the winner was to gain, but it was very interesting to watch and be around the HUGE crowd of people. Wednesday and Thursday nothing big went on in town, except for at night. The night life during festival time was crazy!! Music, dancing, lights, EVERYWHERE. And it was just so so so crowded. Like a lot of people. So I experienced a night club in Africa for my first time. That was fun. Friday was by far my favorite day, though. It was called Orange Friday and it was the first year that they have ever done it. I think it was sponsored by the radio stations but I am not too sure. It was a giant parade that stretched for at least five miles. It could’ve been more. There was music and dancing the entire time. And everyone was wearing orange and white. It was so much fun! Just a big party in the streets. No big deal. And Saturday was the big grand finale of the week. This was another parade festival in town but this time it was all traditional. There were kings and queens and chiefs being carried on platforms through the street. They came from all over the country and were dressed in regionally characteristic clothing. There was dancing going on all around them and drumming that was so loud and crazy it almost didn’t even sound like music. But seriously, it was seriously so amazing and so intense. Everyone in the festival met together at one park and listened to selected speakers talk and conclude the festival. Once again, I have no idea what was being said but it was still fun to watch.

So that was the entire first week of the month. I have not done much aside from that week, honestly. Just hanging out with my new friends, going to town, and going to a few lectures.

I did go to Accra, though! Two weekends back myself and 5 other exchange students went to the Capitol of Ghana and explored around a bit. The first day we got there, we went to the Amnesty International office since one if the students works with them in the states and he had a package to deliver and wanted to meet the people from this branch in Ghana. That was a lot of fun and very interesting learning about that organization and their work here as well as globally. After that, we experienced the art center near the coast. This was a giant art market filled with so many goods you couldn’t even imagine. There was jewelry, art, clothing, statues, bags, wooden crafts, etc. Just any art good you can think of, it was there. There must have been over fifty shops there. Most of them were selling the same, if not similar, things. But there was still a great variety. I only bought a couple things because I figured I was going to be back Accra multiple times before I go home. After the art market, we went to dinner at a restaurant on the beach with some people that we just met. Good people, good eats, good fun. We then went back to our amazing hostel for a good night sleep. The next day we did all the history things and went to a unique market. We went to the museum for natural history, the kwame Nkrumah memorial park, and the timber market. All of it was super interesting and I learned a lot about the history of Ghana from the park and the museum. But the timber market was my favorite. We heard that this market was special and was unique because of the goods it sold. There were animal skulls, skins, feathers, special stones and leaves/spices, horns from animals, voodoo figures, and other weird stuff. It was meant for witchcraft, voodoo, or black magic. I didn’t really ask any questions about the stuff because I didn’t know if I wanted to know the answer. It was just really cool to see this part of Africa. Later that night we went to a night club to celebrate one of the girls’ birthday. This club was SO classy. Like way nicer than I have ever seen or been to in the US. I was incredibly astonished and incredibly underdressed. Like woah, not at all what I was expecting. The next day, on Sunday, I ventured to the airport to greet my friend from back home and escort her to the orphanage/school that we are both going to be volunteering at. It was going to be my first time seeing the place, too so I was super excited to experience it for the first time with her. When we got to the volunteer house, we met a couple of the other volunteers and then almost immediately went to the orphanage. So we got there and honestly, I was incredibly intimidated at first by these kids. There were so many of them and I was coming into their house. I got to hang out with the children for a couple hours and they seemed to warm up to me within half an hour. I loved being around them but it was so hard to say that I wasn’t going to be back till December. They were all so sweet and kind I wanted to stay so much longer! I am really glad I got to see the kids and see where I am going to be spending Christmas! Over all, it was a very nice visit and I felt so accomplished afterward. And did I mention I made it back to cape coast all by myself, WITHOUT getting lost. Booyah.

That is about all that has gone on. I am super sorry for not updating in so long. I’m gonna try and do better!! Love you all.

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International Stingless Bee Centre and Hans Cottage

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So today, August 30, we went on a little adventure to two attractions in Cape Coast. The first one was the International Stingless Bee Centre. This is a center is a habitat for four species of stingless bees. These bees are naturally born without stingers and hence, the name. Singless bees. Here are a few pictures of the village we walked through to get there and the center itself.

On the Bee Walkway hike

On the Bee Walkway hike

Walking to the Bee Center

Walking to the Bee Center

One of the bee hives

One of the bee hives

Entrance to the center

Entrance to the center

Most of the gang at the center

Most of the gang at the center

Another one of the hives

Another one of the hives

 

After the bee center, we went to Hans Cottage and had some yummy food and got to see some scary alligators..sorry no pictures of the alligators, I had to pay to take pictures. Uh pass.

Hans Cottage

Hans Cottage

Entrance to Hans Cottage

Entrance to Hans Cottage

Hans Cottage sign

Hans Cottage sign

 

FOOD

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So the food here is freakin delicious. I mean, if you don’t like rice or beans, you’re kind of in trouble. But I seriously enjoy it SO much. This dish, called fufu, is pounded cassava plant with plantains and it makes this sticky dough. The dough is then put into one of the different kind of soups, normally either okro stew, groundnut soup, or light soup. I had it with light soup. This was the first time I ever tried it and let me tell you, light soup is heavy on the spice…I thought I was going to seriously breath fire. It was still enjoyable and I will definitely be getting it again. Oh, and that is not a bug in the picture on the fufu, it’s just part of the soup.

Fufu. Omm nom nom

Fufu. Omm nom nom

My perception thus far

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Well no adventures are taking place at this time since I have no idea when classes are going to start. The strike is still happening and I am starting to get somewhat frustrated. There is no progress being made nor are there any updates being given. The international student department is also on strike so all of the exchange students are getting kind of restless without classes. The lack of productivity has given me time to reflect on a few things I have seen.

I think that before I came here, I prepared myself in a completely wrong way. My mindset and objective was to teach these people as much about anything and everything as I could. I wanted to be able to teach them about America, about our way of life, about happiness, about progress, about community, about love. Honestly, I have no idea what I was thinking when I thought that I could teach these people anything. I have it completely wrong.

I have a new objective now.

Ever since I could remember, I have been the type of person that likes to observe and reflect in silence. I have never been very big on blasting my opinions or declaring my suggestions, I like to sit still and watch, listen, and use those observations to improve my opinions or just teach me something. For some reason, I didn’t think I needed to do that here.

That being said, my new objective is to learn. Learn so much about so may things, people, places, just everything. Ghana prides itself on their peace. I want to learn about why they are so peaceful. Why do they care for it so much? How do they achieve such peace? Will they ever compromise peace for something else? I want to know these things. I want to learn and know why.

These people are doing something right. I am not saying that this country is perfect and doesn’t have any problems. If you read my last post, you will see that it is not all rainbows and daisies here. There are still things that I see wrong, but don’t get me started on the list that America needs to work on. My point is that this country, and most of Africa, is way underestimated. Many people come to Africa thinking that they have so much to bring, so much to teach, so much to change. Why? Ever thought of it as the opposite? There is a poem that I read my first week here and I will never forget it. It is called “Who Broke Africa?” by a rap artist named Micah Bournes. Please just read this and think about it:

Let me ask you something:
Who broke Africa?
And how do we fix her?
Political unrest,
rebel militias,
stomachs swollen with emptiness,
Water polluted with disease,
HIV, gender violence,
the whole world is crying
and we all wanna know,
Who broke Africa?
And why is it that this one particular continent
is taking so long to update, urbanize,
enforce human rights
and figure out the right way to be human?
If only she could be like US,
you know–
Free.
Educated.
Healthy.
Prosperous.
Consumeristic.
Pornographic.
Gluttonous and never gratified yet we look with eyes of pity upon her for being, “less fortunate.”
But what if she’s only less rich?
Might African youth have greater joy with a beat up soccer ball than we do with flat screens, laptops, new shoes, and 100 shirts we never wear hanging in a closet full of things we thought would make us happy? But we remain insecure, alone, depressed.
Now look, I’m not saying we’re no better off than Africa, but maybe it’s presumptuous to assume we are.
Life is hard in Africa, a struggle, but could the conflict be a sign of hope, proving that she is full of those who refuse to let injustice reign uncontested?
Africa is no damsel in distress, and we are not her savior,
Africa is a Mother in labor,
ripe with pain and life,
by the grace of God we stand by her side as a midwife and friend,
offering aid and encouragement but knowing
that we must empower her to push by her own strength!
Walk by her own faith!
And as we work with our sister in humble love, maybe
we will discover how to fix what is broken
in US,
for brokenness belongs to us all,
but hope, only to those who come together before God.

So I know that is a lot to take in and it is something that I have been thinking about for the past three and a half weeks. It sure is a lot of truth. A lot of sad truth. Let me know what you think. Or don’t. There is power in silent reflection. But I would love to know how this poem strikes other people.

Love you all!

Kumasi…the ups and downs

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Made it back to campus after our first adventure outside of Cape Coast! Seriously, praise The Lord we made it back. So many things went wrong and yet so many things went so well. Lemme just tell you all about it.

So we went to Kumasi. Kumasi is the second biggest city in all of Ghana. It has the largest market in all of West Africa. No joke. That is a solid fact. We left Cape Coast at 4:15 in the morning I repeat, 4:15 IN THE FREAKIN MORNING. We got to the market at around 10:30 or so and we decided that we were going to split up because walking around with 8 people can get a little stressful. So…myself and three other people went one way and the other 4 went another and after one hour, we were going to meet up at a bank.

So we got to a part in the market where there were a lot of clothes and myself and one other girl got away from the other two. There were literally like 3 or 4 people at a time pulling me asking for me to come into their “shop”. Two ladies were grabbing my butt and legs telling me how good I would look in their clothes. I literally got felt up by these ladies. One of the most awkward and uncomfortable moments of my entire life. After that happened, myself and the other girl, Robin, we just wanted to get out of that area. We walked away and into another part of the market and looked at some fabric to make dresses and skirts out of. Gorgeous fabric. But it was so loud and overwhelming, we didn’t buy anything. Then we started walking through more of the market and found more clothes. The people were less grabby but still very overwhelming. I looked at my watch and we had about 15 minutes till we had to meet up with everybody. So, we decided to start heading back. One problem, we had no idea where we were or how to get to the bank. So we were walking and walking and walking and we still couldn’t find the street. HUGE problem. Walking through the meat section, oh gosh, i can never do that again. Too many sights and smells I will never forget. We asked a couple people how to get to the bank and nobody have us the right directions. Finally we got to the street and found a couple police officers and they told us how to get there. Only about 15 minutes late, but hey, at least we got there!

After that market adventure, a new one begins. We left the market and decided to go to the hostel and put some of our stuff away. For us to get to the hostel, we had to take a tro tro. A tro tro is like a community taxi. The tro tro is going in a certain direction, and if you need a ride to that place as well, you hop in. So our friend, Chris, is very familiar with the city so he talked to the tro tro driver and got us all in the van to get to the hostel. Evidently the driver had no idea where to go. So, we went in a huge circle. In the middle of us trying to turn around, the tro tro breaks down. As in it’s not starting. So we stalled in the middle of an intersection and nobody can go around us. Three or four people come up and start pushing the tro tro from behind. With us still in the car. Ever watched ‘Little Miss Sunshine’? Yeah, it was exactly like that. Flippin hilarious. The car finally started working and it got up the hill. We had to stop at a mechanic shop to fix whatever was wrong, but it ended up taking like 20 extra minutes. Long story short, it finally got fixed and we made it to the hostel.

After the hostel, we went to get some lunch since none of us had eaten all day. Grabbed some rice and chicken and I was ready for the next adventure. So we got in another tro tro and went to the Culture Center to shop in some art and craft shops. These people were a lot less grabby than the ones in the market, but they were still pushy which I totally get. Some of the other kids bought a few things and then we headed out. Our next stop was the zoo. We walked about 10 minutes and got there a couple minutes after it closed. They said we can still come in and there was a guide waiting to take us on a tour. First stop in the zoo, a baby elephant. And guess what. WE GOT TO GO INSIDE AND PLAY WITH IT. OMG MY HEART STOPPED. I literally got to pet and play with a baby elephant. Yup. You can be jealous. After the elephant we went to see some birds, snakes, porcupines, turtles, monkeys, camels, and donkeys. But lemme tell you about this one monkey. There were three chimps in a cage and they all had something wrong with them. Just various tumors that we could see and physical ailments. So one chimp put its hand through the cage and I held it’s hand. I let go and one of the guys next to me grabbed it’s hand. The monkey looked at the guy, Jason, and started screaming, pulled his hand closer to the cage and then let go. The monkey had a serious mental breakdown right in front of us. It started running through the cage, screaming, rolling on its back and just going bananas. Pun totally intended. Oh my gosh I just about had a heart attack. So funny. After that, we went back to the elephant and played with him a little but more. We ended up leaving a little before it got dark.

When we left the zoo, we had to walk a bit through town to get a tro tro going where we needed to go. This was the scariest part of the trip. The streets were so crowded and it was getting dark, fast. I was right in front of One of the guys and we were behind everyone else. We were just walking up a hill and the guy behind me comes up and says that he thinks someone just stole all his money. He frantically searched through his pockets and sure enough, it was all stollen. Someone ran straight into him and took the money right out of his pocket. I got really scared at that point. We had to walk through the streets to get to the tro tro and within a matter of minutes, I had at least 5 or 6 people tell me to watch my bag. People with their heads outside of the cars were telling me to watch it and people coming behind me telling me to keep it close. Seriously, I felt like such a target. We finally got in the tro tro and made it back to the hostel. It was about 9 at night when we got back and everyone crashed.

When we woke up in the morning, we took a short tour of a campus near by and then headed to a historical site in town. The site was in the middle of a hospital and it was where a sword was planted into the ground and if the sword were to ever be removed, the entire Ashanti Kingdom would fall. The sword is in nothing but land and it has been there for over 600 years. I think. I can’t really remember the date. There is a lot of spiritual stuff that has to do with that sword and nobody wants it to be removed. After checking out the sword, we got on another bus and started our trek back home. The bus left at around 11:30 and it was supposed to only take about 4 hours to get back. I was so ready to get back to my peaceful coast town. On the bus ride home, there was a lady with a chicken. Alive. In a bag. The chicken would just randomly wake up sometime and start freaking out, throwing feathers and squawking. Too funny.

While that trip had a lot of downs, it also had a lot of ups. This trip brought two really big realizations to me. One, I am in freaking Africa. Up until that point, I felt incredibly safe and thought I already had a lot figured out. Psych!! Not at all. There is still so much I need to learn and I still need to be really careful. Second, this trip made me really think of Cape Coast as my home. When we got back, I felt very relived and was so glad to be back in my little town. This trip was such a learning lesson and I couldn’t have asked for anything else. I sure and glad it’s over, though!!