World Map of My Route

World Map of My Route
Fall Semester 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

God Bless the Rains Down in Africa

Quick Facts: Ghana was formed when the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory merged together in 1957. It became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence.
Population: 23,887,812 ranking 47th in the world
Religion: 68.8% Christian, all over shops are named after proverbs and Christian sayings such as: God’s Will Groceries or Peace be With You Bank. Too funny!
Language: 36.1% English so it was fairly easy to communicate. Other language were variations of Ewe a dialect unique to Ghana- One man offered to make me his wife and teach me to cook. When I explained that I was in school he said he could teach me Ewe also! What an offer!

So essentially I dedicated my entire week in Ghana to volunteering at Christ Village Orphanage. Most people in Ghana were not aware what the word “orphan” meant so it was better and less offensive to just call it Christ Village SCHOOL. Again, note the Christian reference. We were ready to leave super early but had to wait until the Ghanaian Government officials cleared the ship to disembark. Depending on what country you are in, this can be a rather lengthy process. It is basically up to these officials to decide what is considered clear. No surprise, these men would not clear the ship until they had a full breakfast and were offered lunch and dinner on board. So this is what they got. While we waited we went into town to exchange money. As we were walking down the 2mile long port road to find a taxi a large, uniformed man intercepted us. “Where you go?” he demanded. We explained the situation and he said simply “I take you.” So 3 of us piled into his car and he took us through town and walked us to the bank and the ATM free of charge asking for no money whatsoever. While everyone was at the ATM I saw a group of 5 kids hanging out on the curb. I walked over and sat down with them. We got to talking and one girl asked “Coke please?”…”You would like a coke?” “Yes madam! Yes!” So I stood up and they grabbed my arms and led me down a back alley (yes, I know this sounds dumb on my part, but I felt safe) to meet their families and to a little outdoor cafĂ©. I bought drinks for the kids and filled their bright colored mugs. One girl sat on my lap and the other held my hand as locals explained to me “the kids like you very much, you give us much hope. Thank you.” My friends were worried so I walked back toward the ATM. Alex handed out her standard Pencils for her Pencils of Promise non-profit that was actually started by as SAS guy a few years back.

From here we got back on the boat, we had finally been cleared so we picked up passports and headed to Accra. The ride was about 3 ½ hours long. From here we were met by Raymond, the founder of Christ Village School and driven to Hohoe a small village about 5 hours North of Accra. It was a loooong ride. We stopped for a dinner of rice, spicy tomato paste and some kind of meat I decided not to eat. As we drove at busy intersections people were bombarding our van with everything from fresh bread to plantains that we could buy through our windows. I tried some fried plantains---basically an unsweetened, green banana-pretty tasty! Similar to a potato chip.

We got to our hotel and were tucked in; 4 to one bed, 5 to another by a big African Gramma. She asked us what we would like in our omelets and made sure we were up on time. In the morning we ate outside at a fancy (fancy for Ghana that is) table and then were picked up by Raymond, his girlfriend and the ever-mysterious John. John not only stayed with us and ate with us for most of out time in Hohoe, he also introduced us to his family, took us out to OBAMA BAR (they LOVE Obama) and showed me the best place to get my hair done. He basically just made sure we were taken care of. He was obsessed with getting pictures with his new white friends. In fact, he made a point to get one photo with each of us and was sure to change up the background and pose. I had him shake my hand so we looked very official. Side note: No one knows who John was, or why he was with our group. We think now, he was just “hanging out with white friends”

Within 10 seconds of arriving to the orphanage I was holding a baby in my arms. We were briefed by Raymond in the dining hall. He explained that this project was his own, after he went to school his family hoped he would go to America or work in Europe but he wanted only to help his community. He is saddened by the gender inequalities in his country and sees the best solution to this problem in education. I really respected his dedication and explanation as to why he started the orphanage and was very impressed by the progress they were making. While we were visiting a woman from London, a representative from Jolly Phonics was at the school doing training with the teachers. Our job was basically to take over teaching and keeping an eye on the kids so the teachers could attend the meetings. I was one of two people who were assigned my very own class. Kindergarten II so my students were 5, 6, 7. WHAT A HANDFUL. Aunt Ruthie I don’t know how you do it! These kids were bouncing off the walls. When I first came in it was obvious I would have to gain their respect. They were fascinated by me but at the same time overly excited to have visitors. Two older boys were playing tug-o-war with the smallest boy in the class. When I turned to them they dropped him on his face and there were inevitably tears. With this, another girl began crying and before I knew it 10+ kids were throwing themselves on the ground out fake crying. I was at a loss, so I too threw myself on the ground in a ball and began crying. Things got quiet very quickly. Everyone ran to the front of the room and began pulling me off the floor. “Madam! Madam! It is OK. Do not be sad Madam White Girl!”  I could hardly contain my laughter.

From here I got everyone to at least be quiet and most of the kids were in their seats. Major progress. I took out a globe ball and began to toss it around. “Where am I from?” I inquired. “GHANA!!” No, no, no. I point to Asia. “YES!!!” No, no, no. “America!” I explained. “OBAMA!” They yelled back. “Madam are you from Hollywood?” Everyone seems to think I’m from a) Hollywood or b) Manhattan. Wrong.

We proceeded with some sharing activities and games that I made up on the spot. Overall it was a successful day and I fell in love with these adorable kids one by one all day.

Recess lasted from pretty much after lunch until 3pm. The lunch was decent. Beans with spicy tomato paste (yet again) and some boiled yams on the side.

Before going back to the hotel we visited the monkey village. We fed the monkeys who are considered sacred. According to our guide they have never found one dead monkey, they live forever. Oh geez…one jumped on my arm because I guess I was holding my banana too high. It was intense, but we got pictures.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner made with love from our African Gramma. Fried chicken, fried rice, peanut soup and the best spicy tomato paste yet. After this John picked us up and we walked down the dirt roads into town to go to some bars. It began raining. Slowly but surely our group plus some locals stepped out from the sheltered patio to dance to some African Zuk (music). It was the best thing ever. We were stomping in puddles and spinning around singing and just so happy. One of my top 10 moments so far.

The following day we worked again at the orphanage. Pretty similar to day 1 only my class was really well behaved today. I gave the kids the soccer ball from One Futbol World Project; a new non-profit that I am working with on the ship. Basically a man saw these kids in third world countries playing soccer with tin cans wrapped in twine and was very upset by it. He didn’t see why these kids couldn’t at least have a decent soccer ball. The problem, he found out, was that when balls were donated they would break within days because of the rough terrain the kids play on/amount they are used. So he developed this goal to engineer the world’s first indestructible soccer ball. Sting helped fund the project. It is based out of Napa Valley, California and the actual factory is an old CROCS factory, which is the same material these balls are made out of. It is a similar structure as TOMS Shoes where there is one ball donated for every ball that is purchased. We are helping distribute them on our trip because that is the one aspect of the company that is still a little shotty. The kids were OBSESSED. It was so funny to watch 30+ kids chase this ball around with extreme intensity. 5 kids ripped off their shirts and one kid even took off his pants. Basically every boy minus this one little cutie that was holding my hand took off. He said that he did not want to play soccer; he dreamed of being a surgeon ☺

I got really sick after lunch that day ☹ So when my group went to the waterfall hike I stayed back and got my hair done. It was super fun to hang out with the local women. One lady who I approached in the street to ask directions stayed with me the entire time to help out. Everyone from the village kept coming in and asking to see “the pale one with the head of gold” they wanted to touch my hair and help braid. Good stuff.

Ubuntu- “the God in me sees the God in you”

The energy of the people was second to none. I feel very uplifted and thankful for the chance to help these kids and again hope to eventually travel back and see the progress Raymond has made with his school. Bless you Raymond, African Gramma and all the kids at Christ Orphanage!

*More Morocco/Ghana photos to come soon! Miss ya'll!


  1. I can see you rolled in a ball and on the floor pretending to cry. You always did know that this would get you anything you wanted.
    I'm glad you are having a good time. You are being very blessed through out this trip. Love ya

  2. Air as you approach South Africa...Please be safe, have fun and continue your learning, and enjoyment of all the culture you are taking in. I am excited to see how you like SA...nervous you may swim with the Great Whites,and take a plung via the bungie never cease to surprise and amaze safe...never feel too comfortable, but enjoy the moment. Proud of you, excited for all the things happening around you. Just be you and you cannot go wrong, as YOU are amazing!!!