Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Weekend at Cape Coast and Malaria

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Cape Coast with my group. We boarded air conditioned buses with the expectations of having a life changing experience and that is exactly what it was. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon we ate lunch at the hotel and then were split into two groups-those who wanted to go to Cape Coast Castle and those who wanted to go to Elmina Castle. Even though Elmina Castle is the oldest standing European building outside of Europe and the oldest slave castle/fort in Ghana I decided to go to Cape Coast Castle. A castle with a powerful legacy, the castle Barack Obama visited when he came to Ghana, and the castle I had done the most research about. Despite the research I did and the stories I've heard from friends who visited before me I still wasn't ready for the experience. How could I be? It's hard to prepare one's self mentally for something that has made me who I am. Slavery is the reason I am African-American and not African, it's the reason I prefer collard greens and fried chicken over fufu and banku and it's the reason why I prefer Hip-Hop over Hip-Life. Because of the suffering my ancestors went through centuries ago, I am who I am. I had to prepare myself for a place where abonimable atrocities were inflicted against my ancestors, a place where cruel and brutal crimes were inflicted against the very people whose blood runs through my veins today.

As soon as we arrived at Cape Coast I noticed the ocean. I noticed it's beauty- the palm trees lining the coast, the peaceful waves crashing against the shore, the inumerable stones resting in the sand, but most importantly I noticed its overwhelming vastness. It's neverendingness. All you could see was water and when you tried to look past the water all you saw was more water. I immediately thought of the millions of slaves who were stolen from their homes, shackled and bonded by chains on their hands, ankles, and necks, and marched hundreds of miles only to arrive at this neverending water. To be put on ships that were going to God know's where. I can't imagine the feelings of confusion, despair, anger, lonliness, and most of all FEAR that they felt. I'm gonna go on because I'm just speechless...

When we arrived at the castle we had a few minutes of free time before our tour guide would be showing us around. We were directed to the Castle museum which had exhibits on the history of the European presence in Africa and Ghana, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Middle Passage, and slavery in the Americas. The museum itself was powerful. I remember there being a White girl from my program who was standing next to me while I was trying to read about our history who was chewing her gum really loud. I just felt a sudden rush of anger, I felt disrespected. There I was trying to read about something so important to my life and she was there seemingly nonchalant chomping on bubble gum. I wanted to cuss her out. I wanted to make her apologize-her and all her ancestors for what she was doing now and for what they did then. Then I gained my composure and realized it wasn't that serious and that she has nothing to do with the decisions of her ancestors, for the decisions of her race. I understand that every person is an individual and we all make our own decisions. We are all human beings; before we are White or Black we are humans. I am shocked at the hatred and injustices human beings can show against other humans. I am seriously proud of the ability of many Africans and members of the African diaspora to forgive but not forget. It would be so easy to hate Europeans and their descendants for the injustices inflicted upon our race-for the inhumane atrocities, but that wouldn't make us any better. As long as hate exists in the world between races or between people in general such inhumanity could occur again. I've made up my mind not to hate.... So isn't ironic that when I left the museum and the tour began the first thing I saw was a plaque outside the Male Slave Dungeon that read, “In everlasting memory of the anguish of our ancestors. May those who died rest in peace. May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetuate such injustice against humanity. We, the living, vow to uphold this.” Amen.

The tour guide proceeded to show us the male slave dungeon. He showed us two rooms, each had one window no bigger than the size of my laptop. That little window was the source of the slaves sunlight and air. There were about 30 of us in the tour group and we were sweating and could hardly breathe and that room was meant for 200 grown men. 200. The tour guide pointed out the markings on the walls made by archaelogist who found that human feces in the room had reached the level of my shins almost. The remains are still there-they can never be washed away. Grown men were eating, sleeping, breathing in their own excrements. Dispicable. There was also a spy window in one of the rooms where the British would monitor the slaves to make sure they were behaving properly. Watching them, like animals in a zoo. How could humans be so evil?

The tour guide then took us to the Cell to show us where the slaves who were condemned to death went. He crammed us all into this cell and closed the door. It was pitch black. Darkness. There were no windows and I immediately started to drip sweat. He told us how they screamed and fought for their lives. He showed us markings where men clawed into the wall with their fingernails, dying to be let out. Sixty men where put into that cell at one time. They were not fed or given water and they died slowly one by one. The dead bodies were never taken out until everyone in the room died. Oh my God. I can't imagine.

We proceeded to the Female Slave Dungeon and I couldn't help but to be saddened. If I had been born hundreds of years ago that could have been me. I could have been living in such conditions. I could have been led up to the Governor's bedroom to be raped and used. Speaking of the Governor, his living room had 9 huge windows. I had to count. Nine windows, for one man and the occasional female slave he decided to rape. The hundreds of slaves below him had only 1 window. Where is the justice? I wonder how he could live in a slave castle and go on about his life. Did he not hear their wailing below? Did he not hear their pain, their suffering, their strife? He had to have a heart of pure evil to hear that and continue to live his life and continue to trade slaves. The things people do for money. It's a shame.

Even with seeing all that, the most powerful part of the castle for me had to be the “Door of No Return.” This black wooden door that hundreds of thousands of slaves walked through and that was it. They were to never see their homeland again. Never to see their loved ones again. Never to see again anything that they had knew for their whole lives. Sigh. Yet, today. As mankind has put an end to such atrocities, it is now called the “Door of Return.” I was able to walk out the “Door of No Return” and walk back in through the “Door of Return.” That was powerful. Because of what my ancestors endured I am where I am today. I thank them for their strength. I thank all my ancestors who fought and shed blood and tears so that I wouldn't have to be a slave today. The most important lessons I learned from visiting the slave castle were to appreciate the life I am living today and to never hate. I am grateful I don't have to suffer like my ancestors did. I am grateful for the opportunity to see my loved ones. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel across oceans by choice and not by force. I am grateful for the life I am living because tommorow is not promised. I learned to never hate because hate is what causes human beings to do such injustices against one another. I learned that we have to keep our hearts pure and good and that God has created us all equally despite our insignificant physical differences. Hate turns people into living, breathing, walking devils here on Earth and I refuse to live a life full of hate. Why? Why did such a thing ever happen? How? Why? Everytime I think about it different feelings arise, different thoughts, but never any answers. :(

Well...The weekend was filled with a lot of powerful feelings and emotions and thankfully I didn't go visit the Elmina Slave Castle as well like we were planning to do. That of been just too much for my life. After Cape Coast Castle we went back to the hotel for dinner, a reflection session, and just sat by the pool listening to music for the rest of the night. The next day wasn't as emotionally draining. In fact it was uplifting and fun. On Sunday morning we boarded the bus for Kakum National Park which is a rainforest not too far from Cape Coast. The National Park had elephants, leopards, all types of snakes and birds, and other animals. We didn't get to see any animals though. We were in the part of the rainforest that has a lot of human visitors so the animals have moved away from there. Lol. On the way to Kakum, Alesha, Meghan, Danielle and I really needed some uplifting and some church-ah so we had a praise session. We turned on my iPhone, blasted some gospel, and sang along for the hour ride to the park. It was a beautiful thing-being in the middle of Ghana, on a bus, singing about Jesus and the greatness of our God. Amen. When reached the park and waited around for a bit before we had to hike up the mountain to do the Canopy Walk. That hike was only 15 minutes but it was no joke and all 50 of us were out of breath and sweating. Lol. The Canopy Walk was essentially these bridges built up in the air, in the midst of all the rainforest trees, made out of cables and rope. It was pretty stable and the tour guide told us “the only way you can die on the canopy walk is if you jump over the rope.” I wish I would jump on a bridge in the middle of the rainforest... hence I am still alive. There were seven bridges and the whole thing was just hilarious. Meghan, Danielle, and Alesha were scared for their lives: screaming, panting, freaking out and I was just laughing at them the whole time. It turns out I am not afraid of heights lol. I actually felt pretty safe up there and was able to take a lot of pictures. We had to sing gospel songs to get them through it without freaking out. The song that seemed to calm them the most was “For Every Mountain” by Kurt Carr. By the grace of God we made it through. Amen! I would definitely do the Canopy Walk again.

Ok so on Monday I went back to the orphanage and we taught the kids “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and continued to teach them how to write the alphabet. I became very frustrated just because I feel like I am babysitting, getting very little accomplished, and not learning all that I am supposed to be learning. I really am not getting the experience I was expecting to get out of the orphanage. I am going to have to think of a new game plan. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of the orphanage from adoption policies, to administrative work, to grant proposals writing, etc. but I am really just babysitting preschoolers. I feel more like a volunteer and not an intern. I am going to have to speak with the directors of the orphanage about my internship responsibilities, what they expect from me, and what I expect from this internship. That should help my situation a bit. I'll update on how that all goes. Nonetheless, I am still working on getting a fundraiser started and I am researching different ways to teach preschoolers so that I can really help the children. I think a lot of my frustration comes from the fact that I have no experience teaching preschoolers and therefore feel like I am not making a difference. i AM GOING TO LEARN HOW TO TEACH PRESCHOOLERS!!

On Tuesday and Wednesday I was feeling very weak, having fever, chills, headaches, and bodyaches. Symptoms of Malaria! On Thursday I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Malaria. The doctor at the hospital said that the anti-malarial medicine I am taking is not an adequate drug and that I am the fourth American student to come in the hospital who has taken that drug and who has gotten Malaria. Excellent, just excellent. I guess I need to find a new Malaria drug. SMH. This is the same drug that was making me vomit and have chest pains and come to find out it doesn't even work! Shaking my head!! I am feeling a lot better now though. I am taking 4 different medicines so I better be feeling better. There is no cause for alarm.

I finally have internet access in my room! I have to pay for it but hey, it's better than nothing! I think this blog is long enough so I'll update later with more exciting details from my life in Ghana! Lol.

Love you all,
Tamika Nicole

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bumper to Bumper

Ohhh I am terrible for taking so long to blog again. So much has gone on in these past three weeks.

So I left off saying I was going to Aphrodisiac Night Club. It was crazy fun and it was Dance Hall night- that was the first time I went to a club that played absolutely NO Hip-Hop. Good thing I'm from NYC so I knew most of the raggae/dance hall songs. The club security tried not to let Alesha in because she was wearing flip flops which they called “slippers.” Anywho they lectured her then let her in. That's something they do here-lecture you if you're doing something wrong and then let you do it anyways lol. Aphrodisiac was so fun that we went back the next week and wound up not getting home until 5am. Good thing I don't have class on Friday.

On Monday morning I went to my internship at Save Them Young Mission Inc. for the first time. It is kind of far from campus and it takes about 1 hour and a half to get to. I have to take two tro tros and a shared taxi. It's not that difficult of a journey though and the kids are worth it. I was told I would be working with the pre-schoolers who are a handful. There are about 45 kids in the orphange and about 20 of them are 4 years old or younger. When I arrived on Monday with Alicia (not Spelman Alesha) we stood around for about 10 minutes until they showed us to the preschool classroom and said “they are ready.” Who is ready? And for what? They wanted us to go in there and teach preschoolers. Hmmm. I have no experience teaching preschoolers. Where do I even start? Better yet where was there real teacher? However, there we were. The kids staring at us, us staring at the kids and we had to do something. Theo, who works in the orphanage's office helped us by telling us their names and that we should teach them through songs. Their teacher, who had to step out for a few hours, had taught them “Rain, rain, go away. ” Cool. So we teach through songs. Duh. So next we tried the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with the hand movements and stuff. Overall, it was a failure. Some kids got it other kids didn't. There were just too many ages in one room- from 2 year olds to 6 year olds. Some spoke English, some only spoke Twi. After about one hour of us being on our own the teacher came back and we helped her teach the kids how to write the letter A. That was better. I helped about 5 kids successfully write the letter A. That felt really good. Next time... the letter B! The rest of the morning was spent coloring and trying to convince the kids not to climb on their desks/chairs lol. They really were a handful and they hit each other a lot. But you can't help but to fall in love with each of them. They are sooooo precious. We left during their nap time which was about 2pm because the director didn't want us to get stuck in rush hour traffic. Before I left I talked to Theo about how long the children stay, adoption, where they got the kids from and what the orphanage needs. We sat there and wrote out a list of things they absolutely needed which was lengthy. Some of the kids don't have shoes, there aren't any dining tables, they run out of basics like toothpaste and soap, they need sheets and towels, and they could always use more food and school supplies. I am going to run a fundraiser for the orphanage immediately which is why I am working on finding a way to have a permanent internet connection in my room. I can't wait to go back to the orphange next Monday to learn more and help more. What those children don't know is that as I am teaching them how to write A's they are teaching me so much more about myself, about Ghana, and about the difference one person can make. I was supposed to go today but I lost my cell phone (well I thought I did, a friend had it- Thank God) and was freaking out. Since I got lost going there last Monday I didn't want to risk it again without having a cell phone to call someone to come and get me. I was not trying to get lost in the middle of nowhere alone. And because I didn't have my cell phone with Alicia's number I couldn't call her and tell her I wanted to meet her so we could go to the orphange together. I learned a valuable lesson today-I need to write all my numbers down in an address book so that I will never feel completely helpless if I lose my cell phone. MESS.

Besides going to the orphange on Monday the week was filled with a lot of fun. I went out every day that week. Monday I went to Vienna City Entertainment Complex which was a huge place with a lounge, club, bar, and tons of pool tables. We played pool for a few hours. Tuesday we went to Mama Lit Special Restaurant in Medina and then went to Verbs to play some more pool. Wednesday night we braved raggae night again and since we went with Edem and his friends it was much better because we used them to keep all the other guys away lol. Thursday is when we went back to Aphrodisiac for a second time like I mentioned earlier. On Saturday afternoon we had an Akwaaba Dinner thrown by the IPO office with delcious Ghanian food and Ghanian drumming and dancing. The drummers and dancers were really impressive so of course I took tons of pictures and even recorded some. Later that night we went to Mirage night club in Osu for Claire's birthday. Good thing it was free for ladies because I did not have a very good time. They were playing some funky techno hip-hop and I just couldn't get down with that lol. However, I was told by one guy at the club “I've got beat.” He better recognize. Lol.

The next weekend was also pretty eventful. On Saturday we were supposed to have a planned CIEE trip to Aburi Botanical Gardens, the first Cocoa Farm in Ghana, and a wood carving village. Our bus didn't show up. Oh Ghana. So instead of going on Saturday we just went on Sunday and we had a good time. Instead on Saturday Edem, Fofo, Alesha, and I went to Ghana's Old Skuul Reunion at the Trade Center which was a huge event where all Ghanains who went to school in the Greater Accra region and beyond came to reunite. There were tons and tons of Ghanians, a stage with live performances, men in the streets chanting their school songs, men dressed like women(umm?), and tons of vendors everywhere. I was kind of amazed to see that many Black people and I couldn't help but think about the fact that if such a large event with that many people of color happened in the US many White people would have been so afraid and the police would have been EVERYWHERE. Don't get mad. I'm just saying the truth. Anways, they also had a club section with a DJ from a local hip hop radio station so we went and danced for a bit. They even had a Michael Jackson dance contest on stage. It was pretty hilarious to watch. Some people were really good and others just looked ridculous. I was proud of Michael though- being shown love all the way in GH. After leaving the Reunion we went to take a nap and then went to Pool Bar which was another club/restaurant/pool place. I was told they played a lot of Hip-Hop so I was kind of excited to go. Lies. It was mostly Ghanian Hip Life music with some OLD Hip-Hop mixed in. I still had a good time though. Ghanian Hip Life music is really really good and I'm always jamming out to it. I already have a list of about 10 “favorite” songs. My favorite of them all is “World Trade Center.” It's hilarious. They are essentially saying the girl's booty is as big as the World Trade Center. That's a BIG booty! Lol. Other favorites of mine are “Bumper to Bumper,” “Simple,” “I Think I Like Her,” and “Ringtone.” I probably got half of those titles wrong but those songs are really fly. Youtube them or something if you get a chance.

On Sunday, the bus did show up so we got to go on our long awaited trip. At the Botanical Gardens I got to stand inside a tree, taste cinammon from the bark of a tree, smell a peppermint leaf, stand in an old war helicoptor (random), and touch a plant that shrinks when you touch it. It was cool. At the Cocoa Farm we got to learn the history of Cocoa in Ghana which is the country's leading export. As the Ghanians say “Ghana is Cocoa and Cocoa is Ghana.” We also got to crack open a cocoa and eat the seed which was really sweet and delicious. Then we got to taste a dried cocoa seed and the inside tasted like dark chocolate. It was bitter but still good and just seeing the whole process of how cococa is grown, picked, and processed was cool. We even got to see the “go to hell stick” that cocoa farmers use to cut cocoa down from trees with. Interesting name for a stick huh? The wood carving village was my favorite part of the trip. It really wasn't a village though it was more like a strip with a whole bunch of wood carving shops. They had some really beautiful things and I forgot we were going so I didn't bring enough money. I only had like 15 cedi on me. However, I was able to buy this wooden map of Africa (for myself) and something else for my mother. I'm not going to say what it is because I want all my gifts to kind of be somewhat of a surprise lol.

This past week was very chill. No pool, no beaches, no clubs. Just hanging out with friends and I spent a lot of time making my room look a a home. I rearranged my furniture, put up picutres and posters, set up my desk, etc. I figured I'm going to be here for a while so I might as well make my room look like something. On Thursday we had our first Twi test which I think I did very well on. I studied hard so it paid off. On Friday I went to Osu to try and get a portable internet modem from the Zain(a phone company here in Ghana) store. Meghan has one and she can use the internet whenever, wherever. So I went to buy mine and it was just a complete failure. The people at the Zain store couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. It wasn't my computer or the modem I bought but something with the network. After being there for like 5 hours I walked out without my internet modem. I got my money back but I was still upset because I had my hopes up and I had wasted my whole day there for no reason. Ugghhh. I'm going to go back and try again someday, I still need to calm myself down about the whole situation though lol. Friday night we went to this house party thrown by NYU students who are also studying abroad here in Ghana. The house was BALLER and the party was actually outside in the BALLER backyard. There was a DJ, food, tons of drinks, and Hip-Hop! They played “Turn My Swag On” and “Get Me Bodied” and we went crazy. There also was this random performance by a Ghanain acrobratic troupe. They were AMAZING and all I could say was “WOWWWWW!” I mean they were doing all types of stunts and back-flips and stuff on concrete with no shoes on. I got to give them their props for that. I had a really good time. Saturday night we went to Neighborhood which was another pool/bar place. It was really snazzy and I had a good time. We even got to see the Brazil vs. Argentina World Cup Qualifying match on the big screen.

Speaking of Football (soccer to Americans) I went to the Ghana vs. Sudan FIFA World Cup qualifying match yesterday. It was sooooo exciting! We had VIP seats so we saw everything up close and personal. Alesha, Meghan, Danielle, and I were decked out in our Ghana gear. We had on Jerseys, wrist bands, head bands, bracelets, necklaces, and I even had a huge flag. We were pumped! Ghana won, 2-0!!! The crowd went crazy every time the Black Stars scored a goal. Sudan didn't stand a chance. The whole stadium did the Wave like 5 times and it was just the coolest thing. The funniest thing about the match yesterday was what I ate. They weren't selling “game food” like hotdogs and nachos instead they were selling real food like jolof rice, fried rice, and chicken. Lol. It was good! Another great thing about sporting events here is that the prices of things are not ridiculously high. Our VIP tickets were only 10 cedi, our Ghana trinkets were 1 cedi or less, the chicken and rice was 3 cedi, and the popcorn was 50 peswas. I just love going places, having a good time, and not getting ripped off. The US could learn a few things from Ghana. The game was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so happy I was able to go. I am having an amazing time here in Ghana and I know it is only going to get better... I love and miss you all, thanks for keeping me in your prayers.


Tamika Nicole

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tantalize Your Body

“Oh Ghana.” I think that will definitely be the phrase of the year. There is just so much going on.

I have met some great people here in Ghana, especially at the Night Market next to my dorm. There is Mama Mary who makes the best egg sandwiches ever for one cedi. Her husband Henry Sr. and son Henry Jr. alternate in helping her run the shop. She is so nice and I usually greet her in Twi and she helps me with my pronounciation and any other questions I have. Next to Mama Mary is my favorite Ghanian ever. Her name is Mavis and she helps her mother run the clothing store they have. They make dresses, shirts, bags, and jackets. Whatetver.-you name it, she makes it. I'm gonna get a Delta Sigma Theta Bag made for Kelcee and Nicole and cute purple dresses made for my nieces there. Anywho, Mavis is 18 and she is cool. I met her because she shouted at me one day to come and say hi, lol. She was just sitting outside her shop chilling. Now everytime I walk by (which is multiple times a day) I talk to her for a minimum of 10 minutes. I met her whole family: her brothers Michael and Edem and her parents. She said that they will be my foster family here in Ghana. That is so precious. She invited me to dinner at her house and she also invited me to her Church on Sunday, she said it is fun and that they sing a lot of American Gospel there. That reminds me, yesterday her father was pumping gospel music out of his car- Kirk Franklin to be exact. Everyone who knows me knows I love Kirk Franklin! So we just stood there singing along and singing like 10 other gospel songs. It was cool to have that connection with her. See why I love her?

Tuesday night I just chilled at the night market and in front of my dorm. When I don't have nothing to do I just go to the night market and talk to Mavis and Becca (she owns the shop next to Mavis). It kind of reminds me of when I used to live in Harlem. If I was bored I would just go outside, sit on the stoop, and talk to people. Ghana has that kind of atmosphere. Granted, safety first. I also talked to Mavis' older brother Edem who is really cool. He does a number of things including making Obama T-shirts. I'm definitely gonna buy one of his “My President is Black” T-shirts. I have seen too many Ghanaians with that T-shirt on and I kind of feel bad because I don't own an Obama T-shirt. It's a shame, I know.

In front of my dorm Tuesday night I met, Ms. Louisa who comes and sells banana muffins, mango pies, and chocolate chip cookies that she bakes at home. She yells to us all “come and tantalize your body.” Yes, tantalize our body with her tasty goods. We were all just cracking up laughing. She also helped Alesha, Meghan, and I with our Twi. I was trying to ask her “how do you count in Twi” and she wound up telling us how to say “I am looking for my shoe.” Lol. I forgot how to say it already. It was really complicated.

Speaking of Twi. I now know all the classes I am taking:

US Policy Towards Africa (it's gonna be so amazing)

Twi (what a fun language to learn)

Sociological Foundations of Development (I'm bout to get some knowledge in Ghana yah)

Religion and Society (I love to learn about God)

Post-Conflict Peace Building and Transitional Justice (Not really excited about that class)

Drumming (Hopefully, I plan on auditing it- AWESOME)

I have no classes on Mondays and Fridays. I will use Mondays to intern and Fridays to travel.

Anywho. Yesterday night, I went to raggae night at Labadi Beach with Alesha, Meghan, and Danielle (Spelman girls). It was such an overwhelming experience, like whoa. The water was beautiful, I mean breathtaking! There was live raggae music so that was also pretty cool. However the crowd was intense, there were Ghanian men, no Ghanaian women, and obrunis or foreigners. The men just came at us. Grabbed at us, stopped us to talk, followed us, asked us did we want drinks. We had absolutely no moment of alone time. I tried to take a picture with the water in the background and some men came up to me asking to “snap a picture of them.” Then they invited us to their “VIP” table and tried to offer us drinks. No way. Further on in the night, I had to use the restroom and their was about to be a fight outside the bathroom. Great. Over what? I don't know. I went back like five minutes later and it was all cool. Oh yea, I had to pay 50 peswas to use the toilet-excellent. There is so much that went on that night. Including me getting a drink spilled on me by Don Montana the South African, who is here in Ghana DJ-ing for a Norwegian hip hop station. Hmmm interesting. These are the type of people I meet in Ghana. Lol. I'm loving it here so far. It gets better and more fun everyday. I just have to remember safety first because not everyone here has the best intentions. We left the beach two hours after we got there. That was more than enough time because it was just so much. Don Montana and his crew were begging us not to go and then wanted to offer us a ride home. Obviously we took the safer route- a taxi. The good thing about leaving was that my friend King from the University found us a taxi, bargained for us, and paid for it. It can be kind of hard catching a taxi in Ghana and getting a good price so whenever a Ghanian can bargain for you it is better. We didn't know the taxi was paid for until we were driving off and we were trying to ask King how much we have to pay and he just said “don't worry, it is handled.” That was nice of him. We arrived home safely. Thank God.

Tonight, we are going to Afrodisiac, a night club in the city. It is ladies night so ladies get in free. I want to dance, dance, dance. Ghanains party hard but New Yorkers just might party harder lol. This should also be an experience. I'm looking forward to it. Safety first!

Love always,

Tamika Nicole

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shake What Yah Mama Gave Yah

I made it through one week in Ghana!!

This weekend was pretty eventful. I definitely witnessed the funner side of Ghana. On Friday we went to the National Theater for a street dance performance. I saw the posters all over the city when we were doing the scavenger hunt the other day so I just wanted to go. Gabriel, our University Pal (U-Pal) took us by tro tro. There were like 11 of us from my building and he had to practically beg for a tro tro to stop for all of us to fit into one. But we made it there, late of course, which was perfectly fine because the show didn't start until 8:45pm when it was supposed to start at 7pm. Oh Ghana. Anyways it was amazing. It was called “Africa Streetdance 2009” which is essentially a continental wide streetdance competition which Ghana won last year. Yayy Ghana. However, this year it will be international so there will be competitors from Holland, the Philipines, the US, etc. The show we saw was the finals for Ghana so out of the final ten teams the judges had to decide which team was going to represent Ghana in the world stage-tough decision. There was flipping, stunts, dancing, etc. It was just like MTV's America's Best Dance Crew if you can imagine that. It was so live and the people in the theater were going crazy. Ghanians party hard lol. It took us about 45minutes just to catch a taxi back to campus. Good thing Gabriel's taxi-driver friend happened to ride by so we caught a taxi for 5 cedi instead of the 10cedi all the other cab drivers were trying to rip us off for.

On Saturday we had yet another orientation from like 9am to 3:40pm but this time it was given by the University. It was crazy long and ridiculously repitive so I left after snack time (piece of fried chicken, bread, and a can soda) which was like 11am. I went to use the internet for a while at a cheaper internet cafe which gives me twice the time for the same amount of money as ISH I. Thank you Carolyn for informing me that I was paying way too much! Then I took like a 3 hour nap until CIEE's welcome dinner at Chez Afrique Restaurant and Bar. Chez Afrique was another amazing experience. The food was good and we even had cake and ice cream. Since the drinking age is 18 here in Ghana the CIEE director ordered two rounds of beer for all of us. I don't drink beer-disgusting, so I just got Coke. After we finished eating thats when the live band set up and it was dancing time. They were playing some pretty good music and the lead singer was absolutely ridiculous, in a funny and fun way. He kept grabbing girls from our group and making them dance with him. Whenever he would grab a Black girl, including myself, he would encourage us to “shake, shake, shake, shake what our Mamas gave us.” At that, I was dying laughing. It was pretty fun and there was a wide variety of music from the American “Stand By Me” to the reggae “Murder She Wrote”, to a whole hosts of Ghanaian songs. The lead singer also kept singing “I love CIEE.” Which also had my dying laughing, he was so in his own world lol. It was a night filled with laughter, dancing, and good food. We left pretty early though because none of us wanted to pay for the taxi ride back to campus and instead decided to take the free CIEE bus. Listen, when in Ghana, you save money wherever you can lol.

On Sunday morning we went to Church-ah. Amen. We went to Gabriel's church which was on campus-about a 20 minute walk. Legon Interdenominational Church was packed. It had a balcony and all. It is definitely one of the nicest buildings on campus. People from all over Legon come to the Church as there were tons of kids. Before the sermon they called all the kids up for Sunday School and the congregation had to sing a song as they walked up. Something like “read your Bible, pray everyday, pray everyday, pray everyday, so you will grow.” It was sooo precious. The church was pretty high tech with a huge projector and power point style notes of the sermon. The church had traditional Praise and Worship with the song words up on the projector. Some songs even had words in Twi, it was pretty good and reminded me a lot like Church at Georgetown except there wasn't a Gospel Choir, more like a gospel choir ensemble. It was also communion Sunday. Amen. The sermon was about work and how it is not a laborious task but a divine command that we should enjoy and actually put our all into. This came at a time when I was debating which oprhanage I should go to and whether I should travel far. However from the sermon I learned that work is for a purpose and we should happyily go where God leads us. That is what I am going to do. Go where God wants me to, maintain a positive attitude, and fulfill my purpose. God always finds a way to speak to me. I was definitely blessed at Church. I will be going back. Oh yea, there is a wedding there next Saturday. I'm gonna try to go, it should be an experience!

After Church three of us took the tro tro to the Accra mall, which was essentially American style. It had a ShopRite, Nike Store, Puma Store, Panasonic, Sony, the Apple store, some clothing stores and a movie theater. There was also this store called Game which is supposed to have really cheap prices like Wal-Mart but its really like 10x smaller than a Wal-Mart and it has purple smiley faces instead of yellow ones lol. Things in the mall are pretty expensive and I did not buy not one thing. Most of the stuff is common in America but since this is a developing country these items are essentially luxury items so you can imagine why the prices would be so high. Inside Game for example they sold bed sheet sets separetly. Like 30 cedi for a sheet, 25 cedi for a fitted sheet, and 15 cedi for a pillowcase. Wowzers. Never in my life would I pay that much for some sheets lol. After the mall I napped for a good four hours and watched TV. There is a room with couches and a TV right next door to my room and I discovered the best channel ever. Channel 1-Viasat, has all the good shows Mon-Fri like the Cosby Show(my favorite show in the whole wide world), Friends, the Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris, Oprah, CSI, and movies everynight at 10. Yesterday I watched CSI, some Nigerian movie and part of CatWoman.

Oh yea, the water was off in my dorm yesterday. Oh Ghana. I had to go to the next building to shower. Did I mention how the water to shower is always cold? But on days when the water isn't running at all I appreciate the cold showers so much more. Classes start today. I don't have class on Monday because I am keeping this day free to intern on. The time schedules for three out of four of the departments I'm taking classes in are still not up. Oh my, lol. Whatever. When in Ghana, do as the Ghanaians do. Basically, for today I'm chilling. Let's see how tomorrow goes. My chest is starting to feel a little better and I thank God I have not been sick. In Mali, at this time, I had fevers, was vommiting, and was a complete mess. God is good.


Tamika Nicole

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From GU to UG

Ok. I arrived at the University of Ghana on Tuesday and there is so much to tell. Let's start off with the fact that this school is HUGE. It is definitely about 5x the size of Georgetown as far as distances are concerned. It has over 25,000 students where Georgetown has only about 6,000 students. It is the best university in Ghana, everyone in the country wants to go here. I live in the International Students Hostel II and I have an American roomate who goes to American University in D.C. named Laurie. She is cool and she is also a rising junior. There are other international students living in my building and Ghanaians as well. I just didn't get a Ghanaian roommate myself. My room looks like any other American college dorm room. I have a desk, a bed, a bureau, a nightstand, ceiling fan and three shelves on the wall. I even have a balcony. The bathrooms with showers and toilets are like five steps from my door. I bring tissue and hand sanitizer everywhere because most bathrooms do not provide it for you, even the one in my dorm. Oh did I mention how the security officer for the dorm is armed with some big scary looking gun, I think an AK-47. I don't think he will ever use it but it's comforting. Lol. Also, right across the path from my dorm is the campus' Night Market. It is what it is called, a market that opens in the wee hours in the morning and closes at about 10pm which is late for Ghanian standards (it gets dark here by 6pm and everyone is usually off the streets by like 9pm). There are stands with people selling just about every thing from egg sandwiches to buckets to shoes. Further up the path there is also a minature supermarket (equivalent to Vital Vittles @ GU) which sells my favorite soap(Irish Spring), my favorite deoderant (Secret) and even my favorite lotion (Palmer's Cocoa Butter) so that was comforting. If I ever run out of any of my toiletries or feen for an almost American style snack I can go there. Besides those two places across the yard is International Students Hostel I which has an internet cafe where I can use the internet for one hour for 1 Ghanian Cedi. That is really cheap but I don't like the idea of paying for internet. So what I do is draft my blog, emails, and everything else first and have them all ready to send out before I actually pay for the internet. Otherwise I would run out of time lol.

That brings me to internet. I will forever appreciate wireless internet being almost everywhere at Georgetown and having it at home. There are internet cafe's here everywhere but you gotta pay and the internet runs pretty slow. I can go to the Office of International Programs here on campus and use it for free. It's slow there too but it's free! Yay. Ok so now that I mentioned the OIP office I should definitely mention how far it is and everything else on campus. Oh my goodness! It takes me about 15-25 minutes to walk everywhere on campus. I'm about to be so slim when I come back lol. We have been really lucky though because the weather here has been so cool and breezy and today it was raining lightly so that felt good. Anyways, Tuesday I had to go to the OIP office for registration and to get my UG student ID. Think again. They didn't assign me a PIN number so I had to come back the next day. I came back the next day and they had a PIN but they didn't refresh it in the system so I had to come back today to try and get my picture taken. I go back today and everything is working fine, they were able to access my account and take a picture. But then the card printing machine broke like five minutes later so I have to go back tomorrow. Patience, patience, and more patience is very needed in Ghana. I must continually remind myself that this is a developing country. The internet will not be everywhere and will not run super fast. Things will break down without forewarning and everything will not be completely organized.

Hmm, organization. That brings me to class registration. It is very different from US class registration. At Georgetown we do everything online. Look up the classes, add it, 123. Here at UG we have to go to each and every department, fill out a registration form with the classes we are thinking about taking, drop off a passport size photo and move on to the next department. It's not so bad except for the fact that you wind up registering for every class in the department that sounds interesting to you because the time schedule is not posted and you don't know which one you will be able to actually take. Just writing about it makes me tired. Then before Sept. 4th which is the end of the Add/Drop period you have to go back to that department and make sure they cross your name off the list or pull your name out the file to drop any course you don't want to take. Today I went to the History, Sociology, English, Religions and Political Science department. From the looks of it, I will be taking most of my classes from the Poli Sci department which means I have to go back to all the other departments sometime soon to drop the courses. Monday is the start of classes and it is also the day that the schedule and lecture locations go up. We'll see how that all works out lol. I still have to register for some type of dance, drumming, or theater class tomorrow too. Today was a long, long day. We also are taking a Twi language class and Sociological Foundations of Development as part of CIEE and today our program director walked us to the building where the class will take place. It is off campus and will be about a 25minute to 30 minute walk every Tues, Wed., and Thurs. from my dorm ISH. Fun. However, the building-the Aya Center is really hooked up. There is AC in my class room, Praise God and the building has wireless that we can use for free. This center is also the center which coordinated our internships. I found out today that I will be volunteering at Save Them Young orphanage which I heard is a phenomenal place to intern. We have to intern 135 hours in the semester. It is very far from campus they say. About one hour by tro tro AND taxi. All I know is that I am really gonna know the city by the end of my stay. I am a little weary about the distance honestly and don't know how comfortable I feel about having to travel so far off campus all alone especially when I fell in love with another orphanage, the Hope Orphanage which is right in the same area and I will be able to help teach the kids teach the deaf kids American Sign Language, which is so near and dear to my heart. I don't know what I will do, I will probably talk to the program coordinator. Do you think I should ask to be switched? God will work it out though. I will trust Him and know that wherever He puts me is the place that He knows is the best for me. I am going to keep praying on this situation. I have some time because we don't have to start for another two weeks. Nonetheless, I am extremely happy to be placed in an orphanage because that is where I really wanted to intern. I hope to have my own orphanages one day so I am excited to learn the ins and outs of orphanages and if I can, change just one child's life.

“I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.” That is what I have to tell myself sometimes when I get scared of stepping out my comfort zone and when I get frustrated. Thankfully, I have not cried yet out of frustration or homesickness. I told myself before I got here it would be difficult and that it would be the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I prepared myself mentally for that and prayed on it often but still when you actually get here it can be overwhleming. However, I still do not doubt my decision. I am happy, I am well, I am proving to be a stronger me everyday. God has been really comforting me. Everywhere I turn I see something that makes me feel more at home and I say “this is comforting.” Whether it is seeing Irish Spring soap at the supermarkt or finding a building with free wireless. God is here, everywhere.

But really, God is here. Almost every other store name or taxi sticker has something to do with God. Food stands called “The Lord is My Shepherd Est.” and the DVD stand “God is Good Ent.” and the taxi sticker that simply stated “Angel”. I'll be sure to try and write down some more of the store names and taxi stickers I see. And there is this little little blue Bible with only the New Testament that keeps following me. I saw it in the OIP office and I just saw it here in the internet cafe. Now do you understand what I mean by comfort and God is here? We're going to church on Sunday. I can't wait. I'm excited.

Actually I can't wait for a lot. Like the African dance show tomorrow that is going on at the National Theater or for Che Afrique Restaurant which will have a live Ghanaian band playing. I also can't wait to get out of Accra and vist Cape Coast and Kumasi. I plan on being off campus as often as my wallet allows. I am tired of seeing campus. It's like its own little world or its own little city. I feel like I need to get outside of the campus gates and see other things. Also, I noticed that I don't like to be alone here. I don't like to stay inside my room AT ALL. I don't like to be left to my own thoughts because that just causes unwarranted and unneccessary homesickness. It is good that everywhere I go there are people hanging out so I can just join them. I am never really alone here. Thank God for that.

I also don't eat a lot here. Not because the food is not good. It is. I just have NO appetite. I eat nothing for breakfast which is bad I know. For the past two days I ate grilled chicken and jolof rice for lunch and an egg sandwich for dinner. Maybe I need to switch my meals around and I'll be okay. It could be the devil Malari pills which make me have no appetite. I started taking them at night like 1 hour before I go to bed so that just in case I do get nauseous it won't intefere with my plans for the day and I can just lie down. That planned work, the medicine no longer makes me nauseous. However, it does make me have a knot in the middle of my chest that can be really painful when I swallow. I don't know what it is and I think I will call my doctor soon if it doesn't go away. I was going to say that I haven't even been bitten by mosquitoes but I'm literally getting bit up by one as I write this. Oh Ghana lol.

Oh yea, I actually spoke to my grandma, aunt, sister and niece yesterday on the phone which was really great. It was nice to hear their voices. I miss my mother tons. She has been emailing me daily. She is the greatest. I don't think I have more to say. Wish me luck on class registration and on the whole orphange thing. Pray for me. I hope all is well with all of you. To my family and friends reading this: I love and miss you all very much.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Life Filled With Sunscreen And Bug Spray

These are long because this is my personal diary of Ghana. I don't ever want to forget this experience so I'm writing as much as I can remember about what happened in a particular day or week or whatever time period exists between posts.

Today was the beginning of orientation. We all convened in the conference room of the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel at 8am after a breakfast of egg and cheese omlettees, white bread that didn't toast, rice krispies with really sweet milk and orange juice that tasted like something that wasn't orange juice. We met our Program Director today for the first time. He is a clinical psychologist and is a really cool man. His name is Mr. Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah aka Mr. Gyasi. He has been Resident Director of CIEE Ghana for 10 years so he knows his stuff and is really helpful. One of the first activities we did with him was that we had to write down a lot of the reactions we got from people when we first told them we were going to Ghana. Some of them were just ridiculously bogus. They included:

“Die your hair black so you don't stick out too much.” Obviously, if your white in Africa you're already going to stick out, changing your hair color will not help.

“Don't get married/Don't marry a Black man” Well I can understand the don't get married statement but the don't marry a Black man statement? Unnecessary.

“In what part of the country is Ghana?” First of all people, Ghana is a country on the CONTINENT of Africa. You learn that Africa is one of the seven continents in what 2nd grade? Geesh.

“Don't be mean to the people. They will curse you and put blood in your food and give you HIV. You know they all have HIV/AIDS.” Ok, why would I be mean? I don't know anyone or anything and need help with everything I would assume the first thing I would do is be nice to everyone. Put blood in your food? Whatt? Whose blood? What blood? Yes, blood is just lying everywhere in Africa waiting for someone to drip it in your food. Finally, the Virus dies once blood hits the air so thats impossible and Ghana has the lowest prevalency rate of HIV/AIDS in all of West Africa. Next.

“Don't get raped.” Wowzers. People watch too much TV. Ghana prides itself on being one of the safest countries in all of Africa. I'm more likely to get raped in America, honestly.

“Watch out, don't get eaten by a lion.” This was both me and Mr. Gyasi's favorite. Who told you lions, elephants, and monkies were everywhere in Africa? You gotta go on a Safari to see all of that. Mr. Gyasi just replied: “Yes, yes there is going to be a lion crossing the street at 12 noon. Don't miss it.”

All I'm saying is if you don't know, then don't make assumptions. Get the stereotypical of images of Africa out of your mind. This is not TV, this is real life.

To continue, we also had some lessons on Ghanian history and customs. Some interesting facts from the history of Ghana include: Ghana was the first African nation to gain independence from its' colonial power which occurred in 1957. Ghana has had some of the most peaceful democratic elections for the past five terms in Africa which is one of the main reasons President Obama visited last month. Ghana recently had to borrow money from the IMF which of course came with conditionalities. One of those conditionalities was that there was a freeze put on Ghana's public sector for two years, meaning people can't get hired in that sector for two years. Essentially, the Ghanian public sector is suffering terribly in areas from healthcare to education. Damn the IMF, sometimes I feel like they do more bad than good. This is a topic I'm definitely going to look into/read into/learn about more in the near future. Additionally, we also learned some cool things about Ghanaian culture. One of the coolest things we learned was the hand shake/snap which is something the youth do to greet each other. It's like going in for a handshake, pulling your hand away and then there is a snap of the middle fingers before you completely pull your hands away. You do not, DO NOT, do this handshake with an elder, just your peers. We also learned to never use your left hand for anything. Don't use it to eat, to shake hands, to hand someone something, to say hello, to answer a question in class. Nothing. This is because traditionally the left hand is used for doing foul things with like wiping yourself in the bathroom. Also, everyone in Ghana has a name according to the day of the week they were born(there is a different name on each day for a boy or a girl). My name in Ghana would be Ama Tamika because I was born on a Saturday. If I were a boy my name would be Kwame Tamika. Get it? Kofi Annan former UN Secretary General is Ghanian and his name “Kofi” means he was born on a Friday.

Ok so a little after this activity I decided it was time to take my Malaria medicine. It DEFINITELY makes me sick. No more than five minutes after taking it my stomach started spinning, my mouth starting salvating, and I immediately had the urge to throw up. I tried to run downstairs to the bathroom but I could'nt make it and vommitted right outside the door. Disgusting. I poked my head back in and the caught the eye of the assistant program director, Abena, who was very helpful. She felt very bad for me and calmed me down because I was freaking out over the fact that I had just vomitted on the floor. She led me to the bathroom which was actually a lot closer and actually already INSIDE the room I had just come from. Ugh. Anyways I cleaned myself up and she called housekeeping. Thank God for Abena. She is amazingly nice as most Ghanians I've encountered are. I felt a little better after vommiting and laying my head down on the table. I need to figure out what to do about this Malaria medicine situation.

Anywho, 15 minutes after my vommiting dilemma it was time for us to go on a scavenger hunt throughout the city. Great. All I wanted to do was lay down in my bed. Yet, I knew one of the stops was the Foreign Exchange Bureau and I needed to exchange currency because we would be buying phones later that day. I would of just given my money to my hotel roommate Annie to exchange for me but I really didn't want to miss out on anything so I just went, nauseous and all, and I'm so happy I did.

The hunt was called “In A Place Where There Are No Maps.” The title is so because there aren't really many street names in Ghana and if there are people won't use them when you ask them for directions. If you say I want to got to Champs they will say “go past the banana cart, make a right at the group of kids playing, and a left at the following junction.” So our task for the day was to simply find places on the list by asking for directions and we had to get there by foot, tro tro or taxi. City life in Ghana is amazing. As a New Yorker I can appreciate the Accra city scene very much. There are people everywhere. People selling things, children playing, people chilling, people driving, people walking to some destination, just people. You do not feel alone and I like that. I love to see a vibrant city life where people are out and about enjoying their neighborhood and environment, it's a beautiful thing. There are pictures and billboards of Barack Obama everywhere in all types of variations: Barack Obama and Atta Mills (President of Ghana), Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Barack Obama by himself, etc. A lot of them are still up from when he visited the country not to long ago. Another interesting thing about Accra is that there are street vendors everywhere selling everything. They sell plug adapters, hangers, furniture, steering wheel covers, phone credits (minutes/recharge cards), mentos and more mentos, fruits especially bananas, T-shirts, bags, statues, loofas, q-tips, socks, shoes, DVDs, CDs, jewlery, water in satchels (pure water that comes in a sealed bag instead of a bottle-it's perfectly safe, no worries), nuts, belts, paintings, sunglasses, and the list goes on. Actually this street selling of random stuff reminds me of the Africans on 125th street in Harlem who sell everything from DVDs, to books, to CDs, to T-shirts, to perfume. That's what I call holding on to culture. To continue, we eventually stopped at a For Ex Bureau and I got some money. The exchange rate is something like $1 equals 1.43 Ghanian cedis. So to exchange $100 you would get 143 cedis, to exhange $200 you would get 286 cedis, etc. This is an excellent exchange rate which seems even better since everything in Ghana is cheaper than in the US. For example, after leaving the For Ex Bureau we hopped in a tro tro headed towards Osu. A tro tro is the most common and cheapest form of transportation in Ghana. It is basically a 15 passenger van which cost the equivalent of $.10. There is a driver and a mate on the bus. The mate shouts out the window where the tro tro is going and he collects fares. The tro tro randomly picks up people on the side of the road, there are no stops. One just informs the screaming mate they want to get in, the mate bangs on the side of the tro tro, the driver stops, and then the passanger boards. We took the tro tro to a restaurant named Papaye which served the best chicken I ever ate in my life and the hugest portions of rice I have EVER seen. It was ridiculous but for some Ghanians, as we were informed, thats nothing much. I ate “chips” or french fries though instead of rice because I will avoid rice at all times unless it is the only option. I never really ate rice the same after eating it 3 times a day when I was in Mali. Next, we took a taxi pass the stadium, Parliament building and Independence Square and the whole cab ride Kiss Fm 103.7 was playing. Guess who I heard? Lil Wayne's A Milli remade by a Ghanian rapper, Gucci Man and Mariah Carey's new song, and Rhiana's song Te Amo. They are definitely into Hip Hop and R&B here. In the restaurant they were playing Jaheim, Usher, and Brandy lol. Anywho, returned back to the hotel where we all purchased cell phones from a Tigo rep who came to the hotel to speak with us. Tigo is one of the major cell phone companies in Ghana outside of the other companies like MTN and Vodafone. You can buy a Tigo “credit” or minute card at basically any street vendor so refilling my card will not be a problem. So I officially have a Ghanian phone number and cell phone. It's a Nokia, a regular ol' Nokia. It has texting, alarm clock, internet, calculator, a conveter, and games so its pretty swanky for being a 45 cedi or $31 phone. Everyone in our program has the same exact phone and all our numbers start with 027-888- ____. I think I need to put a sticker on my phone or something so it doesn't get mixed up with everyone elses lol. After that and more orientation about our safety and health we ate dinner which consisted of fried rice, plantains, grilled sole ( a type of fish in which I picked out the many little bones) and plantains. Pretty good. I drink a lot of water here which is good. It helps to keep the dehydration and thus the diarrhia away (I'm serious). It also gets dark really early here, like 6pm as opposed to 8pm back home in the summer time. It's actually not that hot all either. It's not as hot as NYC summer and I think it's because there is like zero humidity and there was even a nice breeze. One of the Ghanians mentioned how this is cold for them though and it usually gets hotter. That's okay though, I'll deal if it does get hotter. I also found out I will be living in the International Student's Hostel which is what I requested. Yes! I'll give more details later about roomates and how it looks and stuff after I actually move in. I think that's enough for now. God is good.


Tamika Nicole

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Akwaaba! Welcome

This is long... Beware.

I'm here!!! Finally. There is already so much to tell.

My flight out of JFK to London on British Airways was scheduled for 7:25pm. I left my house at 3pm and arrived at the airport around 4:30ish because of traffic, stopping to get gas, and getting my last taste of McDonalds for a year :( Actually, that should be a good thing because God knows I need to stop eating McDonalds. Anywho, we stood on line to check my baggage for about 15mins. When I got up to the counter for my bags to be weighed they were both overweight-which I expected. However, they were over the overweight limit. British Airways allows two checked bags for free if they are under 51 pounds. If they are between 51 and 70 pounds then you have to pay a $45 overweight charge. Well, my bags were 80 and 89 pounds. MESS! So the woman at the counter was very patient and just told me to unpack 30 pounds into another bag. I didn't freak out because I had brought an extra duffle bag for this very purpose. My thing was I didn't think I could fit 30lbs of stuff into this duffle bag. Yet, it worked out. I went straight for my heavy denim jeans and shorts, my sneakers, rain boots, and sandals and put them into the duffle bag. Then prayed before I reweighed my bags which came down to a whopping total of 70 and 69 pounds. God is good! I just made it and I'm happy I did because nothing else could fit into the duffle bag. Then another blessing: instead of the woman making me pay another $145 for the third bag fee she let me take the duffle bag as a carry on (technically, it was too big to be considered a carry on). So instead of paying $145 + $90 for the overweight bags I just paid $90. God is good and that woman is an angel because I was a mess. She was really patient with me and was looking out for me.

I made it through security just fine besides the fact that I almost left my passport and boarding pass on the counter. My mother didn't notice that part, Thank God. She would have been so worried about me and would have been thinking I was going to lose everything on the way to Ghana. But I'm here Ma, passport and all, so no worries! On my flight I sat in row 52 out of 53 so I was in the back which I didn't mind and I had an aisle seat which I also loved. Close to the bathroom, which is good because my bladder likes to suddenly attack me lol. I wore a Georgetown T-shirt so that Claire, the only other girl from Georgetown, would be able to notice me in London since we were on the same flight from London to Ghana. It just so happens that I sit right next to a man with a Harvard Grad school shirt on. Fifteen minutes after sitting next to him he asks me if I still go to Georgetown. I say “yes” and he says “hold on.” He reaches into his bag and hands me these tickets to Qdoba and says “I own the Qdoba on M Street, here are some free meal tickets.” Homeboy gave me like 10 of them. Ok so anyone who knows me, knows I love Qdoba and literally ate there at least once a week this summer. So I was lightweight excited. Lol. Too bad I can't use them though because I'll be in Ghana for a year. I'll just give them to Claire so she can use them when she goes back to the States in December.

Anywho I get to London safely and I have a friggin 7 hour layover. I arrived at 8am London time or 3am NYC time so I was beat. They didn't show the gate to where my flight to Accra, Ghana would be leaving from until 1:20 pm, just an hour before my flight. As a result, I didn't meet any of the other 15 people or so on the flight from my program until an hour before. I was lonely for six hours :(. But I read my Bible, I started the Book of Acts. All I'm gonna say is I was comforted in Christ and the Lord's Word. I slept a lot too. On the flight to Accra me and Claire were one seat apart so we just asked someone to switch. We just talked and watched movies. Oh yeah, the food on this flight was no where near as good as the food on the first flight. Even though they were both Brtish Airways flight. But big ups to our flight attendant who was so happy to see that we were Hoyas because he had just came from Georgetown like two days ago. Crazy right? But we flew for 7 hours and arrived safely. I froze to death on the flight but I also slept most of the way. That felt good!

AKWAABA! Welcome to Ghana. I have arrived. The air smelled different and the heat of Ghana hit me as soon as they opened the airplane doors. I went through customs with no problem. Then as I was trying to exit the airport it happened. I got hit on for the first time by a Ghanian. No more than 20 minutes after I stepped off the plane. He was one of those Customs guys. He looked at my Passport, looked me up and down, and said “Oh, you're an American? How are you?” I say “Yes, I'm fine. Thank you.” He cuts me off and says “yes, yes Very fine.” Then he looks at my Passport again and reads out loud my whole government name. “Tamika Nicole ____. (wink)Ahhhh. What sport do you play?” “What? What sport? No sport. I just study,” “ Oh, well your body, your frame looks like you do shot put. You should do shot put.” Ok so now at this point I'm reaching for my passport because I'm done with him winking, smiling awkwardly, reading my government name outloud, and examing my body frame. Lol. It may not sound like he was hitting on me from the words above but his body language and expressions said it all. I didn't sweat it though, I just kept it moving. Further up I was greeted by CIEE staff-which is the program I'm here in Ghana with. They led us out the airport and onto the bus which would take us to the hotel. While waiting to board the bus a Ghanian man comes up to me and asks me “Are you from a magazine? Jet? Essence? Ebony? You look like you are from a magazine.” “Oh, thank you, but no.” Lol. And then I try to carry my overweight luggage to the bus and I'm making it until there is this random step and then the hagglers come and try to take my luggage away and help me. Now, the CIEE staff informed us not to let anyone touch our luggage besides the CIEE staff because these people would be expecting money. So I tried to continue on and they just kept yelling at me “Mama Africa, you are very strong. Mama Africa is strong. But let your brothers help you.” So they dang near took my bags out my hand and pulled them no more than 10 feet to the bus even though I had already brought it across two streets myself. Then they wanted money. “Sorry, I don't have any money. Sorry.” I really didn't though. We boarded the bus and made it to the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel which is nicer than any American hotel I have been in. It's type baller. We are only going to be here until Tuesday for Orientation then we will be moving into our dorms at the University of Ghana. The hotel has WIFI. YES! Which is how I'm writing this and am currently on AIM and Facebook. I tried calling home but no one picked up then I tried calling Grandma and she didn't pick up. So I got on AIM and my little sister was on so I told her to call home for me and she did and my friend Diamond called my aunt for me. All is well and everyone knows I have arrived safely. We have to be up by 7am tomorrow for breakfast and then orientation at 8am. Oh yea, our program has 47 girls and 3 guys. That's crazy! I didn't take any pictures of the airport because taking out my camera would have just been too much work. I will take pictures here at the hotel though. I'll post those soon. Maybe sometime tomorrow. Oh yea, I don't think my Malaria medication is my best friend. It makes me feel funny, well nauseous, and it makes me have crazy dreams. I had a dream that I ate a bunny's legs on the plane. WEIRD. That could also be me though, not the medication lol. I only ate french fries, which Ghanians call potato chips and grilled chicken for dinner because I wasn't feeling too well. I passed the plantains and Jolof Rice because I didn't want to eat anything different while I was feeling nauseous. That could of turned out bad. I also had a Pepsi which comes in one of those snazzy glass bottles. I took a shower it was not hot. Which would not have been so bad if I didn't have the AC on blast in the room. As soon as I stepped out the shower I noticed there was a switch outside the bathroom, next to the bathroom light switch, that said “water heater”. Now I know for tomorrow's shower lol. The sockets here are also a little different. You have to actually flip a switch on the actual socket before energy will go into whatever is plugged into it. Good thing I figured that out or I would have just been thinking I bought the wrong plug adapter lol. But I think I need to sleep now. I love God. He has blessed me so much. I thank Him for this opportunity and my safe arrival. Keep me in your prayers, I'm keeping you all in mine.


Tamika Nicole