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

5 comments:

ASW said...

YOU. BETTER. GO.

TAMIKA!! Your wisdom and reflections are SO inspiring and thought-provoking, especially the beginning part on why you are African-American and not African, and how that translates into your lifestyle... LOVE IT!! And it is so true - why when people look at me, they think nothing too drastic of me because I look "African", but when I speak, I get the double take and my American half becomes much more apparent. And it's all because of slavery... how we are separate... yet that separation dissipates as we ALL realize that everyone comes from Africa.
You are so so SO blessed to be learning all that you are. God truly blessed you to be a blessing to other people - I mean, you're already a blessing to me and just added tenfold on top of that!!

So yeah, glad you're learning so much about yourself and your identity. Africa is no joke.

And definitely talk to those directors - that don't sound like an internship to me! You GO get your inheritance!! LOL. :D

LOVE YA!

Tamika Nicole said...

Amen! Amen! The slave castles really had me thinking and its all so true. God is teaching me so much here and I am changing so much for the better while strengthening the good characteristics I already had lol. God is doing a mighty work on me. And my goal in life is to be a blessing unto others because that's all God created me to do. ADAM YOU ARE A BLESSING UNTO MY LIFE! Love you!!!

Africa is no joke. You are right. And i will talk to the directors because I know it doesn't sound like an internship. Sometimes you just gotta set things in order for yourself because my program is not doing the right thing lol. It will all work out.
I hope all is well with you and I want to hear some more church-ah stories!
Love you more!

Tamika Nicole said...

Amen! Amen! The slave castles really had me thinking and its all so true. God is teaching me so much here and I am changing so much for the better while strengthening the good characteristics I already had lol. God is doing a mighty work on me. And my goal in life is to be a blessing unto others because that's all God created me to do. ADAM YOU ARE A BLESSING UNTO MY LIFE! Love you!!!

Africa is no joke. You are right. And i will talk to the directors because I know it doesn't sound like an internship. Sometimes you just gotta set things in order for yourself because my program is not doing the right thing lol. It will all work out.
I hope all is well with you and I want to hear some more church-ah stories!
Love you more!

CareOhLen said...

yo...i hated elmina, you should def be glad u didn't go there, it was soooo creepy!!...and that walk to the canopies was like death lol wasn't nobody expectin that!!

Adam "Africa is no joke"...lol so true!!

Tamika Nicole said...

Lmao... like death??? You are such a drama queen lol. It was OD rocky though it would of been better if it was a paved road or somethin lol idk... Well I'm happy I went to Cape Coast and while I was there I thought of u!!!