This is going to be a combined post. I've been pretty busy for the
past few days and my access to the internet has been intermittent:



http://www.flickr.com/[email protected]/sets/72157635246859994


Day 4:

  • We
    went to a restaurant on campus called Tasty Treats. The food was
    awesome, but there were some interesting options none of us had ever
    tried before. We drew straws and someone in our group ended up eating a
    snail (which apparently tastes like chicken and has the consistency of
    octopus)!
  • People really are excited to see an "obruni" (Twi word
    for foreigner) speaking the local language. I almost immediately get
    better treatment. When I bargain in Twi, I almost definitely get WAY
    better deals. At the same time, people are so happy to see it that they
    shake my hand and invite me to hang out with them.
  • We had a very
    interesting conversation about what actually defines poverty and
    western paternalism. We unanimously agreed that a lack of money does not
    equal poverty. However, we weren't sure that it was completely
    independent either. We ended up deciding that the primary measuring
    stick of poverty is a lack of opportunity.

Day 5:

  •  The
    judgement on the election results went smoothly. There were no riots
    and no one died (unlike what happened in Kenya). Everyone is counting
    their blessings. There was certainly tension in the air. Every white
    person in our group was getting shooed away when taking photographs for
    fear of being manipulated or misrepresented. This phenomenon seems to be
    more prevalent in much poorer areas--our theory is that people are
    embarrassed to be on camera or that they think we are going to profit
    off of their poverty and want to be compensated).
  • The
    community here is surprisingly small. It's starting to get to the point
    where I can go to the mall, walk around on campus, or go downtown and
    see someone I've met before. What's even more amazing is that people
    remember me, when I dropped by, and what I bought or did!
  • I now
    have a fruit guy. I buy fruit exclusively from a 20-something year old
    guy from Togo. I tried to speak the local language with him and he said
    he didn't speak it! I tried Spanish but he didn't know that. His English
    wasn't bad, but it wasn't his preferred language. We settled on French
    (which is surprisingly rare around here). The joke is that everyone
    around Ghana speaks French except for Ghanians, even the fish.
  • I
    also learned about Ghanaian marriages. There is definitely a sense of
    tradition. Although people seem to go through the motions in a contrived
    sort of way, it is the mode of operation here and people enjoy it. The
    man has to approach the girls parents and the parents have to act
    clueless. The parents have to then tell the girl there is someone
    interested in them and give her the choice of whether or not she wants
    to marry him. The man's family then comes to the girls house with tons
    of gifts to persuade the woman to join his family. Then a wedding is
    arranged. Water is of utmost importance in Ghanaian culture. When someone visits your home and you don't offer them water, it is considered an insult. Refusing the water someone offers you is an insult to the host (and likely means you are there for some sort of altercation).

Day 6:

  • We
    got to learn drumming and dancing from a man who is a graduate student
    in the School of Fine Arts here at the University of Ghana. We see women
    carrying babies on their backs and working away. If a women with a baby
    is making food and the baby is crying, she makes the food to the rhythm
    of a song and calms the baby down while still working. Maternity leave
    is almost unheard of here.
  • I've been trying Ghanaian alcohol
    (although there aren't that many options). Many people are extremely
    religious and give me dirty looks when they seen foreigners drinking in
    their country. This may also account for why alcohol is so cheap
    here--there is minimal demand for it. We had a pretty good happy hour
    tonight.
  • There are a number of educated Ghanians (and other
    Africans from other countries too). Many people leave their country to
    learn English in Ghana. English is much more marketable than French or
    local languages. Since English is the official language of this country,
    everyone can speak at least a little. A man with a small storefront I
    had a conversation with was fluent in Chinese. Another man had several
    family members in America (New Jersey to be exact) and chooses to live
    in Ghana because he likes it better. Other people were very open to
    sharing their stories and were very interested in hearing mine.

Day 7

  • It seems that everyone here believes in some sort of a higher power. I've noticed that people become really uneasy when I don't have a solid reply for what religion I follow. Atheism is almost unheard of here.

Day 8

  • MOTECH - Mobile Technology for Community Health
    • This is a very interesting company I visited and I hope they succeed. Many pregnant women in rural areas do not have access to the internet or medical professionals. Consequently, they tend to have a large number of miscarriages or high infant mortality. This company is setting up a system such that rural women and their family members can register for updates via their mobile phones. Pregnant women get an update every week about what they should be doing and what they should expect. Now, of course, this system comes with a number of challenges in cultural, financial, and technological contexts, but they are close to getting this idea off of the ground. They will go bankrupt if they don't obtain more funding by this next March--they have to show the Grameen and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations that they are making a significant difference here. I'm so proud to be able to help a company like this.
  • GIFEC - Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications
    • We also visited GIFEC (a governmental agency that funds programs in Ghana that helps the poor). People were nice, but many of the things they shared seemed very rosy.
       Suspiciously rosy.

Day 9

  • We went to a major internet cafe called Busy Internet. A section of the building was for normal citizens who just want to Facebook or check email. Another area was reserved for people who brought their own computers but wanted wifi access. Yet another area is reserved for start-up companies and "soft business" incubation. The more serious business are provided space upstairs.
  • Esoko is a company that makes mobile phone apps for rural farmers. Farmers sometimes get ripped off on their produce and sell for too little. Other times they can't find a buyer. This app solves both problems for them.
  • I had my first encounter with Ghanaian gypsy children (who happened to speak Portuguese and English in addition to Twi, interestingly)



We leave for the Volta region tomorrow. And if internet connectivity wasn't hard to come by before, it certainly will be now...