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:
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
- 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.
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).
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.
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).
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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...