Wednesday, September 20, 2006

By Melissa Rick

In a developing country, everyday activities take longer.  We are learning to be flexible with our time and patient.  Nevertheless, I know that my American schedule that I usually have at home would never work here.  The electricity is shaky, but being without power or water makes for several fun activities.  Another example is that within the three weeks we have stayed here, I have already had one tro-tro and one taxi break down while I was riding in them.
I do not accomplish very much when the power is out (other than immediately going to sleep no matter what time it is).  On Thursday, the power was out for over 24 hours.  We went to an outdoor theatre and waited under the stars talking till they got some power to have the performance.  After about an hour and a half, one light appeared on the stage.  The performers danced African tribal dances.  I am amazed to watch their compulsive movements around the stage. 
I am also learning to be flexible with basic infrastructure that is not in place.  There are often not systems for how things are done (like driving).  The other week I visited the library.  It is a grand building on campus and stills shines of what it was meant to be.  The reference section is an outdated card catalogue.  The drawers of the catalogued are twisted and bent into their various shelves.  The cards are worn thin and yellowed.  The rest of the library is in a similar condition.  I walked up to the second floor to discover piles and piles of unshelved books feet taller than me placed around the floor.  The guardians were two elderly women who volunteer at the library.  They only released a few of the basis books after they joked with us in Twi. 
In Ghana there are many differences some are because it is a third world country; others are in place because of tradition or culture.  The differences donít bother me.  I knew it would be different.  My friends and I talk about how we want to live Here while we are Here.  In other words, we donít want to expect or impose American ways of doing this or that.  That would ruin or at least lessen the cultural lessons and experiences that we are having here.  Who knows?  Perhaps we will learn new and better ways of doing things or better understand why something is a certain way in the developed United States.  I strongly believe that this daily confrontation with a new place helps us appreciate the United States, and know more about ourselves and how our environments have shaped us.
This weekend Stephanie, Justin, Sarah (x2), Deborah, and I ventured into the unknown surroundings outside of Accra to attempt to find the mysterious Boti Falls.  We had a true adventure.  Traveling in a third world country, even one as developed as Ghana, is challenging.  Without signs, one has to rely on the patience and help of others.  To find the right tro-tro or street you just have to ask people on the way.  The same thing happens when we take taxis somewhere.  You get into the cab and tell the driver where you are going.  He wonít tell you that he isnít familiar with that place but will ask other drivers or pedestrians every little bit on the way there. 
To get to the Boti Falls, we headed out of campus to downtown Accra and piled in a tro-tro for the trip.  We had to wait for the tro-tro to fill up before it left but we were finally on our way.  The other passengers in the tro-tro looked like they were going to ceremonies because they were dress in beautiful traditional African clothes.  One family was in all black, most likely for a funeral.  The other in bright colors for a different kind of celebration.  The tro-tro took us to Koforidua (apparently called Kofo for short) through the mountains and small villages.  Mist hung over the mountains.  Kofo is only about 20 to 30 miles outside of Accra but the trip took 1 Ĺ- 2 hours.  We when got to Koforidua we had lunch then Stephanie, Sarah, Justin, and I took a taxi to the Boti Falls, another thirty minute drive.  We had our destination for the entire adventure set on the falls but really we didnít know what to expect.  The travel guides and descriptions hardly adequately described the powerful 30m high falls.  On July 1st every year the Ghanaians from the area have a huge festival.  Our taxi driver said he would go every year.  We could climb on the rocks behind the falls and stand behind them.  After all the unknowns about if we would actually make it to the falls, seeing them was a magnificent reward.
After seeing the falls, our taxi driver lead us on a strenuous fast hike through the mountainís forest.  (a short side note) The people in Ghana are amazing.  They go well out of their way to show you kindness or help you find something.  Our taxi driver spent around five hours with us that day showing around this area where he had grown up.  The hike finally lead us through rocks and caves until we emerged from the forest.  Up ahead there was a strange rock formation called the Umbrella Rock.  It is one rock sitting precariously on top of another.  We climbed up a shady bamboo ladder to the top.  On the top it feels like you are hovering over the mountain and can see the Ghanaian mountains and valleys for miles around. 
In the next few days, we are going to a festival outside of Accra.  The festival is for the veneration of the ancestors.  I am excited to see what a traditional African holiday is like and will have much to write about in the coming weeks.

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