First experiences in Ghana

Saturday, September 09, 2006

By Melissa Rick

Akwaaba.  That is the word used to greet us where ever we go.  It means welcome.  I have found out that greetings are important to Ghanaians.  Maakye (good morning), Maaha (good afternoon), and Maadwo (good evening).  The Ghanaians are extremely patient and hospitable.  When I do something stupid they will laugh and not get upset at it.

      Names are also important here.  Everyone has a name day.  A name that signifies what day they where born in addition to any other names they might have.  My name day is Akosua.

      I am supposed to have a Ghanaian roommate but she hasn;t shown up yet.  The school here runs very differently than universities in America.  Many of the students won’t even show up till finals and buy the notes.  The larger lecture halls seat around 300 students but there will be 800 students signed up for the class.  Those that don’t show up an hour before the class will have to stand for a couple of hours.  The grading scale is different. A 70%-100% is an A.

      The Calvin students don’t run into the same struggles as the rest of the university students.  We have Ghanaian professors but our classes are just other Calvin students on the program. We started our Twi class, African Drumming and Dance, African Politics and People’s and Culture.      On Saturday, we went into Accra for the first time.  We split up in groups and walked through the largest market imaginable.
It takes up most of the downtown area.  Accra has a population of around three million.  It can be crazy around here.  To get there we took a tro-tro which is basically a passenger size van with 35 people in it.  People are everywhere and it is very crowded. The sound in the market are also different.  People will hiss or smack their lips to get your attention.  Many say hello, hello instead of maakye because they can see we are Americans.

      The country also is experiencing rolling power outages so at some time on three days of the week we won’t have power or water.  When we went up to Akroprong this weekend there was a large storm and the generator worked for only part of the day so we have had several romantic candlelight meals.

      The food is extremely different as well. However, there are not many options.  We usually have rice and they serve a meat with every meal, usually chicken.  The dishes are Jolaff which is like a Spanish rice, Waakye a rice and bean mixture, Kenkye a dough like ball that is served by itself with sauce or in a stew (then it is called Fufou), and Red-Red (which is a bean mixture).  There is an open air market across the street that will make egg sandwiches for breakfast for about 30 cents.      On Sunday we went for our first service at the Legon International Church. It was an amazing service.  A lot of the songs are in Twi but we can still follow along (or at least dance).  The service went by quickly.  I didn?t even realize that it had been 3 hours before it was done.  Ghanaians dress up for church.  Most of the women wear beautiful traditional dresses and some of the men wear a cloth wrapped around their bodies and one shoulder.  We are often singled out because we already stand out so much because of our white skin.  The Ghanaians don?t mean it in a negative or racist way they are just really curious.  I think I will be a lot friendlier and more open after spending time here and greeting everybody.

      After the service we went to the Akofi-Christaller Memorial Center for three days to have a beginning retreat in the mountains.  It wasamazing.  The staff of the center talked to us about Ghanaian customs, religions, and culture.  For example, it is very bad to use your left hand for anything here, like passing money or food or eating.  The left hand is meant for dirty jobs so using it towards anyone is offensive.  It is also offensive to cross your legs in the presence of an elder.  It is a sign of pride and disrespect.

      Tuesday we visited the Voltic Lake and dam that provides electricity for the country.  The reason there is rolling blackouts is because they are worried that they didn?t get enough rain this year so everyone has to conserve electricity.  We also visited a bead factory.  They showed us how they made various beads from recycled bottles and we bought several different kinds.

      We officially started classes this Wednesday.  Please pray for me as I am trying to adjust to this new culture and finish my law school applications.      Some interesting information: 
1.      None of the bathrooms have toilet paper or soap, even in our dorm.
2.      The gutters everywhere are huge open concrete ditches (easy to trip over if you aren’t careful).
3.      Cars have the right of way here. 
4.      When we are walking around in kroprong or Accra, children laugh and yell obruni (white person).

Dei (good-bye)

Melissa

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