Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Starting Class

Classes begin today. It feels good to begin a regular schedule and begin the work of the semester. (Of course, that’s always easier for the Prof to say than the students!) We spent the weekend up at the Akrofi Christaller Institute in the town of Akropong, and returned to the University of Ghana yesterday about 4:30 in the afternoon.

The Akrofi Christaller Institute (ACI) is located up in the mountains, and the altitude results in much cooler temperatures than we’ve been experiencing here in Accra. It’s a beautiful place. The main buildings were built in the mid-1800s, and restored when the ACI was established. It currently offers advanced theological degrees in a variety of subjects, with a specialization in African religions, so when we ate in the cafeteria and walked around the grounds we got to meet folks from all over the world who’ve come to study. We also enjoyed classes with instructors from the ACI, who introduced us to all sorts of things, from the complexities and importance of greetings in Ghanaian culture, to the intricacies of family relationships and basic ettiquette. We learned we should not pass things to people with the left hand, and we should not cross our legs when in a formal meeting. We learned that owls are considered evil by some groups in Ghana, and that American families with only one mother and father are pretty scrawny—many Ghanaians have a whole handful of fathers and mothers, aunties and uncles. And we ended with a wonderful discussion of Christianity and African traditional religions led by Professor Kwame Bediako, one of the world’s leading experts on religion in Africa. It was a thought-provoking and fascinating discussion.

Because Akropong is up in the mountains, it can get fairly cold, and our first night there it poured rain in buckets. The whole country of Ghana has been praying for rain, as the source of electricity here is the Akosombo dam, and the water levesl are critically low. Unfortunately, rain here in the south does nothing to raise the level of Lake Volta, so we’ll have to keep praying! But the rain made for a cold first night at the ACI. It warmed up as the days went on, and by our last day, Tuesday, when we visited the Akosombo dam to see where our electricity has been coming from, we found ourselves a bit too warm if anything.
The Akosombo dam is fascintaing visit, a real feat of engineering. Its creation generated the largest human-made lake in the world, and it provides electricity for the whole of Ghana as well as several neighboring countries. During our travels around Akropong we also visited the Cedi bead factory. Ghana is famous for its beads, created from recycled glass, and often containing intricate patterns and colors. The Cedi bead factory offers a tour of the manufaturing process as well as a chance to see a business developed by Ghanaians, using traditional Ghanaian craft processes, that now exports products around the world.
Then it was time to come home from traveling, and start our first classes today, Wednesday. And while that’s the heart of the program, in many ways, it’s also the part that is least exciting to describe (Do you really want a transcript of a lecture?) So I’ll leave it to my reader’s imaginations to picture the classes—though the fact that they’re being held in Ghana makes them very real and vivid and thought provoking. Suddenly things that would be just intellectual exercises in the US become concrete human lives in this context.

Posted by Ruth Groenhout on 09/06 at 09:33 AM


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