Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 6

Saturday, we traveled about an hour down the coast to a smaller town called Winneba. We took a tro tro, which is basically a big van stuffed full of hot and sweaty people. It was a long and smelly ride, but it was well worth it when we finally made it there. Winneba is such a breath of fresh air after being a big, crowded city. It has a simplistic, close-community feel and we were told "this is the real Ghana." We met some friends there (who are faculty leader knew) for a birthday party and to watch the big Ghana-U.S.A. futbol game. We went to a local restuarant/lounge to watch the game on a big-screen TV. There had to have been over 100 people stuffed into the small, open-top building and I don't think I have ever seen a crazier crowd. This game was comparable to the super-bowl back at home, but probably even bigger. When Ghana first scored people were running into the streets singing and dancing, you could hear people for miles around honking and yelling. Also, the whole market shut down that day just for the game. There was absolutely no one on the streets or in the stores. EVERYONE was watching the game. Since our group and a few Canadian students were the only white people in probably the entire town, the locals kept apologizing to us b/c our team was so bad. We just laughed and said we were cheering for Ghana. They got so excited when we told them that. Later, we had a celebration of food and music. Some of the locals tried to teach me how to dance...and guess what? They actually said I was pretty good! (they must have been trying to make me feel better... hahaha) We got home late that night at probably 1 or 2 in the morning.

The next morning, I attempted going on my second run this entire trip (I went earlier in the week as well.) People here think it is the weirdest thing for someone to go running. They don't understand the concept of exercising or running for fun. I thought maybe in the smaller town people would just let me be and not think it was as weird. I was wrong, very wrong. I'd be running through the streets and near the market and people standing outside (everyone is always outside here, just walking around or selling things) would just laugh and point at me. They'd yell "abruni, abruni, you crazy abruni" and break out in laughter. (Abruni means white person in their language, it's just what they call us.) It was kind of embarrassing, I just tried to ignore them, but it is going to take some getting used to. Being a white person is already weird, but running as a white person supposedly makes me a freak of nature. haha.

I've been trying some unusual foods here as well...or maybe just plain food is a better way to put it. Nearly every restaurant serves the same thing: rice and chicken. If you are lucky, there might be fries. I am getting really, really sick of rice to put it nicely. So this past weekend, we went to this restaurant that was supposedly really upscale for Ghana. (It had the whole candles, and white table setting, folded napkins, etc.) Our group got really excited b/c it had a complete full menu. Like REAL food this time including most of the things you'd find back at home. I ordered "stir-fry" from the waiter, and was really optimistic at eating a quality meal for once, and he told me that they didn't have it. I thought that was weird. Why would you put something on your menu if you didn't serve it, right? So then, I ordered fish and a baked potato. That sounded good too, I figured...They didn't have fish either. I was like "what the heck?" I finally just asked "what do you have?" There was literally like a list of 5 things... and could you guess what they were?? Yeah..chicken, rice, some other things, and potatoes! I liked the thought of a real potato for I ordered that with chicken. I never got a potato, but fries... when did a a baked potato become fries? I was quite disappointed. But that's just how things work here. You never know what is going to happen. Also, another thing about the food, it is NEVER served on time. We could wait for hours and not be served unless we reminded them. Or it could be served right away if we got lucky. But most of the time, they forget or are just really slow. Anyway, food is just frustrating here. Especially with me being an overall healthy eater. I am either going to gain a lot or lose some weight depending on how everything sits with me. But, I know one thing for sure. I'm not going to be eating that nutritiously...But that's just a part of the experience I suppose.

Okay, so on the aspect of food again. I tried to eat as healthy as I could for a while(that is before I learned that that is nearly impossible). I ate vegetables (usually in the form of beans or the occasional thin salad) and omlets here and there (etc.). Well, this plan of eating healthy completely backfired. Yesterday, I came down with the WORST gastrointestinal problems(if you know what I mean;) I have ever had in my life. I could not keep anything down whatsoever. My food would literally go straight through me. I talked to some health professionals and they said it was caused by my "healthy" diet. I guess I wasn't supposed to eat raw vegetables... I was in bed for close to 24 hours, if not more, and could barely walk around b/c my stomach was constantly churning. After some medication, it finally calmed down a bit...but I guess my attempts at being healthy are done for a while. Bring on the rice! hahaha

Last Sunday, we came back to the city of Accra from Winneba and we are leaving again tomorrow morning. We are taking off on a flight at 4 in the morning for the northern region of Damongo. Up north, we finally get to start the real service work! We are going to be working with orphans for 10 days in a small city who has hardly ever been exposed to white people at all. I can't wait to get out of the city for good and begin to work with the chilren!

Well, I'm heading out for now, but for everyone back at home, do not ever take the food for granted there! In my opinion and to most Ghanains, if you eat more than rice and chicken in a day, you are eating luxury.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day Number One

Soo...where do I start?? This has been one of the craziest, yet strangely laid back couple of days I have ever had.
Yesterday, we took three flights to fly into Ghana. The first one was two hours late... and we had lay over for...two hours. Our group was literally sprinting through the Detroit airport to catch our second flight which was supposed to leave the minute we got there. The attendants weren't very happy, but we made it! Then, that flight was held up for a little while and we made it to our next flight in JFK 15 minutes before that was supposed to leave. It was one crazy LONG day on the airplanes...and I'm pretty sure I almost died on the last flight. About 20 minutes before we were supposed to land in Ghana, the plane started to have "some of the worst turbulence we've ever experienced" according to the flight attendants. We were literally bouncing up and down on the plane. Me, being me, screaming my lungs out...and everyone around us just ducking and holding on for dear life. I honestly thought that could have been the end...Me and the lady next to me said a quick prayer and just held hands well it shook uncontrollably. When we finally landed, the passengers all broke out in an applause of relief...I was still shaking until we got our luggage.

Another thing about the flight...I met one of the coolest ladies on our flight to Accra at I think 1 or so in the morning?? She was a missionary who was flying to Liberia to build a mission home for the people there. We talked for about 20 minutes and I told her how I wanted to do some sort of mission work in the future. She had the most amazing heart for God and felt so connected at that point and knew that I was headed in the right direction..

Ooh..and did I mention I maybe slept 3 hours in 3 days? no joke...I don't think I have ever been that tired. But anyway...

Accra, Ghana, Africa
This place is so strange. So different from what I pictured. I thought it would be mostly a dirt road city with little shacks surrounding the roads with these really friendly people (that everyone was telling me about). The first thing I noticed touching down was the cement roads with normal markets...and the shacks of course. My first impression was that it looked like "a really bad part of Detroit." It's almost a mix of the Detroit ghetto with the Mexico border. But the roads are paved and they do have nicer restaurants and just have to find them. At the airport, Christine almost got some of her money stolen from the people "helping us" (that we did not ask for). Then, we drove through the "city."
The traffic has no rules at all! If I were to drive out here for just one day, I would probably die. End of story. People are cutting each other off everywhere and the honking never stops. Plus, there are all these people carrying things on their heads in the middle of the streets, trying to sell their products to you. They come up to the window, sometimes even sticking their heads in, and throwing their products at you or stuffing it in front of your face. Another weird thing is when we were driving in the car, they played American music. You would think we'd get away from all that western culture stuff...but no, they try to act as American as they can, thinking that this will impress us. Kind of interesting...and sad.

After eating at an American restaurant (the last one for a while according to Janaan), we headed to our "hotel." It wasn't the prettiest thing, but it has a bed and air conditioning though so I'm happy. And supposedly this is more upscale for them. I took a nap then...and managed to pull myself out of bed to go on a walk around the endless town and little market shops. We ran into all of these children in uniforms on the street and wondered where they were coming from, so we followed them to their school and they kept holding onto our hands and pulling us closer. Soon we had a whole crowd of children pulling at us and showing us their teachers and such. We had to run to get away...and promised to come back tomorrow to watch them sing and that should be fun. We will see. but for now I have no time and am on my last minute so farewell for now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leaving TODAY!

I don't think the reality has hit me yet...I leave in less than 2 hours! Thinking back, t was nearly a year ago that I first decided I was going to Ghana in August of 2009. I heard about this trip even before I started school at Grand Valley and knew immediately it was something I wanted to pursue. The service work, instead of a the "regular" study abroad is what first pulled me in. I have always had the desire to go to a developing country and see the "reality" of the world around me. I've been stuck in the little "West Michigan Box" my entire life, and I really wanted a slap in the face to see what the world is really like. I know one thing: West Michigan is definitely not the reality. I think I read a statistic once and it said: if you have a roof over your head, food to eat, and a few spare coins in your wallet, you are better off than 99% of the world. This thought is so scary to me! How could most of our society seriously just sit back and pretend that the world is so nice and perfect outside this little area and especially outside the U.S.??! Although, that's probably how I still think/act like right now...I have never known any better. That is why I am going: I want a touch of reality.

Also, I don't want to just "experience" this trip either, but I want to learn from the people in this country and, hopefully, change some of my messed up perceptions on "normal." I want adopt their positive attitudes when they live on barely anything (in American standards) and, hopefully, begin to change my typical selfish and sheltered American mindset. I want to stop thinking about "me me me" all the time and begin to think of others ahead of myself. From what I've read, these people are generally humble, selfless, and optimistic. I am probably pretty close to the opposite, as our most Americans. I desperately want to change that, and I think introducing myself to this new and strange culture will give me that "kick in the butt" that I want, no need, so badly.

Well, I will stop my rambling soon. But one last thought...I want to grow closer to God during this journey as well. One thing West Michigan has taught me is how important He is in my life. I can't expect to go to a completely new country and genuinely change selfish ways without God guiding me through it. He is the one that has shown me how screwed up and sinful I am (we all are) to begin with. As far as I've heard, Ghana is a pretty "Christian society" and I can't wait to witness His presence in the people there. Although our group will be doing different service projects, I honestly think we will get out of this trip much more than we could ever put into it. I pray that I will. I not only want to witness the real world, but learn from it and come back ready to do something about it.

I don't want this trip to be some sort of "vacation," because it's not. As much as I try to pretend, things will not go perfectly and I will probably not be "comfortable," but that's the beauty of a challenge and change. I think that is what will make this trip so much more significant than the typical "study abroad." I am not here to soak in more laziness and to simply "enjoy myself." I want a challenge. I want it to be another step in my walk with God and take full advantage of it's truths. If I can even begin to get rid of my selfish mind frame, then I have made progress. The real challenge will be to keep working at it even after I get home...this I am holding myself accountable for and cannot wait to get started!

There is only an hour and a half now until I leave.

Bring it on!