Friday, April 2, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor

Below are some videos that we took on the trip that didn't make the blog while we were there. Stay tuned for pictures to come next week!

At the Elmina Castle (a unique paradox of the beautiful ocean, vibrant community, and the haunting reminder of the castle):

Our tour guide Jorge on the final day giving his impressions on our trip and the Ghanaian economy:

Enjoying hamburgers and fries,
Kelley in Ghana 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In B-town!

All, we have made it safely to Bloomington AHEAD of schedule!

it's been a great trip, but it feels good to be back to the US. There will be more updates this week as we post pics and vids of our experience. Thanks for traveling with us to Ghana!

Resting after a very full week,
Kelley in Ghana 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

All Good Things...

...must come to an end. It's hard to believe, but tomorrow ends a fantastic week in Ghana. We had an incredible time! Today was no exception...

We visited a fisherman's village and saw how they catch, dry, and store fish. They use HUGE nets to catch the fish (the ropes for one net measure about 800 yards in total). During our time there, we got the chance to pull a net with the fishermen. Check it out!

After this, we had the most adventurous part of our trip, the Canopy Bridgewalk at Kakum National Park. This was so amazing! Kakum National Forest is apart of the rainforest in Ghana where bridges had been built from tree to tree. They are so high in the air, you have to see it to believe it - check it out!

We went to lunch at a place that has crocodiles. Not to eat, but to touch! Although I'm sure for the right price, you could do both. After eating, we took this picture, a piece the entire group contributed to at the Batik Workshop yesterday. Guess what? - Check it out!

After a traffic-filled 5 hour drive, we made it back to Accra and to our hotel. We are now looking forward to our journey back home tomorrow. Ghana has been beautiful in every way, but many of us do miss family and friends. We are crossing our fingers that our return travel goes more smoothly than last week. Ironically, we ran into one of the Delta flight attendants who will be onboard our flight in our hotel. Don't worry, we gave her ample warning that we planned on leaving as scheduled. :)

Coming back like a Boomerang (ask the students),
Kelley in Ghana 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cape Coast: Cloth, Castles, and Coconut Grove

This morning we rose and left Accra around 7:30 am and arrived at Cape Coast at 10:30am. First, we attended the Batik Workshop. Here, you select a cloth and then put patterns onto it using wax. After this, the cloth is dyed another color and the patterns show through in the original fabric color. It is a brilliant way to learn about Ghanaian culture (through the symbols we selected). It was also interesting to our group, who discussed ways to improve the workshop's business practices (it took over 2 and a half hours to complete everyone's cloth, we had ideas on how this could be expedited).


Following this, we visited two of the castles connected with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We learned of the history of the slave trade in Western Africa and saw firsthand where slaves were kept. This was a very somber and reflective experience for many in attendance. The castles sat perched atop the beautiful coastal landscape, yet housed indescribable horrors. Adding even more to the ironies was the prominence of the churches (usually within yards of the slave dungeons). Below are a myriad of sights from the Cape Coast Castle and then the Elmina Castle.

The slave dungeons were evocative and striking in every way; they smelled, looked, and felt like a different time. One of the main themes we heard at both castles was that it is important to visit and remember these sites. That way, it never happens again. Humanity can learn from the slave trade never to deny others their humanity and to prevent injustices today.


At the close of the day, our guide Jorge (the most amazing guide in the world, by the way) had African dancers come to our hotel (the scenic Coconut Grove Beach Resort) and put on a show for all of the guests. It was definitely lively! It was also a good way to close out what had been a long day. Below, Salima interviews Vasaundra and Neil about our day.

*Don't worry, we took lots of pics, but we weren't able to load them today. We will have updates with more pics when we return.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Ghana. We leave at 7:00am and have another full day of events before our 3 hour drive back to Accra. Well, you know the drill, time for sleep.. Hello Mr. Mattress, have we met yet?..

Reflecting on the day,
Kelley in Ghana 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cuckoo for Cocoa

Today, we visited the Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG), an arm of the Cocoa Marketing Board. It is an amazing location that is filled with various farms and labs (and even a golf course!). CRIG tests the cocoa crops to make sure they are producing at maximum capacity. Our guide there showed us the entire process from growing to distributing. We also met a group of scientists who employ various scientific methods to see how the plants are responding. Before we left we made sure to buy more of their great chocolate bars, hot chocolate, and other products. Check out the process below - they make jams, soap, and liqours all with the cocoa bean!

After this, we drove a long time to go to lunch. We actually had lunch in a nice restaurant at the Botanical Gardens.

In Ghana, when you have a large group and you order food, it can take a while to make it, so we went to the Woodcarver’s Village, which was a short distance away. Going to the Woodcarver’s Village was a great exercise in bargaining and negotiations. At the market in Ghana you are expected to negotiate the price. Our tour guide let us know that someone will tell you a price and you should never accept that. You always offer something closer to what you are willing to pay.

Some walked away with amazing deals. (Those of note: Jake bargained a carving down from 50 Ghana cedi’s to 20 Ghana cedi’s; Marcus got a painting down from 30 GH to 10 GH; Michael got more than a few things marked down over 50%). For all, it was an exciting way to sharpen our bargaining skills.

Among the entertaining, many of the female students wanted to know what it was like for the Ghanaian women to carry babies on their backs. Below is Aileen giving it a try with the approval of the child's mother.

We closed out the day with some Fan Ice, which is essentially ice cream in a pack. The students say it tastes like birthday cake. This was the last thing we did before we came back to the hotel. We have to pack tonight because we leave for Cape Coast tomorrow at 7:30 am. We are there for an entire day before we return to Accra. We’re all looking forward to tomorrow and learning more about this great country.

Falling for Ghana,
Kelley in Ghana 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Kelley Met Ghana: Day 2

Today was another power-packed day. We began the day by visiting SEND-Ghana, an NGO that focuses on poverty-related research. SEND-Ghana has the goal of using research as evidence when working with the government to improve the rights of Ghanaian citizens. This was a very imformative meeting and helped keep the needs and realities of the Ghanaian people a central focus of our trip.

After that, we visited Cummins-Ghana. Cummins is actually a company that makes and repairs engines in Columbus, Indiana. They are now becoming a major player in the Ghana market through partnerships. While there, we talked with an ex-patriot of England who has been working in Ghana for the last year. He discussed some of the strengths and weaknesses of the market here.

Among the other things of note today was our first trip to the market (the Kaneshie Market, to be exact)! What an experience! Everyone there was so niche. There were so many people selling so many kinds of things. The one we visited had lots of fabrics to choose from. Many of us purchased items there; scarves, clothing, and fabric to be created into clothing later.

Ghana's market really is dependent on the entrepreneurial spirit of it's people. For better or worse, everyone here is selling something. You name it, and it's sold on the streets of Ghana. On our way around town today we saw appliances, food, furniture, cell phones, goats, and coffins shaped like animals (this was an interesting story). View the pictures below to get an idea.

After a hearty lunch at the Abusua Restaurant, we made our final trek of the day to the Cocoa Marketing Board. There, we were greeted by many of the members of this highly influential group. This board is the governing body for EVERYTHING cocoa in Ghana. They are apart of the government and regulate cocoa's production, quality, and trade. Now, a little about cocoa; it is one of the leading exports in Ghana (along with gold and timber), it accounts for $1 billion of the country's GDP (or between 9-11%), Ghana is the second largest cocoa producer in the world.

As we were told there, Ghana is cocoa and cocoa is Ghana. That said, this was a very informative meeting. The knowledge they shared about the role cocoa plays in the economy and the ways it is monitored was eye-opening. This was also a good introduction into our trip tomorrow, where we will learn more about cocoa. Below is a little about what was learned in our time with them and throughout the day from Melissa and Kathryn (interviewed by Salima).

Now it is time to head off to sleep again.. Kind of. The students are going out tonight with some of the University of Ghana students we met last night to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. St. Paddy's in Accra - let the good times roll!

Today we saw purple shamrocks,
Kelley in Ghana 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Worth the Wait!

Our first day in Ghana was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

We first went to the United Nations Population Fund (or UNFPA - you're right, the acronym doesn't match the words). There, we learned about what efforts Ghana is focused on in terms of developing ways to support women and children. They focus on areas of education, health, and empowerment for families in Ghana. It was an enlightening experience.

After exchanging our money, we had lunch at Frankie's. This is a restaurant lots of tourists eat at when in Ghana. This was pretty evident by the traditional Ghanaian food served alongside french fries!

After Frankie's, we visited the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the first president of Ghana and led it's independence. More video is below from Salima (interviewing Nick and Aileen) and our guide at the mausoleum.

After this, we had a business visit with Databank, one of the largest Ghanaian owned banks in the country. The bank began in 1996 with $25K and now has assets of over $60 million. They are continuing to grow exponentially and have an aggresive plan of growth for the next 5 years. Databank has a strong focus on giving value to their investors. They also are concerned with developing their community. Their four pillars are leadership, excellence, humility, and integrity. This was a very informative and exciting meeting. Databank has positioned itself to be leaders in the emergence of Ghana as a major economic force in West Africa.


The conclusion of our evening was simply incredible. We got to meet the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Kofi Yanka. Professor Yanka is, for all intensive purposes, the chancellor of the university because the chancellor is the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. Needless to say, Annan's commitments likely leave him unable to run the daily operations of the university.

The highlight of the night (and the trip so far) was dinner. We went to Professor Yanka's home and it was.. it was... I can't even explain it.. see for yourself -

* Later, we found out that we called "coated grain oats" was really "coated ground nuts" or simply coated peanuts. I guess we were over-doing the foreign experience there.

We have another busy day tomorrow and all are looking forward to it. Off to the place where time changes never matter - sleep!

Ready for day two-morrow,

Kelley in Ghana 2010