Sunday, December 12, 2010
Here are a few photos of the maternity and pediatric wards at University Hospital, where I have been volunteering for the semester. Not that it needs too much explanation, but it is worth mentioning that this hospital is enormously better than many others in Ghana. Doctors and nurses have to work with whatever they have in terms of supplies and technologies, and when they don't have it, sometimes the patient suffers. I have found that everything seems to be a little more natural here, they don't have all the expensive and extravagant ways of keeping people alive like they do in the US. Spending time here has been an adventure in many ways and has taught me a lot about what it means to be human.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Way back in October, my friend Sammy and I took a four day trip over to Benin. We stayed in Lomé, Togo for a night as we were passing through and then headed to Cotonou early the next morning. Spent a bit of time wandering around there. Not too much to see, seemed to be a pretty run-down city. Afer, we headed to Ganvié, a stilt village with a population of around 30,000. Was a nice boat ride there and the village was neat- church, schools, hospital, hotel, restaurants... it has lots of things a town of that size should have. Was pretty amazing that the whole thing was on stilts. A lot of women apparently didn't consider it important to wear clothes either. Always a bit awkward, but it was hot I suppose! After the boat ride, we headed up to Abomey- supposed to be a two hour drive, but it took 4 1/2 hours on one of the bumpiest roads I have ever ridden on. Got there around 9 PM and tried two places before finding a hostel with room for us. Much of the transportation around the cities is on moto taxis- the mini motorcycles. Felt a little bit erie being on the backs of moto taxis in the pitch dark driving through alley ways with no street lights heading towards "a great place to stay" that the driver knows of. Such is travel in West Africa though, and we had no problems! Got up the next morning and took a moto taxi tour of the Dahomey Trail. That was pretty neat, although our guide didn't speak a lot of English, so I think we missed a lot. There are eleven sights along the trail leftover from the Dahomey Kingdom. Headed back south to Oidah after finishing the tour. There, we visited the Voodoo Python temple, where you can drape the snakes over your neck! Kinda scary! Saw the Sacred Forest, which is essentially one tree. The Voodoo king apparently turned himself into a tree, and the tree is now considered sacred. Also took another moto taxi tour of the Route de Esclaves, the 4 KM walk that the slaves were walked down before boarding the ships. Pretty crazy to see where it truly happened. There is the spot where a large tree used to be called "The Tree of Forgetfulness" where the slaves were forced to walk around it several times and "forget Africa." The Point of No Return has a magnificent archway built on the sand. Seems so ironic to have a place of such tragedy be so beautiful. Spent the night at a cute place near the ocean. Everything was great there except for the 90234023759278 bug bites I got!
Sunday, October 31, 2010
After Togo, Sammy and I headed to the Western Region in Ghana. As far as beautiful beaches and relaxing, this is definitely my favorite place in Ghana. Hard to say because each region is fun for different reasons. It took forever to get there because the trotro sat at the station for at least 3 hours before leaving. We finally got to Busua at around 6 PM, ate dinner and went to sleep. We stayed at the Alaska Beach Club- kinda funny. A geologist who has lived and worked in both Anchorage and Juneau (worked at the AJ mine on Douglas) is now living in Ghana after coming back and fourth between here and the states for many years. He and his wife own these huts and restaurant beside a beautiful beach. His wife is very friendly and looks to be at least 35 years younger than he is. He was telling me how happy she was to become a US citizen, makes you wonder.... nice people regardless. There were several monkeys running around the place as well- apparently one girl got bit and had to get about 6 shots for rabies, yikes! We visited the stilt village of Nzulezu- a settlement of about 450 people that live entirely on stilts over a lagoon. We started in the village of Beyin and then canoed for about an hour to reach the stilt village. The people originally fled from Mali, where there was civil conflict and settled here over the water because a religious belief banned the enemies from entering the water. Tried to stay in Axim that evening but got there and was told that every room at every hotel was booked due by the men drilling for oil. I thought it was a little strange. Headed back to the Alaska Beach Club and hung out on the beach the next day. Working on my suntan:)
Monday, October 25, 2010
A few weekends ago, I went to Togo with another student from my program. Had a great time- we went to see a voodoo market in Lomé, which was just insane. They describe them as something like a pharmacy. They are filled with every kind of animal part you can imagine. When you get sick, apparently you go see the "voodoo doctor" and he writes you a prescription (i.e. 1 leopard skin, 2 turkey feet, 1 monkey head, 2 snake skeletons...etc). Next, they grind all of the "ingredients" up into a powder which you then add hot water to and take a bath in it. This is supposed to cure your ailments. Quite interesting, but I will NEVER try it! And, the place didn't smell very nice either. The guide told us that all the animals that were there were found dead, but I am not sure. There were things like giraffe skulls, elephant feet, lion heads, it was just weird. But, something I doubt I will experience again, but who knows! After that, we headed to the beach for some lunch and just to relax, the undertow makes it too strong to swim, but the water is gorgeous. Stayed at a cute place with good good- couscous for dinner :) The next morning we headed up to Kpalimé, where we saw Mt Agou- the tallest peak in Togo. We took mototaxis up the 12 km trail to the top and the view was beautiful- could see all the way to Lake Volta in Ghana. There are also small villages on the sides of the mountain, which are really neat. After that, we headed back to Lomé, ate some pizza, then headed back to Ghana. A good trip.
Seems like I have forgotten about my blog, but I have not! I have been busy lately with my work at the hospital and the traveling I have been doing on the weekends, so the blog has suffered! As of today, the strike that the professors have been on has passed, and classes are now resuming as normal. We didn't have classes for about a week, then the International Programs Office set up classes specifically for the international students with our professors to ensure that we got credit for our classes if the strike did not end up passing. Now things are still messy because the class is in two different places, but that is someone else's job to figure out, not mine! I am just glad that everything is going to proceed as normal and that everyone will get credit for the semester, Ghanaian and international.
My work at the hospital continues to be the most rewarding part of my stay here. I am just grateful for the opportunity to be able to see and experience so many things I would never be able to in the US. Part of it is due to less stringent laws regarding students in a hospital, patient confidentiality...etc. The other part is due to Ghana having naturally different medical issues than the US, so it has been great to learn about completely different things. Culturally, the attitude towards medical treatment here is different. Patients in a public hospital don't ask questions or second-guess a doctor, ever. They go to the hospital because they are sick and expect to leave when they are better. The who, how, why, what does not really matter to them. They don't ask for explanations about treatment options or anything like that. In turn, the patients are not asked about their preferences. They are not even asked if a student (me) can be present while they deliver a baby. Some of the things were shocking at first, but I have gotten used to them to some extent, accepted that bad or good, it is the way it is and I am not in a position to change it.
Other than all of that, things have been going great! The weather is starting to get sunnier as the dry season approaches and mangoes are starting to appear at the markets! I have spent the last 3 weekends traveling, so I think I will stay close to home this weekend to get some sleep and I have schoolwork I need to catch up on. Life is good. More postings will be coming about the trips I have taken.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Lilia and I took a trip to the Volta region. We left Accra Thursday evening and headed to Ho and stayed there for a night. We stayed in this really funny place where there was huge spiders in the bathrooms and no keys for the doors- they just lock from the inside. Let's just say I didn't take a shower and we only stayed for one night. Headed up to Hohoe the next morning and hiked Mt Afadjato, the tallest mountain in Ghana, but it is really only about 2,900 feet tall and took about an hour to go up. View from the top was beautiful, could see Togo to the east and Lake Volta to the west. Tons and tons of millipedes, that was the scary part. Next we went to a small town near the shore of the lake called Kpando to see a pottery village and two religious shrines. The pottery village was really neat, the women make beautiful, handmade sculptures and ceramics. The religious shrines were also neat, both had the 14 stations of the cross. The first one had a 25 foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary and the second had a rock that was naturally blue and the blue is believed to have come down straight from heaven. Next day we went to Wli Falls, which are supposedly the largest falls in West Africa, but I am not sure I believe that. They were beautiful, and it was raining while we were there, so the water level was really high. Our last stop was a mona monkey sanctuary which was very cool. The monkeys are so used to humans that you can feed them bananas. They will peel the banana and take it right from your hand- so cute!
Friday, September 24, 2010
My program, ISEP, took us to Kumasi, located in the Asante region for a weekend trip. It is about four hours away from Accra and part of the road is under construction and is extremely bumpy, so bumpy that I hit my head several times on the roof of the van! We first visited a palace/museum where the Asante king lived for many years up until the late 1980's. There were lots of peacocks in the yard and in the trees- I had never seen one fly before, but they flew over 30 feet off the ground. Next we went to a cultural craft center, where, basically, they sell all of the regular goods at more expensive prices. We also went to Lake Bosomtwe, which was beautiful! There were these boats that were essentially planks of wood that float and you straddle. I wanted to try steering one, but they said no :( haha. We also went to a Kente cloth weaving factory and a place where we saw how to make the Adinkra ink that is stamped on the Kente cloth. Both were a lot of fun and neat to see. I bought two big pieces and several smaller ones.