We’re into the single digits here people. After what felt like a lifetime, I am down to my final days in Ghana. Four days hardly feels like enough time to come to terms with the fact that this time next week, I’ll be halfway across the world once again. I told you this would sound exactly like it did four and half months ago…so predictable. But before we get into the nostalgic stuff, there are a few more stories I would like to share. I’m going to try and cover a lot of bases here so hold your horses, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Since were on the topic of bumpy rides, remember the ride to Kumasi that I told you about last time? Well we took round two a few weeks ago. Our final trip for the semester was definitely the biggest and most anticipated, the North. We had already made two attempts at going to the North this semester but for some reason or another it never happened. After classes ended, we have one week before finals start to study. Most international students use this time to travel, which is exactly what we did. It takes about 14 hours via bus to get to Tamale, the capital of the Northern region. We caught a bus at 3 and drove through to the night. The ride was especially interesting; filled with preachers, bumpy death roads, mysterious hour long stops, even more mysterious traffic at two in the morning and of course classic Ghanaian movies played far too loud.
We got in at 5 in the morning and after wandering around Tamale looking for the tro tro station, we finally found a car to Mole National Park. Also, remember that crazy bumpy road I’ve been ragging about. That road has nothing on the road from Tamale to Mole; two hours straight of bumpy road going at highway speed. I was seriously contemplating whether or not I was concussed. As we walked into the hotel at Mole, the first thing we see looking down from the pool area was a herd of about 15 elephants about a half mile away in the valley just below the hotel. Our first and only declared goal of the north was to see elephants. Mission accomplished 5 minutes in! The next morning we went on a walking safari through the park. We saw warthogs, antelope, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles and even more elephants, this time up close and personal.
This was easily the coolest thing I have done in Ghana. Seeing, in my opinion, the most majestic animals less than 20 feet away with no fence or screen in between was a once in a lifetime experience. After a wonderful morning, we set out for the next town over, Larabanga. This village is home to the oldest mosque in Ghana. Unfortunately, you have to be Muslim to enter so we settled for pictures from the outside only.
After a wonderful morning, we set out for Wa, the capital city of the Upper West region. After a questionable stop in a small village called Sowla and a trip on the most jam packed tro tro I have ever been on (complete with two bowls of raw fish under the seats and a basket full of live chickens on the roof) we made it to Wa. It was dark by the time we got to Wa but luckily a nice man and his son were driving by on a tuktuk and offered to give us lost oburonis a lift to the nearest hostel. The next morning we set out for Wachiau to visit the hippo sanctuary. We took another tuktuk ride to the Black Volta river where we caught canoes and paddled down to see the hippos in their mid river lounge oasis. The Black Volta is also the dividing line between Ghana and Burkina Faso and common crossing point for locals. Our guide steered us over to the opposite bank where we snapped a quick photo and then headed back to Ghana!
One the way back we decided to break up the 14 hours and completely avoid the horrendous road into Tamale, so we took a tro from Wa to Kumasi. Thanks to a kind man riding with us, we were personally escorted to the only available hostel in Kumasi and were able to procure a room. A friend on the program summarized her experience as “being completely dependent on the kindness of others.” I can’t even describe how completely accurate this is. I can honestly say that I would not have survived this semester and most especially this trip if it had not been for the overwhelming willingness of people to help one another. The next morning we made a quick stop at the amazing market I mentioned earlier and then headed back home. It was a fantastic trip, but it was a little bittersweet knowing that this would be the last crazy adventure in Ghana, or at least the last one involving outrageous unpaved roads and living out of backpacks.
This past week, I finally finished my internship project. After countless hours, too many phone calls and wild goose chases all over Accra, we finally accomplished what we set out to do 17 weeks ago. I mentioned earlier that our project was to install a composting system to help with waste sorting and recycling and also provide a community garden for the students and faculty to maintain. We have since constructed a composting system on the grounds. The system consists of four bins, in which food waste can be placed daily. The compost is to be mixed every 2-3 weeks and moved every 4-6 to eventually create a bed of compost. We have been working with an after school club program at St. Anthony’s, which consists of 37 students that will be most active in the project. The students divided themselves into four groups, with each responsible for one bin. We provided a seminar on composting, including techniques, record keeping, proper composting materials, and the importance and benefits of composting.
Just last week, Jamie and I completed the second aspect of the project; the community garden. We acquired plants from the Dept. of Agriculture at the University of Ghana from a professor named Naalamie Amissah. She generously donated a handful of plants from her own research garden and provided us with a list of plants that would be able to thrive in the harsh weather and soil conditions of Ghana. We took the list to the Dept. of Parks and Gardens in Accra where we acquired the rest of our plants for a discounted price. We ended up with an assortment of 53 fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs.
It took two days and a lot of help from the students to finish arranging, tilling the soil, and finally planting our garden.
We created a map of the garden and sectioned it into four quadrants to correspond again to the four groups of students in the club. We followed up with more presentations on how to maintain a garden and potential future projects that can incorporate the compost. After a hard few days work, we packed up and said our goodbyes to the teachers and students at St. Anthony’s. It was my first round of goodbyes and was definitely hard to handle. They continually asked when I would be back, suggesting maybe the next week or in a month or two. It was hard to explain and admit, even to myself, that I have no idea when or if I will come back to Ghana, but I assured them that if I do return, St. Anthony’s will be at the top of my list of stops. We walked out of the schoolyard for the last time with a chorus of students yelling “Auntie Abenaa,” “Auntie Adwoa,” (this is what Jamie and I were referred to as at the school), and of course the classic “oburoni!”
That brings me to today, in my 18th week of Ghana with only four days left on this crazy journey. All but one exam/paper have been completed and I am sad to say that I have started the packing process. I said these posts would be similar to the first few, well turns out my dorm room is similar to what my room looked like just before leaving in January. I guess some things never change. Not to sound dramatic or cliché-like, but this past week has been quite the emotional roller coaster. On the one hand, I am so excited to go home and see my family and friends and enjoy all of the simple comforts that I have been missing this semester (cheese being at the top of that list). But at the same time, I am incredibly sad to be leaving this place. I can’t imagine not being around the amazing friends that I have made this semester or joking around with my roommate about how hot and sweaty I get from just walking around the dorm or the obscene amount of mosquito bites and subsequent scratching that happen on a daily basis. As I said, I have no idea when or if I will ever have the opportunity to return to Ghana and it makes me homesick just thinking about it. The ups and downs aside, this has been a life changing and monumentally amazing experience and I refuse to accept that it is coming to an end. I suppose that along with packing, suffering through goodbyes, and perhaps even some studying, these last few days will be spent appreciating the opportunity I’ve been given and as always, attempting to adhere to the wisest of words to live in the moment.