First day

Accra Travel Blog

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My first photo of the kids. They get crazy when you bring a camera out and absolutely can't get them to sit still

Wow. What a day! In so many ways Africa is so different yet somehow it kind of feels the same.

The trip yesterday was terribly long! I had a 10 hour flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. I sat next to a woman named Eva who was from Denmark. She was in her 50’s but looked excellent! Her husband actually lives in Marina Del Rey as well, right down the street from my new place. She comes for 3 months at a time usually two times per year to visit. She also walks her dog at the park by my house so maybe one day I will run into her again. Upon arrival I got off the plane, walked down a very long terminal and immediately boarded my next flight as it was already boarding. On this flight I sat next to a guy named Marus from Norway. He was traveling to Lagos for work and it was his first time out of his country as well.

This is how we drink water. You bite a corner off and then just squeeze it out.
This was the first I’d heard we were even stopping in Lagos (Nigeria) so I kind of got nervous I was on the wrong flight. Turns out it was just a stop over to let people off. This was my first sight of Africa though, and wow. Seeing the homes from the air, all the dirt roads….I wondered if Accra was like this. Lagos is HORRIBLY poverty stricken and HUGE. I landed in Accra (the city looked marvelous from the sky with some really nice homes!). Most of Accra wasn’t like the part I saw from the sky but overall much better than Lagos. I also met a girl on the bus ride to the terminal (they don’t have the regular terminals…they have to bring the stairs to the plane even though it’s a large plane and then you take a bus from the plane to the terminal).
My room. The two other girls are in the room next to mine so I get it all to myself =)
She was from Belgium and was volunteering through a christian organization.

I didn’t have my Visa because I was told I could get it when I got here. When I told the officer that he was not very happy. I was worried I wouldn’t get it. I had to go into a room with three other officers but they were very nice and when the main one found out I was volunteering he immediately granted my request for a visa. I got my bags and headed outside where there was a huge group of people. They have an area sectioned off to wait in so that the taxi drivers and men to help you won’t bother you. Unfortunately I let one of them talk me into going outside of that thing. He let me use his cell phone to call Gunadiish (my coordinator). I waited about one hour for him.

Me and Amanda
I was kind of nervous about all the men there trying to help (they were all friendly but just being in a new country and knowing they all wanted money and trying to help me in some way) so I headed back inside. Finally Gunadiish arrived. I gave the man who let me use his cell phone $1 (which turns out is a lot for a phone call considering most people here make $5-$12/day though most only make $5).

As for the drive to the home where I’m staying….looooong and scary. The seat belts don’t work on the cars here and people drive crazy! Not fast, but everyone merges and drives off the roads to get around. Most of the roads are paved, or at least half. I got a briefing on the city, the school (mostly how they discipline), etc. When I arrived I met Amanda, one of the two girls currently staying here.

Us girls =)
She’s 29 from the UK and married. She’s a biology teacher and decided to take a year off to travel. She’ll be leaving next week though. Rachel I met later in the night when we were getting ready for bed. She was on a hot date (haha) with one of the volunteers at another school. Apparently their dating now. Everyone seems so fun and lovely (that’s a word I’m going to be using a lot staying with two british girls).

I am having some problems with the power converters. I’m not sure my plug is going to work how I’d like it to. My room is small and simple. They don’t use blankets here because it’s too hot! So far the pillow hasn’t bothered me yet even though it is nothing like a pillow. Even In the night it’s REALLY hot and just sticky all the time.

My first day of and David
But really not as bad as Florida. My mattress feels alright and I actually slept well last night but the other mattress in my room is horrible! We have a bathroom but no running water. To flush the toilet you have to pour the water into the tank yourself. To shower, you have to use buckets of water. I’ll learn how to get the water from the well outside likely today as we’ve used it all up. You have to get water while it’s on because often they shut the water off to refill the systems so you fill up lots of buckets. Drinking water comes in little plastic bags that you pretty much just chew the corner off and drink out of that or pour it into a cup. There are lots of ants here and they’re not too bad in the home but you can’t really avoid it. Milk is canned evaporated and I tried it…not so much.
David and Christobelle (she's so adorable!)
Abigail, one of the daughters made me food last night which basically tasted like oatmeal just not as chunky with bread and butter. The food they make here is a lot of different porridges according to Amanda but quite good so I was pleased to hear that.

I’m waiting for gunadiish to arrive now to show me around the city. I’m home alone as everyone’s left for the school. There is a school next door to where we live because I can hear little kids repeating lots of stuff. They keep repeating the alphabet over and over. English is common here but is everyone’s second language so the little little kids can only speak very little usually.

Rachels’ birthday was on Monday and they ended up having a terrible experience. They were out late and had gotten drunk off beer and though there is very little crime here, they were mugged.

Rachel and I
Two men approached them and sliced Rachel’s bag off with a machete and then made Brent (one of the other volunteers) lay on the ground face down and they cut his pocket off to get his wallet and then walked off dragging their machetes on the ground causing sparks. Poor Rachel’s birthday gifts were inside but luckily not her passport. She says it was good she was drunk because if she were sober she probably would’ve had a panic attack. Everyone says that’s the first they’ve heard of that ever happening to a volunteer or foreigner here but it was a little scary. Overall everyone is friendly, there’s very little crime, and the city is just like any other city. You avoid dark alleys, don’t stay out too late by yourselves, etc.

Things I’ve forgotten already….a towel. Kind of important. Today I’m out to buy a mosquito net. Amanda has only been bitten once but Rachel has been bitten a lot. We’ll stop at the bank to exchange money, etc. This weekend we’re going to Tekreta or a city that sounds like that. We’re going to try to camp at the nature reserve there because you can see the leopards, lions and elephants more so at night time then during the day. Saturday we’re going to a village that’s built on a lake. They’re not sure how really (or at least gunadiish isn’t but he’s never been) but it’s built on stilts. Should be fun. Sunday we will visit the beaches and then come back to Accra.

My first day of school is tomorrow but it won’t be a regular day. They are opening a computer lab and a small library so there is a big celebration. Parents are invited and they will have singing, dancing and drums. Rachel is teaching English, Amanda is teaching biology, and David is teaching P.E. I think Brent is doing arts and crafts? I was planning on assisting but I guess it’s really quite easy so I’ll likely be teaching English and art (considering I brought loads of art supplies). The hardest part will be dealing with the discipline. It is customary here to cane children when they have been bad and the children in the schools are not well disciplined. A teacher will sit in on my class just in case any children get out of line then they will cane them. It will be hard to deal with but I also have to understand it is another culture. They are working towards changing it but unfortunately the children don’t behave at all if they know they will not be caned. I’m hoping I can use stickers and toys to keep them all happy. The school apparently has no decorations. It’s a blackboard, desks and textbooks. That’s it. Rachel and Amanda said they have tried to decorate a little to make it more pleasant for the kids.

It’s so strange to be here. I already appreciate lots (I.e. running water and air conditioning). Also, the cost of living compared to ours….wow. Gunadiish pays $55/ month for rent and that is for a very nice place. Most people pay $25/month. I see why it’s hard for parents to pay fees for school because a working person here makes between $150 and $300 per month on average so $25/child for school is a lot. My minimum expenses back home would make me live like a queen here. Quite literally. I told Gunadiish my minimum expenses and he about had a heart attack. Everyone is extremely friendly though, just as they all said.

I best get going now. Gunadiish should be here any minute. I will write more later.

najiah10 says:
nice entry! i'm loving this blog (i just got around to reading it) and i love what you're doing. i know what you mean about the kids going crazy when you take out a camera because the same thing happened when I was in Cambodia! :)
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
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My first photo of the kids.  They …
My first photo of the kids. They…
This is how we drink water.  You b…
This is how we drink water. You …
My room.  The two other girls are …
My room. The two other girls are…
Me and Amanda
Me and Amanda
Us girls =)
Us girls =)
My first day of and Da…
My first day of and D…
David and Christobelle (shes so a…
David and Christobelle (she's so …
Rachel and I
Rachel and I
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