Monday, December 21, 2009

Ghana: the adventure begins

Hello everyone!

It was quite the adventure getting over here. On Saturday morning, we left to get to the bus station...apparently, Saturday isn't the best day to leave for Ghana from Burkina Faso.

We made reservations earlier in the week but of course, when we get to the gare (bus station) they say we're not on the reservation list. SO we head to another big bus station with smaller minibus vehicles...not cool. We waited for almost 2 hours but were able to meet another fellow American. Her name is Jessica, just graduated from Princeton and is doing a year-long fellowship in Burkina Faso. Crazy because she's taking transport to Accra to fly out of their international airport (it's cheaper to fly out of Accra than Ouagadougou...the difference can be in the thousands of dollars)! Long story short -- 24 hours later, switching vehicles 3-4 times with screaming children, packed buses, and goats everywhere (once at the border of Burkina Faso and Ghana, once at Bolgatanga, once in Kumasi), and having to switch languages almost instantly (French to English), we finally arrived in Accra!!

Jessica, Colette and I on transport vehicle #2 (bush taxi) that head to Bolgatanga. Wow.

The heat was stifling...reminded me so much of the humid Philippine weather; add that to the fact that we were SO dirty from all of that crazy transport travel and it was pretty much a recipe for disaster. We found a decent hotel in Osu (the happening part of Accra where all the restaurants are). I remember showering, looking down at my feet and seeing all of the dirt just wash away. Disgusting!

The three of us all clean and ready to explore Accra!

So Sunday, we rested for a bit and headed out to a really good Chinese restaurant near our hotel. Fortunately, right below it is a store called Global Mamas.

A picture of the inside of Global Mamas. So many colorful apparel made by women in need in Ghana! As I mentioned, all the profits go to the women's groups that create these products.

It was started by a Peace Corps Volunteer a while ago and has been growing ever since. They sell clothing made by women's groups, all the profits go to a good cause and is part of the Fair Trade Organization! Colette wouldn't stop talking about it when we were in Burkina so it was a must that we visit it. The rest of the day, we just relaxed at the hotel and enjoyed the air conditioned room.

On Monday, we exchanged money and came back with wads of cedi because there are so many bills! We got lunch at this placed called Papaye. I highly recommend it if you're ever in Ghana. Relatively cheap food and their charcoal grilled chicken is delicious...probably the best I've had
in Africa so far.

At Papaye's getting ready to get our grub on. I wanted to check out this place called "Seoul Grill" which apparently has Korean food but sadly, it was closed. So we headed to Papaye's instead. I really wanted Korean food because it reminds me of late-night food runs back in college in LA when the only places that were open late were Korean food places and fast food joints!

Headed to Koala's Supermarket (the equivalent of Marina Market in Burkina Faso, only better) to get some snacks and again went back to the hotel to rest (the humid heat is tiring!). We got up right before the sun was about to set and headed to the lighthouse on the coast. But we were stuck in traffic (lame) and didn't make it in, the lighthouse was closed.

The lighthouse near Ushertown and Jamestown in Accra. Overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and towers above the nearby fishing villages.

So we headed to the beach and it was my first time seeing the ocean in 6 months! Living in California, I really took the ocean for granted so it was just a nice moment for all three of us to be there, on the beach in Accra. I can't say it was the nicest beach ever -- it smells horrible and the fishermen live on the beach in squatter-like houses so it's definitely a bit crowded. But it was interesting to see a different side of Accra, albeit for several minutes.

Afterward, we headed back to Osu to eat at this restaurant called Monsoon. Clearly, we had no idea it was probably the fanciest restaurant in Accra and we weren't dressed the part. I'm no food critic (I eat everything without much complaint)....while the food was delicious (salmon sashimi, prawn California rolls and Indonesian satay salad...whaaat!!), I got this really pretentious vibe from a few of the people working there and even a few customers. It such a complete 180 from what I'm used to in Burkina. Example: we get to the place and the host tells us: "Let me tell you a little bit about Monsoon. We usually get tourists that have come far and wide to come to our restaurant. Usually it's busy with guests and you normally can't get a table without reservations well in advance...blah blah blah." We look around and there's probably 10 people max in a restaurant that probably seats 150 people. Hmmmm. In any case, that was quite the experience...

Me eating salmon sashimi in Africa. Who would've thought this would be possible? SO GOOD.

Anyway, we head to Cape Coast today and I'm super excited!! Seeing old slave castles/forts on the coast + going on the rope canopy bridges 30 meters above the forest floor at Kakum National Park! We're even planning on camping out on the tree platforms. Exciting! Then we head to Busua to chill on the beach for Christmas and head to Kumasi for a few days after. Let's go!!

**Most of the photos in this entry were taken by Devin with her super spiffy camera! Thanks, girl!


Gina said...

It looks like you had a lot of fun at your Christmas celebration! Cute pictures! I like the long hair, too. heehee. Let me know when you get our package. Patrici and I packed a pretty big one with food and educational goodies. My mom mailed it, but she said it was supposed to arrive pretty quickly. I told her to put educational materials on the customs form. I also wrote your name in a reddish color. Do we still have to do that?! It wasn't that easy to find a red pen/marker at my house.

Sable :) said...

Hey Mikey!

Glad to hear you are enjoying your vaca/adventure in Ghana. I hope you got my package. If you didn't get it hopefully it will be there when you return. So excited to hear all about the amazing things you doing. Miss you (of course:P) Can't wait for the next entry


Nikki M said...

AMAZING!!!! I am jealous, JEALOUS, JEALOUS!! I envy your adventures and lifestyle, but at the same time it feeds my drive for wanting to experience what you have experienced so far. Miss you, love. Can't wait to hear more stories from you. Your use of prose is rather beautiful and honest. There is much ambivalence for most ppl when they see a long entry. They usually end up skimming or skipping a lot of important parts and don't get the full experience. You write in a way that captures the interest of the reader from the very beginning. Again, I can't wait for more entries. I'm glad you're enjoying your holiday. Merry X-mas, Ading.