Day 5 - Orphanage & Slave Castle

Friday, March 30, 2012

Thursday, March 15th

Thursday morning we checked out of our hotel in Accra and loaded the bus for the second leg of our Emerging Economies trip through Ghana. On our way to Cape Coast our bus got pulled over by a police officer for "dangerous driving" while we were driving 15 mph through a congested market area. The officer wanted to see our driver's license, but he only had a copy, since it's common for officers to take the actual license away and then it's hard to get it back. Our driver Lawrence and tour guides got out to argue with the officer, and then some locals jumped in to try and help, telling the cop to let us go. Basically the cop wanted a bribe but since we were in a busy area it was too conspicuous. After 15 or so minutes, he gave our driver a notice to come to the police station later, where he will have to pay a bribe to the cop so he can keep his license and his job. I was getting a bit upset thinking about Lawrence getting in trouble while he was just doing his job and helping make our trip safe and enjoyable. He didn't say much during the trip but I got a kick out of seeing him marvel at a can of 5-hour energy one of my classmates brought.

We drove through the central region of Ghana until we arrived at the Countryside Orphanage in Bawjiase (there's info at the website about donating). There are about 100 kids living there with ages ranging from infants to high schoolers and 6 university students. As we drove up the driveway the kids ran along side the bus waving and jumping up and down. The excitement didn't stop until after we left! We played with the kids and loved on them and they were quick to love us back. They especially loved using our cameras to take pictures of us and the other kids. Yun was brave enough to pass around her iPhone (which the kids surprisingly knew exactly how to use) and ended up with 300 photos and 100 videos. The orphans were full of joy and performed a song and a dance. Our teacher Kwesi slyly told the kids to get us to dance with them. All of a sudden a girl was tugging on my arm and pulling me up to the dance floor. They got a kick out of watching us attempt to mimic their moves. Our classmate Tim was the best dancer out of the group (other than Kwesi, who is Ghanaian and therefore was born dancing) and was doing a pretty good job keeping up with all the dance moves. The kids and the orphanage workers absolutely loved him.

please note the camera is upside down!

look at those cheeks! :)
they loved wearing our sunglasses
this little girl was beautiful!

Towards the end of our visit we distributed all the clothes, toys, books, and food items we brought with us from the states. Chaos ensued as we tried to pass everything out fairly and in an orderly fashion. A lot of the adults who work at the orphanage were taking some of the items for themself, so we tried our best to give everything to the kids. We didn't realize that there would be so many teenaged orphans, so most of our gifts were toys for the younger kids. There were a few novels in the pile of goodies, which the older girls were thrilled to receive. I'd like to collect a bunch of novels eventually and ship them to the orphanage. I imagine the older kids get left out a lot when they get donations. I was surprised to learn that some of the older orphans have Facebook accounts (Dcn Dom - it's a good thing you got Facebook recently or I would have pulled the orphans in Africa card on you)!! They go into town and use an Internet cafe. A few of the girls even friended some of my classmates on Facebook after we left. 

my little friend :)
When we had to leave there were lots of hugs and sad goodbyes, some children even tried following us onto the bus. This one little girl in particular latched on to me after I held her for awhile while we danced and I let her wear my sunglasses. She was so precious - maybe about 3 years old. I think visiting the orphanage was the highlight of the trip for all of was the most fulfilling part because we actually felt like we were helping a bit. There were a few German girls who were volunteering at the orphanage for a full year. I was overwhelmed after 5 minutes at the orphanage and kids pulling me every which way. I don't know how they do it for a full year. I would last maybe a week or two, max.

The kids were so normal, I forgot we were playing with orphans (other than a few who looked particularly sickly. Maybe malaria?). Not that being an orphan lessens their human dignity or anything...but I expected them to be different. My perception of orphans in Africa was what you see on commercials of sad, malnourished orphans that look something like the picture to the right. That was definitely not the case (though I am sure there ARE sad, starving orphans that are not as fortunate as the kids in Bawjiase). These kids seemed to have all their basic needs met and were exceedingly happy for being in a circumstance that at face value I pitied. I’ve heard from other people who have visited African countries that as Americans we visit thinking we are bringing help and hope to the people, when they actually give us far more in return than we could ever give them. The kids in Ghana actually reminded me a lot of my spring break two years ago. I went on a domestic mission trip to East Saint Louis, Illinois (hello most dangerous city in the USA) and we spent several days playing with kids at an after-school program in the projects. Kids are kids, and even orphans in Africa know how to play Uno :)

playing with one of their gifts - Uno!
somewhere in Ghana there's a kid wearing an Indiana shirt :D
From the orphanage we continued onto Cape Coast. We visited Cape Coast Castle, a former slave castle used for several hundred years in the slave trade. Our tour through the castle was rather sobering (reminiscent of visiting Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen), as we saw the underground cellars where slaves were packed in like goods for months at a time while they waited to board a slave ship. The famed "Door of No Return" leading from the castle out to the ocean and waiting slave ships is at Cape Coast Castle so we were able to walk through the door of no return, as our guide cheerily promised we would be able to return. As an American, I felt particularly guilty because of the role the United States played in the slave trade. One new thing I learned about the slave trade is how the traders actually obtained the slaves. Essentially, Africans sold other Africans to the Europeans as the spoils of tribal warfare.

Cape Coast Slave Castle
Kids playing on the beach beneath the castle
View as you pass through the Door of No Return
Fisherman untangling his nets
After the tour and some more shopping, we headed to Coconut Grove Resort. True to its name, we were given fresh coconuts to drink when we arrived! The resort is gorgeous with its own beach and cottages. We had dinner together overlooking the ocean and were treated to African drumming and dance during dessert. I can actually still hear the drumming as I write this from my room!

Fresh coconut juice! You can eat the coconut flesh too.
This was a "I can't believe this is happening... in Africa" moment


Day 4

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Accra to JFK. JFK to LaGuardia. LaGuardia to Indy. Indy to Btown. Exactly 24 hours and no sleep later...I made it home on March 18th! I got sick as soon as I returned and spent most of the week sleeping, hence I never finished uploading the posts I had written from the remainder of my trip to Ghana. My dear mother (who is also a nurse) was convinced I was coming down with malaria...which was kind of amusing...but I still WebMD'ed the symptoms just to be sure. Alas, it was just the germ-y airplane and Ghanaian food that did me in. Without further 4 in Ghana!


Wednesday, March 14th

Wednesday was our longest day yet, we left the hotel around 6:30am and didn't return until 6pm. We had to leave Accra early to avoid traffic on the way to a smaller town called Akosombo. I still haven't seen any Catholic churches yet, though I've seen Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Muslim, Orthodox, Maronite, and Baptist/Evangelical churches. Outside of Accra I saw the compound where the Missionaries of Charity live and later in the country we passed a Catholic primary school having classes outdoors. All the students were wearing white (different colors denote public or private school and then which religious affiliation) and sitting on benches in a shady area facing one teacher. There had to be at least 100 kids. The countryside is beautiful and I liked it much more than Accra. There's tons of vegetation including lots of palm trees and flowering trees and mountains off in the distance - we are definitely in the tropics. As we drove further from Accra the scenery looked more like stereotypical Africa. We saw huts with thatched roofs and buildings made of red clay bricks. We saw lots of emaciated cows and goats grazing and even saw a bunch of BABOONS alongside the highway, including some baby baboons nursing from their mamas. Like any good obrunis (white people) we pulled over for pictures and gawking. We stopped at a resort tucked down a dirt road on Lake Volta to order lunch. It was paradise!

Rural Ghana
Outdoor primary school

All of the G256 ladies :)
Lake Volta
From there we continued on to see the worlds largest man-made dam. It was at least 110 degrees on top of the dam. As far as I am concerned a dam is a dam is a dam no matter where you are. And frankly my dear, I don't give a damn about seeing the innards of a dam when it's 110 degrees, I can't hear a word of explanation over the roar of hydroelectric equipment, and I'm sweating through my business clothes. (Yeah sorry...I couldn't resist throwing in a Gone with the Wind reference!)

Lake Volta from atop Akosombo Dam

We waited on our bus for about an hour while one of our chaperones was in the dam office. Even though our tour of the inside of the plant was already approved and tickets purchased, there was some problem (as there seemed to be with all our of business visits...commitments and appointments aren't honored as they seem to be in the US). I wouldn't be surprised if there was some sort of bribe involved to finally get us into the dam. Anyway, while we were waiting on the bus we fulfilled my dream of buying FanIce out of the window of the bus from a street vendor when we realized our windows did indeed open! While we could have gotten off the bus and bought our ice cream since we were parked, it was much more fun doing business through the window like a local :D We spent about 20 minutes passing money through the window and making change as we bought each bag of ice cream individually. Haha. I would have felt sorry for the vendor, except we bought 15 bags of FanIce, FanChoco, and FanYogo. Each bag is 60 pesewas, or about $0.37. I think the guy was hoping we'd go for seconds because he lingered by the window for a good while until he finally lost interest.

Andrew doing business
Yum! Btw that's a bag of water behind the Fan products
From Akosombo we drove back to Accra and went to Coca Cola Ghana. Coca Cola was by far the most "legit" company we visited with a definite corporate culture similar to what we were expecting of the other businesses we visited. Coca Cola was also the only business we visited that had air conditioning and a free supply of beverages. More Fanta for Liz ;) All of the Coke representatives we spoke with were educated in the UK and absolutely brilliant businesspeople. The marketing VP was female and she blew us all away by how dynamic she was and how well she knew her target market and their needs. We also got to see their bottling and distribution plant. In Ghana and I think many countries, beverages come almost exclusively in glass bottles (which Americans see as very retro/nostalgic and quaint) because it is much cheaper and environmentally friendly. Glass bottles also means you have to drink it wherever you buy it, so you can return the glass bottle to the vendor, who in turn gives it back to Coke. Gas stations & street vendors have plastic bottles but that's about it. Ghana barely has trash collection, forget recycling! Fun facts...there are 43,000 Coke sellers in Ghana (or Accra...I can't remember) and uses manual distribution because of the poor infrastructure, so several layers of middlemen are involved before the product reaches the final consumer, which would make it harder for Coke to track consumer preferences and such. Basically big trucks take Coke products to lots of smaller distributors, who use small ATV-like vehicles to navigate the narrow, crowded dirt roads to take the drinks to another distributor. Then the Coke sellers go to those distributor to get crates of product to sell at their shops or on the streets. Additionally, Coca Cola launched a new beverage that's currently only in Ghana called Schweppes Malt. It's so elusive I can't even find a picture online! You're probably bored, but I found this all fascinating because I'm double majoring in marketing and operations management, so this is all practical applications of what I learn at school!

Suited up for the bottling plant tour - can you find me?
Inside Coca Cola
Andrew with Coke employees in the distribution warehouse

Day 3

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Tuesday we made business visits to Kingsbridge Microfinance and the Ghana Cocoa Board. First we visited Kingsbridge, located in the middle of a poor area in Accra. Kingsbridge has a partnership with the Kelley School of Business. The CEO, Mannaseh Portuophy, was kind enough to host us in his office as we learned about microfinancing as it pertains to Ghana. For example, most lower-class Ghanaians engage in informal banking known as "susu collection." The basic concept of susu is that everyday you give the susu collector the money you've made and at the end of the week or month he will return your lump sum, minus a fee he takes out for holding your money. No formal banks are involved and it's not guaranteed the collector will return your money. Mannaseh has been working with the susu collectors to deposit the money they collect into actual bank accounts so it can accrue interest. After answering all of our questions and purchasing soda for everyone, Mannaseh took us down to the local market to meet some of the people that Kingsbridge has given loans too. And when I say local I mean we saw men butchering chickens on the side of the street, live crabs, and lots of dead fish that had been cooked to a crisp. Honestly I was pretty grossed out by some of the things I saw and the general condition of the market and had a hard time keeping a poker face. The market was off the main highway down a bunch of dirt roads, so our big tour bus attracted a lot of attention. It's still really uncomfortable being stared at and watching heads turn everywhere we go.

After lunch at a well air-conditioned restaurant and being followed by 20 Ghanaian men trying to sell us bracelets outside our bus (they ask your name as you get off the bus then when you get back on they try giving you a bracelet with your name woven into it), we braved crazy Accra traffic to head downtown to the Cocoa Board, the organization that controls the entire Ghanaian cocoa industry. We met with Cocoa management in one of their boardrooms. Unfortunately the room was on the 4th floor and the air conditioning was broken (this seems to be common in Ghana) despite temperatures in the 90s. All of us were melting in our coolest business casual clothes, though the Ghanaians were all wearing business suits! The Cocoa Board controls every facet of the cocoa bean supply chain and even fixes the price for cocoa, so it's basically a cartel and is really shady. One of the board men mentioned how the cocoa market wasn't very competitive...well no wonder, that's what happens in a monopolized industry. In addition they check 100% of the cocoa beans to ensure 100% quality, which is horribly inefficient and expensive. We had lots of questions about their business practices as good Kelley students :) They were gracious hosts and gifted us with 100% Ghanaian cocoa bars. It was a long, hot day so we hit the pool when we got back to the hotel.

Other things I saw being sold in the road: bras, passports (!!!!), windshield wiper blades, and plungers. Most of the roadside shops are just old shipping containers and have religious named like "Jesus is Lord" and "Blessed Fashions" or "God's Way Building Materials" and "Love of Holy Spirit Fast Food."

With the CEO of Kingsbridge Microfinance in a local market

Business, botany, and bribes

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monday was our first full day in Accra. We visited the University of Ghana for a tour of the campus and to meet with a faculty of the UG Business School. UG is the premier university in Ghana and has 32,000 undergrads. Kofi Annan is the chancellor. The campus was quite large and spread out, not unlike IU. One large difference is that the professors live on campus in whitewashed bungalows because the rent is very cheap. All of the buildings are white washed with red tile roofs that match the red dirt/clay here. I asked our tour guide if the classrooms have air conditioning (the heat and humidity is miserable)....he just laughed at me so I took that as a no. One thing I have noticed here in Accra and on campus too is the lack of trash cans (and definitely no recycling...though you can only drink bottled or bagged water) and amount of litter strewn about on the ground and in the gutters and rivers. I was expecting to see tons of bugs but I haven't seen a single mosquito yet or even worn bug spray.
University of Ghana library
Courtyard with faculty offices
Woot! Found the b-school!
After leaving the University of Ghana we drove to a town outside of Accra called Aburi. Aburi is well known for its botanical gardens which were started by the British in 1890 when Ghana was still a colony. We had traditional Ghanaian food in a small restaurant in the middle of the gardens and then took a tour. The garden is divided in different lawns that are each unique. The spice lawn had trees that produce spices such as cinnamon and mint. The best part of the gardens was interacting with school children who were walking through the gardens and trying to speak Twi with them. My favorite hobby on this trip is waving at all the adorable African children and getting them to smile back at me. So precious :) On our way back to Accra we stopped at a wood carving market to shop and practice haggling. The vendors are really pushy and all but force you to enter their shop. I made the mistake of picking up a few items I wasn't interested in - which prompted the vendor to ask how much I wanted to pay. I said wasn't interested and walked away, which made them try and make a deal with me even more. One guy tried guilt tripping me into making a purchase by saying he used the money to buy medicine. Mmhmm. Anyway, I bought a bracelet and got an idea of how much I should pay for items to avoid paying the obroni (white people) prices. Oh and I haven't been proposed to yet like when I was in Rome, but one woodcarver asked for my address and phone number. WTF...
Aburi Botanical Gardens
The color of the uniform denotes which religious denomination runs the school
A very big tree...

Later that night we rode a tro tro (crappy old vans that are used for public transportation) to a popular area named Osu with lots of places to eat and hang out. We ended up spending the evening there listening to African music and learning some dance moves from locals while they laughed at us. Ghanaians are amazing dancers! We had to take several taxis back to the hotel and one of our taxis got pulled over by a cop (this was sometime after 1am). Our tour guide told us the police aren't allowed to carry guns but this cop had some sort of machine gun with him and most likely pulled them over because there were 5 white kids in the taxi. Bribing is pretty standard here so my friends gave him 20 cedi/$12 but that wasn't enough and he wanted them to pull into the police station - baaaad idea. Danny ended up giving the cop 80 cedi/$50 and he let them go. The taxi ride itself only cost 6 cedi to put that into perspective. Our tour guide told us 80 cedi is probably more than he makes in a month.

Typical tro tro - totally legit, right...?!


Ghana have a great time!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Now that I've gotten that cheesy joke out of the way...

After nearly 24 hours of travel, our group finally touched down in Accra, Ghana to 93 degree heat with lots of humidity. I haven't stopped sweating since I got off the plane. Our bus and our hotel has air conditioning, but not at the frigid temperatures I prefer when it's smotheringly hot and humid outside. I don't know how the Ghanians do it - almost everyone wears long pants and many of the men had long-sleeved shirts on. After dropping our bags off at our hotel and enjoying complimentary glasses of guava juice we headed to the national soccer stadium to catch the second half of a premier league game between two Ghanaian teams - the Tema Youth and Hearts of Oak (weird). When I told my dad I was going to a soccer game he warned me to be safe because of how crazy people get over soccer games. I brushed off his warning but sure enough, outside the entrance to the stadium was a large billboard for soccer stadium health insurance. I did a quick wiki lookup and in 2001 120 soccer fans were trampled to death in the same stadium. Even though the stadium was mostly empty we waiting for it to clear out before leaving. At the game young boys and adult women were walking around the stadium selling bags of water, frozen yogurt (I tried the strawberry flavor - delicious!), peanuts, candy, beer, etc. You literally have to tear the bag open with your teeth to eat/drink whatever is inside. And as one would expect in Africa, all of the vendors carried their goods in big baskets perched atop their heads. Obviously, as the only white people (obronis) around...we garnered a lot of attention. People were taking pictures of us and even filming videos of us. I guess that's kind of creepy...but I was taking pictures of the bibinis (black people) too. It's definitely a strange feeling to be the minority here!! On our way out of the game we were surprised to see a group of Kelley School of Business MBA students who are also in Ghana for spring break. For some reason it didn't even phase me when I noticed the IU hat one of the guys was's hard to believe I am in Africa.

In Atlanta before heading to Ghana

Kelleys with our tour manager Issah
Before leaving for Ghana I wrote a report on the construction industry here and how local construction firms lack the necessary skills and resources. This is very evident when you are driving around Accra because there are tons of half-built buildings that look like they have been abandoned for quite sometime. I also learned that recently the US partnered with Ghana to build a new freeway. In honor of this partnership, there were several American and Ghanaian flags flying near the freeway. Traffic here is crazy and people literally jump onto public buses (called trotros - basically a really crappy old bus with as many seats as possible and no air conditioning) as they are moving and then hang out the doors, dangling over the streets. When you are stopped in traffic people come up to your car windows and try to sell you drinks and candy. Especially since we are white (and it's assumed we are rich) our bus gets swarmed with Ghanians trying to sell us food and bracelets.

Our hotel is pretty swanky so we spent the evening sitting in the garden patio eating dinner (I had a traditional dish of jollof red rice and chicken with vegetables) and looking at fabrics we can have tailored into traditional Ghanaian clothing. I feel kind of dirty staying at such a nice hotel when I know just around the corner people are living in pretty abject looking housing complexes without air conditioning and running water. The juxtaposition of rich and poor is very odd. Gated housing bordered by abandoned buildings and luxury cars driving alongside people on foot who obviously can't afford a car.

Don't eat the salad!

Tomorrow we will be going to the University of Ghana and shopping at some local markets to test our bargaining skills and use a bit of the Twi language we learned in class! I am exhausted and feeling kind of under the weather from the 11 hour flight of recycled air. I have wifi at the hotel so I should be able to keep blogging - though I don't have my laptop so I have no way to get pictures from my camera onto my iPad unless I use pictures I've snapped on my iPhone.

Ghanaian Cuisine & Language

Monday, March 5, 2012

Akwaaba! Welcome!

On Wednesdays I have a class with a Ghanaian man who has been teaching us about Ghanaian culture and a bit of Akan Twi, the Ghanaian language spoken in Accra among members of the Akan tribe. While I was living in Budapest I took a Hungarian class which I thought was really difficult because it's not related to any other languages and there's no Latin cognates. Twi (pronounced chwee) is ridiculous and makes Hungarian look like child's play. Twi is tonal and has 15 vowels (oral and nasal). To make things more complicated they even make clicking noises with their mouth to communicate!!! One click means yes, two clicks mean no, and three clicks indicates extreme dislike and disapproval. There's also two letters we don't have in English - ɛ and ɔ. Interestingly enough, English is the only official language since Ghana was formerly a British colony known as the Gold Coast. Most Ghanaians speak English and then a handful of African languages.

There's one word we use frequently in class that if said in the wrong tone means a dirty word in Twi. Needless to say, my classmates and I are Twi tone-deaf, so there's no telling what we are actually saying! Google translate (which I thought was all knowing) can't even translate into Twi and I've yet to find an online Twi/English dictionary that works well. I've been told to speak as much Twi as possible even if I sound like an idiot...check! Here are a few Akan phrases I've learned...and hopelessly butcher.

Yεfrε wo sεn? (yeh fray woe sane) - What is your name?
Wo ho te sεn? (woe ho tee sane) - How are you?
Wo fri hen? (woe free hen) - Where are you from?
Me pee akɔkɔ (may pay ah coco) - I like chicken.

My favorite Twi word is adamfo which sounds kind of like "a damn fool!" but means friend ;)

Ghanaian feast!
Ghanaian dishes are starch based and common staples are rice, fufu (looks like a doughy paste and tastes kind of like mashed potatoes), and banku (cassava dough). Beans, plaintains, and soups/stews are also typical. From what our teacher has told us, Ghanaians eat almost everything with their hands, even soup! I am really excited to try the palm wine. Apparently there are some palm trees you can literally tap and a milky/coconut alcoholic beverage comes out that is made from the sap. It continues fermenting after it comes out of the tree, especially in the heat. So if you are drinking palm wine outside it will ferment in your glass and in your stomach, and thirty minutes later you're drunk as a (Ghanaian?) skunk.

T-minus 5 days: 4 exams, 1 paper, lots of shopping, and 50 pounds of luggage to pack! 

Beans, chicken, rice with tomato sauce, fried plantains, and salad
Peanut ginger soup - DELICIOUS! Actually made from peanut butta