Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cape Coast Weekend

So, looking back on the title of my last blog, I am not sure if I really explained myself. The kids in my class love to sing American songs...I'm pretty sure they know them all...from head shoulders knees and toes to old mac donald to twinkle twinkle little star. But their favorite song is jingle bells...they sing it over and over again...its very cute!

Anyways, our first weekend here in Ghana was absolutely amazing! We just returned about 2 hours ago from Cape Coast which is located about 6 hours away from Hohoe. While it took us only 6 hours to drive home from Cape Coast, it took us about 10 hours to get there. We left on Friday afternoon after placement and lunch and did not arrive at our hotel, or rather, exotic resort until about midnight...it was a long journey and many of us found it difficult to sleep as our driver was not a great driver. It did not help that there were speed bumps throughout the entire ride there and our driver liked to fly over them.

All ten of us were very excited when we finally arrived at the resort, all in one piece, only with a scratch to the side of the tro tro (van), and a dented bumper (which occurred when the driver attempted to back into a parking space). We were warmly greeted and shown to our ocean front African huts. They were the most amazing things ever! We were the only people at the resort and slept with our screen doors locked so we could hear the ocean as we slept and keep cool. It was so peaceful and relaxing. I felt extremely safe at the resort, and for that matter, I feel extremely safe throughout Ghana.

Because we had arrived at night, we were not able to adequately take in all the beauty surrounding us. We could see the ocean from our door and were able to walk down to the ocean in less than a minute. And the water was clear and warm...there were many large rocks so we only put our feet in and walked through the water but it was gorgeous. I loved being able to see the bottom of the ocean and the creatures that were hiding down there!

After a delicious breakfast of fresh pineapple (better than any pineapple you can ever get in America, even Hawaii) and toast, we got in the tro tro and headed to the canopy walk. We had to walk up about 97 steps before arriving at the beginning of the actual canopy walk. This walk is exactly what it sounds like....it was a walk above the trees. While the wood was not as thick as I thought it would be, I was reassured that we would be fine as none has ever fallen from the bridges. At the highest point, we were 120 feet in the air. The view was incredible and the breeze was refreshing. It was amazing the learn that this canopy walk, which was made of 7 bridges was made by arrows and arrows only. There were no machines used to assist the 4 Canadians and 2 Africans that worked hard to create this incredible walk!

After the walk, we returned to our resort for a delicious lunch. We then drove about 5 minutes to Elmina Castle which we could see from our resort. The castle was not a typical beautiful castle such as the ones I had previously visited in Germany. Instead, it was an old castle that still reeked of horrific smells. This castle was built in 1482 and was first occupied by the Portuguese. Then, the Dutch took over. Next, the castle was controlled by the British. For the last 51 years, this castle has been in the hand of the African people. This castle was a place where horrible events took place. Slaves were taken to this castle and endured horrible conditions. It was very difficult as a white American to walk through this place where so much history occurred and so many people died due to the color of their skin. Slaves were branded and starved and forced to complete difficult tasks. As if the conditions in the dungeons were not bad enough, the conditions that the slaves faced when they were put on the boats was even worse. The slaves were forced to board ships and travel to various countries. Many prisoners did not survive these harsh conditions. Their bodies were thrown into the ocean, never to be seen again. Approximately 4 million slaves passed through this castle at a rate of about 1000 slaves at a time. It was amazing to learn all this history but very difficult at the same time.

Later that night, after dinner, our group was sitting around talking and hanging out at our resort. Two Ghanaian men came over and introduced themselves. They sat down with us and we invited them to join in and voice their opinions regarding the reasons why Ghana is such a Christian country while many of the surrounding countries are Muslim. This conversation quickly took a different turn when one of the men asked me if I was religious. I explained to him my beliefs and told him that I was Jewish. This did not go over well with him and the conversation quickly turned into an attack against my beliefs. The other volunteers, even though not Jewish, and some even Christian all stood up for me and helped me explain to this man that people have different beliefs and perspectives. He did not understand this concept and continued to argue with me, quoting verses from the New Testament even thought I explained to him that I did not believe in the New Testament. I was grateful to have my new friends there with me who understood my beliefs and don't judge me based on them. It is amazing how quickly we have bonded...a group of people who met just a week ago. I am excited for the next 7 weeks and all the new and exciting opportunities that await me!

Oh, by the way, mom, I was proposed to twice this weekend. Once by the driver, Richard and once by this man who was criticizing me for my religious beliefs. Don’t worry though, we were warned that this might happen and told to inform the person who proposed that we were already married. I didn't feel right lying that much about it so I just told them that I already had a boyfriend at home. Richard told me that it was okay and that I needed to have a husband in America and Africa but I wasn't so fond of that idea. Maybe next time, Ill just have to go with the whole I'm already married thing.

Anyways, I love and miss you all!
xoxo
Nicole

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