Saturday, August 08, 2009

Lake Volta

Nicole: It’s been more than two weeks since I have seen my laptop. I wrote that someone in town was working on it and that it would be virus free and ready to use shortly after. But I was wrong. The guy who was doing the work on my computer deleted the operating system to get rid of the virus once and for all. He then tried to download the necessary programs so that my sound, video, and other features on my laptop would actually work. He told me that all the downloads would be ready to install on my computer by the time I left to go to Accra to pick up Melissa. He had good intentions but was unable to successfully meet his goal. I decided to take my laptop with me to Accra to see if any of Raymond’s family members there knew of someone who could finish installing the necessary components onto my computer.

Much to my luck, one of Raymond’s cousins agreed to talk to the guys in the IT department at his work and see if they would be willing to work on my computer. The plan was for us to pick the computer up after visiting Cape Coast two weekends ago. But the computer was not yet ready. I felt safe leaving my computer with Phannuel, Raymond’s cousin. As Raymond would be returning to Accra later that week to pick up two volunteers from the airport, we decided to leave the computer in Accra and agreed that Raymond would pick it up.

Much to our dismay, the incoming volunteers arrived earlier than expected and ended up taking a public tro tro to Hohoe. As a result, Raymond no longer needed to travel to Accra. As my sister was here by this point, it was all good because I was able to use her computer to type and to upload my photos.

This morning, Melissa and I awoke early as Raymond was to pick us up from our hotel at 7am to go to Lake Volta. Of course I knew he would be running on what I now like to call ‘Raymond Time.’ When I warned some of the other volunteers who would be coming on this trip with us of this the night before, they just laughed it off and didn’t believe me. Seven a.m. came and went. 7:30. 7:45. At this point, I decided to call Raymond and see where he was. He told me that he was on his way. I asked him if he was sure and he assured me that he was coming. The next thing I know, Raymond rides up to the hotel on his bicycle. Melissa and I looked at each other and just started laughing. He was carrying a sack over one shoulder – our clean laundry which his wife washes for us. After we stopped laughing, I asked Raymond when the tro tro would be coming to pick us up. Raymond assured me once again that they would arrive with the tro tro shortly.

8:00. 8:15. 8:30. And still no tro tro. By this time, Melissa and I were packed and ready to go and so exhausted from waking up so early that we both fell asleep. Around 8:40, we awoke to a knock on the door. And finally Raymond had arrived and told us that the tro tro was waiting for us.

We joined Debbie and Kylie, two other volunteers (a mother and daughter) who had already been picked up in the tro tro and headed back towards Hohoe. I was confused as we were obviously heading the wrong direction. Apparently the almost two hours we spent waiting for the tro tro arrive was not enough time to pick up the mechanics that would be traveling with us. The tro tro would be dropping the four of us volunteers off at our hotel in Lake Volta and then the rest of the guys and the mechanics would continue on to Accra to get a much needed part for the tro tro. Raymond had to finish up some stuff in Hohoe so he told us that he would take a taxi later that day and meet us at our hotel in Lake Volta.

The ride to Lake Volta was like any other – so bumpy that we flew out of our seats at times. I seriously often felt like I was on a rollercoaster. We arrived at our hotel in Lake Volta around 11am. We checked in to our rooms and then drove to the Lake Volta Dam. It was neat to see this man made lake – the largest man made lake in the world and the way the water is used to create energy. It’s absolutely incredible. After our tour of the dam, we got back in the tro tro and headed to the Cedi Bead Factory, about a half hour drive towards Accra.

The bead factory is somewhere I really wanted to visit last summer but never got the opportunity to do. We were dropped off at the bead factory as the tro tro driver and the others in the car continued on to Accra. We were seated and shown the various types of beads that are made at this bead factory. They make beads out of glass bottles and other recycled materials. We were shown how the designs on the beads were created and how beads of multiple colors were made. We moved on to the ovens, where the beads are cooked and then are left to cool. Next, we saw how the beads are cleaned before they are strung. Each worker who is stringing beads has a certain pattern that he/ she is to follow. After our tour of the bead factory, we were taken into the shop. This was somewhat dangerous for Melissa and I as we had to buy a large quantity of beads for someone back home. We looked around, found some nice pieces of jewelry for ourselves and then proceeded to shop for others. As we were to buy bracelets to bring home for this person, I headed over to the bracelet rack. I told the owner, Cedi that we would take all the bracelets on the rack and that we needed an additional 60 bracelets. According to one of the other volunteers who was there with us, Cedi’s mouth dropped when I began grabbing all the bracelets off the rack. He explained that we should finish shopping here and then he would take us to their other store. I informed Cedi that we had no more cash left and he eagerly agreed to take us to the bank first.

We drove around in his nice van. First to the bank. Then to the other store where we bought more bracelets. Cedi talked with me along the way as I was sitting in the front of the car with him. Cedi was extremely friendly and I could tell that he was a very smart man. He told me all about his most recent trip to America where he gave a demonstration and lecture on the beads made at the factory and how he has been traveling to the USA and other countries for the past 10 years to attend bead conferences and other jewelry making events. I asked him if he had visited Oregon as I was interested in whether or not he knew my aunt and uncle, Chris and Stuart, who own a huge bead and gem business in Grants Pass. He told me of his trips to Portland and explained that I should ask Chris and Stuart if they knew him as he cannot remember whether or not he has met them. His stories were quite interesting – he told me of how he travels to America about 3-4 times per year, something that I find incredible. In addition, he explained the origins of his name to me. He told me that when he was born, his grandmother said that all the people who came to visit the baby should bring one cedi (the Ghanaian currency). It was due to this that he was given the name, ‘Cedi.’

After visiting the Cedi Bead Annex and buying most of the bracelets off their rack as well, Cedi drove us to the taxi station. Cedi found a taxi to take us back to our hotel and negotiated a price for us so we wouldn’t get taken advantage of due to our white skin color. We returned to the hotel with heavy bags of beads. Melissa and I started worrying about how we would get all the beads home but quickly decided that it is something we will deal with when the time comes next week.

We hung around the beautiful resort like hotel the rest of the day. We soaked up some sun by the pool, took advantage of the wireless internet, and ate a delicious dinner. Raymond had not yet shown up but assured me, over the phone, that he would leave Wegbe at dawn the following morning and would be in Lake Volta at our hotel to meet us on Sunday morning. I informed Raymond that we would more than likely still be sleeping at 6am, the time he planned on arriving. I wasn’t too worried though because I was sure that Raymond would be running on his own time and we would be lucky if he made it there by 10am.

Melissa and I returned to our room to type and watch some television before going to sleep. Our room smelled somewhat funny so I called in one of the hotel workers to see if he could confirm that the smell was coming from the air conditioning. Of course it was and for that reason our room was quite warm at this point. We were moved into a room downstairs and had to call the hotel worker back in as we couldn’t figure out how to turn down the air conditioning and were freezing cold. He kindly informed us that the remote for the a/c which was in the room was not for that a/c unit and that the a/c was ‘direct,’ meaning that our only options were on and off. Great. So we had to decide if we would rather boil or freeze that night.

We awoke early on Sunday morning to the beautiful view of Lake Volta. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast consisting of pancakes (!!!), beans, eggs, toast, and pineapple juice. Raymond arrived around 9am and around 9:45am, we checked out of the hotel. We drove past the dam, to the boat dock. The parking lot was crowded and a few minutes after pulling in, we heard the loud horn from the boat, signaling that it was ready to leave. Apparently we were the last people on the boat as they waited for us to buy our tickets and get on board before departing.

Raymond, our driver, Selem, the two other volunteers, Debbie and Kylie, and Melissa and I walked around the boat looking for a table to sit at. There were a lot of people on the boat but finally we found a table on the top level, next to the grill. We began our two hour ride to some island in the middle of the lake. Once we got to the island, the horn was sounded again. Immediately after getting off the boat, young children grabbed our hands. The child who grabbed my hand immediately told me that I should give her money. When I told her no, she let go of my hand to go find a more compassionate foreigner. We walked to the other side of the island, being entertained by small groups of people playing music on drums and other items which they used as drums. I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the island. For this reason, I wasn’t too disappointed when we walked to the other side of the island, saw the lake and some boats and then walked back to our boat. We pulled away from the dock with local kids standing there, begging for money, pens, and anything else they could think of.

We got seats on the bottom level of the boat for the ride back. I sat in the sun for awhile but moved to the shade shortly later as even with the wind, it was pretty warm. It wasn’t til I got up to go to the bathroom that I noticed how much I had gotten sunburned. The whole left side of my neck, as well as part of my face, chest, and arms were quite red. Sunburns are an interesting thing here in Ghana. The locals don’t really understand it as they can be in the sun all day and not be affected as they already have dark skin. After two more hours on the boat, we arrived back at the dock we left from. We got off the boat and headed back to Hohoe.

Melissa: Tonight was the first time I have touched hot water in like two weeks; it was amazing. Everything comes with a give and take though because although I was blessed to be able to clean myself with hot water the shower nozzle did not work, so I had to sit on the shower floor and clean myself. I think it was worth it though, the hot water was magnificent and I still came out clean and not sticky. I tried to get Nicole to touch the wonderfully hot water but she declined.

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