Saturday, May 28, 2011

Accra Today, Wegbe Tomorrow

All week I was under the impression that Monday was June 1st which meant that it would be when I would start work. But yesterday I realized that June 1st isn't until Wednesday which means that I have time to visit my kids in Wegbe, the village where Christ Orphanage is located, before I begin work. I am so excited to see my kids and the people of Wegbe whom I love and hold so dear to my heart.

So excited to see Cynthia's beautiful face and meet her baby sisters! Also super excited to see the kids at Christ Orphanage schooling at their new site. Photos and updates to come!

Expats in Ghana

An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin term expatriātus from ex ("out of") and patriā the ablative case of patria ("country, fatherland"). This "Latin" term comes from the Greek words "exo" meaning outside, and "patrida" meaning country or fatherland. (
During the weeks and months that led up to my departure from to US and my move to Ghana, I did much research on expats in Ghana and attempted to connect with other expats who were living in Accra. This was made possible through two expat websites that proved to be invaluable resources. It is on one of these websites that I found my job and also where I found contacts/potential friends in Ghana (one of whom I have already met since my arrival).  It also provided me with the opportunity to ask questions to people who had traveled from afar about living in Ghana. Although I had traveled to Ghana previously, there were things about living in Ghana, and particularly in Accra that I was unfamiliar with.
On Thursday evening, I joined a group of about 20 expats for a small get together at a restaurant/bar. I was excited to meet other expats but it didn’t take long for me to realize that these expats were not the type of people that I wanted to befriend. It was interesting to meet some of the women at the event who were in the country due to their husband’s professional careers. As a result, they do not work and instead spend much time partying and shopping, spending what I would call insane amounts of money. They carry their designer purses, wear 5 inch heels, and show off their diamond wedding rings. I do not have a problem with people who have money and want to indulge due to their wealth, but this was taking it to an extreme. As I talked to a friend I connected with on one of the expat sites about my experiences at this event, she explained to me that this is the reason she does not attend the organized expat events here. She further told me that these women probably live in huge gated homes, equipped with gyms, swimming pools, and other amenities so that they rarely have to leave their homes and interact with the locals besides their maids, nannies, gardeners, etc. Its like they are living in their own little world. It honestly did not occur to me that I would meet expats like this in Ghana.
Tonight I will be attending another expat event. I hope that this one is different and that I am able to meet some people who are more down to earth and possibly even people who are in Ghana because they want to be here, not just because they were sent here due to their jobs. I look forward to meeting some of the other expats that I have been talking to online in the upcoming weeks as they too sound more down to earth than those whom I met last night. 

*This post is not meant to be offensive to any group of people here in Ghana. It is important to realize that not all expats are the way that I have described in this entry. This blog is a way for me to speak my mind and be 100% honest and real. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Things I could live without: mosquitoes, humidity, and traffic

Remember that song I referred to in my last post, Good Life by One Republic? Well, I don’t want you to think that everything here is perfect because it isn’t Don’t get me wrong, I love Ghana. But it is going to take some time to get used to actually living here especially due to the fact that there are some things in Ghana that I really could live without. Mosquitoes and humidity and traffic are at the top of that list. During my first few days here in Ghana, I relied primarily on my bug repellant that I brought from the US to prevent mosquito bites. I quickly learned that the Off! from home was not going to cut it now that I am living in Ghana especially since it is currently the rainy season and mosquitoes love water. Although my legs are currently covered in bites which itch like crazy, I am trying to avoid getting any more. For one thing, this is the first time I am not on malaria medication while in Ghana and honestly, malaria is not something I want to get again. Secondly, mosquito bites itch and hurt A LOT. Thirdly, when I have bug bites all over my legs, I feel that I must wear long pants all the time to avoid questions by the locals about the large red spots on my legs because bug bites are much more evident on white skin than on black skin. Yes, they are large spots because they itch and sometimes it is impossible to resist itching them regardless of how much medicine I put on them and how much Claritin I take. In an attempt to end this mosquito madness, I have already invested in a repellent that I have used to spray the bedroom, bathroom, and hall as well as a citronella candle. In addition, I have decided upon talking to some other expats (foreigners in Ghana) that it is probably best that I do not just hang out outside after 5/6pm. This is not too difficult, as it gets dark by that time anyways. If I have somewhere to go, I will still go there and be sure to spray myself well but otherwise, I am going to try to stay in the house in the evenings. Right now, it is not worth it to me to be outside during the prime mosquito time and allow myself to be a playground for the mosquitoes who wish to suck my blood.  
The humidity here has already put my emotions to the test a few times since I arrived back in the country. I don’t think it is something I can really explain to you but rather something you have to experience to really understand. Just know that the humidity is so extreme here that I am never found without a handkerchief to wipe away sweat. When I arrived, the room that Alex and I are renting only had one fan in the middle of the room and it turned pretty slowly as it was quite old. I quickly decided that something had to be done about this. We purchased two new fans and hired an electrician to install them on opposite sides of the room. The difference is amazing. Whereas with the old fan we had it running on the highest speed at all hours, we now actually turn down the fans because they keep the room cool and quite pleasant.
Traffic. Ha. Traffic is….interesting because driving in Ghana is basically a race to one’s destination with little regard to other drivers, pedestrians, or animals. It is absolutely insane but I am trying to resist freaking out all the time and trust the drivers, which I know, will take some time. As the school I will be working at is about a 30 minute drive from the house, we have already hired a driver to take me to work in the morning and pick me up in the afternoon. I have only driven with him once thus far but I trust his driving and hopefully will learn some Twi (tribal language in Accra) from him as he only speaks English “small small.”
I know this post is full of complaints but I needed to get some of the difficult things about Ghana off my chest and share them. I am trying to learn to deal with these issues but I am sure that it will take some time.

Los Angeles --> Heathrow --> Accra

Have you heard OneRepublic’s song Good Life yet? It is a song that I came across a few days before I left for Ghana and is one that I listened to on the plane and since I have been in Ghana. It’s one of those songs that just gets to you. Or at least, it gets to me. Before I left for Ghana, it didn’t get to me like it did when I was on the plane. With my ipod in one hand and kindle opened to the book Water for Elephants in the other, I listened to this song and tears just streamed down my face. I was excited for this new experience in my life and had counted down the days until it was time to leave but at the same time, I felt a bit scared and sad about leaving my loved ones back home. On my flight from LAX to Heathrow, after a teary good bye to my mom and sister and tears in my eyes through security and even upon entering the plane, I met two women who were traveling to various European countries. The woman immediately next to me had, just like me, graduated from college only a few days earlier. If you thought that I had a limited amount of time at home, think again. She had graduated two days prior to leaving for Scotland, among a number of other countries. The other woman who was sitting with us was traveling to visit her daughter who had moved abroad years earlier. Her daughter also went to Lewis & Clark and graduated twenty some odd years ago. Its always amazing to me how I can travel across the world yet meet people who have so many similarities with me.
Upon arriving in London at the Heathrow Airport I sat down at a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. A woman from New Jersey was seated at the table next to me and we got to talking while we dined on our food. She told me a lot about the Montessori method and informed me that there were some good books written about the Montessori approach, which I proceeded to purchase on my kindle before leaving the airport. I have yet to read the books yet as I slept most of my flight but plan on starting them soon.
The second flight was longer than expected as there was something on the plane that needed to be fixed before we could depart. As a result, we sat on the plane for quite some time before leaving but once we were in the air, it was only about 7 hours to Accra where I was met by Alex and his brother Prince.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Arrival in Ghana

Just a quick update that I arrived in Ghana on Monday night and am busy settling in here. Hope to update with  more details soon!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Leaving for Ghana...TODAY!

My bags are packed. I am off to start up my life in Ghana today. So excited and nervous. I still can't believe this is happening...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My College Career Coming to an End

So today was my LAST DAY OF COLLEGE!!! Can you tell that I am pretty excited about that? Its been a long 4 years and there were many points when I questioned if I could do it and debated just giving up but I am so glad I pushed through and got to this point. I already started the whole packing thing which is a ton of work and makes me so tired. I am super excited that all my family is coming up this weekend to celebrate with me and see me graduate. I just hope it isn't raining on Sunday because if it rains, graduation will be held in the gym instead of on the football field and tickets will be limited. Everything else has been working out lately so I really, really, really hope that this does too. By the next time I update this, I will probably be a college graduate! I can't believe I am even saying that -- it still doesn't feel real and graduation is only 4 days away!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Thesis Status

My thesis is officially completed and ready to turn in on Tuesday. It feels like the world has been lifted off of my shoulders. So happy to be done and so proud of all the hard work and dedication that I put into this 60 page document. One final, one paper, and one presentation until I am officially done with college! :)