Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Northern Regions

I did tell you I that I wouldn't be consistent about this. We found one internet cafe up north, but they had no internet. Since my last update, I've been to Damongo, Mole, Larabunga, Damongo again, Tamale again, Accra again, and now Winneba. 1 cedi of internet time is not going to do this adventure justice.

The road from Tamale to Damongo was just as treacherous as I had heard. Luckily we were spared a bus trip between the two because Abraham, the director of the Redemption Children's Home, drove all the way out to pick us up for him. Abraham is an amazing person, he has dedicated his life to taking care of the children at the home (I believe there were 48?). The kids were so much fun, we read to them and taught in their classroom, and they taught us games and life lessons in general. Damongo is so pleasant after the bustle of Accra. Everyone says hello, and the children still yell Obruni!!

I have developed three minor addictions while here: Alvaro (a pear or pineapple flavored soda), FanIce (ice cream in a plastic bag), and Tampico (Sunny Day in a plastic bag, frozen to slushy consistency). I'm sure everyone else is writing about deeply philosophical things, but my comfort foods cannot go without mention. I always felt guilty buying them because I was probably the only one in Damongo who did. Disposable income isn't much up there.

We went to Mole National Park and took a walking safari. We saw elephants, baboons, warthogs... it was fun. That's all I'll really say about it because it was pretty touristy of us. We stopped at the nearby village of Larabanga though. It made Damongo look like New York City. By far the coolest part of Larabanga is the Youth Movement that's happening there. Last year Amanda, Annie, and the others connected with two high-school aged students named Issak and Cosco. These two are spearheading a movement to improve the village of Larabanga in so many ways. Their current mission is to complete two unfinished boreholes (wells) and successfully maintain them. It's something that we're hoping to get Grand Valley involved with in the fall.

Back at the children's home, a kid named Noah asked if he could use my duct tape to mend his book. I sat and watched him work and I was getting impatient because he was taking a very long time. I suggested throwing to strips of tape on either end, but he brushed my suggestion away and I was left to wait. I didn't realize until he was almost done that my method of book repair wouldn't have worked. He knew what he was doing and he did it very well, the book was good as new, with the addition of lime-green tape binding.

This was an important moment for me because it made me realize that people here do not need the USA or other Westernized nations to tell them what to do. We always hear about the conditions in Africa and are expected to feel bad, but having been here for... almost 20 days now, I'm becoming convinced that conditions will soon improve of their own accord. The current young generation in Ghana is being educated while their parents and grandparents lacked such opportunities. When I look at people like Essik, Cosco, and Noah, I feel confident that they and the other young people in Ghana are worthy adversaries to the challenges they will soon have to face.

Currently I am in Winneba (if you think traveling in the U.S. is horrible, you need to experience a trotro). We just got in late yesterday, and we haven't buckled down to any serious work yet so it feels a bit like I'm on vacation. The palm trees and roar of the Gulf of Guinea three minutes down the street definitely contributes to that. We're going to have to make all our own food for the rest of the trip, I'm in trouble. My diet will probably be bread, peanut butter, and oranges. My American cooking is questionable, my Ghanaian cooking will be traumatizing. At least they sell Alvaro out front.

In short, things have been wonderful here. Every night I go to bed thinking that there can't possibly be any more for me to learn and every day I discover something totally new and exciting. I'm looking forward to this finishing stretch working with James Kofi Annan and Challenging Heights, and to seeing everyone again in 18 short days!

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