GHANa - AFRICA Volunteer Journal 1



Journal of Taylor Swanson (from Canada)

'A question of scruples'

Hi everyone!

It has been awhile because everytime I come here John follows me and invites himself to read my e-mails and read everything I write...

People here are very friendly but at the same time they are also very intrusive- from John reading my e-mails to him pressuring me to buy an African shirt (the material from his friend, the sewing by his friend) - but of course, since everyone knows what is best for me, the accountant is now debating the quality of the fabric with him...In a country that is completely foreign I NEED guidance, but the fact that everyone is guiding me in a different direction is a little disconcerting - at the least, someone is being casually dishonest, at the worst, someone is unscrupulously lying... Having the best case scenario be that dishonest people are intruding on my life is not a comfortable position to be in...I feel like people are trying to manipulate me--everyone has an ulterior motive-yesterday John and Kabaaka started asking me if I could arrange a flight for them to Canada, if I could sign off on their Visas, If I could find them a place to stay in Canada, if I could find them work in Canada, if I could help them get Canadian Citizenship, If I could find them a wife...

That's right folks, apparently I am some kind of Canadian pimp that can pass off my female friends to anyone I want... They gave me their contact info with instructions to distribute it to all my female friends... so if anyone is looking for a Ghanaian husband I can hook you up.

Last night there was a massive rain storm-it was so loud that it seemed like I was trying to sleep between the tracks at a very busy train station-I was awake between 3 and 5-not fun.


'The dream'

I set off by myself on Saturday morning to meet people in Accra that I didn't know so that I could go to a town that no one in Tema had ever heard of...The day started off on a sour note when I was forced to wait at the trotro station in Tema for an hour--trotros do not have set times when they depart stations, rather they wait until they are full...this could take 5 mins or, as in this case, it could take an hour...Thankfully I had given myself loads of time to get to Accra so I made it in time to meet Naomi, Natalie and Andrea(although it took two attempts for me to correctly identify them). We caught a trotro from Accra to the Krokrobite turn off and then hoped into a taxi to go down to Krokrobite; however, 500 metres into the voyage our taxi broke down...the driver then removed a large piece of the engine and put it in the trunk and then unsuccessfully tried to start the car...thankfully a car stopped and drove us to Krokrobite for the same amount as we were going to pay the taxi. We arrived at the Dream hotel shortly afterward and we went down to the beach so I could meet most of the rest of the group: Alastair, Nick, Monica, MD, Julia, Erin, and Margaret(I hope I am not forgetting anyone)...shortly after the rest fo the group arrived: Nikolas, Marley and Jen... seconds after meeting Nick I asked if he wanted to share a room with me...We got our room, changed and headed down to the beach-it was amazing, absolutely beautiful...we chilled under a thatch umbrella for a bit and then I braved the sea-it was unlike anything I have ever experienced, the power of the under tow, rip tide and waves were intense. For dinner we went to an Italien restaurant that is owned by an Italien guy so the food was amazing-people started comparing the restaurant to the Garden of Eden and that comparison is not far off...After diner we headed to the most amazing bar-we were seated in a private turret complete with a spiral staircase and a thatch roof...we played some drinking games; however, our booze ran dry at 9 o'clock(which is not as pathetic by Ghanian standards-10 o'clock is a "normal" bed time on weekends)...the night ran the risk of petering out but someone saved the day when they mentioned the magic word-religion. We spent the next hour and a half talking about Christianity, about the politics of religion, about the purpose of different denominations, about Judaism and about Jesus himself...the conversation then turned to the American education system-the main topic was how money is now allocated to schools based on their test scores(the good schools recieve more money than the poor performing schools)...we debated long and hard about this-should we allocate the funds to the "good schools" so that those children can excel or should we try to bring the poor schools up to satisfactory levels..then we talked about why certain schools perform worse than others...The night ended with a brief debate on capitalism and the future...WE got to bed around one which is very late by Ghanian standards...I had a horrible sleep thanks to mosquitos and a persistent rooster...I woke up around 7 and headed down to the beach...We went back to Eden for breakfast, and again for lunch which is when the rain hit. Rain here has the power to change plans. We meant to leave by 1:30 but didn't end up braving the rain til 4.

This was not just one of my best experiences in Ghana but one of the best experiences of my life-I absolutely love talking with a group of liberaly minded, highly intelligent and highly opinionated people-this is why Gimmelwald and Krokrobite have been two of the best experiences of my life!

PS. Some people have been mentioning my writing style-it is just freewriting...for those of you that don't know, freewriting is constant writing without thought of grammar, spelling, or coherency-basically you just spew out whatever is on your mind(which is why my journals are jam-packed with dashes and ellipses) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freewriting)...In related news, Julia mentioned that she would like to find a house on the gulf islands to house-sit so she could live rent-free and write a book-this sounds like an amazing plan.



'A weekend in Cape Coast'

I went to Cape Coast on the weekend with most of the volunteers from last week and a whole slew of new volunteers. They all seem like great folk and if I don't see them this weekend or next I will most definitely be in Krokrobite on the weekend of the 24th and hopefully they will all be there. Back to Cape Coast, well, more accurately, Elmina, as we decided to opt for Elmina, or rather, St. George Castle over the Cape Coast Castle. This was mainly due to the fact that St. George is the oldest castle south of the sahara! Originally built by the Portuguese in 1481 it was taken over by the Dutch in the 1600s and then by the British in 1867. It has been Ghanian since Ghana gained independence 50 years ago and has been declared an international heritage site thanks to the dreadful history of the slave trade that is still evident in its dark, dank dungeons. Our guide was excellent which alwasy helps to bring history alive. On Sunday we went to Kakum National Park to go on the canopy walk. It was an awesome experience, if not a tad terrifying. Built by Canadian mountaineers, upon close inspection one wonders if the guide meant to say boy scouts-boy scouts without many patches. To say that it is a dodgy set-up is an understatement as 2X4s are slapped half-hazardly to trees and walk ways are actually ladders with boards across them. Anyways, we all survived and after rushing back to eat lunch we headed home, but before we could leave we had to purchase trotro tickets which seems like a pretty mundane event; however, I volunteered to purchase all 12 tickets(the group was previously upwards of 20 but we had split up over the day) so I made my way into the crowded trotro station, holding 300,000 cedis. It didn't take long to find the real reason for the crowded station-Ghana was playing Korea in a wolrd cup warm up match, regardless, I survived, secured the tickets and we were on our way (after purchasing the much-sought-after FanChoco (frozen chocolate milk in a bag).


Read more volunteers' diaries:

Volunteers' diaries 2

Volunteers' diaries 3