Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last Week :(

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

So it's the last week here in Ghana, and there are only a few days left. Things have really just flown by - this month has been a whirlwind of trips, classes, and experiences I had never had before. I pride myself on being fairly well traveled, but this was truly like nothing I have ever done.

We began the week as usual. It was rough to have bucket showers and sleep on a mat on the floor after such luxury in Accra. I taught my class on Probability for Monday and Tuesday and it went over fairly well. I let the students play with coins and cards to find different probabilities and find out if something was independent or dependent, etc. It was a lot of fun, and fairly interactive. The design project continues to slowly progress. My group is definitely behind but they are getting their act together and are close to having a working model. It needs to be done by tomorrow though - fingers crossed they get it to work!

Wednesday was a really cool day, though we had SO MANY issues with the whole thing. On Wednesday we took the students on a field trip to Valley View University near Accra. Valley View is absolutely AMAZING. They are a completely sustainable campus, with compost latrines, a garden they grow all the food they eat in (they also have a completely vegetarian diet on campus), source separated latrines, greywater purifications systems, solar panels - so many great sustainable solutions and initiatives. Getting there was a nightmare. First, not all the students could fit on the bus, so we called a tro. After 30 minutes, the tro had still not showed up, and the guy called to cancel. So Chelsey goes to the local tro station and finds a tro that agrees to go. We load up, and the kids were excited so they were singing and clapping. There was some issue that occured in Twi between the students and the driver, I don't understand what happened, but he kicked us out and refused to take us. Finally we get a tro that will take the extra students. On the way, a student gets sick from taking malaria meds on an empty stomach, and the tro gets a flat tire. Whew, so many issues and problems for a school trip. The students had a great time there, as did the teachers - as someone who looks at sustainable water solutions, the greywater and rainwater harvesting systems were SO INTERESTING. They also had source separated toilets, which were really awesome.

Today was the second to last day of classes, and the last lesson that I taught to half the students. Class went well - I have been teaching the students excel and they really seem to be getting the hang of it. After class, Lucy and I went to the crafts market to get fabric. I got some beautiful prints in teal and red that I plan to make a bag and maybe a skirt or dress out of. It was so cheap too! I will have to find a good seamstress to make what I want when I get back - I want something nice to remember my time here by.

While I am ready to have some comforts back, I am actually pretty sad that the trip is over. I have enjoyed teaching a lot more than I expected, and living so basically actually is easier than I expected. I really like everyone who is on the trip as well - everyone is so chill and lots of fun, so it has really made the time here even easier. I will enjoy having high speed internet again, as well as running water, but I'll be sad to go.

Must go work with the kids some on their design projects - busy Thursday for me! Friday is the last day of classes and a soccer game for the kids, Saturday is graduation, and Sunday we are heading into Accra to finish souvenir shopping. Monday morning plane will take me away and back to the USA. I will try to update one last time before then, and I will certainly add final thoughts and pictures once I am back. Love to all!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weekend in Accra

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

What an AMAZING weekend to help get through this last week here in Ghana. First of all, I can't believe that I only have 1 week left and have been here for 3 weeks. The time has really flown by for me and I am sad to go.

From my last post, we finished up with the design project at the school and headed back to Obodan to pack up and get ready for the weekend. It took us a little longer than expected to get ready to go, but at 5 PM we caught a tro tro to take us to Accra. The tro ride was a bit slow but mainly hassle free - however the problem we had came when we got in the cab to take us to the hotel. The taxi told us that he knew where it was, but he deid not - he took us at least 20 minutes in the wrong direction with us telling him it was the wrong direction before he finally listened. I had to pull up a map on my phone because he had absolutely no idea where he was going, and even then, he didn't know how to read the map. Ridiculous - these taxis want money so badly that they will pretend they know where they are going to get you in them.

After we finally got to the hotel, we checked in and went to our room. It was AMAZING! Our room had a king sized bed, two twin and a couch. There was a back porch that looked over the ocean. We had a large bathroom with a toilet that flushed and a shower. It was great. We all got ourselves showers - there was no water pressure, only a trickle of water, and it was cool (but not cold), but it was a SHOWER! Such a nice feeling. After we all showered we headed to a restaurant called Monsoon. It was a Japanese/Asian sort of restaurant, and I got sushi! It was delicious. I haven't been getting enough protein while here, so it was really nice to get fresh, safe to eat fish. YUM! It was pricy, but totally worth it. Afterwards, we went to a bar called Lizzie's and then a club called the Office to celebrate Clay's birthday. It was a lot of fun, and we were able to dance and have a great time at the club. Such a different world than Obodan and Nsawam!

The next day we woke up and all took another shower. Might as well enjoy it while we have the shower! After all the showers we checked out and headed to Labodi Beach Hotel where we had been told there was the best brunch in all of Accra. It was an all you can eat buffet! I don't even want to admit how much I ate that day. I thought I was going to pop! After eating we all laid down outside to digest and just chatted and enjoyed the weather. It was so nice to have a just chill day where there wasn't anything we had to do. We were going to go to the crafts market but we were all tired, so we just headed home.

Now we are at school on Monday morning and getting ready for our busy last week! Deisgn project, 2 classes, a field trip, and a design expo left, plus our graduation! It's going to be a hectic last week!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Week 3 - being sick, teaching, and traveling!

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

So first, I finally got a picture loaded! This is from several weeks ago when a large group of us went to Cape Coast. This is right next to Elmina Castle that we toured, and for those who don't know, the picture is of Lucy, myself, and Claire. I will post lots more when I get back home and have real internet!

What a week. So last time I posted on our official blog,, on Sunday, I said how happy I was that I hadn’t gotten sick yet. Well, way to jinx yourself Jenni. What do you know, but on Monday, I get really sick. I made it to school and got through my first class, but I was feeling so awful my second class that Chelsey told me to just rest. It was a good move, because I started throwing up about 10 minutes into the second period. Clay went home with me, and I spent all day both Monday and Tuesday in bed. I really can’t imagine a more miserable way to be sick. At least with the stomach flu in the states, I would have air conditioning, cool water, flushing toilets, and cool showers to lower my temperature. Instead I was laying in a hot room with only a fan and a latrine. Not so fun, but I made it through. Luckily it was only a 24 hour stomach bug and not something more serious!

The rest of the week went pretty well. I was weak from not being able to eat for 2 days, but I have gained back my strength now. Classes on Wednesday and Thursday consisted of me teaching the kids how to use Microsoft Excel. It was a lot of fun, and I think the students found it useful. I was trying to teach probability on Friday with blackjack, but it was such a short class that it was hard. Also, the students had never played blackjack before, so I ended up just teaching them how to play blackjack the whole class and not able to tie it into probability. It was a fun class though, and the students really seemed to enjoy it a lot.

The design project continues to keep going. My group has decided to use a water wheel powered by a motor to circulate the water from the bottom back up to the top. It is a good idea but might be hard to implement in the last week. I have faith in them though, and I think they can do it if they really put their mind to it. It should be an exciting last week with our last 2 classes, design project, and a field trip that we are trying to organize.

Yesterday we had a fieldtrip with the kids. We took them to Obodan to read to the children in the village. Students are not always exposed to service opportunities here like we are in the states, and we wanted to encourage them to give back and help students that are not as privileged as themselves. The bus ride over was quite the experience – the bus seated about 30, and I think we had 55 on it. Kids were sitting 3 to a seat, standing in the aisles, and sitting on the steps and floor. They were all singing and clapping and having a lot of fun. They were even making up some songs about PiT which were really funny. When we got to the village to start reading, some of the students seemed skeptical at first, but they really got into it. I think when they saw about 100 little children all so excited that the older kids were coming to read to them, they got a little more excited about it. It was really cute to see – they were holding their kids in their laps and being patient and teaching them to read and write. The kids can be rowdy sometimes in our classes, and it was great to see them so quiet and helpful for the kids.

After the reading we played a soccer game for the PiT kids against the local Obodan Senior High age team. It was pouring before so the field was really muddy, and it was raining steadily throughout the entire game. The PiT team lost 3-5, but the refereeing was awful – 3 of the Obodan team’s goals were not legal – one offsides, one pentalty kick that was not a penalty, and one that went 2 feet over the goal and the ref counted it. So frustrating – I was yelling on the sidelines!

Today we are currently at school watching over and helping the kids with their design projects. The evening we are planning on heading into Accra for the night because it is Clay’s birthday! Going to get some good food, stay at a hotel with a shower, and go out to see the Ghanaian night life in Accra! I am sure we will have great stories from that. Sunday we are going to go to a crafts fair to do our souviner shopping, and then its back to Obodan and Nsawam for our last crazy week!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Week 2 in Ghana

Current Location: Obodan, Ghana

What a crazy busy week! I have been so busy that I haven’t been able to update, as well as we have had some power outages that have made it difficult for us to access internet – if the power is down, all the internet cafes close down!

Today is officially day 14 of my time here in Ghana, meaning it marks my halfway point! We fly home 2 weeks from tomorrow, which is really bizarre. It hardly seems like I have been here a week, I can’t believe it’s half over. We have been so busy with lesson planning, organization, and teaching that the time has really flown by. The usual day has us waking up at 5:45. We leave for school before 7, arriving by 7:30. We start class sometime between 8 and 8:30. After classes are over, we supervise the design project. The whole day goes until either 2 or 4, depending on whether it is a market day or not. Monday’s and Thursdays the students leave at 2 PM, and they leave at 4 PM the other three days. After classes and design project are over, we have to clean up and pack up all our materials. We sometimes have to go to the market or the internet cafĂ©. I would say so far we usually get home around 7. It gets dark at 7, so when we get home it already seems late. We go haul water for cooking, cleaning, and bathing and then cook dinner. Dinner is over by 8:30 or 9 on most days, and we have to wash dishes, take showers, and finish lesson plans. Then its bed time and start all over again the next day!

The first week of teaching went really well. I last posted after I had finished my first day, and the rest of the week went very smoothly. The students are very attentive and eager to learn, and I think my lessons have all been going over very well. The students really have enjoyed the activities that we have done so far. It seems I am somewhat succeeding on my mission to try to make math fun and practical for the students. I am still figuring out everything for next week, especially considering the fun and practical part, but I’m hoping my second week of lessons is as successful as my first. I had never really considered teaching at a potential career, but after seeing how rewarding this is, I might have to reconsider that a little bit! Though it’s totally not what I need – I already have enough problems deciding what I want to do with my life without adding another potential career!

We also began the design project with the kids this week. We are having the kids design a hydroponic system to grow plants in. We are trying to lead them in the project but allowing it to be their own. The students are so imaginative – they have very creative ideas and it should be interesting to see all their finished projects. It is difficult to always know what they are doing – they often start discussing and arguing in Twi rather than English since it is more comfortable for them, but when that happens I have no idea what is going on! The group I am helping seems to have a fairly good idea about things. We have two more weeks for the project to be constructed and implemented, so hopefully by then all 3 groups will have successful projects that they can be proud of.

We went for dinner in Achimota, a town very close to Accra, on Friday night, and then on Saturday myself, Chelsey, and Lucy went into Accra to buy a router for the school so they can have internet access. Accra is a totally different world from what we are in. There is much more diversity, so our skin color does not stand out as much. I felt like I stood out more because of my dress than for my skin color. I was wearing the sort of clothing I wear in the rural area we are staying, while everyone else was dressed nicely and cleanly. It was very obvious that we were staying outside of Accra! I would love to spend more time in Accra sometime – it seems like a very interesting city. Unfortunately we have so little time here, and even less free time that we won’t be able to spend more than a day or 2 in Accra at most. I guess it’s a good excuse for me to come back! Today we had a down day. I wasn’t feeling fantastic this morning, so I stayed inside to try to cool off, while the EWB people did some work with the latrine. I was glad I didn’t have to do anything with that! In the afternoon, there was a soccer game between Obodan and a neighboring town. Chelsey, Clay, and Sammy all played on Obodan’s team, and we won! It was a lot of fun – there were lots of kids and people from the town around and all watching. It’s a big community activity to watch soccer, so it was really interesting to see.

The transportation in Ghana continues to freak me out. During this week we had a new record for number of people in a car – seven. We are taking a small car, built to fit five people max, probably about the size of a Honda Civic if not smaller. We squeezed four people in the back seat (including 2 guys that have rather long legs and broad shoulders!), two people in the front passenger seat, and the driver. Luckily it was a short ride, but it was still interesting – my foot was asleep by the time we got back to Obodan! We also have continued to have interesting tro-tro experiences. At times it can be a bit scary – people are NOT patient, and at a tro station when lots of people want to get home, there can be a bit of a mad rush and a lot of pushing and shoving to try to get in. A lot of the roads we have to drive on are also extremely bumpy – I feel sometimes like I should be on a theme park ride how much we are bouncing around in the tro. Seat belts also don’t exist here, at least not for passengers. Sometimes the driver will have one but it’s not always the case. I haven’t seen anything worse than a fender bender since being here, so at least people seem to know what they are doing on the roads. You could not pay me enough money to have my drive these roads!

Also on a happy note, I got my camera back after a pretty complicated experience. However, the camera no longer seems to work. The memory card still has all the pictures I had taken on it, so I at least did not lose that, which is nice. We are going to try to figure out what happened to the camera, and maybe we can repair it. If not, I can have best buy check it out back in the states and maybe get it repaired there. Fingers crossed, and I am at least happy that enough people were honest enough to help me get my camera back. The memory card also has a ton of pictures of the random guy and his friends, so I have those now too. Think those will be deleted VERY soon!

Well that’s it for now. I hope to be able to update more often so I don’t post these ridiculously long blogs all the time. I miss everyone in the states tons, and I promise to post the pictures that I at least have if not more once I get back.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ghanaian Adventures!

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

Sorry it has taken me so long to update! Internet is only available in Nsawam, and even then it isn't always the most reliable. We have had quite the busy few days, and I know it will continue to be so.

We have already had a few short trips, and we will likely take a few more. On Wednesday we went towards to the west side of Ghana near the coast. Our first stop was Kakum Rainforest. It was absolutely beautiful, and we did a canopy walk, which was on the sketchiest rope bridges ever over the tops of the trees. It was SO PRETTY! After that we went to a place called Elmina in the Cape Coast area. We took a tour of Elmina Castle, which was built over 500 years ago and was used largely in the slave trade. Over 1000 slaves would be kept there at a time. It was very sad to see, but so interesting. How slavery went on for so long is beyond me...

On Wednesday we went to Accra to get food. We can get the basics that we need in Nsawam or Obadan, but other things are harder to find so we stocked up on stuff like canned tomatoes and spices and harder to find things. We also found a place for PIZZA! It was so delicious! I miss good food and have been CRAVING mushrooms! Mushrooms are impossible to find here and I miss them so much. Same with sushi and things like that. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

On Saturday, we went on a trip to Boti Falls. Boti Falls is a beautiful waterfall a few hours north of us. We went to see the falls, and then went on a hike to see two awesome natural formations - the umbrella, which is a rock that has a huge overhang like an umbrella, and a three trunk palm tree, which is pretty self explanatory. It was a very hard hike though! Very hilly and rocky, I got quite the work out. AFter that we went to Aburi Botanical gardens for dinner and to look around. There were these amazing old trees called Silk Cotton Trees, and they were MASSIVE. We had fun climbing some smaller trees, and playing with an old helicopter that had broken down. Sadly, I left my camera in the tro-tro on the ride home :( Sammy is trying to retrieve it for me, but my camera (with 250 awesome pictures) is gone. Needless to say, I am heartbroken. Send happy thoughts my way that the camera shows up!

Today was our first day of class. I was rather nervous, but it went rather well. My lesson wasn\t quite long enough, but I improvised and came up with enough to fill the time. 2 hours is a very long time to fill with fun and education activities! The kids are very nice, but I am struggling with names. So many names at once is hard to handle. I will do my best, and hopefully by the end I will know everyone.

I hope to continue to update somewhat often but it will be hard to do. I miss everyone, but I am having an amazing experience here and wouldn't chane ity for the world (well, maybe for the world hehe).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

Hello everyone! I landed safe and sound in Ghana and have begun to get settled. Things are going great, though very crazy, and VERY different than anything I've ever experienced.

The flight was really good, and I met a nice guy sitting next to me, That definitely helped the 11 hours go by quickly. We landed and had no problems with passport control or luggage which made things a lot easier than they could have been. We left and we were met by Chelsey and Sammy who had a van to bring us back to where we were staying. We stopped by an ATM to get some money and we were off.

We are staying in a rural town about 45 minutes outside of Accra, the capital. We are in little walk through rooms. It's fairly nice - we have a floor, a roof, and walls, and we can lock our doors to keep our things safe. There is electricity, but no running water or air. There are currently 9 of us staying in 2 walk through rooms. It's not a ton of room, but its enough to get our beds out and have a little space to hang out in. There are lots of little kids in our town. Most people in our area speak both English and Twi, an African language. It's so funny, the little kids will run after us waving and yelling "Obrani" which is their word for white people. They are very affectionate and love to play with our electronics. They got hold of my camera and took over 100 pictures!

It is interesting to try living like this when I have always had running water and basic necessities. My first shower was quite the adventure. I walked to the borehole, pumped a bucket of water, carried it back and used that for my shower. I wish I had cut off all my hair before coming here. Trying to get the shampoo out was a nightmare! All in all it was okay, though I had to use a flashlight since there was no electricity in the shower! The latrine was not hard to use but smelly and eye opening! It really makes my appreciate everything I have in the states so much more. We all sleep under mosquito nets and try to burn things to keep them away at night. No one wants to get sick. We also can't drink the well water. We buy "satchets" which are little plastic baggies of water. I have some iodine tablets that I can use, but I want to be careful, don't want to make myself sick.

We are currently at the school where we will be teaching handing out applications for our program. We start teaching on Monday and we hope to have 80 kids in the program. If we get more applications back, we will have to reject some people which would be sad. We have a few more days to get our lesson plans and activities together, which I will need. We might get to take a few trips too - we will have to see. Might be going to Cape Coast soon, which would be really great!

Must get back to work, but I will continue to update as often as I can!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

NYC... for 30 hours

Current Location: Brooklyn, NY

I am running my last few errands before Ghana, so this is going to be a super short post!

Tuesday night at the Eiffel Tower was great. It was so pretty seeing everything lit up at night. We didn't get to go to the top due to some confusion with the tickets, so we got ice cream and then headed home. Really fun night

Wednesday we had a fancy farewell dinner at this really nice restaurant. There was a great soup, salmon, cheese, and chocolate mousse for dessert. It was one of my favorite meals! Yum!

Thursday I didn't do anything too exciting. I needed some downtime to finish planning everything for Ghana. Same with Friday, except we had a delicious farewell reception with champagne and desserts! Then got some food and said my goodbyes and finished packing.

I had a really great time in Paris, but now I have a new, completely different adventure to look forward to! My flight for Ghana leaves today at 4:30 - I am almost packed and ready to go! I ill try to update as much as possible from Ghana, but it still remains to be seen how much that will really be. Hope you have enjoyed my France stories, and look out for Ghana posts starting in a few days!

P.S. Never plan a trip where you cross the Altantic twice, are in 3 countries, and spend 20 hours in a plane in less than 48. Not really smart!