Akwaaba! (Welcome!) I'm ecstatic to be able to share with every/anyone following me as I travel over seas to Ghana, West Africa. I'll be studying and taking classes at the University of Ghana near the capital, Accra, soon to become my new home for the next 4 months! So welcome and join me as I keep my blog updated as I go through this new journey, and adventurous experience! Akyire! (Later!)

Friday, October 14, 2011

H.E.L.P – Helping Other People Everywhere

       Ever since high school, I've always had a great passion for volunteering and helping others in help from the experiences of a number of mission trips, both in and outside of the US. Before coming to Ghana, I knew I was going to dedicate a part of my time to volunteer. The only real question was, where?
       I really love children and working with them, so my initial thoughts were to volunteer at a school, an orphanage, or with children of disabilities and/or sickness. Also, before I left I was fortunate to receive some financial assistance, a scholarship, presented to me by Ms. Sally A. Webb, to complete a service learning project while in Ghana. My initial proposal was to volunteer at an orphanage in Teshie, Ghana. However, upon visiting the Teshie Orphanage I found that they had a full staff of volunteers and would not need anymore at the time. I was a sad, but not discouraged because this gave me the opportunity to explore and search for more volunteer opportunities. This is when I found out about the Beacon House Orphanage, which I am currently volunteering at.
Smile! Let me snap your picture. Left to right: Quesy, Atulle, Godwin
      The Beacon House Orphanage is a registered NGO, and is a home for roughly 25 orphaned and ‘at risk’ children ranging from newborn babies to 13 years old. Their mission is to provide a family atmosphere that meets the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children who often have disabilities or life threatening illnesses and provide educational opportunities to 'at risk' children and work opportunities to single mothers and their families through special projects, scholarship sponsoring and trade training.
Josephine and Maxwell
I absolutely love what I have been doing at the Beacon House. I love volunteering there and am excited to go every week, Monday and Tuesday mornings, and occasionally some Friday’s. I love it. It’s a very nice orphanage, well managed, and well organized. Every day they abide by their schedules, typically involving school/class, snack, more school work, lunch, nap, then play/activities. And the kids, ohhhh the kids are remarkable! So much fun, filled with exuberant amounts of energy and joy almost all the time. They take to new volunteers so quickly and love our company, and I can say I greatly enjoy theirs just as much. I have done a countless number of different tasks and odd-and-end jobs since I began volunteering there; I'm don't know where to begin to tell you all about it!
Short break from their work books, and making a little time for some coloring and writing letters to families
       My first few visits, I got to enjoy helping out in the classroom with the older kids. Assisting them in learning basic phonics of the English language, reading, writing, math, etc. When it’s time for them to do their work books, I sit down with a group of about 2-3 kids at a time and help them through the necessary amount of pages they need to complete for that day. At times it’s difficult to explain certain concepts and reasoning’s due to small language/accent barriers. But this time has really allowed me to create a stronger relationship connection and trust with them. Other times when I'm not in the classroom, I would just spend time playing with the younger kids outside. Which I normally try to play games that involve teamwork, cooperation, or have an educational basis, whether reading books to them, counting things, learning colors, and so forth. And just last week they started a preschool for the younger children! Truthfully it’s kind of hectic and difficult to get them to listen or pay attention at this point in time, being this is the children's first time having to attend some kind of 'class' with with more structure. But, kids are kids, they're not going to always listen to everything you have to say. You just gotta role with the punches and manage with what you've got.
"Let me see what you've done so far."
       Also, having not much experience with caring for infants before, 4 new babies/infants, ranging from 2 months to 18 months, have become part of the orphanage and I have spent a few days with them, bottle feeding, burping, cleaning up after his spit-ups, and just holding them(fortunately, no diaper changing!). I have spent a little time with one of them which has a disability, so, I try to get him to be interactive and engaged in things such as feeling and touching different objects, reading or playing with him, or working on some fine motor skills such as clapping with him. Like I said, I have never really taken care of infants before. So bottle feeding, etc. while not foreign to me, it was definitely a new experience to just be handed a baby and told, “here’s the bottle please feed him.” The experience went surprisingly well.
      I've come to learn every one of the childrens names, which for me, is often a difficult task to do considering I am meeting new people all of the time and it's difficult to remember them all! In all I've grown exceedingly close with all of the kids at the orphanage. There's just something about holding them, playing with them, or watching them play, learn, laugh, smile, cry, and having fun that is so enjoyable to witness and be a part of. It just like as soon as I enter through the gate of the orphanage and am greeted by the smiling face of Gifty, it does nothing less than make my whole day worthwhile. 
Gifty, one of the cutest, most lovable kids
      I really look forward to spending the rest of the semester volunteering at the Beacon House Orphanage a few days a week, and also am excited to work on a few projects I have planned with the children.
      In conclusion, I could go on and on and on about the orphanage but I will save more of those stories for a new blog. 
      Please, also if you would like you can check out more about the Beacon House on their blog. We have a current student doing her internship there and as part has been updating the blog for the Beacon House Orphanage! Please check it out! The web address is:www.beaconhouseghana.blogspot.com .

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Busy As A Bee!!

I want to start out by apologizing for lacking in keeping my blog more up to date. I don't think that I have ever found this expression, busy as a bee, to be so true. So much has been going on since I have arrived here at Ghana! Between school, extra-curricular activities, traveling, and volunteering I feel like I am almost ALWAYS on the run, doing something here or there. Not to mention that the internet connection here is not always the most reliable, and I find myself to be lucky on the days when it is working quickly (they are hard to come by). I hardly even have enough time to clean and hand wash my clothes! Therefore, it typically gets done about every 2 weeks, sometimes longer. (Thank goodness for packing lots of clothes!).  [:
Washing clothes by hand, boy let me tell ya, it’s quite different from anything I’ve ever had to do before. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing the first time I attempted. Most international students bought plastic buckets to put their clothes in, wash, and rinse them. However, I did not and therefore borrow my dear roommate, Grace’s, bucket. When she's not using it of course. So, with a few trial and errors of using too much soap, not enough, hanging cloths right before it rains, and so forth I think I’m finally starting to figure it out! Though, however good I may become or enjoy hand washing my cloths, it's something that I will most likely Not continue when I return home. I’ve become very grateful for a handful things such as washing and drying machines.
Anyways, onward with what I was saying before, I’m sorry for the long delay in posting a new blog. But! No worries, I am about to catch you up on the many things that have kept me so occupied. Starting with my volunteering endeavor!!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cultural Adjustment

I have officially been here for 3 weeks now, and am starting to adapt to my new surroundings. Let me say, it's not always the easiest task. At times I find myself comfortable, fitting in, and other times I can feel a little uncertain. But don't get me wrong, I am having a great time thus far! Just like anytime you may travel somewhere new, it takes a while to adjust to the new culture, surroundings, and the way things are done. Take for example, classes. Registering for classes was something completely different from what I am used to back at my home university, and determining what classes to take can also be a complicated process. Campus here is very large, and I'm proud to say that I'm pretty confident finding my way around now. However, with lots of walking around, occasional blisters are a common result from such. (Good thing for band aids). :] And just registering for classes involved a great amount of walking, along with occasional frustration and confusion. We had to walk to each department building for the class we wished to take, then sign up and register via paper, make sure the time in which the class takes place does not interfere with any of your other classes. However, not all departments had the class time schedules up and some dept. you can only register online. So you can probably see where some of the confusion comes from. Finally, the first week of classes arrives, Aug. 15th, and I am very excited! I'm ready to start classes and just get into a routine. However, most international students came to find out that it's pretty common for some professors and students to not show up the first week of class. It's a week more so where many people are still trying to figure out their class schedules, etc. etc. And in result, out of my five classes, I had one. African Drumming.

So as you can imagine, my excitement for starting classes and getting in a routine was put on hold until week 2 of class, which was a lot better!
Weather. I haven't had too many problems adjusting to the weather yet. Right now, the rainy season is coming to an end and the dry season is upcoming. We've been lucky and haven't had too many REALLY hot days. However, when it does get hot, it is HOT! Almost all Ghanaian's walk around and have some sort of sweat rag with them, a very necessary accessory, and something that I really need to invest in. You'll also notice that here, the Ghanaian's dress up for class and are almost always look very very nice. Girls will wear lots of dresses or jeans with a nice shirt and sandals. Guys typically wear black pants/khaki's with polo, button up, or a nice shirt. I actually really like the concept of students looking presentable and nice, not only for class but basically all the time here. But I must say that I really do miss being able to just wake up and go to class in sweatpants and a t-shirt. That just doesn't happen here.
One of the things that I do love here are the people. They're probably some of the nicest and most welcoming I've ever met, and it's really easy to meet new people and become friends with the locals. We've had random people come up to us and ask how we're doing, help us find our way if we are confused as to where we're going, and want to become your friend. It's different to get used to because in the States I feel building a friendship is more of a gradual process, where as here they may meet you for the first time and become you're friend at that moment. Just like I said, Ghanaian's are one of the most welcoming people, and I truly appreciate that here.   
Now, one of the hardest things for me to adjust to here has been the amount of pass time there is. I'm the type of person that if I am not doing something, I feel that I should be. So here, when I only have one class on Monday and it's not until 5:30pm, it's so foreign to me to have the whole day to myself, and I don't know what to do with myself! I'm starting to find things to do to occupy my free time here whether it's going for a run, shooting hoops, going to one of the many markets in Accra, or the mall, keeping up with my journal, read a book, walk around campus, browse the web, and taking naps. Oh, naps! Back home, I never had time to really take naps, and here I probably take a nap almost every other day. When there is nothing else to do, or I don't feel like doing anything, I have grown accustom to confiding  myself with my bed.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Orientation Week Comes To An End

This past week has truly been an amazing experience. I have met some of the greatest people within our ISEP/MAP group, as well as others staying in the International Student Hostel (ISH). But the people who have really made this journey so transitional and memorable are the ISEP coordinators and our Ghanaian guides. They’re always watchin over and taking care of us and have become very close with all of them, love them like my own brothers and sisters, Awushi, Shadrach, Obed, and Afiba
So, this whole week we’ve been taken well care of. We’ve been shuttled around Accra, seeing all kinds of markets, discount stores, museums, the beach, and more. Driving and getting around in Accra is definitely different from what I’m use to back home. The streets are SO busy, bumper to bumper most of the time with cars, trucks, taxis and tro-tros cruising down the streets just trying to get to where they are going. It’s not uncommon to hear lots of honking and beeping, and pedestrians don’t have the right away most of the time. Riding in a tro-tro was a new experience, trying to fit as many people as you can into a van, ignoring personal space and sometimes body odor. And it wasn’t a slow process either. The van drives up shouting where the tro-tro is going and if it’s where you’re heading, you get on as fast as you can to ensure a spot, otherwise you’ll be waiting for the next one to come by.
La Body Beach was beautiful!! I love beaches and walking in the ocean. It was a perfect day to go, and everyone had a blast, taking photos, watching people perform acrobatic stunts, drumming, and swimming. My personal favorite moment was right before we left, there was some Hip-life music playing (a combination of high-life music and hip-hop) and a few of us decided to go dance. And soon everyone was out dancing around this young boy busting a move and groovin to the music, showing us how to dance. And let me tell you this little kid could dance!

Speaking of music, the music here is amazing! There’s hip-life, high life, reggae, Nigerian, and much more. Every time I hear the music playing, I find myself moving. Whether I’m bobbing my head, swayin back and forth, tapping my foot, or full out dancing, I just can’t contain myself. There’s just something about it that makes you want to get up and dance, it’s so lively and upbeat. Some of our guides even gave a few of us some their music that they listen to. Needless to say, they are now on my ipod. J
The most recent trip we’ve taken with our ISEP group was to Cape Coast. It was amazing. The experience of touring the Cape Coast Castle, originally said to have been built for the trade in timber and gold, but later was used in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. I'd have to say that the tour was very eye-opening and educational. But, it’s hard to put into words the emotions and experience of walking through the very same dungeons that thousands of slaves once crammed into, waiting to be shipped off.  We may learn about slave trades in school, but until you actually see what it was like for them it’s a totally different matter. 
Continuing on, after our tour we headed to our Botel (like a hotel) but it was on the water, which had crocodiles!! It was a really fun night filled with birthday cake for a group member, singing and dancing, and swimming in the pool (not in the water w/ the crocs) The following day we went to Kakum National Park where we walked on 7 canopy rope bridges! It was really fun and I'm glad I'm not scared of heights, which is more than some people could say. And it happen to be raining the whole time we were there, hiking up to the canopy walk bridges, walking across the bridges, and walking back down to the start. To some contrary, the rain actually made it more enjoyable and memorable. Yes, we were all quite soggy when we were done but thats just all part of the experience isn't it?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Packing, Flying, and finally Arriving

My room devoted just to packing!
Sorry for not blogging recently, it's been pretty busy since i have arrived in Ghana! So yes, i have arrived safely. (YEAH, right?!) Anyways, lets start from the beginning, packing. I can NOT express how much i dislike packing for trips! Especially when you procrastinate like I did and have to pack 4 months worth of clothes. Crazy, I know! So after all of the frustrations with figuring out what to pack, my luggage being over the weight limit, or organizing I was glad when Thursday morning finally came. Got up early to take a HOT shower, most likely to be my last one until i get back home! Packed last min stuff then went out to have coffee with me mumsie [: Called the bf, Josh, that we were leaving for the Appleton airport so he could meet us there, said our sad fair wells (which i hate by the way!) and boarded the plane.This was the first time that I have ever flown by myself. Therefore, I was a little nervous, especially about Atlanta's airport, hearing it was SO big. However, I sat next to a gentlemen on my first flight who has flown many many times through ATL's airport and kindly gave me very helpful advice. Needless to say, I made it to Ghana with no problems, and finally met some other students who will be studying at the Univ. of Ghana through ISEP as well, which was kind of a relief to know that I they were in the same boat as me: excited, confused, anxious, nervous and anything else you could think of. It wasn't until I actually stepped out of the Accra's airport and saw the new land, that I realized that I am actually here. I have made it to Ghana, and it's going to become my new home for the next few months. It was a crazy concept for me to wrap my head around. Furthermore, after our long day and night of flying we drove to the univ. met our student Ghanaian guides, coordinators, other ISEP students, and got our rooms. For some of us (me included) rooms are temporary because we will move in with a Ghanaian roommate once they arrive at the Hostel.
So far, so good. And like us students have heard many times thus far, akwaaba! More posts and pics to come!
Outside of Accra's airport, waiting in our bus.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Starting a New Chapter

Just to make those of you who may be geographically illiterate, or just need a review of African geography, here is a map of Africa. Ghana, the country in which I will be traveling to, is in yellow. And as some of you may know one of my good friends, Anne Marx studied abroad this summer in Nigeria, which is the third country to the right of Ghana!