February 28, 2010

Ghanaian students contribute to virtual library

An interview I conducted in 2009 was recently published at Global Voices Online. You can check out the whole interview there at Ghanaian Students Contribute to Virtual Media Library

In July 2009 I had the privilege of catching up with old friends and meeting some new faces when Jonathan Thurston, his wife Kristi, and past and present students arrived in Ghana to carry out a book making project with students at a primary school in Elmina, in the Central Region of Ghana.
What’s so special? They use simple, portable technology to inspire creativity and facilitate learning among Ghana’s poorest students. And they use ‘social media’ to establish networks with like-minded individuals and organizations internationally, enhancing development opportunities and increasing the possibility of involving other communities and countries as the organization grows.

February 27, 2010

Are you MaD?: Education for change

We're doing a series on Making a Difference at G-lish. This is based on our new page, Are You MaD?, which gives you simple ways to make a difference in the various fields focused on the developing world, from education, to micro-finance and peace-building, to name a few. You can check out our post from today, Are you MaD?: Education at www.g-lish.org.

See Inside the Insider's Guide to Ghana

February 26, 2010

Ghana Blogs I like

Here's a round-up of some of my favourite blogs relating to Ghana by Ghanaians and foreigners alike.

One of the most informative blogs written by a Ghanaian, in my view, is Accra Conscious Forever. Check out the latest post on Twestival using social media to raise funds for education for needy children around Ghana.

When it comes to food, there is no better blog than Betumi. You can read about every kind of dish from Ghana you can imagine at this site. 

Another top Ghanaian writer is E.K. Bensah and his blog The Trials and Tribulations of a Freshly Arrived Denizen of Ghana, with a fantastic view of Akosombo Bridge as the main header. If you want to know what it's like to get caught in Accra traffic, read  The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Spintex Road Traffic. (Great title, crappy situation.)

One of the most beautiful Ghanaian women writers is Maya Mame of Maya's Earth Blog. Her blog is quite personal and gives you a sense of how life is for a Ghanaian-Swede woman bringing up a family here. You also get a sense of life in Ghana.

February 25, 2010

My Town: Cape Coast

I've started a small series of posts on the theme My Town based on places I've lived around the world in which I post images that tell that town's story, not necessarily what you see in tourist brochures. Living is anything over 4 months...for me. Some of these photos were taken by a friend and former volunteer, Tina. Some were by me. My photos aren't too crash hot, but Tina's are fantastic.So welcome to Cape Coast:
Over the rooftops towards the ocean by Tina. Cape is a hilly town and there are wonderful views if you can handle the sweaty walk to the top.

By Tina. Funerals are a common site on Fridays and weekends all over Cape and Ghana for that matter. This was right outside my former office.

By Tina. Along Jackson Street (Coastal Forex is in that building in the background on the right). You'll meet cheeky children like this everywhere.

By Tina. Fishermen pulling in the nets outside Oasis.

By Tina. In the other direction, boys playing football on the beach. Cape Coast Castle in the background.

By Tina. Another view of hilly Cape with the ocean in the background

By Tina. My favourite jollof rice lady, sitting opposite Melcom, on the main street of Cape Coast

These cleaning and tooth paste advertisements covered the whole wall of the building by the one main traffic light in town some years ago.

February 22, 2010

Baobab photos and sunsets in Bolgatanga

A gorgeous sunset through the baobab tree in Bolgatanga.

February 18, 2010

Feathered friends in Ghana: photos

The rooster in our yard giving the visiting guinea fowl the once over.

The rooster giving the guinea fowls short shrift. He was cockadoodledoing like a crazy rooster.

February 16, 2010

Top 10 travel moments in the past 4.5 years

Top 10 travel moments in the past 4 years

1. I was dancing in a Vietnamese disco with my workshop trainees (we were in the middle of a 6 day workshop—they made us go). Right there on the dance floor they spontaneously broke out into the game dance we made up that day as part of a workshop energizer. It was truly fun and not what I was expecting to experience during an intensive training schedule. They were such a fun and friendly group to work with.

2. On my first trip to Mole our trotro broke down halfway between Kumasi and Tamale. We were busting to pee and asked a young girl in a kiosk if there was a toilet nearby. She led us behind the roadside buildings into what turned out to be a sprawling, shaded village that was hidden from the highway. It was my first walk through a real village. There were men and women weaving cane baskets, like the type you find in Asia, under old trees and it was very clean and tidy. It was one of my most memorable moments in Ghana.

3. When I was teaching at school in Kumasi the rain suddenly pelted down right on the final bell one afternoon, breaking the dry season. We couldn’t go anywhere and it was the first rain in months so the children were splashing in the mud and others made up a dance forming a large circle on the verandah. They pulled me in the middle and I ended up doing the split finger over the eye thing from Pulp Fiction (remember Uma Thurman and Travolta?). The kids copied and there we were doing that scene in a big circle in the rain. When I came back to visit after leaving, the first thing they did when they saw me approach was run up and start doing that scene again!

4. Making it to the top of Wli waterfalls. By no means an arduous climb by mountaineering standards, it was still exhausting and tough and one of the most rewarding travel experiences I’ve ever had.

Courtesy of http://farm1.static.flickr.com/75/184741555_25c941de10.jpg

 5. The day the preacher removed a huge wooden dildo from a sack and asked my friend to help demonstrate condom rolling techniques on a 4 hour journey between Accra and Hohoe. You just never know what you’re going to experience in a trotro in Ghana. I was actually speechless. We both declined, but the preacher did hot business that day. Young and old, the passengers were throwing notes at him for both the femdoms and condoms.

6. Same Vietnamese workshop, the participants took myself and my co-trainee out on a surprise dinner (I think it was the next night) to an ethereal park-like garden restaurant in the Hue countryside, about 30 minutes out of town. It was decorated with dozens of lanterns glowing in the night and it was actually cold—I hadn’t felt cold for 20 months. We wandered among gorgeous trees and bridges over ponds to our table where they treated us to a raucous evening of laughter, jokes and authentic, delicious local Vietnamese cuisine and endless Hue beers.

7. The day I realised I could direct visitors around Cape Coast. I remember thinking, I’m directing people around an African town! I couldn’t believe it.

8. On a trip to northern Cambodia my friend and I decided to try the “bamboo railway”. We found the railway man in a shack by a train track about 10 minutes out of town. He assembled the train on the tracks (not before an actual cargo train passed us) before our eyes, helped by his tough little son or grand son. First they put the two sets of wheels on the track. Then they laid a bamboo tray on the wheels. Then they put a mat on the tray. Then they put a generator motor on the back. They started the motor. The two of us piled on and a few local kids climbed on the back. He gunned the motor and we started to roll along the tracks! We gathered speed and were hooting along on this less than double-bed sized tray train when I asked my friend what would happen if a real train came along. Would we jump off our train? The whole area was still heavily land-mined and I didn’t fancy any stunt diving into the bushes. As it happened, we came upon the train that passed us about 15 minutes up the track after we crossed an old bridge under which we could see the river way below beneath the tray…and that’s where our few kilometres journey came to an end—one of the most memorable travel experiences in the last few years.

Image courtesy of flickr.com

9. The day Godwin and I managed to pull off a game of football between two sides of the conflict in Bawku. We did it of our own volition for Peace One Day in September 2008. Our efforts had been terribly sabotaged the days before by powers that would only allow it to proceed on their terms and cajoled us throughout the preparations—not because of safety concerns (that was never mentioned), but rather political point scoring. We did it anyway and succeeded. We had two otherwise bitter and warring groups play a game of football together that, when it came time to blow the whistle, they begged to continue even though it was Ramadan and most of them were fasting and unable to drink in that heat. It brought a day of happiness, at least, and some hope to the people in that town.

10. This is possibly my most personally embarrassing moment of the past 4 years and one that I’ve only told a few people—until now. My friend and I traveled to northern Cambodia (2007—same trip as train track moment) during a couple of days break off work—we were working on the same project in Phnom Penh. In town there was a massage centre set up for blind people called Seeing Hands; they had offices around the country. It was a great organisation and we decided to treat ourselves to a massage since we’d worked pretty hard. The blind masseurs were both men but we didn’t think anything of this. I was just getting comfortable on the table when I felt something poking me in the head. It was just a light poke, but it was about crotch height for the masseur. I froze. I kept telling myself to relax but this thing continued to poke my head while he was massaging my shoulders, then my arms and then my waist. I thought to myself that I should sneak a peek, but I was too afraid to move at all lest he guess my thoughts so I stayed dead still. I felt very uncomfortable the entire 2 hour massage. Shortly before the 2 hours was up I heard a beeping sound. I looked up to see the masseuse remove a small gadget from a loose pocket sitting in the front of his smock—at crotch height. It was his beeper, a timing device letting him know when the 2 hours was almost up. The beeper has been hanging in his pocket, swaying and….poking! I hadn’t enjoyed the massage at all and as soon as we were outside I explained my mistake to my friend. She broke into laughter and explained she had exactly the same thoughts and experience. I really should have opened my eyes when I had the chance. That particular trip was a farce of hilarious experiences.

February 15, 2010

Photos from Ghana: Bolgatanga

A photo of a sunset near home recently

A photo of a sunrise near home...6 a.m. in the morning

The boys playing the beautiful game near home recently. You can see the dryness at this time of year. The rainy season will begin again around April or May.

February 12, 2010

How to Shake Hands in Ghana

You might be wondering what the fuss is, but there is a certain way of shaking hands in Ghana. We made a small clip to show you. First grasp hands and shake with your right hand as standard in western countries, then...you snap your middle fingers together to make a clicking noise!

Check out the clip here.

Oh, and the noise in the background are the dozens of guinea fowls in our garden!

February 9, 2010

Accra accommodation: Rising Phoenix and photos

On this cloudy morning the only sunlight to break through shone a golden line over the horizon. You may just be able to see the glow.
On our recent trip to Accra we took these photos from the verandah of our room at The Rising Phoenix. The Rising Phoenix is the former Akuma Village that we refer to in Ghana Highlights Part 1 and which we've updated in the Insider's Guide to Ghana. For those living in Accra, Rising Phoenix will hold free yoga and meditation classes daily from 7 a.m. They also hold reggae nights on Fridays with a 5 GHC cover charge. And, they have an excellent vegetarian menu with Greek Salads ranging from 3.00 GHC and, for example, Ghanaian dishes with a twist: Jollof rice with tofu. It's very good value and the view is spectacular. It's also just a 5 minute walk to Kwame Nkrumah's mausoleum and the Cultural Centre and there is an excellent Vodaphone Internet Cafe directly behind.
Rooms sit on a cliff overlooking the ocean--the views from this photo--and cost between 20-30 GHC per night. A great budget option in the centre of Accra. We have this and plenty more in the new guide. Subscribe on the right if you would like to be updated upon the release. Discounts for the first 24 hours and a fun competition with prizes for travelers in Ghana.

When the sun finally broke through the clouds it cast a heavenly glow over the ocean and the fishermen pulling in their overnight haul.

February 8, 2010

Basket Day in Bolgatanga, Ghana

I took these photos on market day in Bolgatanga. Every third day, in rotation, basket makers come into town from outlying villages and sell their baskets to middle-men traders. Sometimes they may have only 2 or 3 baskets to sell, but this is enough to buy food for a few more days.

In the Insider's Guide to Ghana we outline a workshop you can do with women basket makers in a village just 5 minutes outside of town. Half-day and full-day workshops will include weaving and taking home your own basket, a village tour and experiencing a taste of life in northern Ghana. The workshop will cost 20 GHC for a full day and 15 GHC for half day, inclusive of finished basket--your gift. Look out for this and hundreds of other insider tips and off-the-beaten track attractions in the guide--coming soon!
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