This weekend was a CIEE trip to Kumasi and it was absolutely amazing! We had planned to leave at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday and we took off from campus at 6:45 a.m. which is really good for Ghana! We also took two buses, so there were spots for everyone right from the beginning, something else that doesn't always seem to happen here, haha.
We arrived in Kumasi around noon, had lunch at Pizza Inn (yum, pizza!) and then we split into two groups and we were off to two different villages in Kumasi. Quick geography lesson: There are 10 regions in Ghana, Kumasi is one of them. Ashanti is the capital of the Kumasi region. OK! My group first went to an Adinkra village, where we got to watch them make the ink they use for stamping and then got to try our own hand at stamping cloth. For those of you who are curious, Adrinka is the name for different symbols the Ashanti's have that mean different things. There is a very common symbol you see all over Ghana that means “except God” which is just one of the many they have. There's all sorts of others: humility, unity, fertility, go back to your roots, etc. So this village, has these symbols carved out of wood, and then they make their own liquid dye, and stamp pieces of cloth and then sell the cloth to make a living. Since there were 25 Obruni's, I think the village was more excited about what they could sell us, then showing us how they did it, but I still really enjoyed it.
The next stop was a Kente cloth village. Kente cloth handwoven cloth, and it is traditionally worn by chiefs, people with honor, or people with lots of money, because it is very costly. There are different patterns that are made for different ethnicities, different chiefs, whatever it may be, a Kente cloth pattern can be made specifically for one person. The looms they use to weave are really neat, and I got some great pictures, which you can all see in May, because I don't think the internet will ever work fast enough here. I met a man named Peter inside this workshop who said he had been weaving Kente cloth for 21 years, and he has done some pretty impressive work. He was very proud of the different things he has made and his skills with Kente, and he was really happy when I took a picture of him with his loom. He also didn't pester me while I was looking at his cloth for sale, so that gave him lots of brownie points too. Leaving the Kente cloth village we somewhat accosted by all of the people trying to sell knick knacks to us on our way back to the bus. A few of them men kept trying to force their way on to the bus so we would buy something, and it ended up being quite an adventure of letting CIEE people on the bus, but keeping the hawkers out of it. Kind of crazy, but we're all still alive.
After that we drove through the Kumasi Central Market, which is the biggest in West Africa, and I believe it! There were shops/stalls/people everywhere you looked! We were going to walk through it, but after we tried to for just 10 minutes, it was much to crowded and we had to give up. It was kind of nice driving through the market though, because traffic is horrible, so we sat for a long time on the bus and really got to see lots of things. And all this without the hassle of being bothered by people to buy things, so nice!
After that we were off to the hotel which was sooooooooooo nice. It was the Golden Tulip, which is apparently an international chain, and they sure know how to make things fancy. I completely forget that I was even in Ghana. The carpet was super plush and soft, everywhere was comfortably cool, and there was a bathtub and hot water! I took two baths while we were there! :) Apparently Mr. Gyasi (our program coordinator) is friends of a friends who has some kind of connection to the hotel, so we got a great deal on it. Another awesome part to the hotel was that the Black Stars were staying there! So when we would be walking around the hotel, we would randomly see them around, it was awesome! I'm pretty sure all of us were much more excited than any of them, haha. After a delicious dinner with real salad and fruit, I took an hour long bath and then happily curled up in my bed, with a comforter and watched TV, it was so wonderful!
Sunday morning I woke up not feeling well at all, and was hoping it was just from lack of food, but after eating breakfast I still felt nauseous and really not up to doing much. There was a planned trip to one of the museums in Kumasi, but I was really worried about missing out on the football match later in the day, so I stayed at the hotel and just rested for the morning. I'm not going to lie, I took a second bath and just read in my comfy bed, and it was one of the best things ever. I also drank a ton of liquids and that seemed to help as well.
At 1:00 we took off for the football match which was starting at 5:00, but I guess you have to get there early. The match was Ghana verses Benin and it was a qualifying match for the World Cup in 2010 (which is happening in South Africa). I guess games that matter for World Cup can be pretty intense and full of people, so I think CIEE wanted to be sure to get us there early enough to be safe. On our way in, there were people everywhere, and one of the girls had her wallet stolen. She realized it the second it happened though and ran after the guy and yelled thief really loudly. Everyone close by immediately went after the guy, and her wallet was found on the ground, everything in it, in a matter of about 20 seconds, but it was intense. We had been told that thievery is taken very seriously here and this really proved it. Ghanaians who had been standing by closed in around the thief and wouldn't let him go until police came by, and from there who knows what happened. We still had a ways to go to get to our seats and a lot of people to get through. Abena and Alex (two CIEE leaders) made sure we all had everything really safely in our possession and then we pushed our way through everyone. I felt hands on me everywhere and people trying to reach into where my pockets would be and making grabs for anything. Everyone made it through fine, but the whole experience left me kind of rattled and really glad that we hadn't tried getting through the crowd on our own.
At this point it's about 2:00 in the afternoon and we have three hours to go before the game. I thought I would be bored, but I was so wrong. The fans at theses games are awesomely crazy. There were so many “fan clubs” (as they call themselves) of the Black Stars, or of Black Stars players and most every club had their own mini marching band, so there were trumpets, drums, and loud instruments everywhere. And everyone danced, the whole time! The game went until 7:30 p.m. and they all were dancing and singing the whole time! Ghana won the game, which was great, but unfortunately, the first and only goal was within the first minute of the game, so there was never another time for everyone to go absolutely crazy, which is to bad. It was definitely a great game to watch and an experience unlike anything I've ever had. It was really neat to see how proud the Ghanaians are of their athletes.
Dinner wasn't until 9:00 p.m. which meant most everyone was starving, but I think CIEE thought ahead on that one, because there was lots of food put out for us. After dinner was more laying around in my incredibly comfortable bed and Ocean's 13 was on TV, wooo! Monday morning was just breakfast at 8:00 and then we hit the road. We couldn't leave on Sunday night because that would get us into Accra in the middle of the night, which wouldn't be safe for anyone, so we got an extra night in amazing luxury and then made good time Monday morning with lack of traffic on the roads. I've got to say, while I loved living so comfortably for those 48 hours, it was kind of hard because it made me realize how much I miss my normal lifestyle at home. I mean, all of the things that made being in the hotel so wonderful, were simple things that I usually have at home. Hot water, soft carpet, not sweating, sleeping with a blanket, wearing pants. None of it was anything fancy, just things that I am used to. So being there made me somewhat homesick, but I think it's worth it for how relaxed and comfortable we all were. And in just seven weeks I will have all those things again! Before that though, I still have hippos and crocodiles, stilt villages, and Togo and Burkina Faso to see!
Sorry this post ended up being so long, but it was a good weekend! Feel free to send a letter my way letting me know how you're doing. Getting mail while I am here is always exciting, and I posted my address, so no excuses! :) For those of you in MN, I hope Spring in finally on it's way!