Cape Coast Castle

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Yesterday my supervisor confirmed that Monday will be my first official day on the job! When I noticed¬†that this start-date gives me four free days, I knew I had to take advantage of them and go on some sort of adventure. I decided to visit Cape Coast, famous for it’s beautiful beaches and proximately to a number of interesting things to see and do, including Cape Coast Castle.

Cape Coast, beautiful even on cloudy days

Cape Coast, beautiful even on cloudy days

To get a chance to see and do some of¬†these interesting things this weekend, I woke¬†up incredibly¬†early (four thirty a.m.!) to catch a morning bus to Kumasi, from where I caught a second bus to my weekend destination. Despite a near-mutiny of the second bus’ driver due to his questionable driving habits, the trip went smoothly. I mostly just stared out the window and munched on plantain chips – tough life, eh?

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Co-op Update & New Book Snippets

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Some of you might have noticed a couple of things: I haven’t posted anything about my co-op job or permanent accommodations and, if you’re my Facebook friend, I’ve been pestering you with a lot of book reviews as part of my ’52 Books In¬†52 Weeks’ reading challenge. These are, in fact, related. How? Well, I’ve been co-op placement limbo as I wait for things to get going so I’m finding myself with a lot of time on my hands, hence all the reading.

Unfortunately, my supervisor at work has been quite ill so it looks like I won’t be officially starting my work term until later this week. (I’ll let you know how things¬†go once they happen, of course!) And, in regards to housing, I’m still in a guest house here in Bibiani as I wait for my apartment to be prepped for me, which has taken a little longer than anticipated.

While these delays have come with some challenges, of course, I’ve been working hard to enjoy my time relaxing (forgive the¬†oxymoron). One of my favourite ways to relax is to read, so much so that I’ve read several books just in¬†the past few days. So, to continue my ‘Book Snippets’ category (which I will be¬†expanding beyond these mini-reviews once I’m finishing my 2014 challenge!), here are the reviews for the books I’ve read over the past few weeks. As proof that reading has been filling my time¬†as of late, note that the last six books I’ve read in the past four days!

52 books in 52 weeks challenge: 12/52
The Death Cure by James Dashner

This the last book of The Maze Runner series. (Well, there’s a prequel but it’s the last if we’re going chronologically…) ‘The Death Cure’ follows the story of Thomas and his friends who are caught in a dystopian future where the world is overrun by a horrible disease called The Flare but I won’t say anything more about the¬†plot since I don’t want to be a Spoiler for the first two books. I enjoyed the first book, ‘The Maze Runner’, but had some issues with the second book ‘The Scorch Trials’ but I was really pleased with how this final book wrapped up the story. I think Dashner did a really good job of bringing everything together at the end and answering most of the questions brought up by the first two books. He also didn’t shy away from the terrible realities of the world he created, which makes for some sad and disturbing scenes but they really add to the book in my opinion. The character development is still a little weak for me, though. For example, even though he’s the narrator, I find I still want to know MORE about Thomas. I appreciated that there was a lot less explaining of the plot so there was a lot more action. It could have used one more chapter at the end for a less abrupt goodbye but, in all, the book was a very satisfying end to the series.¬†(3 stars out of 5)

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Today I Walked Up A Hill

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In keeping with my recent daily routine of roaming around my new town, this morning I took a walk with no destination in mind and in no particular direction. I ended up wandering down a street that became a path that became a goat trail so I had to turn around and walk all the way back.

The 'path' part of that trip

The ‘path’ part of that trip

Once I reached the main road, I looked around, trying to figure out where I should go next. Then I realized that since coming to Bibiani, I’d only ever turned right down this road from the guest house where I’m currently staying. So I took a leap of faith and turned left this time instead.

These guys, too, take leaps of faith

These guys, too, take leaps of faith!

Yesterday, I was speaking with someone who told me you can walk up ‘that hill just over there’. I assumed that this was a journey on which I’d need to be guided but, by turning left instead of right, I stumbled upon the way to get up the hill all on my own. After walking down the road for a few kilometres, it began to curve upwards and become steeper and narrower.

So quiet and green up there

So quiet and green up there

As I climbed (wearing completely inappropriate footwear for the task), I realized how suddenly things got quieter up here. With the town just a little bit below me, it’s hustle and bustle was muffled, giving way to new sights and sounds like a beautiful tan bird with a shocking blue-black tail and even some horrifyingly large centipede-looking creatures. I was reminded then how much of a nature person I am (horrifying bugs aside) because I felt really comfortable just walking by myself surrounded by lush forest.

A little sunlight, despite the clouds

A little sunlight, despite the clouds

When I turned the last corner of the road, I found that this was not actually a road but rather it is someone’s drive-way – there was a large blue house on top of this hill. Despite worries¬†that I might be trespassing, I pressed on, past the house. The stunning view I saw from up there revealed why someone would put a house in such an out-of-the-way location. It turned out that my curious and long hike up this hill was worth it after all!

See? Pretty!

See? Pretty!

So very pretty

So very pretty

Long Walks in Bibiani

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This afternoon I was dripping with sweat from a long walk in the Ghanaian sun when a woman who works at the guest house where I’m staying mentioned that I go out a lot. I found this funny, since I was worried that I wasn’t going out enough, that I wasn’t getting to know Bibiani quickly enough. This¬†wise woman suggested that I purchase a cold drink to cool down and, while I drank my Coca-Cola (charmingly bottled in glass here), I thought about what she said¬†and laughed at my eagerness to explore this new place.

Since my co-op work¬†is now set to begin first-thing next Monday morning, I found myself with several schedule-free days at the end of this week. I generally like to keep a busy schedule so I was a little perplexed by all this free time. As a remedy, I’ve decided to use a lot of it¬†wandering around to get my bearings¬†here, often while munching on bananas or tiger nuts (which are actually tubers, not nuts – surprise!). In keeping with a¬†new tradition on this blog, here are some ‘snippets’ of Bibiani that I’ve observed during my wanderings these past few days.

A typical street in Bibiani

A typical street here in Bibiani

If you walk around with a camera, you’ll make friends.¬†

For the first time since getting to Bibiani, I brought out my DSLR camera. I didn’t anticipate the response I would get from people, though! Children already find me amusing (often I have a little posse of them walking behind me, clapping and singing a local song about an obruni). With a camera, I must have looked all the more entertaining. I now have many pictures of schoolchildren posing adorably for the camera at their request. Not only children are interested: I also have a photo of about eight taxi drivers, several of whom clamoured in just as I was taking the shot, so the result¬†is pretty hilarious. (Side note: One of the taxi drivers proposed to me, which was my second official marriage proposal since arriving in Ghana… All this sun must be doing wonders for me!)

Perhaps a little camera shy, despite the photo being shot at their request

Perhaps a little camera shy, despite the photo being shot at their request

Not so camera shy... my merry gang of suitors

Not so camera shy… my merry gang of suitors

People really remember you. 

I think I’ve mentioned already that I’ve met a lot of people since arriving here. I’ve¬†also¬†already had many, many¬†mini-conversations with people as I walk through the street. Greeting people here is important here, so you end up talking to a lot of people throughout the day. As I run into those I’ve met officially and through greetings here and there again, they always seem to remember my name. And often they say something like, “I saw you walking down XYZ road yesterday” or “I saw you with XYZ person”, showing they’ve been taking note of where I’ve been better than even I have!

You can predict when it’s going to rain very easily.¬†¬†

Last night, I was walking to meet up with a new friend to grab a cold drink in the evening when something happened: suddenly, all the sheep, goats, and people were running in the opposite direction of me, towards shelter. Since¬†I was already halfway to my friend’s¬†place, I figured I should just keep walking. Well, the rain here comes a lot quicker than I thought and I got completely drenched in just a couple of minutes despite my umbrella. When it rains here, it doesn’t mess around! When I arrived at¬†my friend’s house, all we could do was laugh at my misfortune and wait out the storm. I’ve learned from this that if 1) it’s suddenly become windier and, 2) the clouds are looking heavy and, 3) every living thing is taking shelter, it’s going to start raining in less than five minutes so I should run, too.

I'm in love with these flowering trees

See those clouds? I should’ve been running…

Church isn’t just for Sundays.¬†¬†

The two main religions in Ghana are Islam and Christianity. Where I’m staying, there are some Muslims so there’s a mosque in town and even an Islamic school but there are many more Christians including Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians. No matter your religion, though, it is generally speaking a big part of life here in Ghana. It’s tied to family life, social life, and even the workplace, with some offices opening their day with devotion. Churches are often the loveliest buildings here or they are under construction and renovation to become the loveliest buildings. (Near where I’m staying now, there is a small temporary church building that is actually inside a larger half-built church that will be the permanent place of worship once it’s completed. This church-within-a-church is quite a sight!) Moreover, each church has a sign outside it that lists the weekly activities and there’s something happening every night of the week. Even I find church in my routine since my days here seem to begin with the Muslim call to worship around five in the morning and they end with the sound of congregational singing in Christian churches in the evening.

There is an abundance of animal life.  

There are many more goats, sheep, and chickens here than there were in Accra. This pleases me since baby goats are adorable and because¬†be¬†awoken by roosters is actually much better than it sounds. There are also so¬†many lizards. The smaller ones are very quick (almost impossible to photograph) and they are a dark grey, which blends well with the cement walls common here. Then there are the larger ones, which are black and orange. I have a bit of a soft spot for them because they do this cute little move to see better that makes them look like they’re doing push-ups. Finally, while I’ve not seen many of them, I know there is a wide variety of birds here since I can hear their calls throughout the day.

I'm pretty proud I was fast enough to grab this shot!

I’m pretty proud I was fast enough to grab this shot!

This is a very brief overview of some preliminary observations¬†– I know I have so much more to discover here in Bibiani and I’m really looking forward to it!

Motorbikes, shade trees, and bright colours are all common here

Motorbikes, shade trees, and bright colours are all common here

Bikes, too, are a popular form of transportation

Bikes, too, are a popular form of transportation

Live from Bibiani!

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Yesterday I traveled from Accra to Bibiani via the Kumasi Road, the main route through Ghana. That means that I’m finally here, in Bibiani, where I’ll be living and working over the next several months until January 2015! The past two days has been a fantastic blur of new faces, places, experiences as I get to know the town and meet the people kind enough to share it with me for the next little while. For now, I’m in King’s Paradise (fancy name, huh?), which is a guest house, and I’ll be here until Friday or Saturday when the renovations of my own place are finished.

I’ll be living just off the main road, in an apartment inside a one-floor building. Right now, it’ll be just me in one of the two bedrooms, but in June or July another volunteer will be joining me, which is really exciting! I’ve visited the apartment and, though it’s not equipped with air conditioning, it’s lovely. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting my neighbours, who are all very welcoming and who all happen to be either teachers or nurses.

Bibiani itself is quite small, with only a few thousand people in town and a few more thousand more rurally. Because it is smaller, it isn’t as busy as Ghana’s big cities like Accra or Kumasi, which is closest to me at only an hour away via tro-tro. Everything is a little less hectic here in comparison to the cities, which I love since I’m not from the city so small town is more my pace. Of course there are pros and cons to living in a small town. For example, pros = more cute and hiliarious sheep, cows, and goats hanging around, and cons = so far, the power has been out more than it’s been on.

After meeting many of the people here, including the Deputy Police Chief, the Director of Education, and some District Assemblymen, I feel very welcomed. There’s even a former WUSC intern here who has been amazing – we spent a couple of hours today just walking around and through the market just to help me get to know the place. She’s introduced me to many of her family members and has even started helping me learn more phrases in Twi, starting with her dog’s name, which means ‘God’s way’.

It’s been a big change going from Ottawa to Accra to Bibiani in just over a week so I definitely have a lot to adjust to but right now I’m doing alright, I’d say. It’ll be nice to get settled in at work tomorrow, when I run through my placement mandate and work plan with the Girls’ Education Officer. It’ll also be nice to get into my apartment over the weekend. I’ve already purchased cute purple sheets to personalize the place!

Now that I’ve got my internet up and running here through this handy-dandy (but sadly very slow) Vodaphone internet stick, and as long as I’ve got power to charge my MacBook, I’ll continue to post regularly about my life and co-op placement in Bibiani so stay tuned!

First Snippets of Accra

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When I first got to the WUSC office in Accra, I was greeted with many handshakes and smiles and I was told, “Welcome to Ghana – where it’s hot, dusty, and disorganized!” It’s a funny phrase because it’s pretty true. Being here only five days so far, though, I’ve learned that it’s so much more than that, too. Here are a few¬†of my very first impressions.

Accra is gorgeous, flush with green foliage and deep red soil.

Accra is gorgeous, flush with green foliage and deep red soil.

Sure, it’s hot.¬†

You’ll sweat through your shirt, drink lots of water, and begin to worship air conditioning. But the Ghanaians won’t complain so I’ve made it my personal mission that neither will I! Besides, there are lots of advantages of a perpetual summer. Most of them involve sunshine. Continue reading

Journey to Ghana & First Impressions

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I’ve officially been in Accra, the capital of Ghana, for two entire days! Here, I’ll tell an abbreviated story of my journey through¬†photos I’ve Instagrammed to make them look much more chic than twenty-four hours of travel actually is.

1. Trudeau Airport in Montreal

First plane of the trip

Plane numbero uno of the trip

For me, there are two particularly fun¬†things about flying KLM. First, my initials are KLM, so it’s practically my personal airline. Second, they don’t fly out of Ottawa but they make up for it by chartering a bus to Trudeau airport that you pick up at the Ottawa VIA train station. What’s so amusing is that the bus is labelled a ‘flight’! My mum put it well when she said it truly was a¬†‘planes, trains, and automobiles’ kind of¬†trip. Continue reading