A Travellerspoint blog

Welcome to Ghana

Accra, Ghana

Ete Sen! (hello in Twi)

I've had quite a culture shock the past few days in Ghana.

My flights here were...eventful. On the (thankfully) short flight from Cape Town to Jo'burg I was seated in a group of Jehovah's Witnesses fresh from some convention, and they were all very chatty..especially with me. Good times! The flight from Jo'burg to Accra was incredibly cramped (even my knees couldn't fit in the seats!) and randomly stopped in Lagos, Nigeria for awhile..none of the people going to Accra were aware that we were stopping in Nigeria, but most of the people on the plane got off there!

I was met at the airport by the lovely Quarshi, a guy who works for the volunteer organization. He took me to the accommodation, where he had made me a little breakfast. After getting unpacked and taking an accidental nap, I met with John, the director of the program, to learn a bit more about my placement. They're really helpful here and want to make sure that I have a good experience. Later, Quarshi and I went around the city by foot and by tro-tro (vans that are the city's only transport system) to see the main market, bus station, a lovely supermarket filled with very expensive imported foods, and to get a Ghanian sim card for my phone.

Accra is very different from anywhere I've been so far...it's a capital city, but there are open sewers and very few paved roads. People walk around with baskets of fruit, bins of clothes or shoes, and even suitcases on their heads. It's really dusty, because they get winds at this time of year that blow in dust from the Sahara, so you get so dirty going outside, and it's insanely hot - when my flight landed at 5:30am, it was already 27 degrees (80 F)!!! Usually it's about 35 at the hottest part of the day (which is basically all day). And water here comes in little plastic bags that you bite open with your teeth, rather than bottles...everything is different!

Yesterday Quarshi went with me to the autism centre (I have to take two tro-tros to get there and walk through a very confusing market, so he's taking me there and picking me up for this week so I can learn the route). I met with Auntie Baaba, who is the lady in charge, and Mr. Mossi, the program director, as well as all the care givers. Most of the care givers are actually employed by the family and are household staff, so have very little training in autism. The centre has about 30 kids crammed into 3 small rooms, and the staff ratio is at best 1:2, but the kids are very high-needs and really need 1:1 (or some even 2:1!) support. The staff really do work hard though, with their limited resources.

I spent the day helping out and getting to know the kids and the staff. Today I got there bright and early for a full day of work. There's lots of singing and dancing involved all day, which the kids love. It's tough though - the kids all have a lot of sensory needs and the centre has no sensory toys, and sometimes the staff get overwhelmed and just let the kids do what they want. This afternoon Kofi, an incredibly tall, skinny, and strong guy, got very upset and was hitting me and grabbing my arms so hard he left bruises and welts, and none of the staff were very helpful...it was really hard. Later today I met with Auntie Serwah, the founder of the centre. She lived in the US for years, and her son has autism, and she returned to Ghana because she knew there were kids with autism here who had no services at all. She started the centre 10 years ago with 3 kids, and she reads everything she can about autism treatments. The kids are SO lucky to have someone so wonderful on their side! She's really trying to help them as best she can with the limited resources she has.

It's definitely going to be a good experience, and already it's made me so appreciative of the services kids with autism have access to in Western countries. Auntie Serwah wants to get all the ideas she can from me while I'm here, and I already have SO many!

This weekend I'm headed to Cape Coast, a beach town with lots of castles and a national park, with a girl from the volunteer house. Then it's a short work week and then shockingly Christmas! How did that happen so fast?!

xx

Posted by meggiep 09:33 Comments (0)

Cape of Good Times

Cape Town, South Africa

Hey everyone!

I've had SUCH an amazing week here in Cape Town! It's a beautiful city in a beautiful setting, and my hostel is full of amazing people!!!

After the beach on Tuesday, I hung around Wednesday with some of the awesome people here, afraid to go in the sun and make my sunburn even worse! On Thursday I went on a tour of the winelands - Stellenbosch, Franscheok, and Paarl, which are all right outside Cape Town. The first winery we went to also had a cheese station, so we went from the wine station to the cheese station and back...at least we got our exercise!! The third winery had a chocolate tasting as well. We had 7 or 8 wines at the first 3, and at least 12 at the last one, including many sparklers! It was a fantastic day. We had a lovely lunch during the day right in the vineyards, with delicious food and of course more wine!!

After recovering on Friday, I went to check out the District 6 Museum. During the 60s, the worst of Apartheid, the government declared District 6, a neighbourhood in Cape Town, a 'whites only' area. The neighbourhood was filled with black and mixed-race families and was a strong community, but the government evicted everyone in the neighbourhood and relocated them to townships on the edge of the city, which had much worse living conditions. Many families were split up and the community was no more - because of this, gangs in the township grew strong as people searched for some sense of community. The District 6 neighbourhood was completely demolished. Even today, there are no houses there because the history is too dark. The government is now working with former residents to establish land claims. It was a pretty shocking glimpse into Apartheid and the worst of humanity..very emotional.

But that's Cape Town - so vibrant and fun, but with such a dark, sad history.

Yesterday I went on a tour of the Cape Peninsula. We drove south to catch a boat to seal island - just like what it sounds like, it's full of seals! Then we went to Boulders Beach to see the massive colony of African penguins...so cute!! We then drove right down to the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve. We biked all the way to the Cape, which is the most south-western point of the African continent. It was beautiful biking, but there was a crazy head wind the entire way!! We then hiked up to a view point and over to Cape Point. Such a beautiful day!!

Last night we went out...I've definitely been doing too much of that here in Cape Town! As a taxi driver told me, they party here from Wednesday to Wednesday, and I've been participating!! There are crazy gale-force winds today...they're called South Easterlies and they are INCREDIBLY strong!! It clears out the smog and clouds though, so people in Cape Town appreciate it.

I'm very sad to leave Cape Town...it's such a cool, crazy city and I've met so many amazing people. I'm excited for Ghana though...I've been looking at pictures of the autism centre where I'll be working and I can't wait to meet the kids!!

Here are my Cape Town pictures...
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2348973&id=13604534&l=612016dde7

xxx

Posted by meggiep 23:17 Comments (0)

African Lion Safari

Masai Mara National Park, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa

Jambo! (hello in kiswahili)

I got into Cape Town yesterday after an amazing 3 day safari in Masai Mara park in Kenya, arguably the best game reserve in Africa! (according to my guide!)

I arrived in Nairobi on Thursday morning, and it was cold (well, 20 degrees, which feels cold to me after Thailand!) and pouring rain. My airport pickup didn't show up and the taxi driver ended up completely ripping me off - I paid at the desk at the airport, and then went inside the hostel when I got there and he told the hostel that I hadn't paid him, so they paid him again! I had to pay double...not a nice way to be welcomed to Kenya!! After that everything went very well though. Kenyans are lovely and warm and the staff at the hostel was wonderful. I spent most of the day sleeping and watching tv with fellow guests since none of us wanted to go out into the rain!

Luckily, Friday morning was lovely and sunny. I was picked up at 7 and after we picked up the two other people going on the safari, a Canadian couple from Victoria, we made the long, bumpy drive to Masai Mara! Along the way we stopped at the Great Rift Valley, a massive valley that stretches from Israel to Mozambique. We got into the camp, had our lunch, and headed out for our first game drive. My lovely guide warned us that since it was only going to be a 3 hour game drive we might not see much - but we were very lucky! We saw lions, elephants, and tons of zebras, giraffes, impala, gazelles, giant buffalo, hartebeests, wildebeests, and topi! The park is very lush and green since it's just the end of the rainy season. As the sun set we drove back to the camp, had our dinner, and went to bed.

Saturday we were off at around 8 for an all-day game drive. We saw everything that we saw the day before, along with hippos, baboons, crocodiles, warthogs, a small cheetah, and a leopard! We were really excited about the leopard, since they're very hard to find in the park (they like to hide and their spots help them blend in very well).

Sunday morning we set out at 6 for one last game drive. We saw lots of herd animals, and a herd of giraffes seemed to say goodbye to us as we left - they walked up to the van and looked at us for awhile, before moving on! Sunday we drove back to Nairobi, and I spent the afternoon looking over my MANY pictures and relaxing. Sunday night I went for a massive Ethiopian dinner with two guys from the hostel. Ethiopian food is delicious!!!

Monday I was up at 4 to get to the airport for my 7:00 flight to Johannesburg. I had to hang out in the Jo'burg airport for 4 hours before I got my flight to Cape Town, but it wasn't too bad since it's a really nice airport. Last night a bunch of us from the hostel went for pizza and to see a movie - District 9, which is about aliens landing in Jo'burg and being put into a refuge camp, which turns into a slum. It was a pretty cool movie, definitely good that I saw it while in South Africa!

The next week in Cape Town is going to be really jam-packed. There's so much to do here! The hostel I'm staying at is really nice and filled with lovely people. Yesterday some girls and I went to the beach, and despite using my trusty spf 50 and reapplying, I got horribly sun burnt...I guess the sun is really strong here! The other two girls I was with are even more burnt than me, so today we're drinking lots of smoothies and taking it easy (probably shopping...I'm so out of control with the shopping!) Then tomorrow Karen, a girl from Utah, and I are going on a tour of the Cape Winelands! The tour includes wine tasting, as well as cheese and chocolate tasting, so I'll be in heaven! And then on Saturday we're headed south to Cape Point to see the penguin and seal colonies. Should be a great week!

Here are safari pics -enjoy!!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2348321&id=13604534&l=cd23189776

Kwaheri
xx

Posted by meggiep 23:08 Comments (0)

So long, Asia!!

Ko Tao and Bangkok

Sawatdee-ka everyone!!

I'm very sad to be saying goodbye to Asia tomorrow, but super excited about my next adventure - a safari in Masai Mara park in Kenya, a week in Cape Town. and then a month volunteering in Ghana!!

Our last few days in Ko Tao were delightfully chilled out and relaxed. We spent both days on the dock of our guesthouse, tanning, swimming, drinking lots of fruit shakes and eating lots of delicious Thai food (I'll miss it so much...the Thai we get at home isn't Thai at all!) It was really sad saying goodbye to Beck and Karl yesterday morning...I've had such a blast with them the past 3 weeks. Luckily I'm swinging by Liverpool to visit them on my way home!

The trip back to Bangkok was much calmer and less eventful than the trip to Ko Tao..the sea wasn't nearly as rough and no one got sick this time around! The hardest part of the journey was having to deal with the taxi drivers once I got in Bangkok who were trying to rip me off - one offered to take me to my hostel for 300 baht, and when I finally found a taxi driver willing to use his meter, it only cost me 80 baht! It gets annoying, people always trying to take advantage of you and rip you off, especially after a long day of travel. I'll have plenty more of that in the next few months though!

Today and tomorrow I'm just relaxing in Bangkok. The city is in a frenzy of decorating because December 5th is the king's birthday, the biggest holiday of the year. There are lights and giant posters of the king everywhere, and twice walking around today we all had to stop for the national anthem!! Oh Thailand...I did some last minute shopping (obviously) and went to Boots, the amazing British drug store chain, to stock up on good sunscreen and bug spray, and pretty smelling shampoo - all luxuries I'm not sure I'll be able to find in Africa and India! The next 3 1/2 months of my trip I'll definitely be roughing it quite a bit more than what I have up to this point - should be fun though!!

I'm sad to be leaving Asia...I'm not quite ready to leave yet! But I've had a blast (despite throwing up more in the past 6 weeks than in my entire life!) and am more tan than I've ever been! I can't wait to come back here on my next trip, do some more diving and tanning, and eat more of this fabulous food!

Here are the final pictures from Thailand!!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2344548&id=13604534&l=2ce0ead8ae

Africa here I come!!
xx

Posted by meggiep 17:44 Comments (0)

Underwater World

Ko Tao, Thailand

Sawatdee-ka!!

I've had such a fabulous week here on this lovely tropical island paradise! We arrived early Saturday morning, and the oh-so reliable Thai railway service got us again - our train was late getting in, so we missed the morning ferry to Ko Tao. We had to hang around until 1, and then had the worst boat trip of our lives! The swells were 2 or more meters high, and everyone on the boat got horribly sick! The crew were lovely and had bags, kleenex, and sympathetic looks for all of us. It was so wavy I thought a few times that we might capsize...very scary! And when I leave Monday I have to do it all again! Luckily, the sea has been calmer the past few days, fingers crossed it will stay this way!

We were exhausted Saturday and spent the afternoon sleeping, and then spent two lovely days lying on the beach working on our tans. I've actually got a pretty impressive one now, but unfortunately it will fade by the time I go home, you'll all just have to trust me and my pictures!

On Tuesday Karl and I started our scuba certification course (Beck decided not to do it). Tuesday was just a classroom day, and Wednesday morning we spent in the pool learning our new skills. In the afternoon we finished up the classroom stuff and wrote our (very easy) exam. Then yesterday and today we had 4 dives in the ocean! It was absolutely amazing getting deep under the water (up to 20 meters under!). There were so many different kinds of fish, all different sizes and bright colours, some with polka dots, some with stripes, some that looked tie-dyed! We saw two spotted sting rays (they have fluorescent purple spots on them!) and swam into schools of baby yellow barracudas! I even saw 2 little clown fish (Nemos!) who swam right at my goggles and started pecking at them! SO cool!!!

I'm probably going to do another dive while I'm here, plus get another massage (my last one in Thailand!) and have as many fruit shakes as possible before I leave Ko Tao on Monday and Asia on Wednesday! Can't believe I'll be in Africa in less than a week...craziness!

Pics will be posted once I get back to Bangkok

xx

Posted by meggiep 23:07 Comments (0)

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