Cape Coast, Ghana

Cape Coast, Ghana

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 14 (Accra): Reflection

After many cups of coffee, we all sat down in the conference room of the Paloma Hotel to examine our last two weeks of our in-country fellowship here in Ghana.

We discussed what the What? So What? Now What? and In Conclusion? we gathered from our short, but intensive time here.

Keeping in mind the idea of the cultural iceberg (appearance above the surface v. awareness below the surface) as the following ideas are discussed:

-Ghanians hold a special and almost a sacred place for education.
-Home Economics and traditional craft skills highly valued and impressive level of expertise in students.
-Concern with computer skills
-Social Studies here means exploration of morality and ethics
-Unaware of deforestation of the rainforest and those factors that contribute to foreign powers coming in and taking what they want and leaving an environmental mess behind for the people of the country.
-Emphasis on the rote, not on critical thinking (at least in the classrooms we've observed, but very dependent on the teacher's relationships with the students)
-The teachers relationship with students in just as paramount here as it is in the United States
-The U.S. could use more hands-on exams to assess student knowledge

-Unity and tolerance due to students being sent all over country to boarding schools
-While boarding schools can lead to bonding among students, it also makes it difficult to study and keep individual tribal cultures alive because of the "melting pot" effect.
-Materials out-of-date or not enough
-Teacher pay is very low, motivation often follows leading to teachers oftentimes not in class with students and students teaching themselves
-Many Ghanian teachers do not guard instructional time like U.S. teachers obsess over.

-Teen pregnancy
-Female genital mutilation
-"How do I get out of Ghana?"
-Social networking
-Freedom to share thoughts and opinions in class
-Caning (as punishment in school)
-Teacher-student romantic relationships
-Reckless nature of Americans

Students in Ghana definitely have the social filter down pat. They may not be able to express their ideas freely in the classroom or even at home with their families, but when you pull them aside and you really ask them, "So, what do you REALLY think about makeup?" They will giggle with a sly smile and then say what you knew they were thinking all along: to each their own.

Pride in Sisterhood--Talking to one of the Wesley Girls after a heated, but stifled, debate about makeup in society. The essay clearly laced with religious propaganda. She said she didn't wear makeup but didn't see any problem with people who did. Then she giggled realizing that we both saw that conversation as being quite silly.

Wonder--In sitting at Mable's Table with a view of the ocean having a discussion with Hayley and Amber. In a country of so much natural beauty (the coastline, the rain forests, the richness of cultural tradition) why is there so much poverty? And why does it seem like it will remain for generations to come? Why is it the more I learn and the more I see and the conversations that multiply quickly lead me to question more what this country truly wants for itself and what is it the world wants for this country. I am still left to wonder this.

Humility--Being introduced to our host's classroom and immediately having girls take our their cameras and taking pictures of us v. us always taking pictures of them and the new surroundings.

Grateful--For this experience to visit and learn about a culture that never crossed my mind before. To have my mind open to new ideas about what life and living means to the different people around the world. To have the ability to explore these concepts is incredible and I want to make sure I never take it for granted.

The experience (or two) that I will use to describe my time in Ghana varies depending on the group I am sharing my experience with. It ranges from my personal anecdotes with students and teachers to the economic, religious, and societal variables.

I OBSERVED that Ghanaian and I would like to take back to my classroom:

DURING MY EXCHANGE..., so now I want to...

I LEARNED that Ghanians are trying to find their place in the world through what appears to be modeling a lot of the ways in which the western world operates. I hope that Ghana is not going to come out of their leftover colonial past and jump into new Americanism. I hope that Ghana finds a way to progress through what is good for their country, not what is good for the west and for the rich to get richer. In the educational sense the country has decided to put the local language back into school curriculum and I see that as a great step into preserving the culture and not having it squashed by the English-speaking world. Even though English is the official language of the country.

Experiencing...inspired a global perspective because...

Before my time in Ghana I thought...but now...

What outcomes did you observe or find?
"The Danger of a Single Narrative" has become a popular phrase in global education and in our desire to understand people from different parts of the world. The truth lies in the personal connections that you make with the individual who is sharing their story with you. What I noticed in Ghana was that trust is inherent in the honesty you will receive from both young and old. Additionally, pulling a person out of a larger group will more often allow you to get an honest depiction how that person truly views the issues at hand. Not to disregard the opinions of the whole, as that is also necessary to develop an idea in contrast to what people will share with you in private.

What do you still wonder?
I wonder what stories have been shared with me under the context of where I am coming from. Meaning, are there certain views or opinions that were shared more or less readily because I am an American? What were those views? Why? How much of sharing narratives comes from the U.S. culture of freedom of speech, religion, and thought-- how much of it is a natural human condition of wanting to know the daily going ons of others? How can language effect the tone of the conversation and passion in which the thought is delivered (ie. more feeling heard in native language than in English). Another thought not touched on in this trip: what proverbs and popular figurative language is intertwined into narrative.

Thesis Statement
The way in which an individual structures their personal narrative can have a great impact on how our global society perceives that culture as a whole. This single storyteller holds the power to mold a cultures' consciousness by the words and anecdotes he or she shares with cultural outsiders.

Day 13 (Cape Coast): Cape Coast Castle

To be continued...

Day 12 (Cape Coast): Elmina Castle



Tour--guide, quarters, governor's quarters, view, only building that high,

As we drove in it seemed sadly comical and surreal that a resort would exist in such a bubble only 3KM away from the castle that was a crucial fixture in the trans-atlantic slave trade. It is by far the fanciest hotel/resort we've seen since we've been in Ghana. I mean, the Red Red is Gh 30.00 and we've had it almost daily at many places for between Gh 10.00 and Gh 12.00. I still ordered it. I hope it's incredible.
I also ordered a pineapple juice and our waitress bent over to ask me if it was okay that she could take a little extra time to squeeze the pineapple for the juice. Incredible. And it was the greatest glass of pineapple juice I've ever had.

We started to have a conversation about the price of the "view".

About why or how or when or if one needs to develop the coastline of this beautiful country to match the idea of what westerners would want out of property like this. Kevin Costner build it and they will come.

Our experience as the premiere spots in the country: cape coast, wesley girls, accra

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 8 (Kakum National Park): Indiana Jones

Three. Even after a day in a rainforest. Nope. Just got bit on my forehead writing this. DAMMIT. Four.

Today was a new discovery in the search for breakfast fooding. We were able to have late start and were going to meet Justice, our driver, at 10am in front of the hotel. The other groups from Takoradi and [fill in name here when I remember what town they were from] were going to meet us then too. Back to the discovery. Linda, who is Bev's partner in Takoradi, from California, and a super neat lady who has kayaked in Alaska and taught at an Indian Reservation. She said she made a fake frappacinno by putting 3 in 1 in ice water. Linda is a genius. 3 in 1 is back.

We waited for the other groups for almost an hour to arrive to our hotel before we all left for Kakum National Park. This has been a common practice. Very similar to Arab time, but I would say Ghanian time is even more extreme. Everyone admits they don't really have a concept of time and as a traveler it must be accepted or you will start to become quite frustrated. I found myself frustrated at times mostly because I just want to make the most of my time here and think that idling is not the best way to make that dream come true. But in fact it is in the idling that I have had memorable conversations with those around me. Time is timeless as they say here in Ghana.

Kakum is only about an hour drive north from Cape Coast so it was a wonderful relief after the road travel yesterday. Justice was able to negotiate the student rate for us so instead of 40 cedi we paid only 20. In Kakum I saw my first wild elephant

[insert fake elephant photo here]

For those who haven't read the Bradt Ghana guidebook from cover to cover like I have, Kakum is Ghana's largest remaining rainforest. It also provides water to over 130 surrounding cities and communities. But what it is most known for are is its canopy walk.

[insert canopy walk photos here]

[and here]

[and here]

The whole walk only took us a couple of hours, but what I found most interesting was how fearful most Ghanians were to cross and how excited we Americans were. Maybe this is an effect of Xtreme sports. Or maybe Americans just think they are invincible so walk high above trees on a bridge made of rope no problem. Or Nike 'Just Do It' is a real thing. I don't know, but we were stuck behind school children for quite sometime who were holding on to dear life. It reminded me of a comment the Wesly Girls' School librarian made to us the other day. He said, "You are welcome. Please enjoy yourselves. You will learn we don't live in trees." Jokingly, of course, but with an air of truth when fighting stereotypes by those most ignorant. Ghanians actually not too found of hanging out among the trees.


The guidebook seems to think this place is the neatest of the neat because it's a restaurant that sits above a pond of crocodiles. Okay. All of that was in fact true. And actually Ioved watching the birds hanging out in the tree while I was eating, but I'm not sure I got the tourist draw. Maybe that's all it really was. A tourist site to say you've seen a crocodile. You were allowed to pet them and go up to them as well. They roam free. But I wasn't about to do that. I am not that Xtreme.

[insert bird photo here]

I did love this statue.

[insert little peeing boy here]

And their Red Red (beans) and fried plantains were yummy. I was even congratulated by the waitress at the end for how well I cleaned my plate.

[insert before/after photo here]

We returned from our daytime camping trip, grabbed our electronics, and headed to a social justice-y cafe back in Cape Coast that lies adjacent to the Castle. The front of the restaurant has a small shop that sells crafts made by students at the Baobab School. Things like batik (printed cloth), kente (traditional hand-stitched cloth, canvas paintings, and other small trinkets volunteers and tourists might buy to take home to friends and family. I bought a couple kente cloths and then chatted with the girls at the cash register for a bit. They are 20somethings from Germany who have been in Ghana volunteering at the shop for the last 8 months. The school was started by a German and so they get other germans to come here to do their volunteer service. It's a nice place with outside seating overlooking the ocean. This is the first place I've had real non-Nescafe coffee and dessert (banana muffin). It's a vegetarian/vegan place. One of very very few in Ghana. Probably the only one in Cape Coast.

Unfortunately (for many reasons) there are many children that surround the shop hoping to score cash from foreigners feeling guilty. One of the Ghanian waiters would come out and talk to them every 20 minutes to tell them to stop and go home. But that was not discouraging to these kids. They are terribly amused with themselves. One little boy came up to us, maybe 5 or 6 years old, and just straight up asked, "Where is your money?"

You want to be friendly and chat and say "hello" and "what's your name" but in the end it comes down to what are you going to give me because you have and we have not. That has been a hard concept to encounter since we've been here in Ghana. It's a completely different atmosphere when we are visiting the schools. That is not the culture. And it's not the culture in Ghana as well. You do not many see adults (I haven't seen any at all) begging on the street. I've only seen children. And very young children. Under 10 years old. Where are they learning this behavior from? Because it is definitely not taught in the schools.

*Disclaimer: I have not thoroughly researched this outside of my own observations, chatting with colleagues, and a few host teachers. No one is ignoring the terrible poverty that faces so many Ghanian kids today. But it is a concerning sight for future generations in Ghana nonetheless. All countries encounter stereotypes, but it's one thing to overcome the world thinking you're a country of internet-obsessed porn watchers, it's another thing to overcome the world believing you're a country of poor people begging on the street.

Day 4 (Accra): From the Classroom to the Speaker's House

[Currently playing: 'My First, My Last, My Everything' Barry White]

Day 4 means the last day in Accra before departing for Cape Coast for the remainder of the trip to meet our host teacher and host school. Day 4 also meant a big day with big people.

But first...


Every morning I don't feel quite myself. I get those sick waves in my tummy at breakfast, but my the afternoon it goes away. I wonder if this is typical of western travelers and if it is heat or humidity related.

The 12 of us split up into two groups to visit a public school and a private school just outside of Accra. I chose to go to a public school. The school was called Abokobi Presby and as you can probably guess is a Presbyterian school. But remember, still a public mission school.

We were in a small van reminiscent of the Scooby Doo van or that scene in the beginning of 'Back to the Future' with the Libyans. We drove out of the city center for about an hour on wobbly dirt roads. I sat in the back of the van and quickly had to move up to the front because I was starting to feel car sick. We drove through many small towns where hawkers would weave in and out of the cars trying to sell water, bread, sponges, even new windshield wipers before the traffic light turned green. Most of the hawkers are women, older women. Some are men. Not as many children as I would have assumed based on my experience in the Middle East.

When we arrived at the school it was hard not be shocked by the conditions of the infrastructure. It's hard to see children sitting in desks with their heads held high, paying strict attention to their teacher leading the lesson in the front of the class, and having no lights. No windows. No doors. Having to ignore the chirping birds that have made a home between the boards of the ceiling. They just deserve better. No one is singing 'woe is me' and no one is seeking western charity. But a safe and functioning building is something that you want them to have so badly.

We had a roundtable discussion with the other teachers in the school. From what I gathered it was a primary and middle school. Most of the women were teachers for the little ones, while the men were teachers for the higher grades. This is a typical pattern we've been noticing here in Ghana. Men occupy the higher level teaching positions just like men occupy administrative positions more often in the US.

It is always amazing to have these conversations with our teachers and their teachers. The Ghanian teachers were really shocked when I dismissed the idea that teachers and parents in the States are okay with students wearing "daisy dukes" and "watching porn on the internet". It shocked me that they took what they saw in high schools depicted in our television shows and movies to heart. But there are many American who still hold stereotypes of the African continent as well. We are not innocent by any means. Lesson books that Ghanian teachers kept at this school were impeccable. They were neatly kept for each subject and each lesson by teacher. I don't keep a book like this and neither do many teachers as it's not usually required of us (though probably should be).

I sat in on an English and a science lesson. The English lesson seemed canned as the teacher began reviewing subject-verb agreement while the students notebooks showed they were actually far passed knowing what a to-do word was.

When I was then taken to the science classroom the students immediately stood as I walked into the classroom, welcomed me, and stood until their teacher gave them permission to sit down. I then introduced myself as I've now done many many times:

Hi, I'm Mariam. I'm from Washington, D.C. [sometimes I add "where the president lives"] and I teach secondary English to 17 and 18 year olds.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 3 (Accra): Chalking and Talking

[Currently playing: Toni Braxton 'Unbreak My Heart']

At breakfast I still had not been bitten by a mosquito. I contribute this to the obsessive bug lotion purchasing I did at Whole Foods last week. Of course I will eventually get bitten, but so far I was winning the war. My bug lotion smells like cedar and citronella so everyone knows when Mariam is walking down to breakfast I'm sure. I also found out that mosquitos dislike the smell of peppermint and lavender--so all the products I brought on the trip that go on my body in any form (shampoo, conditioner, soap, hand sanitizer) they are all in those fragrances. Maybe I over did it? Maybe.

On this day I only ate corn flakes for breakfast and many cups of nescafe. That was a mistake b/c it was not enough food to properly digest the malaria pill and made me a bit dizzy for what would turn out to be a 4-hour workshop session in the hotel conference room dedicated to the Ghanaian Educational System and the Ghanian Teacher Union.

The workshop began at 9am and went until lunch at 12pm. I say this because around the world people lack the attention span (grown or child) to sit for that long and listen to just about anything. But I found the talk very interesting because the facilitator of the discussion, another representative from UNIDPM whose name was Chris, told us everything we needed to know about the history of schooling and education in Ghana from before the slave trade to just after and what would be considered contemporary education that seems to fluctuate every 5-10 years with drastic changes in school structure and policy for both students and teachers.

I discussed many of the similarities and differences in the previous blog post from the chat at the U.S. embassy, but I will briefly summarize a few points worth noting. A lot of this will come up again in other meetings with other teachers.
  • There are 11 Ghanian languages used in school (including English, the official language of Ghana) and there has just been a shift in including teaching of the local language back into schools. It was pulled out for previous generations and that is why you find Ghanians in their 30s and 40s who do not speak much of their local language today because it was pulled out of the textbooks in favor of English.
  • In the pre-formal educational system of Ghana people were educated to perform a trade. The elite were sent to the Chief's palace to acquire language training.
  • When the whites came they needed clerks to help them with trade so that was then established as the next form of educational training for local Ghanians. What the merchants want the merchants got in the form of well-educated locals to keep their trade records. 
  • Soon white men started sleeping with black women (I don't remember why I took this note, but it is now glaring at me from my binder paper. It must have been a significant point for some reason related to clerical work, but now I do not recall.)
  • When the missionaries came they needed educated people to spread the gospel so they fought for more formalized education and Ghana and began to build schools to teach reading, writing, and  the word of God. 
  • "Payment by results" has been around since before Michelle Rhee. Teachers have been blamed for student performance since people could put blame on others. You're not original, Mrs. Rhee.
  • Public education is free, but students must pay for extras like books, sports, and music. 
  • The public schools are actually the elite schools in the country due to the missionary influence. Private schools are not necessarily better because they are private.
  • The drop-out rate is high, especially for girls. Parents are also culprits as they will pull their kids out of school to use as labor around the house and if the family has a farm or business. Those are called 'drawn-outs'.
  • Like stated earlier the mission schools today are not all that missionary. They just retain the old names and traditions since when they were established. Like Chris said, "Nobody teaches religious mathematics!" If moses walks on water for 3 miles...
  • Group (not the west) v. Individual (the west) mentality is contributing to westernization of Ghanian culture.
  • In sum, there have been many changes to the system [should high school be 3 or 4 years? should we have pre-school or not?] but education is seen as beneficial to those who pursue it.
  • If you are a teacher of the year you are awarded a house anywhere in the country of your choice. Many other homeownership schemes are being put in place as incentives for teachers through the union.
  • The union is becoming quite vigilant at looking for teachers who remain on the payroll but are nowhere to be seen in the school. That and other forms of corruption is an issue that the union is working on more than ever.
It was very hot and because of this I ate my daily helping of Jollof rice and disappeared. Because I decided to practice individual v. group mentality (choosing myself over being around others for the hour-long lunch break) I missed ice cream. Lesson learned. 

Ophelia called up a lady she knew who made customized dresses for the group that came to Ghana last year. She came with a variety of fabric swatches and posters of all the latest fashions. About half of us had our measurements taken, picked fabric, and chose a design for a dress we will retrieve at the end of our trip. I designed mine myself because I am the group diva. We'll see if I pulled of fake fashion designer or no by week's end.

While taking my measurements, "You have big hips." Yes, I do. I think I've found my hip sisters in Ghana.

The art center means the market with means the souk which means a lot of people and if you have not mastered the art of bargaining in a foreign country you're screwed. Maybe you have mastered the "show me later" and fast walk passed booths, then you should be fine. I lasted 30 minutes and then had to leave. I did not come out unscathed. I made some purchases from a man who claimed to be an artist and another who claimed to be a woodworker. But I'll never know for sure if they are just fantastic storytellers. Talk about narrative exploration.

That is the name of the beach. We trotted around in the sand for a bit and then walked back up to the restaurant above the water to grab drinks. The beach was nice, but there was a lot of trash and tires on the sand. The other side of the Atlantic is very warm. That was neat. When we got back to the restaurant a few of us ordered the cider. Ghana makes their own alcoholic cider and it's delicious. It's not as sweet as the cider back home so won't give you a headache if you drink two. Or three.

This night we went to a popular center where three cuisines were offered: Spanish, Thai, and African.  I'd have eaten more Ghanian food, honestly, but the majority wanted Tapas (even the Ghanians!) so I went with what the cool kids were doing. And I'm glad I did. Not for the food, though the tortilla was tasty, but for the conversation I was able to have with our U.S. teachers and Ekem and Ophelia. The part of the trip that has been the most influential in my view of the country is speaking to people from the country. I could just sit and listen to stories all day. It's so nice to be able to have people as representatives from another culture just around you al day to ask questions, bounce thoughts off of, and add to the color-by-number picture I am painting in my mind of the country of Ghana.

[Some stories from that night I've already weaved into different posts and I will continue to do so where it makes the most sense.]

returned back to the hotel and lo and behold those little jerks bit my knuckle and lower leg.
Count: 2

Nanti ye (Goodbye in Twi)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 2 (Accra): Me din de Efie

[Currently playing 'Bad' by Micheal Jackson]

The average temperature is 88, but with 70% or higher humidity it feels like 99. Breakfast daily has been consiting of porrige, some type of plantain (there's always some type of plantain), and unlimited nescafe. They don't really do breakfast in Ghana. I don't know if it's like that in other parts of Africa, but Ophelia (who works with Ekem) told us that Ghanians eat the same kinds of food for every meal. Dessert is also not a thing. My bready breakfast and sugar-fueled mindedness is suffering withdrawls.

Rebecca is one of my favorite people to pass notes to in class :)

Ekem, with help from Ophelia, led this 2-hour workshop that we all absorbed like sponges as most of us have studied Ghana only recently in our guidebooks. I will summarize the presentation notes in bullet points for you now.
  • The flag of Ghana has red, yellow, and green stripes. The red symbolizes blood, the yellow is for resources (gold), and the green is for land. The is a black star in the center and that represents the people of the country. Ghana's soccer team is also named The Black Stars.
  • There are 10 regions in the country. It's commonly known that Muslims and Catholics are concentrated mostly in the north, while Christians make up the majority in the rest of the country.
  • The Ashanti were the most powerful group and if not for the slave trade they would have ruled all of Ghana. They still make up a very large group with staunch pride throughout the regions. They have their own region and their own king that is sometimes seen as the symbolic ruler of Ghana over the president. Though technically he is not. But he is. But he is really not.
  • There are 18 million people in Ghana. But there also might be 25 million.
  • Christians are about 70% of the population and Muslims 16%. But this is a misnomer as many Muslim and Christians combine religious traditions with their regional customs.
[Sidebar: During a dinner conversation I asked Ekem and Ophelia about the religious tones here in Ghana. To me it seemed Muslims and Christians had no problem with one another. And for all intents and purposes, they don't. Ophelia told a story of a friend of hers who is a Christian and married a Muslim, they each practice their own religion, but they also both go to church and mosque with the other. It's not necessary here for people to convert for one another. It happens, of course, but it is not automatically expected nor is it a big deal. On the other hand, like in the States, you have a spectrum of people who practice their religion--some with evangelical undertones and others who see it has a way to connect with people in their community. This is one of many ways Ghanian people are similar to those in the states right now--we all struggle with those who are trying to push their beliefs on everyone in the country with disregard for difference of opinion. For disregard for the middle. It is a problem around the world where two sides are the only number of sides.]
  • Due to the many regions in Ghana, there are also many languages spoken. The country, like many around the world being hit with "globalization" are losing their tribal languages and switching to English. However, the local language is being taught in school curriculums now alongside English. Many students (and the generations before them) spoke their language but could not write it. Ghanaians practice an oral tradition and that, in the local language, includes a heavy emphasis on parables, poetry, and other aspects of figurative language that are being lost with the loss of their home language.
  • The singer 'Ashanti' gets her name from the Ashanti region.
  • Language nuances between regions are interesting: Some Ghanians practice the tradition of naming their children based on the day of the week they were born--if you are Ashanti your name may end with an "h" whereas if you are part of the Fante tribe you would have the same name if you were born on a Tuesday but your name would not have an "h" at the end. EXAMPLE: I was born on a Friday so my Ghanian name would be 'Efie'
  • Ghana declared independence in 1957 from colonial rule. This led to no more driving on the British side of the road as a small form of protest.
  • There are no taxes in Ghana  EXAMPLE: While shopping in the mall with Gloria I asked if there would be tax on the total. Gloria just laughed at me.
  • Ghana got missioned like nobody's business. The missionaries came in and established schools as well as pushing for English in both written and spoken form (to spread the gospel), though these schools today are some of the best in the country. The school I am being placed at next week is the #1 school in the country--Wesly Girls' School in Cape Coast. Members of parliament send their kids their. It's an all-girls school and the idea is to produce future leaders in all areas of the country. I want to explore this issue further, I still have a lot of questions. The missionary influence and feel is everywhere you turn here. But from what it seems is that the religious undertone for the public schools is not as strong as it used to be in the 50s and 60s. It seems like a religious leftover. But some are still required to go to mass or other religious services depending on the type of school that student attends. More on this tomorrow in the educational history of Ghana blog post for those interested.
Top 5 Cultural Fun Facts 
1. Funerals are a premium social event. To be invited is an honor and you should consider it a bigger party than a wedding. Typical color of dress are red and black, but varies based on family.
While explaining this to the group, Ophelia said, "I don't know what the equivalent is for you--maybe a county fair?"
2. Ashanti tribes hire professional cryers for their funerals to add to the pomp and circumstance feel. Other than that, people don't typically cry at Ghanian funerals. It is more a celebration of life.
3. In the north it is was common practice to grab women in the market, tie them up, lock them up and ask the family how much money they want to marry their daughter. This doesn't occur much anymore, but it was seen as a compliment to the woman's beauty and those in the market look on in celebration and support of the man grabbing the woman. Clearly I have issue with this. Ophelia did mention that other women are able to help those escape as long as they know where they go. But to note, this practice is in no way illegal, but hopefully dying out quickly. The woman who is honorably trapped may also become impregnated as she is trapped before she is given away in marriage and that is another way the man traps her into a life with him.
4. Cows are given from one family to another to secure marriage. If a marriage is terminated the cows must be returned or any children with the next man will always belong to the original cow giver. And again this is not still practiced widely, but was a known practice many can remember.
5. Goldminning is attracting a lot of Chinese businessmen. Because of this Ghanians are anticipating a large number of half-Chinese and half-Ghanian children very soon. Others moving into Ghana are the Brits and Lebanese.


For lunch we went to Buka Restaurant in Osu (part of Accra) which was our first real food outing outside of the hotel. I ordered the special: Talapia which, as I should have known, would be served properly with head and skin and all. It was delicious. It was also served with a side of buku which is similar to the Ethiopian Injera, but more dough-y and in a ball like uncooked pizza dough. Not the #1 fan of buku, unfortunately, but glad I was able to try it. Later I learned that Talapia is one of the only fish served in this part of Ghana and because of the various fishing issues most fish in Ghana is now farmed and therefore many hormones are injected into the fish. That will most likely be my last time eating fish here in West Africa. I wish the hormones didn't taste so good. 

We were then driven in our fancy van to the embassy compound. It's weird when the people escorting us were describing the size and scope of "the compound". Something about that word makes me feel like an American jerk. Not to mention the embassy in it's new location now assumes the largest grass area in Ghana. Again, U.S.A. Sharing is caring. Come on.

BUT to the embassy's credit, they organized a really cool meeting between current IREX participants (us) and past Ghanians who participated in ILEP which is the equivalent in that Ghanian teachers are sent to the U.S. for for a bit longer--usually a few months at a time. We sat in a circle and it was kind of like a really polite crossfire: we would ask questions about teaching here and they would ask questions about teaching in the states. Anywhere from curriculum to teacher pay to student attention span. It was very cool. I wish this was something that could happen more often with more countries. I really loved it.

Something funny was the 'Word of the Day' that was posted in the incredibly bare room they put us in. That day's word was "assertive". Naturally.

Here are some of the main take-aways from the discussion:
  • Ghanian teachers were surprised by Americans "time-conciousness" as they operate in a state of, and I quote, "time is timeless"
  • American teachers teach in a more relaxed atmosphere, this allows for more relaxed conversations with students. Can get to know them easier.
  • Teachers have their own classrooms. In Ghana teachers move around, not students.
  • Teachers in U.S. complain of large class sizes when they teach 30-40 students at most. While in Ghana classrooms are typically from 60-70.
  • The amount of books U.S. teachers have in their personal classroom libraries in equal to entire school libraries (and at times more) in Ghanian schools.
  • Ghanians don't bring outside teachers when a substitute is needed like U.S. teachers do.
  • All Ghanian students where uniforms, not all U.S. do.
  • U.S. teachers give a lot of extra time for students to turn in work and in Ghana late work is never excepted.
  • The West African Examination is still modeled on the British system and needs to be updated. It reinforces the talk and chalk model of teaching (lecture) and the idea that students should reproduce what they learn and not be more problem-solving centered (which is seen as a more U.S. approach, though that has it's own problems. More later.)
  • Therefore, U.S. education is viewed as more practical.
  • Ghanaian teachers, like U.S. teachers, face low pay. But they said it is getting better than it was.
  • Ghanian schools have major infrastructure problems and lack basic tools to educate their students (technology being the biggest).
  • Teachers in Ghana stay in the profession because they like to see student success, there are no alternative options (ha), it is flexible schedule-wise, and gives you the time to have your own business on the side to make extra money to subsidize the low teacher pay.
[insert no photos here because no cameras allowed because of secrets]


A dance troupe came to dance for us special at the hotel this night. Like we were chiefs or something. They are a very famous Ghanian dance troupe that has traveled all over the world to showcase African art and culture. They were incredible. They even taught us some dances and will be returning hopefully at the end our trip to give us an entire lesson.

My favorite was the 'Bamaya' dance which means the river valley is wet and is the most popular social dance of the Dagbama people in the north. It's usually performed at big celebrations like Independence Day. What is unique about it is that because it is a dance that requires a lot of hip movement, back in the olden times they thought this would hurt women's ability to make babies so men would dress up as women and shake their hips for them. Now both genders perform the dance because, among other things, we have discovered that the earth is in fact round and woman can shake their baby makers as much as they'd like and still babies.

Until next time!