Posts Tagged ‘Ghana’

“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.” 

― John Denver

A common experience that I had in the various countries I visited was the presence of music. It came in different languages, genres and deliveries, but every time it served as a unifying force.

Dodi dancers

I wrote about the boat ride that I took in a previous post and briefly mentioned the singers who welcomed us when we reached the halfway point. Inhabitants of the small island, they sang and danced in an effort to collect donations. I wondered if they would do so otherwise, but they truly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

And it was contagious, as several boat riders danced alongside them.

Sing-alongs at Sacre Couer

An Italian man named Youri performed on the steps of the Sacre Couer on my sister’s first night in Paris. We had ventured over to see the Basilica and, after hearing him sing Rupert Wainwright’s “Hallelujah” on key, decided to join the crowd. We did not, however, give in to the men peddling Heinekens for 5 euros a piece, despite their persistence.

Here’s Youri singing “Hallelujah” while another man provides an entirely different form of entertainment (and I’m not talking about the man who appears to be performing magic tricks next to the singer):

The Basilica is situated atop a hill in Montmarte and is the only hill where you can properly view the city of Paris. So, as the sun set, we had a beautiful view to accompany the music. At one point Youri paused and told the crowd that we were all very lucky to be visiting Paris and asked our origins. Brazil, Spain, Italy, U.S., Canada: many different nationalities were all sitting together singing.

Given the chaos taking place all over the world, whether it has to do with finances, regimes or famine, I found solace in the moment. Hopefully you can capture some of it with these two videos of the crowd singing “Imagine” and “Let it be” together. Don’t mind my sister and me singing along/laughing!

Familiar tunes in Deutschland

The first family member I visited in Germany was my cousin, the director of several choirs in his hometown. I went with him to two of the choir practices and was surprised to find them singing American songs. ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ was followed by ‘Uptown Girl’ and then ‘Since U Been Gone’.

I sat watching and singing quietly, tapping my foot along to the familiar tunes. The German accents added to the moment and the happiness that the individuals felt in singing was contagious.

“…there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.”

—  Sir Edward William Elgar


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The end of my 3 month trip took part in Germany with a visit to my family. Wrapping it all up there was fitting because Germany was the first foreign country I traveled to; first at age one and then in July 2009 for a month with my Omi.

Had I not gone on that trip two years ago, I can say for certain that I would not have been able to go to Ghana. In applying for the scholarship to report abroad, the committee sought out students who had experience abroad. I am so thankful for my family for many reasons, this being one of them.

Now that I’m back home I find it hard to believe that the three-month trip even happened. Was I really in Ghana last month? I keep seeing pictures of the Eiffel Tower in picture frames for sale and try to determine where the photographer stood to capture it.

Thankfully I will be continuing to travel this spring when I venture to Finland with one of my best friends. So excited for the opportunity!

But, back to Germany, here’s a glimpse into my week of rushing from one city to the next:

Cologne Cathedral: construction began in 1248 and lasted until 1880.

It is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe.

The Cathedral's two largest spires help you to orient yourself while in Cologne.

Fall in process.

The Seilbahn Burg (cable car) connects Schloss Burg in Solingen, Germany to the town below and offers great views.

The cable car.

Germany's largest bench--made from one tree and measuring almost 73 feet--is at Schloss Burg. I sat on it!

I love the flower boxes.

Steinhuder Meer, the largest lake in Northwestern Germany.

Sunrise at the Minden train station, on my way to see more family.

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Tag, you’re it!

I miss taking random videos of animals in Ghana. In this particular one, I was watching the chickens frolic outside my house and decided that others should enjoy it, too. Hope you do. In other news: I’m back home in the U.S. of A! That doesn’t mean this blog is coming to an end, though.

One big thing that traveling made me realize was how much of my own country I have yet to see. I’d meet people and tell them I’m from the States and they’d say, ‘Oh I’ve been to NYC, DC, Chicago, etc.’ and I’d shock them when I responded, ‘Oh really? I’ve never been.’ Granted, many people don’t realize the massive size of the country and the cost of travel. Regardless, I have some upcoming trips in mind to Chicago and Dallas and will be blogging about those.

Plus, I’ve got numerous anecdotes and pictures that I have not yet shared on here and will be doing so. For now, here’s the chicken video. Sorry for the wind.

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Discovering things about myself

I inadvertently created a son out of thin air yesterday. That’s what happens when you can’t understand someone and instead of asking ‘what?’, just go along with it and pretend like you do. At least I only made a fool of myself.

Here’s how it went:

I boarded a tro-tro and a man who had just been trying to sell me DVDs squishes in next to me and an older woman, even though there were plenty of open seats. Sure enough, he turned toward me and began asking my name, where I’m from, etc. I had to ask him to repeat questions a few times and began just answering simply, ‘ohh ok, mmhmm, yes’.

So when he asked me if I had mumble mumble, I figured he was wondering if I was in a relationship and told him yes. Then he asked, ‘how many?’ and I thought he was being coy, so I told him, ‘one.’

When he followed that up with, ‘boy or girl?’ I realized I had misunderstood. Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, so I figured he wasn’t asking if I had a boyfriend or girlfriend. He was asking if I had a  son or daughter.

So I did what anyone would do and fabricated a two-year-old son, figuring maybe it would deter him. Nope. He proceeded to hound me for my cell phone number and I had to give him the real one because he called it to check. When he asked for my email address I told him I didn’t have one. He saw right through that, but I stuck to my story.

When he finally departed, I turned to the older woman next to me and gave her a look that said, ‘that was ridiculous.’ She replied, ‘He is a fool.’ Keep in mind, it’s considered harsh to call someone a fool here. She repeated her statement when he started calling me ten minutes later.

In addition to my non-existent child, I’ve also discovered that I don’t enjoy packing. Well, have been reminded of it. But who does? That is why tomorrow will be hectic in the best possible way because I’ll wake up in Paris on Thursday! Now I’m off to enjoy my last full day in Ghana.

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Daily bread

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In that case, I had several loaves of bread yesterday. Regardless, I could still eat more (metaphorically). The whole trip lasted about four hours and we had ideal weather for the majority of it.

A boat ride on the Volta River.

Mirror image.

The halfway point was a small island named ‘Dodi’ where the locals met us on the dock, singing and dancing with a bucket for donations.

Dancing at Dodi Island.

We stopped on the island for about 30 minutes, allowing time to walk to the other side. All along the path were more musicians and dancers of all ages, each with their own collection bins. I gave my spare change to the performers and children walking around and holding people’s hands, asking for money to go to school.

The path to the other side of the island.

There were also men offering canoe rides, but the captain of the boat had warned us not to take part if we wanted ‘to come back alive’. He meant the boat would leave us behind, not that we’d be killed, but it sounded menacing enough.

Life-ending canoe ride?

When we boarded the boat to return to our starting point, rain was visible on the horizon.

Rain starting to fall.

Regardless, a boat of fishermen continued heading away from shore.

It still took some time before the rain reached us. So I sat at the front of the boat, and dangled my feet in the small wading pool. I had applied sunscreen (50 SPF), but discovered later that I still managed to burn a little. The new necklace I had purchased from a stand onshore left a nice outline on my neckline and it now looks like I’m constantly wearing some sort of white medallion. My sunglasses also left a nice ‘raccoon ring’ around my eyes.

The colorful stand where I purchased my necklace.

With all of that sun, it was refreshing when the rain started to fall. As its intensity increased, most people sought shelter and I gave in soon after. The sun, food, music and fresh air tired me out and I was ready to sleep.

Hoped to have dreams full of clouds.

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In just a few short days my surroundings are going to be changing pretty dramatically. No more goats, chickens, lizards, tro-tros, balancing acts, orange dirt or public urination. No more smelling fresh-cut oranges and coconuts in one breath and sewage in the next. No more shouts of ‘obruni’, proclamations of love or hissing for attention. I’ll see bits and pieces elsewhere, but not this unique combination.

Nine weeks really flew by, and not just for me. I have many stories to catch up on when I get home. New jobs, a baby, another year of school, traveling around the U.S., fall sports, new experiences, new cities; all of which I’m looking forward to hearing about.

But I will miss Ghana and its colors, vivid and full of life. Just like the people, the music and the culture.

Green and yellow.

And, just because, some humorous taxi incidents that happened this past week. I won’t really miss any of this:

  • My taxi ran out of gas. At least, that’s what the driver attributed our crawling to, but it’s hard to say when the dashboard doesn’t work. I made it home, though, after he hailed another taxi for us.
  • I announced my wedding next year. That is, after a different taxi driver professed his love for me. Then he saw the ring (on my middle finger) and was distraught. I decided to go with it and started talking about my ‘fiance’. He was silent the rest of the way.
  • When I arrived at my destination (this is a third taxi), the driver informed me he had no change. So, I waited while he ran around the street asking other drivers to break my 10. He had no luck and instead bought me credits for my phone, which I needed anyway.

Tomorrow I’m waking up early for a boat ride!

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Back home the political campaigns for the upcoming presidential election are well underway, something I’m not necessarily looking forward to returning to because of all the criticism and hearsay involved. Based on the media coverage I’ve read lately, the intensity of this election is only increasing.

As far as Ghanaians go, any of them who have talked to me about American politics have been fond of President Obama. Billboards show a large image of him pasted beside an equally sized picture of their president, John A. Mills. People wear clothing with his image or sayings such as ‘Obama girl’.

Obama shirts.

I haven’t seen any Obama pajamas or wine stoppers, but after hearing there were biscuits (aka cookies) named after him I had to see for myself. They weren’t the tastiest, but the packaging was amusing. I was happy his face was only on the wrapper and not the actual snack; that seems unpatriotic to me.

Obama biscuits.

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