We've now been in Ghana for almost six days and are starting to get in the swing of things, but we wanted to share a little bit about our first few days here. Its been an overwhelming, exhausting, but truly amazing first week. After arriving to Accra from Turkey, we met the program director face to face for the first time. His name is |John Barber, and this is his fifth or sixth summer in Ghana. He and |Liam Lynch, the volunteer coordinator, have been really great--super supportive and helpful to all the volunteers, and have been sharing tips with us daily about Ghanaian culture and living in Ho..everything from the official Ghanaian handshake, to what spices to use sparingly ( they looooove hot food) to how to navigate the lively and chaotic city of Ho. Anyway, after we met |John we took a shuttle bus, called a Tro Tro, on a bumpy and hot but very scenic four hour drive from the coast, inland to Ho, where we are based. The scenery slowly changed from developed to rural tropical forest. It was a really great chance to get a feel for the geography of the region. Annelise even saw baboons racing along the side of the road!
Once we arrived in Ho, thursday evening, we met the other volunteers ( we make up a group of eight). Its been really fun getting to know them better; they're all very laidback and interesting people--students like us, though they are all from UMass, John Barber's Alma Mater. And then we got our first tour of the city. If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be "bustling." Taxis and Tro Tros are honking and swerving around everywhere, there are vendors of all kinds lined up and down every street, and the market place takes it to a whole new extreme. You may be wondering the meaning of the title of this post..Yevu means |"white person" and the kids (and many adults) always shout it when we walk by, which I find pretty hilarious. In Ghana its not meant to be offensive in any way, it's just what they call all white people. So thats probably the first Ewe word that we learned while we we've been here, but in the last week we've been slowly building our vocablulary. I now feel comfortable greeting people on the street and using thank you, your welcome..etc.
Annelise and I have now spent about 4 days at McColins school, and its been truly a blast! The first few days we helped teach a class of 6 and 7 year olds. They are extremely energetic and love to play--when we brought out the sports equipment it was utter mayhem! But so much fun! During recess we taught students of all ages things like how to hold a football and how to shoot a basketball, and they taught us a few of their games, and A LOT of their songs. I learned how to play game called "Ampy" which involves jumping and clapping at exactly the right rhythm..they had to be very patient with me, but its so much fun now that I know it. During class Annelise and I taught the students "rise and shine and give God the glory glory" which was a huge hit. We've also been helping the younger kids with their abcs, and counting, and the older kids with math. Tomorrow, we will have our first group of students after school, which we are very excited about, because we'll be able to teach some of the sports fundamentals in a little more of a structured environment.
Last weekend we went with the rest of the group on a day trip out of Ho, further inland to Tafi monkey sanctuary and Wli waterfall. Annelise and I both agreed that the experience far exceeded anything we could have imagined or hoped for. At the monkey sanctuary, we all held out ripe bananas in our hands and made kissing noises to call the monkeys to us. After about five minutes or so, they slowly started to descend and check us out. Once one monkey dared leaving his tree for the banana, they all started jumping down unto our backs and arms! It was crazy and realllly funny! Especially when three jumped on Annelise when she wasn't expecting it. We then took about a four mile hike straight up a mountain cliff, to hike up to one of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen, and the most powerful! It was a pretty tough hike, especially in the heat, but it was very very worth it. When we got to the waterfall, it felt like we were in the middle of a hurricane from the spray that was coming off it. Annelise and I both braved the wind and water though, and swam out to get right under the falls! It was incredible.
Already, everything has far exceeded our expectations.. The heat has been an adjustment, and we both miss our friends and family a little bit already...not to mention fresh vegetables and meat..which are somewhat limited here. Rice and more rice with a side of bread is extremely popular! But we love our volunteer group, and we've already made some Ghanaian friends! One of the teachers from the school, Gifty, even took us to her friend who is a seamstress, so we could get fitted for traditional dresses. We're definitely trying to immerse ourselves in as many aspects of Ghanaian culture as we can. We'll write again soon with another update. Hope all is well in the States!