Flyin’ Solo

Welp, I’m all alone.  Okay, that’s a little bit of a hyperbole. Taylor and Ellen decided to head home a little early.  Their old departure dates from Ghana were slightly conflicting with their work schedules, so they left on Wednesday to fly back to the U.S.  I miss them already! It was great spending time and working with them.  My host family and I have moved into Ho,  the capital city of the Volta Region, and I had to say goodbye to the lovely village of Adaklu Anfoe.

It was extremely sad saying goodbye.  I’m going to miss all the kids in the village, and all the adults who made me feel welcome.  I’m going to miss Jr, Readyma, Gilbert, Blaze, Godwin, Courage, Grace, Kofui, Maxwell, Mamma Gbadage, Bennet, Luticia, all of my P4 crazy kids, and everyone else in the village who made my stay special.  They will forever hold a place in my heart.  

For the next 13 days, Precious, Richard, Dorris and I will be living in a small 2 room apartment on the outskirts of Ho.  Every day I’ve been walking to Royal Hospital, a small private hospital that offers a “prestigious and superior international health care service”.  I have been strictly shadowing, working with two different doctors.  One is a primary care physician, and one is a general surgeon.  It is extremely interesting to compare and contrast the health care differences in Ghana to the US, and watching medical procedures is absolutely riveting.  I’ll update later in the week, but I need to get to writing my capstone.  

 

-Cole

Funding Frustrations

So, once this week ends, I’ll only have three weeks left here in Ghana.  I know that sounds like a long time, but time really does fly here.  I can’t get over how beautifully simple life is here.  The roosters crow at 4 AM, everyone wakes up, sweeps the dirt outside their homes, and heads off to their farms or jobs for the day.  Meals are simple, conversations are genial, and the people are loving.  Sidenote: speaking of meals, I can’t stop craving hot pepper banku.  When I was in Cape Coast I got some fast food and it was absolutely delicious.  Anyway, I’ve been craving it ever since.  I LOVE Ghanaian food (even though I miss eating an adequate amount of protein).

Cape Coast Recap: We drove for around eight hours to get to CC. We stopped in Tafi Atome Sunday night to visit some of the other Global Scholars (SHOUT OUT TO DA TAFI GROUP! You guys are great), we fed some crazy monkeys in the forest, climbed West Africa’s tallest mountain, and swam in the highest waterfall in Ghana.  After that with some detours (and getting lost) in Accra, waiting in traffic, multiple bathroom and FanIce stops, we finally made it to CC.  It was gorgeous! The traffic was bustling, there were an eclectic mix of people everywhere moving about, loud noises shot around everywhere, and a relaxing sea breeze permeated the entire city.  The views were breathtaking–a slave castle highlighted the coast and sharp cliffs and homes on stilts peppered the skyline.  Once in CC we did some shopping and walked around the city, which was comparable to a Ghanaian New York City.  The next morning we went to Kakum National Park, which was awesome! Then we toured the slave castle and really learned some great history.  That night we went out to a fancy dinner and the next morning it took us about 10 hours to make it back to Adaklu Anfoe.  Overall it was an exhausting but great trip! I really missed the rural lifestyle while we were away though.

So we’ve been working in a community called Dawanu lately.  They have absolutely no water, no electricity, no education, no nothing.  The community has five surrounding “mini-communities” that also function just like Dawanu.  We were doing surveys one day and asked one of the community members to take us to their current source of water.  What  I say was appalling.  It was a small pond–no scratch that, it was a puddle–of dirty, sandy, brown water.  They said that it was the only water source for over 200 people, and that during the dry season they have to walk miles just to get equally dirty water.  Oh, not to mention they share the water with cows and goats and other wild animals.  I drank a little bit of the water and my stomach has been hurting ever since.  I could crunch the dirt in my mouth and it smelled awful.  It was heart breaking that this was their ONLY source of water.  I wish I could have just built a water filter for them ASAP, but this whole “gain funding by collecting appropriate data so you write a good proposal and get money from a big wig American company” thing is very frustrating.  These people are sick and need help NOW, its just infuriating that I have to jump through multiple hoops just to help these people.  Its truly sad.  

Well, I don’t wanna end my blog on a sour note, so I’ll just let everyone know that besides Dawanu, things are going great here! I hope that everyone is having a great time in their placements, and I hope things in the US are great.  

-Cole F.

GGW (Government Gone Wild)

So, lately there has been a fuel shortage in Ghana.  Major cities and towns are officially out of gas.  The government is freaking out, and the people of the Volta Region gave the chiefs a week long notice before they started protesting.  Also, through discussing with my host family and watching the news I found out that the taxes for water and electricity have risen over 60% in the past year! I could not imagine the uproar that would be caused in America if this happened.  I love seeing the different sides of taxes, government, and healthcare I’ve never seen before.  It’s very interesting to observe another global perspective.  

In other news, it rained last night.  Scratch that, it hurricaned last night.  From 6 PM until 3 AM there was monstrous rain, wind, and lightning.  It was amazing to watch, but it was extremely loud and I wasn’t able to sleep at night.  So, I sat outside on the front steps and watched the massive storm wreak havoc for a while.  It was oddly relaxing.  I finally fell asleep around 3:30.

The project has been going well! We completed some more interviews in Adaklu Waya, performed some more data analysis, and have been delving a little more into the research.  I really love this type of work, and I have seriously reevaluated my life goals (in a good way!) since I’ve been here.  I can’t wait to keep interviewing and learning more about the people here. I think the interviews are great because it’s like a 10 minute window into somebody’s life.  You feel connected, as if you know who they really are–and they welcome this connectedness with warmth and a smile.  

There’s just so much going on that I can’t feel like I can update it all, so I’ll make it short.  1.  We are taking a quick mini-vacation to the coast for the next week.  It will be some well deserved R&R, and I look forward to doing some touristy things.  2. We’ve changed around some stuff with the project in regards to design and which schools we are going to assist. 3. I finally feel really, truly at home here.  I know everyone’s name, I can survive on my own, I have Ghanaian friends, and I’m at the point where if someone speaks slowly and directly at me in Ewe, I can distinguish what they’re saying and respond appropriately.  4. I’m a little sick of being called a yevo.  It was charmingly cute at first when they recognized I was a foreigner, but now when the kids scream it as I walk by it makes me feel as though I’m a visitor, or someone who doesn’t belong.  5.  It’s official. I miss playing frisbee and going to the gym.  Sounds weird, but I miss it a lot. Regardless, still having a great time here though.

Oh, and I finally shaved my beard. Ew.

-Cole F. 

Doxycycline Dreamin’

So, my dreams lately have been pretty weird.  I’ve been able to remember almost all of them, and I’ve been having three or four a night.  And I mean like, very, very vivid and lucid dreams.  I definitely am blaming it on the anti-malarial medication I’ve been taking, but I don’t really mind.  It’s an interesting way to wake up in the morning, and it certainly makes for intriguing breakfast talk.

Speaking of food, I don’t know how many more fried carbohydrates I can eat.  Every meal here consists of some form of starch, drenched in palm oil and fried, with some kind of fishy seasoning, and different spices.  It is good, don’t get me wrong, but I have never craved a crisp, fresh, crunchy pile of vegetables more in my life.  My poor heart just doesn’t like all the fat.

So updates from this past week: 1.  We’ve been working in a clinic and teaching at a primary school. 2. We start construction of our water filter system next week.  3.  We hiked the 3rd highest mountain in Ghana.  4. I gave a breast exam and held a 16-hour old baby.  5. I’m learning more and more Ewe! 6. I’ve started thinking about and planning my capstone paper.  7.  Off duty police tried to arrest our entire car for a traffic violation.

Other than that, life has been pretty great here.  I’ve been adventuring around the village, meeting new people, finding new places, learning more about the culture and the people, and discovering more and more how much I love this country.  I don’t really want to write as much as I did last blog, but I just want to thank every single person who has allowed me to go on this trip.  It has been the single most life-changing experience I’ve ever had, and I couldn’t be more happy with my summer.  I’ve never felt more challenged, more excited, and curious in my life.  So, akpe you guys for helping me get here.  All my friends, colleagues, professors, and mentors who have coached me and assisted me to this point.  You guys are the best.

Oh, and if anyone wants any details about what I’ve been up too, feel free to comment.  I’m gonna go explore Ho’s market and buy some freshly cut atato.  Eto oonye pa! 

-Cole Friedes.

When’s the Fun Ghana End?!

Sorry for the mix up, I accidentally posted last weeks blog on the wrong wordpress…you can read it here if you’d like though! http://coletravelsabroad.wordpress.com/

Anyway, time for my update of my second week in Ghana!

As time goes on and on, I feel more and more welcomed into the community.  Adaklu Anfoe is such an accommodating village! Every time I greet someone in Ewe (the local language of the Volta Region) they all laugh and respond with a pleasant, jovial smile.  They coach me through the small talk, teaching me little tips and tricks, and then wish me a lovely goodbye.  Today, as I was walking home today in the morning, a man actually invited me inside of his hut.  It turns out that he was a bee farmer, and he gave me a free sample of honey; it was absolutely delicious. I love this place, I can definitely get used to life here.

I’ve started going for runs every morning, around 6 am.  I really do hate running, but there’s something oddly peaceful and relaxing about running down a red dirt, African road watching the sunrise behind the tall blades of grass and luscious greens.  Also, all the villagers see a sweaty white boy running while on their way to their farms, and they chuckle at me as a pant and gasp out a measly “andi!” (good morning) to them as I trudge on by.  

As for terms of progress on the Water for Students by Students Project, things are going marvelously!  The original plan that was approved was to design and build long term, effective and sustainable water collection and cleansing methods to five different primary schools in the Adaklu district of Ghana.  Initially, the first step that was planned was to collect in-depth, high quality public health surveys and interviews that would accurately represent the sample population of each village that we travel to. 

So far, we have worked in the small village of Adaklu Abaudi.  With a population of around 300 people max (80-100 of which are enrolled in the school), we have collected and done data analysis of 65 members of the community.  With the contribution of the chief of the village, the headmistress of the primary school, and many villagers, we feel confident we have determined the most effective method of water sanitation that will not only benefit the Abaudi primary school, but also the community at large.

Now we just need to get some funding for our project! If you want to help out in any way, we have a donation page here:https://www.omprakash.org/DonationForm/form/WaterforStudentsbyStudents and a blog about the project here if you want more details:https://www.omprakash.org/blog/Story/check-out-our-new-campaign-water-for-students-by-students?blog_user_id=173&cf=p

Also, in the future we plan on teaching at a local primary school, shadowing in clinics, and doing just a bit of touristy things 🙂

Two days ago, we had the amazing opportunity of being introduced to the students at the primary school we would be teaching at.  Some of the kids already knew us from seeing them around the village and playing football and games with them, but it was great meeting all the other kids! They swarmed us, and tried to teach me Ewe, laughing every time I pronounced something incorrectly.  Then, we all went on an “Anti-Child Labour” march through the village, which was really fun.  All the kids marched in line, played the drums, and sang songs about God the whole time.  It was an incredible experience to take part in.

Also, I had the chance of going to a funeral! Funerals in Ghana aren’t the same as they are in the U.S.  They are more of a celebration of life, rather than a mourning of the dead.  There are large black and red tents (national funeral colors), loud music, people dancing and singing, and children playing everywhere.  We got to walk and see the corpse too, which was kind of strange..but apparently its very normal in Ghana! Apparently, sometimes they place the corpse in strange positions, as if they were still alive (like sitting them down in a chair outside) and people visit the corpse this way.

One thing that I can’t get over here is the beauty of the night time sky.  The sky is so broad, so clear, and absolutely gorgeous! You can see the intricate details of every single constellation, every shine and glimmer in the sky, and the illustrious moon always shines bright, no matter where you are.  Its a really breath-taking view, and something you have to experience to understand.  Sometimes after everyone goes to bed, I sit outside, read my book (this is my 4th book this trip! Currently on Open Heart, Clear Mind) by flashlight and just sit and think.  One thing this trip has taught me is the delicacy of life.  These people we are helping literally have to struggle every day to get clean water, but yet in the US, we are so wasteful and take it for granted.  I don’t want to get preachy, so I’ll stop here, but it just has helped put everything in perspective.  

Anyway, I’ve written a lot and I don’t want to bore anyone.  Hope everyone is doing well! Remember, if you want to help our project, click the links above and donate 🙂 Thanks so much!

 

-Cole Friedes