Thursday, January 29, 2009

Intentional Living

I spend most of  my weekly days with people, thinking about them, talking about them, reading about, and so forth. What do you expect from a social work grad student!  This has me thinking about a lot of things all the time. In fact sometimes my brain just hurts from all the thinking!

Sometimes I write lists of things I want to get out of my head and write down, whether in poetry, music, or on here. Sometimes they manage to get out of my head--most times they don't.

For the past few years I've sort of been living with the motto: Make it Happen! In some ways I have done this and in other ways I have failed miserably. In thinking back over time I was trying to pin point why I could make some things happen (even in almost insurmountable circumstances) and other things (I'm embarrassed to say that are so simple and easy) I didn't even attempt.

I still need to work some things out but I have come to one conclusion, for me, that for the most part when I live intentionally I find that I have greater success and accomplish not only my goals but some of my dreams along the way!

Now that I realize this I need to better understand what it means to live intentionally or what you think intentional living means? I'd love to hear some ideas??

This American Life

There are a lot of things that I like, things I'm passionate about, things that I love. If you spend enough time around me they usually seem to just explode out of me.  However there are a few things I really enjoy that I don't talk about a lot. Probably because they are just quiet things that I do "on the way" in my life. By "on the way" I mean while driving, sitting on the light rail, or while cruisin' the internet. One of these quiet loves of mine is the BBC Chicago Radio broadcast (I listen to it on a streaming podcast-yes a sure sign of nerdiness) called, "This American Life."

I can't take credit for originally finding this blessed show-a friend of mine in Boston introduced me to it-but after faithfully following it for over a year I am a huge fan! I love how the show is designed, I really like the stories--how they are raw and original-and how they teach me a lot about people!

I could explain more about it but it's just better if you go to the website and check it out or better yet just listen--you'll most likely get hooked!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So What??

So you might ask--as many people have---what did you like the most about your African experience??

How does one answer that question--and better yet how do you answer it with words--amazing as they are-when they fail completely!

It pains me to even try to answer that question and so mostly I haven't.  Not to say that I don't want to talk about or share my experiences but they have been one on one, in quiet settings, with real questions and a true desire to hear my feelings. 

I will list a few of the things I learned while in Ghana:
  • my sister and her husband are amazing (nothing new)
  • you can be happy when you have so little
  • there is such a thing as being too
  • multitasking diminishes passion, shared experiences, and focus
  • knowledge can greatly increase patience
  • I can pee just about anywhere
  • some traditions never die
  • respecting elders is a lost art in the USA
  • I never knew how much I should appreciate paved roads
  • making even small efforts to learn another's culture and language goes a long way
  • the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is universally true
  • having an opportunity to catch even a glimpse of someone's passion, sweat, tears, hard work, and education, is life changing
  • some experiences can never be replicated or truly shared
  • that I can travel in extreme circumstances
  • truly I am eclectic when it comes to food of all kinds
  • some opportunities are priceless
There are so many more lessons learned but you get the idea. If you want to hear more don't hesitate to ask questions, drop me a comment, write me an email, or call me.


My sister, Chelsea, freaked out when we headed to Accra and she saw all the buildings, the Accra Mall, and most amazingly--the AMC style Movie Theater.
The Ancillary 3 bunk bed/6 beds in a room setting.

The beautiful, inspiring, and gorgeous Ghana Accra LDS Temple!

This is the Ancillary and the West Africa Church Office Building.

If you don't know this man you should! I am in this picture with Billy. He is a modern day pioneer who served a 14 year mission, brought the LDS church to Cape Coast, and I refer to him as a latter day Paul.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cape Coast

I was really excited to come to Kakum National Park!

Kakum is where you walk on these 7 canopy walk ways. It was unreal! I loved it and it was unreal to be literally walking in the tree tops!

Cape Coast Slave Castle

The cell was awful!

The Door of No Return.  This is the door the slaves were ordered, on their knees, in cuffs, on to ships and sold into slavery--never to return.

This is the Door of Return.  Generations later some relatives of the slaves in the Cape Coast castle came through the door as a symbolic end to slavery.

This is a plaque that is in both the Elmina & the Cape Coast  Slave Castles.  When seeing and reading this plaque (after having harrowing tours) I couldn't help think of the Yad Vadshem, the Holocaust Museum that made me weep in Jerusalem. The slave castles were hard to walk through and hear the stories of the suffering.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pictures from Ho and Hohoe

Here I am at the Tafi Atome Monkey Santuary. It was really fun to see the monkeys and have them eat from my hands.

Here is the "chief" monkey.


Wvli (Vlee) Falls

I was just looking on the shore, then I rolled up my pants and put my toes in the water, then I just couldn't resist--I dove into the waterfall with all my clothes on. It was amazing!

Here is me emerging from the waterfall--I tried to walk behind the falls but there was too much pressure.

This is the Sidwells and the local kids on our little beautiful hike to the falls.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Infamous Grasscutter

This very large "rat" is called a Grasscutter. They are a delicacy here. People actually like to catch them because they can kill them, sell them (for food), and make a nice profit!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Today was another full and exciting day! We went to see the biggest Dam in Ghana where most of the electricity is generated. We took a tour and the man told us lots of interesting facts. The design of the dam is American, the investors are Dutch, American and a few others, the builders were Ghanian and so forth.

After the Dam visit we headed back to Kpong and went to a bead making place called Cedi beads. I can't believe how long and intricate it is to make glass beads. Here is our guide that took us on a tour and explained/showed us how they make the beads from colored glass bottles. Come to find out he is a member of the Mormon faith also.

They start with colored glass bottles, then they grind them into tiny pieces. In a seperate process they make the bead molds (this is an entire other process). then they put the glass shards into the molds and bake them in a oven/kiln for maybe 45 min. then when they pull out the molds from the kiln the glass is malable so they poke holes in the center and round the beads. then they let them cool off for 1 hour. then they polish the beads with sand and water. Once they are polished they are strung together for braclets or necklaces. The other kind of beads they make are much more difficult. They take the colored glass bottles and grind them into a powder, then they color the powder with a colored pigment, then they make designs in the molds (sort of like the sand designs in glass bottles you might have seen before). then they go through the same baking process. when the beads come out they have these cool designs. Also there is another process for painting desgins on the beads also. Each of these processes takes so long!

I bought a couple necklaces but they are just the plain glass. I really liked the design beads but I figured I wouldn't wear any of them very much. then we went home and watched a few DVD's. See in Ghana all the Ghanians go out at night because it is cooler outside. As Americans this is HIGHLY dangerous as there are many mosquitoes at this time. So we go in early. Thus we need to find things to do. So Playing card games, DVD, computer time, etc. is what we do.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Today was amazing!

Wli (Agumatsa) Falls (pronounced 'vlee')
One of the main reasons I wanted to come the Volta reason was to see the Wli water falls. So when we woke up this morning I was very excited. We packed a lunch and set out on our way. The falls are located in Hohoe (ho.hey) a village about 1-2 hours away from Ho.

We took this beautiful hike up a foot path that never really got the steep and crossed the Lake Volta 9 times. It was leisurely and only took about 40 min. then the beautiful falls appeared! I loved every minute of it. I hadn't brought my swimsuit because the missionaries can't swim but while I was standing in the water just getting my feet wet the falls were calling to me.

So after tinkering a bit I decided, why not, so I just jumped into the water with my clothes on. It was wonderful. I got as close to the falls as I could but there was a lot of pressure and I couldn't see. The Sidwell's took some pictures but they were far away on dry land so I don't know if they will turn out or not. I had a great time splashing around in the water at the bottom of the waterfall!

We drove a little outside the Falls area and found an empty church (sort of a stick house with some upturned benches inside and decided to eat our lunch there. It was shaded, quiet, and very peaceful. Lunch was great after the hike in and out and then we headed to the Monkey Sanctuary.

The Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary
We arrived late in the day at the monkey Sanctuary around 4:00 pm. We paid our entrance fee and then this young boy started leading us down this path into the forest. He was making these very loud kissing/smacking sounds. I guess he was calling out to the Mona Monkeys in the area.

After only a few mintues of walking around we found the monkeys! the Sidwells had brought bananas for us to coax the monkeys out of the trees. Sure enough they would peel the bananas from your hand, eat it, and then dig in for some more. It was so much fun to have the monkeys so close and they would tease us and try to grab the entire banana from our hands.

This was a great experience and the Sidwell's took some great pictures that I hope to upload soon!

What a great day!


After relazing for one day I decided to head out to the Volta (East) region of Ghana to visit my friends Kris' parents. The Sidwell's are serving a mission for 18 mo in a village named Ho. I had brought over many Christmas cards and gifts from their children and needed to deliver the goods to them.

So I left Wiamoase around 7:00am and headed to Agona to catch a tro tro back to Kumasi. No problem. Once in Kumasi I got a taxi to take me to the Aseda House ForEx where I could exchange some money and it was just a few feet away from the STC station so I stopped in to see if they had a bus to Ho but they didn't. So I took another taxi to where the tro tro for Ho is located only when I got there the tro trp had already left. So I decided to go to Kpong (the K is silent) that is only 1 hour away from Ho and then catch a tro tro to Ho. Little did i know I would be waiting for 3 hours for the Kpong tro tro to fill. Then Once I got to Kpong I waited another 45-1 for that tro trp to fill until I finally arrived at the Sidwell's house in Ho around 7:30 pm. It was an awful traveling day full of heat, awful tro tro's, and little to eat.

Once I arrived though the Sidwell's feed me, they had running water, and air condionting so it was all good. I will be staying in Ho and visiting nearby areas for 4 or 5 days. This area of Ghana is very different from the Ashanti region where I have been living. They speak Eweh here instead of Twi so I'm back to square one (they also speak English). It will be nice to discover this region for a few days.

Tamale & Mole

I haven't had time to upload any pictures of my recent adventures yet this might be a bit boring for some--if so stay tuned for some fun pictures soon!

New Year's Eve
  • Watched prison break most of the night and actually missed New Year's by 1 minute.
  • Sang the parts of the new Year song we knew, got a few birthday wishes, and continued to watch Prison Break.
  • Chelsea & Mike (C&M) surpised me with a few gifts and brownies for my birthday. We had it early since we were going to be traveling all day tomorrow.

New Year's Day

  • We went to bed late and Chelsea wasn't feeling too well so we got a late start (10:00 am) so we ended up not getting to Kumasi until late. We decided on the way (in the tro tro) to just stay in a hotel in Kumasi and take the STC bus to Tamale (Tom.ol.ay) tomorrow.
  • Went to STC and found the earliest bus would leave the next day at 10:00 so we didn't buy tickets-thinking we would catch an earlier tro tro. There is a connecting bus (the only one)that leaves Tamale some time between 2-5 that takes everyone to Mole (Mole.ay). We wanted to be sure to make that bus.
  • C&M rested in the hotel while I went down to explore a little at Kejetia Market. This is Ghana's biggest outdoor market and you could get lost for days in the market. It was amazing and you can get just about anything you need.

Friday (01/02/09)

  • We woke up at 6:00 am in order to catch and early tro tro. We walked down to the tro tro station/lorry and found the Tamale tro tro and bought 3 tickets. We had no idea it would take so long (we wait until about 9:45 am) and decided (Chelsea was still not feeling better ) that we would chance it and go see if there were still tickets on the STC bus.
  • We ended up having a really hard time getting our money back from the mate (the helper of the driver in the tro tros). Finally we gave him 6 Cedi ($6.00) for free if he would just give us the rest of our money. He, after having quite the discussion, an officer, and such, conceded and we took a taxi to the STC station.
  • We arrived just in the nic of time and bought 3 seats on the very nice, air conditioned, and well maintained STC bus.
  • On the STC bus I met Eva, a 31 year old 6'2" woman from Holland. She was travelling to Tamale/Mole alone and we ended adopting her for the rest of the trip.
  • We boarded the bus for the very long bus ride. It went really well except that I needed to go to the bathroom before we reached Tamale. Well in Ghana there's no readily available toilets-and even if there are some they are usually disgusting. So I had to go out into the bush on a quick break. I rushed to the bush, my toilet paper in hand, and squatted. Thing is I was more looking to go somewhere where the entire bus couldn't see me and less looking where I was actually squatting. I ended up standing in this bush of pricklies. I had them all over me and had to pick them off me one by one under a blanket on the the rest of the bus ride to Tamale! What an adventure!
  • When we got to Tamale I had another bathroom adventure. We all had to go but Chelsea said that the stalls at this particular station were the worst in all of Ghana. So when Eva & I reached them, paid or 2o Pesua (20 cents) and grabbed our toilet paper, she took one look at bolted. I, on the other hand, just shook my head and squatted over the hole in the ground. After thorny bush squatting this was not much in comparison.
  • By the time we got to Tamale we had missed the bus to Mole by 1/2 hour. So the four of us, C&M, Me, and Eva decided that we would just hire a taxi to take us to Mole. We bargained and finally got a taxi to come down from 100 Cedi ($100) to 70 C ($70). So we were on our way. Chelsea warned up about the dry dusy red horrible road so we all had hankerchiefs on our faces covering our noses and mouths and looked like bandits. I tell you what the road was by far the worst I have ever seen in my life and speaking of life, I feared for mine a few times along the way.
  • We arrived at Mole National Park around 9:00, checked into our room, got some dinner, went for a quick night swim (the water was turned off and we were covered in red dirt), and then went to bed.
  • It was a crazy day of travelling all in all around 14+ hours!

Saturday (01/03/09)

  • We all woke up around 7:00 am to take a guided Safari hike to see some animals (I really wanted to see some Elephants). Come to find out it's mating season so most of the Elephants are deep in the reserve. Bummer. I did get to see some Bok & Cob (sort of like Antelope), Mona Monkeys, and Baboons.
  • Then Eva & I decided to rent 2 bikes and bike to the nearest village, Larabanga, to see the famous Mosque they have there. It was hot and so I got sunburned a bit but it was a great ride to the village. Once there were got hassled so much we decided to leave, but the boys grabbed our bikes and wouldn't let us go unless we paid them, so we had it out with them. Both Eva and I were yelling and so forth. They finally let us go when we paid them 1 Cedi for the picture Eva took of the Mosque. It was crazy!
  • Then we went for a swim in the pool, ate some overly expensive food, and took another hike around 3:30. During this hike we saw Crocodiles, the Green monkey (that is not all all green but is usually found in the green leafy tops of trees), and no Elephants. I was really sad.
  • Then at night Eva & I went to the female dorms and slept while C&M got their own double room. We had to wake up at 3:30 am to board the bus back to Tamale so we were all really exhausted. Chelsea was still feeling awful so I felt really bad for her. The bus ride on the awful dirt road was much better on the bus, at least I thought so.
  • Since Eva and I became so buddy buddy she invited me to stay overnight in Kumasi with her at her Ghanaian boyfriend's house. The next day we would go together to Lake Bosumtwi. So C&M went on to home to Wiamoase and I stayed the night in Kumasi.
  • Kojo's (Eva's boyfriend) house (well technically his sister's house since he lives in Holland and was just visiting for the Holiday break) was about as American as it gets in Ghana. This family is loaded. They had 2 fridges, running water, an ice maker, microwave, TV, computer, cars, and so forth. I was amazed!

Sunday (01/05/09)

  • It was nice that we weren't on any schedule and so we got to sleep in a bit until about 9:00 am. then we all got ready and took a taxi to Lake Bosumtwi (Bos.umm.chwee). I loved the lake and went swimming in it most of the day. Eva & I were trying to teach Nana, Kojo's niece for hours how to swim but she was terrified of the water and drownding (even though she could stand up in the water.
  • At some point in the afternoon I decided I didn't want to swim alone anymore (Eva was reading a book) and so headed over to the nearby village and started swimming with the kids-they loved it- and I even taught a group of boys how to play 500 with their beach ball! I had a really great time and parted ways with Eva and headed to the Kumasi tro tro station.
  • I boarded a Wiamoase tro tro and headed back home. I got home about 8:00pm and it was nice to be back in my own room, and have a good night's rest!

I had a great time goint to Tamale & Mole. I loved meeting and hanging out with Eva, and even thought it was quite the journey I had a great time making some crazy memories. I had a great birthday trip!