"Akwaaba" means "Welcome" in twi, the most widely spoken native language in Ghana, and it's an appropriate word to begin this blog with, because we experienced such an amazing welcome into the country. After we landed, a bus came to pick us up and take us to our housing compound, and then the day was full of all the usual minor technicalities of getting situated and settled in. For dinner, we met our professor and director of the program, Frankie, at an outside restaurant, Tante Marie. A big screen was set up, and the Ghana vs. USA game was on, which we had been looking forward to all day. All of us girls (there's nine girls, and four boys in the group) wanted Ghana to win because of how exciting it would be for us in Accra (which is pretty selfish, and very girlish of us, I suppose), while the boys remained loyal and cheered for the US. Fortunately for the girls, Ghana did win, which led us to experience a kind of surreal first night in the country. Immediately, we heard people running through the streets, cheering and blowing vuvuzelas. We decided to go out to the main roads to see all the excitement, and ended up following this group of older teenagers to this area where everyone was celebrating. There were a lot of little outside bars set up, music was playing, and a lot of people were dancing. It was amazing to see how genuinely happy for their country everyone was, and I think they were really amused at the fact that we were out celebrating with them. I've been trying to take a lot of videos in order to upload here, and have videos from the night, but our connection isn't the best, and it takes hours for videos to upload. Maybe I'll eventually figure out how to get them on here, but until then, I guess photographs will have to suffice, though I unfortunately don't have any from that evening.
On Sunday, the 27th, the former mayor of Accra, Nat Nuno-Amartefio, came to speak to us about the history behind the city and then take us on a quick bus tour around. He took us to Jamestown, an area of Accra that is incredibly poor and comprised of mostly shanty towns. We walked through this old, dilapidated building on the waterfront that used to be used to house captured slaves before shipping them off to sea. The area was full of tons of children, who just seem to run all of the over place. They love white people, and finding us to be a sort of spectacle, come up to hold our hands, talk to us, and a little girl even spanked my butt (which we've come to experience is common for women to sometimes to do to us girls). Walking around the city, we often hear people refer to us as "obrunis," which means "foreigner," or more specifically, "white person." I know it sounds so absurd, coming from a country where that would be considered completely politically incorrect, but they mean it in an endearing sense, and most Ghanians are happy we're here, and even go out of their way to welcome us to their country.
"Uncle" Nat with other students from the group looking at the sea from the former slave building.
The view from the building.
Paintings on a dilapidated wall. The bottom one seems the oldest, and looks like slaves chained together.
A group of children waving at us.
Even though this is even one of the more stable looking ones, these houses are an example of the homes in the neighborhood.
On Monday, June 28th, we had our orientation with the directors, and other people who work for NYU's Ghana campus. The orientation was followed by two lectures, the first one regarding the history of Ghana, and the second about religion. Our first lecturer, Dr. Akosua Perbi, was incredibly intelligent and engaging, and I found out that she's good friends with Walter Pimpong, the man I'm going to be working with regarding the Trokosi women. Our second lecturer, Mr. Dan Appiah Adjei, seemed to be a little less professional. The basis of his lecture was incredibly true: culture and religion are not mutually exclusive entities in Ghana. The culture is completely immersed in the Ghanians deep regard for religious identity and faith, regardless of which religion they identify with. The three prevalent religions in Ghana include the "traditional" African religion (which, for lack of a better word, can be seen as a kind of Pagan-type religion), and then Christianity (due to Britain's colonization of the country from 1874 to 1957), and lastly, Muslim. Mr. Dan was an avid Christian, and while there's nothing wrong with that at all, he couldn't seem to speak about religion in the country without a completely biased perspective. To put it a little more simply, he also seemed just a little borderline crazy, and told us to read his play, "Tears of Lucifer," of which the cover consists of a skeleton burning in hell. Very pleasant.
But anyway, after our lectures, we went to visit TV Africa, one of the television stations in Ghana. They broadcast everything: news programs, health shows, sports shows, even motivational and reality programs. The station's mission seems to revolve around consistently portraying traditional African values, with people on the shows only wearing traditional African clothing and speaking in the native language. Here are a few pictures:
On Tuesday, the 29th, we had another two lectures, "Arts and Entertainment in Ghana" with Mr. Nana Benyin Dadson (a writer for the Daily Graphic, where we later visited that day), and "Politics in Ghana" with Professor Gyimah Boadi, who seemed to harbor a little more skepticism towards the Ghanian government. After lunch, we went to visit the Daily Graphic, a state run newspaper, and the paper with the largest circulation in Ghana. My roommate, Megan, and I briefly got separated from our group, and ended up making friends with a few of the very friendly, and flirtatious, workers. But even though the men here can be incredibly flirtatious (and often just blatantly propose to you), most of them are just genuinely friendly and do it in a very non-threatening way. The guys at the Daily Graphic were just very lively and funny to talk with, as the pictures probably show. Another really great thing about Ghanians is that a lot of them not only don't mind having their pictures taken, but sometimes people, and a lot of times the children, will ask you to take their picture.
Inside the printing room.
And so it begins...
Megan getting out her video camera to record the guys.
I know I didn't cover the rest of the week yet, but this is turning into the never-ending blog post, and I've probably become incredibly boring, so I'll come back later today to update. Also, I realize how much easier this would be to do on a consistent basis, so now I'll (hopefully) write either every, or every other, day.