Highlights From Ghana, West Africa
While in Kumasi, our group was personally invited to attend the royal court proceedings of the King of the entire Ashante Nation. (It is said, the Ashante King is more important than the President of Ghana!) We were escorted in by armed body guards and seated front and center! We witnessed the installation of a new Regional Chief, who in turn, invited us to have dinner with him in his palace! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Absolutely priceless!
In the Western Region our group took an excursion to Nzulezu, which can only be reached by dugout canoe. The entire village (population 500+) is built on stilts, resting above the fresh water Lake Amansuri. Even though it took us forty-five minutes to get to the village; paddling through the majestic Aamansuri Wetlands & Swamp Forest was such an awesome and exhilarating experience for our students. Our canoes followed the river through marshes and open pools flanged by raffia palms and lush foliage. Upon our arrival, we were honored to be have the Chief’s son personally tell us the history and legends of Nzulezu.
In Tamale, as part of our service learning program our students had an amazing hands on experience: The opportunity to help with the actual building of a new and much needed village hospital! We put on our work clothes, sporting our Laney College T-shirts and worked half a day, side by side with the workers. We mixed cement, rolled wheel barrels to and from, put the cement down, carried bricks and laid bricks! This by far was one of our most rewarding experiences. The hospital is due to be completed in three/four years.
From Tamale, we traveled further north to the village of Saakpuli, one of the region’s busiest slave-trading centers in the early 19th century. Our students saw a great deal of evidence from the slave trade that has been preserved including slave wells. One of the most emotional, yet beautiful sights was a massive baobab tree, to which slaves were chained. I was so moved as to never forget; that baobab tree is now on my office computer as the screen-saver. It was this village, when asked, “What could we donate?” The chief replied, “Educational items”. Not only did our students rally to the task and donated educational items from A to Z, but Dean Chan and the office of the president also made sizable donations. Next year, we want to bring laptops!
While visiting a school build by the Missionaries in the early 1930’s, we were privileged to a special performance by the school children. This wonderful presentation highlighted their academic growth through reading, reciting and song; also to show their great appreciation for the donations we brought. In turn, our students were also given a teaching opportunity – each of us brought a lesson geared for K – 2nd grade that we taught to all the childeren. Again, so rewarding and heartfelt; to see such great appreciation for such simple things.
Holler! Our students were asked to dance in the music video of up and coming Ghanaian music artist, ‘Capone’! All students contributed to the choreography, with Ms. Amar and Ms. Natalie as dance captains. We filmed in three locations: while traveling on the bus, (the stares we got from passing vehicles were great) on the beach in Cape Coast, and in the village of Saakpuli. The video is scheduled for release this Fall 2015. Holler!
Our dance classes were held on the beautiful University of Ghana campus. Their Department of Dance, the faculty and facilities were like… WOW! Before we danced, Professor Oh began each class with an incredible lecture on historical folklore. In addition to learning traditional Ghanaian movements, as part of each class we were taught songs and how to play rhythms on the drum and calabash. The dance faculty were always enthusiastic, supportive and encouraged our students to ‘trust’. What an experience.
Other noteworthy highlights
The itinerary for our students also included their participation in other scheduled excursions, workshops, lectures, eco-tourism and activities such as: The slave dungeon of Elmina; The annual wreath-laying and candle light walk through Cape Coast Town to honor those who died in the slave trade & middle passage; Kente-Weaving workshop, in Bon Wire; Agomanya Bead Market; The historical Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology; Center for Plant Research and Medicine; Jamestown, the largest fishing village; Arts Markets; Shea Butter making; The Last Bath at Asin-Mansu river, where African men, women and children took their last bath before being transported to slave forts; The WEB Dubois Center, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum & Museum; Manhyia Place Museum; and Freedom Square.
Back in Accra, as our departure date approached; our students were encouraged to explore the city and ‘learn local’ with our licensed travel guides while on their free and own time: Go shopping in the mall, discover a vegan restaurant, enjoy a night out dancing, visit friends and families, etc.