Monday, July 20, 2009

more vendors in Accra

Our Day Trip

Went to Cape Coast yesterday. This is what it looks like:


Cape Coast castle is where the slaves from Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, etc were held before boarding the ships. They had to walk there from their respective countries and stayed in the dungeons for up to 12 weeks. Interesting side note, slaves created a rain harvesting system to collect water, but the British got their drinking water from ponds, causing them sickness.

Door of No Return.

Outside the Door of No Return...fishermen.

One intense experience to another - after the Castle we went to the national park where we walked above the trees on a frightening suspension bridge. Yikes!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Accra Interviews

I've decided to do some interviews in Accra to compare with the girls in Tamale. So far, they are not as different as I had expected. Although, nearly everyone I meet in Accra were not born here, but came from other towns and villages to make money. Also, in Tamale, the girls say they like selling water, but in Accra most of them don't like it. Their number one complaint is men touching them and objectifying them.

Where Your Donations Are Going

Thank you for all of your donations! Africa Change International has been able to hire two new people, creating two jobs in an economy with a high unemployment rate. Paul pictured below on the left is the new manager for the internet cafe. I've been training him on translation and hired him to help me with my interviews. Even though English is Ghana's official language, they usually can't understand my American accent if they understand English, or they speak the native Twi.

I've also been training the new secretary, Annette, on transcription and I've hired her to type up my interviews. Win, win.

ACI is launching the computer lab on Wednesday so I will be able to attend (I leave Thursday). We've lined up TV and other media to cover the event and Miss Ghana 2008 is scheduled to come, no lie. We've been in the newspaper once already, and I'm going to interview some kids who use the internet cafe and write it up for an article. I'm thinking I should do something for The New Yorker or something. Does anyone have any experience with that?

Plastic Pollution

When people buy sachet water, they usually throw the plastic on the ground (which they call "rubber.") It usually ends up in the sewers, blocking the drains and causing floods in the rainy season. I was surprised today when one of my interviewees who was only 15 years old explained to me how she would wait until her customer was done drinking the water and collect the plastic bag to put in a bin later. I thanked her for doing that.

PS Back at home, MIT Sensable City lab is getting tons of press for Trash Track, the project that puts tracking devices on trash to see where it ends up and how much gets recycled. Read about it here in Wired:

Tamale Friends

This is Lydia who works at Pure Home Water, the NGO started in Ghana by my MIT professor Susan Murcott. Lydia is in charge of the lab. Even though she has a full-time job that pays decently by Ghana standards, she can't pay the fees for her sisters to go to school, so she's trying to get Compassion International to take them on for sponsorship for $5/month.

This is Bhavna. She basically grew up in Ghana and helps her dad with his two businesses of owning a store and a sachet water production company. The people here call her white. She makes great Indian food!


Close-up of skinned knees from wiping out on my bike on the road to a local village:

So the only medical supplies we could find were iodine and penicillin. It reminded me of Little House on the Prairie. So I patched myself up with some gauze and an ace bandage. Does anyone else think it's weird that ace bandages in Africa are flesh-colored for white/beige people?

Larabanga Mosque

Although I do not recommend staying the night in Larabanga, the one attraction there is Ghana's oldest mosque.

Mole National Park, Upper West Region

Here are some pictures from my side trip to Mole National Park. They say that you can get closer to the animals here than at other game reserves in Africa, but they don't have as many animals. We missed the elephants by about 30 minutes, but got to see their poop. What are they eating? Anyway, Jesse got food poisoning the night before and couldn't come, so it was just Jake and me. We befriended the german volunteer at the place we were staying in Larabanga who was our temporary stand-in for Jesse. He was very nice, but unfortunately was having a terrible time at his position because there was nothing to do and only rice to eat. (If you go to Mole, it's worth the price to stay at Mole Motel, do not stay in Larabanga!) We got to watch Obama's speech and we all agreed that everything Obama said was true and correct.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

lazy days

Jake says he had expected strange noises in Africa, but the 6am marching band practice and the boys across the street playing gangsta rap weren’t what he had in mind. The cacophony of the neighbor’s hounds howling, anonymous goats baying and Nurdeen’s roosters crowing at all hours, not just at dawn, mixes with the periodic call to prayer from the local mosque. This is how I woke this morning, not blaming Nurdeen for his incessant roosters who after all lay the eggs for his breakfast. Although I get up late, it will be hours until I’m joined by Jake and Jesse who I had to yell at last night for being 18 year olds and laughing hyena laughs until dawn. Unable to lie awake in bed all morning, I wasted time by cleaning up after the boys and burning some bread for breakfast. I was down to my last pair of clean underwear, so I set about “doing laundry” which means cleaning out a basin well enough to rinse some clothes in a mixture of rainwater and SuperConcentrate Wilderness Wash. I reminded myself of my dad making up new lyrics to old songs as I hummed “how much DEET must one woman spray” to the tune of Blowin in the Wind. The answer, my friend, is biting at my legs.

The sky is dark and gray, threatening my work at the clothesline. I would say “at least the power hasn’t gone out yet,” but I don’t want to jinx myself. At least we still have running water. At least Jesse put his music on my computer and I got an hour long radio show hosted by Bob Dylan on the theme of “friends and neighbors.” Jesse and Jake wake up and eat breakfast. We wait for Sunday to end so we can go to the National Reserve to see the elephants. They play hearts on their laptop while I play solitaire on mine. I find this exceedingly ironic.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I would really like to do a photo exhibit. Any ideas?