Thursday, November 4, 2010


Ummmm... so I'm a terrible person. Hopefully it is not news to any of you by this point that I did not die in a Ghanaian hospital and that I enjoyed the rest of my stay immensely and I am now home and safe.
I don't know what I had that made me so sick. The doctors kept telling me that they were running tests and that they would give me results soon. Buuuut, on the last day I was there, they came in and asked me, "Did we ever draw blood for tests to find out what you have?" Um, I have no idea. Remember the part where I was delirious when I came in here? Anyway, they didn't know what was wrong with me and I'll never know. They did treat me for malaria, but they treat everyone for malaria just in case, so that doesn't mean much.
Isaac (now my wonderful boyfriend) came to visit multiple times a day which was more than fantastic. Furthermore, he brought food that wasn't the fish soup the hospital tried to get me to eat!
By the last day I was very fed up with being in the hospital and feeling quite ick. Finally some guy I had never seen before but who seemed to be in charge told me that he recommended I stay for another night but that I could go. So I left. And I instantly felt much much better! Because hospitals are happiness suckers. Also, they burned trash outside my window. And didn't have running water in the bathroom. Just saying.
On the bright side, my hospital bill, for three days stay, IV fluid for each day, and medication including malaria treatment totaled to less than $15. Whoa. Maybe Ghana's not such a bad place to be sick after all.
And after that I continued to have a wonderful stay in Ghana and would super like to go back very soon! Can we talk about how cold Maryland is in November?! Gross.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Excuse Number 1 Part 1: Intro to Ghanaian Hospitals

22 March 2010

Felt a little dizzy today at breakfast. I looked around and decided this wasn't too surprising. A heavy haze stuck in the air everywhere I looked. I've been told different things, but I think we're supposed to be moving into the rainy season right now. Instead, we're experiencing hamatan, the crazy dusty season, to an extreme. All this dust makes breathing trickier. Plus it feels pretty gross. As if there wasn't already enough dust around.
Later I went to class, grabbed a meat pie and plantain chips, and headed to the Shoprite at the mall to get stuff to make dinner. Shoprite sells all kinds of American type groceries. Tonight, I planned to make dinner for my friend Isaac and his friends, because when I've gone to hang out with them the past couple days, they've been making awesome Ghanaian food for me. So I planned to make some awesome American food for them. Gumbo, to be precise. As I wandered through the isles, grabbing ingredients, thinking got trickier and the dizziness moved into mild nausea. So I hurried on up, finished my shopping, checked out, and settled on an overpriced taxi to rush home (I paid almost $4 for a ride home from the mall!) The driver, Raymond, was very nice though, even if a bit talkative for me to handle in my current state. I got back to my room, fell on my bed and decided that only something very important was going to get me up. No cooking tonight.
A couple hours later I believe, Isaac came up to visit found me in my not so healthy state. I will add now that my sheets were at the time hanging to dry and not on my bed. Therefore, Isaac's original plan was to have me go over to his room (in the building next door) so I could sleep on a made bed and get some food.
We made it down the three flights of stairs reasonably well, but I think that rather exhausted me, and about halfway across the parking lot I decided I absolutely had to sit down. Which made us rethink the "just resting" plan. Isaac and his roommate Joe got a taxi to go to the health office on campus. Throughout the ride however, I very quickly grew much sicker and after I got sick twice we changed our route to head to the University hospital emergency room. (Sorry for the gory details, just being thorough. This *is* a hospital story.)
Contrary to popular belief, Ghanaian hospitals are not all candy and rainbows. They led me into a room, for some reason without Isaac or Joe. I had to ask to sit down. I don't know if they intended me to stand that whole time or not, but that certainly wasn't going to happen. Seconds after sitting, I put my head on my arm on the desk and nodded off. This happened multiple times, because they kept waking me up to ask repeated questions about my symptoms and what I had eaten and other things that I had a vague memory of but no clear ability to answer. I was OUT of it. They finally decided they got all the information they thought they'd get out of me and led me to a rubber mattress with a rubber pillow in a room with 7 other occupants.
I laid there alone for a bit and waited for the poking, prodding, and questioning to commence. And commence it did. The grand opening was an IV, one of my greatest personal terrors. That was followed by one rather large needle with unknown purpose in each thigh. After this, they asked a couple more questions, introduced me to a number of people I'd never remember, and finally let Isaac and Joe come visit. They made sure everything was okay (relatively speaking) and Isaac said he'd come visit tomorrow. For now though, they had to leave because it was late and visiting hours were over.
I knew I wouldn't sleep with that thing sticking in my hand to connect me to an unwieldy pole, so I thanked God that I had just put two weeks worth of minutes on my phone, because texting was all I had to distract me and keep me sane.
Eventually, nature called. I was still attached to a pole which had only vaguely effective wheels and no one was in the room to help. I could see some nurses a couple rooms away. I had a task ahead of me. I needed to get their attention but not that of the seven sleeping patients around me. Or get across the room on my own with my friend the pole. So I tried for the first by attempting the second, getting up my energy to drag the pole across the room. My plan worked perfectly. A man came to help and said that since the fluid had finished dripping he could simply take it off. So he attempted to do so with me just standing there. I started getting dizzy and told the man that I needed to sit down, but he told me he was almost done. Almost was not good enough. I took a seat right on the floor. He kept on doing what he was doing. When he finished I told him that I was hungry. He said, "At this hour? No, we don't have any food for you right now." Alright then. Washroom it is.
Got back to the bed still hungry, but also very tired, and though I still was quite aware of having a needle in my hand, at least it wasn't attached to anything that could fall on me, so I was able to get to sleep.

If any of you are still bothering to check, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth!

Hey all, it’s been a while, I know, and I’m sorry. I also know excuses are lame, but I’m going to give them. Because whether they are acceptable ones or not, (I think they are) they do make for interesting stories. Also, you may or may not know by this point that I’m near bald. That story’s coming too. I haven't really been recording the small details the past couple weeks so I'm afraid those that I don't remember are lost forever. You will just have to guess what I have been doing. Because I know you care what I have been doing every second of my life. Anyway, the next couple posts will be some snapshots of the past couple weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Delicious Freedom

6 March 2010
It’s Ghanaian Independence Day! We woke up at 4 something in the morning to catch transportation to Independence Square, where we heard that there would be parades and a possible sighting of Ghana’s President Atta-Mills. It turned out we did not need to get there that early. We got seats very easily and sat around for quite a while with nothing happening. Then the parade started. It was not terribly much more exciting. Different schools and groups marched, and their marching was impressive and it was nice to see all the different uniforms, but it got a bit monotonous after a while and the seats were not super comfy. The president rode by at one point in a little car, but I was looking at the wrong place at the wrong time and missed it. I did catch a glimpse of him through the window of his car. Woo?
Then we went back to the hostel and celebrated independence the only way we knew how—-with an American style BBQ! And that was delicious. We ate our fill of hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. Yum. Oh, the taste of freedom.

A Ravens Fan in Ghana?!

2 March 2010
Today I did some mad crazy bargaining at Madina Market! I hopped on a tro-tro between classes to get some rugby wear, i.e., cleats and clothes that can get destroyed. I mustered all the Twi I knew and whipped out my bargaining skills. I’ll put prices in U.S. equivalents to simplify. I got cleats bargained down from $14.50 to $6.60. Then I deviated from my goal a bit when my eye caught sight of sports jerseys. I’ve wanted a Ghana football jersey for some time now. That was a bit of a splurge. He initially asked for $23.30 for the jersey and shorts, but I got the set down to $10. Just to warn you, I will be quite an obnoxious fan when I get back to the states and watch Ghana's Black Stars in the World Cup. It’ll be great. Furthermore, my friend Hafiz told me later that I had gotten a good deal. It was good to know, because I had no idea what a reasonable price is in the U.S., let alone here.
Anyway. I got two t-shirts for 30 cents each. I paid $1.30 for a pair of shorts and got another pair ‘dashed’. That means she threw in another pair of shorts for free. Yes free. I paid the same for another pair of shorts elsewhere, but when I got back to the hostel, showing off the results of my savvy, I found that there was a U.S. dollar in the pocket. So… I paid 30 cents for those shorts. Which is good, because they didn’t fit. Oh well.
But going back to that bit about the U.S. dollar. I see people wearing or selling clothing, t-shirts in particular that is very clearly shipped used from the U.S. It’s crazy but exciting seeing people wearing very place specific shirts in Ghana. At first I felt it would be weird to point this out to someone, but I’ve found that it can be exciting on both sides. For example, one day at rugby, I saw my team mate wearing a Bowie Baysox t-shirt. (Baysox are a baseball farm team in my area.) I told him they were my home team, and he was very interested and asked what sport they played, if they were any good, and how they were doing this season.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Got 'To-go' Home.

28 February 2010
This morning we started off the day with bread and cheese. Some people were really excited to have cheese, even though it was pretty much just American cheese. Dairy in general is not highly prevalent in Ghana and usually expensive. I however was excited to have a new kind of bread. I haven’t actually gotten tired of Ghana’s sugar bread, but variety can be fun, and here they have delicious and perfectly wonderful baguettes! Yay French influence!
Then we went to a fetish market, for which apparently Togo and Benin are pretty famous. This is where people go to buy items for Voodoo spells. Yes, like dead animals. It’s common to practice Christianity and still use or at least acknowledge Voodoo in both Togo and Ghana, and I believe other areas as well, but I haven’t done research to back up other areas. These ideas aren’t so much blended together as was the case with Santeria, but coexist separately with little or no dogmatic issue. Kwame, our coordinator’s husband explained that most people in these areas believe in Voodoo but many, like he, think it is unwise to mess with it. Though our coordinators assured us that this was a normally functioning market, created for the purpose of buying items for Voodoo, the whole place still had a rather touristy feel. To elaborate, at the end, we got a group picture with the tour guide in which a number of our group were holding various animal skulls. Beyond the normal reasons this would seem a tad odd, I was confused by what seems a contradiction to me. Before traveling here, we were wanted that in Togo, many people did not want their pictures taken because they believe that you cannot get an image of someone without taking a part of that person. But at the market, you could pay a number of CFAs (French West African currency) extra to take as many pictures as you want. Actually, to be accurate, he did set a limit. It was something like 18,000 photos. Tangents aside, the whole picture-taking business was unclear and fishy to me.
After our refreshing pit stop, we got back on the road. I'm not sure how many of you are following news about Togo, but their presidential election is set for Thursday. So as we got close to the border, we saw people all around the road waving signs, shouting and selling related merchandise. They were almost all wearing yellow, the color of the leading opposition candidate, Emmanuel Bob-Akitani. In Togo, there is one dominant party. Others are allowed to run, but have little chance of winning. You'd never guess it from the displays we saw here. People ran up to cars with fliers, shoving handfuls into open windows. It was quite chaotic. I was very glad to be with people who knew what they were doing. We all got across the border in one piece and continued with the road trip. When we got to the hostel I jumped on the internet to find a status from Miki letting everyone know she was a-ok.
And I apologize for the title. Had 'To-go' with the blog theme, no?

Where'd the Maple Syrup Go?

27 February 2010
Our Ghana visas only last two months, so this weekend landed us with some mandatory travel time. Because we've been here almost two months? Whoa. Anyway, the third country I’ve ever gone to: Togo! We drove about three hours to Aflao, Ghana, which is at the border. Now, I’ve never been to the U.S./ Canada border, but I discussed with a couple of friends that there are probably one or two differences. And I’m not talking about temperature. The border checkpoint thingy to get into Togo had… character. And by that I mean it would be kind to call it a shack. There were nails sticking out of boards here and there and the nine of us struggled to find flat surfaces to fill out our bilingual paperwork. (Togo is a French speaking country. Ghana is completely surrounded by French speaking countries.) As we tried to determine whether our ‘point of entry’ was in Ghana or Togo, vendors were passing back and forth across the border. This went smoothly for them for a while, but for no reason as far as I can tell, a border employee suddenly decided he did not want this. So he grabbed a wood plank (with nails sticking out, of course) and closed off their path and yelled at the vendors to get away. On second thought, I imagine that’s exactly what the U.S./ Canada border is like, no?
Anyhoo, we got through and went to a German restaurant (because apparently there’s German influence in Togo as well) and ate delicious food and then walked around the city a bit. ‘The city’ is Lome, by the way, the capital of Togo, and we found it to be much cleaner than Accra, which was nice.
At some point during the trip, I heard about the earthquake in Chile. This was horrible timing. Being in Togo, I had no phone signal and no way to get online. For those of you who don’t know, my good friend Miki is studying abroad in Santiago this semester. Right where the earthquake hit. I have no way of finding out anything about her until tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by coverage. It seemed like everyone was talking about it, and when we got back to the hotel, we stupidly watched CNN, which of course showed nothing but constant re-tallying of death tolls and footage of destruction. This could only make me more worried, because no matter what they said, they couldn’t tell me about Miki specifically. Stress and suspense. Sorry if it’s weird to read this, Miki.
Something interesting I did note while watching the news: the news anchor at one point said something to the effect of “Let’s see what the president has to say.” It took a moment to think which they were speaking of, but I figured it must be the Chilean president. Wrong. It was a surprise visit from Obama! “The” president. Obviously. Keep in mind we were watching World CNN, with British anchors I believe, in Togo, showing Chilean earthquake coverage. But everyone needs to hear the United State’s opinion on everything, so there he was.
To be fair though, he is speaking for two countries. (I feel as though I’ve explained this in another post, but I can’t find where I did, so I will continue. Forgive me if I’m wrong.) Yes, at least two. Because the Ghanaians claim him as their own. In fact, one man told me that Barack Obama is actually Ghanaian and that after he finishes his eight years of presidency, he will come and live in Ghana. I have been told by people that they love us (Americans) because Obama is our president. Little bonus today-- here’s a song a bunch of prominent Ghanaian musicians put together when he came to visit Cape Coast: (‘Akwaba’ means ‘welcome in Twi) Some of us have decided that we would like to write letters to our president thanking him for making our stay in Ghana welcoming. Fun fact though: Despite the fact that Ghanaians don’t approve of the wars we have going on, they really liked Bush as well. In fact, I’ve heard that Africa is the only country where Bush’s approval ratings went up through his presidency.
Anyway, Togo was nice from what we could tell, but we’re only spending the one night, so I don’t think we’re getting a whole lot out of the area. Unfortunately, our coordinator seems to be unimpressed with Togo and wants to go and come as quickly as possible. Oh well, we’ll see what tomorrow holds for us.