A weekend in Accra

This past weekend we left all of you readers before hitting the town in Accra. We started the weekend at an evening conference on African Architecture in the ritzy Golden Tulip hotel. Although we didn’t quite make it through the presentation, we enjoyed the evening next to the pool bar with friends from Accra. It was a rainy night so the nightlife was dead on Thursday. We spent the rest of the evening at another friend’s house and met a few other Americans spending their summers in Ghana. The next day we ate lunch with Ellis’ grandmother, who had fascinating stories about her life as a diplomat’s daughter in the era of African independence. Oh, and the food was fantastic (traditional Ghanaian fare). After lunch we set ourselves to work. We spent the majority of this time at the cell phone store setting up a mobile internet plan (in case any of you were wondering about how we stay connected), though we did manage to plan out the first week. Later on we took our last showers of the week and got dressed for a Saturday night in Osu.

Ellis drove the three of us to Osu, one of Accra’s nightlife centers and a hotspot for expats and study-abroad types. The main strip has a number of banks, a variety of craft vendors, the notorious Frankie’s restaurant (one of the few spots serving American style pizza, burgers, etc. – very overpriced) and some popular nightclubs. We met up with three of Thabo’s friends studying abroad at University of Ghana and visited one of the nightclubs, Bella Roma’s, which frankly reminded me of a typical club in New York. It was fun, but we retreated to another bar outside for cheaper drinks and some relief from the heavy speakers. We made it back to Ellis’ house late in at night without too much trouble.

The next day we tried to fetch our bags from the airport for a third time. Naturally, Royal Air Maroc royally f*%&#d up again and Chelsey’s bag still hadn’t made it out of Casablanca. Be advised: anyone who wants to fly Royal Air Maroc should expect to lose his or her checked luggage (all 9 of us had to pick up our checked bags at least a couple days after our flight). It is now Wednesday and the airport has informed us that the bag has arrived, but we’re still skeptical. We gathered what we could from Accra and drove out to Nsawam to meet with some of our past students. We left Thabo, his friends and the luggage at MacDonall’s, a thoroughly Ghanaian lunch spot that has no resemblance to the fast food chain besides some yellow paint on the walls. Meanwhile, Chelsey and I wandered around Nsawam meeting with students and their parents to answer questions about the Cape Coast program. We gathered a group of about five students who would travel to Cape Coast with us and stay in our suite-style lodging during the program. The group of five has since expanded to eleven. We then went to Obodan, a small village east of Nsawam, to visit the Engineers Without Borders group from Columbia U. The group, which I used to belong to, has been installing source-separating latrines and designing a water pipeline in Obodan for the past two years. We played with the kids and Thabo and his crew hosted a two-hour fashion show with the communities. I think they blew through hundreds of pictures of little kids jumping on each other while we toured the community. We then met up with the EWB group, and after some lodging negotiations and showers we returned to MacDonall’s for dinner. The service was slow, but we all got our meals and Star for the night.

On Sunday we picked up the five Nsawam students lodging with us in Cape Coast. To save money on food we picked up supplies from the market, including a 50kg bag of rice. We had to rent a tro-tro (a van that has been converted into an ad hoc bus) to carry the students and bags to Cape Coast. We drove through Accra to pick up our bags and check the airport for Chelsey’s luggage once more then we continued on to Cape Coast. We arrived in the late afternoon with just enough time to get our bags unloaded and prepare dinner before the pre-program meeting. We talked through our schedule for the next four weeks and shot around some curriculum updates. Later, we cleaned up the rooms, spent the evening talking, studying (a hobby for Ghanaian students?!) and working. We finally wrapped it up and went to sleep in preparation for Monday’s kick-off.

Here is a panorama set of pictures of the driveway to our new abode:

Chelsey or Thabo will post the first updates on the program, but I promise that they will be thrilling and inspiring. Until then, stay in touch!

Best,
Clay

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