the world at my finger tips

the world at my finger tips

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ghana a semi great experience !!

Feb 6th  - Sunday, first day in Ghana

After arriving in an industrial port in Takordai, Ghana a lot of emotions rushed through my body.  I was ready to experience this country for the first time.  I had a pre-arranged Semester at Sea trip to visit the Castles and Slave Dungeons of Ghana.  Walking off the ship, the warmth quickly attacked.  I hoped on the tour bus and patiently waited until it was time to go.  Off we went for the first time on the roads of Ghana.  The travel time was a little over an hour before we arrived at the first Castle; Cape Coast Castle”.  There we were shown where the captives were kept prior to being put aboard the ships into slavery. There was a male dungeon and a female dungeon.  They were about the size of a normal bedroom (13'x13') in where they would pack about 150-200 individuals, way too many for that space.  There were no washrooms (bathrooms) or electricity.  The only ventilation available were 2- 3 square in the concrete walls in which very little sunlight would shine in.  If the captives had to use the bathrooms, against the walls was a small indent in which outlined the whole room where they could go but bu no means  sanitary, private, or comfortable for anyone– in general totally inhumane.  The waste would stay in these indentures until the excrement broke down naturally.  Our tour guide showed us a line that was about a foot or two above the it in which human waste had accumulated.  When the captrives were ready to be transported and shipped off they would be taken out of the dungeons, caged, and walked through the “door of no return.”  Similarly, the same happened at the Elmina Castle.  Before visiting Elmina, we stopped at a resort and had lunch with many other SASers.  The food was intended to be typical Ghanaian food– much of which I was not a big fan of.  We then continued on our tour to Elmina.  There, the set up of the castle was a little different but had the same concept.  The door of no return was a lot smaller than the door at Cape Coast Castle and it did not matter the size of the captive going there, they had to get through it one way or another. 

Returning back to the ship was a treat.  After a long day of sweating and walking, shower and food could not have been better.  That night I decided to stay in and hang out.  Many people went out but because we had an early trip to Accra, I thought it was best to stay in.  Good life decision.   Those who went out did not come back till 3am drunk and had to be up ready packed for a little after 7am. Bad life decision.  

The next morning, bright and early I was up and ready to go, I woke up Rachel and headed up for breakfast.  Little did I know what exactly I was getting myself into, let me explain:  off the ship we went at about 7:40am.  Because we were in an industrial port, we had to walk about 15-20 mins in order to catch a taxi (if you were on an SAS trip the buses were right outside the ship waiting).  By the time we got to the taxis, locals bombarded us trying to sell us items and trying to get us to ride their taxis charging absurd prices.  Luckily we had Esanam, the Ghanaian interport student who traveled with us from Brazil back to Ghana.  She roughly knew how much we should pay to get us to the bus station.  We needed 3 taxis because there were 14 of us, but how about 5 mins off we took with 3 taxis to the “BUS STATION.” Hmmmm. 10 mins later, we arrived to what seemed to be a huge dirt lot filled with people, street vendors, cars, buses, vans, etc.  Totally not what I expected but there I was with 13 other students trying to get to Accra.  There was no schedule, it was more let us find the cheapest, has AC, and suits everyone. Well, that was hard to find.  So we hopped on what seemed to be our best option for 9 cedi (about $6). Not only did we have 14 of us, but the van would not leave until EVERY SINGLE SEAT WAS full even though we were just fine, upon being full we were now uncomfortable squished and sitting with people we did not know for the next 5 hours. NO FUN.  

The van ride was a complete TRIP.  But we finally made it to Accra.  There everyone spilt and went there separate ways.  Rachel, Hannah, Lilli, and I were picked up by Hannah’s friend's uncle.  I thought he lived in Accra until we were hoping on another van and headed another 1.5 hrs towards a different direction.  WHERE THE HECK WAS I GOING?! We finally ended in a town called Tema, not that that meant anything to me but that’s where I was.  Nicholas was the guy's name whom we were traveling and staying with.  He ended up taking us to the main fishing harbor, there we had to talk to top security and explain as to why we were there and why we wanted to see this.  We then explained that we were students on a ship, blah blah blah and we were allowed to walk around.  I was the only one who could take pictures, but if I was stopped I had to show his business card explain the story and continue on.  After leaving the habor, we headed to a local school.  This was the school where he was the headmaster.  Upon our arrival during recess, we were greeted by MANY (like a lot) of kids with smiles, claps, laughter, and play.  He told us a little bit about the school and proceeded to show us the classrooms.  It was sad to see the conditions in which these kids have to learn in, but they make it work and are completely happy.  We took hundreds of pictures of all the kids and were bombarded by many questions.  Leaving our names and emails we all left smiles from ear to ear.  This was a very memorable time.  At this point of the trip I still do not know where I am spending the night or what our plans are.  Nicholas then takes us to his house.  Very close to the school, we walk through dirt paths, homemade houses, and much of what I have never seen before.  Finally arriving at his house he tells us its time to relax and eat and here is where we would be spending the night.  My heart semi dropped.  I did not know if I was ready for all of this.  It had been a very long day and I could sure use some food and a bed at this point.  We sat and chatted with him for a while about the school and general things.  He showed us his house, very small one room – no bathroom or shower.  In Ghana, it seemed like people went to the bathroom where ever they had to go.  O_O  As it got dark, he also explained that the electricity came on around 730pm if not later.  We had some dinner attempted to shower in a not so real shower and headed to bed, a floor.  It was hot and humid, but we made it work. Man was I pooped.

5:30 am Tuesday morning, I was awaken by the bark of a dog and around 7 am we were all ready to continue our Ghana adventures.  Nicholas took us to PramPram, another town, then we took a bus to somewhere else.  Before the bus took off I bought a mango from a girl with a tray of them on her head.  The mango was delicious until my stomach started to hurt.  Once off the bus we headed to an art/culture place.  Still I was not feeling to well.  I thought it was a combination of the heat and perhaps not much in my stomach.  At the little drum shop that we stopped at I was not able to enjoy the drumming and music being played due to this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.  At our stay persisted, I continued to feel less and less like myself.  After leaving the drumming and art, we headed to look at some of the traditional clothing and artwork.  At this point I was ready to lose it.  About 45 minutes in I started to get the chills and all I wanted to do was get back on the ship.  I knew something was up and being 5 or more hours away from safety made me very nervous.  After borrowing Lillis fleece sweater I started to burn up.  My whole body was on fire.  I was sore and at this point, all I thought was about Malaria.  One of the native asked me if I was taking pills for it and with a concerned looked on his face told us what kind of medication I could take if indeed I had Malaria.  I quickly rounded everyone up and headed for the bus station.  In fear that I could potentially die before making it back to the ship I tried to use a local cell phone to call the doctor on the ship or anyone who could help me out.  I just could not fathom the fact that it was 75 degrees or higher outside. I was wearing a fleece sweater and I was still cold, burning up.  The bus ride to the bus station felt like an eternity.  I was set on getting back to the ship that night regardless on how long it took or how I got back.   Finally making it the station, a sense of a relief took over my body until finding out we could not leave immediately.  The van had to fill up before it could take off.  Here I was thinking, I’m gonna die of Malaria.  45 mins later, off we were.  Stuck in rush hour traffic, still cold not so much a fever but still not feeling not up to par.  After 6 hours of agony and pain, we finally made it back to the ship.  I had not had food all today I was super dehydrated but straight to the medical center I went.  There they quickly took my temp, which showed I still had a high 102 fever.  I lay there in complete shivers as they attempted to take blood. (my worst nightmare)  One tube down, which was tested for malaria.  Because they were taking so long, that had to mean something was up… and indeed there was, I had tested positive for one of the kinds of malaria that was treatable.  But to double check they wanted to do another test, so here they were probing at my arms trying to take out more blood.  After 4 hours, past midnight, 2 doctors 2 nurses, calling the CDC, emailing and looking up information, I was sitting in the medical room, they concluded that they were going to treat me with Coartem, an anti-malarial agent.  I seem to be doing better now, but my blood has to get sent to labs in South Africa if possible and back to the states for accurate results of what exactly it was or is that I have.  You can only imagine my mom's reaction; –emailing me 8-10 times, calling the ship for information, so on and so forth. She even asked if I should come home.  Here I am still alive to tell this semi horrific story. 

Until later friends.

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