Friday, November 4, 2011

'Round to Volta and home again, that's the traveler's way!

I just got back from my first official business trip! I’m feeling strangely adult.

Two of my coworkers and I travelled to Ho, the capital of the Volta region of Ghana, about two hours Northeast of Accra. Well, two hours going there on a Sunday..five hours coming from there on a Thursday.

Damn traffic!

Because our program doesn’t have a car, we had to rely on public transportation to get us to and from Ho. And a little side note about travelling-- no one books tickets in advance, and the buses don't leave until they're full, which means its impossible to know when you're going to arrive (because you never know when the bus will leave), and travelling is alllllways crowded. But, hakuna matata...

But, the bus we took there was pretty nice—air-conditioned, and what not. But it also played a Ghanaian movie for everyone to watch on the way up. The movie was basically an extended soap opera episode, so delightfully dramatic that I think it deserves a short synopsis review:

The movie centered around three main characters: Shawn, Cheetah (yeah, her name was Cheetah!), and Naomi. In the beginning, Shawn and Naomi are happily dating, living together in Accra. Enter Cheetah--a long lost “friend” from Shawn’s past! Cheetah is hoping to move to Accra, but has no place to stay, so Naomi offers her the guest room in their house until Cheetah can find a place to live. BUT, low and behold, Shawn and Cheetah used to be lovers (gasp!) and Cheetah is still in love with Shawn! (Double gasp!).

The next half hour of the movie details Cheetah slowly seducing Shawn, while Naomi has no idea. Shawn resists her advances at first, but eventually breaks down and sleeps with Cheetah—the scoundrel! Afterwards, Shawn asks Cheetah to leave, but she swears she’ll tell Naomi not only about their affair, but also…wait for it…that Shawn was once imprisoned for murder (!), a secret from his past that he neglected to share with Naomi. (Ok, this is tuning out less entertaining than I had previously intended, so I’ll fast forward to the end. There is a point to this, I promise!)

Naomi finds out about the affair, slaps Cheetah around a little (giiiiiiiiirl fight!), and kicks Cheetah out of the house! There’s a great line during this fight, where Cheetah tells Naomi that “the dog will find its way back to its master no matter how far away he moves!” Fast-forward some more- Cheetah gets stabbed by an unidentified man who had broken into her hotel room while she is taking a bath. Dun dun dunnnn! Shawn suspects Naomi had something to do with it. But, Cheetah survives, and comes back to the house to confront everyone.

In one final gripping scene, Shawn, Naomi and Cheetah are all standing in the house. The girls are telling Shawn her has to choose once and for all who he wants to be with. Feel the tension! Just before Shawn is about to make his choice, the man who stabbed Cheetah comes bursting through the door…AND is revealed to be Shawn’s other ex-lover. (Whaaaaaaaaaat?! Who saw that coming?!) Shawn chooses his male lover, and the movie ends. Rolls credits…which literally only had the four previously mentioned characters in it…

Anyway, this movie was not only mildly entertaining and ridiculous, but also very interesting because homosexuality is technically illegal in Ghana. But here they are making a movie when the male lead ends up with his male lover without consequence. Interestingly applicable, because my company’s project targets homosexuals and promotes partner fidelity as part of their message…

Ok, movie tangent over.

The trip to Volta was very successful, and gave me the chance to get to know two of my coworkers better. The trip also introduced me to two new traditional dishes. The first was Wacce (pictured)—which is essentially rice and beans, but is served with spaghetti, spicy stew, and egg.

The second is called FuFu—which is Banku and meat (usually goat, or tilapia) served in a light, spicy soup. Banku, if you remember, is pounded corn and cassava made into a doughy ball.

It also led to a funny discussion of Little Bunny FooFoo, which I ended up teaching to my coworkers, hand motions and all J

Hmm…I’m not sure if Little Bunny FooFoo is universal… just in case it’s not—Little Bunny FooFoo is a children’s song involving Bunny FooFo, some field mice, and a fairy who, at the end of the song, turns bunny FooFoo into a GOON! If still confused, please contact my mother. I'm sure she'd be more than willing to sing it for you.

Anyway, as a city, Ho is much much much smaller than Accra. It’s situated in a little valley not too far from the Volta River. It’s very green and very hilly, and it rained a lot.

The Volta region also has the reputation for being more traditional and grounded in their culture. Whereas Accra is a big mixture of different people (different being several ethnic groups from within Ghana as well as people from other parts of Africa), Ho is inhabited predominantly by the Ewe people. Pronounced Eh-way, not like a female sheep.

And while most people do speak English, they prefer to speak Ewe, which was particularly great for me, because neither of my coworkers speak Ewe. Hmm I should probably give background to this comment—everyone in my office speaks Ga (another local language), and they speak it allllllllllllllllllll the time! I have to remind them to speak English. While I am learning Ga slowly, I still have no idea what they’re saying 99.9% of the time…so my coworkers not being able to speak the local language in Ho, and feeling frustrated because of it, was justice for me! (No, I’m not spiteful.)

As further background--My coworker and I have developed a very joking relationship, so they were not at all offended by me taking delight in their inability to understand people in Ho. They thought it was funny too, so no worries!

Although I was there for four days, I was trapped in the conference room of our hotel for most of the trip, so I didn’t really get to do much in Ho, which is a bummer. I’ll have to go back to do touristy stuff later. (DAVID, THEY HAVE A MONKEY SANCTUARY!)

One cool thing we did go see was a community center, called Village Exchange Ghana (VEG), started for teenage mothers, but now encompasses all types of youth. (My company just started a community center in Accra, so we were going to see how other centers operate.)

In their own words, “VEG operates at the intersection of health care, education, and economic opportunity to address multiple facets of poverty and provide meaningful support for the empowerment of women in rural Ghana.” That’s a mouthful.

But they have a really great center set up, with an afterschool program, a microfinance project, and they even have their own craft business, called Lady Volta, that makes bags, jewelry, pottery, and clothing, available online! Woooo go look! And for my IR friends, yes, they do take volunteers, but you have to get here yourself.

The trip back was pretty uneventful—but I can give a synopsis of THAT movie too for anyone interested! (j/k). It was equally as ridiculous as the first movie, but not as applicable.

I tried to take a video of crossing over the Volta's a little wobbly, sorry. I'm still perfecting the, "don't mind me I'm just talking on my iphone, but I'm actually taking a video/picture" move. I'll master it soon.

Wow, this post is long. Sorry if it’s tedious. Is this stuff even interesting? If someone wants to ask a question or tell me what to write about, that would be much appreciated, otherwise I’m just going to ramble...I still don’t really know what I’m doing with this blog.

But it’s a three day weekend here. Yayyyyy Tabaski! Barka da Sallah! And this time, I won’t have to watch my host father slaughter sheep!


  1. I love your rambling and synopsis of the movie haha. oh and I MISS YOU!

  2. Seeing that bridge was a shocker, was it a suspension bridge?! I remember when we were in the bus to Burkina and saw a green highway sign and we all got excited about it because we hadn't seen anything so modern in weeks.

    PS. best. movie. ever.

  3. Return to the monkey sanctuary immediately and take a video there. Glad that I checked out your posts today Gizzo. Keep them coming.

  4. Two things: 1. I didn't know homosexuality was actually illegal? 2. Wtf about that movie! That's so fascinating! - it was actually a Ghanaian(sp?)movie? Are there repercussions for making films like that (I guess not if they showed it on a bus)? I wonder if that's a trend/how people feel about it. Your ramblings are amazing, please keep them coming.

    Except I'm reading them in my office in Cambridge and feeling pretty boring/bored.