My Favorite Excursion in Ghana
My absolute favorite excursion during this trip would be the afternoon we spent at the Art Center in Accra, the capital city, with one of our program leaders and the University of Ghana volunteer, Michael. Because it was Ramadan, a national holiday, many stores and services were closed or had the day off, and this included one of our program leaders.
As a result, we were slightly short-staffed and didn't have access to the buses that usually took us to our respective schools and on other excursions. This turned out to be great, however, because we had the chance to experience Ghanaian public transportation in the form of tro-tros! From ISH at the university, we walked down toward the main street, where various tro-tros stopped to drop off and to pick up passengers. We did have a bit of trouble getting everyone on because of our huge group, but we ended up splitting up and it all worked itself out.
Once on the tro-tro, I sat squashed in the gap between two seats, one of my fellow participants on one side of me, a stranger on the other. Although there are five rows of seats with three to four seats per row in a tro-tro, people squish together to maximize the number of passengers, fitting in as many as possible. There are two workers on a tro-tro: the driver and the 'mate', the person who opens the sliding van door, calls out the destination to the pedestrians, and collects the fare. There is a set rate of two cedis regardless of the length of the distance you're riding.
Once we arrived, we trekked across a dirt path to the Art Center, an array of small makeshift stores selling statues, clothing, bracelets, etc. There, we set off in smaller groups, looking around at the merchant's items. We were able to bargain for many of them, which was expected, because the vendors set their prices high up front, knowing we were foreigners. Their starting price would often be around, for example, 90 cedis for a small purse, the equivalent of over $20USD! My shopping partner was able to bargain the price to 50 cedis, which was more reasonable. I bought some beaded bracelets, an African-print bag, and a canvas painting using some bargaining techniques.
We also talked to one of the locals and learned about the Adinkra symbols. These symbols have a literal meaning, for example, two crocodiles sharing one stomach, along with a quality, in this case, unity. Many have religious roots, including "son of God" and "belief in God", but there are also others, like unity, protection, and wisdom. At the Art Center, some of these symbols were carved from wood and strung onto string as a necklace, which was very unique.
Afterward, while waiting for everyone to gather, we talked with some more locals about school and college and such, but the conversation soon veered to politics, specifically, Trump. One of the guys we were chatting with was in fact a Trump supporter, and we were trying to hash out the reasons we had to support each of our viewpoints. In relation to the immigration ban, however, he didn't quite seem to understand the unfairness of banning people from solely seven Muslim-majority nations; instead, he explained that Muslim terrorists like ISIS were worse and more dangerous than Christian ones or terrorists affiliated with any other religion because of their willingness to sacrifice their own lives.
Although we obviously weren't able to agree or really see each other's point of view after this lengthy conversation, for me, it did shed light on the fact that politics from home follow us everywhere. On the walk back to the tro-tro station, we bought some fresh fruit, which was another interesting experience. Once we had all piled back onto the tro-tros, it was half dark, and we had the chance to enjoy the gorgeous purple and red sunset from the windows of the bus, a great end to a great day.
'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!