So, I went to Africa.
From the second I stepped off the plane, I knew I was far away from the world I was used to. Not to mention, traveling alone for your first international trip isn’t a walk in the park. The first night in Accra, a French speaking volunteer and I stayed in this little hotel room:
Though there was a bathroom, there was no running water. It was here I also learned that wheat bread hasn’t made its way into Africa yet. The next day, and every day after that, I had a piece of white bread for breakfast. The hotel topped our bread with a tomato omelet.
Driving through Accra, the capitol of Ghana, was shocking. The slums literally go for miles, and the traffic is out of this world.
But, once you get out of the city, the stereotypical African landscape starts. Every few miles you pass through a new village with stands selling mangos and used running shoes along the road, women carrying baskets on their heads and babies on their backs, and skeletons of buildings that were never completed.
I stayed in the Kpando District in the Volta Region, specifically in a village called Conda at the house of Mary and Peter Adjodoor. Mary cooked for us and ran her shop, Peter farmed and was always so concerned about how I was doing.
Oh, and we had a pet monkey named Charlie.
Unfortunately, Ghanaean food is not my cup of tea. A few of the popular foods there were palava sauce with boiled yams. Palava sauce is made of palm oil, gboma (African spinach), tomato paste, sardines and onions.
Another staple is Banku with tomato sauce, often served with an omelet on the side. Banku is made of fermented cornmeal mixed with cassava flour to form a spongy dough…with very little flavor or health benefits. The tomato sauce that it is served with is made up of tomato paste, palm oil, tinned fish and onions.
And fufu, which is often served with ground nut soup. Fufu is a gluey dough made of pounded cassava flour and plantain. Ground nut soup is ground nut paste mixed with palm oil (like everything else), cabbage and sometimes chicken.
The rest is either white bread, rice, fries, red rice, yam fries or boiled yams…and always served with either an egg or fried chicken. But on the bright side, I unintentionally lost a bit of weight on this African diet. (Getting really sick twice also might have helped)
I was able to travel a few times on the weekends, and went to the Wli Falls with a group of SFSU students who were also working with my NGO. Because I’m really brave (or masochistic) I went with a few of them on a 4 hour intense hike – when I say hike, I mean rock climb – to the upper falls. I was walking a little funny the next day but it was gorgeous and the best workout of my life.
For a less strenuous day trip, a group of Dutch girls and I went to the city of Ho to spend a day laying at the pool at Chances Conference Center. Much more my speed.
Though I came back incredibly thankful to be an American, I’m glad I got to experience first hand how different so much of the world lives. Everything is harder, takes longer, and isn’t as sanitary, but it works for them.