Friday, January 15, 2010

Ghana, the land of the Gold Coast.......

Well i arrived back here, but i feel like it was just a dream that happened yesterday, in a beautiful conutry like Ghana, you never want to leave it, I love the snow cause its a nice change, but all the different experiences i had in Ghana, has made me appreciate and understand that different culture than my own. I will definetly be going back there some time soon, but until then, i once again appreciate all the people who has made this possible for me to go, it was really amazing, and I loved it.......

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home again... it's cold here.

Hello all,

We are back in Vermont, safe and sound after a looong day of travel.

Hope you've been enjoying the blog posts to date. The students will be posting a bit once they've settled into their semester a bit - quite a shock, switching from a slower, introspective 90 degree Ghanaian reality to Vermont in the winter - and, after arriving at 10pm into BVT last night, they all have classes and sports practices that started as early as 6am this morning. Once again I'm amazed at their resilience...

MANY photos will be posted here shortly, and many more along with video and audio will be on display during the spring semester at our annual spring concert. We have so much to share!

Thank you for staying with us during our trip and I hope you enjoy the images that get posted here... probably over the weekend.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Goat. It's what's for dinner.

With fufu and groundnut soup... yummm! Danielle, Brian, Sean and I just finished our lunch at a chop bar, where we spent about $2.60 for lunch for the four of us - the goat meat was amazing.

So we're in Cape Coast now, and it's quite a change from Kumasi. Each place we've visited has been incredibly distinct, and has offered different insights and challenges. I remain proud of the students for their flexibility and for being able to adapt to new situations with grace.

We toured Kakum national park today, walking on the rope bridges from tree to tree, VERY high up. I could spend a lot more time there, and hopefully will go back someday for some intensive birding.

The rest of today is relaxed, and tomorrow at some point we'll head to Accra, our last stop before returning home. Need to find a way to pack all the drums and other things we purchased... yikes!!! And laundry is in order, because if I don't get a clean outfit for the plane, I pity the person next to me....

Ok folks, see you soon....


We are coming into the final stretch!! I can't believe three weeks has already gone by. Time at the Dagbe center seemed to fly since lessons four hours a day really kept us goin! Our final performance at Kopeyia was great; it gave us a chance to show what we had learned and how hard we had worked! I miss the Volta region and it's quiet friendly atmosphere. After morning lesson we could just go for a walk down the street to explore another village, go for a run to the internet cafe(boy did got a lot of weird looks! Ha!), or nap with our Ewe friends under the gazebo.

After saying a sad good bye we hopped in a van down another bumpy road to the bus station. As Ghana would have it the bus wasn't ready. We were a bit hungry and went searching for something to eat at a local stand. It was then that it happened...I have never been so excited to see CHEESE, yes, laughing cow cheese!!! It was a thin slice of heaven. It's always fun talking about what foods we are missing the most- guess I can cross that off my list! A root beer float has been another top! Eventually we arrived in Kumasi. It was quite a change from what we had been used to - I'm sure everyone would agree. I enjoyed going to Koo Nimo's home, a musician specializing in palm wine music. We learned an Ashanti dance and song. The difference in style whether it was song, dance or drumming was definitely recognizable.

I think that the biggest shock at the home stays was at meal time. I never once ate with my family. I believe it was a common theme in other homes. I was always served first and sat alone. It gave me a chance to reflect on my day and appreciate the food that was prepared, however, I would have much rather engaged in converstation with the family and avoided any 'special' treatment. Trying to get a taxi around the city was a lot of fun. The Ashanti were always willing to help. One ride home I jumped in between three different cabs (each going a different way than I needed to). The drivers simply honked at other taxis and passed me off, thank goodness!! The traffic was usually pretty bad - hence whenever someone asks "what time are we going?" or "what time are they going to be here?".....we have a saying.."Ghana:05"!!

Currently, we are in the central region of Ghana enjoying the coastal breeze! We toured Elmina slave castle yesterday. It was amazing to stand in the chambers where so many died. Elmina is a fishing town and from the top of the castle you can see rows of fishing boats. The boats along with the people in the town are so bright and colorful. It has been one of my favorite views so far. We also bought fresh pineapples right on the beach for 20 pesewas (about 15 cents)! The women cut and peeled it right there for us! Can't beat fresh fruit! Speaking of which I think I am going to go find some and spend the rest of the day on the beach!!


After spending around 20 hours on STC buses and trotros in the past two days, I am very happy to be here, right next to the beach, in Cape Coast. Our time in Kumasi was quite intense for a lot of us. When your in the moment sometimes it becomes very hard to fully comprehend everything that is going on. Leaving the quiet and laid back Volta region and going into Kumasi, which is a busy city, turned out to be quite a shock for me and some others group members. I was trying to let the Dagbe seed grow and it was a little tough in such a new and different surrounding. After a day or two of adjusting to the city life, I started to really feel at home with my family and i was able to get some great conversations and experiences out of the stay. One day, two of my brothers told me that I have to see where my meals are coming from. So was started the day watching a chicken assassination and then watching fufu get pounded for hours. At the end of the day I ate the food and realized how little I know about where all the food I eat comes from in the US. It was a great experienced!

-Sean V

So now we've reached Cape Coast...

and the transition from immersion to tourism was a slow one. Living with a family of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kumasi after the two happiest weeks of my life in Kumasi was a quick and frightening transition, one that even now, having been able to get away from that, I'm still struggling into seeing, rather than living, in a culture. Earlier today (after a day of insane STC traveling) we made our way to the KaKum Rainforest, walking along rope bridges trying to hear the sounds of nature over the din of a herd of height-scared Ghanaians that accompanied us on the tour. It's a big change from learning-by-doing to learning-by-seeing-and-hearing, but the former really doesn't lend itself to learning about the slave history of this coastal town.
I'm finding that my love for the food here is growing on me. sitting around a bowl of groundnut stew with fufu and goat meat (skin still attached) with Joss, Danielle, and Sean felt like a gourmet feast after about a week of various rice forms and fried chicken.interesting to that this might only add to the culture shock that'll hit in four days when we get off the plane in JFK.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


It has been a while since we were able to get on the internet and so much has happened it is difficult for me to know where to start. Kopeyia was so amazing, I will never forget the time that we had there and the connections we made. Emanuel the director of the cultural center we stayed at invited us to enter into the new year with him which was really amazing because of the enormous symbolism and importance of the holiday in Ghanaian culture. We started out celebrations around 11:30 where we poured libations and as we poured the libations we prayed to our ancestors and whatever higher being we believe in for good fortune in the coming year. The moment when the clock changes from 11:59 to 12:00 is a representation of us stepping from one year into the new year and letting go of anything bad that occurred in the previous year in hopes for a better more prosperous year to come. We learned the phrase Agbagegela (long life and prosperity) which is the way people announce the new year. It was such a amazing way to celebrate New Years and I felt very fortunate to enter into 2010 the way that I did.
The next day we had out performance where we were given the opportunity to demonstrate to our teachers and to the community what we had learned over the past two weeks. We danced Gahu and Tokwai (not sure the spelling). It was so much fun and we did a pretty good job, I was really happy to have been able to successfully learn two traditional Ewe dances and I think that our teachers were very proud as well. After that our teachers did two traditional dances, one typically performed before battle and the other used as a victory dance after battle. The dances were amazing and extremely complex but they danced them almost effortlessly, I was very impressed. I hope to come back to Ghana one day and master those dances but it will be no easy feat. After the performance it was unfortunately time for us to say good bye and although we had a new chapter of our trip to come it was not easy to say good bye. We had become part of the community in Kopeyia and I will never forget my time there.
After that we headed on a 7/8 hour ride to Kumasi. There we stayed with Ghanaian families which was also really neat. The mother of my family was named Auntie Joyce and she had two sons named Edward and Samson who were incredibly cute. They lived very modestly but went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and at home. I am so grateful that they welcomed me into their home the way that they did. I learned a lot from them and only wish I had had more time to spend with them. Kumasi was pretty cool except I missed a drumming lesson because I accidentally took a trotro to a far away village called Bekwai... which was about 30-40 minutes from where my intended destination was. Some people would have panicked but I knew it would be ok and the ride was breathtakingly beautiful. I was fortunate to find a nice Ghanaian man who helped me find a trotro back to Kumasi. Although I had missed the lesson, busy in transit, I was happy that I had successfully made it back. It was a nice little adventure for me.
Today we took another bus, about three hours this time to Cape Coast. Cape Coast is a beautiful place right on the ocean. It is rich in history and culture and we will be going to the Cape Coast castle tomorrow, which is the historical sight where slaves were processed through. It is going to be a very powerful experience and I am excited to explore a new part of Ghana.

Owooo Ghana....

Hi everyone,
so we celebrated New Years, and apparently in this country, they make a wish coming into the new year, and say a lot of prayers. We came into the new year and then had our performance. Our Performance was interesting. We then transition from ewe Volta region to the Ashanti Twi region. Its interesting to me to learn two languages from one country. We ended up doing home stay with really cool people. My family is Muslim, that was really interesting to experience for me because not only was it a different culture, but also a different religion because i'm Catholic. I realized that in the Volta region kids were much more nicer but there was more people coming up to me trying to be my friend in the Ashanti region. I lived with a family who was really nice and i happened to watch a lot of African Tv there. It was an interesting experience for me to live with another family for a couple of days for the first time. Now we are in the region of Cape Coast where people here speak Fanti similar to Twi. Tomorrow we are going to visit the Cape Coast slave castle, i'm not sure what to expect but i know that it will be very powerful to me. People that i met over here in Ghana have been really nice to me, they all want to get to know my name and its just been different. Well i hope everyone is enjoying their vacations, talk to you soon,

Monday, January 4, 2010

In Kumasi... what a difference!

Well, we bid some sweet goodbyes to our friends in the Volta Region after a VERY amazing final performance of the pieces the students have learned while in Kopeyia. I am so proud of them - they did well, and we'll be sure to post some video when we get home. I'm sure you'll hear some stories from the students about that experience soon, as soon as they are finished settling in somewhat in their home stays.

On the morning of January 2nd we boarded a private bus (the state bus was severely delayed) and went straight to Kumasi. It was about a 8 hour total drive, with a break somewhere in the middle, and we were all glad to arrive finally at the Stadium Hotel, near the football stadium. We had a quick meeting with the home stay coordinator and then each student went off with their families. Sunday was a rest day for all - I am staying at Agya Koo Nimo's house, a very famous palmwine musician who is much loved here in Ghana. I think I must have slept about 3 hours in the afternoon yesterday, and another 10 overnight, and feel much better today.

Today we met and checked in about our various families and how things are going. From there my friend Sami took us to the Kumasi market - the biggest open market in West Africa - to buy some bells that I've been wanting for about 10 years. A few of the group managed to keep up with his run/walk through the chaos, and others branched off to do their own thing. You haven't experienced chaos and true West African market culture until you've been in that maze - so fun!

So now we are catching up a bit - Tyler, Brian and Sean are with me - and then after some food they will head off home and I'll go back for a music lesson with Sami. Tomorrow we will be visiting the village of Foase, where I did some of my M.A. thesis research many years ago, to greet the women who helped me and see how they are. It also gives a chance for some of those students to see a non-urban Asante setting, which is very different. Then some music lessons in the afternoon for those interested, and on Wednesday a concert by Koo Nimo for the homestay families.

Wishing all of you a good new year! More soon...