The kids started spring break on Friday the 13th (of October) for one week. Unfortunately, my fall break is the next week, so we decided to try to do two weekend trips, and Steve would take the girls on a mid-week trip as well, since I needed to work and Fox would be traveling with friends on “Tour Ghana 2006”. The first weekend we went with friends the Kellys to Anomabo, a beach resort a few hours away. We met at the kids’ school and picked them up, and (leaving later than we had hoped) were on the road at 4pm. As you ay have gathered if you’ve been reading our blog, Friday (and Sunday) traffic is horrendous; and, it was no different on Friday the 13th. We arrived at the resort around 8pm (the return trip, on Monday morning, took 2 instead of 4 hours).
Anomabo is a neat resort – primitive by resort standards, but lovely by ours. You stay in huts, small huts sleep 1-2 people (1 bed), large huts 2-4 (2 beds). We got a large hut and a tent – the tent was complete with a mattress, linens, and pillows! So, Fox got the tent, and the girls and Steve and I got the large hut. There was electricity and a fan, but no AC and a communal bath house which had toilets and “showers” (in quotes since the water dripped somewhat but not exactly the water pressure I would call a shower). The setting was lovely. The huts were essentially on the beach – sand and palm trees were the “yard” – you could walk anywhere in barefeet and stay on sand or wood wherever you wanted to go.
In addition to the Kellys, there were several other families from the kids’ school that we knew there – three other missionary families (the Kellys are missionaries also) and one family we met for the first time at Coconut Grove a few weeks back. A collection of the kids’ teachers even arrived on Sunday! With so many friendly faces, there was no shortage of folks to chat with and things to do. Fox organized a huge Capture the Flag game on Saturday night – around 20 kids and adults played. Those that didn’t play pulled out assorted board and card games, and we had game night at the restaurant. The restaurant was a large hut overlooking the ocean, with good food (albeit you had to be patient) and a lovely atmosphere. The kids probably ate 20 “cheese toasties” (little grilled cheese sandwiches made in one of those little machines) over the course of the weekend. Everything I had was good. Assorted other games were played by various combinations of folks throughout the weekend – Bocci Ball (which is it’s Italian name, I’m told – the game we played, I forget the name, went by it’s French name, but was the same game), Pit (a card game we’ve come to enjoy here), and others. We passed around our Time magazines that my Mom sends every week, which were a huge hit.
The water was very fun – the “exciting” surf we’ve come to enjoy in Ghana. There was a very attentive lifeguard, which makes us all feel more comfortable. (I forgot to dash him – I meant to at the end of the weekend). Apparently, the day we arrived 3 Ghanaians had drowned just down the coast, near Elmina (near where Anna and I got into some bad surf a few weeks back) and so Friday no one was allowed to get in past their waist (we didn’t arrive until the evening, so it didn’t affect us). Saturday he could tell where the bad tide was, and kept calling folks back away from that area when they began to drift that way. Anomabo has boogie boards, which is the way to do rough surf! We had a blast riding the waves. After Saturday, though, my ribs were bruised from where the board hit my ribs as I has wave riding. On Sunday afternoon the tide was gentle enough that we got Anna out there with us. You may recall that Anna had a bit of a scare a few weekends before, so she has a healthy fear of the waves. Well, on Sunday the surf was the calmest I had seen in Ghana, and the lifeguard was wading right near us with a little boy, maybe 4 years old, so I coaxed Anna out with the assurance I would not let go of her hand. She did not want to duck under the waves, though, only jump over them. After some time, I convinced her to try going under on some small waves and she got the hang of it very quickly – that really is the way to take the larger waves. Pretty soon she was jumping the smaller waves and ducking the larger waves like a pro. Then, we decided to try a boogie board. It was great. We stood waist (me) / chest (her) deep and looked for the perfect wave – when it came, I would push her and she was able to ride the wave all the way to shore. She was even able to bring the board back out to me, time and time again, all by herself. She really had a blast. The lifeguard attentively watched, and would give her and me tips (take this wave, push down on the front of the board, etc.) At the end, she turned to me and said, “I can see why you guys like that so much!” While we still need to be very careful with our 70 pound skinny-winny, I think she made an important breakthrough that afternoon. She also collected a lot of shells, as she likes to do, and did her usual sand castle building extravaganza, with an assortment of other kids on the beach. At one point, a man from Serbia helped her collect shells by diving in the surf where she could not go. It was a very friendly, community atmosphere at Anomabo. We hope to go back again.
We left for home on Monday morning to avoid some of the traffic, and in less than 2 hours we were at Keneshie market, where Grace got her hair braided the first time. We stopped so she could have it re-braided there. On the way out on Friday, she and her friend Judith rode in the Kelly’s car and undid her previous braids – apparently, braids and sand don’t mix too well (or, they mix altogether too well, which is the problem – it is difficult to get the sand out). Steve stayed at the market with her for the 4 hour braiding affair and did errands around the market and had a meat pie for lunch. Unfortunately, the meat pie turned out to be a bad idea. In Ghana, if you say “I ate something”, you are met with a grave nod; everyone knows the hours in the bathroom and the can-barely-get-out-of-bed feeling that entails. Well, Steve “ate something” in the meat pie, and was sick from Monday evening and for some days thereafter. So, no mid-week trip with the girls! Fox left on his trip on Tuesday morning, so Steve and the girls hung around the house the next few days. He was better Thursday and they were going to try to embark on a trip then, but it was pouring rain, traffic was bad, and just as they were finally getting out of town they had a phone call that they needed to head back to the house for something. So, they decided to postpone a day so I could go too.
By the way, that Thursday was the day Steve recently blogged about in which we had no electricity or water (none, nada, zip, the pipes were sucking air). I had to go to work that morning, and the light did not come on at 6am as expected so the pump could not pump water to our upper water tank, and it was pouring rain outside, and I really did want a shower… so, I donned my bathing suit, used the bar of soap Steve had used in the middle of the night when he got up, and showered in the rain! It was actually… not that bad. I really have come a long way!
So, Friday noon they picked me up at school and we headed north. Our first stop was the Cedi Bead Factory (as I type the word Factory, I feel the need to explain – we’re talking some tin roofed open air structures and a hut shop that has been run by the same family for over 200 years). A nice young man who was working at the oven paused what he was doing to show us how the 5 different types of beads they make are made – some with a powder that when fired becomes a hard clay, and some with recycled glass that they pulverize with a large mortar and pestle and add tints to. Most beads they hand paint afterward, although the clay ones they add different tints in patterns to the molds and the patterns are fired in. Even the painted ones are re-fired after painting to permanently set the designs. It was interesting to watch this centuries old process to see how these were made, and amazing that each bead was handmade in this manner. We spent quite some time in the gift shop (thinking ahead toward Christmas) and then hit the road again. We continued north, but decided to leave the dam at Lake Volta for another trip – we turned we st and went to a large town called Koforidua, where we found a hotel and ate and went to bed.
The next morning we went to Boti Falls, a natural waterfall that was beautiful. Our guide (you have to hire a guide there) took us down the 250 concrete steps to the basin where the waterfall towered 30 meters above us, and the spray from the waterfall gave a nice cool down.
Boti Falls is a sacred spot to the Ghanaians and each July 1st we are told 1000s of people will gather here. We asked our guide (Mr. Samuel) about it, but all he would say was “there come many, many people.” It is such a sacred spot that even the enormous snails (about the size of a baseball) are sacred, and forbidden to touch.
At the falls they had a trash can, somewhat of a rarity here in Ghana, and something about it seemed familiar. Familiar is not a normal feeling here and when something feels that way we learn to take interest. When I got closer I realized what it was, Property of City of Austin. We used to have one just like it when we were in Seminary. Going home we took turns making up stories about how it got to Ghana, then to Boti Falls, and then down the 250 steps.
Shortly after we arrived, three obruni young women who we had seen at Cedi Beads came down as well, so we chatted briefly – two Swedes and a German – they are here for 3 (German) to 6 (Swedes) months, as teachers’ aids in a private school in a village outside of Accra, and as volunteers at an orphanage in the same town. They came through some organization that sets them up with Ghanaian host families and takes care of their paperwork and placement, etc. We told them we were going to go see the nearby cave and “Umbrella Stone”, and so they had their guide take them on that trek as well (we tried to just “release” their guide and have the 6 of us go with our guide, but neither guide would hear of it). Just as well for them, since they weren’t stuck waiting for the 40-somethings that way. The hike through the rain forest was amazing – up, DOWN, up, to the cave, then down, and UP to the umbrella stone. The umbrella stone is a natural mushroom-shaped rock formation up on a hill, with a nice breeze (which we needed after the hike!) and a beautiful view! Underneath the rock were a dozen or more villagers, who hang there with oranges, bananas, water, groundnuts, etc., that they brought there to sell to the tired obrunis who trek there to see the stone – they said 50 or so a day come there. We saw 4 other obrunis, besides the Swedes and German, in the hour or so we were there. We each got an orange, which are often served here peeled down to the white rind (for sanitation purposes) with the white rind cut at one end, forming a “bowl” of orange juice, as fresh as you can get! You squeeze and suck (impossible to do this at all daintily) until no amount of squeezing or sucking yields any more juice. And, all for about 5 cents each. The villagers had also fashioned a ladder of bamboo, that for 1000 cedis each (about 10 cents) you could use it to climb to the top of the umbrella stone. Steve and the girls did this – I was content to stay on the gr ound with our guide, who told me that they are told not to climb to the top because it is dangerous. Grace heard him say this, and immediately exclaimed, “Oh, I want to do that!”
After the long hike back we met the Swedes and German again as we enjoyed a soda back at the parking lot to Boti Falls and we offered to drive them back to Koforidua since they had arrived by taxi. We also offered to let them stay in our extra room if they ever needed a place to stay in Accra. None of us realized how soon that would be – on Sunday evening (the very next day), we received a call from Ilsa (Swede) saying that Ellen (other Swede) had gotten very ill and had to come to the hospital in Accra and it was very expensive and it was late (9pm) and could they stay the night at our house. So, we picked them up (the German had gone off toward Lake Volta that morning) and offered them a night’s haven. Ellen had gotten antibiotics at the hospital (it wad diagnosed as Typhoid) and was doing better but didn’t look great – the next morning, she looked back to her old self. We were so thankful that God had put us in a position to help them, when needed.
The drive out in the countryside north of Accra was beautiful – I would call it a cross between an English countryside and an African landscape – not at all what I was expecting. I loved the look of the tall, lonely trees on top of the ridges along the rolling hills. Just beautiful.
Monday was a national holiday (the end of Ramadan) so Fox went to a friend’s to work on a class project (ostensibly – the real reason was Xbox, I’m sure) and Steve and the girls and I went down to Accra Central to buy Anna some shoes. There is a street that is mostly shoe stalls on one side, clothing and purses and backpacks on the other. A huge Goodwill (almost all of the merchandise is used – the rest is closeouts, so you’d see the same style of new sandal over and over amongst the plethora of used ones). Although we’re much more used to it by now, and with Steve along the men generally do not try to take an arm and lead you away, after several hours we had all had enough, and Anna was the proud owner of both some white and black sandals (and, Grace got a pair as well, and I got two!). So, we headed home, watched a movie, cooked dinner, and had “family game night” – a delightful end to fall break. Unfortunately, 6am will come all too quickly tomorrow. But, my fall break is next! I will work some, and hang with Steve some – no big plans, just a time to catch up and take a break from teaching (but not from grading – I have term papers and two assignments to grade…).