Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Northern Ghana Trip (November 19th-25th, 2012)

Everyone with the Chief & Elders of Dalun, Northern Region, Ghana

J'adore les vaches. <3

Local Children in Dalun <3

Back in November, yes, I am really behind the times; I went along with the other AFS Students to the Northern Region of Ghana for what they dubbed “The Study Tour of Northern Ghana”. It was fantastic for a multitude of reasons. From the late night talks discussing the origins of religion, the universe, and the ever constant question of whether it is genes or ones environment that shapes a person to the amazing sights that Northern Ghana presented us.
Northern Ghana really is postcard Africa, the Africa that one dreams about, the kind straight out of a National Geographic magazine complete with beautiful traditional round huts, barefooted children carrying water to their homes from the local well, and a dusty hot atmosphere that shapes the savannah. Before we reached Northern Ghana we spent the first two days in Kumasi, real exciting for us Kumasi residents, sightseeing in places such as the Manhyia Palace, a museum of the palace of the Asantehene (the King of the Ashanti) which was an interesting mix of British colonial with traditional Africa memorabilia. One such thing that fascinated me was this wood throne, carved with intricate designs of African scenes such as lions and local fauna, yet it was distinctly European in its ostentatious design. This museum was really enjoyable and reminiscent of museums such as Willowbrook back home. It is interesting how museums come along with development, how the appreciation of the past is a high class thing that requires money due to the opulence of the idea if one has to spend all their money trying to survive.  Other than the Museum, we traveled around the outlying Ashanti region visiting a traditional bead-making place which was enjoyable and informative.
                The next day we started our expedition up North. We zoomed through the Kumasi directly north passing the mountain I would see every day from Atimatim. As we drove, we watch as the fauna changed slowly the rainforest fauna changed, fewer trees more open space, until one could sense the lack of liquid. The ground became dusty; the land gradually became grassland, the fabled savannah reminiscent of the Lion King and 6th grade science class projects. During our journey up North that day, we stopped at Kintampo Falls, a gushing waterfall which we were allowed to swim in. In was strait out of South Pacific, I swear (wrong location I know but I was still reminded of it). We were able to climb into the waterfall, have the water pleat down on us as we marveled at our fortune to be here.

                The next day we went on a safari! The moment all of us had been waiting for, us a generation raised on the fantasy of the Lion King, were all itching to go and see the elephants and other fabled African creatures. Sadly, the elephants were allusive as ever and the most exciting things we saw were antelope, warthogs, baboons, and a crocodile but it was extremely enjoyable all the same.  It was stunningly beautiful and as we wandered silently through the savannah, I was reminded distinctly of my own walks and runs through my neighboring abandon apple orchard in the fall. It was dry like it was in fall except much hotter, but walking through the tall grass made me feel so at home. I felt more at home there than anywhere else I have been in Ghana. That is what I did for fun, wander through nature, sure usually it was running but it was so gosh darn fun and familiar. It made me realize just how much of a fish out of water I am in Kumasi, a bustling city full to the brim with colors, miniscule patches lush green fauna so covered in trash they are in inhabitable, way too much trash, and a incessant swarm of people, rendering it impossible for solitary runs.


So much like the Abandon Apple Orchard next door complete with antelope that look an awful lot like the white-tail dear back home

After our two hour safari, we emerged, soaked in sweat, and begging for a dip in the hotel pool. It was perfect and definitely made for Obrunis since it lack the frivolous additions of opulent fountains or mini waterfalls that the Ghanaians love due to the perceived opulence of the pool. Another tell-tale sign that it was designed for Obrunis, was the depth of the pool which was a standard depth of 12ft that pools in the U.S. almost always reach to but are all but nonexistent here in Ghana a nation where most of the populace cannot swim.
After the Safari, we visited the oldest mosque in Ghana named the Larabanga Mosque, which did not disappoint. The architecture was phenomenal. My inner intense love for historical architecture was floating on cloud nine here as well as in the next place we stayed called Dalun which was full to the brim with traditional huts. After the mosque, we traveled to Tamale where we stopped briefly. Even though we were only there for a second, I feel in love with in it with the motorbike filled streets and the dusty clean air that passed through its streets. We soon continued on to the best place we visited, a traditional village called Dalun.
Larabanga Mosque

Dalun was so wonderful, it was traditional but being developed in the best way: sustainably. It was development the way it should be complete with cherishing their traditions which I sometimes feel isn’t existent in the city. In the morning we were received by the chief & the town elders who were called together by a talking drum played in a rhythm which must have signified the need to assemble and as each elder came in he was announced with a specific drum beat. It was marvelous. These men looked so wise. Their wrinkled faces, hiding wonderful stories I was dying to hear. They gave of the presence of deep traditional wisdom and my imagination wound a fantasy of a fire side story telling night in which the beautiful words that wove their tales in Dagbane were understandable to me.
The Village Elders & Chief

That day we crossed a river in a traditional canoe, the way locals do in order to get to the other side of the river with Jeneni, Nans, and others doing the honors of continually scooping out the water leaking into the canoe with a large tin Pomo can. We also we able to visit a mango grove and then were given free rein to explore the town which was the best thing that could be given to us. We wandered, taking pictures, holding the hands of beautiful children, playing games such as follow the leader with them, and even happening upon a political rally which here in Ghana always involves music and dancing which was marvelous. That night we even decided sticking with Western tradition of camp fires, to create our own which was highly enjoyable yet kind of silly since it was so hot that it didn’t really make sense to have one. But all the same, it was highly enjoyable and we ended that night by watching traditional dancers perform their arts to the beat of drums and beautiful voices.
We went across the river in one of these lovely canoes

A typical house in Dalun

Political Rally

Children curious why I put my camera near the ground

An Adorable Girl

This girl held on to my hand for hours and cried when I had to leave

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