"Winter" Break Travels

Hey everyone!

I think it has been awhile since I last emailed you all, and I have so much to tell you! First, how were your holidays?? Hope everyone's New Year started amazingly! How's school going? I hear Brock's reading week has started so I hope you're all relaxing somewhere, hopefully hot and sunny! Here are my goings-on...

I spent Christmas in Accra (whoo Shangri-La Hotel!), and left New Years Eve for a trip up north with Alanna. We made it to Kumasi, stepping out of the bus precisely at midnight for a lackluster ringing-in of the new year. We took bus after bus, slowly but surely making in to Niamey, Niger after what seemed like a week but actually took just a couple days. The highlights of this trip would be our visit to Le Parc "W" where we saw tons of wicked cool animals, like elephants,  warthogs, baboons, antelops, lions (I wish)... and the next day when we went to the town of Koure to see the giraffes that roam there---one of the only places in West Africa to see them! FYI, no ATMs in the entirety of the country, and make sure you check the price of gas when renting a car---info that would have made this trip a lil smoother, let's just say... But it was great, and I'm so happy I got to see all the animals so close and NOT in a zoo! Very cool.

We came up with this theory that Africa is a lot like a Dr Seuss book: ppl carry piles of stuff on their heads, cars are overloaded with ppl and also have stacks of weird luggage on their roofs (sometimes higher than the height of the car), towns have funny names (like Ouagadougo, Burkina Faso), lots of repetition in speech, trees are straight outta a drawing (puffs of leaves on the top of long swiggly branches and trunks), stores have interesting names (God's Time is Best Food Stall)... Hopefully that gives you an idea about what Africa is like!

Back, safe and sound, in Accra, we moved back into ISH (home sweet home) where I moved outta Olire's (my crazy roommate from last term) room-of-doom and into my own single. Sweet. Laura, my sister, arrived mid-January for a 2-week adventure with me. I've seen her maybe 4 days over the past year, so I thought it was pretty special to have her come all the way over here to be with me for so long. 

We headed to Takoradi/Axim to spend some time at the beach, Mole to see animals, Cape Coast to check out the slave castles, Volta to get to know the monkeys and see a waterfall. It was a whirlwind adventure, but sooo awesome. I'm proud of Laura for trekking on so many trotros with me, even though they're not so enjoyable. I forgot that it would be a shock to stay in a shoestring after working at a 4.5 or 5 star hotel for the past 3 years, but we found places we could be comfortable in without overdoing it (and avoiding the experience). We splurged (actually Laura did, as my birthday present---lucky me!) on a night at Labadi Beach Hotel for our last night. She left with a tan to show off to her colleagues in winter-struck Lake Louise.

Settling back into school life in the good ol' U of Ghana now. I think I'm going to enjoy my classes much more this term, as I'm learning some things already! And no Friday classes this time around. I'm taking: Ethnography of Speaking, Women in History, Cities in Economic Development and Problems of Urban Management, Tourism Development in the Third World, Penology, and Geography of Gender. We have one of those big orange busses that circles campus. More robberies already this term, one time to a girl who had arrived literally 2 days earlier. I'm looking to volunteer for World Vision this term---something to do in my spare time. So far my attempts have been unsuccessful but in all honestly I haven't tried that hard yet so hopefully I can get my act together. I'm also taking an African dance class off-campus, so I'll have some new moves to show off on the dancefloor when I get home!! hehe

The new people have all arrived, and it's good to have everyone back alive and well from all their travels. It sounds like everyone had a pretty amazing break. I'm enjoying myself, meeting all the new people. There are some really cool people again this term, though, as we all know, no one can even come close to you all!! I'm still getting to know people, but everyone is nice and really excited to be here so we're having fun. It's fun to have them ask me questions about Ghana, as if I know what I'm doing! But really, I feel much different about being here this second time around. I've noticed how much more relaxed I am about things here. I feel more confident this time around too. I remember telling Laura, as we looked out the trotro window, how comfortable it feels now. Her response was, "Really, because I was justthinking how out-of-place and crazy this all feels to me---I can't believe I'm in AFRICA!" But I can't believe that I only have 4 months to go--I still have so many things to do and places to go before then! Ahh!

Most of us went to a Bob Marley bday concert in Accra last Sunday. Apparently they hold one every year on his would-be bday, and this year it happened to be here! We were at the front, at one point right infront of the stage before they shooed us away. We were jammin until early in the morning, dancing to some fine reggae beats. I was considering getting dreads for about 30 secs before I decided it wasn't a good idea for me... Though, later I did get my hair braided again, dark brown, long extensions with some blonde highlights, and this time I got it curled too. It's so much cooler so I have some relief from the heat--that's right, sun sun sun hot hot hot. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself haha...)

I celebrated my birthday with everyone last night, and I absolutely had the most fabulous time. I wish you all could have been there too! There were more than 30 of us who went out to dinner at Mamma Mia's (an Italian restaurant), then to Lizzies (a street bar) for some cheap beer, and then on to Ceasears nightclub, where some of us stayed and ripped up the dancefloor until after 4! Good thing it's Sunday because I'm taking the day off today. There's a few of us, like all the Brits, who need to recover today haha.

Always,

Mel