Ghana

Cleaning House

There was a period where I was moving around quite a bit. In nine years, I had eight different addresses that spanned five cities on three continents. The logistics of all of that, of course, meant I couldn't possibly keep a mass of possessions. 

With each move, I would evaluate which things I needed to...

Talking Politics: Freedoms of Speech in Canada and Around the World

Well here we are, federal Election Day in Canada. This has—as the media constantly reminds us—been the longest-running election campaign in Canadian history. It’s important to be informed, though it can be exhausting to try to navigate the constant barrage of mixed messages...

My First Lessons in Culture Shock

My First Lessons in Culture Shock

I first arrived in Ghana on a Friday. I remember this because I didn’t have any Ghanaian money on me, or even knew what Ghanaian money was called. Did other people come here knowing this kind of information? Then again, I know a number of people who still consider ‘Africa’ to be its own country, so I don’t feel too bad about this. But I did have a collection of American dollar bills. I was ready to go. American dollars: the currency of the world.

I didn’t notice the problem until the next day when I...

‘Dark Tourism’ Defined

‘Dark Tourism’ Defined

I participated in a twitter chat recently that introduced me to the idea of "dark tourism." I had never heard this term before, so I was stumped by the first question: What does dark tourism mean to you?

Dark tourism, according to the Institute of Dark Tourism Research, is “travel to sites of death, disaster, or the seemingly macabre,” such as to battlefields, prisons, or cemeteries. It may also be known as morbid tourism, disaster tourism, grief tourism, black spot tourism, or even phoenix tourism, I’m assuming as a metaphor for rising...

Remember When: The Joy of Reminiscing

vietnam with brock.jpg

My last day in Vietnam was spent walking around the city by myself, as my brother's flight took off almost a full day before mine. As soon as I woke up on my last morning in Ho Cho Minh City and saw my brother wasn't there, I realized how much I liked having family around.

I feel that having a friend or family member with me on my travels validates my experiences, so when I go home after it's all over, I know someone will remember something the same way I do. It means I can say, "Hey, I remember in Vietnam when..." and someone can actually say yes. It brings my two worlds together so I know I was doing something real, it wasn't just a dream, my experiences aren't lost in some black hole somewhere only I can find.

Before moving to Korea, I lived for a year in Ghana, West Africa. Halfway through that adventure, my older sister came to travel around the country with me for two weeks. We hustled our way over the whole country, hitting up national parks, beaches, cities, barseverything we could possibly squeeze into fifteen days. She saw my residence at the university, she met my new friends, she ate the food, she rode in a trotro. Now, when I feel the urge to talk about Ghanaian anything, I know I can talk to my sister and she'll laugh and say she remembers, too.

Sure, new friends met abroad are always available for those reminiscing moments. "Remember when we..." "Remember the time..." And I can write about my experiences for anyone who cares to read about them, and I can (hopefully) describe the experiences well enough to make people feel like they were there with me.

But there, really, is nothing like a sister standing right there beside you as you look at the elephants drinking from the watering hole in Mole National Park, or a brother resting on the lounge chair next to you on a junk in Halong Bay, or a good friend from Ghana living in Seoul and spending her weekends with you and your new friends.

Life After Ghana

Hey everyone!

I thought it was time to write a nice long email to the Ghana Crew....and I promise it's because I miss you all and not because I have so much researching and paper writing to do today!

Life after Ghana: My last couple weeks in Ghana were spent with Jac and Megs travelling around Niger, which was (as expected) beautiful, wonderful, and amazing. We bussed direct to Niger (48-hr bus ride!) and then spent 4 days driving around the desert with our Francophone guides "Chaz" and "Iggy". They even taught us a new card game called Toureg 8's! We then headed to Benin and learned a lil about voodoo before heading back to Accra and spending some time in the freshly cleaned Shangri-La pool! Then I spent a few days in England and managed to meet up with Flo for a couple days and Ian in Wales and shop at Oxford Circus with Anna H.!

Flying home was alright, and I even managed to not cry when I saw my family again! They all made it to the airport to meet me so I felt special haha. I was lucky enough to spend my first few weeks just visiting friends, answering numerous questions about Ghana life, and relaxing, then I flew to England and France with my whole family for a 3-week vacation in July! We rented a boat a cruised the Thames for a week, then spent the rest of our time enjoying the heat wave, and stopping at plenty of art museums and even catching the end of the Tour de France. I guess you could say I was still living the African life---all relaxed and time wasn't such an issue---so I had a great re-entry! And in August I was able to meet up with a few first-termers in TO so it was nice to see them too!

Now, my tan has definitely lightened although everyone says I'm still not white haha. I am busy in my final year of uni schoolwork and looking for an human geography internship around here. There's so much work! All my classes are seminar-style so there's lots if reading and independent learning which is rough on a girl who hasn't stretched her mind academically for a year! And I'm working at the mall too, and I've never worked during the school year but since I spent all my money in Africa it's become a necessity! I get to wear business suits though, so I feel very professional and adult haha. I bought a scrapbook, so I can start putting my photos somewhere safe and put all my memories together. I also bought a big book to rewrite my journals altogether in one place, but as you can imagine this is all a very big task and will probably take me a while to complete!! Finally, I'm excited because I'm going to the Rascal Flatts concert in a month and I'm super-pumped already---I know not very many of you are country fans but they are my faaavourite country band and I definitely recommend you all download some songs hahaha. The leaves are starting to turn yellows and reds now, and it's starting to get cold which is making me miss those constantly sunny and sweaty days in Ghana...

Alrighty, I miss you all and I'm throwing this out there: if anyone wants to visit, you're always welcome. Niagara Falls is (almost) a wonder of the world and it's only 20 minutes away, and that and me should be enough to attract you to visit!! Don't forget to write me and send those pics!

XOXO!!

Final Exams at Ghana U

Hey Mom!

Exams are a mess right now. The problem is that the International Programs Office originally told us Canadians, ISEP, and CIE programs that exams would end the 13th or 15th (I can't remember which one) and so people booked their tickets for those dates. But now the exams are scheduled until the 20th, so people are having problems with their flights. And the exam schedule didn't come out until very late (much later than last term) so people couldn't find out when they were finished until near the end of the semester. So to fix this problem, they are saying that if one foreign student in the class needs to move their exam forward, every other foreign student does too, AND they're making the foreign students walk around to the various departments and talk to the professors ourselves to reschedule. Believe me, this is the most difficult task---profs are completely annoyed by this and so are we!! We're speading all our time first trying to track down all the foreign students in each class, then trying to find a date and time we can all do it, then trying to locate the prof to tell them and make sure the dates ok with them! And this is all occurring now, when exams are already going on and we should be studying!

So I'm pretty busy these days doing all that, studying, and trying to get to Kumasi---a city I haven't explored yet, and Aburi Gardens, and this festival in Winneba this weekend, AND do some shopping all before the end of exams. Then, I'm planning to go to Niger (again) with Megan before we fly out of here!

Lots of love,

Mel

On Coming Home

Hey everyone!

Now that "coming home" is visible on the horizon, I've compiled a few lists of my thoughts on my adventures here: Things I Will Miss, Things I Will NOT Miss, and Things I'm Looking Forward To.

For those who were here last term: I'm interested to read your comments on what I may have left out, etc. And for those who haven't been here: maybe these lists will give you a better idea of what it's like here.

THINGS I WILL MISS

I will miss small boys to run errands for me. 

I will miss dancing all the time, and wicked African music.

I will miss Star Beer (and other supersized bottles of beer). 

I will miss hawkers—buying food (and random things like toilet seats and clothes) out of car and trotro windows. It's just good fun! And I love cakebread... 

I will miss having clothes tailor-made, for cheap.

I will miss "pure water" satchets. Actually, anything that comes in a satchet. 

I will miss cute babies and small children everywhere. 

I will miss the egg sandwhich girls who make my breakfast for me. 

I will miss travelling on the weekends. I will miss community-oriented culture. 

I will miss Champs Bar's Thursday Night Trivia, and my Best Team Ever (yes, I am a geek). 

I will miss giving clothes, etc. away to people who need it/love it/use it immediately. 

I will miss being surrounded by people with similar interests as me here at The Hostel. 

I will miss the "everyday adventures".

things I will not miss

I will NOT miss frequent "lights-out" and water shortages.

I will NOT miss how it's common for everyone to just butt in line.

I will NOT miss garbage everywhere.

I will NOT miss open sewage and rainwater gutters beside every road—they're smelly and dangerous!

I will NOT miss DISGUSTING public toilets....or lack of toilets altogether!

I will NOT miss barbed wire everywhere.

I will NOT miss public urination and....defecation.

I will NOT miss ssslllooowww internet connections.

I will NOT miss being worried about robberies on campus and in the city.

I will NOT miss unsafe transportation....all the time.

I will NOT miss lugging around wads of ridiculously small bills (How is it possible that the biggest note equals about $2?!).

I will NOT miss relentless heat. But I will miss palm trees, tropical flowers, the ocean, one sunny day after another...

I will NOT miss being asked for "a dash" or "a cadeau" by everyone. But I will miss receiving dashes and random cadeaux—yay for nice T-shirts and funny sunglasses given to me in Mali by random people! hahaha

I will NOT miss unwanted sexual advances. But I will miss the general friendliness of strangers.

I will NOT miss "Ghana time". But I will miss having "Ghana time" as an excuse for being late.

I will NOT miss all traditional Ghanaian dishes that are loaded with spices. But I will miss eating out at various restaurants across the city often, and fresh fruit.

I will NOT miss no personal space on trotros and shared taxis. But I will miss picking up random, nice people in shared taxis.

I will NOT miss market shopping, bargaining, and forced impulse purchasing. But I will miss market shopping and bargaining.

I will NOT miss handwashing all clothes—and not getting my whites, white. But I will miss getting my laundry washed for me (Charity, my laundry woman and my surrogate-Grandmother, is the BEST!!).

I will NOT miss never understanding the jokes in class, or not understanding the prof in general. Or the lack of in-depth learning in most of my classes. But I will miss easily skipping classes to travel or do fun stuff....

I will NOT miss paying bribes. But I will miss being a celebrity, and enjoying all the perks of being an "obruni".

I will NOT miss those annoying children (even some adults) who yell at you non-stop: "Obruni! OBRUNI!!! Hello, Obruni! Obruni!!". But I will miss yelling "Obruni!" out car windows to other foreigners.

things i'm looking forward to

I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and family again (this being the obvious one of course).

I'm looking forward to watching Sex and the City with my girls.

I'm looking forward to snow, seasons.

I'm looking forward to AC!

I'm looking forward to junk food, snacks, grocery stores, variety of foods...

I'm looking forward to milk!!!

I'm looking forward to my car—and seeing what kind of driver I've become after witnessing the driving over here.

I'm looking forward to legit movies in movie theatres, and catching up on the music/movie pop culture I've been missing.

I'm looking forward to accountability and punctuality. I'm looking forward to stores and malls....fixed prices.

I'm looking forward to school, assignments of some kind, learning inside the classroom...

I'm looking forward to not worrying about malaria.

I'm looking forward to clean washrooms and flush toilets.

I'm looking forward to washing machines.

I'm looking forward to going home to a closet full of clothes and discovering that I have a whole "new" wardrobe.

I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with what's going on in the world, ie. news.

I'm looking forward to road trips to reunite with my new friends.

I'm looking forward to seeing what's changed and what hasn't.

See you all soon! XOXO

Mel