Niger

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!!

"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