Although we stayed around Accra, this past weekend was my favorite spent in Ghana so far! I experienced a lot of firsts/once-in-a-lifetimers, that will definitely make it a weekend I'll remember for years to come!
While it seems kind of silly now, my first big excitement of the weekend was Friday afternoon when I went with a few friends down to Osu, the shopping district of Accra. Although I was there last week with my roommate, this time we went without Ghanaians and took Tro-tros! I've been on a tro-tro a couple of times before, but this was the first time catching one on my own. It's really an adventure. You stand around with about 20-40 other people (Ghanaians, who know what they're doing, mind you) and wait until a tro-tro that is nearly full pulls up shouting their destination really, really fast. (For example, the Accra station is said so fast it just sounds like "Cra, Cra, Cra, Cra, Cra!") You really have to know what you're listening for, because if you're slow on figuring out what they're saying, there will already be 15 other people vying for the one open spot on the tro-tro, and you, my friend, will be out of luck. We stood on the road for a good 25 minutes before we had a successful catch. But catching it certainly felt good! The great part about tro-tros is the super cheap cost. Round trip was about 90 pesawas (60 cents). The not great part about tro-tros is the tight quarters. I couted 24 of us in the one on the way back. Keep in mind that these vehicles are not much bigger than 15 passenger vans. Super cozy.
Saturday brought one of the most insane experiences of my life. A bunch of us decided to go down to Teshie (an area of Accra on the beach) because they were having their annual festival. We didn't really know what to expect, but thought it might be an interesting way to spend the beautiful afternoon. We troed (yes, that's a verb!) down to Teshie and met up with Nii, the ISEP group's tour guide from a previous trip, because he lives and works in Teshie and knows the festival well. He and his friends led us to what seemed like a parade route. People were standing and sitting along the edge of the street, waiting for something. We didn't really understand what was happening when the first group went by. A gruop of about 40-60 people all dressed in red ran by chanting something in Ga. There were men (some wearing stuffed bras and skirts--still not sure what that was about) women and children, some barefoot, some in only socks, and they were all booking it down the street. After they passed, it was explained to us that this festival ia a time for all the different tribes from the area to come together to celebrate and to cast their sins and negative experiences into the sea. A yearly refresher, if you will. First, the tribes all make laps around the town's streets, seriously running and singing for about four hours. When they get tired, they hop out for a bit, rest, and then jump back in when their clan comes around.
We watched this for a while and walked up the route, pausing to get off the road whenever a group ran by. After we had been there for about 45 minutes, our "guides" asked if we were ready to try it. I thought they were kidding. But some of my friends were all for it, an deven though running isn't my thing (to put it extremely mildly), I wasn't about to miss out. Keep in mind that I was wearing Birkenstock sandals (the non-moldy ones), khaki shorts that were pretty loose from wear, and a nice blousy-tank top. Not exactly your calssic running outfit. I was excited/nervous, but ready for anything. I gripped the hand of one of our new Ghanaian friends, Jeff, and as a tribe ran by, he pulled me into the mass.
Now let me tell you, it was pretty intimidating just watching the people run by. But being in teh midst of it brought it to a whole new level. It was CRAZY. In this mosh-pit-like crowd, people are running into you, pushing you from behind, yanking on your arms, grabbing at your waist, and yet everyone is singing and laughing and having a great time. All while running. It was the most exhilarating experience I can remember having.
We ran for about a mile and a half. For those of you who know men, and are now rolling your eyes in disbelief, I promise I'm telling the truth. I, Emily Ward, ran for a mile and a half, under the African sun, wearing Birks, with hundreds of Ghanaians all around me. Under normal circumstances I know it would have been impossible for me to go that far. And I'm not saying it was easy, because I almost keeled over at the end. But with Jeff pulling me along, the fear of being trampeled if I stopped, and the massive amount of adrenaline pumping through me, I did it. That's something I know I'll never experience again, and I'm so glad I was a part of it. Needless to say, it was exhausting. I slept for 10 hours that night.
On Sunday, the International Programs Office organized a trip to see the World Cup qualifying football match between Ghana and Sudan. A mere 35 cedis bought us transportation, a ticket, and a jersey to wear to the game. Although I've never been to a professional soccer game, I'm going to guess, that like most other things here, the experience was unique to Ghana. The stadium was packed. We had amazing seats. I sat seven rows up in the dead center. The players sat right below us! I was able to get pictures of the players' faces, we were so close. Throughout the stadium there were huge groups, each clump wearing matching shirts. These gruops were amazing; for the entire game (and for a good 2 hours before it started) they were up singing and dancing in unison. I don't know who they all were, but they were impressive. It was exciting match, to say the least. Ghana won 2-0 and are now officially off to the World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
All in all, it was a fabulous weekend, and one that I could have only experienced in this amazing country.