Monday, September 21, 2009
A New Do for a New Adventure
That's right friends and family, I got braids!!!After four hours of having my head tugged and yanked by four women, this is the end result:
While at first the braids were ridiculously heavy and hurt my head, I've gotten pretty used to them and am really enjoying having them. It definitely makes showers a lot quicker! I've gotten compliments from all different Ghanaians, both ones I know and ones I don't, saying they love my hair! It's so nice to hear, especially when I know that if I was in America, I would probably get made fun of endlessly. Don't worry, folks, I can hear the snickers from here!
Two days after getting my hair done, three friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city. I've been told that Kumasi is the heart of Ghanaian culture, adn from what I saw this weekend, I'd have to agree. We hopped on a bus, and after waiting for two hours for the bus to fill up, we set off on the six hour journey. We got dropped off near our hotel, which turned out not quite as lovely as the guide book had suggested (including paying extra for an air conditioner that didn't work adn only having running water for the first part of the first night). We didn't mind too much, though, because we were off on our own! This was the first time that we had left Accra without a tour guide, and we were all just so excited to be on an adventure.
We explored the neighborhoods around our hotel that evening and found a restaurant that served us delicious chicken and rice. As one friend keeps saying, chicken and rice has been ruined for him now, because the chicken in Kumasi is just on a different level than in Accra. The next morning we got up early to find the Owabi Wildlife Reserve, known for its butterflies, birds, and Mona monkeys, located about 18 km outside the city. We first picked up a tro tro from outside our hotel that took us down to the HUGE tro tro station by the city market. From there, we somehow found a gentleman named Derek who took it upon himself to find us the correct tro tro to Owabi. He led us through the giant maze of tro tros, asking people along the way, showing countless drivers our map to Owabi, until we found the right one. We were very grateful to him and were impressed by his generosity. Although we were warned that there are plenty of people here who are just looking for a quick buck in return for directions, it's amazing how many Ghanaians we've found that are willing to go far out of their way to help us without expecting anything in return. The generous ones far out number the greedy ones.
Here is a shot of part of the huge tro tro station:
So the correct tro tro took us out of town and dropped us at the head of a dirt road in a small village called Esase.. The tro tro mate (the one who collects the fares and calls the directions) pointed us down the right road and we headed off toward Owabi. We made it to what seemed like a ranger station of sorts and was labeled Owabi Wildlife Reserve, but there was no one around. We sat and waited for about 20 minutes with no luck, and then decided to take our chances further down the road to see if we could find someone who knew where the guide might be. After walking for quite a ways down teh road, we passed a soccer field where five or six small kids were playing football. They stopped and shouted obruni at us, something that is growing very dear to my heart, and then came running over. They asked us where we were going, and just making conversation, I told them we wanted to go on the wildlife hike but couldn't find a guide. Smiling, they took our hands and told us to come with them. They led us into their small village, where other people yelled obruni at us affectionately, and up to a building. They told us our guide was in there, and amazing, he was! He put on his boots, grabbed his machete, adn led us into the forest! If it hadn't been for our tiny tour guides, we never would have found him and the trip out to the reserve would have been a waste.
Unfortunately, during the hike we didn't get to see the Mona monkeys we were hoping for, but we did hear them on several occasions. We saw and heard beautiful birds and butterflies, however, including a hornbill (which I spotted because he flew exactly like Zazu in the Lion King). Plus, the forest and surrounding area was just so beautiful. So despite the non-monkey-visual, the adventure was a success.
That afternoon, we went to the Kajetia Market, the largest market in West Africa. It. Was. Awesome. Definitely my favorite part of the trip. I'm finding it hard to describe the enormity adn extent of the market in words. It's just so huge. Rowas upon narrow rows of everything you could need. And it's systematically organized, amazingly. These twelve rows are devoted to clothing, these six to hair care, those seven to fish and snails. There is SO MUCH. We were there for over an hour and I'm sure we didn'tn cover half of it. It was exciting, breathtaking, consuming. I loved every minute of it. Plus I got lots of compliments on my hair :)
The next morning we were lucky to catch the bus that was supposed to be leaving at 9:30 (though we didn't get there till about 9:39 and it didn't actually leave till 10:15), so we didn't have to wait till the 12:30 bus. The trip home went fairly quickly, only about four hours. I think the African films they showed on the bus really sped things along! The first film was a Nigerian version of a Walk to Remember, called A Million Tears. I mean, it was the exact same plotline. Some exact lines, even. It was hilarious.
Overall, the trip was a success. Although we didn't do anything too exciting, it was so much fun exploring without really having a plan. I consider myself so lucky to be able to experience traveling like this.