Away I go...

1. Me at the Upper Falls.

2. Jeremy, Rachel, and I.

3. Me and the Cocoa Pod.

4. The fish that accompanied our tro-tro ride for awhile. 

5. Cocoa Pod Take 2.

6. Rachel and I, so fond of one another.

BEADS!

Post #9

Last Monday and Tuesday I went to the Volta Region (eastern most region of Ghana) with a couple of friends to travel back to Hohoe (pronounced hohoy) to the Wli Waterfalls. I had gone previously a few months ago but didn’t stay long to see much. It was a really beautiful place so I decided to hop on board and return!

We started our day early on Monday morning to visit an outlet where they sell all of the glass beads that are handmade here in Ghana. We went to one of the main tro-tro stations in the Madina Market to catch a tro-tro towards Akosombo, where we got a tro-tro to Kpong and were told we could get an Akosombo tro from there. So we finally made it to Akosombo and started asking around about where the bead outlet, Cedi Beads, was. Many people immediately told us that we had to go back where we came from, so we hopped on a tro-tro BACK towards Kpong (although we were never really sure where Kpong really was). After a 30-minute ride back toward where we had just come from, we were dropped off and told to cross the street and head down a side road, where we found a sign pointing toward Cedi Beads! After about 20 minutes of walking we arrived at a small compound where they were hand making the beads.

[Funny story: we were trying to find the outlet where they just sell the beads. We had heard about the “factory” where the beads are made but thought it would be too hard to find, and, although it sounded really interesting to see the process, we would just settle with buying beads in mass quantities. Turns out the factory wasn’t so hard to find!]

We were warmly greeted and showed around. The man who runs the place (it’s a family business—since the 13th Century!) gave us a tour, filled with detailed descriptions of the bead making process. He has travelled the world selling these beads and giving lectures about the bead making process. There are three types of beads—all of which are made from crushed up glass bottles. One type is the pure glass with no added color pigment. They use small broken glass pieces and melt them in the oven, then pierce the hole through the middle when it is slightly cooled. They can mix colors and bottles, but the weight of the different types of glass has to be compatible with one another or they won’t melt together. The second type is made from the powder of the finely crushed glass mixed with color pigment. It is usually made with layers of colors or swirls in a rectangular or spherical shape. They sometimes mix the colored pigment with water to make paint, and paint shapes and dots on the bead after it is cooked, and then fire it again, making 3D patterns on the beads! The third type is also made from small pieces of broken glass, but these pieces are tiny! They are just melted together, making a swirly looking bead with all different little specks of glass fragments mixed together! After they fire all of the beads they clean and shine them up by grinding them on stone with water. I’m really glad we found the factory! Afterward we bought some beads and bracelets…there were just way too many to chose from it was so overwhelming (the outlet would have been a disaster for me).

After we left Cedi Beads, we went back to Akosombo to find some food and catch a tro-tro to Hohoe! We found a place to eat lunch and then ended up getting a shared cab back toward where we came from to get a tro-tro and found our way to Hohoe. [Sidenote on shared cabs: why is it cheaper to get a taxi with 3 strangers than with 3 friends? Everyone is going to the same place…should we all just start pretending we don’t know each other? I digress…] After a taxi ride in the pouring rain (the most beautiful lighting storm over the rainforest at night) to the hotel near the waterfalls we settled into our room and played silly games all night (somehow Jeremy ended up dressing like Lady Liberty for awhile…things were weird).

The next morning we started on our way to hike for 2 ½ hours to the Upper waterfalls and 2 ½ hours back down. It was amazing! We basically hiked straight up this beautiful mountain…the side we were on was the Ghana side and the other side of the mountain belonged to Togo (creative border lines!). The hike was slippery and steep. We all fell at least once on the way down, but everyone made it out with only minor scrapes and mud stains. I saw some really crazy bugs: fuzzy caterpillars, spiders the size of my hand, shiny turquoise and purple beetles, and TONS of butterflies! So many butterflies flying everywhere—it was so beautiful. It was like they were leading us down the path, following us the whole way up and back.

Our guide found snacks from the forest for us on the way up: the cocoa beans inside a fresh cocoa pod (you just suck on the individual pods that are really sweet, the inside is the actual bean and it’s purple and really bitter!) and some kind of energy giving fruit that has healing affects towards asthma.

We eventually made it back home safely. It was a really fun trip, definitely worth the return! 

{Rose-Anna Marie Martin}

Trees in Ghana and Togo

1. Sun in the sand.

2. Fishing boat.

3. Togolese sunrise.

4. My first moto-taxi ride.

5. Sunset over rice paddies in the Volta Region of Ghana.

1. Leaving Ghana, entering Togo.

2. Bienvenue Au togo!

3. Benin is only 52 Kilometers from the Togo/Ghana border, which is only 32 miles! We almost motorbiked to the Benin border to hang out there for awhile, but it seemed that it wasn’t the right time to do it on that particular visit. 

4. A beautiful abandoned palace, now providing a home for the homeless.

Post #8

As the school year ends I find myself busy with extra rehearsals, study sessions for my exams, last minute practicing, and a lot of personal evaluations—which can be painful, but are always worthwhile. I only have about a month left. I plan to travel to Northern Ghana sometime soon (I hear it’s very different in the North) and I am planning a lot of small trips around the city to finish up my gift shopping and city exploring. I am also preparing to go home (wahhh) by practicing/mentally preparing for my quarterly audition at school, compiling all the rhythms and dances and songs I have learned into something a little more organized (because once I leave I know I won’t have the time or energy to do it), figuring out how I am going to get all these instruments home, registering for classes, thinking about all the food I get to stuff my face with when I step off the plane, etc.

 But now to focus on the present…

Last weekend was my birthday! On Friday the 9th of November I got to celebrate the day I was born, and I am now one year older. I will probably never again have a birthday like this one—it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of day. I spent my day in two different countries, Ghana and Togo. I rode on a moto-taxi for the first time. I ate mustard for the first time in the last 4 months, my friends and I got lost trying to find an apparently amazing Indian restaurant because Peace-Core-Patrick (who was staying at our hotel) gave us horribly wrong directions or possibly just made the restaurant up, and I was sung “Happy Birthday” in three different languages at once (English, Finnish, and Italian) just before bedtime. It was quite the day!

[About that restaurant…we never did find it. No one on the street seemed to know if this exquisite restaurant even existed, so we ended up taking a VERY expensive taxi to a janky Chinese restaurant that was indeed cockroach infested and who’s food (which was, unfortunately, very delicious) gave me a mild gluten reaction. But what can ya do!? I am learning quickly that there is always a possibility that everything can and sometimes will go wrong when you travel somewhere new, but it’s the attitude, my friends, MY attitude that determines if it will affect me! Hooray for learning.)

Togo was honestly really wonderful. The French influence is apparent, especially compared to the British influence in Ghana. I only saw the touristy capitol of Lome, Togo, so I can’t say I REALLY know what Togo is like, but what I saw was lovely. Luckily, one of the six of us ladies that travelled to Lome spoke French, which was definitely necessary and got us out of a lot of could-have-been-sticky situations. But many people at the market, on the street, driving the taxis, etc. spoke English as well (a small-small amount), so it wasn’t difficult 24/7 like I thought it would be. 

The second day we were there we watched the sunrise on the beach over all of the large fishing ships in the distance, and the small fishing boats just feet away from the shore. It was beautiful.

Anyway, I thought I would give a brief update on my current state in Ghana. Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

{Rose-Anna Marie Martin}

These are some pictures around campus…the last two photos are of 1. the outside of the night market, and 2. All Needs supermarket which rarely has what I need, except chocolate.

The rest of the photos are of various places that I see every day!

Photo 1. Gilad, an Israel percussionist who has travelled all over the world gathering instruments, performing, expanding his abilities, teaching, etc. came to visit the University of Ghana School of Performing Arts. It was really inspiring—he is an amazing musician and humble teacher and learner. I’m so glad I got the chance to see him play and lecture for the musicians at this school.

Photo 2. A few of us went to the National Symphony performance, we have a friend who plays trumpet in the orchestra. There was also a chorus—a mix of Ghana’s professional chorus and a German chorus who was here for the week.