Accra-dible Time

We’ve been in Accra since we got back from the Volta Region on July 10, and we’ve had some incredible experiences. For starters, everybody has been living with our very gracious host families, experiencing life in Ghana from a family’s perspective. We’ve been having meals with our families (trying various Ghanaian foods, such as kenke – a pounded ball of maize, boiled, fermented, and served with some sort of stew or soup – and many different preparations of rice and stew), learning about the language and culture, and just hanging out and having a good time. We’ve also been taking local trotros for transportation to/from places, having tuned our ears to the sounds of mates yelling “Areeenaaareeenaaareeenaaa” or “Temaaaa Stayyyshunn” to pick out the correct vehicle (shout out to D-Zaltz on his bang on impressions). We’re all pretty much pros now.

Our weekdays are spent at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, where we have been rotating placements with the National Cardiothoracic Centre, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Neurosurgical Ward, and the Haematology Department. All the participants have been shadowing in the various departments, observing and learning from a whole slew of things, from patient consultations to ward rounds to diagnostic testing to surgeries. The students and faculty in all the departments have been phenomenal, and have done an incredible job of exposing all of us to the front-lines of health care in an urban setting, and the complications (from financial to logistical) that are involved.

In addition to spending time at the hospital, we’ve also met with various organizations. We’ve received presentations from the National Tuberculosis Control Programme and the National AIDS Control Programme, shedding light on government initiatives and non-governmental partnerships that are involved in disease monitoring and control. We also had the opportunity to visit the Buduburam Refugee Camp, located about an hour outside of Accra, where we received a presentation and tour of St. Gregory’s Catholic Clinic located on the camp, which serves the almost 20,000 mainly Liberian refugees who live there. Our good friend Bismark Reeves, himself a refugee from Liberia who has been living on the camp since 2001, also took us on a tour of the camp and provided us with insight on the situation from his perspective as a refugee. We learned a lot about the Liberian conflict from the ’80s and ’90s, and got an on-the-ground look at the complexities that follow the initial set-up of a refugee camp in the face of an emergency. We don’t usually think about the exit strategy, and how to go about one day closing the camp down. Buduburam has been active since 1990.

Last weekend we went to Cape Coast with the exchange students from Korle Bu, and stayed at Cape Coast University. We visited the Cape Coast Castle, and learned about Ghana’s role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the legacy it has left. Cape Coast Castle was the exit point for many of the slaves who were taken from West Africa over to North America and the West Indies. It was definitely an emotional experience to walk the very halls and be in the very dungeons that such horrible atrocities took place a few hundred years ago. While in Cape Coast, the group also took part in a cultural scavenger hunt, putting themselves out there and learning from locals about politics, religion, language, life, and everything else that organically comes up.

Last night we went out for dinner at this incredible street restaurant run by a few Ivorian folks in Osu, and we enjoyed some incredibly-prepared grilled Tilapia (or chicken for those who weren’t feeling fish). Our dinner was followed by Salsa Night at the Coconut Grove, where we all grooved to the rhythm (some of us much better than others) before we went for Karaoke. It was a nice way to spend our second-last evening in Accra.

Tomorrow we make our way to Kumasi. We’ve been invited to a wedding in Techiman (IB, our super awesome police officer friend from Sandema, his brother is getting married on Sunday) and we will hopefully be able to pull off an appearance there before continuing our journey further north to Sandema. Builsa District, here we come.

Later days.