How to Get Out of the Post-Travel Blues

I went through my blog drafts and came across a brief entry expressing how I felt after coming home from a semester abroad in Italy. I remember vividly feeling the way I felt. It doesn’t seem that long ago actually, but 2017 really was an entire 2 years ago. There is much that has changed but I appreciate the journey that it took to get here. I still went on one more study abroad trip after the exchange and it was well worth it. I encourage anyone in college to study abroad as many times as they can! Now that I’ve graduated, I have gotten used to shifting from study abroad as my way of exploring the world to getting comfortable living in one place but planning to travel at least every 3 months this year, with solo travel being a required yearly thing.

Coming back to reality can be such a drag, especially after what was probably the time of your life and seeing so much of the world. Even after trips that are 3-5 days, there’s the reluctance to get back to work and the routine of life at home. My experience with this is to give myself time but not too much time to dwell. Capturing the amazing moments in a creative and productive way keeps my mind moving as I reminisce. Creating a vlog, or writing a blog is a productive way to document all of the fun so that there is a tangible outcome of spending hours looking through pictures and videos of all of the fun I had.

Cinque Terre 2016

Stay productive and live in the moment

It’s true, right after touching down in the U.S. I immediately went on the study abroad page to find a new program I could apply for with one more year of college left. There is nothing wrong with being on the lookout to get out of the country again and by the way things are looking I’d wanna get out of here as much as possible. My advice is to treat it as a thing that you’re doing to nurture your love of travel not to avoid your actual life. You will be in your city more than you will be abroad. Home is what you will always come back to so take steps to improve your life where it is. I did this by making plans to do something new and visit a new place in the city at least twice a month. It has also helped now to recognize my thoughts in my head days prior to coming home and thinking of the positive things to look forward to when I come home or goals I want to accomplish. Thinking of the new goals you can set for yourself helps put some positivity into the “back to the reality” feelings of coming home. I learned that I want to be happy for the several months I’m home so that the travels are even more rewarding and I an feel happy all the way through without spending the last few days dreading coming home.

Puerto Vallarta 2018

For a lot of times coming back home means back to responsibilities and actual work. We all have to work and go to school and take care of others sometimes which is apart of life. One way to manage these stressors is to incorporate the self care activities normally associated with a vacation, into your life at home. I got more massages when I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico than the entirety of the year. I think I should actually do more of that and not deprive myself of the amazing pampering of a massage. We don’t have to wait till a vacation every few months to do vacation-like activities. The more things we do to make ourselves smile, the better I think our days will be.

Take a glimpse into my 21 year old feelings coming back to America:

January 17, 2017

“I’ve come back to the United States for studying abroad twice now. The first time I came back from an exploration seminar and couldn’t stop thinking about London for months after I came back. I literally cried as I was getting on the plane. This time, I was gone for four months in Italy and I felt prepared coming home. No tears. I don’t find myself constantly thinking about Italy exactly but more of the feeling of traveling. I miss how  normal it was to be in Milan for a few days only to prepare for my next trip to a completely different place. I’m trying to find a new normal. A few days ago, it felt like I was in the same place I was at the start of last year. Wondering what’s next. Wanting to leave again. Each time studying abroad I felt free. Life was exciting. I was in beautiful places constantly and learning more things. How can I feel the same excitement and freedom in my actual country? As my college experience comes to an end, I realize that studying abroad can’t always be my goal for the year. I’ve already accomplished some amazing global goals as an undergraduate. So right now I am just waiting for something new again. Trying to find what I find when traveling but somewhat in everyday life.

Now that I’m back it feels like I’m starting college all over again but at the same time it seems like everything is exactly how I left it. My eyes see Seattle but my head is still traveling.”

Fun times. Fun times. May the travels continue in abundance.

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Solo Travel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Greetings Daizies,

What helps me when solo traveling is to first figure out my purpose for the trip. I then plan my itinerary based on this theme to make sure I am getting what I want with the trip. For me and this time in my life, I needed a break. I wanted to breathe. My purpose for this trip was self care. I wanted to be adventurous and appreciate the beautiful weather by doing outdoorsy activities. I wanted to get to do something that makes me truly happy, which is traveling. I wanted to remember who I am and what makes me excited.

The timing worked out to where I had three days I could use for a vacation during this calendar year then it was the weekend with Christmas Eve and Christmas day following. That equals a full week off from work. Work is great. But there’s also life. I know I was worried about working full-time and what my life would be like going to work 5 days a week, having the weekend, and then doing the whole thing over again. It can get tiring and seem never ending. This trip was to disrupt that seemingly never ending cycle of “I can’t wait till the weekend.”

I wanted to relax and pamper myself more, take time to take a trip outside the country and get some sun. That’s how I ended up thinking of going to Mexico. Well Puerto Vallarta was really an impulsive decision. I’m actually surprised at myself cuz I’m usually never an impulsive person. Every decision is carefully carved out and planned to the tee. But that’s what I like most about this trip. I knew I wanted to go somewhere in December for a while and I had been looking at several destinations. Then on a Monday one of my friends at work had told me she went to Puerto Vallarta and had fun, and I said welp I’m just gonna go there to and literally booked the ticket the same day.

Arriving in Puerto Vallarta

I tried to pack light as usual, bringing with me a carry-on and a backpack. The weather was forecasted to be in the mid-80s, so I brought a variety of clothes. Something to look cute in, active but cute clothes, a dress in case I go out (probably won’t), and a cute swimsuit I bought from Amazon. It was a decent flight just about 7 hours total. Getting through immigration was the biggest hassle. I have never waited in line so long in my life. After 2 HOURS I finally made it out. I booked an Airbnb for my 5 night stay. I found this to be more cost efficient for a single person. The resorts were like $150 a night and I was definitely trying to spend $200 for my entire trip lol. I ended up doing that with an Airbnb. It’s a decent place, with a traditional feel and Mexican architecture style inside. The downside is when the reviews said it was on a hill they REALLY meant it. I thought it was like a Seattle hill or something that’s a little work out. But no, it’s definitely so steep I feel like a mountain goat walking upwards for a straight 7 minutes. Never again will I get an apartment on a hill lol.

I got to the place in the evening with some time to take a walk around the Malecon and get some food. It was a relaxing stroll and I dipped my feet in the beach water.

Day 1

I decided to hit the ground running with a day of planned activities. The night before I bought an activity package from one of the tourist booths on the Malecon strip, one of the main attractions of Puerto Vallarta. Traveling anywhere I’m always skeptical with buying things from vendors and the slightest error leads my mind to pray ” please don’t be a scam”. The man offered an all-inclusive island tour the the Yelapas Islands with kayaking, hiking, cruise, food, waterfall, and snorkeling AND a free day activity for zip-lining with breakfast for me to use on any day…all for $30. I had budgeted $30 per activity, so the “free” one included was a deal for me. I just had to hope it was legitimate.

The man was late to pick me up at 10:30am and claimed he couldn’t find my airbnb. Then didn’t arrive all together. I was annoyed with all of the talking he did and really wanted to get to the point. I walked down there and just said forget the breakfast. Overall I think the tour vendor was annoying and somewhat nosey. I hate being asked who I’m with, where I’m staying, and my age. Just mind your business tbh. I ended up doing the zip-lining activity around 1pm.

I’ve done ziplining before and it’s something I thought was cool enough to do again. My glutes were so sore from climbing up the mountain to the next lines. It was so beautiful to zoom through the trees and see all of the greenness. There was also a tequila tasting part of the day. They started out with some strong shots and I was like “okay that’s enough for me” but then the next ones were smoothie-like fruit flavors that I really enjoyed.

By the time I got back to the neighborhood called Old Town, it was dark outside and I planned to get some food and leave. I ate a burrito and got some ice cream. I didn’t appreciate having carrots and zuchini in my burrito but I was relieved of my hunger.

For shopping, my strategy is to figure out what items I am interested in buying and remember the prices being quoted to me from various locations. By the middle of my trip, I’ll know what the average price for a purse is and where to get it.

I love that I don’t have to stay out late or do anything to please anyone when I’m traveling alone. I can come in the house at 8:30pm and not feel like I’m being boring or something.

Day 2

Rise and shine

On my second full day, I woke up sore and tired from the previous climbing up the hills for zip-lining. I opted to postpone the cruise activity, slept in, and planned for a relaxing beach day instead. This was such a great decision. I dressed up in a cute flowing yellow skirt and felt stylish and free.

I had good food all day long. For lunch, I ate at a restaurant called Mariscos de Guero. I normally don’t eat seafood but this Marlin burrito was so amazing. Since I had skipped breakfast for sleep, I needed a big meal to fill me up. This burrito did my hunger justice. Too bad I didn’t have a fridge handy because I would’ve saved the other half for later. No need to gamble with my stomach and eat a fish burrito that’s been out in the sun all day. A couple enjoying their retirement sat next to me. We had a pleasant conversation. They spend half the year in Puerto Vallarta and the other half in Canada. They’ve been doing this for 11 years now. The woman told me to enjoy my youth. Indeed I will.

Pretty view from lunch
Smoked Marlin burrito

I spent hours at the beach and got a massage. I inhaled what I knew was eucalyptus oil lol. They acted like essential oil aromatherapy was just out of this world. I was hip and knew what essential oil was being used lol y’all ain’t slick. It was a decent massage though. The lady I met afterwards in line was a masseuse too and gave me a hand and neck massage during our hour wait in line for Pancho’s tacos. This Mexican family was so sweet. They had a 7 year old son that was just learning English. I knew probably the same amount of Spanish as he did English, so we were helping each other out with new word and practicing. They invited me to sit with them for dinner. It was warm and fun being around them. There was this cute dog that reminded me of my cat. I noticed there’s lots of stray dogs here but I pretend not to be scared lol.

This was such a great day.

Day 3

The strangest thing happened. I woke up earlier before my “8 am alarm”. I looked at my phone and it was 7:30am so I laid in bed longer. Then it was 7:58 am and I finally got up at 8:04am. I started my routine and the next thing you know my phone said 9:37 am. I guess it froze or something. I missed the tour again lol.

It was another go with the flow day as I again postponed the Yelapas tour. Today was more of a cultural day. I visited the Naval Museum right on the Malecon strip. I love seeing museums in the new cities I visit. They teach me more of the history of the places I’m in and I get to see a cultural perspective of what events took place that make the culture what it is today.

Display at the Naval Museum

Next, I had an amazing lunch at Pipi’s and had the best food ever. I ordered 4 enchiladas, rice, and beans. I could only finish 2 enchiladas before I could barely breathe anymore since I was so full.

Enchilada meal

Down the block was an art gallery that I took a stroll through. The art was interesting contemporary Mexican art and sculptures.. It was for sale but not the type of art in my price range of as now.

Art with art

I went back to the Malecon and decided today was the day I would finally parasail. I thought the price of $40 was way too much, but I did it anyway. My heart started beating fast as I saw the person ahead of me start to land. I was nervous I wouldn’t land right. As soon as they set me up in the gear, they said to start walking, and next thing you know I was in the air. It wasn’t a gradual rise at all! I was so scared at first. When I finally calmed down, I took in the beautiful view.

Relaxed
Schoolin’ life
Feet dangling from the seat

I found a nice place to sit on the beach further down towards Old Town. I needed a nap and took one. Then I took a dip in the beach for a while, read a book for a few hours, and ate an ice cream cone. Before I knew it, it was sunset.

I got another massage at Venus Spa. I’m going to use more eucalyptus oil more when I get home. It was kind of funny how she would spray the eucalyptus on a towel whenever I got fidgety and had me inhale it. I could do that to myself.

I did most of my souvenir shopping at the Old Town market. Then I got tapas and ubered back to my apartment.

Day 4

All aboard the Beach Boy ship!

The last full day I made it to the cruise to Yelapas. The first stop was snorkeling. It’s always more of a workout swimming in the waves than you think. I find it helpful to slow down and take slow deep breaths to get used to being in the water. As I looked below the surface, I could see groups of fish swimming just below my feet. It was really beautiful seeing the animals in their natural habitats.

Getting ready to snorkel

The cruise itself was quite loud and rowdy. I would recommend it more for families than solo travelers. There were kids everywhere, it was so loud I forgot which language was being spoken. No surprise I mixed up the directions and left the boat and went to the beach instead of the actual hike I had been waiting for. The “activities” boldly advertised on the flyer were kayaking and surfing but neither were anywhere to be found. I was annoyed with this at first, but since being mad wasn’t going to get me anywhere, I did what I liked most and read a book and swam.

View from the cruise

I finished the remainder of my shopping and ended the night getting tacos and a burrito from Taco Revolucion. It was decent and filled me up from the night.

Cruise control

Day 5

I packed in the morning and realized I had bought way more things than I had expected. It was a miracle that I fit everything into a backpack and a carry-on suitcase. I had to toss some old sandals, flip flops and a t-shirt but I made it work.

I had to get one last lunch at Pipi’s, this time ordering 2 instead of 4 enchiladas. I sam in the beach before I left and took the sun rays and scenery all in.

Last stroll on the Malecon

Puerto Vallarta was such a beautiful city. It might be one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been too. At first I was nervous and had to get used to it but then I saw it as a relaxing and friendly city. I felt excitement and how fun I am. I loved exploring and talking with myself. I was content and I needed to see this. I ate good every day. I swam in the beach every day. I got back to back massages. It was a grand time and I absolutely loved this trip. I definitely got the self care tip I needed.

As always,

My Experience at the Cape Coast Slave Castle

Visiting the slave castle was one of the main sites of importance that I was looking forward to experience. As many know, I did my AncestryDNA test a few months ago and I know the origins of my ancestry. While majority of my ancestry comes from Central Africa, going to the castle still meant seeing what my ancestors endured and somehow survived.

I probably could’ve stayed in the museum portion of the castle alone. I like to read every word of each description when I go to museums of historic importance. When I saw the shackles, ropes, and branding I was in shock. Those tools were just the beginning of what one faced during captivity. It was sad to see how the other parts of the Triangular trade reaped so much from slavery yet in the end and in the present, those same African countries face more challenges and economic struggles. One of the displays showed what was traded for humans, ivory, and gold and it was irons, glasses, and guns. It confused me to see simple things like plates and cups being traded for the valuable assets of entire humans and ivory. Plates and guns were way less influential in building an empire like America, but still the trade was in tact for centuries.

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I wish I had more of an emotional reaction going to the castle but it just didn’t happen. I think the constant conversations during the program in the efforts to prepare the few African American students for the castle, somewhat distracted from actually getting the experience. We were told to prepare for tour guides that may make somewhat inappropriate or joking comments during a matter we felt were serious. We were told that surrounding the castle, there would be shops and markets around. We were told that the same coast that was the last bit of Africa that slaves would sea, was now used for fishing and that there would be boats all around the coast. Apparently, Ghanaians had moved on from slavery in a way that African Americans hadn’t. And so being told this several times throughout the trip, somewhat took away from the experience for me to figure it out and process it on my on. I think that’s why I just went in without really being able to think about its importance, in an effort to not become upset at the way the site appeared to be treated. Maybe if I had visited the castle by myself, or perhaps the Elmina Castle, I would have had a different experience.IMG_5009.JPG

It still was powerful to step foot in the actual slave dungeons. It was dark, stuffy, and I immediately felt claustrophobic just after 5 minutes inside. Feeling claustrophobic was so minor compared to everything that happened in there. And people were in those dungeons for MONTHS. All of the things I take for granted now like being able to drink as much water as I want, food, water, and basic humanity were ripped away from my ancestors who had to endure slavery. I can only thank God that he gave them the strength to make it through such a long lasting nightmare.

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The castle is strongly beautiful with the waves rising against the shore, its wild to think so much pain and suffering happened in those premises. There was even a church built on top of one of the dungeons. People would actually worship right in the midsts of their own evil doings. They still thought they were holy. They saw nothing wrong with what they were doing. It made me think about the times we are in now and how there’s so much that society turns their head to. People really can be so dark and cruel but I just hope that the world will get better and learn from their mistakes.

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The Vivid Volta Region: A Warm Welcome

Volta Region

It was about a 3 1/2 hour drive and I made sure to load up on snacks and podcast downloads for the road. I had conducted my first interview in Ada, and I was excited to continue with my research. We stayed at Freedom Ho hotel, which was one of my favorite locations of the program. By this time during the trip, I was completely over eating chicken, which was the central theme of my dietary challenges for the following weeks to come. For the next few days, I was ordering tuna and club sandwiches, with a side of French fries.

Ewe Language and Culture Classes

In Accra I had daily language and culture classes for Twi. I was feeling quite confident with my ability to interact with people at the markets and for general greetings. In the Volta region, Ewe is the most common language and so I had to shift gears and attempt to learn a new set of words. In short, the main phrases I picked up on were “woezor” (welcome), “akpe” (thank you), “in dii” (morning), and “neon yen ye” (my name is).

Mafi Gborkope Village

Most of the time was spent in the village of Mafi Gborkope. When I got off of the bus, I was welcomed by the entire community. There were drums playing, and several people dancing in the center of the meeting. It was a welcome ceremony of over 100 people that were excited to welcome students into the community. Groups from our program had come to this village in previous years, so this community knew we were going to be doing interviews and other activities to learn about their culture. When we stepped off the bus, all eyes were on us and I was told that we would be dancing. I didn’t know what to expect but the atmosphere was very lively and welcoming. There was a village chief who sat directly across from my group. He gave a speech in Ewe, which was then translated by our guide for the trip. He prayed and gave thanks. A tradition of pouring out alcohol was then conducted and wen were officially welcomed by the chief.

One by one, dancers would pull people from my group to dance in the center. I wish I had a recording of me doing the dance but I was killing it lol. After the dancing, all 9 students received a bracelet symbolizing that we were welcome into the community at any time.

The village had basic resources for people to survive. Coming to this village was a different perspective of Ghana and showed me the drastic differences in resources that people have or don’t have. The houses were very simple, with an outside kitchen that I used when helping prepare a meal. The bathrooms were all outside and consisted of a concrete type room and a concrete ground with an opening at the bottom so things can just run down to the soil. Nobody was even checking for wifi. Yet everyone was just living their life and going about their day. The living conditions were very different to me but the people I saw were laughing with one another, playing games, talking, and still living. They still had what they needed and were a community that was there for each other.

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Greeting from community members

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Official welcome from the chief

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Jumped right in during pottery making class

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Look at my baby bowl!

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Homes

Volunteering

Our volunteer project was helping lay the foundation for a new community library. One of the hardest things I did was balance water on my head. I don’t know how people go back and forth between the lake and the construction site, but ya girl was TIDE. I’m pretty sure I only did 2 rounds, but that was more than enough for me lol. I was trying so hard not to drop the buckets. I think I was more successful at shoveling the rocks from the huge pile and putting them in the wheelbarrow. I had to stay in my lane. I also collaborate with someone to move sand from one area to another, and carry other materials to the site. It was hard work honestly.

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After a long day (a few hours) of work

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Just a lil break

Cooking

I helped (or so I think I did) prepare dinner for one of the families. It was a traditional meal called Banku with tilapia soup. The entire process was a lot of work. And to think, these women cook full meals like that every single day. First of all, just cutting the okra took me three times as long as the women who was guiding us. I was so used to a cutting board and didn’t want to cut my hand, but I look next to me and the woman had finished a whole handful of okra in the time it took me to cut one! To cook the food required the use of coal, a sturdy pot, and water. The cooking oven was made out of what seemed to be clay, and was mounted to the ground. It was very hot to be near the fire and took a lot of energy to stir the banku, which was a doughy type of food that needed to be consistent churned or else it would burn. I stirred with all of my might and my arms sure got a good workout. The crushed peppers and onions sure looked like it would be an amazing salsa, but it was mixed in with the chopped okra, and fish. It was a full meal that could feed a family of 4. It looked like a nice meal and it was cool to see the outcome look tasty and filling when tools were used that I had never used before.

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The kitchen

Batik Making

I saw just how intricate fabric design making could be when I was able to see the batik making process. Batik is the use of oils and wax to create patterns and designs for fabrics. I’m very proud of my headwrap that I made. Ir really just picked out a stamp design and the color, but it was still a success.

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At the Batik shop

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A pattern is created once a stamp is selected. The stamp is then placed in a hot wax. The hot wax dries up on the fabric and represents where the color won’t be able to show.

Yam Festival

We happened to be in Ho during the annual Yam festival.  It’s a festival celebrating tghe cultivation of harvests, particularly yam. Everyone in the Ho region came out onto the streets dancing and singing. It was like a Ghanaian carnival. I went to the nighttime celebration and they were playing all of the hits. By this time, I had a few favorite Afrobeat songs and could sing along a little bit. The fireworks were a site to see and it was just great seeing everyone hyped and dancing.

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Ho was an interesting place and I learned a lot from the people in the village. I wanted to share the academic part of my trip and so I’ve copied my field report below. A field report is basically to summarize what you did in each region and your findings.

What was your goal for the period? 

My goal for the interviews in Ho were to speak with several women entrepreneurs in the village. It was my first time working with a translator and with this new aspect, I wanted to strengthen my communication skills and ability to think on the spot.

Type of Prep Work?      

After my first interview experience in Ada, I prepared for the next set of interviews by revising my interview questions. There were several questions that weren’t useful for answering my hypothesis and so I cut those questions out. From my experience in Ada, I recalled that there were a few intro questions such as ” when did you start your business” that made the interview flow smother. I wrote those questions down to be a permanent interview question.

What I Actually Did

 I was surprised that I got to interview 5 women in one day. The questions that I had revised and prepared had to be reframed once I learned that that none of the respondents owned smartphones. Since smartphones were central to my research topic, I had planned several questions relating to what the smartphone was used for. I changed certain questions to find out what the women used to do things are normally the role of smartphones. My next step would be to write down the alternative questions to ask if a respondent doesn’t  own a smartphone.

What I learned about my research topic and research process      

I interviewed 5 women who were all selling food. 1 selling goods, 2 were cooking and selling kenke, 1 preparing fish, and 1 preparing various warm dishes. The use of mobile phones were present but not smartphones. These mobile phones were used to call and text customers. I also learned that word of mouth was used to market their goods and face to face interactions with customers and other sellers took place at the market. An aspect of my research is examining views people have regarding women entrepreneurs and in this community, the women said that what they produce is needed to feed and this necessity doesn’t allow for biases to be held against them as entrepreneurs. The women are the ones making food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The community wouldn’t have meals if it weren’t for these women who are taking the time to cook and sell what is needed. I learned to be flexible with the interview stage of the research process because some settings and situations may not be ideal. For example, about 4/5 women I interviewed were busy actually making the meals or selling to others as I was trying to ask questions. With the interviewee who wasn’t busy, I still had the awkward setting of about 10 other people surrounding me as I was asking questions. I tried to ask the most relevant questions and made sure I thanked them for their time because I could see how busy things were.

 

-POP

An Accradible Week in Ghana

Greetings Daizies from the Motherland!

I’ve been in Accra now for 6 days and it feels like I’ve always been here. I haven’t been able to post blogs as frequent since I’m busy with the study abroad program and the wifi isn’t as strong in our lodge area. But I wanted to share how things are going so far!

I arrived in Accra on Friday night. The entire trip here felt like the longest trip ever and I was so delighted to finally land. It took a long time (almost 45 minutes) for both of my bags to arrive on the conveyer and some time to get through immigration. The first night I stayed in an airbnb. The host was gracious enough to give me a ride from the airport. I couldn’t see much in the dark but I noticed the women walking on the sidewalks carrying crates and products on their heads. Prior to arriving, I didn’t know if that was still something that was done here but I’ve been amazed at the amount people can balance on their heads here. After having only about 4 hours of sleep within the 24 hours of flying and traveling, I prepared for bed quickly and slept.

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(airbnb in Adenta region)

Jet lag was something else because I woke up bright and early at 6am and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I could hear the roosters rising early as well. Saturday was the day I met with the rest of the group for my study abroad program. I haven’t yet talked about the program I’m in for school so I’ll take some time to share a little bit about it. I’m in Ghana for a 4 week program studying communication technologies in Ghana with a focus on research. I’ll be doing field research to answer a research question of my choice. From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to learn about women in entrepreneurship in Ghana. I want to become an entrepreneur and I wanted to discover what it is like for women here in Ghana as entrepreneurs. I know back home in the US there are challenges that women face when starting businesses and I want to examine what the experience is like for women here.

The airbnb was located in an area called Adenta, and from Adenta to the Legon region was about a 35 minute drive with traffic. Our program takes place at the University of Ghana for the first week and later we will be moving towards cities and rural areas in northern Ghana. After settling in the guest house dorms on campus, I took a nap and had dinner shortly after. Saturday was a short day mostly moving from one area to another, so I consider my first full day to be Sunday.


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(University Guest House)

After finally getting a sufficient amount of sleep, I was ready for a full day of exploration. We had an hour long language and culture lesson first thing in the morning. We are learning the Twi language ( pronounced like tree) which is one of the most prevalent languages in Accra. Our teacher is a nice Ghanaian woman full of energy. I know how to say simple things like “good morning”, “how are you” “my name is Daizha”. Something new I learned is that each person has a name based off the day of the week they are born and if they are a boy or girl. My name is Akua (pronounced like Akreea) since I was born on a Wednesday.

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I love the fresh fruit here and can’t get enough of it. There’s a night market at the University of Ghana campus where there are outside stands of fresh fruit and hot food. I’ve gone there almost every day since arriving in Accra. My favorite fruits are the juicy watermelon, bananas and pineapples. You can get a medium sized bag of fruit for 2 cedis which equals about 50 cents! I feel like I’m eating a lot healthier here lol. I drink tons of water and way more than I did at home.

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I’ve had lots of jollof and fried chicken and I’m liking plantain chips more and more. I also like a Ghanaian dish called Plasava (not sure of the spelling) but it’s like a spinach type dish usually eaten with meats.

Surprisingly I like fish now. I never ate fish back home. I would even put a blanket  at the bottom of my door when tilapia was being cooked because just the smell of it made me nauseous because we had it for dinner so much. Here in Ghana, the tilapia was cooked with onions and peppers. The fish was very soft and falling off the bones. It tasted amazing and I’ve had it a couple of timesz

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Today (Thursday) was the day my craving for American food hit me strong. I had to make a trip to Accra Mall for some Pizza Hut to satisfy my craving of cheese. It tasted like the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life.

People

There’s a calmer and more relaxed feeling of being in Accra. I felt like I adjusted easier to Accra than many other cities I’ve visited. I love seeing an abundance of melanin everywhere I go. I notice that even though I’m also black, when me and my other African American friends are walking, tons of heads are turning to look at us and people are often starring. I was wondering if I would blend in here but it’s like the people here can tell I’m American before I even open my mouth. Nonetheless, people have been very kind. When shopping, getting food, or many interactions in general, people have been pleasantly surprised when I’m able to say a few words in Twi like  “madaase” (thank you).

Site-seeing
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I learned a lot at Kwame National Memorial and from visiting the museum inside of the memorial area. The story of the fight for Ghana’s independence is truly inspiring.

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A few days ago, I stumbled upon the Museum of Science and Technology and saw dozens of beautiful artifacts and art pieces. The museum featured more art than anything with a mix of modern and traditional art pieces.
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It’s always fun going to the markets and each day I’m restraining myself from buying every cute thing I see. The Art Center and Osu market areas were vibrant areas for shopping and this weekend I’ll see what the nightlife looks like in Osu.
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This blog post is probably longer than I expect since I’m writing all of this on my phone. I just had to share my experiences in real time as they’re happening. There’s so much more that I want to write about but I’ll make notes of all of the cool things I’m learning in Ghana and he sure to make posts sharing more about my time here.

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You can follow my Instagram @divadaizha for more frequent picture uploads!

-POP

10 Things You Probably Forgot to Pack + Full Study Abroad Packing List

Hey Daizies! If you’re getting ready to head somewhere, I’ve compiled a packing list that I hope you’ll find helpful. Starting out I listed 10 things that you know you need but might end up forgetting. Then in sections I’ll list out things you should bring. As I’m writing this, I’m keeping in mind things I needed when I studied abroad as well as for my next trip to Ghana! I’m trying to pack as light as possible as always.

10 Things You Probably Forgot to Pack

Portable phone charger
Flip flops
Umbrella
Eye mask
Adapter
Sunglasses
Advil/Tylenol
Swimsuit
Headphones
Neck pillow

Clothes

1 pair of jeans ( no matter what the current weather may be, you never know how soon a rainy day may hit)
3 sun dresses ( one that can easily turn into a club outfit)
2 pairs of capris
5 dressy shirts (for pictures)
3 club outfits
Tank tops (easy ways to switch up your outfits)
2 pairs of shorts ( dark or denim)
TONS of underwear (doing laundry in foreign countries can be a hassle)
Socks
T-shirts ( Like the free ones you get from events)
Lounge shorts (for workouts and to sleep in if that’s your thing)
Walking sandals
Comfortable gym/tennis shoes
Combat boots or booties (if traveling for 3-4 months during colder months)

For the Plane

Small over the neck purse ( easy access to your phone, passport, and wallet)
Hand sanitizer
Hair wrap
Sunglasses
Vaseline (lip balm)
Lotion
Neck pillow
Headphones
Phone charger
Empty water bottle
Health
Advil/tylenol
Emergen-C packets (immune system boost)
Peptobysmal

Face & Body

Earrings &a jewelry
Deodorant
Face cleanser
Vaseline
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Floss
Sunscreen
Bug spray
Nail polish
Your favorite makeup (the right concealer shade is hard to find

And for hair, don’t forget to check out my What Should Be in Your Natural Hair Travel Kit?| Checklist for Packing blog post!

-POP

Study Abroad #3 to Ghana | Does Preparation Get Easier?

Eti Sen?

In 9 days I will be boarding my flight to Accra, Ghana for one month and reality has finally set in. For weeks I was kind of just chilling but then when writing out my list of things I need to get done, I realized I couldn’t quite chill yet! Since it’s my third time going abroad, the chaos and panic wasn’t on my mind the entire summer like it was last year when I was leaving to Italy for 4 months. After the rather swift and smooth process of applying for another visa, my planning consisted of writing in my journal on a page titled ” Things to do in Ghana.”If anything I have been counting down the weeks and days to get up out of here and be in a new place. Still proactive, and keeping lists, I wanted to check and make sure I had everything I needed to take off soon.

This check-in I had with myself 2 weeks prior was so important.

One thing I would tell myself 3 months ago would be to DOUBLE CHECK which vaccines are required. Three months ago I had a doctor’s appointment with a travel consultation allegedly included. I had 3 vaccines/pills ordered but didn’t remember what they were for. So I called in, because I’m supposed to pick them up a week or so before I leave so I can start start the typhoid pills. I noticed that other people in my program mentioned they got the yellow fever vaccines. When I called to check if what I was getting was for yellow fever, the people at the pharmacy told me they weren’t. The yellow fever vaccine is the ONLY required vaccine and a certificate of vaccination is actually required to get into the country. I had a mini panic attack when I realized I literally would’ve landed in Ghana and been stranded at the border without this vaccine. Suddenly, I was scrambling to find clinics near me that provided the vaccination and worried that there were other vaccines that I might need. I spent 3 hours comparing prices because the yellow fever vaccine isn’t provided by my regular insurance provider. I was so confused because after leaving my appointment 3 months ago, I was told that I was good to go. Irritated, confused, and in a panicky state of mind, I booked an appointment for a vaccine I would have to pay $377 out of pocket for.

The vaccine portion was the most chaotic part of preparation but I got it done and am officially vaccine prepared for my trip. Had I have known what I know now, I would have booked a travel consultation appointment with my school during Spring Quarter, along with my regular doctor’s appointment,  because the consultation would have been free. Now that its summer and I’m not enrolled in classes, the consultation isn’t free and I had to go offsite for a clinic open during times I wasn’t at work. I would also make copies of my vaccination history so I wouldn’t be confused as to if I needed other vaccinations. I probably could’ve saved money going elsewhere had I have known I only needed one shot.

This trip was different than others because of the whole vaccination process. It’s important to double check and allow some weeks to make sure you have everything you need to be safe and healthy to travel.

Moving left and right along, making packing and shopping lists ahead of time really help me to stay organized and not miss things! There are so many functional and small things I need to buy before I leave. I’m trying to slowly accumulate what I need so I’m not running around like a chicken with its head cut off the night before. I’ll do a separate blog post on things to pack when studying abroad, a natural hair specific post can already be found here.

School and work wise, there are some applications I want to submit before I leave just so I can be in the right space and mindset to apply for things. I’m trying to be as productive and proactive as possible so that next week I can spend time with my family and relax before flying/travelling for about 24 hours. I found a helpful checklist buried somewhere in my program’s drive that I’ll be checking off this week. For some reason, I was set on not taking cash with me and just getting cash from the ATM machines at the airport. Good thing that I am not the same today as I was last week and even yesterday because I realized I could just avoid anything weird happening with my card and me scrambling trying to find an ATM machine  by already having cash on hand. So I’m checking off the first two portions today and taking local cash with me by ordering it from my bank.

Things to do before leaving

  • Call credit card company and bank to make sure they know you will be travelling (so you can make transactions)
  • Get ATM/debit card if desired. Note: you may be limited in which ATMs you can get cash from
  • Scan passport and email copy to yourself and the program directors
  • Set up Skype/Viber/etc account. Add the phone numbers of family/friends
  • Send your travel itinerary to the program directors
  • Complete IRB training. Send copy of certification to the program directors
  • Scan passport and email copy to yourself and the program directors
  • Get all immunizations and medications (i.e. malaria)
  • Bring yellow fever vaccination verification

*Sidenote* I really need to try out these wigs I call myself trying to wear for the trip until I get my hair braided while in Ghana. Having a hairstyle I like is so important and if it requires braids, I need to have it done a few days ahead so that I won’t have a pounding headache on the plane. My ideal style, is to wear my wigs but if that doesn’t work I’ll go back to the Havana twists I loved so dearly.

Now that I’ve gotten the most essential thing out of the way (vaccines) I feel very energized to knock off more things on my to do list. Having prior experience is helpful because I know what to expect/ how I will react to long flights and new scenarios and therefore I am able to plan and pack accordingly. I’ve got some more blog entries planned in my head for pre-departure so stay tuned!

-POP