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

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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.

Food
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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