Saturday, December 27, 2008

Catch up

Burkina summary:
Sorry this is so dated, but....Burkina was awesome. Mo and I loved the SIAO Festival (West Africa craft fair basically) and Ouga in general. Burkina is full of baguettes, home made yogurt, ice cream, pizza, and all the culinary influences of France (which compared to the British influenced Ghana was a terrific treat). Best of all was the yogurt. You can buy it everywhere and it comes in little hand tied baggies. Everyone brews their own...and it was all so delicious! After Ouga we went north to the Sahel and saw mini sand dunes and the mini dessert (the Sahel that is) from Gorom Gorom. We took a 12km camel ride out to the desert at sunset, cooked-ate-and slept out there (which, PS, was very cold!) and then rode back in the morning. Now, I don’t know how many of you have ridden a camel outside of say the little mini rides at the Bronx Zoo, but...they are not the most comfortable animals to travel upon. For one thing, the saddle was not like a saddle at all, it was like a bar stool--wooden with no cushion. Now, picture just bouncing up and down on a bar stool for about 2 hours...not too nice, do that same thing again the following morning. Ouch!!! Thankfully Mo and I did not opt for the 4 day camel hike out to the city I really wanted to see, my poor little butt would not have handled it.

Back to Ghana: that was for the Germans again. Since my work is not really going any where just yet (we are going to start sampling after the holiday season, in January), and I needed to go to Accra to meet someone who was bringing me pH Buffer because it is unavailable in the country (go figure), Mo and I decided to travel with the German boys and see some of Ghana. But first, we had a much needed “Junk food night” at Rie and Ai’s was delicious.

We left the day after Thanksgiving and went to Mole National Park to see wildlife. We saw warthogs, baboons, monkeys, antelope, and two elephants (but from a distance because most are off mating). And the Mole Hotel has a pool and so we went swimming, and just lounged poolside, overlooking the watering hole and the wildlife. The baboons are a trip though. The staff just refers to them as “thieves” and during our short stay we could see why. First, one just walked right up to these people who were eating bread for breakfast and just stole it right out of their hands (plus baboons are very vicious, so I am guessing that is why they did not put up a fight). Later, one couple told us, the baboons came back and started after these other people’s bags that were left on the table. They started to leave with the person’s wallet when this guy said he got up to chase them away, well, the baboon growled or something because he said him and his whole group of friends just jumped into the pool to escape it’s fury. Scary.
Then, after Mole, we went to Tamale for two nights, Kumasi for a few days and then to the coast. In Kumasi we went to another Kotoko futbol game, which was fun except that we got poured on! It was actually kinda refreshing since we had not seen rain for 2 months, but a bit chilly afterwards (also a welcomed feeling). We also went to a forest reserve outside of Kumasi, Bobiri, except the first time Mo, Robert and I attempted it we were not happy. We walked the 3-4 km to get to the park only to hear loud booming music when we were 1 km away and only to discover a huge party in full swing at 11am on a Friday morning, I was not happy. So, Robert, Andreas, and I tried it again over the weekend and it was very nice. We took the guided hike (were forced to) and learned that mahogany is a natural Viagra (and tastes very bitter).
At the coast, we went East to Ada which is where the Volta River empties into the Atlantic. It was so beautiful. To get there you have to take like 3 tro-tros from Accra and then a canoe, but it was worth it. We were maybe 40 feet from the ocean staying right on the river in these little huts (no electricity, no water, no floor—just sand). It was a private paradise because the four of us were the only ones staying there. The ocean was extremely rough, though, and extremely saltly, but we still swam in it all day long. After two nights there we stopped off in Accra again before heading to the West.
First we went to Cape Coast and visited the main slave trading castle there. We did not partake in any of the beach activities in Cape Coast since the whole place smelled like doodoo. Seriously. While standing at the castle we watched no fewer than 4 people drop some turds on the rocks right by the surf...and that was on uncomfortable rock....just imagine what the beach looked like! The next day in Cape Coast, Mo, Robert and I (not Andreas...he’s afraid of heights) went to the nearby Kakum rainforest where there is a canopy walk. We loved it so much. I think most of our love had to do with the fact that we were not only the first ones there, but also the only ones there for at least an hour. So we got to just relax, 150ft up in the air over the trees listening to birds and watching the butterflies. It was so beautiful. Incidentally, I have discovered that I am slightly afraid of heights myself. The canopy walk would sway and bounce causing me to white knuckle the ropes as I crossed, but I would still do it again, so I was not that scared I guess. After the canopy we took another guided hike and learned some more about local flora and about 3 other trees whose bark can be used as a natural Viagra (they seemed obsessed with this point).  

Then, to Busua, a beach about 100km west of Cape Coast. Now Busua looks like paradise. The ocean is relatively calm because of an island that stands at the mouth to cove that is the beach. The people were friendly and most importantly, there was an amazing restaurant there that served vegetarian food. The restaurant was attached to the Black Star Surf Shop owned by an American, so they had a heavy hand in the tastes of the food---which was a good thing. There was this huge burrito with a homemade tortilla, brownies with ice cream, curried delicious!!! Plus, Andreas and Robert got to eat fresh caught lobster (which was their goal).

And now, back to Bongo:
We were very sad to see the Germans leave and we returned to Bongo only to see Rie leave as well (she has been transferred out of Bongo). Since returning we have moved in with Ai and are now living in a house with some more comforts and privacy (some much needed privacy). We miss having all the children around, but enjoy not having to worry about cultural taboos while trying to relax at home (the home stay was slightly stressful). Christmas here is a weird thing, for one thing it is hot and for another nothing looks or feels like Christmas. I cooked some curried lentils (purchased in Accra for the price of gold) and we had some beers with Ai, merry Christmas? The 26th was Boxing Day. “What is boxing day?” you ask, well, not really sure yet. Here, apparently, it is a day of picnics. For us, it was a day to watch the entire season two of “The Wire.”