Week 10: Final Week

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Our last week in Ghana is coming to an end, and with most of our goodbyes being last week, we have been finishing some project work, preparing for our trip to the UK, and reflecting on some of the amazing times we have had here. Oh, and eating our fill of fufu while we still can. With our trip coming to a close, I wanted to use this post to share some of our favorite journeys and most impactful experiences we have had at Ashesi and in Ghana and to reflect on the experience as a whole.

When the two of us applied to do an ETHOS immersion in another country, Ashesi was not what we expected, in some ways good and others not so much. Ashesi University is a beautiful place to stay and be a part of, even if it was only for a summer. Even more impressive than the beautiful campus, the brand new workshop, and yes, even the basketball court, is the mission Ashesi strives for. The pursuit of perfection and a better Africa that the school preaches is found in the faculty, students, and staff as they aspire to mold students into entrepreneurially minded leaders able to make real change (Please check out this link of the Founder of Ashesi Patrick Awuah discussing the importance of educating leaders through a liberal arts education in Africa and at Ashesi: https://www.ted.com/talks/patrick_awuah_on_educating_leaders). We were awe struck by how engaging the Intro to Engineering course that we were TAing for was and the dedication the students showed in their education (http://www.ashesi.edu.gh/stories-and-events/2500-engineering-solutions-for-agriculture-first-year-students-employ-smart-irrigation.html). Although the experience wasn’t your traditional immersion, usually more focused on on-the-fly engineering work with the tools at hand, we were still able to challenge ourselves to live in a different culture, work on projects that challenged us, and connect with people we met. So here are some things that stood out to us:

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Our Wonderful Cafeteria Crew: One of the first interactions I had at Ashesi was grabbing a meal, then having Fenkuma, my future Ghanaian wife, ask me where I am from? And when can she come with me? It was a hilarious experience that brought us closer with the cafeteria ladies, who continued to joke and laugh with us as they attempted to teach us some phrases in Twi. It was always nice to have a group that we could count on being at Ashesi, so whenever we came back from our trips we found comfort in familiar faces. Needless to say, we will miss them and I especially will miss my Ghanaian wife ❤

– MR

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Rice Rice Baby: Over the course of the 10 weeks here, there were not many meals without rice. 9 times out of 10 we got some sort of variation of rice and chicken, but there were other options as well. We got a chance to try a lot of different Ghanaian food and, with the encouragement from the ladies in the cafeteria, we always usually finished our food no matter what we were served. One food that became a weekly staple was fufu, which we mentioned earlier in the bloog. Our first time around it was difficult to finish since we weren’t used to eating soup with our hands. But now, our diet is adjusted to how much rice and carbs are in each meal, that we are often hungrier and can eat a lot more. Even with all the rice, I was able to lose 15 pounds or so this trip, so the change in diet from UD’s cafeteria to here may have been something my body needed.

– MR

Drinks at Nana’s: Tom and I tried to make a weekly trip of going down the Ashesi hill to Berekuso, to visit Nana’s. Nana’s would be described as a hole in the wall kind of place, except that it doesn’t have walls. Despite this, Nana’s became one of our favorite places in Ghana. This weekly pilgrimage often had special guest appearances from a lot of different people we had met over the course of our trip, so it was fun to get a chance to reflect with them on their experiences, as well as relax with a nice Club in hand watching the sun set over the hills.

-MR

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Getting around via TroTro: After a weekend of Uber shuttling us around Accra, we hit a roadblock when the Uber driver wanted 200 cedis to take us back to Ashesi! That was a little out of our price range, so we asked him what the best way to get back was (people in Ghana are very helpful). He then took us to a trotro station in Kwabenya where we had our first experience with the mini-buses. To give you an idea of what it’s like, the joke about trotros is “What do you call a trotro that is filled with the vehicle capacity?” “Half full”. On the short trip from Kwabenya to Berekuso the trotro broke down each time someone got off, but was dutifully repaired by the driver. Also, as the only obrunis (white guys) on the trotro, we were joked with that we would have to push anytime something went wrong. Desptie all of this, we fell in love with using trotros as a convenient and cheap way to get around the city. It was a nice way to get around Accra by just knowing a few landmarks and was especially exciting to ride knowing that people were surprised that we got around that way; whether it be because it is confusing to some, or because it is assumed that we would take some form of taxi.

– TT

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A Series of Fortunate Events: Looking back on the friends we made, I can’t help be think of how lucky we were. How lucky we were to book our first hostel at the Sleepy Hippo to meet Mem and Tabea as well as Pia, Mira, and Leah. How lucky we were that Mem and Tabea were in Accra the same weekends we were and staying at the same hostel. How lucky we were to meet the Germans, Pia, Mira, and Leah who invited us to Kokrobite for the surf competition and introduced us to our favorite street food, Indomie. How lucky we were that we stayed at Agoo and that I woke up in time to see Isaiah donning his Kenya Ultimate jersey, which lead to one of our favorite days of the trip. How lucky we were that Mark searched Ghana microbreweries and found Inland Microbrewery in the town just south of us. While luck definitely has something to do with it, I think more so there are just that many great people in this country. No matter where we turned in our scattered journey we found friendship and great experiences and I have loved the opportunity to be surprised at every turn.
– TT
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A New Land of Opportunity: The opportunity to shadow Dr. Fred has been something we won’t soon forget. Throughout the summer as Mark and I were looking for “typical” projects, like an irrigation pump or water catchment, Fred continued to expand our vision to greater possibilities. Through Fred’s mentorship, we have grown to see Ghana, and Africa as a whole, as a land filled with opportunities if one was willing to try. We’ve discussed the expansion of PIPS much further down the line than our prototype, we’ve discussed a design lab for innovative ideas, and restructuring the way students are taught and what opportunities they look for or create. As Fred shared his big dreams with us, we became more and more convinced that Ghana was not a country to be pitied, but rather one to be explored and innovated.
-TT

Week 9: Finals Week

Week 9

Finals week, oh finals week. After getting back to Ashesi, Mark and I were ready for a busy week helping the students with their final projects. Last year’s intro to engineering project was developing a solar charger for phones or computers. This year set its sights a little higher on a miniature solar irrigation system. The project hoped to bring together all the class material covered this summer and use equal parts electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering. Mark and I were thrilled with the project and were excited to see how the students would execute. On Monday, as we arrived in the workshop, we were surprised by the work already completed by each of the groups. Many groups assured us their code was finished and the housing for the system was already taking form as well. We were shocked that the students weren’t waiting until the night before the project was due to really get work done. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. While it appeared that most of the work was done early in the week, as the week dragged on no groups were finished with the project. And so, Thursday night, before demonstrations on Friday, there were, as could be expected, many students working into the wee hours of the morning to finish up. Apparently, college students are just about the same wherever you are. Friday morning we were able to attend the students’ presentations and saw them demonstrate their systems. Despite the last minute scramble, nearly every group had a working system on Friday and we were impressed.

While it was nice to see the students finish up their projects successfully, finals week also meant most of our friends were leaving. The first to leave was our favorite Swedish professor Bengt and his wife, Brittis. Having joined Bengt and Brittis for many adventures during the summer, we were sad to be parting ways. On Bengt’s last day, Mark and I took a break from the workshop to enjoy one last fika, a Swedish traditional coffee break. After fika we wished them safe travels and made tentative plans for the Ghana Guys to go to Sweden for a visit filled with fika and sour herring.

The next goodbye was with Dr. Fred who’s actually traveling to the US next week. Friday morning, we took a moment before presentations to meet up and reflect on the summer. Since Mark and I are the first students from UD to come to Ashesi, we talked about what went well with the experience and what could be improved for future immersions. After getting business out of the way, we talked briefly about futures, both ours and Ashesi’s. As Fred talked about what he envisioned for Ashesi, I was touched by his concern for his students beyond their time in school. Not being content with just producing good engineers, Fred is determined to give them opportunities to innovate and create their own jobs in order to make a difference in the world. His vision for change has continued to inspire us and open our minds to the possibilities. Thanks for an amazing experience Dr. Fred!

After finals were over, Mark and I took off to Accra for one last hurrah with our hostel friends from this summer. But, before we went to the hostel, we decided to check out a microbrewery Mark discovered last week. Inland Microbrewery is Ghana’s first microbrewery and is owned and operated by Clement Djameh. After a bit of confusion on locating the microbrewery (can’t wait to get back to actual addresses), Clement picked us up in Atomic and took us to the brewery. At the brewery, he explained a bit about his research on using sorghum as a substitute for barley in the brewing process. Sorghum is a grain more common to harsher climates, such as that of West Africa. He said his ultimate goal in brewing with sorghum was to alleviate poverty by increasing the demand for sorghum and improving the lives of those who farm it. Next, Clement walked us through the brewing processes and explained all of the equipment he was using.

After the tour, he poured us a glass of the lager he was brewing and we sat down and chatted. He told us more about his studies in Germany, including the first test in order to become a brewmaster. The school believed that brewmasters needed to be able to still behave like a gentleman no matter how much beer he or she had had. Clement’s test turned out to be drinking a few liters of beer before having to ride a seatless bicycle, 6 km from the nearby town to the university. He passed and the rest is history. He also told us about his daughter who had just graduated from Penn State with a degree in energy engineering and was looking for some work in energy auditing in the US to gain experience before returning to Ghana. Mark and I laughed as we told him of our experiences with energy auditing and promised to check in with our contacts to see if we could find anything for her. After talking for a while, we told Clement we needed to head to the hostel if he could give us a ride to the main road so we could get a tro-tro. Instead, Clement closed up the brewery and took us about halfway to the hostel before we hopped in a tro.

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We met up with our friends at the hostel before heading out to a night of dancing at a few clubs in Osu. The next morning after sleeping in, we grabbed a bite to eat with Mem and Tabea, our friends from the first weekend in Osu. After lunch, we parted ways with a tough goodbye, sad to see each other go, but grateful for getting to know one another throughout the summer.

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It was a tough week of goodbyes, but a nice hello with Clement. We have one week left to finish up our work before we head on our quick trip to London and Dublin.

Let’s do it Week 10!

– Ghana Guys

Week 8: The North Remembers

Week 8

After leaving the farm, we set out on our next adventure. Luckily, our drive back to Tamale led us right by Mole National Park, a place Tom and I had been wanting to explore. Unluckily, on our way there, we got a flat tire. Luckily again, Yusef was a pro and had us back on the road after only a minor delay. We were joined on our Mole Park adventure by our new iDE pal Krysla. Yusef again with a big assist, tipped us off to calling the resort we were visiting to give us the okay at the gate instead of paying the entry fee. After a little bit more driving beyond the gate, we arrived at Zaina Lodge. Zaina Lodge was one of the nicest resorts we had ever seen in our lives; this is mostly because of the infinity pool hangs above two large water holes and offers a view of the beautiful Mole National Park as it stretches out to the horizon. After our nice meal at Zaina and a quick dip in the infinity pool, Tom and I were off on a safari adventure.

The first task on our safari was saving a turtle on the road. After stopping to avoid the brave road-crosser, our guides informed us we would have to drive the turtle to a body of water since it would get eaten out here otherwise. After accomplishing our good deed for the day, we proceeded to see countless deer and unsuccessfully go out on a walk to track elephants. This led us to believe we weren’t going to see too much, but then all of a sudden our Jeep turns a corner and stops short as we see an elephant, bigger than our car, blocking out path. At first, Tom didn’t notice why we stopped, but once he saw the elephant right in front of us, we smirked, had a nice bro-pound, and went out to follow the elephants on foot. We got the chance to see four or so elephants, so Tom and I were amped after that. The drivers say that it was because of our good fortune from helping the turtle, and I would like to believe that there was some turtle-Karma involved.

After our expedition, we headed to the hut we would be staying in for the night. We grabbed some dinner and made some new friends with some volunteers from the US and Spain. I even got a chance to play some Texas Hold’em with some of the volunteers from the US. Without access to my usual official poker chips, we improvised using toothpicks, peanuts, and black eyed peas for betting.

 

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The village where we were waiting for our trotro/bus to fill up

In the morning we got breakfast and hit the road back to Tamale. Krysla was ready to go on her first tro-tro ride, and after waiting for over an hour to have it fill up, we were headed back to iDE for to get a little bit of work done. Vishal, who coordinated our iDE trip and was our boss for the week, joined Tom, Krysla and me for some drinks and pizza at Chuck’s before Tom and I left the next day. Over some Ghanaian craft beer, Vishal told us a little about his life and his career and how he ended up in Ghana. It was great to hear Vishal’s story and both of us are very intrigued and interested by the randomness/uncertainty that comes with people’s career paths, and Vishal’s was an interesting one.

The next day we flew back to Accra for some ultimate frisbee again, then made it back to Ashesi in time for dinner. The next two weeks we will be focusing in on finishing our summer work, and are looking forward to seeing some familiar faces in just under two weeks from today.

-Marky Mark and the Ghana Guy

 

Week 8: We the North

Week 8

We arrived in the Tamale with no flight delay, so this time around our arrival in Ghana went as expected and a driver from iDE was ready to take us to the iDE guesthouse (which is actually an attachment to the office, so we had a nice commute to work). After getting all settled in, we decided to look into Chuck’s, a restaurant/bar that we had heard had a couple IPAs instead of our usual Club or Guinness. Lo and behold, Chuck’s was right down the street from where we were staying, so naturally, we headed over for a delicious pizza that we have been craving and two Bloody Bastard IPAs.

 

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A Fun SketchUp design of the animal dugout

 

Our work week started with Vishal informing us of the projects we would be working on. All of the projects we would be assisting with would be different parts of water catchment designed to extend the growing season beyond the typical rainy season. The projects were a chance for me to use Solidworks and SketchUp to do some basic designs since iDE did not have the software. These drawings would be used to show their customers and manufacturers CAD models to improve understanding of the product. It was a nice change of pace from Tom being at the forefront of the more electrical PIPS project. Even more exciting however is that Tom and I would be able to go out to test a prototype on a farm in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The prototype in question was a plow to help farmers dig the animal dugout shown above.

One of our favorite experiences in Ghana by far was this chance to work with farmers/ iDE’s customers in order to analyze the prototype with them. This gave us a chance to do some on-the-fly engineering to see what worked and what didn’t, and it allowed us to work with Ghanaian farmers, which is something we will never forget. Working with the farmers helped us get a new perspective as engineers because even though we think of ourselves as good engineers, many of the improvements that the farmers thought of were things we didn’t think about.

 

 

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Our potential journey back home

 

Lucky for us our way back from the Upper West Region passed right by Mole National Park, so more on that adventure to come!

-Marky Mark and the other Ghana Guy

Week 7: Our Last Month Begins

Week 7

After a relaxing start to the week with no work on Monday for Ghanaian Republic Day, we extended our holiday celebrations a little longer to enjoy a 4th of July feast. Shout out to Suzanne and her husband Steve for hosting us, to our new American friends from MIT and to Bengt and his wife for coming to this great American Independence celebration. Steve and Suzanne cooked us a delicious meal of brisket, baked potatoes, salad, and some gingerbread with whipped cream for dessert. God Bless the USA!

 

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Our Journey to Tamale via Africa World Airlines

After our big feast and bigger sleep, our week really filled up quickly. Our two outstanding projects both came crashing in on us Wednesday as the components for PIPS arrived at Ashesi and our trip to iDE in the Northern Region was finalized. Not sure if we had enough time to complete the project and go to the north we questioned our trip to iDE in order to work on PIPS, but Dr. Fred reassured us that our main focus should be enjoying our experience here, doing things that will help us grow and making sure that UD kept sending engineers to Ashesi.

 

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A Nice Big Ashesi Meal: Rice, groundnut soup, tilapia, bofrot balls and coffee

 

With next week away from Ashesi, Tom and I buckled down for the rest of the week in the hopes of getting as much work on PIPS finished as possible (cue 80’s montage). Our productivity was cut short by confusion with paying for our flights and we had to leave work early Friday to get to Accra to pay for our flights in person. Since we were in Accra anyways, we decided to go back to Agoo Hostel, where we went to the previous weekend, for our friend Anya’s birthday. We celebrated with a rag-tag group of American friends, some Germans we met at the hostel, and our favorite Agoo workers. It was a great night of dancing and trying to create/teach some fun games.

Saturday was Tom’s day of glory, it was the first time in a couple months that Tom got to play a real and more competitive game of Ultimate Frisbee (unlike randomly throwing the disc around during Ashesi Ultimate). Tom found the group from a Reddit-Facebook combo and insisted we go Saturday to play ultimate in Accra. It was a fun time and I was undoubtedly the MVP both throwing and catching many scores on my team’s routing of Tom’s. We wondered how our adventures would have differed if Tom had initially found the ultimate page when he searched at the beginning of our trip, but as usual we are thankful for how things have been turning out so far.

Saturday night we made sure to get the cab to the airport a couple hours early for Sunday morning with a Ghanaian schedule in mind (flight at 11:30, told cab to be ready at 7:30). Not to our surprise the cab was not only not on time, but didn’t end up coming at all. Luckily one of the security guard transports was going into Kwabenya station and we hitched a ride. From there we got a cab and made it to the airport at 9am so everything worked out surprisingly well. With a few hours to kill at the airport I played some Age of Mythology I downloaded for our long drive back and progressed through the second GoT book, while Tom made a progress reading through The Two Towers. Then over the loudspeaker, we heard the boarding call for our flight and hopped on the plane up north.

Off to Tamale/Northern Region,

-Ghana Guys ❤

Week 6: The One with All Our Friends

Week 6

Boarding the Ashesi bus we were determined to take the bus further than we ever had before! Which ended up being just a couple miles past our usual mall departure. However, this extended journey did include a view of the president’s house/chair/palace, which we simultaneously added and crossed off our Ghanaian bucket list. Also unexpected on our extended bus ride was learning that we had another 3-day weekend thanks to Republic Day! It turns out even if a national holiday falls on a weekend, you still get a day off work the next week. Take note USA.

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President’s House

After getting off at our stop, we ordered an Uber to our Agoo Hostel, the next on our hostel tour of Accra. We were originally in Accra to meet up with some Ashesi students at a club downtown. However, as the time passed the expected 10 pm meet up time without any word, Mark’s heart sank as the thought that he might not get to dance started to take form. As we sat around at the hostel we reminisced about the other fun nights we’d had in Accra so far, especially the night we met Mem at the Sleepy Hippo. As if answering our prayers, Mem and Tabea unexpectedly peak out onto the terrace to incredulous laughter from Mark and I. We shared a few drinks with our old friends and some new ones Anya and Daniela before heading back to Osu for some dancing.

“Is that an ultimate jersey?” I said to one of our room’s inhabitants from my bunk as he was packing up his bag for the day. So started the series of events that led to one of our favorite days of the trip. Isaiah is from the US but works in Kenya at a company that builds micro-grids to improve rural access to electricity. He was in Accra for the week attending the Power Africa 2017 Conference. But most importantly, he is an ultimate player playing now for a team in Nairobi. With one day left, he was planning on heading to Cape Coast to see the castles and then turning around early in the morning to catch his flight. Well, that quickly changed when we told him we were going to Kokrobite for some surfing and beach ultimate. So the three of us packed up and headed to the beach.

After getting settled in at Big Milly’s Backyard we grabbed our swimsuits and a frisbee and headed down to the beach. We tossed for a while, but the lure of the waves brought us into the ocean to try some body surfing. Mark and I rolled around in the surf for a while before heading to shore to lay out and relax. Isaiah, on the other hand, refused to leave the ocean, enjoying swimming out time and time again to catch a wave. Figuring that this man could use a board, Mark and I headed to Mr. Brights Surf Shop to sign up for lessons. The next hour was a gauntlet of poor timing and communication with both our instructor and the three of us taking separate, but equally lengthy lunch breaks.

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Packed in like sardines!

Eventually, we all gathered with our boards for the lesson. Judging us accurately for cooks (surfer slang for beginners) our instructor Kofi told us we’d just be learning the basics that day. Initially crestfallen that we wouldn’t get to really surf, I later learned first hand that the intro course was a good call. Over the next two hours (an hour more than we paid for, thanks Kofi!) we learned how to body board and eventually get up on white waves. It was an exhausting couple of hours fighting our way through ceaseless waves to finally catch one we wanted, but it was totally worth it. We each got up a few times in our dozens of efforts and were just thrilled to be surfing in Ghana with great friends.

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Surf’s Up!

After our lesson, we quickly bucket showered and ordered dinner, knowing from our last experience at Big Milly’s that it’d be a few hours before actually getting the food. While we waited for our food, the three of us perused local shops along the beach each of us buying a few pieces of clothing and some souvenirs. After an hour and a half, our food was ready and we grabbed some drinks before sitting down to some good food and good conversation. The conversation turned out to be good enough that we missed kickoff for the USA vs. Ghana football match. We quickly dashed down the beach to another hostel where we joined some locals watching the game. Torn between our homeland and the land we were in, we decided to cheer for offense, hoping to see some spectacular goals. We chatted with the locals and despite the US leading for most of the game, they seemed alright enough with a few Americans cheering alongside them.

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Ghana Gifts!

After a long day filled with adventure, we grabbed some late night food and danced with the Reggae band for a bit before heading to bed. However, our frugal lodgings had one fatal flaw. The dorm room we were staying in happened to be 10 feet behind the stage that the band was performing on. We then discovered that despite its relaxed reputation, Reggae music is not ideal to fall asleep to at high volumes. Sometime after Three Little Birds, I surprisingly found sleep.

Sunday morning we woke up before saying goodbye to Isaiah with hopes of seeing each other again somewhere in the world. We hung out on the beach for a while before meeting up with one of our German friends, Pia, who was back in Kokrobite showing her friends around. After lunch, we boarded our many-legged journey home to Ashesi through Accra. It seems each week we have a different hitch in our journey, but we always end up with a new experience traveling in Ghana.

It was an amazing weekend full of friends old and new. It’s hard to wrap my head around all that we’ve seen and done since we arrived in late May. Here’s to the last few weeks wrapping up our fantastic summer.

Week 6: All Work and Play

Week 6

After a lazy Monday in the office on Eid Mubarak, we started up class again Tuesday with an overview of the students’ final project. Teams of students will be asked to design a solar powered crop irrigation system or a poultry watering system. For both projects, some basic mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering skills, calculations, and coding will be needed. Since this is their first project, Mark and I as well as the other teaching assistants, will be all hands on deck for the last week and a half of the summer term.

But before hell week, we still had a couple weeks of preparation. Last week, after the project overview, the class started electronics! Whereas Mark was winning the ever-coveted Helpfulness Cup™ during the Solidworks lessons, this was my time to shine. Dr. Nathan Amanquah went over some basics of electronics before all of us dived into some Arduino mini-projects. With the breadboards and wires coming out, Mark took his cue and ducked out of the room to “work on” PIPS (get a cup of coffee) with Fred and Bengt.

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Electric Avenue

Wednesday after classes something magical happened. After weeks of volleyball, basketball, and football (soccer for you obrunis), I finally convinced Hermann, Pedro, and James to play some 3v3 ultimate frisbee with Mark, Ema, and I. After weeks of having to make due without any proper ultimate, I ran gleefully around the court, not caring in the least for dropped passes or throws straight into the ground. It really felt like being reunited with an old friend.

The next day Fred invited us to join the Swedes on a trip to the Aburi Botanical Gardens. Since Mark was a bit under the weather when I got to go, we decided another visit was in order. However, right before we were going to leave, the skies opened up for a torrential downpour. #rainyseasson #iblesstherains. Undeterred, Fred told us we were still going to go. So we made a quick dash back to our room to change into some adventure gear. Not quick enough as the rain picked up just long enough for our journey. The garden tour was made all the more fun by Fred’s youngest daughter Zelba grabbing leaves from every tree and insisting we smell them. The night ended with a good meal, some haggling for souvenirs, and some Norwegian jokes from Bengt.

One year the Swedes and the Norwegians were having an ice fishing contest. In the first round, the Swedes were pulling up fish after fish while the Norwegians were catching nothing. Confused, the Norwegians sent a spy over to see what the Swedes’ secret was. When he returned he exclaimed, “Oi, they’re cheating! They cut holes in the ice!”

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The Rains in Africa Blessed Us

Feeling that we ought to know a little bit about this irrigation project before helping out other students, Mark and I spent Friday working on our irrigation system with the help of Joshua and Justice. Friday was also Ema’s last day before returning to the home of champion ice-fishers. After work, we reminisced bittersweetly over plates of Waakye before exchanging hugs and goodbyes as Mark and I took the bus to Accra for the night. We’ll miss you, Ema!

This weekend was definitely one for the books, so I’m going to cut this post off here and follow up with a weekend-only post. Stay tuned!

Week 5: Halfway Point

Week 5

After a weekend of relaxation in Kokrobite, we were excited to get back to work on our project. Unfortunately, when we got back on Sunday we found out our internet was down. This, combined with no internet all weekend at the beach resulted in a nervous mother and a missed Father’s Day call. Sorry Pops!

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Just some goats running, keep reading 😀

Monday morning we had a lot to work on from Friday’s conversation with Nicholas, but without wi-fi, there was surprisingly little of that work that could get done. Luckily by Tuesday the wi-fi was back and we touched base with Nicholas and Fred before getting started on our growing pile of work.

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Tasty Tom (w/ excellent photobomb in back)

Tuesday night, Prof. Bengt treated us to some authentic Swedish/Russian food at his house. To show our appreciation Wednesday we were able to go to our first Ghanaian grocery store to restock his kitchen. According to Dr. Fred, most people don’t use the grocery stores because most of the street markets have lower prices (even though they’re ironically named Shop & Save) and are much more abundant.

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Tom looking over Berekuso

That night we had an amazing conversation with some Ashesi students at Big Ben (the cafeteria with a nice view over Berekuso), they asked us about how our views on Africa have changed, how we envisioned Africa growing up and some more thought provoking questions. We really appreciated this opportunity to not only share what we thought for their benefit, but also to have a chance to reflect on our experiences here in Ghana so far. This conversation and dinner came at a perfect time since we are half-way through our trip.

Thursday we had our typical work day, and after we made a walk down the hill to Berekuso to grab a drink with our Swedish friends Ylva and Ema to celebrate the short time we have had with them now that Ylva is flying back to Sweden.

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Only market pic I got :/… We will go again for some better pics

Friday we were able to get to a craft market where Tom and I got matching Ghanaian national team jerseys, just in time for the USA vs. Ghana friendly on Saturday. I was also able to get a coffee mug for my instant 3-in-1 Nescafe coffee. After the market, we met up with our favorite driver Peter and headed to Dr. Fred’s for a barbecue dinner. In addition to the feast of a dinner, Fred also supplied us with drinks to celebrate the Flyers. The highlight of the night however, was getting to play with his wonderful younger daughters who reminded us of some of our younger family Tom and I are missing.

 

Saturday was graduation day for some of our friends at Ashesi, so we stuck around to wish them well and listen to some great speeches from the Berekuso Chief, the Provost, Suzanne, and the President of Ashesi, Patrick. Just like graduation from universities at home, the ceremony conveyed a message of hope for the future and next steps, which is fitting since “ashesi” itself means beginning.

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Somewhere Nice Hostel

Since Monday was a holiday (Happy Eid Mubarak!) we left later that day for Accra to stay at a hostel called Somewhere Nice (which can be really confusing our drivers and for telling people where we are staying), again we made some new international friends and marked off the new countries on our International Friends Bingo Boards.

 

 

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Thanks to the advice from our new friend from the UK, we explored around a bit seeing Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. This park is dedicated to Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana. After checking out the park and museum, we took a quick walk to JamesTown, a fishing village where we were able to climb the lighthouse to get a nice view of Accra. After wandering downtown in the heat, we cooled off back at the hostel where I could do a couple (very short) laps in the pool. Finally, it was back to Ashesi University and with still some confusion with Uber driver before getting to the tro-tro station for the ride to Berekuso. 🙂

This week was another amazing one, it is a very brief overview, so please ask us questions if you have any!

-Mark

Week 4: Surf Competition

Week 4

We had quite the Ghana Group join us for our beach adventure to Kokrobite last weekend. The Ghana Guys, thanks to the invitation of our German friends from the Sleepy Hippo, headed down to Mr. Brights’ Surf Competition. However, we felt that we needed to share the love and extended the invitation to this exhibition of surfing prowess to our new Swedish friends and our old friend Nathan from Burro, who then invited two of the other interns. All told it was the two Ghana Guys, Ylva, Ema, Pia, Leah, Mira, Nathan, Ang, and Grace.

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Tropical Chicken Pizza from “Pizza Hut”

Our journey began Friday on the way more crowded than last time 5 PM bus from Ashesi with Ema and Ylva. After a couple minute delay figuring out how to fit all of us in one bus, we took the bus to Accra Mall and we were able to get some pizza for the first time in Africa. It was this cool new African pizza joint called Pizza Hut, so we knew it was going to be pretty good. After some delicious pizza, we were able to get an Uber to our hostels in Kokrobite, after two hours of bumper to bumper traffic in Accra and a couple wrong turns we were at our hostels. From there we headed over to Big Milly’s Backyard which was the hostel/resort hosting the surf competition for the weekend. After meeting up with our friends we were fortunate enough to enjoy a nice show of people dancing, doing tricks with fire and juggling as well as get some dancing lessons surprisingly similar to the Cupid Shuffle.

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Tom + coconut = ❤

Saturday morning we were able to go out on the beach to do some community service cleaning up a bit of the beach before the day of surfing. It felt good to get some work in before kicking back and enjoying the beach. The surfing competition for us involved: watching surfing, relaxing on the beach, swimming in the Atlantic for the first time since Daytona, and eating some coconuts and Indomie (which is similar to ramen noodles). All in all it was a very relaxing day of competition even though the surfing started about four hours late because of the weak waves and the typical relaxed Ghanaian schedule.

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Ghana Guys dancing at Dizzy Lizzies

Running short on cash and no ATM in sight, we opted to get dinner at Big Milly’s where Nathan could use his credit card. After ordering, we decided joined a group gathering around a projector screen where we got to watch a surfing documentary made about Kokrobite. The movie turned out to be a bigger blessing than we thought since the food took a couple hours to bring out. But without much better to do besides socializing with our friends, in the end, it was worth the wait. After dinner at Big Milly’s, we went to a bar down the street called Dizzie Lizzie’s to appreciate some Reggae music and some fine Ghanaian beers such as Club and Guinness’s 60-year celebration of Ghanaian independence stout.

 

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Relaxation Sunday

Sunday morning, after a full day of relaxing, we decided to double down and do some yoga that was being offered at the hostel. I don’t know what the requirements for hot yoga are, but I think an hour long in the Ghanaian sun definitely qualifies. After rehydrating, we went back to the beach for the finale of the surfing competition. The waves on Sunday were much better than Saturday and the surfing went to a new level. Satisfied with our surf, sun, and coconut for the weekend we took the three taxi, two tro-tro journey back to Ashesi to begin the real work on our project.

Thanks again for following the bloog, we are getting busier and busier so we appreciate you following along,

-Marky Mark

 

Week 4: First Day of School

Week 4

After our enjoyable summer vacation touring Ghana, we finally went back to school this week. While we’ve been working on projects at Ashesi since we arrived, this week was the start of Ashesi’s summer semester. Now, in addition to our project work, Mark and I would be teaching assistants for the 6-week Intro to Engineering course. The course is set up to give students an overview in the world of engineering, including topics such as ethics, applications, and different engineering disciplines. The course will also give students hands-on experience with an end of semester project, this year focused on solar powered irrigation systems.

Excited for our first day of school, Mark and I woke up bright and early and headed into the Engineering Office to meet up with Fred and figure out what we’d be doing for class. As we step into the office, I’m eager to fill up my newly acquired Ashesi mug with coffee and get ready for the day. Coffee in hand, Mark and I sit down with Fred and meet Bengt, the Solidworks guru from Sweden. The four of us, joined shortly by Kofi and Thomas, two other people helping teach the course, start talking over the syllabus and our roles for the summer term. As the meeting goes on, Kofi comments that it’s getting close to class time and we should probably head to the classroom soon. Baffled, Fred remarks that he thought class started tomorrow and grumbles, “Nothing good starts on a Monday.”

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A “Mondays” Sized Coffee Mug

With only moments to prepare himself, Fred delivers a great intro to Intro to Engineering lecture. Throughout the lecture Fred made sure to convey the importance of each part of the syllabus, using stories from his time working in industry to bring the points home. The big take away from this lecture was Fred’s Four Tips. The first tip was that good grades, does not make one a good engineer. He said that while you still need good grades to pass classes and remain an engineering student, there is nothing that can substitute passion and work ethic for an engineer. Secondly, he noted the importance of “the other 8 hours”, the time when you are not in class or asleep. He said it is in this extra time that success is found or lost. Next, he employed the classic “look to your left, look to your right” bit. But instead of following it with the usual, “one of you won’t be here next year” that engineers can often hear, he followed it by saying, “These are the most important people in your career.” To Fred, networking is the way that real change can be made and that working together betters ourselves and the projects we work on. Lastly, continuing on the third point, he told us to help each other. Engineering isn’t about being the best but is about making a change in the world and to do that we need one another. All in all, it was a great lecture that talked about the important intangibles of engineering and it was all the more impressive given the little time Fred had to prepare. I am constantly impressed by Fred, his drive, and his wisdom.

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Dr. Fred dropping wisdom

Always leaving us wanting more, Fred had to leave after Monday for Germany for some conference or another. So for the rest of the week, we were helping Bengt on the Intro to Solidworks part of the course. I say we, but Mark is the only one with Solidworks experience, so I’m serving sort of as a barometer for Bengt to know if he’s teaching it well enough for an electrical engineer to understand. Luckily, Bengt brought along two of his students, Ylva and Ema, so Mark isn’t the only helpful TA in the room. It has been fun this week showing Ylva and Ema around and realizing how big of a difference 3 weeks can make. The two of them would comment on this or that as we took them on a quick tour of campus and it was weird to see how used to everything Mark and I had become. It was also a joy to watch the two girls struggle to eat fufu with their hands after our own struggles with banku only a couple weeks earlier. The personal highlight of having the Swedes around this week was being able to play some ultimate frisbee on the court Wednesday night. Ylva and I lost, but it was still amazing to play again even if it means Mark will get gloating rights possibly forever.

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Ghana Guys with some Ghana Gals

It was great to get a schedule for the rest of the summer and we also got more direction on our solar land-security project for the summer. We have a new groove to get into after this week, but we’re excited to be working with and meeting new students in the class and look forward to getting our project for the summer.

This weekend we’re heading to Kokrobite for a surf competition, as of now only as spectators, but stay tuned for our next weekend adventure blog post.

Peace and love,

The Ghana Guys