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 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 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 3: Ghana Bucketlist is Thinning

Week 3

 

 

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SolidWorks Bicycle Model

 

This week Tom and I focused on getting some applications ready for the engineering design course that starts here at Ashesi next week. We are super excited for this course since we will be helping out as teaching assistants and it will help us get on a more strict schedule. We were tasked to come up with 10 applications for solar specifically in Africa and where it is needed. As obrunis, we really had to be open-minded and talk to people in order to come up with some effective applications. We came up with a bunch of ideas and built on two in particular which is a bike powered irrigation pump and a solar powered system on a bicycle (as seen in the Solidworks design above). Needless to say, after a week of work we were ready for some adventure again. Nicholas Tali, who we have been working on projects for/with, was willing to take us on an adventure Saturday which would check two destinations off the Ghana bucket-list.

 

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View on the Canopy Walk

The adventure began at 6AM Saturday. Nicholas was driving with a couple of Ashesi students to drop them off, and we even convinced one of them, Audrey, (probably with our amazing dance moves in the car) to join our adventure. Together we jammed in the car to some of DJ Raz’s tunes. And we even learned a French song from Audrey that we tried to translate into English, but it lost its beauty quite a bit. (“MY BROTHER, MY SISTER, WE ARE ALL TOGETHER… AS ONE”)

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Canopy Pic straight from Snapchat

Our first destination was Kakum National Park. In store for us, was a canopy walk that involved us walking across a thin piece of wood with net guards on the sides of us. We eagerly ventured across the canopy walk and reflected on how this is most definitely an adventure you wait until after it is done until we tell our mothers (sorry Mom).

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Tom enjoying his well-earned coconut

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Cape Coast Castle, again straight from my Snapgame

We survived our adventure and were on our way to our next stop, Cape Coast Castle. Cape Coast Castle was one of three castles in Ghana where the slave trade took place. Built in the 1500s by the Swedes as a trading post, it was conquered by the English and was turned into a castle by 1700. The castle was growingly used in the slave trade and held up to a thousand men and five-hundred women at any given time. The slaves could be in the castle from anywhere from two weeks to three months, eating two meals a day scooped right into their hands, and in unimaginable conditions that were just barely enough to survive. For Tom and I this was an experience that we would never forget, will always make us grateful for the lives we have and will keep us focused on living our lives in the service of others.

 

Week 2: Project & Fully Adjusting

Week 2

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Concrete Property Marker Example

Almost everybody in Ghana has dealt with or seen land ownership issues around them according to Dr. Fred.  From talking to students and doing some research online, Tom and I found truth to this statement. Dr. Fred estimates that 58 thousand cases are in the process of dealing with land negotiations in Ghana. The problem stems from land owners who sell properties twice. The person purchasing the already bought land then competes to build on the land quick enough to stake their claim. This is important because once their structure gets to a certain point they can pay off the original land owner(s) or an official and own the land officially.

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Two more concrete examples being used for marking utilities

That is where these concrete posts come into play. They are used to mark land around a property, often with the person’s identification on the post, however when a land is sold twice these markers can be removed or destroyed without the original land owner even realizing. This is where we come in. Our project is called PIPS (perimeter intrusion protection system) because Dr. Fred said abbreviations make it sound like it’s a NASA project. The goal of our project is to have an smart security system that can be an attachment to these concrete blocks.

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One of my three SolidWorks Designs

Tom and I are using our abilities we have gathered in our respective engineering programs to help make this project be a success. Above is one of the designs I made using Solidworks which is a design software that is used worldwide and in the classroom for me at UD. Below is an example of some of the work Tom has been doing on the electrical side of the project. Without giving away too much information on the project, we are very excited this project is giving us something that is helping us utilize/refurbish our software knowledge, as well as help the community.

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Tom’s Electrical Schematic

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Mark’s IPhone8S

Other than our projects we also got cell phones and did laundry for the first time BY HAND. Tom was able to get a SIM card for his smartphone (Galaxy S3 making a come back) and I got a fancy new phone shown above (even comes with a Soduko game and FM radio using headphones as antennas). While I was pretty smug about my slick new gadget, Tom struggled all weekend to get the mobile data working on his. More on our weekend escapades and Wi-Fi hunting in another post. Laundry also presented some issues at first. Our first attempt by hand Tom and I attempted to mimic a washing machine, with sound effects included. Tom’s GE Appliances co-op didn’t seem to translate over to his ability to wash clothes. It rained after a couple hours of being out, so we brought our clothes in to dry (as shown below). Unfortunately for us, the clothes were still damp and didn’t smell all that great. Later that week we rewashed some of the clothes that smelled, but spent more than just 15 seconds washing each article of clothing and we were able to get bearable smelling clothes.

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T-Tappel and the sorta clean sorta dirty laundry

It was nice having some work to do on a project that could have a lasting impact on the community here. And finally we were able to do some laundry by hand (which was a great feeling in the end), we no longer waste a ton of rice every meal (#portionsizeiskey) and we are just about feeling fully adjusted to our lifestyle here.

Again, thanks for following the bloog, love,

The Ghana Guys

Week 1:First Weekend Adventures

Week 1

Ghana Map

Getting over my sickness I was excited for a weekend of adventure with T-Taps. The crew was me, Tom, Ernest (our driver who loves to dance), Nii (our tour guide for the weekend) and Cliff (whom Tom went to Aburi with). We were headed to the Volta Region for the weekend. After a couple hour drive that was only so long because of the poor road quality, we arrived at a small resort that was way nicer than what we could have expected. It had a beautiful view of the lake, had a breakfast buffet, and we were even able to sleep with AC on in our room which is something neither of us took for granted.

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Tom vs. the Fish Dinner

We enjoyed a few bottles of Club, our first beer in Ghana together, with Clif as we looked out over the lake as the sun was setting. After beers, we were able to get a nice dinner at another hotel. Tom opted for the seafood platter and I ordered some Ghanaian Chicken. I asked Tom if he wanted to hit up the dance floor with me, and he halfheartedly said sure. Ernest had no second thoughts, enthusiastically leading us to the empty dance floor and it wasn’t long before we had some people joining us or laughing at our incredible moves. You can see some of those moves towards the end of the video collage that I posted earlier in the week, as well as some pictures from these adventures.

Unfortunately, the next morning (Saturday) Tom came down with a similar sickness I had, but this time we knew a little better, so I fulfilled my roommate duties even better than he did by giving Tom some medication that helped me, Sprite and water, and even postponing the adventures as to not ditch him in his time of need. We waited around a couple hours and Tom was feeling well enough to join us for our expedition.

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On the hike

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#waterfallpics

Today we had a bunch in store for us, and we started with a little hike to Wli waterfall along the border of Ghana and Togo in the Volta Region. We had another tour guide for the hike specifically, and he told us so much about everything we were observing, so it helped us learn a lot, all the while Tom was struggling with keeping his dinner inside of him. Finally, we made it to the waterfall (or Bat Cave?) to go for a swim. There was another group of American students there who were building a school in the local area, so we got to chat with them briefly, then enjoy to bat surrounded waterfall.

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Monkey Pics

 

Next stop was one of the greatest moments I have had in my life. The Tafi Monkey Sanctuary. A forest filled with estimated 300-400 monkeys, we got the chance to feed some and watch them play around. The process of feeding them was simply holding out your arm and squeezing tight onto a banana, they did all the peeling themselves. We journeyed back home and Tom was ready for a break, staying back at the hotel with AC and a bathroom in close proximity. I got some dinner with the rest of the gang at a nice restaurant that had a view over the dam we would check out the very next day. A former president of Ghana wanted to view construction of the damn and this hotel we ate at was for him to view the dam. Again Ernest led the charge to the dance floor and our moves attracted the eyes of some Italian girls who are in Ghana for a while. We danced and laughed and Ernest was avidly capturing the whole night on camera for a trip down memory lane at our inevitable wedding.

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Dam gurl 60% of Ghana?!

This dam can supply up to 60% of Ghana’s energy needs according to our tour guide, however he says the dam will be generating less and less as the water level continually gets lower as a result of climate change. In the picture shown above they only have two of the six generators running, mostly because it was a Sunday, which is a day of prayer and family time for most Ghanaians, but also because the water level is at the lowest it has been and near minimum. Fortunately rainy season is around the corner here.

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Our final expedition was to Mr. Cedi’s bead factory. We were able to get a full lesson on how beads are made as well as get some souvenirs for the road.

Week 1: Ashesi University

Week 1

Ashesi, which means “beginning” in Akan, a native Ghanaian language as well as Twi, comes with the inspiration from a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “If there is anything you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has a genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Image 1: Dr. Fred McBagonluri

Ashesi’s goal is to educate a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa. The university has been educating students since 2002, and just two years ago expanded their engineering school (seen in Image 2 below) which is headed by Dr. Fred McBagonluri. Being a University of Dayton alum, he helped make this trip for us possible by connecting with Malcolm Daniels and UD’s ETHOS program. Fred will be guiding us this summer on the projects we work on and in our role as TAs (teaching assistants) in the freshman design course this summer. He received his Doctorate in Materials Engineering at The University of Dayton, has over 40 patent and patent applications, and has authored eight books. Needless to say, we are very excited for this opportunity to work with him.

IMG_6027.JPGImage 2: Engineering School

First things first, arriving on campus we made sure to get situated and struggled not to nap until night-time so our bodies could get adjusted to the time difference quickly. There were some important things about campus we needed to figure out though, such as where/what to eat, how to spend our recreational time, what we are working on, the logistics stuff of getting situated for work, laundry, and more. To get started we met a couple students who showed us where to eat.

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Image 3: Dining Hall

The first place we ate was at the dining hall (as shown in Image 3 above) in the center of campus. This dining hall is where we met some of the wonderful ladies who are trying to teach us some phrases in Twi (as well as come back with us to the US). They have helped us decide what to eat, including Banku which required us to eat with our hands and sausages that are really just hot dogs (not great with breakfast), but usually, we have stuck to different chicken and rice meals. On Monday, our second day on campus we got lunch with Fred in the other dining hall down the hill called Big Ben (shown below in Image 4). Big Ben is a little farther away and has a smaller selection, but offers a step up in quality and an attractive view over Berekuso, the village at the bottom of the hill.

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Image 4: Big Ben

After dinner, our typical activity is going to the communal court (as seen in Image 5 below) for students that has a basketball hoop, football/soccer goals, and at times a volleyball net. This has helped us meet a lot of students, get a nice workout in, and develop deeper connections with some of the students. Unfortunately, during the summer a lot fewer students are on campus, so some of our new friends already left or will be leaving in a couple weeks due to graduation or the semester being over. However, with some summer programs and summer school starting up in a couple weeks we should be able to keep developing those valuable connections with students.

RANDOM FUN FACT: A student named Justice that Tom and I met playing football, told me that in his town in Accra, in order for students to start school (around age 4) they have to be able to touch their ear with their opposing arm reaching over their head.

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Image 5: Student Court

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Image 6: Life Size Chessboard

Another thing me and Tom have been doing during our free time is playing chess on the life-size chess board (shown in image 6 above). Since Fred was sick after our initial meeting we had plenty of time to play chess and meet students on campus. That being said our first week wasn’t just play. We did do some research on a few of the different projects Fred went into detail about, I won’t get into those yet since it wasn’t until this second week that we got more of a focus on what we will be working on.

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Image 7: View over Accra (cloudy)

While the first week we were able to get a lot done like getting email addresses, downloading necessary software, battling sickness and trying to assimilate to an extent; we still have to learn how to do our laundry, get phones, sleep in our warm room comfortably (#BunkBedBuddies), and a lot more, but until then we will be enjoying a nice view of Accra (seen in Image 7 above).

Thank you so much for following our blog. There were a lot of adventures outside of Ashesi this first week so that we could experience the culture and get a better sense of the area around us so there will be more posts this week about those coming soon. We appreciate your time and support, please feel free to ask us questions there is so much more we could talk about at Ashesi!

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Image 8: Tom Gazing and Admiring the Beautiful View of Accra

LOVE, THE GHANA GUYS