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

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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 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

Week 2: Back-ra in Accra

Week 2

Overcoming our initial misgivings about cheating on Ernest and Peter as our unofficially designated drivers, Mark and I decided to hop on the bus to Accra Friday evening to explore the city. With Ghanaian phones finally in our pockets we felt confident in our ability to navigate the new city without having to desperately swing from Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi. But as we sat down on the bus I noticed my phone wouldn’t connect to data and Mark’s phone may have come out before the internet even existed. Well, here we go again.

We took the bus to the Accra Mall which gave us mixed feelings. While we were ecstatic to get some burgers from The Counter in the food court, it was shocking to see the disparity between worlds inside and outside of the mall. After departing the bus we had to work our way through crowds of street hawkers and children begging for our money. Yet, as we stepped inside the mall, we felt entirely at home. Clean white floors, designer clothes, expensive phones, a movie theater, etc. The classes in Ghana are really polarized, even in the city. There are some people in what could be described as the middle class, but for the most part, there are the poor and there are the rich. After our burgers and a brief struggle with the coffee house’s Wi-Fi, we hailed our first Uber from the mall to our hostel, The Sleepy Hippo Hotel.

 

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Where friends and also toast are made

 

We checked in at the front desk with Richard, headed upstairs to drop off our stuff, and then dutifully headed to the bar around back. After grabbing a couple beers (charged to a tab whose total would dangerously remain a mystery until checkout on Sunday) and sat down with Mem, a guy from the UK and Tabea, a girl from Germany. We talked for a while about what we were doing in Ghana and how long we’d been there. After a bit, we popped open Mark’s fancy bottle of dirt cheap Chardonnay from the mall and proceeded to kill it quickly with several toasts to expedite the process. Afterward, our group, led by an increasingly inebriated Mem, took an eventful Uber to Osu to check out the nightlife. After getting out a bit too soon, we walked nearly the length of Oxford St. before settling on Kona Bar & Grill. Kona was great! It had outdoor seating, a second level, and, most importantly for Mark, Smirnoff Ices. We danced a while before heading back to the hostel for the night.

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Mark teaching Kona how to dance

The next morning we headed to the main event for the weekend. On Saturday, Accra was hosting a quasi-TEDx conference called “Africa Dialogues 2017”. The conference hosted speakers from different aspects of Ghanaian industries, all of whom talked about what their visions for Ghana and Africa were for the future. The event even featured Sarkodie, our new favorite Ghanaian hip-hop artist! Mark and I gained some really good insights from the talks and now have some areas to look into where we might be able to find ideas for projects this summer.

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Sarkodie at Africa Dialogues 2017

After all of our attentive listening and another struggle with Wi-Fi, we headed to the beach. Early in the trip Mark had done some beach research and directed us to the Labadi Beach. We were a little surprised when the driver took us to the Labadi Beach Hotel rather than just to the beach. But, like all good ETHOS Immersion-ers, we decided to go with the flow. We grabbed a couple towels from poolside and headed to the hotel’s private beach for a quick dip and some rays. Unfortunately, the beach and ocean in front of the hotel were filled with trash. Apparently, this beach is near a river that is constantly dumped in, so that Ghanaians can get rid of their waste without paying for pickup. We learned all of this from Michael amidst his half hour long effort to sell us one of his paintings. Try as we might, we ended up giving in and buying a painting for 10 cedis just to get rid of him. Not wanting to deal with more traveling beach salesmen and not wanting to overstay our unknown welcome at the hotel we headed back to the hostel.

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“Our” hotel for the afternoon

Having not eaten since our breakfast of eggs and the best toast in the world, we asked Patricia, Richard’s right-hand woman, where we should get lunch. She told us to go to Odo Rice, just down the street. We both ordered fufu, a dish we’d been trying to get a hold of since our second day. The fufu was alright, but not great and we still struggled to eat the soup with our hands as is custom. When we got the bill, however, the prices were way higher than the menu suggested. We asked our waiter what the deal was, he proceeded to tell us something about getting four scoops and getting a bigger portion than the menu offered. We figured he was lying to get more money from tourists, but we really couldn’t do much. Oh well, it’s all part of the experience. Dinner, on the other hand, was much better. After meeting Lea, Pia, and Mira, some more Germans who had been in Ghana for 9 months teaching in schools, we went out with them to get indomie. Indomie is basically ramen noodles with egg, onions, and peppers. It is delicious, but most important it was only 7 cedis, which was a great deal less than our less delicious lunch had been. The rest of the night was spent playing dice, card, and drinking games with the Germans laughing all the way.

Not having been to church yet in Ghana, we decided that Sunday was the perfect time for the first try. After another round of eggs and amazing toast, we ventured off to St. Kizito’s Catholic Church. St. Kizito has mass Sunday mornings at 7:30 and 9:30. Not wanting to be too eager, we opted for the later option, but due to some hesitation with directions, we arrived a few minutes late. The place was crowded, so we stood just outside the doors hoping to still hear the Mass. But what we heard was the Concluding Rite. Inconceivably, the Mass had gone on for over 2 hours! We made way for the parishioners exiting the church before making our way inside for the second Mass. Throughout the Mass, we were blown away by the passion of the choir, the congregation, and the pastor. The music was especially beautiful and we joined in clapping and dancing even though we didn’t know the words. After the Mass itself, there was a good deal of announcements. Most of these didn’t really apply to Mark and me but amidst the litany of announcements new members of the congregation were invited up to the altar to introduce themselves. We didn’t really hear that this was happening but urged by our friend in the row ahead of us, we marched up and introduced ourselves to thunderous applause and laughter from everyone.

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St. Kizito’s

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Coconut Water, it’ll quench ya!

It was pretty hot (I guess that’s why they call it SUN-day!) so we grabbed some coconuts for refreshment on our walk back to the Hippo. We settled our tab with Richard and called another Uber, this time to take us back home to Ashesi. Now, most of the Uber drivers in Accra will accept a pickup without really looking or knowing where they’re going to be heading. So, when our driver showed up, I asked him specifically if he could take us to Berekuso, the village right below Ashesi. He said sure, for 250 cedis. Hmm. Not a great price. So we asked him if he could take us to a tro-tro station that could get us to Berekuso. That was 30 cedis, much better. We headed to the station, which was really just a yard for tro-tros to swing through and pick up people. We waited for the tro-tro to fill up with people heading to Berekuso and off we went. The bumpy roads to Berekuso were felt even more in the ancient mini-bus. We made several stops before getting to Berekuso to let passengers off and each time the bus would refuse to start up again or get in gear until the driver popped under for a quick fix. After several stops, several “fixes”, and joking assertions that obrunis (white people) should go out and push, we made it back home to Ashesi for another 15 cedis.

The weekend in Accra gave us many new experiences and made us feel a bit more connected to Ghana beyond the walls of Ashesi. We’re feeling good, settling into a groove and we’re excited to explore and experience more and more of what Ghana and its people have to offer.

Thanks for reading!

Love,

The Ghana Guys

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Week 1: Aburi Gardens

Week 1

Last Thursday was African Unity Day and was a day-off for most everyone on campus. Since no one was working and all the Africans were celebrating, Suzanne, the provost at Ashesi, decided to invite Mark and I to join her and Clif, a Fulbright professor, on an ‘obruni’ adventure to the Aburi Botanical Gardens. Unforunately, Mark’s immune system also decided to take a day off and he spent the day between the bed and the bathroom. I opted to fulfill my duties of roommate and caregiver by grabbing him a water and a Sprite before ditching him for the day.

I met up with Suzanne and Clif and we headed north towards Aburi. The Botanical Gardens were opened by the British in 1890 and have been expanded and maintained ever since. Our tour guide was wonderful, explaining where all the plants came from and when as well as what they were used for. It was a great experience because even though Mark couldn’t make it.

Week 1: The Burro Boys

Week 1

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After exploring as much campus as we could without picking locks, we were itching to venture off campus and see more of Ghana. Our first expedition was to catch up with our resident ETHOS grad student, Ryan Schuessler. Ryan had been set up in Kofuridua since January working for Burro, a startup that designs products for Ghana’s rural working class.

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Burro’s portfolio is focused on agriculture, solar, batteries and chargers, and kitchen. For agricultural products, members of their team spend time identifying difficult or inefficient points in the processing of goods and work on solutions that will save customers time and improve output. They’ve created knives for collecting cocoa beans from the fruit, a corn sheller to separate kernels quicker, and a manual irrigation pump to name a few.

After a quick, unintended stop at their office, we went to our real destination, the compound that housed their workshop and their people, to meet up with Ryan. He gave us a quick tour of his office, where amidst the whirring of the 3D printer, he and another member of the team told us about all the projects they’ve been working on.

 

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Burro Lab

 

Ryan also informed us that, with his departure looming that weekend, we were going to be testing a couple of the prototypes he’d designed for removing the fruit from the seeds of palm fruit. The current method of removing the fruit from the seed on the way to making palm oil is to repeatedly hit the fruit with a big stick. A lot of work, not a lot of result, definitely a Burro project.

 

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Burro Garage feat. Big Stick for Palm Fruit Smashing

 

But, before we got to see the big test, we needed to wait for the palm fruits to cook a little more. So, we roused Nathan Amin, the new intern from Brown University, from his jet-lagged induced slumber and headed to lunch. Mark and I were excited for our first off-campus meal in Ghana since dining halls, no matter where in the world, can only do so well. As I grabbed a juice and headed to order, Mark grabbed a Smirnoff Ice in an attempt to pull off the first international ice of the trip (Icing). However, Ghanaian hospitality saved me from the Ice, when Aaron, the mechanical lab tech, opened Mark’s Ice and handed it to him. Ghana 1, Mark 0.

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Over some delicious Waakye (pronounce watch-ay), I found out that Ryan and I are basically twins. Both of us played ultimate frisbee at UD, both of us co-opped at both GE Appliances and PlugSmart, and now we were both in Ghana (spooky). After establishing what should be a long and wonderful bromance, we all headed back to the house/office to test Ryan’s work. Both prototypes were somewhat successful, though we were assured they performed much better than previous iterations. After testing them and offering some ideas for improvements, we snapped some pics for ETHOS promos and headed back to Ashesi with Peter, our fabulous driver, and Aaron, Mark’s new nemesis.

 

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Coming to an ETHOS Pamphlet Near You

 

We’re hoping to meet up with Nathan for some adventures around Ghana while he’s here in the summer. We also may do a Ghana Guys/Burro Boys collaboration before the summer’s over.

Getting There

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Boarded and seated on our flight to London from Chicago, we began to imagine what adventures this summer would have for us. Unfortunately, these reveries were cut short by a flight attendant’s announcement that the aircraft had maintenance issues and we’d be rescheduled to a different flight. *sigh* another two hours not on our way to London, more importantly, we’d miss our connection to Accra, Ghana, but most importantly meal vouchers. A quick stop in the McDonald’s line filled our sadness with a double cheese burger that was destined to be dipped in a McFleury after a round of rock, paper, scissors.

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While in line, we met Frederico who was headed back to Rome. Frederico was funny and responsible for the cheeseburger Mark dipped in the McFleury, but most importantly, introduced us to the ostrich pillow.

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We eventually make it to London and find out that instead of our bonus night in London with a flight the next day (as promised), we get to wait 4 hours for a flight to Casablanca and a connection to Accra 3 hours after that (but also more free meal vouchers). Dreadful yes, but less dreadful since it was World Whiskey Day and all of the duty-free stores were passing out free samples. It is owing to the quest for as many free samples as possible and a ridiculously late gate closing warning that we found ourselves sprinting the entire length of Terminal 4 to catch our connection. We made it, Tom won the race, but Mark made it shortly after and we were both off on the next leg of our journey, Casablanca.

The altogether lack of Humphrey Bogarts made our stay in the Casablanca Airport uneventful. We continued our tour of duty-free stores but were disappointed to find that the Moroccans weren’t as on board with the whole free whiskey thing. We passed the time watching old Saturday Night Live videos and Chris Farley’s success on the Japanese game show without knowing Japanese, gave us some hope for our lot as our English failed to substitute for French or Arabic. As the boarding time for our last flight drew nearer, we were filled with fear as our emails to our host were going unanswered. As the line started moving forward, we checked our inbox one last time without avail, turned off wi-fi, and boarded the plane. There would be wi-fi in Accra, right?

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Not right. We were screwed. The last we’d heard from our host was that our driver was picking us up at 7:30 pm on Saturday, the original time, and it was now 4 am Sunday morning. Tired and out of options, we exchanged what cash we brought for Ghanaian cedis and tried to find a cab to Ashesi. Did he know where Ashesi was? Of course he did! Perfect, we thought as we hopped into the cab. Turns out he most certainly didn’t know where it was. He took us first to Lancaster University trying to convince us they were the same. Nope. However, without our precious wi-fi, we couldn’t verify a new address. At this point, we’re exhausted. Trying to figure out how to get to a place you’ve never been, in a country you’ve never been in, without any of your usual tools is a lot for 24+ hours of no sleep.

Giving up on the night, we decided to book a hotel to get access to wi-fi at 5 am and maybe grab a couple hours rest before we headed out to Ashesi in the morning/afternoon/evening/next week depending on how long we slept. We check in, check our emails, and sure enough, our inboxes had been blowing up in the 4 hours we’d been offline. We (sort of) get everything cleared up. Peter (Ashesi’s driver) was going to pick us up at the hotel and we’d all head up to Ashesi, happily ever after. Finally, with the confidence that we’d be at our destination in the morning, we set and alarm and laid down to rest. Knock knock. Turns out Peter was going to pick us up right then and there. Forlorn to be missing out on the sleep we were anticipating, but happy to be in the rights hands, we packed up our things and left the hotel. One night of hotel paid for, one hour of hotel used.

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We left the hotel with Peter on our journey north to Ashesi. While we were still exhausted, we both looked out the window attentively at our first views of Accra. We passed by many markets and slums on our way, but we noted the happiness and laid back attitude of many Ghanaians on our way. Finally, after a lot of bumps in the road (literally and metaphorically), we climbed the final hill to Ashesi at 7 am. We had made it, safe(ish) and sound(ish) to our home for the next 10 weeks.