Week 10: Final Week

Uncategorized

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:

IMG_6498.PNG
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

IMG_6274

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

IMG_6478.JPG

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

IMG_6469

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
Ashesi_InnovationConference_bannerICON
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
Advertisements

Getting There

Uncategorized

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.

IMG_1156

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.

ostrich-pillow-relaxation

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?

CasablancaPoster-Gold (1).jpg

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.

IMG_5839

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.