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.


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.


On the hike



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.



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.


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.


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.


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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


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.



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.

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.


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.


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.


Image 5: Student Court


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.


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!


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


Week 1: Overview

Week 1

“True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests” -Eleanor Roosevelt

The Ghanaian people give their guests the best of what they have. The dean of the engineering department here, Fred McBagonluri, whom I will talk about in the Ashesi post more later, mentioned how if we were to bathe in a Ghanaian person’s house we would get the warmest water, if we were thirsty we would get the coldest drink just because we are guests. Tom and I have seen this in action with all the experiences we have had this week, people have been welcoming, helpful and have enjoyed our futile attempts to learn Twi, which is what most Ghanaians speak.

I wanted to take this post to talk about how our blog will run. We will try from now on to have multiple posts a week, it just depends on what we do that week, but with all the adventures this week we had, there will have a couple more posts coming in the next day or so. In these posts this week we will talk about our experience here at Ashesi University, our trip to visit Burro, a company in Ghana that a grad student with the ETHOS department was working at,  and some of the other incredible excursions we had this first week.

Overall, this first week has been one of the longest and most interesting of our lives. We had struggles with sickness, sleeping and traveling, but more so had incredible experiences with Ghanaian people, excursions and each-other that made this week incredibly special. We hope you enjoy the posts coming your way about our activities this week, and if reading isn’t really your thing, I made a little collage below that you can check out with some pictures/videos of our first week: