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.

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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!