Last Days, May 3

As I grew tired of spending countless hours in Internet cafes uploading videos and slideshows, I stopped doing so duing the last three weeks of my trip.
Here is a sample of some of the things I experienced:

Elephants at Mole National Park 1
Elephants at Mole National Park 2

Krobo Girls Initiation Rite (Dipo) 1
Krobo Girls Initiation Rite (Dipo) 2

Atimpoku, April 15

In a few weeks, I got to experience a wide range of the Ghanaean culture and feel very satisfied with my journey. I did not speak much of my inner experiences as I wanted to sink in the spirit of the land and let go of many of the concepts and preoccupations that permeate my western mind. I also experienced a lot of physical ailments from rashes to extremely achy joints to constipation, all of which challenged me deeply. I accepted all these symptoms as part of the healing and initiation that I came to seek on this continent. At times, I felt so tired that I could barely walk. Othertimes, I couldn`t find food I felt comfortable eating. Being here isn`t easy. The heat, humidity, dust and pollution in the cities take a toll on my system. But it opens my heart to the needs of developing countries. I feel softened by many of what I have seen and felt here. Today, I prayed that my last two weeks be filled with joy and celebration as my colon is slowly regaining its flow...I am thankful to be here. I am thankful to have so much.

Girls` Initiation Rites, April 14

At Mole National Park, a PeaceCorps volunteer had told me she attended a girls` initiation ritual last year, and indicated that it was happening in April in the Volta region. I couldn`t find any information about the event anywhere but I knew the girls were covered with beads. A few days later, while mentioning to another traveler about my quest for the initiation rite, she pointed me in the direction of Somanya, in the Eastern Region, an area well known for its bead making. I returned to Accra and was told there that the festival was over and took place the week before. Darn! Something however pushed me to go there, and as I neared Somanya in the evening, I spotted three fully adorned girls in a village. Were they keeping their attire days after the ceremony, with their beads and headdress? As I got to Somanya, I was again told that the festival was over. In the morning, I asked the hotel manager if he knew anything and he told me to go to the chief`s house to inquire. I walked through the town and found the chief`s house. A young man by the name of Tsitsi asked me what I was looking for. He took me to an elder who pointed to a house where we went to talk to some women elders. They pointed to another house. We went to at least five houses around the village until somehow the grandmothers were satisfied with Tsitsi`s translation of my request. We finally arrived in a compound where a ceremony was under way. Six or seven young girls were being taken through various phases of the ritual-eating roasted corn from the riverside, eating plantain fufu, etc. After a while, we were asked to leave and return the next day for the final phase of their initiation. The next day, Tsitsi took me to the chief, who turns out to be the head chief of the Krobo people. The Queen Mother (the female counterpart of the chief) was also there, and they both granted me an audience. I was sweating profusely as I formulated my questions, and was deeply touched by their kindness and eloquence. Tsitsi revealed to me that he`s part of the royal family and as a boy, sat at the foot of that chief and was his personal assistant. No wonder why he knows his way around the spiritual matters of his village! We left the chief`s house to attend the final part of the Dipo initiation and again had to go and get permission from the 80 year-old neighborhood chief who offered gin to the ancestors and our visiting party. As we arrived to the initiation compound, the girls were fully dressed with paint, beads and other body adornements. They were fed meat from a goat that had been sacrificed on the shrine stones where soon they will go to sit before being declared women. They left for the shrine and returned from the shrine on the backs of running men and women. Back at the compound, they were welcomed back and began dancing with the grandmas and celebrating with their mothers (I did not see any fathers around!).
That Sunday evening, I went to the town center with Tsitsi and his friends, and danced in the streets to the beats of highlife and hiphop music, and got a good dose of love from men and women alike.
(see slide show) (see video clip 1 and video clip 2)

Christmas in April, April 9

Boy it is fun to go shopping! At 7:00 am, 18 kids, 2 teachers, the school headmaster and myself chartered a trotro to go to to the market at the nearby town of Agona. The kids were actually very orderly. It was the other kids, swarming on our gathering as we were picking shoes, who were difficult to deal with. They all wanted to join the team and get shoes as well! The headmaster`s sister has a little restaurant-bar near the market where we stopped for refreshments. We left the first 8 kids for whom we had found shoes and continues shopping for the other sizes. Seeing the kids` face light up after they got their shoes was a treat. Feeling the envy of all the town kids watching was more difficult...The next day, I went to the school where the kids had gathered and got into their jerseys and newly purchased socks for a final picture shoot. Thank you Karim (11) and sister Mali for raising the funds that allowed so much happiness to spread through the little fishing village of Akwidaa! (see slideshow)

Back on the Coast, April 8

Just returned from an amazing trip to the North, visiting elephants, farming communities and attending a Ghost dance in the middle of nowhere (not a car in sight!).
Some of the highlights of last weeks were:
Finding that dance by asking a school teacher who was from the farming community where the dance was taking place.
Bicycled 30 miles on a dirt road to get there (my bottom is destroyed!) and slept on the ground in a farming compound with the kids, goats and chickens.
Broke an axle on a trotro ride and ended up in a ditch without a scratch.
Got peed on by a goat that was traveling on the trotro roof.
Distributed 7 soccer balls in a poor neighborhoods when I waited for a bus.
Had a rough 14 hour ride on dirt roads in a bus where there was no room for my knees. (Had to surrender after 2 hours of bitching and moaning agony!)
Currently staying on the beach near a tiny fishing village, enjoying the water and the serenity.
Banged and scratched my head while playing with kids in a small village.
Tomorrow I am chartering a bus and taking 18 kids from the school in the fishing village to outfit the soccer team with soccer shoes.
I am well. Feeling my heart open more everyday, humbled by the poverty here (in one of the most developed and stable African countries!).
PS. Internet is really scarce and slow so I can`t upload much pictures. See a few here slide show 1, slide show 2, slide show 3

Soccer Balls and Shoes for the Kids

Want to help bring some goodwill to Africa? At the onset of my trip, I asked Karim, my 11 year-old nephew, if he could help raise money through his school and soccer team, to purchase soccer balls and shoes for underprivileged African children. To this day, he`s raised over $300 for that cause! I will be buying soccer balls everyday to give to children in the villages and find a young team to sponsor when I get to Accra at the end of my journey. If you wish to contribute to that effort, please use my Paypal account.
Thanks for helping spread the joy!
UPDATE: Last week, I distributed 7 soccer balls in a poor neighborhood of Wa, in the North of Ghana. Tomorrow, I am buying soccer shoes to 18 school kids in the small fishing village of Takwidaa on the Southern coast. (See slide show)

Emerging from the Dust, March 31

Just got to Tamale, in the upper region of Ghana, after traveling in the dust for 2 days. The trip in the travel guide was not recommended for the faint of heart and I understand why! Yesterday, it took me 14 hours and 3 different rides to cover 300 miles. The first ride was a typical 30 passenger trotro packed to the gills. I had my pack on my lap and got terribly cramped during the journey. It rained for a while and water was gushing down my side as my window was missing. The second ride was a rasta pickup modified for passenger (or sheep!) transport. 15 people got in the back and I sat in the front along with two other passengers and the driver. The shifting was taking place between my legs! The gas tank consisted of a 2 gallon plastic jug sitting on the passenger floor with a hose coming from the engine. We had to stop every 2 miles to put more water in the radiator as it kept overheating and the radiator had no cap. The third ride was a Peugeot 504 from 1978 and we squeezed 9 people in a car no bigger than a Honda Accord. The tires were completely bare and the engine was running so rough that the car stalled at least a dozen time. It took 2 hours to cover the last 16 miles and I got to Bimbilla at night. A young boy led me to a guest house where I got a room for $6. I happy to take a shower and wash my pack that was completely caked from traveling on the roof during one ride!
The previous days were spent in the upper Volta Region in some marvelously luscious jungle, swimming in waterfalls and taking long hikes in the steamy forest, surrounded by butterflies, cacao trees, plumerias and mango trees (not ripe yet!). (see slideshow)
My camera LCD screen broke so it will be hard to take photos from now on...
I am reajusting my plans as the traveling is exhausting. I may visit Mole National Park to see some wild elephants and head to the Gold Coast after that. I am well otherwise, appreciating all that I have after traveling some very poor areas in the North.