On Friday August 21 we decided to set off for a baboon sanctuary in Shai Hills because it was recommended to us by our program director. Our director explained that Shai Hills was only two tro-tro stops away, however we soon discovered that two stops away was actually a little over 100km of traveling. Luckily at every stop local Ghanaians willingly guided us to our destination. One Ghanaian soldier named Akins even went out of his way to make sure we got on the correct bus before boarding his own.
Once we arrived in Shai Hills we found the Shai Hills Resort. Resort was a bit of an exaggeration but it was a fairly nice hotel with air conditioning and an outdoor restaurant. Unfortunately the hotel did not have running water until the morning, but they did have a fuzzy television where we were able to watch an episode of CSI New York. The restaurant also served spaghetti which was a nice switch up from rice and Milo which is like Ghanaian chocolate milk.
After a good night’s sleep we woke up around 6am to get a head start on seeing some baboons. We had to walk around 2km on the side of the highway to the park entrance where we were given a military escort. Within ten minutes of walking we came across a family of four baboons just chilling by a local school house. It was an amazing thing to see such large animals roaming freely. In all, our hike took us about two hours, through high grass meadows and up a steep rocky hill that provided a jaw dropping view of the Shai Hills wilderness. On our way back down the hill we also stopped by a small pond where a crocodile lives. We did not get to see it but Jessica thinks she heard it scurry into the water upon our arrival.
The climax of the adventure came about just before we exited the park. Out of nowhere a pack of about seven or eight baboons of all shapes and sizes crossed the path about 20 yards in front of us!
Eventually we made our way back to the resort for brunch and had our worries about getting back alleviated by the resort’s owner offering us a ride back to a main city called Tema. As he drove us back he gave us some insightful stories about the different ethnicities in Ghana and told us how he had grown up in the Shai Hills region. He even found the correct tro-tro for us to get back to the University in Legon, even though when he stopped in Tema his key had broken off in the ignition.
Overall it was a great trip and hopefully the internet will be cooperative enough to let us post some pictures.
As promised, we finally got this blog up and running after 11 days in Ghana. Internet is a little tricky to come by for the most part, but the International Office is nice enough to let us use theirs. So here is what has been going on since we got here:
We arrived at the airport and met up with people from CIEE (our exchange program) and they took a large group of us back to the Coconut Grove Hotel, where we had the first 2 1/2 days of orientation. Most of the sessions were lectures about safety and cultural differences (for example, it is not polite to use your left hand). On the second day we were sent out into the middle of Accra (the capitol of Ghana) for a scavenger hunt of buildings so we could learn to get around without maps. Most of the streets are only two lanes wide, so they are always packed with cars. Traffic laws don’t seem common so cars drive off the road and run red lights without hesitation. Additionally pedestrians do not have the right of way, so you always have to be on the lookout for cars that will make no effort not to hit you. The public transportation is a system of “trotros” that are essentially old vans, with doors that barely shut, which drive around yelling out their destinations. You hop in the trotro with as many as 24 other people. I think we are starting to get the hang of them though.
On Tuesday afternoon we got to move in to our Hostel on campus. When we pulled up we weren’t sure whether to be relieved or nervous that the building was surrounded with spiraled razor wire. The rooms are big and livable though. We even each have a balcony and the building is very open so that we get a nice breeze.
The campus is huge and it takes about 20-30 minutes to get to any class, but the people are all so nice and everyone says good morning to you along the way that it is always a nice walk. In the afternoon however, it can get pretty warm (although the Ghanaians don’t seem to think so because they are all wearing jeans).
Class registration began on Wednesday and ended on Friday (although you can still add or drop classes until September 4th). Surprisingly it took all three days, plus a few days this week to figure out which classes to take. To register for classes you must first go to all of the departments you are interested in and see what courses they are offering. Then after you decide you can go back and register with the department and then register for the class. Each department has a different procedure, so they may send you around to get other forms or signatures. Additionally, people seem to be out of the office a lot, so you are often instructed to come back later. Some departments also require “interviews” to take upper level classes. So, you have to meet at a separate interview time where they basically just ask you if you have taken the prerequisite courses.
Once you have registered for your courses you still do not know what day, what time, or where the classes are so once the time table comes out your whole schedule may change. In some cases the time table does not come out until after the first class has taken place. Then, the provisional final exam schedule will come out. If two exams are at the same time then you fail one of those classes, so you must drop one class and add another. Unfortunately there can be changes to the provisional exam schedule after the add-drop period is over, so you can still end up failing a class. The good news is that Miami only transfers the credit, so the grades do not count into our GPAs.
I think that we are both pretty set on what courses we are taking though:
Coastal Ecosystems of West Africa
Twi for Beginners
Ghana Colonialism to Independence
Political Economy of Colonialism
Twi for Beginners
You may notice that we both are taking classes almost exclusively from one department and that is because the times don’t really work out across departments and you are not allowed to take classes in two different faculties because the exams may be at the same time, so if you take a science class you cannot take a class in English (not that I would want to anyway). Due to this rule I may fail Islamic Ethics but in order to have enough credits I would have had to take two more Oceanography courses and I thought 5 was enough.
As far as the wildlife goes, there are a lot of interesting birds, lizards and insects. We have seen vultures, iridescent beetles, foot-long green and red lizards and a huge centipede. There are also a lot of wild dogs and one house on campus has a pet baboon outside. I walk by frequently and today the owner was sitting outside so I got to talk to him and get close to the baboon. It didn’t seem like it wanted to be touched though and it has huge teeth so I did not get too close. It seemed very interested in clothes though. I grabbed on to my skirt and would pull up the man’s pant leg and pull down his sock to look at his leg.
As far as food goes there is mostly just rice. The fruit though is amazing! I thought I loved fresh pineapple before, but the pineapple here is infinitely better. It is not even describable and I already know I am going to miss it when I leave.
If you want to send either of us mail our address here is:
First Name Last Name
c/o Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah
Private Mail Bag 31
Graduate Studies Building
University of Ghana
Hope all is going well at home and we will try to write again soon to keep you all posted on what is going on here!