Ghana 2013 travel blog

Day 8: June 7th

Today was a much better day at the hospital. Watched a lot of procedures and learned from one really knowledgable doctor. The doctors are the only staff here that seem to really know a lot about medicine, which is pretty terrifying. I also took BPs and vitals of all the patients in the ward and helped to dress surgery wounds. Then after work I met some other volunteers at La Palm- so relaxing. Then we came back and went out for a drink! Relaxing night.

Day 9: June 8th

Saturday. We decided to hang in Accra this weekend and try to hit all the sights here as it is probably my only weekend I won't be traveling. Today I went to Oxford Street with Marith and we picked out fabrics to get a local Ghanaian seamstress to make us clothes! She only charges 25cedi to make a dress (~$13) and will do anything you describe! I am really excited to see how our stuff turns out. We shopped around at all the local stores and booths and got fresh fruit smoothies- delicious. We went to the pool at la palm for a little and came back. I did my insanity workout and was drenched in sweat and the shower was not working... Had to go to sleep completely disgusting. No good!

Day 10: June 9th

Sunday- We went to the Makola Market in the center of Accra- all local vendors and really authentic Ghanaian products. It was not too busy because it was a Sunday and everyone is at church, but still a lot of vendors out selling. We went to Oxford Street for lunch and then to La Palm to shower since we still don't have water or power. When we got back, I hung out with Kojo (my host mom's 10 year old nephew who lives with us during the week) for pretty much the rest of the night. He made up games, we talked about life, and kept me totally entertained... he is the greatest kid we really love having him around!

Day 11: June 10th

first day in childrens ward... forgot to write this day

Day 12: June 11th

Today we had outreach outside of Accra. After, I went to Labadi beach with two of the other girl volunteers. The beach is awesome, but you can't sit there without every rasta vendor coming up and trying to sell you something. I guess I can't complain too much... I got a bracelet for free, ankle bracelet for 1 cedi, and fake ray bans for 5 cedi. I love Ghana prices!!! The beach is cool because it is full of locals. Next time I go, Marith and I are going to ride horses on the beach... it's only 5-10 cedi! The beach is beautiful and the water is perfect temperature, but there is a good amount of trash in the water so if you are going to go in you have to accept that trash is going to be all around you. Also I am a little nervous to go in since Tim in our house found a dead body in the water a month ago. Eeeshk! After the beach, we just went to quiz night and hung out with the other volunteers and started planning our trip to Cape Coast!

Day 13: June 12th

Today was my second day in the children's ward. It is mostly children with malaria or sickle cell anemia, which is much more common in black people. I got to go on rounds and learn about conditions, and later one of the doctors taught me how to push meds through an IV. I would definitely get to do more if there weren't so many nursing students in this ward – probably about 10 and they are just milling around and making the ward so crowded. After work, I went shopping on Oxford Street with some other volunteers. At night, we went to salsa night at Afrikiko, a bar in Accra, and learned how to do one of the African dances everyone knows, sort of analogous to the Cha Cha slide in the US. It was so fun, a really cool atmosphere and great music. After salsa, we went to a bar called Republic in Osu. The drinks were very eccentric (kind of gross) and there were tons of obronis – it starts to be weird seeing so many when you are used to only seeing black people for so long! It was fun but very touristy. When we got home a new girl was here – Kristine from New Jersey doing human rights. Nice to have another American! Now there are 5 girls and Tim. Getting more boys soon and Tim and Trine leave this weekend, boo!

Day 14: June 13th

Today we had a great outreach – it was in a small slum in Jamestown with lots of kids to help with tons of cuts and wounds. They really loved us and were so happy to have us there. After outreach, we went to the Jamestown fishing village. It was absolutely gorgeous. A very poor community, but completely centered on the fishing industry. Handcarved and painted fishing boats pulled up on the beach, surrounded by women cutting and cooking the fish and men hand sewing nets. Very cool and definitely one of my favorite places I have been. After we walked the village, the rest of the group headed back and Tim and I went to see the slave castles in Jamestown. Very cool and really untouched – it was in shambles but that made it seem more authentic. A really good day!

Day 15: June 14th

Friday – I planned to go to work but got to Oxford street and Tim and I decided to take the day off. We got Mrs. Afrifa a present for Tim to give her since he leaves Sunday, and I got the coolest Africa pants that are baggy and crazy tribal patterns.. in love with them! Later I went to the pool with some volunteers and then just hung out and packed for our trip to Cape Coast tomorrow!!

Day 16: June 15th

Saturday – Got up at 5:30 to leave for Cape Coast – took a cab to Kaneshie station on the other side of Accra and then a tro from Kaneshie to Cape Coast. We had a crazy packed tro and a really long ride – took us 4.5 hours from when we left our house to get to the hotel. But the hotel is so cute!! Little shacks, literally, on the beach with bunk beds and sheets that haven't been changed in years... smells awful... saw a cockroach... fortunately not spending much time in the rooms haha. But we got there and ate lunch and met the rest of the volunteers from our group that had come up last night – 12 of us total from Accra made the trip. After lunch we took a taxi to Kakum National Park to do the canopy walk – which was so cool – 7 different canopy bridges along the hike made of fraying rope and broken boards... there were rope railings along the sides about waist high, but the bridges were only about a foot wide and were swinging and very rickety – made it 100x cooler and more exciting. I loved it and the view was amazing!! Then headed back to the hotel and got there by 4ish... we got a big table for all of us and hung out all night with drinks and food. There was a drum and dance show which was so cool- African music was awesome and the performance was really cool! The hotel is the place to hang out on the weekends – lots of locals and met a bunch of other volunteers from around Ghana. I ripped a hole in my Africa pants while dancing at the bar... I knew I was right to not believe the guy selling me them that they were good quality!! But I will get the seamstress on our street to fix them so no big deal. But the rest of the night was great!! Lots of fun and all the volunteers we came with are so awesome we had a great group!

Day 17: June 16th

Today we woke up at 8... barely slept because our room was so grimy but oh well! Went to a delicious breakfast place called Beobab with an amazing view of the ocean... stuffed my face for 14 cedi. After breakfast we went to the Cape Coast Slave Castle, which is the biggest one in West Africa from the transatlantic slave trade. We got to see the museum of old artifacts and tour the castle – we walked into the dungeons and cells which was pretty amazing and totally horrifying. After the castle, we ate lunch at the hotel then headed back to Accra. We had to say bye to Tim which was sad! He is the first person in my house to leave! After we did some bucket laundry which I am actually getting pretty good at! We haven't been able to get internet for the past 4 days now which is tough... going to internet cafes can just be inconvenient. All in all, a great weekend!

Day 18: June 17th

Today was my first day in the OPD, which is the Outpatient Department or Emergency Room. The nurses and doctors in this ward are AWESOME – they were so excited I was there and so eager to teach me! Within the first hour I was doing injections! So exciting to finally get to do something totally different.

Day 19: June 18th

Today we went on outreach far out of Accra and in very removed from the crowded streets of the city. The school in Bentum had no walls, only slabs of broken chalkboard and wood benches. When we pulled in, there were kids that were about 8 years old using machetes to cut weeds away and to chop wood for the school. Unbelievable that children that age are using weapons that dangerous. When we arrived, they all ran together in a group to greet us. For such an unstructured school, the kids were amazingly well behaved. When I said “Hello!”, they replied in unison “Hello Madam”. Then I said “How are you?” and they again replied in unison, “We are quite well, thank you for asking. How are you?” Pretty much the cutest thing I have ever seen. Also, if you ask them personally if everything is OK, they reply “Nyame adom” which means “God's grace” in Twi. Super cute. So outreach was great, and we got home late and then went home as it was Trine's last day! Said goodbye to her and then just hung around the house. We are getting two new girls tomorrow which is exciting!

Day 20: June 19th

Today was my best date at the hospital hands down! I got to do injections, draw blood, and start IV lines!! Starting the IV line I was pretty proud of myself – I got the vein on my first try! I also gave injections to a prisoner in handcuffs and the whole time the cops and him were screaming at each other cursing. He was bleeding and clearly had gotten beat up before getting there. I also learned how to remove and insert a catheter and am going to get to try it on Friday! Really awesome day. After work we went to the pool at La Palm to hang out, got home and it started storming and we lost power all night. Tal arrived today- 37 years old from California and she is the head of the comedy department for NBC... works on shows like The Office and her boyfriend wrote Ted. Pretty awesome person to talk to. We all went to bed at 9 since there was nothing to do with the power out and it had been dark since 6. Haven't had internet for a full week now. Katie from London arrived at midnight last night and is sharing the room with Marith and I! It is starting to be a full house now!

Day 21: June 20th

Met the coolest woman in a taxi this morning – she grew up in the US and lived in Manhattan but has roots in Ghana – came for a vacation to Ghana to visit family and never went back to the states. Pretty cool to hear her opinion on the comparisons of Accra and NYC... they seem so different from an outside glance but when you really think about it, they are actually quite similar. For work, I met up at Circle with the rest of the medical volunteers to go on outreach to Good Shepherd school in Kasoa. The kids were very sweet – half of them are orphans and the rest are boarding there so they all live together. We treated them for their wounds and then taught a seminar to one of the older classes about HIV/AIDS which was really cool to get to do since it is such a problem here. Then we headed back and hung out with all our housemates... a new boy from London arrived today so there are 7 of us total in our house – it is getting a little crazy but all of the volunteers living here are awesome. We are getting our trip together for the weekend – we leave tomorrow around 1 to go to the Volta region in the East where there is the largest waterfall in Ghana!! It will take us 5-6 hours to get there by tro. Then on Saturday we are doing a 6 hour hike round trip through the mountain up to the falls where we can swim and relax! I'm so excited. On Sunday we are going to the Tafi-Atome monkey sanctuary where you can play with the monkeys, and then we are headed back to Accra! Should be a great weekend... lots of us headed out there... 14 volunteers total!

Day 22: June 21st

Today I was again in the OPD. Another great day of doing injections, IVs, and drawing blood. I think I'm getting pretty good already! Today was a little crazy – lots of patients in the ER. One guy in his late 20s had compound fractured his femur – it was poking out through the skin and his thigh was basically a 90 degree angle. He was covered in his own blood and looked to be in horrible pain. He was there in the hallway when I arrived at 8am and had not been attended to at 1230pm when I left. Since he was intoxicated, the nurses were annoyed by him and decided not to help him. Unbelievable. So anyways, when patients need to get injections, they go to the Chemist with a prescription, buy what they need, and bring it to the Injection Room where I work. We check that it is the right med and then give it to them with our needles. The medicine comes in these tiny glass viles with no lid, so to access the medicine you have to break the glass with your hand. It looked pretty simple, but the doctor always did it for me. He asked if I wanted to try and I said sure. He positioned my hand on it and told me to break it so I did - and completely sliced open one of my fingers. It was gushing blood, so I had the woman in wound dressings tape it up for me (not very well.. I would have much rather done it myself). Later that day as I was leaving the hospital, I thought hm... I hope that medicine in the vile didn't get on in my cut when I broke it! Then thought, hmm... I hope that drug didn't have sulfa in it.. which I am allergic to. As I look down in the cab, my arms and legs are covered with tiny red bumps. I am not sure if it was a sulfa reaction or just a reaction to whatever medication it was, but no matter what there was nothing that would make me scared enough to tell anyone at the hospital what was happening. Pretty frightening that I can't trust the hospital and trust myself better. But the reaction went away so all was ok! I left work early so that I could meet up with our group at Tudu Station in Accra where we would get a bus out to Volta! The ride took about 6 hours and the roads were pretty brutal at the end, but we got a bus that wasn't completely full so we had a little bit of room to move about which was nice. When we got there, we ate a late dinner at the main part of the hotel and then were taken in a car to the “annex” where our rooms were. The hotel was pretty nice for Africa... the sheets seemed to have been changed and the rooms were kind of clean. However, since we were in the jungle and the rooms are free standing in the woods, there were critters everywhere. We get into our hotel room and there are 2 lizards on the wall and a number of bugs and spiders. We tried to get one of the hotel workers to get the lizards out of our room, but he just laughed and scared them under the bed. Neither funny nor effective. I had to take a melatonin to fall asleep.. the thought of 2 lizards under my bed while I was sleeping was enough to have me wired.

Day 23: June 22nd

Today we woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel. The hotel packed us lunches to take with us on our hike since it would take us about 6 hours from start to finish. We went to the mountain base and had to sign a blank piece of computer paper saying we were offered a tour guide but refused one. We heard you didn't really need one and we thought it would be more of an adventure without. The first part of the journey to the lower of the 2 waterfalls was a piece of cake – about a half an hour to the lower falls that was barely an incline. After the lower falls, it immediately turned from 1% incline to climbing up the mountain essentially on your hands and knees. Ridiculously steep... your legs were burning within 1 minute of starting this section. We climbed with some breaks for almost 2 hours... totally brutal. We were drenched in sweat... good thing we listened when we were told by other volunteers who had already made this trip weeks before to each bring 2L of water.. we needed it! After the exhausting climb up, we finally made it to the upper falls!! It was GORGEOUS and the wind from the falls felt amazing since we were so sweaty. We all got in our bathing suits and swam in the falls and sat on the rocks underneath them. That was probably my happiest moment of the entire trip. Such an awesome feeling and the entire hike, the view from the mountain, and the falls were just amazing. After we hung out there for a while and ate lunch, we began the journey back down. We got back to the hotel, hung around and everyone showered, and then for the rest of the night we just got dinner and drinks and hung out at the hotel. So fun – I loved the group we traveled with we all have the best time together! Today was one of my favorite days to date.

Day 24: June 23rd

Today we again woke up early and headed out to the Tafi-Atome Monkey Sanctuary! We had some issues with tro drivers who knew we weren't from the area and tried to trick us for an unfair price. Took us about 45 minutes and me yelling at 3 different drivers to straighten things out and get a fair price for the trip. The monkey sanctuary was really cool!! We walked back in the woods a while as the guide made monkey calls... we finally get to a part with these big trees with tons of branches and there were monkeys everywhere! So we all got to grab bananas and if you go close to a branch they will run down and eat the banana from your hand! The monkeys are amazingly smart. We didn't even peel the banana and within seconds they have peeled it and are eating. Some of them are so smart that they just peel it open and rip off the entire banana. Pretty funny. Think I got some really good pictures! After the monkey sanctuary, we took a tro back to Accra which somehow made it to Tudu Station in a little over 3 hours which was half the time it took us to get out there. Headed home – pretty exhausting weekend but we had a blast!!

Now for my last week in Ghana! I cannot believe how fast this trip has gone!

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