Pt. 3 Ghana: A Background

It is 238,533 sq km which is slightly smaller than Oregon. Ghana is on the Gold Coast of Western Africa and borders Burkina Faso to the north, northwest and Togo to the east. The Ivory Coast and Gulf of Guinea border the rest.

Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence in 1957. Currently, the country is a constitutional democracy with the capital being Accra. The only major airport is in the capital city and is the gateway to all other African countries. The country is divided into ten regions. I became familiar with the Upper West Region and a seminarian also gave me insight into the Ashanti culture. Ashanti is its own region but I am not sure if that is where all of the Ashanti culture originated (the symbols and customs such as gue nyame).The constitution was only approved eighteen years ago (1992). They seated their new president in 2009, Pres. John Evans Atta MILLS. There is a council of ministers and Parliament as well. The country has many parties and they were very visible during my stay. The posters and signs were still up after the elections and the ads were still being played on the radio to support the “Convention People’s Party” or “Democratic Freedom Party.”

The country of Ghana is officially an English speaking country however; although English is the formal language many Ghanaians speak the dialects of the native language as well as English and French. Many know French due to the two bordering countries that were French colonies and are established as French speaking. Ghana was originally a Portuguese colony (from my reading and understanding) and eventually was won over by the British. A lot of people from both countries travel to Ghana to finish schooling and learn English. Christians make up 68.8% of the country and believe me it is noticeable. The streets are filled with vendors selling out of their shacks, with “business” names like “Jesus Saves Barbershop” and bumper stickers that say “God Will Provide” and “Jesus Loves Me.” 16% of Ghana is made of Muslims and the rest are either traditional, native religion or something else. 57.9% of the people are literate including only 66% of men and 50% of women, compared to Americans 99% all across the board and right next door in Burkina Faso the literacy is 21.8%.

Ghana produces many foods including cocoa, rice, cassava, peanuts, corn, shea nuts, bananas and timber. During my stay we found that rice, cassava, and shea nuts were one of the major staples or maybe the most talked about in the Upper West Region. Peanuts or groundnuts as they say are also a nice treat to them. Many fruits were sold on the side of the roads and bananas were commonplace (and so delicious!). The shea fruit is used for many things; they eat the fruit and use the oil and doughy butter in cooking, Francesca my adopted African mother, told us that she also used the cream as a moisturizer. If you read the word shea, like shay, than you are thinking of what they put in creams, however in Ghana they pronounced it she-uh, and we learned that it takes a lot to make the butter, so when you put your body butter on think of women in Ghana. While their meals are okay, luckily for us they made us plain spaghetti and rice along with chicken, pork, or fish. To me the spaghetti was a comfort food. I still love to eat plain spaghetti with a little oil to remind me of how great it tasted over there.

Ghana exports gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore, diamonds, and horticulture. They import capital equipment, petroleum, and foodstuffs. Pampers have started to make their way into the cities, mothers who live in the country cannot believe when their daughters come home and tell them of “the pampers.”

Paved roadways: 9,955 km

Unpaved roadways: 52,266 km

The infrastructure is interesting. The city’s roads are largely dirt, filled with potholes from the rains and vans filled with people pile into the city in the mornings to either work or shop. There are few stoplights and some are not regarded by drivers. The country is undergoing construction but little was getting accomplished. The streets were unorganized and crazy. Ghana’s few paved roads surround the government buildings and airport. The people living in the “North country” of Ghana have no knowledge of concrete and pavement. Roads are all dirt and very inefficient. Many use motorcycles simply because it is the most fit for the surroundings. A motorcycle is easy to maneuver (especially around an unspotted pot hole) and the most fuel efficient to use. In the North Country there were large drainage pipes that were left in the road that were meant to advance the roads, but no one was working on putting them in. At night the older kids would sit on them and talk. We passed several severe accidents, one of which we saw bodies laying on the ground. Who knows how long they waited for medical response. The government seems to be taking steps to make progress but it just isn’t happening. It is apparent that the organization isn’t there and that a country’s efficiency depends largely infrastructure. Without the means to travel quickly and safely the country will have a hard time advancing toward anything resembling what we know as a common developed country.

Pt. 2 The Door of No Return, my Lenten Goal, my mission

It’s been about six months since I have been back home from my two week stay in Ghana. I have recieved one letter from a seminarian I was close to during my stay in Ko parish. He was very heartfelt and sent me music and pictures from his own belongings. As lent begins I find it hard to give something up. Not that giving up his hard but I have been very busy lately and I don’t have any bad habits to break or give up. Last year I went to daily mass every saturday, and I am going to do that again this year, but I can’t help feeling that I should be doing more. The people of Ghana taught me so much about true work and sacrifice even though I already knew about it, it was something else to see them live it.
I am reading a book about Ghana called The Door of No Return by Sarah Mussi. I was in my school library when I saw the big orange letters sticking out at me. “The door of no return?” I thought, “that’s Ghana, that’s Cape Coast Castle!” Although I have been busy and my book is now overdue I am really getting into it now becaue the main boy Zac is finally in Ghana, trying to sort out the mystery of his ancestors. The details in the book (although I don’t think do Ghana justice) are descriptive enough to remind me of road from Accra to the Castle and of all the people I met during my stay. The retelling of Zac’s ancestor’s prison stay and the castle and the Fanta they are served, have made me think about my mission, which I have writing about in essay after essay during my college application process. I have learned what my misssion is after being in Ghana, and it is to share with people the lives and stories of others in anyway that I can, I love telling stories either by writing, by talking, by sketching, or scrapbooking. I tend to forget this.
So for Lent, as I finish Mussi’s book, I am going to work on sharing Ghana in more ways than I have already. I am going to share my mission trip with more people and share the sacrifice that I have witnessed in real life. Sacrifice should truly come from the heart, I am going to make time to do something for those I met all through Ghana and make this Lent reflective of the journey I made half a year ago. For Ghana.

Pt. 1 Let’s Be Happy

Since my trip to Ghana, West Africa my outlook on life has been very different. I’ve noticed that I am willing to walk more places and I feel like the things that I have wanted in the past seem irrelevant to my life right now. Before I left I was convinced that a car would change my like and make it easier for me to do things with my friends and that I would be a complete teenager.

In Ghana the children walk to school which is an hour away. They leave their houses around six when school begins at 8:00. Parents want their children to receive the best breakfast that they can, so heading to school early in order to get breakfast is a necessity.

The parents fet most of the housework done before eleven because it is so hot out. They are up around four or five in the morning to get things done. Once we asked a boy who wasn’t at school on a weekday why he hadn’t gone. He answered that his father had asked him to stay home to help out with the crops. They had all the work done by noon and the boy and his brother started playing a card game with the cards that my mom had brought.

They didn’t complain at all about having to stay home to help and they didn’t ever complain about school. To them each is a part of like and not a burden. Work is what brings benefits and school is what leads to accomplishment, and they thank God whenever they can. The people are always smiling, always waving. They are excited to live! Sure they want things and they will work to get them, but they are never depressed because they cannot have what they want. Their lives don’t stop because they are unhappy about a thing they want. They simply work to get it and they smile as they do it.

So the most important thing that I have learned from the Ghanaians is to be happy. I have my family, I have God, and I have my thoughts; I am blessed beyond belief! Wanting things that I don’t have and being depressed that I don’t have them does nothing for me, and I really don’t need them anyway! So I invite you all. Let’s be happy.