Due to my impeccable subconscious planning skills, my first Sunday in India was Palm Sunday! When I picked the dates, I didn’t even think about when Easter was going to fall this year, but I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried. How cool to get to spend the most important Christian holiday with believers in another country! It’s going to be fun to see how things are done here and what is different from and the same as the way we do them at home. The differences that you notice right away are that everyone leaves their shoes outside (YESSS! Hooray for more socially acceptable barefoot time!) and the men sit on one side and the women sit on the other. Most importantly though, don’t worry, we still had palm branches to wave around here.

Palm Sunday!

The general format of the service is the same as at home. Here it’s two hours, but at least two hours means two actual hours and not “who knows, maybe four” like in Ghana. Big difference: languages. Since this is such a diverse place, people speak a bunch of different languages. The service is advertised as being in Hindi and Nepali. I’ll be honest – I can’t tell the difference yet, so I couldn’t tell you what parts were in what language.

A couple other differences are that 1.) everyone leaves their shoes outside (YESSS! Hooray for more socially acceptable barefoot time) 2.) the men sit on one side and the women sit on the other

We started out singing, and I’m pretty sure we covered both languages, plus English in the songs. Thankfully, they have a projector and lyrics written in the Hindi/Nepali alphabet (same alphabet, different languages) AND the Latin alphabet, so even when they’re singing a song in a language I don’t speak, I can at least stumble through an attempt to sing along.


This doesn’t properly convey how much of a goober I sounded like.

They called Andrew and me up to the front so we could be honored as guests and so that I could give a greeting… which consisted of me having no idea what to say and eventually spitting out who knows what. Pastor Daniel also told everyone that I’m Nepali, and most people definitely didn’t realize that it was a joke because they were coming up and speaking Nepali to me after the service. Eek!



Lots of little baby palm crosses

Andrew delivered the message for the day, so at least I could understand that. I have a feeling that most of the time, I’m going to be back in the situation of having no idea what’s going on. I don’t think I fully appreciated how nice it was to know some Spanish in Peru. At least I could sort of follow what was happening. Here, the only words I know are hello and thank you which really limits my comprehension.


After church, we had tea and crackers, and I awed the masses (gross exaggeration… I awed maybe three people) with my palm branch cross folding skills. I was super excited because I had a bonding moment with my littlest sister, Anika, as I tried (semi-successfully) to teach her how to do it.

We went on an adventure during the afternoon and stopped at a market in a nearby town. It was similar to markets I’ve been in before, but mostly people had their things spread out on tarps on the ground, and there were tarps strung up overhead to give some escape from the sun. One new thing for me was that everyone who was selling food had scales and weights to determine how much to charge. It was amazing to see it all in action. I love watching people do things with well-practiced hands. It doesn’t matter what it is, but there’s something beautiful about people moving with complete confidence.

I almost bought a machete because you never know when it might come in handy, right?


The pedestrian bridge

The market is even better when it’s in full swing! We went back this morning, and it was seriously so cool. Around the market, everyone is just walking in the street and making the drivers angry, and shops fill every available piece of sidewalk. There’s a pedestrian bridge that would be plenty wide to accommodate the people walking across except that people are selling things on both sides of the steps and on the bridge, and you’re left with maybe a 3-4’ wide path through the middle. I was constantly afraid that I was going to crash into people and knock whatever they were carrying off their heads.

The sidewalks on the way to the market.

Inside the market is the same except minus the cars and plus very narrow passageways. There isn’t even space for two people to walk past each other, which is inconvenient when you don’t know where you’re going and are trying to keep a group together and don’t have space to move out of everyone else’s way. We survived it though. Besides just looking at the general chaos around us, we did some shopping and all of us bought fabrics. This is one of my favorite things (I have a lot of favorite things)… When people are wearing clothes made from printed fabrics, they’re often custom made by a tailor. So instead of going clothes shopping for your fancy clothes, you go to the market, pick one of the million fabrics they have, and take your fabric to a tailor to order clothes that fit you exactly and look how you want them to look. To give you a sense of how much it costs, I got a pair of shorts made. The fabric cost 15 cedis and it cost another 15 for the tailor (which would probably be less if I was local or went to a different tailor). The conversion rate is about 4:1, so the shorts (that fit me perfectly) cost me about $8. Not bad!

Inside the market passageways.

Anyway, after we finished shopping, we wandered around again until it was time to head back to the hotel to check out and attempt to locate a tro to the lake. We got directions to the correct station from the reception desk and set off on a quest to find it.

All I can say is, thank goodness for google maps and functional internet. Once we got close, we asked the nearest guy if he knew where we could get a tro to the lake, he went and talked to a nearby tro driver, and he came back and told us to get in because the driver agreed to take us there. I think it was another one of those situations where the tro wasn’t planning to go so far, but since there were five of us, he said yeah sure.

All I can say is, thank goodness for google maps and functional internet. Once we got close, we asked the nearest guy if he knew where we could get a tro to the lake, he went and talked to a nearby tro driver, and he came back and told us to get in because the driver agreed to take us there. I think it was another one of those situations where the tro wasn’t planning to go so far, but since there were five of us, he said yeah sure.


Here’s the lake’s location in relation to Kumasi. Look at how round it is since it’s a crater lake!
The street.

Lake Bosomtwe is a crater lake located southeast of Kumasi. The lake has a diameter of about 5 miles (and it’s pretty round since it’s a crater) and a maximum depth of 260 ft. It’s a weird lake because it’s fed by rainfall and doesn’t have any outlets, so the water level keeps rising. It has flooded and forced villages to move multiple times because of that. We arrived at the lake around probably 3PM, and after a half hour trek in the hot sun to our hotel, we were ready to swim. After getting settled, we headed to the lakeside (I would say “beach”, but really I don’t think it could be called that), and James, Nick, and Anna went for a swim while Yara and I sat and talked. Apparently the water was warm, so I didn’t feel much like I was missing out. I was just happy to be sitting and enjoying the view because the lake is absolutely beautiful. Maybe I’ll go in tomorrow.


I’m telling you, we should really start carrying things on our heads.

Once it started getting dark, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and card games. We made friends with a couple more Germans, Josie and Peter, who are volunteers in Cape Coast (I say “more Germans” because Anna and Yara are from Germany as well). The plans for tomorrow are still up in the air, but the seven of us are probably going to try to do something together. It should be fun! And hopefully also relaxing.

In the tro on the way to the lake… Anna, James, Nick, me, and Yara.

Out of all the trips we’ve taken thus far, the trek to Kumasi today was the longest. Kumasi is one of the largest cities in Ghana and is the only real city that we’ve been to besides Accra. It also has a massive open-air market that’s the supposedly the biggest in west Africa, with over 45,000 stores. The traffic in the city is ridiculous, and in the main areas of the city, it’s incredibly hectic. It also didn’t seem to be terribly touristy. It is a tourist destination, but it wasn’t overrun with foreign tourists like so many of the other places we’ve visited on weekends. Obviously that’s helped by the fact that it’s a huge city, but still. Besides at our hotel, I haven’t seen a single other white person.

The bumpiest dirt road in the universe.

Our trip started with a 5AM wake up and 5:30AM departure from the house. We were trying to make it to Kpong to catch at 6:30AM tro to Kumasi, but by the time we got there, the 6:30 tro only had three seats left and we were five (James, Nick, Anna, Yara, and me). They put us on the next tro out, and we ended up having to wait two hours until it filled up before we could leave. These are the things that you can’t really anticipate, and it’s too bad because we could have eaten breakfast at home and had a much more relaxed morning had we known. Instead, we sat for two hours on a tro going nowhere and ate some nutritious donut balls for breakfast.

Here’s Kumasi. We had to go south first, to Kpong, and then took an endless and very bumpy road northwest to Kumasi.
The view off one side of the pedestrian bridge.

We FINALLY left the station at 8:30AM. That was exciting, but the drive to Kumasi is not short. We arrived at about 2:30PM after 8 hours on the tro (2 not moving and 6 in transit). The roads for the first 2-3 hours were HORRIBLE. We were weaving through a bunch of small villages, and the road was dirt and beyond bumpy. So much for sleeping on the ride! I slept a little, but every time we hit a bump, my head smashed into something and I woke up. Not the most restful sleep I’ve ever had, that’s for sure.
As you might imagine, by the time we got off the tro, we were starving. We walked to the hotel, dropped off our stuff, changed clothes (because after 8 hours on a non-air conditioned tro, a clothing change is essential), and went to eat. I got a cheeseburger, and it was awesome. I think I probably could have eaten 10 cheeseburgers at that point, though.

Random market shot. This is in the outer area that isn’t as congested as the main market area.

Even though it was getting late, we decided to walk around the city a bit and go to the central market (called “Central Market” or “Kejetia Market”). People were starting to shut down their shops, but there was still enough activity to get a good sense of what it would be like in full swing. Once you get into the depths of the market, it’s like a labyrinth. There are rows and rows and rows of shops that all seem to be selling the same things. I honestly don’t understand 1. how any of the shops stay in business with so much identical competition nearby and 2. how anyone finds anything. I think there is some sort of large-scale organization of the market, but even so, it’s nothing beyond clothing and fabrics over here, pottery over there, food over there, etc.
I’m glad that we got a chance to scope things out when the market wasn’t as crazy as I’m sure it gets during the day. We’re planning to go back in the morning before we leave the city and head to Lake Bosomtwe, a crater lake to the east of the city, for the rest of the weekend.

​When we got to the farm this morning and John asked me if we wanted to use the hoes or the machetes, I thought it had to be a trick question. Why on earth would he think for a second that we would choose the hoes? I instantly answered, “machetes,” without even consulting the others, but luckily they confirmed later that they all wanted the same thing. Phew.

Kind of “before” picture… More like an “in progress after I realized I hasn’t taken a before picture” picture.


It’s a good hint that we’re going to get to do something fun with the machetes when they take the time to sharpen them. When we do things like sowing corn with them, there’s no need for them to be sharp. When we do things like chopping down dead corn stalks, we need sharp machetes. Today, we got to chop down tall weeds in another field that I didn’t know was part of our farm. I really need to stop pretending that I know anything about where our farm starts and ends because every time I’m sure I’ve finally gotten it, we go somewhere else that I didn’t know existed and my head explodes. It’s painful having your head explode so many times… but seriously, how could we have gone 6 weeks in the same parts of the farm and now in the last 4, the area we’ve covered has at least doubled what I knew about before? Sorry, I digress.
We got to chop down some tall weeds, and chopping things with a machete is one of my favorite farm activities. I feel like I’m doing what I was born for (this is the Ghanaian inside of me talking). It really is satisfying though… until you look down and realize that you have a million blisters and your hands hate you. This is another one of those “Did I have gloves? Yes. Did I wear my gloves? Of course not.” situations.

I obviously didn’t take any pictures of the work we did at the clinic… But I did take this picture of some of the adorable kittens they currently have there. Priorities.

I was feeling invigorated when we left the farm, which was good because the next stop after breakfast was the clinic for another day of construction work. The task of the day was to make more blocks! Nick, James, and I got to help mix the cement/sand/water together, pack it into the molds to make the block shape, and push perfectly formed blocks like little concrete [sand]castles onto the ground to dry. Nick and I missed some of the beginning work because of the farm, but we spent about 3 hours there and made 300 blocks total! How did my hands feel by the end? Ha. Haha. Hahaha. Horrible. But you can’t show weakness in front of the guys! So I pretended I was fine and tried to adjust what I was doing so that I could spread the abuse out over my whole hand.
You’ll also be happy to know that the “Princess” nickname is now officially a thing. ALL of the masons have started calling me Princess Lara, plus some other various people in town. I just go along with it because that’s way easier than trying to fight it. Plus, who doesn’t want to be a princess?

Everyone went to Juapong in the afternoon because it’s market day there! A bunch of us wanted to buy fabric, and Avy’s birthday is tomorrow, so I had to secretly buy supplies for her surprise birthday cake. I got in touch with the same woman who made the cake for Evans’s birthday, and this time I asked for it to just be a chocolate cake because the last one was a swirl, and the chocolate part was so much better (though they were both good). Anyway, I was hoping that Avy wouldn’t come with us, but no such luck. Instead, we had to make up some clever stories to split up and sneak around the market, hoping she wouldn’t see us. There was one close call when I was trying to buy eggs and had to stop mid-sentence to run away from the egg stand, but I think we’re okay. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow! And hopefully she’s a good sport and plays along even if she knows.

The days here feel so incredibly long. When I think about working at the farm this morning, I’m blown away by the fact that that was today. I know it’s going to happen, but it’s hard to believe that 3 months are going to fly by when each day feels like a week. I think that it’s just because we do so much every day that it seems like it all shouldn’t be able to fit in 24 hours.

This morning at the farm, we helped to clear weeds in one of the fields by using hoes to slice the tops off. It was exhausting, but I was just happy that we weren’t using the machetes again so my hands have time to heal.

“Before” picture… So many weeds!
“After” picture… So neat and tidy!

We also learned a little more about the locals who work at the farm. They also have farms of their own to take care of, so they spend hours working at the orphanage farm and then go home and rest by working at their farms too. I don’t know how they do it. An hour and a half each morning is more than enough for me.

School was rough. I’m still excited to work with the kids, but it’s so hard trying to reach a class with such diversity of skill levels. We did a writing exercise in English class, and some kids were great while others could barely put together a sentence. Where do we go from here? I find myself constantly trying to think of ways to engage them while also teaching them. I’m determined to figure this out.

We spent the afternoon at the market in Juapong, a town about 20 minutes south of Frankadua. It was great! We’re really not living in a tourist area, so practically everyone we encounter is Ghanaian. Going to the market made me feel like we’re really becoming part of the community, especially since, for the most part, no one gave us weird looks for being there. It’s nice to already feel that sense of belonging.

A couple of market shots. These aren’t great, so I’ll try to take better ones next time we go

I also experienced my first tro tro ride on the way to the market and back! A HUGE mode of transportation in Ghana is a bunch of privately owned minibuses that drive back and forth along set routes, called tro tros. They’ll pick you up from wherever along the route and will stop wherever you’re getting off. They can also get quite crowded… I’ve had multiple friends tell me about times when they had to hold random children on their laps due to the space. We got to the market for about 1.70 cedis each (the exchange rate to US is around 3.8:1). I still don’t totally understand how their routes work, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

Okay, I need to go to sleep ASAP. Tomorrow is going to be such a mess. So. Tired. I need to start sleeping more! Good night!!!