**continuation of Saturday 11/5**

After dinner, the real party started. Part 1 was our postponed lip sync battle, and just like last time, I was beyond impressed by everyone’s efforts. This is one of those rare situations where it truly is the effort that matters. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the words, as long as you own it!

In case you’re not familiar with the lip sync battle procedure, basically, each person chooses a song, you attempt to learn the words, and then you perform with the song playing, just mouthing the words and not actually singing. Dramatic performances are encouraged, as are props, and really nothing is out of the question. We even had some improvised spotlighting for this one (me standing on a plastic chair, wearing a headlamp, and holding a flashlight).

To make it even better, we made popcorn and Avy pulled out some gummies and other candy she had been saving for a special occasion, and we had ourselves a party! Even Agnes (the cook) stayed to watch… I’m pretty sure she thinks we’re all insane. Everyone was fabulous, and Lily, Nick, and I tied for first in the voting. The prize? Fan Ice, of course! I know, high stakes (a Fan Ice is 1 cedi, about 25 cents).

Part 2 was a bonfire and s’mores. A major shout out goes to Nick and Bright, one of our neighbors, for hunting down firewood in the dark because I asked them so late. Thank goodness for good friends. Since I took so long to find someone to get wood, everything was wet from the 30 second rainstorm earlier, and Nick and Lily fought a heroic battle getting the fire to light. Once it got going, everything was perfect. We ate s’mores until everyone felt sick (which is the only reason to stop eating s’mores) and then danced around the fire until it burned out.

Finally, part 3, stargazing. The sky here is dark and perfect for seeing billions of stars, and luckily, the clouds from the rainstorm earlier cleared out. We all grabbed blankets, thoroughly coated ourselves in bug spray, headed over to the soccer field, and flopped down in a circle with our heads in the middle. It used to be the great sorrow of my life that as many times as I’ve been stargazing, I’ve NEVER seen a shooting star. I somehow always manage to blink at the exact right (or exact wrong, I guess) second. But tonight… history was made!! I saw three, yes, THREE! shooting stars.

When you’re looking up at the night sky, it’s also a great time for thinking. Being there was like coming full circle. My second week here, we went stargazing to say goodbye to Maria. Laying there with those people who had gone from strangers to friends in just two weeks, I felt like all was right with the world… the ultimate feeling of contentment. And then, ten weeks later with all new people except for Avy, I had that same feeling. For now, instead of being sad that my time here is coming to an end, I’m just happy that I even got the chance to experience it. Even better, I got to experience it with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. How can I be sad about that? Well don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll easily find a way once reality starts sinking in because right now I’m on a combination sugar/dance/stargazing high, and that’s enough to make even the harshest reality a little less severe.

Another weekend, another adventure! This is Amber and Sosane’s last weekend, and they decided we should go to Kokrobite, a beach town about 30 minutes west of Accra. I’m just happy to be somewhere away from Frankadua to have a chance to finish my mental reset. I feel a lot better than I did at the beginning of the week, but I think that it will be good to have a couple days of a change of scenery. The group for the weekend is Amber, Nico, James, Sosane, three soccer guys, and me.

The beach!

The trip here was NOT simple, and I honestly don’t think that I could do it again on my own. We had a few guys from the soccer team with us who knew the way, and thank goodness because there was a lot of walking between tros and weaving through crowded streets. We took one tro from Frankadua to somewhere around Accra, another one from there to another somewhere around Accra, and the last one from there to Kokrobite. I know, that was so amazingly detailed that you’re thinking you could probably do it with your eyes closed.

Kokrobite is located just outside of Accra.

We didn’t leave home until probably 11AM, so we got to the hotel around 3PM, took a little time to get organized, and went to dinner around 5. James has been to Kokrobite before, and he led us to this food stand about 10 minutes away where we got some awesome fried chicken and rice. Afterwards, we played cards until it got dark. Sosane and James aren’t all about President like we are, so we played a game that they called Blackjack (as far as I can tell, it’s basically Uno with regular cards). What do people do for fun without cards? I love that that’s our go-to activity. This really does feel like summer camp sometimes.

My favorite part of the day was walking on the beach at night. I think it was something about the moon and the clouds and how they looked from the ground, but as soon as I walked out onto the sand, it took my breath away. The moon was bright and directly overhead, and the clouds were kind of splotchy and made the sky really seem like it was a dome. I felt like a tiny molecule inside a water droplet. Sometimes it’s nice to feel small because it puts life into perspective. I’m just a little bitty part of a much bigger picture.

Anyway, I’m excited for some chill time tomorrow. I’m going to pass out any second, so I should just do myself a favor to go to bed.

Fernanda leaves us at the end of the week, so she got to pick the location for our weekend travels. Her demands were simple; she wanted to go someplace pretty and relaxing. And so, that’s how we ended up going to Ada Foah. It’s a town in southeast Ghana, next to where the Volta River flows into the Gulf of Guinea/Atlantic Ocean (that’s the same river as the one near where we live in Frankadua). It used to be a big town for trade. At first, it was product trade, but when the African slave trade started, the fort originally meant to defend the trading post was turned into a slave fort. This is where captured people were packed together in dehumanizing conditions meant to either kill them or break their spirits before they were sent to the Americas. After the slave trade was abolished, it became a trading post for goods again.

Now, it’s mostly a weekend getaway for people from Accra. After the Akosombo Dam was built on the Volta River, it became too shallow for large ships and basically crushed any of the trade industry that remained. There are also big issues with the strong tides eroding the coastline to the point where many of the buildings in the town have washed away.

Vacation homes along the river

The trek to Ada Foah from our village, like the trek to basically anywhere from our village, is a bit of an adventure, and ours ended up being even more interesting than anticipated. At best, a trip to there from Frankadua would involve two tro tros and one boat ride, but we had to make an extra stop in Accra for Nico to extend his visa. We planned to hang out at the Accra Mall while he took care of that and then go from there.

Our journey… From Frankadua (blue) to Accra (green) to Tema (yellow) to Ada Foah (red). As you can see, we took the direct route (haha)
The place where we stayed is in the red circle… literally right at the point where the river meets the gulf

While we were standing by the road waiting for a tro from Frankadua to the mall/immigration office, the mayor drove by and offered to take us in his car! He said that he was headed to Accra anyway, but I’m not sure that was true. I think he might have gone just because of us which was really nice. We all squished in (four of us in the backseat), and off we went! Two uncomfortable hours (and a few traffic stops where he had to “encourage” the cops to let us go even though there were too many people in the car) later, we made it to the mall, and Avy, Fernanda, and I went snack shopping (my favorite thing) until Nico and Amber finished at immigration and met us for lunch.

Party car!

The next part of our journey didn’t go quite as planned either… We thought that we would be able to get a tro from the mall to a big transfer point, Tema Roundabout, but everyone we asked said no such thing existed. Hm… so what now? We had no backup plan and were wandering despondently through the parking lot when someone yelled Nico’s name. We’re used to random people calling out to us, but they usually don’t know our names! It turned out to be a guy that Nico and Amber met a couple of weeks ago in Frankadua, Rudolph, and when they explained our situation, he said he was headed in that direction anyway (was he, though?) and could give us a ride. So, the five of us squeezed into Rudolph’s car, and we were off again! The ride was cramped but seriously luxurious because he had air conditioning!!! I don’t think I’ve experienced functional AC since I’ve been here. It was amazing.

At the transfer point, Rudolph walked with us to find the right tro to take to Ada. Finally, from Ada, we took a boat to Ada Foah. You’re probably thinking that this MUST be the end of the story… but alas, it is not. We got probably 95% of the way there, anddd the boat stalled. The captain, Fred, started using some questionable methods to try to start it up again, and we were so close to land that someone from the hotel started walking through the water to us with the intention of pulling the boat in. He was probably 20 meters away (sorry… I’m starting to think in metric now. 65 feet or so) when the boat finally started up again, and we cruised into shore.

Us with our new best friend, Fred the boat driver. Not sure why Fernanda and Amber are making those faces…

Yay!! We finally made it! By the time we landed, it was past dinnertime and no one was hungry anyway, so we just dropped our stuff in our rooms and hung out/played cards until it was time for bed.

We were welcomed into shore by this hideous sunset
Like… what is this place?!?

​The next day was glorious. Sometimes you don’t realize how in need of a break you are until you get one and are reminded of what it feels like to be relaxed. That’s exactly where I was, and I had the most perfect, relaxing day.

We took our time getting up in the morning (YAY for sleeping in!), ate a leisurely breakfast, and got changed into our bathing suits to go to the beach – 10 feet from our huts.

Oh yeah, I have to tell you about our “hotel”. It’s just a collection of little huts, so we had a three-person hut with a sand floor (aka no floor… just a hut on the sand) and a two-person hut with a floor (luxurious concrete). I think they’re hilarious. Also, sorry, nerd alert but I MUST comment on the electrical situation… There are lights in both huts, but only one has a switch. In the other, we’re supposed to screw the light bulb in and out to turn it on and off. The “fixture” is literally just a bulb hanging from the ceiling by its wires. Where two wires connect, the ends are just twisted together and left exposed. Between huts, the wires are buried under maybe 6” of sand (maybe), and they’re not in tubing or anything to protect them from damage. I could keep ranting about the lights in pretty much the whole country, but I’ll spare you. Maybe another time.

Fernanda with our hut
The light in our room
Admire those wires running straight into the sand
Exterior light fixture (this is the weatherproof-edition)
Huts everywhere!

ANYWAY, we decided to go for a walk to explore, starting on the river side of the peninsula and walking around to the gulf side. I understand why people call it a paradise town because man, it really is beautiful. The only downside is that there’s a lot of garbage that washes up on the beaches, particularly plastic garbage. Not surprising considering the general garbage/litter issues around the country… but I digress. Like I was saying, beautiful! At the end of the peninsula, we could see the place where the river water runs into the gulf which was pretty cool.

The river side
Another river view, looking back in the direction of our huts
I bet these rocks were placed here to help with the erosion problem
Obligatory photoshoot
Because why not?

The rest of the day was equally uneventful. We played some volleyball, swam in the river and played monkey in the middle, and lay on the beach. I made a sand sculpture and took a nap in a hammock and lost to Nico in chess. We watched the sunset and ate dinner, and after everyone else went to bed, Fernanda and I hung out on the beach and looked at the stars. On a clear night, there’s nothing better. Since there are barely any lights around, the sky is super dark and the stars are incredible.

I’m really bummed that Fernanda is leaving next week… I think I’m still in denial a little bit. We get along so well and have a lot in common. But Mexico City isn’t TOO far from Philly, and she’s promised me a piñata if I come to visit, so it looks like it’s time for me to start planning a trip to Mexico!

Just hanging out
The river side was really nice for swimming because the tide wasn’t very strong. This is where we played our monkey in the middle
Sand sculpting
Best friends
Sunset on the ocean side

The next morning, we ate breakfast and started the long trip home to Frankadua. I didn’t even mind, though. I felt so refreshed after our day of relaxation that I actually really enjoyed the (very long) ride.

Step 1: Another boat ride with our friend Fred! This one went without a hitch, and he promised to come visit us in Frankadua. This happens pretty much everywhere we go… it’s kind of funny. Thank goodness for Ghana SIM cards because then it’s not a big deal to give out our phone numbers. When we leave the country, they’ll disappear.

Fernanda soaking up some last-minute sun on the boat ride
I was sad to leave this luxurious concrete floor and princess-style mosquito net behind

Step 2: Tro ride. We walked from the dock to the station in town, and when we found it (after asking a bunch of people for directions), there was no one there. Great. Time to ask more people for help! We walked out to the street and started asking around until someone finally directed us down the road because apparently tros don’t run all the way to the station on Sundays. Of course. Because why would they? *internet sarcasm*

We found a tro, and I got a prime seat – back row by the window. That meant that I didn’t have to move for anyone to get on or off, and I got a great breeze. I’m telling you, it gets HOT in those vans, and it was very sunny which doesn’t help. Everyone else slept, but I was happy to look out the window and enjoy the ride.

Tro #1. This was a pretty big one.. There isn’t always this much space

Step 3: Tro transfer at Tema Roundabout. Maybe? We assumed that we could get a tro direct to Frankadua from there, but everyone we asked said that there was no such thing and that we had to take a cab to some other station and get one from there. It’s so hard to tell when people are being helpful vs. trying to take advantage of our ignorance (since we’re so obviously not from here). Who knows what the truth was in this case, but we decided to assume “being helpful” and took a cab to the random station.

Step 4: Tro from random station to Frankadua (FINALLY!). I lucked out again on my seat and was in the front next to the driver which means 1. more legroom and 2. a window AND the windshield. A breeze and a view. What more could you want? Well, a seatbelt would be nice, but I’ll take what I can get! Sometimes you luck out on that, too, but more often not. I’ve been working on not having an anxiety attack every time I get in a vehicle without one.

On the ride home from my prime front-row seat
Drive scenery

Two hours later (as in, two hours after the beginning of step 4), we were home! We survived! The Cape Coast crew got back maybe 20 minutes after us, and the rest of the night was spent exchanging stories and getting ready for school the next day. Last week of summer school… eek!

*Note: This blog has been updated since its original posting to combine three posts into one.


Akosombo Dam – tour the dam that shrank the Volta River and became Ghana’s main power source

Cape Coast Castle – learn more about the West African slave trade with a visit to one of the most well-known and well-maintained slave forts

Batumi – compare the sand beaches of Ghana to the pebble beaches of Batumi, Georgia. The perfect solution for the beach-loving sand-haters among us!

Kokrobite – enjoy another Ghanaian beach weekend

Lake Bosomtwe – canoe around this crater lake, the largest natural lake in Ghana

​It’s starting to look like the days at school are just alternating between good and bad. Today was such a good day! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

This is from yesterday when we were shucking and de-kerneling, so today we just skipped the second step

We started out at the farm, as usual, and today’s activity was shucking corn. The good pieces will be sent to the orphanage, and the bad ones get fed to the chickens. It’s always nice when we have a less labor intensive day, but I have to say that I think shucking might be my least favorite thing we’ve done so far. Ehhh maybe not… I really don’t like hoeing. But it’s a close competition between the two.

With shucking, there’s probably a 50% chance that you’re going to find something unpleasant in your piece of corn. Usually it’s a worm or two and a bunch of icky worm eggs, but I had one where I discovered an entire ant farm inside and proceeded to scream and throw my corn. It was gross. The experience was basically an hour and a half of constantly feeling like there were things crawling on me and sometimes discovering that there actually were.

Singing Les Champs-Elysées

School was a breeze compared to yesterday. English was no big deal, Math we talked about times tables (again), and we played outside for the elective. Afterwards, all of the kids came back into the room and we played songs on my phone/Nico’s speaker. He’s been teaching them a French song which they all love to sing constantly, so we started with that and then moved on to the Hokey Pokey, “If you’re happy and you know it”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and the Chicken Dance.

Hokey pokey!

By the end, ALL of the kids were in our classroom, and I was melting. It’s actually been hot here over the last couple of days, unlike last week. We’ve been spoiled. It’s fine when the sky is cloudy, but as soon as the sun comes out, it’s a totally different story. Today was sunny, and the classroom was HOT.

Our improvised supplies and my beautiful s’mores sticks

After school, the afternoon flew by. I set out on a quest to find good s’mores sticks and used Nico’s knife to get the ends ready. Then, we were all just sitting around talking when someone discovered a bag of embroidery floss with the teaching supplies. Next thing I knew, we were all making friendship bracelets, Nico included, until about 4 hours later when Maria realized it was time for us to run. Time flies when you’re crafting! I felt like we were a bunch of kids at summer camp.

The best part of the day, hands down, was the bonfire. Unlike last week, this one was mostly just the six of us, with a few other people coming in and out. It was partly sad because it’s Maria’s farewell bonfire, but it was partly super awesome because s’mores.


We made all of the kids go home at 9PM (they’re really supposed to leave by 8) and got out our makeshift s’more supplies. I was a little uncertain about how they would turn out, but they ended up being great! I love s’mores. I ate 4. At least. I think. Maybe 5. Ehhh not important.

Anyway, me + s’mores = best day ever. I’m going to bed happy (and stuffed) (and with a lingering sugar rush) tonight.

​Today was SO much better than yesterday, thank goodness. It’s Nico’s birthday (!!!), so we had a day of fun planned to celebrate.

Yay baby plants!!

It obviously started off with the usual early trip to the farm. Want to guess what the activity was today? You got it – more hoeing! That wasn’t very exciting, but do you know what is? OUR PLANTS ARE GROWING!!! Yay!! I am really not a plant person, so the fact that any plants I’ve come in contact with are actually surviving is thrilling.

We sang happy birthday to Nico at breakfast and presented him with a semi-squished cake that we bought at the mall on Sunday. After two tro tro rides and a couple of days in the fridge, I’m impressed that it survived (though only barely).

Nico with his smushed cake
School actually went well too! I was happy to be back in the P3/P4 classroom and to have another person teaching with me. Having a co-teacher makes the days way easier, and I didn’t realize just how much easier until yesterday when I had to control the kids and prep and explain everything by myself.

We talked about pronouns in English (very exciting, I know) and did more times table practice in Math. We also went over measuring distances with rulers, and the kids did NOT seem to get it. According to their textbooks, they supposedly learned it 2 years ago…? I did a quick review because I assumed that they already knew it, but everyone was staring back at me with blank expressions on their faces. I think we’re going to have to start from the beginning tomorrow.

Maria, Fernanda, Avy, Amber, me, and Nico by the river

After school was lunch, and after lunch we went to a hotel in a nearby town, Atimpoku. Supposedly they sometimes have functional wifi, but today was not one of those days. That’s okay. We all got drinks, sat by Volta River, and just hung out. We were only about 30 minutes away from the house, but it felt like we were in paradise. No kids, flush toilets, and fake Oreos (they’re decent fakes though) that Avy brought. Does it get any better than that?

We came home in time for dinner and afterwards headed to the soccer field by our house to stargaze. Today is the first day since we got here that the sky isn’t completely cloudy, and we wanted to take advantage. As you might guess, there aren’t a lot of lights here, so the sky is ideal for looking at stars. It was another one of those nights where I had that feeling of total contentment. It doesn’t get much better than laying in a field and staring at the night sky with a bunch of your friends.

It’s pretty late, so I should get to bed if I want to be able to wake up for the farm tomorrow. But yeah, today was a great day.