Monday, September 20, 2010

Preview of coming attractions

Thanks to a random post I made on Facebook about packing for my trip, I learned that Caroline, an ultimate (frisbee) teammate from last summer, lived in Accra for four months during a semester of study abroad at the University of Ghana.  I bought her dinner Friday night in exchange for the insider's view of the life of an American ex-pat in Ghana.  While I've been learning so much from my steady stream of questions to Kirby, I was still missing the key viewpoint that could only be gained by talking to an American in Ghana.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that much of the information found in the Bradt guide to Ghana was  in line with Caroline's experiences.  She did many weekend trips all over Ghana and the neighboring countries of Togo and Burkina Faso, so she was able to fill me in on all the cool places to see.  Her opinion of Kumasi as a modern city with access to banks and internet and a fantastic market makes me happy that it will be my home.

One of the biggest questions/concerns I've had is around personal safety.  Even though Ghana has been described as extremely friendly and Ghanaians are supposed to be very protective of women traveling alone, the guidebooks still talk about keeping money and bank cards in a money belt and carrying a decoy wallet.  Caroline and the people she spent time with took some precautions, like keeping money in a few spots in their bags and clothing, but they never felt concerned for their safety.  Some of the other students at the university did get mugged on campus, but they were walking through an area that they had been specifically warned against transiting at night.  While I feel very sorry for anyone who experiences a mugging, even here in the US it pays to listen to the locals when they warn you about an area.  From everything Caroline said, as long as I keep my wits about me, I shouldn't have too much to worry me.

I was able to learn much about the subtle nuances of daily life in Ghana, such as the different type of street food available and how to run errands from the tro tros (the local vans that drive all over the city and countryside).  Caroline's obvious love for her time in Ghana has added to my excitement about my upcoming trip.

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