Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Ghanaians do on a Friday night

P1090666 Last night, I went to hear the President speak about sports at the football stadium a short taxi ride away. That’s what I was told, anyway, by a security guard who walked me to the gym and proceded to sit and, in a friendly manner, follow me around while I worked out on different machines. Anyway…

That’s not who it was at all. It was The Prophet. Bishop David Oledepo.  He called himself a prophet in any event, and the stadium was full of cheering, dancing Africans as he spoke about the grace of Jesus.

I looked around. I was the only white person there. I sat with some people who invited me, and I got some explanations of what was going on. There was a lot of standing up with your hands in the air and shouting “Amen!” and a lot of wiggling around in emotional prayer and a fair amount of just plain dancing and clapping. What were they getting excited about?

The Prophet was telling them that he foresaw a better future for Africa. He said he knew a lot of Ghanaians who wished they were in America. But look at the suicide rate in America—they aren’t any happier for their lifestyle, he said. He promised the Lord would lift them out of their poverty. Everyone here is very religious. It gives them hope.

Life here is so much less drastic seeming than in India, despite Ghana’s lower ranking on the Human Development Index.

Here are some reasons why…

1. Equality. There have been studies done on the happiness of a country being equivalent with the divide between the rich and the poor, between men and women, among race, etc…The more equal the society, the higher the satisfaction of the society. Thus European countries will always rate a higher happiness level than the US. In India, there are so many different levels of people left over from the caste system, perhaps. Here in Ghana, there are only 3 professions: drum maker, artist, or acrobat. I try to look interested every time someone tells me proudly they are one of those three, but it’s hardly a surprise. Most people live a similar lifestyle here.

2. Women have a strong and powerful presence. It shows in the way they carry themselves. It shows in the way they are every bit as much a part of society as men. It shows in their loud voices. I feel like a wimp when I talk with them, to be perfectly honest. It shows in their manner of dress. They are so bold.

3. There is space, and nature. It’s not overpopulated. No one is sleeping in the streets. It seems like people are living like they did long before any white people came and tried to change things. Traffic and pollution are not problems.

4. Things of a private nature, like going to the bathroom, are kept private.

5. Children stay children here. They play, they go to school. The people who come selling odds and ends to the taxi windows in bad traffic are adults, not kids.

6. Ghana is extremely peaceful. It hasn’t been at war in many years, which is unusual for an African country especially. Violent crime is not an issue, nor is terrorism.

So I thought, maybe, that Ghanaians were happy to stay just the way they are. Until last night, when I was reminded, once again, the winning of the lottery that being born in America is.

Which brings me to my final point…

So many countries around the world are waiting on America to help. It may not be fair, and we may not be recognized for the work that we’ve done. Nevertheless, it’s a responsibility.

Please visit 

This nonprofit doesn’t request your money. It simply lists different bills addressing international poverty that are placed before the Senate that you can call and voice your support. The website tells you how.

I believe the US government has a greater responsibility for the welfare of other nations than it is currently now exhibiting. Because of ignorance in a lot of Americans who have not traveled to other, poorer, nations, there is often not a lot of support for using tax dollars for international aid. This is where you go to voice your support, to show that as Americans, we accept the responsibility that being the wealthiest nation in the world brings.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ghana, Week One

When coming to Ghana, I really didn’t know what to expect. I tried to research it, but the information I found wasn’t adequate. I knew I’d have to go myself in order to get a frame of reference from my own perspective. Would it be as impoverished as parts of India? Would it be developed? Would there be good food to eat, beautiful sights to see?

Well we’ve been here half a week and so far it’s been unlike anywhere else we’ve been.

These are my first impressions so far…

For the most developed city in West Africa, Accra is surprisingly undeveloped.

However, it’s not as undeveloped as Ouazazarte, Morocco.

For some reason, the slums in Ghana don’t bother me nearly as much as the ones in India. There’s slums surrounding the outside of Rising Phoenix Magic Beach Resort where we’re staying.

We’re at the time of year where there aren’t hardly any white people. In the summer, I guess, it becomes overwhelmed with college students coming to do a good deed.

I’d like to volunteer with an organization myself, but of the 20 some odd organizations I’ve emailed, only one has gotten back to me, and it’s for a project that won’t begin until the beginning of December. I’d like to be involved with something, I really would, but it would require greater energy than I presently have (ie, go door to door asking) to find something. If anyone reading has any suggestions, please comment.

No one carries anything in their hands, it’s all on their heads.




This was meant to be the King’s house, but somehow it fell through, so it’s not used for anything. It’s shaped like a typical African stool.

Everyone dresses so vibrantly.




A lot of potatoes. Below is jolof rice from the food court in the mall. It’s flavored with Indian-tasting spices. And… I eat salad here. I eat raw tomatoes here. I have not gotten sick. It’s a miracle. There’s a vegetarian restaurant on site which I love.


Jacob and I have both caught on to the nation’s favorite drink, which is like sweet nonalcoholic beer.

People from the slum dry their clothes on the lawn.

This building is our next-door neighbor.


Jacob got this little boy from Niger, who was cuddling up next to him like they were best friends, some coconut juice.



The internet situation here is pretty rough. No place has wifi, anywhere. Here we are getting registered for an internet stick. We have to pay per download which means I may be waiting to upload any videos until we leave the country.



There are no good gyms in Accra. Zilch. We’ll go to the one at the national soccer team stadium and Jacob says all they have is a squat rack. I think this is going to cut our visit short.

“Do not pee here or you will have to pay 50,000 cedis” this is equivalent to $35019.40. Ironically, this is just outside the slum. You can bet everyone is urinating there.



There are many, many people here who seem to want something from us. It makes us doubt people’s intentions. They are extremely friendly. I went for an hour walk and got 3 phone numbers. But do they want my money or my friendship? Only time will tell… Two women that I met wanted to give me an African name. They asked me what day I was born on. I told them I didn’t know. They were shocked. “You don’t know the day of your birth? Was it a Wednesday?” they guessed. “I think it was Saturday.” “Ahh, then your name is Almah,” they said.


The view of the Gulf of Guinea from our place is the best part. 

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How not to go about getting a Ghana visa

Okay, so in actuality, I must have done something right because we are indeed here in Accra. The time in London wasn’t the most comfortable however…

So the first piece of advice would be to book your chosen hotel in advance. This may seem obvious, except Jacob and I never do it.

But in London you should do it, because tears of frustration and anger formed after two hours of looking for a place that wasn’t $400/night and nearby the Docklands where our business conference was at.

The consequence?

Stress Less Hostel.

We arrived, chipper and cheerful, in London at about 7am on the day the business conference was starting.

We did get to use American Airlines’ magnificent first class, and in this photo, Jacob is trying to hide how extremely pleased he is to have a desk on the airplane.


We managed to take the Heathrow Express ($50 for our 15 minute ride) into downtown


and then we took the tube to Leyton without any trouble.


Then we walked, and walked, dragging our suitcases and our tired, sticky bodies looking for “Stress Less Hostel” for 30 minutes. We were on a street that looked like this:


Yeah. And no one had ever heard of it, either.

Well, we finally got our phone hooked up and we called, and we found out it was number 37, not 49, and that no, there was no sign marking the doorway whatsoever.

We finally arrived, and were greeted by a Chinese girl who was very short with us. I told her, “This is very hard to find!” And she replied, “No! Not hard to find.”

We ended up staying here an uncomfortable 10 or so days, but it was cheap—for London you can’t get any cheaper than $55/night. And that’s because it was probably illegal.

It was uncomfortable because (guess)

A) it was dirty

B) it was pile on all your clothes and get under the covers cold

C) the Chinese girl, when told how cold it was, said “The heat is working.” lies!

D) it felt like we were staying in a random stranger’s house

E) All of the above

Hostels can and should be a pleasant experience, but it’s places like this that can give the industry a bad name.


In case any of you get a Ghana visa in London, let me make it easy on you because it’s hard to find the information online.

First. find an internet cafe and print out the form. You just need two forms/person. Make sure you do this before you go because there aren’t any forms there. If you don’t, there’s an internet cafe way at the bottom of the hill and you’ll have to walk up, walk down, and walk back up the hill again.

Second, affix one passport-style photo to each form.

Third, make up contact information for hotels in Ghana. Use real hotels, but it doesn’t really matter if you are staying at them or not.

Fourth, I had my bank statement and itinerary but they didn’t ask to see it. Nor did I have return plane tickets, which they did ask to see, but it wasn’t a deterrent.

Fifth, you have to have proof of yellow fever innoculation.

Sixth, go to Highgate Hill at Archway tube station (consulate is open Monday-Friday, 9:30-1). It’s on your right, about 20 minutes up the hill.


Check in and be ready to race up to the front when they call your number, because they will skip you if you’re not there immediately. I was skipped.

They said online it takes 4 days but it took a week for us…repeat step #6 to pick them up and you’ll have some shiny new visas. If you ever get the whim to go to Ghana. Why you would, I don’t know. We hardly know ourselves.

This is how we entertained ourselves for a week:

I met up with Meagan who was in my freshman year LDS ward. She very kindly showed me around a bit. I got to see original copies of Alice in Wonderland, the Quran, and the Beatles lyrics along with Harry Potter’s train platform



The iconic clock Big Ben




Then we met up with Ben and Sally, our favorite British friends (we’re not antagonizing anyone out there, are we? I’m pretty sure they’re our only British friends) and great travel partners. I look forward to meeting up with them in different spots around the globe years in the future!



We hit up the Modern Tate museum where we saw classics like a room full of sunflower seeds



Then I suggested we go to Portobello Road. The reason I suggested this was because of guilt.

You see years ago, when my dad, Kai, and I went on our trip to London, Kai’s only request (besides eating out at Pizza Hut daily) was to go to Portobello Road (thanks to the movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and I quashed—overruled—his idea. It made him very grumpy but I have this way of getting what I want. I have felt guilty ever since, so I wanted to go so he could at least have pictures of what it looks like.

What it looks like, is a market with antique clothing along with lots of shops.


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Our final night we actually stayed inside the airport in something called a Yotel.


You pay by 4 hour increments. So convenient—you can be at the terminal for your 6 am flight without having to worry about a thing. One awkward thing, was that they gave me the key to a room and I noticed as I settled in that the trash was unemptied and the bed was made kinda funny, but I thought that was the way they did things. Shows how used I am to crummy hostels, but anyway about 10 minutes in as I was all snuggled up in bed they knocked on the door and told me I was in someone’s uncleaned room! Haha. They made me hot chocolate to make up for it.

Post on Ghana coming soon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mormon Women Project

After I found this website, I think I stayed up and read just about every single profile. The project is all interviews of women who have lived lives different than the stereotypical LDS woman. I find it refreshingly honest and a testimony-booster. It is now bookmarked.

Two of my favorites:

Her intellectual bent (she’s a trustee for NPR) resonated with me and her sense of humor made me smile

she survived the Cambodian Pol Pot regime with some heart rending stories


Also profiled is an LDS woman who is married to someone of a different faith, an LDS woman whose former mission president husband became entangled in embezzlement, the creator of the blog Seriously So Blessed, a celebrity hairdresser whose sister overdosed on heroin, a woman who chose to have only one child and the ramifications in our culture, a woman who decided not to get married and moved to Ghana instead…


Go. Enjoy.


Speaking of Ghana, we should be getting our visas tomorrow.



Some photos with what we’ve been up to.


Cousin Ashley’s bridal shower

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Best on-the-road recipe yet



Uncle Louis’s birthday party with the amazing trombone cake

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Seeing a mini-Kirsten with a personality all her own was so much fun

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So I didn’t get the blue and green memo…


Jessica from Vienna study abroad in downtown Provo


With the UBA making a DVD for The Jump Manual in Atlanta

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