Sunday, February 22, 2009

Being a Project HOPE volunteer can be a bumpy road

All of the Project HOPE team woke up early this morning to head out to Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana. Sekondi does not have an airport so everyone had to fly into Accra but we couldn't leave last night because it would have been too dangerous to travel the 4 hours to the town.

The road to Sekondi-Takoradi is two lanes, paved but riddled with speed bumps every 20 minutes along the way. Maybe this is why it takes 4 hours? Anyway, driving at night on the road can be hazardous, so in the morning we piled into two vans and headed on our way. However, it took us at least one and a half hours to get out of the city of Accra because traffic was very heavy. Once we got outside the city the road was full of speed bumps. This road passes through many little towns, markets set up on the side of the road, women selling local goods and also lush green landscape. Along the shoulder people were selling everything from fermented corn and caskets shaped like animals to smoked grasscutter. Once you enter Ghana's Gold Coast you begin to see the shore and the beaches lined with palm trees.

We stopped halfway along the bumpy road just before we got to Cape Coast. Here I bought something I hadn't even seen the first time in Ghana. One of the very helpful military guys, who happens to be American military but Ghanaian by birth, introduced me to the Ghanaian sweet bread. It looks just like a loaf of bread but tastes so much better. We all enjoyed the whole loaf until it was gone.

Just before we arrived at the Ghanaian Naval Base, where the USS Nashville is in port, you could see rows and rows of Ghanaian fishing boats on shore. These boats actually go out in morning to fish and you can see them from the Nashville. It is really an impressive site. We finally arrived at the Ghanaian Naval base where the Nashville is the biggest ship there. This is my first time on this kind of ship and I think for most of the volunteers it is too.

Once we unloaded the vans we were met by the very friendly Sergeant in charge of helping us with logistics. He quickly gave us some information and then led the women down, yes down, to our berthing (or place we will sleep for the next two and half weeks). The USS Nashville is about 40 years old so she looks a little weathered and also I think I was spoiled by the newness of the HSV Swift and other volunteers by the space of the USNS Comfort and Mercy. We, the women on the Project HOPE team except Admiral Johnson (she's an admiral so she gets a better room), are in a cozy area with our own designated bathroom, racks (bunks), lockers and also a table. I have to say even though we are all women and the space is small, two showers for the bathroom, we all seem to have adapted well to the space. We are all just happy to be here. I haven't seen the men's berthing, for obvious reasons, but I assume it is the same.

The ship is full of stairs, or more like ladders. We got a tour today and if we don't get in shape working in Ghana's heat, we will definitely do it climbing these ladders. We go down for our room, then up one flight to exit the ship, four flights to eat, five to use the computer room, and if we want to go to the big gym we go up from our rooms and then down a ramp. It's quite the workout. And not just for the body but also for the brain because we have to remember how to get to all these places and everything looks the same. But the crew has been exceptionally nice and polite to us, pointing us in the right direction if they see us wander aimlessly.

After all the orientation of the ship and getting settled some of the HOPE team went on a trip around the Sekondi-Takoradi area. The Navy has provided buses for their crew members who are on liberty (or off) to visit various locations in the city. Others, me included, went to dinner at a local plaza. We wanted local Ghanaian fare. It was all really good and of course they give you massive amounts of food for very little cost. Dishes included the famed fufu mentioned in the earlier post, rice, fish, meat, most of it in a red sauce and plantains.

After a nice meal and great conversation we came back to our temporary home and there was a gathering outside, with music and people playing basketball. There is a basketball hoop were the boat is docked. We hung out a little bit and walked down the pier to see a tiny lighthouse at the end of it. It was a nice night for a walk and the great way to end a long day.


1 comment:

  1. So loved reading your blog. I spent Oct. 2007 to Oct 2008 in Accra planting a church and helping establish a home for 36 street children. Your blog brought back so many memories. I look forward to following your trip. I will be going back the last week of May. I can not wait. If interested you can see more of what I have been doing at