Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A woman you should meet


Production Manager, Women in Progress
Miss Lizzy Dawutey is responsible for the production process of all the batikers and seamstresses who work with WIP. Lizzy ensures on-time delivery and quality of product. She also plays a key role in coordinating interaction between volunteers and members of WIP and implementing the development of new clothing lines. Prior to joining WIP, Lizzy worked with both Narh-Bita Hospital and Adansi West District Assembly as a store officer. She earned her HND certificate in purchasing and supply from Koforidua Polytechnic.

Lizzy is the workhorse of the backshop of the Women in Progress organization. She controls products that come in and go out. Lizzy has her own process and we spent a great deal of time with her learning just how things functioned in such a small space with so many hands. She makes sure that every inch of fabric and every garment with the Global Mammas tag is of the utmost quality. With a look to kill that told us the minute that we were moving things out of synch with her well oiled machine and a smile that could make anyone laugh she was patient with us Obrunis as we all worked together to make her job as easy as possible.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The final Chapter!

We have been back for a while and I know you have all been waiting on our final updates but we had to adjust back to life very quickly.

Our last week at Women in Progress was fast and furious! There was so much left to do and such a short time to do it. Our main focus was getting a handle on the inventory there in the Ghana office. There was such more product that was getting lost in the shuffle. Tiffany and I dove in with our sleeves rolled up. We spent two entire days with the women counting everything that looked like it could be sold and throwing out what was waste. At the present time they were merely keeping track of those items that made it to the store front and nothing that was being housed in back. We were up to our eyeballs in babies dresses, saraongs, and other miscellaneous batiked items. We designed more store front displayed to be built to make better use of the space they have. Tiffany was spending the evening working on the database to track their free trade certification, and I was trying to optimize the long lead supplies. Every morning we arrived first and left just in time to make dinner over at Ellies.

Since we realized that we only had a short time left there were things that Tiffany and I wanted to take advantage of before we headed out. Mostly that meant shopping and eating! We had been confined to one tiny bag on our backpacking trip but now we had so much more room to work with for our way home. We were shopping fools our last few days. If you can believe it we made it home without having to buy a second bag for all our goodies.

We spent our last nights with the other volunteer girls. Mostly we just enjoyed Ellie's wonderful Ghanaian dishes over a gin and tonic. Honestly there was very little to report since our days were stacked full of finishing our volunteer projects.

The day arrived for us to head back to Accra to catch our flight. Since it was a late night flight on sunday we had the luxury to take our time. Mid afternoon we hop in Renae's car and make the drive. A leisurely dinner was spent at a place that looked like a warped version on McDonald that served amazing garlic chicken. A drink at the bar down the street and then a quick stop at the Accra apartment to get one last cold shower in before boarding the plane for the long flight. Man there was nothing that was more dreamed about than a hot shower.

Tiff and I got to the airport just in time to stand in line for what seemed like an eternity. Then once we arrived at the gate the agent took our boarding passes and told us to wait to the side. Talk about unnerving. We were clumped together with the other one had any idea what was happening but with our travels we had learned....don't fret...just go with it.

Finally about midnight (an hour late) we board and head off to London. A rather uneventful flight we get to Heathrow just in time for breakfast. Now for any of you who have yet to enjoy a traditional British is nothing to write home about. We walked all the way to the other terminal at 9am to see if the sushi bar was open to no avail. Oh well....egg omlet and baked beans it is. At least we put to good use the 15 british pounds for some reason had been burning a whole in my wallet for three years.

We said our goodbyes at the gate and we each went our seperate ways. A bit battered I arrived to Los Angeles at about 5:30pm. Without a cell phone to contact friends I just hopped on the shuttle bus to get home. The van was rather empty and since I had been so used to not listening to the conversation around me it was most of the ride when I realized that the driver and his friend were speaking in Twi! I asked and replied that the driver was from Kumasi and his friend was from Accra!!! What are the odds. By the end of the drive he was inviting me to dinner at his house and telling me where to get Fufu in LA! What a small world. And I promised to send Tiffany fufu powder once she heard the story.

Since I have been back life has been a blur. Adjusting to the hustle and bustle is always hard after traveling and it seems that this arrival home has hit in full force. School, work, and the unending amount of laundry that seem to be piling up keep me busy. (And you all know about me and laundry!) Everyone here was thankful for the treats I brought home. I even make ground nut soup for the gang on my roommate's birthday (note....use 1/4th the amount of cayanne pepper they call for!!!)

Tiffany and I will be sending out volunteer story to women in progress so they can post it on their website. Keep posted and I will tell you when it is up.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tales of our grand are here!!!

Our adventure began last Saturday morning. We wandered around Cape Coast donning our backpacks trying to track down a cell phone. We are roughing it, but we figured it would be best since we were heading to who knows where with potential to end up trapped in a bush. Cell phones are in abundance here in Ghana but we quickly found out that our new phones from the states can’t be used here. Two hours between the Mobile X store and the Areeba store we were able to get a functioning SIM card (a harder task than we anticipated) and Tiffany convinced Freddy to rent us an old phone for the week at the whopping rate of $5. Victory!

Our next task was finding the correct tro-tro station. Once again, more difficult than you would imagine. We had yet to ride the tro-tro and we didn’t know that there where more than one place to catch them. Yet another hour of lugging our backpacks across Cape Coast we found the ride to Kumasi. A quick lesson in Ghanaian transportation: your standard options consist of taxi, STC bus, or tro-tro. The typical taxi ride is 4-5 passengers, the standard STC bus and tro-tro consists of no less than 5-7 people crammed into a row of seats in with the final seat is folded down leaving no aisle. Personal space is not a consideration. The heat and the four-hour trip to Kumasi was a bit much for your first experience on the tro-tro. We arrived in the late afternoon and decided instead of spending money on a taxi we would walk to our hotel. Note: Kumasi is known for two things. It is the capital of the Ashanti tribe and it is the largest market in all of Ghana. In our wandering not only could we not find the hotel but we also ended up in the middle of the market. Not where you want to be lost! Finally we made our way to the right side of town but the guesthouse was nowhere to be found. Asking for directions landed us in the living room of a Pentecostal preacher’s house. Needless to say we never found out where it was, but were lucky enough to find a room at the Guestline Lodge, which we were happy to see.

The next morning (hmmm I think we are up to Sunday now) we head out to see the few sights we wanted to hit while we were in Kumasi. First was the Ashanti Cultural Center. It was amazing to see how this fully functioning tribe governs the central part of Ghana. On the way back to the tro-tro station we wandered through the market again with a fresh view. To Tiffany and I the most amazing thing was…the chickens. Yep, the chickens amazed us. And not just any chickens. These where chickens traveling in baskets on top of women’s heads, rather content chickens, but big hens nonetheless.

At the tro-tro station we made the decision to go to a local Kente cloth village. Kente cloth is traditional African cloth that I am sure you have all seen. Though amazing to see how this process is done, it felt like a bit of a high school field trip. We are glad we went though. So here are lots of pictures….

From the Kente Village we make our way back Kumasi to catch yet another tro-tro to Nkronza. There we would be spending our Christmas at a place called Operation Hand in Hand. It is a home began by a Dutch doctor for mentally handicapped children. They have six guest huts and we were planning on occupying one for a bit. It was a long journey but we made it a bit road worn and starving.

The place was amazing. Garden-esque and friendly, we quickly settled into our mud hut with the outdoor bathroom. We happily stayed there for two days.

The children were always around and adorable. The focus of Hand in Hand was openly loving so many children who are cast out from the local society. Check out their website, we put a link to it on the sidebar. We celebrated Christmas with them; we had a wonderful meal, drumming, singing, and even a Santa! Ineke’s, the doctor who started it, husband was an American from Chicago and he was enamored with having Americans around since all their volunteers tend to be Dutch. Conversation and laughter was abundant. What a welcome break.

From Nkronza we took a day trip to the monkey sanctuary. It wasn’t terribly fascinating but we got to feed the monkeys. Here there are two types of monkeys who are sacred by the fetish (voodoo) priests and now are under protection. Yep, we saw monkeys….not too much more to say about that, except we did it.

From Hand in Hand we headed north to catch the much-anticipated yam boat. It was a treacherous journey across dirt roads and through bush fires. Just at sundown we arrived to Yeji at the northern tip of the Volta. Yep, just to find out that the yam boat doesn’t run at Christmas. The one thing our guidebook says is that you don’t want to spend the night in Yeji. This is one thing we agree with Phillip (the author) on. We stayed at a “nice” hotel. The Alliance. The hilarity of the evening was the only memorable thing. Tiffany and I decided to pass the time by playing cards under our headlamps drinking Ghanaian beer through a straw (and if you can believe it, we both made it through college never having drank beer through a straw). When heading back to the bar to grab another beer the bartender told us that there were two more Obrunis (white folks) there at the hotel in the room next to ours. We knocked on the door and come to find out it was two Dutch girls (I know the Dutch are everywhere) who where planning on the yam boat too….yep, we weren’t the only nimrods.

Early in the morning (now we are up to Wednesday) we wanted the hell out of Yeji. At 6:30 in the morning we were up and standing on the shore of the Volta willing to pay anyone who would give us a ride across to Makong. Four hours later…we board a giant wooden canoe with an outrigger motor and some other interesting characters for our forty-five minute trip across the Volta. The trip was nice. Wonderful people watching of how these fishing villages wake up.

In Makong we board yet another tro-tro. One the northern side of the Volta we couldn’t think of anything we particularly wanted to see. And the more we traveled the more we agreed. Tiffany was coming down with a horrendous cold and we both worried it could be Malaria so the goal of the day was getting to a major city that would have a health clinic in case the cold turned worse. Two tro-tros and four taxis later we arrive in Nkwanta. The northern part of Ghana is very, very rural. The majority of the villages are basic mud huts and the dynamic was fascinating. With impending sickness though we didn’t hesitated on moving on through. All the roads were unpaved so the orange dust that coated our clothes, our bags, our bodies, and our sinuses was unbelievable. I think that it was the only time in our lives that Tiffany and I looked like we had a tan.

In Nkwanta we stayed the night at the Kilimanjaro hotel. Slept and we were up and out in the morning.

The following morning we head to Wli Falls (pronounced Vlee Falls). We arrived in late afternoon and settled in to the best hotel we had found. That evening Emmanuel, the chef, told us just what we wanted to have. Tiffany had the Omu Tuo (rice balls) and Groundnut soup with Goat. I had Chicken and Jollof rice. It was all amazing. We reveled in the fact that we were comfortable and clean for the first time in days. Emmanuel’s Chicken and Vegetable soup did wonders for Tiffany’s cold which started to break.

The following morning we awoke and headed out to see the falls. The falls are 1200ft tall and we took a hike to the lower falls. Bathing suit on, I decided to brace the cold and head on it. Yea…it was cold. But I can say that I went in. The falls were beautiful and Tiffany got a great picture of the driver ants she has been obsessively looking for since we have been here (you can thank the National Geographic channel for this hysteria).

The afternoon was spent lazing around and enjoying a couch on the porch of the hotel. We met a guy from Austria and chatted with him for a while. That evening local children came to the hotel for traditional dancing. The children where amazing to watch. The even dragged all of us up there to try and teach us how to dance. By the way, we are pretty terrible and one of the schoolteachers just kept pushing me and yelling “Just watch! Do it like her! See, do it like this!” Tiffany and I are no match for the outburst of groove that came from the Austrian which sent us all into hysterics.

After two nights at the Water Heights hotel we set out to visit the city of Kpandu (pronounced Pan-do) for the sole reason that there were two ridiculous sounding tourist attractions that we figured we needed to see since we were in the area. Both were Grottos to the Virgin Mary. Let the pictures explain for themselves. The evening was spent at Catherine’s Lodge. No we didn’t meet Catherine, but we did meet the VERY creepy owner who was a 65 year old man…let’s just say he likes coconuts…big coconuts. We left as early the next morning as we could.

From Kpandu we were headed to Biakpa to meet up with the other volunteers for New Year’s Eve. We were going to stay at the Mountain Paradise Lodge. In the book it says that there is no transportation to the lodge and the walk is 45 minutes. Since we had been trucking all over Ghana with just our flip-flops and our backpacks we thought we could brave the hike without chartering a taxi. HA!

A common phrase on this trip was “Fudge Phillip!” for his, many times, warped sense of distance and time. This was not a simple 45-minute walk. It was 4km straight up the mountain. And we were making the trip at noon without a bag of water to our name. There wasn’t a whole lot of chitchat on our hike. But there was a good bit of sweating and complaining.

An hour and a half later, we arrive at the lodge worn out and thirsty. We nap until the other girls get back from their day excursions. That evening we all sat around drinking the gin we had brought (yep, on top of the other stuff in our bag we were instructed to bring two bottles of gin…), playing cards, and a traditional African marble game. After dinner and quite a few gin and tonics the local villagers came up and did traditional dancing around a giant bonfire all evening. Since all us girls hadn’t seen each other in a week it gave us time to catch up and reflect on the New Year. Not one of us made it to midnight though. Sorry, but we were thinking about you all.

The next day Tiffany, Nicole (a new volunteer) and I decide to head back to Cape Coast. It was four hours to Accra and then three hours to Cape Coast. It was going to be a long day, but possible. We got a ride down the mountain (determined not to make that walk again even if it was downhill this time) and catch the first tro-tro we see heading to Accra. The three of us pile in. We made it about an hour when the tro-tro breaks down. Not an uncommon occurrence which Tiffany and I were lucky enough to avoid up to this point. We sit outside the tro-tro and munch on boiled peanuts. Yes all you folks heard me right. Here they have boiled peanuts! I was a happy girl. Well, that was until the tro-tro started driving off…in reverse. We all look at each other in astonishment that our tro-tro, our stuff, and our money were gone. In reverse!

It took about two minutes before total panic set in and we all started walking up to find the tro-tro a ways up the street. We found it, still in disrepair though. At this point we began talking to the driver about getting our money back so we could hail another tro-tro. Our funds were running short so just cutting our losses wasn’t an option. Finally he yells that the bus is fixed so we climb back in. We make it oh…about three miles. Then we pull over again, the bus fills with smoke and water is pouring from the bottom of the van. Tiffany and I climb out through the window and Nicole pushes her way out the door. We broke down right next to a police checkpoint so we all storm over to a cop and tell our story. After about fifteen minutes the driver gives us half our fare back and we sit down on a roadside bench with no idea how we were getting back to the city. Most of the Tro-tros that would pass would be full on their way to Accra. The Police Officer came over and asked if were would be interested in traveling in private car. We all quickly agree. A Canadian Obruni comes over and says that his truck is full but we could ride in the back. It would not be a problem. Amongst their luggage and ours we were packed in tight for the delightful ride back. They stopped for lunch at Aylos Bay (where the other volunteers spent Christmas by chance) and the three of us had kebabs and beer while they leisurely lunched and swam in the river. They then gave us a ride all the way back to Women in Progress apartment in Accra. There was no way we would be able to make it to Cape Coast that night. We enjoyed a dinner of tuna and crackers and watched a terrible Pierce Brosnan movie (we were just tickled to see a TV) before a hard night sleep.

Early in the morning we jumped up and hailed a taxi to the Accra tro-tro station for an uneventful trip back to Cape Coast.

After the journey we collapsed in our beds happy to be in familiar territory after what felt like ages. We apologize that this write up didn’t come sooner but you have to admit that it was a long tale, and you don’t even know the half of it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Pure Exhaustion

We have arrived back at Cape Coast dirty, battered, and plain tuckered out after a whirlwind week traveling all of Ghana. We will post tomorrow about our exploits. In the mean time we have a great deal of work to catch on as our trip is drawing to a close very quickly. We hope you had a wonderful Holiday and New year!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Fury on Shipment Day!

The morning started out quiet then all hell broke loose! To send out shipments here everything must be brought certain days and certain times to the customs officer at the Accra airport. We were recruited by Renae and Elisha to separate scraps. Each time a garment is made the scraps are returned to the shop and the scraps are separated into different sizes to either be made into different crafts or to be sold in the states as quilter's fabric. And when we are talking scraps we mean ALOT! Speaking of, if anyone wants quilters scraps drop us an email and we can bring some back. BTW our email is Once the scraps were bundled into 5lb bags they were added into the shipment. All the bags were loaded up in a hurry and taken out to Renae's car. All of these bags were being crammed, mashed, and strapped into the truck while street traffic and bystanders looked on in confusion. Young Ghanaian men offered to help but talk about girl power….we had it all loaded in minutes. Once Renae and Elisha were off, the office came back and sat around in exhaustion. Tiffany is feverously planning our grand Ghanaian tour. Since the office is closed next week for the holidays we are planning on doing our traveling then and spend our last week working here. That also means that we will be incommunicado for the next week.
So the plan? First you must know that things in Ghana operate on a different schedule. The schedule is always up for change. “Yes, the bus is supposed to leave at noon, but for today, and today only, we decided as a surprise it will leave at 3. And tomorrow we decided it won’t run at all.” So all plans are tentative until actually executed and even then if there is an unforeseen circumstance such as a breakdown or just a detour so the driver can buy some bananas, it can change. We will be leaving Cape Coast tomorrow. Leaving on the first tro-tro (a minibus that they use as public transportation) we will be heading to Kumasi. This is the heart of the Ashanti tribe region and we are currently unsure of what trouble we can find there but that is typically not a problem, it tends to find us. After Kumasi we will head north to Techiman and Nkoranza to see the Baobeng-Fiena Monkey Sanctuary and stay the night at Operation Hand in Hand which is a community-based project for mentally handicapped children run by a Dutch doctor. They have a small guest house there which consists of round huts with running water and a bed. From there we will continue northeast to Yeji. Now this is where the trip starts to get REALLY interesting. From what we know there are little to no accommodations or things to see in Yeji so hopefully we don’t arrive too early. The goal is to catch the yam boat (a large barge that runs the length of the Volta river carrying yams from the northern region to the south) that makes its way once a week. The boat arrives about midnight and then ships out again at 3am on Wednesday morning (once again all timetables are merely a suggestion). Passengers sleep, eat, and live on the boat deck for the length of its journey. Instead of traveling the entire Volta, we will be getting off at one of the few stops - Kete Krachi. There isn’t much published about this trip and of what is published, nothing mentions being able to get off at Kete Krachi. Taking the entire trip will end you in Akosombo and takes approximately 36 hours. So here is what we do know. You find a spot on the deck where ever you can. People are hospitable the accommodations however, are anything but luxurious. Ghanaian people are very friendly and enjoy good company so I am sure it will be a fun party. There is a stop in Kete Krachi but there is the chance there will be some swimming involved! Well, we signed up for an adventure and this assuredly is!

From Kete Krachi our accommodations and transportation are questionable but we will find a way to Bimbilla and head down the east side of the Volta. On the eastern side we know we want to visit Wli Falls which are supposed to be amazing. Then south to Hohoe (how very merry of them) to hopefully meet up with our fellow volunteers to celebrate the New Year! Circling back to Accra, we have the choice to take a flight back to the northern region and see Mole National Park for a safari or return to Cape Coast war torn and battered.

It goes without saying that we will not have access to internet to update our blog during this time. That will have to come after the holidays. We both wish you the best and have a happy New Year!

Today was a VERY slow day around the office. Our network and internet were on the fritz and the women were busy trying to assemble a shipment. More than anything, we all just sat around and chatted. Some of the girls went Batiking this morning and we all stare blankly at our screens until the “no connection” screen comes up. Batiking is the type of fabric dying that they sell at the Global Mamas shop. Using wax to stamp in a design they will dye the fabric, rinse out the wax, stamp again and then dye in a different color. I am sequestered to Microsoft word because nothing else is working. The moving of the furniture has been put off until the shipment is done as to not hamper production. Not to mention we still can’t decide how we want to arrange everything. Environmental considerations have us constrained i.e. the roof leaks with the slightest rain…and it leaks all around the perimeter. So there is considerably more space in the back shop than we can use. Dinner was at Ellie’s again and tonight us newbies were to try fufu which is a local dish made of Cassava and Plantain. It has the consistency of raw bread dough. Eating it is amusing because you pour your stew on top and then scoop it all out with your hands. Tiffany has a stronger stomach than I. Now it doesn’t taste bad, actually it doesn’t taste like much but the texture was a bit more than I could handle. But you have to try everything once. Exhausted at the end of the day we crawled into bed tired and ready for a good night’s sleep. Note: I promise I am in some of the pictures...It just so happens the ones of Tiffany came out better. By her decree I must be in more of the blog pics of Amanda to come.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's in the bag...

Note: Everything is in a bag here. Your water is in a bag, your coffee is in a bag, your porridge is in a bag. Kind of strange but you quickly get used to drinking all liquids out of the little chewed corner of the baggy. Will keep you posted on other liquidous edible items I see in a bag.

Different day, same clothes...

Note, we each brought three outfits so don't think you are having deja vu.

Work Work Work...

So the work week began for us on Monday. Tiffany and I have hit the ground running. Our first task was to work with Serpil, who is a fellow engineer, to design an access database to track each business's improvement and also their Free Trade certification. Three engineers and one piece of butcher paper can spawn a few heated discussions but by lunch we had the entire system diagramed out. Then after lunch we were given our task....much more daunting. We are to reorganize the shop - "Lean" out the process. Currently in-shop inventory is a disaster and their inventory tracking system needs rework. Unfortunately, to get to that point it meant a good bit of cleaning. Tiffany is the master of the garbage bag and the phrase, "Just throw it out", and I am quitely in the corner building some drawer dividers so that supplies stay organized. The Ghanaian ladies are not happy at all that we are moving things but by the end of our time here I am sure they will like it. I have to get back to work but here are some before pics of the backshop.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Arrived just in time for the weekend!

We have had a super busy weekend and absolutely no time to write. It seems that we arrived just in time for the weekend. It was great for being a tourist, but terrible that we had to wait to start work on our volunteer project.

We arrived to Ghana on Thursday late in the evening so we stayed the night at the women in progress flat in Accra. It was nice to have a wonderful cold shower and a bed to sleep in after 16+ hours of flight. Renae, the head of women in progress here, picked us up in Ghana, so we were happy to see a friendly face.

On Friday we set out early for breakfast at the “Sunshine Café” in Accra. A wonderful breakfast of eggs we were both happy for. After breakfast we were on a mission to see about Renae’s car, which was in for service. The mechanic never showed up so we decided to go to a local hotel to hang out while our driver was off running some errands. It gave us some time to enjoy the air conditioning, as we were not accustomed to the heat yet. Our driver returned for us and we were off to Cape Coast.

It was a harrowing drive, like most developing countries. The wonderful part is that the street vendors are a common part of life and a necessity for your grocery shopping. Women with enormous baskets of fruit or water balanced on their heads would come to the car. We tried mango, FanIce (ice cream), and some peanut butter cookie thing all from the comfort of traffic congestion. Three hours later we arrive at the Global Mama’s store in Cape Coast to a busy work environment trying to get the U.S. wholesale catalog out by the end of the weekend. Tiffany and I were in a dazed state from all the travel but one of the other volunteers, Serpil, offered to take us to the market to find food for the weekend since the cook wouldn’t be around. Maybe the FanIce didn’t sit really well with the bumpy road but it seems that the market was not a good place for us on our first day. There is a lovely food item here in Ghana called Stinking Fish. Yep, you guessed it….it stinks! It is some sort of smoked fish that they use to flavor the food. There is no way to describe the smell though. Needless to say the shopping trip didn’t last long. Tiffany bought a mango. We headed back to the volunteer house.

Dinner was at Ellie’s, the cook for the volunteers. We had a great vegetarian curry so I was happy. There are about 8 volunteers here right now, though some are leaving as we speak.

Saturday morning we meandered around the house and then rallied a group to head over to Elmina Castle. There was Tiffany, Serpil, Elisha, and I. Since we had all skipped breakfast we started the day with lunch at the “Castle Café”. Since it was hot out we decided to eat on the rooftop patio. Serpil, who’s parents live in the Netherlands began chatting it up with a couple next to us who was from her town. Next thing we know hoards of Ghanaians in traditional dress begin to filter in and we end up sitting in the middle of a wedding reception. Feeling extremely out of place, we ask the mother of the bride if we should move downstairs and she emphatically said no. We became part of the entertainment. They all looked amazing and we were sitting at the front next to the elders. We were all grinning at the sight of twin toddler boys when the mother comes over with them. She picks one up and asks Serpil if she is married (we have learned to always say we are…) and she replies, yes. Then she thrusts one of the boys into Serpil’s arms and exclaims, “Then take one!”, and the child began to cry. We all die laughing.

After lunch we head into the castle for a tour. The Elmina Castle was the main African trading post. It was an emotional and shocking tour that is difficult to explain if you can’t see the enormity of the operation.

After the tour we were all exhausted so we headed back to the volunteer house to clean up before dinner. Since it is some girl’s last week in town we all headed to the local resort, Coconut Grove, for dinner. It was beautiful and oceanfront. We ate outside under a grass-covered awning. We feasted on lobster and red snapper.

On Sunday Tiffany and I awoke early and got a start towards Kakum National Park. It was about an hour taxi ride to the park office. We paid our cedis and waited for a tour group to form so that we could venture across the canopy bridge. The venture up proved that us lazy Americans are out of shape, but at least the others in our tour group from Ivory Coast were just as winded as us. The bridge was amazing! It is 120ft in the air and 1050ft long suspended between seven trees. I am not scared of heights but this really threw me. Tiffany went racing across. I got halfway across the first bridge and, wow, vertigo set in. I made it to the first tree and to take a breather. Tiffany thought it was the funniest thing…yea, poo on her. The view was amazing up in the rainforest canopy, but my eyes were on the next tree. J After the bridge Tiffany and I decided to take the nature tour where the guide told us of all the medicinal purposes of the plants in the forest. Hey, did you know that mahogany bark is a natural viagra? Yea, me neither. Prince, our guide, told us to never take it alone. Make sure your partner takes it too or you will likely kill them. We saw Rocket trees, ebony, and amazing termite built structures.

After the tour we start walking down the road to eat lunch at the Hans Cottage Botel. There we meet up with a Ghanaian and a Londoner who we had an amazing lunch with discussing everything from politics to local culture. Hans Cottage is an interesting place that is actually awnings built on stilts over a crocodile pond. There sure were friendly crocs, they wandered right up to us. We didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt and kept our distance though.

Lunch ended and we decided to hit up the Sunday market in Cape Coast. This was the clothes shopping day and was even more chaotic than our first trip there. We didn’t find much, but I bought a skirt to get me through the week. Exhausted and sweaty we headed back to the volunteer house for some R&R.

A nap in front of the fan and then we headed back to Ellie’s for a dinner of egg stew and boiled plantains. After a long day, an early bedtime was needed.

Today is Monday and our first real day of work. Our first assignment was working with Serpil who is a fellow engineer on creating a database to track each business’s progress and prepare them for Fair Trade Organization certification. Three engineers trying to build a database together can get hairy but after a whole morning’s work we finally have the structure mapped out. Serpil has some errands to run in town and Renae wants us to look at the supply chain management so we will start plugging it all into MS Access tomorrow.

We are having a fantastic time and adapting well. More to come soon!