Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Nothing like a nice little (or not so little, whichever the case may be) bulleted list to cover a lot of territory quickly, right? :-)

· Using language like “more or less modern” to compare Ghana and Kenya to America is not really the appropriate way to describe the differences between life there and here. To that end, though, I think I’ve found the cities I’ve visited in South America to feel more Western, more similar to home, than the cities I’ve visited thus far in Africa. That’s probably partly because, as I recall, there were more Western companies represented among the businesses in South America: from gas stations to fast food joints to other things.

· English may be a primary language in Ghana and Kenya but it doesn’t get you as far as you would think. Both places have still felt much like being in non-English speaking countries. In Ghana all the signs and billboards were in English, for example, but if you go into a store and try to ask how much a phone card costs, it could take a while to work through the language difficulties to get an answer. Most of the Ghanaian church services we were part of were translated between English and Twi. In this part of Kenya, most people don’t really speak Swahili even. Instead, their language is Kipsigese. I really enjoy learning languages and normally I would be picking up words by now, but I’m traveling through so many different languages on this trip and for such a short time in each one, that I’m leaning toward accepting that it’s not a great investment of limited time and energy.

· So far the food has been great everywhere! I’m eating better than I eat at home! :-)

· The clothing in Ghana was beautiful. I get the impression that Nigeria is one of the hubs of fashion in West Africa, and Ghanaian clothing reflects that. There were tailor/seamstress shops set up all around Accra, and many people have their clothing hand-made for them, made according to their measurements. I’m sitting here typing in one of the skirts made for me in Ghana (the skirt from the outfit Sintimaa had made for me for the wedding). As Goldilocks said of Baby Bear’s porridge, “It’s just right!.” (I hope I got that quote right. It’s been a while since anyone told me that story! J) From what I’ve seen so far, clothing here in Kenya doesn’t live up to the same fashion standards. But, there’s always a chance that’s because I’m in more rural Kenya. We’ll see what things look like when I get back to Nairobi in a couple weeks.

· People in Ghana carried EVERYTHING on their heads. I loved it. It’s just plain cool, practical and seriously impressive. Those Ghanaians inspired me to set the goal of learning to carry something substantive on my head by the time I leave Africa (I joked that that “something substantive” was going to be carrying my luggage on my head into the airport, but I knew all along that was a tiny bit too optimistic. But, hey, why not set the goal high?). I was expecting to be able to get lots of practice and instruction during the rest of my trip, but so far I think I’ve seen one person here around Tenwek carrying something on his head. I’m quite disappointed because I wanted to create a whole photo gallery/photo essay of people carrying things on their heads. If I’d known I might not get more photo opps, I’d have made those photos more of a priority in Ghana.

· Also, in Ghana one never sees strollers. All babies—in the city and in the villages—were carried on women’s backs with cloths wrapped around them, holding them on. If you saw a woman approaching you, you could guess the age of the baby on her back by checking the size of the feet and legs poking out around her waist. I wondered how they got the children on their backs and finally observed a few women just leaning over with the child laying back there while the woman wrapped the cloth around. With children older than infants, you could tell they knew exactly what to do and they just laid there and held on while they were secured to the woman’s back. Observing all of this led me to create a second goal of carrying something on my head WHILE carrying a baby on my back. That’s what all the Ghanaian women do, and I never saw them lose anything from their head or from their back. Women here in rural Kenya don’t use strollers either, but they appear to carry their babies differently, in more of a sling that can be shifted to their back or to their front. Plus, it’s been cold here so most of the babies on their mothers’ backs are covered up by blankets.

· Cape Coast, Ghana is one of the beautiful places of the world. And its natural beauty is enhanced by the fact that its coastline isn’t developed. There aren’t any awful neon signs to disrupt the beauty of water meeting land. By all appearances, people in the area make their living along the ocean—primarily by fishing—as they’ve been doing for a long time. They walk along the beach daily on their way from here to there. I wonder if they’ve gotten used to the beauty of their home or if they just pass on by every day without really stopping to soak it all in again.

· The Rift Valley of Kenya is another beautiful place, though an entirely different kind of beautiful than Cape Coast. Maybe I just like places that aren’t highly developed. On the drive from Nairobi to Tenwek, I dozed a little, but fortunately I opened my eyes as we were descending from the heights down to enter the Rift Valley. The sight was amazing. So beautiful.

· The parts of Ghana I saw and the part of Kenya I’ve seen so far are both very green but in different ways. Ghana’s green seemed more lush, perhaps more jungle-y, whereas Kenya’s green feels scrubbier and perhaps more forest-y. Think extravagant green versus practical, everyday green. Ghana’s green makes me think of vacation and of relaxing. Kenya’s green reminds me more of home.

· Because of all that green, I still have allergy challenges here in Africa. For some reason I was expecting that I might not be allergic to the African flora and fauna, unlike their American counterparts. No such luck.

· Men in Ghana aren’t afraid to wear pink. Or flowers. American boys, can you step up to the plate?

· Dancing is a way of life in Ghana. It appears to be a deeply ingrained part of the culture that had its origins in village life. In the Ghanaian churches I visited, engaging one’s whole body in worship was a given, mostly a refreshing given to observe.

· We take paved roads for granted. The vast majority of the roads most of us drive on every day in America are paved or at least graveled. That makes a huge difference in keeping everything else cleaner: homes, floors, people, roadsides, fences, walls, everything. I’ve been amazed at how clean buildings and people and floors are in both Ghana and Kenya, in spite of the dirt from the roads. It seems that many of the pictures I see of Third World countries make everything appear so dirty and dusty. I contend that the dirt roads are most of the reason for that. It’s amazing how essential infrastructure like good roads is to changing (improving?) the speed and ease of life in a place.

· Lastly, the two things I semi-jokingly predicted before my trip would bother me most while I was in Africa are these: bugs and bad showers. As my trip approached, I added a third thing, a surprising one, to the list: being cold. So far only 1 out of 3 of these fears has been realized. I’ve hardly seen any bugs at all and almost none indoors. (I have seen some cute lizards, though.) I had WAY more than that in my house In Nashville. The showers have been fine, not stellar but fine. However, I have been cold. Still, I’ve gotten off easy so far on all of those things.


Anonymous said...

We have really been enjoying reading your blog entries. Love, Mom and Dad

Anonymous said...

Hi Kami -

I've been checking in with your adventure. Keeping you in our prayers as well. Thanks for the updates!

Sarah Farley

PS - "Amen" on the paved roads... and I would have to add toilet paper to that thought.

S Mosley said...

hey kami! first time that i've been able to get on your site since little William was born. i enjoyed reading over some of the posts. sounds like you're having a smashing time (trying to remember some of my British English phrases that I picked up while in Egypt to make you feel more @ home! i'm sure you're getting some British English where you are!). I pray for you every time I see your card on our fridge. Thanks for taking time to make those...helps me remember to lift you up! we miss you @ Grace! can't wait to have you back and hear your first hand account.

it's been unseasonably HOT here...like 100+ every day. so, you're NOT missing much here @ all...so don't be homesick...you're in a much cooler place (and i don't mean weather wise!!!).

much love to you,
Suzanne Mosley (for Jamie, John Martin & William, too!)