My first week in Ghana was both one of the longest and best weeks I have had. It was like embarking on a new adventure while starting university all over again, all at the same time. I can also say with certainty that it was a very productive week. I am far more comfortable now with using the Trotro’s (public transit system) in most (maybe only some) parts of Accra and making my way around the campus without a map in hand. I have also applied for and received my Non Identification Authority Card, and am waiting on my permanent residency card. I have enrolled in courses which meet my program requirements and am eager for the start of classes on Monday August 19th, so that I may see if they suit. Over this last week I have become more familiar with my UG Global Group colleges and know more and more of them by name, day by day, as well as the IPO (International Programs Office) Staff. This is very important as they really have become my family away from home. We look out for each other, check in with one another, and role with the everyday twists which make life here so very exciting. I can honestly say each day has been an adventure and here are some highlights.
I am loving my new home. Sunday one of the university IPO staff, Paa Kwesi, invited my roommate Keith and I to join him at his church called the Light House. It is a part of the African Mega Church denomination and resides in Madina, a neighbouring city to Legon (which is the city home to UOG). It is in Legon where you find the highest rooftop in Ghana, the Accra Mall, the Library Pub, and many other gems. Anyways, back to church, it was awesome! The worship was contemporary in style, woven with solid theology, and topped off with the incorporation of dance praise into the mix. It was such an opportunity to connect with Christ in a different style. Thankfully we were only twenty minutes late and certainly not the last group to arrive. This was primarily due to the fact that our commute to church was 1 hour: consisting of two Trotro rides, on two lines and a twenty minute walk. As many of you can likely imagine, I arrived in somewhat of a lather… I was sweating pretty good. Between the formal clothes, the heat/humidity and being in tight spaces with others and no breeze in sight, I am sure I appeared upon arrival to have just recently had a shower. Regardless of the impact on my appearance, the journey was an experience in of itself.
After making it back to campus, we were introduced to a new arrival named Claire, who recently arrived from France. She needed help in finding things like a Ghanaian SIM card, a bank to exchange currency into Cedis, along with some other errands… and so Keith and I offered to quickly change and take her. We needed to help her, wanted to help, but also could use the practice of using the Trotro system. This was our first journey without a Ghanaian native and I’d say it was a success. We got to the mall after a slight detail, but that is all that matters right?! It definitely has a different feel to it when you’re leading instead of following. Thankfully I had a patient crew and we even had time for some street food, yummy delicious.
Monday brought me to day four in Ghana… I could not believe that Tuesday would mark my first week in my new home. Wow! Anyways, the week began with a tour of our campus which is by far the largest campus I have seen. With campus being the greenest part of Accra, it makes for the campus to be full of mighty trees and signing birds. Even the Balme Library surprised me in its size and extensive collection of reading materials. Some of the books in their reserved section are the only one of their kind and written by Ghanaian authors, even during the Colonial times of the Gold Coast. The trend of familiarizing myself continued into Tuesday and Wednesday as we had student orientation. This was very helpful as they went over the basics of Ghanaian culture, food, language, and opportunities on/off campus. I took away key tips like only using my right hand to eat and greet people (as the left hand is seen as a sign of disrespect), knowing that my Ghanaian name is Yaow (because I was a Thursday born), and how to address elders, those in authority and lecturers. Fun fact, Professor is a higher title than Doctor at the University of Ghana, because almost all the lecturers are doctors but you are only a professor when you become a published academic. Anyways, just some of the many things I learned from those days of “cultural” campus and Ghanaian orientation. This left the best parts of the week to Thursday and Friday. Thursday consisted of registering for courses and applying for our NIA (Non-Identification Authority) Identification Card. For the course registration, they have a system a little different to that which I am used to. Each lecture is posted on a bulletin board outside the department facilitating that class. As students we had to walk throughout the campus to find our boards and record the classes we hoped to register for, without even knowing if we could. Then we had to confirm our program and that we paid so we could register online. This whole process took about a day of moving back and forth, back and forth. Once I finally figured it out along with most of the other students who had been there all day, we made our way to the NIA office. This turned out to be a continuum of the adventure. With only a handful of people trying to process sixteen or so students, not to mention everyone else there, we began to play cards and just relax… this was a huge step in our acclimatization to Ghanaian time. We continued to play, laugh, and talk until the office closed. So, no big deal, we would come tomorrow. We went tomorrow and after three hours of moving from line to line, and officer to officer I got my card and could mark the week that just past as a success. Oh, I forgot to mention. Earlier that week during a bargaining drill in the Medina market, I was able to find a chain that would suit my orthodox Cross quite nicely. So, I paid seven Cedis, when the seller wanted fifteen. I would describe this moment as the cherry on-top, to what was an extremely long and informative, yet very fun and rewarding all at the same time.
This entry brings me up to Friday August 16th, 2019, with a promise of more to follow within the coming days. I know there are no excuses, but these weeks have been so busy that between our programing, discovering a new way of life, and getting time in for the gym I have not had much free time- even though I have so much to share. So, stay tuned!