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This Must Be the Place

Vacation has come to an end.  Whereas most vacations I can think of tend to suspend reality until I return, visiting Ghana was not only restful but also informative.  After spending about ten months in rural Burkina, it can be so easy to assume that what I experience is the experience everywhere—what I live is Africa.  Although other countries do rest around me and I do know of their different situations politically, economically, and socially, without visiting and seeing them with my own eyes, those factors can become nothing more than white noise.

Once we crossed over the border into Ghana, I noticed a few things shift drastically:  there were immediately more police checkpoints and political posters/signs.  In addition, the house construction changed.  Where on the Burkina side, it was the typical mud brick house with a slanted corrugated metal roof, on the Ghana side, the houses were painted cement with (and I don’t know why I picked up on this so strongly) gabled and more complex roofs.  Also I found infinitely more mosquito screens on windows, which reflects more of a cultural preference than anything else since they’re not expensive.

Simply put, Kumasi was a culture shock.  As a city of about one million people, it’s bustling and chaotic.  There was car traffic and there were numerous multi-storey buildings.  That might sound absurd that those two things were so overwhelming but believe me, they were.  I distinctly remember going out to eat with some Ghana PCT’s and noting that people were looking down from above on their balconies.  I remember that being an odd feeling.

Cape Coast was an incredible place.  We stayed near the castle at a beach “resort” that was slightly seedy but a great party spot and fun place to unwind.  The highlight of Cape Coast was obviously the castle.  I don’t really have it in me to describe that place for I just can’t find the words that would do justice to my feelings.  However, I will say that it was one of the most important experiences of my life.

The bulk of our vacation was spent at the southernmost tip of Ghana and basically the second most southern point in all of West Africa.  While there, I didn’t realize how close we were to the equator.  The fact that it cuts through the DRC makes it seem worlds away yet we were only a few hundred miles north.  Perhaps the stifling humidity and incessant sweating were clues.  Anyway, I did nothing but recline on the beach, play in the waves, eat, drink, and play ping-pong.  That was the goal, after all.  Mission accomplished.

After two days in Accra staying with Sam’s friend from college, I’m back in Burkina and ready to head back to site tomorrow morning.  Vacations can do a lot for you mentally; they can be refreshing or damaging.  However, the greatest gift from this trip was not all the amazing sights and foods and relaxation and partying.  The greatest gift was sitting on that bus heading back to Ouaga and actually looking forward to getting back to site and back to work.  What that says to me is that in the face of infinitely more comforts, I know where my life is centered and that I wouldn’t want it to be anywhere else.  How could I honestly ask for more?

So with that, I now have all my tree seeds and hopefully by the end of this week our nursery will have about 2500 trees growing.  Fingers Crossed, obviously.  And lastly, I have uploaded my photos from Ghana so take a look.  I don’t have any pictures from Kumasi or Accra, though.  I don’t know why, I guess I just didn’t feel like taking pictures while there.  Anyway, enjoy!


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Jason Tsichlis

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April 2012