Monday, 14 April 2014

House Party - Bringing People Together

Bringing People Together – In Cape Coast, Ghana

We, the Suttons hosted a house party on Wednesday evening and about 60 people came and enjoyed themselves.  Bizmak and Mary couldn’t believe we knew so many people already.  Most of the people invited were able to come, which was great!!  Not all of the pictures are of great quality, but the memories are wonderful!  We are glad to be able to welcome people to our home and thank them for their hospitality and assistance as we settled into Cape Coast, Ghana.

History Department :)
History Department Graduate Students
More History Department

Fellow U.S. Fulbright Scholars!  Joe lives near Los Angeles, California and Sylvia lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Our girls - Janelle breezing past the camera in the kitchen, and Kathleen and Janelle playing card games with other kids.

The picture above does not do justice to these lovely ladies. Ivy, on the left creates beautiful, dress-code-appropriate hairstyles each week for Janelle and Jane, on the right, styles Kathleen's hair from time to time.

Majesty in the photo with me at the above left operates a convenience shop with his mom in the same building as the hairdressers.  We get snacks there and order our yogurt and chocolate milk by the case.

We served chicken cooked by Sasakawa House Guest House – where we ate A LOT before we moved to our house.  A friend’s house helper makes an awesome jollof (Ghanaian rice with hot peppers and other seasonings and she adds vegetables), so I hired her to make that.  I made macaroni salad with some cut up veggies in it.  A friend found Pillsbury brownie mix in Accra, so I made five boxes.  We had just enough left over for Janelle to take to school to share with her friends.  Tom cut up mango and pineapple.  A few people found out Tom cut up the fruit, and they were truly shocked.  It’s fascinating how just doing your own thing can make for interesting cross cultural conversation.  The bottom right corner isn't the most flattering of these two. Hannah is 13, from California, living here for the whole school year with her younger brother, mom and dad, while her dad conducts research for his sabbatical assignment.  You may recognize the man on the right of the table - this is Bizmark.

This is Cecilia.  She lives nearby and is studying to be a caterer.  She makes the best kelewele I've had, so I hired her to cook it during the party.  A great hit with all of the guests, 
Kelewele is bite sized plantains fried with a mixture of hot peppers, onions, and ginger. 

Neighbors and staff members from the guest house where we lived for 2 months.  

Julia is a neighbor with a very cool story.  Originally from Toronto, Canada with Jamaican roots, Julia studied and practiced law in London, England.  She married a handsome, super smart Ghanaian man named Harold.  When he got his medical license and PhD, he wanted to return to Ghana to be part of the effort to improve conditions in his homeland. Love takes us many places.  Julia is a lecturer helping to create a new law school at UCC.  They have a darling 18 month old son named Marcel who attended our party as well.

Julia and I enjoy lunch together once in a while, and she brought the brownie mix for me from a grocery store in Accra.

Tom is posing with the head of the history department, Dr. Kwame Osei Kwartung, and the teaching assistant, Victor Angbah, who helps Tom find classroom space, supervise quizzes, etc
 At the far left is Mama Cecelia who introduced us to Bizmark - our awesome, driver, helper, and friend.  Next to her is Dr. Emanuel Henaku, who treated us during our various illnesses.  Next to him is his wife, Dorcas, and at the far right is Mama Cecelia's daughter.

There were kids ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years.  Janelle helped some of the younger kids draw pictures.  A group of pre-teens and teens plowed through our “Would You Rather” cards and cracked each other up.  The favorite dilemma seemed to be “Would you rather have helium boogers or helium poop?” The pictures above include 3 of Janelle's schoolmates and some neighbors.

These are 4 of my favorite scenes during the party.  People meeting each other and chatting.  I think Tom looks quite handsome in his newest African shirt.   Kathleen is chatting with Tom's Teaching Assistant, who has forgotten how young she is :)

Travis, at the left, is a professor in California who, like Tom, brought his family to Ghana for his sabbatical.  He is based in the economics department and conducts market research on public health and family planning issues. His wife, Heather, is in the background.  She is currently home-schooling their 2 children, Hannah (13), and Rockwell (10).  Mary is in the center.  Mary is the history professor at UCC who came to Baldwin Wallace 3 years ago for her Fulbright Scholarship and started the academic relationship that brought us to Ghana this year.  

This is most of Bizmark's family. Okreia, his wife, is smiling at the far right, despite the fact that she is very tired and waiting for her husband to return from dropping another guest. She sold us our fabric for our kabas and slits.  At the left is his oldest son, Dennis, who will attend UCC next year.  Emanuela is the youngest and Ester is in between them (but sitting next to her mother).  Grace could not make it to the party.

The party was from 4-8 pm.  The first folks arrived by 4:30 and the last folks left before 9:00.  Most people knew at least one other person, and I think everyone was introduced to someone they didn’t know before they came to our house.  

Good night from the Mama in Ghana and the rest of the Sutton family.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

School and Kakum National Forest

I did it!  I got pictures of both girls in their school uniforms, and they are both smiling at the same time!!!!!!!

OK, Mom: That's Enough!


Welcome to Brenu Beach!  

Good food at reasonable prices in a breezy, beautiful setting!

The Fante title for chief is "Nana"  The man seated at the table is a local chief of a village near Elmina.  His wife is next to him.  They live in Accra most of the time.  She teaches textiles and clothing at the University of Ghana; Legon, in Accra.  He is in real estate.  The man standing with our family is from Cleveland, Ohio and was named a co-chief (probably not the exact terminology).  Tom and David have a mutual colleague and David introduced all of us to Nana and his wife.  We spent a delightful afternoon chatting about life in Ghana; how Nana and David met; and the story of David becoming a chief and building a house in Ghana.  David still lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio.

Welcome to Kakum National Forest Park!

The canopy walkway and the nature trails of Kakum are considered a must-see on the tourist list.  We have been trying to go since January.  Kathleen and I did the nature walk in February.  We agreed Janelle wouldn't be too into it given the bugs and possibility of allergies acting up.  Tom and I were the only two who wanted to take the canopy walk: a series of 7 rope bridges suspended above the forest (a simpler system than zip-lining).

They sell T-shirts in the gift shop that say "I Survived the Canopy Walkway at Kakum." I thought this was a cute gimmick.  Well, there are definitely some bragging rights that come from finishing the canopy walk.  There is an option to quit after the first bridge and about half of the group we were with took this option.

 This is the view!  We had a few phrases from Shrek and George of the Jungle running through our heads.  "Don't Look Down, Donkey!" "Shrek, I'm looking down!!!!"  "Are you sure this is safe?"  Once I got used to the shaking of the bridge (it really is all ropes with planking to help with walking), it was enjoyable - not too strenuous, and certainly very beautiful.

The 7 bridges are actually in an oval shape along a small portion of the forest.  People get the feeling of being in the forest canopy, but the human presence and noise is contained to enable the animals to live in peace in other parts of the forest.  Some people say if they get there early enough, they can see several species of birds.  Given how much noise the young adults made while we were there, I don't think any birds will be in the vicinity for at least 24 hours.

These are some of our canopy walk mates!   Very nice, energetic young people who were very encouraging to each other.

For the past 3 months, every time Tom and I made plans to go to Kakum National Forest, somebody in the family would be sick.  The park is only an hour away.  We finally made it on April 3rd.  The night before I whispered to Bizmark to bring a book or a pillow, because we were going to try to make it to Kakum in the morning.  Both girls went off to school and I surprised Tom with the idea.  We had fun!


Since our house has no reliable internet connection, Tom and I frequently find ourselves back at the dining room of the Business School Guest House to connect to the rest of the world.  Here we are on a recent Friday morning, sporting our UCC shirts. 

Cheers from the Mama in Ghana - Colleen

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Photos of Daily Life and Special Events

Pictures can say so much, so here are several from the past month or so.

I was honored to be asked to be the godmother of Mary and Allen's daughter, Naa Dzmaa (pronounced na ja ma), and this is the baptism picture taken on Ghana's Independence Day (March 6th). The photo above is all of us including the proud father and attentive big brothers.  Below are the ladies of the event.  Naa Dzmaa and I are front and center.  The proud mom, Mary, is on the far left.  Our girls looked beautiful in their Kabas and Slits.  Adwoa is behind my other shoulder.  Next to her is Dinah who lives with the family in Accra.  On the far right is Ester, grandmother and person whose name Naa Dzmaa took for her baptism.

This is my godmother's dress.  People are expected to wear white to this event.  I felt more like a bride.  Tom bought the blue beaded necklace in Accra during our first few days in the country.

Welcome to Coconut Grove Beach Resort.

This was 20 hours of rest, relaxation and smiles.  The girls & I had happy hour by the pool overlooking the beach with fruit stuffed pancakes & ice cream.  Tom joined us for the sunset where we lounged until our dinners were ready under a thatch canopy.

This is one of the many attractive hair styles Janelle wears.  She must have cornrows for school, and Ivy finds a way to get all of Janelle's luxurious thick hair above her scalp line.  Taking out the braids, washing, combing, and re-braiding takes anywhere from 1 1/2 - 3 hours (depending on how many people help take out the braids).  I always overpay Ivy by giving her around 15 cedis (approx. $7 and with the current exchange rate about $5).  She usually charges 10-12 cedis.

 The cattle are herded right through campus.  They are about the only thing I've seen here that can make drivers actually stop in the middle of the roads.  This is right down the road in front of our house.

The herder was happy to pose for our picture.

There is a farm as part of the university.

Bizmark teases that I should "kill a cow" (buy one) and have a celebration now that we are in our house.  I agree with the party idea - I'm not sure about purchasing all of that meat.

This is one picture from a funeral drumming procession.  We were encouraged to take pictures of the event, and as educators trying to document our experience here - Tom and I tried to take some pictures.  But it felt as awkward and rude here as it would in the U.S.

There are family members who are considered the official recorders of the event and roll their video cameras from start to finish of ALL events related to the funeral.  These videos serve as a virtual experience for family and friends who may not be able to make it to the entire event, and as a keepsake for immediate family members.

This funeral took place over several days and in two different cities.

The pictures below are of the Nkrumah Mausoleum in Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.  Nkrumah was a key leader in the quest for Ghanaian independence.  Like many of Africa's first presidents and prime ministers, he spent time in jail during colonial rule for his desire for Ghana, aka, The Gold Coast, to become a free and independent country.  He actually won his first seat in the "transition government" while he was in prison.  Nkrumah went on to become the first prime minister and was instrumental in writing the first Constitution.  In 1967, Ghana was the first African country in post WWII era to successfully claim and keep independence.  Nkrumah became the first president.

Nkrumah gets most of the attention and credit for creating the independent Ghana.  But, as we all know in our personal lives, no one succeeds completely on his own.  As we have read some local history books, we have learned about other people who were part of the dream and the struggle.  Another important point to stress (from a sociological and political perspective) is how long the specific actions towards independence actually took before the dream became a reality.  The initial formal request for "self-government in the shortest possible time" was made by Dr. J B Danquah in 1947.  10 years!  It was his leadership that brought Nkrumah back from living and learning abroad to become part of the independence movement.

As I take pictures of the mausoleum and museum, our girls and Nii O Dweii happily skip past the statue of Kwame Nkrumah.

They are free and innocently unaware of the price others paid for their carefree lives.

These are my favorite sculptures in the complete monument.
We have seen real drummers using this type of drum and sticks.

That's all for now from the Mama in Ghana and her family!