“Akwaaba!” It’s one of the first things you hear when you get off the airplane and enter the Kotoka Airport Terminal. I’ll go ahead and argue that Ghanaians are some of the nicest people in the world. Everytime you pass someone on the street, they ask you how your day is and expect an answer because they really do care! I’ve met many people from different backgrounds, from entrepeneurs to tro-tro drivers. Tro-tros are the cheapest and most common form of public transportation. They sometime get somewhat crowded, but taking one across town only costs around 2 cedis (50 cents)!
I came to Ghana in West Africa because my sister runs a science education business called Practical Education Network (PEN). The mission is to equip local science teachers with the tools they need to succeed in a resource-limited environment. She told me about an opportunity to help her with workshops as well developing a new manual for a hands-on approach to learn science. Because my fall and spring study abroad semesters have a gap in between them, I essentially have the whole month of February as my break. I decided that this would be a great time to visit Africa and see what it is like to impact people through education. It was an especially convenient option since I could work and visit Ghana before heading to Germany.
The main trip I took with my sister was to the city of Kumasi in the Ashanti region. It is about a four-hour drive to the north of Accra, the capital of Ghana. The Ashanti region is especially interesting because it is essentially a kingdom inside of a country. There is a king who has real political power and acts as a head of state. I got to learn about this and much more at the Manhyia Palace Museum. Aside from learning about the history of the Ashanti Empire, we also visited the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). It is considered the top university of students interested in the STEM field. My sister and I visited a student there and learned about life in college in Ghana. It was really cool to get a unique view of education in yet another country! After three exciting and tiring days, we finally made our way back to Accra to continue our work.
Perhaps two of the best parts of Ghana (at least to me) are the food and languages. Let’s start with the food first. I love it! Love, love, love it! My favorite is kenkey with shitor. Kenkey is basically ground corn, yet it tastes amazing just by adding the shitor spices! A runner-up for me would be jollof rice which is also quite basic. It is rice with some other interesting and flavory spices mixed in to give it a reddish look. As for the languages, there are many of them! The most common one in Ghana is Twi. If I recall correctly, this is because it is the language used in the Ashanti Empire which was historically a larger area than the current region. In Accra and the coastal region, they speak Ga. In fact many people in the capital are trilingual since they speak two Ghanaian languages alongside English. The third most common language is Ewe, and it is spoken in the Volta region to the east as well as in Togo and Benin. I did my best to learn some Twi, and after a month I think I have made decent progress. I can do basic greetings, but more importantly I know how to say I like Ghanaian food!
This month has gone by really quickly! I’ve experienced an entire new culture while contributing to the local education system. It’s exciting to see so much progress happening in Ghana, and I can’t wait to see how much of an impact PEN and other startups will have many years down the road. As for myself, my next adventure awaits across the Mediterranean. I will be taking a trip through Belgium and Luxembourg before ending up in Germany for my next study abroad semester.
More stories to come!