Sunday, May 24, 2015

Global Connections: Day 2

* I have been making the blog maps in Illustrator (or Inkscape) with vector files since the beginning. However, I am testing out just using Google Map screen grabs. It's easier on me. And I am lazy!

So the students arrived on Thursday night, mostly without incident. The big surprise was that we all made it with all of our luggage as well. Though I am not that much older than many of the MBA students, they still seem to have way more energy than I do. Despite their long journeys, many of them were still up that night when I was heading to bed.

Friday morning we were heading out early on our way to Ho. Ho is the capital of the Volta Region (one of Ghana's ten administrative regions) in the east near Togo. In fact, thanks to the fluid borders created and recreated by colonial rulers, Ho was once part of Togo (or Togoland). We were meant to spend three nights in Ho before returning to Accra.

Friday was also when we met our tour guide Nii Kpa Kpo and our driver Francis. Nii and Francis are with LandTours, the company hired by WorldStrides to handle all our in country logistics. Nii (whose name autocorrect absolutely hates) was immediately impressive. Nii is a natural storyteller and launched into an animated telling of Ghana's history. He also managed with aplomb our first motion sickness of the trip. We all applauded the student who was able to hold it back long enough for the bus to stop.

During the drive, one of the students asked Nii if there was one social issue or problem in Ghana that he could solve, which one would it be? Nii considered the question thoughtfully for a moment and surprised everyone with his answer: He would solve the problem of time.

*I thought too late to record this, so you only get a small snippet. Also, for some strange reason, the picture is my Facebook profile picture.

Nii was also full of other tidbits. One that I took note of was the phrase "Everything is bigger in Texas" had made it to Ghana. Since everything is bigger in Texas, they would refer to larger things as Texas. Nii, as a child, had a Texas head. If someone has large lips, they have Texas lips.

On the way to Ho, we had our first site visit with the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana. Cocoa, for those that don't know (though how could you not), is used to make chocolate. Though it is actually native to South America, the Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two largest exporters in the world. Though the Ivory Coast (or as our guide refers to it as la Côte d'Ivoire) exports more (double), Ghana apparently has higher quality cocoa.

*The internet here isn't too great, so I am just uploading a few of my pictures, at small sizes for now.

After of visit to the research institute, we continued on to Ho. To get to Ho from Accra, we needed to cross the Volta River. Unfortunately, the bridge has been under repair for several years now and we would need to take the ferry. My Samoa and Kenya ferry experience has prepared me for a longish ride. I brought ginger pills to combat any motion sickness. We were also prepared for a long wait. Last year, the group waited in line for the ferry for two hours. As we approached the river, there was no line and I quickly realized that the crossing was barely a hop. We would be on the water for maybe five minutes. I guess all my ginger burps from the ginger pills I had taken were for nothing.

When we arrived in Ho, we went straight to our hotel on the side of the mountain. Though SkyPlus has a beautiful view, we were to discover over the next few days it was not quite ready to host international tour groups. Our program welcome dinner was a buffet served by the hotel that was less than impressive. I learned the next morning that despite the students' rooms being double rooms, there as only one sheet and one blanket in each room. At breakfast, they would only allow each student one egg and one cup of coffee.

But before we can get to breakfast, we do need to discuss how the first full evening ended, which was at the Mirage Club in town. There were some drinks and I, you will be surprised to learn, was even the first one on the dance floor to encourage the students.

*Our fearless leader, Dr. Raj.

I'll talk more about our time in Ho soon, but this is enough on our first official day on the program. If you cannot tell, I am behind in blogging. I am getting ready to go to sleep on my third night in Ho, and you have only heard about the first day. Tomorrow, we head back to Accra bright and early.

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