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Tales of a Semester at Sea: Ghana

Gabby DeMarchi/The Student

Gabby DeMarchi

A&E Editor

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of installments from Gabby Demarchi who is currently studying abroad as part of the Semester at Sea program.

There have been several moments on this voyage where I have had to literally pinch myself to remind myself that I am actually experiencing real life. The entire time I was in Ghana, I was pinching myself.

I have dreamed of visiting Africa for so long, so actually being in Ghana almost felt like a dream to me. Ghana, and more specifically, Accra and Tema, the two cities I spent time in, were full of energy. You could physically feel it.

The cries of the babies being held on their mother’s backs, the honking of the horns of the cabs and tro tros on the jam-packed roads and the smell of the Ghanaian foods, such as banku and fufu, being made all brought Ghana to life for me.

While my five days in Ghana were simply spectacular, I could not possibly do it all justice in this one article. This is why I am choosing to focus on my home stay in one of the local villages outside of Accra called Torgorme. This particular event was my favorite thing I did while in Ghana.

My journey to Torgorme began on my third day in Ghana. We left the ship at eight and began our hour-and-a-half drive to the village.

As our coach bus rolled into the village, we were immediately being chased by what seemed like hundreds of children. They were screaming and clapping their hands. They were just so excited we were there. We got off the bus and were immediately swarmed by them.

They grabbed at our hands and our hair and began pulling us in different directions. All of them wanted to hold our hands, but there were only so many of us! I think at one point I had two children on each hand.

Once we got off the bus, the children led us to our welcoming ceremony. The moment I knew I was meant to be there was when an elder (one of the respected older members of the village) shook my hand and said, “Welcome home.”

It immediately put a smile on my face. Everyone was so welcoming and overjoyed that we were there. It was the warmest welcome.

The ceremony then proceeded to blow me away. The ceremony consisted of all of the children singing, dancing and playing the drums for us. No matter their age, the children know how to dance and play instruments. It is like a second language to them.

Part of the welcoming ceremony was also a naming ceremony that kind of made the students unofficial members of the village. During the name ceremony, I was given the local name of Yawa. Yawa means born on a Thursday. It was really great to be unofficially initiated. It really did feel like home.

After the welcoming ceremony and some lunch, I got to spend some time with my home stay mom, Eve. Eve is an absolutely beautiful woman, both inside and out. She constantly had a smile on her face. While she smiled, you could tell that it was coming from within.

While with Eve, I got to meet her entire family. Many Ghanaian people live in collectivist cultures. Eve lived in a cement home with many other rooms around hers that housed her mother, her grandmother and several of her aunts. She also lived with her precious six-month-old daughter, Annabelle.

While with Eve, I learned of her family and of her ethnic group, the Ewe people. I also learned how to cook some of the local Ghanaian dishes I had been seeing around Accra and Tema.

First, I learned how to cook banku. Banku is this cornmeal substance rolled in a ball. Then you dip the doughy cornmeal into palm oil mixed with different spices and meats. While it is definitely spicy, it is also very good!

The process of pounding the cornmeal dough is very tedious. It took Eve’s grandmother over an hour to soften it all out. She let me try and pound it; let’s just say it gave all of Eve’s relatives a good laugh!

After preparing the banku, the next item on the list to make was popcorn. Now, the village of Torgorme does not have microwaves. Eve didn’t whip out a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn and set the microwave to a minute and then magically, we had popcorn.

Eve’s method was much better. With the little fire we had going from making the banku, Eve brought out a small pot. She then put some coconut oil into the pot and added some corn kernels. After a few minutes, we had popcorn! Eve added some salt, and I can truthfully say it was the best popcorn I have ever eaten.

After cooking with Eve and her family all afternoon, it was time to head over to dinner and do a little dancing. Dinner was the traditional banku, along with some rice, and some sort of doughy egg roll. All of it was very tasty.

The rest of the evening consisted of Eve and the local children teaching myself and the rest of the Semester at Sea students some traditional African dance moves, as the local men played drums in the background.

It was extremely tiring to say the least. Those moves are pretty wild, and the children never lose any energy! After learning the African dance moves, I took it upon myself to teach the children some American moves.

I first taught them how to do the hula and then I moved on to some more difficult moves such as the disco point. They absolutely loved those. After those dances moves got a little old, I decided to break out one of American’s favorite dances: the Macarena. Oh my, did they love that!

After hours of dancing, it was time to head to bed. The moment my head hit the pillow, I was out. My day had been spectacular between making new friends, trying new food and learning about a new culture.

The next morning, I rose early and started to say my goodbyes to Eve and her family. We exchanged gifts, took pictures and exchanged information. Eve told me several times I was welcomed back whenever I pleased, and I also made it very clear that she needed to visit the States soon, too.

The one thing that makes Torgorme and Ghana so amazing is how friendly and welcoming everyone is. Most Ghanaian people truly want to know everything about you, inside and out. They will help you with directions, suggest their favorite locations or even better, actually take you to their favorite location and act as your unofficial tour guide for no charge.

They are extremely beautiful people, and I look forward to visiting Ghana again in my future.

Up next is Cape Town where I plan to climb Table Mountain, do a safari trip, visit an orphanage and do a Habitat for Humanity build.

Learn more of Gabby’s travels as she is blogging from all around the world this semester.

Gabby DeMarchi may be reached at gabrielle.demarchi.s12@semesteratsea.org

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