Friday, January 14, 2011

Cape Coast And, More Importantly, Karina

The last couple weeks have flown by, yet feel like an eternity. Andy and I arrived home from our two week Cape Coast-Egypt trip Tuesday night. There's no word that accurately describes that warm feeling in the pit of your stomach when you come home after being gone for a while and everyone is so excited to see you. My host parents and I rarely hug, but I got big hugs from both of them as soon as they saw me. The four of us (my brother included) just sort of stood around laughing and smiling at one another goofily for a couple minutes and periodically exclaiming, "I missed you!" I hoped for a good relationship with my host family, but I never expected to bond with them as much as I have. It's been one of the many unexpected blessings of life in Ghana.

First of all, my ankle was indeed healed in time for the trip. It was still swollen when we left on the 27th, but it didn't hurt anymore and the swelling went down by the morning of the 29th. I've made a full recovery and I have Andy threatening to wallop me every time I start scratching my new collection of mosquito bites.

So, Cape Coast is a decently large city several hours west of Accra. It's largely a resort town, full of gaping tourists and volunteers who need to recharge their batteries. Aside from good souvenir shopping and legitimate pizza (HEY-O!), Cape Coast's main attractions are Kakum National Park and Elmina.

Kakum is a huge chunk of gorgeous rainforest which boasts one of the only 4 canopy walks (of that type?? I'm not sure what the exact qualification for that statistic was) in the world. It's a series of 7 wood and rope suspension buildings with tree platforms in between, hanging 40 meters above the forest floor.
In other words, it's AMAZING.

As I crossed the bridges, I forced myself to look around- up, to the sides and even down. I don't have a particular fear of heights, but swaying that high above the tops of the other trees was...let's say, thrilling. The rainforest stretched as far as you could see in every direction. There's something so majestic about the forest. The fluidity of the canopy is broken periodically by giant trees that soar nearly twice as high as the majority of the others. Staring at those king trees made me forget my nervousness. Just think how old they must be! All the things they've seen!


Elmina was as grim as Kakum was peaceful. 

Elmina is the oldest and largest castle in sub-Saharan Africa, devouring slaves 1,000 at a time.
At one point our tour guide ushered the whole group into a fairly large, ventilated cell with a grid of iron bars by way of a door. He shut it behind us and spoke to us through the bars, explaining that this was the cell they threw the soldiers in for a couple hours if they went into town without permission, got drunk and came back to rape the female slaves.

Then he herded us into a second cell, this one cramped and dark. An eerie carved skull and crossbones leered above the thick wooden door. Again the guide closed us inside and spoke to us through a small slit near the bottom of the door. This was the cell the male slaves were put into if they tried to rebel. They were left in there until they succumbed to the heat and lack of water.

And not a hundred yards away from that death cell is the site of the first Catholic church in Africa.

There are some things I will never understand. Not the least of which is how the missionaries could live with themselves knowing that their residence was one floor directly above the slave dungeon.

Cape Coast was my last hurrah with Karina, who went home on January 8th. Who ever would have guessed that some random yevu I met in front of Ecobank would become one of my closest friends here.

She motivated me to be a better a teacher simply by being a fantastic teacher herself. She encouraged her kids to be confident, coaching them in public speaking and giving class presentations. She encouraged them to be more creative and original (Ghanaian students have this tendency to copy everything, still puzzling that one) by having them design advertisements. As an amateur actress herself, Karina taught her students basic acting techniques and how to develop a storyline so that they could write and perform short dramas on parents' night.
And this is a woman who isn't even studying to become a teacher. Yet she still threw everything she had into giving her students the life and academic skills they so desperately need.

Opinionated, intelligent, hilarious and far more stubborn than me- Karina in a nutshell.

Despite vastly different personalities and life experiences, Karina and I got along famously. I already feel the hole she's left behind since returning to Denmark.

Two new volunteers have already moved in to Aflao - short-termers, just 6 and 8 weeks - so I'm not even the only yevu. Plus I've finally accumulated a group of genuine Ghanaian friends, which takes significantly more effort and discernment than befriending other volunteers. Still, I'm tryng not to miss her and Julia too much.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Summer 2012, my friends!

No comments:

Post a Comment