Friday, June 29, 2007

Half Way

We have had some exciting times these past few weeks. We had our mid-semester retreat in which we traveled to Northern Ghana to visit Mole National Park. This park is one of the best in Western Africa. We left last Wednesday and took our time traveling because we stopped at a Monkey Sanctuaries, as the locals call it, where we got to see tons of monkeys and even feed them bananas. It was amazing and kind of crazy to realize we were surrounded by about 20 wild monkey at times only separated by a few feet. Next we traveled to a nice waterfall called Kentempo Falls. Then we made the rest of the journey to Mole. This traveling began at about 5:30 am and we did not arrive at Mole until 7:30pm. The stops were well worth the travel time, until the last 45 miles or so out to Mole which took us 2 ½ hours. The road is unpaved yet heavily traveled so it is extremely bumpy. This was quite possibly the bumpiest ride I have ever had in the back of the tro-tro, which we truly think believe spelled backwards is hell. Our tro-tro had absolutely no suspension and of course John and I were lucky enough to be in the back seat which we liked to describe as the “bucking bronco”. When we finally arrived we were so sweaty and dirty and tired that our bucket showers (because when the power is off there is no way to pump the water) was wonderful, especially because we could not see all the dirt coming off us.

The park was well worth the adventure traveling there. We got to relax by the heavily chlorinated pool (we hear they pump the water from the water hole), eat semi-American food, and go on two Safari walks with our armed guides. We walked right from our hotel down the hill into the park where all the animals freely graze. There were two water holes within sight from our hotel where we would watch the elephants bathe each morning. The hotel was set on a bluff above the water holes about 200 yards, so we had a great view of 100s of wild animals. The elephants were awesome. They are enormous creatures, and they really do kind of run the place. We came within about 30 yards of elephants, and at one point during the adventure they even became agitated to the point that they ran towards. There was about 15 of them, and when they started raising their trunks to smell us along with flapping their huge ears in frustration, the guide was quick enough to predict there anger, so we took off in the opposite direction. Right after that when they had calmed down a bit and stopped running after us, there was a gun shot in the area that sent them running again. I guess it was a poacher of some sort, but he was hunting something in the distance that wasn’t an elephant. During the little hike we were also able to see water buffalo, water bucks, bush buck, cobb, warthog, crocodiles, monkeys, baboons, lots of cool birds, and awesome butterflies. It was a ton of fun, and I am so glad that we had this type of an experience with so many of the African wildlife.

One of the most entertaining things around the park was the baboons. Let’s just say that they always made sure that they were the center of attention when they were around. There was probably about 30 in the area around the hotel, and they would waltz right into the compound to steal whatever they could get their hands on. Some of the pictures show how close they would get to you. They would walk right up to your table at the restaurant and steal whatever food you had on your plate at the time. At one point a group of the baboons stole a stamp from the office, and a few of the workers had to run down the hill after the group. Amazingly, they did get the stamp back, and it made for some good entertainment anyways. Bethany was a bit spooked by them because they are a bit unpredictable even though they would never harm you. They are so smart, and it is almost like you are dealing with a pesky young kid causing mischief. We loved Mole a ton.

Upon returning from Mole, we immediately got back to work with our research projects in Wiamoase. By now we have tons of great contacts and friends, so things are falling into place a bit more than initially. We only have about five more weeks here, so we are trying to get the bulk of our research done now that we have established ourselves in the community a bit.

Last Sunday was also a fun one because we decided to go to church with Ester, our host mother because she had requested that we come. She is a member of the Salvation Army, which is a fun church to attend because they are quite Pentecostal and they like a good time when they attend their meetings. We were up clapping and dancing, and the band was bumping. Songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” were blasted by the band of two trombones, three trumpets, two baritones, a base drum and a snare drum. It was a good time, but far from the church meeting we are so accustomed to in our church.

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