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A picture is worth…

To finish the blog entries about our recent Ghana trip, here are some favourite photos from those who travelled (to read more about the trip see earlier posts):

I love this because it is a baobab tree and I like the colour variation in the sky. It was taken during one of our morning walks. -Kerry

The village awakens.

My favourite time of day in Dagbamete! -Carol

Baobab seeds!

Market colours.

Market colours II

Dagbamete’s ATM


More drums!

Clare dances! -Michelle

Galen in situ.

Angelina and her wonderful creations!

Angelina & Sakora’s creations. -Ann

School with no roof.

Stunningly beautiful on the coast but with Elmina Slave castle in the background it’s a reminder of the darker parts of Ghana’s history as well. -Kerry

Our magnetic host, Kwasi Dunyo!

Check back occasionally as we add more photos :)

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Home again!

The youth and chaperones made it home last night, after nearly 36 hours of travel (driving in the vans to Accra, flying to Amsterdam, flying to Montreal, then bussing back to Ottawa). Everyone is safe and no one required serious medical attention (thank you, Carol!).

As a wrap up to the trip, here is a summary of the youth members as described by themselves:

  • Quinn is the craziest
  • Polly is the sleepiest
  • Eric is the biggest hypochondriac
  • Adriana is the quietest
  • Magda is the most inquisitive
  • Clare is the bravest
  • Rory is the best eater
  • Olivia is the bravest (due to her forced participation in Nima!)
  • Galen is the snazziest dresser
  • Emma is the biggest worrier
  • Donovan is the noisiest
  • Lydia has the biggest size to personality ratio
  • Sophie is the most accident prone

Special thank you to our fearless leaders, Mama Kathy and Hayley Aku!

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Birding in Ghana

One of the morning routines in a typical village day can include a walk along the red dirt roads leading away from the village centre. This is the coolest most peaceful time of the day. The people of Dagbamete rise early to take advantage of the cool morning, and we often awake to the sound of sweeping and the roosters announcing the start of the day. 

As we walk out of the village the children are getting ready for school, waiting by the roadside for a motorcycle ride. The young men who operate the motorcycles are waiting by the bamboo grove to ferry people back and forth to  work, or on errands. It is not unusual to see two or three passengers on a bike, carrying bundles and packages. I’ve seen women  wearing their bright Ghana fabric dresses and fuzzy mules as they ride by. That’s Ghana motorcycle style!

I have done a little bird watching at home, so I was looking forward to finding some new birds in Ghana as I take a morning walk. I brought a copy of the birds of Ghana to help me out. 

At home I can tell what birds are around me just by the sounds, and I don’t always need to see them. Here the bird sound scape is rich and varied. Hooting, cooing, chirping and glugging sounds come from the cassava fields and trees that line the road side. I have heard so many birds, but haven’t managed to spot many of them. 

Crows here are easy to spot, and bigger than ours at home, more the size of a Raven. They look like they are wearing white sweater vests, and caw loudly like ours. The bigger trees along the roadside are the best spots for new bird discoveries. I spotted a pair of Yellow-billed Shrikes and  a Blue-headed Flycatcher. Their silhouettes are similar to birds we have in Ontario. 

The Baobab trees are a favourite perch, and the birds seem to be communal enough that they don’t mind mixed company in these giant trees. I saw a Senegal Coucal, and some Green Parrots, and a pair of Hornbills. They look a little like collapsed umbrellas, and seem to be unaware of their own weight as they land on small branches and bob up and down trying to centre their weight. 

One morning I was thrilled to see a pair of Falcons keeping watch over a cornfield. They must have had their fill of rodents, because they were dozing, and not bothered by the little sunbirds that flew past them. 

I’ve really enjoyed my hunt for Ghanaian birds that speak a different language, and wear brighter clothes than the birds at home.

– Eloise

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Festival of Friends and becoming an elder!

On Saturday, we participated in the Festival of Friends, a celebration of Kathy and Kwasi’s 27 years of collaboration. Baobab Youth and three local groups performed and over 300 members of the community joined us.

To make the day even more amazing, Kathy (also known as Mama Yenunya Ewui Kwasiwa) was granted a special honour and was enstooled as an elder in the village of Dagbamete. It was a moving and touching ceremony and we were grateful to be a part of it.

To find out more about the history of this connection and the Festival please visit HERE!

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Friday Preparations

Friday was a pretty low key day for our crew after rehearsing with Sammy and Kofi (from friends from Dzogadze). There was a buzz in the village, though. All around us, people were getting ready for the festival: painting buildings, delivering drinks, setting up tents, installing the sound system for the dance party, and even moving sand around to adjust the flatness of the ground in certain areas.

The festival’s kicked off in re afternoon with some energetic performances from the Bobobo group and a group of teen girls from Dagbamete. 

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Kakum Rainforest Canopy Walk

In the middle of the trip, Kathy had arranged for us to travel to Cape Coast for around three days. While we were there we had a very busy and exciting day, where we had the opportunity to visit the Elmina slave castle and the Kakum rainforest’s canopy walk. I chose out of the two, to write about the rainforest walk.

As we drove along the very bumpy dirt road, we noticed that it starred to drizzle. We thought we would be experiencing the rain part of the rainforest but luckily for us it didn’t pour while we were on the walk. The Rainforest canopy walk consists of a couple different trails, and around 7 different rope bridges, all made by a group of Canadian and Ghanaian climbers.

We walked up a steep stone path with our guide, through giant clumps of bamboo and massive trees that were as tall as three or more story buildings. We walked through twisted vines and acres and acres of greenery and wildlife, all the while listening to hundreds of different bird calls and other rustling sounds. It made us feel like we were in a whole different world. In some ways we were.

When we got to the hill at the top of the stone walkway there was a sort of tall wooden hut. Following our guide we walked up the stairs. At the top of the structure was the start of the bridges. We got a small pep talk from our tour guide and then he sent us across. It was wonderful. I was scared at first; I think we all were, then I looked around. We could see for miles. Everything was so lush and green, and when you look down you were staring into the vast rainforest full of millions and millions of trees, small and big.

The bridge swayed a little as we walked which startled everyone. The bridges are made of thick heavy metal rods stretching along their length and ropes to hold on to as you walk along the single plank of wood meant as a walkway.

By the time everyone had gotten off the last bridge on to the stone path, nearly everyone wanted to do the walk again, but we didn’t get the opportunity to. When we reached the parking lot and gift shops, most people’s cameras had about 100 new pictures of the wonderful canopy walk. In the end I don’t think any of us could forget such a wonderful experience.

– Lydia

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A busy few days…

We have recently been having blog problems, so sorry for the gap in writing. In the meantime, we have had a great three-day road trip to Accra, Cape Coast and Elmina! After a small roadside breakdown (expected on any Ghana trip), we spent 24 hours in Accra hanging for the afternoon at the Kathy Knowles Library in Nima. The youth theatre group, led by the amazing Martin Legend performed excerpts from their new original play called “The Man from the Past”…it was spellbinding and we were so wanting to hear what happens at the end, we made Martin promise to send us his script by email so we can read it. This was followed by a performance of Fume Fume by us , and then a few high octane drum and dance pieces by their troupe. A really nice youth exchange!

Afterwards we had a great meal at Chez Afrique, a wonderful throwback Ghana Independence-style outdoor restaurant complete with traditional and more international dishes. Their grilled snapper, chicken and octopus were hits. After sleeping at the Yiri Lodge,  we went to the amazing but stressful arts market at the Centre for National Culture. A great opportunity to try bartering. Everyone did well, buying some great cultural gifts and sharing tips on how to get a deal. The trip to Cape Coast was long but we were thrilled to land at Hans Cottage Botel where we spent the next two nights. More on that coming soon….

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Arts Centre

The arts centre had some higher-end goods for sale. It was a rather large market, but there weren’t very many customers, so the vendors were very attentive. This area was probably the highest pressure sales that we’ve encountered.

As we were getting loaded into the vans, a man came trying to sell us some kalabash clackers (Ghanaian fidget spinners!). He had some amazing two handed moves, so we stopped to watch him. Kathy recognized the man from the 2001 Baobab trip. He was even featured in the Footsteps to Ghana documentary singing the alphabet song! Wow!

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Nima Library Visit

On July 17th, the group visited another one of Kathy Knowles’ beautiful libraries, the first being a community library in a small fishing village on the coast, Goi.  Before travelling to Cape Coast, we visited the Kathy Knowles’ library in Nima on the outskirts of Accra. The building was gorgeous and so was the location.  Recently a huge mosque had been built right behind the library, and it was “mosque-umental” to say the least.   In the photo, the library is on the left and people are gathering outside after the performance, with the mosque directly behind.

The purpose of our visit to the Nima library was to do a performance exchange with the Kathy Knowles Theatre Company who will be performing “The Man From the Past” on July 29, a play written by the director of the theatre troupe, Martin Legend. The exchange was set off with a short excerpt from the play and then we followed with a performance of Fume Fume. The dancers, me being one of them, were left breathless and sweating in Nima’s arid heat, feeling good about our performance, a feeling that wouldn’t last very long. The theatre group one-up’ed our performance by doing an eccentric rendition of Gota, a piece that the Baobab kids are now infatuated with. Being theatre kids, the members of the Kathy Knowles Theatre Company made a real show of everything. Their dancing, drumming and singing were done with such energy and utter hilarity, it left us embarrassed and feeling that we hadn’t held up our side of the exchange. They dug us into a deeper hole of self-doubt by continuing on and performing two other pieces which showcased their incredible rhythmic and theatrical skills. Thinking that the show was over, us Baobab kids started conversing in awe over the radicality of what we had seen, only to be shut up by a breakdancing and stomp performance by the same kids we had seen doing amazing, authentic Ghanaian dance. After many backflips and other gymnastic feats, my hands were left red from clapping so much. We left the Nima library after congratulating the performers endlessly and trying our best to deflect compliments made by the theatre kids and onlookers, feeling as if we had in no way deserved them. 

All in all, our visit to the Nima library was wonderful. Although we may have felt that our performance lacked in the crazy energy that the theatre kids had brought to the table, we put effort into our performance and that’s what matters. *Cue motivational music*

I myself, hope to return to volunteer at the Nima library during my gap year, with the potential benefit of learning how to drum and dance from the same theatre kids that we watched with incredible awe when we were there. 

Galen out. 

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Dagbamete ICT Centre Internet and Wifi

Like so many other things here, we take internet for granted, but in Dagbamete it is difficult. Popper (pü-pá) runs the ICT centre at the school and he coordinates the classes so that the classes access the internet in the same month; he gets a block of data for his personal cell phone for that month and sets-up the wifi. Popper maintains a small fleet of laptop computers. The laptops were manufactured in Ghana almost 20 years ago. Popper does his best to keep the laptops running, but they are having problems, mainly battery issues.

I brought three RaspberryPi computers. These are very small, very efficient and very fast computers. The computers are so efficient that they do not need a fan. This is very important, there is always fine red sand in the air and a computer’s fan collects this sand. Along with the computers, and with the help of other travellers, we brought modern flat screen monitors, keyboards, mice and speakers. We set up the computers on the Monday after we arrived … that was the easy part.

My goal on this trip was to look at what they have, what they need and look into permanent internet access. A few years ago, they got a quote for internet and it was going to cost US$600 to install and then US$600 per month; this was not sustainable. Popper had done some research and found a new company that could install the equipment for US$400. The best part of this internet connection is that the speed and the amount of data can be scaled up or down from month-to-month. The basic service costs US$40 per month and provides 35GB of data. This should be sufficient for the school, but Kwasi wants internet access at the Kathy Armstrong Lodge as well.

We ordered and paid for the internet to be installed at the ICT Centre and this was done in a few days. The ICT is about 250m from the Lodge and there are multiple buildings in the way. I had brought a pair of Cisco networking radios. Too slow by North-American standards, these radios are very robust. After several days of trying to configure the radios, we finally got them configured so that one at the ICT transmits the network toward the Lodge where the other radio receives the network and provides wifi. The only glitch in the plan was that I left one of the mounting brackets in Ottawa (I didn’t think we would need it). Luckily, more people are coming from Ottawa for next weekend’s festival and with some help from my family and Lois, the bracket will soon be on its way. (Yay!)

The idea with the internet connection is that we can fund the basic service and then if people are staying at the Lodge, part of their fees will go towards increasing the internet bandwidth for the time they are here. Maybe one day, enough people will be staying at the Lodge that it will pay for the internet permanently; however, in the meantime, we will need to subsidize it. Between me and Christopher, we have pledged to cover the first year. We will arrange something through Conrad Richter when we are back in Ottawa.

If anyone reading this blogpost would like to contribute to this project, please email us at ‪‬.

– Robin

Note: Pictures to follow! The connection was poor tonight. I spent 20 minutes trying to upload a single photo.

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