By Tara Dear, Yale-NUS College ’17 – See bio
Guaranteed, when I get back to Australia a decent percentage of my friends and family will trot out the unavoidable question: “So, how was Ghana?” And equally inevitable is that I’ll be just as tongue-tied (metaphorically speaking) then as I am now. How to condense one’s first exposure to a continent as vast, as diverse, and as rich as Africa, in easy-to-digest, bite-sized chunks?
About this time last year, the word “Africa” summoned for me an image of rolling savannah reminiscent of Simba’s Pride Rock home, dotted with scrubby acacias and portly baobabs. And in many ways, Africa really is the unquestionably superior model of its famous cartoon representation; although since my arrival here almost four months ago, I’ve learnt that baboons are far more likely to perform (usually successful) hit-and-run attacks on anything edible you may be carrying, as opposed to breaking into song as they guide you to Upendi. This particular lesson was derived from my first visit to Mole (Mo-lay) National Park, the largest and reputedly best of its ilk in West Africa. Even the highly romanticised Lion King couldn’t top the true wonder of standing, awestruck, less than a stone’s throw away from a herd of eleven majestic elephants as they basked in the already-blazing morning sun by the edge of a waterhole.
My time in Ghana hasn’t been primarily devoted to wildlife-watching excursions, of course. I’m here for five months as a volunteer, and at the current time of writing have just moved to my second placement for the last two months of my stay. It’s a picturesque, astonishingly natural mud-hut village by the name of Wulugu, so far-flung to Ghana’s north that we’re closer to the border of Burkina Faso than the country’s capital, Accra. My beautiful host family have supplied me with the best facilities imaginable in the comparatively impoverished northern regions; an almost totally concealed concrete floor for private business (complete with separate mud hut for number 2s) and internet service easily accessible by a one-hour tro-tro (Ghanaian public transport: like a minibus with personality) ride to the nearest semi-major town – easily definable by its paved roads. Whilst living here, I wend my way every morning to my host-father’s orphanage, whose thirty-odd inhabitants are as competent in English as I am in the local dialect, Mampuli – which is to say, not very! Still, we get by, as smiles, hugs, and offers or requests for piggyback rides are a nearly universal and certainly in this case, mutual language.
This is only the appetiser for what will no doubt become a many-course meal digesting the delights of Ghana as I’ve been fortunate enough to experience them; and like all the best appetisers, I hope to leave you hungry for more. As any traveller to the overwhelmingly welcoming and rewarding Republic of Ghana will find, once you get a taste for Africa, you’ll find a cultural feast resplendent in flavour for you to enjoy.