As part of the Volta group, I was lucky to be able to experience both rural and urban Ghana in one trip. The capital city of Accra and the small town of Hohoe were so different that I might have believed they were parts of separate countries if I didn’t know better.
Our flight landed in Accra on Monday night in the middle of a thunderstorm. As we drove through the city to our hotel, we passed many impressive buildings with modern architecture. Many of us were surprised by the quality of these buildings and the streets, which was about all we could see, but as soon as the sun came up Tuesday morning, we saw more of what we were originally expecting. From our hotel window, we saw shorter buildings of all different colors and states of repair. In the city, the sound of car horns and roosters was constant. Drivers there use horns to communicate their presence to other drivers or pedestrians when going around turns or trying to pick up taxi customers. This took a bit of getting used to since horns are usually associated with rudeness and road rage here. I was also amazed by the number of business signs lining the roads in Accra. They were plastered to the sides of buildings, lined up on poles, on roofs and billboards, and generally in-your-face. I never expected to come back from Ghana with an appreciation for sign regulations in the US.
(Thanks to Jodi for getting pictures of the signs in Accra!)
We left for Volta Tuesday morning, so we weren’t able to see much of the city, but it was nice to watch the changes in scenery on our six hour ride up to Hohoe. The landscape of the Volta region was drastically different than Accra. I wasn’t expecting to see so much green, which was awesome compared to the inner city feel of the capital. The town itself also gave me a much different impression of Ghana as a whole. All together, it was more of what I had envisioned Africa to be like. One main paved road ran through the middle of the town with a few smaller roads sprouting off along with lots of dirt roads. The main road was lined with shops selling everything from soap, toilet paper, and food, to winter jackets and pots and pans. There were many fabric stores and seamstresses who made the traditional Ghanaian outfits we saw most of the people wearing. The clothing choices in Hohoe were more traditional compared to Accra, where many people wore jeans and other western style clothes. Many shop owners named their stores with religious sayings. This also seemed to be popular in Accra. Besides the smaller specialty shops, we also saw many churches, several government run primary and secondary schools, chemical stores (their pharmacy), banks, a few other hotels, small food shops (one was called the “Decent Food Shop”), and other random businesses.
(Views from the top of Mt. Afadjato in Volta)
Villages in Hohoe tended to be in clusters farther away from the center of town. Some houses were made out of concrete and others were made with mud or bamboo walls. Many of these villages looked just like the stereotypical shots from TV commercials. We saw many more children running around freely in Hohoe than in Accra. The same goes for the goats and chickens. Sometimes it seemed like there must have been at least one goat for every person in Ghana.
Our two groups also had very different learning experiences in the two different cities. The group in Accra gained valuable practice working in more concrete OT related areas like positioning, Denver screening, and wheel chair maintenance. In contrast, the Volta group spent less time working on concrete OT projects and more time learning about the culture and challenges in Ghana through talking with locals and maintaining connections for future trips. Although we weren’t able to work with any disabled children like the Accra group, we did spend a significant amount of time building relationships with the children at the orphanage. This was a highlight of the trip for all of us. Both experiences were equally as valuable, and I’m sure we would all love to go back and switch locations to experience the other city (time to start fundraising now?).