Monday, June 05, 2006

Mole!!

This weekend marked my first full month in Ghana and, for the first time since starting work, I took a couple of days off over the weekend to travel. As luck would have it, the Peace Corps was having a meeting at the same place a few EWB volunteers wanted to visit; and so Mike and I set off for Mole National Park.

A remarkable chunk of land in Northern Ghana, Mole National Park is located just outside of Damongo (where Kyle and Dan are placed). I’ve been told that it holds several hundred species of plants, animals, and birds and spans over 2600 square miles, making it the largest National Park in West Africa. The park itself is probably one of the closest approximations of a tourist trap that Ghana has, though with some good investment and advertising it could easily pull in at least ten times the revenue. That said, the “Mole Motel,” where all guests stay, was still slightly ridiculous to me after becoming accustomed to my living conditions in the Upper West. There was electricity (fans!!), running water, sinks, toilets, and even working showers. Across from our room was a bar which served a huge selection of drinks and had a menu that offered strange items such as “grilled chicken,” “hamburgers,” “omelets,” “French toast,” and “French fries”; each for what was, until now, the equivalent of a week’s spending in Hain (ie: 56 000 to 64 000 cedis = $7 or $8). The people in the park were almost all white; it was super weird to be around tourists after a month of roughing it as a volunteer; trying to fit into the culture. I remember being shocked at the things some of the ‘tourists’ would say to the guides, or what they get mad at them for (like snapping your fingers and pointing where to go, which may be rude back home but is totally normal here).

The place also had an in-ground swimming pool. I feel this deserves a paragraph in itself because it absolutely blew me away; I wasn’t quite sure what to make out of the fact that there was a giant pool of water for our convenience in a district where many people struggle to find enough clean water to drink each day….

Our trip to Mole was an adventure in itself; I could take hours to tell the story to anybody back home but I just summarise it to fellow volunteers in a simple phrase: “Ghanaian travel difficulties.” Needless to say, it was unnecessarily long; we finally arrived in Mole 5pm Saturday, about 34 hours after leaving our place outside Hain. Upon arriving we discovered that Mike had missed his meeting and that the other 7 EWB volunteers that had come arrived a long time ago and were off somewhere searching for elephants. I decided I was best off waiting for them (and my hamburger) in the morally questionable yet thoroughly enjoyable swimming pool.

Fast-forward to 7am the following morning. With everyone else having taken the 4am bus back to Tamale, Ben and I decided to set out on one of the morning safaris in hopes of seeing the elephants that had eluded everyone the day before. Fortunately for us, we weren’t 2 minutes into our hike when we spotted a group of ten of them of to the left at the top of a ridge. Cameras in hand, we excitedly followed them all the way down the cliffs to a small field, where, the guide explained, they usually wait for the rest of their herd to arrive. After a short while the elephants moved on to a nearby watering hole, where we watched them play and bathe for the better part of an hour. I took a series of pictures and videos of the elephants jumping into the water and on top of each other; unfortunately the videos are too large to upload here.

After we moved on from the watering hole we made our way past groups of baboons, warthogs, water bucks, and antelope-like animals whose name I forget. My favourite moment of the tour came when one of the other Canadians in our group pointed to a warthog and said “hey look, it’s Pumba! Where’s Timon?” The tour guide responded “yes, those are warthogs or ‘Pumbas’.” He then turned and mumbled something about not knowing what language ‘Pumba’ was… I had trouble containing myself when I realised that so many tourists had made Lion King references that he thought it was an actual name for warthog in some foreign language. Oh well, at least I know I’m not the only one who spent the entire weekend playing the Lion King soundtrack in their head….


After the tour we made a point of doing as little as possible for the rest of the day; resting by the poolside, looking out over the cliff at the endless land, and chatting away about our thoughts and experiences over our first month. It was really nice to see the other EWBers again; even in silence there’s an overwhelming feeling of mutual frustrations and understanding. One of the most subtly frustrating parts of the placement is that there’s never a complete level of understanding or communication when communicating with co-workers and community members. As a result, Ben and I stayed up far later than we should have sharing our thoughts with each other; excited by the fact that we knew we could be totally open and that other could identify with our thoughts. Though it resulted in us both being exhausted when we returned to our villages, the communication was very necessary for our sanity.

In retrospect, the whole weekend was far more beneficial than I could have imagined. Seeing everyone at Mole felt like seeing old high school friends after spending a couple years apart.

I can’t even imagine what it’ll feel like to see them at the end of the summer….

2 Comments:

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Laura said...

Not sure if you've considered this option... I assume you're paying for internet access somewhere? And if that is the case, you probably don't want to wait a while uploading vid. But, even Windows Movie Maker has a way to compress video down in size, if you just want to save it to your computer in a smaller size, then upload it to a vid hosting site like blip.tv.

Anyway, just an option, that you probably already knew! Great to hear you had a weekend vacation. I'm glad it was benefitial.

 
At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Deb & Allee said...

Hi Bryn!!!
We just called but couldn't get through. We are thoroughly enjoying your postings and the fabulous pictures. We are being hit by the tale end of Hurricane Alberto here in Nova Scotia - named after your Uncle.
Max says hi! Hot enough?
(what a smartypants)
Hang tough...we're proud of you
Deb & Allee

 

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