Thursday, 26 January 2017

'Akɔaba'/ Welcome

Hello from Ghana!!!!!I have been here for 4 days so thought it was about time I gave you all an update on what's going on, what I'm doing here and how I'm finding it! In a very irritating turn of events both my laptop and phone became waterlogged so I have had to delay posting anything on my blog for a while, this also means I have lost most of the photos I had taken in my first week so apologies if the photo quality is a bit rubbish. The laptop became waterlogged in an unexpected storm and the phone suffered the same fate when a rogue wave hit me on the beach and attempted to take my bag out to sea. Ironically I had just written this sentence in my travel journal before the technology failed me..."I love it here, it's so strange feeling so indifferent to my material posessions"...this was then put to the test. In a fortunate turn of events,and the skills of a fabulous IT guy, my laptop has been brought back to life and I am SO happy. I really hope he can also fix my phone so that I can start taking photos as the temporary phone I bought is fairly awful! in Ghana...I am absolutely loving it and really can't quite get my head around the fact that I will be here for 5 more weeks. As you all know I will be moving to Switzerland shortly after getting back from Ghana so, because I was so busy organising things for Switzerland, I hardly had any time to think about travelling here before my arrival. Knowing very little about Ghana I had no real expectations of what this trip would be like/what Ghanaian people are like but soon after boarding the flight I realised that, as a general rule, everyone is so friendly and happy to talk to you. I was sat in between two lovely guys on my flight here, one helped me with my luggage(I'm too short to reach the overhead compartment) and gave me advice on how not to get scammed in the markets. The other showed me how the currency conversion works out and advised me about how to get a phone and sim card out here(this came in very useful when my phone got damaged). They were both so friendly! I honestly had the best flight- full of free wine and snacks and great in-flight movies. Without trying to sound like I'm advertising for them, I will definitely be flying with KLM as often as possible going forward. 

Cape Coast, Ghana travel, Ghana life, Ghana beach, Cape coast beach, african woman, african fabric, palm trees
Some of the photos I had taken before my iphone became waterlogged. Taken in and around Cape coast.
When we landed I was overwhelmed to say the least. As it was pretty cold in the UK, with the standard amount of drizzle, I had dressed for the weather so when I landed in Accra I basically overheated. Coming out of the airport was also overwhelming....there were so many people with signs at the arrival area that I honestly had no idea what to do, fortunately a lovely but very reserved taxi driver rescued me and ushered me into his taxi. I gave him the 'Somewhere nice' hostel address(genuine name-what can I say...I'm a sucker for advertising) and just had to trust that he would get me all the way there and not extort an unnecessary amount of money from me. I got there safely and I absolutely loved the hostel. I would definitely recommend it to anyone staying in Accra. The interior was decorated with reclaimed wood and furniture and the bed was HUUUUUGE, I had booked a Private superior room as I had anticipated sharing a room at the volunteer house for the next 6 weeks and thought I'd treat myself to some space. Here's the link should anyone want to stay there:

Hostel, Ghana, Africa Travel, life in Ghana
Some photos taken at 'Somewhere nice' hostel in Accra.

The next morning the other volunteer and I were picked up by one of the Global Mamas workers and transported by several different vehicles to Cape Coast where we are based for the duration of the trip. As we were making the 2 hr journey I can remember being quite surprised by how green Ghana is, evidently I have been brainwashed over the years by how Africa has been portrayed to Westerners through TV advertisements. Another thing that shocked me on the journey was the realisation that I had left my passport at the hostel. Well done Becky once again. We eventually arrived at the Global Mamas head office and, after a quick introduction, we were taken to the volunteer house which would be home for the next few weeks. It was the most beautiful taxi journey to the house and I didn't realise at the time that it would be our daily commute, one long straight road running parallel to the coast, lined with palms. Everyday we see the fishermen pulling in their catch on our commute. Just WOW.

Upon arrival at the house we were told that we would be able to have a room each as we have visited at a time when there aren't heaps of volunteers- JOY. The room I have here is actually double the size of my room at home and it's painted in a bright yellow/lime colour so that when the light hits it in the morning it is wonderfully bright.

Global Mamas volunteer, Batik fabric, Batik workshop, life in Ghana, Africa travel, Cape Coast
The Global Mamas volunteer house and a few photos from the pool where I go for a swim before work.

The only complaint I have regarding our volunteer house is the damn cockerel that insists on beginning it's crowing at 3am, interspersed between the local mosques call to prayer which also, oddly, starts at 3.30 am. The rest of the time the volunteer house sounds pretty tranquil....

In my first few days in Ghana I attended a batik workshop with one of the Batik Mamas. I can't even begin to describe in words what an amazing experience this was so I'm going to do it through a video/photo collage instead. This video still has the watermark of Animoto as I didn't want to commit to paying for a whole year just for one video, but if it works nicely in this blog post I might think about starting a subscription and making more videos.....please try and ignore the watermark for now :)

I'll give you a short text run through of what this video is showing as I couldn't quite figure out how to caption/add text to it...I am a video editing beginner after all but I did manage to figure out how to add a Ghanaian song playing over the video! The first few slides show the wooden hut the workshop was held in and its' interior; big colourful plastic containers filled with different dyes, metal containers filled with wax, and foam stamps lining the walls. 

Step 1: Make the batik stamp/choose your stamp. Batik stamps at Global Mamas are carved into upholstery foam using razors and following a pre-designed stencil.

Step 2: Lay out the fabric onto a flat surface, we used white kaliko.

Step 3: Boil the wax until it is bubbling.

Step 4: Dip batik stamp into the wax.

Step 5: Print wax onto fabric 

Step 6: Mix dye (I'm not sure exactly what chemicals go into this but I will find out and add this later)

Step 7: Dye waxed fabric in your chosen colour. I chose a vibrant yellow.

Step 8: Hang fabric outside to dry- this enables the chemicals in the dye to react with the oxygen in the air.

Step 9: Once dry, dip fabric repeatedly in boiling water to remove hardened wax. This reveals the white fabric underneath that has resisted the dye.

Step 10: Dip fabric in cold water once wax is removed.

Step 11:Hang out to dry and admire the final fabric.

....and that is the African batik process.... it is so much more labour intensive than I had ever imagined, particularly when removing the wax with the boiling water. I also found it pretty amazing how the colour of the fabric changes as the dye reacts with the oxygen in the air, I am keen to do a timelapse video of this as soon as I have a working iphone again(which will hopefully be tomorrow). I imagine this batik technique is extremely different to Indonesian batik as they can achieve a lot more finer details, I would love to do a similar volunteer project in the future to explore this a bit more.

Other than the batik workshop I've been doing some research for the Autumn/Winter 2017 collection and creating some rough batik stamp designs. Hopefully I will get to see some of them being printed before I leave Ghana, that would be amazing!!!

 On Saturday I have been invited to go to the wedding of one of the girls at the office. A GHANAIAN wedding- I am finding it hard to contain my excitement. Obviously I didn't anticipate going to a wedding and didn't pack for one so one of the seamstresses at Global Mamas is making a dress for me. I have bought some amazing abstract black and white printed fabric which I bought at one of the market stalls in Cape Coast. If the currency is converted it works out to have only cost around £13 for 2.75 metres, which I thought was pretty good. Can't wait to see what the dress ends up looking like but here's the design I have my eye on, something mid length, off shoulder and 50's-esque.

Hopefully I'll do another update next week with some more photos from the wedding and everyday life etc x

P.S. My passport has now been safely returned, my laptop is completely fixed and I'm hoping and praying my phone soon will be too!
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