After a 34 hour trip from Chicago to Dubai to Kotoka International Airport, I landed safely in Accra last Thursday. Accra is an assault on the senses. Unmarked streets reach across the city, filled with traffic, pedestrians, vendors. Sewer drains line the streets, emitting unpleasant odors and revealing discarded bags and waste. Spicy, savoury, fried scents waft from food stalls. Trotro mates (people selling mini bus tickets) yell destinations, children call out obroni (white person), vendors hawk food and goods, people converse and laugh. When there is electricity, stereos and radios blast popular songs and religious programs.

Although Accra seems chaotic at first, after a while I can discern an organization or routine to daily life: the changing food fare, the ebb and flow of traffic, the popular landmarks that people use to orient themselves in the city, the church services at night.  Even then, it is difficult to understand life in Accra as a traveller passing by.

Here is a map of Accra:

map of accra

The blue circle highlights darkuman, the neighborhood where I am staying. Although the map features clearly defined streets and roadways, in reality, very few streets are marked, and even fewer people know them by name. Instead, people refer to Trotro stations, bus stops, buildings and markets.

Here is a view from the hostel:


Despite how lost I sometimes feel, the people in Accra are incredibly friendly and helpful. I cannot count the number of times people have walked me to my destination, have spent time patiently explaining the Trotro route or have helped translate conversations.

Tomorrow I leave for Techiman in the Brong-Ahafo region, a 6-8 hour bus ride from Accra. There, my project will truly begin. Feel free to look at my disorganized and unlabeled photo stream on Flickr:





Losing Sight

Several weeks ago, my 92 year old Papouli (Greek for grandfather) woke up, reached for his glasses and panicked. Even with the help of his trifocal lenses, he could not make out the objects in his bedroom. Cloudy crosshatches distorted his vision. He could not see.  His mind raced as he considered what this blindness meant: no sight, no driving, no independence. While coming to terms with his new condition, a glare from the carpet caught Papouli’s eye. He felt around on the ground and found a lens from his trifocal glasses. The distorted vision and dizziness were not a permanent condition, but the result of a missing lens.

Papouli laughs as he shares the story with me. In several days, I will depart for Ghana, and I have come to him with a list of infinite concerns and worst case scenarios. Although Papouli is fond of funny stories, he recounts this fleeting panic to remind me that I need to relax. Swept away in the minute details of my trip, I have lost sight of the bigger picture. The Walker Odyssey Fellowship has provided me with a singular opportunity to design and carry out an independent study project. I have been dreaming about this since my freshmen year of college, and I am incredibly grateful to all who have made this dream a reality.