Well rested from my absurdly early bedtime, I woke up around 8 feeling much better than I had the night before. I texted Dom to confirm our meet time (10:30 at Madina), and then fixed a breakfast of saltines and cheese. Though it was pretty hot and humid outside, I decided to wear jeans since I am not supposed to wear pants during the school week… and I miss doing so! I threw on the top that the seamstress most recently made for me (and that, I’m sorry, I need to take photos of) and headed out the door around 9:45.
I was 15 minutes behind schedule, though thankfully Dom was running late as well. I do not live anywhere close to the medical school that Dom, Ayse and Toby are working at so, rather than meeting up right away, it made more sense to meet Dom in Madina: a town that we’d both have to pass through anyway. Our plan for the day was to go to the Aburi Gardens, a beautiful park that Mariana highly suggested visiting. I had been planning to go anyway, and I was glad that Dom could tag along since he was one of the only medical students that had not traveled to Cape Coast for the weekend. After long journeys, we both ended up in Madina and found our way to an Aburi car.
Aburi is about a 45-minute journey from Madina. When we arrived, I was surprised to see that we were in the mountains! At once, the air felt cleaner and the atmosphere more tranquil than in the dusty, hectic city of Alhaji. In consideration of our budget, I had packed jars of peanut butter and jelly for lunch while Dom brought knives for spreading. The gardens were a short walk from where the tro tro dropped us and, on the way, we stopped at a fruit stand to buy pineapple, bananas, and roasted peanuts. Surprisingly, Dom told me that he had never had banana and peanut butter together, nor a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so I was quite excited to introduce him to these (apparently American?) delicacies. We also stopped at another stand to buy some bread, and then headed off to our destination.
It was apparent from the second we strolled up how beautiful Aburi Gardens is. I had actually not Google imaged it beforehand, so I was delightfully surprised to find a long, paved (not dirt!) road lined with beautiful, tall palm trees. We paid our entry fees of 5 cedis each and then proceeded to walk in. We were met with lush vegetation at every turn—a welcome change from the grass-less neighborhood that the school is in. Additionally, unlike Wli Falls, the Aburi Gardens featured informational plaques, was relatively free of trash, and had obviously been tended to by a park staff. We saw cocoa and banana trees, a random (crash landed?) helicopter, and an array of pleasant paths and benches. We strolled around the grounds for a bit discussing our impressions of Ghana thus far, as well as the hopes we had for its future acceptance of “issues” such as homosexuality. Strangely enough, we were also stopped by several locals who asked if they could take pictures with us… which was a first for me in my time here! After about an hour, we returned to the helicopter and sat down on a bench to have lunch. We assembled our bounty into peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches with sides of pineapple, bananas and roasted nuts. Thanks to the fact that I already had the peanut butter and jelly, the whole feast only cost us 2 cedis each! Unfortunately we didn’t have plates or napkins, so the meal proved to be quite messy: a shame since, while we struggled to not make a complete and utter mess of ourselves, we were being photographed (wow, can you believe it? Two wild obronis in their (non)native habitat!) all the while.
After cleaning up our food (and ourselves), we then tried our luck at finding this craft market that Dom had heard about. We asked around a bit, eventually finding the Aburi Craft Village just down the road. The “village” turned out to be aptly named as it featured rows upon rows of vendors. In one of the first shops we visited, we met Barbara: an amazingly sweet and intelligent woman with whom we spoke for a while about our time so far in Ghana. Barbara’s store featured many paintings, woodcarvings, and jewelry—an array that we soon found to be replicated in almost every other shop. She was so nice to us that we couldn’t help but buy something, so Dom bought a painting and I bought a small wooden, beaded elephant and an even smaller wooden mask. Hilariously, I managed to get the price of my elephant down from 15 cedis to 5 cedis (and the mask for only 1 cedi!), while Dom was only able to get his 10 cedi painting down to 8 cedis. We thanked Barbara for her hospitality, laughing all the while about the lies that shop keepers will tell in order to keep up the charade that they personally made all of the items that they are selling. Barbara told us that her husband made the small masks in her shop, but everything else was purchased from various outside vendors. While a shame to not meet the people actually responsible for our souvenirs, it was refreshing to receive an honest response.
We went around to each and every shop in the village, humoring each shopkeeper by looking around at their things. Though each shop featured a pretty similar inventory, both Dom and I did walk away with gifts for family and friends. I bought the elephant and mask from Barbara as a treat for myself, but then bought a set of wooden bowls for my mother and a set of wooden salad tongs for my grandparents. I had wanted to get gifts for other family members while I was there, but the cell service was horrible in Aburi and I could not receive confirmation from anyone that they actually wanted anything I was thinking of getting them. No matter, because this will certainly not be the last craft market I see in my time at Ghana.
Around 4PM, we decided to head out. We had an amazing, nature and art-filled day, though we knew we had a long journey ahead of us. We caught a tro tro to Madina, and then went our separate ways as Dom headed towards the hospital and I headed back towards the school. Thanks to Barbara, I learned that I was able to catch a car right from Madina to Alhaji (as opposed to Lapaz, and then Alhaji), so that was so convenient. I got into Alhaji around 6PM, and was starving at this point. Though I had probably already spent way too much money during the day on souvenirs, I passed a sausage vendor and could not resist an opportunity to receive a little protein in my diet. I bought one (spice-free) sausage for myself, and another for the girls to share (with a lot of hot pepper). I felt bad that I had been gone for most of the day, so I was hoping that this little bit of food could win be back into their good graces. I was right, and the girls were so happy to share the snack. I washed down my sausage with some saltines, hung out with the girls, and learned some more Twi from Sir Isaac and Auntie Rose. Mariana texted me around 8PM to see if I wanted to hang out with her, Quasi, and Victor, though I was so drained from my day that I thought it better to stay home and rest. I had a relaxing night blogging, going through photos, and mindlessly eating the rest of my saltines. Unfortunately, I did not remember that most shops are closed on Sundays here (since their owners will all be in church) and the saltines were the last of my food… so I was interested to see how I’d find sustenance (and water) the next day.