While Abroad

Views out from the windows of our traveling van.

We have taken several excursions while in Ghana. Each time, I am taken aback by how lively our discoveries and experiences are while adventuring. I go into each weekend excursion without expectation, merely because I have no relative idea of how the adventure might expand my limited nineteen years of experiences. My favorite expedition was in fact this weekend. Remember your buzzing thoughts as a child, trying to decipher the outlandish continent of Africa. Personally, I imagined a land plush with exaggerated palm leaves and dripping waterfalls that tore through forests of cocoa trees and wild orchids. I fancied trapeze bridges across the tallest of trees that had no predictable plan of limb placement. I dreamt of monkey barrels and elephant parades and the liveliest people. Little did I know this weekend would be my childish African fantasies made realities.

Our first destination was a far-off resort called “Azzim.” It was the perfect refuge after a week shadowing live births and open surgeries and countless leprosy patient consultations. The resort had small cylindrical clay red huts topped with thatched roofs and charmed with a small porch for two. The huts overlooked the Gold Coast and a beautiful reservoir divided by a jungle of frog-filled mangroves. A stunning restaurant engraved with hand placed sea shells and sand stones opened up to an expanse of rocky luxuries created by lunar-oriented tides. Our night here was opulent. We dressed up in our nicest belongings and had a Ghanaian dinner by the sea. I ordered rich vegetable stew over grilled tilapia with a side of boiled yams. We dined for a couple of hours reflecting on the wonder and history of this beautiful country.

The next morning, we headed for a village you might see in a National Geographic headline. It is called Nzulezu which translates to “The Village on Water.” This unique community was founded 600 years ago when a group of brave Africans fled the wars of Mali and built a city an hour from any human contact in order to maintain safety from their Malian enemies. Those Africans’ ancestors still reside in the village centuries later. The whole village is built on stilts that are repaired every dry season. There are two Medicine Men who keep the townspeople strong. The school at the end of the floating town has three classrooms and a library. A communal bathroom equipped with advanced filtering technology sits at the end of the main dock. The waste water is filtered with coconut reeds and transformed into water for a garden of plants that surrounds the lavatories. All the people are out about either in hand made canoes fishing or on the planked “paths” carving boats or preparing pineapples and plantains for their splashing children. It felt as though my senses were hyper-heightened in order to capture this inimitable village. We rode the canoes an hour back to the land. I stepped off the tree trunk boat as if I were stepping back into the portal of reality.

The last destination we reached was the rainforests. As a child, my dream was to establish myself in a house above the canopies of the African Rainforests. That dream came true for a short time this weekend. We got the opportunity to climb the 700-foot-high canopy bridges of Kokum National Park. I felt like Tarzan’s Jane. Ironically, the hike up to the bridges reminded me of my summer hikes in North Carolina; however, NC sure doesn’t have long swinging bridges attached to faithful Ghanaian trees. After our airborne adventure, we headed to a monkey sanctuary owned by a Dutch transient man. The monkeys were all well cared for and loved by this exquisite man. He told us of the monkey’s intelligence and about a study where Cambridge students taught monkeys sign language. The monkeys learned very quickly and could talk together and their keepers successfully. The researchers even caught the monkeys telling each other to “hurry up” when they were running from an animal. None of the sign language monkeys were at his pet home, however Noni the monkey was there. She came in abused and addicted to alcohol because her owner intoxicated her for cruel fun. Noni loves to hold hands and nuzzle in your waste. She reminded me of a sweetly affectionate toddler. I’ve never had contact with animal like her. She understood my gestures of playfulness and love so well and knew exactly how to sneak my snacks from my pocket. Devastating to think such intelligent creatures are caged for lifetimes in some zoos without love or understanding.

Ultimately, my weekend excursion was my youthful fancies come to fruition.