PaulaWoods' Travel Journals


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Painting a school with my right arm in a sling

  • 28 years old
  • From New York, United States
  • Currently in Cape Coast, Ghana

Ghana Adventures

I hope this will help all my loved ones follow along with me on my journey through Cape Coast (:

Not all those who wander are lost

Ghana Cape Coast, Ghana  |  Jan 29, 2013
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“The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page.”

I need to start writing more often…So much happens so quickly and I end up exhausted by the end of the day…But the good thing is, the true core of this “problem” is merely that I am out there enjoying every second of it; and I’m pretty sure that’s the best kind of problem to have… So brace yourself: this is a long one but hopefully it will be interesting!

I haven’t been to the farm in about a week and I have been missing it terribly.  For those interested, I wanted to share a bit more about what we will be doing.  There are three separate sites for the farm.  The first is a small organic plot with several different kinds of local foods growing.  Here, there is also machinery for processing the cassava into Gari.  We will get to learn how to do this later in the season and I’m really excited!  The cassava is peeled, washed, grated/milled and then cooked/fried to produce the Gari.  There is also extracting palm fruit and palm kernel oil from the oil palm fruit.  We met some of the women extracting palm oil during our trips around the farm and they were super sweet.  The oil had such an earthy smell to it, unlike anything I have experienced though.  The whole process is interesting and I’m excited to learn.  We also saw cocoa drying not far from here.  I will take a picture soon to share!  It smells like fermentation but when you break open the seed and eat the inside, it tastes like super dark chocolate (soo good!).

The second farm site is the one we will be focusing our attention on.  They recently burned down everything in the site, so we worked on our first farm day to clear out all of the trees, branches, debris etc.  Jordan and I were so ridiculously filthy from the dirt and char, you couldn’t even see the tattoo on my arm…it was the best (:  Our main project will be the cocoa nursery at this site.  The NGO we are working with starts these cocoa trees growing (which take something like 3 years before they are profitable), and provides some to local communities and community gardens.  The amazing part is we will get to experience the very beginning of this process, but also work with the end result (although obviously it won’t be the same cocoa trees).  A week ago, we began filling small bags with soil for our cocoa seeds.  The Reverend (our project manager) said he wants several thousand bags with seeds our tent.  Since they had not gotten the specific bags yet, we were using water sachets (small plastic water pouches), so Jordan and I have started a campaign to save them.  Many people simple throw them on the ground here…Trash management here is another project I’d love to work on someday…it’s crazy.  But anyways…this site will also soon have a fishpond to begin a fishery.  They said they would be digging it out all this past week.  He said all they had to do was dig down into the earth and the water would fill up, due to the location.  The Reverend also envisions a bee keeping project and piggery for this site in the near future.  He mentioned he would like it to be visitor friendly, so people can come to see the farm in action.  He has a great mind for business, in the best possible way, and is always thinking of new possibilities and opportunities.  His vision is a beautiful one I am happy to work towards.

The final farm site is more of open fields with cassava and cocoa trees.  During the off-season, they don’t keep it “brushed”, and instead let it grow wild.  Then, when harvesting season comes, they brush through everything.  I can’t wait to go explore this area; it is so intensely green and beautiful.  Not all of Ghana is very hilly but this area definitely is, and this section of the farm extends much farther than the eye can see.

The Reverend mentioned us potentially making presentations for communities as part of our work with the NGO.  At first, Jordan and I both were not sure what we could share, as we know next to nothing about how agriculture works here, or even how much of anything works here yet.  But as we chatted while working, we learned more about the stigma farming has about it here.  For example, for many when they were children, if they misbehaved, they were sent to do farm work.  People associate farming with such negative emotions as these, as well as other stereotypes and preconceived notions.  People are failing to see the benefits of farming, especially in such a resource rich region, as Ghana.  As I mulled over the industrial food system and how corporations have taken hold of the majority of our food supply, I thought about the way other countries perceive the US.  Many people consider our situation superior to theirs, and yet, Ghanaians have the potential to have a true local food system, especially given the amount of natural resources here.  So, I’ve decided I want to discuss our food system and the systems of power associated with it, with the community here.  I want to help them to understand the opportunity they have in front of them with farming as a valid source of income, and a method of keeping families healthy, while connecting people to the land.  This would be in alternative, of course, to following the course we have taken in the US.

As I mentioned, I haven’t been at the farm much this past week.  But I have been with the University of Cape Coast, doing orientation and excursions.  There are in total about 20 study abroad kids, including our ProWorld participants.  They are from all over the world, which was really cool to meet people from so many countries.  On Thursday, we went to Kakum National Park on the canopy walk.  It was seriously incredible!  The scenery was so beautiful, and I was truly grateful to be in the forest.  There are a total of 9 bridges through the canopy.  It was amazing to be right at the tops of these trees; they are so different and beautiful here, and many of them are massive.  This excursion was definitely my favorite so far.

Our second half of the day was a tour through Elmina Castle, which is one of the original places for slave trade.  Talk about a complete turn around for the day after the morning in Kakum.  The instant we walked in, Jordan and I turned to one another and shared a look of shock.  The energy in the castle was so intense (and terrible), it felt like someone punched you in the stomach.  The whole time, we both felt like we were going to be sick, and like we couldn’t breathe.  As we progressed through the tour, they took us to the male and female dungeons and all around where people were dragged through, beaten, raped and murdered.  It was unbelievable.  At the “door of no return”, after prisoners had been held in dungeons for 3 months, and right before they departed to be sold as slaves, our tour guide had us all sing Amazing Grace.  I could barely choke the words out through tears.  I’m not naïve in thinking places like this do not exist, but I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere quite so terrible.  The place in its entirety has a heartbreaking energy about it; you can feel the pain and suffering associated with the place.  I heard someone commenting (not in my direction, but generally), that there was no reason to be depressed over it, considering it was in the past.  I suppose I understand the logic behind their words, but the fact that humanity has ever been at a point where it was acceptable to treat other living beings so inhumanely tears my heart in two.  For me, it is impossible to process the justifications those involved placed behind their actions.  The atrocities committed at this site are far too great to simply be placed behind us and labeled as past.  No, we should not dwell on what has happened, but we should treat these areas with the upmost respect and remember in grievance where humanity has been and what humans are capable of.  What’s more, we should remember what still goes on today.  Human slavery and trafficking are far from over; the reality is all too real in this day and age.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, this Saturday, I got to attend a Ghanaian wedding (thank you Sarah), which was we decided 75% church, 25% wedding.  But it was a really fun experience and it was great to see how other cultures celebrate such events.  Then, in the evening, we had a birthday party for my brother, which was a lot of fun.  I tried palm wine for the first time, which was really good.  They cut down one of the palm fruit trees here, and tilt it at an angle to allow the palm wine to run out of the tree and into the container.  Its pretty sweet and tastes really good with (get ready for it)…. Guinness.  Who knew?  We had a really good time though: lots of laughs, new friends, good food, and beach time.  I’ve been to the beach quite a few times since I’ve gotten here and every trip has been a blast.  I’m not right next to the ocean but I’m so much closer than I’ve ever been.  I love being able to catch a cab whenever to the ocean; I definitely think wherever I live next needs to be on the ocean!

As you can see from this INCREDIBLY long blog,  I have already had so many amazing adventures.  On Saturday, I really started to feel myself find a more comfortable place here.  I think I am starting to adjust better to all of the changes-the heat, the sun, the food, etc.  I’ve been doing pretty well, but I felt a little weird for awhile and was worried about my anti-malaria meds.  But I think it was just the overwhelming nature of moving to Africa..hah.  No matter how prepared you are, there’s always an adjusting period.  I’m starting to feel more settled here though, and find my way around.  It’s insane to me to think I will be here for the next four months.  But I’m loving every minute of it, and am sure I will continue to do so.  I’ve made some wonderful friends already here and look forward to how the rest of my time here will go. It’s nice to have time to really settle in to a place.

Of course, I miss all of my family and friends a whole lot.  I hope you all know how much I love you and I’m so grateful you are all a part of my life.  I know leaving in four months will be ridiculously hard, but I am glad I will have all of you to come home to.  Thank you for your constant support in all of my adventures.  And thank you for all the messages and love I’ve been getting.  It absolutely fills my heart to get messages from everyone.  Sending so much love your way!!

P.S. I'll post pictures soon!

“We are all wanderers on this earth.  Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.”

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