A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Loren Yancey
I’ve always dreamed of going to Africa. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this experience- not even my Ghana travel book. I was deﬁnately prepared physically. I had all the necessities to get me through this trip, but being prepared mentally was something I could only take day by day. I was so anxious before going because I had no idea what to expect about the people, animals, food and where we would be staying and how the construction would differ from American standards. We landed in Ghana, and the heat felt like I could actually part it with my hands. Waiting in line to enter the country, I had sweat falling like raindrops all over my body, and my beautiful sleek, straight hair had puffed out into a frizz ball. I was ready to get dirty and work hard. Our Habitat for Humanity leader named Nadia was waiting for us. In a busy capital where the locals try to take advantage of tourists immediately, she was a soft, kind angel waiting to guide us.
Habitat for Humanity knows exactly how to get things done the right, smooth way. Our ﬁrst night there, we stayed in the capital city of Ghana called “Accra.” The hotel was stunning: something one would expect to ﬁnd in America. It had air conditioning and a swimming pool, and it even started us off with American food such as French fries and spaghetti. The next day though was entirely different. Habitat immediately teaches volunteers the language of the village in which they’re staying. They put me on a two-hour bus ride and directly exposed me to the true Africa. Africa is gorgeous, surrounded by vast, bright green mountains and ﬁlled with jungles, rainforests, and wonder.
When we arrived at the village, “Apapam”; we had our own little entourage of the local children following us. They showed us around their village and tried to improve our use of the native language “Tre.” I was so taken back by how friendly and giving all the locals were.
Every morning, as the sun would come up over the lush mountains or right after an amazing breakfast of pineapples and bananas, I would take my instant coffee, sit on the ledge, and take in everything around me. I remember the smell of raw earth and the ﬂowers down below, blooming. I recall the peaceful sounds of nature that people pay to hear on one of those “earth tones” CDs and the simple sounds of the extremely respectful children going to their school across the street that looked like a storage shack. The Chief’s Palace welcomed us and the children prayed to protect us while we were there. Then, after the prayer, we all had the honor of drinking out of the same glass with all the chiefs and the queen mother to unite us as one.
The next day, we started construction work by American standards. It was not what I expected. I immediately learned what “great shape” truly meant after a few days of hard work. The bricks from the home were made out of the clay ground. Nothing went to waste. Everything was used. As an American, I was given a better perspective on how at times we can be so wasteful. Even when I was full, I felt compelled to ﬁnish my plate, I was embarrassed to give the wasted food back to our cook, named “Peace.” She had such a beautiful soul and personality.
I experienced two most memorable nights in Apapam; a night of dancing and my wedding night. The ﬁrst was the night of traditional drumming and dancing. Having been a dancer for many years, I was looking forward to this the most. The drummers were astonishing. Their beats and rhythm moved through my body, and I could literally feel the music. It took me a little while to grasp enough courage to get up and dance in the middle of the courtyard in front of all the local children. Once I did, I couldn’t stop (thanks to the encouragement of the greatest little African dancer, named “Lydia” who was only 11 years of age). This tribe’s culture and way of communicating were through dance.
One person would face his or her partner and mirror each other’s movements, doing the most difﬁcult dance moves to earn each other’s respect. After half an hour of sweating in the African night heat until my clothes were completely drenched, I bonded with Lydia. She came to visit me every night afterward, and I was more than thrilled to see her. I was always looking for her, especially on my wedding night. In Ghana, the wedding ceremony is called the “knocking ceremony” or, as my husband would say, “capturing the woman.” Aside from the crazy heat, the night couldn’t have been more perfect. The ceremony happened in the courtyard where we were staying, and the stars were so bright, it felt like I could reach up and grab them.
All of the local villagers and children had gotten dressed up with us. There was this big African brass band that was marvelous. The sounds that came out of every single horn were ﬁlled with joy. The local women were fanning me with a cloth to keep me cool and dancing to the music at the same time as I was searching for Lydia. She was one of the hundred who stood, trying to get my attention to show how happy they were for me. She looked beautiful in her lovely brightly-colored dress. After the ceremony, we all danced. This time, I couldn’t keep up with Lydia. We then had a feast that The World Humanity Club all pitched in for to throw for the locals. A sheep was purchased to feed the village for this most memorable evening.
Going to visit the homeowners for whom we were building houses inspired me to work harder each day at the work site. Their current living conditions were crumbling to pieces, and up to eight people lived in one small house comparable to a small bedroom here in the states. Working hard with everybody not only gave me a better sense of teamwork but made me stronger morally and physically as well. If you want to lose weight, get a great tan, and get buff, then I’d advise you to go build some houses in Africa–not that that was the point, but it was deﬁnitly a beneﬁt. Another bonus of the trip for me was seeing Elmina Castle–a former slave-trading venue. It was so rich with history that the two-hour tour seemed like twenty minutes.
My trip to Ghana has forever changed me for the better. It showed me things I needed to see to help me grow as a person. Habitat for Humanity is a wonderful organization. We should not be afraid to travel with unfamiliar people, for, in the end, we will all be family.