Today was our last day in Kumasi, and although I'm very excited to head to Cape Coast, I will also hate to leave Kumasi. The slower pace, the abundance of trees, the craft villages, and the friends we've made here will be very missed. We started out the day with some research time, so a few of us headed to the university bookstore and the library to see what we could find. The bookstore was pretty standard as far as Ghanaian university bookstores go, but the library was unlike anything I've ever seen. Signs everywhere indicating that students must be decently dressed else they'll be turned away, bag checks, and a harsh "no cell phone" policy constituted our introduction to this library. The library shelves were wooden and smelled like old book, and spiral staircases led to the upper floors. There were clearly designated areas where people could speak and work in groups, but mostly the only noises in the area were shuffling papers and furious pencils. It's exam time here, and I could feel the tension in the air. Our group started to cut across the grass on our way there, and we got yelled at by multiple people to stay off the grass. I can't imagine what Carleton would be like if we couldn't walk on the grass-- where would all the frisbees go?
After our wanderings on campus, we heard a lecture from Dr. Evans Dawoe called "Agroforestry and cocoa production in Ghana." It was a really interesting topic, and a valuable lecture for everyone especially Jabari and Megan, whose projects benefited enormously from speaking with Dr. Dawoe. In short, agroforestry is the practice of combining trees with crops and/or animals in the same land management unit, whether in a spacial or temporal pattern. The cocoa plant specifically benefits from the shade that the taller trees provide, and the nutrients the trees put back into the soil. Right now Ghana processes about 30 percent of the cocoa it grows, and hopes to increase that number to 50% by 2012. After a quick lunch at the campus chop bar (some locals taught us how to eat fufu the correct way-- with our hands), Dr. Dawoe took us to a cocoa farm where we got a quick tour and the chance to eat some cocoa seeds fresh from the pods. Surprisingly, they were neither brown nor did they taste like chocolate. I will put up a picture as soon as we get some better computer access, but the slimy, white covering on the seeds tasted like a mixture of tropical fruit and aloe vera-- very delicious, and perfect for a hot day on the cocoa farm.
After the tour of the cocoa farm, we headed to some drum-making shops to look around. Both Jabari and Justin ended up buying really beautiful drums from the second market we went to-- how they'll bring them home on the plane is a bridge we'll cross later, I guess! While at the second market, I snuck away from the vendors and headed to an herbalists store that our friend Albert had spotted, and ended up getting an interview with him for my research project (about Western psychiatry and traditional healers)! Although he spoke English well he refused to speak through me and used Albert as a translator-- I got the impression that he did not enjoy an obruni poking around his business and asking to take pictures of his dried herbs. He did answer my questions however, and I found something that surprised me-- he cooperates often with the psychiatric hospital in town, and often refers some of his patients there! I'll have to ask around to see if the other native healers have the same positive image of the Western-trained mental health care providers.
Tonight was our farewell dinner in Kumasi, and we head to Cape Coast bright an early tomorrow! I'm very excited about the activities there, but I'll let my friends blog about that!
See ya Kumasi!!