Funny Money

According to my guidebook, marriage offers here mean nothing! It says that Ghanian women won’t take men seriously unless they tell her they love her and want to marry her. There goes my somewhat inflated ego!

So, our first night here we had a security briefing. We were told NOT to use ATMs, NOT to use banks, NOT to use credit cards and use only cash or traveler’s checks. Ok. Ummm, I’m a 21st century traveler. I use ATMs everywhere I go for cash. But, the say fraud out of West Africa is very high.

My options? Try to go to the one British bank, use thier ATM and cross my fingers. Oy. So, I went my first morning only to learn that the ATMs only take VISA debit cards. Mine is a Mastercard. I have a VISA credit card, but don’t know the pin to make a cash advance. And my bank won’t issue a PIN by phone. They say come back Monday morning and do a cash advance. The embassy security officer says, “nuh uh”. He says that’s like giving my credit card number to an entire village.

While I have a cell phone here, I haven’t been able to a call out. But, I have texting ability. At this point, facing a week with nothing in my pocket but $50 and some old Wrigley’s gum I start rabidly texting my BFFs Julia and Sheryl. Between the two of them, they make contact with my mom in Panama and my Dad in Virgina and get money wired to me in Accra. Don’t cheer yet, I still have to find the Western Union and pick it up today!

The other thing I learned at the briefing is that Ghana changed thier curreny just last month. Prior to the change, 10,000 cidi (cds) equaled about $1. And that was one bill. So, imagine the stack of bills you would get if you bought dinner for 250,000 cidi! So the new currency has a 1 = .92 exchange. Far more resonable, right? Except many of outlying villages and craftsmen haven’t converted to the new currency. So I might buy water for 15,000 cidi, pay for it with 2 cidi and get 5,000 cidi change! Dawn thought the math for her skirts was tough!

I forgot to add yesterday that the weather has been tremendous. It’s never gotten above 80 and been pretty breezy with a coolness from the ocean. They say this is thier ‘winter’. I’ll take it over the 90+ weather I left back home in Baltimore.

19 Hours Here

Whew. We landed in Accra (Ah-Craw) on Saturday evening. Despite the 19 hours travel with a three hour Frankfurt layover, we’re still just four hours ahead here. In Frankfurt I made a beeline to duty free and bought Kinder Eggs, Gummi Bears and Nutella. Ahhh, my childhood.

We’re staying at a ‘premier first class hotel’ in Accra so the water is potable and it overlooks the ocean. More importantly the pool is open and I’ve gotten to swim first thing every morning. Interesting bit of trivia, this hotel used to be part owned by the Libyan government! Only recently were Americans ‘allowed’ to stay here.

Accra is not at all what I was expecting. Honestly, initially it feels no different than a any mid size Carribbean city. Yet as you get in the city you see women in traditional dress, carrying large baskets with the greatest of ease on thier heads. All the little girls wear thier hair cropped. Apparently this is tradition until they finish high school and start working.

Sunday night I attended an amazing reception at the U-S Abassador’s residence. It’s beautiful. (Photos to come)

First thing this morning we were granted a tour of Osu Castle. This Danish castle is where slaves were kept before being shipped back to Europe or North America. Currently, it’s the head of government where the President of Ghana works. It’s very rare to get a tourof this facility. We only saw it because we had lunch with the President of Ghana, the US Abassador to Ghana and the new appointee to the US Africa Command. At my table during lunch was an Ashanti Chief. He has also proposed marriage to me. That makes three in 48 hours I think. I almost asked how many cows he would give my father but I suspect he would not see the humor in that. On our tour of Osu Castle, we saw the ‘Point of No Return’. This is where slaves who did not survive the three weeks in ‘storage’ were dumped. The castle overlooks the ocean. Security is crazy tight here. At the entrance, I had to turn in my camera and Blackberry.

I’ve mostly eaten at the the hotel because of my work schedule, but I’m going to go out and eat in the City tonight. Don’t worry, I know the rules. No raw vegetables, only cooked foods, bottled water only, no ice and open my own drinks! Whew.

Tomorrow I have a guide to take me fabric shopping. There are traditional batik prints, wax prints and something akin to eyelet or lace here. Fabric prices range based on the complexity of the deisgn. But, I’m hearing $2 t0 $4 a yard. I’m going to try and get a dress made for my mom and one for myself. They send seamstresses to your hotel room and for $12 you have a custom made dress by the end of the week. How I wish I could draw or had brought some of my US Weekly’s with me!

Wednesday we are leaving for Cape Coast. There, I will visit a Women’s Collective. They give full and half day work shops on print making, batik, Ghanian cooking and bead work.

I can’t remember what’s going on the rest of the week but I’ll keep you psoted!

Well, I’m Going to Ghana

I’ve actually known since the second week on the new job that I’m going to Ghana for work. After scheduling my yellow fever shot (ummm, yikes?) for Friday, it occurs to me that I’m leaving in four weeks and all I have to wear are a couple of wrap skirts that I bought last year.

I was told to bring one suitcase just for fabric. Something like six yards of cotton batik prints for $2. Don’t have to tell me twice….

So, here’s what I’m going to make for Ghana. Hopefully in the next month (I’ve got some busy weekends). The city shorts from July 2007 BWOF in left over green and white seersucker from the Threads maxi dress. It’s going to be too hot for long pants and I need to keep my knees covered-ish.

I’m feeling inspired by Carolyn. She posted recently about how she used to make two skirts and a top in a weekend. So, I think a couple of skirts are doable before August. From a cotton pink and khaki plaid one of these skirts below. The first is an August 2005 BWOF that Leslie in Austin traced and mailed to me. The second is from the June 2007 BWOF.

I’d love to do both but (gasp) I don’t have fabric for both of them. Of course, if I went through my two stuffed bins of fabric I might find something.

And, let’s not forget that tomorrow starts the 50% off notions wall at Joann’s. I’ve already written my list….

So, just in case I don’t get any of this done and I’m all talk, we’ll remember the saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”