In Everlasting Memory…

The first thing I noticed as our guide shut the door and locked us in was that it was instantly more difficult to breath. Which sounds like an exaggeration, nothing changes instantaneously, but by closing that door, he had cut off the circulation of air in the room.

I peered around in the darkness, trying to make out the shapes of the 10 or so other people locked in with me. The room started to feel smaller and I couldn’t imagine trying to fit another 20 people inside the small space. And then the door opened and after only a minute inside, we walked out to fresh air and our freedom.

No African ever put in that room walked out. Their bodies were carried out – the cell was used for any slave who had attempted to escape, woman who refused to be raped, or anyone else the soldiers felt like making an example of. This cell was above ground. The Male Slave Dungeon was below.


Built in 1653 as a wooden structure, the fort (now Cape Coast Castle) changed hands many times. Originally built by the Swedes, it was temporarily in Danish and Dutch hands before being reinforced and rebuilt by the British in 1665.

The underground cells were split into three rooms, holding up to 200 men in each at any given time. Two rooms were in nearly complete blackness. The first housed the strongest and most able-bodied men and usually remained locked the three months the men were kept there. On a rare occasion, the men would be allowed out to be fed while the room was cleaned. Over time, this happened less and less and eventually, those in charge stopped cleaning the room at all. Instead, they merely tossed sawdust over the food, feces, urine, vomit, and blood and brought in a new roundup of slaves.

The third room housed the youngest of the boys, often between the ages of 10 and 25. This room also remained locked to “protect” the most valuable merchandise. It was the only room that afforded enough light to see. The middle room housed the rest of the male slaves.

Above ground was the Female Slave Dungeon. Up to 400 women were held in that single room any given time.


Slaves who died during captivity at the castle were simply tossed into the sea. When those in charge died, they were given a ceremony and burial.

The following photo shows the graves of Governor George Maclean and his wife, Letitia Landon, (rare for a wife to accompany her husband) who died while at the castle. Castle rumor has it that the wife committed suicide after she discovered her husband’s African mistress. The story has, of course, never been substantiated. It is known that her husband died of malaria.


From up above, you’d never know of the terrible things happening below. The whitewashed walls, beautiful ocean views, and bright, smiling faces masked the human cruelties going on below. Additionally, there was a church above the underground cells.

We spent about 30 minutes in the various dungeons and cells that slaves spent up to three months in. The rest of our time at Cape Coast Castle was spent above ground, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the architecture, and marveling at how human beings could so degrade other human beings.


Even the storage rooms allowed for better ventilation than the slaves quarters. They had plenty of light and airflow, as well as wooden ceilings. They were also washed on a regular basis.

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Tequila Night

All right, picture the song “Tequila” blasting over the speakers, 20-some waitstaff dancing with maracas, and an entire restaurant singing along. Oh, did I mention the restaurant had just passed out free tequila shots? That’s why we were singing : )


Thursday nights are Mexican Night at Coco Lounge and we were told to arrive early in order to snag a seat. We rolled in and placed right before my very eyes was the first (ok, second…Burger & Relish killed it too) legit cocktail menu I’ve seen in Accra. And with it, legit cocktail prices! Haha

It wasn’t hard for the group to decide on our drink of choice for the evening – margaritas. Make mine passion fruit, please!

We started with fried plantain chips & salsa and quickly moved on to tortilla chips & a black bean dip. I still dream about that dip!

The tacos were bite-sized (ok, two-bite sized) and adorable. A bit heavy on the sour cream, but good news, Ghanaian sour cream tastes nothing like the real stuff! Thank goodness, because real sour cream is disgusting.

After that, I thought we were wrapping things up when our host walked by and tossed this on Andy’s head:

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When $2.03 is too much

I’m watching this taxi drive away, indignant that he wanted to charge us 15 cedi ($3.80) to drive less than 3 kilometers down a main road. It’s no big deal, I tell myself – and Chandler – we’ve never had problems getting a taxi before, another one will come along.

We continue walking…the length of our road, the length of the next, and we find ourselves on the main road with cars speeding past.

The difference is, tonight is the night before Founder’s Day, and we quickly learn that either everyone in the city is hopping into a taxi to celebrate or most of the taxi drivers have decided to stay in tonight. Whichever way it is, the only taxis we see as we walk along are full.

Now, we’ve never had to walk all the way to the main road before. Once we hit it, we’re not sure the taxis will stop. There isn’t much of a shoulder and they’re driving by at pretty high speeds. We hang out in the bus lane.

A few minutes later, a taxi pulls up. I’m not really sure where we’re going, so I let Chandler barter with the driver. He claims to know where we’re going, but says it is much, much farther than we think. He also says the traffic is so bad we must pay extra for him to return. Return where, I think? We’re going to a traffic circle about 2 km away and then turning around and coming back another 1 km. He’s barely going anywhere.

Chandler gets him down to 8 cedi ($2.03), but by now, I’m so frustrated I won’t accept anything more than 5. He drives away. The next taxi won’t go below 10 cedi.

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Which food group does honey fall into? Fats, oils, and sugars. What are coconuts? Fruit. Is garlic a vegetable? Yes. Do cranberries grow on bushes? No, on vines.

In our first Unit of Inquiry we’re talking about healthy habits when it comes to relationships, foods, and exercise. These are my students’ wonderings…

And I’m realizing, maybe I should be a little more curious as well. My whole life, a good portion of my curiosity was satisfied by reading interesting literature. This week was a great week for me. Our high school library just released their new shipment of books and as I perused the list, my own personal “to-read” list grew.

Which, by the way, sounds exactly like my interactions with the Summerglen Library in Fort Worth. It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to state that reading is my favourite past time. But I have to remind myself to look around and admire my new surroundings.

Ghana is a new country for me and despite the overwhelming similarities I find with Ethiopia, I’ve never been here before and I need to stop taking advantage of all of the easy (read lazy) comforts I’ve gotten used to in the past month.

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Chale Wote: Our first big outing in Accra

Our first few weeks in Accra have flown by…between the new city, new home, new school, and new curricula, we’ve been too busy to get out much. And even when we are out, we’re usually scoping out the best places to buy our groceries : ) Because, as usual, food is the most important thing in our lives.

But this weekend we did get a chance to check out a new part of the city and see some local and international street art.

This year, the Chale Wote Street Art Festival took place from August 15 – 21. In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the festival, their theme was “Spirit Robot,” a constellation of art, energy, and passion that signified a united capacity to create meaningful change in our communities and shift our realities into a more livable world for all.

The school was awesome enough to take a bus down to the heart of the festival and drop us all off in James Town, one of the oldest districts in Accra. Known for its remnants of Accra’s colonial past, one of it’s most notable landmarks is the lighthouse.


These days, most of the neighborhood has fallen into disrepair, but the community brightened itself up for the week’s celebrations.

There were pop-up performances everywhere we turned, encompassing many different kinds of art, from painting, to street art, to dancing, to singing, to impromptu yoga sessions, and a pop-up library.

Street Paintings
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We got hitched!

Ok, so it’s probably a little weird that my first blog from Ghana is about an event that happened four weeks ago in the U.S. But between the wedding, our post wedding excursion (ok, mini-moon), saying goodbye to family & friends, and packing up our lives for the second time this summer…there just wasn’t time to look through photos and write a blog post!

And I have to admit, I’m a little surprised this is happening even now. We start school in three days and I meet all of the second graders new to the school tomorrow. But if you don’t make time now, then when?

So, this is mostly a picture blog. For anyone wanting to see how the pictures turned out or to relive the day (all right, I’m probably the only one who does that! Haha), or for those who couldn’t make it…you know who you are : )

First, we got ready at the house, which was a historic home in St. Paul, so of course we took some photos there…


But then the ladies got bored and we figured it was time to include everyone…


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10 Travel Tips I Learned AFTER Peace Corps

You’d probably think living overseas in Ethiopia for 2 years would have taught me a lot about travel, but honestly, I moved there with two 50 lb suitcases and two very large carry-ons. I pretty much tossed in everything I thought I could possibly need and then relied on friends and family to send me care packages every 2-3 months.

It wasn’t until my partner (now husband! What? But that’s for another post) and I spent 3 months traveling around SE Asia with just a medium-sized North Face duffel on each of our backs that I really learned something about packing and traveling in general.

Tip #1: Bring a boatload of spare passport photos with you
I didn’t bring any extra to Ethiopia (because buying them in the United States is SO expensive!). It wasn’t a big deal, I had them printed in Ethiopia for super cheap, but I knew the language and had friends to refer me to a place. And while I got all the photos I needed for SE Asia (think visa forms, drivers permits, and lost passports), they all had this silly photo-touched glow to them that left me feeling embarrassed and hoping like hell they’d be accepted! This time around we printed them ourselves using a handy tool from the Department of State, a color printer, and some semi-gloss paper.


Tip #2: Don’t buy adventure clothes
Things I bought from REI that I could not have lived without: My quick-dry towel, light-weight sleeping bag (only for my time staying with a host family – I never used it when traveling), Swiss Army Camper Knife, Nalgene water bottle (this time I’ve upgraded to a Hydro Flask), and headlamp (because you never know when the electricity’s going to go out). Things I could not wait to get rid of: expensive hiking shoes, linen pants, and rain jacket. If you don’t wear it at home, you won’t want to wear it while traveling! This time around I’m packing plenty of jeans, summer dresses, and an umbrella.

adventure gear

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