Hello Blog Followers!
Thank you again for reading these posts. With limited Internet and phone access, it is awesome to know you can hear about our adventures with just a click of the mouse!
We had a relaxing and thought provoking Sunday. We rose at 7am and left Jimmy Com Guest House by 8. After roughly 1.5 hours in the tro-tro, we arrived at the busy town of Elmina. This coastal fishing town is also home to the famous St. George’s Castle, a landmark recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This castle was built in 1482 by the Portuguese, who had initially settled in Ghana to spread religion. Shortly afterward, this castle became a trading post involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade. In 1637 the port was seized by the Dutch, who continued to export slaves to Haiti, Trinidad, and many of the Caribbean Islands. Finally, this castle was captured by the British in 1871, and the port remained under British rule until Ghana’s independence in 1957.
We had the opportunity to take a guided tour through this large, white castle. Our guide described the various rooms of the castle- some of which functioned as slave dungeons, others of which were for the governor(s). Dungeons were split between male and female quarters, and these individuals were often not given food or water for weeks at a time. All of these individuals were kept at St. George’s with the intent of being exported onto ships, yet many of them died in captivity. The small and dark rooms evoked images of suffering and anguish, which became very real to us. It’s crazy to think that we were standing on the same ground as many African slaves. It was a somber experience that made us reflect on the role of slavery in history, and also provided a glimpse into the beginning of a slave’s journey (when, being Americans, we had only previously viewed their end destination). This also prompted an in-depth conversation about modern day slavery. We discussed how ambiguous the current definition of slavery actually is, and how slavery takes many different forms. It’s interesting to look back remorsefully at history, yet we all agree that many people today seem to turn a blind eye to the presence of slavery purely because it is less defined.
After our solemn experience, we went to Coconut Grove Resort and spent a few hours on the beach. The weather was beautiful, and we all enjoyed being in the warm water and having a great lunch. Going to the beach was another way for us to assess our role as tourists. Regardless of the fact that we were at an extravagant resort, there was still extreme poverty surrounding it. This led us to question the positive and negative impacts of tourism on poverty. Ultimately, we found it ironic that a resort could concentrate its wealth to a few in an area of need.
We have exactly a week left here in Ghana. Tomorrow we will be teaching again, and after school we will help the nurse track the students’ growth by recording their height and weight. We are excited to see what the days ahead will bring, but we also look forward to continuing our conversation and efforts back at F&M!
Katie & Jen