Archive for March, 2006

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2006 by stephenhuey

Been a while since I’ve had access to any internet or phones here in the true Irish country of the west.  I’ll stick 16 photos down below…

Of course I shouldn’t have been so arrogant about how driving on the other side of the road wouldn’t be a problem for me.  Shifting on the left is easy, but I constantly feel I have to lean to the right to make sure I stay over far enough.  Only 10 minutes after picking up my car, I got a bit too close to the lefthand side of the road on a tiny side street in Dublin.  I thought I’d only knicked my leftside mirror, but it turns out I have a major dent in my bright red Corolla (and no, I’m not telling you which rental company I’m using).  Thank God they forced me to buy the insurance since I’m taking it across the border into Northern Ireland! 

I thought it was scary enough driving on the road from Dublin to Galway (which for a lot of the way was not dual carriageway).  However, ever since it’s gotten progressively more difficult.  I’m the slowpoke going 100 kph on these 2-lane roads with no shoulder, trying to avoid knicking the side of cars in the oncoming lane while negotiating hairpin turns without running off into the numerous lakes or hitting the sheep on the side of the road.  Some Irish lass got fed up with me and blazed past! 

I had no idea so many people actually spoke Gaelic over here!  All the signs are in both Irish and English (sometimes no English!), and the Irish television programmes fascinated me (they had English subtitles). 

On Monday I drove across the country from Dublin to Galway, and although I had a deposit on at a place to stay in Galway, I decided to pass by and head straight for the Aran Islands ferry another hour down the road.  I missed the last one of the day by 10 minutes thanks to Galway’s rush hour and a couple of wrong turns off of the numerous roundabouts there, so I stayed at a literally adorable B&B where the lady told me how to greet in Gaelic (don’t ask–already forgot) and about the stone walls you see EVERYWHERE in that area. 

If you’re ever in Ireland, I recommend renting a bike on Inis Mór (largest of the Aran Islands).  You can spend the whole day riding all over it, and there’s a fort on a cliff that you hike up to that was begun about 1000 B.C.  The island is so small that you can often see the water on both sides as you peddle along.  Last night after getting off the ferry, I just headed north, and stayed at the Old Monastery Hostel in Letterfrack with about 40 English geology students on a school trip and some Italians and a Belgian guy.  Met a half-Irish, half-Italian guy watching the match at the pub who’s a camera man working on a documentary about bees nearby. 

Right now, I’m chilling in Westport and then I’ll drive straight up to Donegal county to see about doing a bit more hiking in the Slieve League mountains.  I met some ladies on the islands who have offered me a place to stay in Donegal town, so I might try to make it back to their place for that.  They’re sisters, but one of them now lives in California and goes to Saddleback Church, if you can believe it…

By the way, the black stuff is really good!  I’ll have to try it when I get back to Houston, because the last time I had it there I thought it didn’t taste good.  The Guinness Brewery in Dublin is a pretty snazzy place–well worth a visit.  Seems like they’ve fixed it up a lot recently.  I found out that some Irish folks actually have a disease from having too much iron thanks to Guinness. 

The Gherkin in the financial district in London. 

 

La Defense, possibly my favorite place in Paris. 

 

From La Defense, you can see Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe since it was built to mirror it. 

 

To me it feels a bit like a city of the future with all the skyscrapers surrounding you. 

 

À la Seine sans femme.

 

My humble abode in Dublin’s Temple Bar area. 

 

Cliff at Dun Aengus fort on the island of Inis Mór. 

 

Got a Swiss gal to take my picture. 

 

That lil’ lady in the distance had to come and tell me to get down from the wall. 

 

One of the little villages on the island. 

 

Couldn’t resist.  So springy and lovely! 

 

Limestone everywhere.  Unbelievable. 

 

 

These ancient walls were all over the island and mainland as far as one could see. 

 

The sheep are a bit more colorful over here. 

 

It’s hard enough to drive through the Connemara without trying to take pictures at the same time.  No, there aren’t really any places to pull over to the side of the road–there is no side of the road!!! 

 

Nothing like a good Irish breakfast to keep you going strong.  Already finished my cereal, as you can see. 

 

 

Quick little update

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2006 by stephenhuey

From the last post, that was a Ghanaian shirt that someone gave my dad–it was not my mother’s! And as for an itinerary, I was just in London, now I’m in Paris–but I haven’t had plans for each day (agh–this keyboard is killing me!). I have a couple of hostels booked for my first two days in Ireland, but nothing beyond that. This is zhqt hqppens if I just try to type zithout looking qt the keys1 Cool; huh+

The English folks I stayed with in London (4 kids) were about the loveliest you could imagine, and I hadn’t seen any of them in 8 years (they went to my school in Nigeria). I also met up with a Nigerian high school classmate whom I hadn’t seen in 7+ years. He just moved there to work for an American law firm, and he took a several-hours long lunch break to show me around The City (the financial district), and I was astounded by how it seemed like there were an unending mishmash of streets full of nice, new-looking huge buildings full of stone and marble and glass. I had also never been to the V&A, the National History Museum, and through the Soho area, and Alex took me to all those places and served as better tour guide than I had ever had in the city. We also ate at the poshest pizza place I’d ever been to. Oh, and I ran into a girl I had a class with at Rice while browsing around Fortnum & Mason. That’s a super posh store where you can do your weekly shopping if you want to spend obscene amounts on produce or pay 32 pounds for a hand-decorated chocolate Easter egg or buy a lollipop with a scorpion in it.

The train from Paris takes only about 2 and a half hours. My elderly neighbor from the south of France told me she’s a bit miffed that Arabic is becoming the 2nd language of France, and when I mentioned I was coming to visit a Polish friend in Paris, she exclaimed, “There are no more French people in Paris!”

I haven’t seen Pawel since I passed through here 7 years ago, and I’m staying in the flat he and his cousin share. He found out something crazy at work yesterday–not only does he have a ton to finish by this weekend, but a secretary alerted him to the fact that he’d requested a half day off on Friday back in December. Not remembering why, he dug through all his papers until he found a printout for a plane ticket back to Poland for tomorrow that he’d completely forgotten about! He apologized profusely to me, but the way I see it, there’s a better chance he’ll marry the girlfriend he has there than me, so I’m comfortable with where I rank on his priority list. 🙂

Gonna hit the town now…hasta tarde…

Farewell to Africa

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2006 by stephenhuey

How’d you like to be buried in a lion or a Coke bottle or even a Nike shoe?  See the pictures at the very bottom for some coffins unlike any you’ve probably ever seen before…


Too bad I don’t have time to ruminate on all my feelings about having been here and my mixture of excitement with apprehensions over travelling throughout the next couple of weeks.  Instead, I’ll just put up a ton of pictures and pay tribute to a few interesting signs we saw.  Church today was a blast–I can’t wait to show some of you videos I took during the service!  The medical team was still with us, and I think they’ve never seen anything like that in Georgia before.  🙂



  • Blessed Fast Foods

  • Hands For Christ Barbing

  • My God is Able Plumbing (with a toilet on the door)

  • Jesus Temple Relief (hole-in-the-wall pharmacy)

  • My Redeemer Lives Hiring Services

  • Perfect Virgin Enterprises

  • Conquering Lion of Tribe of Judah (tiny ice cream stand)

  • Academy of Best Brains

  • Warning:  Traffic Light on Trial

  • Delight Shampoo Hair Fertilizer

I’m leaving for the airport…be back in Houston in 2 weeks!



Since someone said they weren’t seeing my mom in any pictures.


 



Stylin’


 



Nice break in the middle of a long drive.


 



My parents’ African Grey Parrot (still doesn’t talk). 


 



Is it the smoke or the flavour?


 



You heard him!


 



Letters on the back are common.  I saw “Israel” on the back of one vehicle. 


 



Keep thinkin’ that, buddy.  🙂


 



Common saying in Ghana–they even have a symbol for it. 


 



I’m tellin’ you–they’re everywhere.


 



A different sort of sticker on the back of a vehicle. 


 



Like many of my pictures, taken through a dirty window. 


 



Unlike Nigeria, they can actually rely on the electricity for traffic lights. 


 



I’m tellin’ you, these are coffins! 


 



Didn’t believe me, did you?


 



Machine gun for a soldier, Nike shoe for a runner, lobster for a…


 



Lots of places carve these–anything you can imagine.  I’ve even seen a broom (if you were a good wife who swept well?). 


 



Farewell from Ghana.  Whoops, it’s almost 9:15 pm and I’ve gotta shower and get to the airport!!!  Good thing we only live 15 minutes from there.  I’ll try to update from Europe…


 


 

Little road trip

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2006 by stephenhuey

Spent 35+ hours on the road since Saturday morning, and just got back into Accra this afternoon after a 12-hour trip that started at 4:30 am.  My parents have been so occupied since they got here last summer that this was the first time my mother has been more than 30 minutes from the guest house since she came to Ghana (they used me as a good excuse for a bit of vacation).  Most of the roads were mostly paved (dodge those potholes while oncoming traffic is doing the same), although you always have to slow down when passing through the small villages that pop up every few kilometers.  Otherwise you might hit a goat or worse.  The 400+ kilometers of dirt roads we traversed at 60-80 kph were jarring to the bones, but that and passing vehicles by cramming in between 2 big lorries moving in opposite directions on a 2-lane road every 5 minutes make for more eventful driving than I-10 usually provides, so the 12 hours seemed to fly by.  If I had 10,000 cedis for every time my mother inhaled sharply on the road…and no, I wasn’t driving.  Not sure I’ve been hanging around long enough to have the courage for that!


Spent a couple of days on the beach and visited two slave castles in the area as well as a park in the rainforest, then headed far north to Mole National Park where we saw some elephants swimming with crocodiles.  After that we decided to push even farther north to the Baptist hospital at Nalerigu (east of Wale Wale).  We arrived just in time for dinner and some fun hang-out time with a small medical team who’s here for a week.  There’s one surgeon, and he had 12 surgeries scheduled for today, and completed about a dozen yesterday as well!  They love to laugh, so they can handle it. 


Oh, and last night at the hospital, I saw a woman WALK from the delivery room to her bed in the maternal ward no more than 10 minutes after giving birth!  The doctors were joking about their wives back in the States wanting time off and half days and all that.  Apparently, another lady recently gave birth to twins, and the next day she and a friend each carried a newborn for the full 12 miles back to her village!!! 


Here are 14 pictures:


 



Canopy walk high above most of the trees in a rainforest park near Cape Coast.  There were 7 of these bridges, and it was only freaky if you weren’t careful to walk exactly in the middle, because then it would start tilting from side to side!


 



Slave castle at Elmina that Columbus visited in 1482 before he made it to the Americas.  It’s thought to be the oldest surviving European structure below the equator. 


 



The castle at Elmina was one of many forts that the Portuguese and others made treaties with local African rulers over to house slaves before shipping them to the New World.


 



Here’s the drawbridge over the double moat.  One numerical fact that stood out in my mind was that at the height of slave trafficking, over 650,000 were transported across the Atlantic in a single year. 


 



 


A castle could sometimes hold about a thousand prisoners at once, and they would be crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in tiny, unlit dungeon rooms for up to several weeks.


 



The captain would stand above this courtyard to pick out female slaves for the night.


 


 


 We decided to leave this industrious boy’s monitor lizard for a hungrier traveler to purchase.


 



When you’re far from a petrol station, you need to keep your eyes peeled for someone who has a fuel tank next to their house. 


 



Inhabited termite mounds are a more reddish color.  Abandoned or not, the termite saliva mixed with dirt is so rock hard that kicking the mounds hardly makes a dent.  Calling the local exterminators means inviting someone to dig out the queen.  The nasty-looking foot-long lady is a delicacy!  So are her millions of minions when they fly out of the mound en masse upon the advent of the rainy season. 


 



Walking around Mole National Park with an armed guide.  Rainy season will begin any day now, but until then, you can see that the Harmattan dust from the Sahara still hangs heavy in the air. 


 



We had to walk for a while to get up close and personal with a herd of bathing elephants, but this guy decided to come all the way up the hill to visit our room.


 


 


I decided 10 feet was close enough and started walking away calmly and quickly. 


 


 


Cute and cuddly?  My mom can’t stand baboons because they’re not afraid to come into your room or jump all over your car.  She lost a tug-of-war with one over some candy once. 


 



Ever seen a sign that says Tall Load?  Goodbye for now, folks…


 

From the other side of the world…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2006 by stephenhuey

I’m finally here!  It’s impossible to forget for a second where I am–I’ve only been to a few West African countries, but I expect you can’t ever forget where you are when you’re in one.  Every building, road, light switch, door handle, room…everything has a look to it that I haven’t seen anywhere else in years.  The fans can be as powerful as helicopters, and letting them whip the warm air over my body while listening to the gazillions of bird calls takes me to places from long ago.  I feel so free with open air windows, even when it’s really hot, and the guest house my parents run has them everywhere! 


I probably only slept 4ish hours during the 20 hours of travelling, but I wasn’t too tired.  The flight from London to Accra was only half full, and there was a water project team coming from Pantano Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona.  One the guys came over and sat with me for a couple of hours.  His name was Chax (“Chaz”). 


Went to bed at midnight last night and hopped in the shower at 6:30 this morning (I love sunlight streaming into my bedroom–always helps with getting up and at ’em), then had breakfast with some of the guests staying here.  They included an older couple who work in the north, as well as some young New Yorkers on a dental team.  The team had a blast, and the guy was talking about how for the first time he performed an extraction on a woman while she was breastfeeding her child (the kid kept reaching up at him while he was trying to get the tooth out). 


Haven’t been out of the compound yet, but that’ll change soon…meanwhile, here a few pictures I took before breakfast. 



Mmmmm….sunlight streaming into my room…and open air windows!  And my helicopter fan!!!  Can’t decide which of those I miss most…



Other side of my room.  The box for my parents made it with only a minor dent! 



Banana and papaya trees seen from my window. 



One side of the guest house with a royal palm next to it. 



Windows everywhere to let the breeze blow through–the only way a home should be!



Living room and kitchen in my parents’ part of the guest house. 



Oh yeah, and the fruit cake my grandma made for my dad’s birthday was still cold when I unpacked it from the box! 


* Update after lunch *



A real Ghanaian specialty:  foo foo with groundnut stew!  (groundnut = peanut)



Only breakfast and supper are served in the guest house, so Adeline (wearing white) pounded the foo foo (half an hour’s work) and made the groundnut stew specially just for a few of us. 


Wish you could be here.  Love ya’ll…oh, and by the way, this says I’m posting at 3:30 am, but that’s Central time–I’m 6 hours ahead of that. 

Finally

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2006 by stephenhuey

Muslims want to visit Mecca at least once.  Everyone should visit
Subsaharan Africa at least once.  But then it’d be a pity if your
first time was also your last!

Depart Houston, Texas:  Wed, March 8th, 5:30 pm
Arrive in Accra, Ghana:  Thurs, 8:55 pm (2:55 pm in Houston)

I’ll skip the London/Paris/Dublin/Belfast itinerary for now.  I’ll
try to post when I can.  Main thing is I’ll be back in Houston at
5:35 pm on Sunday, April 2, which I’ve heard happens to be someone’s birthday, so I hope to do a bit of partying if my flight’s not delayed!

Reality hasn’t quite hit me yet.  I’m tired right now–can barely type this, and I’m making lots of mistakes!  I’ve
been spending quite a bit of time getting ready, trying to make sure I
have all my own stuff, plus the things I’m taking for other
people.  I’ve got cash hidden in various parts of my carry-on, but
my favorite strategy is to wrap a Ben Franklin in some plastic and
stick that inside one of my socks. 

Never been to Ghana
My parents are there this year (only for another couple of months), so
I’m taking the chance to go while I can.  Since I finished college
and got a job, I feel like life has been going nonstop…I’ve been
meaning to return to Africa for years, and I never had the chance till
now.  I really think I need a break.  I believe my
perspective has gone awry, and I’d like to drop some habits and some of
the ways I waste my time, refocus, consider what’s really important to
my life, what I’m doing with it, etc… 

Finished packing just now.  It takes a while to tape up a
box.  I’ve got some new pillows and towels in there that my mom
wanted, some documents and passport photos for a medical team and some
other folks who are going to Ghana later, a fruit cake my grandma made
for my dad’s birthday, suction cups, stoppers, golden raisins, magnetic
signs to slap onto the sides of cars, etc (random stuff my parents and
other people needed). 

Now, I’ve just got to go to sleep, wake up, shower, go to work, talk to
people at work, leave early, and…after passing through a dream, I’ll
feel very, very far away…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2006 by stephenhuey

Per request, I’m including a recipe for hummus down below.  Tweak
the zesty bits according to your taste (I’m partial to lots of garlic).  I haven’t made any in a
long time, but tonight I did bake some squirrels and eat a couple of
them.  No kidding.  They’re lean, and remind me of
duck, or maybe frogs.  About ten years ago, my grandpa got so annoyed with them
messing with stuff in his yard that he started using traps my little
brother built to get rid of them.  Eventually, he got tired of
taking them to the park and releasing them, so….yeah, they ate ’em
when my grandparents were kids.

Here’s one of my favorite photos that I’ve taken.  Note that there
was no digital manipulation involved nor any camera tricks–this is
just how it came out:

For a couple of you out there who know him, that’s Justin, and we were
in Kansas at the time.  The hummus recipe below is actually from
Justin’s wife.  Here’s how he gave it to me: 

It's J here.  I've got Krista's recipe for hummus:

2 cups chickpeas (you can used canned chickpeas and can get them anywhere)

2 large garlic cloves

4-6 T lemon juice

2 T olive oil

3 T tahini paste (ground sesame seed paste)

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 t salt

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Drain the liquid from the chickpeas and mix everything together in
a blender or food processor.  Krista said that if you want to
make enough for twenty people, you would want to triple everything in
the recipe.  She also said it lasts up to a week in the
fridge.  The tahini paste is sometimes hard to find, but
we've been able to get it at Krogers.   Hope it turns out
well.