Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cape Coast and back

Last weekend we traveled to the town of Cape Coast with two other Duke students, who are teaching in nearby Tema for the summer. We spent a large part of our time touring two colonial castles that served as hubs for the slave trade until the 1800s. The castles were stunning, but the history was, not surprisingly, dreadfully dark; the tours take visitors to every corner of the castles, including window-less, underground chambers where hundreds of people were held captive--in stark contrast to the airy, spacious governor's quarters that sit atop each of the fortresses. (My background picture is from Cape Coast castle.)

Unfortunately, our visit was cut short when Stesha suddenly fell ill; her diagnosis is still a bit unclear... malaria, or parasites, or a stomach virus, depending on which doctor's diagnosis we choose to believe. While Stesha stayed in bed, recovering, we put our research on hold for a couple days. To kill time, I explored our area a bit more, and made a couple friends along the way. Venturing out around the dirt roads of our "neighborhood" alone, I quickly found that people are much more likely to approach me when I'm by myself. Indeed, it seemed that every 30 steps a new person would come up and ask my name and where I'm from. It's very odd, knowing that I'm a walking spectacle (or freak show, depending on how you look at it) but it's also a nice way to make friends--except in the few instances where they start asking for money...

Today I had a bit of an epiphany in one of our interviews, building upon the words of a Johns Hopkins professor we met recently. She and her family, expats from America, are subletting from one of Stesha's relatives, and so we were invited over for dinner on Tuesday. Coincidentally, Laura, the professor, happens to specialize in reproductive and women's health--one aspect of our project--and in Ghana, she's currently working to tackle the high number of unsafe abortions that occur. Laura said that one of the biggest challenges wasn't that technology wasn't up-to-date, or that professionals in the field were lacking education; she emphasized that the information gap existed between the professionals and the public, and that, especially in Ghana's many rural areas, women were unknowledgable of the facts and dangers of abortion. This gap, she said, is very hard to reconcile.

Florence, the founder of the Eve's Foundation who we interviewed today, paralleled Laura's thoughts almost exactly. With limited resources, she said, it was difficult to get basic health information out to Ghanaian women, many of whom are illiterate or don't speak English, the chosen language for many health documents.

Now that this particular obstacle has caught our attention, we have decided to focus on it a bit more in our research.

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