March 7- Market Day

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7 March 2017

Hiking in near a hundred degree weather is an experience… especially when you’re walking uphill through a jungle with seven suspension bridges as your destination. Alas, I soldiered on and climbed that mountain and conquered those bridges. It was probably the coolest thing that I’ve ever done. The whole experience was made even better as the entirety of Kakum National Park was full of students on field trips. Today was a school holiday apparently, and we the lone tourists, didn’t seem to grasp what a holiday meant. It was crowded!

Other than the breathtaking views, and the terrified shrieks of my friend Mercedes (who is massively afraid of heights and has been renamed Scared Woman by the girl we’re staying with, Vic), my favorite part of the day was when a tiny class of elementary schoolers came up to us and asked for pictures. We hung out with them for probably ten minutes and took pictures individually with each of the girls. We even took a full group selfie with the girls and their teacher. Ugh, they were so sweet and so so adorable.

We also went shopping today which was magical. My wallet full of newly exchanged Ghanaian money was burning a hole in my pocket. I got sooooo much stuff and negotiated some killer deals (shout out to Katie for being a total animal and negotiating a guy down from 120 cede to 60 cede). My favorite buys of the day had to be these tiny stuffed elephants made of bright boutique fabric (I believe it’s called boutique at least, I vaguely remember Kwesi calling the handmade fabric that) that could be cuddled with or propped on a shelf. They were so cute that I had to buy two. Oh and we’re going to the market  again tomorrow!! But this time, for fabric, not trinkets. We’re getting dresses custom made by Sister Sarah.

Much love,

Rachel

March 6th – Ghanian Independence Day

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6 March 2017

The 4th of July to Americans is what the 6th of March is to Ghanians–Independence Day.  This day 60 years ago, the British relinquished their control over Ghana. Like any Independence Day celebration, there were parades and parties.

Our day started with a short walk across the street to where the parade would be held. From my very basic understanding of Ghanaian Independence Day celebrations, I knew that all the local school children would be marching. Those too little to March or those who didn’t want to, crowded around the edge of the soccer field where the March would take place. Everyone, for the most part, was dressed exquisitely. The babies wore casual clothes, but other than the school uniform clad marchers, were dressed beautifully in vibrant patterned dresses and shirts.

I was taken aback by just how friendly the people were! So many hugs were given out today and there were so many laughs as well. The kids were asking us questions about back home and what are families were like and if we had boyfriends. So, Mercedes and I pulled out our phones and started showing them pictures. Their favorite picture was of Mercedes’s boyfriend, George, they giggled and said he looked like a movie star.

We played with the kids at the parade for what must’ve been three hours but felt only like 20 minutes. I’m not the most talkative person, but for the morning I was. They were just so kind natured, funny and completely intriguing. I just had to talk to them, you know?

I think the best moment of the day was when this little old lady hobbled over, granddaughter in tow, to shake my hand and give me a big hug. It’s a universal truth, old people are always adorable and always so sweet.

-Rachel Coe

(P.S. As we’re in an Independence Day mood, we’re watching Captain America which I thought was funny)

March 5th – Slave Castle

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5 March 2017

When Kwesi told us last night that breakfast would be served at 7:30, I groaned. To me, still completely jet lagged and on eastern standard time, 7:30 am would feel like 2:30 am. However, when my alarm went off this morning, I threw on my glasses and went to grab breakfast without complaint. We were going to the beach today and if I had to wake up at 7:30 to get there, then that’s what I was going to do. It would all be worth it to go to the beach.

At 8:15, the van rolled out for Elmina Slave Castle and then for Coconut Grove, the beach resort we’d be spending the day at. In total, it was an hour and a half drive mostly along the coast. Though still the Atlantic, it was so much cleaner than it’s Jersey Shore counterpart.

One thing that struck me most about the day was the size of the slave castle. I had this idea in my mind that it would be this massive structure, but it wasn’t. It was small. From the various history classes I’ve taken, I was pretty sure of just how bad the conditions the slaves lived in were. Seeing the castle, however, I realized just how wrong I was– it was so much worse. I don’t even have words to accurately describe what I saw. It was eye opening to say the least. The depth of suffering imparted on an entire race of people is beyond comprehension, and the pain that those walls held will never leave me.

Though the morning was somber with our tour of Elmina Slave Castle, our afternoon was the complete opposite (a very odd transition in my book). We spent the whole day at a beach resort!! There was a pool to swim in, beach chairs to lounge in, and coconuts to drink from, all with ocean views. The day was made even better with Lynette’s promise of returning next week!

-Rachel Coe

Up Up in the Air

3 March 2017, 15:35

We left Westtown at 8:30 this morning and arrived at JFK sometime around 11. Our flight, Delta 420, leaves from Gate 38B at 5:00pm. With our visas verified, and boarding passes at the ready, we’re set to board the plane in thirty minutes. I’m massively excited! I’ve got a huge bag of pretzel goldfish, a family sized pack of skittles, like eight chocolate chip Questbars (the best flavor), a few books loaded onto my Kindle, and the new Lorde single– what more could a girl want? Sure, my friends might be in Vienna and Cuba and Greece and Boston, but I’m going to Africa (which is totallllllly the best trip out of the four).

Here’s to safe travels and great company.

-Rachel Coe

do O.R. die!

3 March 2017

In two days, I will scrub up for the first time. In line with me at the sink will be medical interns, doctors, anesthesiologists, and other professionals. These medical professionals have an unthinkable amount of experience in their fields, more experience than a naive high-schooler like me can fathom. Once we step into the operating room (hence the O.R. mentioned in the title of this post), however, we are all equal in our pursuit to prolong the life of the body in front of us.

For my Senior Project, I will be shadowing a pediatric surgeon at the DuPont Children’s Hospital. She will be on call, which means any medical emergency (at any hour in the day or night) will be placed at her hands. Through this experience, I hope to learn more about what it takes to be a surgeon. While most of the knowledge I gain will be through the practical application of surgery, some of it will be more intimate. Since most surgeons develop a deep understanding of the relationship between life and death, I hope to reflect on how to deal with these final moments as well.

I’ll be starting this Monday, so if you’re not too queasy, feel free to check out my blog posts starting then!

-Lili Ladner, O.R. mini-intern

It’s Ghana be an Awesome Trip

2 March 2017

The farthest I’ve strayed from the US was my 1,272 mile trek to Turks and Caicos. Other than the occasional excursions to the Caribbean and Canada, my feet have stay firmly planted on American soil. Tomorrow that all changes. When I board Delta 420 from New York to Accra, I’ll be venturing 5,105 miles from home. That’s four times further than I have ever traveled. To say I’m excited is an understatement! Usually your first “lone” (lone being away from your parents, not adult supervision) adventure is to Europe or somewhere frequented by tourists… but, no, I’m going to Africa! That’s just so cool to me! I’ll be blogging about my escapades abroad as frequently as Ghana’s internet situation allows, so check back!

-Rachel Coe

Ghana, here I come

Hello, my name is Margaret-Alice Tree and I am a senior at Westtown School. For my senior project, I will be embarking on a trip to Accra Ghana where I will be teaching middle school students English during the week. I will be teaching at our sister school Heritage Academy, which was founded by a previous Westtown employee. I chose this trip because I grew up at Westtown hearing stories from other peoples trips to Heritage. I look forward to blogging about my experiences during my time in Ghana. And I hope to leave this project with experiences I could not find anywhere else.

Who Am I and Where Am I Going?

Hello Everyone!

My name is Julia Pavlov, a senior at The Westtown School and from the small town of Royersford, Pennsylvania. On Thursday, March 9th I will embark on a lengthy and treacherous journey to a land unknown, or in other words, I will be making the five and a half hour flight to Bogotá, Colombia. After I arrive I will begin my work with a foundation named Hogar San Mauricio, where I will be working with young children. My jobs at this organization may vary from helping care for the children to teaching them basic English-speaking skills. In addition to this, I will also be observing the Colombian way of life. Unfortunately there is a massive amount of negative rhetoric surrounding this country and I really want to prove these assumptions wrong. I would hate to go on this adventure alone, so if you like, stay tuned for updates!

That’s all for now and thanks for reading!

Julia

Riddle’s Elephant Sanctuary

March 1, 2017

After years of hearing about how amazing my cousins Elephant Sanctuary in Quitman, Arkansas, was from my father and uncle, this Friday I will finally get to observe it for myself. Earlier this year I became in contact with my cousins, asking if they could spare two spots for my friend and I to come and intern there for two weeks. Luckily, they had some extra room and the plans were finalized.

I saw this opportunity to work with elephants as a way for me to do things that I really love- working with animals and the study of the brain. Elephants have some of the best memories in the animal kingdom, and as someone who is interested in neuroscience I saw this as a perfect time to learn from them. Although there may be other research projects going on at the time that I might be a part of, I hope to observe and work with the elephants and do some basic research myself. When I come back from this project I hope to have a greater insight on the habits of elephants and the responsibility that comes along with caring for such a large creature.

Jesse Strommer

 

Israel/Palestine Preparations

28 February 2017 – Tara Kleponis

After planning for months of traveling to Israel and Palestine, the trip is finally days away, and I’m struggling to fathom just how soon I’ll be abroad. As soon as I learned about an opportunity to travel to an area with a culture so rich and a conflict so deep that the only way to understand is to go, I knew I had to be there. This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip where I will experience religion and disdain, homestays and hotels, bussing and hiking, new foods, new oceans, and so much more. I’d never imagined that my senior year would include a journey to a region brand new to me, yet here I am, packing my suitcase and gathering my passport.

In Israel and Palestine, I will be speaking to locals to hear their stories and learn about their cultures. As there is conflict ongoing in the area, I will be sure to hear stories that contrast with one another in belief and action, yet every single one will be true. Why is that? Each person has had their own experience, and some have dealt with situations which have caused them to look at the world and their neighbors in different ways. While abroad, it is not the job of us Westtown students to draw conclusions about what we encounter, but to listen respectfully and learn from those we meet.

I cannot wait to explore a place so different from the one I know, and hope to see the world in a new way, or a bigger way, upon my return. Here I will share my personal experiences from Israel and Palestine–talk to you soon!