Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trip to Cape Coast Sept 27-28

We left for our little getaway with Elder and Sister Cobb. They serve in the Temple and since it is closed on Monday, they had time to go away. The Area Presidency is away for General Conference in Utah and thus, we had an opportunity to take Monday off and go with them. We left early Sunday morning and drove for 2 and a half hours, stopping to pick up a couple who are assigned to attend a small branch to help with leadership. A few miles from the branch we stopped and picked up these two boys who were waiting with their grandmother for a ride to the church. The one on the left is Ishmael who is 13. The other is Shadrach who is 10. They seemed excited to get to ride with the white missionaries! We met Sarah as we got there and were ready to take the picture. Ishmael was the only deacon.
This is the small but very faithful branch we attended. Picture was taken before the meeting. About 40 members came to church. All four of us were asked to speak when we got there. I spoke on living after the manner of happiness in our families and Arlon spoke on the healing power of the Savior.
Elder and Sister Cobb
After church we traveled to visit another good friend of the Cobbs who works in the Temple
The outdoor oven where bread is made for those at the school
as well as his family.

This brother joined the church many years ago. He attended a university in America for his Masters and returned home where he settled on a huge track of land and built a home. He named it Lehi Villa. From there, he built homes for several other family members and then others started moving there and building. He built a school and continues to add to it. He now has about 1200 students. There are no public schools here. Parents pay to send their kids to these private schools or to boarding schools where the kids stay for about 9 months with just a few vacation weeks to come home. This brother also has an orphanage here at the school. We met about 10 teenagers from the orphanage who are all members of the church.

Next we stopped in to visit this couple...Brother and Sister Eshon. He is a medical assistant who owns and runs a clinic. They have been building a new home for 2 years and wanted to show the Cobbs. People here do not take out loans for homes. The acquire the land and then build a little at a time as they have the cash. Arlon found that they have orange trees. Here in Africa the oranges stay green even when ripe. We had freshly squeezed juice at our hotel the next two mornings. Mmmmm..good! Brother Eshon invited us in and related his incredible conversion story which I hope to record and write about later. I'll take a picture of us together at that time.

These are just two of the children who came up to us while meeting with some of the people during our several stops on Sunday. They were so darling.

What a beautiful beach. We both love the sound of the ocean - very relaxing. We checked into the Elmina Bay Resort by the very bustling fishing village of Elmina.

The view from the big window of our room.
Palms everywhere in this part of Ghana.

We may come back this way again as the Cape Coast Stake is where the first baptisms took place in Ghana and there are several people living here who were among the first members in 1978 when missionaries came. One of those is William Fifi Imbrah who had lunch with us on Monday. He also shared his conversion (he is on the film "Pioneers of Africa" which is sometimes shown between Conference sessions). He works at the Temple on Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings and has agreed to have me interview him and write about his conversion and experiences between 1964 when he first read the Book of Mormon and his baptism. The faith of these saints is very powerful and it is a privilege to get to know them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sept 21, 09

Driving up into the beautiful hilly country to the north of Accra, we climbed to about 1500 feet above sea level where the weather and vegetation differ from the big city where we live. It is our first venture out of the city and we went with two other couples, the Binghams and the Stubbs.
We had planned an all day trip to see three things - the first two of which follow. The third - a waterfall- will have to wait for another trip. When we finally got to Koforidua and turned on the road to the waterfall, we ran into a huge parade type celebration of hundreds, if not a thousand people dancing in the roadway, with big trucks carrying people and huge sound equipment. It was a holiday after all, and the celebration required us to turn around and go back. We found the couple missionaries, the Hunts, at their home and ate our picnic lunch there. But all in all it was a great day. Our first stop was at the Aburi Botanical Gardens. This is a 160 acre parcel that the British decided to build a botanical gardens on. They have 30 acres divided into 'lawns' and the other 130 is preserved as a natural forest. The lawns we saw are: the entertainment lawn (ceba trees, bonzai and other special trees), 'spice lawn with cinnamon, bay leaf, camphor, allspice, etc. - palm lawn, fruit tree lawn, children's lawn, dignitary lawn (where trees are planted by dignitaries and kings, queens, etc. Here are a few pictures we took there.
Believe it or not this is a bonzai tree. This climate does wonders.

The palm lined entry road to the Botanical Gardens. Very majestic!

Here are two ceba trees. The one on the right is about 350 years old. They have planted the vines that grow up around it to provide protection for it and for beauty. The one on the left was planted when the British organized and created the gardens so it is about 130 years old. This is also known as the silk cotton tree and its fibrous cotton is used in the making of clothing. The buttresses (like on cathedrals) form as the trees grow and help support it. They are very tall and beautiful. There are two trees that are in these gardens that were left 'as is' when the rest of the forest was cleared and the acres divided into the various lawns.

Our Guide - Dominique - did a good job of showing us around the different lawns. He was well educated and was fun to talk to.

This photo (above) was taken looking up into the inside of the now-hollow strangler ficus tree. It was pretty incredible that the tree shell survives after the initial tree inside completely dies off. From the photo above with our guide you can see that the diameter is pretty wide at the base. This process takes about 30 years.

On the "palm" lawn there was this tree which had blown down years ago, still grew sideways then up again and had an offshoot on the other end. Makes a nice bench! The gardens were really beautiful and peaceful. Yeah for the British for creating it so many years ago.

Now, on to another sightseeing attraction..... the cocoa farm.

We went to a cocoa farm which was started back in 1879 by Tettah Quashie. He was a Ghanain blacksmith who went to an island somewhere near Africa and worked for six years. Upon returning to Ghana, he smuggled several cocoa beans in because he saw how much money could be made from farming cocoa trees and found where the best climate and soil was to plant them. Now this is a major export of Ghana and one of the top producers in the world.

This is the cocoa pod when opened has about 40-50 beans which are covered in slimy "placenta". The beans are then put in a big pile covered with banana leaves for 7 days. They are turned every 48 hours and at the end have turned brown. They are then dried out and sent to be processed. Of course, for white chocolate, the beans are pressed without drying, and the oil is used to make white chocolate! Our guide was working this one acre farm and doing all of the processes by himself. Each tree has many pods and produce pods for two periods a year. From flower to mature pod takes only 3 months so harvesting the many trees on only one acre keeps him very busy.
A fun time. We came home tired but really saw some beautiful countryside.
May this be the first of more trips to come.