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Before going into this report I should probably explain who Flat Stanley is and why this report was so important to me. A friend of mine requested I take Flat Stanley on my trip for her nephew's sake. Flat Stanley is a fun way to learn about geography and other cultures.  Flat Stanley is a small cartoon boy who fits comfortably on a normal letter size piece of paper.  Various people take Flat Stanley around the world and prepare a report similar to this one so that the kids can learn about these other places in the world.  I purposefully kept the language simple so even the youngest readers should be able to enjoy reading it.

Flat Stanley's Trip

Flat Stanley had an impressive trip to Germany and Ghana. He accompanied me, Erik Scheller, to my parent’s home in Memmingen, Germany (check here for a slide show)(all links open in a separate browser window). Flat Stanley and I left San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on December 23, 2005. We arrived in Munich, Germany, on Christmas Eve. We celebrated Christmas with my family and enjoyed a Christmas tree with real candles. The following days we went cross-country skiing in Ottobeuren, which  is the home of one of the largest and most impressive Baroque Basilicas in the world (click here to see a movie on the town’s homepage). Flat Stanley joined my parents, my German aunt, and me at a New Years Eve theater and gala dinner in Memmingen. Due to his age, Flat Stanley was not allowed to toast the New Year with champagne but he was at least allowed to stay awake until 1 AM.

Just for your information, I have attached to the end of this report various maps so you can see where Flat Stanley has gone in Ghana.

On January 2nd, he and I left the cold and snowy Germany and via London, England, flew to the hot and humid Accra, Ghana, West Africa. Accra is the capital of Ghana and is along the Ghanaian coastline. The first few days in Ghana were spent touring Accra, attending a Rotary meeting, visiting business contacts and friends, and preparing for my further travels. We stayed with friends in Accra.

Ghana has many different tribes and a lot of languages. The official language is English and most can speak it well. The good part about English is that it’s a neutral language. If the government decided to make one of the local languages the official language, the tribes speaking other languages would be upset and revolt. The two largest tribes in Ghana are probably the Ewe and Ashanti. Although they live together and most consider themselves Ghanaians before they consider themselves Ewe or Ashanti, they still think their tribe is superior to some extent.

On Thursday, January 5th, Prince Dzomeku and his driver/mechanic came to pick me up in the taxi I helped Prince purchase. Prince and I became good friends while I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Akoasi, Eastern Region, Ghana, from 1991-1993. Prince is his actual name…he is not an actual prince. Prince is a Ewe and lives in Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana. He is a headmaster for a junior secondary school (junior high school). On the drive up to Ho from Accra we stopped near Fintey to take a break and a picture with Flat Stanley on the windshield.

Once in Ho and after greeting his family, we drove off to Kpetoe (sounds like pet-o-eh). Kpetoe is a home of Ewe kente. Kente is the traditional cloth worn by Ghanaians. One of the following pictures shows me wearing a kente cloth. I love the beautiful cloth so much that I have started an online business with a Ghanaian friend selling kente and anything related (www.kentesource.com)(this report is hosted on the website). The Ewe and Ashanti are fighting about the origins of kente. The Ewe claim the Ashanti’s effectively stole the kente weaving skills from the Ewe and obviously the Ewe produce better kente. Yet the Ashanti are better known around the world as the kente weavers. The chief in Kpetoe spent considerable time with Prince and I talking about kente and “proving” Ashanti kente actually came from the Ewe.

Prince washing clothing with family and Flat Stanley

From Kpetoe we drove to Wodome. Wodome is partially in Ghana and Togo. On one side of the road you are in Togo and on the other side you are in Ghana. Now Flat Stanley and I can say we were both in Togo and Ghana. 

On Friday, January 6th, Prince, his daughter Sandra, the driver, Flat Stanley, and I went on a long excursion in the Volta Region.

When I was a Peace Corps volunteer I was not able to travel much in the Volta Region so being a tourist for the day was fun.

Our first destination was in Tafi Atome visiting some monkeys. The town has a special relationship with a few hundred monkeys. They treat the monkeys with respect and allow them to even participate in special events and meetings. Initially our guide was not able to locate the monkeys in the bush. We almost thought we would not see any monkeys but gratefully just before deciding to head onward they were found and we got to be up close and personal with them. 

From Tafi Atome we went to Wli (sounds like willy) waterfalls. Leaving Tafi Atome we offered a ride to a lady from Tafi Atome, who wanted to get to the neighboring larger town of Hohoe. When she found out we were going to the falls she decided to join us. Despite living close to the falls, she had never seen the waterfalls. The walk to the waterfalls was a bit longer than anyone had expected. Not too pleasant of a walk on such a hot and humid day. However, once we arrived at the falls we got to enjoy the cool water and breeze. After Wli waterfalls we made our way back to Ho.

On Saturday, January 7th, we were finally on our way to Akoasi. I was particularly excited about seeing the town in which I lived for two years. We left late and hence arrived late in Akoasi. News about my arrival spread  quickly and soon various old friends came to greet me. What a great evening it was for me. So many people remembered me and were still thanking me for what I did for them so many years ago.

The next morning, Sunday, January 8th, Prince, Flat Stanley, and I went to visit the residence in which I lived as a Peace Corps volunteer. We also went to visit various old neighbors of mine. We inspected one of the two ten seat latrines I helped build over 12 years ago. It was in good condition and still heavily used.

Prince married a local woman. Her parents lived in the neighboring town of Nyafomang. Nyafomang is also known for its gold mines. Although I was not so thrilled about visiting his relatives and would have preferred hanging out in Akoasi, Flat Stanley and I still went along. His in-laws were very gracious people and his father-in-law took us to visit the gold mines. The mines are pretty scary and dangerous. I am glad I am not a miner.

By lunchtime we were all back in Akoasi. In the late afternoon we were invited to the Chief’s palace for a formal welcome and greeting. At that time, all I thought was happening was a formal welcome and greeting. However, the “Nanadom” (all the chiefs and elders in town) had decided to honor me by making me the Development Chief of Akoasi. Flat Stanley was a witness to this long ceremony, which included many greetings, exchange of gifts, pouring of libation, swearing of allegiance to the chief and town, and more talks and presentations than I had expected. In the end I was given a new name, Nana Yaw Boakye Gyasi II.

Nana is chief. It is also used for grandparents. Yaw is the “day name” Ghanaian males born on a Thursday have. In other words, if you are born on a Thursday and are a male, you were named Yaw…for a Friday born male it would be Kofi (i.e. Kofi Annan who is leading the United Nations is born on a Friday). The females have similar names for all seven days of the week. Mr. Boakye is my Ghanaian “father” and his family is my “adopted” family. He took care of me during my Peace Corps years and made sure communal labor was arranged and that the projects got completed. I have helped his children go through the University and have never forgotten all his efforts. He is also now my official representative when Nanadom meets. Gyasi is a royal name. Apparently the Gyasi family was among the first chiefs of Akoasi.

I think Flat Stanley was a bit overwhelmed by this occasion. I certainly was totally surprised and overwhelmed by the respect and honor.

Monday, January 9th, was spent visiting and hanging around Akoasi. Another meeting at the Chief’s palace was arranged to thank Nanadom for the great honor they have given me. The rest of the day I simply enjoyed walking around seeing my various projects, talking to various old friends, visiting the secondary school that I helped become a reality and that is now the best in the district, and seeing the various changes that have happened and those that should happen.

Tuesday, January 10th, Prince, the driver, Flat Stanley, another local driver, and I left on a day trip to Bonwire, Ntonso, and Lake Bosumtwi.

Bonwire is known as the home of Ashanti kente. I was a bit disappointed and hoped to have had a more educational visit but instead was mostly surrounded by people trying to sell kente and only got to watch some of the weavers at work.

Ntonso is known for Adinkra cloth. This cloth is also a traditional cloth worn in Ghana. 2’ wide strips of cloth are stamped with one of the many Adinkra symbols. The cloth, based on what symbols are used, can be specific for a purpose or descriptive of the wearer. My favorite symbol is one were two lizards are sharing the same stomach. The symbol can have two meanings. One says it is a symbol of greed; whereas another can mean unity with diversity. In Ntonso we were able to watch a cloth being prepared and were able to talk to the artist. Apparently the stamp is dipped in a liquid, which is derived from a tree bark from Northern Ghana, and then the stamp is gracefully applied to the cloth. The 2’ wide strips are then often colorfully sown together to make one big cloth. The paramount chief of Akoasi is wearing an Adinkra cloth during my enstoolment as a chief.

Lake Bosumtwi was created millions of years ago by a meteorite. It is one of the largest natural lakes in Africa. I had always wanted to visit the lake because I heard it was a beautiful location. I certainly wish I could have spent more time at the lake but our plans did not allow for it.

The same day we headed back to Akoasi. We arrived late at night and pretty much went straight to sleep. On Wednesday, January 10th, Prince, his driver, Flat Stanley, and I headed back to Accra. Prince needed to return to his school so we arrived back in Accra over a day sooner than I had initially planned. We spent the day visiting the Peace Corps office, going the Internet Café, and waiting for my next friend and host to pick me up. 

Thursday was spent going to the National Museum, walking around in Accra, going to a Rotary Club meeting, and generally enjoying Accra. Late Thursday night I got a call from Deborah. She was the little girl that always came to visit me at my home in Akoasi many years ago. Now she is a fully developed young lady. We were both very excited to see each other again. On Friday we spent the entire day together visiting more places in Accra, going to the Labadie Beach, and simply enjoying each others company. 

The next day, Saturday, Deborah was off to China on a business trip. We wanted to get together one more time so in the morning I met with her. However, I progressively started to fell worse and finally she made me go to the hospital. The last two days in Ghana were pretty much spent in a hospital. At first the doctor was worried I had malaria but in the end it turned out that my throat, which was very sore, got an infection and the infection produced a fever. The fever in turn resulted in dehydration, which was felt in the form of nausea and a splitting head ache. A day of sleep, re-hydration, antibiotics, and various other lovely drugs helped to make me feel a lot better prior to my late night Sunday flight back home. 

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