5.5 weeks * 39 days * 936 hours * 51160 minutes

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Risky Business – navigating the TRO-TRO

Tro-tro definition:
*Oversized mini van or similar to a small utility van that started it’s life somewhere else & has landed its last years of life in Ghana.
*A true tro-tro has been stripped of its original interior & been replaced with flat, formless bench seats. Bottom line: maximum capacity.
*Radios, speedometers and gas gauges do not function.
*Doors – typically tied down to secure luggage and passengers.
*You just hope your feet don’t go through the floor boards.
*There is always a Christian message displayed on the back window.
*And when you think the tro-tro is full & on its way…it is very likely you will pick up more passengers along the way!!

Three Steps:
1) Get yourself a tro-tro to your destination
2) Scary business of riding the tro-tro
3) Getting off the tro-tro & hailing a cab to your final destination

Step One:
Equivalent to a 5 AM Black Friday shopping extravaganza, it’s like a pack of wolves on fresh meat. People yelling destinations & pulling you in every direction, and grabbing your luggage, it is no small feat securing a tro-tro with seven available seats for the group. Once settled you must wait for the tro-tro to fill with passengers. Time is out of your hands.

Step Two:Packed in like cattle, there are 16 people crammed into a mini van made for a maximum of 10.

Sensory overload:

Touch: random strangers bumping and grinding next to you, sweating all over each other (talk about disgusting).

Smell: sweat, BO, dirt, car exhaust, the stench of open sewers and a variety of food (meat, veggies, fruit and baked goods are being sold at the tro-tro windows at every stop along the way.

Auditory: horns blaring, animals calling, people yelling & a steady roar of traffic.

Taste: No thank you! We have not taken that opportunity besides the plantain chips purchased.

Sight: It’s best to close your eyes and hope for the best, however, if you dare to peek you will find your self being propelled down the road swerving, dodging and passing cars/trucks & potholes and oncoming traffic. Going hastily down the road at ungodly speeds (note: speedometers do not usually work, we have yet to a working one!). Your only hope is to make it back in your lane before hit by oncoming traffic. We’ve been lucky so far.

Step Three:Your biggest concern is not becoming separated from your luggage. While your still crammed on the tro-tro, your lovely luggage has been tossed & abandoned on the dirty road side up for grabs for all those surrounding the tro-tro. Just as you make it off the tro-tro with your luggage an aggressive taxi driver attempts to (sometimes succeeds) to take your luggage & hustle you into his taxi. True story! Just image 7 people being pulled in 7 different directions. It’s pure chaos. You finally let out a breath of relief when all seven have safely made it into two taxis w/luggage on their way to their final destination!

Follow steps one through three for a successful tro-tro experience. Note: We make no guarantees.

2 cedi…$1.40 tro-tro cost – the tro-tro experience priceless.

Signed, tro-tro survivors – Beth & Leena

Consumers Report

Prior to travel, Leena and Beth spent hours shopping looking for the most convenient traveling accessories to ease the trip. Now after backpacking through Ghana, Africa we can give a pretty good account of what is worth your money and what is not!

* Antibacterial fast drying travel towels - Work wonders, dry in hours, and don't smell musty!! You may consider spending the few extra $ and buying the XXL version Beth found. Leena's size L (the size of a hand towel) left one wanting for a few extra inches of material!

*Exofficio undergarments - Packaging states two pairs, 6 weeks, 10 countries! Truly AMAZING!

*baby wipes, face towelettes, and hand sanitizer - MUST HAVE A LOT! Quick bath on the go.

*100% cotton sleeping bag liners - Great when guest house sheets are questionable!

*space safer bags - if space is an issue, great for condensing clothing size - may leave you a bit wrinkly

*North Face hiking pants - MUST for any traveler! Wash and air dry easily overnight!!!

*Crocs and Keen footwear - Long time Croc wearer Beth made a believer in Leena on the comfortability and ease of Crocs!!! Keens are great too but claim to have a odor shield that does not work!

*Food: peanut butter, almonds, granola bars, tea bags, easy mac candy - PACK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!!!

*travel kleenex - Crucial when traveling to areas where restrooms can be anywhere and available toilet paper unreliable

*40% deet bug spray, sunblock - VERY IMPORTANT

*baseball hat - truly the only thing we never used and sent back with Steve!

*small travel lantern/flashlight - when sharing a room, in case of electricity loss, or walking out at night CRUCIAL

Rejuvinating with supplies from home!!!

As luck would have it, Steve (Beth's spouse) had some business in Accra, Ghana and came over to Africa for a few days (July 19-22). Lucky us, we had a few supply requests from home to rejuvenate us!!! The SURVIVAL KIT included the following:

*1 large suitcase (to pack up the souvenirs we have purchased and ship it home with Steve)
* 2 boxes EasyMac (it tastes amazing when you haven't eaten macaroni and cheese in a month!)
* 4 boxes of 18 count Granola bars
*1 pound bag of wasabi and soy sauce flavored almonds
*1 small container of chocolate covered almonds
* 1 bag of star burst
* 1 bag of dove chocolates
* 1 bag of assorted chocolates

----we did share too!!!
Eating well now, Beth and Leena

If you are breaking chairs....are you really losing weight??

We could have sworn we have been losing weight - eating less, pants are baggier, and walking everywhere. But then, the eve of Tuesday, July 20th the truth came out...dun dun dun! As we were sitting in our common space in our guest house relaxing, talking and just enjoying our quiet evening to ourselves Leena noticed a bit of a wobble in her chair. To be fair, the chairs are plastic lawn chairs and look a bit worn. Beth offered to swap one off the three chairs out if she was concerned though Leena declined which would leave her doomed to her fate. Within moments after sitting down Leena went crashing down to the floor; legs & arms flailing & plastic chair pieces flying!!! A HUGE crash brought, Emmanuel (our landlord) running into the guest house concerned for our safety, yelling "are you hurt? Are you okay?" He found Leena on the floor trying to put the unsalvageable plastic chair back together. To sum it up, it was not a pretty sight.

So the question remains- are we really losing weight??

Signed, unhurt-chair crasher Leena and laughing Beth :-)

What you survive can only make your stronger. Right?

What is or is not acceptable hotel accommodations?

When you pay for a hotel, there are some basic accommodation expectations. Throw those out the window when traveling on a budget to Ghana! Lizards become sleeping companions, bathroom doors become null, clean sheets not an option, shower curtains are a luxury, toilet paper is on your own dime, and when paying for hot water and AC don't count on it - just hope you have running water!

Here is a glimpse of what we have encountered so far:

Accra Hotel #1: no running water results in showering and flushing toilets with buckets

Damango Guest House: shower head falling off the wall (watch out from above!), ceiling fan barely rotates, ants galore, toilet spraying out everywhere when flushed, the 5AM call to prayer wake up call, and the sheep/goats/dogs/roosters calling out all times of day or night (just when we told the doctor no rabies shots were needed because we wouldn't be around stray animals!).

Tamale Guest House: dim bedroom lighting (could only have been 5 watts illuminating the room), the toilet so cramped in the bathroom your feet were in the shower when using, the janky front door lock falling the door, the ceiling caving in, and the bathroom floor made of unfinished concrete.

Winneba Guest House: TRULY A GEM!!! Clean floors and sheets, comfortable, kitchen use and private bathroom, separate twin beds, and private indoor common room space.

Cape Coast #1 Hotel: the name of the hotel was called Same Blood - questionable to start off with! Smelled like moth balls (makes sense, they were stuffed in every crevice of the room), the bedroom window was in the stairwell leaving the room bright as day throughout the night, and 1 restaurant in town that had no menu and only three meal options (fufu, banku, and chicken/rice - we never it made it past the rice - very questionable!!!).

Cape Coast #2 Hotel: Had a luxurious hot shower the first night the first in 4.5 weeks - it was a tease because we never had one again, no AC though we paid for it, flowing sheet as a bathroom door (we had to make sure to turn the ceiling fan off before using the facilities to avoid being exposed - though it brought us to a whole new level of bonding - conversations just continued without the barrier), and trickling detached shower head.

Accra Hotel #2: LUXURY - we are staying our final night in Africa in the beautiful Holiday Inn the equivalent to a Chicago or New York facility. HOT WATER, SEPARATE DOUBLE BEDS, RESTAURANT DOWNSTAIRS POOLSIDE WITH A BREEZE OFF THE OCEAN, ETC.!!!

Survivors, Beth and Leena

Sunday, July 25, 2010

TAKING ALL BETS....friends or foes

So, many of you have probably been wondering what is really going on behind the scenes of Ghana, Africa. Really, are Leena and Beth getting along??? We have now spent 33 days & nights together and upon return it will be a GRAND total of 39 days together (definition of "together" - sharing a room, sharing a double bed, shopping together, walking together, working together, eating ALL meals together...basically having no individual time or privacy).

SO...we are taking online blogging bets from all of our followers whether we will be returning as FRIENDS or FOES...calling all bets in now.

Signed friends or foes??? Leena and Beth

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 12-16: Working at Challenging Heights

After we arrived in Winneba, we settled in at our Guest house. We have truly found a gem here!!! The guest house is spotless with the cleanest sheets we have scene yet!!! The owners are wonderful people who have offered to teach us how to cook Ghanain dishes (YUM - we will be bringing our recipes home: fried plantain/yam, fufu, banku, and redred)!!! The guest house is 1/4 mile from the beach. If you sit outside the guest house under the cabana, you can hear the tide crashing from the shoreline down the road. Janaan, Leena and I know we are already spoiled. We are sharing a two bedroom with living room and private bathroom guest house at the compound. The students are across the way in individual rooms. There are also covered outdoor showers that provide a unique experience where you can look up at the coconut trees and shower under the hot African sun (a once in a lifetime chance to TRULY even out those tan lines!!!).

We have begun working at Challenging Heights - a school that enrolls children that have been rescued from slavery in the fishing industry or children who are at risk for being trafficed into the industry.

The first day we had an orientation with James Anann (a survivor of child slavery and now an administrator with Challenging Heights). James will actually be traveling to the States in the fall and speaking at GVSU in late October during Sustainability Week. Once we reviewed the schedule, we spent the day observing the classrooms. The school has three classes in the nursery (children range from age 4 to 9). In addition, there are classes from 1st to 5th grade. Each year they add another grade to their facilities. The nursery school is chaotic and lacks a lot of structure and curriculum based teaching. The 1st through 5th grade are more structured where teachers work from curriculum books. Starting Tuesday, we will pair off and choose a class to work with. Leena and I decided to take on the chaotic nursery. We will soon see if this was a good choice!

On Tuesday, Leena worked in the most advanced and oldest nursery classroom and then headed off to Lake Volta. I stayed behind with one of the students and worked at the school for the remainder of the week. I spent half of each day assisting in typing up exams (which will take place in two weeks) and the other half of the day working in the classroom. I had the opportunity to teach one of the nursery classes both mathematics and spelling lessons, as well as, assisted in grading exercise books. I stumbled through the language barrier (the young children are still in the process of learning English) ,as well as, the poor classroom management structure that is in place. The classroom is primarily managed through the threat of corporal punishment which doesn't seem to be really working and obviously myself unwilling to participate in managing the class in this manner. So it has been a challenging week to keep the children's attention and move through the lesson! My favorite part of the day is recess which takes place each day at 10:30 AM. The children love to play frisbee together. Each day I get involved in a competative match (where I think I hold my own pretty well)!

The student's will continue to work at the school next week while Janaan, Leena, and I attend meetings and work in the community to solidify information for the study abroad trip next year.


July 14-15: Lake Volta Trip

Now that we are down in Winneba we are working with Challenging Heights (CH), an organization that works to rescue enslaved children within the fishing industry and provide support and education to their local community members. One opportunity we have been afforded was a trip to Lake Volta to see the villages where children are enslaved. Janaan (Honors College staff), Eric and Kaleigh (students), and myself ventured off on this trip. Beth and Christine (another student) stayed behind to continue their work at the Challenging Heights School.

This trip to Lake Volta was very eye opening. We left early on Wednesday, July 14th and it took us over 10 hours to get to our location. We stayed in small town as it was too late to go to Lake Volta on Wednesday. We had to be ready at 5:30 a.m. to drive to Lake Volta (about 45 minutes away, as the hotel we stayed at was safer than the locations closer to the lake). Only to find that the van would not start, we had a slight delay but we finally made it to Lake Volta.

We had a 45 minute ride in the Challenging Heights wooden boat. Just to give you all a little taste of this, imagine two man navigating a large boat just by one handling the motor and the other giving directions from the front of the boat. Mind you, there are a ton of trees in Lake Volta that the men had to avoid!! Just a little history on Lake Volta. It was constructed during the years of 1961-1965 where the Akosombo Dam blocked Volta River to create Lake Volta.

While heading to one of the villages, William (an employee of Challenging Heights, who coordinates the rescues) showed us children on boats that are likely to be taken from their families. It was so hard to watch children working on the fishing boats, when they should be in school. This children work long days and are not being educated at all. What is even more sad is that the fishermen send their children away to go to school, but find it completely okay to take other children and make them work. At one point Janaan said to William, "Can't we just take the children and save them!" William replied, "What would we do with them?" Challenging Heights rescues children only after gaining permission from their parents. The parents will share any information about the fishermen that took the child and other knowledge that can be useful in the rescue. Challenging Heights then will try to work with the fishermen to educate them on why it is not okay to take the children. Once an agreement is settled, Challenging Heights takes the child to the rehabilitation center for treatment (around 50 days). These children are traumatized and are not in the best condition, but the staff work to help rehabilitate the child. Once the child completes their time at the center, they are immersed back into their parents or extended families home. There is no foster care system here. William's response was telling as it revealed how much more progress needs to be made here in Ghana.

We met with the chief of the village to ask questions about his thoughts about what is happening in his community. We found out that the chief even has children that have been enslaved working for him. James Annan (the founder of Challenging Heights) shared on our return that the chief supports this behavior as he makes money with using the children. James was enslaved into the fishing industry from the ages of 6-13, and was able to finally escape.

Before this trip I will admit, I was nervous to see the villages, the fishermen but most of all the enslaved children. We did not go too far on Lake Volta so we did not see the worst parts. While in the village we did see children that were working to untangle the fishing nets and working in the village, which we were informed that these children were most likely enslaved. Some of the children are taken at such a young age they do not even realize they have been taken from their parents (James shared this information with us). Can you imagine? These children are working so hard while other children are sitting next to them working on school work. These enslaved children are not even given the opportunity to receive and education, but rather to just work for the fishermen and his family. We spent about 2 1/2 to 3 hours at the village, but had to return as the weather did not look good. I am glad I went to see the village and get a better understanding of where the children (at Challenging Heights) are coming from. It was hard to take in, but most definitely worth it.

On our return, we were expecting to return to Winneba around 4-5 p.m. on July 15th, but that did not happen. Our van began to have problems, so we had to stop in Kumasi (a large city in Ghana) to switch vans. We drove for over 12 hours to get back to Winneba. There were moments where we were in isolated areas in the "bush" (in Ghana, known as the wilderness/jungle areas). We were told by the Challenging Heights coordinator that there are areas in Ghana that there are armed robberies and we would need to be careful! I will admit I was a little worried after that comment but we made it home safely a little after 1 a.m.

While James works to rescue those children enslaved, he also provides a variety of opportunities for his local community both rescued and not rescued children and their families. One project that CH has created is the Survivor's Support Network. This program is for the child that has been rescued, but also for the mothers. CH provides the child with a desk and chair in their home as well as paying for school supplies. The mothers are also given a grant to help them create some sort of trade/business that can help them get on their feet and support their child. If the student does not go to school, the grant will turn into a loan with a 30% interest rate. This helps to ensure the family is supporting the child's education. Another program CH has created is Skills Training, this is where older kids are out of school, but are learning one of the trade/skill that they can use to support themselves (ex. seamstress, driving, carpentry, hair stylist, welding). In addition to learning the trade, the person will have a literacy course once a week and in the future the plan is to teach about business management.

These are just two of the many programs that Challenging Heights provides to the community of Winneba. Our group was able to spend an entire day with James as he shared the many opportunities for the local community members but also for future service learning opportunities GVSU students.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 6: Mole National Park & Larabunga

A consistent pattern emerging- early to bed, early to rise.

We started our morning at 5 a.m., after breakfast we headed northwest to Mole National Park. Bad decision #1: not bringing socks. We partook in a 2 hour hiking safari where we saw baboons, monkeys, warthogs, antelope, AND elephants! We had to wear knee high rubber boots to protect us from wildlife (we found out there are scorpions and black cobras). No really, we did see a three inch scorpion in the ditch by our guest house!!! After the hike, our feet were covered in blisters from the damn rental boots!! (Really, who doesn't bring socks to the safari!) We've learned a valuable lesson.

Out of all the animals, the elephants were definitely our favorite! To see elephants so close and in the wild was absolutely amazing. We look forward to sharing pictures in the future with everyone.

We stopped in the village of Larabunga to visit with Issak and Kosco, friends of Janaan's (she met them last year). We toured the village and met with some community members to learn about the water issues. Currently their problems are twofold. They have two dams that create holding ponds of water during the rainy season. However, the water is shared with people and animals which creates sanitary concerns. As a solution, three bore holes (basically wells) were installed. Two were set up as manual pumps and the other electric. Currently, only one of the manual bore holes is functioning. The village is looking for outside funding to fix the broken manual pump and connect the electricity for the third bore hole. The bore holes are not only important for clean water, but necessary to sustain the village during the dry season when the holding ponds dry up. During the village tour, we also saw how the community utilizes shea nuts to make shea butter products for profit.

-Recovering from blisters... Beth & Leena

July 2nd - Chief, Hospital, and Track Meet

We had the opportunity to meet the Chief of Damango. He shared his concerns and visions for his people: the unpaved road that leaves Damango isolated from the developing Tamale, improve both academic and personal health education, and instill self responsibility. The Chief is actually Abraham's (our host) cousin. He is considered a prince to the people and is in line, should his brother decline the chief role.

Next, we went to the Damango High School track meet. Compared to American track meets, this was no ordinary track and field event. The track was all dirt with race lines carved into the ground. It was shocking to see the kids round the corner the last 50 meters, to see them racing without shoes. Some were wearing socks, sandals and others barefoot.

We ended our day visiting the Damango Hospital. We were able to see the reception area located outside on benches, the laboratory the size of a small bedroom, and the children's ward. While Damango is very lucky to have their own facility, it was hard to observe the differences compared to American facilities. Most impactful was the children's ward. It was two large open rooms with multiple occupied beds of sick children and attending mothers. It was stunning to see the equipment. The IV's were attached to wooden boards, beds were rusty with torn mattresses, a child had a leg cast made of two boards and binding, and overall avoid of sterileness. We learned that while doctors and nurses adminster the medicine to the children, parents (mostly mothers) are responsible to feed and take care of their children. We learned that Ghana has a universal health care system that individuals can purchase at an affordable cost (12-15 cedi). However, large operations or intensive medical care is not covered and has to be paid upfront out of pocket by individuals. While there is health coverage, this system leaves many people unable to afford care for their families as emergencies arise. Our group met a mother with her sick son who needed surgery on his stomach (he was unable to absorb nutrients into his body). The reality is she was watching her son die because she couldn't pay for the operation. This was definitely an eye opening and tough day.

Reality hitting home... Beth & Leena

June 30 - July 9: Exhausted childless women...

First off, we want to apologize for our delay in blogging. You will understand as you read about our journey up in the north.

Our early flight left from Accra to Tamale where we were picked up by Abraham, our host and founder of the Redemption Children's Home. Abraham founded the children's home six years ago. It is a private organization that operates on donations/volunteers.

Bumpity-bump-bump. That's all we can really say about the bus ride from Tamale to Damongo. It was a three hour drive on a dirt/gravel road (going 20-30 mph) from Tamale to the remote village of Damongo. Can you imagine having to make this journey multiple times in a week to go to the bank, access internet and get other essential items for your home! The village is a small community of 29,000 residents. The roads are filled with chickens, goats, sheep, mopeds, cars and people. There is about a half mile of shop stands in the city center and the rest is surrounding countryside. No alarm clock needed. Between the roosters, chickens, sheep, goats and call to prayer (There is a large muslim population where they pray five times a day--one is at 5 a.m.--that is in the morning people!).

We arrived to our Guest House located across the street from Abraham's home/guest house. To our surprise, when we opened the door to our room, we found ONE bed. ONE full size bed. Yes, we did share a bed for nine days. Let's just say staff bonding rose to the ultimate level! We were fortunate to have all our meals prepared by Abraham's staff for our 9 days in Damango. It was interesting to see how welcoming his home is to all his volunteers. We met many people from Holland who stay with Abraham for months on end helping with the children.

For the 9 days in Damango, we spent our time helping Abraham's staff at the Redemption Children's Home. Our days were broken down in two parts, the morning consisted of breakfast at 8 a.m., and then we were off to work with the children. We were assigned to help the teacher in the school house with the children (ages 4-7). During the downtime we found ourselves helping the staff with the babies, cooking, and cleaning. After lunch and a short break, we headed back to play with the children for a few hours before dark. Sista Beth tricked Sista Leena to run races with the children on very hot Sunday afternoon. Picture skirts, sandals and dirt pathways as children ran circles around both of us. For all those that have children, take a moment to imagine what it would be like for five adults (that's all the staff he has) to take care of 50 children. There is no down time, with cooking for 50, babies crying, changing dirty diapers, and cleaning up after the kids only to get back up and start all over again. Exhausting... Even our short interactions each day had us in bed by 9 p.m. each night.

***Future staff retreat ideas: sharing beds, hand washing each other's clothes (that includes underwear), strut around in our towels, etc.

-Exhausted childless women...a shout out to all parents! - Beth & Leena

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 29-30 Exploring Accra

After getting some much needed rest we had a day to explore Accra before heading to the north. The city was pure chaos! It was fast pass, with the hussling and bussling of people and traffic. We were able to experience the markets and last America food. Along the way we stopped at Annie Hakim's relatives jewelry store. All the metal work was handmade and intricate. Absolutely beautiful!! We went back to the hotel as we all knew we had an early start the next morning.

We were ready tuck in for the night, when madness broke out. As Leena laid in bed, she noticed moved that involved a small tail. She leaped into Beth's bed (luckily she was not tucked in) pointing and screaming "There is something up there!" (on the curtain rod). With a puzzled face, Beth questioned Leena ability to see without her glasses (Leena had contacts in!). After finding a poking device, Leena looked like a courageous knight going into battle. After a big poke a lizard crawled out and was chillin' on our curtains. Not so courageous after all, there was a lot of screaming, jumping and fear before we could compose ourselves to make a plan.

Plan of attack...dadatada!! Ross to the rescue! We quickly called Ross who saved the lizard and returned him to his natural environment - the crazy city of Accra??

Did we really sleep? Our day started at 2:45AM to catch a flight to Tamale. We have a long bus ride ahead of us to Damango, our next home for 10 days.

Courageous lizard hunters....Beth & Leena


After an exhausting four days in London, we were finally heading to Ghana. We had to be on the road at 7:30AM (that is 2:30AM Michigan time!!!) to make our 12:30PM flight. The Gatwick, England airport is a zoo. There is a holding area prior to gate assignment. Gates are not posting until boarding time. Once posted, it is off to the races to get to your gate and board! Our first leg of the trip was Tripoli where we had a 2.5 hour layover. Though we have to stop there on the way back, it will be the last time Leena and Beth willingly stop in Libya. It was an interesting experience. The country is Arabic speaking with minimal English translations. The Tripoli airport was a culture shock in itself. We found that the majority of the workers and travelers were men and found it difficult as two traveling women to find assistance. It was challenging to maneuver through the airport as security was strict and multiple stations along the way. The flight to Accra was delayed but finally we arrived at 12:00AM Ghana time (that is 8:00PM Michigan time). We were ready for the challenge to collect our baggage, exchange money, and hale a taxi to the hotel. We were surprised and relieved to see Janaan and Ross there to pick us up and already have a taxi waiting. Once at the hotel, we settled into our room and quickly fell asleep.

THREE CHEERS - we made it!!!! Leena and Beth

Sunday, June 27, 2010

After 22 hours of car rides, airports, and layovers we finally made it to the UK! We spent 4 amazing days with Leena's crazy family.

We landed Thursday, June 24th at 11:30 a.m. - three hours later than anticipated. There was no rest for the world travelers! We immediately went home, freshened up, and went to Windsor Castle. It was quite remarkable to see St. George's Cathedral, the Royal Doll House and some of the Royal Apartments. While there, we saw staff prepping the gardens for the Queen's visit the next day. We know so because one of the security guards told us so! After a few hours of exploring we headed home. Leena's family all came over to her aunt's house to see us and we were up past ten. We finally crashed and had to be up by 9 a.m. to go to the city the next day.

We spent Friday in London checking out the sites. We started at Green Park and made our way to Buckingham Palace where we observed the changing of guards and the Guard's Museum. Then we were on our way to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament but Leena's aunt was starving so we had to stop for lunch at Ask (Italian Restaurant). After lunch, we DID make it to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and wrapped up by riding on the London Eye where we saw the entire arial view of the city. Tower Bridge was our next stop. We walked across and headed down the path to take photos of the beautiful structure. We soon found ourselves in a Starbucks (something we NEVER see in the States!) since we had been walking all day. We felt like crazy tourist (even Leena's family) as we chased the bus down to St. Pauls Cathedral. Beth and Leena went in and took a glance of the the gorgeous building. Did y'all know that Princess Diana got married in this Cathedral? We went to Trafalgar Square, there used to be tons of pigeons but now they are not allowed in the area. So now it's kind of boring. We ended our day by catching multiple buses and trains to get back to my aunt and uncle's house. Where Beth and Leena were forced to karoake to ABBA - Mama Mia. Let's just say Beth squashed Leena. She is a ROCK STAR in disguise! Before bed, we had a proper English dinner with chips, mushy peas and baked beans. DELICIOUS! Steve and Jarod....dinners to look forward too!

Saturday we spent our day at Thorpe Park an amusement park with loads of water rides, roller coasters, food and games. We went through the Saw Maze (haunted house) let's just say screaming was abundant and holding on tight was a neccesity. After the park, we headed over to my cousin's for a BBQ (sweet potatoes, corn, a type of cottage cheese [charcoaled on the grill], green and red peppers, onions, mushrooms and fruit punch). The night ended on a sad note with the US losing to Ghana....but Ghana should be interesting with the big advance in the World Cup.

Sunday was our day to SLEEP IN. Well deserved we think! Once we got ready for the day, we went to Wembly Stadium and Market. Beth found a nice Ipod cover and the family found themselves spring rolls. One of Leena's aunts eats every hour and must have her sweets. We hung out with depressed uncles after the 4-1 England loss to Germany. We spent the rest of the evening with Leena's family enjoying our last dinner and evening in London.

Tomorrow bright and early, we head to Accra, Ghana. We promise our loyal blog followers to be better bloggers throughout our trip!

Already weary travelers ....Beth & Leena