Family Travel to Ghana, Africa

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I’ve got so much to say about our Family Travel to Ghana Africa, and loads of pictures to share, but I’ll have to do it in segments. I’ve got topic links at the bottom that I’ll update as I post. If you were following on Instagram, you got some sneak peeks, and now I’ll elaborate.  When my parents were asked to serve as missionaries in the Ghana Accra West mission for 3 years, we had only hoped to have the chance to visit them. They would not be able to come back to the US, as their tasks there are quite demanding (see my mom’s blog). I just didn’t want to go that long without my kids being influenced by them, because they are pretty amazing. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the people there, and leave behind a piece of my heart.

Family travel to Africa including travel tips, humanitarian ideas, tourist spots, and food to eat

I’ll admit, Ghana was never on my top 10 or even top 20 list of places I’d like to visit in this world.  When I think of it, I didn’t really know anything about it, besides that it was in Africa, could only tell you the general region it was located. It seems in the US, we hear a lot about South Africa and Kenya, and there was that movie, Madagascar, but thats about it. Africa is HUGE, and I probably couldn’t name half of the countries that reside in those boundaries, let alone where Ghana was.  They sum up their region as “West Africa” kinda like people in the US refer to “the south” or “east coast” etc.

Where is Ghana in Africa

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in the Holy Land, and at the tail end of that 6 week experience, we ventured into Egypt, so I have actually been to Africa before. It was just a week, and we saw the tourists spots like the pyramids, but I didn’t get much immersion into the culture of the people.  It’s the people of Ghana that touched me the most, and what I will remember as the highlight of our trip. But I already knew that that’s my favorite part of travel–getting to know people that LIVE where I visit. I left with a new friend in Georgina. She helped me traverse the congested Tema market. She works with my parents, and I got to visit her her a lot, and go to her home. We are in a fabric shop, where I got some yardage for a dress.

my new friend in Ghana

I love people, I love stories, and details about what makes people happy, or sad. The study of the human heart is one of my life joys, as I discover new people and new stories. What I wanted most from my adventure to Ghana was to get to know the people who live there, and gratefully I was able to do just that.

One of the highlights of our trip was our visit to the Ghana Make a Difference Children’s home. I will dedicate a post all to that place, but it was the fun loving children there that expanded my heart and love for the country.

Childrens home in Ghana

We were there for 2 Sundays, and I got to go to church in two different congregations while there.  Meeting the people at church, who worshiped the same way I do, was so wonderful. We belong to a worldwide church that teaches the same doctrine, and I loved rejoicing together with the good people of Ghana. The first week, we met  in the city, in a building that used to be a home. During our main sacrament meeting where we all meet together, we were distracted by loud music playing on a speaker across the street during the entire meeting. I found out later that that’s pretty normal, everyone else has already adjusted to it, a first for me. Our church is 3 hours long. First hour we are all together, then we split off by age. I sent my boys to the youth class, and my girls to the children’s class. I snuck out to snap a few pictures of my kids in their classes. I’ll cover more of that in my post on the Mormon Church in Ghana later. This is a pic of my boys with 5 brothers, in their Sunday best at the end of church.

church in Ghana

 

Now, to some random details…

Ghana Prep

All the prep work leading up to our family adventure was kinda tricky, figuring out what exactly had to be done. We needed to get a few things, and here are some tips I figured out along the way:

  • passports-when getting passports for kids, both parents either need to be there at the office, or have a notarized note from the spouse saying you have permission to get your kids a passport. We went on a weekday, and had to do this because my husband doesn’t have a very flexible work schedule to go with us. His passport was still good, but my kids didn’t have one yet.  Our local passport place was at ONE designated post office in our city, and they did not take appointments. This meant we had to go wait in an hour+ line. Some places do take appointments. Look it up in your town, and see your options.
  • visas-not all places need visas to visit, but we needed it for Ghana. I looked up the Ghana consulate in Texas, and found it was in Houston. Just like passports, there are very specific rules to follow, look up the embassy for your state for this.  It was $60 a person, then shipping your passport (that was scary) both ways.
  • vaccinations/medications-Depending on where you are going, you will need different shots. Check the Center for Disease Control…for Ghana, we needed to get Yellow Fever vaccinations, and had to start taking Malaria meds a few days before we traveled, while there, and a month after we got home.  We had to get a pediatric Malaria med for my daughter under age 8, and it was more expensive. Just FYI, we got our YF vaccinations at Walgreens for $150 each, all but my youngest (they wouldn’t do pediatric) and got hers at our local grocery store MediClinic (I called ahead to make sure they a) had it in stock and b) would do pediatric. Hers was a bit over $200.  For malaria, the 5 oldest of us used Doxycycline (also used for an acne treatment in the US) and for the little one, we got pediatric Malarone, which is pricier. I think we spent $250 total for all those meds.  CDC also recommended that everyone be “up to date” on their other vaccinations, and I had to run and take one child to the doctor the morning of our flight, because of a mix up, and I wanted him to be as up to date as possible. (Below pic, my son likes to pull an anger face out of humor, he’s not really this devil-ish)getting yellow fever shot for trip to Africa
  • airline tickets-Our tickets ended up being about $1300 a piece. We purchased 2 months before, and saw prices a bit lower, but we were waiting to see if my grandparents were coming, so didn’t buy yet. I feel fortunate that we did not have to cover this cost. My parents generously offered to pay our way there, so this was not out of pocket for us. We knew this all along, and was a driving factor to us taking the entire family.  We also got a “multi-stop” ticket so we could extend the layover in London to a few days. This was easy to do on British Airlines and pretty much same price as not stopping, leaving out of Houston instead of Austin for some reason.

We used some pretty fabulous luggage from American Tourister to get all around the airports. I shared a post all about it, along with a giveaway on this luggage post.

Family travel suitcase carry on

Jobs

For some reason I don’t really understand, good jobs are scarce. There is the typical jobs you might see in the US from waiters to retail store employee’s and many with a trade such as a sewing business or wood craftsman. Something very new to me and my family was the Hawkers. They line up at street lights, and when stopped, they walk by your car offer any range of things for sale from fresh made plantain chips to toy bubble blowers to phone cars to bottled juice. Some spray your windows and proceed to clean your windshield whether you ask for it or not. All of them, trying to make a living. It was fascinating and heartbreaking, and frustrating at times as some were more aggressive than others. My dad taught to look them in the eye and say “no thank you” right away, but somethings that doesn’t even work.

hawkers in ghana

Hawkers selling water in Ghana Africa

If you look closely below, you can see the red wrap on her head, it forms a circle with a hollow center, that helps to hold things steady on their heads.

hawker in Africa

Mostly women, but still quite a few men, too.

jobs in Accra Ghana

Mmmmm, bread.

selling bread in Ghana Africa

We bought fried plantains from this woman on our first day, she was so sweet as we exchanged names, and she welcomed us to Ghana.

hawker selling fried plantains

If they weren’t directly on the road selling things, there were lots and lots of shops set up on the sidewalk along the roads (see clothing rack and bags). Also, look close at the man in the back with baskets on is head. Impressive.

stores on the side of the road in ghana

 

People

The people are kind, and as my mom kept saying, quite peaceable. As a nation, they are mostly Christian, and quite faithful in practice.  Having not gone there before, I didn’t know what to expect in the way of safety, but we never felt un safe, and received warm smiles nearly everywhere we went. The only time we didn’t was when we went to the villages that hardly ever saw such light skin, and I think they were afraid of US invading their territory. We’d smile and wave to so many, and got warm receptions back almost all of the time.

Here is a shot of a woman buying supplies at a market stand. I’ll share more about the markets later.

I love this image with the baby wrapped on her back. I saw it ALL over with children ranging from a few weeks old to about 3. This little one is NICE and COZY!

Baby sleeping in wrap in Ghana

Roads

The capital city where my parents live is Accra. The President of the country actually lives just down the road from them, in their neighborhood was a lot of US Embassy workers. There isn’t a lot of options when it comes to roads, so we traveled along the same roads quite a bit. LOTS and LOTS of dirt roads with pot holes (I’ll share the road on the way to the Canopy Walk), but there was a main partial highway that took us to the major cities that was well paved. I was glued to the scene out the window every step of the way, observing the life around me.

Humanitarian

Besides missionary work, my parents are involved in many different projects in order to help the Ghanaian people with a better way of life. Two of them are Chickens and Literacy. Many of the women do not get very far in their education, and often cannot read English.  My parents have helped to implement a program to help women in the area learn to read, and make them more marketable for jobs. A lot of women work, grandma’s take care of the kids. That goes for the educated or not. With the chickens, my dad has been working with a University there to help families learn to raise chickens, to sell the eggs, and therefore have a better stability with income. SO much I could say about those, but maybe my dad wants to whip up a post for me on those…dad?

Ghanaian Food

The fruit was AMAZING! The mango, the “white” pineapple…YUM!

My mom and I went shopping at this fruit stand down the road from her home…

fruit stand in Ghana Africa

This was a portion of our haul (for under $10)

delicious fruit in africa

We had a chance to try some local dishes in Ghana. Here is a spread made for us one night:

traditional meal in Ghana with meat pies and kelewele and red red

I even found a few recipes online.

One of my FAVORITES was the plantains, or kelewele (pronounced killy willy) Click on the links for recipes.

Kelewele: Ripe plantain is sliced into long strips, tossed with salt, ginger and fresh chilli, then deep-fried in vegetable oil

kelewele ghana food with ripe plantains

Red-red: black-eyed pea stew with fried ripe plantain

Jollof Rice: Jollof Rick with Chicken

Bofrot (puff-puff): I didn’t try these heavenly rolls until my 2nd to last day there. I was with a local, tried one, and fell hard! I then was on the hunt to get more, and my last day, we got them twice.Bofrot Ghana fried bread

I’m going to try to make them very soon!

I loved watching the lady maneuver getting the the bofrot out of the box on her head, without pulling it down.

grabbing bofrot from bucket on head

That’s all for now! Questions?

—–

If you feel drawn to go to Ghana, I highly recommend looking into a humanitarian trip. Look at the site, Ghana Make a Difference, and contact the Hoffman’s to either donate funds, or plan a trip.

Africa Ghana Humanitarian Trip

In the coming weeks, I’ll share more about our trip, and update the titles below with LIVE links:


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Comments

  1. I can’t wait for the next installments. Thank you for sharing!

  2. What an amazing experience. I am excited to see more!

  3. wonderful unforgettable experience!!! and the local food seem very appetizing!! Can’t wait to read the next segment.

  4. Raelene+Hill says:

    Wow!! Great insight in just one post into Ghana! I’m just going to send all our missionary Moms to your posts so they can learn about Ghana. Loved having you here and seeing Ghana through your observant eyes!

  5. Tricia Dunlap says:

    I LOVE this post and can’t wait to read the rest!

  6. Jacqueline says:

    Wow, neat that you plan to do so many posts on your Ghana trip! I appreciate the detail, and look forward to reading the rest!

  7. I’ve been looking for am opportunity like this that I can children on. Was it difficult to get accepted ato Ghana make a difference as a family or do they allow that regularly?

  8. Great post, I have just learned alot about Ghana that I did not know through your post. I cant wait for your next update.

  9. hello, I loved seeing what you have done in Ghana and your experiences. I have been going to Ghana for the past 10 years and have a small charity there. I have worked with Empower Playgrounds that you mention here. The people are humble and loving. I love them and enjoy my time there once a year!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Calene! So sorry for my delayed response, I love hearing of others that have been to Ghana, too, such a special place. 10 years wow, so amazing.

  10. Amanda Brown says:

    I just found your site through Pinterest! My husband and I are leaving for a two week mission trip to Ghana in less than 5 weeks! We will be doing VBS in the Bolga tonga region and then visiting Accra, the Cape Coast, the slave fortress and Kakum. Just wondering if you had any advise for me! It’s our first mission trip! We are going with Lake Pointe church and flying out of Austin with our trip leader and lead pastor at Real Life Church in Austin, Micah Davidson!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I’m so sorry I didn’t see this sooner, how was your trip? I’m happy to hear this post was helpful, what a grand adventure you had!