Top Five Things to Do in: Kumasi, Ghana

GhanaThe capital of the Ashanti region, Kumasi is a well balanced city that holds to tradition while embracing some aspects modernity. Located in a rain forest region, Kumasi is often referred to as “The Garden City” because of its abundance of flowers and plants. Kumasi is a great city to experience and learn about Ghana’s rich culture and history.

The Kejetia Market

The Kejetia Market is one of the biggest markets in Western Africa. This busy market is a great place to buy affordable souvenirs, clothes, accessories, food, etc. When visiting the market make sure to dedicate a generous amount of time to explore as there are over 10,000 vendors selling unique goods! Hint: Don’t be afraid to respectfully negotiate prices with the stall keeper.

Manhyia Palace Museum

Home to the 13th and 14th kings of Asante, the Manhyia Palace was built in by the British in 1924 for Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I after his 28 year exile. The Palace was inhabited by Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I and his successor Otumfuo Agyeman Prempeh II until 1974 when he relocated just behind the original palace to a more updated and modern palace. The first floor has been preserved exactly the way it was when Otumfuo Agyeman Prempeh II lived there so you can get an idea of how he lived when he was in the palace. You can also view video presentations, photographs, and other artifacts to learn about the Ashanti Empire.

Kumasi Zoo/Culture Center

If you would like to see some of Ghana’s exotic animals without risking life and limb, the Kumasi Zoo is the great place to experience Ghanaian nature without having to leave the city. Located near the center of Kumasi, the zoo is home to over 60 animal species and is abundant in flora and beauty. Some of the types of animals you can see lions, elephants, primates, reptiles, birds, etc. The purpose of the zoo is not just to display animals to the viewing public, but offer a sanctuary for orphaned animals, engage in breeding for endangered species, and educate the public about Ghana’s endangered animals. When entering the jungle-like atmosphere of the zoo, you may just forget there is a bustling city outside that is also waiting to be explored!
Within the same complex is the Kumasi Culture Center, which encompasses a another museum of Ashanti History. At the Culture Center, you can take traditional dance and drumming classes as well as purchase local crafts while watching how they’re made. The Culture Center is also where you can buy some of the highest quality souvenirs for the lowest prices.

The Kentish Kitchen

After exploring the Kumasi Zoo and Culture Center, you will most likely be famished. There is a wonderful restaurant connected to the Culture Center called The Kentish Kitchen that serves authentic Ghanaian food along with western dishes. The relaxed atmosphere of The Kentish Kitchen makes for a great place to sit back and unwind after a long day of looking at animals and learning about the Ashanti history. In addition, meals at The Kentish Kitchen are affordably priced so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank while going out to eat.

The Green Ranch

Sometimes you might need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’re looking to escape city life for a day, The Green Ranch is the perfect getaway. Located on the banks of the biggest lake in Ghana, Bosumtwi Lake, The Green Ranch offers horseback riding for all abilities. It also offers sleeping accommodations with spectacular views that over look the lake and mountains. Meals are also provided from locally and/or home grown ingredients. The lake is considered Sacred by the locals and does not allow any motorized boats on it. In fact, touching the lake with any kind of iron is considered disrespectful so fishing is done from large wooden planks or canoes. Enjoy a quiet, peaceful day at The Green Ranch before returning to the vivacious city.

Kumasi is great place to experience many of the things Ghana has to offer. Whether you love spending time in nature, learning about history, experiencing the rich Ghanaian culture, or all three, you will without a doubt find many enjoyable things to do in Kumasi, Ghana.

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World December Holidays

Holidays are celebrated distinctly in every country and learning about them gives you a better understanding of the culture from which they came.

Las Posadas is celebrated in Mexico from December 16th-24th and the festivities are held every evening. The festival is called Las Posadas, which means the inns or shelter, because of Mary’s difficult journey to find a place to stay on her journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It is a religious holiday that lasts for nine days, which represents the nine months that Jesus was carried by Maria (Mary) and can also represent the nine day journey to Bethlehem. Individuals are selected to play the roles of Mary and Joseph and they walk down the streets in a procession to go to a different home each night. Joseph stays outside the inn and they all sing a song about the innkeeper saying there isn’t any room for them to stay, but ultimately lets Joseph and the others inside. After everyone goes inside, they read a passage from the bible or say a prayer before the celebration begins. Often tamales are served and piñatas and candy are provided for the children. Sometimes the piñata is in the shape of a Christmas star that is put out near or at the end of the night.

The winter solstice festival in China, and most of Eastern and Southeastern Asia, can be celebrated between sometime between December 21st and the 23rd depending on the year. This celebration has a special meaning for the Chinese calendar since it is divided into 24 equal parts corresponding to the 15 degree change on the celestial longitude. The festival begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 270 degrees and ends when it reaches 285 degrees. During this time families get together and eat “tangyuan”, which is a sweet soup with rice balls that are sometimes brightly colored. Each member of the family gets one big ball and several small balls in their soup and this symbolizes reunion. In some parts of northern China they eat dumplings instead of “tangyuan” during the solstice. In China, they believe that as the days grow longer, each day after the winter solstice, the positive energy will increase. Many people visit their loved ones who have passed away, exchange gifts and wear new clothes.

The Akwasiadae festival in Kumasi, also known as Adae Kese, is held every six weeks on a Sunday and the last one of the Gregorian calendar year is held on December 23rd. It is a celebration of past leaders, heroes and Ashanti kings. The festival was first celebrated when the Ashanti region gained statehood and independence from the Denkyiras. The celebration is divided into two parts: the observance and the party. The first part of the festival takes place in the king’s palace and includes only members of the royal family. Here they perform many rituals to purify the land take away the evil. The king also goes through purification and is completed through ceremonial meals and drinks that represent their ancestors while they pray for protection and guidance. This festival is meant to highlight the union that the people have and show that their unity is what makes them strong. The second part of the festival is an ornate ceremony that takes place in the Kumasi town square. People wear colorful clothing as they parade through the town and the king wears the most ornate golden ornaments. The drumming, dancing and gun firing is meant to keep the evil spirits away. The overall purpose of the festival is to make their people stronger by reminding them of what their ancestors have done. The celebration also gives the king a chance to speak to his people and to advise and unite them.

Why You Should Stay With a Host Family

When most people travel abroad, they stay in hotels or resorts and don’t get the chance to immerse themselves in the culture of the country they are visiting. If you choose to do a World Endeavors intern, study or volunteer program that offers a home stay with a native family, you will have the opportunity of a life time. Here are some reasons a home stay is such a great experience.

1. The family will most likely cook local and delicious food for you daily.

2. In some cases they might even do your laundry for you!

3. You can ask them about their culture and gain an understanding of your surroundings and why people have certain customs or how they came about.

4. You can see how people live day-to-day.

5. They can make suggestions for local places to eat. This will give you a chance to go to these places and mingle with the locals.

6. If there are any interesting places to visit in the area, such as caves, beaches or castles that not many people know about, they will probably give you tips on where it is and how to get there.

7. If you have doubts about how to do daily tasks in a foreign country, especially one that speaks a different language, such as catching the bus or setting up your cell phone, they will also be able to help.

8. It’s nice to have a home away from home in a foreign country. Often, you will be able to do activities with them or go on trips with them.

9. You can stay in contact with the family after you leave. This may increase your chances of going back to visit!

10. You can greatly improve your language skills if the family doesn’t speak English.

Summer 2008 World Endeavors Photo Contest Winners! Category: Places

Thanks to everyone who sent in photos for the summer 2008 photo contest. We got some great shots, and it was hard to choose the winners (so we cheated and picked two for each category!). These photos will be featured on our website, www.worldendeavors.com. To see more World Endeavors photos, check out our new World Endeavors Flickr account.

Here are the winners – drumroll…

For the Places category:

Mehrdad Pourzakikhani, World Endeavors Thailand, June 2008

Reclining Buddha - Mehrdad Pourzakikhani, World Endeavors Thailand Health Care Volunteer, June 2008

Sunset over Mole National Park - Sookyung Shutoff, World Endeavors Ghana Youth Soccer Coaching Volunteer, June 2008

Sunset over Mole National Park - Sookyung Shutoff, World Endeavors Ghana Youth Soccer Coaching Volunteer, June 2008

Summer 2008 World Endeavors Photo Contest Winners! Category: People

Thanks to everyone who sent in photos for the summer 2008 photo contest. We got some great shots, and it was hard to choose the winners (so we cheated and picked two for each category!).  These photos will be featured on our website, www.worldendeavors.com.  To see more World Endeavors photos, check out our new World Endeavors Flickr account.

Here are the winners – drumroll…

For the People category:

Kim Reeves, World Endeavors Ghana volunteer, July - August 2008

Kim Reeves, World Endeavors Ghana Health Volunteer, July - August 2008

Vanessa Bezy, World Endeavors Costa Rica, May-July 2008

Vanessa Bezy, World Endeavors Costa Rica Sea Turtle Project, May-July 2008

Tourist, Student, or Work: Which Visa is Right for You?

The topic of visas (aka entry clearance) can be very confusing for the first-time traveler. And I’m not talking about credit cards! A ‘visa’ is a stamp or sticker that is placed in your passport by an immigration official of another country. World Endeavors’ participants mainly choose 1 of 3 kinds of visas:

Tourist visas

Student visas

Work visas

Tourist visas are usually the easiest and cheapest kind of visa to get. Most of the time, you simply arrive in a country (like Costa Rica or Ecuador) and the customs official stamps your passport as you get off the plane. The stamp is good for a certain amount of days – usually 21, 30, or 90 days. Many times the stamp can be renewed if you would like to visit for a longer amount of time. Some countries, like India, Brazil, Ghana, and Tanzania, require that US citizens get a tourist visa in advance. This usually involves filling out an application form, and sending it along with your passport and a fee to a consulate or Embassy. Yes, you do have to send them your passport in the mail! Don’t worry, they’ll send it back to you in a couple of weeks.

Student visas are required for most semester and year-long study abroad programs and some internship programs. Obtaining a student visa requires that you apply well in advance. Some countries, like Italy, Spain and France, require that you go to the consulate in person. Considering that the consulate for your area may not be right in your city, this is something to consider and plan for. Additionally, student visas may take a few weeks to process. You should start the process of obtaining your student visa as far in advance as possible. This might mean that you call the consulate to make an appointment 2 or more months before you plan to start your program. You may also need special paperwork in addition to your application form and passport, such as: original acceptance letters from a foreign university, a letter from your bank indicating sufficient funds, a round-trip flight itinerary, health insurance, and other documents. Please consult with a World Endeavors representative before you start your application for a student visa – we’ll help you get started!

Work visas allow individuals to obtain a job in a country of which they are not a citizen. Most tourist visas and student visas bar you from getting paid employment. Long-term or permanent work visas aren’t easy to get, and for some countries it is nearly impossible. However, some short-term (6 months – 1 year) work visa options are available to students or recent graduates. Check out programs like BUNAC for more information about getting a work visa. Work visas are required for World Endeavors’ Intern in England and Intern in Australia programs.

In short, visas can be complicated business, but all it takes is a little advance planning! For the best results, if you’re not sure what kind of visa you need for your World Endeavors program, just ask one of our friendly Enrollment Advisors (like me). We have lots of experience and we’re always ready to help.

World Endeavors Summer Photo Contest

Hello to all of our World Endeavors volunteers, interns, and students going abroad in spring/summer 2008!

We are excited to have participants in 16 countries this summer – Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, Italy, England, Ghana, Thailand, China, Nepal, India, Guatemala, New Zealand, the Philippines, France, and Jamaica! With so many incredible people abroad doing so many incredible things, it would be a shame to not have a way for you to share all of your experiences with each other. And so…

I am excited to announce the first ever World Endeavors Summer Photo Contest! This contest will be a way for all of you to share what you’re up to, as well as to show off your photography skills. We will be collecting photos in 3 categories:
People – Photos of you, new friends, host families, people you work/volunteer/study with, etc.

Landscapes – These can be urban or natural – scenes from the cities, towns, and rural areas where you’re living and traveling.

Food – Who doesn’t love food pictures? I want to see typical meals from your countries, scenes from produce markets, and all of the crazy new things you’ve been brave enough to try (or at least brave enough to photograph!)

Email your pictures to us by July 10 (so you’ve got a few weeks to get out there and take some photos!). You don’t need to submit one for each category – just send in what you’ve got.

I will post all of the submissions right here on this blog, and then you will have a chance to vote for your favorites. The winning photos in each category will be featured on our website!

So if you’ve got some great pictures already, send them in, and if you’ve been shy with the camera so far, get out there and get some great shots! We can’t wait to see what you’ve got.