YOUR VACATION IN LIGHTS

Going, Going, Ghana

For Laura Lee Gulledge, a visit to Ghana gave her a taste of a different culture and led this
For Laura Lee Gulledge, a visit to Ghana gave her a taste of a different culture and led this "Obruni" (white person) to learn traditional dances. (Photo Provided By Laura Lee Gulledge)

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Laura Lee Gulledge of Woodbridge is the latest contributor to our Your Vacation in Lights feature, in which we invite Travel section readers to share the dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. Your hot tip can be the next guy's day-maker; your rip-off restaurant, the next family's near miss. To file your own trip report -- and become eligible to win a digital camera -- see the fine print below.

THE TRIP: Teaching art in Ghana, West Africa

WHEN: January-March 2007

HOW: I was placed in different schools around Ghana as a volunteer for the Junior Art Club of Accra ( http://www.juniorartclub.org/).

FAVORITE MEALS: Although Africa isn't exactly a dietary mecca for vegetarians, I did love the ground nut soup with rice balls and "Red Red" (plantains with beans).

COOLEST ATTRACTION: Watching wild elephants at Mole National Park. It took days just to get out to the park, but it was totally worth it to watch the elephants playing and bathing in the water. Truly magical!

IT MADE IT ALL WORTH IT WHEN . . . My 10-year-old student Patrick and I would sing "Yellow Submarine" while walking to the village marketplace to buy bubble gum. We would then hold bubble-blowing competitions, in which he was the undisputed champion.

CHEAPEST THRILL: Riding the tro-tros (cramped public minibuses). They were an adventure in themselves -- like the Knight Bus in Harry Potter books. One time the window next to me flew off!

GUILTY PLEASURES: I got hooked on the kitschy foreign telenovelas on TV, and I'd hum "The Bank of Ghana Is Changing the Currency" propaganda song to myself. It was darn catchy.

I CAN'T BELIEVE I . . . rode a motorbike through villages of round huts and flat-roofed mud houses. It's hard to believe that such old traditions still survive in the 21st century.

BIGGEST CULTURE SHOCKS: Constantly standing out and being called "Obruni" (white person) was the most difficult adjustment for me, since I am accustomed to being the observer-artist. The other shock was the lack of creativity and free thinking that I discovered in my students. I really felt for all these children who have never been encouraged to dream or cultivate their imaginations.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS: Learning traditional dances like the kpanlogo. At first I felt like an awkward white-girl-robot because I just couldn't move in certain ways. Luckily, I was able to toss my "proper" dance training out the window and learn how to shake what my mama gave me.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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