Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Welcome Home!

The Welcome Home Reception at Las Olas Fine Arts was a great success! There were supporters from Citrix, Sister Cities Fort Lauderdale, and lots of xChange Agents (Honey Project worker bees!) with families and staff of the Honey Project.

Thank you everyone for coming out to hear about our trip, to see and touch our wares, sample the honey and try your hand at playing music.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Original Art by Chris Hill

Chris Hill, "Honey Pot," 16" x 20" Beeswax, resin and pigment on wood

Art will be auctioned to benefit the Honey Project. To place a bid, go to and click on "BID NOW!"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 9: Accra (Saturday, April 11)

Today, being the last day we actually spent on the road, was full of 'full circle' experiences. First, we went back to the Art Center where we'd done our first shopping, and recorded the koka master that first taught us how to play the delightfully difficult instruments in the first place. ("Learning From a Master: How to Play the Koka" will sell for $20 when we finally get it out of editing, natch.)

Afterwards, we hung out at Labadi Beach, enjoying the cool water and trying to dodge some very, VERY persistent vendors. After lunch at Southern Fried Chicken, we went back to the hotel to prepare for our last actual duty - attending a party at Nana Sarpong's Accra home. We met a lot of ministers of the current cabinet there, as well as Nana's daughters and granddaughters. It was a very small, but very nice party, and we left on wonderful terms, all of us.

It's difficult to even acknowledge that this trip is effectively over. Even though I'm in Accra right now, typing these words, by noon tomorrow, my partners - or, more aptly, my friends - and I will be on our way home on the long, long flight to John F. Kennedy Airport in the Big Apple, and as soon as we collapse into our beds in Florida, we'll be rolling out of them again all too soon to go to school.

I never even dreamed that I would find myself here, of all places, and it's really been an experience that I could never regret having; I think that my fellow xChange agents agree with me on that front.

It's been fun recounting our pleasurable business trip for you all, and I'm thankful that you've chosen to read it. Tomorrow will probably just be a pretty simple day, but we'll still catch you all up on what happened.

After we recover from the chronic jet lag.

See you all on April 22nd for our little 'We're Back' celebration. Trust me. You've gotta be there.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Day 8: Accra (Friday, April 10)

Today we went to the Shai Hills Resource Reserve to see our first real African wildlife (aside from the random monkey we saw at the Accra Art Center). We were able to feed a family of baboons, who were surprisingly gentle in taking nuts and bananas out of our hands.

From there, we traveled into caves, located in the nearby hills, where the Shai tribe once lived. Nowadays, there are only insect-eating bats living in there.

At one point, we stopped along the road and attempted something that had been under discussion for a long, long time - carrying a tray of bananas on our heads. To put it mildly, our brave volunteers did their best, but failed miserably. (Those things are REALLY heavy.)

Now, at last, we've arrived at the penultimate day - Day 9. That will be covered right away, and will finally bring us up to date on what's gone on so far. Uploading pictures has been sporadic because we didn't have power in Agogo, and now everyone's cameras seem to be suffering from "Extreme Touristy-ish Overuse Syndrome". So pictures will come much, much later.

Till next time.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Day 7: Accra (Thursday, April 9)

We were up before 5 AM today to rush down to Accra and meet THE president of Ghana. We were all excited...after we got a lot of sleep on the way there, stiff necks or no. 

Dressed in our Sunday best and bearing awards for Nana Sarpong and His Excellency Atta Mills, we went to a former slave castle, where the presidents do their executive work, and had a very nice meeting overall. Unfortunately, we couldn't take our cameras along - there is a recording of our meeting, and we do have at least one copy, but we're still trying to get the photos.

At any rate, the day passed much more slowly after that. We didn't have anything else scheduled, so after lunch, we took some well-deserved time to relax and unwind a bit.

Tomorrow was much more eventful, I can assure you, but for now, I'll have to bow out. See you next time.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Day 6: Agogo (Wednesday, April 8)

After breakfast today, the first thing we did was head out to the office to process and bottle honey. We managed to get the sample of honey to process because of the brave efforts of head beekeeper George - he went out at 4 AM to get the honey, and even though the bees were calmer, he still got stung up badly. We bottled quite a bit, too - about 24 8-oz bottles are coming back with us while the rest stays with the cooperative.

Immediately after that, we went to go visit the home of Paulina, one of the cooperative members. It was very humbling to say the least - for her to invite the students into her very simple, but clean, one-room home was a courtesy that very few people can recieve.

Next we headed out to the Asante (Ashanti) capital of Kumasi, home of the chief of chiefs, the Asantehene, and quite a few craft specialists. We did some company shopping, and heard some stories from master storyteller Sly Hutchinson, but pleasure mixed with business when we visited Mahysia (MAN-seeah) Palace, where former Asantehenes lived. It was an awesome tour, and we even spotted Nana Sarpong in a picture there.

No, this isn't the palace. But no pictures were allowed there, so...

When we finally got back to the Pentecost dorm, we got ourselves together for a really early morning - we were going to burn through the 4+ hour trip to Accra to meet the newly-elected president, Professor John Evans Atta Mills.

But that intrepid record of our journey will have to wait for another time.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Day 5: Agogo (Tuesday, April 7)

Today, we made our way down to the joint office that we share with One Village Planet in Agogo, just to see what we were working with and to meet the members of the Agogo Honey-Producers Cooperative. 

Following lunch, we visited two villages outside of Agogo, where we were welcomed warmly by the chiefs of the villages. We gave them bottles of fine liquor as customary gifts, and recieved a few of our own - in fact, the second village presented us with green and yellow bananas, mangoes, and a LIVE chicken, tied up to keep it out of trouble. We accepted it all quite gratefully, then rushed back to Agogo and Nana Sarpong's palace to attend the enstoolment of Jo Moskowitz.

The enstoolment ceremony was something amazing to behold, and quite serious. Before our eyes, we saw Miss Jo become Nana Ama Nyarko Domtie II. Even now, we still call her Nana Ama, almost without thinking about it. All told, it was really amazing.

More work awaited us early, early tomorrow morning. But until we cover that, good day to you all. See you next time.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 4: Agogo (Monday, April 6th)

As I mentioned before, today started off the real work. After getting some breakfast, we got into the travel bus and spent our days touring a few of the nineteen schools in Agogo. (Nana Sarpong is quite serious about education, you know.)

After that, we headed out to the fish farms and teak forest area that Dan Warren of One Village Planet planted. It was pretty impressive, mostly because none of the lakes where the fish lived existed a year ago. Also, of the million trees planted by One Tree Planet that were lost in a fire, all of them were replanted, creating a pretty dense forest (even though it was mostly saplings that were present in the replanted area).

Overall, it was a pretty good day, though the next two would prove to be even more exciting.

Next: Day 5.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Day 3: Agogo (Sunday, April 5)

Well, this is it; the big day. Early this morning, we woke up, got our luggage, and got ready to head out to Agogo, four and a half hours away from Accra. With snacks in hand, we set out for the mountain roads and headed to the northwest. Flat Stanley was excited, too.

Upon arrival, we went to the Pentecost Bible College, where we stayed in the dorms for our entire stay in Agogo. After unpacking, showering, and changing, we went out to the palace of Omanhene (Chief) Nana Akuoko Sarpong for our reception celebration. 

The welcome was overwhelmingly incredible; there were so many people there, and lots of traditional music and handshaking. We even did a bit of dancing, surprisingly. This was all so poignant because this type of celebration is only held for the most honored of visitors. After a long, long night, we finally returned to the dorm and got some well-deserved rest for the next morning.

Rolling into town next is Day 4. The real work began then, for sure. Until next time.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Day 2: Accra (Saturday, April 4th)

Following a wonderful breakfast at the Crystal Palm Hotel, we headed out to Kakum National Park on the Cape Coast, where we hiked up into the tropical forest, to the canopy level. From there, we walked across seven bridges suspended over three hundred feet in the air. Overall, we weathered the storm all right, so to speak, but we got through it all right.

We ate lunch at a beautiful hotel before continuing on to the slave castle Elmina, which is well over 400 years old, and passed from the hands of the Portugese to the Dutch, and then the British, before becoming a museum under the new government. It was moving to say the least, and inspired a poem that can be read at the bottom of this blog post.

Later that night, we met up with Omanhene (Paramount Chief) Nana Akuoko Sarpong of Agogo at the dinner hall in our hotel, and the students sat with him and asked a few questions about his work as chief.

It was a great meal and an interesting discussion.

Day 3, up next. Stay with us.

But before that, I present to you the poem written after the visit to Elmina Castle.

Castle of Sorrow (かなしいのしろ)
Written by Sean Heron on March 6th, 2009.

Numberless tears
Shed throughout the ages

Families cleaved and sundered
Prideful lions and prideful hearts cast into hell

A scream from a lofty room
and a thousand more below "God's home"

Pitch-black, furnace-hot maws
full of the stench of death

A million tense moments, waiting
Two million tense moments, praying
Three million tense moments, accepting

Four million tense moments,
gazing at the sea in abject, wordless fear

Five million tense moments, spent in hell yet again -
a heated, crowded, foul-scented hell, a hell of weeping
and sorrow amongst a black wind.

So many lives, so many people...
changed, perverted, damned, and ended in one place

エルミナ (Elmina)

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Day 1: Accra (Friday, April 3rd)

After landing in Accra and clearing immigration, we were finally ready to start our xChange trip in earnest (and so was Flat Stanley):

At the baggage claim, we met our trusty travel guide, Gordon Adoboe, and we headed out of the airport after getting all of our stuff.

On our way through the city in the CTB Travel Bus, we took a few shots of the city while Gordon explained a few things to us about Accra. When we made it to the Crystal Palm Hotel, we checked in and dropped off our luggage before heading out to lunch at Southern Fried Chicken.

After filling up, we headed out into the city to barter and buy as we drove along the streets. To put it mildly, it was a bit overwhelming to be crowded by enterprising businessmen and women eager to sell their wares.

Eventually, we got to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. Dr. Nkrumah was the first president of Ghana, and declared its independence from Britain on March 6, 1957 before even becoming the leader of the new country. As a result, he's a national hero and is greatly revered by the people, and both he and his wife are interred at the mausoleum.

We learned a lot of things about Dr. Nkrumah thanks to our knowledgable tour guide, and even got to see a few of his personal effects in the museum. Then we headed over to the Art Center nearby, where even more vendors set up shop daily (and believe me, they were no less persistent than their bretheren on the road). There, we discovered an interesting little instrument; in the Ewe language, it's known as the koka. 

As you can see, we've all got some practicing to do...but we picked up a few of them, and we'll be showing off our amazing skills on March 22nd.

Well, that's all for our first outing. Day 2 will be up soon.

Sean Heron
Secretary, Honey Project, and xChange Agent

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Back from Agogo and in Accra

We have just arrived at our hotel in Accra after an INCREDIBLE four days in Agogo. Our original plan was to stay in Agogo until Saturday. However, we were invited to have an audience with the President of Ghana, John Evans Atta-Mills. We are all still in absolute amazement at this opportunity that most do not have. We met in his private office and presented him with the official Honey Project travel manual and T-shirt. Cameras were not allowed in the Palace. We hope to get a copy of the video and pictures from the Country's official videography staff soon.

I will be recapping our tremendous experience in Agogo, downloading some amazing photos. What a beautiful country! I look forward to sharing with everyone...

P.S. Be appreciative of the luxuries you are used to. Clean water and electricity is not taken for granted here and are not often available! I will blog more after we get settled - I wish all you could have the opportunity to witness Africa.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hello All - It is our second day in Accra. What an experience so far. We have been able to make a trip to the market which is an experience difficult to put into words! It is amazing how many vendors are in town...they surround the bus everytime we slow down!
Internet is slow where we are right now. The technology center in Agogo is supposed to be open , where we are traveling to tomorrow. Hopefully, I will wil be able to post more then.

Friday, April 3, 2009

When they Get Back

We can't wait to hear about the trip! There will be a wonderful "Welcome Home" event for the Honey Project xChange agents on April 22.

Email for more information.

Akwaaba! Welcome to Ghana!

The Honey Project group begins the process of clearing customs. Look how many people were here to greet us!

We've landed!

After more than 15 hours of travel, the xChange Agents finally landed in Accra!

Honey Project (and Flat Stanley) leave for trip to Ghana!

The Honey Project xChange Agents and Flat Stanley got the royal treatment from Delta Airlines as they began their journey to Agogo, Ghana.