Friday, December 27, 2013

NOVEMBER 30, 2013
I'm very careful about eating street food when I travel. The usual concerns about parasites, poor sanitation, unhygienic preparation and storage, etc., limits my sense of adventure. But there are certain things that I can't wait to buy on the street when I travel to Ghana. The best place to buy street food is where other Ghanaians are gathered, where they meet and where they do business. Vendors are stationed in the markets, on the street and at Tro Tro and taxi stands. 

I think my absolute fave has got to be fresh young coconut! Of course in nothing is more refreshing when you're walking around under the hot sun. The coconut water is so good it is almost medicinal to me. :-) In fact, when I contracted malaria, it was the one thing that Ghanaians kept telling me to put in my system. And the tender meat of the young coconut is slimy/sweet and nutritious.

When I land in Ghana, I look forward to the hard boiled eggs arranged in round trays and toted on the heads of young girls. I purchase 4 at a time! They will peel the eggs on the spot and if you like, they will expertly slice into the egg and put a spoonful of thick chili paste in a neat pocket through the white and the yoke. I am not going to lie! I get excited when I see the vendors carrying eggs in the market or at a check point! I didg in my pocket and try to get the Ghana peswa (about $0.25 USD) in their hands and the egg in mine before the bus takes off!

Another favorite, kelewele, is a sweet snack of ripe plaintain sliced and tossed in hot pepper, ginger and other spices, then fried until the sugar in the plantain carmalizes.

I look forward to indulging my craving for kyinkyinka, Ghanaian meat kebobs. My fave is the chicken gizzard kebab, but one can buy beef or goat as well. Kyinkyinka is spicy, seasoned with peppers, dusted in peanut flour, then grilled open air over charcoal. As street food goes, I would say kyinkyinka is a safe bet given that it is cooked over hot coals right on the spot. And it usually only costs $1GHC, about $.50USD.

Ok boy... Let us chop! ( let us eat!)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Meeting the President Of Ghana

On Thursday, 21 November, the president of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama visited the Bolgatanga Girls Senior Seconday School, where I am currently spending time.

The students of Bolgatanga Girls Secongaty High School (BOGISS) preparing for President Mahama's visit. 

This guy just made me laugh as he marched around the courtyard prior to the President's motorcade coming. I think he could single-handedly thwart any threat.

The President's motorcade arriving at BOGISS.

Shots of students and other guests in the audience for the President's presentation of  laptops to BOGISS.

The President's visit had been planned for sometime, but I was not aware until the day before his arrival. Just like president Barack Obama, Mr. Mahama is a lightening rod for change and controversy in his country. From the 2012 Constitutional challenges to his election, to his recent proclamations to reduce his and other cabinet member salaries by 10% and use the accumulated proceeds to fund infrastructure projects in rural areas to his decisions calling for an end to corruption and government transparency, his term will be a busy one.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Returning Home - Ghana 2013

Traveling through Ghana, West Africa in 2011, I witnessed scores of girls and young women as young as 5 years old working and living on the streets. Extreme hunger and poverty in the rural areas, especially in the Northern region, compels girls and young women to drift to Accra and other large cities, hiring themselves out as “carrier girls” or Kaya Ye. They live in varying degrees of homelessness: sleeping in kiosks, in front of closed shops and trotro (trolley cab) stations, or on the streets. They are often victims of sexual and economic exploitation and abuse, working under brutal conditions for pennies a day. Profoundly moved by their stories, I traveled to the Northern region of Ghana again in February 2012 as a volunteer for WWW.SISTAWORKS.ORG 

Purchased school supplies headed to Bolgatonga Girls Secondary School

Prospective SISTA Scholars waiting for their interview

I traveled to Bolgatanga Girls Secondary School in the Northern Region and interviewed girls who were currently enrolled in school, but were in need of financial assistance for school fees and supplies in order to remain in school. I heard the stories of these girls in their own words. I learned about their families, about the struggles to survive after both parents had died, about cultural and economic motivators to marry girls off at a very young age. And I learned how important education is to these girls; what they are willing to sacrifice to get even a secondary school education.

The Chosen 15 new Scholarss for the 2012 - 2013 year Program

When I returned home from the second trip I made a commitment to use my photography to tell the stories of these beautiful young women. I conceived of the Kaya Yo Project (Carrier Girl Project) to document in words and images the stories of these young girls and women. This country and the people, especially the girls, have become a very important part of my journey as a photographer and as a woman.

I have just returned to Ghana again as a volunteer for I will travel to the Northern Region, to meet with girls and their families and guardians. We will choose 35 new SISTA Scholars for the 2014 school year. While here, I plan to lay some groundwork for a return trip to commence the Carrier Girl Project.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is Your Travel Bucket List?

Greetings, Sojourners!
As I was thinking about my round-the-world trip over the weekend, it occurred to me that I've never been one to make a "Gotta-Do-Before-I-Die" List or a Bucket List. At least I've never written one down. There are things that I'd like to do before I make my transition, but generally, I've haven't been very formal or detailed about it. I guess I do have a Travel Bucket List if sorts. It's really off the top of my head as I was daydreaming about this post. After giving it some thought, I'd like share it with you. Although it is fluid, in no particular order and subject to change, please take a look. Share your lists and comments! I'd love to hear from you.
  1. Visit every country in Africa at least once, including the Island nations (Madagascar, Seychelles, etc) over a one year - eighteen month period
  2. Take my grand daughter Zeniya to India
  3. Visit every state in the United States (I've already been to 31 states)
  4. Spend a month in Ghana working on a photography project
  5. Bike through Tuscany and the Italian wine region
  6. Go to Festival in the Desert in Mali
  7. Walking/biking trip through Scotland and Ireland
  8. Climb a live volcano on Bali
  9. Wander around Macchu Picchu
  10. Photo trip to the Galapogos Islands
  11. Go on a walkabout in the Austrailian Outback
  12. Lay on the beach for days inTahiti
  13. Walk the Great Wall of China
  14. Take a Tour Of Paris focused on the early 20th centuryAfrican American cultural heritage
  15. Thailand
  16. Celebrate Carnival in Rio
  17. Visit Cuba while Fidel Castro is still alive
  18. Spend  month in Alaskaphotographing wildlife and native culture
  19. Experience the great migration in Africa from on land and from air
  20. Take a train ride through the Canada

Thursday, May 2, 2013

LGBT Travel Information Recently Provided by the US Government

"By fighting for the rights of so many others, we realize that "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." Secretary Clinton – December 6, 2011

"An important aspect of the mission of Heritage Travel Group is to create value for LGBT travelers and expand LGBT tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact." Savannah Williams ,Owner and Founder of Heritage Travel Group

Greetings, Sojourners.....
Travel is a powerful tool to bridge cultural, economic and informational gaps, increase understanding and tolerance and open a world of opportunities to see and experience the world on your own terms. Heritage Travel Group  has been providing innovative vacations and travel opportunites that combine the interests of LGBT travelers and  thier families and friends since 2010. 

Recently, the US government issued detailed LGBT travel information from it's perspective. I found the information helpful for our LGBT clients and thought I'd share it here. Please comment and let us know what your thoughts are. And PLEASE share! :-)

April 9, 2013 
Attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states. Most LGBT travelers encounter no problems while overseas, but it helps to be prepared and research your destination before you go.

There are a number of countries that provide legal protections to those who are LGBT. Unfortunately, there are others that do not, and a significant number that even criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Persons convicted in these countries could be sentenced to prison, and/or be punished by fines, deportation, flogging, or even sentenced to death. Before choosing one’s international destination, LGBT travelers should carefully consider the laws and biases of their international destination and decide how open one can be regarding one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Personal judgment and knowledge of local laws and customs before one goes will help ensure your safety. Consult our Country Specific Information and links available throughout this document for other helpful resources.

Before You Travel

Where can I find information?

  • Invest in a good current guide book – many specialize in advice to LGBT travelers
  • The Internet and the press that specializes in LGBT issues are also good resources
  • Your travel agent or tour operator might have information about LGBT issues, particularly in the more popular holiday destinations
  • Local LGBT groups are an excellent source of information about local laws and attitudes
  • Sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and download the Smart Traveler App to have information at your fingertips

Does the U.S. Department of State publish information about harassment or arrests of LGBT travelers or residents?

The Special Circumstances sections of some Country Specific Information documents, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, contain information about attitudes, harassment, or arrests relating to LGBT travelers. The annual Human Rights Report that the State Department publishes also includes a section specifically regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in each country.

What documents should LGBT individuals or families carry when traveling abroad?

The Department of State recommends that individuals carry legal/health documents that facilitate authorization for medical treatment or access in the event of a medical emergency while abroad. Parents should consider carrying documents regarding parentage and/or custody for accompanying minor children. Carry contact information for people in the United States, both legal and familial, and share your travel itinerary with someone in the United States. Program the contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in the countries you’re visiting into your phone. Check with that country’s embassy or consulate in the United States to learn about any special documentation requirements.

How do I document a change of name through marriage?

See Passport Services’ change of name documentation requirements on Travel.State.Gov, the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website. 

What is the policy of the U.S. Department of State regarding the passport identity of transgender travelers?

See Passport Services’ identification requirements for gender reassignments on Travel.State.Gov, the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.

How can I find HIV entry requirements of foreign countries?

The Department of State publishes Country Specific Information for every country on Travel.State.Gov, the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website. We include HIV/AIDS entry restrictions, or lack of restrictions, in the section entitled Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens. In some instances, the Country Specific Information refers travelers to that country’s embassy or consulate for additional information.

What is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program?

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can provide you with current Travel Warnings, Alerts, and Country Specific Information. STEP also allows U.S. citizens abroad to get emergency and security messages from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Most importantly, the embassy or consulate will be able to locate and assist you in an emergency. When enrolling in STEP, be sure to include an email address or phone number where you can be reached while traveling.

While You’re There

What are some issues to be aware of while traveling abroad?

  • Be a responsible tourist. Avoid potentially risky situations, and don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at home!
  • Remember that you are subject to the laws and the judicial process of the country you’re visiting
  • Avoid excessive physical displays of affection in public, particularly in more conservative countries or regions
  • If you intend to frequent Internet chat rooms or other meeting places, it’s wise to find out about the local situation – police in some countries have been known to monitor such sites and locales with the intention of carrying out entrapment campaigns
  • Be wary of new-found “friends” - criminals sometimes exploit the generally open and relaxed nature of the LGBT scene
  • If you receive unwelcome attention or unwelcome remarks, it’s usually best to ignore them
  • Some resorts or LGBT neighborhoods can be quite segregated. Be aware that local residents may not approve of expressions of sexuality when you are in surrounding areas
  • You’re more likely to experience difficulties in rural areas, so exercise discretion
  • Some hotels, especially in rural areas, won’t accept bookings from same-sex couples. It’s best to check before you go.

What should I do if I run into problems while overseas?

The American Citizens Services (ACS) Section of the U.S. embassy or consulate may be able to help you if you run into problems overseas, especially if you feel that you can’t approach the local police or encounter difficulties with local authorities. Consular officers will protect your privacy, and will not make generalizations, assumptions, or pass judgment.
Our consular officers monitor and record incidents U.S. citizens report to them about the treatment they receive from host authorities. Our embassies regularly raise issues of concern, especially inappropriate treatment or harassment of our citizens, with relevant officials.

Immigration Issues

Why can’t I petition for an immigrant visa for my same sex spouse?

Under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a United States federal law enacted on September 21, 1996, the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. As a result of the provisions of DOMA, same-sex partners cannot be issued immigrant visas for legal permanent residency based on marriage.

How can I obtain a foreign residence and/or work permit so I can live abroad with my foreign national spouse/partner?

Check with that country’s embassy or consulate in the United States to learn about any special documentation requirements (such as work authorization or a residence visa). You can also find foreign embassy and consulate contact information in the Country Specific Information for each country.

As a foreign national, how can I obtain a non-immigrant visa to accompany a same-sex spouse/partner who will be working or studying in the United States for an extended period of time?

You can apply for a B-2 visitor visa to accompany your spouse/partner. The B-2 classification is appropriate for persons who are members of the household of another foreign national in long-term nonimmigrant status, but who are not eligible for derivative status under that foreign national's visa classification. A B-2 visa would also be appropriate for a foreign national who is accompanying a U.S. citizen partner for a limited stay in the United States. To qualify, you must demonstrate that you don’t intend to immigrate to the United States, intend to maintain a residence outside the United States, and meet other visitor visa eligibility requirements. If you receive a visa, it allows you to apply for entry at a U.S. port of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials of the Department of Homeland Security at the port of entry decide whether to admit you and determine the length of time you are authorized to remain in the United States.

Other useful links

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Planning for the Costa Rica Photography Safari is coming along. Want to photograph an active volcano in the evening in Arenal? How about the hiking the rain forest in Monteverdi at dawn? This is your chance to explore the most bio diverse island in the Americas! You'll want to keep informed as travel plans are finalized.
                                          JOIN US IN COSTA RICA NOVEMBER 2013!!