Thursday, July 16, 2009


20090712_AdumkromChief_017, originally uploaded by Chef Cooke.

IDDS had its first ever village visit (July 11-13), which has been appropriately described by others as an event within an event. The organizers of IDDS successfully coordinated for over 70 people to visit 10 rural villages around Ghana for three days to do hands on research for the current Design Challenges. Cheers to them, because it was an amazing and invaluable experience.

Along with nine other participants and trip leaders, I visited Adumkrom, as village of only 300 people, about an hour from Kumasi. The most amazing thing about the village was the night time. Lacking electricity, it was extremely dark, in a manner I have never experienced before. One could look to the sky and see stars that don't exist anymore in the Los Angeles or other light polluted city skylines. There were no light posts or porch lights, most people were in their houses and asleep by the time night fell. Some people had LED lights or kerosene lanterns, such as the shop on the main road that sold eggs, alcohol and bread into the night.

The three days spent at Adumkrom was packed with a combination of tourism and research. After an initial meeting with the Chief and his cabinet, the IDDS participants were greeted with open arms, and had the cooperation of the every village. Everyone I came across had a smile and was willing to help improve my Twi beyond saying hello and asking how they were. For the project I am working on at IDDS, Sean (a Rice De-stoning teammate) and myself were lucky enough to see a rice field, talk to the farmer in charge, watch someone remove the stones in a gold pan method, talk to various villagers about their eating habits, and visit the local town to see a rice mill and buy rice samples from the market. On the tourist side of the event, I saw many activities of the Adumkrom's occupants; cassava grating and pounding for fufu (a staple food), palm oil making, the local school, talking to the village pastor, hearing talking drums, learn about the process for making Gari (a porridge like item), meet the local Maker (inventor), attempt to pump water from the well, stir banku in a kettle, construct a bamboo roof segment and much more.

Writing all that down surprises me even now as to all that was accomplished in such a short time. I can't emphasis enough the power of just being in the place. Small realizations that were finally drilled into my head, such as the fact that cassava and plantain are the main staple in this region. There is no local supermarket to get out of season grapes, strawberries or berries. Walking around the village at (roughly) 4:30pm to see that over half the women are preparing cassava to make Fufu. I will hold this experience close to heart for a good amount of time to come.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Akwaaba! Welcome

With the exception of a few participants held up at airports, most everyone is now in Kumasi, Ghana for IDDS 2009. The past week has been crazy getting ready for everything, and the work is far from over. I could feel myself getting more excited with the arrival of most of the participants. It means meeting diverse and passionate people, working on fun projects, playing games, sharing meals and stories, and loads more.

Ghana so far has been interesting. I went to downtown Kumasi the other day. It reminds me of South East Asia, while being nothing like it. The sidewalks are packed with people go to and fro. One of the most amazing sights is how people carrying things on their heads. Not being from here, its surprises me every time to view the sense of balance Ghanaians have.

20090706_downtown_039, originally uploaded by Chef Cooke.

I visited the downtown area looking for supplies for IDDS, and spent a good 5 or 6 hours searching for a small list of items. An extension cord longer than 3 meters seems to be a rare (though not unavailable) item. If you can't find what you are looking for, its very acceptable to stop and ask just about anybody if they have an idea where you might find the local bike shop for example. It is quite refreshing to be asking anyone for assistance.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Ghana has been amazing so far. Everyone is very kind, and whenever I walk anywhere, I stop and talk to at least ten people. The weather fluctuates between hot summer days and sudden heavy downpours. Building up to the rain, is a heave and muggy humidity that breaks with cool refreshing breezes only minutes before everything is saturated with wetness and wind. After which, cool air comes off the freshly watered ground. This makes for beautiful mornings that energize and inspire one to start the day.

While in Kumasi, I (and fellow IDDS organizers and participants) will be staying at the Tek Credit Union Hostel on the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology campus. It's a very large and seemingly diverse campus, with an interesting Ceramics program that I need to check out before leaving in two months. Getting ready for IDDS 2009 has been a non stop enjoyable job. From going into downtown Kumasi, to walking up and down five floors searching for a particular team member, or walking around the entire KNUST campus looking for an internet card.

I would love to upload some video of the place, because it describes so much. Unfortunately, the internet connection is too slow to accommodate video, so it shall have to wait until I return stateside. Until then, I have uploaded photos on my flickr account.

Also, check out the IDDS website, and Niall's blog documenting everyday of the summit with beautiful prose.