Catfight: Ghana Edition

Emma Lee Photography

A few days ago when I was visiting the Abutia Torgbeve community Desmond and I heard quite the commotion over by the well. Me, being the most curious white girl in Ghana, had to go investigate. When I got there, I saw about 20 women wrestling over the well! They were stealing women’s water buckets and throwing them 10 feet away, pushing to get to the front of the line – one girl even straddled herself to the well so nobody could use it!

What was all this commotion for? While I have to admit that it was a bit entertaining to watch, the reason behind such fuss is quite sad. See, the well had not released water in 3 days. The women, who were tired of walking the 2 miles to go fetch muddy water in a nearby pond, were fighting to get the water before it ran out again.

It’s unfortunate how desperate people get when they don’t have clean water. This shouldn’t be a problem, and witnessing events like this make me super happy that VARAS is going to help build wells for communities like Abutia Torgbeve. Hopefully someday women won’t have to fight for drinkable water.

So what happened with the catfight? After a few minutes the chief of the town came and settled the matter. He said that the elder women should go first, and that the line should proceed by age. I think that was a wise choice on his part!

Emma Lee Photography


My Ghana Family

Hello from Ghana!

I wanted to take a moment and share with you all the people who have now become my Ghana family.


AKA Dez AKA Dezy

Besides the time when we are sleeping, showering, or pooping, Desmond and I spend 24/7 together. I’m surprised we haven’t gotten sick of each other by now 🙂 Desmond is my host, my guide, my motorbike driver, my translator, my photo assistant. He is the guy who holds my camera bag for me, serves me food, takes me to eat pizza when I’m homesick, washes my clothes for me (he insists that I don’t do a good job and I insist that he is insane), opens coconuts for me, and answers all my questions about the culture here. Basically, Desmond is pretty important.


AKA Sly AKA Sly Guy

Emma Lee Photography

Sylvester is the Director of VARAS. He is a straight and narrow guy, and we work very well together. He tells it like it is, and I like that about him. I always know what he expects of me and his dedication to VARAS is impressive.  He is a teacher during the day, but it is not uncommon for him and Desmond to work late into the night at VARAS, even sleeping at the office quite frequently! If that isn’t dedication I don’t know what is.


AKA mom

Emma Lee Photography

Desmond’s mom is awesome! She sells plantains and beans at her stand everyday. She is also my main cheerleader for when I learn new Ewe (this regions main dialect) words.


AKA My personal chef and one badass of a cook

Emma Lee Photography

Pearl doesn’t live at Desmond’s house, but while I am staying here she is also staying at the house just so she can cook for me! I told you Ghanians are friendly. She is a great cook, and has exposed me to lots of Ghanian favorites, including Banku, Fufu, Akple, and much more. Yummmmmmmmyyyy!

The kids

AKA Jerry and Clenam

Emma Lee Photography

These are Pearl’s kids, who are also staying with us while I am visiting. Jerry is the oldest, and he is the best big brother ever. He helps around the house, is very well mannered, and is often a translator for me when I can’t understand Clenam. Jerry is an all around good kid.

Clenam is 6 years old and super funny. It took us a while to become friends (she doesn’t speak a lot of English and I don’t speak Ewe so it was a bit of a problem) but since then she holds my hand whenever she can, likes to play with my hair, and I have taught her to braid. We have fun.


The Cats

AKA Amigo and Lowkifamilycomp002

The little kitty came from Pearl’s house without a name. They said I could name her, and I have named her Amigo. I know it should technically be Amiga, but whatever people! Lowki was Desmond’s kitty for a while now. I love her and she loves me now knowing that I give her the best cuddles and scratches behind the ears 🙂


Walking a mile (or 5) in their shoes

Who run the world? Girls!


After my first day here at Ghana, I am convinced that Beyonce’s song is inspired by the women who live in the Abutia Forsime community. If it’s not, it should be. These women are badasses, and I have mad respect for them.

Let me backup: I am currently living in Ho, Ghana volunteering with Photographers Without Borders and VARAS. Each day that I am here, I am visiting a rural community that needs help, whether it be water supply, schooling, health clinics, etc. I talk to the elders and chiefs of the community, hear their needs, and photograph it. VARAS will then be taking my photos and use them to promote their volunteer programs and raise awareness for each of the community’s needs.

Ok, back to the ladies at Abutia Forsime. We arrived at their community because their water situation is bad. Real bad. When we got there, the elders explained that their water source is located far away; we could walk, or we could take the motorbikes. Because we wanted to get a true sense of what it was like to live in this community, we said we would walk.

I didn’t know that by ‘far’ the man meant it’s about a 5 mile hike roundtrip, including a trek up a mountain. It was hot (I mean hot), I was sweating buckets, and as soon as I saw their water, I wanted to jump in it. Better judgement told me not to.

I was dying, and I just had to carry my camera bag. These ladies did this carrying a huge bucket of water on their heads! And then they go home, clean, cook, and parent. And not only that, they do this twice a day. Say what?! I couldn’t imagine doing that everyday. And the hardest part about the whole thing is that when they get home, they are only allowed to have 1 cup of the water that they hauled home because the rest needs to go to cleaning, cooking, and other family members. One cup of water for all that trouble. Aye!

To be completely honest, I am so glad that Abutia Forsime was the first community I visited here in Ghana. It made me really appreciate things back home, and it made me feel like what I’m doing here right now and what VARAS is working towards is really meaningful. VARAS will be using my photos to help create a volunteer program so that volunteers can come to Ghana and help build Abutia Forsime a well! Woo!

You know what the worst part of the whole experience was? After I left the village, I sat down, had lunch, and had a clean, cold, glass of water. I felt so guilty.

Everyone deserves clean water!


Les catacombs

600 million Parisians were waiting for us…

Les catacombs

Hello All!

I have arrived in Paris! And since I am here for a very short 3 days (how do you conquer Paris in only 3 days?!), Sally and I are wasting no time exploring. The first stop was Les Catacombes, which has been one of my favorite things to do so far. Here’s the rundown:

Underneath Paris is a system of tunnels, stretching over 186 miles. The tunnels were originally used for mining, and then solely for the King and his friends to roam around in (what he did there, I don’t know). But during this time Paris was also having a bit of a problem: the huge burial site in the middle of the city was getting everyone sick. Nobody could use their water, grow food, and I’m sure living next to a huge grave was not the freshest smelling thing in the world. So someone had the bright idea to move all the bodies from the mass grave, clean the bones, and place them in the underground tunnels (Paris’s new storage unit). So the miners became bone cleaner-uppers, and they literally just stacked the bones on top of each other throughout the tunnels.

So when we arrived to the catacombs, we were met with 600 million skeletons. It was pretty spooky, but also super awesome (in a gruesome sort of way). Some of the bones were missing chunks from them, others had everything -even their jaws- attached perfectly. Some skeletons had etchings on them that looked like maybe they had brain surgery in their lifetime. Overall, it was super awesome! Enjoy the spooky photos!

Paris Catacombs


Always learning so we never forget

Visiting my friend Johanna in Munich has been great. I love the city. It’s big, but not too big, and it is clean, beautiful, and safe. Even though there is so much to like about Munich today, the city does have a somewhat dark past. Munich is actually the birthplace of the Nazi Party. Interesting, eh? This fascinated me, so I tried to learn as much about it as I could. Unfortunately the museum I wanted to go to was closed on Mondays (the only day I could go), so I missed out, but I still was able to learn a lot by talking with Johanna and going on a city walk tour.

As you walk through Munich, you can see important Nazi buildings that have been converted into everyday buildings. My favorite example of this is in the Munich music academy, which used to be Hitler’s office. That’s right, music students today can actually rent out Hitler’s office to practice the saxophone. Sometimes Neo Nazi groups rent out the room as well to hold meetings, but the school tries to avoid supporting that (for obvious reasons). It’s weird though, for as beautiful as Munich is, there is something depressing about that building. It is not dirty or run down, but there is just something about it that is off. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just gives off a weird vibe, especially considering the other beautiful buildings all around it.

Munich tourist

Germany has this very complicated, fuzzy line that seperates freedom of speech and anti-Nazi support. For example, it is illegal to reproduce copies of Mein Kampf. You can have access to copies that were already published, but you can’t reproduce more copies. However, next year marks 70 years since Hitler’s death, and by German law copyright laws go away after someone has been dead for 70 years. This means that by law people should be able to reproduce the book as much as they want. But German government doesn’t want them to. Johanna told me it is somewhat of a hot topic right now and it’s not really clear on what will happen.

I think my favorite thing I learned about the whole Nazi/Germany thing was how Germans deal with it today. My tour guide from the City Walk Tour that I did told me that there is this saying in Germany, that is roughly translated to mean “Always learning so we never forget,” meaning that Germans are pretty open about their past and are ok talking about it, because they never want history to repeat itself. They also place memorials all around the city to keep discussions open and commemorate the people who resisted the Nazi movement. My favorite memorial are these gold bricks laying in one of the ally ways.. Here is the story:

Right when Hitler was put into government, he made a memorial to commemorate the 16 Nazi party supporters who died during the Beer Hall Putsch. Along with the statue, Hitler hired 2 guards to be with the statue 24/7. These guards were hired to make sure that EVERYONE who passed by the statue would give the Nazi salute. In order to retaliate, people started going around the statue, down this alley way, basically taking the longer way in order to resist giving the nazi salute. Eventually Hitler caught on to this and placed a guard in the alley way as well, and if you were seen going down the alley, the guard would stop you and you better have a pretty valid reason for going down the alley and not the street or you would be beaten, fined, or charged with treason or something. Pretty scary stuff. But these gold bricks are there to commemorate the people who were bold enough to walk the alley way. I love it!

munich tourist


Apfelwein für alle!

Munich travel photographerThe nice part about visiting friends is that you get to learn a lot from locals, and not just do the touristy stuff. Although Jule and Johanna have taught me lots about the culture and history of their hometowns, I would have to say the most useful thing they have taught me is how to say “Apfelwein für alle!,” which means “Apple wine for everyone!” Apfelwein is a Marburg specialty, and I’m so glad Johanna introduced me to it. Think of apple cider, but drier. Yummmm.

And of course no trip to Bavaria would be complete without a trip to the bierhaus (beer house). Johanna and I were fortunate enough to meet up with our friend Phillip, another kid from our Stellie days. Johanna and Phillip both call Munich their home, so they knew exactly where to take me:Hofbrauhaus Munchen. Although it’s a bit touristy, it is none the less quite some fun.Hofbrauhaus is one of the largest bierhauses in the world, and has some famous patrons such as Mozart, John F. Kennedy, and Ernest Hemmingway. It is said that one night Mozart actually got so sloppy drunk that he was kicked out of the bierhaus. I’m not sure if that’s true or if it’s something the drunks say to make themselves feel better for being cut off 🙂

Munich tourism

I have also had my fair share of schnitzel, auflauf, cheese and pretzels. So many pretzels. But I am not complaining. And I tried some good ‘ol absinthe…. Not my favorite. I didn’t drink enough to make it worth it, so it was just a waste of my taste buds. Ick.

Munich tourism

Munich tourism



Marburg travel photographer

A stroll through Marburg

Marburg travel photographer

I have made it to Germany! So far, I have had the best time catching up with my friends from my Stellenbosch days. It was absolute bliss. I haven’t seen these girls in FOUR YEARS, but as soon as we saw each other again it was as if we all left South Africa yesterday.

My friend Johanna was nice enough to show me and our Dutchie Sylvia around Marburg, a perfect little University town. Here is what I learned from our stroll:

Marburg is known as the city of stairs. And for good reason! There are so many stairs everywhere. So. Many. Stairs. Even though it was quite the workout, the stairs made me feel a little less guilty about eating all the auflauf I had. (Sidenote: Marburg has a huge school for the blind. How hard it must be for all these students to get around!).

The Brothers Grimm studied in Marburg. As a tribute to some of their famous works, all around town you can see sculptures and statues depicting characters from their tales. You can find Cinderella’s shoe, the girl who caught all the stars, and lots of donkeys and wolves around town. It’s quite entertaining!

My friend Jule’s house is old. “How old?” I asked her. “Ummm, I don’t know. Maybe 400 years old?” Let that sink in for a moment. My friends home is roughly 200 years older than our entire country….

I have the best friends in the world. Ok, I already knew that, it’s not something I learned, BUT, it is nice to be constantly reminded what amazing people I have in my life. I love these ladies!

Marburg | Marburg travel photographer