25 December 2008 MERRY CHRISTMAS

Merry Christmas everyone!

I will be thinking of you today eating your Christmas feasts, opening presents and some of you playing in the snow.

Much love and I wish you all joy in the coming year.

I will be celebrating in my village with some new friends.

Love and Merry Christmas

-vc

27 November 08 Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving.  I am not very homesick because it does not look or feel like an New England Thanksgiving. Maybe a bit like a Mississippi Thanksgiving but no one is cooking turkey here except in Accra at the Embassy, and the PC Suboffices. Thank goodness I don’t have to smell a turkey roasting all day in someone else’s house.

But I will eat joyful food today. Thanks to Mel and Den I had dried cherries and almonds to put in my oatmeal this morning. OH yes and Cinnemon! It was yummy.

This noon I will have Ramen Noodles. Yes they have Ramen Noodle here but they call them Endo Mie. And of course they have a very spicy seasoning packet as well. So after my test this morning I will go make Endo Mie!  Chicken and onion flavor.

Tonight I will have my favorite Ghanian meal.  Gari, Sardines, tomatoes, onions and pepper. Then I will go have a mineral with Perpetua and family.

I have texted my fellow PCVs. Will call my mom and hope for calls from other family and friends.

Wonder what cool new balloon they will have in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

-vc

26 November 2008 Teaching is ……

Teaching is Awesome! I am sitting in the computer lab with 9 second year high school students. They are doing their first ever practical exam on a computer. I am so proud of them. The first time they came into the lab we spent the whole hour and 20 minutes logging in to the computers. This week during testing a large majority of them have logged in, opened a word processing program and begun typing within 5 minutes. I am not bragging. They have wanted to learn. One girl did not know how to shut down the computer. I told her I couldn’t tell her and give her credit. She said then you do it I want to learn. I could have hugged her. She didn’t care about the points she just wanted to learn how to shutdown the computer.

An aside. The kids will not leave the lab on time so their punishment is that I shut down the computers when time is up. I call out the last ten minutes and the last five. They have plenty of time to shutdown they just are glued to the computers. I even let them stay longer when they have no class after lab. But when I say we have to close it’s always a battle. So that is why some of them don’t know how to shut down. But gee how many teachers have trouble getting kids to leave the classroom.

Ok so today I have seen more smiles on kids faces than I have all term. I am so proud of them when the y have learned something. And they are proud of themselves. It does feel good.

Teaching is horrible! How many times have I told them that the enter key moves the cursor down one line. How many times have I told them the password and that it must be in lowercase! How many times have I said open the word processing program and they have opened a spreadsheet!

Teaching is horrible. I didn’t make sure they all had hands on time when we did labs. I didn’t pay enough attention to the individuals to make sure they knew what I wanted them to know. How could I believe that they would learn how to save a file in a specific folder in one lab session? My desire to have them publish their essays on the web got in the way of my teaching. My heart aches for those who are sitting here struggling to format, type and save their work.

Teaching is wonderful. Next term I can identify those who are struggling and help them out. Maybe I can make some of the better students student teachers. This term was a party. Next term will be boot camp! I will have a few weeks to rest and refresh myself. They will have a few weeks to rest and refresh themselves. We can start over again!

-vc

17 October 2008 Long Time

Hi all,

Sorry it has been so long since my last post and it will be even longer before the posts I have written will be put up. There is something wrong with my pen drive. I put it in today and can’t read anything off it. so all the blog posts i have to upload are not there. thank goodness i keep a copy on my computer as well.

Today I am in Bolga. I came by myself. I found the post office, the bank and the internet cafe all by myself as well. I am feeling much more comfortable moving around.

I promise some posts as soon a i get the thumb drive problem solved.

-vc

I found this post hidden in my pages! That’s why it’s so old!

20 December 2008 Catching Up

Hey everyone,

I have been traveling for two weeks so I am very behind in my blogging and posting my entries. I will try to catch up during Christmas vacation  and post in the new year.

The Peace Corps All Volunteer conference was not as bad as i imagined. It was really fun to get to met the older volunteers and to network with them. The sessions ended early in the afternoon so we also had plenty of time to play. Cards and scrabble were favorite games. There was also a football(soccer) game and an ultimate frisbee game. We had a prom and a talent night. A good time was had by all!

The Ghana elections are going to a runoff. No one party got a 50+ 1 majority so the top two vote getters will go to elections again on Dec 28.  Peace Corps has put us on StandFast for 5 days before and after the election. So this is my last trip into Bolga and Internet before the elections. Sometime after January 2 I can move again if all is well after the election.

I posted a new page of American Ghanaian recipes. Check them out. I’ll add more as time goes on.

-vc

I Love Ghana 23 November 08

Joe B from the Peace Corps was visiting the area this weekend. He delivered some long lost packages and mail to me. Packages came from Melanie and Dennis, one from Beth, small ones from Mom and Dawn. Then a bundle of letters, Newsweeks and postcards came as well. One reason I love Ghana is that family and friends in America don’t seem so far away. The world is very small. I communicate with people in America. They send me things in the mail that I have asked for. Thanks for the Gold Bond Beth. Thanks for the Basil seeds Den and Mel. Thanks for the Werthers Jack. And they send me things they know I will love. Thanks for the Bubble Gum Mom. Thanks for the hippo puppet Dawn! So with Email, the cell phone and snail mail the people I love in America don’t seem so far away.

 

My front yard was full of kids this morning. It’s amazing I think they all must have smelled the Tootsie Pop I gave to Elizabeth. They all came, first Dizzy, then Rose and her brother, Ephasia followed. Elizabeth said we should call Monica over and give her a toffee. (Remember here all candy is toffee.) Abigail and Doris arrived by bike. Who am I forgetting. Oh yes the girl who came with Ephasia and Abraham who came with Rose.  When I got Tootsie Pops for the last three I remembered that I hadn’t gotten myself one. When they all saw I had an extra there was pandamonium! Six or seven little hands reaching. Little voices pleading to be the one to have a second toffee. “Doesn’t Madam Vic get a toffee?” I asked.  A chorus of “Oh yes Madam Vic” arose.  We sat on the stoop in the not hot hamattan breeze and licked our lollies! I love Ghana because Toffee can make our day

 

Then I remembered I had to do laundry. My favorite dress, purple of course, was dirty. So I started getting the stuff out. Five sets of hands were there to help me. Ephasia, Elizabeth and Monica immediately took over when I started to wash. Apparently I don’t have the right technique. They all tried to show me and it was Elizabeth who finally got through to me. There is no way to describe how to hand wash my clothes correct. Who knew there was a right and a wrong way. The girls were flabergasted that I didn’t know how. They asked “Didn’t you wash clothes in America?” “No” I replied and paused for effect. The mixture of looks on their faces was wonderful. Horror, amazement, wonder….. Then I continued “A machine washed my clothes.” Looks of relief were the most prevalent. I think for a moment they imagined people all over America wearing really dirty clothes.  I love Ghana because we help each other

 

I just sent Thomas out the door with a bowl full of chicken soup.  He came to me this evening and said “Teach me to eat your food.” I had the soup in the fridge so I pulled it out and put it on the stove. We sat down in the hall to eat. He had a few bites and said “My mother should taste this.” He had a few more and said “My father should taste this.” I told him to take it to his house if he would like.  He checked with me again about the correct procedure for dipping the bread in the broth and covered the bowl and left!  I love Ghana because we teach each other

 

Last night Francis, the assistant headmaster, invited me into his house to eat banku. They were watching a Nigerian movie when I came in. While his wife prepared the banku Francis showed me the family photo album. She brought out one serving of banku and soup for me.  I thought that they must have all eaten. So I ate. Unlike me I did not say “Have you already eaten?”.  I committed two faux paus one I walked into the house with my sandals on. Two when I started eating I forgot to say “You are invited.” Then when I finished. Francis’s wife brought out everyone else’s meal. Again I didn’t ask, but I need to know!  While they ate Francis had Thomas put in a home video of the 2006 Foek Festival.  I love Ghana because I was invited into a home, shown family media and given a meal. Who knew I would have a chance to watch the dreaded vacation video in Ghana! Really it was interesting. I can’t wait to go to the festival this year

 

When I was saying good bye I said to Francis’s wife that I was going to have to cook for them during vacation because she had cooked for me three times that week. She said “Oh no. You are a stranger and we want to welcome you.” I love Ghana because I was a stranger and they welcomed me. My skin is white. I talk funny. I mess up on their customs and culture so many times. Yet they welcome me

 

The debate club debated the merits of the oil that has been found in Ghana.  The student turned out in their Sunday whites ready to listen to their fellow students debate this topic. It’s all very civilized. I have never been involved in school debating so it could be this way everywhere. Each side had three speakers. The first lays the foundation of the arguments. The second one builds the structure. And the third adds the finishing touches. The students are passionate. They are nervous. They are confident. They have researched. They have not researched. But they are all learning a very valuable skill of standing in front of people and presenting a speech. I love Ghana because I get to be a judge in a school debate.

 

When I open my door in the morning I look across the dirt road and see a field. The grasses are drying to a golden brown. When I walk to school the butterflies dance around me. Yellow one here. That lovely black and white with a splash of a color I can’t quite make out in front of me. The brown ones there. Goats cough! Who Knew!  I can sit and watch a young male goats head butt. Roosters crow morning, noon and night. Wait that might not be a plus. The hamattan breeze is warm and dry. When I walk home from class after noon, the sun is hot, the air is dry and there is a gentle breeze. Oh I love the warm sun on my skin. The rains during the rainy season are wild and unpredictable. At night the sky is so clear and the stars are so bright. I can see the milky way. Juipter and Mars are up in the early evening and all of Scorpio visible in this part of the world. I love Ghana because it reminds me that the world God created can be so beautiful
 

-vc

19 November 08 First Birthday in Ghana

I am sitting in my hall in my new permanent home. In Ghana the living room is called the hall. I am wearing a costume tiara, eating M&Ms and Smarties. A goat is outside my window coughing. This is the perfect ending to a wonderful day. When I woke up I decided today would be a day to eat things I love. I had already planned Beef Stew for supper but not the rest of the meals. So for breakfast I made myself scrambled eggs with tomato, onion, garlic and green pepper. I had hot milo (a chocolate drink) and ice cold water with it. I enjoyed my breakfast with the BBC and a puzzle. The past two weeks have been crazy busy. I assigned essays to my students, all 220 of them, and have been correcting them. I am planning a practical exam for my end of term exam so that has involved a lot of scheduling with the classes to get them all into the computer lab. (as I wrote that long convuluted sentence I can see my notes on 3 out of 5 students papers – “It is often better to write two short sentences than one long one. Remember a sentence expresses one complete thought!”) And I moved into my permenant home last weekend. So instead of the relaxed lifestyle I invisioned I felt busier than I had been in the US. As a birthday present to myself I took the morning off. After breakfast I made lime/orange ade and put it in the freezer. Oh does that feel and taste so good on a hot afternoon. It’s my favorite drink/treat. Then I went to visit Perpetua. We are only about 100 yards from each other but it feels like a long way after having daily contact. I told her it was my birthday. She yelled at me for not telling her before and then wished me happy birthday. She said to come back tonight and we would have minerals. We visited. Before I left I asked for a Pawpaw leaf to wrap my beef chunks in. Pawpaw is supposed to tenderize meat. I made my beef stew when I returned home. Gari is an excellent substitute for flour to thicken the stew. I had onions, garlic, potatos and carrots. The only thing missing was the peas. Liz would be happy! She always hated peas. I like to make the stew early because the flavors blend during the day. Also I had classes at 11, 3 then 5 so there wouldn’t be much time between classes to cook. For my bath I used 6 dippers of water. I usually use only 4 so this was an extravagance. I washed my hair as well. I used my scrub on my face. And I shaved. Almost a spa day! Before class I had to visit 3C so I got to see my favorite class on my birthday. The girls all wished me a happy birthday. They flattered my shamelessly about my age. I loved every minute of it. 3C is Home Economics and there are only two boys in the class. Throughout the morning Simona was sending me birthday wishes by text message. So my morning felt very festive. I didn’t get home from class until about 1:00. I planned gari and sardines for lunch but it actually seemed like too much trouble. So I decided to make Groundnut paste and honey instead. It was delicious. I ate it with my frozen lime/orange ade. After lunch I sat in my hall and did another puzzle. What a relief to stop reading and correcting essays. I was thrilled not to be unpacking anything else. And the exam schedule was finally finished. My Beth friend called as I was doing my puzzle. It was so good to hear her voice. In the middle of afternoon classes my phone rang. I promised myself I would answer my phone whenever it rang today. I didn’t want to miss birthday calls. Mary from PC was calling to say she was coming to visit that afternoon. It was already 4:00 pm. I was a little miffed but then I realized she was bring my packages from Accra. I would have presents on my birthday!!!! I really NEED presents on my birthday. Ask any friend they will tell you I am as bad as a 5 year old about my birthday. Last year I pretty much demanded a surprise party. Two boxes came with Mary. Mary also bought me a box of OJ and some crackers for my birthday. My first birthday present of the day. She sat in on my 5:00 class for about 45 minutes. About 7:00 Perpetua called and said I was disapointing her because I wasn’t home. I had completely forgot to tell her I had class until 7. I said I was coming small small. When I got to her house she had cooked banku, talapia and cabbage salad. There were 5 other people there to share my b-day meal. Surprise! and I didn’t even ask for it. When Perpetua served me my plate she said “When you next celebrate your birthday in America you can say that you had banku and talapia for your first birthday in Ghana.” Dizzy sang Happy Birthday to me. She also did a floor show dancing to three songs. I learned a couple of new moves from her! She was almost as excited as I was. I came home about 9:00 pm and I remembered I had two packages to open. The first one I opened was from my mom. There were plenty bubblegums and smarties. But the best part was the fitted sheet. I haven’t been able to find fitted sheets here and every day I must put my bed all back together. She also sent stickers, pencils and a LED reading lamp. Thanks Mom! I thought the next box was from my brother Dennis and his wife Mel. But no it was from the Lucy Robbins Welles Library. M&Ms. Costume Tiara. Birthday paper plates. Birthday table clothe. Noise makers. Candles. A radio pendrive. AND MOUSE PADS! MOUSE PADS! Wow Jeanette and Helen really know how to help me celebrate. Thank you my dear friends. In one of my first emails about teaching I lameted that there were no mouse pads. Jeanette sent the word out to Connecticut Libraries. She posted on ConnTech listserve that I needed mouse pads in Ghana. Connecticut libraries came through, as usual. I have enough mouse pads to last me the next year at least. Thanks CT Librarians. You rule. My third roll of smarties is finished. I have eaten two handfulls of M&Ms. The combs in the tiara are beginning to hurt my scalp. It is with a happy heart from the love of friends near and far that I will end this posting. Happy Birthday to ME! -vc