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18 July 2010 – BASCO

Last Thursday I visited the Baptist School and Children’s Orphanage (BASCO) in Trotor, Eastern Region, Ghana. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the place is the boulder covered, grassy hillside that is incorporated into the campus. When we entered the gate and turned left at Simone’s Hall a lovely small hill strewn with boulders came into view. They were painted with various messages I was unable to read while chatting with Pastor Victor. From the bottom right going up the hill were three classroom blocks and at the top was the administrative building and the computer lab. At the top right was a thatch covered summer hut with 6 students sitting at desks with a fellow student writing on the chalk board. The girls’ bathhouse was to the left next to the outdoor classroom. Down the hill to the left was the school kitchen, a lean-to with side walls. Then the master’s dorm and the boys dorm.

What are the cons of BASCO?

It’s not Sandema. I will miss my friends in Sandema, paaaa. I will miss the dry heat during the first three months of the year, the relative coolness of the fall Hammatan and the expansive view across the flat savannah.  Trotor, the village where BASCO is, is located in the tropical rain forest of southern Ghana. It is in the Eastern Region, very near to the training site. It will be hot and humid. In Sandema not many people ever shouted at me or called to me using the hated words for the color of our skin, Obruni or Filika or…. Most adults who wanted my attention called me Madam. Not so in the south. There are more aggressive people there who not only shout Obruni but also try to touch or even grab you.

The housing is very different. My toilet and bathing room are outside of the house I live in. The kitchen is not yet built. I will have one room to myself. Electricity is only on in the living quarters from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Last con is that it’s a long hike to the main road, about three miles.

What are the pros?

I love the mission of the school/orphanage. Pastor Victor is an Independent Baptist minister. He wanted to start a school and an orphanage in an underserved area in Ghana. One of his congregants told him about Trotor. The school covers grades K through the end of Junior High. It’s located between two of the biggest cities in the Eastern region, Korforidia and Suhum but even so close to two cities it’s very poor and uneducated. The orphanage houses about 120 students from the area and the school brings in about another 150 local kids. The school offers one scholarship to each family in Trotor.

The buildings and grounds are clean and well maintained. The building I will live in is very nice. It has six wide steps leading up to a columned porch. They are both covered with tile. There is a large center room with two bedrooms on either side. The floors are also tiled and cleaned daily by students.

Although my toilet and bathing room are an outhouse it is only in the sense that they are outside the main house. They were just built in hopes of getting a Peace Corps volunteer. They are tiled with an art deco patterned band about chair rail height. They are ready for running water with shower head and flush toilet.

It is located in the village. It will be easy to interact with the villagers and to do projects with them. They speak Twi and another language so I can build on my small small Twi vocabulary. Twi is a widely spoken language in southern Ghana so I will be learning a language that will be useful outside my village.

Katherine, another 50+ volunteer, lives within 2 hours Trotor.

The school has a farm and animals.

It is not Sandema. It’s a totally new place. It’s a tropical rain forest. It’s a private school not funded by Ghana Education Services. It’s a new place with new challenges.

It’s closer to Accra Movie Theater and beaches.

The headmistress is a wonderful, dedicated young woman. She is enthusiastic and curious. I am looking forward to being able to mentor a younger woman.

They seem to appreciate their volunteers. Two of the painted boulders are in honor of past volunteers and Simone’s Hall is in honor of the first white volunteer to come to the school. They will throw a party for me when I arrive. They invited me to the party for the German volunteer who is leaving in August. Sorry I will be in America. Well not too sorry.

Deborah, the head mistress, said that a taxi will come from Suhum for $5.00 GHC to take us to town.

I have a bazillion ideas about what I could do at this site. I am excited and eager to face a new challenge. Let’s see what Peace Corps says and does while I am on home leave.


10 July 2010 – Stranger in my cupboard

 Because this is the last month at my site in Sandema, today I decided to clean my clothes cupboard. I found a stranger there. And no Beth it wasn’t a man it was a woman! She had on pants and a short sleeved shirt. Her feet were always cold so she was wearing ankle socks. She had two pearl necklaces, a silver chain and a flip-flop necklace. She wore Jovan Musk on her wrists and behind her ears. She had on a Red Sox baseball cap and earrings. Her feet and knees hurt so much she took fish oil capsules twice a day.  Who was this stranger in my closet? It was me 2008!

 It was quite startling to be reminded of the person I was before I joined Peace Corps. I hadn’t even thought of my pearl necklaces in over a year – yet I wore them weekly when I was in the US. When I saw the pile of anklets I wondered why I wasted suitcase space for socks! I think I have worn socks 10 times in the past two years. I dabbed on my Jovan Musk and remembered mornings stepping out of the shower and applying powder and perfume. I can’t remember the last time I wore a pair of pants. Oh yes I wore my jeans one evening during the “cold” season in February. And the Black Stars of Ghana have taken over my heart as my favorite sports team. (Sorry Sox but I do still check your standings when I am on the net.)

 I wonder what other changes I will find or my family and friends will find when I return to the US for my month home leave?


6 July 2010 – Up in the Air pt. 1

 So Hamdia breaks the camels back of my trust with her final deception. The field trip is canceled at the last-minute for a questionable reason. What else could happen? Ah, my assignment for the third year could fall through. And it did.

 The same Friday that we would have gone on the field trip, 25 June, Mary, my boss, called to talk to me about my third year assignment. The teacher training college in Tamale would love to have an ICT teacher but they don’t have housing. Which means we have to look for another position. it is important for the school to provide housing since they are getting a teacher for free. By providing housing they show a basic level of commitment to the volunteer and to Peace Corps. So my dreams of living in Tamale are finished. If I take a third year assignment away from Tamale I will take my self out of the running for PCVL – Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. I couldn’t go to a site for two months, after all the work everyone one put in, and leave to become PCVL. You may wonder  why doesn’t Peace Corps decide who would be PCVL in Tamale now. I  will answer that with one statement. The Peace Corps is a United States government bureaucracy. Nuff said.

 Mary told me of two situations they were considering and a third that was just in the early stages of development. The first was another training college in Bimbila, Northern Region. The second was a Cocoa NGO (Non Government Organization) in the Western Region. The last was somewhere in the Eastern Region, near the training site but Mary didn’t have any specific information on that site. She said she would send me contact information for the Cocoa NGO. When we talked I told her I would go to Tamale and then on to Bimbila. My students were prepared for me to be away that week – because of the field trip –  so I was free to try to make contact with the training college and the Cocoa NGO.

 At the sub-office in Tamale I emailed the contact for the Cocoa NGO. Having no contact information for the training college I decided just to go and visit. 

 Monday 15 June I get up bright and early (5:00 am) and get the Metro Mass bus to Yendi. When I ask fellow passengers if I can travel to Bimbilla and back to Tamale in one day,  they assure me I could. I would be in Bimbilla by 11:00 am. Can do my business then come back.

 The conductor escorted me to a nice single seat near the front of the bus. I got a sweetpaa for the trip. The trip was uneventful. It was a comfortable ride and I had a good book to read.

 I arrive at in Yendi and find Bimbilla station I see a tro tro* drive out of the yard. I ask a market women where can I get the bust to Bimbilla. She points down the road. It just left. Oh but it has stopped. So I run to catch it. It’s a small minivan and people are packed in like sardines. I hold my left palm up, pat it with the back of my right hand and bend my knees small small in the universal Ghanaian gesture of pleading or begging. The mate asks if I mind standing. Not at all. I squeeze in and we are off. Not long after we get on the road I hear someone say “Madam”. A nice man was offering me his seat. That was the best part of the ride to Bimbilla. About ten minutes after we are on the way the pavement ends. The next 3 hours are spent on rugged dirt roads. It’s the rainy season and the roads are potholed and rutted from the runoff. If I could have one wish come true it would be that all tro tros in Ghana be fitted with working shocks! I arrived at the training college shaken and dusty.

The training college was located just north of the town of Bimbilla. it was about a 5 minute walk from the main road to the college campus. To get to the campus I passed through a primary school. When I asked directions children flocked around me; on brave girl shyly took my hand.  My posse left me at the master’s tree. I greeted the masters and was lead to the principals office. (Funny how it’s principal here not Headmaster)

 I received a warm reception from the principal, one of the ICT masters and the HIV aids educator. The principal was positive and forward thinking. He used computers and was knowledgable about the use of them in education. The ICT master was energetic and committed. And the HIV aid educator had only positive things to say about the school. In fact she said that she got a lot of satisfaction working here.

 currently they are teaching the students how to use the computers. They are not offering a course to train teachers to teach computers. The principal said he would offer an ICT and Maths track next school year. He thought that is where I could fit in at the school.

 The school buildings were old but well maintained. The grounds were clean and neat.  There were two computer labs and plans for another next school year.

 When I was talking to the HIV aids educator she wondered if I was staying the night. I told her I had planned to go back to Tamale that day. She advised me I would get in late if I did. But I had no plans to stay over so I said I must go back today. I figured it took me 5 hours to get to  Bimbilla so it should be close to that to return to Tamale.  I should have listened to her but instead I catch a ride with the school van into town to Yendi station. I am feeling pretty confident I’ll be back in Tamale by 7:00 pm since it’s 1:00 pm. I won’t bore you details except to say that at Yendi it took the tro to Tamale four hours to fill and I didn’t arrive back in Tamale until 9:30 pm.


 It was close to the town of Bimbilla. It’s about the same distance to town from the training college as from my house here at Sandema to the cross.

 The principal understood the value of technology and showed commitment to providing resources. 

 New buildings were being added to campus and plans for an internet connection were being considered.

 The ICT masters were hardworking and knowledgable.

 The campus was lovely.

 I would have my own bungalow.

 The masters and staff were welcoming and friendly.  They were closer to my age than the masters at Sandema.


 The ICT masters were hardworking and knowledgable – why do they need another.

 ICT practicals were taught Monday – Friday evenings. I have had experience with teaching night classes at Sandema and it was too much for me.

 The school was has not offered teacher training in ICT; they are currently teaching the students ICT just as I was in Sandema. If I wanted to teach ICT to students I could stay in Sandema where I am happy and comfortable. I don’t want to uproot myself to do the same thing somewhere else. I know the principal said he would offer ICT teacher training but it is not yet a fact and I can’t base my decision on a promise.

 The road to Yendi. It was a bumpy ride during the rainy season and it will surely be a dusty ride during the dry season.

 So even before I have visited the other two sites I have put Bimbilla training college at the bottom of the list. Training colleges might be a new direction for Peace Corps but at this training college it seems like the same direction for me. It might be a good site for a volunteer when the do have an ICT teacher training program in place.

 Now I am waiting to hear about the site near Kukurantumi, in the Eastern Region.


 * Interesting fact. The name Tro comes from the coin used to ride the first minivans as public transport in Ghana. During the colonial period the English introduced the minivans and charged 3 pense and the Ga’s called this a tro tro. Check out this site for more about this common form of transport in Ghana.