Officially Closed

This blog is officially closed.  Enjoy the archive.

I have been home from Ghana for 10 months.

I have started a new blog – RoamingAbout, featuring photographs from my travels – past and present.

I’ll leave you with one last photo taken in Sandema market – Cooking Cosi.

-vc

10 Sept 2011 – Manicured and Pedicured

Saturday afternoon Beth and I went to Elegant Nails for the full treatment. I felt like Dorothy in the salon before she entered the Emerald City. One technician was giving me a pedicure and another was giving me a manicure.  We had a sea salt rub, a masque and a hot rock massage on our calves and shins. My feet were encased in hot wax. The only time I had second thoughts was when the technician brought out a cheese grater to buff the callouses on my feet. I know my feet got tough in Ghana but seriously?!

-vc

28 July 2011 – Adjusting

When I get back to the US I will find it hard to:

– Use my left hand to give anything to people.

– Go to bed without shaking out my sheets.

– Put toilet paper in the toilet bowl.

– Eat with a fork and spoon.

– Stay warm.

– Wear closed toed shoes.

– Speak correct English, ooohhh!

– Walk by someone without greeting them.

– Make choices in a grocery store.

– Pay American prices for things.

-vc

14 July 2011 – Turning the Tables

Today I proposed to a Ghanaian man!

Werner, my German friend, and I went to the bead market in Kofftown(Koforidua). We went our separate ways but found each other at the T.K. Beads tables. I love these tables because you can find melted glass beads, powdered glass beads, and painted glass beads in all colors of the rainbow. There must be 15 sq ft of tables filled with beads.

We chatted with the owner and purchased some beads. Then I asked if he knew where I could find the Ashanti brass beads. He took me to three tables across the aisle from his table. I found some nice individual pieces as well as three strings of brass beads. I went over to Werner, at the table next to mine. The owner of T.K. Beads came to check on us. Werner asked about old beads. They were at the table to the right of the Ashanti beads.

I thanked the T.K. Beads owner for his help even going as far as to take us to other trader’s tables. He waved his right arm, collecting all tables on his right and left in a arc and said “These are all my tables.:

Bead lust over came me and it blurted out “Will you marry me!”

Oh my his face was so shocked! Ghanaian men can sure dish it out but they can’t take it. He stuttered once or twice then composed himself, pointing to the woman behind the old beads table he said “But this is my wife!”

I looked at her and we both laughed. Then with a twinkle in her eye she said “Oh but in Ghana we can do it. He can have two wives here.”

I told her that her husband looked like a rich man with all these tables of beads and I needed a rich man. I hugged her and called her my sister wife. Then the negotiations began. I wanted to know who would do the cooking. The junior wife does the cooking and I didn’t want to be cook or junior wife. When she said I had to cook I said the marriage was off! I told her that pounding fufu was too hard for a white lady. The husband joined in and said I would get strong, then the wife said I could make the soups and she would pound fufu.

We haven’t set the date yet but you are all invited!

(Only kidding, Mom, Liz, Becca, Beth. I am coming back to the US for sure and with no husband in tow.)

-vc

24 August 2011 – Second Day of COS(Close of Service)

The second day of COS was relatively painless.  At 8:00 am I had my physical. Then ate a yummy breakfast of yogurt, fruit and fibre, hot chai and bread with real butter. Then I met for an hour with Mary Norah, my direct boss in the education sector of PC Ghana.  After that Beryl offered to have a driver take me to the Motorway Extension Branch of Barclay’s so I could close my account. So very nice. Customer service certainly has improved in the Admin department since my group COSed last summer.

As I was close to the Mall I decided to see if I could find Brittany, who had gone earlier. I failed to find her but decided to eat and take in a movie. I had a chicken sandwich, cole slaw and french fries (which they insist on calling chips). Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were playing. I choose “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. (trailer) I thought a trip to the mall would help acclimate me to American culture!

I am very sorry that I didn’t take my camera with me but on Saturday I am taking a 4 hour guided tour of Accra and will have plenty of pics to share with y’all.

Back in the good ole USA in 8 days!

-vc

20 May 2011 – WHAT WILL I DO?!

It’s time to take out my Pot of Possibilities (link to that entry) and think about what I will do when I get back to the USA. The idea of working a desk job 9 to 5 raises my blood pressure when ever I think about it. The job market in the states also causes me anxiety when I think about that. The thought of all bills that go with living in America makes my head spin. I have  my new learned ability to live in the present thank you Ghana, to avoid all these questions and worries but as I get closer to going back to America for good my American need to plan ahead is kicking into gear and now I can’t avoid thinking about (ominous da daaaa here) “My Future”.

I thought the problem of what to do with your life was a problem of 20 somethings. It’s scary and also exciting to have a Pot of Possibilities.  I guess  I should look in that Pot but first let me put down what I do know about the future.

I will be done my Peace Corps service on August 26, 2011 after 1,172 days of service in Ghana. On August 30 I will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps here in Ghana. Then I will travel small and be back in the US by the end of September.

I will go to Sugarland, Texas a suburb of Houston and live with Beth, my best friend.

So that is the total extent of my certain future plans. Time to open the Pot of Possibilities.

1. Write a book.

I could turn my blog and photos into a book.  I have enjoyed writing my blog posts and sharing my photos of Ghana with my friends and family maybe I will be lucky enough to find a publisher for my book.

2. Tutor

Although I have done informal teaching most of my life here in Ghana I did classroom teaching. I learned that I prefer small groups or one on one teaching.

3. Lecture about my Peace Corps experience

I would love to share my experience and encourage other older people to consider the Peace Corps as a retirement or midlife option.

4. Do travel photography.

This would combine two of my passions. Over the past three years I think I have learned a lot about photographing people and places.

5. Work for a public or academic library.

I have the experience and qualifications to do the work.

6. Work on a Semester at Sea voyage as a librarian. They have three voyages a year and hire  a librarian for each voyage.

7. Apply for Peace Corps response. Peace Corps offers RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) short term assignments, three months to a year,  all over the world.

The one I really do not want to do is to go back to work 9-5 in a desk job. I have come to love the flexible schedule that I have as a PCV. My classes are scheduled but it’s up to me to decide where and when I will do the rest of my work, like marking papers or preparing lessons.

I have seen that Ghanaian culture values family and personal connections over work, sometimes to it’s detriment but mostly they have a balanced work and family life. I don’t think I could ever work for a place again where you are made to feel guilty because you went to take care of your mother after she had a stroke or the boss asked why you won’t come into work the day of your divorce since your court appearance was at 10:00 am. So I don’t really want to work in a traditional job. I may have to but it’s on the bottom of the list.

Maybe I could combine a few of the choices above to allow me some freedom and flexibility in my schedule and to make enough to live.?

Time will tell.

Ramblings 14 Sept 2008

Ramblings

I can’t believe I haven’t written anything in over a week. The only business I have is self-made. I been reading. This time a story of the Mau Mau period in Kenya set just days before the Uhuru. Uhuru is when Kenya gained independance. The story goes between the present and the Emergeny when Kenya was fighting for independence. It is called “A Grain of Wheat” by Ngugi  Wa Thiong’o. It was first published in 1967, four years after Kenyan independence.

Now I am reading “The Fate of Africa; A History of Fifty Years of Independence” by Martin Meredith. This book was published in 2005 and received good reviews all around. I bought it for an overview of contemporary African history.  I am reading this book knowing that Meredith, an Englishman, has a certain bias towards a continent his countrymen colonized.  With that in mind I am enjoying learning about a continent I had very little knowledge of before. There are echos of the two books of fiction I have read in the parts about Senegal and Kenya. Meredith prefers to focus on the post colonial actrocities instead of those perpetuated by the colonizers that lead up to the movement for African independence.

I have also been taking photographs. For Jeanette I tried to take some photos of little yellow butterfiles. I have been learning the landscape and how to photograph dark faces. Fill flash! The flowers are out but they are so very small. My macro setting on my Canon rebel does a pretty good job of letting me get close enough. Yesterday I learned women around the world share common traits. I was on the savanah, taking photos of a favorite spot. A women walked along the path with a load of wood on her head. I greeted her and we communicated using my baby buili. Then I pantomimed taking her photos and asked if was all right. AIYA! she said  shaking her head and hand violently. Then she indicated her clothing and said “Kan Nala!” Like many American women she said “I am not dressed up enough for you to take my photo!” Literally she said  “not pretty.” I respected her wishes and hope to one day have enough buili to tell her that I wanted her as she was.

This morning I took photos of the boys dormitory construction project. On man spoke english very well and asked me where I was from and about America. I am not sure that I can educate even the people in this small village that America is not a place where everyone is rich and happy. I did try to explain yes they would get big money for construction work in America but they would also pay big money for everything they needed in America.  They were working very hard. They were using pick axes to dig trenches for the foundation of the new boys dormitory. I hope they were working early in the morning to aviod the heat of the day.

Goats. I can’t explain how happy the goats make me especially the newborns. They…. its…. they BOUNCE! They do and no just forwards but sideways and backwards. They are very spooky and I never mean to spook them but if I do the will jump inches into the air and bounce ff in whatever direction is away from me, regardless of the direction they were headed. And when I try to imitate their bleets and cries they come then look at me so strangley.

A cat has adopted me. She is a small grey tabby. So very affetionate. In the morning when I open my door she comes and cries until I come out. I do feed her some leftovers but she really likes me to sit on the cement and pat her. I have not heard her purr yet. I wonder if she can because when she is rubbing against me or I am patting her she seems very happy.

I am enjoying the last few days before school starts. Students will arrive tommorow. They will clean for a few days to a week then classes will start. Yes I am nervous.

Internet access is sketchy in town, mostly due to transportation issues. The day I had some time to spend checking out the internet cafe my bus came and I felt I had to get on. The buses are unpredictable so I take one when one is there. Lucky for me the internet cafe is right at the bus stop so I can go in and know when a bus is there. Using the internet cafe in town is one of my goals for the next week.

Today Ghanian cuisine met Mexican-Amercan.  At lunch I had Kenkey and salsa. The salsa had tomato paste as the base but I did have lime, onion, garlic and one small tomato, It was pretty tasty. If I add sugar to the tomato paste it’s a good base for sauces and salsa.  Then this evening I made garlic texas toast, refried beans and at most of the rest of the salsa. That was pretty good too.

I eat vegetarian quite often. There is canned tuna and I get a can aweek. it’s expensive 1 ghana cedi and 40 pesewas. Consider I can buy three whole fish for 1 Ghana Cedi and make three meals to the one I make out of the tuna. The tuna is in oil and is not albacore white that’s for sure! But with mayo and salt on some tea bread or sugar bread it feels almost like home!

I have tried another canned fish. Didn’t like it much. You could eat the bones but it just felt weird to me to eat them.

Another reason I eat vegetarian often is that the first time I bought beef they were slaughtering the cow right there in front of me. It was pretty grusome.  But really this cow had a much better life than almost any cow in America, They are truly free range. Usually the children are the herders. They bring the cow to pasture. Sometimes that pasture is right next to the computer lab at my school. The cows graze and then the kids check on them and bring them home.  But none the less I have a hard time thinking of going back to get more of “the beef” as they say here.

Goats on the other hand are tied to a stake in the pasture. They are more likely to wander off and to get lost but they have a long rope and really are not confined. Some goats roam around the house as well. The new borns are not tied at all because they stay right with the mother or near the goat house.

Chicken is another story all together. you buy it whole and either slaughter it and feather it yourself or have the butcher do it. He will also butcher it. Then you can keep it in your fridge or freezer but I don’t have a fridge or freezer yet. The cold store is supposed to have chicken pieces but i have yet to go there when they do. Chickens and guinnie fowl are also truly free range. They wander around the yard, the corn, the peanuts and any other fields they want. They return to the correct coup because the owners do feed them some grain to get them to come back.

I am very close to the food I eat. Barbara Kinsolver and her family should have come here for there year of eating locally.

-vc

Sweating 03 September 08

Sweating

The day started out pretty cool so I decided to go to the borehole and get some water. I knew it would only be one bucket. To get to the  borehole I walk on a path through the savanah. Now during the rainy season the grass is tall and flows nicely in the breeze. But the walk back is not so fun. Carrying a bucket full of water is not easy. It was hard for me to do when  the borehole was right outside my door in Suhyen but now when it’s ¼ of a mile away it really tires me out.

What I was really hoping was that there would be some of my card playing teens there and they would help. Last time they did. But alas I had to carry it back myself. This involves many stops, preferably in some shade and frequent switching of hands. When I got to the Kampusi’s yard Mr. said “You are carrying water! It’s too heavy for you.”

“Yes” I replied. “I am getting just one bucket and hope the kids will come by today to help me.”

“Let us know when you are running out and I can get the workmen to bring the donkey cart.” said Mr. Kampusi.

“OK” I said “It’s really too hard for me.”

When I got to my water barrell I was sweating up a storm for the first time today.

After breakfast I had my next great idea. I decided to clean my bathing room. It’s a long narrow room with one window at the end and a door at the other. There is not too much cross ventilation. Before I even finished the three foot wide wall sweat was just dripping off me. It was running down my face. I could feel my shirt soaked to my back and rivulets of sweat were running down the back of my thighs. At this point I thought “Why am I doing this?’ but realized that I was going to have to do it sometime and I was already in the middle of it. The reward – a bucket bath in a clean bathing room.  So I finished the job all the while chanting my mantra “I am in Africa I will sweat.”

About noon I got my bucket bath in a clean bathing room. Felt good.

Doris, and Evelyn came over a bit later and we played Dash. Dizzy of course came in too. While we were playing Amusah came with the donkey cart and a huge container of water in the back. He filled three barrels and a bucket for me. I was already imagining a very extravagent bucket bath later in the evening. Maybe a whole half a bucket or more!

Abigail came for cards as well and then Jennifer followed. We played a long time. They were talking buili and I understood enough to know they were saying I had something in my dok (room)  I finally asked them to translate one word into English and the word was toffee! Here in Ghana all candy is toffee. Last week I had given Martha and another girl toffees and a pencil for helping me get water. Martha had told them I had toffees. I offered to get some toffee for us all. I had actually been thinking of it as another reward for my cleaning. We each had two Worthers.  I explained how they are special for special occasions.

The girls then did an interesting thing with the wrappers. They rubbed the gold part on their lips and it came off on their lips. They looked exotic.  They each have tribal markings on their faces. It’s usually one small scar on the cheek somewhere. Those scars and the gold on their lips made them look like they came out of some African story 100 years ago.

Finally I ended the meeting of the Sandema Girls Card Club. I decided to make some garlic texas toast. I melt Blue Belt margarine and oil in my frying pan then heap on the garlic. Today I used 4 cloves. When the clove begin to soften and crisp up then I put in slices of bread. Today I have tea bread and it’s about the size of a loaf of French bread so I put in 4 slices of that. Cooking inside in Africa really really stinks.  For the third time today I was sweating. No not as bad as the cleaning episode but more than I wanted to. But the reward for this was crispy garlicky bread with soft and crispy garlic chunks. Yum Yum.

I will get a coal pot to cook outside with. I cannot haul my gas tank and my burner outside. The gas tank weight twice as much as a bucket full of water with out the gas in it! The coal pot is small and portable and good for making one pot meals.

Now I am in my bedroom with the ceiling fan on and catching up on blog entries. No more sweating for me today.

-vc

Adjusting 30 Aug 08

Adjusting 30 August 2008

If I write in this journal of my experiences in Ghana that I am or was depressed please family and friends don’t freak out. Rachel, another PCV, said sure there are days that I want to curl up on the bed and never move but I had those days in America too.  This is a huge change and things have been changing for the past three months well even more for me since I left my job in May. So there will be days I need to adjust my attitude.

So I will write and you will not freak out….yesterday evening and this morning I was depressed. I wondered if I could really make the move to this very foreign, very poor, very third world country. I was focusing on the things that are hard or that are very different from what I am use to. When I was laying in bed this morning the problems seemed so large.

At 7:00 am I decided to get up and then I remembered I have my own gas cooker now! I have tea, powdered milk and sugar! I can make a cup of tea. A lilttle bit of independence and something familiar were enough to get me going in the right direction. Then I turned on the radio and found a station playing Rachmoninoff (no way is that spelled correctly). This piece was used as the theme in one of my all time favorite movies – Somewhere in Time. As I ate my tomato and cucumber salad for breakfast and listened my mood picked up.

The morning was overcast and relatively cool.I went outside to buy some bread and eggs from Madame PP (Perpetua) and met my little friend Dizzy.  We went for a walk. The rainy season is the time for the flowers to come out. And Dizzy was the one to show me where they were. So off we went into the open grassland to find flowers. We also found an ant colony. I saw a cameleon that looked exactly like the dirt road goat droppings and all! They are amazing. I am not sure I really believed in them until I saw them here.

I returned Dizzy home for her tea. When I went back to my apartment I thought what shall I do now? How many times have I said I wish I had days to take photographs. That I would never be bored if I was taking photos. So I got my camera out took my longer lens and went in search of the flowers Dizzy and I had found before. After her tea Dizzy found me and she lead me to the school office building. We went to the top floor and oh what a beautiful view. The savanah is grassland but it is not only grass there are trees as well.

In our explorations we met Abigail and a couple of other children. We returned to my house. Abigail had her ICT test and some of her textbook with her. I shoed the children out and Abigail and I talked a little while.

Then Jennifer, Evelyn and Doris came over and we all played Dash. Dash is a Ghanian card game much like UNO but you use a regular deck of cards. These girls play to win but they also help each other. There is much looking over to other peoples cards and admonishments to play that card or calls to change the suit to this one. Funny enough sometimes the suit is changed to the one called out. Or reminders that you can do this or that. But after three hours of visiting and cards I called an end to the Sandema Girls Card Club and said I had work to do. I wanted to look through the photos I had taken that morning.

Again I took advantage of the new freedom of the gas cooker and made egg salad.  When the eggs were boiling I went to the front of the house to Madame Pps store and bought a coke for forty pesowas. Next to the store I saw her husband, Kampusi, digging a big round circle in the ground. I said what are you doing? He was making the foundation for a summer hut. I asked permission to take photos of the process and he agreed, So I ran to the house to get my camrera and took some photos. I asked what next and he said concrete for the foundation. I asked if he would send Dizzy when they were ready with the concrete and he agreed.

I went back and fixed my lunch. For some reason I felt the need to butter the bread for the open faced sandwiches. I never buttered my bread in the USA. I made four open faced egg salad sandwiches, two had a slice of tomato on top and two were pure egg salad joy! Dizzy came and I shared one egg salad sandwich with her. Then her dad called in to my house and said that they were going to make the concrete. So I spent the rest of the afternoon watching them work on the summer hut. I cannot wait for the summer hut to be finished!

So yes I was depressed and yes this is a sometimes a hard thing I am doing but like Rachel said even in America I had blue days. Today I reminded myself that getting out, doing something I love and hanging with people are all good ways to help make my adjustment to Ghana easier.

Return to Suhyen 07 Aug 08

It is raining so hard right now I can barely think well enough to create blog entries. The rain is so wild it thrills me to listen to it.

 

I am back home in Suhyen.  My welcome made me feel sad  because I will be leaving here soon but what a welcome. Of course, as I came into town the news spread that I was back. The kids were all at my house with hugs and greetings. When my sister Esther saw me she gave me a huge hug. And Sissy came over and hugged me and started talking Twi so fast I couldn’t make out one word! Luckily Mary was there and she translated that Sissy was saying at night when she hadn’t seen me all day she was sad. Shy Irene came home from Kofo and brought me chicken and rice. I gave her a hug. And Portia was home for a visit as well so we are all here now.  Even Bright, the 13 year old boy, gave me a hug.

 

At least the training site is here and I can visit my family and friends here when I come to for other training. And maybe next year I can be a trainer and stay in Suhyen for the weeks that I train. But I will miss these people who have made me so much a part of their lives.

 

Yesterday when I left Sandema Dixie said that I could go and she would share me. Children here are much freer than children in America. Dixie knows the whole school compound and she was my tour guide while I was there. Parents do not worry about kidnapping or their child getting lost. I think because all adults take responsibility for raising the kids of the community. If an adult sees a child do something wrong they correct them and the parents thank them for it. People asked Dixie where we were going and when we would be back. They just look out for each other. I remember being a kid in Madison and going around the town much more than I would have let my kids roam 20 years later. Dixie and the kids in Ghana remind me of that.  And the older kids also pay attention to the youngsters.

 

There is a great deal here in Ghana. In the USA it would cost at least 8.50 to ride a thrill ride with dips and fast curves and bellly flipping drops and fast stops. The ride in the US would last at best 20 minutes for that price. Well in Ghana for 8.50 GH Cedis you can have a thrill ride like that for 8+ hours!  I was sitting in the very back seat of a large public bus. I felt like a flapjack being flipped up off a griddle. The  people sitting next to me did not have much english. I did not have any of their language because they spoke neither Twi or Buili. Yet when we hit one huge pothole that sent us at least 6 inches into the air we looked at each other and started to laugh out loud.

 

About 2:00 pm the bus started to feel like a sauna. It had rained and even with the windows open it was very hot. The Ghanian in front of me was wearing a camo athletic shirt with some  ventilation holes in it. I could see he had on a tank under it. Well as it’s getting saunalike he removes the camo shirt. I think to myself, at last a Ghanaian is getting hot. He leans down to put his shirt away in his back pack. Oh no he hasn’t put it away and he’s putting it back on. No it’s not the camo athletic shirt it a camo fleece hoodie. He is actually  putting on a fleece hoodie in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a hot crowded bus with no air conditioning. I could not believe it!  Later about 5:00 I look down the bus and see at least 6 Ghanians wearing hoodies.

 

Many Ghanaians rode the bus standing up. We all had a seat. I think one reason was because of all the bumps and jostling that goes on when you sit. I also noticed that they like to comment to other drivers or to encourage the driver to do this or that. Again because there are so many different languages I did not understand much of the words but the sentiments are common the world round!  As I listened to one group discussion when the driver stopped to help another bus driver with a problem I remembered the statement in one book I read “Ghanaian are loud and boisterous. They enjoyed a heated debate!” it’s true!

 

 

« Older entries