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.

Aburi Gardens

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here’s 29 thousand!

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-vc

20 April 2011 – Travel Day

Today I traveled from Tamale to Boateng-Fiema. It was a typical travel day in Ghana. I woke at 5:00 am. I was excited because I was going to the Monkey Sanctuary in Boateng-Fiema. And I wanted to be ready on time because Georgette and Katie, two fellow PCVs, were also going to the station. They were headed up to the Bolga area and I wanted to show them where the tro tro was at the station.

At the station, after I took them to their tro tro, I bought my usual egg sandwich and coke to eat on the bus. Then I settled down to wait. The STC bus was scheduled to leave at 7:00 am but I was under no illusions that it would.

Today I decided to to travel in style. My seat had been reserved the previous day for 14 GHC. The seats were two two on either side of the aisle with plenty of room for my African style hips. I would also have room for to stow my backpack and my bag of books.

Unlike the tro tro ride from Bolga to Tamale yesterday. That day I had to sit on the very back row. These seats have no space under them because the trunk extends under them. The row would fit five people with American model size hips but of course we don’t have those here! In the back row were five average sized people, one of these people was a mother who had a babe in arms and a preschooler with her.

I had to put my backpack on the floor between my feet. My bag of books and my purse were my lap. At first the toddler was on my left squished between me and her mother but after about 20 minutes the mom picked up the large calabash bowl from the floor between her legs and put the older child on the floor between her legs. The calabash ended up on the girls lap. When the child on the floor wasn’t sleeping her feet were visiting the cramped space around my feet.

So after that I told myself I would have the luxury of room on my long trip from Tamale to Techiman!

The next benefit of STC is the AC. On the tro tro yesterday the woman with the two children was sitting next  to the window and she had swaddled her baby in a blanket with the baby had a hat on. They were by the window and even with the baby wrapped well the woman wouldn’t open the window for fear of making the child cold. Yes it’s true! It must have been 80 in the shade. I always thought I had a low tolerance for cold!

So even if I was in the same situation on STC it wouldn’t be sweating the whole trip to Techiman. And if I was too cold I always had my two yard and socks to warm up with! But I was to be disappointed by STC. The AC on my bus was spoiled. With unusual customer service for Ghana they did refund us two GHC and my seat mate had no problem with opening windows so it was ok if not perfect.

The last bonus of STC is that people don’t usually bring livestock on the bus with them. I think it’s not allowed. On the tro tro ride yesterday the floor kept bumping up against my feet. At first I thought it was rocks flying up but it was happening way too much then I heard a goat. There were goats in the boot of the vehicle and they were not happy!

At 7:38 I set off in my roomy, livestockless, relatively cool bus. I was finishing up The Appeal by Grisham and was happy as a free range goat. The first traveling mercy on this journey was the woman across the aisle from me. She had read the Testament by Grisham so we talked small small about his books. She hadn’t read The Appeal so I promised to give it to her when I finished. Any time I find a Ghanaian who likes to read I try to encourage it.

The biggest glitch on the trip was a two hour wait in the Kintempo rest area. I don’t know why we stayed the extra two hours; we were never told. I had a good book and due to cloud cover it was not too hot so I settled into waiting mode.

In Techiman I took a share taxi to Nkornaza. No problems.

In Nkoranza I came upon an almost full tro tro heading to my final destination, Boabeng- Fiema. The second traveling mercy happened here. The only seat left was the jump seat. There are seats added to the end of a bench seat. They fold up to make an aisle to the back seats. The backs of these jump seats usually hit me in the most uncomfortable spot in the middle of my back. Usually the mechanism that locks them into place when they are down is broken so the roller coaster nature of any tro tro ride is amplified when you sit in the jump seat. I didn’t really mind cause I had no more than 30 minutes but as I climbed into the tro tro a nice young gentleman moved aside and let me sit on the bench seat and he took the jump seat.

The third traveling mercy was assistance finding my stop. I asked the young man who had given up his seat for me where the guest house was for the monkey sanctuary. He didn’t know but the person in front in the “big man seat” turned and said he knew. He then told the driver where I wanted to alight.

When I alighted at the guest house I was met by Edmond, the senior guide. He registered me and showed me the facilities. I had totally expected the place to have no running water or electricity but I was pleasantly surprised. There was a shower and flush toilet and a fan and lights in my room. By 4:00 pm I was bathed and laying on my bed under the fan.

My dinner was served at 5:30 in the summer hut shaded by mango trees. The aroma of the mango blossoms drifted through the air, butterflies flitted around, two lizards played in a bush near the summer hut and a small breeze kept me cool. It was quiet except for the sound of birds and insects.

It was a pleasant ending to a long day of travel.

Tomorrow the monkeys!


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-vc

18 April 2011 – Northern Regional Library

Today I made a mistake. Ignorant Obruni that I am. I decided to visit the Northern Regional Library in Tamale. When I was headed into town on my way up north I saw this library behind Barclay’s bank. I had never seen it before. I am sure it had to be there but  for awhile I had on library blinders because I needed a break from what I had done for the past 25 years.  For whatever reason I saw this library and decided that I would visit it on my way back down from Sandema.

So with camera in hand I went to visit the library. As I approached I took two shots from across the street and the one above before I entered the library gate. I walked right in past a small building at the gate and raised my camera to my face. Someone hissed at me. This is a common way to get someone’s attention but it is one of the things I have not been able to adapt too and it always makes the hairs on the back of my neck bristle. I turned to see who was hissing but no one indicated they want me so I started to take this great photo of a library on wheels in front of the main entrance.

There was that horrible hiss again! When I turned this time someone was walking towards me. He berated me for coming and taking photos of his building without talking to him. Oh that shack was a security shack. I almost always greet security people because I think they have a hot and boring job but I messed up this time.

I humbly apologized to him. I explained that in US it’s OK to take photos outside of a building but we should ask permission once inside. I apologized again and asked if he could tell me if the director was working today. He called over the Library Accountant and said that the Accountant would take me to see the director.

I talked with the Head Librarian, Aaron and got the scoop on the library. It’s the central library for the Northern Region. Books are purchased by the National Library then sent up to Tamale. Aaron assured me that of course they would always accept donations! Then through the Library on Wheels books were also distributed to other town libraries or into the readers hands if there was no library in their village. Books were loaned out for 21 days. The library consisted of three departments –  Children’s, Adults and Technical. They also had a meeting room for about 100 people.


The Head Librarian then said that the Accountant would show me around because I as an American would understand the need for security. I agreed. The only surprise on the tour was the Technical department. I had assumed it was the cataloging department but I was sooo wrong. It was PCs for public use. Wisdom was the technical librarian who showed me around. They had 8 PC on tables big enough for two people to sit together and use the computer. They were charging 60 Pesewa per hour (1 GHC is the going rate) and using CyberCafe to manage the computers. We also talked about software to manage all the functions of the library and  I promised to send Wisdom links to  two open source software, Evergreen and Koha. (I did that very afternoon.)


At the end of the tour the accountant took me out the front door where at last I got my photo of the library on wheels in front of the library.


-vc

16 April 2011 – Community Project

Master Thompson needed a place for his goats and fowls. A few weeks ago his students came and made some sandcrete blocks. If you soak the local dirt then pound it starch will form to hold the sand together to make the blocks. Then they must sit for at least a week  to harden.  When I first saw these houses I thought they were made of clay and sand but Robert Kampusi told me about pounding the sand to get the starch. It’s amazing to me the things that people figure out.

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Yesterday and today Master Thompson’s friends and neighbors came to help him build the structure. They used a few tools – a wooden pallet to spread the mortar, string and a level to keep the building true, the ever present tin bowl to carry mortar from the pit and their hands.

The bricks will then be covered in a mud and cow dung plaster to keep it waterproof. The roof will most likely be tin but could also be thatch.

The structure had for sections – two small rooms in front of one larger room. The larger room is about 6 by 14 feet.

-vc

14 April 2011 – Picworo Slave Camp Photos

Today I went back to the Picworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East Region, Ghana. Those of you who have followed this blog since the beginning will remember that about 2 years ago I went to Paga to the Pikworo Slave Camp with my sister-in-law Melanie Steward but for those who have started following later in my journey here is a link to the first Pikworo Slave Camp entry. The first time I went I didn’t bring my camera, I think I forgot it in Sandema, so I wanted to return to get some photos and share them with you.

Reception Area

 

At the reception hut we were given a price list – 7.00 GHC (Ghana Cedis) for non-Ghanaians , 3.50 GHC for Ghanaians,  .70 GHC for students and a 2.00 GHC fee for taking photos. I am not sure that charging Ghanaians a higher price is the way to encourage tourism but at least they were up front about it. We Peace Corps volunteers call it a Obruni tax.  However the Rofina and Portia were in bargaining mode and the four of us, the two girls, Dizzy and myself,  got in for 12.00 GHC including the photo fee.

There was a small grove of trees around the reception area. The guide told us that the captives were tied to these trees after they were sold and were waiting to be sent down to the bigger slave market in Salaga. Read the rest of this entry »

21 April 2011 – Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary

In 1827 a hunter was in the forest. He went to the river and there he found a fetish. This fetish was guarded by the Mona and Colobus monkeys of the area. When the man took the fetish back to his village the monkeys followed him. He asked the fetish priest what he should do. The priest told him that the monkeys were the children of the fetish and if the man liked the monkeys he should keep the fetish and the monkeys would stay. The priest then said that if the man decided to keep the fetish and thus the monkeys he must obey these rules. First he must never kill any of the monkeys. Next they should never hunt nor farm in the forest where the monkeys live and last that the monkeys should be burried when they die. The man decided to keep the fetish and the monkeys so from that day to now the two towns of Boabeng and  Fiema have protected the monkeys and the forest they live in.

There are about 500 Mona monkeys in the sanctuary. The Mona monkey is small. The young were about the size of a siamese cat and the adults were the size of a lapdog. The Mona are gray on the back with a white stomach. Their hair on their heads is highlighted with yellow. They are very friendly and playful. The Mona monkey eats whatever humans eat so it is the one that comes into the village to steal or beg for food.

The Colobus monkey is bigger, about the size of a Cocker Spaniel, about 200 live in the sacred forest. This monkey is very shy. It is usually high up in the trees. The Colobus eats only leaves and insects.

Since the monkeys are the stars of the sanctuary I am going to stop writing and let you watch a slideshow of them in action.

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-vc

8 April 2011 – When will this term end?

During the first week of this term I received a schedule for the term. The schedule said that students would vacate on April 8th. Well, I have been in Ghana long enough to know that this is only a soft suggestion, ANYTHING could happen in the three months until then. So I didn’t start planning my trip to the Upper East yet.

Fast forward to March 22, to morning assembly where we were told that the exams that were supposed to start on Thursday were postponed. I had been wondering because we didn’t have paper nor toner to print the exams my German friends and I had typed for the past week. Students who hadn’t paid their school fees for the 2nd term were sent home to get them. I assumed so the school could have money to buy paper and toner.

Since the school was pretty much empty and those students who were there were working on the farm I decided to do something productive. I would travel to Cape Coast and visit New Life Orphanage for Peace Corps. When I told the headmaster my plan he said he thought that exams would start on Monday the 28th.

The urge to know when classes would end was because If I wanted to travel I must get a signed Volunteer Leave Request Form (VLRF) to Accra at least a week before I was to travel. I figured I could stop in Koforidua on my way back from New Life and send a form to Peace Corps then.

While traveling back I found out from Werner that we would not have exams the week of March 28 but students would work on the farm that week and then exams should start on April 4.

During the week there was no sign of toner nor paper to print the exams. They arrived around 11 pm on Friday night when Pastor Segie came to lead the all night prayer session. Most of the exams were printed over the weekend but we still wondered if exams would begin on Monday the 4 because the headmaster didn’t return to campus until late Sunday night.

Well exam did begin on Monday. Hip Hip hooray! I went to Koforidua on Tuesday planning to fill out the electronic form and send the signed one on to Accra via the Kumasi sub office. Much to my dismay when I opened the electronic form it was a PDF that could not be edited.

Knowing PC wanted notification of my travel a week ahead of time I sent an Email to my boss and to the head of security telling them of my travel plans. When I got back to BASCO, late that afternoon, PC called me. My boss, Mary, said they needed the form before I left. I explained my problem with the PDF. As I had a MOCK exam to proctor on Wednesday and my ICT exam on Thursday I told her I didn’t think I could get to Kof before Friday.

The next day, Wednesday, I went to collect my ICT exams only to discover that the printer had run out of toner and the ICT exams had not been printed. Just a little frustrating because fi anyone had told me on Wednesday morning or even Tuesday that my exams weren’t printed I would have gone to Kof and printed them myself. As it was it was too late to go.

Werner said we could try to print with a little shake, rattle and roll! So we went to the lab and turned on the batteries that can power the computers for an hour. The battery was beeping like crazy because other people had used them that day. It was very frustrating. We managed to get 7 pages printed then the batteries died. To me it was a mixed blessing. I think the beeping would have made me mad.

I managed to find an old VLRF and filled it out. The headmaster signed. Now when could I go fax this. Is there even a fax machine in Koforidua?

In the middle of this frustration the PC Security Officer called me and said I must not move (travel) until they received the form. I am afraid I snapped something like “You have been to my site. It’s not easy to get out of and I don’t have a PC car to take me to Kof and back in a jiffy.” He wondered why i didn’t have time if classes were over. I explained that although classes were over we were having end of term exams and I needed to be there to proctor and to mark my exams.

Later in the evening, when the generator was on, Werner printed the exams.

On Thursday morning I awoke ready to give my exam and had reluctantly decided to try to go to Kof after the exam. It meant paying for taxi fare (12 cedis) both ways to the junction because after 10 am it’s too hot to walk the 3km to the junction.

At 9:30 I walked to my class and saw the agriculture master writing on the board. He turned and told me my exam had been rescheduled to 12:30. No chance to go to Kof today. I just went back to my room. Took a beach book and read so I would blow my stack.

On this morning  I discovered that we should have our papers marked and the grades in the assessment books by the end of the day. So now the plan is to go to Kof on Saturday.

I like to plan ahead I am happy to comply with Peace Corps rules. I certainly don’t want to be sent home because I left site without notifying my APCD. As things changed and were unconfirmed at my school my stress level has risen.  I can say that I will really be ready to go  the Upper East and have a vacation.

10 April 2011

Yesterday I went to Kof. I had not hope that I would be lucky enough to find a fax machine without tramping all around Kof. First, I stopped at my favorite copy center but they did not have a fax nor a scanner. He directed me to another nearby business center. Yeah! they had a scanner. They would scan my form for 30 pesewa. Yes. Then I could email it.

I am packing this morning and planning on starting my trip tomorrow. But who knows that could change. I’ll let you know.

-vc

Some Photos from Elmina, Central Region, Ghana

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Here are a few photos from Elmina.

-vc

St. George Castle Photos

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Hope you enjoy these pics of the slave castle in Elmina.

-vc

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