26 Aug 2011 – Last day of COS(Close of Service)

It’s with bittersweet memories that I end my service with Peace Corps. I am now officially called an R(eturned)P(eace)C(orps)V(olunteer) but as I am still in my country of service and not returned to the USA I feel like I am in limbo. Georgette says it’s like Peace Corps Purgatory! Now I am an American tourist in Ghana. Weird feeling I must say. Already the prices seem cheaper than when I was a PCV!

I didn’t have much to do today – an exit interview with the Country Director, Mike Koffman, a meeting with Bob Gingrich, the Administrative Officer, and I collected my travel reimbursement for coming here.

During my two interviews I discovered that what I felt was my greatest accomplishment happened in the toughest part of my service.  When asked by both the CD and Mary Norah I felt that working with Eric Mintah and transfering my skills and knowledge to him was my greatest accomplishment. He was my co-teacher at BASCO.

I’ll close this post with a picture of the memorial rock they painted for me at BASCO.

 

RPCV

Vicky Chase

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

23 August 2011 – First Day of COS (Close of Service)

I am in Accra staying at the Peace Corps main office here. Slept in a cool and quiet room last night; it was a good night!

First on my list of things to do for COS is to have blood work and test on other samples. Did that this morning. Then I headed over to the dentist. On my way to the dentist I passed Danquah circle where I stopped to take a few photos of the sculptures in the circle.

 

 

Ate at one of my favorite Accra restaurants today for lunch.

 

 

After lunch I went to the bank and waited 1 hour to find out that I needed to go to the office where my account was opened to close it! AAAAAGGGHHHHH

Then I did what any self respecting frustrated woman would do  – I went shopping!  Went to Max Mart and bought cheese, butter – real salted butter, sandwich meat, cereal, yoguart etc for meals while I am here COSing.

I am avoiding talking about BASCO because the relief I feel because I am no longer there makes me feel guilty. It was a tough road. Glad my Germans were there, Luise, Werner and Johan, to laugh and cry with me.

11 days to Houston!

-vc

24 June 2011 – Dreamy Hippy Haven

The next day I moved to the Rising Pheonix. The Bradt travel guide said it was the best bargain for the money. For me the highlight was that it was on the ocean.  The Pheonix’s owner has just bought the place and it is a bit run down but it’s clean. The menu is still a work in progress but it’s a good vegetarian option in Accra. Both times my food was not well cooked. The bun with the veggie burger was burned and the tempura veggies were not hot nor crispy. Oh but the humas and pita platter was delicious. There were even green olives with it.  The new owner seems eager to make a go of the place and I am sure that when the cooks learn more about cooking the unfamiliar food that it will be good.

No matter about the food the view from the hotel and restuarant is well worth the 40 Ghana Cedis I paid for a room. The compound was situated up on a ledge over looking the ocean.  It was dreamy and not a bit of a nightmare!

Here are a few pics.

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5 – 17 November 2009 – My Left Breast

5 November

This morning I woke up and both my breasts were tender around the nipples. My first thought was great I am having one last period after 16 months! I was not a happy person. My breasts were tender all day.  In the evening I took one Aleve.

6 November

Today only my left breast was sore. There was a spot that hurt when I shifted a certain way. I found it just under the nipple. That night while I was bathing there a thin crusty layer over the nipple. In bed I found the specific spot. It felt like an inflamed milk duct. But what 51 year old woman ge’s mastitis?

I then to my hall and picked ‘Where there is no Doctor” from my table. I read about mastitis and breast cancer.  The pus was an indication of mastitis, thank goodness. By massaging I got some of the pus out. As usually happens when I am sick it was Friday night after office hours for the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO). I did the run through. Did I have a fever over 102? Was I bleeding? I would live until Monday.

7 and 8 November

My left breast continued to hurt over the weekend but no fever or other sickness.

9 November

My breast was less tender but I still thought I should call the PCMO. I texted her with my symptoms and asked her to call me after classes at 2:00 pm. I didn’t want to discuss my breast in front of the students.

She called me back right on the dot. She said she had done some reading and thought it might me mastitis as well but she wanted me to come to Accra.

“It will take me two days!” I protested.

“Then you better get moving” she replied..

So now I was a little bit scared. If it was only mastitis why call me to Accra but Cynthia had recently had breast cancer so I told myself she was only being careful.

I went to the headmaster and told him I had to go to Accra for health reasons. I stopped at Kampusi’s, only Robert was there. I told him what was wrong. Then last visited my landlord. Francescia was home and I told her. She was the first to menting the dreaded c word, but sent me off with a blessing.

I walked to the cross hoping I would catch the 2:00 pm Metro Mass bus. Instead a master with transport was on his way to Navarongo and offered me a lift. I picked a share taxi from there to Bolga and got the next to the last seat on a very nice tro to Tamale.  I made it to Tamale about 7:30 pm. The STC ticket office was closed so I headed straight to the TSO(Tamale SubOffice) and would take my chances on transport in the morning.

10 November

I got to town at 6:00 am. I really wanted to stop in Kumasi, to say hi to Mike and get some moral support,  but felt I should get a bus to Accra if there was a seat.  Lucky for me there were no seats left on the Accra bus, so I had to go to Kumasi.

My breast was feeling much better. I had to probe so hard to find a tender spot I thought of the man who said “doctor it hurts when I do this”.

“Don’t do that then” replies the doctor.

When I arrived in Kumasi I called Cynthia and told her I would be in Accra the next day. Although it was veterans day she said she would come in. She asked that I wait until after 10:00 am to call her because her favorite thing was to sleep in. She had also scheduled a mammogram for me on the 12th.

11 November

Cynthia saw me that afternoon. My breast was fine, no more tenderness or pus. I apologized and she told me it’s not unusual for someone to get to Accra and to be well. She said that my amazing immune system took care of the problem.

12 November

I got my boobs squished. I want to send this technician to America. She didn’t hurt me at all. Since I had a mammogram in June we would have a very recent film to compare with this one.

13 November

The doctor at the lab reviewed the mammograms. There had been no changes since my last one. Cynthia sent me home saying that she would review them herself and then send them to DC as well. I went home confident all was well.

Cynthia called me on the way home to tell me that she had gotten the mammograms and concurred the doctor at the lab.

Later in the month she called to tell me that DC said there was no problem.

-vc

Accra Quest 13 June 2008

 

Lenore, another 50+ PCT, said that the PC was doing our intro to Ghana just right. I agree.  We are being introduced small small(Ghaneese), one step at a time.  Today we went on Accra Quest. We caught a tro tro from our lodgings in Accra.  Tro Tros are a form of public transportion run by private individuals. They are basically minivans.  The PC tells us we should inspect any vehicle we are considering riding in to make sure it is in good condition.  And if it looks unsafe we are not supposed to get on it.  Well that is theory but in real life you stand at a tro tro stop and yell out where you want to go. They stop and herd you on and off you go.  They are old. They are run down. The seats are sometimes ripped but they run ok for the short distances we take them.

 

We set out in groups of threes, with a task and 3 Ghana Cedes each. My groups task was to find the price of a two yard.  Some day I will write of the joys of a two yard. it is amazing! We were charged to get to the main part of Accra ourselves. Meg, Steffan and I headed out to the road to catch atro tro. There is a driver and a mate in the tro tro. The mate hangs out a window making hand signs and yelling the final destination. I figure the hand signs have something to do with the destination.  Then you yell back your destination, if you don’t want to go to the final destination.  We yelled Accra 37 station.  Then mate helps you board and sometime during the ride takes your money. The price for a tro tro ride is not negiable, unlike most things in Ghana. 

 

The ride was crowded and loud. The mate yelling the destination. The driver honking at perspective riders or other tro tro drivers. Tro tro drivers could easily make it as NYC taxi drivers!  And the unwelcome of  sound of cell phones musically alertng the owner to a call or a text message. Cell phones are everywhere!

 

All the windows are open as you drive and as long as you move its not too hot. The best thing about tro tro windows are the people outside the windows.  Rachel, one of the volunteers who is a trainer, said ‘It’s amazing the things you can buy off peoples heads”.  People walk aloing busy roads with boxes, plastic tubs or even ice boxes on their heads selling stuff to people in the slow traffic.  Yesterday I bought Fanchoco, frozen chocolate milk and pine nuts. I shared the pinenuts with the other PCTs but they let me have the Fanchoco because they all knew I was cravng sweets. 

 

Our assignment was to go to Makola Market and find some “Obruni Wayroo” and the price of a two yard of batik. The first part of our assignment was completed as we waited out a downpour in a bank lobby.  The rain usually does not last long and shopkeepers let people come in out of the rain. In the banke we struck up a conversation with two men who lived in Accra. Stephan asked what “Obruni Wayroo” was.  After much repetiton and pantomime we discovered it meanse “dead white people’s clothes”  The Africans think that the clothes they get from America must be dead men’s clothes because who else would give away such nice clothes!  They assured us it was not an insult. One man shyly asked if it were true. Do we send dead men’s clothes to Africa.  I explained that some of the clothes could be dead men’s clothes but also Americans have way too many clothes so we dash them to you.  A dash is a gift.  He laughed probably as much at me using the term dash as at the idea that people would give away so many clothes.

 

Our second assignment was completed after the rain in the market. The market covers a large part of the city and pather lined with stalls wind all through the area.  Each section of the market sells something different, vegetables, meet, fish, plastic wear, drinks, or cloth. Shopkeepers called out to us as we walked by “Come come buy”.  They would extend their hand and close the fingers back towards themselves.  Now I know that means come here it’s like our come here hand signal except the hand is palm down. We did stop and talk to a few shopkeepers They were very interested in us, where did we come from? Why were we here? One woman and I talked about palm nuts and all the uses of palm nuts. 

 

With the help of many people we finally found the fabric area of Makola Market.  I visited two shops and go a green and brown patterned two yard for two Ghana Cedes.  (1 Ghana Cede is a little more than an American dollar as of July 6th.) After visiting a few more shops Steffan scored three yards for 6 Ghana Cedes.

 

It looks like there is no building code in Ghana or it is not enforced.  The stalls are little more than a few boards and a roof to make some shade. Some of the stalls have tin roofs and even some have tin sides but here in the hot sun tin is not that cool. I will take photos I promise so you can see some examples. I am being very careful about taking out my electronics. I will probably take my camera out in my village in a few weeks then post some photos to my flickr account. I do want photos of my first home in Ghana and my first ‘family’.

 

As Lenor said they are guiding us step by step into Ghanian culture.  Beside using the Tro Tro and shopping in the market we also learned that almost anyone on the street will help us find   things.  One man boarded a tro tro with us and took us to Makola market. Another woman lead us to a tro tro station.  We asked one man where we could eat our bag lunches and he took us to Accra Polytech’s dining room and told the matron we would be eating there. What a difference from New Yorkers who might say “What do I look like lady, a map!” accompanied with and inpolite gesture.

 

Meg Steffan and I found our way back to the PC Office in Accra where we were all debriefed. And of course another round of shots from the PCMO(PC Medical Officer)  A long ride home in the PC van.  Dinner. Packing for vision quest and yet another meeting then at last

 

sweet sweet bed!

 

Reflections:

Everything people said to me about the Ghanian people has proven true. They are friendly. The are warm and hospitable. After Accra Quest I would not hesitate to ask a stranger for help.

 

The market facinated me. Women and their children working in their market stalls. Friends were chatting together across the path and down the stalls.  The red palm nust,the bunches of orange carrots, the rough brown yams, the black and white Ashanti cloth,the multicolored batiks and the yellow scarves all added to the tapestry of the market.

 

I was glad I was with other people.  At time I felt bold and eager to try to communicate with the shopkeepers and at other times I was happy to let one of the others do it.  Sometimes I just wanted to observe as well.