3 August 2011 – Tamale to Sandema

This morning I awoke to crashing thunder and harsh winds. It was raining so hard it came through the hotel room’s bathroom ceiling. Check out time was noon so I snuggled under by two yard with my book. I had enough time to wait out the storm.

My mother always said “Rain before seven, shine before eleven.” Although it was not yet shining at eleven it was no longer raining. Since I was eager to get to Sandema to see my friends I decided to take the chance it wouldn’t rain again before I got to the station.

The tro was almost full which is lucky because we would probably leave the station within the half hour but unlucky because I had to sit in the back seat. People and luggage were piled in the seats and aisles. The aisles were hardly wide enough for a child let alone a this broad hipped woman with her two bags. Thank goodness Ghanaians are helpful. The other passengers sent my bags to the back seat while I navigated over the bags, boxes and cases in the aisles. I crammed my backpack on the floor between my feet and held my green L.L. Bean bag on my lap. There was no room under my seat or the seat in front of me to stow my bags.

At first I was excited; I was going to enjoy every minute of my last trip to Sandema. Then after about 45 minutes it was no longer exciting. My back hurt, my butt hurt, my knees were locked into position and my right side was 10 degrees hotter than my left because the person in the seat next to me was squished up against me.

After one hour and fifteen minutes I longed for the cushioned wide seats of the STC bus I had taken from Kumasi. But alas I was bouncing in the back seat of a tro tro. Just as I thought I couldn’t take it any longer we reached the outskirts of Bolga. Thank God it was only a two hour trip this time.

I alighted at the station and zoomed the last 45 minutes to Sandema in the relative comfort of a share taxi and Metro Mass Transit.

Sandema Here I Come!


Vision Quest Day 2 16 June 08


I won’t write all the organizational details of Ghana schools in this post but wait until I am at my school and I understand the schools better. Instead i’ll write about my feelings the morning we visited the schools.


The first class i sat in on was agricultural sciences. During the class a wave of negative feelings rolled over me. I was overwhelmed, I was frustrated. I was dislocated, I was lonely. I was tired. I felt alienated. And for the first time during the whole Peace Corps process I wondered “What am I doing here?” I was reconsidering the whole African adventure save the world thing.


At the ten o’clock break the principal asked us to speak to the older students. He led us to a tree where the big boys were hanging out. At first they were shy asking only a few questions like “madam where do you come from?” But as we answered these simple questions the children soon warmed up and Andrew and I were surrounded by kids asking questions and telling us about their school.  I got a tour of the grounds. The kids are very proud of their schools because they take care of everything at the school. the grounds, the buildings, the plants and trees etc.


On this day I tasted my first shea nut.  The little girls gave me a few.  I never knew that there was flesh around the shea nut to eat. it’s very rich and sweet. The nut is then processed for the shea butter. The shea nuts were my first gift in Ghana.


Of course you all know what this paragraph is going to say.  As movie of the weekish as it sounds the kids turned my heart around. Their openness with me. Their pride in the school. And their eagerness to learn all reminded me of why I came to Africa. When i visited my next class I was more open and ready to learn about schools in Ghana.


Muhsa, the school principal, invited us to his house for lunch.  While we waited for  lunch we experienced some Ghana TV.  There is only one channel in Duboya. There was a talk show on  . I think it was political. Although it was in English I had a hard time understanding it because reception was poor and Ghanian English is a little different than American English.


Muhsa took us to the home he is building for lunch. It is very Southwestern looking with stucco and arches. We sat in chairs around a table and ate beans and gari out of a common pot.


At lunch I had my first cross cultural miss communication. I needed to urinate. At training we were told to be direct about our bathroom needs. I need to urinate or I need to shit.  Well, I was in mixed company, They were all pretty much strangers to me so I felt uncomfortable asking to urinate so I said I needed a toilet. A big hub bub ensued. I finally asked Larry what’s wrong? Larry said that Muhsa did not have a toilet. I wondered to my self no place to pee? Larry said we could return to his house, about a 15 minute walk, or I could go free range. Yes that means drop your pants or lift your skirt and go some where out of the public byways.  My bewilderment overcame my shyness and


I said “I have to just lift my skirt and pee?!”

Larry sees the light and says oh if you have to pee there’s a urinal in the old house. A toilet is for the other!  So urinal for pee and toilet for pooh!


Also during lunch we had a chance to learn about the schools and more about tourism in Duboya. Larry’s job is to work with Muhsa and promote tourism in Duboya. The tourism centers around the dyeing and weaving industry in Duboya. The dyers in Duboya use indigo to make a particular blue in a variety of shades up to almost black.


I will try to get the process correct.  The indigo leaves ae made into a ball with something to preserve them.  Then ash is made in a huge fire. the ash is mixed with water in a round pit in the ground. It is very deep and about 2 ½ feet in diameter. The indigo balls are soaked in water.  Then the water and the balls are poured into a strainer that hangs over the pits. The dye drips in until the pit is the shade that is wanted.


The tread is warpped into big loops like you might see around someone’s hands that is holding yarn for the knitter to make into a ball. These loops are about 6-8 feellong. Then it is folded in half.  Cloth is wrapped around one end  to make a hand hold. The white thread is then dipped into the dye. The intensity of the color is also controlled here as well. The more the dyer dips the coils of thread into the pits the darker the thread gets.  Then men squat over the pits to dye the thread. The pits of course can’t move so they are in the sun much of the day although the pits are located by some trees the shade is only there part of the day.


When the thread is dyed to the correct color and intensity it is strung out between two poles to dry. I imagine the drying process does not take long because Duboya it self is a dry place. I hung a wet towel out to dry in the sun and it was dry in three hours. So barring rain I figure the thread drys in less than a day.


The thread is then bought by the weavers. Weaving is a man’s job. The loom is very iteresting. I hope get photos from Andrew and post them. Men weave with their hands and feet. With their hands they pass the shuttle between the threads. With their feet they switch the top line of threads with the bottom line.  The looms are portable and the men will move then to follow the shade either under a tree or by a building. Boys start weaving at an early age. The youngest boy I saw, about 8 years old, was doing the easiest weaving. He was weaving the white strips. The older men make the most intricate patterns with their looms.


They strips that the men weave are only about 2 or 3 inches wide. As the strip is woven it is rolled into a coil on a stick. When the coil reaches a certain diameter, about 8 inches, they remove it and start another coil.


The coils are sold to the tailors who then make jackets, vests and other items to order.  The jackets and the vests are both pullovers. The difference is that the jacket has sleeves. The material is very heavy and I imagine it is very hot.  The tailors use sewing machines that they operate turning the wheel on the side by hand. I have seen a few foot pedal machines but mostly they are hand operated. At one tailors I saw a table runner, a hat, a blanket as well as the jacket and vest.


Larry and Muhsa have worked with about 4 local men to be tour guides for the dye and weaving industry. They are working on learning to explain something they know well to  outsiders who know nothing about the process. And to try to find some interesting tidbits to throw in. Like any tour guide! One of these guides toured the Marines the day I first arrived. The tours must have gone well because the American Military bought many jackets and vests. At 50 and 40  Ghana Cedes each the military added a lot to the local economy of Duboya.


Late in then afternoon we toured the Chiefs burial grounds and the local clinic.


While we waited for dinner to be cooked we had some popcorn! And we started our nightly cribbage game. The local girl who cooks for Larry made beans and gari!  Same as we had for lunch but this was different there was much more gari. I liked it.




then blissful bed.