Ghana Team Journal

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thought of the day:

Try new things and reach for the stars.

Journal by: Sandy

What a great roommate I have! Pat has wonderful warmth, humor, and intelligence. We enjoy many of the same things, especially music. Today is also a festival marking the end of Ramadan. Schools, banks, clinics, etc. closed. We will visit the arts and crafts “village” and the Botanical Gardens. We will take a picnic lunch – PB & J sandwiches and fruit. Breakfast at 8 – eggs, cereal, toast, and fruit. Esther is off to Accra to meet Kathleen. Amo is ill. Millicent packed us bread, PBJ and watermelon and banana for our day. Mini-van took us at 9 AM to the arts and crafts center.

We went south then west into the mountains, passing large farms, many cemeteries, homes and villages. It was perceptively cooler! Spent 2 hours with “vendors” in the arts and crafts village. Left to go to Botanical Gardens (fee 5 cedi for adults), where we used the bathroom, made our lunches, ate and roamed the gardens. Quite interesting especially Cotton Trees. Many saprophytes growing in the trees, bromeliads and orchids. Lots of folks on holiday enjoying themselves. Met young workers from Poquase who know Dana Dakin – Women’s Initiative.

Left at 2:15 for Volta Hotel and Dam view. Arrived at Volta at 3 pm. Sat on the terrace of this lovely international hotel. Continental menu – great view of this the largest earth dam in the world. The Lake Volta is the largest man-made lake in the world. Home to St. James for 6:30 supper. Spoke with Liz re assignments: she suggests I chat with Esther about teaching.

Another wonderful day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Julie’s thought for the day:

“Each of us has been put on earth with the ability to do something well. We cheat ourselves and the world if we don’t use that ability as best we can.”

Gracie Allen, 1895-1964, American Comedian and Actress

Journal by: Julie

Cailin and I are sleeping like babies. The local food is tasty and with the humidity, we are tired earlier at night.

Sandy took us on a tour of the clinic on our way to the library. It is actually very nice. Sandy pointed out the shoemaker, the dressmaker and the mosque. She is pretty knowledgeable on all things local.

The computer lab started out a little slow-as did the library. Samuel needed to pick up the forms for scholarships for the kids and was gone for almost 2 hours. The children in the computer lab, all 12-16 years old, are new to computers and eager to learn. We have asked them to write an essay titled “Myself”. They start with their name and age, usually say where they go to school, describe themselves and detail their family members. Many sign off with gratitude for us being there. Most have big dreams for their future-most boys, that is. The girls don’t usually express a future dream. They also talk about sports they play and their favorite foods. We are learning a lot about them. Funny, though, most think they are either 2’, 4’ or 8’ tall.

The library was filled with very young children. Parents just drop them off. At times we kept their attention reading, but they were also energetic. The little ones love Cailin. The older ones in the computer lab are still curious about her and are aware of her knowledge-especially on the computer. They also ask Cailin a lot about her home and home life. It is certainly different than theirs.

We picked Sandy up at the clinic. They are so busy, she could work all day. The walk home was the first in beautiful sunshine, but very hot. I swear we saw Cailin’s rescued lizard!!

Lunch was great-yeah for salad, watermelon and French fries. A hard rain came at the end of lunch. Susan and Liz’s freshly hung laundry got soaked.

We took a taxi back to the library for afternoon reading. Sandy led the group in song while we waited for Samuel. Many children joined us. They love to read and be read to. It rained again while we were at the library.

After we returned to the guesthouse, Liz and I took a walk. When we returned, we shared a beer and pictures of our families. Vivian joined us just before dinner. After dinner we had an in depth discussion of the program. We shared our observations and suggestions. We are all thrilled to be here, love our Ghanaian hosts and the people and want to know what more we can do to make an impact. We are anxious to meet Kathleen.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thought for the day:

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” --Albert Einstein

Journal by: Cailin

Today we took the lovely walk to the village and said hello to the Queen Mother. After that, Amo dropped us off at the library.

We met Samuel. Only one word to describe him-inspiring. He is so intelligent and so full of life. To take a year off to build the library is amazing. The amount of love he shows not only for the library, but also for the kids is beautiful. To be blessed with the opportunity to meet such a devoted man is so special. Samuel left us to teach the kids on the computer. At first we were clueless. We just didn’t even know what to teach them. After some time we figured out what to do. I asked the kids to type on Word a paragraph about themselves, to talk about their family, friends, school, dreams and anything that came to mind. Once again I was inspired. This time by the children. The two that caught my eye the most were Kwaku Tieku Dadey and his older brother. Kwaku is good with the computers and seems to be street smart. His older brother is brilliant. He wants to go to college in the US and become an engineer. He knows so much and is so bright. All the children are full of knowledge and dreams.

After spending an amazing day with them, everyone came home for lunch. Esther’s friend came to size us for our dresses. Then it was time to go read. Samuel split the kids into groups. I had a large group of younger children. They were so sweet and playful.

After an hour the van came to take us on our 30-minute ride to the Cedi Bead Factory. The way of making beads is so interesting. All the girls bought beautiful jewelry. It was very interesting, on our ride home, to observe the people around us. I’m so intrigued by the emotion worn on all the faces.

We shared a lovely dinner even thought all I had was rice and popcorn. Today was full of inspiration. Even Esther’s choice to adopt and Sandy’s choice to raise 7 children is and inspiration. Being here in a town no one would think of, I find myself surrounded by people that inspire.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Liz’s thought for the day:

“It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears. It’s a world of hope and a world of fears. There’s so much that we share, that’s it time we’re aware. It’s a small world after all. There is just one moon and one golden sun. And a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide. It’s a small world after all.” --Walt Disney

Journal by: Liz

Took a walk-saw women carrying the baskets on their heads, tro-tro’s and people dressed in their Sunday best for church.

Went by van to Senchi-Ferry. 2 hours. Accra is big-more wealthy houses nearer city, shanties further out. Litter on the road. Saw many stalls where melon, pineapples, bananas, plantains, tomatoes were being sold. Saw where tilapia was sold.

Many rocky outcrops were part of the scenery and low hills. Arrived a St. James Guest House in Akrade. Chicken and goats in the yard, colorful flowers outside. Clean small guesthouse.

Lunch of chicken, salads, vegetables, rice and fruit. Orientation and much talk about tips, TV, cell phones.

Walked on red dirt paths to the palace in Senchi-Ferry. Had hugs from a cute little boy. Passed friendly people. Passed concrete and dirt houses-open windows. Also thatched houses. Laundry and cooking pots, goats, 1 dog,1 cat, 1 kitten, 2 sheep. Schools-open window.

The palace-5 elders and chiefs, queen, another woman were seated on gold chairs. Prayers, speeches, libation, shaking of hands. Very welcoming. Soda drinks. Divided into our groups (We had told our o purpose in coming to the village.). Dinner of a pasta dish. Amo talked with us a little about language.

August team meets in Ghana!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Journal by: Liz

Amazing-arrived in Accra on time even though we left JFK on hour and a half late. Apparently we had to wait for a connecting flight.

This Hurricane Irene is playing havoc with everything. Flights have been canceled. It seems bizarre to arrive in Ghana as helpful volunteers, having left the U.S. where the weather is forecast to be severe.

Esther met us at the airport with big hugs. We took the van to the Airport View Hotel where we rested, showered, took a walk outside in the warm humid air and changed some money. We met Julie and Cailin.

Met Vivian at dinner in the restaurant of the hotel. Had a buffet of many flavors-chicken, rice, salads, tilapia, a meat dish and banku. Ended with fruit.

Esther talked with us about what we would be doing at Senchi Ferry and she gave us the tips about Do’s and Don’ts.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bon Voyage and Best Wishes, Kristen “Kay” Edwards and of course, George Ostrom, Tracee Mendenhall, and Laurie McMahon

Journal by: Kristen Edwards

Wake up, eat breakfast, pack our bags, and set out on an excursion to seek out one of Laurie’s students for a final goodbye. So begins our last and final day here in Ghana.

As Laurie so deftly put it, it is a bittersweet moment, if nothing else. I’m sure I speak for the group when I say that I am truly torn between two completely overwhelming emotions: Elation at the prospect of returning home to the friends and family I have built my life around, and despair at leaving behind those who I have grown to care so very much for these past three weeks. Though it seems such a short period of time on paper (3 weeks… 22 days… 528 short hours), the circumstances under which we have bonded have led us to forge relationships that are often years in the making. It is with that in mind that we all say a tearful farewell to those individuals who have been our family and our support system throughout our stay.

To Bless (“Rah-rah”): Thank you for the wonderful food, your kind words, your wonderful company, and of course, for teaching us all the correct way to play Uno. I wish you and your daughter the very best that life has to offer!

To Millicent: We never saw much of you, but you kept us full and happy every day here at the St. James! Thank you for the hard work and dedication!

To the rest of the St. James crew: Thank you so much for sharing the guest house with us! You provided us with a temporary home, and we will be forever grateful!

To the host community (the schools in New Akrade, and the library in Senchi): Thank you for providing us with the opportunity to come here to Ghana. You welcomed us enthusiastically, taught us what you could of your culture, and above all else, trusted us with your children. Though we came here with the intention of giving what we could to you, you have given so very much to us in return.

To Amo: We will miss you buddy! I am sorry that we didn’t see you the last two days of our stay, but thank you so much for all of the work you have done and for all the time you dedicated to seeing us safely from site to site. Thanks also for assisting us all with our Twi!

And finally…

To Esther: Please don’t ever underestimate how very much you mean to each and every one of us, and just how profound an impact you had. I know you think you are just doing your job, but you made what we did here possible through your kindness, your diligence, your patience, and your willingness to put up with us crazy obronies. You kept our make-shift family whole and safe! We love you and will miss you greatly, but we will all no doubt meet again! Oh… and we promise not go swimming without our lifejackets.

That said, though we part ways to return to the lives we so briefly left behind, we, one and all, leave a little piece of our hearts behind with the Ghanaian people who welcomed us with such open arms.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quote of the day: “We are the teaching species. Not only do the young need adults, but adults need the young. Human beings need to teach not only for the sake of those who need to be taught, but for the fulfillment of our identities and because ideas are kept alive by being shared, truths by being professed.”

-Erik Eriksson

Journal by: Laurie McMahon

I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say we knew this would be a bitter-sweet day, much the same, certainly, as it was for our seven friends who left last week. We started our day with my favorite breakfast, French toast. When Esther arrived, she told us construction had been cancelled for the day, so we all headed for the schools. Before leaving for our final walk to school, though, we loaded up Esther’s car with the school supplies we were donating. Once at school, under the big tree in the yard, the supplies were ceremoniously presented jointly by the volunteers and Samuel, our host. It was a short, yet meaningful presentation of our gifts, with the kids all gathered around and photos being taken.

George then headed over to the JHS, where he tutored some kids in math. Kay went with Tracee down to Peace Perfect, for a day typical of the last day before vacation- rather chaotic, full of fun and excited children. It sounded like they had loads of fun, though, as all the kids migrated into Tracee’s room and were treated to playing football with Tracee and piggy back rides from Kay. I went to my usual classroom where I spent the day with many children- my regulars, plus even some brand new faces, for a total of 41 kids! It was a nice day, though, and I finally got the Obama song on video, thanks to three JHS girls. When our dismissal time of 12:00 came around, we were still in the middle of a project and I wasn’t ready to leave. In spite of my telling George, Kay and Tracee that they could head home without me, they dutifully, thoughtfully and patiently waited while we finished up our work and I could finally gather the kids all together to give them a heartfelt talk about how we’ve all touched each other’s lives, as the emotion crept into my voice. I then dismissed the kids amid hugs for all four us and we walked back to the St. James.

Lunch was very pleasurable, with lively conversation and more delicious food. We are getting to know Nelly, Bless’s daughter, more as she becomes more comfortable around us. Bless, whose name we learned today is really Yayra (Blessed in Twi), had told us Nelly was “scared of white people,” but she seems to be overcoming that fear!

We headed for the library for our final day with the children and were surprised when Samuel announced that it was going to be a puzzle day. We all played wooden board puzzles with the kids on the floor and it was fun to teach the kids strategies for putting them together and then watching their excitement. We headed back at our usual time- our final return from Senchi Library and through the Senchi-Ferry community.

After dinner, Esther came by to pick us up for live music and dancing at the Volta Hotel, at her invitation. Once we arrived, though, we learned that there was no live music that night. We had a great time anyway, and there was lots of laughter, mostly at George’s rather unusual and anatomical topics of conversations that he repeatedly brought up, but about which I’m forbidden by Esther to mention in the journal. Unfortunately, you won’t even be able to guess at what they were, since they were so bizarre.

Tomorrow it will be difficult to say goodbye to my three young friends, in spite of the merciless way they have teased me in this last week! The bonds we made in the first two weeks were definitely strengthened through our adventures this last week and I’m glad we all had this extra time together. I wish for them safe journeys home tomorrow night and I’m happy to know they have each other with whom to maneuver their way through the Accra Airport and across the Atlantic. For me, I’m looking forward to my sight seeing excursion on Sunday with Esther’s brother, Ebenezer, and arriving home to see my family on Monday!

As I mentioned in my last quote and to my students today, we have all touched each other’s lives and therefore, been changed in the process. We missed you all, Margaret, Sarah, Mary, Jeff, Will, Steve and Grace and were always excited to receive your emails of your further travels throughout Ghana and your reunions with family and favorite foods!

Lastly, thank you to Esther and Amo, who made this experience so immensely worthwhile, fun and fulfilling. We love and appreciate you dearly!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quote of the day: “What I spent, is gone; what I kept, I lost; but what I gave away will be mine forever.” ~Ethel Percy Andrus

Journal by: Tracee Mendenhall

It’s our next to last day of work and the thought of going home provides some excitement, but the thought of leaving is quite upsetting. We enjoyed our breakfast of toast and eggs and chatted with Esther for a bit before heading out to our work places. Kay and George to construction where they completed about 6 bags of concrete. The library has come a long way since we arrived here about three weeks ago. Laurie went off to her class where they talked about different mammals. I headed down towards Peace Perfect. One of my students spotted me carrying a ball and ran to me with the biggest smile on his face and threw his arms around me. Of course he wanted to carry the ball, but after hearing Esther tell so many other children they are to carry the bags first, I handed him my bag. He started shouting to the other students in the class; they also tried to carry the ball but insisted I would be fine carrying it. Just seeing the smile, whether is was for the fact I remembered the ball or just because there was a ball made this whole trip so much better, getting to see those genuine smiles are rare and amazing.

We gathered for lunch, rice & beans, with a red meat sauce, and again picked Esther brain for information about the community and culture. Kay and I stuck around after lunch to sort through all the donations for the schools. I am quite excited to see the student’s faces when they receive the materials, but more excited when I go down to Peace Perfect and those students see the donations they are receiving for the first time. It was then time to head to the library and Kay and I generously accepted a ride from Esther and George and Laurie decided to walk. There was a small group of eager readers and learners for us to work with. After the library we piled into a taxi and headed to the Cedi Bead Factory for some last minute goodies. We all got a few things, including George; I can’t wait to see him in his skirts and bracelets. We arrived back about a ½ hour before dinner and Kay and I decided to begin our surveys, though we liked the idea if we didn’t fill them out we would have to stay behind with Esther. Our families might not like that, but we both would love to stay and continue to help the community.

George and Laurie received a knock and their door telling them dinner was ready, we are led to believe, but may be wrong, that maybe Esther called the kitchen staff to make sure we had safely returned from our outing and they were checking it out. Dinner was one of my favorite meals we have had; sliced carrots, peppers, cucumbers, and chicken over white rice with peas and a side of pineapple, Delicious! We chatted for a few minutes before we had to give Laurie some quick updates and reminders on how to use the laptop. Kay, George and I started a game of Uno, that was frequently interrupted by “what happened” “oh no” and “help” all coming from Laurie who was trying to type her journal entry. Bless and her daughter joined us for a game, but then had to leave. So we played until Laurie was finished typing.

As I am typing this I am watching Kay pack her suitcase, it is so hard to believe that just about three weeks ago we arrived here scared and not knowing what was in store for us. I personally can’t believe how in such a short period of time I have come to love the students, community, and our abrunifomommy. I have grown both as a person and a teacher during my time here and wouldn’t change a minute of it. There were times of concern on our weekend adventures, but we were safe and were left with funny stories to share. I don’t like saying good-bye, so I will leave you with “Till I see you again”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quote of the day: “It is better to aim for the stars and miss than it is to aim for a pile of dung and hit it.”

- Unknown

Journal by: George Ostrom

Today was a typical day. We ate a delicious breakfast of French Toast as we discussed certain aspects of Ghanaian culture with Esther. I was thankful to be done eating before we began discussing traditions for women who are going through puberty. As we (or maybe I should say the ladies) were discussing the inconsistency of when young women begin menstruation, I politely excused myself from the table to get ready to go to the construction site.

At the construction site, we mixed six bags of cement. Although we had previously thought the mixing strategies were simply “eyeballed” for accuracy, I found out today that there is a method to their measuring. Each bag of cement is mixed with two wheelbarrows full of dirt or sand. One-third of the bags used are mixed with dirt, and the other two-thirds are mixed with sand. About one and a half wheelbarrows full of rocks are then added for each bag of cement. Therefore, we had four wheelbarrows of dirt, eight wheelbarrows of sand, and about nine or ten wheelbarrows full of rocks mixed with the six bags of cement. All of this resulted in well more than 200 head pans of cement lifted to the second floor of the new library today. The construction crew was very surprised to see that I had armpit hair, and were shocked to know that most men in the United States do not know shave their pits. They were concerned that my armpit hair would grow down to my waist.

Laurie and Tracee were both teaching in their usual classrooms today. Laurie had a smaller group than she had the past few days, and she was teaching about reptiles. The students seem to love learning about animals! Did you know that there are no tigers in Africa? Tracee continued with her geography lessons by having the students make their own maps of the United States. Tomorrow she promised them to work on drawing the American flag.

After catching a bit of well needed rest, we ate a healthy lunch of chicken and rice with a salad. After lunch, Tracee, Kay, and I played a cutthroat game of Uno with Bless when she was done working in the kitchen. Apparently there are rules for Uno that I have never read before, and, thanks to Bless, I now know how to properly play the game that I have been playing wrong since kindergarten.

We met up with Amo on our walk down to the library shortly after a few hands of Uno. There were a few children at the library today, but not as many as yesterday. While Kay, Tracee, and I were reading with the kids, Laurie spent most of the time with the librarian sorting and straightening the bookshelves. After the library, we had thoughts of catching a Tro-Tro to the bead annex but instead decided to just relax for a while before dinner. I think we have had enough adventures this past week!

Dinner today was rice with a scrumptious beef sauce served with freshly sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Millicent had also prepared Laurie’s favorite- popcorn! Esther dropped by with some authentic Kente cloth as requested, and we were all impressed by the craftsmanship. After some more discussion, Esther and Amo departed as the four of us retired to our rooms.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quote of the day: “I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do for any fellow being, let me do it now… as I shall not pass this way again.” –

William Penn

Journal by: Kristen “Kay” Edwards

After breakfast, we all reconvened in the parking lot to begin our daily trek to our respective volunteer stations. After 15 minutes of convincing Madam Esther that I really was not sick and didn’t need to stay home, we were on our way. Laurie spent the morning and early afternoon with her kiddos at the Presby school, while Tracee meandered down to the Peace Perfect school to join up with her small but loyal class. George and I, now the only two remaining crew members at the construction site, spent our day mixing, shoveling, lifting and pouring wet concrete, as has been the norm for the past week and half. Good news? We have completed work on a substantial amount of the library, both in terms of carpentry and concrete. Bad news? Though we have been laboring for the past two and half weeks, there is still much work to be done. It pains me that we will be ending our stay here in Ghana so shortly, and that we will inevitably be stepping away from an unfinished project. It hurts even more knowing that work cannot continue without GV Volunteers, so all construction will come to a halt until the next group arrives to work in New Akrade. We can leave satisfied knowing that we have done everything we can, though, and to know that we played some small role in the creation of what will be a very important building in the future of the children here.

Lunch, as per usual, was served promptly at 1:00PM. Though the main meal was groundnut soup and rice balls (a team favorite, I think), Millicent and Bless were kind enough to make us a few small servings of FuFu to taste. It was… different… to say the least. In short, Cassava and Plantains are cooked, then pounded down into what eventually becomes FuFu. Though the taste was fine, the texture threw a few of us off. It’s got a consistency very similar to raw bread dough, and just felt strange to eat. George, the most adventurous of us all, decided he liked it right off the bat and ate an entire bowl of it. Tracee avoided it like the plague, and Laurie politely sampled a small bit before retiring to her rice and soup. Me? I found the first bite rather difficult to consume, but after Bless kindly informed me that I was not supposed to actually CHEW it, I decided I liked it as well and consumed a small bowl myself.

Lunch was followed by talk of Kente Cloth and a walk to the library in Senchi. We had a pretty decent turn out, and were all kept busy with our avid little readers for the hour we were there. Tracee and myself walked away with an added bonus- cornrows! Or rather, partially finished cornrows. While reading with some of the older children, two of the younger kids decided that our hair needed braids. We walked out looking, as you may likely have guessed, quite stylish.

We made an evening visit to the Volta Hotel, though we were initially delayed by a few rather unfortunate events. Our taxi driver (due to an alleged unexpected encounter with the police) never made it to the guest house, so we caught a Tro-Tro to the market in Akosombo and from there caught a taxi to the Volta. Upon arrival, the internet was borderline unfunctional. We were just about to give up hope and return to the guest house, when the internet kicked back in and a refreshing round of soda was delivered to our table. The rest of the evening went swimmingly, and ended with a pasta dinner and a rousing game of Uno with Bless.

Hard to believe we will all be leaving in 4 days… we’ll have to make the most of them!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quote of the day:
"During your life, everything you do and everyone you meet rubs off in some way. Some bit of everything you experience stays with everyone you’ve known and nothing is lost. That’s what’s external, these little experiences in a great and emotional river that has no end."
(Author Unknown)

Journal by: (The one who is trying to figure out how to use the computer and messing up all of the dates by delaying her journal entry) Thanks, George. Really this is from Laurie McMahon!

Before I begin with the day’s events, for those of you not on the hike on Saturday, please allow me to clarify something from George’s journal entry. Yes, our 15-year-old guide held my hand for ¾ of our ascent up the mountain, but he did not “pull” me up. He chose my hand to hold with consideration to birth order and therefore, a sign of respect. To hear George, Kay and Tracee tell it- over and over and over- you’d think I’d been airlifted up by helicopter! Okay, I did slip 3 times before my hand was taken but I did walk on my own 2 feet. Okay, record set straight!

So, today, Monday, August 8, was our first day of work as a crew of only 4. After a typical and filling breakfast, Esther insisted on driving us now that we could all fit in her car, in spite of our protests! “I’ve walked all my life, carrying things on my head,” said Esther, “I’m not walking anymore!” Once there, in record time, Tracee and I went to teach and Kay and George were off to the cement mixing and pouring. From what I could tell, everyone had a fulfilling morning with their respective duties. For me, this was the most productive and calm day, so far. The kids seem to be getting used to my routines and expectations. I’m sure it was the same for Tracee.

After lunch, (Hey! We had local corn, prepared a bit tougher and chewier than we are used to, but still good. It was the first time ever a Global Volunteer was served local corn- turns out all we had to do was ask), we piled back into Esther’s car for a speedy trip to the market in Akosombo, which was bustling and full of vendors, unlike the day before when it was mostly just tomatoes, peppers and candy. All for of us bought more fabric (the choices were plentiful and gorgeous) and we picked up another soccer ball for the donation pile. And, George needed to buy more flip flops, after leaving his on the hood of the taxi a few days earlier. Esther lead us around with her head held high, as people kept telling her that “her white people were beautiful.”

We then rushed back to the St. James to meet up with Amo for our walk to the library. (Thank goodness Amo doesn’t have a car!) Expecting tons of kids, they were instead slow to come, but soon the library was full and we all had children with whom to read. Steve’s boys were in the capable hands of Kay, so no worries there.

Later, during dinner, we had an informal “get to know Amo better” session, as he answered questions and shared how he spends his free time. Amo then had an enthusiastic conversation with the younger generation about different types of complicated and new-age video and photo editing software, after which, totally confused by this conversation, I bragged that I knew how to type a letter on my computer, save it, and print it out. No one was impressed, but do any of them know how to address, stamp and mail an envelope?! A good day all around and now, thanks to Tracee, I am comfortable entering these journal entries onto the GV laptop. So, a productive one, as well!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quote of the day: Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness Kindness in giving creates love. ~ Lao-tzu

Journal by: Tracee Mendenhall

Still with heavy hearts, we woke up to a lot more singing and noise outside than other days. Breakfast was served at 8:30, it was an enjoyable but quite meal. Kay, Laurie, George and I decided to venture out to the community center, hopeful to find a church service. Though we arrived almost an hour and a half late, we were welcomed in and seated for the remaining hour of service. The minister was very upbeat and frequently made sure he had everyone’s attention by saying “hello” and getting a “hi” response. Members in at the service appeared to be more in touch with God than members in my church with their prayers, hallelujahs, and Amen’s.

At the end of the service, guests were asked to come up to the front to be thanked for attending and were encouraged to come back, than we were sent to follow the other minister to the back and were thanked again for coming. We also learned the four foundations of their church, prayer, kingdom, service, and baptism. He also noted he has watched us walk by his house most days. As we left a few other members thanked us for attending their service.

We returned to the guest house for a game of scrabble and another delicious lunch. After a brief conversation with Esther, we gathered our beach gear and headed out with Bless to the Sajuna Beach Club. We enjoyed a few hours of ping pong, swimming, relaxation and basketball (sorry Will).

As we were leaving we decided to head towards Akomsombo. We walked just into Akompoco and caught a trotro to the market in Akomosombo. George bought some cookies and we boarded another trotro to Akompoco and did some shopping. We were on the hunt for new flip flops for George since his were left on the taxi the night before and the driver drove off with them; only one was found this morning in the driveway, even though we looked for the other. Sandals were found, but were later given to Kay due to the fact they were ladies.

Once we finished shopping, we tried to catch another trotro back to St. James, but a taxi stopped instead and wanted 7 cedis. However, with George’s fast talking they agreed to take us back for only 2 cedis. It was a tight ride with six people crammed inside, but we made it back to the guest house safely with an hour to relax before dinner.

Over dinner we discussed our weekend trips and other various topics. We were happy to see Esther when she came to see how we were since she missed us multiple times on Saturday. We told her about our, yet again, eventful weekend and set plans for the week ahead. It is unfortunate that our time here is coming to an end in less than a week and many of us want to stay longer, but know we can’t. I am sure we will provide the community with as much help as we can this week and leave here knowing, in my opinion, that we did all that we could here and will hold the community, students, Amo, and our wonderful leader Esther in our hearts forever.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Quote of the day: “I believe freedom’s got to come from within, yes it does, and without a gun. Freedom is the ability to feel love for everyone.” Mason Jennings, “United States Global Empire”

Journal by: George

Today started on a somber note. Laurie, Tracee, Kay, and I had to say our goodbyes to the rest of our team, Mary, Jeff, Will, Margaret, Sarah, Grace, and Steve. I don’t think that any of us really understood how close we have grown to each other in the short two weeks that we have been in Ghana until it was time to say goodbye. After reflecting on the good times we have had so far and wishing them a safe trip back home, the four of us reluctantly climbed into a taxi heading first towards Mount Afadjato and Tagbo Falls in the Volta Region.

The ride took about two and a half hour as we traveled through small towns and farming land surrounded by huge bluffs. We got out of the taxi to meet our guide, George, who stayed with us for the next few hours. We walked down a narrow path toward the beginning of the trails, and George pointed out a grapefruit tree, an orange tree, a papaya tree, a guava tree, and a forget-me-not tree that had beautiful yellow and white flowers. We first climbed up Mount Afadjato. I am still trying to decide what was more breathtaking: the view from the top of the mountain, or the hike to get there. The four of us were wearing our hiking shoes and struggling to keep our balance as we scaled the slippery slope, but our guide was wearing flip flops and needed to stop every 30 or 40 feet to wait for us to catch up. After we had all lost our footing a few times, I decided to go to the back of the group to play “catcher” while the other George felt bad seeing Laurie fall so much that he grabbed her hand and practically dragged her up the mountain. We all admitted to sweating more on this hike than we have since coming to Ghana. After about an hour and fifteen minutes of climbing, our supposed “45-minute walk” was finally complete! A light breeze cooled us down as we took too many pictures and gazed down at the rest of the world. Things look different from nearly 3,000 feet above sea level. Our adventure continued as we descended the mountain. Clinging on to trees, vines, and roots, we slowly made our way back down to the base of the mountain. After my failed Tarzan attempt (let’s just say gripping onto a seemingly sturdy vine to slow myself down was a good idea until I found myself airborne with a broken vine in my hands), Kay’s several slips, crabwalks, and slides, and Laurie’s bandaged elbow from scraping on a rock (despite holding the guide’s hand the entire trip down the mountain…), we made it to the bottom relatively safely. I guess Tracee was too agile to make the Afadjato highlight reel. Although we were all exhausted, sweaty, and thankful to be back on flat ground, we were all proud of our accomplishment and glad to have partaken in such a life-changing experience.

After catching our breath for a few minutes, we headed towards Tagbo Falls. This name is a bit deceiving, however, because our group did much more “falling” on our trek up Mount Afadjato than our journey to Tagbo Falls. Anyway, the flatter terrain was a welcomed change. The only difficult part of this walk was avoiding the ants. Several times George told us to run to either avoid the ants or shake them off of our shoes! George also stopped along the way to point out certain plants and landmarks. He first showed us the cocoa tree. He picked a ripe plant, smashed it against a tree, and let us try the sweet yet slimy seeds inside the fruit. Although most of the others did not enjoy the texture of the cocoa, I ate most of the fruit by myself. We had our doubts when George told us that this walk was also 45 minutes, but after a little more than a half hour, we began to hear the water splashing down the falls. Just around the bend, we were all a bit spellbound by the beauty of the falls. It didn’t look so big from the top of Afadjato! Although I tried my best, the falls were so big that I could not stand back far enough to capture the entire falls with just one photo. The cool, wet breeze was extremely refreshing as we walked back towards town. On the way back, I realized that I had spent most of the walk towards the falls with my eyes on the ground ahead of me instead of looking at the beauty of the rainforest around me. One of the ‘bridges’ on the trail to the waterfall was just two pieces of wood spanning a 4 foot gap between rocks. We slowed to cross this bridge safely, but as Kay was crossing, I noticed that Tracee was standing in a huge mound of ants that were enveloping her shoes, socks, and legs. Before I could mutter “Run, Tracee!,” she had already set her first foot down on the bridge. My words of caution startled her, so she instinctively stepped backward, directly into the pile of ants. I nudged her back and told her to run away from the ants, and the look on her face was one of sheer terror. I don’t think anybody who has been to the falls has crossed that bridge as quickly as she did! She kicked off her shoes, ripped off her socks, swatted her legs, and watched in horror as 70 or so ants crawled all over everything. Believe it or not, she didn’t even get bit! I guess we all had our moments of glory on this trip, after all. Besides a light spurt of rain, the rest of our trip back to the waiting taxi was uneventful.

After eating lunch quickly, we piled back into the taxi to drive to the monkey sanctuary. After paying our entrance fee, the guide handed us each a banana as we walked into the sanctuary. The Mona monkeys heard our guide’s lip smacking, saw our bananas, and rushed over to greet us. As Margaret and Sarah warned us, these monkeys will take the entire banana away if you do not hold it tightly. We saw two clans of monkeys where we began feeding them, and because these two clans do not get along well, the first clan to arrive on scene quickly vanished after the second group got there. Our guide said that these clans can be territorial and often fight when they get too close. We fed our bananas to the monkeys, and a lady on our tour even got jumped on when she was holding her banana up too high from the hungry monkey. It was quite a sight to see. We headed back towards the visitor center and stopped to buy some sodas. I guess we weren’t on the same page as the vendor, however. After we thought we made our purchase and walked back to the taxi, the lady came after us saying that she needed the bottles back. We were already late, so we chugged the drinks, handed back the bottles, and drove back to the guest house.

We arrived at the guest house about an hour later than expected. I am sure Esther, our mother duck, was worried sick about us. Sorry Esther! When we made it back to the dining room, we were disheartened to see that the table was only set for four. How lonely it will be with less than half of our team here! We soon cheered up a little after eating the always wonderful food prepared by the kitchen staff and recalling the day’s events.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Quotes of the day:

“It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.” -Bruce Springsteen, “Badlands”

“May God bless you for what you have done here.”

- Georgina (said by a child at the library to Sarah)

Journal by: Mary Boutselis and Jeff Jackson

Our next to last breakfast together…sadness is creeping in. Our questions and comments for Esther now have to do with finishing up our work and the anticipation of leaving for some of us. Seven are leaving—Steve, Grace, Margaret, Sarah, Jeff, Mary and Will—while four will stay on—Laurie, Kay, Tracee and George.

As in the days of the past two weeks, the teachers went off to their respective classes with insight and experience gained during our stay thus far. We have had countless discussions in which we brainstormed what we might do with our students and even more endless discussions after each day’s work as we process our experiences and observations. While it’s sometimes difficult, we try to remain non-judgmental, continuously stepping back, putting our observations into perspective. In Sarah, Grace, Margaret and Mary’s classes, extra pictures were taken and heartfelt “goodbyes” were said to the children and teachers who generously shared their classrooms with us. Rumor has it that a riot nearly broke out in Laurie’s class having something to do with Grace’s class and some chairs (you’ll have to ask Grace and Laurie about this). At the Peace Perfect School, there was no other way to finish the two weeks except with a final, frenetic round of “Who let the Dogs Out…Who? Who? Who? Who?”

Concrete work continued at the construction site. Steve, George, Kay, Will and Jeff, along with a crew of local residents, developed a highly efficient rhythm resulting in the processing of thousands of pounds of concrete. It was very hard work but the teamwork was gratifying. Hopefully, the remaining crew will be able to get more done next week.

After lunch we went to the library to read with the children. It was the last library visit for many of us. We met with more children than had been available the past few days, and were touched by their songs of goodbye. It was a tearful moment full of hugs. On the way home we spent some time watching a local soccer match featuring some excellent athletes with amazing foot work. With a score of 2-1, Amo shepherded us along just after a broo-ha-ha broke out on the field.

We had a number of special guests during dinner, including the mayor, community leaders, and teachers. Dinner was quiet at first, eventually becoming more interactive. We appreciated the comments which Esther, the Mayor and the leader of our host organization made in expressing their gratitude. We took some pictures before our guests left. Then, we gave Esther and Amo handmade cards and a first occurred…Esther (our “abrofu Mommy”) was rendered speechless after reading hers. Finally, the evening ended in picture taking with every possible combination and permutation of our group.

In closing for today, we believe that we speak for our team in saying that it is with some painfully mixed feelings that seven of us leave tomorrow. Of course, there are some things which draw us home…family, pets, familiar surroundings, hot water, potato chips, pizza, Starbucks…to mention a few. But, because this community has been so welcoming and the experience has been so impactful, we leave a bit of our hearts in New Akrade. Feelings about going home are also complicated by the fact that we leave behind part of our team. While we know that they will continue as a strong core, we will miss them and because we have moved through these past two weeks together as one body, it doesn’t quite feel right that we can’t share leaving with them. Know that our hearts are with you!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quote of the day: ”Change is the evidence of life”

Journal by: Will Jackson

Today started off with the usually nutritional breakfast. I believe that some of us are not eating as much as we should, forgetting the golden rule. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Anyways, after breakfast we departed briefly to meet back up in 10 minutes. Upon meeting outside the guest house we began our trek to the schools and construction site. Grace and Laurie departed to teach at the primary school, Sara to the JHS, and my mom, Tracee, and Marguerite to the peace perfect school, and my dad, George, Kay, Steve and myself to the construction site.

At the construction site the amount of workers was limited compared to the other days. We started off by bringing the water, stones, concrete, and dirt into the building to be mixed. After that we started the laborious job of getting it to the second floor. We had mixed a much smaller portion then yesterday so we finished at about 10:45. Kay, my dad, and myself then went down to the Peace Perfect school. We got there just as reading time began. My mom’s class was deeply into the classic novel “Henry and Mudge” while Margaret was reading a counting book. Tracee’s class was extremely quiet because they were doing silent reading. Some of us headed back to the guest house to wash the concrete off of us while the teachers taught till 12.

We all met back up for lunch. Lunch was delicious rice with a tomato based sauce. When lunch was finished we all proceeded back to our rooms for some down time. During our down time it started pouring rain. Ester then made us drive a taxi to the library instead of walk. Although it was thought that there may be fewer kids at the library due to the rain, there were plenty of young avid readers. After our reading we came back to freshen up for an earlier 6 o’clock dinner. We ate pasta with a tomato based sauce with or with out meat. I was really upset when we came so close to eating all the food but couldn’t quite do it. At 7 o’clock we met outsider for our van to see the drummers.

The drive to the community center took about 4 minutes. The drummers had got delayed so they came later then expected. They arrived and quickly put on there clothes. They then came out and four of them started drumming, while a couple others were holding rhythm with sticks. Then 3 boys and 3 girls came out and started dancing. They danced continuously for a while. The way they danced was amazing, the flexibility, endurance and the smiles they had. After awhile they picked some of us to come up and dance to the rhythm of the drums and singing of the kids. George, Kay, Tracee, Sara, Steve, and myself were in the first group while the others were in the second. The dancing was unlike any kind of dancing any of us had done before, correct me if I’m wrong, but that stuff wasn’t in my parents or my dancing repetwar.

Well, at least both groups had fun…I think. After our wonderful show of dancing they insisted that we must have great rhythm so we all went up and tried our hand of drumming. After drumming they preformed one last dance for us and others from the community. Again I was amazed at the endurance and the fun they were having. After the dance one of the men came up and told us that it was a first time for one of the kids. So, now I bring this journal to and end because its breakfast time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Quote of the day:

In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.

- Wangari Maathai

Journal by: Grace Glick

Once again, fortified by a delicious breakfast from Bless, we strolled off to work. This leisurely pace seems to be the norm here for others as well. It’s crazy to rush about in this sizzling African heat!

As we near the school, children rush out to meet us- jostling to carry our bags and hold our hands. This welcome never fails to lift my spirits .

Upon reaching the primary, we part ways- Sarah to teach at JHS, Mary, Margaret and Tracee to Peace Perfect, Laurie and I make our way to the primary to instruct our respective classes and the construction crew-Will, Jeff, Kay, Steve and George head to the library site.

The library is coming along nicely. It is incredible labor to work in such hot conditions! I am sure the community really appreciates the helping hands. As yesterday, the children hauled water for the cement mixing. Twice today, in fact! Down to the youngest, the community can really feel they have contributed to this new library.

At noon, we strolled back to the St. James accompanied by our gaggle of eager porters.

Lunch was tasty groundnut soup and rice balls. Over meal time, we had a respectful but lively discussion about the ethics of killing other animals. Where does one draw the line? Is this solely a matter of personal beliefs or is there a cultural influence? Food for thought.

After the break, we strolled our way to the Senchi library. En route, we spied 3 nearly newborn kids napping. For a week and a half now we have tried and tried in vain to get close enough to touch one of the wandering goats. Jackpot, I thought, when we spotted these babes. But, no! As I snuck close, the wary kids bolted. It may be time to give up this quest.

A small group of children met us at the library and over the hour more trickled in so we were all well occupied with reading and listening.

We briskly walked home to catch the van ferrying us to the Volta Hotel. Once again, we basked in the cooler air and took in the lovely view from the hotel balcony. Cold drinks and yummy ice cream chilled us from the inside out. Contented smiles all around.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quote of the day: There you go man. Keep as cool as you can. Face piles of trials with smiles, for it riles them to believe you perceive the web they weave. And keep on thinking free.

By: Steve Ostrom

Our 9th day in Ghana started like most others. We met in the dining area at 7 am. Today we were served delicious French toast for breakfast. Will read his journal from the weekend, which was delayed by an unfortunate addition of water to his journal notes, and Kay read her journal notes from Monday. During breakfast there was much discussion about the visit to the bead factory and about Monday’s session at the Senchi Ferry library. Esther also graciously agreed to cash in some of our US dollars for Ghana money before lunch.

After our tummies were sated, we all left for the school, again splitting off into multiple groups as we arrived. Tracee, Margaret, Grace, Laurie, Sarah and George went to teach, while Mary, Jeff, Will, Kay and Steve went to try our hand at concrete mixing. While we Americans were trying to remember the correct sand to rock to cement ratio for good concrete, the Ghaneans emptied three bags of cement on the pile of sand left from the previous Global Volunteers group, and started to mix the two together. This mix was shoveled into a wheel barrow and wheeled into the new library and dumped on the first floor. We then shoveled rocks into head pans, and Mary and Key carried these very heavy pans of rock on their heads into the library and added the rocks to the pile. The students in Laurie and Grace’s class were asked to stop lessons and fetch water in buckets. This water was mixed with the rock, sand and cement, and the mixture was passed from the first floor to a scaffold and then to the second floor. We were all sweat-soaked, tired and glad when it was time to go. George taught French for part of the morning, then joined the crew on the second floor hauling wet concrete.

Lunch was a traditional rice and beans meal, with side-dishes of fried plantains, pineapple and mango. Wonderful as usual. The conversation was lively and related various tales from the school and construction site.

After lunch, Esther passed out our exchanged Ghana money, and we boarded a van to the Wood Market and the Botanical Gardens. The ride to the market took a little over an hour, and our driver did a great job. During this drive we passed through many small mountaintop villages while a fine mist was falling. We noticed a welcomed drop in the temperature. Our van ride was quite comfortable using the typical local mode of air-conditioning.

We spent about two hours shopping and having various degrees of success at haggling for a good price, but everyone did buy some fantastic treasures.

The trip to the Botanical Gardens took less than 10 minutes. While there, we just wandered around in small groups for about an hour looking at the stately palm trees, interesting cocoa plants and one scary strangler ficus tree. The ride home was filled with various discussions about our wood art purchases, and how we were planning to safely pack them for the air flight back to the States.

Our dinner was again delicious, and consisted of a dish of chicken and rice, cabbage salad and fresh bananas. The younger set stayed to play cards for awhile, then everyone left for bed.

I like to switch things up a bit, so the quote of the day is actually from a song written by Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues back in the 60’s. It happens to be one of my life’s mottos, and helped me immensely through a particular bad couple of years at work under the first two years of a tyrannical boss. She was extremely jealous of my experience and accomplishments, and even though she threatened to fire me on a daily basis, and would never acknowledge me when we passed in the hall, I always greeted her with a smile and a sincere “good morning, Mary”. It drove her nuts.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quote of the day: “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by smiling back, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” –Therese of Lisieux

Journal by: Kristen “Kay” Edwards

Oh, where to start…

Today started off as most others have. 6:00AM: An unfortunate hour made significantly less painful with good conversation, good company, and great food.

Breakfast ran a little later than it typically does, as we all had a weekends worth of activities to rave about and a grand total of 5 journal entries to read. We ended our early morning round table meeting around 8:00AM, still basking in the humorous afterglow of Laurie’s accurate yet satirical recap of our weekend adventures, and made our way down the now well-beaten path to our respective volunteer sites. Sarah, Will, Laurie, and Grace slipped into their classrooms at the local JHS and Primary schools, and Tracee and Margaret continued their trek towards the Peace Perfect school. As per usual, George, Jeff, Steve and I all convened at the construction site for the schools up-and-coming attraction, a new library. Mary, who typically accompanies Tracee and Margaret, decided to try her had at industrial assembly and joined us there. Unfortunately for her, today also shaped up to be the hottest day we’ve experienced since we arrived over a week ago… sufficed to say, I think a lot of us discovered sweat glands where we hadn’t previously known they existed!

We had some initial concerns as to whether there would be work for us to do there, but upon arrival we were immediately tasked with putting up the side-board panels on the second floor and reinforcing said panels with wire, nails, and the occasional well placed wooden brace. They would, after all, be serving as the mold for the 6 inches of concrete we will be pouring tomorrow for the floor on the second story. That in and of itself took up a good chunk of our time, but we were able to successfully complete the job with about 45 minutes to spare. Never the type to retire early, we politely declined Esther’s offer to return to the guest house, and instead spent some time meandering about the schools to get a feel for what the other volunteers in our group were doing.

Laurie’s was the first class we visited, and despite the slight disruption our entrance caused (Sorry again, Laurie!), we were able to spend a few minutes listening to her talk through her Anancee the Spider Trickster Tales with the students. When the children were dismissed from the reading circle to return to their geography, we eased out of one classroom and into various others. Sarah was hard at work, exuberantly teaching a group of student math, while Will was seated outside, patiently tutoring two youngsters on their alphabet and handwriting. At Peace Perfect, Tracee graded her class’s end of term science exams while Margaret finished up a story for the youngest of the bunch. Upon her completion of the literary classic The Rainbow Fish, Jennifer and Abigail (two of the teachers there), were kind enough to give Jeff, Mary, Margaret, and I some lessons in Twi, and I am happy to report that we successfully completed their tutorial on the months of the year.

At 12:00PM, we all reconvened and made the return hike back to guesthouse. Lunch, as always, was delicious. Bless took it upon herself to appeal to our Americanized taste buds, and served chicken, French fries, fresh fruit, and salad. Post-lunch, a few folks returned to their rooms to rest up and shower while Margaret, Tracee and I lounged around the common room, striking up friendly conversation with Esther until the time came for us to head to the Senchi Library. We spent our usual hour with the kiddos (Steve with his returning group of four youngsters- they absolutely adore him!- and the rest of us with any of the many children who showed up, eager to read), after which we parted ways. Us ladies had a driver pick us up from the library to take us to the Cedi Bead Factory. The four gentlemen in the group opted out of the tour (I use the term “opted out” loosely… I do believe one of them said he would rather go take a dive off the dam into Lake Volta than go…) and chose instead to spend some time with the guys from the village playing soccer. Boys will be boys!

I had every intention of torturing them this morning by recapping the bead factory tour in a minute-by-minute, painfully long monologue (including videos, pictures, and a show-and-tell of the merchandise we came home with), but out of kindness to their testosterone-driven aversion to jewelry, I will say only this: The factory was amazing! Mr. Cedi himself was the one to greet us and to take us on a brief tour of the site. Realistically, it was just a large property with 3 long thatch-roofed structures under which worked a handful of nimble-handed bead artists. Some worked in the initial construction phase, where they broke up, ground up, and placed old recycled glass into bead molds. Others worked long hours near the blazing hot firing oven, where molds were placed to melt the glass. Still others worked to shape, decorate, polish, and string the finished product. The work they do there is incredible, and the beads around which their lives are formed are exquisite. It was almost inconceivable to us that they make each and every elaborate bead by hand, from start to finish. It’s hard sometimes to step outside of the bubble of our first-world home to see just how dependant we are on huge industrial machines to do all of this delicate, time intensive work. Where we can mass-produce millions of identical bracelets in a matter of minutes, these people have dedicated themselves to a form of ancient art, and their hard work comes through in the beautiful, unique pieces they produce. We all spent a little more in the factories accompanying shop than we had likely anticipated, but it was well worth it!

We headed back to the guest house just before 6:00PM and arrived just in time for a delicious pasta dinner. Sarah, Tracee, Mary, George, Will, and I spent the after-dinner hours engrossed in a riveting game of Five Crowns before we all retired to bed.

Oh. And one more thing. Mary- sweet Mary- has just recently informed me of my obligation to wish myself a Happy Birthday in this entry so, at the risk of sounding egomaniacal, Happy Birthday to me! And, if I haven’t said it enough, Happy Birthday to Will, whose 15th birthday fell just a day before my 23rd. Funny, isn’t it, that two people with such similar birthdays would find themselves together, half a world away from the places we call home? No better way to spend a birthday though!