Ghana Team Journal

Ghana had made me feel like home

Thursday, August 2, 2012

For breakfast today we had oatmeal, toast, and orange juice. 
Martine was a little tried because she could not sleep.  It could be because in a couple more days I will be leaving for New York.  I can’t believe this is my last journal entry.  I will miss Ghana so much along with the children, my room mate Margaret, Esther, Samuel, Gracey, and Evelyn and the ladies at the clinic.  One of the children even asks me for my phone number so she could call me.  I will definitely miss her and the other children.  Ghana had made me feel like home.  Just when I was getting comfortable, it is already time to leave.

Later this evening for dinner we had the chief charity, Esther, Samuel over for dinner.  We had fried rice chicken and salad.  After the dinner we took pictures.  I’m really going to miss Ghana so much.
Our company brought a non-alcohol drink flavored with pear.  It tasted very good.

Money lesson

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oatmeal, toast, juice was for breakfast. 
We made it to our assignments at 9:00.  Esther took us to school because her son had pink eye so she was on her way to hospital. 

At school today Margaret showed US money compared to Ghana money.  US money is all the same size and color.  Ghana money is different size and different color.  Martine was with students in the library continuing their computer instructions.  I called at 12:30 to see where they are because I do not walk alone to anywhere.
At 2:30 we leave for the Library to read books to children until 4:00.  Then it started raining hard.  I was told this is the rainy season, but this is the first rain I have seen.  

Back to work after a great weekend

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thought of the day: When we face our maker we will not be asked how many positions did you hold but how many people did you help
We woke up late, but it was a great weekend. 

Martine went to the library.  She worked with students with the basic computer knowledge.  Margaret went to a private school and took pictures of her former Global Volunteers adventures. 
Esther took us to the market for material.  Martine wanting pure shaved butter and black soap.  She was looking and found hair extensions of hair to be braided into her hair.  We forgot about the chocolate.  Esther wanted to shop so we went home in a taxi.

 With our material we went straight to Margaret our personal dressmaker.  We got measured and picked out our pattern.
After dinner Margaret removed a mask off the wall to see where it was made.  Out ran a lizard that made Martine scream and Margaret jumped out of her shoes.  I really started to laugh when I looked down and had no shoes on my feet.  This laughter stayed on me for part of the night.


Party at school and busy work day at the clinic

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thought of the day: “We must use what we have to invent what we desire.”-Adrienne Rich

Today is the last day of school for most of the students here. This is the day children bring a dish to school to have an end of the year party with their classmates. The private schools will have theirs next Thursday. 

Today at the clinic, I helped fill out new card applications as well as insurance applications.  This was the most work I’ve done since volunteering at the clinic. More malaria patients came in. A common scene here.
Today was so far the warmest day. Lunch for today was “Red Red” (black eye pea’s stew with ground cassava sprinkle over it served with sweet plantain.  I enjoyed today’s lunch. Margaret was very tired today therefore; she went for a quick nap. In the meantime, Samuel educated me about the culture of Ghana. The driver came to pick us up around 3:00 hour to take us to the bead factory. Traveling by taxi to the bead place was an adventure within itself. There was one area that was bumper and more difficult to drive though. You have to be a pretty skillful driver to get through this road. Once inside the factory, I saw how beautiful this place is. It’s quiet and peaceful. Palm trees everywhere. We saw the equipment and products that were used to make these beautiful bracelets and necklaces. They were mostly made from wine bottles. Both Margaret and I both purchased a couple bracelets.

For dinner that evening, we ate fried chicken served with fried rice and coleslaw. Very good!

Reading more stories

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This morning for breakfast, we were served corn flakes for breakfast. I haven’t had this cereal in decades. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy it because it was served with carnation milk. Plus cold cereals are not my thing. But I did enjoy the omelet with toast.
Esther came about minutes to 8:00am. We sat at the table to read yesterday’s journal. Then we were off to the clinic.

This morning, the clinic was not having as many patients as yesterday. Only about six patients came in while I was there.  While waiting for Gertrude at the front desk waiting to check patients in, I can hear children nearby in the local schools singing and drums beating. The sound of them made me smile. The clinic is in need of many resources. At least from what I have observed. I noticed Gertrude only had one thermometer to check all the patients’ temperatures. Only one scale was available. Simple things like alcohol and alcohol pads, blood pressures monitors, and medicine dispensers, the clinic seemed to be lacking.
Before checking in any patients, a prayer service is always held at every medical center. Most of the patients that came in today had malaria. On girl was so ill that she collapsed in the waiting area. That was a scary scene.

Back to the guest house after the clinic. We were served yam balls with coleslaw, and fish. The food was very good! At 3:00 we were at the library to read to the children. A few of the kids were eager to read me some stories. They were very good readers. One of the books I read to the kids was the Senchi Ferry Library book. The children really loved that one because they were pictures in it.

Dinner was good but a lot. I ate mostly the veggies and a little rice. I was still full from lunch.


It’s off to work we go!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thought of the day: “Man does not become rich unless he enriches others.”

Hi ho hi ho! It’s off to work we go! For breakfast we ate omelets along with oatmeal, toast, and orange juice. We enjoyed it.
When we arrived at the clinic, we listened to a speech about malaria. Gertrude is who Martine was paired up with and I paired with Charity. I was there for 4 hours and 4 patients were diagnosed with malaria. “Uncle Meow” Samuel picked us up from the clinic to go back to the guest house.

Lunch, Martine had chicken peanut soup and Margaret had beef peanut soup served with a loaf of white rice. I say loaf because it was shaped like a loaf of bread.

"Uncle Meow” takes us to the library at 4:00pm. It is a wonderful feeling to have little hands fitting into yours. We helped read books to everyone that stuck a book in our faces. Little hands touching my hair and the beads of my shirt.

 “Uncle Meow” takes us back to the guest house. While making our way over, Samuel would say “see you later” which meant we were walking in the wrong direction. We would always laugh at that.
For dinner we had French fries! With fried chicken and green salad. Yum yum!

Another good day in Ghana.

Warm welcome in Senchi Ferry!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I woke up around 8:00 am. I slept ok. Margaret and I went downstairs to the restaurant within the hotel for breakfast. It was a very simple buffet set up. I had an omelet with what looked like maybe tomatoes added to it with one thick home-style toast with butter and glass of pineapple juice. Very satisfying. Before leaving the hotel we changed our US dollars to the Ghanaian money cedes. $100 US gave us 180 Cedes. Then we were off to the guest house where we will be staying during out time. The ride was almost an hour long. I enjoyed observing the local people and the surrounding areas. The women wore both traditional and western influenced attire. I love watching the women carry baskets of goods on their heads with such grace and confidence. I noticed some farm animals like, goats, sheep, and cows roaming freely. Food market stands are setup along the side of the road. Mangos, melons, coconuts, papayas, yams and grains were among some of the products being sold. The main road is paved but the surrounding areas were mostly brick red color dirt.  The houses the people lived in were make shifts. Nothing fancy. Some areas had the houses apart from one another while some houses were almost on top of each other. Laundry and be seen being hung to dry on walls of the local homes. I even saw a local bathing in the outhouse of his living quarters. There were many unfinished constructions. Esther told me the people work on these homes when they have enough money saved. It can take as long as 5-20 years to finish a project at this pace. I did see one college and an army recruiting school during the ride.
When we reached the guest house, the people there were very welcoming. After settling down in our room, we meet with Esther to have a small quick meeting. We learned some native words like:

 Obroni: “white” person

Maakaye: morning

Maaha: afternoon

Maadwo: evening


To a woman: yaa ena

To a man: yaa agya

To a friend: yaa anua

To a child: yaa oba

After our meeting we ate lunch. Food was awesome! Chicken, jollof rice, and crisp vegetables. After our short rest, Margaret, Esther, and I went on our first walk through Senchi Ferry. The locals were very happy to see us especially the kids. The kids shouted obroni! obroni! We waved them hello. Our first visit was to the Chiefs of the village house. The  greeting was a little different from my norm. We followed Esther and said to everyone in the room then the chief went around to introducing himself to everyone. The chief, Obi, held a special welcoming ceremony for us. Part of the ceremony involved passing around one shot glass and poured schnapps for each person to spill on the ground then take a sip. I thought about not participating in this but Margaret went before me and she received cheers and applause. Therefore, I had no choice but to do it. I’m glad I did it because the smiles and the appreciations were priceless. After we left their home, we went across the road to the library, the one former Global Volunteers helped built. It was a beautiful library with many books and a computer room. On Monday Margaret and I will read to and with the local kids.

By 6:00pm, we were back at the guest house and dinner was ready. Again, the food was great and the most I have ever eaten... After dinner, Margaret and I got to know each other better. She just retired from being a cafeteria manager in Ohio and I’m currently a cafeteria manager in New York.

 It’s after 8pm and I’m still trying to digest the wonderful, filling, food we at 2 hours ago.




First Night in Ghana

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My first stop after I landed in Ghana was a hotel nearby. It was a very simple and basic place. I met my roommate Margaret and  I also met Esther, our team leader. I felt very welcomed. I had my first Ghanaian meal that evening, fried rice, fish cooked in tomato sauce and a couple of baked potatoes. It was good but cold. The food seemed like it was out on the buffet all day. After dinner, I went back to the room to get ready for bed. The bathroom was different from what I’m used to. The tub/shower had no shower curtains. Therefore, when I took my shower I splashed water all over the floor. But I was grateful to have hot water. Water is of concern here if you are a foreigner. I was told not to ingest the water because I will get sick from it. I had to use the bottled water I was given to brush my teeth. Overall, my first night in Ghana was comfortable.

Message of the Day: Money is to be used and not  loved.  If you get that reversed  you  are in trouble because if you start loving money, you will start using people to get more money.

Ready, Set, Go!

Monday, May 28, 2012

On your mark, get set, go.. yes we’re off on our second week of volunteer work in Ghana.  Lyn and Roberta returned to their schools from last week, Emily to the Clinic and Roger and Ann did work this week at the Catholic school.  I passed out the cards made by 4th grade students at a Catholic school where I substitute, and they read the cards, enjoyed the fact that some had US/Ghana flags on them, but loved the individual pictures of the students.  My Ghana class in turn made cards today, and I took pictures, will develop them and get them to the US students before school is out this year.  While I was doing this Roberta was learning the grading system of the schools here, Roger and Ann were “getting their feet wet” in a new school environment and Emily continued to register patients and worked in the examination room.

We left right at 11:45 for home as our lunch was scheduled for 12:15 due to our afternoon plans.  Lunch was perfect: salad, chicken/French fries, fruit.  Then we were off to the market place – the big market filled with everything from “soup to nuts.”  Materials, clothing, foods that were fresh: grains, fruit, vegetables, dried fish and spices, grains, pots and pans, personal and household items charcoal and jump ropes.  Yes, Ann bought a jump rope for recess time tomorrow, Emily and I bought material for sewing projects.  We visited the market for about an hour and a half.  Roger, however, finished in about 20 minutes! 

Home again for some R and R, however, the power has been off and on quite often, and this was followed by a roll of thunder, after which the “heavens let loose” and did we have a Tropical Rainfall?  The power seems to have returned on a regular basis with the rain – this is a good thing! No air, no fan, no refrig, no lights.  Are we spoiled?  Perhaps, but these things are nice to have in Ghana where it is hot and humid and where we like our water cold!!!! 

We had 7:00 supper, and again enjoyed by all.  Proceeded to keep Pam up until almost 9:00 talking over some “hints” from her that we might all love. 

“Education is not just the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire for future dreams. 

I have very much enjoyed working with this volunteer team as I feel we have been a team “moving together” for this purpose.  Continued good work, be well, and will indeed keep in touch. 


A Day Off

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday was a day off, thanks to the observance of African Day, a secular holiday that is celebrated continent-wide.  Government offices are closed, as are the schools.  No one from our team appears to be unhappy about a 3-day weekend.  Even though our days are not overly long, the work is intense and the heat and humidity oppressive, at least for me.  Immediately after breakfast, we were treated to an informative cooking class, presented by Bless, the cook at St. James Guest House, and Rose, our server.  In a step-by-step fashion, we were taught how to make peanut soup, so far the group’s favorite local food.  Bless was wonderfully organized, clear in her presentation, and gracious, making the experience both enjoyable and informative.  Ann was kind enough to take notes so that we can try our hands at making the recipe at home.  As an aside, we collectively muffled our gasps as Bless managed to open an aluminum can using a sizable (and very sharp, I presume) knife.  Earlier, said knife almost amputated Pam’s foot as it slipped out of poor Bless’s hand.  Although I personally would never try her can opening technique, once again I was made aware of how many gadgets we could live without if push came to shove. 

Following our cooking lesson, 5 of us loaded ourselves into a our buddy Richard’s taxi, which took us to Akosombo .  Meanwhile, Emily and Samuel took a tro tro to Accra to exchange Emily’s airplane ticket.  Today’s main activity was a several-hour “stay” at a luxury hotel in Akosombo.  Pam, Roger, and I availed ourselves of the hotel’s wifi and other services.  We all enjoyed lunch together and took advantage of the natural light (something sorely missing at our guesthouse) and the beautiful view of the Volta and its hilly backdrop.  A little luxury seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. (As an aside, I feel guilty even writing these words given the extraordinary poverty we are seeing and experiencing in Senchi Ferry.) 

As my computer battery gasped for air at the hotel, I realized how dependent I’ve become on the internet.  Every time a question comes up in conversation, my reflexive thought is, “I’ll google it.”  Or I spontaneously want to share an experience I’ve had here with family and friends back home.  No go.  For the duration of the morning, I worked frantically do get everything said and done before my battery expired.  As luck would have it, just as it gave up the ghost, lunch was brought to the table.  Emily and Samuel magically reappeared, and we all sat on the hotel’s balcony, enjoying a relaxed meal and beautiful scenery.  I felt like I was in another world

Our trip back to the guesthouse was uneventful, as was dinner, which in part consisted of the peanut soup we watched being made.  Pam and Roger went to hear a local band; the rest of us chose to veg out. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Another great day in Senchi Ferry!  This morning we were greeted with a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast.  Afterwards I walked with  Roger, Ann and Sam toward the school.  I was able to stop at the Methodist school where Lyn and Pam were talking.  After Pam and I headed to the library, Lyn was able to watch a Methodist service in celebration of the founder, John Wesley.  She told us about the beautiful hymns the children sang as well as the sermon about obedience (a lesson my Sunday school class could use as well!).  Meanwhile at the library the internet was sluggishly moving along.  I learned that the Gods of Africa must not want Pam to send emails because no matter what email service we used it would not work!  I headed to the clinic where a few patients trickled in.  I was able to register them as well as take their vitals and prepare the paperwork.  I was excited to feel like I am helping the clinic.

Roger and Ann continued at the private school where they taught the kids about blood pressure and even allowed them to have their BP taken thanks to Roger’s handy machine.

For lunch, Rose and Bless treated us to more local cuisine.  I was a bit weary of the fish heads since I usually don’t eat things that still have eyes and a mouth but I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderful the fish tasted!  The rice and beans were also a big hit.  I also saw Bertie’s eyes light up when Rose brought out the watermelon.

The afternoon was filled with excited children and dancing games with which Lyn became an expert!

In the evening. Summer heat storm served as a beautiful backdrop for a traditional Ghanaian dance performance.  I was stunned at the ability level of the young dancers and drummers.  Watching them dance was almost as beautiful as watching the happiness on their faces as they danced.  I was excited to participate in the drumming.  Some members on our team proved to be talented dancers as well!  May the dance team could fit in six more people.

- Emily 

Worship, teaching and beads

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I had my best day yet! Started off w/breakfast which is a little different everyday-French toast today. Pam updated us on the timetable. Then Ann, Emily, and I were off for our daily jaunt with Samuel to the school. Now, we often see some of the same people as we meander through the so called path. Baby dogs and cats, goats always and some of the same people cooking breakfast. Along the way, a young student came up and said "Are you Roger" . I said yes, and then he proceed to tell me he meet me Saturday near the main road. I was amazed and didn't tell him I didn't remember, but that I would look for him at school. His name was Emanuel.

At the school, I immediately went to the 7th grade class because I didn't see Mr. Daniel. Some students were carrying chairs to another location. I asked why and they said it was because they were going to have worship. I then followed them to another room, where both the 7th and the 8th graders were in one room. After a bit, some drums began beating, and students began singing and dancing. Some had such joy on their faces, pure ecstasy. Others danced in a line, their gyrations would put Elvis Presley to shame. Others reaching to the sky with their hands. It was probably similar to a Pentecostal revival service. I was very touched and moved by their total freedom to express themselves. Later they had sermon from one of the teachers at the school. This worship was for the whole school, so 4 other rooms were all doing the same.

Daniel, the teacher, had found me early in the worship, expressing concern for me. He is such a great guy. I feel so lucky to have worked with him. After the service, I sat with him, just talking about school things. Then at 10 AM, we went to math class. On the short walk, he told me I should teach the class. I mildly chastised him for giving me such short notice but I had prepared some material last night just in case. The first problem I gave the class was given a lukewarm response but the second problem was met with much more enthusiasm. By the third problem, they were in full participation mode. These were kind of trick problems, that made them think out side the box. I left them without telling them any answers, telling them they would have to wait for the next day.

The second group, social studies, was covering rights and duties of citizens. Daniel and I co-taught that class. He would write on the board and explain what it meant and I would give some specific examples and ask them questions about the meaning. It worked out great. I noticed that Daniel was moving away from the front of the room while speaking now too, which I think is important. Tomorrow, we may get an opportunity to take the whole class to the Health Clinic for Blood pressure checks.

In the afternoon, all the volunteers went back to the Library for a individual reading sessions with students. I have been helping a 10 year old boy named Fredrick. He is really a good reader and seems very intelligent. Today, he immediately found the book that he was reading the day before and the page. Generally, there are maybe two others that join us. From the library, we took a van to the Bead Factory. It was about a 30 minute drive and on the way, we went through another town that seem to have a lot of shops. At one point, we turned onto a nondescript road. When we pass the pig sleeping in the road, I knew we were there.

The bead factory was like an oasis in the desert. Very calm and serene, an orchard of mango and date palm trees, grass in front of the very nice abodes. Mark spent lots of time with us, explaining all the details of making different beads. It was very informative. Later, we all went to the store to buy some jewelry. Some took longer than others deciding what to get while I waited outside talking to Mark and Samuel again. Nicholas drove us back to the guesthouse.

Dinner again at 7 pm. Now we found out no school on Friday, but I think we have adjusted to the place and flexibility is our inbred in our nature. After dinner, I went to my room, quite tired yet it was only 8 pm. Good night.

- Roger

Getting whipped into shape

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

 Having decided on groups – eggs, porridge, or eggs AND porridge we proceeded to breakfast.  We are still, however, getting adjusted to taxi schedules.  Richard’s early, we’re late.  We’re early, Richard’s late, we’re early.  Pam is whipping us into shape.  We’ll be early, Richard will be on time.

The morning was productive.  Bertie was concerned that there is nothing going on at playtime so organized games.  Unfortunately, the exertion wiped her out and she slept though library departure.  Lyn worked in second grade which was a downward stretch for her.  Roger/Ann returned to their former teachers working in various requested capacities.   Emily had a full day at the Clinic.  It was pregnant womans day so around 40 came in for ultrasound.  She also worked with the pharmacist preparing  folic acid and vitamins for each woman.

Lunch was a delight – a tremendous bowl of bananas, fried plantain, spicy beans (red with black eyes) into which we stirred cassava.  Kudos to Pam for getting the kitchen to provide local fare.

- Ann

"The Longest Day"

Monday, May 21, 2012

We began this day over a full breakfast of oatmeal, eggs and toast “thanks to our team leader.  Around 7:35, we began our walk, with Samuel to the clinic.   An easy and enjoyable path that took us by families attending to morning chores, children walking to their schools in colorful uniforms, past the new public school presently under construction, and finally to our destination for the day – a private school and the village clinic. 

The clinic was very impressive for a small village facility.  Emily, our team nursing student, will work at the clinic,  The first day, she worked with registration of patients, took blood pressure/weight, helped with malaria patients, and has great hope that she is present for a birth due any time!  The rest of the team members were assigned grade level work at a private school.  Most of us graded paper after we introduced ourselves to the class, and assisted the teacher as needed.

Around noon we left for lunch at our B & B (some on foot and some by taxi).  We shared our morning, and then discussed and somewhat scheduled side trips we might consider during our time here in Ghana.  At 3:00 we returned to the library for an hour of reading with the children.  Pam was also able to get her computer up and running with Samuel’s help.

Returned at 4:00 to rest and settle in for dinner.  Around 5:00 we had our first “big rain.” Very heavy at times and thunder!  Made for a most enjoyable evening in terms of weather… Cooled some.

Our evening dinner was delicious – popcorn for dessert!  After dinner we sat and talked about everything from “soups to nuts.”

Scheduled events to attend when in Ghana, shared stories of our time and experiences from our hour at the library reading with children from the village, shared other Global experiences and our present program, and discussed the possibility of cards…never happened.

Around 8:37, we returned to our room to shower and prepare for tomorrow.  It was a great, and long (for some) day.

Happy Hellos

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 1: The rudest awakening, and the happiest moment of my first day of the program, was a rap on my hotel door at 7:25 AM.  With a mouth full of toothpaste, I opened the door to find my dear friend Pam, who I haven’t seen in 2 ½ years, waiting with a huge bear hug and a directive that we would be leaving at 8 rather than 9 and I’d better hustle.  One hug and a few expletives later, I threw ever thing I had into my luggage, gave the room a quick once-over, and prayed I hadn’t left something there.

Breakfast was efficient, currency was converted, bags were loaded, and off we went in our ban for a pleasant drive to Senchi Ferry.  At our new home, St. James Guesthouse, we introduced ourselves to each other and met Esther, the resident GV leader who has taken off a bit of time to be with her new baby, a scrumptious 3 week old little girl with a full head of hair. (Esther had to pry the baby out of Pam’s loving arms.)  Esther spoke about the program here, after which we retired to our rooms to unpack and rest.  The good news:  The rooms are large and air-conditioned (sort of).  The bad news: no wifi, but far more important, next to no water pressure.  A shower is a cool dribble of water at best (at least mine).  All I can say is that I hope I brought enough deodorant with me.  And anyone who says no sweat to this volunteering business hasn’t been to Ghana.

The highlight of the day was a private audience with the local chiefs, who graciously welcomed us to their community and thanked GV for the work we are doing here.  Following the event, we walked across the road to the new library that GV helped to build.  We were surrounded by local children who wanted to hold our hands, feel our skin, touch our hair.  What a beautiful group of children!  They seemed to enjoy the fact that we were there, and I know we enjoyed them.

After the afternoon activity, 3 group members, including Pam, walked back to the guesthouse, while the rest of us took a taxi.  Back at the ranch, we had dinner followed by a discussion of possible weekend and after school activities.  Finally, bedtime! I was more than ready.

- Bertie

Nearing the End

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Today I didn’t go to school in the morning, because I’ve spent the last few days being nauseous after I eat, but I feel better in a few hours without too many issues, so then I feel silly for not going to work.

We walked to library by ourselves. The people on the way know us now and so we offer greetings back and forth, in Twi. They know we know the traditional greetings, so they switch it up a bit to test us. I keep getting confused between the reply to “Etusen?”, which is “Eya” and the reply to “Aiko!”, which is “Ya-e”. I always have to pause and think about “Ya-e”, which makes them laugh at me, but we are laughing together.

We pass a school that is always getting out just as we come by. Cliff and I were thinking that the chorus of, “Obroni, Obroni!” make us feel like superstars. Perhaps we’ll have to put on a show, now.

Kara had a bag made to take back all the lovely swag that is, wood and hand crafts, that we’ve gotten here, but the zipper isn’t big enough, so we dropped it by for Noah to put another zipper in. Which brings to mind that our days here are numbered: we go home in just a few days.

This is a beautiful place, and the people here have left an imprint on me. Each day when I teach, I meet the children under a mango tree during their break, to play. Mango trees are ubiquitous, here. They’re everywhere! So, when I think about coming back, bringing my family and my friends to enjoy some of the things I have discovered, and some of the people I have met, and who have let me into their community and their hearts, I do not think about good-bye. I think, someday, I’ll just meet you under the Mango Tree.

The Clinic

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Today was a teachers meeting so there was no school for Cliff and Rhonda wasn't feeling well so she stayed home from work. I went to the Senchi Ferry clinic today and it was again very busy which I enjoyed and the people were again welcoming, but this time did not get in a tizzy when I made a mistake.

I worked with Charity the head nurse today and her assistant. Their roles here are more complex than mine at home. I had to explain to her that some things are not in the scope of my practice so I can't diagnosis, but I can do some things under a doctor’s order and assist with vitals or paper work as needed. Once my role was clearer to her she was more apt to be assistive.

Another procedure I watched was the I/D of a finger abscess. It was also done in the office with the woman sitting in a chair, her hand hanging over a regular waste basket, unsterile technique or instruments which were not washed afterwards. The woman had a gaping finger wound, no anesthetic besides one extra strength Tylenol and then a sloppy dressing placed which will not promote healing. I was grossed out and terrified by this practice. She used scissors and a spreader to open the wound. The patient almost passed out so they had to move her to the table to lie down, give her some oral rehydration salt water. She was told to get up after a few minutes they gave her some oral antibiotics to take home and she left.

After clinic time had lunch then Margret came with our dresses, mine were great and I was very pleased as I know I can wear this any where I want. We lay down for a while then learned library was canceled so we laid down some more. Everyone is getting some good rest and feeling better today.

Beginning of the Last Week

Monday, March 19, 2012

We entered our last week today. I headed to the Senchi Ferry clinic and Rhonda went to the New Akrade clinic. It was much busier at this clinic and felt more welcoming today as they started off with all the patients and providers singing and praying together, then discussed the process of checking in. We saw 26 patients in the 1st hour of opening. I helped do vitals while another man did the intake paperwork. The check in process was complicated as the patients had to go from station to station before they were seen by the nurse. Several forgot their ID cards which show their folder number and this is what allows the nurse to see their history. This clinic doesn't charge for the cards or folders as the New Akrade clinic does. The practices and availability of services between the two clinics are like night and day.

Rosemond one of the cooks at the St.James guest house checked in today as she was still quite sick and might have malaria, but she didn't have her card so they made her wait a long time to check in as they allowed others to check in before her. It would be easier to use the patients name rather than a number to make their folders and that way they don't have to bring another card with them other than their insurance card.

We had my favorite meal today curry sauce over rice. Then napped until library time. It was cooler today, but very humid so I was sweating a lot. The kids were quieter than they have been in the past, but there were more of them today. When we returned Cliff was gone, but Margret came with our dresses. Mine were a little tight, but can easily be fixed so I ordered a few more items and will have them before I leave.

Things I've learned about Ghana

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 15, Saturday, March 17th, 2012
Since we have made it through 2/3rds of our stay in Africa, I thought I would revisit some of the things I’ve learned since I’ve been here.
Things I’ve learned in Ghana:
1.      Africa is made primarily of hot.
2.      Lizards will come into your house. Deal with it.
3.      Hand sanitizer is essential.
4.      Toilet paper is not.
5.      Neither are toilets, for that matter.
6.      The romance of a mosquito net over your bed is inversely proportionate to the amount of time you’ve spent sleeping under one.
7.      Vascular clamps make good clothespins.
8.      It is possible to take an effective shower using just two, 1.5 litre bottles of water.
9.      It is possible to drink or eat almost everything, including spaghetti, out of a plastic bag with no utensils
10.  It is okay to love someone for the color of their skin.
11.  It is not okay to hate them for it (I knew this one before. I just thought we should all review).
12.  Greet people. All of them. All the time. Preferably in their language. It feels good.
13.  No matter how many times I tell people my name, I am still the Obroni in the purple hat.
14.  Obroni is the word for “White person” which people, usually children, use to call out to us wherever we are. It must be acknowledged by a wave or reply, or it will continue in sing-song fashion. Sometimes they will come running to us, yelling “Obroni! Obroni! Obroni” and jump into our arms. This is always wonderful, and sometimes makes you cry. It is okay, they can’t tell because of the sweat. It just mixes in. Your cheeks were already dripping.
15.  It is okay to reply “Obibini!” when you don’t know the child’s name, and which means black person. The children are delighted by this and giggle. I think this type of exchange would not go over well in the States, but in Ghana, we are all honored by acknowledging our differences and celebrating our similarities.

he only time you run out of chances is when you stop taking them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today and yesterday were fairly typical days for work, although I did more teaching both days. Yesterday, I had the class by myself for most of the morning. Today, I had the class for the second half of our work day, and I broke the class up into small groups to work on the skits we will perform for the rest of the class tomorrow. The children have trouble taking initiative in planning, although they are eager for the learning and the experience, they often need both very specific instructions and permission to act on their own. They need lots of encouragement to share their own ideas and implement them. It’s very different from home.

After work we ate a quick meal of sandwiches (an egg and cabbage mixture that was fabulous) so we could get to Akosombo market again. This is the first time I had been on a market day, and the market was booming! Stalls were everywhere and seemed to go on forever. People were often surprised to see the Obronis there, but eager to show off their goods. The fabrics, as usual, were stunning, and there is always more I want to buy. It would be easy to get myself in trouble in such a place.

The girls ventured out again after dinner and went to the Volta bridge. What a moment to have the batteries in my camera die! I walked quickly through the market square on my own while Ashley and Kara walked the bridge, so I could replace my batteries. Being an Obroni alone in the market at the end of day is quite different. Many of the vendors can be insistent, it is the end of the day and they are eager to sell the rest of their goods. It can be a lesson in assertiveness, although played out in another language, which can present difficulties. Success in finding the batteries had me back at the bridge where I took the most amazing pictures as evening fell. The clouds were afoot, and the evening shadows lent an incredible effect to the photos. We met many people, and, as usual, many men who were interested in coming to America with the Obroni women, but all were unfailingly polite and interesting to talk to.

As we were looking for a tro tro in the dark we met Desmond., a cabbie, who was very eager to carry us to our African home, so much so that it didn’t cost more than 60 American cents to take the taxi over the tro tro, and it was totally worth it. We jammed out to reggae music on the all too short trip, and queried Desmond about his life growing up in Akrade. I arrived home ready to dance the night away, but instead we stayed up for “Girl Talk” in Ashley’s room while she showed us what treasures she was bringing home as she leaves tomorrow.

I am really going to miss Ashley as she leaves the team after just one more work day. It’s very odd to get close to people so quickly, but new experiences tend to forge stronger bonds, and we have confided in each other about our experiences here in this beautiful place. I wish she could stay another week so we could have more adventures like today.

Another Typical Day

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Today was another typical day.  Kara and Rhonda went to the clinic after breakfast, and Cliff and I walked to school with Uncle Meow.  At this point we don’t need him to find our way; we just like his company.  He teaches us songs and makes us laugh.  Its also nice to have someone around who can teach us new words in Twi as we greet everyone we pass. 

The school is becoming more like a second home as we get to know the children and teachers.  Every day we spend a little time in the classrooms, play outside with the children for a while, and then return to the classrooms for a little more learning before uncle meow picks us up.  We walk back for lunch, and show up late and after the clinic girls every day.  We could leave early, but it isn’t easy to leave such an eager bunch of students.   After a short rest, we set off for the library.  There were lots of children there again yesterday since it didn’t rain.  The time passed quickly and soon it was time to close and go home. After dinner Uncle Rabbit, Uncle Meow, Madam Macaroni and I walked to a little place past the school for some drinks.  I saved the bottles for science class.  Then we went to another place to watch football.  This was one more thing we don’t have in the US.  It was a building much like a lot of the other buildings around here, but there were two TVs set up next to each other, each showing a different football game.  All the chairs were set up facing the games.  The people watching with is got very heated and into the game.  A couple of them even looked like they were going to fight.  It was a great time.  After the games were over we walked home with our friends and went straight to bed.  It had been another full day and we were exhausted.

At the Clinic

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rhonda and I awakened and today the others were already up when we went to wake them, this was a pleasant change. After breakfast we had our meeting and then departed for the clinic while Cliff and Ashley returned to the school.

The clinic was busy today with many people coming in pairs. The clinic is seeing a lot of new patients. We held reorganize the patient folders and remarked them to make it easier to read and easier to find them. I was relieved that we did not meet any resistance on this and the nurses continue to be very welcoming. Lydia's son was here again today and Agnes and Mary are over their illnesses so it was a full staff today.

After clinic time we went home and I attempted to wrap up my beautiful woman wall hanging and Ester took it to the post office to see how much shipping would cost. I loved lunch as it had so many vegetables. Then the dress lady came and we were able to get premeasured and tell her what we wanted.

Cliff and Ashley headed to the Akosombo market for fabric and Rhonda and I hung out with Lydia then headed to the library early. We were there before most of the kids and when they did come in they were quite shy. The younger children were much more rambunctious  and I had to stop a few from hurting each other. One girl was very obnoxious, but was so beautiful it made me sad to watch her. The walk home seems to be getting easier, but I still would be lost on my own. When we returned home I was really hoping for a shower, but instead I got a large mouth full of bug spray. What a bummer. So we watched a movie on Rhonda's laptop then the power went out and we had dinner by flashlight. It was fun, but hot and then suddenly the power was back on. I showered and called my husband then read for a while before going to sleep for the next day.

Saturday at the Market

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Today we engaged a taxi to go to Accra by way of Aburi market. We wanted to go to the Arts & Crafts market, and then we need to drop off Jennifer at the airport, since our first team member is going home.

The market was smaller than I expected, just 20 stalls on each side of the road. This was primarily a market for woodwork, and the work was incredible. I immediately fell in love with a traditional man and woman statue set, and then a nativity, which I forgot to go back and buy: heartbreak! We found many traditional masks and wood wall hangings. I bought some things for my sons, and a leather box for my daughter.  Most of the team came away with beautiful handcrafts for their families back home.

We went to the Botanical Gardens for lunch and met Kwame (Saturday born) Michael, an artist who is soon going to the Bronx, New York to teach woodcarving! He showed us around the gardens and we saw the oldest tree in Ghana. We also saw a dead tree whose trunk and branches Michael had carved into a sculpture of people helping each other to climb up. It was so beautiful! I got a picture, and then we had to say good bye to our new friend. I gave him our contact info, and he will call when he gets to the US.

It was hard to say goodbye to Jennifer at the airport, and now our team doesn’t feel complete. It’s so sad to see her go!

The drive back was long and hot and we bought our first drinks from street vendors through the windows of the van while stuck in traffic (Sprite/Coke) it was heaven, since our water was quite warm at that point. After we got out of town, the traffic was not bad, and we made it home in time for dinner: spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce! Wonderful!

Day two at school

Friday, March 9, 2012

Today was cleaning day at the school, so the children had the desks outside and were wiping them off when we arrived. I wanted to get some pictures of this kind of activity, but the minute you turn a camera on the children they stop what they are doing and ham it up, and other children try to crowd into the frame. I was able to alleviate this problem somewhat by pointing the camera in a direction I wasn’t going to photograph while I set the zoom, and only turning to take the picture when it was ready and I could do it quickly.

The girls surrounded me not long after I arrived and wanted me to do the Downtown Baby song with them again. I taught them another move at the end. If I teach one new move a day, we should have the song finished by the time I leave here. They had asked me yesterday if I would write the words out for them, and I did, so they could copy it. I am hoping to have a laminated copy made in Accra, for the wall of the classroom. .

I was much more comfortable in the classroom today, and the teacher opened up to me a bit more as well, asking questions and telling me about the school and class structure. During break, the girls immediately surrounded me again, and we played until a boy came to tell me I was wanted in the school. He led me to a classroom that held three teachers, chatting to each other, and I explained the child told me they wanted me. They said it was a mistake, they were asking for someone else, but we started up a conversation and they were very interested in what my life was like in America. They were fascinated to learn that my husband did much of the cooking and grocering, and that he brought me tea and rubbed my feet at the end of the day. I asked them if they were married and they all said no, but then I told the one male teacher there that now he would know how to make a good husband, and they all had a good laugh.

After lunch we went to the Akosombo market to buy fabric to have dresses made. It wasn’t a market day, so all the stalls weren’t open, but it still had quite a bit going on, with many people and taxi’s coming and going. The fabrics were incredible! So many beautiful patterns!

Day Two

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We were up at 4:30 am here because of the time change. No worries, the hotel pool is open 24 hours a day! Kara and I enjoyed a swim under the night stars, and then under the sunrise. A lizard watched us from his perch on the hotel wall. Today we travel into the interior where we will be working, so this is the last of pools and hot showers for awhile. Also internet. I'm adjusting, as you can clearly see!

Piling into the van with, again, far too much luggage, we are agog at the differences we see in this world. I am reveling in the browns and tans, and earth tones of the landscape against the red clay that is everywhere, but Jennifer is exclaiming how lush and green it is! The difference in perspective coming from Oregon, where everything is lush and green year ‘round, including the moss-covered roofs of our houses, and coming from California, where the dessert sits outside your window is profound for being adjacent states. But it allows us a window into the differences and similarities that make up our different team members.

Before we left the capitol city of Accra, we saw a significant amount of livestock, cattle of an indeterminate type, some of which were longhorns, lots of chickens, and many, many goats.

Shops are small buildings, usually cheek-by-jowl to each other, or larger, roof-covered areas open to the air. In more than one of these we saw caskets for sale on the side of the highway. This must be the local funeral parlor! Actually, they are wood craftsmen, and these are some of their wares. Pots are many in these markets. I was taken with the most beautiful columns made of cement that you bring home in segments and construct on site, they had incredibly ornate capitols, often in Corinthian style, and designs in the body of the column that Esther explained were Ghanaian. I saw some of these incorporated into local architecture later.

We arrived at the Guest House and the entire staff, The gatekeeper, Emanuel, Philip, Bless, Abigail, and Rosemunde, was on hand to greet us. They said “You are welcome” which means just that here, that we are welcome to be here, not the traditional American reply to a “Thank you” we are used to. Getting settled into our room was easy, as it was quite large and comfortable, with an en suite bath.

The day had already been full, but the best part was still ahead of us. We were welcomed in a village ceremony to the town of New Akrade by the Chief, his second in command, and the Queen Mother, the designated representatives of the three local royal families and their tribes, the Akans, the Guan, and the Ewes. He welcomed us not only to the community, but into the community, and promised us that the people of the town would look after us and watch over us and our safety, and that he would be our father, and the Queen Mother our mother as long we were here.

After the ceremony Esther explained that the Chief had inquired about marrying Kara, then me when he discovered Kara to be taken. The Chief, apparently married but able to support more wives, was fascinated with our hips, and zaftig appearance. They like their women big, here. Many people would come up to us, exclaiming on both our skin and our robust hips. More than one woman wanted Kara to donate some of hers. They think we are beautiful. Ghana is a good place for the ego of a large woman.

On the way home we were talking with Esther about the ceremony and the different tribes and states of Africa. We chatted about how the Chief had promised that the town would keep us safe, and all would watch over us while we were here. She said we would have no trouble in New Akrade or the surrounding areas, but sometimes in Accra, there is trouble (kidnapping) and it is always found to be Nigerians. She said it is a Muslim country that has not gotten its “stuff” together and there is always trouble. I found it interesting to note prejudices between African tribes and states, or customs and cultures, when at home most people look at Africa, a place 3 times the area of the US, as one vast, singular culture.