Ghana Team Journal

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This morning was a quiet one. Judy stayed in bed, Kathleen’s tummy was rumbling from lunch yesterday and we all were just contemplating the day ahead. We all went to our respective schools by foot since it wasn’t so hot so Ryan and I walked together and got to chat about volunteer programs and reality shows. Ryan’s teacher was being evaluated so he just observed and then graded papers. I actually taught a class about dirty water and clean water and they thought that it was funny that they could see their hands thru the clean water bottles. I hope they will remember that when they have to decide for them selves. I questioned Monique what she taught and she said everything. Lunch was rice ball soup which was loved by some but not so much by others. We had a brief rest and headed back to the library at 3 for reading. with the children. I got to spend time listening to the children reading for a change. After waiting for frank for what seemed like an hour he finally arrived to take us home. Katherine, Ryan and Debbie did a quick change and headed off to the Volta for Internet, wine, American food and chatter. Judy stayed in because she was still fighting a bad headache while Kathleen and Monique and Judy got to enjoy a meal of not so appetizing rice with tomato soup like……… It was really enjoyable spending time with Katherine and Ryan in a different setting. We played games and swapped stories. Ryan by far had the most outrageous. All in all we had a common thread of family, friends, and service. As my week comes to a close I have done a lot of reflecting. I’m happy about my life so far but look forward to the challenges that are ahead of me. With the new friends I have made I have no doubt that I will have all of the support I need for whatever adventure lies ahead.

Monday, February 27, 2012

After spending a week at the Beatrice Akoto school, yesterday, Monday the 27thof February, I returned to the Nana Amo School, often called the “open school”and where I spent my first week in Senchi Ferry. As I discovered last week, the B. Akoto school was also somewhat “open”. This is not a qualification of the intrinsic quality of the school but the walls between the classes are just about 3 feet high. I have felt that the constant noise coming from the other classrooms is overwhelming and certainly not conducive to serious concentration and learning. Surprisingly, the 18 children of the 3rdgrade at the “Open school” could read just as well and do more advanced mathematics than the 18 children of the same grade, same age at the B. Akoto school. So these children are capable of studying and learning in what seems to be yet a very disruptive environment! So much for our western habits, values and philosophy!

Upon arriving at the “Open school” (Nana Amo school) in the morning, I was greeted by the Master of the school, by Misma, the third grade teacher whom I had met the first week, as well as by the ICT teacher (Information Communication Technology). As soon as I entered the class at the “Open School”, three children rushed to set a desk for me while I greeted the teachers. The children dusted the desk very carefully and they invited me gracefully to sit down in the blue plastic armchair accompanying it. I then discovered that the desk had been spirited away swiftly from the closest child! He too had to work, so as I thanked the children for the desk and chair, I yet asked for the permission from Misma to return the desk to its regular occupier. Agreed!

The ICT teacher then took “the podium” over to give the children an exercise on ICT, exercise related to a presentation made last week by an ICT “visitor”!2 questions:
1) What is a “paint” application?
2) Write down any four features of a paint application.

Evidently, the class had understood little if anything about what was said or demonstrated during the presentation last week. As I walked slowly between the desks, it seemed that the students could not even quite remember what went on during that presentation. The result of the exercise was chaos, sheer chaos! But there is a ray of hope since this morning we shall again visit the computer room!At this stage, Misma simply switched to a mathematics exercise completely ignoring the questions and the eventual answers to the ICT exercise given! As it seems to happen often, pencils are missing and there is no supply available. I, for one, have now exhausted my personal supply. As I insisted for the retrieval of pencils from the children’s bags, a few pieces appeared which were the occasion of yet another session with razor blades. I am getting used to it and somewhat admire the skills of children with this unfriendly tool!
So, on with the “Division of triple numbers by double numbers”:
1) 200:50=4
2) 100:20=5
3) 108:36=3
4) 108:56=
5) 250:10=
3 divisions with answers, 2 divisions to be solved. All the children of the class, except for one boy and one girl seem to have forgotten what they could do 10 days ago. Of course, it is tempting to review the entire process by talking to the class as a whole. But it was not Misma’s idea it seems. So I started a row of explanations, one child at a time, but jumping left and right through the class to make sure that I reached everyone. Slowly, the exercise got done. If I happen to be alone with the class this week, I’ll know for sure what to do. No lack of inspiration there! Time for recess!We now switched to a grammar lesson: prepositions!I recall that the children have studied adverbs two weeks ago.Some examples are offered to show the structure of a sentence with a preposition.Now, prepositions are divided into four groups: place, time and duration, directions, purpose. For today, we study prepositions expressing a place. Two examples each are requested for the use of the following prepositions: above, between, under, in front, outside. The teacher retires to his desk and seems oblivious of how the children do the exercises. Evidently, the next grammar lesson on prepositions should include a clear distinction between an adverb, already studied, and a preposition. But, overall, the answers to the exercise are not too bad. The children even seem to have fun. They ask questions, suggest new examples, some start to correct their friends who may have some difficulty. Examples are given spontaneously, corrections are suggested. There is true friendly interaction and cooperation between them. It all ends on a pleasant note. As I leave the class to go to the Library, the head master accompanies me and we talk. I take this opportunity to mention the pencils situation, which I find too dismal! He listens and tells me that there is a small supply of pencils in the office. He will ask that some be distributed to the class. I shall wait with much anticipation. A pleasant note at the end of the morning!

“Some people see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not..” -- Robert Kennedy

Sunday, February 26, 2012

After a nice breakfast, once again under the hut by the sea, we joined our driver for
the journal home. First stop was to the Elmina Castle. This is the first castle to be built in this part of Ghana. It is very much the same as the Cape Coast Castle with all of the stories of
horror. At last we were on the road again. Oh yes we did have some troubles paying our bill because different items were on each other’s bill. Apparently they thought we were one big happy family, 83, 59 and 33 years old! It was a very good adventure.

We arrived back to the St. James with a note from Judy that Kathleen, Debbie and Judy were swimming an relaxing at the Volta Hotel. After the 6 hour long drive we were looking forward to a nice cold shower. Monique and I were even planning to do some laundry. Alas, no such luck. Instead of low water pressure, there was NO water pressure, no water at all. No washing, no showering and even no flushing! We were brought several buckets of water to use as we needed. A sponge bath and a bucket of water over my head had to do.

Back from the Volta we are now six, as the other left over the weekend. Judy reported that she wandered the village on Saturday and attended a funeral. Sunday Debbie went to church with her teacher. It seems that we all had a nice relaxing weekend and will be ready to go to work on Monday. Katherine Garlington

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I am at the beach and very happy. That sentence was written at 8:30 AM. It is now 9:40 PM and I am sitting at a table, under a thatched roof, beach hut only 20 feet from the ocean. It has been a spectacular day and evening. My biggest problem is that I am getting the sea mist on my glasses. That certainly isn’t such a dreadful problem. Monique, Ryan and I made the trip to the Cape Coast for the weekend. I am now enjoying my 2nd relaxing evening at the Coconut Grove Beach Resort. It is lovely here. Life is good and I am happy.

Monique and I had an interesting morning. After breakfast, we met our driver for we thought would be a short car ride to the Cape Coast Castle. We kept driving and driving and suddenly we arrived at the Kokum National Forrest, a nature reserve with hanging bridges under the canopy. We thought this was to be a Sunday adventure. Neither of us was prepared with bug spray or socks for Monique. Our driver kindly showed us to where we bought our tickets and then there was some discussion with him and the guide. The result was that since we were both “old ladies”, we should go ahead of the group for the rocky stepped climb. We were assured that the rest of the group would join us. They did so very noisily. Any chance of wildlife seeing was cancelled by the number of people and the noise. We did see three butterflies, two geckos and a few distant birds. After the canopy walk, our driver took us to the Cape Coast Castle. It’s a must for all to see. First we went through the very informative museum, covering Ghana’s history prior to slavery, the slavery stories and a section of the roles of the Queen Mother and the Chiefs. As we toured both the museum and the castle it’s self I was horrified at what I saw, including a branding iron and the dungeons where so many were held under horrible conditions. It was a very sobering experience.

We were back at the hotel in time for lunch. Ryan had stayed behind for a morning of swimming, reading and napping. Monique and I found another comfortable table under the thatched roof and settled in for a wonderful lunch. My sole was terrific. Ryan eventually joined us. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and discussing life in general. At some point I took a brief swim in the ocean. The water was a great temperature but the undertow was quite strong. We were so relaxed with the sea breeze, we found our selves sitting in the same place and it was then time for dinner. This time we all ordered the seafood pasta, which was enjoyed by all. Some where in there I found time for an Internet checkup to find that all is well at home. Monique and Ryan have headed to their respective rooms as I finish my journal at 9:40 PM, listening to the waves and enjoying the breeze. I think I could stay her the rest of my life.

Keep calm, and Carry on. Shared by, Ryan

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oh that rooster! I have wondered for many days now what he is doing at 4:20 in the morning. This morning I laid awake realizing that today and tomorrow our my last two days in Senchi. I started thinking about my return to Mill Valley, but quickly reminded myself that I needed to stay in the moment and continue to soak in this experience. Today was Ellen’s big day to present to the high schoolers, all one thousand of them. Despite some technical difficulties, she was able to convey to them how to dream about your future and how to put your plan into action. Midway through her talk, I thought about how proud Benji and Amy would have been to see their Mom deliver her first international speech. Luckily, our IT guy, Mark, was able to capture the whole presentation on his flip camera. Interestingly on our way to the high school, Ester, Monique and I, picked up a boy who was clearly arriving late to school. I asked Ester if there would be a punishment because he was arriving so late and the answer, as I understood it, was that he would be caned. I feel as though I have seen more than my fair share of caning these past two weeks. Without a doubt it makes me cringe and I wonder if it is the only way to get the students to behave. It troubles me. Threatening students with a stick swirling around in the air would not be acceptable in the US. The day continued in its typical way with teaching or reading with the kids in the morning, lunch, naps and afternoon activities. The group seemed to go off in different ways after lunch, some to the Volta for peace and quiet, a few to the internet café and others to the library for reading. Katherine on the other hand commented at dinner that her day had been filled with new adventures. From attending a Roman Catholic Ash Wednesday mass to walking to the Volta River with a group of children, she announced what a special and incredible day it was. When I look back on these two weeks I feel as though I have had some pretty unique experiences that will stick with me. Whether is was meeting with the woman at the Embassy, taking command of a KG-2 class, dancing ever so slowly at the Volta, or jogging through the village on Sunday, it has all have been very memorable. To me, Senchi is a very special place on this earth. I really love the way it takes me completely out of my comfort zone and returns me home fully appreciative of all the wonderful friends and family that surround me. Once again I feel good about my time here in Ghana. I am not sure I have changed any lives, but I do believe that I have put many smiles on kids’ faces and brought them laughter and joy. Tomorrow Mark, Lynn and I are leaving, and Ellen on Saturday, for our respective homes. I know we will be thinking of you and wishing you our best from afar. We hope that you will continue to fulfill the goal of bringing peace and harmony to this beloved community. When I came here in 2010 with some of you, we had an experience that was both the same and different from this one. We had more formal ceremonies and celebrations in town with the chiefs – full regalia, music, dancing and the like. With the spate of recent funerals and other obligations we have missed that this time, but I would like to share some of my impressions from back then and now. It seems time to give the heat its due. There is no doubt about it; Senchi Ferry is a three-shower-a-day place. Hot water in the shower? Who really cares? I have never been a hot weather person, but here I tend to cross over into a heat zone and to the point where I really don’t care. There is a certain camaraderie in all of us operating beyond our normal heat indices. Dr. Lewie, veteran of 18 Global Volunteer trips to share his dental talents, has a pre-trip heat-training regimen that includes time in a sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room. I am told that dripping sweat into a patient’s open mouth is generally frowned on in the dental profession. So Lewie’s training solution cuts down on that workplace no-no. This afternoon we had a do-over on our opening ceremony and my clapping had improved. It was similar to the first opening ceremony, but outdoors and with more music and dancing. The village got to say hello and goodbye to the McNallys all in one ceremony. The chiefs sacrificed another partial bottle of Schnapps to their ancestors. We never get to see where the rest of the bottle goes. Deb was presented with a gorgeous dress while Jack, John and Julian received beautiful shirts. The local leaders loved knowing that there were 7,700 books going into the library and used the occasion to pitch Kathleen’s scholarship program. It sounded to me like a lecture to parents and students saying that, with the library and the scholarship program, there is no reason Senchi Ferry should not be a leader in education. They didn’t quite come out and say, “We should be kicking New Akrade’s butt in education,” but that seemed like the sentiment. We got to see Deb cry and we got to see Lewie put all of us to shame on the dance floor. Lewie has some serious dance moves. Unless Emily can come out of her sickbed and show us her stuff, our group doesn’t even have a second best dancer. Our frequent cab driver, Phillip, put it most succinctly when asked to describe our dancing to Brittany and Emily. He said, “It looks pretty white.” Our group two years ago had an age range almost as wide as this one – from 18 to 73. We felt quite proud of our accomplishments as this group will too. With Lynn leaving before our next journal reading, Lisa and me the next morning and Ellen the following day, I’d like to offer these reflections:As we parted in 2010, we shared two readings that seemed to have meaning for young and old alike. I am so sorry that the Rogin kids have left us before sharing this moment, but I’d like to ask Ellen to pass these sentiments on to them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It was another typical morning in Ghana – an egg and toast, morning meeting and loss of power – however, when I walked out of my room at 7am, I was greeted by a much welcome cloud cover and cool breeze. This was a nice change from the 100 degree heat and high humidity. We broke from our meeting and went our separate ways to teach in the various local schools. Thankfully, at my school, B. Akotu, my teacher showed up and decided to basically recap everything I did on my own with the class when she was absent yesterday. We reworked round-estimate quotients first for math, then continued on to English. The class reread the excerpt from the English book on natural disasters and proceeded to answer the exercises in their homework books. We took a long break around 10am and ran around the fields outside the classroom. I was being chased by KG kids yelling “obrone” and trying to get me to make funny faces while the older students pestered me again for a soccer ball and my ipad – saying over and over– “we need ball – play games?”
The bell rang and we all reluctantly meandered back to our classrooms to continue the mornings work. For my class, this meant more reading and then on to some science. We discussed again the difference between transparent, translucent and opaque objects – a concept that I apparently succeeded in teaching them yesterday. I left the class doing work in their exercise books and walked Monique to her old classroom to deliver a book.
The two of us wandered home, attempting – unsuccessfully - to step from rock to rock as to not fall into the mud on the path by the main road. We all met for a quick lunch of black-eyed peas, chick peas and rice. Soon after lunch, the majority of the group went off to the Cidi Bead Factory up the road and watched the manufacture of glass beads – a process of crushing glass into basically sand, forming the grains together into a bead-like form, cooking and melting the beads to form and then finally the painting process, where they became the final product for the bracelets and necklaces shown off by the group over dinner.
Dinner was one of my personal favorites, spaghetti and meat sauce. Soon afterwards, Kathryn and I went down to Adam’s Pub to meet Samuel, Francesca, Ernest and Mikhasis for a beverage and a chat. We hung out for a couple of hours talking about local politics, music, movies and teaching each other native words and traditions. A very good time was had by all and I think we all learned a bit about the other’s culture during our time together. We cruised back home by the ungodly hour of 9pm and went to our rooms spent. Sleep came quickly as we recharged out batteries for the remainder of the work week

Monday, February 20, 2012

Today is Monday, February 20, the launch of Week 2 of our service journey together. The day began with our usual tasty breakfast before heading to our work sites, including schools and the library, where we were all greeted warmly by the children. By noon, when the heat had cooked us all to a nice medium rare temperature, we returned to the St James palace, and most are eager to cool off with a shower before lunch. We enjoyed a lunch favorite of fried chicken, salad and delicious homemade french fries before heading out to another afternoon of tutoring and hugging the local children.

When I re-read the team journal over the weekend, I realized there was something missing. It was the emotional impact that I believe this experience is having on the team. I imagined those thoughts were expressed in private journals, and thought it would be insightful to hear about some of those ways we were all touched. I am making a request to the team to include some reflections as part of the daily journal this week. To that end, here are some of mine: Now that we have been here 2 weeks, everyone seems comfortable with the flow of life in Ghana, a marked slower pace than that of Massachusetts, Georgia, Vermont, Chicago, New York, Boston, Tempe, San Francisco, Iowa and Baltimore. We realize that the surviving the afternoon heat is best accomplished when you sit down, relax, and watch the world go by. Isn’t that the best part of life, enjoying that feeling of just being in the moment? And in Ghana, we are helping others as we learn/experience new things along the way.

Patience and conceding control has definitely been a challenge on this trip for some of us. Many of us hold positions of leadership back in the States (or are inherently strong willed) and one of the most important tenets of successful leadership is to let others feel a sense of empowerment. I believe are all trying to make room for each other to succeed and lead with gentle pushes from time to time. It is a tough thing to do sometimes, and especially in this environment, where basics can be challenging.As I have said to John, my family, and close friends, coming to Ghana is the hardest thing I have ever done and continues to be. That actually still takes me by surprise. I have been humbled by my experiences here. I have been reminded that the small things in life are what really matter, and most importantly, that I am nothing without my community of friends and family. My heart both sings with pleasure and weeps daily from what we see, hear, smell and feel. I live in the moment in a way I find is hard to do at home, and perhaps that is why time seems to pass like the flow of molasses. All we have is the here and now, as there are few distractions World news, our families, our jobs, our day-to-day issues and responsibilities to balance. With limited access to TV, phones, the Internet and newspapers, our present world has become the village, and our friends & family, each other. There is a sense of freedom with being in the moment, but it is also a little scary.

After a plate bowl of veggie/meat Ghanaian pot pie, everyone except out party boy Ryan, went to bed….earlier and earlier it seems to enjoy a night of rest.

Amedzofe and Wireless Internet

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The day began quite early for us as Debbie the plumber saved us from flooding when the toilet exploded at 2 AM. That event then kept her and Judy awake for much of the remaining slumber time. At 2:30 Judy finally sat up, grabbed her computer and spent two hours typing a letter home, as well as Saturday’s journal entry.

We left our Paradise Hotel around 9 and continued up the mountain towards our first stop of the day in Amedzofe. This village is a former German mission and during the 1930’s a 12 foot cross was erected on Mount Gemi’s peak by the German missionaries. There is a local legend that the cross doubled as a communication device during World War II! The three of us sauntered through the village for about 45 minutes, stopping to chat with the locals as we strolled. The scenery from here was spectacular from every angle, and the local villagers seemed so interested in talking with us. One gentleman, a retired teacher, knows exactly where Senchi Ferry is and said when he drives down to Kpong this week he will come to visit us.

Judy knew that Chances has a Business Center, so we were confident they would have Wireless -- and they did! The woman at the front desk gave us the password -- avocado tree -- and in no time Judy and Debbie were online with lightening-speed internet. It was as fast, or even faster, than what I have at home sometimes! Debbie skyped her husband, her mother, her sister and her best friend, and Judy skyped her sister. Emails were read and sent by all of us, and even Wisdom pulled out his laptop and began cruising the Internet. Around 1:45 we realized we wouldn’t have enough time for our final visit, which was to be an eco-tourism village on the Volta, about an hour south of Senchi, so we decided to enjoy our free Wireless, and then head home around 2:30.

Our trip through the Volta Region was thoroughly enjoyed by the three of us. The people we met and the sights we saw were all fabulous, and the relaxed pace of the trip was perfect for us to re-energize ourselves for the coming week. We are all in agreement that this company’s brochure needs to be included in the Global Volunteer’s Outing Guide, and we will write up an itinerary of everything we did and what the costs were. Aside from the cost for the vehicle and driver ($340 split three ways), the three day trip including two nights hotel, two breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and gas for the vehicle, cost each of us $110. We had a blast and highly recommend this excursion for future volunteers.

Waterfalls, Winds and What is Going On Out There???

Saturday, February 18, 2012

After a light breakfast of tea and toast Katherine and Debbie headed off to the Wli Falls around 8 AM. On the short walk from the hotel to the hike reception area they passed two spots (bars) with music blaring. We signed in at the Reception and were charged 7 cedis per person, plus 1 cedi per camera. Alfred was our guide to the falls and told us about flora and fauna, as well as his decision at age 50 to remain single and childless, although his mother continues to expect him to marry before she dies.

The walk was 45 minutes to the falls. At our first bridge crossing women and children were washing clothes in the river and colorful garments were draped over the rocks drying in the sun. It was a lovely walk, first through farm lands and then through a tropical jungle of ficus trees, bamboo, mahogany, and many other trees that Alfred told us about. We also saw butterflies and a praying mantis with a beetle in her grasp. We crossed 10 footbridges, each crossing with more water as we got closer to the falls.

At last we were there. In a big opening in the forest first we viewed the upper falls which were another two-hour hike away. The lower falls were very tall and beautiful with a huge pool of water at the base. The plan was for us to swim in the falls, and we had our bathing suits on under our clothes. We stripped down, including shedding our glasses, and blindly walked into the pool of water with a rocky bottom. Debbie “went for it” and shrieked with laughter as she stood under the powerful falls. Katherine decided to stay just thigh deep since the water was frigid. After a few photos ops we headed back to join Judy at the hotel.

Earlier today Wisdom wisely advised us to order box lunches so we could avoid the hassle of searching for a luncheon spot later on. After leaving Liate Wote we agreed to look for a nice shady spot to sit and enjoy our food. Judy spotted a nice area in the shade of the bamboo trees, but Wisdom didn’t think we had enough food with us for all of the snakes, so we continued on looking for a snake-less location. While driving, a few minutes later a 2 foot long, thin green snake crossed in front of us. Wisdom did a great job of rolling right over him.

From Liate Wote we headed west for about an hour to visit the Kpando Women’s Pottery Cooperative. This cooperative of 15 women from surrounding villages create incredible bowls and receptacles of all shapes and sizes, as well as ceramic animals and outdoor flower pots. All of the work is done by hand, with no wheels or machines to help the artists. The clay dries in the natural sun -- no kilns are used. A lot of items were just too big for us to consider buying, but small animals and bowls will be traveling home with the three of us. We keep reminding ourselves that we are not shopping for ourselves -- we’re shopping to help improve the economic status of Ghana.

After Kpando we headed back into the mountains to our hotel for the night at the Mountain Paradise Hotel. This hotel is blissfully isolated and is located on a grassy knoll overlooking the Kulugu River, facing Mount Gemi. Looking out in every direction are trees and mountains. So peaceful, until........ Around 5 PM a wind began and clouds got darker and darker. And the winds continued to grow, bringing a little rain, and the clouds got DARKER and DARKER, and the winds got stronger and stronger. For about two to three hours we were in the middle of a storm with winds probably around 50 miles an hour. Maybe stronger. Trees were bending in the wind, electricity was lost (very early in the storm,) and the walls of our somewhat poorly-built hut actually were moving with the wind. I was concerned that our roof was going to blow off. Wisdom told us that it is not unusual to have a wind storm, but he has never experienced anything like that before. Luckily the three of us brought flashlights with us, which allowed us to get to the dining room for dinner. A few raindrops and a little wind wasn’t going to keep us from dinner! By 8 PM the wind began dying down, and around 9 the electricity came back on. A very crazy evening for us!

Our hotel last night did not have internet access, nor does tonight’s hotel, so Wisdom lent us his small external attachment so we could access the internet. Judy and Katharine both spent time catching up with emails, but the signal wasn’t strong enough for Debbie to Skype home.

Patience Pays Off with Kente and Monkeys

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our weekend excursion began with delays and frustration. At least frustration on Judy’s part as she felt responsible for the tour. After a call to the Tour Company we learned that our driver, Wisdom, who left Accra at 10 AM (so he wouldn’t be late!!) was caught in a terrible back-up of traffic from a motorway accident. We waited patiently -- what else could we do? -- and Wisdom finally arrived at 2 PM. We quickly loaded up our Chevrolet Tracker and headed out. A quick stop at a gas station in Atimpoku to top-off the tank, and to buy sodas and wine, and we
crossed the bridge and headed north. Wisdom is not only a wonderful driver, but a terrific story-teller and travel guide. He shared history and legends with us, keeping us well-entertained as we drove along.

The drive was very different from the other drives we’ve had this past week. The towns were smaller, with open land or wooded areas between communities. We passed through a village
that specialized in making pillows with the residue from the textile factory in Akosombo. Another village had coffins lined up under shelters waiting to be purchased, and a third village had hut after hut of drums of all shapes and sizes.

First stop for us was in the village of Tafe Abuipe, a community where all families, starting at age seven, work in the Kente Weaving industry. A short walk from the “Welcome Center” took us into the heart of the village. Looms were set up outside homes and we saw children, ages 11 through 15, sitting in front of the looms weaving faster than our eyes could focus. Back and forth, up and down, the quick fingers flew as the feet worked the floor pedals.

While walking from the center of the village area we cooed at every little child, and called to every goat, kid and chicken. And then we saw it. Amazing! A mother goat JUST gave birth to two babies. There in the path was the placenta and afterbirth, and the little kids were struggling to stand up. With umbilical cords hanging down, within seconds they were under Mama Goat suckling away while she licked them clean and dry.

We left Tafe Abuipe in a hurry as it was getting late and we wanted to get to the Tafe Atome Monkey Sanctuary. With gray skies and occasional thunder we sped along the road, dodging some big fat raindrops for a few minutes. As we pulled in Debbie frantically was searching for her I-phone. The purse was dumped onto the seat, but no phone. The floor was searched, but no phone. She realized that she probably left it in Tafe Abuipe and Wisdom offered to drive back to pick it up while we visited with the monkeys. Just as Wisdom was preparing to get into the
car a motorcycle pulled up and the guide from Tafe Abuipe hopped off with the bright pink phone. A huge hug was offered to him, plus 20 cedis which he asked for, and all was right with the world.

We entered the Tafi Atome Welcome Center and paid our fees -- volunteer rates, even though the woman did not believe that we were really volunteers -- and were escorted just a few hundred feet to the back of some houses. Before we even reached the clearing Mona monkeys of all ages and sizes were dropping out of the trees to visit us. The dominant male of the group greeted us first, trying to steal the bag of bananas right out of our guide’s hands. We then spent about a half hour feeding the smaller monkeys as they greeted us on the ground and then decided to use us as jungle gyms to jump on, as well as to jump from one person to another. Katherine was the first to be climbed upon and at one point had monkeys on her shoulders as another was climbing up her legs. It was a wonderful visit and we left there dirty with monkey prints up and down our arms, as well as all over our shirts, and big smiles on our faces.

After a quick wash-up we left Tafe Atome and began our hour drive to our hotel in Wli (pronounced vlee.) It was dark now, but Wisdom drove carefully and very skillfully, avoiding people, goats, dogs and pot holes every few hundred feet. We were warmly greeted by the owner of the Wli Water Heights Hotel and after dropping our bags in our rooms we headed to the dining room. Delicious meals were enjoyed by the three of us, and then showers and
journal time. Our tour has started wonderfully!

Today, as in all others, we are greeted by a table full of food and drink exquisitely prepared by our distinguished chef, Bless. Our band of twelve eagerly shares our morning meal and inspiring journal entry before heading off to our respective destinations. Ellen, Ben, Amy, Debbie, Ryan and Lisa head towards the B’ Akoto School where the team divides between classrooms and
shovels. Judy proceeds to the Methodist School and Monique to the Nana Amo.

Lynn, Mark and Kathleen head to the Akwamuman Senior High School for a meeting with the Headmaster. During our conversation, the Headmaster expresses his concern that the students in his school are challenged by their science courses. Being the committed leader that he is, he turns to us for our thoughts and suggestions. We proceed to have a lively conversation where Mark mentions that he has several textbooks that may assist the students in their academics as it contains several samples SAT tests. He explains that the students can take these sample tests in practice for future examinations. The Headmaster is most pleased and grateful to Mark and warmly receives these books. We further discuss ways in which we can serve the Headmaster in
supporting his students and we reconfirm our meeting for Wednesday at 7:30am where Ellen will give her inspirational presentation on “planning for achieving

When we complete our meeting with the Headmaster, we move and visit the Assistant Headmaster. He has agreed to provide us with the Year 1 grades and Year 2 first term grades for all of the scholarship students. This is a time consuming endeavor as none of this information is computerized. Therefore, we sort through school files and photocopy the student’s results. We soon realize that our labor is worth the effort for most of the students have done well.

At around 1:00pm, all members of our team return to the St James Guest House tired yet satisfied by a morning of accomplishment and fun. After showers, we sit down to yet another fine lunch and share a lively conversation about today’s activities and weekend plans.

During lunch, weekend plans are finalized. Judy, Deb and Catherine will leave later in the afternoon for the trip they have planned to the various art, craft and weaving centers in the vicinity of Hohoe while the Rogan’s and Monique intend to head for an adventure to the
Monkey Sanctuary and the waterfall. After another wonderful dinner, Ellen, Ben and Amy watch a movie on Mark’s computer while Lynn, Lisa, Mark and Kathleen talk, tease, type and discuss information about the scholarship students and they prepare for the meeting to be held on Saturday at the library with the second year scholarship students.

It is hard for me to believe that our first week has come to a close. I am sad to think that the junior members of our team, Ben and Amy, will be leaving us on Sunday. They have been a refreshing infusion of “young blood” and my heart is full knowing that the torch of service has been passed down and eagerly received by this younger generation. We will miss you Ben and Amy!

As I climb into bed, I reflect back upon our week. I feel delighted and blessed to be sharing these wonderful days and remarkable experiences with such an incredible group of people. After months of Arab Spring and Republican debates, my wistful heart has been lifted by the power of love, friendship and service that we have all shared this week.

Lastly, I embrace my thoughts and feelings about the community. After years of visits, we have not tired of each other. The friendly smiles and warm waves continue to grace us as we make our way through the community each morning and afternoon. Our tutoring at the library continues to be filled with the hungry eyes and eager minds of the children from the community. Little King Bello’s shyness and fears have receded as he joins my lap to read yet another book. Big black eyes look up at me as we cuddle together and turn the pages. Many young minds are growing and hearts are glowing as knowledge and love are shared between arms joined from across the globe. This is the gift and it keeps on growing when I join yet another service
program to Ghana. It is for these reasons that I cannot stop myself from coming back.

“Take not the past that lies before you instead chose your own path and leave a trail behind you.” RW Emerson Shared by, Katherine

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Today we first had some sort of school-wide religious ceremony. On Wednesday mornings, all the schools do this in their individual buildings. At the RC school, there was much preaching, singing and drumming. I also heard a few “praise Jesus”, and “praise Mohammad”. The students were then sent to class, but my teacher spent her time doing whatever. I read them a story and then began doing site word flash cards. When the teacher came back into the classroom, she told me to continue with my lesson. I wrote simple sentences on the board. We did repeat oral reading, then matched flash card words to the words on the board.
I was very pleased that later on, my teacher built on my lesson. She had them copy their sentences in their book, and I was very impressed with their penmanship. Much to my surprise, there then was an hour-long break. All of the teachers sat under the shade of a tree with the headmaster. All of the children were left to their own devices. When my teacher came back, she said they were meeting with the headmaster to discuss that they had lost a teacher, and they
were deciding how to combine 2 classes. I don’t know why it took the headmaster and all of the teachers an hour to figure this out.

The teacher then continued to use my sentences in a dictation lesson. Most students did very well, but 3-4 students didn’t get it at all. Next the teacher had a lesson in her book on how to make a paper pinwheel. Before she copied it on the board, she went in the yard, and got a stick and a few leaves. She showed the students a Ghana-style pinwheel. While the teacher spent almost 10 minutes drawing the directions on the board, the students ran about the yard making
their own Ghana-style pinwheels. The children were running and laughing and having a great time. I wonder if tomorrow we will make the book-style pinwheels.

Lunch today was a favorite for repeat Global volunteers, Rice Ball soup. This afternoon we did not have an outside adventure, so it a relaxing time to cool off and rest. A bit before 3pm, we were off to the library, where eager children were waiting to be read to or show off their reading
skills. Their enthusiasm for books really thrills “the reading teacher” in me. After library time, we did have another adventure. After 3 weeks in India, and 3 days in Ghana, a fellow volunteer, Ryan, had great expectations for a visit to the Continental hotel. We had to wait a few minutes for a trotro, but eventually got there. We found a perfect spot to sit, except for a very large baboon had escaped his cage and made a mess finishing off someone’s leftovers. We ordered our beverages at the bar, by that time a very comfortable spot was available for us right by the river. Cool breezes and lapping water (and a bit of alcohol) relaxed us all. We returned to
another wonderful dinner. This time it was the Ghana version of Savannah red rice and popcorn. This is only our third day here, and it already feels like home.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We started the official day 4 with a very yummy breakfast including pancakes. Actually we had wonderful food all day. Just confirming my belief that Valentines Day is the best holiday of the year. The kitchen staff received a standing ovation from us for their wonderful cooking and their heart felt effort.

As the team took off for their respective volunteer jobs – Monique, Katherine, Judy, Lisa and Ryan to the school – Mark to the library and Benjy Amy and Debbie to the construction site. I went with Lynn and Kathleen to the Senior High School to meet with the head master to talk about the Ghana Scholarship Fund. On the way out of the school we ran into two scholarship recipients who were all smiles to see Kathleen.

Later in the morning Esther took me, Benjy and Amy to New Akrade to the Presby school to see their friend from our last visit. The kids were warm and welcoming as were the teachers. Many of the children jumped to their feet and yelled Amy and Benjy! One little boy put his head out of the window as we passed by and screamed: Amy I love you! We also saw the progress that was made on the building that we worked on during our last visit. We had laid foundation and now they are up to the second floor. As we left, the kids invited Benjy and Amy back to play soccer.

After lunch we headed off to Aburi for some craft shopping. Once Ryan realized that it was Aburi and not “a brewery,” he decided not to join us. After a long drive we arrived at the stands filled with beautiful wood work and other crafts. The Rogins proceeded to power-shop – finding the heaviest things possible to carry home with us.

We returned back to the guest house, had a sweet filled dinner and were surprisedto be joined by Esther and her beautiful children Yaw and Isaac.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” -Helen Keller

Monday, February 13, 2012

We all woke up yesterday morning feeling refreshed and ready to start our work in the Senchi Ferri schools and community. We started our work day with a tour of the schools in the community, and then went our separate ways, some teaching, some doing construction and other working in the library. Whatever the job, we all felt the 100° Ghanaian weather, especially in construction, with Debbie “The Wheel Barrel Queen” and everyone else lugging sand off the ground, up ramps and into a foundation. After a long morning of hard work we made our way back to the guest house for a delicious lunch. After that we zoomed off to the market to do some speed shopping and dress ordering. Next we went to the library and “obronis” got to read to the kids. When we got back to the guest house we got some down time before a diner of “like-beef” and “like-ham”. We finished the night with a boys night out and a girls night in.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When I woke up on the second day, I quickly became exited knowing that we would be returning the New Akradi, Senchi Ferri area that day. After a breakfast buffet one hundred times better than the egg sandwiches on the plane, we all retrieved our luggage from our rooms, and pilled into the van, and started on the hour long drive to Senchi. After a cramped hour of driving, we finally pulled into the St. James Guest House, where we excitedly unloaded, and headed to our rooms to unpack. After about thirty minutes of unpacking, we all gathered in the dining room for an introduction/group meeting/language lesson/lunch. After lunch, we headed back to our rooms for a few hours to relax, catch some sleep, or watch some tv. At 3 o’clock, we all gathered in the common area, and guided by Amo, began the long journey to Senchi Ferri, where we met
with the chief. After hearing the sad news about the death of the town elders, we still received a very warm greeting from the locals, and where split into our groups to talk about either construction or teaching. After the meeting, we were then taken on a tour of the amazing Senchi library by Samuel the librarian. After the tour, we began the long hot walk back to the St. James, where we then ate dinner. After dinner, we discussed our free time and weekend activities. We then broke into groups, one watching videos of fishermen in Accra, and the other playing a
frustrating game of banana grams. After that, I was then given a crash course on how to play Yatzi by Ryan. Finally, we all headed back to our rooms, with the excitement of the projects beginning tomorrow.

February 2012 Team

Saturday, February 11, 2012

As the plane landed in Ghana, there was a sense of excitement. We stepped off the plane into the warm humidwall of air outside. Immediately after exiting the plane, I began sweating. As we walked into the airport, the Akwaba sign above the entrance warmly greeted us. After going through customs and baggage claim, we walked into the foyer of the airport, where we were warmly greeted by Esters outstretched arms. After exchanging hellos and hearing Esters disbelief in how much I’d grown, we met Ryan, and found out that not only had he just come from a global volunteers trip in India, but after his three weeks in Ghana, he was heading to
China for another three weeks. We then loaded into the van, and were shuttled to the Airport view hotel. After we got settled into our room, I went out into the lobby to do some of my home work, and quickly became acquainted with multiple other volunteers. After a long, groggy jet lagged day of trying to stay awake, dinner finally came. When we all sat down at the table, Ester
quickly gave us an introduction to Ghanaian culture, and we promptly dug into the tasty buffet of food. After dinner, while a few lingered around the restaurant to talk and share stories, I quickly
headed to my room to catch some shut eye to relieve my jet lag, and prepare for the next day.