Ghana Team Journal

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