Thursday, July 22, 2010

My time here in Ghana is finally coming to an end. I must say that it’s been a wonderful 2 years! The people in my town have really made me feel welcome and I’ve had just a great experience. Even through all the frustrations with teaching, the townspeople have always been there for me, and have given me so much support. I don’t know what I would have done without all of the friends I made when I was here.
With that said, I’m spending my final weekend at my house here with some big big plans. I’ll post more about that next week. However, for this post I’d like to update you all on some of my recent activity here.
I’ve been fairly busy, haven’t been teaching too much but I have been playing basketball a lot with my friends and been hanging out in town a little more often. Here is a photo of my basketball crew. I must say that none of this would have been possible without a previous Peace Corps Volunteer, Patrick Choquette’s, work in building the basketball court. I have continued to teach a few of his former students and some other young men in the community. Well, it hasn’t been so much teaching, but us getting together a few times week and playing and having fun. From left to right we are: (bottom) Discuss and Kingsley (top) Archer, Cantona, Sketches, and I.

Not pictured: Kobe, Stitches, Shadow, Cesar, Rasheed, Ashes, Daniel, and a few others.
Last weekend I celebrated my 27th birthday. I tried to throw a big celebration Ghana style. Meaning that since it is my birthday I pay for and arrange for everything. Well, one of my really good friends, Ishmael, was instrumental in getting everything arranged. We had enough cokes, alcohol, and food for more than 30 people. It was a giant undertaking, and many thanks go out to Ishmael for helping me to setup everything.
Many thanks also go to these fine ladies, Tina and Fidelia
they (with the help of some of my students) prepared all of the food for everyone. We had fufu and rice balls with ground nut soup and beef, grasscuttter, and antelope. My goodness, they did an amazing job. Everybody applauded the food.
Other than people in my town, I had 7 of my closest friends here in Ghana come and celebrate with me. Here we are (where is nancy?) pictured with 4 of my students:

After enjoying all of the food and drinks we had a small dance party and many of my students also showed up:

Here is a photo of the 2 caretakers of my house. They have been very helpful with everything during my stay, they are Bugga and Oyibo

Another very helpful woman in my town was Mama Gladys, she was a wonderful neighbor and was always looking out for me
Another important person was the woman that helped provide the cassava and plantains for my party and that was Abena, I see her almost everyday:
Lastly, it wouldn't have been a party with some of my peace corps friends....here is a few photos:
Kyle, myself and Andrew.
and lastly, a photo before the party:
That's all for this update. I'll try and post one or two more times before I leave Ghana. I've got a lot more photos to take and things to do/see. I'll be flying out of Ghana next Wednesday the 28th of July. It's really been a good 2 years, this blog doesn't even begin to describe all of my experiences I've had in Ghana.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wow, it's been far too long since I've posted on this here blog of mine. Due to some coercion by some friends and family I think it's time I've dropped y'all another line and to say hello. All is well here. Since my last post I've been busy at school. I was the exams coordinator for my school last term. And even though I didn't have to print the exams, I just had to arrange the students, desks, teachers, etc. It seems like it would be easy work, but in all actuality it was a headache and a half. But a good learning experience for myself and I got to teach or demonstrate to some of the other teachers what it is like when you are organized and get things started ahead of time (when possible). The reason I was so busy as the exams coordinator was that we were giving lots of practice exams to our students in the last year of JHS. They took 4 practice exams getting them prepared for the big exam the BECE. They can only go on to Secondary School (High School) if they pass this exam. I think my students did well on the exam when they wrote it in April, at least I hope they did well. We did our best preparing them.
So after the big exam several of the teachers decided to throw them a party and to say good job. The headmaster donated half of a goat and then we all pitched in a little something so they could make enough food for everybody. So they made fufu for about 30-40 people. And we had some music and a dance party!
Here are some of the shots from the party:
Here are a few of my students enjoying their hard work and eating some fufu together.
Did anybody say dance party? My students even though they're quite young they're really good at dancing. They all can dance circles around me.
Good old celebration! Woohoo!
Other than that life has been good, but my time here in Ghana is really winding down. I only have another 2 and a half months til my time is up and I'm heading home. We just had a few big meetings where I think it'll be the last time I see a number of my friends and acquaintances that I've made since coming here. But you know, after living overseas for a while I've gotten used to saying goodbye to people. It's been a great experience. So here are a few shots from my last get together with people.
First off, I decided to take part in a beard off competition with a number of my friends. Hence the funnier than normal looking pictures of myself and others.
Here's a good shot of Anthony and I hanging out...just remember, our beers are bigger here. One of those big boys is the same as two cans back in the states.
In the process of getting cleaned up and trying to look normal again I went with the mustache. I think I looked like my dad...
And this is a group shot of our whole group (with Jack missing...where in the hell was he?) that I joined PC Ghana with. We started with 35 and are closing out our service with only 24. It's been a blast and I'm really proud to call all of these people my friends. Hopefully I'll get to meet up with them one or two times...here or in the states.
I think I mentioned it earlier buy my time in Ghana is coming to a close here in the very near future. My date to leave Ghana is around the 30th of July or so! and then back to life back in the states....that's all the post for now. I'll try to post at least one or two more times while I'm here in Ghana. Until next time.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

yup

...I'm still alive. I just don't post on my blog very often. But due to popular demand by my many readers ie. my mom and sister asked me to update my blog I thought I'd write a short note and say hello to everybody. Life is still good. Been teaching computers and math a little bit this most recent term, but since my time in the Peace Corps is coming to a close I'm trying to relax and enjoy my time here. For example I've been busy going down to the beach and working on my body surfing, the constant waves and undertow here in Ghana are awesome. Just been trying to chill in the sun and have some fun.
This week 3 of my friends in my town and I have come together and pooled our resources so that we could buy a whole pig. And thanks to the generosity of a few people in our community we got a 1 year old pig for under 35 USD (Amazing), and some of our students helped slaughter and butcher it for us. They did a great job. So in my friend's fridge (since I don't have one) I've got a giant pile of pork. I'm excited to dig into it. This week I'll try to cook up some curry pork and rice. I'll try to write again next month and let you know how it turns out.
I think that's all for now. For those of you that don't know, I should be getting back to the states sometime in August, don't know where I'm going yet but I'll be there somewhere. Later all

Friday, January 8, 2010

Christmas Vacation!

whew! Back in Ghana finally! After too many hours sitting in cramped, dirty, dusty, half-broken buses we have finally arrived back in southern Ghana. Home sweet home.
I spent the better part of my Christmas break from school traveling north through Burkina Faso and up to Mali with 2 of my best friends in PC Ghana, Anthony and Kyle. I must say that we had a kick ass trip. So a few tips when traveling around Burkina and Mali the cheap way with public transport...
1. Learn how to speak french or find someone that speaks both French and English, very few of the people in burkina and Mali speak English at all...making communication a little difficult at times, but the people there didn't mind too much, they just laughed at us a lot. Esp, since none of us spoke any French...lol
2. Compared to Ghana, both countries are 2x or 3x more expensive with everything. So our money from Ghana didn't go nearly as far. I almost ran out of money.
3. Remember to bring some kind of warm clothes, it's the desert and this time of year it is cold at night. We spent some nights sleeping outside in Mali under the stars and we were cold as hell...
4. Bring a handkerchief to keep the dust out of your nose and mouth when flying over the dusty road.
5. Also, contrary to popular belief, you can purchase the visas at the border and that may take a little more time at the border crossings, but it will save you a lot of money. For example we bought the Mali visa at the border with Burkina for 15,000 CFCA (~35 USD OR 50 ghc) and it was a one month single entry visa.
Anyways, back to our travels. Like I said in my tips, none of us spoke french, but I guess that just made our trip that much more interesting. Along our trip we ran into some truly amazing people, many of the volunteers in Burkina were rad and made us feel welcome when we crashed their Christmas party and showing us around the capital of Ouagadougou and even the Country Director was extremely welcoming and helped in our Christmas celebrations. It was a party! We also met some pretty cool guys from PC Cameroon we had some fun kicking it both Burkina and Mali. They helped us so very much.
The main purpose of our trip was to go to Dogon Country in Mali. For those that do not know about Dogon Country, it is truly a unique place. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Western Africa. The Dogon people live along a giant plateau, called the Escarpment and they still maintain many of their traditions. Including their way of life, and their culture. The only way to see these people and to interact with them is by going to their villages. Many of the older tourists will opt to take a 4x4 SUV between the villages, and see the area that way. But those of us that have a little more energy and time to kill, we spend our time seeing the Dogon villages all on foot. Walking up to 14 km in a day between them. Most of the days we'd spend an hour walking in the morning (about 4-6 km) and then get a quick tour of the town and then spend the afternoon relaxing in the shade, playing cards and eating. And then in the afternoon we would walk for another hour or so (4-6 km) and take another tour of the town and sit around relaxing. So the three of us hired an english speaking guide, without a guide in Dogon country you wouldn't get very far because of the language and cultural barrier. Even though the official language in Mali is French, the people in Dogon speak Dogon and each village speaks a different dialect.
At night in the villages the roofs of the buildings are made available for us to sleep on. And with a mat and sometimes an extra sheet (if they have one, that's why I recommend bringing warm clothes and/or a blanket) and it is beautiful to stare up at the stars. That's how we rang in the new year's with a few litres of their local millet beer, Dolo and we were staring up at the stars and with a full moon over the city it was cool.
Many of the people in Dogon are Animist, meaning that they have their traditional beliefs with sacrificing of animals and fetish priests etc. Also the construction of their houses and building are very interesting to see. The people in Dogon are also master farmers, coming from America and with having so many machines doing the work for us...it is difficult to believe the amount of work these people do to make their gardens grow in the desert. Imagine watering your fields by hand...it's just incredible. In the middle of the desert one can see bright green fields of onions and cabbages being grown...
Oh yeah, so the last few tips for when traveling overland in Africa. Always bring a book. We had 4-5 different breakdowns (i don't know the number because I'm not sure if you should count a donkey cart coming untied and all of us falling off...) and sometimes you get stuck waiting. Yeah, for spending only 44 hours in public transport from Ghana to Dogon Country and back I think 4-5 breakdowns is expected. But it was kind of funny, our very first tro tro when leaving Accra broke down in gridlocked traffic only 20 minutes away from the station leaving us on the side of the road for an hour and a half. The worse one was when traveling from Tamale to Ouagadougou. Our car broke down for over 2 hours in Burkina Faso and our driver didn't speak any English and we didn't speak any french, but we still tried to push start the car for over 2 hours before we gave up and just hopped on another car passing by. lol, traveling overland can be an adventure.
And my very last tip for when traveling anywhere, carry some extra toilet paper. You never know when you'll come down with a bout of giardia. Under any circumstances giardia really sucks, and when you're traveling it sucks even more. Thanks to Kyle and Anthony for saving me, since I kind of forgot my toilet paper in Ghana. haha! anyways, I hope you've enjoyed hearing about my vacation...here are some pictures for you now to enjoy. Much love
Our donkey cart ride into Dogon Country

Group shot at the first stop. You can see our clothes are still clean.

This a beautiful shot of the buildings on the hill above many of the Dogon Villages. Where they perform many rituals and store most of their millet.

A closer look at the buildings on the hill in Dogon.

Group shot with our guide Mamadou, he was a great guy and a thank you goes out to Omar for helping us out! he's the man.

Drinking millet beer on New Year's eve in Banani, Dogon Country.

A photo of myself on the escarpment with a nice view of the Malian desert.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sports

Life in Ghana is still going well, and this school term has been a lot of fun. I've been busy teaching Math and computers this year. Also this is the first term of the year and the time for our big sports competition. Where the students compete in Athletics (running, jumping, throwing) and Sports (handball, volleyball, netball, and soccer). This year our competition was in a town about 6 km away and because of the expensive 20 cent car ride each way many of my students were forced to walk in order to cheer for our school. The competition included both the JHS and primary schools, from 8 different communities.
Throughout the competition my students performed fairly well, got second in boy's soccer, first in Volley and the girls also did well with soccer and volley. For those of you that have not seen sports competitions in a small village in Ghana you might be surprised to know that many of my students were competing barefoot. This is for all sports, soccer, volleyball, sprinting and even a 5k run. It's unbelievable how strong and talented many of my students are. It was a lot of fun to watch them compete. I also used the opportunity to take many many photos. My students went absolutely nuts when they saw my camera come out. here are just a few of my pics. Enjoy
Linda, trying to look like me with my hat and sunglasses!

A few of my students having some fun

Our football team with their brand new jerseys! With Coaches Ishmael and Sir O!

Justina (my barefoot student on the left) takes the lead in the final turn of a 1.5k race. She's incredibly fast, she's still in JHS and ran it in just over 6 minutes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Food...

For this post I’m going to talk a bit about food…and for those that don’t like hearing about the eating of cute, cuddly animals or eating strange things I’d recommend that you stop reading here.
Since I’ve been in Ghana I’ve had the opportunity to try many different types of food. The meat has been especially interesting. Coming from the western world where almost all the meat you buy has been heavily processed, frozen, or cooked already the meat here in Ghana is a bit different. For starters, the bone, skin, fat, intestines, and different organs are almost always included in your food, because supposedly those parts have the most energy and are the most nutritious. Personally, it took a while to get used to this. At first I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating the skin of a goat or cow. Now I eat it every time it’s put in front of me. However, I still have a little trouble eating the organs, intestines, and bones. I’ve tried them all, but I don’t like them so I usually give them to my friends that are eating with me. I’ve tried meat from a wide variety of animals since I’ve been here, many animals that I never thought I’d eat. Including, goat, sheep, chicken, beef, pork, (and here ends the normal list of animals), I’ve also eaten rat (bush rats are pretty big, they can be 2-3 feet long with the tail), grasscutter (looks funny, like if you crossed a bush rat with a hamster. And the meat is very similar to that of rat, but less gamey and is very good), and lastly I’ve also eaten antelope (yup, exactly what you’re thinking, a small deer. And yes it is tasty). As for the most interesting pieces of meat I’ve been served, my top 3 all involve the serving of rat in my community here in the Central Region. When I was first served rat many months ago it came with the whole leg of the rat in the soup, the claw included. I’ll be honest…this disgusted me at the time and I didn’t eat the claw, but rather the meat on the leg. Next I was served the entire tail of a rat. And with the help of one of my friends we were able to eat the whole thing, the skin and bone included. And the most recent one, that came this last week…I was enjoying some fufu and spicy light soup (a tomato based soup that is quite good) and I was picking at (you eat fufu with your right hand) a piece of meat that was covered in soup. And I was puzzling over what piece of meat it was…I knew it was rat but I couldn’t identify it. So I pick it up out of the soup and ask my friend and he quickly replied, “that’s the head”. Haha! And low and behold, I was eating the meat from right behind the ears…the teeth and skull was still intact and I was just picking the meat off of it.
Now for the real reason I’m writing this post…one morning last weekend I happened to be sitting alone at my house drinking some tea and reading a book. Then all of a sudden a few of the teachers from my school showed up at my house holding a sack that’s squirming around asking if they can borrow a sharp knife. Honestly, I was kind of curious to what they were going to do with it….so I played along and got them the knife. Now some of you can probably guess what they’re doing with a sharp knife and a bag that’s moving. What was in the bag happened to be a little black and white cat (I warned you to stop reading) and what happened next is that they braced the thing and slaughtered it less than 10 feet from my front door. Wiped the blood off the knife and gave it back saying thanks and inviting me to fufu with light soup and cat in a few hours. Now, many of my friends have remarked that cat is actually quite delicious and with such knowledge I could not let this opportunity pass me by. I mean, honestly, when is the next time that I’ll actually want to eat cat, or for that matter have the opportunity to do so? Needless to say, I went and hung out with my friends and watched them prepare the soup with the cat in it. And it was really really good! That’s all for now. I hope that the next time you decide to eat cat or something strange you send an invite my way...
Other stuff non-food related....life has been really good. I've been running with some of my students every morning at 4:30 and that has been a lot of fun. I'm trying to get back into shape, and also it's good to help out the students when they're busy training for the big sports competition coming up in 2 weeks.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

...vacation concluded

And for my last installment of my trip with my parents…After leaving Cape Town we flew to a little air strip in Neilsprut, near Kruger National Park and took another Cessna into the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. Before this trip I had not heard of many of these safari camps, and now I know that Sabi Sabi is one of the more famous camps in all of South Africa. This place was much bigger and not as intimate as our stay in Camp Okuti in Botswana, but it was amazing nonetheless. They had world class service, food, guides, safaris, etc. This is the view from our room at Sabi Sabi. I was sitting on my bed when I took this shot.
Our guide’s names were Elliot and Sylvester. They were very knowledgeable about everything in their game reserve. At this camp we saw everything…rhinos, leopards, hyenas, hippos, wildebeest, impala, kudu, nyala, elephants, lions, etc. Some of our more memorable experiences there was at dusk watching a lion devour the carcass of a buffalo while 5 hyenas were slinking in towards the kill through the fading daylight. We sat and watched for some time, until all we could see of the hyenas was the reflections of their eyes in a sea of blackness. Or watching a baby rhino with its mother wallow in the mud. We saw too many things for me to recall them all here, and for all those that dream of going on safari, here are some pictures to whet your appetite, and I hope you also have as an amazing trip as my family and I did.Elephants are always neat to see. This is the shot of a lion after eating it's fill. You can just make out the carcass of the buffalo in the background. Baby Rhinos are cute!

For the last stop of our trip, after leaving South Africa, I brought my parents to Ghana to check out where I’ve been living for the past year. We spent a good amount of time in the capital, Accra, but I also brought them out to my house in the Central Region and introduced them to a few of my friends. My parents were really excited that as soon as we got out of the car, a group of guys, some of my former students rushed up in greeting and helped us with our bags to my house. And we showed my parents the school where I teach and around my town. Then after that we went down to the beach at Anomabo and rested our feet in the ocean for a few days until my parents had to start their trek back to the states. Now for those that haven’t traveled much, coming to a third world country can be a huge shock. I know it was for both of my parents, but seeing with your own eyes the way people live in the third world is much different than seeing pictures in a magazine or on the television. That’s one of the reasons I love to travel so much….I need to see things for myself.
I hope you have all enjoyed. Cheers.