Thursday, December 17, 2009

Random Photos

Ok. So here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure. I tried to pick ones that were representative of the last few months. I'll post a ton on facebook as soon as I can get my thumb drive to America!

These little monsters are the neighborhood kids. They're crazy but pretty awesome. And they're very very creative. And they love to color. Who doesn't though right?!

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These are some members of the Talagona Womens Farmers Group. I love these women. It takes me about half an hour to bike out to their community but they work really hard and I'm trying to help get them bikes and a loan with a local NGO. They also love love love to dance and sing and make me dance...

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This is the captain of my football team, Nima and I at the big celebration at her school. The Vice President came. It was a big deal. He gave a nice speech.

Joan and I at the celebration!

A group of us at the Kobina Festival in Lawra drinkin some pito!

This is a shot of some people we were talking to at an HIV/AIDS program I helped organize. We had about 80 people show up.

Here is me on my birthday getting "powdered" by my friend Adien with baby powder. It's a tradition... I smelled nice after this...

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Mat and I at the Farmers day celebration in Jirapa.

Patience and Portia playing some guitar in my living room.

Joy and I Christmas Morning!!! With our bo fruit creations. Ready for 2010! I hope...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why bar hop when you can funeral hop?

I made a comment on facebook about all the funerals that are taking up a lot of time around here and I felt I should clarify. Its true. It is sad. And there are A LOT of funerals every week. But funerals here are well, very different than in America. You celebrate for 2 days straight. And I mean 2 solid days of pito and alcohol and mourning and yelling and food and more yelling and more pito and greeting people and some dancing too. Tooooo much alcohol at funerals here. I would also like to say that I hope none of this comes off as insensitive. Just trying to add some light to a sad reality.

So recently I've been trying to organize this bicycle project but everyone is gone and I'm not getting much assistance so I always figure if you can't beat em join em! So I went to some funerals today instead of working. Community integration? Cultural exchange? We'll write it off into one of those categories. We hopped in the back of a truck and headed to the first one. My Ghanain friends were upset b/c I wasn't wearing the "correct" funeral attire- which in my defense I didn't know I'd be going to a funeral so ya they used some of their cloth to wrap around my head and volia! Ready for a funeral. The outfit is just to wrap cloth around you and cover your head. They tell me I need to be saying, "N sa wa, N sa wa" but I quickly realize this is more of a wail then something that's said. Let me try to describe for you...

We arrived to the house where the funeral was at and there is this wooden structure built up about 6ft with the body of the dead man sat in a chair. He's wearing his normal clothes, just hanging out looking very respectful and to me like he may just get up and jump right down from the stand and take part in the celebration. I think the people hope he might. He doesn't. Don't worry. We then move to various points around him and kind of make this a cry. Only the women do this. The men say something calmly. Then we move to another spot and do it again and this kind of goes on for awhile. Showing our respect. Next everyone throws a coin at the stand. An offering I suppose. Then we walk in a circle around the stand a few times and then go throw a coin at what I called the "musicians". This is not correct and all my friends thought it was hilarious that I would call them musicians. There is a group of men playing the xylophone and singing. Well apparently they are reenacting stories from the deceased's life. Remembering him.

Next, I'm takin to a tree in the back and we all sit around and they bring us pito and shake all our hands. It's strange because instead of the guests going around greeting the hosts the hosts greet you. They're the ones that lost a loved one but yet they serve you and welcome you to their home. We all work with one of the daughters of the man the funeral was for so we all gave her some money to help with the funeral and then we tied a piece of cloth around her waist or wrist. A tradition for the family. She was very composed. But I could tell it was difficult for her. She would hold my hand just a little bit longer than normal. Kind of savoring some human connection. Compassion. I wanted to reach out and hug her so bad but they don't do that so I had to hold back. A lot of the women almost look like they're forcing themselves to cry for 2 days b/c honestly it would be hard to cry constantly for 2 days but my friend was just quiet. I think her pain was very real and something I can't really understand. Thankfully.

Anyway we hit up another funeral after this one. You HAVE to stay and drink pito b/c it would be rude if you didn' we got back to the office at around 3. Another day at the office right? So hopefully I'll get some work done tomorrow. Bodies and my frustration buried. Respect given. Traditions done. Life goes on in Ghana.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

AH! You didn't tell me you were leaving!

So I left Jirapa for about 4 days. I tried to tell as many people as I could because from previous experiences of leaving for like 2 days I get attacked by people wondering why I didn’t tell them I was leaving. It is a personal insult apparently. It’s takin me awhile to get used to this small town life where everyone knows everything about everyone and has a say to say in everyone’s everything. If that’s clear. So I thought I told everyone. Anyway we had Thanksgiving at the Ambassadors house and got to stay with US workers in Accra. I felt like I… wasn’t in Kansas anymore so to speak. More like I was in America. We arrived to the beautiful ambassador’s house who greeted us with sangrias and then we swam in his sparkling pool. I got to see all the amazing volunteers from all around Ghana who I have missed desperately for the last 3 months. Then we ate turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, beans, pumpkin and pecan pie followed by coffee. Most of us couldn’t move after eating so much rich food- I’d like to point out I’ve never seen Guillermo look so miserable and happy at the same time. So after a 12 hour bus ride, which I thankfully slept for most of, it was very refreshing to have such a great holiday. After the celebration we did a very “American” thing and went to a sports bar called “Champs”. We played pool, pub trivia, watched American football, and drank tap beer that had prices too similar to American prices for my taste. I even got to see my friend Whitney (a volunteer in Togo) from college who was spending the holiday in Ghana. Then after a quick swim in the ocean the next day we headed back the 12 hours to the Upper West. Away from cars and buildings and toilets back to “Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?!”

When I got home, after sleeping for like 16 hours straight I realized my garden I had started with some neighborhood kids was half fenced now and almost complete. The kids here amaze me at times. After going around and apologizing to the people I did not tell I was leaving to and then apologizing to the ones I did tell but now they were upset I didn’t call them while I was there to greet them from Accra… they all had a say on my new garden. “Elyse, the donkeys will eat it.” “The fence is no good” “You should buy the wire fence” “The termites will get it” “What are you planting?” “How will you water it?” And I got a lot of “What did you bring me from Accra?” Well, it’s nice to be back. I’m fine thank you and I didn’t bring anyone anything back except myself.

Some co-workers at the district assembly were asking what we did to celebrate Thanksgiving and I said that all we did was eat food. They thought this was great but then were curious why I hadn’t grown fat. I told them I tried and that I try every year on Thanksgiving but it somehow doesn’t work. They still didn’t believe me that I ate enough.

Travel Moments I’d like to share…

1. While Jason was deep in a book about the holocaust Joy and I noticed a man selling skin anti-rash cream and we pointed him in Jason’s direction. This confused both Jason and the man and the man told Jason he must be “Loving too much” showing him how he could put the cream in ummm certain places to relieve ummm certain skin problems. Joy and I couldn’t stop laughing. The things you do when waiting for a bus to leave for 3 hours…

2. Austin is wrong and you cannot just “guess” in Sudoku.

3. Forget your personal bubble.

4. If the music is too loud to talk you should just dance.

5. Pure water Pure water Pure water

6. I missed Pito

7. It is ok to feel through the tro window if the fan-ice or fan-yogo is frozen before purchasing it.

8. In one tro ride a Ghanaian told Arjun and I that he heard there were gangsters in America….it was an interesting conversation.

9. Buying 3 egg sandwiches is difficult…because really who does that? I do when Jason and joy don’t want to go get one.

10. It is always better to travel with a buddy if only for some entertainment and for group hugs when necessary.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for all of the family and friends I have back home always providing me with much needed support. And I’m thankful for being able to have some amazing experiences and amazing people to share them with.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Going South

So I'm on my way down South for Thanksgiving and thought I should write something. People in my community were upset I was leaving but good food is a very big incentive for me. I have to make sure I tell everone too. Last time I left for 2 days I got chewed out for not telling the girl I buy phone units from, and the boe fruit lady, and my supervisor, and various neighbors. It's a lot of people to inform.

Anyway...Jirapa has been good. I have been doing a lot in the schools lately. My friend Adien teaches in a village like half an hour outside Jirapa and asked me to come talk to his students about HIV/AIDS. There have been a lot of teen pregnancies so he really wanted someone to speak to them. So me and this guy from the education office decided to head out one morning to Adien's school. Now, my HIV/AIDS talks are getting fairly good if I do say so myself- but they are usually geared towards like 20 to 30 kids...Adien literally meant he wanted me to talk to his ENTIRE school. Over 100 students...outside...and only a few speak English. Oy. So I made the best of it. Had them play a game...maybe got through to about 6 of them. I hope. They all wanted to see the white lady talk. The students always have interesting questions though. They use black poly bags here for everything and they asked if they could use one as a condom. Please don't. Other questions included the start of HIV which their science teacher battled me over. I kept trying to focus on the fact that its here. And we have to deal with it no matter how it started. Right?

After the talk Adien took me to his Aunt's family's house close by and I just have to say I love greetings here. This is how it went.. In Daagare but I will translate.
Adien: Good morning
Aunt: Morning, How is work?
Adien: Fine
Aunt: How is your house?
Adien: Fine
Aunt: How is your Father?
Adien: Fine
Aunt: How is your Mother?
Adien: Fine
Aunt: Sit and eat.
Adien: Ok, Elyse lets eat.

Simple. To the point. No time for wasted conversation. But its all love when people want to feed you I say. Hope all is well back home. I keep dreaming about snow... I think my body is confused... but I'm enjoying the sun :).
Miss and love you all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Football in Skirts

Saturday October 17th 2009 I began my Ghanain football coaching career. I got up at 5:00am rode my bike 2 miles out to St. Francis High School to find an empty dirt field, two goals with no nets, some girls washing clothes and none of my football players. So here I am, discouraged, annoyed, tired, with my bike and notebook of drills and exercises and all for nothing. Thankfully the American teacher lives right next to the football field so I decide to go vent to her (hoping she’s awake). Mid venting to Joan by 6:00 some girls come knocking on the door, “Miss, Miss we’re ready for training”. So I go out and ask the girls what time they were told to meet. They say 5:00. My captain, Niima, is smart-in Ghana when one schedules a meeting it is important to tell people it starts at least a ½ hour before you actually want to start so you can start on time. They tell me they were tired and were sleeping and that next time I should wake them up. I turn into my mother at this point and say, "Am I your alarm clock? No." They thought that was hilarious. None of them have alarm clocks. By 6:15 about 21 girls show up. Tired and complaining the girls are all in skirts or dresses with flip flops- but they’re there. I now feel myself turning into my high school soccer coach and I lecture them on the importance of showing up on time. How they scheduled the meeting time and how I’m volunteering my time to be there with them etc…

So first we warm up. Some jogging, crunches, pushups, stretching. I’ve realized I won’t be able to do any really long runs yet since they don’t have shoes and I’m not sure what we ‘re gonna do about that. Then I bring them to a wall and I teach them wall sits or chair sits. I love these. They quickly realize they don’t love them. We do 30 sec. and they are practically ready to run away from the wall. But I’m like, no, 30 more sec. After this I have them do a competition, to see who can last the longest. Well now they can do it for over 3 minutes. They suddenly became very strong. They had a good time cheering on their friends who were lasting the longest and making sure everyone’s legs were at 90 degree angles.

After exercises I knew we needed to have some fun and since our only 3 footballs are all flat I have them play link tag. Well, I have learned that tag is not universal. It took about 10 minutes to explain but once we got going it was great and they had a good time.

Finally I went over passing with them. Different ways to pass the ball, how they should trap the ball (which they call breaking) and I threatened that if I saw them passing with their toe they would owe me 10 pushups. We formed two lines and practiced passing with both feet. Overall they did well, especially for being in flip flops and skirts. We’re having our next practice this Saturday so I am figuring it out as I go. Small small. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

A big hand that will slap you!

It has been much too long since my last post so I have way way way too much to write about!! So I'm just gonna talk about some random things that have been going on.

Recently in Jirapa is the rumor of a big dark hand that comes out of the earth in the middle of the night and slaps people!!! Supposedly it killed the man that owns the spot by my house and two others. Anyway I think it's hilarious and a good way to scare young kids into staying home late at night. But everybody I've been talking to has heard about it so word travels. I found out about it at 4:30 in the morning when this neighbor girl and I were going to Jirapa's "Keep Fit Club" that meets every Saturday. Yes, a keep fit club. The club actually has a lot of members but because of the fear of the hand there were only about 20 this last Saturday. So some differences in running clubs in the US and in Ghana...
*Ghana-4:30 in the morning is when you have to meet because its too hot at any other hour and you need to have time to fetch water and other things like that.
*US-You meet after work at like 6:00 in the evening.

*Ghana-You run in two rows and in whatever attire you have. Bare feet, sandals, whatever.
*US-You run where ever you want to and in nice (insert brand name shoe here) and appropriate running gear.

*Ghana- You must doge goats and sheep in the road because that is where they sleep. You also must enjoy the sound of the mosque calling people to prayer at this ungodly hour.
*US- You must doge traffic and enjoy the sounds of traffic.

*Ghana- You must have an exercise ready for the group when you reach the stopping point. Thankfully I know way too many exercises thanks to High School Soccer and I ended up leading some sit ups and leg strength exercises. And we only did about 10 and everyone was too tired.
*US- There is no stopping point until the end. And the leader always has a set of really difficult exercises that he/she can somehow do while talking.

*Ghana- On the way back you sing/chant. And clap. And you must greet people that are just waking up.
*US- You don't greet anyone! My God, your running!!!

Overall...people love to exercise no matter where you are. Not enough women can join the group here because they have to ya know, cook, clean, fetch water, take care of the children, and sell things for extra income. The women that were with us ran faster and had to go back early so they could start getting things ready for their families. Oh, and both groups have tee-shirts which is a must for a running club I think. It was a good time. I plan to keep going. As long as I can avoid the giant hand of death or whatever it is.

Work wise...I got a class at one of the Junior Highs started on letter writing to the wonderful Lindsey's 6th grade class in Hawaii. I told the students I only needed 20 kids and they should only do it if they plan on writing regularly and with good penmanship. I'm going later this week to check on the writing so hopefully they've started. They all got really excited when I brought it up so I'm thinking it will go over well.

I also helped the HIV/AIDS focal person for the District Assembly set up a meeting with local government employees on implementing a HIV/AIDS workplace policy since none exists. The meeting started late of over an hour late. We spent a half an hour talking about starting too late...but finally once it got going it was great. Again only 2 women were there which is always disappointing for me but one of them had a lot of good input. So now we're just working on creating/formatting and submitting the policy to all the participants that came to the meeting.

Other than that I've just been spending a lot of time with the local Non-Government Organizations (NGO) helping with presentations mostly on HIV/AIDS. And I've been attending a lot of anything that I can! Meetings, clubs, market, weddings, funerals, presentations, whatever. Keeps me busy. Jirapa has a lot going on.


I got a bicycle finally. Which is really REALLY nice.

There are now 5 white people in Jirapa. 3 VSO volunteers from the UK just arrived and are working with the education department. They all seem very nice and will be good to work with.

There are 2 mice in my kitchen. And I hate cockroaches.

I'm heading to Wa tomorrow to see if I can get packages!! Yay my favorite Aunt Patty! I'll let you know.

All my love!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Hello to everyone! First of all I would like to say that there is no virus attached to this blog. So if you got a virus it wasn't from this. I don't want people to stop reading it because they think they could get a virus. Blogspot is a very legit website and no viruses can be downloaded from it. All the other PCVs are using it and have never had this problem...

Alright. So I arrived at site a few weeks ago and have actually unlike a lot of volunteers been really really busy. Coming to Africa I thought I would be in a rural area with no electricity, no running water, no computers...oh how I was wrong. My community is fairly large and the government offices are in my town. This is where I actually have a desk! A few days ago I just found out that I will be needing to submit a report to the District Assembly every month of my activities. So things are reminding me of home! It is still no America but I find it funny when my neighbors ask me if I'm going into the office today. So I'll just give you a run through of one of my days...
5:30am-woke up to goats outside, dishes, breakfast, bath.
6:45am-Walked to the hospital, met with another volunteer in the area who is from South Carolina, a retired English teacher! She is wonderful. We talked about working together on some projects.
8:00am-We walked to the high school she is teaching at where a girls camp was going on that week. I told the girl child officer I would love to help if they needed me so she told me she wanted me to speak to the like 1/2 an hour. Got to love impromptu public speaking to over 100 Ghanaian teenage girls! So I got up and decided it would be fun to have them say "Power" after every time I said "Girl". It went over pretty well! Then I just talked about the Peace Corps and about how important education is and finishing your schooling before you have children etc...
12:00pm-I headed back to the Hospital in town and met with the VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing center) in-charge nurse. She seemed really hesitant about working with me so it will probably take a while to gain her trust. It was a little disappointing.
2:00pm-Went back to the District Assembly and met with the radio operator who is going to start helping me work on my Dagaare! The first session was a little unorganized but we'll see how it goes.
4:00pm-Headed back to the Girls camp and watched the final talk on Gender Roles. They had some great local female public speakers for the girls. Pretty interesting.
6:00pm-Met up with my counterpart back where we live. This is when I found out I need to submit a report :).
7:00pm-Made no bake cookies for Joy for her birthday!

So ya. Just getting to know people in my community and trying to figure out what kind of work I can get started! I miss you all! Hope you enjoyed all the photos on facebook.



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some pictures!

Ok, I tried to load these on facebook and that failed...really badly. So...I selected just a few to share on here. I'll see if I can get more up later.
This is the famous Guillermo and I about to see Obama! Guillermo thought my grandmother and favorite aunt Patty would appreciate this photo!

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Next we have the wonderful Lindsey and I. She is amazing and her site is way way too far away from mine!!!
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Below are what we like to "grubs". I know what you're thinking, "Wow, that's disgusting/fear factor like I really hope she didn't eat those.." But I did. We stuck them on a stick kabob style, roasted them a little and then ate. It a gusher...and the head is kind of crunchy...I don't think it will be a normal thing in my diet but I'm going all out so it had to be done. Image Hosted by

Speaking of going all out, the beautiful Joy and I got weaves done in our hair. So here is some of that! We are also sporting our latest fashion statement made and picked out by our amazing home stay families!
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So I have officially become a volunteer and sadly left my home stay family. We were a little bit of a mess when the taxi pulled away. For people I could barely have a conversation with I'm gonna miss them a lot. My host grandmother sort of prayed over me/wished me well (I think anyway it was in Twi) and could barely hug me because she was crying. They're an incredible family and took such good care of me. (about sending them a package mom-they don't have an doesn't really work that way here) I gave them some MT huckleberry candies and jam and they loved it! Here is a picture of my little sister Victoria doing some coloring.
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So out of all the sectors at swearing in WAT/SAN was by far the brightest. My host father wove me an entire outfit out of Kente which is a traditional cloth woven in Ghana. A normal 2yard of fabric here cost about 6 to 8 Ghana Cedis but a 2 yard of Kente costs about 60 to 80 cedis depending on the design. Ya, so I was wearing the real thing! This is my sector group all dressed up in our Ghana wear for swearing in!
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Here is a photo of me and Dorothy! She was always a full supporter of my crazy bright hair and clothes. And has been an amazing women and now Peace Corps volunteer to have around.
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Alright, so I'm runnin out of Internet time. But I hope you all enjoyed these few photos. I'll be at my site for awhile now getting settled in. Thank you so much for the letters and I received the package Grandma!! Everyone loves you now as I shared the trail mix/newspaper/gummy bears etc...!!! I still love you the most!
Everyone keep me updated on things at home!! Miss you all!
Peace and Love,


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Another Calabash Please!! Also, I can't be your wife.

I'm going to start this blog by putting up my wish list so far.
Good tea
Candles/good incense
Mac and Cheese
Hemp. (for making necklaces) -lots of cool beads here
Good pens/sharpies
Chicken soup packets...
Instant potatoes, really instant anything.
Bobbie pins

I got a P.O. box at my site which goes like this...
Elyse Cleveland
P.O. box 26
Jirapa, Upper West Region
Ghana, West Africa

So that should be fine to send letters to. But I don't know how good it will be so as far as packages go so the group of volunteers in my region has a box they share in the capital city and they have no problem receiving packages there. So send packages from now on to...
Elyse Cleveland
Peace Corps Volunteer
P.O. Box 523
Wa, Upper West Region
Ghana, West Africa

First, thank you for all the comments!! I love them all! Sorry about the viruses if that's happening. We can only use Internet cafes here so unless you have your own computer its always a tad risky so I apologize if my blog had something bad attached to it! Patty I love your list! Made me laugh. :)

Ok... so I went on site visit!! First we met up with our "counterparts/supervisors" as a group and kind of had a workshop sort of thing. My supervisor is... well... awesome. If he had a theme song it would go like this, "You can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a ladies man no time to talk..." ya the Bee Gees. He's got a great sense of humor and is pretty motivated and really helpful and an awesome 70's sort of style. After a long workshop trying to get past all those cultural barriers so we can work together we spent the next 14 hours crammed on buses/tros together. So I know him fairly well now. We left at 5am and I got to site around 10 at night. My house wasn't ready (surprise) so they put me up in a guest house/hotel which was very nice. My supervisor told me he would come get me the next morning around 9 or 10 to introduce me to people etc.. well the next morning around 11, still no supervisor. I was board so I put on my newly made Ghanaian outfit (My host mom picked out the fabric) and I decided to check out my new home. It happened to be market day and I happened to run into a really great lady (Stella) that works in the hospital's medical lab. (figures right, I must attract lab people). She was on her way to her sisters Pito stand so I'm like, "Sweet what's pito?!" I spent the next few hours hanging around with Stella drinking the local brew- its sweet and kind of taste like mead I guess, it's made from millet. Not bad. About 95% of my community is Catholic (figures again, I must attract them too). So about 95% of my community really enjoys Pito. Then I met some other locals, drank more pito, turned down about 10 marriage proposals (I think it was my sweet outfit), drank more pito, practiced my Dagaare, and spent all day at market. It was a good first day I think. I'm integrating ;).

The rest of the time at site visit I met the entire District Assembly (the local government here) reminds me of all the people my parents work with! Oh government workers...all so alike. Good senses of humor. I met some of the local doctors, education directors, community development workers, and health directors. And everyone was excited to see me and told me I could help them with their projects so I'm starting to get a lot of ideas. Not committing to anything just yet...

My house is great but just needs to have a few things fixed. So I really hope that's done by the time I get back. I have a living room, bathroom, veranda, two bedrooms, kitchen, and some pigeons in my roof. My neighbor Lesley wanted me to send all her warm wishes to my family in America!! She's great and helped teach me to make Saw as it's called in the north but more commonly known as T Zed.

I also had an interesting conversation with one of the few Muslims in my town when I was hanging out playing a local board game with some women. He works for the district assembly and told me that by the end of my 2 years he would make me Muslim. I told him there were 3 reasons I cannot be Muslim and he had a solution for everyone so our discussion isn't over I'm sure. First I said, "The men are allowed multiple wives but the women aren't. I want 3 husbands so that's gonna be a problem" he asked me if I would be able to provide for all of them. I said, "Sure! I'll make lots of money!" Than he said, "That's not what I meant". Then I moved on b/c I wasn't about to go there. I said, "Women don't have the same rights as the men in the organization and I'm not ok with that". He said we'd go talk to the church or masque or whatever and get it worked out. Great. Then I said, "I like Pito and you're not allowed to drink Pito." He really didn't have a good answer for this. The women were getting a kick out of the conversation though, laughing at him the whole time. After this he decided to go home to his 2 wives and I stayed to finish the game even though I was invited over for dinner.

Ok, well back to the village! I passed my language test today!! Horray!! So swearing in is on the 13th. I can't believe training is pretty much over. I will officially be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana. Ah! Love you all miss you tons!!


Monday, July 20, 2009

Chickens, condoms, and waterfalls...

Hello all! Ok, first of all I'd like to add another disclaimer to my blog: the views and abilities of Guillermo to write a million blogs and post pictures does not reflect my ability to get to the Internet cafe or my ability to post photos. But I did receive the big hug from him. He said it was from, "My favorite Aunt Patty, Millie, and your Mom," so thank you to all!

Next I'd just like to make it clear that I despise chickens (except eating them). Especially the ones that sit in the trees right outside my window and make horrible unnecessary noises at 5:15 every morning. Did I mention its right outside my window? And why are they in the trees? That makes no sense. Today I threw rocks at them. Someone was probably wondering what the white girl was doing throwing rocks at the trees but I swear if I could catch one of them I'd drop kick them across the street. Ok, just had to vent about the stupid chickens. Oh...and my host mom brought me an entire basket full of eggs yesterday. I don't know how I'm going to eat that many eggs...but I'll give it my best. She seemed pretty happy about it. Plus they always tell us to "Eat ALL!" Whether it be two balls of fufu, eggs, or soup. The bigger we get the better! I however am not getting bigger since my body doesn't know what to do without all the milk and fat I used to eat back home. So it just kind of rejects everything. Lets just say I'm excited to get to site to cook for myself.

Lets see... we're working on our SCOP or Small Community Outreach Projects. So my friend Lizzy and I are working with the youth group to do a presentation/discussion on Family Planning, condom use ect.. with the teenagers in the community. We met with 4 of the executive members yesterday and the meeting went surprisingly well! First they had an argument about what "Ghanaian time is" since we started the meeting late. Then they very cordially debated what group we should target. One of them would make a point and then another would add, "I agree with you100% but you need to look at the issue this way..." The youth group is actually made up of members from the ages 15 to 65 so... ya. But, they did build the clinic in the town, remodeled the Junior high school, and they built a bench/shaded waiting area at the taxi station. So they're very motivated and focused on helping their community. It's pretty great to see. Anyway, it went really well and we got the nurse in the community to come and do a condom demonstration. It is a bummer though that birth control isn't available to the youth except with their parents consent. Which they would never get...even though most of the parents had kids at the ages of 15 and 16.

We did go to some Waterfalls!! Finally something not work related! We went to the Akaa Waterfalls which were amazing. It felt good to finally do something active and not just sit and listen and talk all the time. It finally gave us a chance to step back and look at something really beautiful. Away from people standing and getting sprayed from the mist of the waterfalls, in the sun was pretty incredible.

Currently some thoughts on Ghana
1. I love groundnut cake, which is basically peanut brittle and I love sugar and I miss it.
2. I hate chickens. But I already talked about that.
3. You greet EVERYONE. Literally. And sometimes this gets old. And EVERYONE wants to know where you're going. And saying "none of your business" isn't a response. Not one they'd understand anyway.
4. I do love being able to leave conversations by just saying, "I'm leaving". And that's totally acceptable. It's great.
5. Don't worry Will, I know alcohol can't kill everything. And my body also knows this. And it's just kind of a fact that you get sick here.
6. I wish I could carry 60 pounds on my head like the small children in my compound...but sadly I cannot.
7. The women work really really hard and don't get enough credit or respect.
8. I've started making agreements with insects and lizards to leave me alone if I leave them alone. I don't know if it's working...
9. Apparently you need to collect your dead by 5pm especially on Fridays (saw this on a sing today).
10.Wednesday we meet our counterparts and go on site visit so I'm really excited to see my new home!!

Ok, all in all I'm well. Super super busy...I miss you all! Keep my up to date on what's happenin in the good ol USA!

All my Love!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

50 pesewas to Jesus

Hey All!

So, everyday seems to be filled with something new, something odd, and something hilarious. I decided to go to a Methodist church with my Grandmother on Sunday and it was probably the longest 4 hours of my life. There was a lot of singing and dancing (which was fine but I had no idea what anyone was saying) and a lot of "offerings" so to speak. The sermon was interesting. Since their woman's group was raising money that Sunday he wanted to talk about women. Fair enough. But more importantly the role and duty of women. I knew at that point it was about to get interesting. We should wake up early, clean, have breakfast ready for the family because cleanliness is next to godliness. I sort of felt like I went back to the 50's but when he said the same thing in Twi the women kind of laughed so I'm not sure how serious it was. Then he continued to talk about the empowerment of women and how they're getting jobs outside the home etc... so then I felt like I was in the 60's when women not only had to work but clean and cook too! Good times... After about a half an hour of that the Pastor wanted the Americans to come forward and introduce themselves. So my other wonderful feminist volunteer friend Lindsey and I made our way to the front, used the little Twi we knew to say where we were from etc.. and we thought that would be it. Oh no. He announced that we couldn't go sit down until somebody donated 10 Ghana cedis for each of us. I quickly looked at Lindsey, "Are we being auctioned off?! At church?! In the name of God?! Without us realizing it?!" Yes we were. Luckily the 10 cedis came quickly and we could sit down but Lindsey was informed that she should now marry that man. Anything in the name of God right?

We spent the rest of the church service donating money during hymes. Its different also since they announce the price people are donating and then you get up and put that much in the box. I was apparently called on to donate a large sum of money but ya... volunteer. So I gave my 50 pesewas and I'm not sure I'll go back. I did meet a wonderful young Ghanaian girl after the service though that said she wanted to learn to play the piano. The church actually has a little Yamaha keyboard so I told her if she set it up I could teach her some things!

My host family is fine and always overly concerned and worried about me. They tried to wake me up at 5:30 this morning to sweep since they didn't understand what my teacher had told them about letting us sleep and just helping us cook etc... So hopefully I'll get that fixed and won't have knocking on my door everyday at 5:30. I know I woke up a lot earlier than that before (you crazy ICP staff)...but training is crazy and I could use the sleep! My host family does however really want to dress me up and buy me clothes and jewelry. Its uh... interesting and I'm trying to figure out how to best get around it. Also, when you invite a Ghanaian person out somewhere its important to know that you'll be the one paying. I didn't realize this and my host sister was very excited about getting us more food and drinks...and I saw why when I had to pay at the end. Important lessons to learn.

I should probably tell you all a little about my site! The town is called Jirapa and it's in the Upper West Region. The population is about 16,000 so its much larger than I expected. I have electricity, a flush toilet (oh ya!), and two rooms and a living room all to myself. Three volunteers have been there before me so I'll be jumping into quite a few projects which hopefully means I won't be board. There's a women's bakery that needs help with organization and marketing, there's a People Living With AIDS group that would like help with presentations and ideas for income to buy their medicine. There is also a clinic, an orphanage, and I'm in the District Capital so I hopefully will do a lot of work with the local government. They eat dog where I am going. But I think I love them too much to do that. It would be like eating a little Chloe...ya no way. We head to our site visits in a few weeks so I'll have more info after I check everything out!

Hope all is well in the states!! Miss you all!! The rain has stopped so we're leaving the Internet cafe!!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

My home away from home...

So this is probably going to be a short blog but I thought I'd update! I got to my home stay a few days ago and my family is wonderful! They don't speak very much that keeps things interesting and they really want me to learn Twi but I had to explain to them that I'm learning Dagaare (my site placement is in the Upper West Region). My host mom is so cute, her name is Ya Atah and my fathers name is Daniel (what a coincidence huh?). Daniel weaves Kente cloth which is amazing and he gave me some as a present!! It's beautiful. They always feed me tons of food and my Grandmother is always upset that I can't eat all of it. I pounded Fu Fu which is very very hard and my host mom is so strong. They laughed at me and I had to explain to them that it's my first time! It's a good work out though!

Training has been a little unorganized (I expected this though). I have to leave around 6:30 in the morning and usually stop and great about 10 people before I make it to the station. One of my neighbors always asks me to marry him every morning and I tell him "not today, but maybe tomorrow". It's pretty funny. A taxi driver today pulled over with a car full of people and asked me to give him my number so that he could teach me Twi. I asked him if he knew Dagaare because that is what I have to learn and he said no so I said I could not give him my number.

The people here are wonderful and very loving. Training has been busy busy busy but I'm trying to stay organized. Thank you for all the wonderful comments!! You guys are all great! Mitch and Jamie, let me know whats going on with your house!! And I want to know who the new supervisor is?!! Miss you all!!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yay Internet and Yay Ghana!

Hello Everyone!! So I finally made it to an Internet cafe! I've been trying and the Internet has been down everywhere I go but alas I'm figuring out that that is Ghana. Alright well let me see if I can try to capture what has been happening. We've been traveling a lot!! We were in Accra which is just a crazy ridiculous big city, and then we went on our vision quests and now we're in the Eastern Region!

My vision quest was great and scary all in one. The lovely Maria fed me and led me around her village called Sankpala in the Northern region. She was putting on a HIV/AIDS week so we did a presentation at the clinic and then a fun education/game/station thing at the school. To end the week there was a teacher student football match so of coarse I had to play. Someone passed me the ball and I started juggling and all the kids freaked out! I'm probably the first white girl they've seen juggle a football. So I put on a Jersey to play with the teachers (who I was soon to find out all played on a team for the city and were very very very very good) and a group of little girls just gathered around me in awe. They were so excited I was going to play too. So I have decided I need to start a girls football club at my site in August. The girls just don't get a chance to play and they all want to. Anyway, I'm thinking we're all going to play in like bare feet and sandals...hahaha I was wrong. All the kids run to their huts and come back with cleats (boots). They may not have real shoes but let me tell you they all have football boots! Priorities right? So here I am in my Chacos and a little boy Abikari asks me, "Madame! Madame! Are you going to play?!!" I'm like, "I guess so but I forgot to bring my boots" and he just laughs and runs to the field. Now the field is like all dirt with no lines, so I ask one of the teachers where the lines are and he says, "No, its ok, we just know." I'm thinking oh man this is going to be interesting... We start the game and there is a huge audience and there are drums being played the entire time. I maybe touched the ball twice...but they were all really great and tried to pass to me. There isn't much passing since the ground is so uneven and I am in really bad shape but I had a good time. I plan to improve.

We move in with our home stay family tomorrow so I'm really excited and really nervous. We've been getting shots, going to meetings, and playing a lot of cards so its been pretty relaxed so far. I just bought a cell phone so hopefully I'll be able to call some of you soon! I miss you all soooo much!! I just got a letter from you Grandma so I'm excited to read it!!! Please send letters they are awesome!!! And then I feel cool when they say my name. Hahaha.. Hope all is well in the states! Bye Bye!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

In Philly!

After two uneventful plane rides and a really expensive cab ride I made it to my hotel in Philadelphia!! No one really knows who all the other volunteers are but if they're wearing chacos its a safe bet. I've only met a few other people but so far everyone is great and excited and completely not sure what to expect. I started losing my voice which is convenient since I have to meet a lot of people...but I found meds so I'm set. No worries. Other than that I saw the liberty bell, had a Philly cheese steak, and met another volunteer that's doing the same project as me! I plan on future blogs being a tad more interesting.... but I'm here and ready to go!! I miss everyone a lot but hopefully they'll be keeping us busy so I can stay focused and motivated.

Love you all!!