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.