Sunday, November 7, 2010
Anyway, the other day I thought I would go to the office, meet with the Gender Desk Officer and plan out some of our upcoming bicycle workshops for women. I get to the office and she has to leave in an incredible hurry (Vivien is impossible to pin down and is literally representing thousands of women in the Upper West) but we need to meet with this women's group in a small village, Tuggo, right outside Jirapa so it is up to me! I will take my bicycle and ride in the equatorial sun to someplace I have never been...OK, why not, right? The ride was nice minus one large hill and a bicycle with gears that don't work but the woman is waiting for me with pito in hand. Always a welcome surprise! Isabella is a truly sacrificial and selfless person. She is one of the few women in her village that can read and write and speaks English and even though she is retired she works tirelessly for these women. She stopped farming just to come and meet with me. We meet and discuss how annoying it is that all these people want bicycles that don't need them and how the husbands will probably take the bicycles from the women after the workshop but she is hopeful and so therefore, so am I.
After organizing details we decide to bike to the next town over, Babali. By this time it’s getting hot so I'm not excited about biking back to Jirapa so I'm invited to rice and stew with Isabella and some of her grandchildren. Plain rice is good when you've been riding your bike and only have caffeine running through your body so I was thrilled. We greet everyone in town and then I decide, I've come this far I should continue my bike journey to Lawra to visit Adam. I did this for two reasons. One, Adam is leaving soon so I won't be able to do this anymore or see him and two; he's a really good cook so chances are I'll get some good food. It's amazing what I'll do for food now. So I continue at about 1:00pm on to Lawra. As I'm pedaling and enjoying the scenery I realize I didn't put sunscreen on my legs (I'm wearing shorts for the bike ride) and it is BURNING out. I can feel my skin screaming. No Ghanaian has sunscreen and I'm in the middle of nowhere by some stream. So, being very resourceful, clever and dehydrated, I decided to make some mud and spread it all over my leg that’s getting slowly 3rd degree burned. These small village children were fascinated by the crazy white lady rubbing mud on her legs and I don't blame them, even I thought it was weird but I made it to Lawra with minimal sun damage!
When I arrived in Lawra I had somewhat of an international evening. I sat and had a drink with Adam (another PCV), an Italian student, a Canadian Volunteer, and a Cuban doctor. I got a lot of different cultural perspectives on a culture we are all experiencing and studying which was a refreshing change of pace. However, explaining why there was mud all over my legs was difficult but we had a good time. I rode back to Jirapa the next morning and carved a pumpkin with some neighbor kids (one woman told me I was wasting a pumpkin but I grew it so I can do what I want with it) and I cannot be happier with the randomness of my life. I am learning to not have control over everything and that being flexible can sometimes lead to the best of moments and days. I hope to have a little bit more of a predictable life for all of my current bicycle workshops but in Ghana living is about the moment and success is based on the process not the end result. Weird concept for us westerners but I'm getting it. It’s the only way to stay sane and the only way to get anything done. So who knows, we'll see what happens tomorrow.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Sorry its been so long since I’ve wrote. I think I’m mostly apologizing to my mother who has been on me about writing another blog so Mom this ones for you! The last few months have been busy but very very fun and I think I may spend this next week sleeping and eating fufu (I finally just got my very own fufu mortar and pestle!). Let me just re-cap past events in my life because I think its been too long to go into too much detail.
Jirapa’s 5K Combating HIV/AIDS and TB Race
Although this was one of the most stressful things I have ever done in my entire life it is also something I am very proud of. Organizing a race for 100 people with an educational event on HIV/AIDS and TB proved exhausting. Everything is done last minute and the budget kept changing so it made my life difficult. I often go running with Jirapa’s Keep Fit Club and they’re always trying to think of ways to give back to the community, sponsor programs, and increase their membership so we decided on the race. Although a smaller event we had GREAT attendance (There are pictures on Facebook)! And about 10 Peace Corps volunteers came to help me which saved my life. Having other volunteers support you and their ability to help turn any project into something fun and successful is amazing! Kudos to everyone that helped to make it happen! I don’t know if we’ll do another race but maybe a football match…The Keep Fit Club has told me it so far has been their most successful event and they are very proud so I am very proud of them :o) Maybe the next one they won’t even need my help!
Kirsten came to visit:
One of my favorite people in the entire world came to visit me for 2 weeks. And it was a magical two weeks! We did so much it will be hard to recall. We saw the new volunteers swear in! We salsa danced and just plain danced A LOT! We went to the monastery in Techiman and then got to feed monkeys at a monkey sanctuary! We came to Jirapa and drank the finest pito in all the land. We spent some lovely hours in tros. We went to the beach and played in the ocean. We went to the rainforest and went on a canopy walk. We ate fufu, got attacked by insects, played with small children, turned down marriage proposals, and she met a ton of my new friends and Peace Corps family. Kirsten rocks and I am SOOOOOO HAPPY she came!
Girls Leadership Camp:
Speaking of working with other volunteers Nicole just organized an all girls leadership camp which we held at one of my favorite places-the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary. I brought 7 girls from Jirapa who were selected based on an essay contest. Overall we had 38 girls and 6 volunteers. The girls met girls from other cities in the Upper West, they had senior high school students as senior counselors and a variety of activities. I had a member of my People Living with HIV group come to talk to the girls about HIV and why its important to know your status and get tested. She was wonderful and her talk was real but optimistic. She got HIV through a blood transfusion when she was a child and is one of the happiest people I have ever met. She never stops smiling. Makes me feel bad for being upset about things like waiting for rides or rain... She spent half the week with the girls and I was so impressed with their ability to look past someone having HIV and I even saw one of my girls sitting with her arm around her. They have never met anyone living with HIV and I was worried about stigma but the girls were respectful and understanding. I was very happy it went so well. We had dancing, we played games and told stories, went on nature walks and looked for Hippos. I am so so so proud of my girls! They participated, met other campers, and were very respectful. Brings me back to camp when I was in middle school. I am just thrilled that we were able to give these girls this opportunity. They don't get a chance to just be kids very often always cooking, cleaning, studying, doing wash, helping their families raise the other kids...this week they got to scream and sing and just play. Props to Nicole for making it happen. One of the best times I've had in Ghana.
What is next:
So currently I am back in Jirapa for awhile, working on my garden and the pumpkins that have taken it over. I want to get my football team running (literally), finish District Assembly reports I’m like 4 months behind, and drink some good pito with my friends in Jirapa! I have my mid service medical at the end of this month and I am running the ½ marathon in Accra on the 26th so wish me good training for this last month! I hope everything and everyone is well back in the states! Eat lots of ice cream for me!!! Bye bye til next time!
Saturday, June 19, 2010
First of all All Vol was great. Literally ALL of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana got together in a city called Ho (at a hotel with yeah, a POOL!) to share projects, ideas, learn more about HIV/AIDS and to well...socalize. Because lets face it we all become a little isolated and lonley so its nice to relate to your fellow volunteers. But, it was sort of overwhelming being around so many white people. So, I could talk about the long workshops during the days and all the magical things we learned but I'd rather mention the night time activties planned by volunteers.
We had a Texas Hold Em night. Thanks to my InCyte crew back in Spokane and playing poker everyday I feel my poker skills are average to intermediate but sadly I lost Derek's 5 Ghana Cedis that he was so nice to lend to me. Sorry Derek!
There was also a Peace Corps Prom. Which was probably the best prom I've ever been to. Fantastic! Minus the fact that being next to a pool gets you thrown in no matter what you're wearing. Derek was my prom date. He may be one of the best dancers in Peace Corps (photo as evidence). We danced til...we were pushed in the pool.
We also had a Peace Corps Talent Show because we are all such talented individuals. Singing, dancing, acting, more singing, and even some synchronized swimming! And then naturally everyone was thrown in the pool. We're not used to pools so it was exciting to say the least.
After the craziness of All Vol Derek and I added a member to our Togo trip, Lawyer Liz (a very important member) and we headed to the land of "Travail, Liberte, Partrie"! So with my sort of French skills, Derek's Ewe (the local language in his region and in Southern Togo), and Liz's math skills and ability to keep track of all our money we made a good trio.
So we had 6 goals when we went to Togo:
This was not a pleasure seeking trip at all, no. In our defense we eat large quantities of startch and drink box wine in Ghana so it was time for some luxe (That's French for luxury)! Well I am proud to say we completed ALL of our goals, going a little crazy on numbers 1 and 2. This was actually the only plan we had for Togo which ended up being a great plan. Because we always won. I think this pizzeria we went to left us not knowing how to act. We're used to eating fufu with our hands out of a communal bowl and now we had to taste wine (honestly we had a hard time not chugging it) and eat hour d'oeuvres. Colonisation faults aside the French brought some beautiful things to Togo. Observe the cheese here----->
We decided our second day in Togo to go to Kpalime which is about an hour North of Lome to see some waterfalls another volunteer told me about. Using my incredible French I got us directions to the station and somehow we got to Kpalime in a tro with a small girl screaming the entire hour. I didn't know someone could scream without even taking a breath but I think we loved Kpalime just because we got away from the screaming child. The path to the waterfalls was incredible through winding roads up mountains and after a short hike we swam in some of the most refreshing water.
After an incredible time at the waterfalls we got back to the hotel and realized...we don't have our key...mother*#$! You would think, "Oh, it happens no big deal" but when the owner of your hotel is a stereotypical old French man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and you're young Americans who he hasn't been that fond of anyway AND you're the only one in your group that knows any French you have to get yelled at in French by the angry French man. Brought me back to high school French class. "Monsieur, Nous avons une probleme. Nous pardons le cle..." Then "YELLING IN FRENCH!!!" Then he changed the lock and yelled, "VOILA!" So the next night in Togo we went to a nice place on the beach away from all angry French people.
The last part of my small travels involved my return up to Jirapa. I decided to stop at Mat's site, Bole, along with 3 environment volunteers (Casimir, Sam, and Megan-all good company) and check out an annual festival called the Deng Festival in a nearby village Sonya. Going to Mat's site is great because well, he likes to cook. So we had steak sandwiches. I think I like food too much. This village is amazing for a few reasons. All of the houses are connected through their rooftops. So a walking tour on top of everyones homes was something new. Lack of privacy maybe but a really cool communal way of living.
Most of the festival involved dancing, pito, and asking the gods for things for the future by sacrificing a chicken. They slit the chicken's neck and depending on how the dead chicken falls determines your prophecy. Head up, to the side, face down (that one is not good). Mat and Casimir almost bought a chicken to sacrifice but we're poor and getting your future predicted by a dead chicken is kinda pricey. Dancing continued ALL night followed by a rabbit hunt in the morning.
So after the festival I finally made it back to Jirapa and work took over. But the break was so nice and much needed. Nothing like some French influence and time with brilliant, fun, wonderful people to prepare me for setting up a 5k race for 100 people....
To be continued...
Friday, April 9, 2010
The Peace Corps Volunteer (Volunteerius sapiens) or PCV, from the ancient Greek for "crazy foreigner", is a dirty but interesting, mostly herbivorous mammal all over the world that would take a 60km bumpy tro ride, bike 18km in the sun, in 110 degrees, sleep on a roof, take a 30 min boat ride all to see the hippopotamus while it sleeps. Character building? Maybe. Did anything go as planned? No. Did that stop us? Absolutely not. (The photo above btw was taken NOT while riding and therefore allowed the wonderful volunteers to remove their helmets for a photo opportunity. You should always wear a helmet)
So here is what happened. We finally got to Wechiau. We were excited, ready to ride out into the wilderness, sleep in a tree fort above the river and maybe even hear the hippos come out at night. At least that's what I pictured happening. I couldn't wait for this hippo adventure and we even brought all of our own food. About 50 mangoes, bananas, beans, onions, tomatoes, bread, salt (of which I would add way way too much but I'm arguing it was to keep us hydrated).
Anyway the guide quickly informs us that a group of Canadians has arrived just before us and has taken both the tree houses. This leaves us with what the brochure calls, "camping" and the "lodge". Now, the guide tells us we can't camp without a tent. Policy. So we're thinking, "We did not ride all the way out here to sleep in a lodge. There is no such thing as policy in Ghana and we want to rough it damn it! And we're poor and camping is way cheaper. Plus we're used to sleeping in rough places. We've been here for months!" So we argue with the guide until he realizes he's not going to convince us to stay in the lodge so we are now camping at our own risk and then we move on to the topic of bikes.
There are no bikes. They're finished, they're spoiled, they're trying to get new ones...We should take the tro ride. Are you kidding!!! We wanted to rough it and we don't even get to do the bike ride out there as promised?! Our pride and integrity is on the line here. We're no Canadians taking the nice van ride out to the nice tree houses. No, we are Peace Corps Volunteers. We will ride whatever two-wheeled thing they give us to ride and we will sleep with the hippos!! So somehow they round up 5 bikes. Or what used to be bikes. With what used to be bike seats. 18km ride...I'm thinking, "No big deal". Turns out it would have been no big deal if we had bikes with seats, or gears, or brakes. But no problem. No turning back now. I'm pretty sure both ways were uphill but its difficult to tell now that all is said and done.
Sore, tired, and ready to eat a million mangoes (thanks Jeff!) we drink water, chat, and then make dinner. Night time comes around and we realize we don't want to sleep on the ground. So we convince our guide to let us sleep on the roof. This is where we slept. Mosquito nets and all. Not bad not bad.
6:00am. We grab life vests, bikes, water, very very sore butt bones, and make our way to the river. Even if things don't go as planned, which is about 90% of the time, at least nothing can change things in this world from being beautiful. The river is peaceful yet alive with fishermen hoping for a good day, insects are soaring just on the waters surface and kids are splashing on the banks. The river is surrounded by lush, full greenery and there are a variety of birds singing and flying above us.....stop, wait (one of those record screeching skipping noises when something has gone wrong) the Canadians took our boat. Seriously, we were losing our happy feelings for our neighbors to the North. So we have to leave our guide behind to fit in a smaller boat and the rower only speaks Wali. Good thing Jeff has been doing a lot of Wali speaking lately and manages to translate a little throughout the trip. We saw about 4 or 5 hippos sleeping and relaxing in the cool water.
So we saw our hippos. I had a good time. I'm proud of us. Would I have done anything differently? Yes, gotten there an hour before the Canadians.
My hippo trip was followed by an official trip to Accra. I cannot even begin to explain the differences between Accra and Jirapa. I could easily explain the price differences! But I got to see a movie "Shutter Island" (Leo Decaprio!) which was a nice break from reality with air conditioning. And I got my hair washed and cut and blow dried for the first time in 10 months...Ecstasy! Anyway its back to work! This last picture is for Lindsey's Mom :).
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
As promised I am going to post some pictures of the girls at the radio station and post their essays for all to read! Enjoy!!
Ali Regina Soah
"As a Form 1 student of St. Francis Girls Senior High School, I am privileged to be given the opportunity to speak on the topic of this august occasion: International Women’s Day.
To begin with, Rights are the basic things every human, both men and women, need and must have for our country of Ghana to function well. These rights should be respected and backed by law and the State. Women in our country and the world at large need to enjoy the same rights as men, without any discrimination, but rather equally.
Our mothers must have the right to a decent life. They must not be denied their right to live decently and be treated fairly. Most women in our communities are sometimes maltreated in various ways . For instance, a woman who is accused of being a witch goes through hell in the community. She is denied food, she is made to sleep with a dead corpse, and worst of all she is made to swallow the saliva of a dead person which is very poisonous and can cause a health hazard to her, which can also lead to her death. Through these actions which her community inflicts upon her, she is denied the right to a decent life.
Also, many women are denied their right to education. In a situation where a family is poor, where a boy and a girl’s education is involved, the boy is given the opportunity to go to school while the girl is asked to trade to supplement the family budget. The girl may be asked to sell water on the street, or worse yet, she may enter prostitution. As she engages herself in prostitution, she has a risk of contracting deadly diseases, such as Human Immune-Deficiency virus ( HIV) which later develops into the disease called Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome ( AIDS) . She might also become pregnant. If she decides not to keep the pregnancy she may use all sorts of crude and highly unsanitary methods to end her pregnancy, which might cause her to be barren the rest of her life or even lead to her death.
Another area where women suffer because they do not have equal rights is in the area of marriage. In Ghanaian society, our mothers were not given the chance to choose a life time partner as the men can do. Many women are forced into marriage at a very early stage in their lives. Due to being forced to marry too early, they do not get a chance to develop their God given talents and abilities. For instance, in a situation where woman is given out to marry the chief of the land she only sits down and folds her arms, watching things while they happen. Instead of her also working to support herself and to use her God given talents, she fears the man so much that she only sits down beside him and then may develop troubles in her head which can lead to her suffering from mental stress.
In a nutshell, women should be give the right to a decent life. That is to say, they should not be denied their right to live peacefully and productively and in harmony with society. They should also be educated to the same heights as men . They should be given the chance to choose a life time partner in order that she may develop her God given abilities instead of ending p in some man’s house where she lives with fear and in an unjust situation.
Equal opportunities, especially in education, should be assured for all women. A girl should not be dropped out of school while a boy continues his education. Unfortunately for women, our local people believe that if a family educates a woman, that at the end of the day she will end up in a man’s house, forgetting that when she is educated she will impact the knowledge of her children, leading to the progress of our entire nation. But men will only concentrate on himself alone, instead of trying to also impact his knowledge upon his children in order to broaden their minds. As the saying goes, “ If you educate a man you have educated an individual but if you educate a woman, you have educated the nation of Ghana and the world at large.” For this reason, all women should be given equal opportunities for education in order that the entire nation can make progress.
Equal opportunities for women to work should also be provided if our nation is to make progress. Women should be allowed to work just as men are. As the adage states, “ What men can do, women can do he same and even do it better.” If women are given the same opportunities to work as men, our country will be a happier, more progressive place , causing harmony to grow in our land. By giving women equal opportunities and equal rights to be educated, to work, to be treated decently in the community and in marriage, every person, man and woman, will contribute to making Ghana a country of progress for all."
Offei Jemimah Rukaya
"I am a Form 1 student at St. Francis Girls Senior High School and have the honor of speaking today, International women’s Day, about the need for making sure all women in Ghana receive equal rights and equal opportunities so that there will be progress for all citizens of our country.
Puopele Yeldibong Flora
"Speaking today as a proud Form 1 student of St. Francis Senior High School, I am honored to be selected to talk about International Women’s Day. I believe that women in our country we are first class citizens who should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men, because by sharing in the responsibilities of our nation we women will turn our abilities into the betterment of the society and our nation of Ghana at large.
Rights are defined as privileges that people enjoy as a result of being human and also belonging to a group or organization. Opportunities are certain chances that make way for progress.
It is important on the International Day for Women to recognize that women have the right to be educated. Women in Ghana should be educated to the highest level and as far as they wish to go. In years past, women in Ghana were not allowed to go to school since it was perceived that the place of the woman is in the kitchen and therefore it would be of no importance for a family to dedicate their resources to educating a woman since she would someday get married and the husband would take care of her. In Ghana today, as a result of the 1992 constitution, has clearly outlined that women have the right to education. We can now see that women’s voices can then be heard in the political arena and what more do we see for women in our nation? Women now hold very important and prestigious positions in our nation, such as Mrs. Georgina Woode, our nation’s chief justice, and Mrs. Hannah Tetteh and Mrs. Afua Sutherland and many other women whose professional skills have allowed them to be able to create the awareness in other women that the place of a woman can extend beyond the kitchen, as it has too often been drummed into our ears for time to time.
Secondly, as a young female I believe that all women should be guaranteed the rights to their own personal health and bodily privacy and that nothing should be done to them against their wishes that will take away their right to live as a healthy female in our society.
Lastly, all women should have the legal right to own land property. This legal right gives women the right to acquire property. Laws should protect women so that no one should prevent her legal acquisition of property or seize her property against her wishes.
If women are given their full legal rights, our dear nation, Ghana, will progress and develop even further because we will be living up to the adage by the great and wise Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey who said, “ If you educate a man, you educate an individual . If you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”
There are many opportunities for progress and development in countries around the world where women have the same rights as men. Let us listen to the cry of women so that Mother Ghana will advance in peace and prosperity."
All of us and the radio presenter!