Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Assembly Electrion

While you were all suffering through the bs that is the American electoral scene during the primaries, I causually followed the commentary on the BBC World Service radio and thanked my good sence to leave America for awhile. But now the tables have turned and I am now in the midst of a local election for Assemblyman, My counterpart, Samuel, is runnig and I think his chances are pretty good. He's up agaist 2 others; one, the toughest competetion, is also a high school graduate and long standing member of the ECG church, and the other "is dangerous", according to the man that I sat next to during a rally. I guess he has chopped money in the past that was supposed to be used to renavate the school. The election is today. Go Samuel!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy New Years!

Akwaba to 2010. I'm happy that I will be spending the entire year in Ghana (I'll travel outside the country around West Africa next year....), though I do of course miss the comfort and convenience of American life.

Life in Abunyanya is very relaxed. Though I came to site motivated and excited to start work, not that much has been done. Fortunately-or rather unfortunately, from a development point of view- I am not alone in this. Talking to my fellow PCVs I realize that none of have really done much despite being in our communities for 5 months. There is a reason for this, and I would like to kinda blame it on Peace Corps because our In Service Training, a 4 day workshop that will supply us with useful information like how to write grants and such was supposed to happen after the 3 month mark (we are encouraged to not do any work the first 3 months and focus on integration), but instead it's been nearly 6 months. But the delay in training doesn't entirely explain the molasses-like pace of the formation of programs. The truth is....life is slow here. And the longer I live here the the more I feel my sense of urgency is deteriorating. When I call a meeting and only a handful of people show up, albeit 2 hours late, or when I go to the chief's house everyday for a week to find out where we can build a community garden and he is never there to give me an answer, or when I go to headmaster to find out on what days I can teach reproductive health and it takes him 2 weeks to tell me to come on the one day that I told him I couldn't come-because I spend that day at baby weighing at the clinic in Kpasa-I start to feel a little apathetic towards my work in development.

So the first few weeks of this year my motivation to do much more then simply living my life here-which, by the way, does take considerable effort; fetching water, washing clothes by hand, biking 6 miles to buy basic groceries and charge my iPod, ect.- was almost nonexistent. Sad, but true. However, I feel the wind changing. I took those down weeks to reevaluate what programs I would like to do and site and when I feel eager and excited to begin them. So much so that when it came time to travel to Kumasi for IST (where I am at this very moment), I kinda didn't want to go, even though it means that I get to see my friends and enjoy electricity, running water, free Internet, good food, ect. I'm sure that this training will be beneficial to my service, but after traveling for Thanksgivings (I went to Accra) and Christmas (spent in Nkwanta and Ho Hoe) I really want to be stuck at site for a good 2-3 months before I leave the Northern Volta Region again.

What do I have planned for these few months? Well, twice a week I will be teaching at the school at the upper primary and Junior high levels, focusing on health, the environment, and youth development. Twice a month I will meet with two different women's group to talk about various health topics. I have formed an Environment club composed of 10 boys and 10 girls ages 12-19 and we are going to build a community garden where we will introduce new vegetables into the community, plant trees, clean up trash, and learn about nutrition, climate change, deforestation/desertification, soil erosion, ect. I will also, hopefully, soon be writing a SPA (small program assistance) grant to receive funding to build latrines in my community. As of now, only about half of the population of Abunyanya has a household latrine and about half of those are spoiled. The impact that this program could have on the spread of diarrheal disease from flies is huge, so I hope we can receive funding and build them before the rainy season begins again in May/June. There are a dozen other ideas/plans floating around in my head, but I need to learn to relax and focus on each project at a time before I get way over my head.

Life is never really boring here, regardless of the slow pace of it all. As one volunteer said, we need to appreciate the daily challenges and opportunities for creativity we face every day....we will probably never be challenged like this again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fun/Interesting things that have happened since I've been at site

I like lists perhaps you've noticed.

-I got a kitten, she's super cute-white with brown spots. I've named her Freida.
-I took a machete to shoulder-high grass to make way for my garden for which I have bought carrot, cabbage, tomato, pepper, and onion seeds. I also have zuccinni and basil seeds that my mom sent from America.
-I got punk'd Ghanaian style. I allowed a Muslem women in my village to dye my left hand with henna because I thought that it would be a fun cultural exchange only to find out after the fact that it means that I'm looking for a husband. The henna lasted for a week and a half and my fingernails are stilled tinged orange.
-I had a man come and paint flowers and the words Peace and Love on the screen doors of my bedroom and kitchen, respectively.
-I have grown to like fufu, but yam only please, no casava or plantain. I also learned how to make groundnut soup. If I see you when I come back to the states I will make it for you. It's pretty good.
-I am super tan.
-I got a short-wave radio and the BBC world news has improved my life drastically. I can also get signals from Air Europe, France, Spain, and the Netherlands with programs all in English, through which I have randomly heard Ottis Redding songs, a dramatization of the Lehman Brothers' collaspse, and have been appraised of Christ's second comming-May 21st, 2011. Mark your callenders.

What am I doing here?

So perhaps you're wondering what the heck I'm doing in Ghana aside from reading like a fiend and developing a fierce tan. My job title is Health/Water Sanitation Volunteer and my job description is slightly less vague. I am to educate about HIV/AIDS, Malaria, breast feeding and child nutrition, and to improve the general health of Abunyanya. And as I have mentioned I can also have side projects like reading clubs, women's groups, community gardens, ect. The possibilities of ways that I can complete my mission are endless and becasue I have an endless number of hours in a week I plan on having a lot of projects throughout the course of my service.

The projects that I have rolling around in my head for the upcoming months are as follows:

-I have a girl's group of Juniour High girls which I would like to teach reproductive health, family planning (condems!), job skills, female empowerment, HIV/AIDS ect.

-I have a women's group that I would like teach about breast feeding/child nutrition, family planning (many women have like 9 babies, I'm not kidding, which they sadly can't fully provide for), income generating skills, HIV/AIDS, malaria ect.

-I help the clinics of Kpassa and Azua (6 and 4 miles away from me, respectively) with baby weighing which I would like to lead sessions on breast feeding/child nutrition-including cooking demonstrations using, amoung other things, Moringa powder (look it up!)-family planning, HIV/AIDS, malaria, ect.

- Building and fixing spoiled latrines. This is needed sooooo badly, most people don't have a proper place to go to the bathroom.

-Teaching reading skills at my friend's kindergarten and one day a week to the primary students at my house.

-Teaching health at the upper primary and juniour high levels

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I have made it to site. A little about Abunyanya: it's a small village of about 3,200 people broken up into two sections, Abunyanya 1 (mostly Christian) and Abunyanya 2 (mostly Muslim), comprised of the Kokumba, Fulani, Koticoli, and Basura tribes. There is no electricity or running water. It looks like what you might think of a village in Africa to look like; a lot of brown surrounded by lush green foliage. The only road, which the village is stretched out along, is of course dirt, the houses are made of mud bricks, most with thatch roofs (the fancy houses like my own have a thin layer of concrete over the mud bricks and have tin roofs), and the most popular places to hang out are under big shady trees where a bench or two has been carefully placed. My house is a 3 room L-shaped compound, which means all doors open to the outside. I have the 2 outer rooms that serve as my bedroom and my kitchen while the middle room is occupied by my landlord and his 2nd wife, both of whom are quite young, friendly, quiet, and helpful.

As exciting as it is to be living in West Africa, my life is pretty peaceful if not almost boring. I wake up at around 6:30 am after a good 9 hours or so of sleep and usually lie in bed and read for about an hour. I then sweep my room, again concrete floors get so dirty so quickly and then eat a small breakfast of bread with peanut butter and an orange. And so far these are the only constants in my daily life. Sometimes I fetch water (the borehole is a good 7 minute walk from the house. My skills in the carrying a bucket on my head department have improved greatly.) Sometimes I walk the entire lengh of Abunyanya which could take about 30 minutes, but I try to strecht it out by talking to as many people as possible. (This consists of my greating them and then nodding and smilling while they babble on in Likpakpan.) Sometimes I read for hours at a time. And somtimes I stare at my hand-made calender, listen to the BBC world news on my short-wave radio, and womder how long 2 years will take.

And I'm now running out of minutes at the internet cafe....this will have to be continued in a few weeks. Sorry!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Day in The Life

A typical day in the life of Peace Corps Trainee....

5 am: The host family wakes up and turns on the loud Ghanaian radio station (is there any other kind?!) and the roosters crow in unison. I roll over and do my best to ignore it.

6 or 6:30 am: Get out of bed, fold the bottom of the mosquito net over its top, which hangs about 4 feet above my bed, and began to sweep with a broom made of dried grass fastened together with a thick string. The floors are concrete and get quite dusty and dirty everyday.

6:45 am: Bucket bath, usually cold unless I get my morning thermos of hot water (for Milo) beforehand, which when blended with the bath water makes it luke warm. If I'm using harvested rain water then it's ice cold. Refreshing! I just had a brilliant idea to use a zip-loc bag to pour water over myself instead of the normal plastic cup. When the bag is only partially open and the water is squeezed out one can get almost decent water pressure, thus facilitating the washing of my hair which I do once, maybe twice a week. I wish I was kidding.

7 am: Breakfast of an egg sandwich (scrambled eggs with onions on sometimes toasted white bread) and Milo, a poor substitute for Swiss Miss. Milo is much improved when mixed with Cowbell (powered milk).

7:45 am: Walk to class with my neighbor and fellow PCV Opie. He will also be one of my nearest neighbors at site!

8 am: Arrive at class held in the Presbaterian church where we discuss breast and complimentary feeding, the miracle of the moringa plant, how to teach health lessons at the local school, ect. This is supposed to take 4 hours, but since our teacher, Martin, is a less than capable teacher and he doesn't reallly seem to care, we ussually only take 2 hours. Seriously, we all had these "really important" health related projects that we had to do in the community (my group had JSS -junior high- students put on a drama about the importance of washing your hands) where Martin was supposed to come and grade them. He didn't show up to a single one.

10 am: We hang out in the church after class and talk, read, or watch a movie on Beth's computer. We've watched 300, Crocdile Dundee, Dear Frankie, and the Fountian.

12 pm: Go home for lunch. Usually rice or pasta with the ubiquitous palm-oil based marinara sauce and a hard boiled egg.

1 pm: Languge class in the Methodist church. I am learning Likpakpan, the language of the Kocumba tribe, along with Opie and Craig, who will be nowhere near me, but the Kocumba tribe is far reaching. My teacher's name is Kotin and he is from Saboba in the Northern Region. He is also a less than capable teacher, barely able to speack English and he responds to almost any question or comment with a high pitched giggle. I'm not kidding. He teaches us abitrary sentances like 'John is sitting on the top of the room' (?!?). I have dubbed him the Cheshire cat. We have a oral language exam this week and Kotin has graciously, I suppose, given us about 20 sentences to memorize and recite (describing ourselves, our daily routine, and how to get to our site via public transpertation), ensuring us a passing grade (80% or higher). Laugauge class is also supposed to last 4 hours, but thank God Kotin can't "teach" for more than 2 hours.

3 pm: Either go home to read or play with children or take a taxi to New Taffo (about 20 mins. and 70 cents away) for the internet. Sometimes the Wat/San (Health and Water Sanitation) crew will meet at the spot (bar) for a soda or beer.

6 pm: Dinner. Sometimes more rice and pasta, sometimes red red (black eyed peas with fried plantians swimming in palm oil), sometimes I get chicken or goat meat....it varies.

7 pm: Another bucket bath. By the end the day I am pretty grimey from waling on dirt roads and sweating.

7:30 pm: Read, write in my journal, or do a soduko or crossword puzzel with my headlamp on because though I have a light in my room it's blue and not very bright.

8:30 or 9 pm: Sleep.

Exciting stuff.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Everyone Shits Their Pants

This is the the PC rendition of the childrens book Everybody Poops. It's true. Even my friend John who is a volunteer in Thailand can attest that this is supposedly apart of the Peace Corps experience. We call it joining the club. I am happy to report that I am not yet a member and I hope to never be, but we will see. I have yet to get food posioning or giardia, which is not uncommon for PCV, but that's not to say that in the next 26 months I won't. We like to ask random white people we meet on our travels around the country if they have joined the club or not. This is how we can tell the Peace Corps volunteers from other volunteers or vacationers. It's fun.

In other tmi news, I have a chamber pot in my room and it is awesome. My room is about 100 ft from the latrine and there is no way I want to use it in the middle of the night. You never know what you may find in there. I was at another volunteers site in the north and I had a giant cockroach crawl over my foot while was in the middle of squat. There was nothing I could do but scream. Terrifying stuff.