Ghana: a country on the coast of West Africa, where i will be living for the next 27 months or so....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Getting to the finish line of Peace Corps...

The reason I have not been able to post anything for a long while is because life been crazy, unpredictable, and exhausting. I knew that April was going to be a LONG month, but no one expected just how long it was going to be. As Food Security president, I and other members of the task force were in charge of planning this years All volunteer conference; a 3 day conference for all volunteers in country to come together and learn about what we have been doing at site and gain new project ideas…..also just to get together and have fun.  The conference went well, and I had three days to make sure my next programs were ready to go. Because of scheduling issues, I had two programs running at the same, in the same place. The first was our regions GLOW-Girls Leading Our World- camp, where girls from all over the Eastern region came and learned about AIDS, Malaria, Food Security, confidence, and leadership, while having a blast playing games, tie dying t-shirts, and running around. On the second day of the camp, my other program started, my Cross Sector Boot Camp, where the newly sworn in PCV’s come to learn about the other two sectors and how they can apply them at their sites.  This is one of my proudest accomplishments in Peace Corps; the fact that this is now a permanent part of the training program makes me swell with pride.  So for the next three days, I ran back and forth between the camps, making sure both were going well. I Loved it, staying busy, doing things, it was a great week.
 After finishing these two programs, I headed back to site to work on my project there, training community members on different food security topics. I was at site for about a week, when I received a call that would change everything. I was on my porch at around 8am, making calls about my next big program I was planning in May, when I get a call telling me that Danni Dunlap had died. At first I think it’s a late April fool’s joke, but after hanging up with her, still in denial, I get another call, it’s an official Peace Corps call telling me that she has passed away. I didn't know what to do….where to go or how to handle something this unexpected.  There was only one young girl in my compound when this happened, I am sorry to say I think I might have scared her.  Within 15 mins of the call, I was headed out of my village on my way down to Accra where I could be with other people and know what steps to take next. Over the next 5 days, the whole of Peace Corps Ghana came together and planned an Amazing memorial for her; never have I been touched like I was during the service. Danni was truly the best of us, there is not one person who met who she did not touch, that was just who she was. I know that none of us will ever forget her, and will live better lives because she was in it even for the short time she was here.  I think of her every day and know that I will try harder to be a better person because of her.
Right after the memorial, the 50th group, that’s my group, headed to our COS-Close of Service- conference in the Volta region.  Danni was also in our group, so it was nice that we got to spend more time together after something this unexpected happened.  I learned that I will be heading back to America on July 31st and will arrive in Indianapolis on August 1st. After this conference, I went back to site for a few days, and then had to go to another and my last conference called STARS-Students Taking Action Reaching for Success. This is a weeklong conference for 60   form 2 students or juniors in high school,   to come together from all regions in Ghana to learn about what it takes to be a good leader. It was fantastic….totally exhausting and tiring, but went very well.
So this has been my past two months and why I have not written till now.  It has been two years since I stepped foot in America…..and I have no idea how time has flown by so fast. One minute I’m waiting desperately to hear back from the Peace Corps to see where I might be placed, and the next, I’m packing up and closing my life up here In Ghana.  My close friend and I are sitting on her bed, listening to music and writing  her friend a letter since he  just sent in his Peace Corps application and wanted to know what he is getting himself into, what the “real Peace Corps” is like.  The past two months have such a roller coaster of emotions, events, and gatherings that it was a perfect time to think back on what my life has been like, and damn, I do not regret a single thing I have done. I love where I am in life, I love where life has taken me, and I can’t wait to see where and who I will be in the few years.  Peace Corps was the best thing I did in my life, no matter what my expectations were,   they were wrong and thankfully so because there is nothing more boring than a predictable life.  Thank you to my Peace Corps Family, Thank you to my true family, and Thank you to all my friends, I would not be who I am today with you…

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Battle I Won....

For the past 21 months I have been in battle, in the country of Ghana, in the small village of Mem Chemfre …..a fight that for the most part I was losing, but on Tuesday the thirteenth, I defeated and I won the war. At first I did not realize I was even in a fight, but after my first roll of duct tape disappeared and the amount of things falling increased, I knew that things would never be same. I tried to ignore the problem, look the other way, pretend that it will stop on its own….I was wrong.
I didn't know what to do, where to go, who could help me. I enlisted the help of my second and last roll of duct tape to finish what they started. But it failed, and I lost all hope for a normal and comfortable life. In a moment of despair, I started to talk to myself about my problems and was overheard by a neighbor. He had the answer, he was my new life line, my rope to climb out of the hole; Putty.  That one word gave me hope and motivation to change my situation in the war.
I attacked in full force: ripping, tearing, and destroying my past work. And all the while, it kept coming and coming….large and small fell all over me and my room.  But I knew that this was my last stand, I was Custard and they were going to lose. One finger full at a time, one smooth motion with my hands and I was winning. At the end of the battle, I was sweating from every pore on my body, covered in god knows what, and smelling to high heaven, but as I stood back and admired my work I knew…this was it…It was done and I had won.
As you can imagine, clean up after a war like this took almost as long as the battle itself.  With only a small homemade broom, I cleaned it all up and can now walk in my room without turning the bottoms of my feet black. I took a long, cold bucket bath and now lay in my two yard on my bed, feeling good. I can still hear them, and know they will continue to try, but for the time and I do hope some time in the future, I can rest at ease knowing that I stopped them…..for now.    
Based on a true story of my life in Ghana….Can you guess what I was fighting against??? 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A day in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer in village

I wake up around 7 to either the noise of a rooster, guinea fowl and or one of the nine people that I live with.  I get up, grab the key to my latrine, wrap a two yard around me, and walk the thirty feet to my latrine. Once finished, I greet my bathroom lady, -a women that lives at my toilet- because it is rude to greet going to the bathroom, and walk back to my room. I then dress, make my bed-shocker I know, it took moving to Africa to make me do that- fill up my electric tea kettle- the most amazing thing ever, America you got to get into this fad- prepare my oatmeal and coffee, pour hot water and enjoy. While eating, I am usually outside on my porch reading a book; listening to music and watching my village pass by. I am going to say that this is a Sunday, since they are the best days around here. The people passing by are wearing their best outfits and going to church which lasts anywhere from one to three hours, depending on which church you attend. I will be doing this for around three hours or so, then I will come inside to my room and do some small chores; dusting, cleaning, washing, etc. Washing clothes takes a whole day, let me tell you. By this time, I start to prepare for lunch which is usually rice, stew, soup or fried yams. While eating, I am watching shows or a movie on my laptop.  Once my compound mates return from church, we talk and hang out for some time. Sunday is also the day that my farmers group meets as well as my women’s group. So I will go to those meetings if they are having them, and then return back to my place.  This is now around four pm, the sun is starting to go down and the weather is finally getting cooler (AKA under 90 degree’s). What I would do without my fan, I don’t know. The power has been going off most days now, so I try to spend most of my time outside where I might catch a breeze and stop sweating from every pore on my body.
The power being off at night is just about the worst thing I can imagine.  Waking up sweating everywhere and there is nothing you can do…Oye those are some long nights. I do not have a light in my room, so I do everything by candle light. The reason I don’t have light, yet have power, is because the bats/rats in my ceiling keep biting and destroying the cords that attach the power, so I gave up and live by candle light, which I enjoy now.  After I have prepared diner, which is mostly noodles, eggs and veggies or leftovers from lunch, I take my bucket bath and prepare for bed. Here I will watch one movie and by 8pm am so tired that I fall asleep….like an old lady.  This is a typical day for me in Mem Chemfre, my village. Peace Corps is a lot of reading, watching and learning, with a little bit of action and excitement. Each PCV of course has a different routine, but I know most will follow something like this on a daily basis.  It may seem boring to what you thought my life might be like, but it is these times where people are not staring at me or calling me white lady that are so nice and comforting. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Change, it is a coming!

I have found that as I get older, different things start to mean more to me and other things have lost their pull on me.  For instance, I now know that wherever I am, is home to me, whether this be for 2 days or 2 years, when I get to a place where I know I am safe and solid, it becomes my home. Just ask any of the Peace Corps Volunteers that I stay with; I set my bag down and it explodes, where within an hour, it looks like I have been living with them for the past 2 weeks. Some might think this is a bad thing, but I think it shows how Adaptable (Peace Corps Key Word!!!!!) and comfortable I am with myself and the person I am staying with! I have also learned the valuable lesson that I can’t do everything by myself; in fact I SHOULDN’T do everything by myself. I have learned so much more by asking other for help and input. This sounds like an easy thing to do, asking for help, but let me tell you, it wasn’t! Pride can be a virtue, until it kicks your ass, and your standing in a puddle of mud, which you can’t get out of. Thank goodness I have learned this lesson and now put trust into others to do what needs to be done.
Something that has lost its pull on me is food, this is not to say that I have lost the need and WANT to eat American food…all the time….but it now does not take up as much time on my daily schedule as it used to.  Food and I have never gotten along, well other then the fact that it was made to be eaten and I was made to eat. More, it was that I did not have control on how much I ate and it just kept being a temptress and making me weak with want. But no more!!!! I have more control of my body and my mind.
I have always been good at moving around, meeting new people, starting a new life, but not always good at keep contact with those in my past. Since moving to Africa, I have learned that family comes in many different forms and it takes work to keep a family together. I have had many families in my past: camp families, blood family, school family, theater family and now Peace Corps family. Each of these families hold a different part of me, and that part will always be there. I have depended on each of these families at different times in my past, and I know that I can always count on each of them when I need their help. Since being in the Peace Corps, I have come to rely on them more and more, and don’t know what I would have done without them. Never turn down a family, because even if you leave them physically, they will still have you and you will still have them as well.
Change….It happens, no one can stop it, so I say embrace what happens and go with it, cause if you don’t, life is going to take LOONNNGGG time for you!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How is stay clean in Africa....

How I stay clean in Africa!
Here is the run down on how I stay clean in Ghana and how most Ghanaians keep clean as well.
There are no showers here, so to stay clean here these are the steps I take:
Step 1: Get a med. Sized bucket
Step 2: Fill bucket with water
Step 3: Get a med. Sized cup
Step 4: Place cut into bucket and fill with water
Step 5: With cup in hand, rise hand above your head, and tilt down
Step 6: Repeat steps 4 and 5 till clean
There are no sinks here to clean my teeth, so here are the steps that I take:
Step 1: Fill a med. Sized cup with water
Step 2: Put toothpaste on toothbrush
Step 3: Walk outside your room to a place where you can spit, for me this is outside my room near a tree
Step 4: Brush teeth
Step 5: With cup of water, wash out your mouth and spit

*Side note: Some Ghanaians don’t use toothbrushes, they use a chew stick, which is a small stick from the Neem tree which grows throughout Ghana and has an anti-bacterial property, to clean their teeth.*
There are of course no laundry machines here, so I use two buckets to clean my clothes:
Step 1: Fill both buckets with clean water
Step 2: Put washing powder (like OMO, tide or any of the others) in one of the buckets
Step 3: Place dirty clothes in bucket with washing powder
Step 4: Wash each piece of clothing separately by hand in a circular motion, while dunking the clothes back into the soapy water
Step 5: Once washed, ring out clothing and place into the clean bucket of water
Step 6: Repeat steps 4-5 till all clothes are washed
Step 7: With the already washed clothes in the clean bucket of water, take each piece separately and agitate them in the clean water to remove the excess soap
Step 8: Ring the clean clothes out of water
Step 9: Turn inside out and hang on line to dry

*I want to challenge all of you, to see if you can also stay clean with such little water!*

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Peace Corps Success Story: One Person at a Time

In Peace Corps, there are a lot of pre-conceived thoughts about what you should do during your service. They come from   your friends, family, Peace Corps community and of course yourself; you are your own toughest critic.  But what most of us don’t release until further on in our service is that all it takes to cause a chain of reaction is a simple conversation.
This is one of my greatest success stories to date: I am not a small woman, I understand this, and I also understand that in Ghana, big is beautiful, but as an American women  it hurts when someone across the street for me calls me Obolo (fat, in the local language)  to get my attention. The fact that this happens multiple times a day, from both men and women can get old, very quickly. I live with 9 other people in my compound, and for the most part, they understand where I come from and how they should treat me. After a rough day of travel, and just a rough day in general, I come home to one of the boys (when I say boy, I mean he’s around 25 years old) in my compound telling me that I look fatter and should do something about it.  I won’t lie, I lost it a bit, and in my sternest voice, explained to him that he just insulted to the highest degree possible. To an American, being called fat is not only insulting but also hurtful and painful. I wanted to make sure that he understood where I am coming from and that at my home, in my compound, I would rather not be insulted. He was very sorry, and pledged it would not happen again. In Ghana, you are never sure if they are really listening to you or just agreeing with you because you are white.
The next week, someone came into my compound and proceeded to call me fat.  One of the boys that got my little sermon the week before, stepped up and explained to the visitor  that in America, calling someone fat is a great insult and to make sure to respect not only me, but in the future respect other cultures.  I sat in shocked silence……did that really just happen? Did he really listen and learn to what I had said? Pure Joy radiated through my body; there is no other situation that could have made me prouder to be a Peace Corps Volunteer and an American woman.  
It’s these little things that make your service so fulfilling, and rewarding. You don’t have to do a huge project to feel completion and success in your service, all it takes is a conversation and confidence in yourself.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I live in a Carnival.....

I live in a carnival….it has taken me some time to come to this conclusion, but after being in Ghana for 15 months, I have arrived at this fact, living in a carnival means never having a dull day.

 Let me take you through a day at the carnival, in a city or should I say a fair, called Kumasi.  We start in a tro, which is very much like a roller coaster; the bumps, the slides, the fast and slow movements of the tro,   just like you would expect in a coaster, only this coaster is longer and a little less safe at times, but none the less, always exciting and different each time you get in one.  Once off the tro coaster, you land in a place surrounded by people and noise; most of which you can’t understand or make out, but exciting all the same. You walk down a path filled with objects you have never seen before and people trying to call and get you to come and see what they, just like a barker would do:

“HISSSSSSSSSS, You, come, see, Come, many new things to show you”.

So many people are trying to get your attention at the same time that it’s difficult to know where to go and what to see. All the while, people are bumping into you, pushing past you, and calling to each other. As you continue down this path, music of all sorts are pumping out of huge speakers along the way, making you want to cover your ears, it being so loud. You round a corner and run into a man with a microphone and a set of speakers, preaching about something or someone with much vigor and zest.  You dare not stop for fear he would bring you into his web and start to discuss his subject of zealous retribution with you. As you continue your walk, you start to notice all the colors and shapes that you pass by, no two looking the same, and always something to see that is new to you, and as you see those unique features, another one of your senses is being assaulted, your olfactory glands. The smells that waft up to you range from divine to disaster. Many you cannot place, and most you would not want to know where it came from or what it is. Despite all of that, you can still appreciate how quickly the smells come and go, and how rich and exotic some of them are.

You find a booth that interests you and the game begins; you want this, for this price, but the vendor has other plans. His goal is to get as much from you as possible, always with a smile on his face and a lie behind his eyes. With your wits about you, you might win, but not always, sometimes they get the upper hand and you storm away knowing that the next time, you Will win! With all these things going on around you, it’s easy to lose your head and go insane, but if you let it all wash over you on step at a time, you can and will get out alive with more confidence and strength then had when you first arrived at the carnival known as Kumasi.