Archive for February, 2010

It is a He-Goat!

February 26, 2010

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I am sorry that I haven’t written in a few days. Quite honestly, I have forgotten about the blog. I think my last entry was about Monday, so I will catch up on the things happening here.

First of all, I am incredibly homesick. I miss feeling clean and normal. I miss school and my life and my routine. And I suppose, most importantly, the reality of what I need to figure out when I return home has hit me upside the head. Therefore these past few days have been quite emotional for me, and I have as a result, been far less productive than I would have liked.

On Tuesday we started the English lessons for the recipients in Amasaman. Most of them are Muslim and speak only Arabic and Twi. Justine, Dawn, and I had a lesson plan in mind for the hour, but Madam Aisha, the schoolteacher helping us, took over the class. We ended up teaching only the first five letters of the alphabet. At the end of class, we felt that everything would need to speed up if we were going to keep the interest of the women and get through everything in under three months.

Wednesday was a normal day at the office. The most interesting thing that happened was on our trotro ride to work. We all boarded a van and settled in for the ride, but at the next stop a man got off the bus. As he passed us, an extremely loud sound came from close to him, and I thought it was a child. It took me a few moments to realize that it was a terrified goat making the noise. When the man left, a guy sitting behind us said, “that was a he-goat!”. I later found out that this was the most obvious statement of the year since both Justine and Dawn got a face full of goat crotch.

On Thursday we attempted the English lessons again. This time Dorcas accompanied us, and the male leader of the Muslim Association of Amasaman came to oversee as well. Needless to say, there were way too many chiefs in the classroom. I am in charge of overseeing the lessons and for teaching, mainly because Dawn leaves on Tuesday and Justine doesn’t feel comfortable teaching English. Madam Aisha still believes that it is her classroom, however, and contradicts everything I say. It is most frustrating because we would like to teach English to the women as a conversational skill for their businesses, and Aisha wants them to learn English as a five year-old would. Without offending her, we aren’t sure how to keep control of the classroom though. We did manage to begin teaching greetings along with the next five letters of the alphabet. My concern is that they are going to only associate each letter with one word since Aisha insists on teaching ‘A is for apple, B is for banku, C is for cake’, and so on. At this rate we will still be working on two letter words in two months.

In the evening, Justine, Dawn, Hayford and myself went to a bar in Pokuase. It was on the rooftop of a building and served basic alcohols and meat kabobs. We had a great time, although I have to get used to the bar scene in Ghana. I find that people generally only sit and talk for an hour or so, so most of the time we are home before 11PM. While we all wake up early in the morning, I sometimes find it pointless to go out since it costs so much to travel to the bar, buy a drink, and then sit in a sleepy silence before returning home. Perhaps I will have to teach them how it’s done in America…

Tomorrow Dawn and I will head for Lake Volta. I am not sure exactly what we will get done, but hopefully it will be fun. I plan to be back on Sunday evening, and next week I will be more consistent about my entries. I’ve been tired this week and slacking off both here and at work.

Random Ghanaian Fact #56: According to the current government, the Ghanaian Cedi is appreciating in value against most of the world’s major currencies.

Random Ghanaian Fact #57: Also according to the government, the recently found oil deposits will be the saviour of Ghana’s economy. I beg to differ.

Back to the Old Grind

February 23, 2010

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Today was much like Mondays past. Justine and I went to work tired from the weekend. After a silent breakfast we waited for Dawn to finish getting ready, then headed into work an hour late. We took payments from several women and waited for far too long for the fried rice to be finished at the chop bar we usually eat from. Hayford came for a brief while in the early afternoon to check on us and then left to do whatever he does everyday. In the afternoon I interviewed another woman who finished her repayments- we are up to eight now. She is very nice, and I am sad that I am getting to know the women at the end of their journey. She sells cooked food in Amasaman, but travels to the north to buy her supplies. Originally she was buying on credit, but has since been able to buy the supplies outright and keep all of her profits.

By the time we returned home all of us were quite tired. I had the inkling to go out, but decided that I didn’t feel like moving, so settled for talking and going to bed early.

Something that has stayed on my mind recently is how comfortable I have become living in Ghana. Yes, getting sick here is scary, and yes it is a rough life in comparison to what I am used to in the United States, but I enjoy it. Ghanaians are friendly people with good intentions. Most of them want to do better for themselves and their families, and are grateful to have people help them achieve this. With that said, I am excited to see Botswana in a month. I hope I don’t chicken out with the giraffes.

Cape Coast

February 23, 2010

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This entry is for my adventures on Friday through Sunday. On Friday morning I stayed home. I was intensely constipated from the week long illness and I knew this had to change if I wanted to go away for the weekend. I went in to work around noon, meeting Justine and Dorcas, the new employee, on my way. They had finished making the weekly visits to recipients and were headed home. (As a side note, Dorcas is a cool cat. She is our age, just out of Cape Coast University with a degree in Education, and has quite a wicked sense of style. Her only flaw- overly loud Jesus radio. Justine and I are slowly working on this.) So I went to Cynthia’s store in Fise and hung out with her and Dawn. I figured I couldn’t leave until Dawn was ready and I didn’t feel like sitting at home where there was no power. Cynthia and her granddaughter, Elisa, sat with us and we discussed things around Fise and what Cynthia’s political views are. She, like many Ghanaians, doesn’t like the current administration. The previous President Kofuor was much more liberal in his policies. He improved a lot of the infrastructure in Ghana, including creating a public mass transportation system that connects major cities, and national health care. Any Ghanaian will say that he was the first to fully allow freedom of speech, and encouraged opinions to be made and heard about his policies. The new government, however, stifles opposition and seems to be much more corrupt.

In the afternoon we quickly packed our things and headed for Kaneshie to get a bus to Cape Coast. We had been told that the orange Kofuor buses (named in honor of the President’s improvements to transportation) would be available and comfortable. We searched the two trotro stations in Kaneshie but found nothing. An hour later we were frustrated and willing to board anything going to Cape Coast. Our options seemed to be a trotro or a huge (orange) bus that seats two rows of three people each. We opted for the trotro and lucked into an air-conditioned one. Finally, we were on our way. The Ford van was filled with upper class Ghanaians. You can tell this by the way they dress and the women’s fair skin. I didn’t enjoy the ride very much- what I like about trotros is how real they are. The sack of whatever is strapped to the back and people going to every kind of small village fill the seats.

When we arrived to Cape Coast we took a taxi directly to the Oasis Beach Resort. They were full for the night, but said they would have rooms the next day. We went to another place Dawn had looked into, the Mighty Victory Hotel, and checked in. The room was decent and there was HOT WATER, so I had a lovely shower the next morning. We put down our things and headed back to Oasis where the party seemed to be starting. We got dinner (Dawn an unappetizing grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and a distinctly Ghanaian plate of spaghetti and meat sauce for me) and then ordered drinks. We went down to the beach, dodging several of the men preying on tourists and sat, but were soon joined by two obnoxious drunk and high men. The only memorable things from the conversation that followed were two phrases: ‘sweat like a pregnant fish’ and ‘it’s nice to be nice’. They repeated these over and over again, and no matter what tactic we employed to get them to go away, they wouldn’t. At about 1am we left Oasis to return to our hotel, and on our way saw some very disturbing sites. The amount of homeless people in Cape Coast is unimaginable. They lined the streets, sleeping head to foot. Men, women, and children slept on dirty concrete next to the roaming goats. It was quite sad.

The next day we began by securing our room at the Oasis. Both of these hotels were more than I wanted to spend, but Dawn seemed very excited about it, so I agreed. After we got the room we went to Cape Coast Castle. This British Castle was the stopping point for loading up slaves, supplies and gold. It was traumatizing and heartbreaking to see where the slaves were kept and how they were treated. At the end of the tour we went through the “Door of No Return” where slaves were loaded onto the ships, never to see Africa again. Often times they jumped into the ocean instead of boarding the ship, which also killed all of the people chained to them as well. After this we went for lunch, quite shell shocked and mum. We ran into the men we met the night before outside of the castle. Apparently their angle is to go to the major tourist night spot (the Oasis) in the evenings and befriend the visitors. Then the next day, they say ‘Christina! How are you? You remember me? Come and look at my artwork” and then they give you a ‘deal’ because you are their ‘friend’ and so on. I actually bought a painting there. It caught my eye and I wasn’t able to stop thinking about it, so I gave in.

Afterwards we went to Elmina, a small town about fifteen minutes from Cape Coast. There we toured the Dutch castle, which focused more on the treatment of female slaves. There were secret compartments that led women from the slave dungeons to the general’s quarters. The castle was much smaller than its Cape Coast counterpart, but just as disturbing. On the way in we had given our names to two men who badgered us, and on the way out we realized their con. They paint your name on a seashell and then give it to you as a gift. Then they ask for donations. Dawn walked away with a seashell, I didn’t. By this point I was tired of all of the cons and in no mood to give away my money. In the castle, however, I struck up a mini conversation with a man from the U.S. He had just gotten to town and was sick for a couple of days, but he seemed to be feeling better.

We returned to Cape Coast exhausted and ready for dinner. The tourist book said there was a good vegetarian eatery called Baab’s juices, so we went on a quest. When we finally found it, Baab was sitting outside of the shack and asked us what we wanted. We asked what she had and she replied ‘jollof with no meat’. We politely declined since jollof generally has no meat and we were hoping for a new food experience. We went back to the restaurant we had eaten at before, Castle Café, and resigned ourselves to waiting for an hour. We were learning the tricks to eating there. Order right away or else the waitress wouldn’t come back, and ask for the check when you get your food. We sat at a bench facing the water and were surprised to find that the person to be seated next to us was our friend from Elmina Castle. We struck up a conversation with him, well, Dawn and he talked a lot, I was more interested in the wine swirling through my body and the sound of the waves, and after eating our respective meals we agreed to meet up again at the Oasis in a little while for cocktails.

He did indeed meet us at the bar and it was my turn to talk to him. Dawn was talking to Abdul, a local Ghanaian artist who seemed normal enough, so I ended up joking around with him. He is a petty cab driver in NYC and quite pretentious. Many inside jokes came from Laramie, yes Laramie. He is a world traveler who hates people and culture, and he was on his hands and knees crawling through mangroves earlier in his stay in Ghana. It was entertaining listening to him, and it kept the creepers at bay.

On Sunday we went to Kakum National Park, which was amazing. We hired a taxi to take us and wait for us, then we partook in the canopy walk. I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time. We didn’t see any animals, only two butterflies, but the walk was still worth it. Afterwards our driver headed back for Cape Coast but was pulled over by the police. We waited for about twenty minutes while he talked his way out of a fine for not having his driver’s license with him. It turns out that the previous day the police took it from him so he had to wait until Monday to get it back. Anyway, we eventually got back to Cape Coast and made our way back to Accra from there.

We went to the Accra Mall before going home and I got some groceries. Rather expensive groceries actually (my small box of Corn Flakes cost 7 Cedis or about $5)

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #54: The Bradt Ghana guide tells many lies. Just a warning.

Practical Travel Tip #55: Beware of sand fleas in Cape Coast. Don’t dig in the sand or else you will get many stinging bites.

The Long and Winding Road

February 22, 2010

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Do you know the easiest way to make the days go by in Ghana? Get a disease. I am not sure when my last real post was, and I am not sure what has happened since then that didn’t involve illness, and quite honestly, I don’t really know if my accounts will be accurate (simply because my fever managed to kill a lot of my short term memory), but here is a summary of the past five or so days.

Day 1: Friday

The first memory of Friday I have is Ben suggesting a restaurant on our way to Fise that we could eat at. It was before the places in town opened and we were all hungry, so we decided to go there. I won’t sugar coat this- the decision was ridiculously stupid. The ‘restaurant’ was a small tent with a few plastic tables under it. The cook was serving rice out of a plastic tub and nothing was on a fire or covered properly. Justine and I spent 80 pesewas each on our meals (appx. 60 cents). I know what you’re thinking… why the hell would you eat here?! Well, my rational was that Ben was a local and should know the good places to eat, and also a lot of very good and hygienic food comes from not-so-pretty places. Anyway, by the time we got to Fise (maybe 10 minutes later?) I was feeling terrible. I was light-headed and a bit nauseous and I couldn’t concentrate on what the women were saying.

By the time we got home I felt even worse. I knew I had a fever, so I took my temperature- it was 99.5F. I laid down thinking that maybe I was just hot from walking under the direct sunlight so I rested and drank water, but within an hour my temperature was 101.5F. I mentioned this to Justine who said she was also feverish, but that perhaps it was only heat exhaustion. By 7PM we decided to go to the hospital.

We went to the closest hospital, Amasaman Hospital, and what an experience it was. The only information they got from each of us was our names, the name of the person who brought us there (Hayford), and why we were there. There was no medical history or possible allergies. No questions about vaccines. No interest in when the symptoms started. After we got our book (the Ghanaian version of your medical chart), we paid what I assume was the admission fee, 5 Cedi. After this, the ‘triage nurse’ took our blood pressure, and armpit temperature, which showed no fever. We sat on wooden benches and waited for the doctor (nurse practitioner?) to see us. The woman seemed most unenthused that we were bothering her. She looked at our pitiful books and sent us for malaria tests. The one they did was the quick version. They prick your finger and put a drop of blood onto a kit strip thing, which will show a series of lines that represent whether you have malaria or not. Ours were both negative. Amazingly, the tech didn’t tell us this, but gave us a sheet of paper and told us to go back to the doctor. Oh, and we had to pay 2 Cedi before getting the test. When I saw the doctor she said the test was negative (it was written on the back of the sheet he gave us) but that it could still be malaria and just not in the blood yet. She prescribed a three day course of Lonart for each of us (6 Cedi).

Day 2: Saturday

I started the Lonart on Friday night even though the test was negative, but Justine did not because her fever had gone down and she didn’t want to take unnecessary medicines. It came back in the morning, however, and both of us were in bad shape. We were shivering, we had bad body pains, and our fevers were going up and down throughout the day. In the evening Justine was feeling a bit better, but my fever was getting higher and higher. Eventually, it got to 102F. Hayford took me back to Amasaman hospital where the nurses told me that the doctor was not in and then laughed at me for being ‘An American scared of malaria’. They said I needed to complete the treatment, and if I didn’t feel better by Monday, to come back. I was so angry I could have punched the lady or cried. My thinking was, if I was afraid of malaria I would be happily gulping down the medicine, and also that regardless they should take such a high fever seriously. So I went home.

Later in the night, my fever rose to 104.1F and I called the US Embassy. The medic on duty told me two hospitals to go to, both of which were quite far away, so Hayford decided to check on one a bit closer before going all the way into Accra. We went to Achimota Hospital. This one was quite large and no more helpful. I once again paid for my book, got my armpit temperature taken, and waited to see the doctor for what felt like an hour. By this time the fever had broken, so I was feeling a bit less delirious. I told the doctor my symptoms and he began writing some things. When he was finished I asked what he was testing and prescribing. He (showed me how irritated he was) told me that he was testing for malaria, typhoid, and ‘some other things’ and that he was prescribing malaria meds, an antibiotic, and what I later found out was saline. He told me to go to the pharmacy and buy the drugs (21 Cedi), then go to the emergency room to have the IV put in, and then they would do the tests. No need to say that this did not fly with me. When Hayford and I went to the ER he told me that it made no sense to do a treatment before knowing the test results, and I was incredibly happy that he agreed (a Ghanaian on your side is always a great thing to have). I told the nurse that I wanted to get the lab work done first, and she gave me back the lab prescription. I went for the blood work (15 Cedi, but only took twenty minutes-ish) and it came back negative for everything. The doctor insisted that I still take the medicines though, although he wouldn’t tell me why. When the nurse came, I asked her to please explain why I needed all of these medicines and she said she didn’t know what the doctor was thinking. She was kind enough to tell me though that the antibiotic would be for if I had a UTI or something like it (would a UTI cause a fever of 104?), the injection usually is prescribed if the Lonart doesn’t seem to be providing relief to patients- I think it works in conjunction with it, and I didn’t need the saline if I could take water on my own. I told her I would take the injection. The other two didn’t make sense to me. The shot hurt like hell and burned all the way down my leg, I limped back to the car with Hayford after he returned my unused medicines (I think I got back half of my money).

Day 3: Sunday

On Sunday morning I woke up feeling fine. So fine, in fact, that I agreed to take the new volunteer, Dawn, up to Amasaman to show her around a bit. Before we left I went back to the apartment to get a few things, and found Justine’s boyfriend frantically searching the internet for the French Embassy’s phone number. She was sitting in a chair looking completely dazed. Willan found the number and got the name of a hospital she could go to where her insurance would reimburse her. They got Hayford to rush them away to the hospital, Justine in tears being carried by her boyfriend.

When we returned from Amasaman I was a bit feverish and feeling rather worn down. Justine still wasn’t back so I continued to entertain Dawn, who was trying not to nap since she knew the jet lag would be worse. Finally they returned, Justine plus one malaria injection and minus one diagnosis.

Day 4: Monday

I woke up feeling okay again and thought I could go to work, I was getting restless. I went with Hayford and Dawn to the office, and felt okay until noon. By then, however, I was light-headed from hunger and getting a bit sweaty. I decided to wait until the fried rice was finished to eat, but had to wait until 2pm because they were running late. By then I was ready to go home. Unfortunately, I fell for Hayford’s lies of going home ‘soon’. I kept waiting, thinking that it would be nice to have a ride directly home, and not to have to walk to the trotro and then from the trotro up the hill to home. I left without him at 5pm, feverish, light-headed, and super annoyed. The fever didn’t go away until I sat outside that night in the desperate hope that the breeze would make me feel better. It did- within an hour I was feeling much better.

Day 5: Tuesday

On Tuesday I agreed to go on the Accra tour with Hayford and Dawn solely because the majority of it was driving. We went to the Jamestown lighthouse, which overlooked the slums of Jamestown and the ocean, and circled around the major sections of Accra. It was nice to properly see the city. We had lunch at Papaye, Ghana’s version of fast food, and while we waited for the hour it took to receive the food my fever came back. Luckily, we were sitting in air conditioning, so I shivered the fever away. When we got home from the tour I laid down and decided that I wasn’t moving again for the next day.

Day 6: Wednesday

The day of rest. I read and slept, and ate fruits in an attempt to give my body some of the vitamins it was sorely lacking. I had a headache that I thought for sure would make my head explode, so I got my mom to call the Medical section of the US embassy to find out where I could go to have someone take me seriously. A woman named Carol called me back, and was the most helpful person I could have asked for. It almost made me cry.

Day 7: Thursday

I had no fever on Wednesday evening, but on Thursday still went to the doctor that Carol suggested. He actually acted like a doctor and took a full medical history and did an exam. Dr. Oddaye takes care of the US Embassy staff when the embassy doctor is unavailable. He was schooled in Britain, so he was much more familiar with the expectations of westerners. It’s amazing how comforting it is to have a doctor look in your ear and feel your abdomen. At the end of it he still didn’t know what was wrong, but gave me his cell number and asked me to call if anything changed. He believed that it was a virus that just needed to run its course. So I made my way back home all by myself (my first time from Accra to Pokuase!) and rested for a few hours.

In the evening the power was still out (it had been for the past 18 hours) so I weighed my options. I could either stay home in the darkness and sweat with bloodthirsty mosquitoes, or I could go with Justine and Dawn to Accra to watch live highlife music at a bar. I chose the latter. It was a lot of fun. We first stopped at Ryan’s Irish Pub where all of the white people in Ghana flock to on a Thursday night. It was so crowded with ‘those people’ that it took half an hour to get two sodas and a bottle of water. Beer would have been impossible. Anyway, there we met Willan and his two friends. They were a man from Cuba and his French wife. They live in France but he had been subcontracted to Ghana to work with the telecommunications company. His wife was just visiting. They went home shortly after, and we moved on to the bar with music, Bywell.

At Bywell we saw a lot of white men dancing with Ghanaian women. We found out later that these were prostitutes (some of them looked classy(ish)). The music was great but really loud, so by the time we left my ears were a bit muffled. It was fun watching drunk people dance and even more fun to make fun of them. The highlight of the evening had to be the performance by a sexually-questionable woman(man?). She belted out strange tunes and even stranger dance moves (complete with crotch-showing split) and in the end dry humped a German man. Yeah…much better than staying home.

We are surviving

February 16, 2010

An update on my health:

I am getting better day by day. Now, my fever only comes once a day and I am ok for the rest of the time. I plan on staying in and resting for the entire day tomorrow so hopefully by evening time I will feel fit enough to write a proper blog.

Justine is completely better. She hasn’t had a fever in two days, so we are slowly starting to get back to normal.

Still Sick

February 13, 2010

I am still sick. My fever is high and I have very unpleasant body pains. If you were under the impression that I was just feeling a bit under the weather, I am sorry to have misled you. The malaria meds aren’t working, and it’s pretty clearly not heatstroke. If the meds don’t work by tomorrow I will go to a government hospital to get tested for all the strains of malaria and other diseases that I may have gotten. For now I am resting (I slept all day waking up only to take medicine).

Malaria What?!

February 12, 2010

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So yeah, today was a very interesting day. It started with more card playing, this time with Justine. We played the game “Presidents”. I don’t know if anyone remembers this from their grade school days. Anyway, it was fun and I was surprised that it transcended continents. In the afternoon we got lunch at a new spot. Ben always fails to mention these things (Justine has been eating at the same two places everyday for the past month and a half) so I was a bit ticked at him when he nonchalantly talked about how he and Jo, a fling/previous volunteer, had eaten there all the time. The food was good. Justine and I paid 80 pesewas (about 60 cents) each for a large portion of rice with gravy and plantains. The meat looked rather grey and old, so we stayed away from that.

Afterwards we went to Fise. It turns out that most of the recipients had gone to Accra today to buy supplies and sell at the market. Our only stop was to visit Auntie Cynthia. Keep in mind that this woman completely flustered me on Tuesday when she complained that I didn’t speak proper English and then chastised me for not asking her a lot of questions. She is a very sweet woman though. And her daughter is one of the cutest children I have ever seen (probably because she is always so sad and crying every time I see her). I will post a picture if I get the chance in the future. Her name is Elisa.

By this point I was feeling like crap. I started having aches and pains in the office, and the sun just made it even worse. I sat on Cynthia’s porch and had a box of orange juice and a bag of water. None of this made me feel any better. By the time I got home I could only just plop my dirty body down onto the bed and will myself to take off my shoes. I felt feverish so after relieving my bladder and getting water (I gave myself till the count of ten to get up) I took my temperature. Unfortunately I had just drunk refrigerated water, so the reading wasn’t accurate. It said 99.5. I lay for another hour then took my temperature again. It now said 100.5 and I decided that I should let someone know. I texted Hayford to check on me when he got in to make sure I was still ok- and then I slept.

When I awoke the fever was 101.4 and I took ibuprofen (the thought didn’t occur to me until then) and lay back down. Hayford checked on me as promised, and Justine mentioned that she felt feverish as well. We decided to go to a clinic for a malaria test.

The hospital in Amasaman is quite large and it was empty when we got there. I would argue that, like most of Ghana, it could have been much more efficient. We had to pay after each step of the process- first after intake, then before getting the malaria test, then before getting medicine. As a matter of fact I went to pay before seeing the pharmacist and the man told me to go to the pharmacy where I was told to go back to the man before I could get my meds. Although the malaria test came back negative I was still given malaria treatment, which I will take as a precaution. I think it was heat stroke.

Thought on Ghana #53: I came up with a great solution for Ghana’s road dangers- test people to make sure they know how to operate a vehicle! Apparently here you only have to pay a fee to be issued a license.

How to Play Cards in Ghana

February 12, 2010

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1. Shuffle the decks by slapping the cards together in a very masculine way.
2. Allow the person you are playing against to cut the deck.
3. Deal 3 cards from the bottom half to each player, then 2 for a total of 5 cards each.
4. Aggressively slam these cards down one at a time to see who has the highest card of a particular suit.
5. The last round is what determines the winner of that game.
6. Keep score till 30.

Yes, I learned how to play cards (there is only one card game in Ghana) and I have to say I was quite good at it. That was all I did at work because Justine was working from home on the Street Library project and the power went out at 10AM and stayed out for the day in the office. Ben and I had fun with it, though. We both are quite competitive, so we got into it very much. I won the first thirty points, and then he beat me by one point when we continued to fifty.

In the evening, Justine and I continued our tradition of sitting in the common room together, surfing the web. I got into a web comic called Toothpaste for Dinner, and we both caught up with friends and loved ones back home.

It was a pretty normal day. I haven’t felt homesick recently, which is a welcomed relief. It seems as though I am building a routine for myself, and I now feel like the next month and a half will fly by.

No tips today, although I did see an awesome sticker in a meat pie case. It said “I’m Afraid of Everyone” in large red letters, then in the center there was a hand with its finger pointing at the reader (think Uncle Sam posters) and the caption said “Even you!”. There are some things I will never understand about Ghana.

Bon Voyage, Mate

February 10, 2010

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This morning I created a form for volunteers to use when we interview women who have finished repaying their loans. Afterwards, Justine, Catherine, and I sat around and ate breakfast together. When we arrived at work, we decided to buy a pack of playing cards. Ben and I went to a woman we had seen last week selling them and found out that they are only 40 pesewas (30 cents)! We bought a deck, but as soon as we began playing in the office, women piled in to repay their loans, and eventually Hayford came for a meeting with potential partners.

After lunch Hayford and I returned home to pick Catherine up. Our mission was to get her to the airport and get me to an ATM. Unfortunately there was a miscommunication so Hayford thought I wanted to go shopping at the mall and was planning to drop me off there for a while (I would have, but I didn’t feel like waiting for him to come back, nor did I feel like taking new trotro routes at night). After a quick but heartfelt goodbye Hayford and I left the airport and went to Accra Mall.

On a more awkward note, I just received several text messages from my friend Nicolas telling me that he misses me. So I totally used the “I have a fiancée” line but it didn’t deter him. His next text was “when can I take you out” (yes, via text message). So I said that I am in a serious relationship and will be away this weekend, but maybe next week (I shouldn’t have added that bit… foresight!). So he finally calls me and asks if my guy is in Ghana, and I say no (once again, foresight!) and he says next week will be fine. FML.

Anywho, at Accra Mall I got money and books (3 novels! I went for jeans…) and Hayford attempted to get an ink cartridge for his printer. Afterwards, we scouted the Greater Accra region for a used monitor, and found one that he will probably purchase tomorrow. In the evening I had dinner and sat with Justine in the common room surfing the web on our respective computers. I think tomorrow she will go to Accra and I might join if I am invited. If not, I have books to keep me company.

I no longer look at Ghana as a challenge to overcome. I have made enough friends and gotten comfortable enough with the pace of life here that I can take most things (except super creepy men) in stride. My goal is to continue to branch out over the next two months and learn more about myself, this country, and the microfinance program. One step towards this is the start of the English literacy program for loan recipients next week.

Ghanaian Practical Travel Tip #51: You can register with the Embassy online which is much less painful than navigating the streets of Accra to do so. It can also be done pre-departure.

Ghanaian Practical Travel Tip #52: Shop around for the best cell network for your needs. Networks have service in most areas and some offer better rates for domestic or international calls.

“Is Pennsylvania Near Jamaica?”

February 9, 2010

2-9-10

This morning Justine and I went to the office at 9AM and found no Ben and a locked office. We waited until 9:30 before he showed up, having slept late for the second time since I came to VPWA. We opened the office and spent the morning listening to music until three of our clients came in. Rita, Cynthia, and Mary came in to pay their weekly fee and spent the following hour talking to us. They ribbed me for not asking them a lot of questions (little do they know that they always talk, making it hard to ask any questions) and promised to take me to their families in the north. When Cynthia asked me where I was from she was confused about where in the US Pennsylvania is. I told her the north, but she asked me if it was near Jamaica. Many people have asked me if I am from near Jamaica, which I think is hilarious since the country is just a little island in the Caribbean. It is strange though that everyone is obsessed with Jamaica. If I mention that my parents are from there, people say that I am Ghanaian then, and most trotros have a Jamaican flag on them.

In the afternoon Justine left with Hayford and Catherine to find a large tent for the street library and I was left alone to hold down the office with Ben. At 3:30 we decided to close up since the hours for money collection ends at 3PM and no one had come in since 11AM. I took a trotro home and actually got off at the correct stop (small victories!). When I arrived home the only things I had on my mind were relieving my bladder and cleaning myself, so I had a lovely cool shower and scrubbed myself. While waiting for my hair to dry a bit I fell asleep and woke up half an hour later when Justine came in from her excursions.

In the evening we had a going away party for Catherine. Numo is suspected to have malaria, so he wasn’t up for much, meaning that the entire shin dig ended by 9PM. Justine’s boyfriend also came over, so I finally got to hear him speak (if you remember, my last experience involved him mostly naked in the kitchen). Justine made a cake for the occasion, which was the most sugar I had had in over a month (I probably ate about half the cake for this reason) and we talked about politics and Ghanaian life. Interestingly, I was put on the spot when a guest accused the U.S. of not respecting structured authority. The theory was that since Britain had a monarchy they could respect Ghanaian traditional hierarchies more so than Americans. I held my tongue, since I was more interested in why they believed this, but Catherine defended America.

By the end of the party everyone was tired and ready for bed. I did, however, state that for my going away party everyone was staying up till dawn with a few bottles of rum (Jamaican of course ) and dancing the night away.

Ghanaian Practical Travel Tip #50: While there are a lot of cattle in Ghana, beef is a very scarce commodity. Don’t expect to find meat or any dairy products from cows in your stay.