Category Archives: Ghana

Back in 2013/14 I lived in a small town in Ghana. Even though I was there for work, everything seemed like one big adventure.

Charles

Charles

I met Charles on one of my first times walking/exploring around town. We immediately became great friends and he’s helped me through a lot of my first experiences, especially with fetching water and visiting a funeral. He’s even been a tutor for my program twice and won the scholarship both times. He’s really hard working and dedicated and I’m sure he’ll make it far.

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Andrews Asamoah

Andrews Asamoah

I’ve also mentioned him many times in my stories. He’s been a really great friend the whole way through. Once I get this guy talking, he doesn’t stop for hours. He’s been through a lot in his life and basically accomplished everything on his own. I really hope that he never gives up and becomes successful someday.

Theo

Theo

This is Theo and some of the other teachers at the Antoa JHS. Theo has been a great friend from the beginning and the lady in the pink always tries to get me to marry the other one. We spent most of our time teasing each other.

George Bush

George Bush

This is my best friend in Antoa. I’ve wrote about him a lot in my stories, but I’ve never been able to properly represent the friendship we’ve shared. He has always been such a positive part of my experience in Antoa and I will never forget the laughs and serious advice he’s given me.

Hike to Butre and Staying the Night at Ellis’ Hotel

Tuesday, I wake up very early and get ready to leave Busua and this awful hotel. Right as the sun is rising I’m off, walking down the beach toward Butre.The hike between the beaches is a nice one. It goes for about 3 or 4 kilometers through a forest and over a big hill. The last, and first, time I did this hike was with my mom back in January. I hope I can still find my way. Actually I hope that I get a little lost and find some cool adventures. The path is easy to find and still craving the adventure, I continue down the beach past the path. There’s really not much to see except a windy path leading up the hill to a house overlooking the ocean. I see some muscular men with big pickaxes and I quickly leave to avoid any trespassing accusations. I make my way back and take the familiar path. It looks like someone has gone and cleaned up the trail because it’s somehow a little easier than when I went with my mom. Half way up the hill I pause to look back at the scenery of the beach, next to a lush forest of tasty fruits. At the top of the hill I take the path in the wrong direction on purpose and find a house at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. I find a badly weeded path leading from the house down the edge of the cliff until I reach what looks like the foundation for another house. Then, I realize this is the top of the worksite I saw from the bottom of the area I stumbled upon with the machete wielding men. I swiftly get back to continue down the familiar path. About half way through there is a shop in the middle of a big area that looks like it has been recently cleared. I greet the people there before continuing to Butre.

 Not much further on the way to Butre I notice some paths leading to the right, in the direction of the ocean. I take them with the hope of finding a secluded view over the ocean. My goal is to find a tranquil and beautiful place where I can just sit and let things soak in for a while. Instead, I just find some people’s farms and eventually turn around when I hear people working on their crops nearby. I think this is similar to the men working on that hill, but there’s something about being around people with machetes in the middle of a forest that doesn’t quite bring the tranquility I’m looking for.

 Back on the path, I run into an older German couple who tell me they’ve lost their sons. They can barely get the question out before taking another drag from their cigarette. After I share my condolences and provide no help whatsoever, I continue down the path to the other side. At the top of the decline I hear loud yelling that sounds like an army person rattling off marching commands. Then my brain catches up and realizes that the yelling is in German and I go completely still. I think I’ve found their sons, yet I’m slightly concerned that I’ve run into Hitler’s grandson. I start to relax a bit when I realize I look much more like an Aryan than a Jew. Good thing I decided to shave my sideburns and leave my top hat at home. I called to the couple still in hear shot behind me and they waited for their sons to catch up with them. “Okay, that wasn’t fair, I shouldn’t generalize,” I thought as my pace quickened on my way to Butre.

 Before I know it I’m down in Butre and my chills are almost completely gone. I walk through the town and across the rickety bridge that looks like it could fall apart at any moment. Finally, I reach Hideout and it’s still morning, so I order banana pancakes and fresh fruit juice. While I’m waiting for the food I chat with the people behind the desk and inquire about their rooms. They tell me to stick around and he’ll find me somewhere to stay. I lounge around their hotel and try to get service to call Dara to see if she is coming to join me at the beach. I’m still not sure where my other co-workers are, so I’m assuming they’ve all gone home since I haven’t run into them yet. I walk down the beach to get service to hear she won’t be coming to the beach. She apologizes, but I’m actually happy I will continue to get some time alone to rest and reset.

 Before I left on vacation I remember some of my colleagues mentioning that there is a nice guy they met named Zion near Butre, who they said I must meet. After getting off the phone I notice a sign that mentions Zion’s vegetarian restaurant and it triggers my memory to them telling me. I set off to find him and to explore a bit before they find me a room. The sign has an arrow pointing straight ahead, but it’s places between two paths that go off in different directions, so it either means straight back to Hide out or off into the forest area. Naturally I take the path I haven’t been on yet that leads off into the bush.

 Soon after going down the path and greeting some people on the way I realize that I’m only going to the back of Hideout. I even see the back of one of the cottages I’ve stayed in before, but I continue in hopes of finding Zion’s place. I find some people’s farms and Hideout’s trash pile and soon get bored, so I turn back for the hotel to get some lunch. I have to order all of my favorites again so I get the fish wrap and fries. I ask them about Zion and they tell me to eat and relax and when he comes they will let me know. Completely satisfied, I recline back and enjoy the beach and some music from my ipod. At 16:00 I order some dinner to come at 6 to give them plenty of time to get the ingredients in town.

 After who knows how long in that spot a man walks up behind me and taps me on the shoulder. I turn to see a man with a big blue sack on his head that made him look like marge simpson. I’m not sure how he’s balancing the sack, but it looks very secure. We awkwardly stare at each other as I think about ways to turn down whatever he’s trying to sell me before he manages to tell me that he’s Ellis. I say it’s great to meet him and then he realizes that I have no idea who he is, so he introduces himself as Zion. I jump up and apologize and he tells me to follow him to his place. We walk back through Hideout and into the bush again. We pick up right where I decided to turn around and continue down the path. We don’t talk to much during the walk, but I find out that he has many Obroni friends and doesn’t remember mine, but he seems like the same person they described.

 We get to his place and enter a rickety gate that probably wouldn’t hold back a strong breeze. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but on the inside it’s really beautiful. There are raised wooden walking paths that lead to almost every part of his property. It’s not big, but it doesn’t seem small the way he has filled the place with a nice home garden setting. In the back there is a big seated area around what looks like the burnt remnants of a bon fire. He leads me to my room and I set my stuff down. There’s no electricity or running water in his place, so I’m worried about being a ball of sweat at night, but otherwise fairly used to these conditions. There’s a place for a bucket shower and a real toilet to sit on, so I’m happy. He really has a skill for decorating things and making them look less run down. The room feels nice because there are all kinds of African colored cloth hanging on the walls and even a nice seat and table next to the bed. However, if I look really hard past all of the decorations, the place looks like a dad and his son’s summer project. For me, that adds to the intimacy of the place. This guy really put care and thought into everything he’s built, instead of just hiring workers and contractors to construct his place. After I get settled in I meet and old woman and young man, about my age, who are also staying at Zion’s place. Then Zion hands me a sheet with a food menu and a sheet explaining his background, philosophies, and reason for building a hotel/restaurant. I find out that he recently converted to the Rastafarian religion and took the name Zion. His birth name is Kofi Ellis Annan. He talks about wanting to have a vegetarian restaurant that only uses local food and no wasteful packaging. He has a nice message about helping his local people and  sharing peace and love with everyone that comes to stay.

 After getting settled in Ellis’ place, I go back to Hideout to get my previously ordered dinner, although I’m now wishing I could have stayed and eaten the vegetarian food with Ellis. I still have a check list to get through with the hideout food and this banana curry pizza is at the top of that list. I food is amazing as usual. Before the sun sets, I rush across the beach and into town to pick up some mangos for everyone at Ellis’ hotel. I get back as quickly as possible to avoid being on the beach after dark. Back at Ellis’ he tells us that he is making a bon fire if we wish to join. He asks if I want tea and even though it’s a warm night and we’re sitting around a big fire, I can’t say no to lemon grass tea grown in his backyard. Zion pulls out his big drum and starts to play and sing. He’s really not good at singing and his drumming is only bearable, but his lyrics are very good. He sings about the struggles of living in “paradise.” The older English woman gets up and goes to her room and Zion asks me to come over and give the drum a try. I tell him thank you, but he’s much better so he should keep playing. He tells me no one is better and that I should just give it a try. It’s really nice to just let things go and only concentrate on playing the music. I’m reminded why I love music so much and I really regret not bringing my harmonica. After some playing, he asks me about what I’m doing here in Ghana and I try to get more out of him about his life and what he’s all about. Unfortunately I think he’s had a combination of a long workday and a little too much marijuana because he’s slacking on his part of the conversation. I didn’t even know he was high because he didn’t openly smoke, like you think a Rastafarian would. Anyway, I had a good time playing the drums and drinking his delicious tea and that’s enough for me for one night. We both agree it’s time to hit the hay and leave for our rooms. 

Traveling to the Beach

Monday morning, I wake up with my mind set on going to the beach. I love to travel alone and this will potentially be my last time to visit the Ghanaian beaches before I go back to the US. I tell Jennifer and Charles my plan and they tell me to wait so they can prepare kenkay and fish to keep me full all the way until I reach my destination. I scarf down the delicious food and then Charles drives me to the roadside to catch a car. Oh an car here in Ghana refers to anything from private cars, to taxis and tro tros. And in most cases unless I specify, I’m taking a tro tro. I easily catch a ride to the big bus station in Accra, called Circle. From there, I get on a bus headed for Karnesian market. The bus I get on is nothing like I’ve experienced in Ghana before. It’s sort of like a school bus, but then also too open and spread out. There’s a big aisle in the middle and no seat for the mate. I half expect the fair to be expensive, but I hand the mate one Cedi and get some change back. I tell the woman next to me that I don’t know where I’m going and she says she will show me the way. She tells me it’s time to get off and to follow her. She walks me all the way to the car and even makes sure with the driver that I’ll be getting to Takoradi. She takes me to the Ford buses, which Jennifer told me to be aware of my risk before I take them. They are like big luxurious tro tros with air conditioning. Apparently it’s common for the drivers to put up the windows, pump the air conditioning, and go way too fast, without anyone really noticing. She told me they used to be a lot worse about 5 years ago, but I should still be careful. Since I think it’s probably equally dangerous to travel at night, I take the Ford bus in this instance to make sure I get to the beach before nighttime.  

 The ride goes smoothly and a few hours later I get down in the middle of Takoradi. I recognize where I am from when I cam here with Spencer back in the Fall of last year. I head to the tro tro station to catch another car to a town called Agona. When I get to the car I realize that it’s completely empty and I have to wait for it to fill up before it will leave. No one is coming to join the car and it’s the hot part of the day, so naturally I’m pouring sweat. Finally, some people start to trickle on. An old woman comes and sits in front of me next to a young man who got on soon after I did. After that, two young women board the tro tro. One of them sits next to me and the other goes to the row behind us. The one next to me nudges me and then greets me. I greet her and then she starts talking to her friend in Twi. I can hear them talking about me, but instead of chiming in, I just sit there and laugh to my self. Then the one next to me realizes I can understand what they’re saying so they both ask if I can speak Twi. From there, we go through the normal script of questions and I do them so often that I can fly through them with ease and dare I say maybe even sound like a Ghanaian. That’s when I notice the traders that walk around the station selling from car to car have stopped and lined up outside the Tro Tro to watch me speak Twi. After a few minutes the questions start to slow down and the people remember they’re there to do work and leave the Tro Tro. The young woman in the back switches with the one next to me and then starts up a whole new line of questioning. She takes my phone and puts her number in it and flashes her phone to make sure she has mine. I don’t really mind that she took my number as many people I meet do the same. Now she’s asking me if I have a girlfriend or a wife and then proceeds to convince me to marry her. Good thing I’ve also come across this many times in Kumasi, so I’m ready with a whole arsenal of excuses. I find out that after Agona the two young women are also going to get a car to go to the beach. The Tro Tro finally fills and we leave the station for Agona.

 The ride to Agona goes quietly and I get to enjoy the scenery of the coastal area. The bushes are just as thick as in Kumasi, but here it seems like there are many more coconut and palm nut trees. Before we get to Agona, the woman next to me starts negotiating to marry me again. I always take these propositions as a joke and more of a shot in the dark to getting abroad than actually wanting marriage. However, she takes it to a whole other extreme when she starts talking about what our children will look like. I just laugh it off knowing once we get to Agona they will take a Tro Tro to Busua and I will take one to the other beach called Butre.

 About 40 minutes later we arrive in Angola only to find that the Tro Tro isn’t running to Butre beach because of the holiday. I could either take a dropping taxi, which means they just take me and it’s much more expensive, or I could switch my plans around and take a shared taxi to Busua. I decide to take the taxi to Busua with the other two women I met on the Tro Tro ride. The car fills quickly and we’re on our way to the Busua in no time. The younger one, who sat next to me told me her name is Menaaba and the other woman is her sister. Now her sister has joined in the argument of marriage for her younger sister. Now they won’t take my response of my money is small, my age is small, and my Twi is small. We talk the whole time and soon bet to Busua beach. They ask if I’m going to the party and I tell them no I’m going to eat before I go. They both want to escort me to get something to eat. We get Fufu and they help me order and get the best parts of the meat and plenty of the soup. I’m appreciative of their help, so I tell them to join and finish the meat. Menaaba is attractive, but from the start I could tell she was far from my type. During our eating she just proved it even further. She eats the meat like an animal and she’s wearing a dress, yet has her legs wide open the whole time.

 After we’re done eating we walk over to the party at one of the hotels. I walk them up to the edge and tell them I’m going to go to find a hotel and get some rest for my adventures tomorrow. They try one last time with the courtship, but this time just settle on being my girlfriend. I firmly tell them no, it’s not going to happen and to have a good time at the dance party. Right about now I’m really regretting letting them take my number.

 I escape the somewhat helpful, but very pushy women and get a room at the Alaskan hotel. I’ve stayed here with my mom and it will be the best combination of safety and cheap. I ask for a room and get pinballed around as they obviously can’t find their manager. He then comes over, doesn’t introduce himself to me, and leaves before I find out it’s him. Then they send a 10 year old to take me to my room and get me set up. It doesn’t seem like the manager is giving me any kind of respect at all. We get to the room and the inside door doesn’t even close all the way. I tell her I don’t want to spend the night in a room if the door doesn’t close and quickly realize my efforts are futile. I go to sign and pay with the woman at the bar and she tells me there’s no way to get a price reduction and anyway she can’t find her manager to have a discussion. I don’t think I’ll get very far if I try to argue that if I don’t stay here they will lose money to a young woman who gets paid minimum wage no matter the amount of guests. I’m tired and at the end of a long travel day, so I just accept the situation and get to sleep immediately so I can get out of this place and on to Hideout, which I know has much better customer service.

Last Day in Kwahu and Back Home in Accra

On Easter Sunday, our last day, we had a slow morning. I really enjoyed the slow times here because I could sit on the balcony and look over the beautiful view from their town. I could see something like seven of the other towns and all the way to the edge of the valley at the top of the mountain. There is a constant breeze and the weather is cool, so I’m soaking up the rare time in Ghana when I’m not sweating. Some of their friends come over and invite us all to breakfast. This morning I’ve been calling my colleagues at the beach, but I’m not having any luck. There is terrible reception on Butre beach, so hopefully they will call me back at some point before I set off to meet them.

We all leave for their friends house, which is basically a huge mansion. We go up to their veranda balcony place and take a seat. Al of the seats are lined up against one of the walls with tables between every few chairs. I think it’s funny to see rich Ghanaian people’s living room set up. This doesn’t hold true for many nice places in Accra, but any in Kumasi or smaller it does. It seems that they don’t know how to bring people close together and create an intimate atmosphere. As we’re sitting in the assembly line, we have to lean forward to talk to anyone other than the one right next to us and I think you can already see the issue if multiple people try to lean and talk at once. Soon after, some of us move our chairs to make two rows and a better inclusive atmosphere. Then they pour wine, into my glass first for me to taste the wine. I go into auto pilot from seeing my parent drink wine so many times in a group. I swirl, sniff, swirl, sip, and swoosh, all while holding the glass by the stem. The one pouring the glass asks the group why there is even one person at the table who tastes the wine and they all laugh talking about how silly it is and how people have different tastes. I open my mouth to say “well, actually it’s because…” and then quickly bite my tongue realizing that telling them about corked or spoiled wine would not be the best way to make new friends. I think they’re a few trips to the vineyard short of having the routines down, but I’m not a snob!

We finish eating and everyone decides that they’re leaving today. Half expecting some thing like this, I already packed in the morning. After everyone else finished packing, we leave and I get in the car with Junior, his sister, and Charles senior. Junior gets off at Nkawkaw and I hop in the front seat for a nice relaxing ride back to Accra.

The ride goes very quickly through some bad roads, forest, and a lot of roadside vendors and before I know it we are back in Accra. I tried to call my colleagues again, but no one has answered or called me back. The oldest brother of the men gets off at my stop and I find out that he’s going to the same exact town that I’m going to meet the Janneys. I decide that I won’t continue going to the beach because it’s already sunset and the beach would be about 5 more hours away. It’s dark by the time we get to West Adenta, where the Janney’s live, so he walks me all the way to their house to make sure I get there safely.

Back at the Janney’s house I get settled in and greet everyone and tell them about my Kwahu adventure. It’s really good to be back at their house again because by now it feels like my proper home. As I’m settling down Jennifer held everyone with supper until I got there. We all ate rice and this amazing stew. It’s seriously the best stew I’ve had since being here. The taste is perfect and there are big chunks of vegetables to make me feel healthy. After dinner we sat and chat for a bit and then I go to bed. I want to sleep on my decision about the beach and the rest of my vacation and make a decision in the morning.

The Big Kwahu Celebration

Saturday, we have a slow start to the day and Fufu is served around noon. Well, I’m pretty much set for the day. I’m really enjoying the amount of Fufu I’ve been getting on this vacation. The dads mention a few times their friends across the street, who have a private pool. Before we start to eat the Fufu, Eric asks me if I want to go swimming, but of course I tell him after the Fufu. He tells me to eat lightly to recover quickly. Ugh sorry, but there’s no way I’m cutting out Fufu for any pool. I gorge myself as usual and then Charles, Eric and I leave for the pool. I’m feeling very full, so I head to the bathroom before we leave, but have no such luck.

 We leave the house at 13:00, but I’m still feeling the Fufu belly too much to swim. We catch a quick cab ride to a hotel and I find out that we’re not going to their friend’s private pool, but instead to a hotel pool. Eric, one of the other sons around mine and Charles’ age, is the brave one and jumps into the pool right after we get there. Despite the common warning, I’ve swam after eating and never had an issue before, but I’ve never tried after being Fufu full. I’m also less inclined after learning about this culture’s awareness of how to help people who are choking. I wouldn’t be surprised if I started drowning and that same guy from Bush’s office came with a big piece of meat and a water sachet. Okay, that’s not fair, these people travel much more often, so they probably know how to do some basic first aid.

 Instead of joining Eric, Charles and I sit at one of the tables and take in the scene. Everyone at the pool is over 20, but under 35 and they all look like they’re just passing the time until they can really start the party when the sun sets. It’s not very crowded, but there are some people dancing, sitting, eating, and swimming. Eric keeps coming and asking if I am ready to go into the pool and I turn him down every time. I can’t help but indulge in the great people watching situation. There’s a group of men standing around some very short guy covered in gold chains and of course with a pair of big sunglasses. They also have a few women dancing around them who seem like they’ve been paid to stick around. I think the guy even has a grill on his teeth, but he’s too far to know for sure. Many more people start to show up now and as expected the group of woman and their pimp almost get into a fight. After another hour I’m feeling much better about going into the pool, but now there’s way too many people to have any fun. The majority of the people at the pool are men anyway, so I tell Eric I’m not going in today. Charles and I have had enough, so we tell Eric we’re leaving and will see him back at the house.

 Back at the house we lounge around and mostly talk. Since yesterday was the big travel day, tonight is supposed to be the big night where everyone has energy to go out on the town. Charles and I leave at about the same time as last night and one of the other sons comes with us. Even before we get to Obo, I can tell this night will be much bigger than yesterday. We worked our way through the crowd for awhile before coming to a stage where Shato Wale, a very famous Ghanaian musician, will be performing. I’d say he’s about the popularity of pitbull or usher or one of those other top 40 artists. We find a pocket in the crowd and wait for the performance to start.

 After a short wait, I could see everyone’s attention went from conversations around us to up front by the stage. Shato Wale must be coming on to the stage. Naturally we all stop talking and fix our attention on the stage, but don’t see anyone. Instead, about 50 feet in front of us I can see the crowd dispersing like everyone is trying to get away from something. Then, like the wildebeest stampede in Lion King, everyone turns around and starts running in my direction. Literally, everyone in this very dense and crowded area are now running toward me. Without much need for thought I also turn around and run in the same direction. I’m not sure what we’re running from, but I’m not willing to find out. We run to the side of the street and find a pocket between some food stands. Now, we’re able to stand still in a safe place and watch all of the people in the street run by. Then, the crowd breaks up enough to see some groups of people fighting. They literally come down the street and pause right in front of us. The people were clearly too drunk and couldn’t even throw a punch. They’re arms were flailing wildly around and not really connecting solidly. My adrenaline was still pumping though because I’m watching for one thing, a knife. Guns aren’t common enough in Ghana for someone at a concert like this to have one, but knives seem to be much more common for people to have with them as they walk around. Maybe they won’t hurt anyone too bad if they continue with their sporadic punching, but even the biggest idiot can accidently kill someone with a knife. Charles and I are in a good spot though. We are behind a few layers of people who had the same idea and behind a big grill that has really sharp metal points coming out around it like a porcupine.

 I think I’m mostly just on edge because I still remember clearly a fight I saw at Antoa a week before. I was walking to catch a car when I saw almost everyone on the street run over to the side of the Chiefs Palace. I walked around the corner of one of the buildings to see and that’s when Charles came up and greeted me. I saw some young men fighting and it looked like people were breaking it up. That’s when the boys continued to yell at each other before one of them picked up a giant rock and ran at the other one and tried to smash it on his head. The other one blocked the rock and they threw a few punches before the same thing happened again. Then the one who blocked the rock backed up and pulled out a giant knife. Appropriately Charles leaned over to me and told me that we should get further away because a pastor came to Antoa the other day and told everyone that someone in the next year would die in a fight, but the person would not be one of the people fighting. We were already at a safe distance, but that was enough for me to back up a little bit more. I wanted to leave and go get my work done, but people were now running over and pushing the guy with the knife away trying to break up the fight. Some of the people pushing them away were even my friends, so I get too worried about them to leave. I’m not stupid enough to get near the fight, but maybe I can help if someone gets injured. Then Charles and I walk back over toward his house so he can give me a letter and the fight continues to go over into his grandfather’s compound. Now I’m worried about his grandfather as he often sits out in the open area in the middle of the compound and he’s tough enough to possibly want to step in. That’s when the boy with the rock gets a police man and goes over to the other one who had the knife. He slaps the one who had the knife and I think tries to provoke him to pull out the knife again so the policeman can see. I was seriously horrified I was going to watch someone die, especially one of my friends around town. After some time the boy with the knife runs away and the policeman follows him. The situation ended and the boy with the knife wasn’t even punished at all. Anyway that situation ended without anyone getting hurt, but it was enough to put me on edge when these other people are fighting at Kwahu.

 There Charles and I are watching these people fight and everyone around them running away. That’s when I notice an itching feeling in my throat that seems to take over my attention. After a few seconds the itching gets worse and my throat starts to burn, causing me to cough. When my eyes start to burn I instantly know what is happening. Someone threw tear gas to break up the crowd. Right then, Charles takes a hold of me and we run back through the crowd to escape the tear gas. That boosted my respect for Bob Marley, knowing that when he was in the middle of a concert to promote peace, some tear gas mad the crowd run away, but he stayed and kept performing.

 We escape the effects of the tear gas, but keep walking back all the way to the house. We come across a few more small groups of people fighting before the crowd starts to dissipate and there become no signs of the chaos that just went on. We get back to the next town and eventually their house. Once back, we go over the story with everyone who stayed and spend the rest of the night watching the people walk by the front of the house. 

First Day Traveling to the Mountains of Kwahu

I’ll write a few blog posts about my vacation travel adventures. Today, April 17th I plan to travel Oduom to get ready to travel the next day. I plan on leaving Antoa for about 2 weeks. That means that I need to go around and tell all of my friends that I’m traveling. As expected, most of them asked me to get them something. I guess it’s expected in this culture to buy something for your friends while you travel. I’ll probably only get one for Bush and a few others as I don’t have room in my bag to get something for everyone that asks me. I end my farewells at Andrews where we shared some food before I catch a car. I take my route through Kumasi to visit some friends and tell them my plans. After about 5 hours I get to Oduom. Summer is the only one there, but I’ll be meeting the three new employees when they get back later in the evening.

 For the rest of the afternoon, summer and I just relax and listen to some music. Soon after I meet the three new employees replacing Spencer, Tasia, and me. One of them has already lived in Ghana and the other two seem really excited to learn the new culture. Even during our conversation, I even give them a “test” for the one replacing me. I mentioned that it is alright if they don’t get the cultural rules correct because they have a free pass being an Obroni. That’s when Rachel, the one replacing me, says that she doesn’t care about the free pass; she wants to make sure she gets it right. That’s exactly the attitude we need for all of the future employees. I really hope they all maintain the same attitude and give a good impression of Americans. After that the new people leave to get some food and it gets quite enough for me to sneak off to bed to get ready for the travel day tomorrow.

 On Friday, April 18th, I wake up early to travel to a place called Kwahu. When people pronounce it they say the h so fast that it sounds more like the h is silent. Last time I visited the Janneys, Jennifer told me of her family members travel every year to Kwahu for the big Easter celebration. Apparently the tribe from Kwahu doesn’t really have a big celebration like some of the other tribes, so they have turned Easter into a big event. Most of the people living in the town are very rich and live in as big business people in the major cities. The only times they come home is for a funeral or Easter. The celebration is so big that most people in Ghana know of Kwahu, whether they’ve been there or not. All of my friends that I told about Kwahu would laugh and tell me “Oh, you will be enjoyingooo.” Somewhere along the line some people came from the UK and set up a paragliding spot at the top of the mountain. I’ve heard of people dying and there’s something about paragliding over a thick forest in a developing country that tells me I should skip this adventure.

 That all takes me to the Friday before Easter when I set off to meet Charles at a town called Nkawkaw, pronounced in coco. The rest of the Expo staff is also leaving this morning, but they’re going to the beach in Takoradi. My plan is to meet them all after my Kwahu trip to catch the tail-end of the beach experience. The ride to Nkawaw is very easy and a friend I met on the rie helps me find the right place to get down, called “new station.” I meet Charles and we take a cab and start climbing the mountain roads. Not much longer, we are in front of a story building. Story building here just means a building that is more than two floors. On the second floor, we meet Charles’ family. I meet Charles’ dad, his dad’s two brothers, one of their wives, and three of their children. I sit down on their balcony and the older brother of the dads comes out to sit next to me and get to know me. In Ghanaian terms that means he grills me with every question that enters his head. The type of questions and attention to detail really surprise me, as it’s very different from the normal script I go through with everyone else. After some more chatting and introductions, Fufu is served. Since Friday is the big travel day, the night is starting slowly.

 At about 22:00, Charles Junior asks if I went to walk to the next town and see the celebration. We leave the town we’re in, called Obomang, and walk to the net town over, called Obo. As we get closer to the center of the town, the crowd is thickening quickly. There are companies set up with booths and food on either side. Every few shops there is another huge sound system, playing a different song, trying to out do the people on either side of them. When we get to the center of town, there is a stage with the biggest sound system of the whole place and some men, one with a wig, in a dance competition. Junior tells me that they’re just some employees trying to attract people to try their product. On the other side of the stage we continue to the other edge of town and Charles shows me a few huge mansions before we head back through the crowd.

 One thing I start to notice is people commenting about me being there. Two things I start to pick up from the Twi are people telling me that I’m tired and I should go rest and that I should go back to my town. Junior tells me that most Ghanaians believe that white people are soft and think I will only get hurt if I’m here. I’ve definitely noticed this opinion continually reinforced with people I’ve come across in Kumasi and Antoa. The common opinion I’ve heard is that white people are physically weak, but mentally fast. I think there is some truth to this when you look at averages and how our cultures reinforce these in the daily chores and activities. They also believe that Ghanaian people are physically very strong, but mentally weak or somehow wicked. I think the big trouble is when the average statistic is applied to the individual. Anyway, I laugh at the ignorance of the comments and try to give some fun replies to get people laughing. Another thing I notice through the crowd is that it seems like there are more macho men her then at other festivals that I’ve attended. I’d say one in three groups of men I walk by are walking around looking for a fight. On the way back I even had a couple people pushing me through the crowd or trying to trip me and walk over me. One guy even jumps and hangs on my back, but he’s very light and I don’t feel any danger with him trying getting close to my neck. I don’t really think the proportions are any different from any other crowd of young people at night, but I think my experience is a little off because I’m somehow more of a target for the drunk people, being one of the few white people walking around. Aside all of that negative attention, I had a really great time walking around and people watching. We get back close to 01:00, which is normally close to when I wake up, so I quickly go to bed and get ready for the next day. 

An Interesting Start to My Monday

Today starts off for me at 03:30, when I’m woken up to an awful feeling in my stomach. I roll over and try to get the little bit of sleep I would have left before I normally wake up. A couple of minutes go by and the feeling gets worse, so reluctantly I get out of bed and head to the bathroom. I’m have some diarrhea and a mostly a lot of gas. I’m feeling a bit down because I’ve gone a long time, for Ghana, now that I’ve been healthy and I’ve even been getting fat comments lately. Well, so much for keeping that weight on. After I’m done I just stay awake and prepare for my Krobo program and the rest of the day today.

 Bush’s mom has been preparing us food every morning for a while now. She already makes a huge batch to sell at the SHS, so she takes some and gives it to Bush and I to eat. This morning we get our usual bag of rice, stew, salad, and meat. When we get to the office I tell Bush that my stomach might not be able to take too much food today. Luckily one of our friends comes in and he accepts the offer to join us. A woman comes in to do some business with Bush, so he’s mostly busy talking with her and taking the occasional bite of food. Feeling hungrier than I expected, the other young man and I scarf down most of the food. We get to the bottom of the bowl and I tell them to chew the meat for me. Bush is used to me saying this, but the young man doesn’t understand and asks why I don’t want the protein. I insist for him just to eat it and don’t explain much. Bush understands a little more that I just am not interested in the meat that she gives us. Most of the time it’s the skin of the animal, which by the way still has some short hair on one side. No way am I eating that. The rest of it doesn’t look much better, even when it’s not covered in fat. I’ll stick with the fish thank you.

 Anyway, the young man doesn’t argue much and takes one of the pieces to himself. Bush takes the other piece and I’m sitting there listening to the Twi conversation between Bush and the woman and paying attention to the little boy who is with the young man. I look over at Bush and he’s not talking, but I don’t think anything of it. He is looking for his handkerchief and then takes it and puts it to his mouth. Then he leans over and looks like he’s laughing really hard or crying into the cloth. I can’t quite tell, so I just watch him to see what he’s doing. Then he looks at me and his eyes are full of tears and bloodshot. The woman asks him something about his head and he nods and points straight down on his head from the top of his skull. I’m thinking to myself that it’s really strange that he all of a sudden just got such a bad headache that he is tearing. Then the woman asks him something else and I hear the word meat. The gears in my brain are now turning much faster and I’m leaning toward him to find out what’s happening. I’m asking him questions to try to get some kind of clear response I can help. Then he opens his mouth and points toward his throat. When he pulls his finger out of his mouth a long stringy piece of saliva comes out and he looks like he’s going to pass out.

 Suddenly, I realize that he’s choking on the piece of meat he’s been eating. I quickly stand up out of my chair at the same time as the young man and the woman. I look at the young man expecting him to jump in and do the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, he turns toward the door and runs away. I’m baffled because he was about three inches taller than me and clearly holding about 20 pounds more muscle. Now I realize that he must be going to get help, so I turn to Bush and try to solve the problem myself. I get a sense of panic because I’ve only heard about this situation in stories and only know about practicing the maneuver on a doll. My mind flashes to running next door to my compound to get Fadila, my nurse roommate, but my instincts to help my friend override the fear as I realize that I’m his only chance of help here. From my more extensive first aid class I know how short of a time needs to go by before someone passes out or worse, gets long term damage from not breathing. I stand him up out of his chair and can’t quite get behind him properly. I put my arms around his torso and start to pull. I realize that I don’t have a good angle, so I kick his chair out of the way with my left foot and take a position behind him getting ready like I’m about to do a squat or lift a huge weight. I pull on his torso a few times and feel like I should have been practicing this more. I can’t tell if I’m doing it right because no food is flying out of his mouth. I spin him around to see if he’s breathing and he’s not making any noise, but he’s still conscious. I got a glimpse of his face again and I could see his eyes are much worse and I can feel him trying to make a noise or breath. At the sight of my friend in such trouble, all of my fear and questioning goes away. I know exactly what I need to do here and I’ll do anything it takes to help him breathe again.

 Right then, my adrenaline starts to coarse through my veins. Now that I have a better position I fully lift him up off of his feet with every pull. With out even thinking my hand is in the position I was always taught at school with my fist in my other hand and I’m pulling, inward and upward, just below his ribs. Now he’s not even touching the ground and I’m continuing to pull in on his stomach. I literally feel like I’m lifting a small child. My adrenaline is pumping so much now that I feel like if I wanted to I could split him in half. I have to say I’ve never felt this much adrenaline before and it’s really scary. I’ve been in some life threatening situations before in my life, but this one is affecting my adrenaline response much more. The other situations were more split second decisions that were over with a couple of eye blinks, but knowing that my friends life could be in my hands I’m reacting much differently. I’m partially worried that I will hurt him, but much more worried that he will go unconscious or something worse. I pull a few more times and then peak around to see if he can breath or if he’s conscious. I can now hear him making little gasps of air, so I immediately feel a sense of relief, but spin him around to continue. After a few more times pulling on his stomach I can hear more breathing. I set him down on the ground and wait for a second as he coughs up the entire piece of meat, bone and all, that he was eating.

 Right then, the young man runs back in, not with help, but with a sachet of water. Really!? That’s the best you could do? What was he planning on doing with the water to help Bush stop choking? I’m surprised he didn’t come in with another piece of meat. Bush, without even sitting down takes the meat off of the ground and hobbles over to the trashcan to throw it away. I can tell that he’s extremely embarrassed and a bit in shock. I sit back down in my chair, but I’m still totally in the midst of my body’s reaction. I don’t even know what to say at this point so I just tell Bush that he really scared me. I’m sure there’s something more poetic I could have thought of, but at this point what to say is the last thing on my mind. I sit down for a few minutes and the woman in the chair tells me that God will bless me, in Twi, and I don’t really respond to her but I give her a smile. After a few more minutes Bush and I don’t say anything to each other as he tries to get his barrings and continue with his client. I’m feeling a bit awkward in the situation and my adrenaline is still at peak level, so I tell them that I’m going to my going to learn my Ghanaian grandpa and grandma.

 I step out of his shop and try to let the cool air breeze bring me back to reality. I’m still feeling like I need to go and work off this adrenaline, but I need to go and meet with my Ghanaian grandparents because I have ice cream in my freezer that they are going to sell. I get over there and only Nana Kofi, the grandpa, is there. I greet him and sit down and try to resist screaming. I think I’m still in a bit of shock at what just happened and I also just need to get rid of the adrenaline. After a few seconds of sitting he falls asleep. We literally couldn’t be further apart in our energy levels. He can’t stay awake and I feel like I could fight a grizzly bear. I sit down and lightly close my eyes and just try to mentally slow my heart rate and calm my body down. The scene keeps flashing through my head and I keep thinking what I could have done better, but most of all I’m thinking about what would have happened if I decided my stomach was too bad in the morning and I hadn’t gone to his office. I don’t think I can say that I saved his life, but I can’t help wonder what that young man would have done with the water in my absence. I try to escape my head, so I just concentrate on my body. I can’t keep my eyes closed and my entire body is shaking as if I am shivering from being cold, but cold is the last thing I’m feeling right now. After about 20 minutes some people walk by and greet me and I start to calm down. Finally Nana Mary comes out and I go back to my place to get the ice cream. After talking with them a bit and sending Mary on her way to sell at the school, I head back to my room.

 Once back in my room I immediately start to write this adventure down in my computer. My adrenaline is mostly gone now, but I’m not feeling back to normal, perfect time to really try and capture exactly what happened. After some time of writing Bush calls me. He tells me that I forgot my bowl at his office. Once I get to his office I greet him in our usual silly voices, but I can tell he’s still a bit spooked too. He’s not behind his desk, but instead sitting in the chair by his front door. We recount the situation and he tells me that once he knew he couldn’t breath that his mind started to go crazy. I think that’s what he was trying to communicate by pointing to the top of his head. Then he said that he tried to gag himself to throw up and that must have been when he put his finger in his mouth and the stringy saliva came back out. I walked him through my perception of the event and then commented on the young man bringing water. He said that’s common for people to do, but this time it wouldn’t have worked because there was absolutely nothing passing by the food. Apparently it works to use water when the throat is only partially clogged. He then got serious and told me that if I weren’t there he would have died. Not sure what to say here, I just smile and we both thank God that he’s still here with us. Bush then goes on through some what if scenarios about how people would react if he had died. I never really experienced something like this, especially it happening to such a close friend and knowing that I played such a big role. Looking at bush I feel tears start to well up, but I fight them off and keep my cool. After some more chatting and us thanking our lucky stars, I leave to go to Krobo. Wow, that was quite an interesting start to my week.

 From there I go to my program and don’t feel so good, so I meet the tutors and then leave early. Once home I take a nap and then wake up to the sound of Fad and her mother fetching water. I get out of bed and feel much better, even enough to fetch water. I go about three times and it isn’t until about the last time that I start to feel like I should stop. Charles joins us with fetching the water and we finish afterward with us all outside chatting. For those of you who are worried about me being sick, don’t be. By the end of the night, it’s 7 now, I’m feeling much better and I think I’ll be 100% by tomorrow. Probably just some bug passing through my system. Anyway, let’s hope that tomorrow is a little less exciting. 

A Long Ride Up West

Today I’m leaving for the Upper West region of Ghana. I’m going just about as far north as I can go before entering the next country, Burkina Faso. Alright, I’m not exactly going north, more up and to the west. I’m taking this trip to observe our Peace Corps program. Expo has partnered with the Peace Corps so that some of our program managers are Peace Corps volunteers. It fits nicely since the Peace Corps volunteers need to have a side project and they will help us fund the program, so we can expand even further. This Volunteer, Jessica, has agreed to use our after school program as one of her village side projects. Her main mission is to teach Math and computer stuff at her small village. Since I’m the senior program manager for Expo, it’s part of my job to check in with her by email and in person to make sure her program is successful. Hey that means I get to travel and see more parts of Ghana, I’m quite okay with that.

 Okay, back to my journey today. I wake up at 03:00, which is ridiculously early, even for me. I need to make sure I catch the first bus out to arrive at her village before it gets too late and preferably before the sun sets. By 03:30, I have my things together and leave for the bus station. At the main road, as expected, there aren’t many cars. After a few minutes a taxi pulls up and demands I pay him 10 Cedis for a trip that would normally be 80 Peswas. He soon realizes that I have no problem waiting and that he won’t find another passenger at this time, so he offers one Cedi and I take it.

 From the next stop, I catch a Tro Tro to Kejetia, where I will find another Tro Tro to the bus station. I make it to Kejetia and start walking around to find my next Tro Tro to a place called Abripo Junction. Kejetia is the biggest market in Kumasi and in some guide books I’ve read it’s the biggest in West Africa. Walking through this busy market at 4 in the morning is quite an experience. There are absolutely no people walking through and only a few vendors there setting up their areas. It’s really disorienting and I almost don’t know which direction to go to get to an area I regularly pass. I figure out that it’s actually much simpler than normal and that most of the maze that I have to pass through is created with the vendor’s stands and not with anything more concrete.

 I find my next Tro Tro in Kejetia and I’m the fourth person to get on. I take a quick look around at the people and they have a look on their faces like they’ve been here for a while. I’m slightly worried about how long this is going to take and also slightly relieved at my insistency to leave so early. Luckily, after only about 10 minutes the car fills and we leave for Abripo Junction.

 On the ride I ask the guy next to me to point out the metro station for me. He nods and tells me to follow him when we get out. The Tro Tro stops at a gas station and I sit patiently to wait for them to get fuel. After a few seconds and everyone standing up, I realize that this is the final stop and I suppose the station is on the corner of Abripo Junction. We get out and the man leads me across the street. He asks me a bit about what I’m doing here and I think he appreciates why I’m here because he gets a bit of a determined jump in his step as we near the bus station indicated to me by the large orange metro buses. I tell him I want the car to Hamale, which is the furthest town North, or up and West, before reaching the Burkina border. The town where I’m going, called Nandom, is just south of Hamale. He walks me to the front desk and they point us to go back into the rest of the lot. I thought he would leave here, but he continues to take the lead and I continue to follow without saying much. We get bounced around by a few more people before we finally find the correct bus. I thank him a few times as he takes his leave.

 I greet the woman behind the desk in Twi and she is so excited that she completely forgets about doing anything in English. Her excitement is also speeding her speech up, so I’m only getting about every fourth word. She tells me the bus won’t start to fil for awhile and I should wait to the side. While waiting some people tell me that the bus to Hamale might not fill at all on a Sunday. After hearing some horror stories about buses taking all day to fill I get a bit spooked out of waiting for the Hamale bus. The bus currently filling will go to Wa, which is the capital of the Upper West region, to the south of Nandom. I ask the woman and she tells me there are only a few more seats left before the bus leaves. I get a ticket and then go to the street to et something to eat before we leave. I find Koko and Kosi and then get back to the crowd waiting to board the bus.

 Once everyone gets on the bus, we start to leave the city. There are two men who stayed at the front of the bus and are still standing by the door. Either the armed robbers got us very early, or these men are here to bless the bus ride. It’s quite common for some religious man to get on a bus as it’s leaving and pray for everyone to make it to their destination safely. Then that’s followed by them selling some magic medicine or just asking for donations. One of the men begins to talk, all in Twi, and everyone on the bus joins hands. We all close our eyes and listen to the prayer and them all finish with a strong amen. Then, he begins to talk about safety on the bus like an airline stewardess would do. I can’t understand everything he’s saying, but his actions are so over the top I can guess the topic of discussion. He then talks about common ailments and their easy cure with everyday items. I’m really surprised that he’s making the cures seem so simple and easy to obtain. I start noticing that he has a common answer to the ailments listed later on. He mentions problems in a few different areas of the body and all of the solutions involve aloe vera. I didn’t know that was very common in Ghana, but it seems like everything can grow here so it wouldn’t surprise me. Finally, he pulls out a suitcase and starts to hold up packages of the magic medicine I expected the whole time. This guy is really good though starting with everyday tips to gain the trust of his audience. He mentions the products price in Accra, then Kumasi, gives a lower price than both, and then he chants something in Twi a few times as if we’re about to start some tribal dance or something and then he screams out a price half as low as the last one and then starts running down the aisle as if everyone just went wild and is trying to get the product before they’re all gone. I have to say this guy really has a great sales pitch down and if I were ever going to buy some of this medicine it would be from this guy. Don’t worry I saved my money and just enjoy the show and laughed at the crazy guy running down the aisles. I seriously feel like I’m on a game show because one of the passengers in the front seat even holds up a product close to his face and with a huge smile tells everyone on the bus that the product really works. After a few more products he finishes and gets down a few towns North, or up and west, of Kumasi. I was starting to fall asleep as the bus was waiting to leave the station, but now after he left I’m wide awake as if I had gotten up at a decent time.

 As I normally do on these long bus rides, I stare out the window and people watch as the I note the changing scenery. The hours are flying by and right when my legs start to hurt, we stop for a food break. I’m not to hungry after the Koko and Kosi, but I get some ice kenkay and bread to hold me over until I get to Nandom. Back on the road I really start to notice the differences as we get further North, I mean up and west. Consistently, the vegetation is getting more spread out and I’m noticing less of the edible crops and fruits, like palm tree, plaintin/banana, coconut, and other lush greenery. I’m also noticing more and more of the traditional mud houses instead of the more modern looking brick buildings. It’s also becoming less common for the outside of the buildings to be painted. Instead, they just leave the decomposing mud wall to be in it’s natural state. The metal roofs of the buildings are also being replaced by what looks like palm fronds or the big broad leaves of the palm tree. After some time, but no where near the end of the trip, my stomach starts to feel a bit queasy.

 I close my eyes and try to just relax and see if the feeling will pass. The feeling only gets worse and I get a bit worried because my row doesn’t line up with any windows. I look around and plan my escape if the signs of impending vomit come knocking. The only two windows are at the very front of the bus, a few rows ahead of me. One is over the stairs that lead down to the ground and I would have to jump over the descending stairs and cling to the window in mid air, not going to happen. The other, only realistic option is right next to a policeman who we picked up at the last stop. That option doesn’t sound much better. I set my determination to make it off the bus with the contents of my stomach staying where they are. With the nausea and frequent stops to let people off, the rest of the ride seems to go quickly.

 After much more driving and no embarrassing vomit story, we arrive in Wa. Off the bus I buy some Cipro from the nearest chemical seller. That’s the local name for pharmacy here. Chemical seller sound much more like I’m going to be cleaning my pool. After I tell him what I want he pulls out the aluminum and plastic package tha tis normally inside of a box, with the very important directions and content information. Slightly hesitant I ask him how to take the medicine. Then, I find out he only wants 2 Ceids and I just take the medicine and vow only to take it if I have a stomach emergency. I check the back of the package and it says that it’s manufactured by a big medicine company in Ghana, so I’m feeling much more comfortable about taking it if it comes time. I ask the man behind the desk where I should go to get the Tro Tro to Nandom and he points to a group of people all dressed in the same uniform and says they are also going to Nandom. I ask them for directions, but one of the women just tells me to come with them in their taxi. A few minutes later we arrive at a Tro Tro station and they insist to pay for my portion of the ride.

 On the next Tro Tro, I board and start to look for my seat. There are only a few people, but it seems like much more luggage spread around saving people’s seats. I ask for some of the window seats only to find they are all taken. I just sit down in the middle of the second to last row and hope that my stomach will continue to stay settled. A young woman comes to take her bag saving her window seat next to me. She asks if I want the seat and I tell her she should take it. After all, she is dressed very nicely and I’m already a sweaty mess, so a little more sweat can’t hurt. Right then I remember my dormant nausea and regret that decision immediately. I think the woman’s beauty and perfectly clean suit made me forget everything important, like my impending stomach issues.

 We take off on the road that leads north to Nandom. Before we are out of Wa, the car starts to fill up with smoke like something is on fire. Everyone around me starts to investigate before we find plumes of smoke coming through the side board of the car next to the woman who I gave the window seat. I’d say I lucked out of that one, but I don’t think it will be much better sitting right next to that spot either. The smoke then begins to get thicker and I think everyone simultaneously came to the conclusion that something is on fire inside the car. The woman next to me, out of instinct, starts to escape and climb over me to the sliding door. The people in the back are yelling to the driver, but he’s not paying any attention to anyone. The smoke isn’t getting any worse, but not really any better either. Everyone starts to relax out of emergency mode and start to create solutions to the smoke. Most of the people around me take out their handkerchiefs and tie it around their mouth like a bandit from the Wild West. Then the woman next to me takes her bag and pushes it up against the sideboard of the car. It makes the smoke a little less and our speed is picking up, so the wind is helping. As we go much faster the dust from outside the Tro Tro is blowing in the car and making it hard to sit in there and keep my eyes open. The people close their windows to protect them selves. Then when the driver has to slow down again because of the bad road, the smoke starts again and the windows have to be open again, allowing the smoke to leave and the dust to enter again. After about 45 minutes of driving everyone becomes used to the new situation and we have all moved on and are thankful that nothing is actually on fire. I’m a little less thankful since I forgot my bank robbing attire at home.

 About an hour or so into the ride, one of the passengers asks to get out of the car, in the middle of no where. After dropping her off, the driver is struggling to get the car into gear and instead he’s just grinding the gears and making an awful sound. Not before long, the car stalls and shuts off. He goes to start the car again, but the engine won’t turn over. Great, as if this ride could get any worse. First, the car was on fire, then it gets pelted by dust, and now it’s broken down in the middle of nowhere. The driver throws up his hands and angrily gets out of the car. At this point I’m just laughing to myself wondering how I’m going to make it out of this place. Before I could even realize what is happening all the men from inside the car, like a highly trained bobsled team, jump out and start to push the car. I’m way to slow to help, so I just stay in the car and join the cheer squad with the rest of the women still in the car. Let’s just say I’m trying to break gender barriers. The car starts again and everyone gets back into the car.

 Now the road is getting much worse and it feels more like I’m riding on a jackhammer then a car. My body is feeling really itchy because of the vibrations. The car is shaking so much that the door begins to come open. One of the men from the back jumps in the seat usually reserved for the mate and firmly closes the door. Not after long, the door begins to shake open again. This time he leaves the door for a bit before some of the women complain to him. The driver turns around and hands the man an old dirty rag. He takes the rag and ties it around the edge of the window attaching the sliding door to the fixed part of the car. I can’t imagine if anything goes bad that a dirty old rag will keep the big sliding door of a Tro Tro open. At this point I’m just laughing to myself at the absurdity of this whole situation.

 Finally, after a few more hours, we arrive in Nandom. It’s about 17:30, meaning it took about 14 hours to get here from when I left the house in Oduom. I’m glad I’m only going to be doing this trip a few times for the term. I call Jessica and she tells me to wait where I am for her friend to come get me. Not after long, her friend is there with his moto and I get on for a ride that literally only went a few buildings down the street. We introduce ourselves and then he shows me over to the guest house where I’ll be staying for these few nights while I’m here in Nandom. I drop my stuff off and head down the street to get Fufu. After the big meal and nearly the whole day of traveling I get back to my room and without much effort I’m out like a light. 

Some More Catch Up

Alright, I’m continuing from my last post through Sunday. Now it’s Monday Feb 3rd and I’m still feeling a bit sick from last week. I am still running this morning and feel I should call bush to tell him I wont be there because I honestly don’t know if I can spend that amount of time away from home without running to the toilet and I certainly don’t want to join the senior levels of “the club”. Meaning, I don’t want to soil myself. It’s about 6:45 and I should be leaving soon for Bush’s when I remember that there is a demonstration today. From Bonwire, almost to Kumasi there will be no traffic allowed to go down the road. The public transportation people are putting on a demonstration to get the government to repair the terrible road. That means that the taxi driver won’t be able to pick Bush and take him to work. I couldn’t bare thinking he might be found on the ground again, so I head for his house.

 At Bush’s I get some stomach pains, but no close calls. From there we walk down to his work to start the day. There are no cars on the road and everything is oddly quite. That is, until we get close to the center of town where we hear people honking and yelling and a big plume of black smoke continuously rising into the air. From a distance it looks like, and sounds like, the city is burning down. I can see some people in the middle of the street and Bush tells me they have a bonfire going. After Bush I walk part of the way down the street and see their burning big truck tires. Not wanting any part of a big protest in a developing country, I go to sit with my grand parents. Nana Kofi is translating the loud speaker announcement and tells me that some people, two towns from here, were shot by policemen and some have even died. I suppose my intuition was correct on avoiding the big commotion.

 The demonstration is only from 6 to 10 this morning, so I can still get some kind of car to my program when I leave at 12. My stomach is still not feeling all that great, but I’ve already been around this much, so I will pack some toilet paper and head to Krobo. I hitch a ride from a truck and get there in no time. The program goes well and I get a ride back and end the night early to get better faster.

 Tuesday, Grace and I get up early to give a presentation at a High School near Antoa. I love giving speeches and at Grace’s request, I’m happy to take the opportunity. The speech goes well, especially when I greet then all in Twi. They erupted in excitement and we had to have the house master come over and quite everyone down again. They really do take after the British don’t they? Housemaster sounds like I’m speaking Twi to Harry Potter and the Gryphendor house. How’s that for a strange thought? Grace and I go to the Academic Headmasters office, where we talk to small groups in detail about the SAT and college advising classes.

 From that school, Grace goes back to Antoa and I leave, in the opposite direction, for Kumasi. I need to get key copies for Grace and look for cinnamon for Bush. I let Bush try some for the first time and he fell instantly in love. He made funny sounds of excitement that I’ve never heard him make before.

 Once in town, I start to look for the key filer that Spencer and I went to when I need them back in September. I have a general idea of where it is, but it takes some exploring and asking many people before I find his little four foot by four foot metal box of a shop, tucked in an alleyway. I drop the keys off and leave to find something to eat because I’m feeling a bit weak from being sick. I can’t find my usual lady selling boiled plantain, so I go to the Obroni grocery store to look for the cinnamon. I don’t find any there and feeling a bit defeated I buy a spring roll and head back to the key guy.

 Now I can find the key place easily from anywhere in the city. I’m telling you, getting lost and really having to search for a place will make it stick in your memory. I sit on his bench and wait as he is drilling what seems like my keys still. I haven’t eaten the food yet because it’s very ackward to eat in public in this culture. When he cals me up to his booth I suddenly get an idea.

 A type of Buddhism, called Therevada, that I’ve been reading a lot into lately has coincidently talked about sharing meals, after I’ve also discovered this joy since living in Antoa. However, most of my meals are shared with my friends and very rarely shared with strangers. When I get up to the locksmith he shows me the keys and I check their quality. After doing so, I ask him in Twi if he’s eaten and he says no. I ask if he’s hungry and he says very much, so I pull off a piece of the spring roll and give it to him. This is a much better way to share food with a stranger rather than both putting your hands deep into the Fufu bowl. I’ll half to work my way up to that. I ask him his name and he tells me Abraham, and I respond with mine and tell him that we shall meet again.

 From there, I head to Oduom to meet the other employees and eventually with Spencer in the afternoon. When I get there, only Summer is there and we just relax a bit and eat some fruit. I ask if she’s had boiled plantain and cocoyam stew and when she says no, I immediately suggest we get some. It’s one of my favorite Ghanaian meals and is also very healthy. On our way to get the food my stomach really starts to act up again, so we get the food to go and meet Taisa on our way back to the house. When we get back, it gets really bad, so I go to the toilet and continue the streak of running from Saturday morning. I still eat some and we just hang around as Dara and Grace show up. I’m glad that there are so many of them now because I don’t think they notice as I continually make about 5 more bathroom trips when my stomach gets too bad to bear. Spencer shows up and we go over work stuff until about 18:30, when my stomach peaks again.

 Spencer and I head back to the Kentinkrono house and get ready for our presentation early the next morning. I get back and too exhausted to hang the mosquito net, I just have it over me like a blanket.

 Wednesday, we’re up and out the door at about 5:45. Oh and the idea of having the mosquito net over me like a blanket didn’t work at all… I know the idea sounds bad, but I thought the repellant would at least help a little bit. I think it worked in the opposite direction. The mosquitos must have felt like it was more of a challenge because I’m covered in bites. My stomach is feeling much better, but I don’t’ push it with a heavy meal. After meeting at the school, I get some banana on the way back home and eat while we’re walking, despite the terribly awkward feeling and the many stares I’m receiving. From Tafo, I got a few different rides on my way home.

 It’s 9:00 and I’m back in Antoa, surprisingly early for feeling like I’ve done so much already. From there I catch up on some Expo stuff and reach out to some of my friends and family.

 Later in the afternoon, around 16:00, I go and visit Andrews to get something to eat. He suggests something I’ve never tried called Chinkafa, which he describes as a local type of rice, similar to the wachey. Like the wachey, it comes with stew and egg or fish as the protein source. After trying it, I could easily be fooled into thining this is the wachey which again is local rice boiled, or somehow infused with beans. Before I leave he reminds me about a blender that I asked him to find for me. After some thinking, I decide to get the blender to help everyone, especially Fad for cooking. It will also be nice to make smoothies or other fun concoctions.

 After that, I fetch some water and really struggle because for some reason I can’t seem to get my head wrap right. I really think one of the most difficult parts of fetching water is getting the wrap even, so you don’t have to compensate for the constantly tipping rubber. Once I get the wrap straightened out it’s much easier, but now I’m tired from the earlier trips. I eat some of the fod Grace makes and Charles comes over to hang out for a bit. Grace leaves us to read and we have some guy time before I call it a night.

 Thursday morning, I wake up feeling great. Some how I’ve completely fought off whatever sickness I had and now I’m back to normal. I’m not sure what I had or how bad it really was, but I think my immune system is getting much stronger since having gone through so much in Ghana. This morning I’m preparing for my program and to leave straight from Krobo to go to Kentinkrono. Like usual, I go to Bush’s at 7 and his family is all questioning where I’ve been. After I’m done explaining and greeting, I wait in his room with his brothers for the driver to come.

 Down at the office, Bush tells me that his mom didn’t give us rice today, so I go and buy us both koko and kosi. Back at his office I eat as he seems too busy to eat for a while. Literally, as I’m finishing, his sister comes and drops off a heaping pile of rice he said we wouldn’t get today. Bush tells me to get a bowl and I do so as I reinforce that I will only have a few bites because I’m stuffed from the koko and kosi. When I come back, his church friend is there and he joins us. Bush is very adamant about finishing the food in one sitting, so I’m grateful we can rely a bi ton his friend.

 After Bush’s I visit my grand parents and Nana Mary seems a bit agitated today. She is complaining about everything that is going wrong in their lives at the moment. Then, they go on to say that one of the ugliest parts of Africa is how people plan to destroy each other’s futures. There are these people in every family called witches and wizards, who try to bring down successful people in their family. Apparently every eyar they even plan who will die. Nana Kofi tells me a story of his twin brother who fired an employee and was caused by him, only to die two weeks later, exactly when the man said he would. This is coming from a man and woman who have traveled all across West Africa and Kofi even has his masters degree. I’m sorry, I don’t think if Einstein was telling me this story I would believe that this cursing and witches and wizardry are real. It’s awful how seriously worried they are about it all and how they really think it has affected their lives in a serious way.

 From there I go back home and do a few things around my room before I leave for Krobo to do my program. At Krobo, my program goes well and I’ve been noticing some very interesting issues with this program. I’ve noticed that the students attendance has not been that great and the teachers seem to reinforce them playing football over going to class. I thought the football thing last week was just a special week, but it seems like this will be a continuing theme, unless we try to do something. I meet with the tutors like normal afterward and tell them all about the problems I’ve been seeing. After they agree, I propose a lesson for next week. I want to devote an entire lesson to explain why school is important. I honestly don’t think these students have ever had this lecture in a serious way from a parent figure.

 After the Krobo program, I buy some banana to go with my egg beaufruit for dinner tonight. I head to Kentinkrono and catch up on some of my blog once I’m there. I try to wait up for Spencer to get back, but I honestly just get too tired to be able to form any useful thoughts once he does.

 Friday, Spencer and I leave a little later this time in the morning to go to another school speech. We get a bit lost going to the school and miss the time for the morning assembly. We find out that all the form 3’s are in church with their masters and we feel like we’ve lucked out. We come into the back of the room and talk to some people before they offer to show us to the front of the stage. Spencer turns to me and says well this is going to be a little bit awkward. I don’t know what he means and try to ask him, but we’re ushered up to the stage. When he get there and take our seats the whole auditorium breaks out in, not so quite, murmurs. Not only did we just walk up the middle row of the assembly while the headmaster is talking, but we’re also the only white people within a 10-mile radius. The headmaster calls someone up to speak after him and her first opening statement is talking about her organization helping students like them to study abroad in the U.S. NOW, I understand why Spencer said this is going to be awkward. Our Ghanaian competitor company is here and we happen to be giving a presentation on the same day! What a coincidence. The lady gives her presentation and honestly is an awful public speaker. Her upper half of her body is spinning back and forth like she’s an embarrassed twelve year old girl. It’s not that easy to understand her and the inflections in her voice never change so she sounds like Ferris Bueler’s teacher rambling on and on. We get up to stage and give a better speech and then meet the students out back to give them our information.

 After leaving the school I’m hungry, so I buy a little plastic pouch bag of food with oatmeal and condensed milk. It looked interesting, so I wanted to try some, but warm and fake milk don’t mix well. It at least gives me enough energy to run my errand in Kumasi.

 In Town, I head to the Obroni store again, but instead of going inside I go around back to a small spice shop where I find cinnamon. I buy a small sized bottle for five cedis, which is actually not all that good of a price compared to the U.S. I suppose it is imported though and the cinnamon I bought in the U.S. was in the bulk bins at the back of the health food store I used to visit. Back in Antoa I immediately go to Bush’s place and he seems oddly disturbed today. I’m not sure if he’s mad at me for not being there in the morning or if he’s just not having a good day. I immediately start with the funny sounds and jokes and get him to crack a bit of a smile. It looks like him and his customer are in a heated conversation, so I try to keep quite until he leaves. Once the man is gone, Bush lightens up a little bit as we go through our normal routine of strange sounds and funny pronunciations. When he’s back to normal I tell him that I got him something as I pull out the cinnamon. His face lights up and he starts to praise and bless me. He starts talking about all the foods that he’s going to try it on and after some more back and fourths I leave to go back home. 

Last Week’s Catch Up Story

I’ll continue here from where I left off on the last blog post and this time I’ll actually finish the story through the week like I said I would. On Monday, Jan 27th, I have my Krobo program. The tutors did well, except all of them, not counting Charles, taught topics that are too advanced. I specifically told them to slow down and make sure the students master the basics before they move on. I don’t see any purpose in teaching them order of operations if they don’t know how to solve one step because they don’t know how to add fractions with different denominators. Also, Charles gave rules for multiplying negative numbers that only applies when two numbers are involved and it contradicted with there are more. Patrick did well with giving them homework from my suggestion last week. Kwame had his whole group come to the board and work out examples. Obed did a much better job from last week with handling the snacks and rewards. Finally, Charles did well having the students explain their answers using English. The girls in his group really struggle when they are explaining simple addition. After the program ended I met with them and gave them these positives and negatives I noticed and gave them homework to prepare a progress quiz on Thursday.

 Later in the day I get back home and pull out the left of Jack Fruit that I put in the fridge. I take it over to enjoy with Asamoah. When I get there, one of the younger pineapple ladies is there, so I invite her as well. She gives me a strange look and some nervous laughs before we convince her to try this new fruit that looks like an alien. After she tries it, she comes back for more and even collects the seeds afterward so that she can dry and plant them on their pineapple farm.

 On Tuesday, I went to Wonoo with Grace and showed her all she needs to know from me in order to take over my program. This term, I will be only running one program in Krobo so that I can focus on making sure all the expo programs succeed and a few other side projects are successful. My time is being shifted from everyday operations to more on the planning and leadership side and I’m more than happy that I’m headed in this direction.

 We get quick transportation there and I remind Grace that won’t be a usual occurrence. Once at the school, the teachers are at a meeting, so the students are roaming about, oddly the same situation when I first met with them last term. They are very excited to see a new Obroni and they are just as aggressive as when I visited them for the first time last term. They are up in our faces, asking all kinds of questions and making observations about each of us. They’re used to me so most of the observations are about Grace. I can sense that Grace is very uncomfortable with it all. She even stops acknowledging that they are their and she starts to grade papers as if we’re totally alone. I suggest that we go into the staff room and it seems to be successful, as the students don’t follow us in the room. In there, Grace asks me if they’re always this aggressive. She also tells me that they shouldn’t be allowed to talk to us in that way. I can see her point, but I disagree. While some of their observations could be considered as rude, they also made many positive comments. I think they were just genuinely interested in finding out about “the white people”. In no way did it ever cross my mind that they were being intentionally disrespectful. She finished the discussion saying that, “she will be like Hitler compared to me.” I suppose everyone has their own ways of dealing with things and it won’t affect the expo programs, so I don’t say much.

 The session is normal and we walk along the road to find a car home. Sometimes I can wait for an hour or longer to get a tro tro home. Today, one of my friends from Antoa, who drives a school bus, comes by right when we get to the road and he gives us all a ride home. Once we get home, Grace and I leave to fetch water. I’m still using the big bucket and I can make it about four times before I get too tired. I’m also still practicing with balancing it on my head with no hands, when it’s empty of course. I can easily carry it the whole way now. The first time when I carry the full bucket back, I’m still getting my muscles loose. Then, once I pour the first bucket and walk back with it on my head it feels like the top of my head is numb or that there is no bucket there at all. At first I thought it was falling, but now I’m used to the strange feeling. It’s also much easier to balance because the heavy bucket squishes the wrap down very flat on my head. Actually, the “buckets” I carry are called a rubber by the local people. A bucket is a very specific thing. And bucket in Twi is pronounced boogity. Bush’s family and I have an inside joke that whenever we see each other, we say “boogity boogity boogity”. In face we make all kinds of weird noises and interpretations of Twi words. It’s almost like I’m back home with my friends again, making up the same silly words and strange sounds.

 The day ends and I decide to push my sleep/wake up time 30 minutes earlier to fall right on the hour. I don’t know why, but I’m enjoying the mornings and disliking the nights more and more.

 On Wednesday, I have Grace leave for Wonoo on her own to Officially make the program hers. My morning is the same with visiting Bush and then going to my Ghanaian Grand Parents, Nana Mary and Nana Kofi. After I get home, I update some Expo stuff online for accounting purposes. The time flies and at 15:00 I leave to visit my friends around town and end up going to Andrews place to share some mashed Kenakay. First, I have to walk around town and find all of the ingredients.

 Not far into my walk, an elderly lady stops me and we chat for a bit. I’m able to hand with her using the Twi and not much is lost in translation. After about 30 minutes of talking she takes my number and I continue through town. When I get to my good friends Akosua Margarette and her husband, they apologize for not having any bananas and I tell them it’s no problem. Not listening to me, Akos goes and gets me a papaya from in her house. From there I get some banana and go to greet Charles’ grandfather. Lastly, I head to Andrews with the banana and ground nut to mix into the meal. I rell him I want to continue my “research” and try the kenkay without any sugar or biscuits to make it taste sweeter. He calls anything that I learn or do in Ghana for the first time as part of my research and a big reason why I’m here.

 After we mix the kenkay, I offer the banana and ground nut to add. He tells me “no, we have to try it alone to really do the research.” I figure, why not? I’m only in Ghana once, so I want to make the most of it. After the first spoon full the sour taste immediately overwhelms my taste buds. Even with it so sour, it’s quite enjoyable and ridiculously cheap with out all the flavoring additions. I leave his place as he’s cleaning the dish and head over to the pineapple ladies to greet them and no inclination to buy anything this time. Then they tell me they have a giant pineapple that is only one cedi. Normally, one this size would be 2 or 3 cedis. They point to a bruised side and explain why the price is so low. The mark is small, but I can’t tell if that’s just the tip of the iceberg of spoilage. I tell them I’ll buy it for 50 peswas and most of them burst out laughing. The one negotiation the price doesn’t brake her hard character. I didn’t mean for it to be a joke, but I go with it to see if I can get some more laughs. I tell them, “wo abroobay yare,” meaning you’re pineapple is sick. After a few more back and forths and some more laughs, neither of us budge from out price, so I leave. I ask Andrews if I made a good decision and if the pineapple is a good price. He quickly fires back that it will be a part of my research to see if pineapples that look like that are sweat. I laugh and without responding to him I head back to the women to buy the pineapple. After having battled over the price and now coming back, I have a guilty smile on my face. They immediately notice the expression and start laughing. I get to them and stop, without saying anything, looking away from them down the street. I figure I’ve lost all leverage to negotiate after leaving and coming back, so I want to get one more laugh. After a few seconds, I turn to them and say, “alright alright, I’ll buy it for 40 peswas.” My mission is accomplished. I end up giving them the 1 Cedi and going back to Andrews shop to continue the research.

 After relaxing and talking for a bit, we cut open the pineapple. Andrews and the ladies are right, this is one of the sweetest pineapples I’ve have in awhile. I’d say it’s in the top three best I’ve had since being here. From there, I leave for home and the night goes routinely with some water fetching and then sleep.

 I want to catch the blog up, so I’ll just cover the rest of this week quickly. Thursday I went to my program and the tutors all did well and tested their students. On Friday, I got sick and threw up a few times during the night. Saturday, I ran all day and it continued through Sunday. I’ll continue on Monday where I left off on the next post.

Sunday Meetings and Some Jack Fruit

I’ll pick this story up from last Sunday, January 26th, and take it through part of the week. On Saturday I spent the night in Kentinkrono in order to help out with some training on Sunday morning. It’s morning time and I wake up early to walk around town, greet people, and get some koko and kosi. I get to the roadside, only to find the woman not here. Instead of going back home I decide to leave and find the new Expo house down the road. After getting spun around a bit and somewhat lost, I find my way to the town called Oduom. I roam about and explore the neighborhood, but since it’s Sunday, most of the people out are those going to church. After exploring a bit, I decide not to call the expo women because I’m a bit earlier than expected. All the market ladies are closed, so I head to the main road to find some of that koko and kosi I’ve been drooling over for the past few hours. I buy the food and as I’m walking back up into town, I see Tasia and Summer. They are also coming down to get food, so I wait for them before we all head back up to the house. As we walk through the neighborhood, further back than I was willing to venture, I realize that we’re mostly passing big houses surrounded by high walls and big gates. I think this is one of the upper scale neighborhoods. Even with that said, the roads are still in bad condition and certainly not paved. Our house is a guest house, attached to a much bigger… mansion. The gate and walls are topped off with barbed wire and electric wiring. The guest house is small, but has it’s own shower and bathroom, all with running water. The bigger house has eight bedrooms, all with full baths. I’d say they’re living comfortably. Maybe someday Expo will be able to rent the whole thing, when we get more employees.

 I listened to the training and threw in a few tid bits here and there, but Spencer had it all covered. He finished the training with the newbies and from there I head back to Antoa because Sunday is a big day for me. I get Twi lessons, visit people normally busy during the week, and get some extra relaxation. Honestly, I also just miss the town. I really enjoy my time in Antoa and unless I am traveling for work or some visa procedures, I’d rather be with the town people. Since I got back later in the afternoon today, I just head to Bush’s house to get some Twi lessons and visit his family.

 When I first get there, Bush is off somewhere, so I sit and talk with his brother, Eric. Charity, Bush’s sister, comes in and gives me a jack fruit. I’m not sure if I’m talked about this fruit before, but this is now the third time I’ve eaten it. The first, Bush’s brother brought him one and he said to himself that he must save it to try it with me. I though they were pulling a prank when they first pulled it out and told me it’s a fruit. It’s about the size of a watermelon and has a spikey texture, like the skin of a crocodile. Bush took it in his hands and pressed down with his fingers as he just tore it into two big fleshy pieces. Inside, it is bright orange with a bunch of fruity meat that really looks like the guts of some animal, but with a strangely sweet aroma. They told me to pick out these little pods of fruit, wrapped around a big seed. Apparently the rest of the stringy inside isn’t for humans to eat. I guess it’s used to feed to farm animals. I picked out the pod of fruit and squeeze a seed the size of an olive out. I Its very slimy and feels like it will drip on the ground so I just put the whole thing in my mouth at once…. Bad idea. It’s very sweat, but the texture is very slimy and frankly overwhelming. It’s very hard to chew and that is making it hard to breath. Everyone in the room is looking at me to see my reaction, all while I’m trying not to choke on the slimy mass half sliding down my throat. I finally just give up and swallow it all whole. Then my second jack fruit experience I was much more prepared to eat the fruit. I was much better at getting the seed out and I bit the fruit in half, so I could chew and breathe properly. There was some left over that time and I brought it to Grace and Andrews for them to try. The lady next to Andrews peaked over and I invited her to join us. With a frightened look on her face, she told me she only eats what looks like fufu. However, Andrews really like the fruit and kept the seeds to dry.

 Okay, back to today. We were all eating the fruit for awhile and weren’t even half way through, so Bush’s brother ripped it in half and told me to take part home. After I stayed there a bit longer I left for home to get on a conference call for work. The call was short and sweat and good thing, because the power is out and my laptop batter is low. After, I call Charles and invite him over. Once he is over I pull out the fruit and his look is priceless. He’s eager to try the new fruit and really loves it once he does. I call Fad over to try some and after a little convincing she tries some as well. She liked it so much she even came back a few times to get more pieces. I expected her not even to try it, but she was very brave with the new food. Even after we split it in half at Bush’s and continued to eat with Charles and Fad, we still didn’t finish the whole thing. I decide to save some for tomorrow. After Charles left the power came back on and my fan worked enough to dry my sweat as I fell fast asleep.

All the Programs Kicked Off

Wednesday, the 22nd, starts early as I prepare for the Wonoo session today and the Krobo program tomorrow. Right as the sun is beginning to illuminate the ground I leave the house to fetch some water. I enjoy fetching water in the morning because the town is still quiet. There are people out sweeping and doing other various chores, but it seems like no one is talking as they go through their morning rituals. 07:00 comes around, so I leave to get Bush and start the day.

 Today, at Wonoo, is the first day of teaching and I have done things a little differently from last term. I put Patrick with the grou of students who have struggled the most. I think he will be a good match qith them because he has always been very good about reaching out to the students and putting a lot of care into dealing with each of them individually. I moved Ben to the group in the middle because his group showed good improvement last term and I think he will be able to reach these students and show more improvement. I put Joseph with the smartest group because he is quiet and the smarter ones are more passionate about learning and will tell him how to reach them better.

 The session went by fast and I met with the tutors afterward to give them some feedback. Patrick did really well dealing with one of the worst preforming students, Boakye, when he answered Patrick’s question of 4 x 12 with a quick “12!” I waitec for the students to laugh at his obvious lack of effort and joking way to deal with a question he didn’t know the answer. Instead, Patrick quickly, with little hesitation, answered Boakye with a forceful “you’ve done well!” His response to Boakye shocked the room to silence and out of the joking mood Boakye tried to create. Then, Patrick continued and reinforced that the students are doing well when they try, even when they get the answer wrong. I stayed with his group for a little longer and noticed that the normally roudy group of students were taking the session in a very serious way. I also noticed that Patrick didn’t give homework, so I reminded him and the rest of the tutors to be giving homework every session. I told Ben that he needs to find a way to get the students more involved. Even though he is used to the teachers mostly talking, occasionally broken up by the class repeating some hardwired definition. If he changes and gets them to learn in a different way, he will become a front-runner for the next scholarship. However, he gave many examples on the same topic, really reinforcing the new skills. Joseph needs to send a students to ask me when they don’t have chalk. Instead, he left the group and the learning stopped while he went to find me and ask me for more chalk. I told him that he doesn’t absolutely need chalk to teach and one students leaving and not learning is better than him leaving and the whole group not learning. I also told them that I would try better to give them enough at the beginning so this problem doesn’t occur again. Then, I thanked Joseph for asking me to help him solve a problem. I told him it’s better to admit he’s wrong and get help than to be embarrassed and continue to teach them the wrong steps. Overall the session went well, but I still feel a lot of pressure this next term to get the students ready for their BECE tests, that will determine which high school they will enter.

 On Thursday, I finished placing the students with the various tutors and prepare for Spencer and the rest of the Expo staff to visit my program. Stephanie has ben here for a few weeks and the other three, Dara, Tasia, and Summer, have only been here for a few days. Stephanie, or Grace as everyone calls her, and I leave for Krobo at about 11:00. We get there very early and spend the time talking to the teachers at the school. There are about 10 teachers just sitting around doing nothing, still getting paid by the government. There are only three classes they can use to teach and far too many staff. The Headmaster was complaining to me about this issue saying that many schools in this area have a problem with overstaffing, while there are schools in Northern Ghana that have a shortage. Seems like there’s an easy solution to me, but I’m sure the issue is much more complicated then it seems on the surface. Anyway, we greet them and after I use a little Twi the energy of the group grately increases. Some of them are literally leaping and spinning out of their chairs. It’s really easy to learn a language when I get such positive affirmation like this, pretty much with anyone I speak to. Okay, this one is a little more extreme than normal.

 After some time, Spencer and the rest of the employees come and we all go to our own area to properly meet each other and to answer any questions they have about running programs. Time comes to start the program. To my surprise, Charles is the first tutor there. He is the only one that has school right before this, so I expected him to be the latest. Again, he is proving to me that he can jump over many obsticles to make this program a success. The rest of the tutors come right before the program is supposed to start and we all greet the class as we hand out the snacks. It looks like only half of the students are here, so I send one tutor to ask the teacher to get the rest of the students. As there is downtime while the students eat their snacks I count only 14 of the 20 that are enrolled in the Form 3 class. The teacher comes ot the class and tells me that the rest of the students were practicing football for a league against other schools and therefore won’t be attending the session. I’m all for students playing sport, but I think they should go to a full day of school before any of that happens. Some of the groups only have two students and I have one classroom less than the number of tutors, so I tell the two smallest groups to cmbine in one classroom.

 From there, all the Obronis split up to avoid us being in one big distracting group. I still think we were quite distracting, but it was also good to let the new employees see the tutoring in action. Time flies by and the session is over. We all meet in the open shady spot outside. I told Charles he did a good job when he asked the whole group if they agreed with one of the students answers. Once they said yes, he had them explain why. I told the whole group they need to get better with giving snacks as a reward for the students making an extra effort to participate. I gave a few other small positives and negatives to the rest of the tutors. From there, we close for home.

 Once home, Charles stopped by to help Grace and I fetch water. I’m now able to do three or four trips with the big black bucket, or rubber as it’s called here. Apparently “bucket” refers to a very specific container and rubber is the much more general term that I would call most of the things used to fetch water. Andrews told me to get Grace and bring her after we finish the water because he got some local banana for her to try. The local banana here is much smaller than the ones that I’ve seen in the U.S., but they’re also much sweeter. It’s starting to approach my bedtime, so we tell Andrews we’ll see him tomorrow. As we start to walk away he got up and started another topic of discussion. Now were are talking and half walking away. I could see the joy in his face from being with his two foreign friends, so I couldn’t pull my self to just leave. We stayed for a bit longer and talked in the street. Finally, we left and I went right to bed.

 The plan for Friday is to observe Grace’s program at Antoa with the other Expo employees. I went through the normal routine of visiting bush and after he is set up for work I leave to visit my Ghanaian Grandpa and Grandma, as they call themselves. They seem more  busy than normal and ask if I can watch their stand and sell their food for them. I’m here every morning, so I know the prices of everything and where the change bag sits. No one except for some of my friends visit. Grandpa Kofi comes back and gives me a papaya, or paw paw as it’s called here, to thank me for watching their stand. From there, I go back home to relax a bit before Grace’s program. She asked me where to get the snack and notebooks and I just pointed to the side of the street and told her that if she asks anyone they will be more than happy to show her exactly where everything is located. She doesn’t seem very happy that I’m not walking her there and helping her more hands-on. I’ll help her if she really needs it, but I believe the best way to learn is to go and figure it out your self and make plenty of mistakes along the way. I also don’t believe she is learning when she walks around town with me because everyone just greets me and will talk with her once I tell them to speak Twi to Grace and not indirectly through me. Then when she doesn’t understand the Twi I will tell her what they’ve said. I think her learning will come much slower if she has me to rely on, opposed to her out and trying to decipher what someone is saying on her own. She comes back and says the stores I pointed to didn’t have the materials, so I told her that I’d be happy to show her the various shops around town. We walked down the right side of town and there are more people than I normally run into. Some of them are aggressive, but nothing more than normal. We got to the end of town, only to see the shops closed. From there, we go to the other side and wlak back along the road, greeting everyone along the way. Grace loses her cool and tells me she’s just going to the end town to the store. She starts walking down the street and doesn’t greet anyone as she passes them. I’m in the middle of talking to someone and shocked by her reaction, so I’m at a loss for words as I watch her walk past the next few groups of people without greeting them. That’s not a very smart thing to do in this town, especially because they’re used to me greeting them all. People in Antoa see it as a sign of disrespect if someone passes them without greeting. I catch back up to her as some men aggressively call her, not letting her pass without greeting. After we continue walking I try to tell her that’s not an okay thing to do, for either of our reputations, in a way that won’t unleash her frustration on me. I tell her this is just a typical experience in Antoa and she needs to prepare for this to happen everyday. I think she got the point, even though she is silent. I don’t think everyone is a good match for the small town lifestyle, especially with the aggressive Ashanti culture. I really hope this is just a sign of her adjusting slowly and not a sign of her patience already wearing thin after only a few weeks.

 Spencer and the rest of the employees come to Antoa and it’s time for Grace’s program to start. Today, she is giving them the test and having an hour of tutoring afterward. While their doing the test, Dara, Tasia, Summer, and I are talking about program stuff and their expectations about Ghana. The divide up for instruction and we walk around to observe for some time. Everything went smoothly and everyone agrees that Grace has done very well for her first day of the program.

 From there, we all go back to the compound and Spencer’s Peace Corps friend does a quick interview of me for out promotional campaign. He asks me some simple questions about Expo presently and our expectations for the future.

 Spencer and everyone leave, so Grace and I leave to visit Andrews and share his mixed nut treat that he got us. I pull out the pawpaw that Grandpa Kofi gave me and we all enjoy. Andrews tells me that if you eat the seeds of the pawpaw, it’s like taking medicine to clear worms out of your stomach. Remembering that I drank some well water earlier in the day, I happily chew the seeds. They’re oddly spicy and not bad at all. We leave earlier this night, but again Andres is almost following us home as he gets in his last thoughts. I think he has been happy to have one good Obroni friend, but not I can clearly see he’s ecstatic to have two. 

Wonoo Pretest

On Tuesday, I leave very early for Wonoo to give myself plenty of time to speak with one of the tutors I couldn’t get a hold of and buy all the snacks for class. The first shop I buy everything and ask for the tutor, Joseph. I couldn’t get a hold of him over the phone and after calling the Headmaster over the past week, he couldn’t seem to find him either. The shop owner points me over to the Kentay workshop. From there one of the men leads me to Joseph’s house only to be told that he just left to fetch water. The man continues to lead me to find Joseph. I see Joseph and talk to him about the program as we walk back to his house. From there I met his family and leave them expecting to see him back for the term. Joseph is normally really good with being on time and doing what he’s promises, so I’m confident he’ll be there today.

 

I give out the test to the students and everything goes very well. There are the usual attempts to cheat, but the tutors and I roam around and stop the students before any damage is done. Plus the second line of defense is when I’m grading, I can usually tell when someone just came up with the answer out of nowhere.

 

Back home I grade some papers and fetch some water. The rest of the night was routine and I went to bed at my normal time.

Krobo Pretests, Tutors in Action, A Hot Walk Home

I’m a little behind so I’ll start where I left off, two weeks ago. Starting with Monday the 22nd, the week has been a big one. Monday, I kicked off the Krobo program. Four of my tutors live close by and are out of school and one is still in Highschool. I grabbed Charles, the scholarship winner from my Antoa program and Patrick, the winner from my Wonoo program. The remaining three tutors have been carefully selected and should be just as good as my two previous winners. Even though I’m getting less time with the Krobo students I have confidence we wil make up for that time with the quality of the tutors. By less time I mean we worked with Antoa and Wonoo last term, but not with Krobo. Charles, being the only one coming fom school, was also the only one on time. It’s very difficult to enforce a strict time frame with a culture that is very relaxed with their time. I’ve explained to hthem they need to beon time to give the students the maximum time and if they’re no, they only get 2 of the 5 Cedis for the day. The other tutors weren’t very late, and still were able to help pass out tests and help me proctor the exam. Just like my programs last term I need to test the JHS student’s skills to see where to start and to put them into groups of similar ability. After the test I met with the tutors and talked with them about what the next few weeks will look like. On the way home Patrick, Chalres, Obed, Kwame, and I walked to save the time and money of taking a car.

 On the walk home I asked Charles about him getting the pass. Last term the Academic Head Master was not good about getting the passes very quickly and not one of the tutors showed up to my first session. Charles told me that he was very busy and wrote it for him at the last minute. He went on to add that he stood there and explained to him exactly when he needs to be out of school. He said that the Academic Head Master is some how scared of me because I’m a white man. I’m not even sure what that means. Is he scared because he wants to impress me or because he thinks I will do something negative to his image?

 Before we get to Adesina, the next town between Krobo and Antoa, someone pulled up and offered to give us a ride. Charles yells “It’s SK the information center guy”. After I think for a second I put two and two together and realize this is the man who came over the speaker every morning and even yelled and sang to the town some mornings. He’s also one of the pastors at the SDA church I attended during vacation. When the choir would be singing he would join in, but he would sing through a microphone, so he drowned out any sound of harmony. Suddenly it all makes sense… Anyway, it’s nice of him to offer a ride and I’m grateful to get out of the scorching sun. It’s the dry season or as the locals call it “Harmattan”. With their accents it sounds like they’re saying it’s “Hammer time”. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to memorize that phrase. On the walk before the car came, I made a comment to the tutors that I felt like my skin was literally burning off. They laughed and took it as a joke, but I was being mostly serious. The sun here is a whole other beast. It’s a good thing my mom brought SPF 50 sunscreen when she visited. The rest of the trip home was very quick, especially since I didn’t greet my people on the road into town. At home, I printed the tests and got ready for the Wonoo program tomorrow.

Testing the Tutors and Using the Big Bucket

Today I woke up at the norml time and caught up on the news I’ve missed over the holidays. New York Times sent me an email to get their newspaper for 12 weeks for 99 cents. THey have a new international section on their web site that lets you pick news by the continent. If you’re as fed up with local news as I am, then you might find this as a good alternative. There are no commercials and you can look up information that interests you. Any way, before I knew it, the time came to eat and get ready to go to Bush’s.

 For breakfast I got the mashed Kenkay from yesterday morning I couldn’t finish and added some banana. I greeted all the people on the way and than Bush’s family, starting with his Grandma, before going to his room. His Grandma responds to me with the normal beginning of the greeting, “yaa,” but then finishes with “bru”. Bush told me that’s a response only used by elders to address some one royal or to show them high respect. Bush is more busy this morning then usual, so I chat with his two brothers. They are very funny with how they interact with me and a lot of the time I feel like they are trying to challenge me on what ever the subject may be. At first I found it a bit annoying, but now I just think it’s funny and I have no problem playing along. I think they’re trying to find out how to push my buttons. They will take things I do throughout the day or week and will tell me that I’m living the wrong way or in a contradictory way. I know they mean well, so I take it lightly and try to keep the conversation on a joking level. It helps when I throw in some Twi to get them to laugh. Around 8:00 the taxi driver comes and collects us. At Bush’s office, he tells me he has bad news. He says that one of our friends died early this morning. I met her at Bush’s work place when I was still fresh in Ghana. I even talked with her right before the holidays. It’s a shame it had to happen to such a young person, but she was very obese, so I’m not all that surprised.

 After leaving Bush’s I head over to greet the old couple selling the egg roll and donut things. I think they expect me now because even when I’m still across the street, the husband gets up to give me his chair. Today we talked about how many years ago, there used to be a lot of monkeys that would run around Antoa. They said that the monkeys would generally jus stay in the forest area, but at night they would sneak around town and try to find some food. Then they talked about living in Nigeria and how much easier it was to make money over there. They also said that one the other hand armed robbery was much more common. They said whether it was broad daylight or night time a group of men wouldn’t hesitate to gang up one someone, run a car off a road, or throw a big rock to knock down someone’s door and raid their house. He went on to say that he heard of occasions when some extremist Mulsim groups would enter schools and churches and shoot everyone before stealing what they could and fleeing. Sounds like a place I won’t be visiting any time soon. With the ideas that all white men are rich, I don’t think I would last very long.

 From there I left to meet some tutors at the Antoa SHS. I gave them the preliminary tests and told them about the program. They seem like a good group of young men and I’m very excited to go back to Wonoo and use this new crew with Krobo.

 Now I’m heading back into town and regreeting everyone along the way. When I passed the first time it was morning and now since it’s afternoon, I’m obligated to greet them again or I take a risk of offending someone. Plus I want to learn about the culture and I believe the best way to do that is to live like one of the locals, with no shortcuts. After resting for a short bit at home I call Charles and tell him that I want to come over and greet his Grandpa. On my way over to his house Andrews calls me and says he just got back into town and asks if I’ve eaten. I tell him that I’m going to greet someone and for him to wait for me to come. I enter Charles’ compound and he leads me to his Grandpa’s room. I enter and greet him in Twi and after a short time we switch to Enlgish, which he can speak surprisingly well. I give him a lot of complements about how great Charles has been doing with my program and in general as a friend.  We chat a little bit and then he shows me a book that he bought in Kumasi to teach the Ghanaian culture for those who are visiting. Most of the phrases are basic and I have learned them already, but some are new to me, so I try to keep them in my head. Then there is a section about things to avoid doing in the culture. Number one was not to use your left hand in any exchanges with another person. I know that and have been getting steadily better at remembering to use only my right hand. Sometimes I slip up, but I will quickly correct myself and apologize. The next is not to greet people as you are heading to the toilet. That one is pretty strange and when I heard it for the first time I didn’t fully believe it was true, but I guess this means it really offends people. Next, there is to be no fishing in the ocean on Tuesday, anywhere in Ghana. Okay, this one is just strange. I bet there’s a story behind it and I think I’m going to bring it up to my elderly friends who sell the egg rolls. It also says not to sing while taking a bath because you will curse your mother to death. Again, strange and I’m sure there’s some explanation. Then, it says not to whistle at night because you will disturb the ancestors. Charles’ Grandpa chimes in at this point and adds that people who whistle at night are generally thieves who are signaling something bad. The next says that one day a week a community is not supposed to go to farm, the day depends on the community. I think I might be missing one on there, which is just as strange as the rest I’m sure.

 I leave Charles and his Grandpa and head over to the nearest store to buy some Kenkay, milo, and ground nuts to make the mashed dish for Andrews and I to eat. I bring it all over to him and he prepares the dish. This time I don’t add any sugar, unlike last time I’ve had it. Andrews buys the chocolate biscuits to give it texture and some bread to go along. We start to eat and the hair dresser ladies next door yell “Obroni” and when I look they say “mensaka”. They are reminding me that I should have invited them to the meal and Andrews wasn’t in a position to do so since I was the one who brought the food over as a ‘gift’. Slightly embarrassed I repeat the mensaka and then invite the ladies on the other side of us. I’m still not very good at that whole thing of inviting everyone in the area to the meal I’m eating. I also still feel weird to eat in public. I’m not sure why, but it just feels different here. Everyone watches me like I’m eating a thanksgiving dinner. I push through the awkward feeling and get back to enjoying sharing a meal with a friend. I’m really not used to sharing food with anyone like this. Sometimes at restaurants I have shared a dish like with Indian or even another dessert, but not a meal in the middle of the day, around other people not eating, and everyone using their hands. I have to admit once I get past the strange feeling I realize that I really love the intimacy that comes with sharing a meal, especially when everyone is eating with their hands.

 It comes to 17:00, so I leave Andrews to fetch some water. I made the commitment to use the big bucket today, so that’s what I’m going to do. I grab the big black tub and get my head wrap ready before I leave so I can practice balancing it on my head on the walk over, while it’s empty. I put the bucket on the ground and fill it with the raised pipe. When there is some water in the tub I lift it and put it on my head as it continues to fill. I’m trying to feel down the side of the tub to se if it’s full so I can turn the faucet and turn it off. The more full the bucket gets, the harder it is to balance on my head with one hand off the bucket and on the faucet. I almost lose the bucket a few times so I lean it forward against the wall and reach down to turn off the water. Not wanting to cheat, I stop resting on the wall and continue to turn the nozzle. After about four turns I walk away and as I see the water still coming out of the pipe, I realize I was spinning it four times in the wrong direction. The other people in the area run over and turn off the water. This bucket is shorter than the other one I was using, so I don’t have to stretch as far to have my hands on the top edges. That’s just the way everyone does it so I try to copy them. After I get about half way back I realize that this isn’t really that bad and I could have probably switched to this bigger bucket sooner. I get back and fill up Fad’s big tub first. One of these huge buckets almost fills up half of her tub. Feeling strong, I head out for the second run to get water. This time I don’t lean on the wall at all and turn the nozzle four times in the right direction. As I come back from the pipe, water is still coming out. Someone comes over to turn it off again and I thank them. My second trip back and I fill up Fad’s big tub completely. Now I’m not sure if I ‘m still really feeling good or I’m just going off of adrenaline, but I head back for a third trip. The big community tub could use a little topping off and I want to practice the balancing of the empty bucket. On my third trip back to the watering hole I balance the bucket on my head nearly the entire way. This time I stay and turn the nozzle eight times in the correct direction and when I come back away there is still water leaking out. I’m really bad at this whole thing. A small girl comes over and spins it a few more times to the right and the water doesn’t really stop completely and she tells me I did fine. On my walk back I see Bush and he laughs as we talk about carrying the bigger bucket. The woman outside of my house yells to me in Twi, “Why adeay,” which means you’ve done well. I thank her and keep going because I’m starting to feel a bit tired now. I pour the bucket in and go back to my room. The lights are out so I get on my computer because it provides a little light and frankly because I wouldn’t be able to see anything else if I wanted. The rest of the night looks like it’s going to pretty quite so I’ll post this one from here. Tomorrow is another adventure waiting to happen.

Time to Start School Again

Vacation is over and school is starting again. My vacation was full of visiting people around town and improving my Twi. Right from the start I continued to walk with Bush to his work in the mornings and he started making me write down the Twi he soon started to teach me. Bush and his family became my new Twi teachers. I continued with sharing the meals and my time with the people around town. My mom came a few days after Christmas and spent about a week here in Ghana. We walked around Antoa the first day, traveled to paradise at the beach, and ended with a visit to the Janneys in Accra. After she left, I met one of the new Exponential Education employees, Stephanie, in Accra. Her middle name is Grace and that’s what we’ve been using, so I’ll call her that not to confuse myself. Grace, Spencer, and I traveled to the border to visit Lome, the capital of Togo. I needed to renew my visa and Spencer and Grace were in for the adventure. We spent a few days there and really indulged with the great French food. After that we headed back to Accra and I stayed with the Janneys for one last night before I caught my flight back to Kumasi.

 I think today is especially a good day to start with my blog again. I’ve hit some important landmarks today and I’ve also had a few new experiences. Today, I woke up early and didn’t get a pineapple to save my appetite for my big breakfast. Andrews taught me how to take one of the local foods, called Kenkay, and mash it with my fingers and make a porrage-like soupy meal. I unwrapped the Kenkay from the plantain leaf, which was very moist on the inside. I’m sure if that’s a good sign, but I did the smell test and it passed, I think. I started ‘mashing’ or kneading the dough like food. Then I added water to start to break it down to the mushy finish. As I mashed I added a powdered coffee mix, that’s actually pretty good, and some sugar. The Kenkay is naturally very sour, or it was naturally very spoiled, so I had to westernize it a little to make it edible. After I added almost a full water sachet or about 500 ml of water, the food was finished. To top it all off, I add some groundnuts or peanuts, as we call them in the U.S. All of the ingredients were 1 Cedi and 40 Peswas and I could only manage to eat half. Pretty good deal if you ask me. I put the left overs in the fridge and franticly bath and run to get to Bush’s on time.

 I get to Bush’s house and greet his Grandma, followed by the rest of his family. I showed him the flash cards I made for the Twi he has taught me over break. All of it has been useful because everyday I am using many of the words an really making some great progress with my Twi. Instead of just being able to stay to the same script, I’m now able to be a bit creative and have a little more in-depth conversation. I’m also able to pick up on much more of the conversations I hear. I can only hear a few more words, but generally it’s enough to pick up on the context and understand what people are saying. When I was gone with my mom in Accra, Bush was driven to work by his taxi driver friend. He is still continuing to come so at about 7:45 we get in the taxi and head down the hill to get to his work.

 I’m still full from breakfast, but I buy what my new friends call an egg roll. No it’s nothing like the Chinese dish. It’s a hardboiled egg that is wrapped in dough and fried. It’s quite amazing and I could, and have, eat them every day. Even when I’m not in the mood for the egg roll I visit my new friends who make this treat. They are an old couple, in their late seventies. Their minds are as sharp as a whip and they love to teach me about Ghana and Nigeria when they were young. I can’t get enough of their stories and lessons, so this has now become a regular stop after I drop Bush off. The man is from Antoa and the Woman is from the Central region of Ghana. They both moved to Nigeria and lived there for 35 years to teach. Now they’ve ‘retired’ and are living in Antoa. The wife still makes these treats to support them financially. Every time I use some Twi they are ecstatic and give me endless compliments. Some of the big things they’ve taught me over the break is that when they were children, people in the Ashanti region, especially, used to only eat Fufu. They would literally eat it for every meal of the day. Then they talked about the introduction of the foreign ingredients and the modernization of their tastes. They told me that everyone, even the most uneducated people, in Nigeria can speak English, or pigeon English. They said that even little children will know enough to have a conversation with me. They also taught me that the default name for a white man is Akwesi Broni. I’ve always wondered why and they told me it was because Ghanaians used to worship God on Saturday and then when the white man came to Ghana they introduced worshiping God on Sunday. Akwesi is also the name for a male born on Sunday, hence my name being Akwesi Matthew. I buy my food and greet people on the way out of town toward Krobo and Wonoo.

 This term I will be running two programs again. I will do the same on at Wonoo and start a new one at Krobo. Conveniently enough the Head Master at Krobo and Antoa switched this term, so I already know him. I hitch a ride to Krobo and greet the Head Master, Mr. Frimpong. He seems very interested and calls in the head teacher and the form three teacher. They all agree that the program will be good and they also agree to make it mandatory for the students to show up. I go into the classroom and greet the students and they decide they would like the classes to be on Monday and Thursday. I reinforce that I will be giving them snacks and water every session an they all clap and cheer. I thank the staff again before I leave for Wonoo.

 I catch a Taxi to Wonoo and find the Head Master as he is leaving school. We walk back to town and chat about doing the program the same as last term. He tells me that he needs to bring it up in the staff meeting and he will get back to me later this week. From there we both wait for a car back to Antoa.

 Back in Antoa I go home and rest for a bit and eat my egg roll. At 16:30 I head out to fetch water. The big tub is completely empty. I take the same small purple bucket and leave with an extra spring in my step. On my second trip I start to try balancing the empty bucket on my head as I walk back to fetch the water. I lose count of my trips as I’m too exited to get back and try to balance the bucket on my next trip. I start to get it for a few steps and figure that I’m just expecting results to fast and I try to just relax and let it rest on my head, instead of trying really hard to balance. About half way to filling the bucket up, I keep the bucket on my head with no hands for maybe a good 50 steps. I get excited and get even more lost in fetching the water. I don’t know the number, but I’ve clearly now passed my record. As the bucket is about 80% full, I am now carrying the bucket on my head for about half of the trip back to get the water. The tub is now 90% full and I carry the bucket all the way back, not counting one small readjustment when a kid got too close to me, to get the water. I can even hear people yelling my name and some thing about white man fetching water as I’m walking back with no hands on the bucket. On my last bucket run I fill the big tub up completely and must have gone somewhere around 8 or 10 times. I’m really not even that tired, so next time I plan to move my way up to the big black tub that I tried my first time trying to fetch water.

 Back at the compound I stay outside to cool off and notice that Fad is getting ready to pound the Fufu. I tell her that I want to try. She tells me that I shouldn’t because it’s too heavy. I insist and tell her that I want to learn. I give it a go and quickly realize why Ghanaians are so strong. Between doing wash, fetching water, and pounding fufu, it’s no wonder these people are in such good shape. Part of the way through I start to get into a rhythm with my breathing, but my sweat is pouring off my head. My fingers feel a bit sore, but I can definitely keep going. She insists that I take a great as she pounds. She hits the side of the bowl and breaks it completely off. After a few pounds I grab it back and she tells me that I need to pound harder and faster. I try to listen, but I’m too worried about crushing her fingers as she continues to ‘drive’ or push the doughy Fufu back into the center to be pounded. Some girl yells through the gate so we stop and Fad calls her in. At this point I’m covered in sweat, but I honestly feel like I could keep going. I always figure that the work out doesn’t start until the sweat and pain come. Fad insists that the girl pound the rest. I don’t argue much because I have a feeling it’s partially because I’m so bad. I really enjoyed pounding the Fufu and I’m thinking of asking someone around town to let me pound their Fufu for them, to learn the skill and because it’s such a good workout.

 I sit down and wait for the food to be served and as my endorphins calm down I can feel a bad blister on the side of my finger. It’s stings pretty bad, but I just ignore the pain. Fad brings out the food and the soup, as usual, is piping hot. I wait as long as I can and then stick my finger in the soup and begin to eat. Immediately when my blister his the hot and spicy soup I can feel a very sharp burning. All within this time of pounding and now eating, the power has come off and on about 3 times. It comes back on and I can see that my finger is bleeding. I guess the hot soup burst the blister. I continue to eat and just fight through the pain and drink through the blood. The Fufu is really great and they made it with light soup again, which they do very well. After I finish the power goes out again and I head back to my room to write this journal entry. I’m sitting here, hand stinging, sweating, partially from the pounding and partially from the spicy soup and there’s no power to spin my fan and cool me down. I can already see an interesting night’s sleep ahead of me. I suppose I’m grateful that I’m in a place in Ghana or Africa for that matter that has electricity at all, even if it’s not very reliable. Good thing we’re in the dry season and the nights get cold, for Ghana at least.

 Tomorrow I will be contacting all of the tutors and getting ready to start my programs again this next coming week.

Antoa Final Ceremony

Today is Monday, the 9th, and the only big thing on my list for the day is the Antoa final ceremony. Spencer is printing out the awards and bringing them with him. The morning goes like normal and I leave at 07:00 to reach George Bush’s on time. Even if I get there early I have a good time talking with Bush and his brother, Owusu Ansah. When I get there, Bush tells me that he has something for me. Then he hands me a book titled, “How the Mighty Have Fallen!” by, Godswill T.K. Mensah. Names like Godswill are actually quite common where I’m staying in Ghana. Many students have the names Miracle, Precious, Comfort, Christian, Perpetual, etc. I’m not sure if all of those are related to religion, but they sure sound like it. Anyway, the book looks really interesting. It’s all about temptation and how it leads people away from accomplishing their ultimate goals in life. It’s very short too, so it’s right up my alley. Unless terrorists are being hunted down by an off-the-grid assassin, I prefer the books to be below 200 pages. That’s unlike my sister, who for some reason enjoys reading one book that could swallow up ten of my books with room to go. I thank him for the book and the three of us chat for a bit while Bush gets ready for work. Bush tells me he’s ready and I grab his bag as we head out. We get to his work place and chat for a little longer before I head home to prepare for the Expo ceremony.

 The ceremony starts at 13:30 and Spencer is coming over a little before hand, so we can fill out the names on the certificates. This means that lunch is either going to be pushed up or back and I certainly hope not the latter. I decide to investigate the fuel tank in the kitchen again to see if I can figure out how to turn it on. There are no directions anywhere on the nozzle or the tank itself. I try to look up the model number on the Internet and have no success. I turn it back to the off position and then start to mess with the dials on the burners. I click one on and I can hear gas! I couldn’t figure out how to turn the tank on because it has been sitting in the kitchen on the whole time. How silly of me to think that they would turn the tank off incase something happened somewhere along the line before the terribly made burner stops it from leaking. I suppose I’m a little too cautious when it comes to these things. Now, I’m determined to get some food from around town to cook. Since this is my first time using these cooking devices, I decide to keep it simple with rice and eggs. The store across the street, which is normally my go-to, is closed. I walk around to a couple more small market tables and for some reason they’re all closed. Suddenly I think that I have my days mixed up and today is actually Sunday and not Monday. I check my phone and confirm the date before trying the last place that I know of in town. When I get there the woman is open and has everything I need to cook up a simple meal. I get one cup of rice, two eggs, and an onion.

 Back home I start to cook the rice and realize that I have no oil for the pan to cook eggs. Contradicting my earlier statement about being cautious I leave the compound to go down the street to get some cooking oil from Andrews. Nearly running, I hurry back home to make sure nothing has exploded or burned down. Now that I have the burners figured out, the rest is pretty easy and I go into autopilot with the eggs from my breakfasts when I lived on my own at school. Spencer arrives right as the food is finishing and we eat before getting the certificates done. I don’t know about their cup size measurements, but the one I got fed both of us and left another meal for later. Spencer and I sit down and quickly fill out all the names and sign all of the certificates to be given out. We head out early to get biscuits before we get to the school. I go back to the same woman to support her further for being the only shop open in town. After we get the snacks we get to the school early and sit with some of the teachers to chat with them and pass the time. One of the teachers, that I meet here often, is complaining to us about his student’s performances. He is saying that the highest score is something like a 4 out of 60. He starts to complain about the students not being serious and we all contemplate the issues. Avoiding the obvious reason, that he’s just not teaching well, we talk about the situations the children of these small towns, like Antoa and Wonoo, face. It’s difficult to teach these students when they don’t have any reinforcement from home. Most of the children’s time after school is filled with doing chores and when they’re done with that, the last thing they want to do is more schoolwork. It doesn’t help that many of the parents don’t have much of an education themselves, so they don’t understand or preach its importance. It seems like the first things these schools need to do is to have a class for the parents to teach them about the possibilities for their children if they are serious with school. Then we can fold that back on them and tell them that when they are successful, they will be supported when they can’t work any more. It also doesn’t help that even the people in town who don’t have children make them do their menial tasks, like fetching water or doing their wash. That’s a big reason why I’m so adamant about not letting the children do any household work for me. Even if they’re playing and not doing their own chores, each child has their right to play and the less time they get to play, the less time they will be willing to do their homework. Especially if they already have to fetch the water and do the wash for their own household early in the morning or after the sun sets. I think the classroom is important, but not the first step to solving this issue with education in Ghana. I think the easiest thing to do is to blame the quality of the teacher, like I first thought when speaking to this Antoa teacher, but after our talk I realized that it’s really much more complicated. I really believe that all of the shortcomings are a reflection of the infrastructural integrity. When many of the people in the government are corrupt and don’t invest fully into building the country from the ground up the other institutions, like education, will suffer indirectly. I don’t know if any specifics I’ve listed are really true, but I sure am learning that poverty is a very intricate issue. It seems like there are many paths that look like solutions, but I can’t help but go back to improving the basic infrastructure. Every specific issue that I study and investigate can be traced back to the basics, like transportation. There is a great public transportation system here, but when it takes all day to get from Antoa to Kumasi and back, there is a problem. Antoa isn’t even that far from Kumasi, I’m sure the effect is only magnified for those places that are further away.

 After some more conversation with the teachers, the tutors show up to the school at exactly 13:30, when I asked them to be there. I talk to Tio and ask when he thinks the students will be done with their tests. He tells me they probably won’t be done until 14:30. Spencer and I take that time to talk with the tutors and ask them about the program and how we can improve in the future. After it feels like we’re pulling teeth, they start to speak up and give us some suggestions. People’s relationship to authority in this culture still baffles me. To me, it’s equally disrespectful between being rambunctious and siting there in silence as if someone isn’t addressing you.

 The students close a little after 14:30 and we go to the classroom to get ready for the ceremony. I plan to conduct this one very similar to Wonoo. I read the names of the tutors, most improved JHS students for English and Math, and then all of the best attendance winners. Then, I hand out the awards for all of those students who showed up to at least half of the sessions. For Wonoo, all of the students showed up at least half of the time, so that was much easier to determine. When each came up to get their award they got a juice box and a biscuit. Then, I concluded the ceremony with announcing Michael Osei as the second place tutor and Charles Amponsah as the first place tutor. They both won the big scholarship that will go toward their schooling in some way. With the ceremony over, I handed out the diversity forms to all the students and tutors to fill out so we can get a better picture of each of their lives inside and outside of school.

 After that Spencer left for Kentinkrono and the students for home. On my way out I greeted the old man at the other end of the road in Antoa, leading to Kumasi. He’s a really kind old man who teaches me Twi every time I visit him. From there I greet people on the way back home. I rest for the end of the afternoon and then leave again to get some food. After some walking around town I settle on cooked yams and contumeray stew. That’s definitely one of my favorite dishes from Ghana, which I’m definitely going to miss after I leave. The rest of the night is pretty quiet as I make sure I’ve closed out my Expo stuff and plan what to do with my vacation time. 

Changing of Schedule and Antoa Final Test

Thursday, December 5th, everything is normal in the morning and in fact I feel really great. I’m sure now that my stomach problems are gone and I’m feeling better than ever. I go to fetch some water in the morning for my wash I need to do. I fill up two tubs and wash as many clothes as I can bare in one load. I have some shirts that have been in the dirty pile for too long and I just want to start over with a full bill of clean clothes. I get my load done in an hour and rest between washing and ringing out. Then after a bit I go and ring out the soap out of the clothes and let them soak in the tub with just water. It’s now coming to 07:00 and I get ready to go meet Bush. I don’t leave the house until 07:15 this morning and put a little haste in my step. Rigth outside of the compound our neighbors are sitting there and I stop to greet them. They have a new friend with them and he’s delighted to talk to me in Twi. I’m trying to be patient and give them my time, but I can’t help but think about getting to Bush before he leaves. I leave them and go down the normal path. The woman who gives me food a lot, stops me and says something in Twi and I’ll I pick up is that she’s mentioning church. I tell her I’m not going to church today and she interrupts me and starts in more Twi. The boy next to her translates and says she’s asking for her envelop for the church donations. Astonished and slightly embarrassed she remembered, I tell her I don’t have it and that I have to go meet my friend. I leave them and make it to Bush’s compound after a few more people try to greet and have conversations with me. I didn’t realize, but the people along this path have now been seeing me this whole week and now want to be good friends with me. I will have to plan to leave earlier in the future so I can make sure not to rush any of the conversations with the people along this path. I get to Bush’s house and he’s already sitting out front on his stoop. He tells me to go around and greet his family and then we will leave. I do so and then we leave. We get down to his shop and start to talk about how we relate to other people in our lives. He tells me that his grandma taught him to love all people and animals and I agree with him that is a very good feeling to have toward people. We talk for longer than any of the other days and then he breaks the conversation and says he should get to work. From there I leave to go home before leaving again to get breakfast.

 I leave the house and buy some of the crispy donuts. I buy some for myself, Andrews, and his friend sitting with him. I sit down to enjoy the food with them and they ask if I’m going to teach today. I tell them no, I’m going tomorrow. Andrews pauses as if he’s thinking about the validity of my statement. Then, he asks how I’m going to teach if it’s a holiday. My heart sinks to my feet as I realize that I need to quickly adjust the Antoa program scheduled test. I tell him thank you for telling me and I leave him to figure out a solution. I try to call Tio, but the network is down and my calls won’t connect. I really love the creativity that the problems in Ghana ask for. More excited than frustrated by the problem, I first head over to print the tests in case they have time to take the test right when I speak to them.

 As I’m waiting for the Tro Tro to Kenyasi, one of my friends comes over and asks what I’m doing. I tell him and he tells me that there is another print shop in town besides the one I’ve been going to. This is another lesson I’ve learned in Ghana. The more important the information your trying to receive from asking someone, the more people you need to ask to confirm if what they’re saying is true. I don’t think that the people are intentionally lying. I actually think it’s the opposite, they are embarrassed to not be able to help you, so they give an answer to the best of their knowledge instead of saying they don’t know. Frankly, I would prefer the “I don’t know, go and ask so and so” answer. Anyway, my friend walks me to the print shop and I quickly get everything printed and I’m on my way to the JHS with a spring in my step. When I get there I tell Tio my problem and after some thinking he says that we can squeeze the test in today at either 13:00 or 14:00. That doesn’t exactly help with the tutor situation. I call the Academic Head Master at the SHS before I start to negotiate times and find out that they have tests until 15:00. I tell Tio and he says that he will be happy to wait around to help me proctor the exam.

 I leave from the JHS to get some food before it’s time to come back for the test. When I come back, at one, all the students are taking a test. Tio tells me that they probably won’t be done until 14:30. I sit down with one of the teachers and we chat about different things. He’s mostly asking me about the differences between Ghana and the U.S. 14:30 comes around and the students all go to closing ceremony. Through out the term I had 33 students on average show up to each session. I printed a few extra tests just in case there’s a few more that show up today. Actually, almost all of them show up because they had to attend school because of their testing. I don’t have enough tests. I send a student to the print shop to make more copies to cover the additional students. In the meantime I hand out snacks and discuss the directions of the test. The student comes back surprisingly quick and we get out the rest of the tests and start. I’m a little worried at the amount of students and the fact that they’ve been taking tests all day. Wonoo only had 18 students and they were wild with energy, much different then the first two tests we took together. I think Tio being present really helped because most of the students stayed quiet and the test went smoothly. After the session I headed home to collect the attendance data and start to grade the tests.

 As I’m grading the tests I’m not as impressed as I was with Wonoo. However, I remember that the majority of the students at Antoa are in their first of three years before they have to take their High School Examination test. I’m still very proud of the tutors and the students for all of their hard work.

Wonoo Final Ceremony

Wonoo Final Ceremony

Today is Wednesday, December 4th, and my plan for today is to do the Wonoo Ceremony. After my morning routines, I leave my house at around 7:10 to go meet George Bush. On my way I see the same lady that gives me more food than anyone else. She stops me and hands me an envelop for her church donations. Awkwardly I try to pretend I don’t know what she’s saying and I tell them I have to leave to visit my friend. I put the envelop in my back pocket and leave. It’s not that I don’t want to give back to this woman, I just don’t want to donate to a church, especially on in Ghana. Many people here use religion to exploit people and I have no idea if her church is among those wicked people. I would much rather buy some food to share with her, instead of blindly donating money to a bottomless pool of corruption. If I’m going to donate anything it’s going to be to something I understand better and it will probably be to an orphanage or a student I’m involved with.

I get to Bush’s place early and I’m invited in to his room again. His brother, Owusu Ansah, is there again and we all chat as Bush gets ready for work. The time comes and we leave and let his family know we’re leaving. On our walk to his shop, we talk about different things about his family and how big they are and about some Twi words. He tells me that in a small town like Antoa he needs to be careful because if you’re not you could end up unknowingly marrying a relative. Then he explains some Twi words to me that involve God and I’m happy to continue to strengthen my arsenal of God related Twi phrases. More than anything else, even the yebe shia bomb, the god related Twi phrases get people the most excited. Today he taught me Onyame buah. I’ve heard wo buah before and that means “you lie.” I ask him with a chuckle if he’s telling me that god lies. He says no that is impossible and buah also means permits. I ask “so, how can you tell if you’re saying a person is lieing or permitting?” He tells me that a person can never permit something, only God can. I think this is an interesting insight into the Ghanaian culture and their relation to religion. This culture is much more religious than the one I’ve grown up with. Especially living in California the land of “fruits and nuts” as some people say. When I drop Bush off he tells me some more about his Grand Mother and what she’s taught him about God and his love for everyone. Then, I realize that the same Grandma I met at his compound is the same one I’ve heard so much about from my visits to Bush’s shop. She sounds like she has a lot of wisdom. I just hope she knows enough English to be able to give some to me directly. I leave Bush and head back home to ready things for the ceremony.

I call Tio and find out that the Antoa JHS closes next Thursday. That means that I need to change the schedule and plan to have the final test this Friday and the ceremony the following Monday. Okay, no problem I can adjust things and fit that all in. However, I’m sad that the Antoa program will have to be cut a week short. I finish writing the names of the students on the awards and get all of the other paperwork together. We have a form for each student to fill out asking them about their family situation, obstacles to their education, and other relevant cultural information.

I leave my house around 10:30 and do my usual greeting on the road leading out of town. I get lucky and catch a Tro Tro around 11:00 that goes all the way to Wonoo. However, it’s too early for people to be out with food, so I go the house of the rice woman again and buy her food right as she’s making a bit batch. Then I head back to get the big sachet bag of water, but the lady’s shop is close. I do some searching and find another place with the same type of big fridge. Except this guy doesn’t chill the big packs of sachets, he puts individuals in and chills them. He offers to put thirty individual chilled sachets for the same price of the grouped pack. He’s looking for a bag and I point to the bag he opened to put the sachets into the fridge. He tells me that he found an even bigger bag and come back with a black bag. I get a bad feeling, but I just let him fill the water into the bag. As I’m walking to the school my feeling is confirmed when I go to put the bad on my head. The black plastic bags are not as tough as the ones carrying the sachet packs, so the bag is dropping over the sides of my head. My head is no almost completely covered on either side by waters and all I can think is how ridiculous I must look. I try to hold up the sides so they don’t cover my ears and totally envelop my head. As I’m walking I see the banana lady at the primary and stop to buy some. I ask her for one cedi worth of bananas. When I get this amount in Antoa they will generally give me five or six, about 20 peswas per banana. This lady gives me about 15 or 16. Okay, I know the food is cheaper in Wonoo, but this lady must just really like me or be mistaken. I take my food and the waters and leave for the JHS. As I’m about 50 yards from the school the bag on my head breaks and a water falls out. Now there’s a hole in the top and one in the bottom where my they were resting on my head. I quickly grab the hole on the bottom with my free hand and spin the bag so my hands and the holes are on either side. 30 waters is very heavy to carry in my arms normally, but now trying not to let them spill it seems a bit heavier than normal. I quickly scramble to the closest spot by the elevated school cement block and set the waters down. I finish my rice and only a few of the bananas before I get very full.

The tutors show up on time, like normal and the time comes to start the ceremony. I tell the masters and teachers again that they are invited and only about three of them can show up. Before the ceremony I have one of the masters take a picture of the tutors, students, and me all together in front of the school. I start the ceremony by thanking all of the students for participating and again thanking them for being apart of the program. I thank the teachers and masters for letting Expo be apart of their school curriculum and finish by explaining how the award process will go. I announce the SHS tutors awards first. Then I tell the group that their tutors will announce the following awards. We start with most improved in English and Math, then to best attendance, finishing with the participation awards for all of the students. I explain to the group about the deal I made with the tutors to give the hardest working one a scholarship toward their university education. I announce that Patrick is the scholarship winner and close out the ceremony and everyone claps. I tell the students that they are welcome to waters at the front and have the tutors pass out snack to all of the students. The masters leave and I hand out the forms for the students to fill out. After that we close from the ceremony and I head back home.

On my way back into town I realize that I still have the bananas that I couldn’t finish. I stop by Andrews shop on the way back home and we share the bananas and a good conversation. He tells me a story about earlier in the day when he was pick pocketed in Kumasi and caught the guy and somehow got his money back. He went on to tell me about how to be careful and look out for people trying to steal from others.

I leave his place when the sun is setting so I can make a few trip to fetch some water. I make it back and forth about four times and almost fill up the big tub again. After that I catch up on administrative stuff for Expo and have a slow rest of the night.

Wonoo Final Test, Meeting Bush, and Preparing for the Ceremony

I wake up this morning (Now Tuesday, the 2nd) and instantly remember about visit George Bush. I was slightly worried last night I would forget to go. As the sun is starting to illuminate the area around 5:30, I leave to fetch some water. I make it back and forth four times and I’m proud that I almost filled the entire big tub, although I was pretty tired by the end of it. My next doesn’t get tired, it’s my shoulders and arms that give out first. I’m not that good at balancing it on my head so when it shifts from side to side I have my hands there to keep it on the middle of my head. I think that’s the reason why these little girls can carry these huge jugs on their head. They have it balanced so well that the weight is distributed through their body and legs. When I try to carry it, I’m using mostly my arm muscles and after a few minutes that proves not to be a good method.

 At around 07:00 I leave my house and go in the general direction I know to be where George Bush’s house. At the bottom of the hill I see a woman I know and after we greet, I ask her where I should go to get to his house. She tells me to take a path and then ask someone again. On that path I see the woman who just the other day gave me the wache and fish. She tells a small boy to lead me and show me exactly where his house is. I follow him further up the hill and greet all the groups of people we pass. The area is getting more and more bushy as we get to the top of the hill. Then, just before we reach the dense forest, we enter the gate of a large compound. I greet the people on the inside and the boy literally walks me up to the exact room and even goes inside and gets Bush, as he’s called.

 I can hear Bush in his room saying in exasperation “Akwesi?” I can tell he’s surprised that I showed up this morning. Bush comes out and greets me and laughs and does his normal “kweeeessiiii,” as he chuckles. He takes me around the compound and introduces me to his entire family. I even meet his Grandmother, whom I’ve heard so much about. Every time Bush tells me about a lesson of loving people or respecting people he tells me he got it from her. Then he invites me to sit and wait in a chair in his room. He tells me to greet the person on the bed and they look like their asleep and only partially clothed. I’m not sure if he said it was his sister or not so I try not to look in case she’s not fully dressed. Not that the people here have any shame in being naked considering how may children run around naked and women breast feed in the middle of a conversation. The person gets out of bed and I realize that it’s Bush’s brother, Owusu Ansah. I met him a long time ago when I tried to teach that one woman’s child at the primary in Antoa. I knew from talking to him at Andrew’s store that he was Bush’s brother, but I didn’t know they lived in the same room. After about 20 minutes of idle chatter, Bush is ready to go and we head around the compound to tell everyone so. I meet his mother and then we acknowledge everyone as we are leaving. That’s one thing I’m still not used to about this culture. At home if you greet someone when you went somewhere, I would just leave after and not think about telling them I’m going except if they were my friends or it was some kind of event. Here, even if you just met the person, if you are in the area for a little while and then leave, you must tell everyone that you are taking your leave. I take Bush’s bag and it is pretty heavy. It just confirms my suspicion that he would struggle to take this to his work on his own. We start out on the walk at his pace. I stay behind him to let him keep the pace and show me which path is best for him. The ground is so uneven here that he really needs to pick his path carefully or he could take a big spill. We talk about several different things on the way down the hill to the street. I always enjoy our conversations because there never is anything unnecessary said. He never gossips or talks just to talk. If we have nothing to say then that’s how it is, but when we talk it’s always something interesting. We get to the bottom of the hill and join the street. Many people we are passing are either greeting Bush or me. Then we get to his shop and get everything inside set up. He tells me that everyone was asking him why the white man was walking with him this morning. They asked if I was his friend for the day. Bush said he agreed, but when he say them later he would correct them and say I’m his brother. I tell him it’s time for me to go to work and I leave his shop to let him get to his.

 I go back home and get things ready for the test with Wonoo. On my way out of town I greet the normal people and when I stop at the printing shop I find out that her copier isn’t working so to print will be 1 cedi per page, which is absolutely absurd. I like them, but not enough to spend the Expo money in that kind of way. Half expecting this I wrote down the test in my notebook so that was I would have the questions to write on the board. Soon after I get in my usual waiting spot under the shade of the big tree in front of the SHS, a Tro Tro comes by heading for Wonoo. This is pretty good timing and I end up getting into town way ahead of schedule. I have some food in my bag from breakfast still, so I only search for some bananas to add. I get the usual snacks and waters and head over to the school. This is their test week, so the school is much quieter than usual and the students already have their desks spread out to prevent them from cheating. This is very helpful, but I fear that they are too young to have tests all day and then to add another hour for the expo test might be a recipe for trouble. The time passes quickly and they are released from school. We get into the class room and I have the tutors hand out the snack and waters as I write the questions of the test up on the board. They’re a little rowdy, but it seems like they will quite down when we actually start. The past two tests they were the same way where they were rowdy in the beginning, but then relaxed when I said to be quiet for the test. The test starts and they don’t seem to be quieting down. The tutors and I are yelling over them and trying to keep them quiet, but my fear is coming true. The timing is just awful with having the Expo test during their examination week. We do our best to make sure they don’t cheat and then close for the day.

 From Wonoo, I leave immediately to head to Kenyasi to print out the certificates for tomorrow’s ceremony. I need to head there to get it printed on special paper and because there’s really no where else to get anything printed in Antoa. The Tro Tro I get from Wonoo is luckly going straight to Kumasi, which goes right through Kenyasi. I drop off in Keyasi and quickly find a few print shops. I ask the woman at the first one if she has special paper to print on. She gives me a black stare and shakes her head. Her friend, who own the other print shop, comes in and confirms that special paper doesn’t even exist in their worlds. I print the awards and everything else I needed and leave the shop to get back to Antoa before sunset. The road from Abrim to Antoa is not safe at night and is where there have been a few armed robberies. I find a car and make it back to Antoa easily before the end of the day.

 At home, I set up a table in my compound to begin grading the papers. After an hour or so I finish grading and enter the information into my computer. There is a tracker in the excel document that marks whether the students have improved and by how much. All of the students improved in both Maths and English except for one girl who did worse in English. I think she is an outlier though because she’s the only one who didn’t even try the English section. I’m very impressed with how much everyone improved. Some improved 200 or 300%. The most improved for math can’t even be measure by a percentage increase because he did so bad in the beginning. In the pretest he got a 0% on the math section. I think I mentioned this students before, in my blog. He’s the one who is 18 and was very quiet in class. Well on the final test he got a 50% on the math section. He’s certainly still far away from studying at Oxford, but a 50% increase is pretty good in my book. My biggest goal is to get them to pass their BECE exam to get to High School and hopefully instill a long lasting motivation to continue their education as far as they possibly can. 

George Bush and Planning for the Closing of Wonoo

Monday, of this week, I go through my normal morning routine and then head out to get breakfast. There are these lightly battered donuts with a hard boiled egg inside that has recently stolen my heart… or stomach from my usual koko and kosi. My plan is to get two and then give one to my friend Andrews, who is in the midst of the ladies on the stretch leaving town. He has always offered me food he’s been eating in the past, but I have thanked him and told him that I was full. I don’t want to take food from him after hearing the stories of his family life and his dreams shot down by armed robbers, multiple times. Recently he’s caught onto my strategy and he’s bought me my own portion so I can’t refuse the gift. He’s a good guy and I probably owe him a breakfast or two, so I decide today is the day.

 I get the egg filled donuts from an elderly couple who are always excited to see me. After I greet them and talk for a bit, I head over to Andrew’s store. When I get there he has two other friends there. I don’t have enough for them all, so I decide to greet the rest of my ladies along the path and then come back. As I’m walking away, Andrews tells me that I’m invited to his usual breakfast of buttered bread.

 I greet my ladies and skip the one dishing out food for the school children. She’s the one who has given me bananas, pinapple, and cabbage many times in the past. I greet her on the way back and she bgives me a heaping pile of a food called wache. It is dark and looks like big pieces of rice, almost the size of a bean. She even adds a piece of fish on top. As usual, I ask her how much I owe her and she tells me just to take the food. Now I’m carrying a bag of eggs and a bag of the wache. On my way back to Andrews he has more friends at his place and they are insistant in me going home to eat my food before it spoils. Not thinking quickly enough for how to solve the problem I just head home and figure I’ll try antoher day. Great, now I’m heading home without giving Andrews any of the food and I’m actually coming back with more food, that was given to me! That was pretty much the opposite of my plan.

 Back home I eat the eggs and save the wache and fish for lunch. For the rest of the morning I take care of Expo stuff and prepare to give the final test for Wonoo tomorrow. I want to do the ceremony on Wednesday, but Spencer needs to givure out the funds available and print out the certificates for the students, so we agreed next week would be best. My only issue is if the tutor, Ben, cant make it the following week. He is the only one who has to travel far and I don’t want him to miss because of that. I also don’t want Spencer to miss the ceremony because I know him and these students have a strong connection. After I plan a little and create the final test I heat up my lunch. The wache is very good and she gave me a lot of peppay, which I always love. I’m getting better at preparing the ifsh too. It’s already cooked, but I have to be careful when I take it apart or the bones will be broken into pieces all through the fish. If I split the fish in half and leave the spinal cord in tack, then the tiny bones will mostly still be attached to the bigger bones. Then I can just grab the tail and lift and all the bones come out at once in a nice attached string. However, if I break any of the big bones, then the smaller ones fall off and stay in the fish meat. Then I will have to spend an extra half an hour eating while I have to hkeep stopping to pick out the bones. This time I’m successful and get all the bones out easily.

 After lunch, I have a few errands to run around town. Spencer visited a school for diabled children and paid them to make some fabric for the Expo staff. He gave me some fabric to make an expo shirt. I take the fabric to the talylor right next to my compound. He’s eating, so I tell him I”ll be back. I go over to visit George Bush. I haven’t seen him for over two weeks because last week he was sick and the two weks before, I was sick. I enter his store and excitedly greet him. What I haven’t asid about George Bush in the past, is that he is physically disabled, so it takes him a long time to walk anywhere and it always look painful on his knees when he does. He has to do a strange duck walk and shuffle on the tips of his toes to get around. I always feel sympathy for him when I see him walking, but I try not to show it because I don’t want him to feel any worse about his situation. Then, he tells me he wasn’t sick like I was, but he had a problem with his knees. Apparently some one found him on the ground and asked him what he’s doing sitting there and not at work. He told the person there’s something wrong with his knee and he can’t stand. After that he went home and eventually to the hospital. He’s telling me all this and I feel like I could cry at this point. It’s a shame that such a genuinely good and generous person could have such a hard time with life. I apologize that he had to go through that and say some praises about god in Twi. He asks me about my sickness and I quickly tell him the basic details as I feel bad that what I had to deal with didn’t compare with what he did and still has. I ask him how he is going to get home from work with his heavy bag and he says that his brother is there to help him. I’m glad because not only is the bag heavy, but it’s heavy because it’s full of money. He’s a micro finance manager, so his job is to deal with a lot of money every day. Then, he says that he leaves before his brother, so he has to carry it in the morning. I tell him that I would like to help him in the morning, but he says it’s fine andplus I don’t even know where he lives and I just quietly agree. I tell him it’s great to see him again and leave, tell him that we will meet again tomorrow.

 I head back next door to the tailor and hand him the cloth. He takes it and measures my toro. He asks how much I want to pay and I give him 5 cedis. He tells me that’s fair because he normally charges 10, for for the fabric. As I’m leaving he tells me he is going to try his best to give me a quality shirt, so Iwhen I get more fabric I will go back to him. I laugh, thinking that’s always how it should be, and leave for the SHS.

 I take the long way so I can greet the people in the places of town I don’t normally go. My mission leately is give give people more of my time and really get to know and listen to everyone in the town. The second group of people I pass on my walk, call me over and I join them on their stoop. We go over the usual conversation in Twi and then they start to teach me more Twi words. At the break of the conversation I tell them I’m thirsty and I’m going to leave to buy water. They tell me to sit and send someone to buy me some. I sit back down and try to absorb more of the Twi. My head is spinning at this point because we’ve gone over so many new words, that are unrelated to anything I’ve done. A woman comes back to the group with two sachets of water for me. After some time I tell them I must be going to the SHS. I continue and buy some bananas and ground nuts for the walk to and from the SHS.

 I meet the Academic Headmaster and get the dates of when the students close from school, so I can appropriately plan the ceremony in Antoa in Two weeks. On my way back to town I stop by Moses’s shop and offer him some bananas. His eyes light up as we share some of the bananas. He’s pretty busy working, so we don’t talk much, but I’m transfixed watching him work. He’s a welder, grain grinder, car mechanic, and blade sharpener. It’s always fun watching the myriad of tasks he is completing. This time he gets on the grain grinder and it’s very loud, so I decide to take my leave. I greet my ladies back into town and then stop by Andrews shop. No one is here and I’m glad as I pull out the rest of the bananas. He gets me a water like usual and we share the bananas and talk. Then he goes and buys us some meat pies and I’m quickly stuffed, so I give him the rest of the bananas to finish.

 I head home and get ready to fetch some water as the sun is setting. I’m getting much better at fetching the water and my arms aren’t burning quite as bad at the end of the three trips. I’ve also developed a strategy to fetch water at both time of the day when the sun isn’t up, but it’s light is still providing enough to see. I wrap up some things with Wonoo and get ready for the big day tomorrow.

 As I’m getting ready for bed I get my headphones to relax to some music while I fall asleep. This has been my main antidote to listening to the people behind my place ‘churching’. It’s a very small church and for some reason they feel the need to blast their microphones and music as if they had 10 times the audience. Not to mention that their singing sounds like a wounded animal and they don’t hold back as they all scream at the top of their lungs. As I’m listening to music I get an idea. I realize how small Antoa is and figure it will be very easy to find George Bush’s house. I couldn’t imagine hearing him falling one morning and hurting him self because no one would offer to carry his bag. I make a strong determination to remember to go to his house around 07:00 to help him get to work. After that I fall fast asleep.  

Trip Back from Burkina Faso and a Little Catch Up

I wake up before the sun rises so that way I have enough time to explore the area in the morning time and still make it to my bus by 07:00. I get another shower, just because I paid for it, so why not. I pack all my stuff up right as I can see light breaking through my window. I leave the place and go to the front desk to turn in my key. There is no attendant behind the desk, but there are two men on the lobby couches fast asleep. I shuffle my feet loudly and clear my throat just loud enough to get one of them to wake up. Apparently they’re the hotel staff because he comes over to the desk to deal with me. This is much different from the hotels I’m used to back home, especially ones of the same luxury. I take the same route as last night and head to the right. There is a woman serving some kind of food out of a cart and I immediately ask her for some. I decide to skip the words and just pretend like I’m to tired to want to talk. I point at some of the food and starts to serve. She grabs a baguette that cut like an open sub sandwich and starts to load some kind of meat in the middle with other veggies covered in a lot of sauce. The bread is big enough to absorb the sauce and still stay crunchy on the outside, but not too much bread to overwhelm the rest of the food. This is by far the best breakfast I’ve had off the street since being here. The taste and crunch and freshness are out-of-this-world good. I have to say there is no competition between the Burkina food and Ghana, sorry Ghana but you lose by a long shot. I walk down the street trying not to be too obvious with how much I’m thoroughly enjoying this treat. I don’t walk as far because I want to make sure I get plenty of time to walk through the main part of the road.

 When I get back to the main group of vendors the first one immediately catches my attention. The woman is cooking some kind of bread in a big vat of oil. I get one and when I take a bite I realize it’s a fried croissant. The outside is crispy like a donut and the inside soft and buttery like a croissant. Again, another point for Burkina in the food department. I see a woman serving koko and kosi and I have to go over and try the kind from another culture. I want to be the koko and kosi connoisseur by the time I’m done with my traveling around West Africa. She gives me a bowl and spoon to eat it with. I’m surprised because I’m used to just sucking the koko out of the bag and eating the kosi with my hands. She doesn’t give me any kosi and I point to it and start to say me pe and then realize these people don’t know Twi. She gest the gesture and takes the kosi and crushes it up in her hand and dumps the crumps into the kosi. With almost the same reaction I had when they added the mayonnaise; I catch my self and realize this is just a different way of enjoying the same thing. All the seats are taken by people over stretching and no one makes room for me to sit, so I take the bowl and stand next to one of the close shops, further back from the road. See, this is where Ghana has Burkina beat. A Ghanaian would gladly get up to give me their seat or at least scoot over and offer me piece of the bench to sit on, even if it made them a little bit uncomfortable. As good as the food is, I much prefer the genuine and generous people over any French food. I don’t mind because this makes me finish my food faster so I can continue to walk down and look for more food to try. There’s not much else other than the usual rice and stew that you can get anywhere in Ghana. I’m really searching for more pastries. The shop that I went in yesterday was closed today and I’m sure it will open right around 8, when the bus is leaving. I get to the bus station and get a ticket and reflect on my short experience I just had in Waga. I really didn’t get to see much other than this one street and the market, where I first arrived. I think my experience would have been a lot different if I could speak French and ask more questions. The people didn’t really look much different from those I’ve seen in Ghana. However, they did seem much more with the French progressive scene for music and fashion, where Ghana is kind of in it’s own world and mostly copying the U.S. I think. I hear some U.S. music in Ghana, but for the most part it’s their own music, which I really respect and enjoy to hear. In Burkina I could tell that the artists were not from around here and the fashion didn’t seem to have the same West African feel. It seemed more European. I didn’t get to see many buildings, but they looked pretty much like those in Ghana, except for the exceptionally nice looking huts that I noted earlier. Well my Burkina visa lasts for another three months and I will need to renew my visa in 60 days from today when I enter Ghana. I’ll make sure to come back here with some more time to explore and get to know the culture. The bus arrives an hour late at 09:00, I could probably still have run and gotten pastries, but I didn’t want to push it and miss the bus and that will just be another reason to come back here soon.

 I left the bus station at 09:00 and didn’t arrive in Tamale until 19:00. From there I caught a bus that didn’t leave until 21:00. That means I got back into Kumasi at 03:30 on Saturday. Not in the best mood in the world I avoided the harassing taxi drivers and found my way home. From there I just want to catch up the last few weeks and maybe it will explain a little bit about why I’m so far behind on this blog.

 Well, some background first. For the past month I’ve had reoccurring stomach problems, some that I’ve mentioned here and some that I skipped over. When I got back in Antoa Saturday night, they decided to come back again, but with a vengeance. All night I was kept up and the next morning I had some blood in my stool. Freaked out a little bit I woke the nurse, that I live with, up and told her. She said we would have to wait until Sunday until the clinic opened where they can do lab tests. Sunday went with the same problems, but I took some Imodium to help the diarrhea or the running as they say in Ghanaian English. The running didn’t stop and I took the rest of the Imodium. That just stop everything for the rest of the day and I tried to sleep it all off. I woke up Monday, not much better. On Tuesday I was still running. I told Fad, the nurse, right as Daniel, the Doctor, was getting home. He walked with me to the clinic and they admitted me for treatment.

 It was kind of odd because I know all the nurses there and I’ve visited a few times, but never as one of their patients. They signed me up and took me back to the beds where they treat the patients. The walls were freshly painted, but you could tell everything in the room was pretty old and probably given, with hesitation, by the government. Daniel came into the room and told me he needs to hook up an IV and give me some drugs intravenously. I felt a bit embarrassed because while my stomach hurt a bit, I didn’t feel any of this justified having an IV. He took out a needle that must have been three inches long. He grabbed my hand and for some reason skipped the alcohol swap part of the deal and just stuck it into my hand. It really didn’t hurt when it first entered. Then he pushed the needle about two inches into my hand and did something that got my attention real quickly. It was a sharp pain followed by an intense aching. The pain didn’t come from where the needle entered though. It came from where the needle ended, down by where my wrist bends, about two inches from the point of the needle entering the skin. He started the drip and took some other drugs in a device that had a plastic plunger that he hooked up to the middle of the IV. He pushed down on the plunger at an alarming rate and shot all of it at the same time. I could actually feel the liquid going into my hand and I swear it felt like my veins were bulging from being overflowed. That added a nice sensation to the needle wiggling down in my wrist. Somehow I think I would rather be in my bed right about now. Or at least next time I’ll go to an actual hospital. They left me there and I pulled out my book to read and get my mind off of the whole situation. Today is Tuesday and I’m counting down the minutes until I my program started. I called one of the tutors and had him go and buy the snack and waters and told him I probably wouldn’t be showing up today.

 Around 11, a nurse came in to take off the IV and let me rest. When she pulled out the needle of my hand blood started to shoot out of either my hand or the needle, I’m not sure because I couldn’t bear to look. I finally mustered the courage to look again and could see blood all over my hand and on the sheets. Okay, now I’m definitely not coming back here. She left and told me to rest. I sat there for another hour until about 12, before I got impatient and walked to the front desk. I told them I’m better and I want to get on with the day. The nurse, so graceful with needles, asked me for 35 Cedis for the visit. I was surprised that it was only 35 Cedis to be seen and treated with all of those drugs. I gave her the money. Fad came out with 10 Cedis and gave me back the money. She knows I’m not paid much and don’t have too much extra money so I appreciated her concern. Then she gave me a mountain of drugs to continue taking. Apparently the 35 Cedis is for all these drugs. I get back home at 12:30 with some food and take the drugs and a little bit of food. I left at 12:45, still determined to make it to my program on time. I called them to tell them I’m coming and see how they were doing getting the snacks. Everything was going smoothly and I got to the JHS exactly as they were leaving to walk down the road to the primary. I apologized for being late and we continued with the session.

 That night I took some drugs to kill worms, some to kill malaria, and a few more to get rid of bacteria. I went to the session on Wednesday in Wonoo and felt much better. Then on Thursday I started to feel nausea. It was bearable and I didn’t leave my room the whole day to try to recover further. On Friday, the nausea came back and I had a headache. I couldn’t make it to my program in Antoa on Friday because I felt like I was on the verge of throwing up the whole day. At any point I would have been glad to throw up just to get it over with. It never happened. Saturday, I felt a little better and left for Kumasi to do the SAT tutoring. I was trying to go mind over matter and put it aside for my session that day. I got to where Spencer was holding his session and found of none of my students showed up. Feeling a bit defeated my mind was feeling up to battle the sickness. It came back again and I felt the pain in my stomach, but now mixed with nausea and a headache. I told Spencer and he told me to just go to the hospital on Tech campus. I gave in and went there. I pulled out money in case it was as much money as Spencer said his visit was and after I checked in they only charged me 35 Cedis. That’s better than the 200 that they charged Spencer. I found out why when they just brought me to a doctor, instead of admitting me. The doctor looked like he just graduated high school he was so young. He wrote me a prescription for a very powerful antibacterial.

 After being pin balled around different pharmacies I found one in Kumasi and was charged 105 Cedis for the medicine. I called Spencer to tell him I’m just going to go home from there which was about the same distance and cost to go back to Kentinkrono. I caught the Tro Tro and made it home where I got some food to take with the medicine.

 That takes me to this whole past week. Even the first day after taking the medicine I felt much better. As the week progressed I felt much stronger and could actually eat full meals again. I caught up with work stuff and seeing the people around the town, who where very concerned something happened to me. It was nice to felt missed by the town I have only known for a few months now.

 Two days ago, on Friday, I finished my last pill of the antibiotic. Saturday I had my SAT lessons at Kumaca and taught them about writing the essay for the SAT. Then, yesterday I met with Eva. She’s related to the Janney family and was the one I was introduced to down in Accra when I was left of by Jennifer and spent the day with Eva before she dropped me back at the Janneys. We only chatted for a bit, but it was nice to catch up. I went back home yesterday from Kumasi to continue to catch up on some work stuff from this past week.

 That finally catches me up to today, Sunday. I’ve basically spent most of the day doing Expo stuff and catching up on the blog. Although I’m still worried about my stomach. I don’t think anything is wrong yet, but when I first started having the problems I took Cipro and that only made the symptoms go away for a week before coming back again. I’m really hoping that’s not the case this time.

 This coming week I have a lot to do. The Wonoo program is on it’s last week. That means that I will give them the final test and then the final week we will have the closing ceremony where I will give out awards an announce the scholarship winner for the tutors. I am going to interview the candidate and update everyone with much more about him when the time comes. The Antoa program also probably have it’s last week this coming week. That way the following week, their last week of school, they will be able to show up for the closing ceremony. That’s it for now. I’ll hopefully be much better about the blog this week now that I’m healthy and in a better mood to write about the day. 

Burkina Faso

I wake up at 5:30, still a little groggy from Fire Festival last night, but I’m determined to make it to the border and into Burkina Faso awith enough time to explore around. After I rinse off and brush my teeth I get the realization that gives me the energy of travel and I’m off. I wake Spencer up to let him know that I’m leaving and tell him to thank Emily again for me. As I get on the main road the sun is just starting to rise and my plan is going perfectly so far. I didn’t want to walk on this strange road in the dadr, but I also wanted to leave as early as possible, so this is me meeting in the middle.  I start walkilng down the orad back in the direction of Deare, the town on the main road. It’s a long walk, but there are no cars on the so road so I start the journey on foot. In the back of my mind I’m hoping that a car passes, but at the same time I’m determined to make the walk if I have to. After about 10 minutes of wlaking, a motorcycle stops next to me. They’re called motos here. I’ve only been a passenger on a dirtbike once and never ridden a moto and that isn’t just a coincidence. I think riding a moto is a stupid risk to take, especially at speeds that exceed 30 miles an hour. I don’t care where I am or where I’m goin there is no way I would ride a moto on the highway. My life is too precious and there are plenty of other stupid risks that I take, I don’t need to add that one to the list. I’d much rather jump out of an airlane, with a parachute of course, than ride a moto on the highway. Anyway, the man is calling me over in Dogbani and I immediately revert to asking hi mif he speaks Twi, then when that fails I revert back to English, and finally just saying “naaa” and get on the moto. I get a surge of adrenaline and I’m ready to start my first moto ride. Before we take off I start to feel a very sharp pain on the inside of my right calf. I look down and realize that my leg is resting on the exhaust. I quickly pull it off as we start down the road. I don’t bother to check how bad the burn is. I’m a little occupied with keeping my attention on the road so we don’t crash and fly off. The road is dirt ,so we aren’t going fast, but we’re approaching my limit at about 30 miles an hour. I sit back with good posture so I don’t’ destroy my back and try to keep my weight as centered as possible. My back pack is heavy and I’m already bigger than this guy, so I don’t want to throw things off. We pass thourgh the next few towns no problem, except each time we go over speed bumps. I hold my breath and they aren’t that bad, especially since we almost come to a stop as we go voer them. Then we pass through the last few town and there are a bunch of goats in the raoad. By a bunch, I mean there are probably 50 goats scattered through the road. At some points it’s even hard to see the dirt anymore. He doesn’t seem to be phased as he doesn’t even slow down a bit. I squeeze my knees and brace mys elf as we fly by these goats that are despretly trying to get out of our way. Some aren’t fast enough, so now we’re swerving in between the animals. Some of the animals are even dumb enough to run in the direction we’re turning to get around them and we nearly miss a few. He honks his horn and that doesn’t do much, expect scare the enxt group that we are heading to. We finally pass the goat maze and I’m able to relax a bit and I immediately notice the wind blowing on the burn on my calf. I make a note to check it as soon as we get off the moto at the main road.

 We make it to the main road and I’m already quickly calculating my strategy to hitch a ride to the border. As I hop off the moto I thank him in Twi, English, a naaa, and even a gesture with my hands just to put some icing on the cake. For all I know saying naa in this situation is like insulting his mother, so I quickly get on my way as I have this realization. Emily said it would be easy to hitch a ride on this road because she has done it before to get to the boarder. Gee, I can’t see how it might be easier for her to catch a ride then it would be for my ugly mug. However, that tells me that is she felt safe, then so do I.

 That also brings me to my next rant. You can skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to hear it. I completely understand. Hoever, I need to get this out and welcome any enlightenment anyone want to share. I’m not picking on Emily when I say this, she’s really very good person. But, that’s one thing that I’ve noticed most women do. This isn’t an attack in any way because it happens with males too, this is ust simply an obersvation, in rant form. I wish we could all observe both sides of this issue and have compassion when people have to struggle more than you or me. My observation is that women tend to be very vocal about their short compings in society, or things that might be more difficult fo them than for men. There’s no arguing the points are valid. Points such as it being less safe to travel along (especially at night), there are more single mothers than fathers in the world, more women are victims of harassment by the opposite sex, and the list goes on. Again, all of the points are valid and definitely should be openly discussed and brought to our attention. My problem is the other side of the coin that seems to be lost somewhere in the deck. Benefits including that women have a much higher chance to be bought a drink at the bar, help with a broken down vehicle, leanience of the rules with something as simple as surface-level flirting, a lot of time it is assumed that their dinner/date is bought, they get a big fat diamond as an engagement ring, getting a ride somewhere at no charge, and many more. I think I’ve made this point and it can be made positively and negatively for males as well. My wish is only for people to try to put themselves in other’s shoes and have some compassion when they can’t understand why they spend so much at the bar, they can’t just ask for the rules to be bent or for a ride, and have it granted. I’ve gotten these questions genuinely from many women before and I just want to start this rant that it’s just not how society works for men. All I hope is that maybe a woman offers to pay for a date or when their granted a ride or a broken rule they are grateful and they understand that it might not be as easy if they tell their male friend to do the same. Instead of just thinking they should be able to accomplish the same, they could share their concern that there’s a good chance that it won’t happen and that another solution should be sought out. On the other side of the fence I hope that some man offers to escort a woman at night or organize a neighborhood watch group to escort women hoem in place with a high risk of crime or is grateful and more responsible when they realize that they have an easier time traveling to places at night alone, they might think twice before they impregnate a woman, even though it will be easier for them to just walk away from the situation. All I’m asking for is a little more compassion for the other side. Oh gosh I could get into this whole issue with politics and much more, but I promise I’ll spare you, at least for today. Alright, I’ll step off my soap box before some angry people come after me.

 So I’m walking down the main road now and I want to get to the end so it seems like I’m in the middle of no where or at least appear to have given up and decide to walk the long road. I’ve gotten pretty good at hitch hiking since being here. To try to continue with my last rant I’m also grateful that I have a much easier time hitch hiking than any of my friends who don’t happen to have such light skin. I’ve heard my friends complain many times that someone with an empty car will just pass another black man on the side of the road, probably for many reasons, some good and some bad. Well, my strategy works and I get a ride in a very nice pick up truck. I greet them and they tell me they’re not going to the boarder, but will give me a lift to as far in that direction as they are traveling. We drive down the road for about 45 minutes and we seem to be going very fast because we’re passing most cars on the road. Then the time comes and we pull over in between town in front of a truck. We get out and I greet the people sitting in front of the truck, who are elated that a white man is speaking Twi with them. I thak them all and start walking to the next town. The road is very visible and I even pass by a pllice training camp with some walking about in the street.

 I get to the next won and use the same strategy by getting gto outskirts of the otherside of the town. Again, the strategy works when a big truck carrying oranges stops to invite me in. THey’re about 100 yards away, so I start to run to not make them wait. When I’m almost there a man jumps out and invites me in as he climbs the back of the truck to grab a bunch of plastic bags filled with oragnes. I hop in the truck and greet the friver and passenger. The passenger seems much more happy to talk and the driver much more happy to just drive and concentrate on the road. Fari enough, I ask the passenger if he knows Twi and he chuckles as he tells me they’re from Kumasi heading to Burkina Faso. I don’t think I could have found a better ride to hitch. We continue down the road and share some more small details about our selves and I even get the driver to speak up some. Then we hit some customs or police check points. At each point we have to stop and the passenger gets out with their papers and a large bag of oranges to bribe the police. We must have gone through 30 of these stops before we noticeably get close to the boarder. A few times during the ride we all bgot out of the cab of the big truck so they could fill the oil. The passenger pulled a lever and the entire cab that we were just in tilts forward like it’s some kind of model car. I’m not sure that only a small lever causes the entire cab to do that… Getting in and out of the truck I absently mindedly scrap my left show on my calf wound. After the pain alarm was sounded, I refuse to check to see how bad it is. There’s nothing I can do to clean and treat it now, so there’s no use in keeping it on my mind. That sees to work as I forget about it once we started back on the drive.  We get to the boarder town wehere there is a crockodile pond. Tempting, but Burkina Faso wil be much more exciting. As weird as that sounds, I’m much more interested in new cultures and food then I am with seeing animals at a zoo. After a few hours of driving we arrive at the boarder leaving Ghana. They pull the truck over and I thank them for the ride. Then I get a sudden idea to ask them if they’re going to Po, the first town on the road north into Burkina Faso. They say yes, but they won’t be leaving for a few hours. I tell them I’m leaving ofr the customs desk. In my head I think my plan to continue with them won’t work because I want to leave much sooner so I can get as much time to explore Po as possible. Spencer and I agree before I left that it would be best to only go to Po and spend the night there before heading back to Kumasi the next dy. I go over to the office that I think is the right one even though my gut tells me o go to the big building labeled Ghana Immigration. The only problem is that the building is on the other side of a big barbed wire fence with a small opening for people to pass. After some time waiting the man ushers me out of the building to he exact one I was hesitant to go to first. As I cross the line with one foot, I stop for a half second and check my flanks to see if an guard dogs are coming or Burkina Faso assassins. I’veclearly been reading to much of my spy books lately. Literally no one is watch8ng me as I cross and enter the building.

 I’m in the immigration office and I respectfully follow their direcitions and fil out a form as they lok over my passport. After a few minutes they lead me to a room with official looking military men stamp my out of the country. I take the passport and as I’m leaving the room I drop the “yebe shia” Twi bomb and no noe in there makes a sound. They either were silent in shock, or they didn’t care. I hope it’s not the latter. I leave the office and some Ghanaian woman asks me to marry her and I tell her, that maybe when I come back from Burkina and learn French. Then I start walking down the street of the territory between countries. I think at this point I’m in a land controlled by no one. There seem to be a lot of vendor though selling things and all trying to exchange Cedis for Cfa (pronounced Ceefa). That stands for something in French that I can’t pronounce or spell. I think it is closely related to the Frank. I know that they use the same currency in all of the French dominated countries in West Africa, which is pretty much all of them, expect for Ghana. On the other side otf the road there is an other building for entry into Burkina. I enter and they’re all speaking French. Great, here is my first immersion into hand waiving. Luckily one man speaks, or at least is willing to speak, English. I quickly handle my business and get stamped in. I leave and sit on a bench with two men to exchange my Cedis for some Cfa. I’m pretty much just right out in the open as they’re waving all this money around. It’s not exactly the most ideal way to handle money, but I missed my chance big time in Kumasi. I think I would have gotten a better rate there too. Se la vii. I clearly don’t know how to spell French words and probably use them wrong. As I cross another gate I’m officially in Burkina Faso. My first country in Africa outside of Ghana. As I’m walking down the road my friends in their truck yell to me as they are passing. They tell me they are going to go up and park ahead of us somewhere. I continue to walk and try to watch around my surroundings for anything noticeable. It seems pretty bland and quite small. Then I reach a big truck station and another gate. Okay, maybe I’m not in Burkina yet. I don’t the culture starts until I actually reach one of their towns. I find the truck guys and walk up to them. I tell tem I’m trying to find something to eat. They tell me if I will wait small, they will take me to the net town up the road. I agree that it will probably be the best plan since the exchange rate bit me in the butt a little bit. He tells me to follow his friends to a place where I can get some food. He leads me around a corner and behind a building where I sit down at a table. I tell the friend what I want in English and he translates for me in French. Then he leaves and tells me he’s going back to work. The waiter comes out and asks me something about the food. I shake my head and try to say “me don’t compre parle” I think that was a combination of English Twi and horrid French. I’m not very good at this. He leaves defeated and I follow him into the kitchen. I point to some tings I want including rice, stew and some meat. They put it in the bowl and ask me something else that I can’t understand. Another woman walks over from behind the counter and tries to help. She starts breathing in and out really fast like she’s trying to hyperventilate or… wait she telling me that they’re asking if I want something hot. That must mean they’re asking if I want peppay. I nod and say oui oui, The one French I know. I go and sit down and the waiter brings me my food. Having no way to figure out how much the food costs, I just accept the damage and scarf down the food. I’m much hungrier than my traveling nerves let me feel. I go to pay and realize that I’m paying the equivalent of 5 cedis for a small bowl of rice, some stew, and a small piece of meat. I’m hoping that it’s just more expensive because we’re at the boarder and it’s just not that way in all of Burkina. Right when I finish paying, a man walks up to me and tells me that my friends at the truck are asking for me. Hmm I haven’t seen this man before, I wonder how he was able to pick me out of the crowd… It must be because of my amazingly good looks.

 We walk out of the restaurant and the man leads me over to his moto that he took to get me. He tells me to hop and he’ll take me back to the truck. I hesitate remembering my leg, but decide to take the offer. As I’m getting on I’m keeping a good three feet distance between my leg and the exhaust as if the two have some magnetic attraction.After only about a thirty second ride I’m back to the ruck and the men invite me back in. They’re leaving much sooner than I though, so I agree to join them. This time, one of their brothers joins us, so now we’re four in a compartment meant for two or MAYBE three. I’m still comfortable , except for when he shifts the gears of the truck and pushes me leg out of the way. I feel bad getting in his way and I don’t want to get dumped half way in the middle of sknow where, so I try to pull my legs away to avoid getting in the way each time he goes to shift the gears. This wouldn’t be bad if he didn’t have to shift the gears every two minutes. I start to get in a rhythm every time I can hear the engine get ready to shift and I feel like I’m doing some sort of thigh burner tibow class. I even think I can hear the instructor yelling as the noise of the engine saying, Okay now lift up and down, lift up now down, lift up now down. As we’re driving up the road they’re asking me about why I want to go to Po. They tell me that Po is not a good place to visit because it won’t show me the culture of Burkina Faso and it’s just not a nice place in general. I ask them how much further they’re going and they tell me their destination is in Ouagadougou, pronounced wagadugoo. They tell me that place is much more interesting and culturally relevant because it’s the capital of the country. After they tell me it’s only 150 Kilometers up the road, I’m sold and plan to head up with them. We pass through Po and I can see they’re right. I would have had nothing to do in Po and it would have just been better to turn around at the border and save the money. After Po, there aren’t many villages along the road for a long time. They tell me that we’re going through a wild area where many big predators such as monkeys, lions, and elephants roam. Okay maybe an elephant isn’t a predator, but I wouldn’t want to be around one when it gets angry. For the next hour my eyes are glued out the window trying to catch a glimpse of some wild life. I don’t see any as we begin to approach civilization again I can tell I missed my opportunity. We drive through maybe five more customs check points and through a few more villages. The architecture is much more attractive than the architecture of Ghana. The walls on the outside of the houses look much smoother and less like they could fall apart at any minute. I also see a lot of donkeys running around. They look like the dominant animal in this area.

 Finally after a few more hours of driving I can see a big city in the distance and my friends confirm that we are now coming into Ouaga, or Waga, as it’s called. We drive down the main drag and they tell me they’re going to take me to their market where they drop off their oranges and then they will show me around a bit. We go down some side streets that we barely fit down and arrive behind a line of trucks and 100’s of people swarming around and collecting the fruit. We get out of the truck and the man tells me that this is a Ghanaian market and takes me around to introduce me to their friends. Everyone in this area is speaking Twi and I feel very relieved that I can actually communicate back to them. I get a weird comfortable feeling of being in a little slice of home, even though they are a completely different culture than I and speak a different language. I think this is good feedback that I’m assimilating well to the Ghanaian culture, or at least that I’m terribly afraid of the French one in Burkina. They lead me to a spot with some chairs and buy me a soda while we wait for the truck to be unloaded. These guys just keep getting nicer and nicer. Then they tell me they’re going to show me a place where I can stay for the night. We catch a Taxi and head to the main strip that we first drove through. They pay for the taxi ride and then we go into a hotel. The hotel desk person doesn’t speak a word of English, so the men translate for me. Now, I’m really glad they’re helping me cause I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I get one night in the cheapest room they have, which is pretty darn expensive and go up to the room with the truck guys. They give me their numbers and let me exchange more Cedis for Cfas with their extra cash. Then, they walk me down the street and walk me to exactly where I need to catch the bus the next morning to make it back to the border. I thank them a few times and tell them that we should meet up again in Kumasi. We separate and I head back to my Hotel room to get situated.

 The sun is setting, so I get my money in order and quickly head back to the street to buy some food and do some exploring while there is still light. I’m not sure how safe this area is at night, so I’m just going to avoid it all together. I get my money in different pockets, like I do in Ghana, so that way I know which bills are in each pocket, so I don’t have to be shuffling through a wad of cash as I pay for something like a water. I get back down to the street and avoid going straight because that would lead into the street and probable death. I decide to take the next best option, a right. I want to head away from the main part to make sure I explore the entire main strip. As I’m walking there must be hundreds of motos and only a few cars passing. I thought there were a lot of motos in Northern Ghana, but this puts that number to shame. I get to the end of the street and don’t really experience anything except a string of vendors catching the stragglers at the end of the street. None of the food looks good, so I cross the street and head back for the meat of the street. It’s interesting because in the main part of the capital of Ghana, Accra, you can see some Obronis if you just watch the people for a little bit. So far, I have yet to see any Obronis. As I’m approaching the shops and vendors by the street I slow my pace down so I don’t miss anything. I want to make a sweep through once to the end and then on the way back I will start to buy little bits of all the food that looks good to try a little of everything. I walk up to a store to buy a water and end up just pointing at the pile of waters next to the building. He tells me that it’s some amount I cant understand. I pull out one of the smallest bills and he gives me an annoyed smile as he tells me just to take the water. I think I just tried to pay for water with something that could have bought the whole stack. After taking a look at all of the vendors I spot a woman selling a bunch of different kinds of food. I point to some of it and tell her all for 500 Cfa, which is about 2.5 Cedis, and $1.25. She gives me a big plate of pasta and some really good sauces. She speaks a little bit of English and is very nice to me. I thank her at the end and pay her as I’m leaving. I continue down to the end and then get my game plan for the way back. I stop by the first shop and buy some pastry looking biscuit things. I’m not sure how good they are, but they’re very cheap. Then, I keep going down and guy some good-looking fruit. It’s fried and looks like some kind of banana or plantain. She asks me if I want something in French and I just nod and say Oue, thinking that I want to try what ever people normally order to get the French flavor. She grabs a big bucket of mayonnaise and my heart sinks as she takes a big scoop and puts it on top of the amazing looking fruit. I nearly cry as she defiles the already amazing tasting fruit. I take the bag and continue walking down to more vendors. Spencer told me that they have good ice cream treats here so I stop am keeping an eye out in various shops for something close to the fan ice in Ghana. I see a shop and walk up, but soon realize that it’s not what I’m looking for. A man out front asks me something in French that I don’t understand and I horrible say in French that I don’t speak French. He calls someone over to translate for him and some young woman walks over. I look at her to tell her that I’m just look around and I’m caught by her stunning beauty. I don’t know if it’s the French or the Burkina influence, but this woman makes for some good competition for the Ghanaian women. After collecting my jaw off the ground I continue to buy some more food. I see something that looks like a mango and ask the woman for one. She starts to cut it up and I realize it’s a papaya, which are very common, and probably more fresh in Ghana. She already starting peeling it, so I just go with it and take the fruit. I go into the next shop and it’s a half little convenience store and bakery. Exactly what I’m looking for, some ice cream and good French pastries and bread. I look around the store and soon am dragged to the bakery. I buy a few pastries and what looks like the yogurt treat that Spencer was talking about. On my way out I buy a baguette and then decide I have enough food to enjoy a taste of all the different stuff I saw around the vendors.

 I head back to the hotel and get in my room. First, I eat the fruit because I don’t want it that to be the last thing I eat tonight. Then I move on to the small biscuit things I got in the beginning. They’re pretty good, but nothing unique to this culture. Then I eat half of the baguette and find exactly what I’ve been looking for this whole time. The bread is freshly baked and tastes like no bread I’ve had in a long time. I flip on the T.V. and continue to enjoy my treats. Then I take out the yogurt thing to make sure it’s still cold. Spencer was right, it’s much better than any of the ice cream yogurt treats in Ghana. It tastes like it actually has real milk in it and I’m in heaven. Naturally I go for the fruit with the…mayonnaise. I don’t even put mayonnaise on something as plain as bread, so putting it on fruit is blasphemy to the fruit gods to me. After asking for forgiveness I take a bit and to my surprise it’s not too bad. I wipe off most of the mayonnaise, but leave enough on so that I can still experience the French culture, or whatever cultures this awful creation came from. Then I move on to the best for last. The pastries. They’re so good and fresh that I can even sit up straight anymore. I have to lie on my side as I eat these amazing French pastries. This is something I’ve haven’t had in Ghana and not even really back home in the U.S. After finishing all the great food I realize how dirty and exhausted I am. I get in the shower to clean my self off. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve taken a real shower, I have to admit I really like the bucket shower. I can’t stop from thinking that I used four or five times the amount of water that I can use with the bucket and get exactly the same amount of clean. I get back to my bed and pass out before my head hits the pillow.

Fire Festival

This morning Emily soaks some dried blueberries, she got in a care package from home, to make pancakes. They’re delicious and make me realize how much I miss the food from back in the U.S. I think the biggest downside of me being in Ghana, besides not being around my family and friends of course, is not having access to all the different kinds of great food. I hope this will help me appreciate the food more when I get back… at least for a few months. I didn’t want to tell anyone, but I’m still a little hungry after the pancakes. Emily brings out a bag of mini mangoes that we bought at the market last night before heading home. No one goes for the mangoes. I’m a little confused considering they’re fresh off the tree and probably much better than anything you can find back in the U.S. See there’s a trade off because the fruit that is available here is very fresh and cheap, unlike back home. I wait for a few minutes out of courtesy for anyone to go for the manoges. When no one does, I take the lead and eat the first one out of the package. It has an amazingly sweet flavor with the thick creamy mangoe juice. I think everyone here is also used to eating these fresh mangoes. They have all been in country for much longer than I and since mangoe season just passed this summer I’m sure everyone had their fill when they could get the big ones. I bet since these are at the end of the season they aren’t as good as the other’s. I don’t notice the difference as I devour my mango.

 The group heads off to town to pick up another PCV, say goodbye to two, and stop by the mango processing plant. Obviously I’m most excited about the mango facility where Emily has told us about the frozen mango purees that we can get. We take the same motorcade back to town and then drive on the regular road. Tro Tros are passing us and Emily flags one down as it passes. It swerves in front of us and then we yell to the driver to stop and he swerves in front of it. The two leaving us get out and join the Tro Tro to reach their destination. That was a pretty good move that Emily just pulled there. I wasn’t even sure you could hail a Tro Tro while you were still getting another ride from another car. We enter the dried mango half of the palant first and I get three bags. Then we go across the street to the frozen puree part. We get a big container for everyone to enjoy together.

 We head back to the beer spot to sit in the shade and enjoy our new mango treats. Mr Adams, the owner of the beer spot, brings us glasses for the mango drink. After a few lifetimes of waiting the drink finally unfreezes enough for us to enjoy. I take my first sip and every second of the wait was well worth it. There is a perfect combination of mango bits and juice. It is like eating a mango that has already been chwed up in your mouth. It basically takes the work out of getting back all the tough fibers and I’m glad for it.

 We get back to Emilyy’s to get ready for Fire Festival in the evening and to tlet the new PCV we picked up un pack her stuff. We make a small mixed drink to start the fire festival celebration. Then we hike through the bushy area to meet tribes of people known for making the wagashie cheese. We walk along some of those paths that I explored on the first day. This time we walk much further back into the bush and come across some small gatherings of people . They have no more than 5 huts all made out of grass and sticks gathered in a circle. We pass through the first group of houses and give our “naaa” greetings. Then we continue on a path at the back of the first group of houses. We do this dance for a few more villages and now we’re really far back in the bush. I know Emily’s been here before, but now I’m getting alittle afraid at the remoteness of the situation. Then we realize we’re lost, so we head back along another path and find the place we are looking for. They aren’t making wagashie unfortunately, but it was a good experience to see these small gatherings of houses and communitites. I’m not even sure they are big enough to call a village. As we are heading back to her place and approaching the road I realize that the alcohol is jjust making me tired. I really just don’t get alcohol. I’ve never been a huge fan of it and it just gives me the opposite effects that it seems to give other people, I just get tired. On the way back we meet Emily’s counterpart, or local person she is linked with through the PC, and he tells us that he will stop by the place soon. When we get back Emily’s students are making some tourches for fire festival. The tourches consist of a bunch of dried brush gathered into a thick cylindrical shape and tied together. Then her counter part comes and shows us the sticks that he made for Emily and all of her friends. Great, not I have two four foot torches that I’m going to be trusted with… this could be bad. I could always just have one light for twice as long instead of having twice the amount of fire going at once.

 Now we leave for town with the older woman who is Emily’s roommate. We get dinner and eat over by Mr. Adam’s spot and wait for the festivities to start. Children can’t seem to wait and are already lighting things and chasing each other around. They start with tourches and then they just start lighting parts of the bush on the side of the road. One of the children was even using their torch to smack other’s in the back. Next thing I know there a loud explosion in the street that sounds awefully like gun shot. Great, just what we needed to add to the already dangerous situation of fire and alcohol… guns. We all get up off our chairs and walk down the path back to Emily’s that we came to town on. In the distance there is a small glowing light. I keep my eye on the light during our walk and notice it transform. As we get closer the light looks much wider and like something very big has been lit on fire. Then as we are much closer I begin to nitice that it’s not one fire, but actually a bunch of individual fires on the end of tourches held by people in the mob. I don’t think it is an angry mb, but I can’t tell because everyone is yelling and chanting. Sounds a lot to me like some one  was accused of being a witch. Knowning it’s firefestival, I calm my imagination down and figure it’s nothing as we continue to approach the energized group. Desprite my instincts throwing the red flags up left and right, I happily stoll into the thick of the crowd. I light the stick in my right hand because I figure I can control that better and then my boyish tenencies take over and I decide to light the lone in my left hadn as well. Why not just go all out. There’s no use in lessinging the potential experience. The one im my left hand is flaired out making not such a tight clyndrical shape and the flame extends to cover the entire fan of the sticks. I wuickly realize my fire is getting out of control because all of the peple around me are not as close to the other people around them. Some people are even scurrying away from me. I start to smack the sticks on the ground, thinking that would make the fire less. Instead it causes bits of burning stick to shoot in every direction causing people around me to yelp and run away even faster. Now, I’ve stopped walking and I am realy concentrating on trying to control these fires. I finally, with the reluctant help of a small child, get the fires under control and continue to follow the group. It’s hard to see anyone because of the glare between the bright flame and the darkness everywhere else. I follow the group aas they’re chanting, hitting drums, and marching toward an open field. I start to feel the energy of the crowd and really get into this whol thing. My pace quickens before I catch my foot on a bush and almost completely fall. The only problem with that is that my hands instinctually cushion me when I fall and this time my hands are occupied by big balls of fire. I laugh at my self for almost falling and get back into the flow of the crowd. Then I trip again, but catch my self a bit sooner. I lok down at what is trying to make me trip and burn and I notice that , while the ground is mostly dirt, there are bthick bushes that go about a half a foot in the air scattered about. Now I’m looking partially down and partially up at the tree that everyone is now gathering around. I make it up to the tree and copy everyone around me by throwing my sticks, lt on fire, into the tree. My first one goes much farther than I expected and sticks right into the tree. The one in my left hand is still a bit out of order, so I decide no to throw it and risk hurting myself or anyone else around me. I follow the group as they leave this tree and go to a second where they repeat the same process. On the way back to the first tree some small children hand me a premade stick because they see that I don’t have any more. I’m touched by the offer and light the stick. I walk up to the tree wit ht he stick just barely lit. I hesitate wanting to let the stick burn a little longer and then throw it inot the tree. It doesn’t stick in the tree and is much less exciting than the first on eI threw. This time when everyone leaves the tree I hang  around to see the process that everyone takes before leaving. I don’t notice anything strange, other than when everyone leaves there are a few men still under the tree screaming and manicly chopping at the trunk of the tree with their machettes. A little scared of them and losing the group I leave to find the group.

 On my way back down to the second tree, I realize that the people have continued down the road. I don’t feel un safe at all because I now have a big group of kids gathered around me staring at me in wonder. After some time walking down the road, I find two more of Emily’s PCV friends. We all continue to walk together to find the group. We come across a large gathering of people an my first instinct is that we caught up with everyone, but then at second look I realize the group is smaller than before and I don’t see any other white people. My first instinct was set off by the fact that the drummer is with this group of people. We decide to move on, but the group shifts focus and starts walking back over to the road where we’re standing. One man from the group with a machete distinguishes him self by his crazed motions and dancing. Then he pushes some woman and puts the machete to her neck like he’s going to cut her head off. I know I should keep walking, or even running now, but I can’t help but turn away from this event. He leaves her alone and then starts harassing someone else. Worried that he will start to target the white people that clearly stand out I start to walk down the path toward town, where we started at Mr. Adam’s. We finally catch up with Spencer, Emily, and the rest and everyone looks like they’re done. That’s quite different from the people that have now split up into smaller groups and are still marching and chanting around the village.

 Emily signals the motorcade and we all get in to get back to her place. We don’t say much on the ride back partially because of the shock of the event and the lack of energy from everyone. We get back to the house and pay the motorcade man and then I instantly go for my sleeping pad. My plan tomorrow is to get up and get ready before the sun is rising so that way I can walk down the road just as the light is reaching the day so that way I have the maximum amount of time to make it to Burkina Faso. I experienced many delays in Ghana before and I want to make sure I have the maximum time possible to explore the new territory.

First Day in the North and Some Good Food

This morning I sleep in a bit and get up at 06:00. I brush my teeth and feel a strong need to explore the new area. I only saw it in the dark, so I’m anxious to check it out. I walk behind the house and between the two foot tall grass there are a few walking paths. I take the one that goes, let’s say it together… straight! As I’m walking I can’t help but think about stumbling upon a small village that captures me and eats me for my tasty meat. I relax and just enjoy the scenery. I think I would be able to spot a village before I come upon it anyway since I can see much further here than I’m used to from Kumasi. I’m much more used to thick forest surrounding everywhere. This is more like an open savanna. I can literally see for hundreds of yards before the trees start to block out my vision. After about 15 minutes of walking, I realize everything looks exactly the same. There are the same trees and grass out as far as I can see. The diversity of the plants is much less than what I’m used to in Kumasi. I run into one of the other people we’re staying with and he confirms that up the path is just the same thing over and over again. On my way back I see two women farming. Or at least it looks like farming, they have machetes and are cutting the bushes and collecting something.

 

I get back to the house and some people are still asleep so I take it easy on more exploring and catch up on the blog and reading. By about 11:00 the group is ready to go into town for something called market day. Not many cars pass by here, so we start walking down the road. It’s blisteringly hot, much hotter than Kumasi, so we stop under a tree t wait. We continue up the road to a better stop to catch traffic where two roads meet. All the people we pass are speaking some singsongy language called Dogbani and Emily keeps responding to them by bowing and saying “naaaa”. I’m watching the people that se’s talking to and a couple of times I even run into her because she has completely stopped to bend almost at a 90 degree angle. One of the Tro Tros comes by, but it is already full and has people hanging off the top. Emily calls her friend to come pick us up in his motorcade. What ever that means… A few minutes later the people under the tree wit huts bring us all chairs to sit on. Again, showing that the Ghanaian generosity isn’t just in the southern part of the region. Right as the chairs are set down a man come roaring down the road attached to a big square bed, almost like a truck bed. He looks like he’s going straight on the road past us, but then takes a wild last minute turn to our road and when he’s directly in fornt of us he has completely gone off on the other side of the road and is now riding through the bushes. At this point I start to laugh because the man is clearly drunk of insane and he isn’t very good with the vehicle. Then he whips the back of the vehicle around and fishtails into the open dirt road and guns the engine to finally end with a skidding stop right in front of us on our side of the road. All of a sudden the humor of the situation has completely disappeared because I think this is the man Emily called and I think the thing he’s driving is what is known as a motorcade. My suspicion is confirmed when Emily goes up to greet the man and waves us over. Wetting y pants a little bit, I hop into the back of the bed and sit down with my but on the bed. There is maybe a five inch wall that goes up the side and I use that for a little bit of a back rest. I also know from my physics class about inertia and if we are traveling at a high speed and he decides to turn and I’m sitting up on the railing, like everyone else is doing, then I will have no resistance to stop me from continuing going in the straight direction. For once I don’t want to keep going straight! Not that sitting on the bed is much better because if we hit something then half of my back will stay in the vehicle and the other half, that’s not supported, will do something awful. I look around at our friends and don’t see any look of panic on anyone’s face that matches the thoughts of panic and death that are running over and over through my head. I’m clearly a big baby. My fear subsides as he goes much slower back to the market. I think he was either just trying to show off, or it just can’t go any faster with al the added weight. Either way I’m glad to not be an involuntary part of the next X games.

 

When we get out of the vehicle I realize the only breeze was provided by us moving. Unlike Kumasi and the Anota region, this area doesn’t seem to be blessed with the same natural breeze that I have become accustomed to. We quickly walk inside and order the coldest beers we can find. The fan above us isn’t on and I’m now sweating profusely. At least I’m not aslo baking in the sun at the same time. We finally get the fan on and there is a little relief as the warm air is being turned around us making it seem like we’re getting some relief. Right now it would be nice to have one of those fans with the squirty bottle underneath. A big problem with the houses in Ghana is that they are made with materials that have a lot of thermal mass, which gives them a lot of capacity to store and release heat. That type of material is best used in places with large temperature swings, day and night, the a desert. Ghana however, has basically no temperature swings , so it just stores the heat from the previous day and never really cools down. It basically just goes from hot in the day to warm at night. We take the seats outside in the shade and everything feels much better. The combination of cold beer and the shad outside of the heat emitting building is enough to stop the sweating, at least for a little bit.

 

Some of the girls leave to get water for the group. When they come back, they bring some snacks. They have a few bags of sweet potatoe wedges that are more boiled than fried and covered in a delicious peppay (pepper in Ghanaian English) seasoning. There are also a few bags of ground nuts. Now I’m in a snacky mood. We all agree we want a big meal, okay everyone else agrees and I tag along like sheep, and walk down to the seller. I order joleof rice, regular beans, and some different kind of larger beans, of and of course some peppay. We go back to the beer spot to the tables in the nice shade. On our way back to the spot we run into another PCV (peace corps volunteer). I get back and devour the beans and rice in hopes that it will satisfy my eve growing snacky feeling. The big beans are interesting, but nothing too special. The same girls leave to get some fried cheese snack called Wagashie. They could only find the one made with soy mild, instead of real milk, so they got some kosi and some other snack. The kosi was god, but nothing like the stuff I get in Antoa. The other stuff was like a spongy piece of garlic bread. Okay, I’m totally full from the beans still, but now my snacky mood has come back in full. The other PCV we met getting the beans just came back with more snacks. She’s holding a pile of sticks that look like bamboo. Apparently that’s what sugar cane looks like right from the ground. I’m warned to eat with caution because the ends of the stick are very sharp. I take the hard stick and use my teeth to peel back the other shell. There’s a slightly less hard piece in the middle. I bite that part off and chew it in my mouth. It feels clearly too rough to swallow, but I can taste the rush of sugar that I’m able to suck from the fibers of the middle. It’s a really good sugar taste actually. I’m not much of a sugar guy, but this isn’t too overwhelming like most sugar you would find on candy back in the states. The other girls then come back with the wagashie made from real milk. It’s quite amazing with almost the consistency of a spongie keache. Cheese is pretty rare here in Ghana so I try to be polite and not devour the whole plate. I can already tell what I’m going to get when I get back to the states. First, I’m going to head straight for the best pizza pace I can find and order a whole large one for myself.

 

Later that night we take the motorcade back in and play a fun game that involves charades, cranium, and a one word description, all to guess famous people. 

Recap on the Funeral, Catching a Bus, and Arriving in Tamale

Today is Monday, November 11th (Yes, I know I’m behind again on the blog), the day Spencer and I leave for Tamale, in the Northern region of Ghana. That’s two regions above where I am now. Now I’m in the Ashanti Region, next up is the Bran Ahafo Region, then the Northern region, followed by the two upper regions at the very top of Ghana. We are going to the Northern Region to visit one of Spencer’s PCV friends and experience an event called Fire Festival in their village. After that, my plan is to leave north through the Northern Region and the Upper East Region to cross the boarder into Burkina Faso. I need to cross the boarder to get stamped back in and get my visa renewed. The other option to extend or renew my visa time is to go to the Embassy and buy the extension. Each month is 40 Cedis. I had to do this a few weeks ago because I had no other choice and when I got my passport back two weeks later, I saw they only gave me a 20 day extension. Forgetting the transportation costs, crossing the border is completely free and when I enter Ghana I will get a 60-day extension and the chance to experience another country. I have quite a week ahead of me!

 Before I start talking about the trip up North, I want to go over a few things about the funeral a few days ago on Saturday. I wasn’t there for a very long time because I had work for Expo to do. When we arrived an old man led Spencer and I through the family compound into a room where Momma Fausty and her mom were lying dead on two nicely decorated tables. When I see Momma Fausty I immediately get a flash back of the last time I spoke with her and I began to get a feeling of shock. I’ve never seen a dead body of someone I’ve known. I don’t know what to say or do, so I just stand there and observe. This time there’s no option to just go straight, so I just freeze. I start to look around the room an notice my surroundings. There are people walking around me and through a sort of continuously moving line behind and around the bodies. It seemed everyone in the room was crying and a few were wailing to the point of screaming. I looked around at the people and locked eyes with a woman I greet every day. There was a strange look in her eye as she continued to turn around with her hands spread over her head, chanting something. I’m not sure what expression to have on my face, so I’m trying to keep it as neutral as possible. I didn’t know her well enough to have any feelings of sorrow or grief past the normal feelings that come up when someone might see a recognizable dead body. Then, I noticed that my emotions starting to match those that are so poignant in the room. A great feeling of sadness is washing over me right as the old man looks at Spencer and I and gestures to leave the room. I’m not very experienced with funerals, but sure as hell know that’s not how mine will be. One of my roommates in college experienced a lot of death in his family when we lived together, so this conversation came up often. We both agreed that there would be nothing but a celebration at our funerals. I want my funeral to be a party with laughing, dancing, eating, and drinking. I think it’s a silly waste of time to get people together to all cry together and feel bad that I’m gone. Instead I want people to be telling hilarious and outrageous stories and all be happy that our lives were touched by each other in this crazy world. Of course there will be crying, but there’s no way I’ll let that be the main theme of the event after I go out. Life is too short to be sad that we’ve lost something; I think we should try our best to be happy that any of it happened. Anyway, we left that room and walked down a long aisle of people and shook all of their hands. Then we entered the compound where Momma Fausty stayed and there were a bunch of people sitting in chairs along the boarder of the big room in a sort of square shape with multiple rows. We walked around and greeted everyone in the first row, starting with those on the very right. One older woman who is always very nice to me when I greet her came up and escorted Spencer and I to some seats. We sat there and observed for a few minutes. Then we made out donation, which they announced over the loud speaker, and left the event.

 All right, back to a happy note about the trip today. I wake up at my usual time of 04:30 and get a quick bucket shower. Knowing I have to et to the bus station at 06:00 to catch the bus that leaves at 07:00, I have the same energy I normally do when I’m on my way to catch a plane. I’m packed and completely ready by 05:10. Bad news, Spencer is 10 minutes from being readyand I’m literally shaking with the energy to travel. Partially because I would have literally started bouncing off the walls and partially because I wanted to scout for breakfast, I leave ahead of Spencer. Swimming in the back of my consciousness I also have this illogical need to get to important appointments much ahead of time. For everything I attend I run on Lonbardi time, which is a story I’ve heard form my ad so many times that it has become engrained in my head and has actually helped me a lot in the past. Vince Lombardi, a college basketball coach, would tell his players if they weren’t 15 minutes early, they were late. To me, that has sound logic. If something unexpected happens, you have 15 minutes to deal with it and still show up on time to most people. I also like to get to places early and get to know the area. However, I will admit there is no logic to why when I’m catching transportation I calculate all the usual delays and then add at least an hour onto the time. I guess I just feel more comfortable if I know I have enough time when an emergency delay occurs. That’s probably the third underlying reason I left at 05:10. I catch a few Tro Tros and get into Adum to the bus station. As I’m walking, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for koko and kosi. Not one person is out on the street, selling any type of food. I find the enterance street to the station and check the time, 05:45. Exactly an hour ahead of Lombardi, just as planned. Using the extra time, I walk down the street asking for the koko and kosi seller. I ask some people on the street, speaking only in Twi. I still love how simply speaking Twi can bring a huge smile to most people’s faces. Sometimes I can even get them to yell and run around in surprise and excitement. Being inKumasi, the people are much more used to seeing Obroni’s and are less likely to have such a strong reaction. This held true with the first few people I’m passing. Then I see some women to my right, cooking in large pots, behind a building and away from the street. I walk down and greet them. Immediately the younger one in the front is yelling “Ayyy!” They tell me to keep going down the street and I tell them I’m leaving. When I get a few feet away, they call me back as if they were to stunned to ask more questions when I first approached them. After going through the regular Twi script that my town people have helped me master so well, the women have completely stopped cooking and are coming closer to get a look at the Obroni speaking Twi. I take my leave andt ell them so. On my way out I turn around ajust before I turn the corner and say “Yebe shia,” or we shall meet. That usually gets them going and was very successful here. I can hear them howling as I turn the corner to continue down the street. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I’m going to put the phonetic spelling of the Twi so that way you can get the right sounds down because that’s how I started and I think it’s more important than the exact spelling. Not that I could get the correct spelling anyway.

 As I get further down the street I realize people justdon’t sell food before 6:30. I give up the search and haead back to the bus station. I’m just around the corner to the enterance street for the station and I look down a long alley and see some people cooking. I pass the alley and stop about three feet past to remember an important lesson I learned with my mom this past summer. With out getting too into the story, we missed out on a cool experience because neither of us acted on instinct that told us to speak up and be assertive about wanting to go in a certain direction. Instead, we just assumed what we were doing was right and went with the flow. We felt bad that we missed out, but I refused to let this pass as just a negative hole in our experience. Instead, on the ride home I vowed to myself and my mom that I would never miss out on an experience because I wasn’t aggressive enough to speak up or act out, therefore letting something just pass because of an assumption. On that third step past the alley when I stopped, the lesson flashed through my head, so I turned around to wlk down the alley to the people cooking. I greeted them in Twi and they immediately lit up with smiles. It was a fiamily and the two main people talking were the father and other. After telling them about my search the father told me to follow him. I walked a few feet behind him as we trekked through of of the may back alley systems of Kumasi. I’m also speaking the whole walk to this man in Twi and understanding everything we are talking about. I suddenly felt very connected to the Ashanti people. The fruits of my labor to immerse myself in this culture are really paying off and I love every second of the experience. Okay, maybe not every second, but you know what I mean. We went around a corner and found some ladies cooking in a large pot. He told me they were preparing the koko, but it wouldn’t be ready until 06:30. He then walked me out of the alley sytem to the street and showed me where the ladies would be selling the food. We walked back through the alleys to his families spot and I thanked them and said I had to go to the station. After going up the road, I arrived in the waiting area at 06:10. Not bad for all that searching around. Spencer shows up shortly after and at 06:30 we leave to get the ko and kosi. We take th amin street and avoid tha lley ways on thwe way to the spot. When we arrive two men are already lined up to buy the same thing. The woman recognized me from the alley way and smiled as she told me that they had only koko because the kosi is still being cooked. I bought just 50 peswas of koko and we took the alley back to the station. I pass by the family and tank them again for heling hme find the food seller. Back at the station I enjoy the extra gingery kok and read some. I’m now reading a spy book that’s just as addicting or most so than th watchers was. Time flies by and it’s now almost 08:00 and there is still no bus to be found. I tell Spencer that I’m going to go back for the kosi. This time I go alone and take the express route through the alley way. I tell my friends “mekwaba” as I pass them. That means I’m going and coming and is actualy four different words, me ko a ba, that sounds like on quick oword. When I get back to the seller she is just placing a big bowl of freshly made kosi on her table. This time one of the other seller sis next to her. As I’m ordering the kosi, another woman walks up to join the conversation. The seller asks me, in Twi, to take her with me backto America. I’m asked that question a lot in Antoa, so almost instinctively I tell her to bring me her money. That always seems to get them to laugh and stop insisting to go with e. With the fresh and hot kosi, I head back to the alley short cut. The father is there and I thnank him again for thehelp and tell him I’m going to catch the bus. As I’m Levin I tell them my usual fairwell in Twi. Apparently, there is a woman aboce us listening because as I’m walking away I can hear her yell “Ayy!” and she repeats what I said as if she’s in disbelief that I could make those sounds. Back at th station I try the kosi. It’s by far the best kosi I’ve ever had. It’s warm still from being cooked and ahs a great contrast between the soft donut-like center and the crispy fried-like outer skin. Shortly after I begin to write this journal entry.

 Then at about 09:00, 2 hours ater we’re supposed to leave, people start to get impatient. One man walks over to what looked like a little office room and he starts yelling at the covered window. Someone, who appeared to be the manager, poked their head out of the second story wwindow. They only said a few things and then closed their curtins the an tcontinued to yell, pace back and forth, and throw his hands around like a boxer warming up for a big fight. Then, other people get up out of their seats and start joining in. Unable to control my laughter and interest, I put my book away and enjoy the free show. The boxer now looks like he has fans in the crowd as people start to get out of their seat and join in with the yelling. Instead of joining him right next to the window some just stay by their seat or sit back down and continue. Some stay standing and start to pace back and forth and direct their yelling to the people next to them as if they’re trying to start a riot. If I didn’t know Ghanaians are so peaceful, I would have been more worried about a rebellion. Instead, it is just comical and entertaining. At 09:40, we gave up and got our money back for our tickets. We left to head to another bus station to hope that we will have better luck and maybe even save some money.

 On the taxi ride to the new station I am looking out of the window and observing a neighborhood that I haven’t explored. I realized it’s for a good reason as I start to see all the dirt and grime. This looks like a place where tourists get pick pocketed or conned into something. Then we come to a slow crawl as we pass by a stopped cart on the right side of the road. I’m looking around the are trying to take in all the sights, good and bad. Then my vision focuses on a big wagon stopped on the side of the road. In the back is a pile of dead cows. I’m glad the window is up because I think the smell would make me throw up. The cows were sitting there in pieces, for who knows how long. It is a horrifying sight, but for some reason I can’t take my eyes away. Right before it leaves my view I see a cow head hanging over the side with it’s tongue hanging out and it’s eyes wide open.

 With the new bus, we finally departed north for Tamale at 11:15. I mostly read on the bus and finished the first spy book of the series I have. As we got further North I noticed the buildings are getting less modern. Almost all of themare the traditional Ghanaian mud and stick houses , but these had straw cone-shaped roofs. I also noticed that the trees and vegetation are getting much less dense. It feels less like a forest and more like a savanna. The trees become much thicker the more south you go in Ghana and vise versa when you go north. We arrive in Tamale around 18:00 and find Spencer’s Peace Corps Volunteer friends. From there we take a taxi to the small village where we will be staying for the next ffew days. We squeezed 7 people into the taxi, with two in front four in back, and one in the trunk. It’s a hatchback, so the trunk is probably the best spot. We drive on a two laned road for about 30 minutes before turning onto dia dirt one. Ther are some speed bumps that I can feel scrape the bottom of the car through my feet. On the second speed bump the driver tells us we wont make it, so the six of us in the front and back get out. We are walking next to the car as it easioly clears the last speed bumps. We hop back in and continue down the road. It’s dark now, so I can’t make out much of the scenery. However, I can feel how smooth the road is and how fast the taxi is moving. This seems like an exception to most of the roads I’ve experienced so far. After about another 15 minutes of driving down the road, we reach her place. It’s a quaint compound with no electricity and limited space. Spencer, Chris, and I all sleep outside. Emily, Spencer’s friend that lives here, gave us a bug net and a pad so I’m more than happy to sleep under the starts. After all the traveling and being up since very early I fall asleep very fast.

Week of Successful Tutoring, Visa Issues, and Preparing for an Exciting Weekend

Monday of this past week marked the two-week mark from when I turned in my passport. They told me that would be maximum time I would have to wait to receive my passport. I call the immigration office on the Tech campus and he tells me that they don’t have my passport because it’s Monday and they haven’t had time to get my passport. Apparently they take a longer weekend than most people. Again, I’m not blaming this guy, but it is frustrating to have to play along with these broken systems in Ghana. I think this guy is an honest person, but he just knows the system well and doesn’t do anything to change the situation. I have two options to receive my passport. I can either wait until they get it on Thursday or I can go to the main office in Kumasi. I choose to leave the same day and go to the office in Kumasi. First, I call the office to make sure that it’s actually ready. I call and try to give the person the number on the receipt in my hand. He tells me that there is no way they can check on the progress of my passport and the only way is to travel down there in person. I can already see where this is going, but I travel to Kumasi anyway. I’m more worried about this actually going through and simply just having my passport back.

  1.  I get to the office in Kumasi at 12:00 and the man in the office scrambles around before telling me that my passport is not ready. He says that I can either come back tomorrow or wait until 15:00. I have no other errands to run, but I decide to come back and tell him so. I head down the street to a chop bar that Spencer showed me. I get Fufu with groundnut soup and a fresh piece of salmon. It was an excellent lunch and I had a nice seat in a breezy spot in the shade. After relaxing for a few hours I head back to the office around 13:30. The office is closed because they go to lunch from 12:00 to 14:00. I sit down next to another white man waiting for the office to open. I don’t know why, but whenever I see another white person I’m hesitant to meet them because I want to avoid creating a group of people here just to make myself feel comfortable. I’m here to be immersed in another culture and meet the people, so my first instinct is to go all out and not waste any time with people just to make myself to feel comfortable. Of course this is silly in this situation because having a conversation with this man doesn’t mean that I’m trying to escape from the culture. I find out that he’s Dutch and visiting only for a short while. After a little bit of talking, I head into the office to remind them I’m there and waiting for the passport. The man comes out and calls me into the office at around 14:45. Hey, that’s much earlier than I expected and it sounds like they actually have it so I’m happy. I sign some papers saying that I’ve received the passport and leave to catch a Tro Tro home.

 When I get home I look at my passport and realize that they only gave me a 20 day extension. They were supposed to give me a month extension for the 40 Cedis. Since they took two weeks to get it back to me I only have a few weeks left to get it renewed again. I would think that they would make it a little easier to stay if I’m a volunteer trying to help their country. All they see is the color of my skin and the mounds of money that indicates. Well, there’s nothing I can do now but plan how I’m going to extend the visa in a better way. Another option to extend my visa is to cross the border and that’s apparently totally free, not counting the transportation to the border of course. This weekend is something called Fire Festival in the north, so Spencer and I agree that I should head up to Burkina Faso from there. I’m a little disappointed at the difficulty of extending this visa, but I’m glad that it’s lead me to explore some more.

 Tuesday, I meet with a potential new tutor for the Wonoo program. He has previous teaching experience and no current school or job to get in the way of the program. He seems like a perfect candidate, so I invite him to show up today. The program went splendidly and all the tutors were performing very well. Since the progress test scores weren’t as high as I want, I told them to stick with the basics. Ben is the only tutor still here from the beginning and he’s really coming out of his shell and settling in to the rhythms of teaching very well. I moved one of the class clowns out his group and I think that helped very well. I asked them if class clown is a used term in Ghana and all three of the tutors told me that they had never heard it before. They said they just call the person the funniest one in the class. Joseph is still very timid, but I can see great progress each time he teaches. The new tutor, Patrick, is clearly a natural teacher. One of the students was not confident answering seven multiplied by two, even though he knew the answer. Patrick stopped the lesson and reinforced that the student needs to be more confident when he knows the answer and there’s no problem with being wrong. Tuesday was a very impressive day for the Wonoo program.

 Wednesday for the Wonoo program was very similar. I gave them a short quiz to administer at the end of the lesson to see if the students grasped the foundational topics. They were improving, but I want to stick with these topics until they are very solid. These skills are everything that the students need to build upon to be able to learn more complex topics. All three of the tutors did very well and continue to improve their teaching skills every session. Wednesday night I head to Kentinkrono to meet Spencer. We need to leave for Kumasi early in the morning to get my visa for Burkina Faso.

 On Thursday, Spencer and I get to the Burkina Faso consulate around 11:00 and go through all the motions to get my visa to enter the country. We decide to get a multiple entry visa that will last for three months. That way when my visa runs out I can travel there again and get it renewed. The visa is 98 Cedis, so with transportation I’m not sure that it’s cheaper than paying the 40 Cedis at the immigration office, but it’s certainly more fun to travel and explore so I’m sticking with this option. They tell me to come back at 13:00 to pick up my Visa. I’m just surprised that I will get it back today and not sometime in the distant and hazy future. The man clearly only wanted to speak French, or didn’t speak English, so I’m glad Spencer was there to get all the details. We figured that he was just having fun speaking his language with Spencer. I came back early around 11. The man was very nice and came by to greet me a few times. He called me into his office around 12:30. He had a translator in there and we settled the deal ending with him handing me my passport and new visa stamp.

 On Friday, Spencer traveled to Antoa to observe the program. In Antoa I’ve been having some attendance issues with some of the tutors, so I got the names of a past tutor and past student for Adam. The tutor showed up to the program so I could test him, but two of the tutors didn’t show up, so I had him take one of their places. Just like Wonoo, the whole program went very successfully and ended with Tio Spencer and me leaving to get a beer at the bar. We had some great conversations and after a beer we were able to ask questions that before were a little hesitant. Of course the questions were about languages and differences in our races. The bar lady, who I know well came over and was saying that our people call them “monkey monkey.” I thought this was very interesting because I’ve run into this discussion with another young woman who I know through Andrews, the man with the shop at the end of town. She would get me to say silly things in Twi and when Andrews told her to stop she said that she it was fine because my people called her people “monkey monkey.” I that young woman that I would never make fun of someone’s race in such an ignorant and immature way. I told her that they are wicked white people who believe that, just like there are wicked black people who perpetuate the corruption in her country. None of that worked and she didn’t change her opinion at all. I didn’t try to convince the young lady at the bar and instead I used this opportunity to discuss it with Tio. Even with all of the generosity I’ve received and the open arm acceptance of American’s in Ghana, there is still clearly racial tension that runs deeper than I’m aware. Since I’m on the side of privilege in this situation, it’s hard for me to be compassionate for a group of people that I can’t relate to on that level. However, I want to understand more of the issue and discover what I can do to maybe help the situation. As for now, it’s just something interesting to note and something to learn more about.

 Tomorrow, Spencer and I will be waking up early to attend Momma Fausty’s funeral. We will deliver Adam’s message and make our donations to the family. After that we will head to Kumasi to continue the SAT program and then leave Sunday for the Northern region of Ghana. There we will spend a few days and experience the Fire Festival. Then, next week I will head to the border and figure out my visa issues.

SAT Tutoring, Usual Ghana Delays, and More Generosity

I want to just skip over some of the events of the weekend and then tell some interesting stories that are rattling around in my head. I’ll start this one off on Friday morning.

I wake up like usual this morning, except my back is still not feeling 100%, so I don’t want to go fetch water again until I fully heal. When I have a back or knee ouchie, I don’t even pretend it’s smart to push them at all. That means I take the extra time and focus on wrapping up Expo stuff for the week and preparing some material for next week. I also get some reading in and I am still making good progress on the book. I’m torn because I’m happy that I can make such quick progress on a book, but I don’t want this one to end. I think I put the book down around the 50 or 60% mark. Today, I’m traveling to Kumasi to get my Malaria medication and then to the office to meet Spencer to get some SAT center stuff done. First, I remind Daniel that he said he would repay me the money I gave to him for him to pick up a voltage regulator. He ended up just giving me his, so I told him earlier in the week that I want the money back sometime this week. Then last night I told him that I’m leaving for Kentinkrono in the morning and I want the money before I leave. I told him I would leave at 09:00 and he agreed that would be plenty of time. Well, it’s 08:30 and Daniel is leaving for the clinic. I ask him if I should meet him at the clinic to get the money. He says that his senior brother is picking up the money and bringing it to him, so he will call me when that takes place. Acknowledging Ghanaian time I expect to receive the money by 10:00. At 9:20, I call Daniel and ask him if his brother has gotten there. He says that he will call me back in 40 minutes. 10:45 comes around and still no call, so I just leave for his office to see him in person. I haven’t been to the clinic since the first day I came here with Adam and Spencer to ask Daniel about living in the compound. I greet the people at the front desk and they tell me to sit down because Daniel is busy with a patient. He comes out and tells me to come in his office with him. He tells me that his brother is by airport roundabout, which is just outside of Kumasi. That means he will probably be another 40 minutes, depending on traffic and if he’s actually in a car or still looking for one. I take a deep breath and just relax and study my surroundings. For some reason there are a ton of women around and Daniel and I are actually the only two men in the group of about 20 people busily walking around. I recognize one of the nurses walking in the distance and greet her as she passes. Then I notice Fad in one of the offices and I greet her as well. Another one of the younger nurses walks by a few times, but doesn’t seem to notice me. She sits down at a desk next to me and puts her head in her hands. I call her and greet her, trying to cheer her up a little bit. She is speaking only Twi as she normally does when she visits the compound and I can’t quite understand what she’s asking me. She repeats a few times and I think she’s asking if I’m married. That question seems so out of the blue that I just answer no and try to hope I didn’t just insult her mother. It’s more common for random women to ask, as a joke and some times seriously, if I’m married, but no one I know really asks me that, so I continue to think I insulted her mother. Then one of my ladies at the end of the road out of town comes in and greets me. I’m totally shocked to see her and stunned a little bit at seeing her anywhere but her normal booth that I pass during the week. Then I see Natural, the wife of Kingsley, the man who fixed my sandal for free, come in the front and we greet each other also. Just happy to see my friends, I almost forget why I came to the clinic in the first place. After greeting my friends, I start to look around at the facility. The walls are colored with very soft pinks, blues, and greens. It reminds me of the colors you would paint on the walls of a newborn’s room. I suppose that’s fitting since there are mostly women here and the majority of them have small children tied to their backs. It’s a very small clinic like Daniel mentioned, with probably only one room to see patients. However, this is the only clinic within the next few towns, so it really helps out those families who don’t have enough money to travel a few towns over to visit the doctor. The front of the building has a big manicured lawn with flowers and other plants strewn about. They really did a good job designing the building to be soft and relaxing.

After about 30 minutes or an hour of waiting, Daniel says that we will go and catch a ride to Kumasi to meet his brother. Apparently he is not able to travel to Antoa. My premonition was right that he hadn’t even found a car to get to the roundabout; instead he just was intending to go there. To me, those are two different sentences with two very different meanings. We wait by the front for a taxi and I’m a little disappointed because I like to take Tro Tros long distances because the Taxis charge far too much. At this point, I will pay a little extra just to get this money back and get to the office to help Spencer. After about another 20 minutes of waiting for a car, we finally hop into a taxi. After some time driving, we pull up in front of the bank to meet his brother. Surprised he paid for my fare in the taxi. I think he must feel bad about making me wait. Then, we sit and wait in the bank for his brother for about another 30 minutes. This is pretty typical with getting things done in Ghana. Every step of the way will be delayed with the sluggish infrastructure and peoples’ acceptance of that fact. We finally meet with his brother and then we figure out that Daniel and I are heading to the same place so we catch a Tro Tro. I still don’t have the money, but now we’re in public and I’m very cautious to give any sign of the tip of an iceberg of wealth. There are people who show off their money, but people assume their wealth ends beyond that. When they see a white person, even with a 10 Cedi bill, people will assume that they have 100 more where that came from. We finally get to Kumasi and Daniel pays for that ride too. Then as we step out onto the street he hands me the money and I quickly take it and stuff it into the nearest pocket. He didn’t seem to care much about being discrete. I don’t blame him though, we’re just coming from two very different perspectives. He grew up with little money, so he’s proud when he can make a display of money, while I’m trying to hide any trace at all that I have money. We walk through the busy streets and split off to take care of our different errands.

Spencer calls me as I’m walking up to the Post Office and reminds me that an ex-patriot friend invited us to come take a tour of his Guinness brewery. Feeling a little panicked I pick up the pace to the post office. Not only did I miss the office hours, but also almost forgot about the brewery tour. I make it into the post office and immediately go to the desk as I’ve learned. There is a huge line, but I don’t pretend to know where or what I’m doing so I skip everyone just to ask the person where I should go. They tell me to go to the building next door. Good thing I didn’t wait in the line only to be told that. As I’m walking to the office I’m remembering that Spencer already was here once and they couldn’t find the package for him. I’m hoping it goes smoothly, so that I can still make the tour. I give the man a piece of paper with all the needed information to find the package. He opens up a notebook with all of the incoming packages tracked, in pencil. Okay, I know that Ghana is still catching up to the big developed countries, but I would think if they had internet cafes, they would have a computer to keep the files at the post office. He scans down a few pages and tells me that he can’t find the matching number. Trying to resist insulting his ancient form of accounting, I tell him that the package has to be here. He goes to the back to either look there or just sit somewhere and pretend that’s what he’s doing. I’m leaning toward the latter. Already accepting that I’ve missed the tour, I just relax and try to find some compassion for this guy. He’s not the one who built or funded this office; he’s just the person working at the front. I see this guy as the same as the man in the immigration office. They’re both playing roles far down on the ladder of a blatantly broken system. He comes back and tells me he still can’t find the package. I repeat that it has to be here and I received a call to come and pick it up. Then, he turns to the file cabinet to his left and searches for a couple of minutes before he pulls out my package. Relieved, I thank him for making such an effort to help. If I hadn’t insisted multiple times for him to continue to look, my package would have rotted forever in the drawer two feet from the front counter. Surprisingly, they didn’t even make me pay a duty on the package. The last package I got, they made me pay 40% of the total cost. I put the package in my bag and ask the clerk and the next woman talking to him where I should go to pick a car for the brewery. The woman points in a direction and tells me to find “Hello FM.”

I’m now walking back down one of the main streets trying to find a woman with a baby to ask how to get to Hello FM. For some reason women with their babies make me feel like I’m getting more reliable information. So far that has been the case and I’ll stick with it until I’m proven wrong. Not finding any, I ask an elderly man walking next to me. He points straight ahead and tells me to when I get to the train tracks to ask someone else. Since he didn’t have a baby I only half trust his answer, so a few blocks down the road I start to ask other people. I ask another younger man in a religious shirt and he confirms that I keep straight to the train tracks. I get a few more blocks down and don’t know what they’re talking about, so I ask an older woman on the side of the road. The young man with the religious ad on his shirt tells me to follow him. Apparently he was following me to see if I got lost. I fall into formation behind him and he takes me another five blocks to the bottom of the hill and there is a railroad. I thank him and ask which direction I should head, expecting for him just to point and to ask someone else when I get to the next landmark. Instead, he takes the lead again and I continue to follow. He turns to me and tells me something in English that I can’t quite understand. It sounds like he said something about liking my bag, but it just seemed like such a random statement out of the blue. I ask him to repeat and he tells me to keep a close eye on my bag because there are a lot of criminals in this area. Wow, this guy is going above and beyond with helping me now. He walks me over to the Tro Tro station and I ask him a few times where to go to make sure I don’t get lost and get to the brewery on time. He walks me to the exact car and even tells the mate that I’m going to the Brewery and to make sure I get there on time. I turn to thank him and he’s already a few steps away walking back the way we came from. I make sure to thank him loudly and enter the Tro Tro. On the ride to the Brewery I tell the mate probably three or four times that I’m going to the Brewery and I need help with where to stop. I get off and he points in an obscure direction for where to go. I get off and a man is half a step behind me, which isn’t odd getting out of the Tro Tro. He gets off and asks if I’m trying to go to the Guinness brewery. I confirm and he walks with me on the street and explains to me in detail how to get there. He asks someone else walking and the three of us are now walking side by side all talking about the best way for me to get to the Brewery. If someone saw us walking and didn’t know better, they would think we are all friends walking and having a conversation. In reality, none of us actually know each other and these two men are discussing how I will make it to my destination. The man from the Tro Tro crosses the street and now the other man is walking with me and pointing to exactly which Tro Tro I should board. I seriously feel like I’m in a movie or something right now. I’ve literally had different people follow me to a new destination and then pass me off to another stranger as they continue the path to get me to my destination. I feel such a comradery with the people of Ghana it’s amazing. I’ve never felt so close to people I don’t know, ever in my life before. Even some of my friends in school wouldn’t go to this effort to help me. The generosity expressed by these people makes all the frustrations worth it. When I run into problems like not being accepted by some people, just slowed down by the impossible infrastructure problems, or crouched naked pooping in a bush I just think about these experiences and I can smile even in the worst of times. On my last Tro Tro ride, my mood is changed when a small 10-year-old boy is acting as the mate. I can’t help but wonder why he’s not in studying for school or playing with his friends and how often he has to skip school to continue this job. I ask the woman to my left to tell me when we arrive at the brewery and she looks at me like I’m speaking Spanish. Okay, that’s a pretty good possibility actually, I often think of Italian or Spanish words when I’m searching deeply for the right Twi word. I don’t pretend that I have a handle on any language other than English and I’m still mixing things up. I don’t know how people like Fad, who speak 10 languages, keep everything compartmentalized. The man behind me taps me and tells me he will be happy to tell me when to get out. He calls for the mate a few miles down the road and points me to the Brewery.

I meet Spencer and we go through their regulations before we get to the main office. We are lead into a room that looks like luxury airport bar with leather couches and wood grained tables. Apparently that’s the wrong room as we’re called out into a boardroom. We missed the group orientation, so one of the employees catches us up. We take a safety test and for some reason I can’t understand some of the questions. The English is very strange and it just doesn’t make sense to me. Apparently I’m the only one who is having trouble because Spencer and the other person with us finished and got everything correct. He leads us around the facility as we look for Steve. He teaches us about the stuff he thinks everyone already went over. As we make a lap around the same part for the third time the guy starts asking people for Steve. We finally find them in another room on the second story of one of the warehouses. Immediately I notice that everyone has empty glasses with a small trace of head. We missed the sampling! Not being the wiseass that I am, I reserve any comment about us not getting any beer samples. Steve then takes the group and leads us around through the same tour we literally just had. It was interesting to see the assembly line and hear about the operations and different tastes they look for in the beer. Then he takes us back to the office and we close for the day without any more beer samples. I’m slightly disappointed for not getting a beer out of the deal, but at least we got a free tour and learned a few things.

From there Spencer and I immediately head back to the office to drop some things off and get a beer. Being held in suspension of the beer sample made us both thirsty. He both ordered a club beer in spite of the Guinness presentation. I’m not a big Guinness fan anyway. We head back to Kentinkrono through the rush hour and arrive home a few hours later. I spend the rest of the night reading and getting further in the book. I don’t remember what percentage I was at this point, but I know the book is only getting better.

The next day I wake up early and continue to read some more. I must have been somewhere around 70% of the book done. We head to the office and walk over to a nearby school for the Saturday tutoring. My job was to time the testing of a few students. That means that for about 4 hours I would be sitting there telling them to switch sections every 25 minutes. That sounds like a perfect opportunity to read some more. I take that opportunity with pleasure and when we end the session I’m 90% of the way through the book! It’s getting so good and I just found out why they call the book “The Watchers.” I love when a book title is intriguing, but not obvious and then they explain the complex idea behind the title that is directly related to the themes of the book. A few times I had to quickly stop myself as I began to yell out, thinking I was actually in the story. Yeah, it’s that good of a book. At the end of the session I had a, small, Twi break through. When Spencer’s Peace Corps friend asked me how I was liking the food, I told him that I was mostly eating… All I could think of was buyaray and boodeay. I had to pause and take some effort to translate those words back to figure out the English word. I finally found the words and told him yam and plantain. It is a small breakthrough, but still one nonetheless.

Around 15:00 we head back to the office and I grade the tests of my students at Kumasi Academy (KUMACA). It starts to rain so I get a few other things done after the grading and then I leave the office to head back to Antoa. I walk from our office over to the main road and then after a few minutes of waiting I just continue to walk to Dr. Mensa. It starts to rain and I join some people under an awning to hide from the pouring rain. It’s getting into the dry season now, so it generally rains hard, but for a short time. Well it stops raining hard, so I continue walking to the station. The entire walk it is still drizzling and I’m walking for about an hour, so it adds up and by the time I get to Dr. Mensa I’m drenched. As usual there is a long line to wait for the Antoa car. I get in the very back and hear someone call Matthew. Okay, I know this person knows me very well, so I look around and see Fad hiding under an awning with her baby. After about an hour in line and some more spits of rain, I get to about 30 people from the front. A man comes over to me and asks if I’m going to Antoa and after I say yes, he tells me to come with him to the Tro Tro. Right before I get to the car I realize I don’t want to leave without Fad, so I turn around and call her, but she doesn’t hear me. I finally get her attention and then we both head for the car. Right as we start to walk everyone else in the area realizes that car is going to Antoa and everyone swarms the car. I laugh and turn around to get back in line. Hopefully they will let me get back into my old spot. As I’m walking back up the same cop that has helped me skip the line twice before, calls out my name. He tells me to come up next to him at the front of the line. He tells me to get on the Tro Tro and I tell him in broken Twi that I’m with another person. He asks who and I point at Fad. She starts to walk up to the front of line with me and I let her go ahead of me to make sure that she gets on the car. As the policeman is distracted some people try to run up the right side of the line and cut into the car. The police man screams and out of nowhere pulls out a long stick and, like he’s sword fighting, jabs it between the people and their seats. He and the people start screaming at each other and I’m worried about Fad and her baby, who are in the middle of it all. I step up and get very close behind her, ready to stiff-arm someone away if they get too close. I’m sure she can handle herself, but her baby is brand new and I don’t want to take the risk of anything happening. Finally we get on the car and I sit one row in front of her. She takes her baby off of the tie thing around her back and hands me her purse to hold on the ride. Not feeling a bit embarrassed, I start laughing at holding a giant purse on my lap for this long Tro Tro ride. Joe told me to never hold a purse, but I know that this would make Jennifer very proud. She teased Joe that she was going to get me to hold her purse, which she did a few times after he left. Before we take off I call the policeman, “Akwesi!” I tell him in Twi, thank you for helping again and that we would meet again. He smiles as the doors close and we take off. The woman to my right seems to recognize me from somewhere called C.C.C. which I don’t remember at all. She asks me where I’ve been and I come up with some lame excuse and use Twi to sweeten the situation. Then the man in the front turns around and it’s the guy who always gives me a ride from Krobo to Antoa in his empty school bus. I greet him and am totally elated now at the whole situation. Even though the people in our row are squished with an extra person, I’m having a great time. We’re so squished that I have to learn far forward because my shoulders wouldn’t fit between the people on either side of me. We finally make it home and I carry an extra bag that Fad had as she takes her purse back. We don’t say much on the walk back to the house, but I always enjoy being in Fad’s company. I could have asked about a million questions about being from the upper west, her languages, or anything else, but sometimes silence all you need when you appreciate someone’s company.

After we get back I get some food and immediately break out my book to finish the last 10%. I get lost in time and don’t realize what time it is as I finish the entire book. It was a pretty good ending, but the whole book made it as intriguing as it was. Realizing that it’s far past my bedtime at 22:00, I fall asleep quickly with the satisfaction of the weekend and my accomplishment with finishing the book.

A Slow Day Fetching More Water

This morning I wake up before my alarm again, but only by 5 minutes, so I just relax and wakuop slowly. I can’t help but feel very grateful for not being more sick than that one incident a few days ago. I hurry through my morning routine as I take out my kindle to continue reading this book I’ve started called “The Watchers.” I have to admit that I’m a bit addicted to the book. The chapters are short, it switches characters so fluidly, and it has some great cliffhangers. I started yesterday and I’m alrady 13% of the way through the book. Now, the sun is starting to illuminate the ground, so I take off to fetch water. I half consider just staying to continue reading as I check the water levels in our big tubs. We are almost completely out and I need to do wash, so I push against my strong tendency to skip it all together. I complete 2 trips and still feel good, so I try for more. The third trip is getting a little harder and I’m starting to spill more water. Determined, I set out for a fourth trip to try to double my trips from yesterday. As I fill up the water, a young woman offers to help hoist it onto my head. We nick the pad and everthing feels lopsided on my head. She gestures tfor me to ligt the bucket so she can fix the cushion on my head. Using mostly shoulder muscles and maybe some toe muscles as I clench my feet, thinking that will some how help as she adjusts the pad. Trying not to look like I’m straining too much as she’s fixing the cushion, I tell her it’s fine and rest the bucket back down. It feel sa little better, but it’s not comfortable. Not knowing any better I tell her that it’s all better and start to walk abway. She calls me back over and tells me to take the bucket off my head. She rips the cushion from me, muttering Twi under her breath. She folds the shirt in a much looser way than I had and puts it back on my head. We hoist the water back up. It feels 100% more comfortable. She also adjusted it to more of the middle front part of the top of my head. I had it resting back too far apparently. It feels so comfortable that the first few steps feel like this is still my first trip of the day. I might even consider this as a new fasion statement back in the US. By the time I get back to the compound gate I’m panting and spilling water everywhere. Okay, maybe it isn’t that comfortable. Or atleast I’m still just a big whimp. Now soaked, I pour the final bucket into the tub. I did it! Now I’m going to try for 8 trips tomorrow to continue with the trend. Only joking, I might go for 5 or 6 if I feel strong after the 4.

 I don’t really have much to do today, so I make sure to catch up on emails and work stuff. Fad made me some Koko this morning so I didn’t go out and visit my usual seller. That also means that I didn’t get any Kosi, so I’m going to be hungrier sooner. At about 11:00 I feel the hunger and leave for town to find some lunch. The usual rice ladies are there, but I want something more filling like yams or plantain with stew. It’s extremely hot today and it’s making me feel a little bit desperate to find the food and get back quickly before my skin burns off. There are no other sellers around and it confuses me. One big thing I’ve noticed here is that you really can’t count on just a few food sellers to be there for you. I need to find back up plans for back up plans when they just decide to sleep instead of sell their food. I give up and go to one of the new rice ladies that is selling the local rice, eggs, and stew. The food tastes pretty good, but it’s nothing exceptional. The food here has been a really interesting experience. Often times when I’m done eating a meal like this particular one, I still don’t feel satisfied. I’m plenty full, but it’s not the same as eating food back home. I don’t think these people have the same connection with their food that I did back home. It seems like they just treat it more as something that they have to do to keep their body going and there’s nothing more to it. I don’t think it helps that there are only a few different types of food to choose from either.

 The power goes out, so I can’t get my haircut as planned, so I hid from the heat in my room and catch up on blog stuff and get some more reading done. As I get up and down off the chair in my room I notice that my back is really starting to hurt. I think I didn’t have the best posture when I fetched the water this morning. I’ll have to really think about what I did so I can improve and continue to make more trips and eventually use the bigger bucket.

 Fad makes me some yams, stew, and little bits of fish for dinner. The power comes back on and I take the advantage to get on the Internet and post some of the stuff I’ve been catching up with. I also go back to reading once I’m done there. Today I made it to the 50% mark on the book. It’s just too good to stop or go any slower.

 I take it pretty easy for the rest of the day and don’t do too much more. Tomorrow I am traveling to Kumasi to get my Malaria medication from the post office and traveling to Kentinkrono after. I will need plenty of rest and healing time for my back if I want to enjoy that adventure. 

Fetching Water on My Own and A Second Try with Wonoo

For some reason this morning I have more problems waking up, thinking it’s time to start the day. Then, as if I was not meant to sleep, Fad’s baby starts fusing in her room at 03:30. Since the windows in the rooms of the compound are just several separate pieces of glass, there is no noise reductions. The baby doesn’t stop until about 04:15 and at that point there is no use trying to sleep for 15 minutes. I just lie in bed an relax before my alarm goes off. I finally get up and go through my normal morning routines. At 05:00 it starts to get lighter outside and I decide to fetch water on my own. After all, we were almost out and I need the practice. I want to be able to carry the big black bucket like Fad soon. That will really impress her. This time, I use the bucket that is slightly larger than the dinky one I used when I went the other night with Fad. On the way to the watering hole, as Nala and I told Zazu, we broke out into song with all the animals about me being the next king. Sorry I typed watering hole and now my head is off in the Lion King. I think the only one’s who got that are those with small children or those who, like me, still rewatch Disney movies as an adult. Back to the watering hole… There are faucets at the ground level and some about 8 feet tall to add the last bit of water as the bucket is on the person’s head. Since I can lift my bucket when full, I just fill it up the whole way while it’s on the ground. I sue both hands to lift the bucket onto the ledge at about my eye level. Then I take and extra shirt I brought and wrap it in a loose coil, like how a snake would sit. Then as I ick up the bucket I have to keep my head flat so the shirt pad doesn’t fall. I put my left hand on the bottom of the bucket and my right on the top rim. I should put both hands on the bottom, but I wouldn’t have a good grip and it could slip and hurt someone, mostly just me. As I lift the heavy bucket I realize that my arms might not be long enough to hold anything but the bottom. I look around and people are waiting to use the spigot right in front of where I’m standing. Half-panicked for making them wait I try to hoist it up again. This time I stretch my arms to their maximum reach and try to retract my next as much as possible. The bucket just clears my head and I get it up onto the pad. Slightly worried about the bigger bucket, I concentrate wholly on my next few steps. After I get down the dirt path I’m not worried at all about having to be rescued by a small girl again, like the first time I fetched the water with Charles. I make my way over to the uneven and debri filled road and even pass both gutters. As I’m nearing the compound, one of the ladies next door runs over to me, looking very concerned, with her hands out to take the bucket. I thank her and tell her I’m fine. I go back and fetch one more bucket full before stopping. I still have to travel to WOnoo today, so I don’t want to be too tired.

 On my way to Wonoo I greet the usual people, but just as I get to the last group I turn around and signal the approaching Tro Tro. Expecting to only go to Krobo they prove me wrong and say they’re going al the way to Wonoo. I gladly jump in and start to plan what I’m going to do with the extra time. Hopefully today’s experiences will be better than yesterday’s. As I do mental checks on my body I realized it was a mistake not to bring toilet paper with me. Ah well, the notebook paper worked once, so I’m sure it will save me if I need it again today. I get the snacks and water and get some fried yams and peppay, as they call it, and head to the JHS. The ladies at the yam place were also frying up something that I didn’t recognize. They told me it is plantain and they would give me some to try.

 When I get to the JHS, I greet all the masters like usual and sit outside in the breeze to enjoy the yam snack. I save the new treat for last. It has a crispy outside like a miniature chicken nugget. The inside is sweet, but not as sweet as a banana. The combination of the crispy outside and soft melty inside will make this treat a usual from now on. The new tutor, Joseph, shows up very early and I get some time to pick his brain. The other two tutors show up 20 minutes early and I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I don’t have to deal with Logical’s rebellious late showings. We go over to the primary and tutor for a little over an hour. At the end I meet with the tutors and explain the new game plan. From now on we will be teaching the basics followed with a small quiz at the end of each topic to see if the students have mastered the information. Only when they pass the quiz will they be allowed to move on to more intricate material. I also tell Joseph and the rest one point of strength and weakness they should recognize and repeat or improve for next time. Joseph is a bit timid, bit I’m confident he will make great improvements as the weeks go on.

 ON my way back I catch the same Indiana Jones Tro Tro. I’m a bit inured to his driving, so Ithis time it doesn’t feel like a Disney Land ride. I get out again with no charge for the ride. I guess they’re just happy we’re alive and that’s all the payment they need. I get back home to a nice quite and relatively uneventful night. 

Most Embarrassing Moment

You know that game that people sometimes play or that question that comes up for truth or dare, when someone asks you about your most embarrassing moment. I’ve never really had a good answer to that question. I’ve definitely had my fair share of embarrassing moments, but none of them have been funny or outrageous. Well, today I officially changed that and created a funny and outrageous answer to that question. I will tell you ahead of time that if you get queasy or don’t want to hear gross things, you should just skip this story entirely. I also want to say that I’ve NEVER in my life exaggerated and will continue to do so during this story so that way you can know what happened as if you were there. I also fully accept that people are going to laugh at me and make fun of me, but that’s all right. I think this story getting told is more important than my dignity, adulthood, or respect. With that said, everything started off like a normal day today…

I got up at 04:30 with everyone else in a 50-mile radius. I must say that it has been much nicer not having to wake up to the man screaming over the town loudspeaker. Now, instead I get to rise with the sound of people sweeping, washing, and all of their other morning chores before the sun comes up and puts a halt to all progress. I ate a heavy meal at the normal time last night, so I’m relaxed with breakfast in the morning. I wake up still with that great feeling I had last night as I went to sleep. I think my body was angry that I was sleeping through such a feeling because I woke up about five times thinking the day had already started. As I get up and stretch I can’t help but be grateful to be alive. I go through my normal routines and feel like I have to poop, I told you that this story is going to be explicit. This is strange because while pooping in the morning is my normal routine at home, it hasn’t been since arriving here in Ghana. I don’t think much of it other than it being a good sign that I’m really settling into life here. Everything was normal with the poop with its quasi-solid state that has become a norm. I have become well acquainted with the feeling of diarrhea since arriving here and knew instantly that this was not the case this morning. Oddly enough I have also become an expert at spelling diarrhea, which apparently I had no idea about before I started writing these stories. I continue on with my morning and meet with George Bush to break down my bills in order to get breakfast and catch up with a good friend. My koko and kosi lady isn’t there so I have to go all the way across town for the one with less quality and quantity. I get back home and pack up my things before I head out on the road to Wonoo. I have another feeling of having to poop before I leave. Okay, that’s not good, I hardly ever pooped twice in the morning at home and certainly haven’t done it here. Cautiously I make my way to the bathroom and to my surprise it was a Ghana normal poop. It’s now 10:15, time to leave to make it to Wonoo on time. I greet the usual people on the way out of town and the ladies at the end give me another gift. The elder one asks if I like aboobay, or pineapple. I can’t hide the excitement in my face as I tell her that I enjoy them. She gives me one and I put it in my bag. Moses is using his big loud machines to grind up grain, so I only yell to him the usual greeting and tell him I’m leaving for Wonoo. I get to the end of the road in front of the SHS and the reliable shade spot under the thick leaves of the coconut tree. After only a few minutes of waiting I see a huge truck coming down the road and a sensation tells me that I should flag them down for a ride. As they get closer I realize that there are three people in the back and in the cab. There’s no way I will have any room to fit in the cab and there’s no way I’m going to sit in the back of the truck that’s 20 feet off the ground. That’s pretty much guaranteed death in an accident. They honk a few times as those trucks do many times as they come down the road and instinctually I wave to them. As they pass they are slowing down and the men in the back yell to me and ask how I’m doing. I tell them in Twi that my self is well. I can hear them yelling “O te Twi!” as the front door to the cab opens. As I’m walking up to greet them I get a shot of fear because I know they are going to tell me that I should go in the back with the other men. To my relief they tell me to come up front to the cab. Then, I get a feeling of remorse because now someone will have to move to the back to make room for me in the front cab. They have already stopped so I ignored my subtle feelings and grabbed the handle as I climbed the poorly built latter leading up to the cab. I get in the seat with the grace of a baby taking its first steps. Having a backpack in one of my hands doesn’t help. I get up to the top step when I have to release my grip from the handle for the initial ladder part and desperately grab onto anything to not fall backwards out of the vehicle. I don’t even really remember what I grabbed onto; I just hope I didn’t grope the woman sitting next to me. Then I close the door, but only as hard as you might if you were driving a hummer or maybe an old rickety school bus. I felt like I slammed the door pretty hard, but the man in the back was yelling at me to open the door. Now I’m looking down for the latch and can’t find it. 10 seconds, or about 20 minutes as it feels to me, has now gone by and I can’t find the handle anywhere and I’m starting to panic because these people probably have work to go do so they can feed them selves before they sleep tonight. Finally the woman reaches behind me and I half jump thinking she’s trying to grope me back. She reaches for a red lever that looks awfully like an eject button. I let out a mental scream thinking that I failed the test and now their going to launch me out of the vehicle. She pulled the lever and the door opened. Oh, well I could have done that! I only needed another 20 minutes and we would have accomplished the same thing. Then the man in the back slams the door and he either closed it that hard because he’s pissed at me for making everyone wait or that’s just how hard you have to close these big truck doors.

We take off down the road and I greet all the people in the cab in Twi and we go through the usual dance that I conduct quite well in Twi now. After their yelps and laughter at my absolutely perfect Twi, we pull up to Krobo where our paths split. I say perfect Twi very sarcastically because I can fire off the answers now, but Twi is a highly tonal language, so it while in my head every thing sounds great, I actually probably just insulted all their mothers. Putting the high tone in the front or back of the word could literally completely change the meaning of the word. I’ll capitalize the part of the word in this next example where the tone rises. For instance, when you want to say father you say paPA, but to say fan you say papa. I know that PApa also means something else, maybe it means good. Anyway, I hope out of the truck with equal grace at entering and now everyone on the ground has joined those in the cab laughing at me. The men in the back are yelling to me in surprise asking me if I speak Twi. I get a few words in before they drive off to their destination.

I walk down the street in Krobo and the same young woman from yesterday isn’t there, so I continue to my usual spot in the shade of an abandoned shop at the end of town. The shop before that one has three men sitting out front and they ask if where I’m headed and if I’m catching a car. I tell them yes and before I can sound out the s sound, the man jumps out of his chair and tells me “me pachew, tenase,” I beg you/please , sit. There is an older man and two younger men. The man looks like he could be in his late sixties or early seventies. The other two men look like they’re in their late twenties. The first question out of the old man’s mouth is if I’m married or if I like to “hit and run” as he decided to put it. I avoided the second part of the question and added my usual routine in Twi of having small small money, Twi, and age. We continue to talk for a bit and they all crack up at each new Twi word that I break out of my repertoire. I find out that the man is 63 years old! Wow, I guess my reference is pretty skewed since my dad is 65 and looks more like 45. I’m glad I got his genes and not those from this man. A private car passes us and one of the younger men yells and runs over to talk to the driver. He tells me to come and join the person for a ride to Wonoo. The man driving is named Kwame Opoku. That’s about the equivalent of meeting a Mexican man named Jose Gonzales or a white person named John Smith. Before I get out he gives me his number. As usual I get the snacks for the students and buy the water sachets. I hoist the water onto my head and proceed to the JHS. When I get down to the bushy part of the walk I feel free and able to try what I’ve been waiting for this whole walk. I take both of my hands off of the water pack and balance it on my head as I walk. It is starting to slide off of my head, but it certainly isn’t falling off. I’m feeling quite proud at my head carrying abilities after just the third try. I get to the school and eat my lunch and wait outside where there is a nice breeze. I pull out my book to start reading and that’s where this whole day starts to go downhill…

I get a feeling like I have gas and I need to fart to let it out. I don’t fart much anymore since I’ve gotten to Ghana in fear that it might be something more. I hold it in and prepare myself for the gas bubbles that always build up when I don’t release the gas. Then I get a feeling of having to poop again. Okay, three poops in a day is really not a good sign. This time is much different than any other time I’ve ever had to poop. The feeling is getting exponentially worse by every minute that passes. I start to trace in my head of places I can go relieve myself. There are literally no public toilets within a two-hour trip. There are the students’ toilets which consist of a circular hole in cement that is accompanied by two raised sections where the back of someone’s thigh right above their butt should lay. I suppose you’re supposed to sit with your legs straightened out on the ground. I don’t really know and I certainly don’t want to make this the day that I find out. Then the sweat starts to run down my face. That’s never a good sign. That usually means throw up or something bad is happening inside me. I quickly formulate a plan in my head. I tell the Headmaster that I’m not feeling well and I’m on my way home. I also tell him that I am leaving the water in the staff room and giving the snacks to one of the tutors to continue the program. As I’m leaving the premises the poop feeling is still getting much worse. I have had times where I’ve help poop in for a long time and am very familiar at the stages that the body goes through before it’s time to find a toilet. It usually ends with a lot of pressure and lots of clenching. I’m not at those last stages yet so I just concentrate on calling Isaac to give him the snacks and chalk, so that I can leave for home. I’m now walking down the path through the bushy area and the feeling is twice as bad as it was a minute ago. The pain is excruciating and the pressure is immense. I pick up my pace and the feeling doubles again in severity. I stop walking for a second and keel over and I look like I’m about to throw up, but that’s the wrong end that is calling. I lean back and stand straight up again, feeling a little better. A few more feet down the path and suddenly the feeling comes back again, but worse than I’ve ever felt a stomach pain and the pressure is so bad that my vision is going cross eyed. Okay, I recognize the signs that I can’t hold this for another minute and I’m in the middle of nowhere. I start to run and I can feel the pressure get the best of my clinching efforts. Yes, that was a run around way of saying I just pooped myself a little bit. I stop again and squeeze as tightly as I can, keeled over from the pain. Now my adrenaline is pumping and I’m trying not to completely soil myself in the middle of the path to my school. I would have no way of cleaning any of it off of me and I don’t begin to know what I would do if it all came out. I start to run again and I can feel just a little more come out. Desperately I take a side path off the main road and only down a few feet before I start to climb into the bush. There are vines with huge spikes clawing at me, but I can’t even feel the pain compared to the one I feel in my stomach. I climb back and without much judgment I decide this is a good place to let loose. Okay, now everything is on red alert and I have the constant feeling of pooping, even though nothing is coming out yet. Without even looking around at the path for people or the spot I’m standing in for any creatures, I pull down my pants and boxers. I don’t want to poop directly on my pulled down pants, so I grab the nearest tree and lean my butt way back to try to point it away from me. Before I can clear my pants I feel the worst of it all. The feeling has now it it’s maximum and I can’t hold anything anymore. Knowing this, I arch my back to point my butthole away from my pants and in the middle of the movement I release all tension. There was a good reason for all of that pressure as it comes out like an explosion. If I’m to use a poop analogy here this poop is like the fourth of July firework finale, compared to any other poop I’ve experienced. Making sure the pressure did it’s job I give another push and get the last bit out. It’s certainly not solid, but it’s not completely liquid either. I would say it is something in between the normal stew like poop that I have experienced and a complete watery diarrhea. Feeling completely relieved and forgetting about my forearm holding my body up by the tree I just relax for a second. Oh geez, I haven’t thought about probably the most important part of all of this. The wiping! As I’m calming down from the big ordeal I can feel the sweat pouring down my face and how fatigued I really am. My energy picks up at the thought of needing to wipe and I start to tear pages out of my notebook. It’s really gross, but much better than not wiping at all. Then, as my perception of my surroundings begins to return I look up and see a man walking along the side path right in front of me. I freeze, trying not to attract his attention. I’m basically standing there naked as I have my shirt up by my forehead to dry the sweat and my pants and boxers around my ankles to avoid and spray. I could just imagine what it might look like form his direction. A young white man, who they already don’t see very often, standing right in the middle of the open, completely naked, holding a piece of notebook paper covered in poop. He passes and I furiously start to tear out pages to end this ordeal and get home. I check my boxers and the damage from the premature release of pressure isn’t too bad. I expected a lot worse. I wipe that bit off and I can’t even really tell. All this has happened within about a minute from the explosion of poop and I’m already surrounded by flies. The smell has now hit me and I nearly gag as I catch a whiff of the smell of something that died a long time ago in my stomach and is now finally able to decompose on the ground. I get more pieces and now I’m a little more aware and quite worried about more people coming by. Of course there are two other people now coming down the path. It is probably very rare that people ever go down this path, but of course Murphy’s Law has to find it’s way into my day. I’m now just realizing how bad this spot actually was picked. I can see the people perfectly and my ghost white legs are probably like someone took a highlighter to a once familiar picture. With all my dignity gone, I can’t even look at the people. I don’t even know what I would say to them, in English or Twi. I can hear them talking, but I drown out the words in absolute fear that they are talking about the naked boy covered in his own poop over by the tree, three damn feet from the path. I try my best not to move as this second group of people passes. Right when they get directly in front me in on the path, my phone starts to ring. It must be Isaac calling me back. I quickly squeeze the phone with a vice like grip, hoping to either silence or smash it into a million piece, which ever comes first. I manage to get it to stop ringing. I’m so distracted with the phone that I forget about the group of people. This time I didn’t look at them because I was just too occupied. I finally muster the strength to look back up and they are further down the path, watching where they are going. I’m positive they heard the phone and probably looked over at me. I don’t look to see if they turned around at all. The phone rings a second time, but I ignore it and try to get the hell out of there. Now that was just the icing that Murphey had to make sure to include on the cake. I finally finish wiping and check my pants for any splash damage. I don’t see any, but the smell is so bad that I’m worried it will stick with me as I try to find a ride home. I put my clothes back on and hurry away from the spot of the incident. I pick up my box of chalk that I forgot I had thrown on the ground. Actually I would have to be aware of that in the first place in order to forget it, but I don’t think it ever entered my consciousness. I take a big sigh of relief as I realize that it’s all over and things could have gone much worse.

I meet Isaac in town and give him the materials to make the program run smoothly. Then I wait for a car and to my surprise one comes within a few minutes. I luck out because this car is headed straight to Antoa. I take it in all the way to right in front of my house. I don’t greet anyone as I rush into my compound. I quickly fill up a bucket and get a bar of soap. I soap myself up and down to make sure I clean every nook and cranny. Then I put on fresh clothes and rest in my room. I start to write my mom an email to discuss the reoccurrence of my stomach problems to have her check and make sure I don’t have anything more serious than some stomach pain. In the middle of my email to her I get the feeling back again that I need to poop and it’s coming whether I like it or not. This time I’m prepared and the back of the toilet is already filled and the toilet paper and book in the room. I cut up the pineapple that the ladies gave me and enjoy it very much. I’ve always loved pineapple, especially when it was just picked from the ground the same day and traveled less than a mile before it was sold and eaten. I especially love the core of the pineapple where it becomes a bit tougher. The texture isn’t as nice, but it’s much sweater and almost tastes like it’s the pineapple’s milk. I have to make one more trip to the bathroom and when Daniel gets home he gets me an oral rehydrator to help. Naturally, I read the directions on the back, partially to learn how to take it and partially to be amused by the quality of instructions. There are four steps highlighted with pictures of the symptoms and a detailed description below. Number one says “In diarrhoea attacks, we must fight back.” The picture is of a small child squatting naked, actually much like in the position I was in today, and an adult leaning over to put their hand on the child’s shoulder. It’s in an awful sketched type artwork. They even drew the poop coming out as a oval shaped scribble. Step number 2 says, “Pour the entire sachet content in 600 ml (one beer bottle full) of water.” I’m not even kidding you, this is too good to make up. Apparently these are given out to alcoholics? Or maybe just people who don’t have access to any other form of measurement, like a cup of rice or bottle of water. The picture then shows a person pouring the contents from a beer bottle and the sachet of medicine into a large bowl. Step three says, “mix the solution with a spoon.” This step is actually quite boring. It shows and says exactly what to do here, no fun. Okay, back to the funny steps. Step four says, “manage the obtained solution with a spoon.” Saying to manage the solution makes it sound like I have to drink something awful and maybe not even entirely liquid. The picture shows an adult with a spoon-feeding the solution to a small child. Apparently children are the only ones who get diarrhea. Or maybe they’re the only ones that don’t just pour the sachet into some water without caring what the package says. Hey, did I just call myself a child!?

Anyway, that was my day today. To tie things back into my title, I’m really not sure what was the most embarrassing part of the day. It was either the fact that I, as a full grown adult, pooped in my pants or that I was spotted basically naked in the bush holding onto a tree to support myself as something explodes behind me. Either way, whenever I’m asked to explain my most embarrassing moment I will have to start the story from the beginning.

I’m about to go through my pre bed routine and I actually feel pretty great. I guess when the storms in Ghana hit they hit hard, but they also end fast. I’m a little disappointed because I didn’t get to fetch water with Fadilla again tonight and learn more about her. I will need to get some water in the morning so that way everyone in the compound has something to do their tasks with. And now I leave you saying Dayie, which means sleep well. Pronounced deyyie. Ochena! Meaning tomorrow. Those two things are generally what I say when I know I’m leaving someone for the night and will see them the next day.

New Tutor and Fetching Some Water

Today the plan is to secure the replacement tutor for Logical and find another for Isaac. As you know I kicked Logical out of the program and as you don’t know, Isaac has been accepted to an SHS, so he will have to leave the program early. As I leave I make my usual greetingson my way out of the town and wait by the SHS to catch a iride to Krobo, the junction town. Before I get to the end of town I pass the group of ladies who asked if I could teach their primary students, some weeks ago.. They have given me bananas a few times before, I guess as a thank you. On Thursday of this lpast week, they gave me a head of cabbage on my way home. On that same awlk home, Andrews, my young friend in the midst of my ladies on the edge of town, boutght me a meat pie. We were in the middle of discussion how much money he’s lost due to thieves and swindlers. I really appreciated the snack he bought me and made sure to tell him so, a few times. He bought me another one as the seller was leaving and explained it’s part of his culture to offer me food and drink whenever I visit him. A young woman, in her mid twenties, same age as Andrews, came over and started talking with us. In this culture if you are eating in public it is rude not to invite passerby’s to join you. Knowing this and wanting to continue with Andrew’s generosity, I offered her some of my meat pie. They both got very serious and told me that I should never share a gift with anyone else because it is meant for me and sharing it will indicate that I don’t appreciate the gift. I apologized and stuffed the cabbage and meat pie gifts into my bag. Okay, back to today. I pass by the ladies at the end and the elder one told the group to get me some bananas and ground nuts. Gratefully, I told them I would greet them again in the evening on my way back into town. At the very edge of town in between the SHS and American Man’s house, I waited only a few minutes before catching a Tro Tro to Krobo. There, I visited the JHS and met with the staff and asked them to help me find a tutor to replace Isaac. I greeted them all in Twi and they went wild! I held my own for awhile before their unfamiliarly educated Twi brought me to a stand still. I told them my name and one woman said, “OH, so you’re Akwesi Mattew!” Apparently I’m better known in this town that I thought. I guess that make sense being the only white person walking around town every week. After some time, the Headmaster walked with me to :show me off” and ask a few last minute blunt questions. He basically asked me how the program will benefit him an specifically all the students involved. I came up with some quick marketing strategies to include their school in the benefit and went through how our model affects the students we target and the rest of Ghana. I told him that I would be back on Wednesday to see who they could find.

 I found a spot to stand and wait for a car, in the shade. A young girl walked by and insisted I sit on her bench. She asked me where I’m going and then we didn’t talk much as I was watching the road for a car. After about 45 minutes of waiting, I decided to take this time to soak in the sights. I have been trying to take my meditations “off the pillow” and into my daily life, a task much easier said then done. I sat up and took some deep breaths as I tried to take in all the sense stimuli. As I look around my little world, I notice that there are no vibrant colors. Even the buildings painted red, yellow, and green, Ghana’s flag colors, showed the punishment of the sun and rain, like a boxer’s black eye. The color is faded underneath the overhang and basically non-existent near the bottom of the wall. While there are no blood reds, hot pinks, or neon anything’s there are still many different shades of the basics. Nature seems to be the one boasting like a male peacock. I start to look around at all the vegetation in between the houses and even beyond in the “bush” that surrounds every town near where I stay. There are so many different shades of green, I’m surprised it isn’t treated by the Ghanaian languages like Inuit’s treat snow. It’s very hot today in the sun, but as I sit in the shade the breeze cools me and the weather feels perfect.

 Finally I catch a Tro Tro the rest of the way to Wonoo. I get out at the stop and look for some food that sounds like “going.” It’s basically rice and beans, but I really want to try some. The lady is not there so I head back to the center of town to find some food. None of the usual vendors are in their spot and the only food I have to choose from is fried rice, which is too expensive, and fried yams, which doesn’t sound healthy enough for my mood right now. Remembering the quadu (banana) and nkatea (ground nut) in my bag, I give up and just look for some cold water. The woman tells me to wait as she gets more water. Right then Isaac comes up to me and asks what I’m doing in town. I tell him and ask him where I can find food close by. He tells me that the light have been off, meaning no electric power, for the past two days straight. I asked him if that happens often and he says about every month the lights are off for five or six days and then they will stay on for a month straight. This place is much more remote than Antoa because I’ve only experienced the lights out for a 12 hour period in Antoa before and that was unusual. I couldn’t imagine how it must been in the less developed areas of the North region of Ghana. He tells me there is a rice lady behind us. I tell him I’m aware of that lady and she wasn’t there when I just checked. He insists that he would take me to find a food seller and I follow him. Stubbornly he leads me to the exact spot of the rice lady we just talked about. I try to explain to him again, “I literally was just here and…” now the rice lady is there. Slightly embarrassed I thank him and get some food. I make my way to the JHS and test the new tutor.

 On my way back to Antoa I greet the usual people on my walk through the center of town and wait by the edge of the bush for a Tro Tro. After a few minutes a Tro Tro comes and I am directed to attend the front seat. As we are making the loop by the bus stop, I realize that I was in this exact Tro Tro on Saturday when I was coming back from Kumasi. I remember because the car was very tall and the driver a very large man. I also remember that there was no legroom and my seat was falling off, but it’s much better now that I’m in the front. Almost every week on my way back to Antoa from Wonoo I have either walked or taken some kind of vehicle larger than a Tro Tro. On this ride back, I am reminded of the terrible condition of the road. It didn’t help that this Tro Tro is in bad condition itself. The driver must have been in a hurry because he didn’t seem to slow down very much for the bumps. As we are going over the bumps I honestly feel like were on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, except there are no seatbelts in Tro Tros. As we get to Ohojo, the town between Wonoo and Krobo, the road only gets worse. Right about now I’m starting to hear the theme music playing in the back of my head. I wouldn’t be surprised if I feel the blowguns from the side of the car. As we get on the last stretch of bad road there are two normal sized cars on our side of the road, the better side of the road. Our driver, being a nice guy, waves them to stay on that side and he goes to the left to take the very bad part. The hill that we’re on is so steep that I have to hold on to the outside of the car so I don’t crush the woman to me left. Calming myself down I try to push the worried thoughts of our Tro Tro flipping over. After all, the driver knows his car very well and wouldn’t take that kind of risk. Right? The road begins to level out and as we go up the last little incline, I can see a man hanging from a rope telling me not to look at… whoops I’ll blame that one on the Larium again. We make it back safely to Krobo and I hop out of the Tro Tro. The mate doesn’t stick around to ask for my money so I do the same and don’t pay for the ride. I walk to the edge of town and wave down the passing cars. At this time I’ve been pretty lucky to get off duty vehicles to give me a ride home. The second car that passes stops to pick me up and I realize it’s the same guy driving the school bus that picked me up last week. He stays in Antoa and I had a long discussion with him once about not being able to help teach his kids. He’s very nice and drives me back to the SHS.

 On my walk back through the edge of town I make mu usual greetings. There are a group of tailor ladies that I usually don’t mention on the furthest point of the left side of the road before American Man’s house. Sometimes I buy oranges or mosquito repellent from them. This time they ask me to sit down and chat. I intend to buy some oranges from them because I’m dying of thirst and it sounds like a good treat. Literally 10 seconds after I sit down one of the women hands me a cold sachet of water. They ask me some usual questions about the US and some less usual ones. After our chat I get up to make the rest of the walk back. As I get back to the house I realize that it’s 18:00 and time to find something to eat.

 As I’m leaving the compound I notice Fadilla, the nurse I live with, coming back with a bucket of water on her head. I hesitate first starting to go for the food and then accepting that I should help her get some more water. I do need some more practice with this whole head-balancing thing. I follow her back in and tell her to wait because I’m getting a shirt for my head. I get a smaller bucket then the one I used last time. As we walk over to the water area I ask her some questions about herself. I find out that she’s from the Upper West part of Ghana, where her family is from, and her husband lives down in the West region by Takarati. That was the town that I went to before Hideout, down by the coast. I also find out that she knows how to speak 10 languages! I couldn’t contain my yelp of surprise when she tells me. I’m hoping that I can accomplish learning four languages in my lifetime. I couldn’t imagine knowing 10. I don’t know how she doesn’t get them confused. I start to fold my shirt to put on my head as a cushion and she just takes it from me to fold it the correct way. On our way back she leads me around the tree where you have to do the limbo to get under and instead we step across a three-foot gutter that would be a broken bone covered in sewage if I don’t make the step correctly. Concentrating with near-death focus I take the step across and then the step down the ledge. A good amount of water comes out of my bucket and makes me soaked. It’s hard enough to balance this bucket on my head; stepping across a crevasse and off a cliff doesn’t help the process. We make only two trips and the sky ominously looks like it is going to pour rain. She tells me “nsuo be to,” meaning it’s going to rain. I really enjoyed fetching water with Fad and getting to know more of her story. There is always a weird dynamic when Daniel is around. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but he puts her in a place that makes me feel uncomfortable. I think he is the one that makes it known that I shouldn’t be helping with the cleaning or cooking because he certainly takes the same stance. I don’t know if it’s because I’m the Obroni or if he is traditional in the view of men’s tasks around the house. I think completely the opposite of him and would prefer to cook myself and help with the other cleaning chores. He also seems to give her commands a lot and I always keep quite about it because I don’t want to step in and create any bad blood between anyone. It was a nice night getting to break that barrier and do some of the chores with Fad as I got to know her better. I really want to make this a regular thing.

 Now I leave to actually go get that food. I get yams and stew. For one cedi of yams and stew I can be stuffed to the brim. As I’m buying the food Theo comes up and greets me. He says that he is getting some rice and going to the bar to get some drink with a weird name. He asks if I want some and I don’t hesitate to say yes. The bar girl is very religious and bickers at Theo for corrupting me. I laughed with Theo, but had a strange suspicion that she is dead serious. We sit down and sip the drinks. He tells me that it’s similar to bitters. I could tell why, it is very bitter and tastes like cough medicine. I appreciate Theo buying the drink for me, but this just reinforces why I don’t enjoy taking alcohol. Hah there’s some more good Ghanaian English for you. Whenever anyone describes eating or drinking they use the verb taking.

The night ends with Charles coming over to discuss some things about the tutoring program and just catching up in general. As he’s leaving I head across the street to get a big grouped pack of the water sachets for the house. Still energized from fetching the water I hoist the pack up onto my head to take it home. Charles laughs at me and tells me I’ve done well. Then as I’m closing the gate I need to use two hands to put the lock back on. Very slowly I take my hand off of the pack of waters on my head and concentrate as I use my hands on the gate. When closed, I turn around and head for the kitchen. Instead of putting my hands back on the water, I just try to balance the pack for the short walk. I’ve always been a fast learner with new physical activities, so I know that when I finally put my mind to this fetching water thing I will be very good. I take a few steps with my hands out ready to catch the pack. Then oddly enough, I feel very comfortable and let my hands fall down to my sides. I walk over to the fridge wit no problem and with a joyful chuckle I take it off of my head. After the successes from the day with the tutor, to the water fetching and getting to know Fad, to talking with Charles, and with balancing the water on my head I’m way to happy and energized to be going to sleep right now. But really though, my legs are jumping out of their sockets and I can’t stop them. I’ve heard of this before, I must have restless leg syndrome. I should probably head to the clinic across the street and get my medicine. Or I could just do what I’ve always done and just exercise them a little bit. I do some wall squats and walla, no more jumpiness. I would be a pretty good doctor. If some one came to me and said they were sick I would just tell them to go exercise it out, if they have a cut to rub dirt in it, or if it hurts when they do ‘that’ then they should probably stop doing it. Yeah okay, I will probably stick to the development career path.

One Tutor Gone and A New Game Plan

On Tuesday this week I went to my Wonoo program. This was an important session because it is the last chance that Logical has to show up on time before I kick him out of the program. Well 13:30 comes around and both Ben and Isaac are ready to go for the tutoring session. Last week when I met with the Headmaster, Math Master, and Logical we all agreed that they would let the class out 10 minutes early so that we could start early to end as close to 15:00 as possible. Well, 13:50 comes around and there’s no Logical in sight. However, the class is closing late because the students are still occupied writing their homework down. We started to take roll and hand out snacks at about 13:57 and Logical strolls in like there’s no problem with the time. The groups had already been split between the other tutors. Then, he surprised me when he took the roll sheet and controlled the rest of the tallying of his group. Sure he was late, but the group was also late and he got to work right after he came in the room. On the walk over to the other school I start to think that I will just give him the late penalty and not kick him out since he got there a few minutes after the roll started and he got to work pretty fast to make up for it. When we get over to the primary to start tutoring, Logical and a few students are walking up, lagging far behind the rest of the group. Okay, I’m feeling much less lenient about keeping him in the program now. At the end of the session I told Logical that I was going to dock his pay for being late, but I’m not going to kick him out of the program since he got to work right away and the whole program was off a few minutes. Then, he began to argue and tell me that he wasn’t late. In the middle of our conversation he asked me if I was done because he had to go and pound FuFu for his mom. He said that his mom also runs on British time and he can’t be late. I said that’s fine and finished my thoughts from the discussion. After the program, I got a ride with a school bus driver who had just closed and was heading home anyway. Logical didn’t see me in the bus and I watched him as he was walking back and forth across the street at a very slow pace and talking with his friends like he obviously didn’t have anywhere urgent to go. I probably should have kicked him out of the program for being late and not being grateful for being allowed to stay. Now that he has lied to me on top of all that there’s no way I’m going to keep him for another minute. I get out of the bus with his pay for he day in my hand. As I give him the money I tell him that this is his pay for the day and not to come back to any more sessions because I no longer need his tutoring services. He asks me to repeat myself and I do, ending with thanking him for his time. He didn’t say anything and walked away.

 On Wednesday, I planned to give the students their halfway progress test. I need to print out the test, but I don’t have a pen drive to transfer the file to a printer. I leave my place at 09:30 to allow enough time to find a pen drive or some other way for me to print the tests. I go to the place called the technology center where they make the loudspeaker announcements and my friend there tells me she doesn’t have a pen drive and doesn’t know of anyone or anywhere that has one in Antoa. I’m almost positive that the printing place down the street has pen drives and they are the same friends that fixed my sandal for free, so they would help me find a way to print if they didn’t. I get to their place at 09:45, only because I passed people without greeting them along the way. Otherwise, I would have gotten there at 10:30. As I pass Moses the welder he runs out from his shop and yells my name. He asks how I am and I tell him I’m sorry, but I have to go and come. I get to the print shop and Kingsley is there, but his wife is not. He is the sandal maker and his wife is the print equipment owner. Not to worry, he tells me that she is on her way. In the back of my head I wonder what that could possibly mean. In Ghana on their way could mean 10 minutes or before the end of the day. I wait until 11:00 and ask Kingsley to call his wife, Natural, to see how much more time she will take. He calls her a few times, but can’t get an answer. I continue to wait until 12:00 before she arrives. Okay, I have 1 hour and 50 minutes to get to my program now. I’m trying not to panic and just calmly print these tests. She pulls out her pen drive as expected and copies my documents onto her computer. She makes a few adjustments on the document to align the math problems. She keeps making the same mistake by increasing the font so that everything gets out of order. Trying to hold my patience I keep pointing to the undo button. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone move a mouse so slow. I find a few other mistakes to adjust and all along this process her baby is in her lap and is getting a real kick out of slapping the keyboard. I thought it was funny the first few times, but after she kept hitting the keyboard and Natural would take 5 minutes to get the mouse up to the undo button, I lost my sense of humor. Again, I just close my eyes for a second and take a deep breath. Okay, the document is set and is now printing. It comes out well and I ask her to now print 20 more for each student. She tells me that will cost 20 Cedis and it would be better to copy it and print it with the copy machine. The copy machine only takes 10 peswas per page. Okay, I’m not sure how that price was derived, but I’m not about to ask. Now Kingsley comes over and has to help punch the copy machine to get it started. Then he takes off the faceplate of the 3-foot tall machine. This must have been the first prototype of a copy machine released in the US. There are a lot of torque levers that I honestly expected him to spin with his hand like he has to pedal the lever to get it to print the page. The page copies and prints fine, but I can only see it from the hole in the side. It won’t come out of last part into the tray. Kingsley grabs the end of the piece of paper and pulls it out and the paper comes out with deep ridges all down the paper. I tell them it’s fine and that I can just smooth out the paper as I travel to the school. Then as the next few print, the ink is becoming more and more faint and the ink from the previous page is being stuck to the new page coming out. By the time the third page comes out, it’s completely unreadable. I stay calm and tightly grip the one clear page I have printed out. Then another minute later the power goes out in the town. I just start laughing at this point. There’s no use in getting frustrated here, someone must be playing a joke on my anyway. It’s not 12:45 and I just leave and figure that I will think of something on the way. I go back to my room to drop off my computer where I pass the people at the end of the road again, without greeting them. At this point I just feel ashamed because I know they are all talking about how rude I’m being right now. I get back home and decide to wait for a car by the station in the middle of town. At 1:00, I decide to head back to the edge of town by the SHS and hitchhike my way to the JHS. That means that I now have to pass my people, once again, without greeting them. I wonder if they will even acknowledge me when I come home at the end of the day. I get to the end of the road and after 30 seconds of waiting a big truck comes down the road. I figure why not at least try my best to get a ride. I start waving and jumping and to my surprise I can hear the truck decelerating. I hop in and get a ride to Krobo, the junction town. From there I catch a taxi and get to Wonoo at 1:30. I quickly run into the nearest shop and buy snacks for the students. I buy a big grouped pack of sachet waters and hoist it over my head. I start to walk at a slower pace because I realize that I’m going to make it there on time. That would be pretty bad to show up late the day after I kick someone out of the same program for being late. I get there at 1:40 with 10 minutes to spare. Okay, according to Lombardi and me that’s 5 minutes late, but it’ll work for today.

 I get in the classroom and ask the tutors to hand out snacks and waters to everyone. As they do that I start to write the questions on the board. I put only the directions for each question so that they don’t have any opportunity to talk to each other about the problems while they eat their snack. Snack time ends and I finish writing the test on the board. 30 minutes later we end our session and leave.

 Later that night I’m grading the tests and with each test I feel like a dagger is being plunged into my heart. The scores are much worse than I expected. Granted I started with the weakest students, but I expected stellar performance. I get through the test and overall the English was much better, but the math was only a little better. I’m a little disappointed, but I’m also energized to restructure our tutoring sessions to get the students more involved. I will brainstorm with Spencer this weekend, but I’ve already been thinking of some ways to change things up. The students love the snacks and often times try to steal from each other or tell me that it’s not enough. I think I’m going to use Logical’s pay he missed out on for being late to buy additional snacks for each session. I want to have the tutors to award the students for answering questions with snacks. Even if it’s only a piece of one of the snack packs, I’m confident they will try a little harder to get the reward. I also think if there’s a way we can incorporate some kind of learning game into the sessions to get the lower scoring students to try a little harder. I have some time and resources to check for some other ideas to see if I can come up with a new and better structure for teaching these students more efficiently. I think a big problem is that we only get one hour a day for two days in a row with these students. There’s no need to stress myself out with finding the solution this night. I’m going to let my pillow speak to me and continue to think about creative solutions tomorrow.

Oohh, Ghana

I’ll start this story from this past weekend briefly on Friday. Daniel was home and had someone over making Banku to go with the Okru stew he made. I got back from my program a little later than expected and as I was heading out the door to leave for Kentinkrono, he asked if I wanted to eat. Without hesitation I pulled up a chair and two big dough-looking balls of Banku and a bowl of the stew. Everything was great except for the meat in the stew. It was beef, I think. The smell reminded me of the one that comes from the big bucket of cow legs I’ve walked by in the Kumasi market. No, that’s not a compliment. I nearly gaged. It wasn’t quite a rotten meat smell, but it was definitely not fresh. Well I can’t waste food, especially since they prepared food for me this night. Each bite of meat I ate a lot of stew and Banku at the same time. I really need to find a different strategy when I’m eating food that I don’t like. Stuffing more in my mouth each bite is a horrible one because it makes it hard to chew and get rid of the bad taste. The rest of the meal was great and I managed to get down the meat and was off to Kentinkrono.

 On Saturday, I went to a few high schools and recruited students to attend our SAT and college prep program. It was a bit hectic at times, but I sign up a lot of people and I think my trip was a success. When I started walking to the second school I felt some weird feeling in my stomach. I immediately thought of the meat and knew I was a ticking time bomb. I tried to hold it together and didn’t tell Spencer so that I could finish my tasks at the schools. Spencer left me at the second school so he could go back to our office for some SAT tutoring. This is when things started to go badly. I started to sweat even though I wasn’t hot. That’s generally a sign that throw up is soon to come and that’s also how my stomach was feeling. I sucked it up and met with the students. They must have thought I was crazy because here we were sitting in a cool classroom and I’m pouring sweat. I finish the session and go outside of the school to find a taxi straight to Dr. Mensa station to catch the tro tro home to Antoa. That’s very strange for me because every other time heading home I preferred to walk through Kumasi to get to the station. Right by the station we get caught in a traffic jam and everyone is out of their cars yelling at each other. The sight was pretty amazing, so the feeling was less poignant. I finally just got out of the car and walked the rest of the way to Dr. Mensa station. As I’m walking down the street I’m trying to take in the sights to avoid thinking about the awful feeling in my stomach. Right then, I notice someone walking directly toward me on my narrow path on the side of the street. I can’t help but burst out into laughter when I see the person is carrying four huge empty crates on his head. It didn’t look heavy, but the crates must have been about 20 feet tall. Okay I’ve seen some pretty amazing things balanced on people’s heads, but this is by far the best one. Then, my curiosity started to kick in. How did they get the last crate on the stack? How will they get them down when they reach their destination? Have they dropped any that were stacked that high and did it explode into a million pieces when it hit the ground? Well distracted, I pass through my little alleyway passage to the Antoa cars. I make sure to sit in the front of the car that I found. The road is so bumpy in the back and I don’t want that to invigorate anything with my stomach.

 An hour later, we arrive in Antoa and I didn’t embarrass myself on the Tro Tro ride. I hope out and take the express route home to avoid talking with anyone. Some people are doing some early celebrations for Momma Fausti’s one-week funeral tomorrow. I keep my head down and make it back pretty fast. Sure enough, I have diarrhea. This time is similar to when I took Cipro because I got no stomach pain relief after the diarrhea. I finally just accepted defeat and fell asleep at 19:00.

 Trying to sleep my sickness off, I slept until 08:00. Well, that only slightly worked. I didn’t have constant stomach pains, but I also didn’t have any solidity in my poop. Hey, I warned you before that poop talk in Ghana is like talking about the weather back in the US. I basically stayed in my room all day to avoid soiling myself in public and because I didn’t wanted to be seen around town if I wasn’t going to go to Momma Fausti’s one-week rites.

 That leads me to Monday morning. I wake up and feel much better. I’m a little hesitant to eat still, so I avoid the usual koko and kosi for breakfast. Instead, I try to get an early start for Kumasi. Today, I need to travel to the immigration office on the Tech campus and then travel back to Antoa to test a tutor to replace Logical for the Wonoo program.

 I go to the roadside at 07:00 to catch a car and get back to Antoa in time for the test at 15:00. I’m still not feeling 100%, so I skip breakfast and a chance at upsetting my stomach again. As I’m waiting I see many school buses pass, but few vacant Tro Tros. There is a woman waiting next to me with a bowl of snacks to sell in Town. She is doing some really weird dance, so I’m trying not to stare, or laugh. Finally, at 08:00 a Tro Tro comes and that lady, her friend, and I board the car. As I’m about to get into the back the mate turns to the lady’s friend before he gets into the front seat. He spoke some rapid fire Twi and all I caught was Obroni, which means it was something about me. Then the friend takes his hand off of the handle to the front and gets into the back of the car. I guess I’m supposed to sit up front on this one. It seems like everyone is also trying to get to Kumasi this morning. I guess this is the Ghanaian rush hour. It takes a few hours to get into Kumasi, or “Town” as people will say. After getting to the station I leave for the Tro Tros across town that go to Tech. I walked to the end of the line that is always basically empty in hopes that I would find one away from the crowd. Luckily, one that is practically empty pulls up. I hop in the back and wait for the car to fill. The drive and mate are talking and then as two women come to the car, they tell me to move to the front. Okay that’s strange, now two different cars in the same day have told me to move up to the front. I wonder why they would do that. It could be something as silly as they think they will get more business if people see an Obroni in the front seat or that they just don’t want me to be too close to their customers in the back.

 I get off at Tech and start to look for the Immigration office. I walk in and sit down with the officer in charge of the office. He tells me that I need to have a letter to override not having a return ticket and I need a passport size picture to attach to the form. Not a big deal, I walk across the hall and they type up a letter for me and I make sure they add that I’m a volunteer teaching at a school, so I look like a better candidate to keep in the country. After some searching, I find the photo place down by the roadside. The employee isn’t there, but there are a few people waiting. They are speaking Twi to each other and I can’t help but listen. I can catch a few words here or there, but not enough to be able to keep up with the conversation, so I decide not to speak up and slow them down. The young man sitting with us in line calls the employee a few times and tells everyone that he is coming shortly. He even breaks to tell me in slow English. Someone passes behind me and says, “Hey, Akwesi Matew!” I recognize them, but I have no idea from where. They are only speaking Twi to me, but it’s all the basic questions so I’m able to respond to them. Finally they leave and the people around me are sitting there with their mouths agape. The young man comments on how I’m trying to learn the language. I say “ahh, me te nkakera kakera.” Well, that just started them off with asking me questions in Twi. It seems like all Ghanaians ask the same few questions when the meet you because I’ve done this dance so many times now that I’m able to fly through their questions with out hesitation. Finally, the picture guy comes and we are all laughing. He joins in on the amazement of the Obroni speaking Twi. I tell them I’ve been here for two months and one woman nearly falls out of her chair, she can’t believe I haven’t been learning for longer. I get the picture done and the women tell me to get the young man’s number. He’s an incoming student at Tech University. I tell them “Onyame adom, y3b3 hyia.” That means, by God’s grace we will meet again. They let out a little yelp that not only did I use Twi, but I worked God into my sentence somehow. As I finish my sentence I’m already turning around to walk back to the immigration office. I’ve already been here for a while and I’m ready to head back.

 I get back to the office and he reads the letter written by the people across the hall. He tells me that since I’m a volunteer teacher at Antoa that I will need to go back and get a letter from the JHS and then come back to submit the forms. Well, my visa runs out on Friday, so that’s a bit of a problem. I don’t want there to be any other problems and then get charged the late fee. As I’m walking away from the office I call Spencer to see if he can write me a letter to say they I’m being hosted in Kentinkrono. The letter is mainly so they have a contact in case of emergency situations and Spencer will be much more responsive than anyone in Antoa. Luckily Kentinkrono is only a short ride down the road from Tech. I get the letter from Spencer and go back to the immigration office. He looks at the letter and immediately tells me it’s no good. He tells me that because there is no letter head that he can’t accept it. I point to the letterhead and ask him why that one doesn’t count. He literally tells me that the letterhead on the sheet can be made by anyone because it doesn’t have a logo or colors. I argue with him that they can just visit the website or call the number on the logo and validate more accurately than using colors or pictures. He tells me that the boss doesn’t have time to call each applicant and he will just reject it without hesitation if there is no letterhead. At this point I feel like yelling at this guy for wasting my time so that way his boss doesn’t have to take two minutes to pull up a website. I take a couple of breaths and calm myself down. I take the form and thank him before leaving his office. Now I need to head back to Kentinkrono to get a colored letterhead. I realize at this point I’m not going to make my appointment at 15:00, so I call him and push it back to 17:00. As I’m on my way back to Kentinkrono I realize that officer was actually helping me. I started to feel very lucky that he took the time to tell me how to make my application passable. He could have easily just taken the form knowing, and not caring, that it was wrong and would soon be rejected. I get the pen drive from Spencer with the new colorful letterhead and go to the same print spot in Kentinkrono. Well, they don’t do color printing. Now I need to head to Tech, except Spencer needs his pen drive back after I’m done. I call him and he is happy to meet me in Tech so I don’t have to travel back again after I’m done. I walk around the taxi station across from campus and ask around at the electronic shops where there is a color printer. Everyone I ask seems to either not know what color printing is or they hesitantly tell me to go to some other location. After being pinballed around for awhile I realize that my best bet is to go onto campus.

 Spencer is here now in Tech station and meets me to help me find the color-printing place on campus. We ask some people and most of them make some hand waving gestures that it’s somewhere by the immigration office. Spencer thinks there is some in the bookstore, which is conveniently a 30 second walk from the immigration office. It’s now approaching 15:00 and I tell Spencer that I won’t be surprised if as I’m walking up to the immigration office they will be locking the door to close for the day. We find out that the bookstore doesn’t have a color printer. We ask someone outside the store and they tell us to go down to the cross street and ask someone there. We walk down there and find what looks like the college printing place. They must have color printing here. They say they don’t have color printing, but the place two doors down has one. We get into the office and I cheer a bit inside as they tell us they can do color printing. He prints out the page in a few seconds. Okay, that was too easy for all this trouble. Right then I realize I’m right when I see part of the logo that didn’t get any color. Avoiding another rejection I tell the man to print another one. He tries to, but for some reason he can’t. He restarts the application a few times and has no luck. In the meantime other people are coming in and in their usual Ashanti aggressiveness ask the man to help them even though he’s clearly trying to print something for Spencer and me. I’m not sure why, but he continues to help the people that are coming in behind us. I don’t know, maybe this is an American thing, but I want him to finish with us before he moves on to dedicate his time to the next person. I can even tell that he isn’t thinking very hard about our issue because he is dealing with the other customers. Finally, he gets the document to work and prints an intact logo.

 Spencer leaves to get some work done and I head back to the immigration office for one last time today. At least I hope it’s one last time. I walk in the office and the three ladies that have been in there the whole time, but haven’t said anything to me tell me that they were waiting for me to come back before they closed. They tell me that I now owe them 10,000. I laugh that off praying that was a joke and they really aren’t going to try to get a bribe for this process. After all, they will have my passport and know the kind of power that holds. I give all the information to the man and he tells me that everything is set. As the women are filling out the receipt one of them asks me if I would be willing to marry on of the other ones. I go through my routine and tell them I’m a small boy, my money is small, and my Twi is small. These women being a little quicker than the market ladies I’m used to conversing with refute all of my points. Then one of them hands me my slip and tells me that I will have to come back in two weeks to get my passport. Two weeks! That’s half the time I have for the extension. Thinking quickly, I tell them that I will consider marrying the woman if she has my passport back by the end of the week. They all chuckle and follow with seriously saying that I can pay three times the amount of the extension to get it back this week. They tell me that I need to come back in two weeks just to check if it is ready. I tell them I live far away and would prefer to call before I come in person. I have to plead for a few minutes before I finally get the bosses number.

 I head back to Kumasi like normal to get the car back to Antoa. Oh and in Ghana people call everything a car, whether it’s a taxi, Tro Tro, or 18-wheeler. In this case, and in most others, I’m catching a  Tro Tro. I get to Dr. Mensa station and see another huge line for the Tro Tro heading to Antoa. This is different from last time because the line is three times as long and there is no policeman to escort me to the front. After about 45 minutes of waiting in line and some good people watching I start to get close. Then, the same policeman comes out of nowhere to help control the line. I stand tall to make sure he sees me… Wait it’s always easy to see me because I’m the only white guy in sight. He points to me and asks me where I’m headed. I respond and he tells me to wait small. Then as I’m about 15 people away he comes over to me and points to the car. I hesitate because I really don’t want to cut in front of this line again, but he walks over and physically pulls me to the car. I get up on the elevated car and sit right next to the open door. Now I’m sitting down and I’m about a foot above all the people that used to be in front of me in line. I notice the same woman who was dancing strangely at the station in Antoa. She’s making a commotion that the Obroni got onto the car before everyone else. I look at her and say “kafra, why.” That means I’m sorry. The Akan people add a word that sounds exactly like why onto their sentences. In English it is similar to saying, “ya hear?” That starts a whole other commotion because the Obroni just spoke Twi to the group of people.

 As we start driving away for Antoa I realize that we are heading back in rush hour also. That makes sense why the line was so long for the Tro Tro. I sit back, relax, and enjoy the long ride back. I think most Ghanaians expect to spend a full day on a simple errand like filling out a form for a visa extension. The frustratingly slow infrastructure in place now is probably a big barrier in the way of faster progress. Either way, it’s the way Ghana is and I’m still not entirely used to it, but I’m learning and having a great time along the journey.

A Bad Tutor in the Bunch and My Last Walk to Wonoo

Today is starting off slow, as usual. I’m sitting there quietly taping my keyboard as the sun is rising and the roosters are tirelessly calling to wake the town. I have to say the mornings are good competitors for the best part of my day. My love for the morning started when I lived at a house called Bonita. There was nothing Spanish about it and it was the exact opposite of beautiful. I lived with six roommates, three of which knew just about everyone at school, it seemed. That meant that there was something going on every single night; whether it be a party or fraternity event. However, that also meant that the mornings were desolate, until about 11:00 AM, when it all started again. Those mornings got me through the craziness of that house and stuck with me through my last year of college. Now, it is just part of my routine to wake up with the sun and enjoy the peaceful morning. That is one way that I fit in with this small town life so well.

 Even with the slow pace of the morning, it seems to go by in a flash as I find the time being 09:30. I have to run a few errands and greet people on my way to Wonoo, so I leave just before 10:00 to make sure I don’t have to rush. My first stop is to visit George Bush micro finance man. I really enjoy visiting him every morning because I can get my money broken down into smaller bills and have a good conversation. Today he seems especially lively. I get the money for the tutors broken down in case any of them are late today and I have to pay them less. I bring up that I met his brother, Owusu Ansah, the other day. I actually met Owusu when I was attempting to teach the primary child, but I never knew they were related until I spoke with Owusu again the other day. George Bush laughed and said that Owusu told him about the meeting. He told me that Owusu is the the fourth born child of six children. Four of them are male and two are female. I tell him that it’s time for me to go and he asks me how I get to Wonoo. I tell him that I walk. His tone immediately changes to make sure I know that he is not joking, in the least. He tells me that it is a very bad idea to walk along that road to Wonoo. A few other people have told me this, but I didn’t know them and I thought they were just over exaggerating. After all, my experiences were showing me that the people were very nice and caring. When George Bush tells me this, it strikes a chord in me. He said there are even people around Antoa who hate him because they seem him traveling to work everyday. He said the affect will only be magnified with me and walking in between towns along the road that goes through the bush is where it becomes unsafe. He closed the conversation and told me that his grandma taught him to love everyone and he said that he loved me and wanted to protect me. He told me that anytime he sees me with someone, he will pull me aside and tell me that they are a good person or that I should be carful because they are a bad person.

 I leave his office for Wonoo feeling a bit frustrated. I’m torn because I love this walk and the people along the way so much that I don’t want to give it up. However, I see his point and it is very poignantly affecting my decision because I trust him. I agree that I will walk today and figure out something different in the future. I greet my normal people on the way out of town, but can’t really invest myself in the conversation because I can’t stop thinking about the predicament. I pass through Adesena and almost get to Krobo before I meet someone on the street. With George Bush’s warning in the back of my head I can’t help but think that this guy is a criminal. He asks how I am with a big smile on his face. I tell him I have to go and just continue down the road. Now I’m in Krobo and as I near the edge of town by the road through the bush, I decide to not even walk today. I sit down in the shade and wait for a Tro Tro to pass. I’m sitting there for 20 minutes and people from the town are coming up to me to find out what I’m doing. Afer 30-minutes, a Tro Tro finally passes and I wave them down. They pass me without hesitation and I try to get a look in the window as they pass. It is packed with a bunch of elders all dressed in black. After another 20 minutes of waiting I decide to walk. A couple hundred feet down the road I hear a big vehicle that sounds like a Tro Tro. I turn around and it looks different, but I can’t quite tell. I check a few more times and finally realize it’s not the vehicle I’m hoping for. It comes to a stop next to me and the driver asks where I’m going. He tells me to get in and he will take me. I get a ride to Ohojo, the next town. I greet my normal people in that town, but again it just isn’t the same. I try to fight my distraction and enjoy potentially my last time visiting this sleepy town.

 I get to Wonoo with nothing more than the normal sincerity from everyone I pass. The program today went very well. Other than three of the students leaving early, I thought it was the best session yet. Isaac Darko’s group was very rowdy at the end as the girls fought over the marker to answer the question on the board. After the meeting at the end with the tutors, I give them their pay. Logical throws down his money in front of me and tells me that he doesn’t even want it and storms out of the room. I close the session and tell the other two tutors that I’m still in the process of finding a third to replace Logical. As I near the edge of town Logical approaches me and asks for his money. I can’t deny him the money since he put in the time, so I gave him his pay. However, I can cut him from the program and any future pay. He is very defiant and stubborn with his opinions of how he is being treated. As we speak he is very timid. He never looks me in the eye the entire time we talk. He doesn’t have a strong argument so he spreads them out over a few points, trying to get out of being penalized for his tardiness. He says that we should meet at the Primary instead of the JHS. I tell him that I want to meet at the JHS to take attendance and give the students their waters and snacks so they can eat and stretch their legs as they walk. Then, when they get to the primary they will all be ready to learn for another hour. I also don’t want the students to walk over to the primary on their own because it will be easier for them to leave. He says that I can just report their names to the school and they will be punished. Well, I want to avoid them getting beaten and if we just head over to the other school 10 minutes earlier we can try to avoid that whole situation. Then he says that we don’t start until 14:30 and end until 15:30, which is 30 minutes past their regular closing time. That’s the one point I agree with him on, but if all the tutors met on time at the JHS, then we could get the attendance done faster and have the students moving quicker over to the primary. I’ve dealt with enough BSers to sniff this one out. He’s just angry because I’m very punctual with time and that’s not what he’s used to or compliant with. He’s also the only one complaining about the timing from any of the other tutors or students. As we keep wrapping back around to the same arguments the Headmaster and another Master at Wonoo come up to us. They ask us about the situation and Logical describes the whole thing to them in Twi. Now he’s manipulating the Master’s opinions in a code that I can’t understand. I do very well to stay completely calm and after they translate the same exact argument to me, I tell them my side. This whole situation makes me feel very uncomfortable because it makes me feel like were in some kind of mediation. We end the conversation with the Headmasters suggesting that they will let out the students 10 minutes early for them to meet us at the primary at 14:00. That still totally misses the point of the students getting time to enjoy their snacks. I certainly can’t tell them that my plan also involves getting the students out of a beating because that is written into their culture and they see that as something that is completely normal and actually expected. Then they start to joke that he thinks he can be late because he is such a great tutor. Forcing a smile I agree that might be a reason. Then I drill back down on the point that he still has missed an entire week and been late every time except for two sessions. I could feel that at the end of our talk that the Masters were starting to side with Logical and there was nothing else to say at that point. I can only come at an argument in so many different directions when the opposition just repeats the same thing over and over again. Before we leave, I reinforce to everyone there that I still want the Masters to search for a new tutor and if Logical is late once more then I am kicking him out of the program. It’s starting to rain so they tell me to come back to town with them. I have a rain jacket, so I tell them that I’m going to start to walk back. Thinking I’m a bit crazy they leave me for shelter. I think the safest time to walk is through the rain anyway. No one in Ghana does anything when it rains; even the criminals are hiding inside somewhere. A decommissioned Tro Tro comes up stops next to me. They ask where I’m going and tell me to hop in. I tell them I’m going to Antoa and he says a bunch of rapid fire Twi and ends with the word Krobo. I could just tell by instinct that he said they were only going to Krobo and turning in the other direction. Almost without hesitation I say in Twi that Krobo is fine.

 I ask to be let out at the end of town so that way I can greet all the people as I make my way back home. I get back and get settled in my room. I take some time to pull the positives out of everything that happened today. As for the walk I’ve had some time to think about the whole situation and I really agree with George Bush. My safety takes priority over anything else. If it means that I will have to miss out on talking with some people, then that’s the way it will have to be. It would hurt much more than the wounds anyone could inflict knowing that because of my selfish and unsafe decision took away from my programs. I’m here to help these students get their education and I’ll do everything in my means to accomplish my mission. I really also think this whole thing is a blessing. Thinking back to that situation where I wanted to teach that primary school student and Daniel told me that I can spread myself to thin if I want to accomplish my main mission with a high quality. Well I see that applying to my situation walking. I want to walk through these various towns and meet all of these people I’m giving up time that I could be spending with the people in Antoa. Instead of spending those hours walking, I could spend it waiting for the Tro Tro in town and sitting with a new group of people everyday. After all, I’m closer to these people and have more access if they need help from me or vise versa. It might be a little more money to take the Tro Tro every time I travel to and from Wonoo, but I know it will be a much better decision for my health and the people that I live with everyday. I’m wrapping up this blog post now after I’ve had time to sleep on the whole issue. Or as they say in Ghana I’ve had time for my pillow to speak to me. I can honestly say that I’m very happy about the whole change of my situation and I’m excited to fortify my relationships with the people of Antoa. As for Logical, I will continue to look for additional tutors to replace him. Only time will be able to solve that problem at this point.

 Tomorrow is an interesting day because it is the first Thursday in awhile that I don’t have to travel to Kentinkrono in the morning and hurry back for a meeting with the SHS. I want to use my day tomorrow productively and creatively. I suppose we’ll have to wait to see what I get myself into.

School Holiday

Today is a Muslim Holiday and everyone has the day off. The nurse that lives in my compound, Fadella, and the other two that come often are Muslim, so they have all traveled to visit home. The morning is pretty slow as get some Expo stuff done and finally get to read. American man had told me in passing that the assistant chief comes into town on Tuesday, so I make an effort to visit him today. I head out around lunchtime to visit American man and ask him about the process of visiting the Assistant chief.

 As I get down to Andrews shop, two people I have met in different areas are all here hanging out with him. He has a bench at the front of his shop that people often come to sit on as they visit him. Now that I think of it, he must have a lot of friends because there is almost always people sitting there chatting with him. The first person sitting there is Owusu Ansah. He was the young man that helped me when I was trying to teach the child in primary. Every time we meet he asks me really interesting questions so I like to talk with him because I don’t have to go through the same script I go through with everyone else. I sit down next to him and greet the group. Next to him is a young woman I met at Andrews shop when he was leaving for Kumasi. We walked down the road and she told me about her dream to be nurse and her path to accomplishment. I asked her if she was just good with that or if she had more hopes and dreams to accomplish. She told me that she want to travel and be a nurse in the other Countries of Africa that are more in need than Ghana. Wow I was just blown away by that answer, I definitely have to find out more about her when I get a chance. Owusu is speaking directly to me with his back turned to the group. He tells me that George Bush, the microfinance man, is his brother. I nearly yelp in excitement. They are both so kind and genuine, it really makes sense they are related. He tells me that George Bush has been mentioning my name all around the house. The girl kept cutting in to say different things to me, addressing me as white man. I don’t know why, but it just makes me uncomfortable when people call me white or white man. I know it basically means the same thing as Obroni, but I want them to address me by my name. My unease mostly comes when people know my name, but they insist to address me without an identity. I suppose that’s what is fueling my cultural learning. I don’t want to be addressed as the foreigner; I want to be known by my name and who I am. I start to address her as Obibini, which mean black or Ghanaian person. Normally in English I would never address someone as black person, but the Ghanaian’s think it’s funny when an Obroni calls them Obibini. She continues and asks me to buy her things and then asks if she can see my phone and eventually to give it to her. Now her conversation was exactly like most other people I’ve visited. It was a bit disappointing after our great discussion about her aspirations and thoughtful answers. I have a feeling she is putting on a front because of her friends nearby. She gets up to catch a Tro Tro to Kumasi as Owusu, Andrew, and I continue to talk about the differences in our education systems. Finally the sun gets to hot for me to stay there any longer and I leave for American Man’s house. I greet the dreadlock girl in the place next door and end with my greeting to the group of women who must have just finished breast-feeding. That’s only an assumption though she could just be sitting there airing out one of her breasts. Trying to suppress my 10-year-old laughter, I continue down the road. I stop by Moses’s shop, but his bins are closed and he’s not anywhere to be seen. I get to American Man’s house and he is out working in the front of his yard. We catch up quickly and he asks if I’ve heard about Momma Fausty. He says, “African’s are so stupid, she had diabetes and refused to tell anyone and died because of it.” I have no idea how to comment on that statement, so I just say that I’ve visited the family and it’s a very sad situation to have the daughter’s funeral so close to the mother’s. As for the Assistant Chief, he tells me to go visit him at his palace and if he’s not there to write a letter and leave it with the secretary. On my way back I can here Moses yelling my name from the street, “Akwesi Mattew!” He’s not wearing his work jumpsuit, but he still can’t seem to stay away from his work. He has his corn milling station open and people passing through. He sits down to talk with me for a few minutes and tells a passing elder that I’m interested in the history of Antoa. The elder, with a glimmer in his eye, starts the story. He starts the history from back in time when the Ashanti men were warriors and fought with the other groups of people around Ghana. I’m half expecting to say that this was 1,000’s of years ago. He tells me that the Ghanaians were modeling themselves after the Americans. Great, that means this wasn’t anywhere near that long ago. He continues and tells me that some of the Ashanti’s didn’t want to fight, so they searched through the forest for somewhere to settle in peace. People mostly settled near a river because it meant they had a secure source of water. Well, those people found a river and settled. Then another group of Ghanaian’s, trying to escape the fighting, came to join the first group near the same river. They named that town Antoa, which means those who have follow us. Then some of those people traveled to the Northern part of Ghana to get blessing from Fetish Priests. Priests in different locations told the people staying in Antoa that they lived near a very powerful river. That led to the blessing and curses being conducted for the River God. I probably butchered that terribly. I’ll ask some more elders and try to nail down this story.

 For lunch I get food from the ladies in front of my compound. I walk up to the vulgar lady and expect her to tell me something like I should like her boob or bring her to bed with me tonight. Instead, she’s totally serious with a somber look on her face. I try to get her to smile, but nothing is working and I’m very hungry. I get some ampesea na bayer3 na contumeray abomu, which means fried plantain and cooked yams and contumeray stew. It is very good and fills me up for cheap. I take the back way to the chief’s palace and greet everyone along my path. The chief wasn’t there today, as I expected, so I got his name and went back home.

 The football game between Ghana and Egypt is on tonight, so I can hear people screaming in all directions. They are also projecting the game announcement over the loud speakers for the people with no TV. Apparently Ghana beat Egypt 6 to 1 and has one more game before they head to the world cup. Daniel gets home after the game with some wood to nail to my bed for the mosquito netting. He has no saw, so he uses the kitchen knife to cut the wood. I take a few steps back and slightly and hide most of my body behind the nearest pillar. He cuts all the pieces and somehow all of his fingers are still in the same place. Then he says he doesn’t have a hammer so he goes into the kitchen and comes out with the metal part of a pickaxe. I hold the board, far away from where he’s making contact, and he is hitting the nails into the wood. Except every other blow he nocks the nail to the side and has to pry it back to a straight position. We finally get everything up and it looks quite terrible, but I can’t complain because the net covers my whole bed.

Fetching Water, Meeting Tutors, and Cultural Lessons

Today is Monday the 14th, I’m finally caught up on the blog…Well sort of. All I have on the schedule is to meet with the SHS students after school to give them the lesson plan for the rest of the term. However, that isn’t until three so I have some time to kill in the morning. I make my usual run in the morning for koko and kosi. I’ve been to this woman so many times now that after I’m done greeting her she has my food ready and I don’t even have to ask. 50 peswas of koko and 50 peswas of kosi. Breakfast every morning for $0.50, that’s a pretty good deal and it fills me up so I can last past lunch if I am really busy. I make all my usual greetings on the way to the seller, but it still feels weird. I’m just not sure about the vicinity of the people I’m expected to greet. It is now my mission to interrogate people and find out all the rules to show people that I’m not just some ignorant Obroni. I figure it’s better to over greet then to miss someone and assume I didn’t have to greet them. I even greet all the same people on the way back, with my food. Daniel came home this morning from spending the night in Kumasi last night after his Churching. A small boy, about 10 years old, comes to the front and is pounding on the door. I open it and he has a large barrel of water on his head. He comes back several times and fills up both of our reservoirs. No easy task for one person.

 I can’t believe I just remembered that I left out my story last week when I tried to fetch water. After the event of Friday, when none of the Antoa tutors showed up I felt like I had to do something physical for awhile and get everything off my mind. Normally back home, I would just go and work out. Here you do chores, which is a workout in itself. I decided to call my friend, Charles, and ask him to help me fetch the water. We grabbed one of the big black tubs that most people do wash with. Remember, laundry is called wash here. I take an old shirt to put on the top of my head to cushion the weight. Charles is warning me that everyone will be staring at me, as they did when Adam fetched his water. I told him that’s fine and really no different than any other part of my day. I told him that I want to be able to balance the water on my head without holding it with my hands. Charles pauses and looks at me and says that if I can manage to do that, people will fall to the ground. We get over and turn the nozzle so the water pours out and fills the bucket. On my walks through the random towns, I see most people having to use a well pump that looks like someone on a small railroad car that you have to pump downward to move. I guess we’re pretty lucky that we only have to walk to the end of town to fetch it and when we get there it just flows out. I’ve heard some of my Ghanaian friends telling me stories of people having to travel for much longer and taking much more time to do so. As the bucket is halfway filled up I start to get nervous. When I was doing my wash I didn’t quite have the appreciation for the size of this container. Charles tells me that he will help me lift mine and then he will lift his and finish filling it on his head with the raised nozzle. Ugh… wait, so I have to hold this huge bucket of water on my head while he fills his up, all before we walk all the way back home. Okay, now my confidence is completely shot. On the way over here I had a bit of a swagger to my step knowing that I can lift a lot of weight with my shoulders and with the aid of my head, I thought it would be easy. The bucket is about 90% full and with now very little confidence I shut off the water and suggest that it might be better not to fill it the whole way. One of the women from the end of the road that I greet comes over to help me prepare everything. She takes my shirt and folds it in a circle and puts it on my head. She then tells me that I need to fill the bucket the whole way. Yeah, there’s no way I’m doing that. I pick the bucket up and start to lift it on my head on my own. The woman comes over and helps me to prop it on my head. Okay, this isn’t that bad at all. I can definitely do this and make it back to the house. I don’t know about multiple trips, but I’m gaining confidence about this first one. Charles fills his bucket up and tells me to start walking first. Remember what I’ve said before about always having to watch the ground in Ghana because you literally might fall in a sewage ditch or sprain your ankle on a random rock or hunk of metal. Yeah well, that’s much harder to watch for when you have a huge barrel of water on your head. I start to walk back at an efficient pace. I want to beat my fatigue. Charles quickly tells me to slow down and be careful and repeats himself several times. I’m way to stubborn to listen to him and what does he know? It’s not like he’s been doing this since he was a small child… Oh wait. We walk up a small hill and I cross the first gutter. Except as I’m taking the step across I look down. I found out quickly that’s not such a good idea when I’m using my head to balance a big tub of water. Oh, so that’s why I took my physics class. I wish I could be with my JHS class and be teaching them about physics right now. I think if I taught them about inertia and compared it to changing directions and having the water continue and spill over the side they would remember. So, I look down at the gutter and my first bit of water spills out of the front of the bucket. It hits me right on the thigh and soaks my pants. It’s pretty obvious now, to everyone, that I’m failing at this. Oh and Charles was very right about people watching me. People are peaking around corners and yelling to their friends to come watch the Obroni spill all over himself. We get down the road and I’ve been using my shoulder muscles pretty much the whole time. I find out pretty quickly that was an awful idea. Now my arms are too tired to hold up except if I drop them, I drop the bucket. I should have let the weight of the water rest on my head and save my shoulder muscles to help balance the bucket. We cross back over another gutter and I look down again. I’m a pretty fast learner aren’t I? Except this time I’m much more tired, so about twice the amount of water as last time spills out and hits me on the thighs and crotch area. Now soaked, I look up to navigate the rest of the way. I have two options. I can either go to the left and duck under a tree hanging at about 5 feet tall, or I can go to the right and walk down a stairway made of old bricks that are all at different intervals and about half the size of my actual foot. I just start to panic at this point. I don’t want to hurt myself here and jeopardize my walk to Wonoo or any other experiences I might get from my healthy body. I tell Charles I need to put the bucket down and rest. He tells me he will come over and help me get the bucket down. My stubbornness kicks in and I just take the bucket off of my head myself. I help him take his off of his head. Before I can even open my mouth a small girl about 10 or 13 comes over and asks if I need help. Actually she didn’t ask me anything as she rips the shirt out of my hand and proceeds to lift the bucket onto her own head. Defeated, I help Charles with his bucket. We walk back to the compound and they pour the water from their heads into the main bucket. That is way harder than it looks and if you have ever had the thought of it looking easy, I would like to invite you to give it a try. Needless to say, I will be coming back to this and maybe starting with a smaller bucket until I get better.

 Okay, so now you have an appreciation for this boy who just came back and forth probably about 10 times to fill our reservoirs and I’m sure this doesn’t count as a pass out of his normal household chores. I thank him as many times as I can fit medaase before he leaves the compound. I take this opportunity to get a much needed shower. I spend the next bit of time until lunch writing the blog and catching up on some emails. Daniel made some rice before he left and told me that there is some left. I eat the rest in the pot for awia aduane. Literally translated to sun/afternoon food, meaning lunch. Then I head out to greet my friends on the way to the SHS. I stop by the George Bush, the microfinance man. He told me that he wants my old phone if I get a new one. I told him that the phone is broken and he can’t make a call for more than 30 seconds, but he insists that it will be better than the rubber banded one that he has. I will be checking on that later this week. I really like George Bush, he is such a nice man and the way he cracks up when I put some passion into my Twi makes me laugh even harder. He is one of the first people that I met in Antoa as Adam showed me around the town. Actually now that I think of it, he was second to those ladies right outside of my compound that ask me obscene things. One of them has recently been asking me to lick her breast every time I see her. She’s a real romantic, isn’t she? Okay, I leave his place and greet the ladies as I pass to the stretch leading out of town. The stores on the stretch out of town are all on the left hand side. The first group of ladies never really say much to me. Then the next shop is the salon, where some of the ladies will speak up and ask me a few questions, but mostly they just greet me back. Then, there is a young man who owns the next shop. Oh and by the way, when I say shop I mean an old shipping container that they opened and converted into a store. His name is Andrews and every time I pass he looks very happy to see me. He has always taught me at least one word or phrase in Twi almost every time I pass him. I sit with him today and have a bit of an extended chat. Last time we spoke he shared his passion with me about serving in the US military. I did some small research for him and found that a few option for him, but he seemed most interested in finding a citizen to marry. I can’t say I blame him, that would sound like the best option to me as well. So today when we chat I tell him about strategies of how to woo a woman from the US. Some of our friends from town join us and we quickly change the conversation to either me or some rapid fire Twi, between them, that I don’t understand. Then there is a tailor right next to his shop. She is always very nice, but never says much more than the basic greeting. Next is some kind of women beauty thing. There is one woman here who has very long dreadlocks. I think she owns the shop because the others I see here come and go, but she’s always here. She’s a young woman with a nice smile and peaceful demeanor. The other women here are also very vulgar, so I just make funny faces at this girl wen the others are trying to test me. Then there’s a break in the shops where some Tro Tros pull down and wash at the end of the day. This is also back near the water filling area. Then there are two more container shops. There are three main women that stay at this shop. They are always very nice and we often have long conversations. These are also the women that often times have just started breast-feeding in the middle of our conversation. I told the story about these women when one just pulled up her shirt from the bottom to breast-feed and I was trying to act normal and failing pretty badly. Just last week one of the women gave me some rice, stew, and meat for breakfast and didn’t accept my money. They are a must stop every time I pass. There are a few more wooden stands at the end where another group of women stay before the shops end. Then on the right side is Moses the Welder’s shop, or two containers. After I make all my greetings I continue down the road to the SHS. I meet with the tutors and give them the plan for the term and reinforce that they need to plan what they will be teaching each session. I test Charles to see if he will qualify to be a tutor.

 I walk back with Charles and ask him to accompany me to Momma Fausty’s compound so that way I can ask him about greeting her family. I really don’t want to do anything that will offend anyone. He leads me over there and prepares me. I walk in and there is a bunch of older people, dressed in all black traditional clothing, sitting in a half circle. I start from the person on the right and greet everyone going to the left. Then they offer for me to take a seat and out of nervous compulsion not to offend I take a seat. They tell me that I’m expected to show up to the one-week funeral this coming Sunday. One man stands up and tells me that I must bring my traditional funeral clothing. There is a pause in our talking and I take that as a chance to leave. In Twi, I say please, I am going. Me pachew, me ko. My spelling is probably awful. Then as I’m walking out I say y3b3 hyia kosiada, or we will meet Sunday. Then as I’m half way out the door I say da yie, or sleep well. As I take my last step out of the door I can hear them roar with laughter and all repeat what I had just said.

 I spend the rest of the night with Charles, asking him about cultural things that I want to clear up. Here is what I learned: If you are sitting in a fixed position, you are not obligated to greet people who pass you. They are the ones that are obligated to greet you first. If you are passing someone who is seated with about 20 feet from you, then you are obligated to greet. If you go out to buy something and greet people on your way there, you are not obligated to greet them again on the way back. You must not be the first to ask an elder how they are. They must initiate that question and then you can reverse it back to them. Don’t buy kosi from a seller and not the koko. If the Kosi runs out, then most people won’t buy the koko and they lose money. I think there were a few other things, I’ll update everyone when I remember those. 

Last Week’s Catch Up Story

Now I’m going to cover this past week starting with where I left off on Sunday night…

 Before I fell asleep on Sunday I noticed that my stomach had some minor pains. Not really upset, more of a direct pain. I figured it was something in my food and I tried to sleep it off. I woke up at about midnight and the pain was much worse. I felt like something was trying to jump out of my stomach from the inside. I just woke up, so my thinking wasn’t clear yet and I couldn’t tell if I needed to throw up or just poop. I rushed to get a bucket and fill up the back of the toilet. I got the toilet paper from my room and went into the bathroom. Well no throw up came out, but my poop was completely liquid. Ghana has finally cnquered my stomach. It’s been about a month and a half with good poop fortune. I’m feeling relieved now because at least I will start feeling better and can go back to sleep. I get back to my room and my stomach starts to get a sharp pain again. I figure this is a good a time as ever to take my cipro. I take one pill and after about 20 minutes I get enough relief from my stomach pains to fall asleep.

 On Monday I met with the Anota SHS tutors after school to find out what happened on Friday. They tell me that they didn’t come because it was raining and they thought it would have been over by the time the rain stopped. I reinforced our policy and told them that they need to show up, rain or shine. I told them if they don’t show up next week then I will find new tutors. I also reminded them that they missed out on 10 Cedis for 2 hours of work because of the rain. I think I got the point across this time. It’s unfortunate because when I spoke to the Academic Headmaster at Antoa, he said that the students can’t come when it rains. It’s going to be hard to break a habit that has been reinforced through these students entire childhood. When it rains in Ghana, people just don’t do anything. They don’t go to work or school. After the Antoa meeting, I call Logical to make sure he’s planning on being there this week and the Wonoo Headmaster to start looking for new tutors.

 Tuesday, on my way to the Wonoo program I stop by Moses the welder. He is a very nice older man that I greet as I exit and enter town. When I walk up he always yells “Akwesi Mattew!” He’s a very genuine guy right down to his core. He the town welder, car repair guy, and maze grinder. Everything he does is self-taught. One day he just bought the machinery and had to learn the trade to feed his family. He has three daughters, all in school outside of Antoa. His whole family is from and still lives in Antoa. He looks like he might be in his late fifties with some gray hairs, but he is still very fit. I think he can be considered handsome for an older man. He is always smiling when I see him and always makes me feel like I’m at home when I visit his shop. I met his wife and she’s not exactly the best-looking woman, she’s missing a few teeth, and certainly isn’t in his kind of physical fitness. Yet you can see the love he has for her, his customers, and his town of Antoa. I think this sums up the rest about him when I asked him if he would ever want to live anywhere else, like in the US. He crinkled up his face and said “Go somewhere else!? I was born here, so by God I will die here.” Well Expo needs to weld a sign on our new SAT office building, so I figured this would be the perfect guy to give our business. Not only would he do a good job, but also he would charge us a fair price. I ask if he can come by on Thursday when I will be at the office to see what the job will cost. He gladly agrees and we exchange numbers.

 On my walk I meet Spencer two towns down. He is coming to my program today to observe how it is going and to visit his old town. I think he’s also interested in seeing the people on my walk after I have said so many positive things about my experiences. I still say that my walk to and from Wonoo is my favorite part of the week. We walk by all my normal people, but the clouds aren’t today to protect us from the scorching sun. Some of the key people aren’t out, so we try to pick up our pace so the sun doesn’t defeat us. We get to Wonoo and Spencer asks some of his students about their BECE exams at the end of their JHS schooling. We get to the Wonoo JHS and Spencer checks the scores in the official book. 100% of his students passed the test and the majority of them got into their 1st choice school. Needless to say he’s on cloud 9 right about now. It really proves that his time here in Ghana has been well spent and he has made a huge difference in these student’s lives. I’m very proud of him and excited to make some of my own similar change.

 Logical shows up late again for Tuesday’s session. The session went well and all of the tutors did well with their groups. I meet with them after and give them some things to improve on and things they did well. Then Spencer and I met with logical after and told him that we know he’s a very good tutor, but he is going to be replaced if he doesn’t show up on time. He argues a bit, but we end with a handshake and he says thank you.

 

Wednesday, I go to the Wonoo program for the second day. Logical is late again. I meet with the tutors at the end like usual. I go over the positives and negatives or their performances. Then I tell Logical that he has been late two times this week and his pay will be deducted. He starts to argue with me again. I don’t accept any of his points because they are all unintelligent excuses. I tell him that the next time he shows up late he will be kicked out of the program. I have asked him about the situation and given him enough chances.

 Thursday, I have a lot to do before I go to the SAT office with Moses the welder. First, I meet with the microfinance man, nicknamed George Bush, right next to my house. He’s a very kind man and can break down my large bills into smaller ones. I also enjoy chatting with him about all kinds of things. Today, I am asking him about his business and maybe if I can get some sort of apprenticeship out of this. What he does doesn’t sound like what I’m really interested with. I think I am more interested in micro lending. I am looking for organizations like the Grameen Bank and their program called Gramin Shakti, run by Mohammed Unis. From there I pass by a young girl who works in the bar because she wants to make me some food. I tell her that I will be back in town around 18:00. Then I head to meet one of the JHS masters. We have a really long and great conversation about our two cultures. I love these kinds of exchanges because I learn so much. I leave there and take a side path to get to Moses. On the side path I meet a whole new group of people I’ve never met before. I also notice a road that leads away from Antoa to a town I’ve never seen before. One day I will need to go explore that area. I get to Moses and we travel to a place called Stadium, to the Expo SAT office. During the trip our Tro Tro breaks down, we get rear ended by another Tro Tro, and then finally get to Stadium, a little later than expected. I get back to town later that night and I meet this young girl who has made me Banku and stew. I make no hesitation to feast down on the food. On my way out she gives me a short story book to read. I get home and read through the 10-page storybook, which was actually quite awful.

 On Friday, I stop by the girl at the bar and give her the book and thank her. She gives me another, slightly longer, book to read. I enjoy these books because they are very culturally relevant and are pretty easy to get through. Only one tutor shows up on time for the Antoa program. I tell him that he needs to teach all 40 of the students. He had a look of panic on his face. I can’t help but laugh and I tell him this will be good for him to experience. Then three more tutors show up a few minutes later and I split the groups up between the tutors. I meet with the tutors after and only pay the one on time in full. The other ones I only pay for the second session. It might seem harsh, but since this program is only once a week for two hours, a late tutor has a much more detrimental affect on the program. I’m letting go of the fifth tutor who didn’t show up either time these two weeks.

 I travel to Kentinkrono at night, so we can just leave from there in the morning for the SAT office. On Saturday, many students show up to our office for our program. It was a very successful day. Later that day head to Kumasi to get a new phone. This time I go to the Vodefone café with hopes that I will get an honest dealer there. I get on the Tro Tro at my usual station for Antoa. There are about 40 people waiting in line for the Tro Tro. Wow, there is actually a line and people not crazily pushing to get into the car. Then, I notice a policeman to my left. Oh great, I try not to make eye contact with him. I’ve heard so many stories about how corrupt the police are, so I don’t want him to target me for a bribe or anything. The next Tro Tro comes and the policeman calls Obroni. I look over at him, preparing myself for anything to happen. He tells me to come with him. Well there’s no way I’m getting out of what ever is going to happen now. I leave the line and he gestures for me to go to the front of the line. I tell him that I don’t want to cut in front of all the people in the line. He doesn’t hear any of it and gestures once more before I listen. He leads me to the car. All I can think is that he is going to ask me for money for him getting me to the front of the line. I feel really uncomfortable cutting all of those people in line. I don’t want to be given any special treatment because I’m a white man. I really want to live and experience a small part of the life with the locals, but as I’ve found so far, that’s pretty much impossible. He doesn’t ask me for money as he closes the door behind me. I am sitting in the middle of the back row. There is an older gentleman to my right and a Muslim woman to my left. I can see the man look over a few times out of the corner of my eye. I catch him looking and he asks how I am in English. I answer him in Twi and he yelps. He starts asking me the general Twi questions I hear everyday, so by now I’m able to answer them in rapid fire sequence. The woman to my left joins in on the conversation and can’t stop saying “Obroni te Twi paa.” That roughly translates to the white man is speaking Twi very well. Directly translated that means white person speak Twi very. Then the woman directly in front of me turns almost completely around in her seat to join in on the conversation. I’m trying not to speak too loudly because Tro Tro’s are mostly like public buses at home. People don’t really have conversations with each other, unless they are arguing about something happening right there. Now the mate keeps turning around to look at me and he gets the attention of the people in the front row of the car. Now I’m speaking with this group in the back and everyone in the Tro Tro can’t resist from turning around to watch me speak Twi.

 Sunday, is a slow day as I spend most of it to catch up on blog and Expo stuff. I meet with my friend Charles and we talk about our cultures. He asks me some questions about the US and I ask him all kinds of things about Ghana. He tells me that it’s an abomination to greet someone on the way to the toilet. He also tells me that if you’re sitting down, it isn’t you obligation to greet people who pass by. The passer by is the one that is obligated to greet everyone nearby their path. I’m still a bit fuzzy on who I need to and don’t need to greet. But, it sounds like it’s better to go out of my way to greet then to assume that I can just pass.

 One of Charles’ friends joins us and they show me the dances of the Ashanti region. They look really goofy. They are good dancers, but their moves look like their peeling something or throwing something behind them. They said they will need to teach me all of them soon. Then Charles’ friends tells us that Momma Fausty has died. Momma Fausty is the woman who Adam introduced me to, in order to make sure that I am wanted by the town. She is a very powerful person in the town and everyone knows her. Her mom just died last weekend and the news that she just died really surprised me. All I could think of was last week when I spoke to her. I was on my normal koko run for breakfast and a girl runs up behind me and tells me that Momma Fausty was calling for me. I walk all the way back across the town and she was sitting on the front porch of her restaurant. We shared a few words and I it ended there because my Twi is terrible and I don’t think she likes or knows English. She tells me to go get my food and on my way back I hoped to see her again, but she had gone back in her compound. I forgot to write my experience of the first time I went to meet her on my own a few weekends ago to give her my sympathy for her mother passing. I asked someone at the front of the compound where she was and they lead me in to her. I felt like I was being lead to speak with the godfather. She was sitting in the back of a large group of people. She was in a row with some elders of the town. She was wearing all black to show that she was mourning for her mother. I greeted her and started to express my sympathy. She snapped and pointed somewhere and someone came out of the dark corner with a chair for me. I have no doubt she could make the same motion and have someone ‘disappear’. I really didn’t know her well, but I’m very sad that she died so young. After all, she only lasted a few weeks longer than her mother and she still has three children, all in SHS and JHS schools. 

A Bad Week for Some Tutors and More Lessons

I know I’ve been far behind on my blog these past few weeks and it is going to be very hard to catch up if I give the kind of detail I have been giving. I also don’t think I can remember that kind of detail from so long ago. I’m struggling to remember everyone’s name and location, let alone what I did last week. I seriously have to map out in my head where and who I have met in the areas I go to every week. If I have met someone and don’t seek them out to greet them the next time I pass, they will get angry. I get a little break because I’m an Obroni, but if you pass someone without greeting them in this culture, then next time you need something they won’t be very receptive. I want to keep a good reputation in my usual areas and knowing people in Ghana makes a huge difference when trying to get anything done. Anyway, basically that all means that I am going to give a quick overview of the events from the past two weeks. I also try to cover all the memorable stories from my trips around town. Once I’m caught up, I will start to give more detail of each day again for this coming week.

 Okay back to the week after Hideout, or two weeks ago. I went through the normal rhythms of my week with the Wonoo program. The biggest problem with that program was that one of the tutors didn’t show up either day. He was also late one day the week before. Out of four sessions, he’s only showed up on time once. The other two tutors were early all four sessions. I paid them each 20 Cedis, or 5 Cedis a session and thanked them for being so consistent. I called the other tutor Wednesday night to ask where he has been. He said that he has had issues with work and transportation back to Wonoo. Before he let me speak, he asked when he could come collect his pay. I told him that transportation was not an excuse and he should have been there and called me when he was going to be late. I told him that he is only making 7 Cedis, 5 Cedis for showing up on time and 2 Cedis for showing up late. He lost control and started yelling at me and saying that I have been cheating him. I explained to him over and over again that this policy was set in the beginning of the program and then he finally hangs up on me. Immediately I start to make calls and plan to test other tutors to replace this one.

 On Thursday I call the tutor back and he is much more calm about the situation. I tell him the policy again and he asks when he can come collect his pay. Then I head over to the Antoa SHS Academic Headmaster to ask for him to collect the tutors that I’ve selected for the program. He tells me to come back at 3 to speak with them. I return slightly before three and get ready to give them a presentation on the program. I write all of the main points on the board of an empty classroom. As I’m waiting for the tutors to come, the students who were in this class come back and sit down in their seats. I wasn’t really sure what to do at this point, it looks like they are ready for me to teach them. I tell them I’m here to meet some form 3 SHS and then continue to chat with them about their classes and school. I see some students pull out their phones and look from the board to their phone like they were writing down my notes. Right then I realize that my number is on the board. Quickly, I go over and erase my number before any more of them can write it down. Classes end and the students swarm me to ask me random questions. I tell them they have to leave because the SHS students are coming into the classroom. All five of the tutors show up. I tell them all the main points about the program and make sure to repeat the late policy a few extra times then I did for the Wonoo program. It was a very strange meeting because I would ask them something as a group and they would just sit there and stare at me. There is a very strange superiority thing going on between the Master and students at Ghanaian schools. I don’t think the students are encouraged to speak up in the class. Instead they all speak in unison. So, I point at each student and repeat the question. Still, I barely get answers out of them. By the end a few of them begin to speak up for the group and I have to ask the ones not speaking to make sure they agree with the decision. I get all my points across and leave the room feeling a bit defeated.

 I get home and there is no water at the house. The clinic man and nurse I live with used up all the water over the weekend and didn’t get anymore. I’ve never fetched water before, so I don’t know how or where to get more. Well it looks like I’m sleeping dirty tonight. I also still don’t know the whole situation with the town brining food for me and the nurse cooking for me. All I do know is that there’s no food in the house and certainly nothing being cooked for me. I take this opportunity to venture out into town to get some food. It’s nighttime so I stick close to the populated areas. I run into a few men who were just hammered drunk and I try not to speak to them for long. They just keep repeating the same thing over and over again. I leave them and join a group of women around a fire. It looks like they’re cooking rice. Oh good, I ask for some food. She asks if I like eggs, pepper, and rice. I say yes I like all three and she just does everything for me. They are all very nice and insist I sit down and chat while the food is being cooked. I get them to squeal a bit with the Twi that I know. She hands me the sack of food and asks for one Cedi. Wow, that’s pretty good considering fried rice anywhere else is 3 to 5 Cedis. I tell them I will see them again soon and leave to eat the food at home. Great, I don’t even have water to wash my hands first. I eat the food with my hand, like most other meals and then try to get some work done on my computer. The pepper was very hot, so I start to sweat, but luckily I have a fan in my room. Then, the power goes out and now I’m stuck in my room with no light, fan, or water to bathe. I have drinking water, which is always available, but I’m not going to waste that to bathe. Feeling a bit defeated from the day I just lay down on the bed and fall into a deep, sweaty sleep.

 On Friday I wake up and put everything behind me from the past two days and focus on the Antoa program. I actually feel pretty good about it because I had done everything I could to address the problems and could only wait until my plans unfolded from there. I go around and buy all the snacks for the program. I plan for 60 students to show up, assuming that at least 10 would drop out. With five tutors I buy 60 snacks and divide them up into five groups. I get five bags filled with the biscuits and drop them off at Antoa. Tio tells me that the students will go get the water packs. They come in packs of 30, so I would need two. I’ve carried one back to my house and that was hard enough, no way could I do two at a time. I’m glad Tio suggested to get the students to go. I tell Genevive that I won’t have time for the Twi lessons today. The students come back and I’m all ready for the session to start. The students are out of class at 14:00. At 13:30, the sky starts to pour rain and thunder. Great, this is going to set the program back a bit. The rain stops at about 14:10 and I am hoping the students are hiding under a shop somewhere waiting to come and join the session. After all, they are being paid 5 Cedis per hour, which is very good for most jobs in Ghana. Especially for those who only have a Highs School education. I decide to go in and greet the students and take role to get the ball rolling. After about 15 minutes of entertaining the class and taking attendance, I realize that the tutors aren’t coming. Rain in Ghana usually means everything stops, including school. Well, I don’t want the students to go home without any learning at all. I look at the attendance and see that 40 students from form one to form three have attended. The form is basically the year. Junior High School and High School both have three forms. Okay, there are mostly form 1’s, so I just cover the basics of math problems that I know they missed on their pretests. I figured that I will teach the younger students a new topic and review the basics for the older ones. It’s easy to keep their attention, but it’s hard to get them to contribute again. I decide to call on students at random or if they are talking, to come up and do a problem on the board. I teach them cross-multiplying, negative numbers, and a few problems about arithmetic with variables. After an hour I tell them that next week there will be more tutors and let them go home. Well, that was an interesting week to say the least.

 That night I head to Kentinkrono, so I don’t have to leave in the morning to work at the SAT center. Saturday went well with the SAT center. We only had one customer show up.

 Sunday night I’m walking to the Tro Tro station to pick up the car for Antoa. This is the latest I’ve been in this area before. It’s not exactly the best area, but I don’t feel in danger. I just stay in the populated areas and no one bothers me. The Antoa cars aren’t in their normal spot. I walk back over to the group of cars and greet a short man walking next to me. He must be 5 feet tall and have dreadlocks that are about that same height. He tells me he’s going to work. Apparently he is some kind of radio announcer. This is probably a good time for networking, so I ask for his number. He says not to take my phone out because there are bad men around and he just takes my number. He points me to the Antoa car and I start walking. Half way across the dirt lot I run into another man who confirms the Antoa Tro Tro location. He walks with me there and says he’s going to Bonewire, which is just further in the same direction as Antoa. He says we have to take a car to Abrim first then take a taxi the rest of the way from there. I hop in the Abrim Tro Tro with him and we leave Kumasi. The mate asks for one Cedi for the trip and the man that led me to the Tro Tro insists to put my money away and he pays for us both. I thank him and we don’t talk much for the rest of the ride. We arrive in Abrim and I get out of the Tro Tro. Not really knowing where to go to pick up a Taxi I suggest to him that I’m going to walk in the direction of Antoa and find a Taxi that way. He says to follow him. I do and we walk across the street to a Taxi with someone in it already. Now it’s starting to drizzle. Drizzle in Ghana just means it’s about to pour. There generally isn’t just a drizzle. The man in the car is going somewhere different, so we have to find another car. The taxi driver sees me and tells the man to get out of the taxi. He gets out and leaves across the street. I started to feel bad that they kicked him out for me, but it’s about four seconds from drizzling, so I forget about that pretty quickly. We get in the taxi and four more people join us. As we pull out down the road it begins to pour rain. There are very few streetlights and the road is bad, but the taxi driver seems to know where he’s going. I literally can’t see anything out of his window. He says something to the man in the passenger seat who takes out a handkerchief from his broken window and begins to wipe a viewing hole for the driver. Oh great, I guess he can’t see the road. The potholes in the road are huge so we can’t go very fast, but I literally can’t see anything except for the glimpse of road I catch with each lighting strike. The rain on the roof of the car is deafening. The Taxi driver stalls his car in the middle of the road and at this point there is nothing I can do about the situation. For some reason I find this situation very funny. There’s no use in worrying and leaving the car would be the least safe option. Surrendering to the situation I just start to laugh. I think the guy next to me thought I was crazy. The taxi driver starts his engine back up and a smell of gasoline and fresh rain fill the car. I don’t know why, but I get a feeling of really being alive here. The same one I experienced when in Nema in Accra. I think this ride is a metaphor for my situation with the tutoring. There’s going to be situations like this with the systems in Ghana I’ve immersed myself. There’s really no point in becoming frustrated or worrying about things out of my control. A quote I really like comes to mind here. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.” This has to do with my literal situation in the rain and everything else I’ve experienced in Ghana so far. There are going to be terrible parts of my experience here that I won’t be able to control, but if I can just learn to relax and enjoy the new experiences I will learn about what it’s like to live life to the fullest. That’s probably one of my big underlying goals while I’m here in Ghana. The taxi makes it to Antoa and the man insist to pay for me again. We get out and get under some cover. He asks for my number and I give it to him. At this point I can’t stop smiling, partly because this guy has been so nice and mostly because the taxi driver got us to Antoa without having to walk through the rain. I go home, shower, and fall into my bed fast asleep.

Hideout Weekend

I’ve heard from my colleagues about a place called Hideout. Apparently it’s near the coast and is a common Peace Corps Volunteer vacation spot. As a welcome to Ghana, a break from the village, and a planning meeting Spencer and I decided to take a trip there. It takes about 6 or 7 hours to get there, so we plan leave at about 06:30 to make sure we get to Hideout before it gets dark. We get into Kumasi by 07:30 and get to the bus station at 08:00. This is the VIP bus station, so they are huge buses that have air-conditioning, comfy seats, and Ghanaian movies. This was the same type of bus that I took from Accra to Kumasi on September 2nd. We bought our ticket and boarded the bus. The bus is parked in a station, where it waits to get a certain amount of customers before it leaves. Well, we are pretty much the first people on the bus. That means we need to wait for more people so that the company can make a profit. Spencer told me a horror story about one time he waited for three hours for the bus to fill before he left. Great, now that is pretty much the only thing running through my head at this point. Well, we’ve paid the ticket and were here, so why not get some things done while we wait. I left the bus to get some koko and kosi for breakfast. As I walked through the parking lot the other bus employees harassed me trying to get me to get on their ride. I told them in Twi that I want to buy koko. One man told me to follow him. Oh good, he is going to take me to find the seller, I thought. We walk a few feet before he opens the passenger seat of his Tro Tro and gestures for me to get in. I tell him I don’t want a ride and then gesture to eating as I repeat that I want koko. He says ooh you want koko! I think there are still some subtleties of this language that I’m not getting. I just walk past him and look on my own for the seller. I’m getting close to the end of the street and I can’t find the seller anywhere. I don’t want to get too far in case I get lost or the bus leaves earlier than I thought. Just as I approach the end of the next street another of the drivers comes up from behind me and tells me he will show me where to go. He leads me between some houses and back in an open area, away from the hustle and bustle of the street. He points to the seller and asks if I would buy him some food. I tell him in Twi that I’m sorry but my money is small small. There’s some good Ghanaian English for you. In Twi, that is kafra, me sika kakera kakera. As I’m being served some old women behind me are speaking rapid Twi and the word Obroni keeps coming up. It’s pretty obvious they are talking about me. I turn around and the young man with them tells me that they are saying that an Obroni shouldn’t be buying food like koko. Well I think it’s good and it’s cheap, so that has been breakfast staple for a while now. I make my way back to the bus.

 I eat my food on the bus and relax for a bit, but there are very few people are boarding. I decide to take this time to grade the JHS tests. It feels like a few hours go by and I have completely graded the JHS and SHS tests. I check the time and it is 11:00. Great, so much for us getting on the road early. The worst part is that there are no refunds in Ghana, so were stuck until the bus fills. I start to people watch out the window and enjoy the day. By 11:30 people are starting to file on at a regular rate. Now it’s 12:00 and the bus looks full, yet we are not moving. The bus engine is on, so that’s at least a good sign. People behind me start yelling and a woman at the front gets up and is violently gesturing toward the mate. Yes, there is even a mate on the VIP bus. Apparently ever one was angry because there was one seat left and they still wouldn’t leave. We finally left between 12:30 and 13:00. I think we broke Spencers record of time waiting for the bus to fill.

 We are now leaving Kumasi and I’m feeling very excited to see the different parts of Ghana on the drive and reach this famous slice of paradise, called hideout. The ride is very beautiful, but in this part of Ghana the scenery doesn’t change much. It just goes from village to village through the forest. The Ghanaian movies are on again, but these are much better than the ones I saw on my way up from Accra. This time instead of the constant fighting there seems to be constant crying. I think these directors take one emotion and make that the main theme of their movies. Either way they’re awful, so I just watch the passing landscape. The man next to me asks me about where I’m from and what I’m doing here in Ghana. That’s funny, I wonder how he knows I’m not from here. He tells me that he has an important question that he’s been trying to figure out. Oh great, here we go with the surfing to school or how many celebrities I know questions. Actually he asks me why the iPhone is so popular. Wow, what a great question. I seriously get better questions about my culture from Ghanaian then the ones I’ve gotten from the people in rural East Tennessee. Those people, with a straight face, would ask me if I got to surf to school. I answer his question and tell him it’s because the iPhone give you access to the Internet and is basically a small computer in your pocket. After my answer, I realize how poorly I addressed his question. He’s asking why they are so popular now, not when they first came out. The market has adjusted and come out with competitor phone that do as many or more functions as the iPhone. Then I started to reform my answer in my head. Well, it’s really about branding and the attractive typography used on the apple products. It’s also because of their famous CEO that was thought by many to be a marketing and technical development genius. I realize how deep his question was and how the only way to answer it properly was to give him a course in marketing. I forgot my easel and markets at home so I decided just to leave the answer as it was. I love it when these people ask me about my culture or language because I get to reflect on things I have gotten to know growing up in the American culture my whole life. I often discover more about subjects I thought I was a native expert.

 As we drive past Cape Coast, I know that we are getting close to Takarati, our destination. Good thing because my but and legs are starting to reject the 7 hour sit. It takes us another hour from Cape Coast and that completes 8 total hours on the bus. That’s almost the time it took me to fly over here. We get off the bus and head over to catch a Tro Tro to a town called, something that starts with an a. I’m pretty sure the majority of places I’ve been start with an a. We arrive in the town and wait until the driver takes us to the station. Where we have to take another Tro Tro to Hideout. The roads in this town are so bad that the Tro Tro literally can’t go five miles an hour. The ground looks like a small meteor shower preceded our arrival by a few minutes. Some of the holes are a few feet deep and most filled with gross standing water. We could probably walk faster than the Tro Tro at this point, but I don’t really want to walk through any of that water.

 We get to the station and a nice man greets us and shows us where to pick the Tro Tro. He tells us that we will have no chance of catching the first one because there are so many people waiting. As he says that, he points to a large group of about 20 people. Spencer tells him that we will have no problem catching the first ride. I really hope he’s right because if not then we might have to wait an hour for the next one. By that time there might be another 20 people that join the line. As we’re talking to him I see a Tro Tro driving in our direction with the door open. The man we are talking to immediately takes off in its direction and it passes him and literally pulls up right in front of me. I put my arms on either side of the door and can feel people pushing me from behind to get in. As I’m about to climb in Spencer calls for me as he is trying to open the front door. I’m trying to figure out what he is saying so I just stand there and hold the crowd behind me as only a few of the smaller ones leak through. The men in the front aren’t getting out so I tell spencer to come over to the back. I lift my right hand off the door and grab him as he moves in front of me and into the Tro Tro. I release the sides and poor into the vehicle with all the people squeeze in behind me. I’m in the car, but my backpack is stuck on the outside with the people. I have a grip on the strap, so I just give it a good tug. My bag is pretty heavy too. I must have raked a few people over the head, but my backpack made it so I’m happy. We get seats in the far back and see our friend that greeted us I the beginning sitting by the window. He must have been the first one in the vehicle. He laughs and shares his surprise that the Obronis made it onto the Tro Tro. Honestly, I’m also quite surprised we made it. Either way, we are now in a race to Hideout with the setting sun.

 After about 30 minutes of driving we get on a two-lane road in the middle of what looks like the backcountry in the US. I see a sign that says Hideout, with an arrow pointing from the road to the left. The road looks like it was cleared with a machete. It is only wide enough for a Tro Tro and a half, so it’s basically a one-lane road. As we start down the road I notice that we lost the race and it’s now dark. The Tro Tro has it’s headlights on and we have to drive slowly because the road is very uneven and looks like it just took a beating from the rain. I’m in the very back of the Tro Tro, so my view out the front is the back of a bunch of heads. That means I have a perfect view out the large window right behind me. The surrounding grass and bush has grown up taller than the vehicle, so I can only see for a short distance down the path behind us. We drive along this path for another 10 minutes before we reach a clearing with some small huts. It’s very hard to see any details, but it looks like we’re close to the ocean. At this point I’ve lost track of time as we drive through a few more small villages. Then we get to a point where the Tro Tro starts to turn around  and stops half way through. The mate opens the door and tells us it’s the last stop. We hop out and are standing in the middle of a circular formation of huts. It’s dark and I have no idea where to go, so I’m letting Spencer take the lead here. Not only that, but we’ve also are now around a new culture. These people on the coast are called Afanti and they speak Fanti. Apparently it is a derivative of Twi, so they will understand everything I say in Twi, but I will understand nothing they say in Fanti. We walk up to the first shop and ask the man to buy a bag of water sachets. Then we ask him for the other sachets. Like everything else in Ghana their shots are contained in a plastic bag and called sachets. Each sachet of liquor contains about a shot and costs 30 Peswas or about 15 cents. We get a few of those to make our tropical drinks a little cheaper. As you might guess they hike the prices up when you buy things at the beach side resorts.

 We get over to a river, with what looked like a bridge that went across. Spencer told me that that’s how they used to cross to get to the other side. There is a group of young boys running around the beach naked. Some of them run up to us and say they will take us across the small river in their canoe. The one clothed one in the boat paddles over to us and we step in. The boat has about a foot of water at the bottom. I’m not much of a Seaman, but I don’t think boats are supposed to have so much water at the bottom. We get across and I hop out of the boat as fast as possible to avoid finding out the depth of the river. We get across and walk through the sand in the dark until we reach a lit up group of huts. There are a few other Obronis already here sitting by the water. We check into our rooms and go back out to get some food and a tropical drink. We order the food and ask him for the pina coladas. He tells us to pick something else because it’s too dark to climb the tree and get the coconut. Wow, that’s a fresh pina colada! Instead I get one with fruit that grows closer to the ground. I get my order of fish pita and fries with my drink. We cheers to making it and dig in. The drink is amazing and literally tastes like I’m biting into a pineapple. The pita bread was fresh, the fish was still flopping a little bit, and the fries or chips as they’re called were crispy and amazing. I don’t know if I’m just hungry or it’s the scenery, but this food is some of the best food I’ve had since being in Ghana. We went to sleep at 20:30 and Spencer apologized for it being so early. Funny, I was thinking it was 30 minutes too late.

 We get up early the next morning and enjoy the beach as we read and talk about our plans for the weekend. Spencer told me that some of the local fishermen pull in their catch and when Adam did it they offered him some of the fish in their catch. Today is Sunday so we’re sure that they are resting today. The bar opens and we get the menus to order some food. I put in an order of banana pancakes. Since we’re on vacation and I didn’t get one last night, I also order a pina colada. They bring out the drink, literally in a coconut. They took a machete and cut the bottom off to make it sturdy and cut a hole in the top where they poured the pinapple juice and other stuff. They toped it all off with a straw and umbrella. This was easily the best pina colada I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if it was because of the fresh fruit or just because it was served in a coconut with an umbrella. Then they came out with the banana pancakes. Every bite I take is better than the one before. Seriously one of the best meals I’ve ever had in or before coming Ghana. The craziest part of this all is that the drinks are 6.50 GHC (Ghana Cedis), which means you can get an alcoholic drink mixed with fruit that just fell from the tree for about $3.00. In Ghanaian terms that’s pretty expensive, but to travel here as a vacation, you’re getting a bargain. Oh an all the food is around 14 GHC. You can’t even get a Quiznos sub for that cheap and I know Quiznos isn’t as good and certainly won’t be served fresh on the beach. We decide to take a walk down the beach and explore a bit. As we get down to the next village we pass by a bunch of men pulling along rope that is coming from the ocean. Okay, maybe they don’t take a break on Sunday. It’s a weird feeling when we are on vacation in the middle of an area of people working everyday to feed their families. Many of these people have lived here their whole lives and probably don’t view this place as a vacation spot. As I’m looking out at their lines in the ocean I realize that no one is out swimming around in the water. I’m not sure that’s because it’s polluted, everyone is too busy with their daily chores, or they just don’t value the beach like Americans do.

 In the late afternoon Spencer and I get some work done for Expo. Before the trip he told me to write down where I saw the organization heading and to act like I was the director in charge. Act like I am? Wait, I’m not running this thing!? I grab my notes and we have a good discussion for over an hour. I think we really made some progress and came up with some decent ideas. He gave me some stuff to think about and apply to my situation. To celebrate we ordered some coconut drinks.

 Later that evening, Spencer and I strategically order our dinners. I get a pineapple curry pizza and he gets a coconut curry pizza. Then we split each in half. It wasn’t exactly as good as New York or Chicago pizza, but it was Ghana good. The bread was thin and the toppings were large and fresh. Ugh it was amazing and the melted cheese was a nice treat. One thing I’ve really noticed is Ghana’s lack of cheese. I realized when eating this pizza how much I had missed it.

 The next morning I got up early again and headed to the beach to read. When I visit a place with good food I normally avoid getting the same thing more than once. Well this morning I couldn’t order anything other than the banana pancakes. There might be a better breakfast, but I wasn’t about to take the risk of not tasting these cakes again. After breakfast we headed over to the fishermen to help them pull in the catch. We passed the first line of people and went to the ones who were pulling their line in right in front of the village huts. I wanted to help the group that looked like they lived in the village. The other group looked like they were going to pull their catch up in the middle of nowhere. The men were very happy to have us join. I used my sandals to protect my fingers from the rope. The men who do this everyday even used old rags to protect their hands. After about 10 minutes of pulling they told us that we set the line. Apparently we wait for a few hours before they actually pull in the catch. One of the men told us to follow him. As we walked with him he told us that he was the future chief and he wanted to show us around the village. He described the different parts and even told us about some parts for sale that we could buy. He lead us onto his property. It was pretty big, but packed with plants and other random things. I could tell that no one here was six feet tall either because I was permanently hunched over. He asked us to sit down and he brought us over a small goblet. He picked it up again, before inspecting it closely and then cleaning it. He set it down as a man walked in the front gate. He the future chief a small bag filled with clear liquid. He poured the liquid into the cup and drank from it, as if to show us that it’s not poisoned. At this point I’m just hoping that he hasn’t spent the last 10 years building immunity to the Iocane powder. After all, I wouldn’t be able to smell or taste any if it were in there. After all he wants to sell us some land so poisoning us would be, inconceivable! Spencer pours some in the glass and drinks it. I take the bag and pour a small mouth full in the glass and shoot it down. It is extremely strong, but I use all of my ‘hard studying’ in college to not make a face. We get up and head back to the line.

 When we get back the men had already started pulling in the catch. I guess they got a bit impatient. Great, now my stomach is still warm from the shot and now I have to help pull in this giant rope for a few hours. Before I started pulling again the men threw me an old shirt to rap around the rope to protect my hands. The rope comes out of the ocean and goes over some sticks placed in the sand. This helps lift the rope so we can pull it from our hips and not our ankles. Okay, so they can pull it from their hips and I still had to pull it from my ankles. No, it wasn’t that bad, but I did have to lean back pretty far to get the rope at my hip. Then, there are two groups of about 5 men. One group is in the front by the sticks and the other is in the back. I joined the group in the middle. I’m a lot of help aren’t I? I would probably have been more help if I were pulling the rope back into the ocean. I finally got the rhythm and joined the group in the back. As they pulled their section it got nearer to the anchor. The anchor was a small boy who was continuously loosening and tightening the rope onto a stick in the sand. Then the group in the back would run up and become the one in the front. This went on for some time and then the anchor detached and we moved to the right where we connected to a new anchor. This part got pretty hard because I was getting tired, but I was definitely not going to give up… or at least make it obvious. I developed a nice strategy of leaning back and just hanging on the rope and making straining faces and a few grunts. Then we detached again and moved back to the left half way between where we started. Now I could see some netting wrapped around the rope we were pulling. I didn’t need the wrap anymore because the netting was soft. Then the first group of men, who were pulling the line that we passed to the left of the village, came really close to us. Right then I realized that both groups of men were pulling the same net in and just started far apart in the beginning. Soon after the men started yelling. They had been chanting this whole time pulling the rope, but it was generally just a few men in the back. Now, all the men were chanting together. You could really feel everyone’s energy increasing. Then everyone let go of their rope and ran up to the water. We all continued to pull from there and now some of the men were screaming and everyone was running from back to front. I’ve never done this before and I could feel how close we were to pulling the fish onto the shore.

 A few minutes later and some men jumped into the water. They were all around a big net with a bunch of splashing. I couldn’t see the net, but I assumed those were the fish smacking around. Then we starting pulling this rope and I was up to my waste in water. Good thing I wore my bathing suit. I’ve been analyzing language so much lately, most things that I say sound weird, like bathing suit. I’ve never bathed in a suit, so I’m not sure why that name is used. Anyway now we are back up onto the sand a bit and everyone is pulling both of the sides of the rope. We are now a few inches away from the other line. As we get the big heaping pod of fish out of the sand, one man yells and everyone pulls and grunts hooah! We do that a few more times to get the fish away from the water. At this time all the women and children from the village have come down with their bowls to collect the fish. We’re done with the catch, so naturally I walk up to see what we got. The fish are in a huge pile at the end of this net. There must be three or four hundred pounds of fish. All the fish are still flopping around as they slowly suffocate to death. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many animals die at once before. I’m feeling a bit torn because all these fish are dying, but then all these people are being fed or making money off of the catch. As I get closer to the pile I notice there are mostly small fish in the pile. There are a few bigger fish and some sea snakes. The snakes are going the craziest because they can still maneuver around the pile.

 As I’m relaxing and enjoying the sight of the catch I realize all the men around me are gone. I look around and see them back in the water. It sounds like the flapping of another net full of fish. I run back in the water and help them pull a second group, just as big or bigger than the first we pulled in. This one had a giant fish that must have been 30 pounds. I wish I knew how to speak Fanti, knew kilograms, or had a scale to actually see the size of the fish. This time I was quicker when the men ran down to the water to pull in a third net full of fish. We were finally done and probably pulled in close to 1000 pounds of fish. We watched as they went through the first big pile of fish. They threw all the snakes back into the water. Apparently there weren’t any good to eat. That surprises me knowing that this culture eats the bones after they’re done eating their chicken. The smaller fish all went in the same bucket and the medium to large sized fish went into their own bucket. The buckets were then loaded onto the women’s heads to be taken down the beach. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to be the one pulling the rope. Carrying those bowls seems really difficult. As I’m spacing out about carrying things on my head, a man throws a big squid at my feet. I nearly scream as I jump back so it doesn’t hit my legs. He didn’t say anything and just turned around to keep sorting the fish. I acted like nothing happened and went back to looking at the fish they are pulling out. As they threw the snakes back into the waves, some of the boys ran over and were stomping on the poor snakes. This might not be true, but I’ve heard that sea snakes can be much more poisonous than those on the land. One boy picks up a snake and starting chasing the little girls around. They clearly don’t respect living animals in this culture. All the women have now gathered around this pile and were all waiting their turn to fill up their bowl. These people see many more Obronis than most Ghanaians do, so they weren’t staring at Spencer and me. Actually, they seemed quite distracted by the job at hand. I took this opportunity to really look around at the details of the people standing around us. I focused mostly on their faces. Each one looked completely different from the last. Some had big features on their face and some had very small features. Even their skin colors varied from extremely dark to quite light, for Ghanaian standards. It’s funny to me when people make generalizations about African people, saying that they have big lips, big nostrils, or some other kind of generalization. There were people in this fishing village that had big lips and big noses, but there were certainly people with small noses and small lips. Looking at these people around me has been one of the most interesting cultural lessons since I’ve been here. This place is truly special because there are people from different areas and cultures from all over Ghana.

 After a few more minutes of reveling at this experience, a boy comes by and picks up the squid at my feet. He takes it a few feet away and starts to shove sand into the hole at the bottom. This was the same boy stomping on the snakes, so I my first thought is that he got bored torturing the snakes and now he is moving on to the squid. Then he pulls the protective plate out of the skin of the squid. He finished gutting the fish and then pulled out the ink sack. I took a few steps back as he threw it into the water. It really looked like a petroleum spill. I walked back over to the group of people collecting the fish and the boy walked up next to me and gestured for me to take the squid. I couldn’t understand him and certainly didn’t want to hold the squid, so I just ignored him and looked back at the people. Then Spencer grabbed the squid. I came around and asked him if I could hold it on the walk back. I’ve never held a squid before and would like this experience. I held it in my arms and started to inspect the carcass. Its eyes were still in the head, making the experience that much creepier. The tentacles were still really sticky. They are like the suction cups that stick to the wall, except you don’t have to push the air out of the cup for it to stick. They were almost magnetic to my skin. They didn’t hurt to pull off, but the power of the suction of just a few cups was alarming. I couldn’t imagine being grabbed by all the suction cups on its arms at once. I started to squeeze the different parts to see if it is squishy. To my surprise every park I touched was slimy and certainly not squishy. It was solid, like it had no room for anything other than muscle and cartilage. Spencer asked for a few fish and they handed us three long fish with big teeth in their mouth. I’m not sure if it was an eel or a barracuda, but now I have a better idea of why no one is in the water. We walk back to the Hideout, which is the name of the hotel, and we give the fish to the cook. He tells us that he will cook all of it with some rice and mashed potatoes for 10 Cedis. Ugh, yeah I’ll pay this guy 5 bucks to gut and cook this fish for me with some sides. Needless to say, we got some coconuts drinks to celebrate. About 40 minutes later the cook came out with a huge platter of all the fish cooked up. He made us heaping plates of rice and mashed potatoes. Now this is the life! We feasted and didn’t finish until all but a few pieces of the squid was gone. We could barely get out of our chairs we were so full.

 After we digested the food a little bit, we went back and met with the future chief of the village. He wanted to show Spencer and me more about his village and make a pitch to us to buy some of the land. As we were heading back from the village we saw another crew of men pulling the line for another catch. It seems like they just do this all day since there’s not much else work to do. We made our way back to Hideout to relax for the rest of our last night. Some Peace Corps volunteers Spencer knew showed up. At night we went and hung out with them. I sat back and enjoyed their stories of Ghana during their first year of service. Some volunteers were my age and some seemed much older. Spencer and I forgot that we had ordered dinner and the Hideout staff came and tracked us down. You have to order what you want for dinner here early in the afternoon so they have time to fetch the ingredients. The last thing I had been thinking about since lunch was more food, so it was easily forgotten. I sat down to enjoy coconut curry rice stew. It was pretty good, but nowhere near the banana pancakes or curry pizza. After reaching my level of full from lunch I didn’t make it much longer before I went and passed out in my bed. We have to get up early to travel back to Kumasi anyway. That was a very relaxing weekend filled with good food, some fishing, and more cultural lessons. I will definitely be back here soon.

Antoa JHS Pretest and Grading by Candle Light

It’s Friday and the plans for the day are to administer the JHS pretests and then head to Kentinkrono. Spencer and I are leaving on a mini vacation tomorrow. I can’t think about the weekend yet, I need to make sure everything runs smoothly with the Antoa program first.

 

I’m going to just sum this day up into a short description. Not because it wasn’t important, but simply to catch up the blog stories a little faster. I met with the Academic Head in the morning and made sure he knew to let the tutors out early. Only 47 of the 70 JHS students showed up for the test. Tio told me that was because some of them didn’t get permission from their parents to stay after school. I split the studetns in half and separated them into two rooms. Only six of the tutors showed up, so I split them in half and told them to walk around and monitor the JHS students to make sure they weren’t cheating. Everything ran smoothly and I had many tests to grade over the relaxing weekend.

 

Later that night I got to Kentinkrono and started to grade the tests. The power went out because of the storm and I was determined to continue grading. I got a candle from Regina and continued by candlelight. It felt very strange. It would have been fitting to be grading the papers with a quill and monocle. The night ended early to get a head start on the journey in the morning.