Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Site

I have settled into homestay. My father, George, is the community leader of the town Anyanisin. My mother, Ya, prepares me very delicious Ghanaian food. Most of the time I do not know exactly what I am eating. The only thing that is giving me some problems is eating the entire fish, head, tail, guts and scales. My stomach is beginning to settle now. I have 3 brothers living with me Akans, Michael and Felix. They all watch after me and make sure I am comfortable and safe. Since father is a farmer our house is set back a bit from the town so it is nice and quite. There are plantain trees and a fish pond surrounding my lovely home. There is a puppy who I named Mandiba, I am hoping that I will be able to take the little thing with me to site. My family here is really big. I feel like everyone I meet is some how related to me.  Today we all met the chief whom is my grandfather.  My father is in line to become the next chief making me a princess. There is no electricity or running water. My first time bucket bathing a snake decided to visit and a lizard jumped into the room. This is Africa.

The PC cultural trainer Zoe is staying in my homestay. She is extending another year and as it turns out I will be replacing her in her site.  So where am I going???? A extremely remote town called Jeyiri in the Upper West region. It is 40km south east of Wa. I am going to speak Dagaare. It is difficult using one language in the homestay and spending 6 hours learning another; however, I am doing a lot better than I would have imagined. My village is Muslim with very traditional beliefs incorporated.  When a traditional elder dies the funeral is a massive party. Imagine the people with the long wooden masks with lion mane fur and hula shirts dancing around. Yep, that is my village. The Upper West (Upper Best) is the most exotic region in all of Ghana. I will have red monkeys and crocodiles in my village.  Also there is no transportation to my town except on market days (every 6 days).  Otherwise I ride my bike (30-60 minutes) to the neighboring village( Kulkpong) to pick up a tro to Wa.  There is another PCV in that village.  I will also have to fetch my water from the dam or boreholes everyday. I don't believe it is too far. I am excited to become strong from carrying the water on my head. There is no electricity, but the health center next door has a solar panel so I can charge things.

My job is really what I make of it. Since I will be only the second white person they have met, there is really no expectations.  I want to integrate into the community and empower the people there to accomplish the change they seek. Although my focus is on improving health, water and sanitation I really hope to work with the Muslim men and their conservative views on woman. I am very excited to go and start greeting people.  There are at least 5 people in the town of 1000 that speak some English. They will facilitate me getting projects started.

I love and miss you all! I am in the perfect place at this time in my life. I hope all is well with you. Please keep me updated on current events since I am in a bubble here. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

First Impressions

Ah I made it! After much travel I am officially living in Ghana. There are so many new things and sites that I am having a sensory overload. To describe what it is like is almost beyond words, but I will tell you one story to try to capture the uniquness of this new place I call home.

Vision quest is an opportunity for the volunteer to visit a current PCV and see what it is all about.  I was chosen to head to the northern region where it is more rural, traditional and Muslim.  There is a good chance that I will be sent to this region for site so I was very excited to see and explore the area.  It took a group of us a full day to reach Tamale where a PC office is on buses.  The next day we were going to split up and get on tro-tros to our destination. I was going to a town called Chirifoyilli and it was too small to be on any map.  I went to the crowded Aboabu station (one of many tro stations) and started asking where the tro to this small town was. A man pointed to not a tro, but a massive open bed truck about the size of a school bus. After looking bewildered at him he assured me that yes this will be my transportation for the next two hours. I had to climb a ladder up and over the truck and jump in.  It was market day in the village before my destination.  One woman asked me where I was going because when you see a white woman by herself jump inside a truck Ghanaians will make sure she knows what she is doing. After many slaps on the arm and pointing of fingers, I finally settled down on a bag of salt surrounded by the older woman. They did everything they could to make me comfortable including pushing woman with children away from me. Then everyone started to feed me. I have no idea what I was eating, but I did not want to be rude.  I dug in with my hands and shoveled the food in my mouth.  They quickly learned that I did not know their language. One woman I believe told me I was her friend and another asked my name. Soon I heard "Hannah" being whispered all throughout the truck. 

The truck stopped at the market; however, I had no idea if this was the place I was supposed to be at so I began asking people if they knew a Kim or white woman. No one did. I called Kim and found out that I was a 45 minute walk from the village. The options were to wait and chill out and wonder in the village or continue with the truck. Of course I waited and witnessed my first goat kill three steps into the market. When Kim arrived we drank pito (fermented millet) and sat in a hut. 

That night it was a lunar eclipse. The moon turned red and the vastness and brightness of the stars was brilliant. The traditional story is that the sun swallowed the moon. To free the moon the kids parade down the street drumming for the sun to release the moon.  I just kept thinking this is Africa.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Last Night at Home

Ever since I found out what the Peace Corps was all about I knew that after I graduated college I would be a PCV.  This dream has become my reality.  Now I can only think should it have stayed a mere dream? Can I handle this reality? What have I gotten myself into? Questioning your own capabilities is healthy and I am no longer worried about being worried. I am mentally and physically ready for this experience. Also I am officially packed 79 lbs (80 lb limit).
Wednesday morning I will arrive in Accra, Ghana. The flight is just over 10 hours long. If you have seen the news about the flight last week going to Ghana from Dulles International Airport, yes I am on the same flight and yes I will be putting my seat back because I do need to sleep. It would just be completely ironic if a fight broke out on our flight with 73+ PEACE Corps workers, so no worries.  The first week I will be getting orientated; therefore, I will not be able to use the Internet. By the next time I blog I will be able to tell you all about the food, weather, other volunteers and my home stay family.

Thank you all again for your support and love. Here is a short list of things that I will miss and not miss:

Dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
Mango sorbetto
Caprese salad...really any type of salad
BBQ sauce (some Masterpiece might have to be sent to me)
Fresh organic vegetables (maybe I'll get lucky and have some agriculture person near me)
Listening to Smiley and West podcasts
Watching Democracy Now! in the morning
Family, friends, dogs (OBVIOUSLY)
Possibly going on walks by myself
Eventually the Ithaca snow

Not Miss
American politics
Over zealous soccer moms in minivans
Cookie cutter neighborhoods

The things I am looking forward to are endless!

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
-Nelson Mandela