Sunday, December 29, 2013

oh captain my captain

It’s Sunday night. And I just finished watching Dead Poets Society for the first time. Well, technically partially the second time. I remember we watched a clip of this movie in my high school history class once. Anyway, this is the message I got from the movie: find your passion, follow your passion, and yawp your passion.

Find your passion.

This first part sounds simple enough, right? Finding your passion, finding what you’re good at, finding what you enjoy. But it’s tougher than it seems. Some people may say if it’s truly your passion, then it’ll just come to you. Wrong. Most often times, the things that come to us are the things that make us comfortable, not what make us passionate. We tend to find something we are good at, something we somewhat enjoy. We get used to the thing we find, we get comfortable. As time goes on, we realize we aren’t happy with what we have. However, we also realize that we are happy enough to not change it. We are scared enough to not change it. We cozy up into these repetitive motions and become afraid to do what really makes us happy. Think about what makes you happy. Think about what gets you excited. Think about what you yearn for. Truly think about it. Once you find it, hold on to it tightly. Don’t let it go.

Follow your passion.

Don’t let go. Work for that passion like you’ve never worked for anything else. Now, finding your passion isn’t easy, and following your passion isn’t any better. Following your passion is when you get tested the most. The highs and lows. Things will come at you that will knock you down, but if you really believe in this thing, in yourself, you will thrive. Look at the challenging times as ways to improve yourself. Look at the low times as a small bump in the road. This is a magnificent journey. You will have dead ends, construction zones, traffic jams. But you will also have clear blue skies, beautiful sunsets, bright shining stars. Following your passion isn’t easy, but as long as you keep your eyes on what lies within your heart, it will be the greatest journey you’ve ever made.

Yawp your passion.

Finally, we come to yawping. Yawp your passion to everyone you know! Don’t be afraid to shout your love! We conquered fear before; don’t let it crawl back into our lives. If you are passionate about something, tell the world. Maybe they won’t be excited about the same things as you, but they will be excited for you. The first two points I mentioned aren’t easy, and having those people you’ve yawped to, those supporters, makes all the difference. Sometimes you may feel like nobody notices what you are doing or what you are striving for. Then you feel like, what’s the point? You lose ambition. You lose motivation. You lose hope. Don’t let that happen. Stay strong in your beliefs. Let those around you make those values even stronger. Let them help you follow your heart.

And who knows, maybe through all of this, you spark that light inside of someone else. You help someone find their passion. You support someone when they need it. You listen to someone’s yawping and you yawp right along with them.

Let us finally set sail, let us cross that ocean, let us tell our story, oh captain, my captain.


It has been one month since I have gotten electricity (yahoo!), and I have yet to blog about it (or anything for that matter). Now that I have electricity, I can use my computer more often and start telling you more about my awesome and exciting adventures.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago, and she was telling me about something she read in my blog, and the topic she had read was utterly and completely boring. I can’t remember what it was that she had read, but from here on out, I promise to make my material a tad more reader friendly.

So, November 13, 2013 was the day I finally received electricity in my nice little home. So, that is 63 weeks or 439 days or 10,536 hours I lived without electricity. And I can honestly say I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Yes, it was extremely difficult to deal with at first. How will I charge my phone? How will I read at night? What do you mean I can’t watch any of the hundreds of movies I loaded onto my hard drive? At the time, I was pretty bummed about it. But as time has gone by, I have really appreciated not having those lights. It made me get out of the house, meet people, experience Ghana.

I found a place in town where I could charge my phone. I became friends with several of the teachers at the high school in town who let me use their offices whenever I need to use my laptop. And because I left my house frequently, I have met some pretty amazing people.

When I am having a rough day teaching math or grading exams, it cheers me up to just sit and chat with the friends I have made in the village and in town. Working at the school is only part of what I am doing here. Another part is experiencing this culture. And the best way to do that is to get out there, make friends, and simply talk.

I recently read a blog where the author wrote about how scary it is going to a new place not knowing anybody. And I couldn’t agree more. It’s terrifying. But it’s also so rewarding when you finally find a friend or a group of friends you can share anything with. Now, I will tell you, I don’t have hundreds of friends in this place, but I do have a handful of extremely close friends. Quality is better than quantity. At least for me. And I want to give a shout out to those friends. Now, they probably won’t ever read my blog, but I just want to be able to recognize those people because they have given so much to me without even realizing it.

Kello – You inspire me to be a better teacher. You have so much passion for your students and so much motivation, that I hope to one day teach like you.

Thompson – You have so much knowledge and such a great sense of humor. It’s amazing how you combine both of these traits, and having conversations with you is always entertaining.

Slim Macho – You’re one in a million. You are always joking around, and even when I am having a long day, when you show up, you always make me laugh and help me realize not to take things so seriously. Rahi – You’re so young and beautiful and you have so much ahead of you. You’re such a kind hearted person, and I know you will always be there for me.

Zakia and Zenabu – You two always make me laugh and we always have so much fun together. Even though you hate it when I beat you at Ludu. Even if we don’t see each other for a few weeks, I know when we meet up again, it will just be like last time.

Aisha (and little Tahani) – Aisha, you are such an inspiration. You have such a positive outlook on life, you are such a hard worker, and you are simply amazing. I don’t know how you do it. You inspire me to want to be a better person, and I love you for that.

Roger – Words cannot describe the love I have for you. You are simply amazing and have made this whole experience magnificent. You have been there from the very first day, and I couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor, a better friend, and a better Ghanaian father.

Saana – There is so much that I could say. I remember you promised my mother that you would take care of me and help me not miss home so much. And I must say, you have more than lived up to that promise. Yes, I miss home like crazy, but you somehow make it bearable. There is plenty more that I could say, but I don’t want to bore the readers and get all sappy.

So, this is not how I intended this blog post to go. I was going to just talk about getting electricity and what it was like without it, what it’s like now, all that jazz. But I think this post took a turn for the best.

In a nutshell, everything that has happened so far in this crazy and amazing experience has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

promise yourself...

…to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind

…to talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet

…to make all your friends feel that there is something in them

…to look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true

…to think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best

…to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own

…to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future

…to wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile

…to give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others

…to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble

…to think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world not in loud words but great deeds

…to live in faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you

-Christian D. Larson

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Peace Corps Project

I hope this finds you well! I just started my second year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana. I am teaching Mathematics at a junior high school in the Upper West Region. Within Ghana, the junior high schools are divided into 3 classes called forms. Unfortunately, each form in my school has approximately 70 students, causing overcrowding and discomfort. I spoke with my fellow Ghanaian teachers, and they have been trying to build extra classrooms to remedy this project. However, the district has not been able to fund the entire project. That's where I come in. I was able to apply for a grant through Peace Corps to help cover some of the costs. With the combination of the grant and the contribution from the district, we are able to move on with the project. But where does the grant money come from? That's where you come in. All the money requested by the grant comes from generous people like you. Whether you can donate $1, $20, or $100, every little bit helps. You can also help by spreading my story. Tell people what I just told you. And soon we will be able to begin construction, and we can give these students the quality education they deserve. Because let's face it. They are pretty awesome, and they deserve the best.
I know you may be asking yourself "How do I know my money is actually being put to good use?" Worry not. I will be taking pictures and videos through the construction process as well as the final results of your generosity. These photos and videos will be posted on my blog at I will keep you updated throughout the entire process in hopes you can see where your contribution has truly made a difference.
-How to Donate-
All donations can be made online at the following link. Simply click on this link, and it will take you to the Peace Corps donation website. Here, you will be able to read more about my project, see how much money has been raised, and how much remains. It is also here where you can make your own donation. So, feel free to browse the site at your leisure. And I want to thank you for your time, your consideration, and your generosity.

Watch this video at the following link and help make a difference. (click here)

June 18, 2013

Woweeee!  It has seriously been half a year since I last wrote on this!  So today, I had nothing to do after work, so I decided to bike to the high school to use a teacher's office and update you all on my life.

So, throughout these past months, I have been writing down blog ideas on post it notes sent to me by the lovely Katrina :)  I use them all the time.  I love them!  Anywho, apparently nothing exciting happened between January and Easter.  At least not according to my post it notes.  Or it could be the fact that I didn't have post it notes to write ideas on, so knowing my memory, those ideas are long gone.  Okay, I promise to get to the point.


My Easter celebration wasn't anything too exciting.  But it was much different than celebrating back home.  On Easter Friday, there was no school, so I decided to do some laundry.  Exciting so far, right?  After laundry, I went into town to spend some time with some friends.  Then Roger and I went to Forrestry Bar to have some drinks and chat.  Afterwards, we went to his pito drinking spot to collect his pig feed (at my site, people feed their pigs the leftover “mush” created after brewing pito).  While we were there, I decided it would be a good idea to trip over a tree stump that had been burned for whatever reason.  It turns the top of my foot completely black and I had a nice little cut on it.  Nothing too severe.  And thus ends Easter Friday.

Easter Saturday.  Around this time, I was preparing to attend a leadership conference for high school students in Kumasi.  So clearly I had to find some high school students.  One boy.  One girl.  I had talked with some friends and one woman told me her daughter was in high school form 2 (form 2 was a requirement).  Perfect!  Saturday is when I met Jennifer, the woman's daughter.  I explained to her everything happening during this conference.  While talking with her, some of my neighbor kids brought me mangoes.  How sweet.  Now, these mangoes are impossible to eat without getting stringy mango innards all up in your teeth.  But they were delicious nonetheless.  After Jennifer left, I made some “add water only” hashbrowns with BACON BITS.  Oh mylanta, were they deelish.  After this, Jennifer's mother, Angela, invited me to go watch the stooling of a new Queen Mother.  I was excited!  When I got there, and after observing the 2-3 hour ceremony, I realized I hadn't understood a lick of it.  The people were speaking only Dagaare, and I was not yet a master of the language.  Oh well, it got me out of the house.  Saturday is the day where they have “midnight” mass service at the Catholic church in town.  I say “midnight” because it actually started around 8pm.  And didn't end until after 1am.  I was beyond tired!  I loved all the music and dancing, though.  And just like the Queen Mother ceremony, this service was also spoken in only Dagaare.  I was falling asleep towards the end, and unfortunately still had to take a 20 minute bicycle ride home.  I made it and passed out!

Easter Sunday.  Sunday = market day.  I wanted to go to the market to buy some nice sandals.  I met some of my students in the market, and they happily helped me buy a 10 cedi pair.  They're pretty comfy, so I was happy.  On my post it note I have the word HOT.  You can imagine what the weather was like.  I also enjoyed some guinea fowl (I don't remember with who...probably Roger) and the neighbor children came over to draw.

Easter Monday.  I made an egg sandwich for breakfast (this entry is filled with exciting info).  I fetched water on my own for the first time!  My students/neighbor kids love helping me with anything and everything so they never let me fetch my own water.  Everyone must have been busy this day, and I really needed water, so I went and did it myself!  And by the time I was finished I was panting and drenched in sweat.  I also put up more decorations around my house.  I taped a bunch of pictures on the wall and a map of Ghana.  Makes my place a little more homey. 

And that's all I have written down for Easter.  Sadly, there was no li'l smokies, no ham balls, no deviled eggs, no colorful chocolate pie that fell to the ground after Meagan and I had a fight, no eating until I was 7 seconds from vomiting.  Even though this Easter was entirely different than last Easter, it was still a memorable one. 

Girls Camp

Okay, I lied. Something did happen during January and Easter.  The Upper West Region had a girls camp!  Every volunteer in the UWR brought 3 female students from schools at their site to attend this camp.  I took Alice, Mary, and Rotancila.  Now, I know you have absolutely no idea who these girls are, but for my sake/memory, they're wonderful.  The camp was held in Lawra (a nearby town).  We taught the girls about leadership skills, HIV/AIDS awareness/education, malaria education, gender roles, career opportunities, artistic skills, and many other things.  It was a week long camp, and my girls loved every minute of it.  I know that's not many details about the whole camp, but the pictures really tell the story, which I am pretty sure I uploaded to Facebook, but I will add some here for a visual.

my 2 dozen-th birthday

My oh my, I turned 24 this year!  It wasn't anything too spectacular.  Especially compared to the Manager's Special and Embassy Suites or Bar Golfing in Iowa City.  I had to go to work and teach a few lessons.  Then I went home and relaxed for a bit.  I met Saana in town and we went to Yeltule (yell-too-lay) Annex.  It's a hotel/restaurant/bar.  We sat and ate guinea fowl and drank Alvaros and watched TV and chatted and laughed.  It was so relaxing and calm and peaceful.  It was a nice way to celebrate the big 2-4. 

Sixth March

First of all, you may be asking “Why did you spell out sixth instead of writing the number??”.  Here's the answer.  I went on vacation, spilled shampoo all over my computer, and now my number five, number six, and left ctrl keys do not work.  Huzzah.

Okay.  The Sixth March is Ghana's Independence Day.  For a solid two weeks before this day, my students practiced marching.  It's very similar to marching band marching.  Except here, they swing their arms more.  We picked the best students in our school to compete.  Oh yea, it's a competition.  On the sixth of March, we all make our way into town.  Nandom (the major town close to my village that I also consider my site) recently became it's own district.  So we had the marching competition there.  All of the surrounding schools came to compete.  There were so many!  It was so cool!  I sat in almost the front row for the whole thing taking pictures and cheering on my students.  Sadly, we didn't win, but I was so proud of my students regardless.  I also added pictures of this to Facebook, and I will try to add here...if I remember.  (UPDATE:  check Facebook.  I have deleted all the pictures from any memory/flash drive and I don't want to use credit to download them.  Here is a link to the album  )

I will NOT work!

Yep...those were the words coming out of several Ghanaian teacher's mouths.  Because of pay discrimination (and I am sure other things), every teacher who was a part of GNAT (Ghana's National Association for Teachers) or NAGRAT (which I have no idea what it means, but it's very similar) went on strike.  Mind you, it's mandatory to be part of at least one of these unions.  Anyway, every teacher stopped teaching.  Except for the teacher whose office I am using.  He is so dedicated to teaching and absolutely loves it, and he is so inspirational.  Anyway, I continued teaching because I wasn't a part of either union, but as it turns out, my students went on strike too.  They were so rowdy and not wanting to learn anything, so I did what any rational teacher would do.  I canceled all classes and held a volleyball and soccer tournament.  It was fantastic.  I was the only teacher at the school, and there were over 200 students.  I think this country has finally turned me crazy.  But we had a lot of fun.  I made sure the boys weren't the only ones playing in either tournament.  I encouraged the girls to be a part of both.  So there was a little education going on throughout the whole thing.  The strike lasted basically until the end of the second term.  And I felt bad for the students because they still had to take their exams that were created by some company hundreds of miles away.  Bologna.  Such is Ghana.

too many cedis

So, I can't remember if I have updated you about my major project.  I have told you before that my school is fully loaded with students.  Each classroom has about 70 students.  Way too many for such tiny rooms.  So my plan is to build another school block with 3 more classrooms, so we can divide the students into 2 groups.  Now, we met with a local mason who found a guy in Wa (the capital of the Upper West Region), and he made us an estimate for a building with 3 classrooms, an office, a storage room, and a staff room (all things we wanted).  Turns out all of that would cost us about fifty five thousand cedis (damn you, number five key).  That is about $27,000.  Oofta!  I almost fainted when I saw that estimate.  Nope.  We can't do that.  We have to get it lower.  So I have been trying to meet with my Assembly Man who just now got back to me.  He told me about other ways to fund the project.  There is a District Assembly Common Fund, and we could talk to the District Chief Executive (DCE) about the plan and the money situation.  I tried calling the Assembly Man yesterday, but he told me he was busy, so I will call him later today.  So hopefully soon this project can get started, because fundraising this money is going to take some time.

World Malaria Day

World Malaria Day was on April twenty-fifth.  I decided to have a small spelling competition with a few of my form 3's who have been regularly attending my after school tutoring.  I had been telling them we would have a party since they were being so studious and what not.  So we decided to make lunch together, and I decided to trick them into a spelling competition.  We made about 800 pounds of rice and prepared a delicious stew/sauce to go with it.  While we were all eating, Melissa (a volunteer in the Upper West) and I conducted the competition.  All of the words were malaria related, so after a student would spell the word correctly (or after nobody could spell it), we would talk about what the word meant.  We showed them how to properly hang a mosquito net, and we showed them how they can repair a net if there is a tear in it.  The winner of the competition received a brand new mosquito net, and the second and third place winners received a needle and thread to repair any net (or any article of clothing, for that matter).  After the whole thing was over (which took about 4 hours), I had asked the students if they had had fun.  One student replied by saying “Some of us could say that this is a day we will never forget.”  I almost started crying right then and there.  That was such an amazing thing to hear.  So, even when it seems like I am not doing anything to help these students, I need to realize that even the small things make a difference.

Here are pictures of that event.  I have about 300 more that my students took throughout the whole party, but I only uploaded the Malaria Day specific ones to Facebook.  The others are soon(ish) to come!

I want to go too!

No need, because I have an amazing tailor who likes making me dresses/outfits!!  I think I have about fifteen or sixteen outfits made, and there are 3 more on the way!  They are made either out of tie-n-dye (like batik) or printed material.  I look very Ghana-esque and the students always compliment my outfits.  Maybe one day, I will take a picture of every outfit I have and put it online.  Maybe.

pop goes the tire

Super short story, but it was interesting (to me I guess).  There was one day I wanted to go into town.  However, my bicycle tire was flat, so I had Roger's son/my student (Raymond) pump air into it.  It was beyond hot, and I should have just stayed in my water barrel all day.  I get into town, and I am heading towards Saana's shop.  I get off my bicycle a few meters away and walk it the rest of the way.  As I get to his shop, I hear this strange hissing noise.  It sounds like it's coming from my tire.  No problem.  It's just a puncture and the air is coming out.  I'll just get it fixed while I'm in town.  As I put the kickstand down and walk away, I hear an explosion!!! Okay, it wasn't that bad, but I turn around and see my bicycle tube and tire has burst, making the loudest noise ever.  Okay, not the loudest, but I want to make this story more interesting than it actually is.  Everyone is looking at me wondering what happened, and I just turn around towards Saana's shop laughing hysterically.  I have officially gone crazy.


One day on the side of my house beneath my bedroom window, I saw a camel spider eating a lizard.  The end.

free education!! ...sort of...

One day at school, my headmaster decided to pull these giant rice bags out of the storage room.  Yay, we get lunch today!  Sadly, not the case.  Not so sadly, those bags were filled with exercise books, graph books, and atlases for all!  Well, almost all.  Ghana Education System can never be perfect.  Each student received five exercise books, one graph book, and an atlas.  For free!  Now make me a sandwich. 


During the holidays, I decided to take a small vacation.  I went towards the capital and went to the beach in Keta with some friends.  It was pretty fun.  The water was nice and cool (and over salted), we made s'mores, and ate like kings and queens.  Okay, we had grilled chicken and tilapia.  Close enough.  After that, I went and visited Sam at her site.  I met all of her friends and we enjoyed some banku and laughter.  It was a lot of fun, but way too short of a visit.  I am hoping to visit there again, because let's face it, Volta Region is beautiful.


As you can see, my stories are getting shorter and shorter and shorter.  I am getting tired of writing.  Also, the power just went out and then back on.  I was worried for a second that all my things that I am using/charging got fried.  They didn't.  It's all good!

planned vacation

I plan on going to Mole National Park with some friends (including Kelsey and Dani!!) in a few weeks, so I am super excited about that!  I will also be traveling down to Kumasi with a counterpart to attend a workshop about Grassroots Soccer.  Grassroots Soccer is a program that educates people about HIV/AIDS while incorporating the always fun and awesome game of basketball!  Just's soccer.  So I am really excited about this.  I was thinking of meeting with my students on Saturdays to play a li'l ball and teach them stuff.  It'll be fun.


I had mentioned before that I was taking Jennifer to a leadership conference.  This conference is called STARS (Students Taking Action Reaching for Success).  This was very similar to the Girl's Camp, but with high school males and females.  There was also more of a focus on furthering their education and seeing what programs certain schools had to offer.  I took Jennifer and also Roger's son, Prosper.  Each year, they have Junior Group Leaders who attended the conference the previous year and are there to help out.  And Prosper was chosen to come back next year!! So we will be going to the conference again, and he is super excited about it.


My form 3 students (along with everyone else's form 3 students) are taking the BECE this week.  BECE stands for Basic Education Certificate Examination...I think.  Basically, it's like an entrance exam into high school.  I am nervous for them, and I hope that they do well!

say cheeeeeeeese

I discovered wagashie (wa-guh-she).  It's basically fried cheese aka cheese balls/nuggets/oddly shaped things.  I first discovered them in Wa where Melissa and I bought six cedis worth.  Which is equivalent to sixty pieces!  We thought we were getting half that (which is still an extremely large amount).  I don't want to frighten you, but we did in fact eat all sixty pieces.  We made a marinara sauce from scratch that was to die for!  A few days later, I discover Nandom has wagashie!  Holy smokes!  I had Saana buy some and bring some over, I prepared my own marinara sauce, and we feasted!  He loved the marinara and said I was a great cook.  Little does he know, that's about the only thing I can make.  Aside from mac n cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  In any case, I get the feeling I will be eating this wagashie until my time is up.  I am gonna be broke, and fat, and I don't care.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

January 5, 2013

A fo bronye?

How was your Christmas?  Much like most of you, my Christmas morning started early.  Around 7am.  I woke up and prepared a delicious breakfast consisting of an egg sandwich.  I greet Roger and we decide to head out to go collect my woven dress.  We hop on our bikes and reach the seamstress’s house in less than 20 minutes.  She shows me the finished product.  It’s a 2 piece dress, and I go to try it on.  The top is more than difficult to get on.  It has thick tank top like straps and they meet in the middle in the back and branch off into 4 different straps before meeting the rest of the dress (sorry if this sounds confusing.  Hopefully I’ll get a picture up soon).  I try the bottoms on.  They are snug against my hips and then billow out slightly.  Lovely.  This dress definitely accents my curves.  I go show Roger and he loves it!  I change out of it, the seamstress makes a few touch ups, I pay her 20 cedis, and we head out.  After leaving, we stop at Roger’s pito spot, and we each take a calabash of pito (mine was a little smaller than his).  After sitting and chatting with the people there, we decide to head home. 

Roger’s family traveled up from Accra for the holidays.  We were all planning on attending mass service that morning, so we had to prepare.  Roger thought maybe we could wear our new outfits (he had a smock made out of the same material) to church.  Okay!  So right when I get to the house, I put the dress back on because I know it’ll take me forever to do so.  I finally finish, and a few minutes later, Roger calls and says the mass service had been cancelled in our village, so we weren’t going.  Gah.  So I have to change out of the dress again.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  I finally manage to get out of it, and Roger and I head over to his family’s house.  When we get there, I am greeted with a “Happy Christmas” (yep…happy instead of merry) and hugs from everyone.  I love his family (which consists of his brother Charles, Charles’ wife Lorencia, and Lorencia’s sister Elizabeth).  They seriously made me feel like I was a part of their family.  So we just sit and chat for a little bit while everyone is getting ready, then we decide to head into town.  We reach a spot around 2pm and begin the festivities.  We order some drinks and food.  Round one consisted of a beer and goat meat.  Round two began with another beer and beans cake (beans cake is a batter made mostly out of beans and then fried…I’m not a huge fan).  Round three I shared a bottle with a friend and we feasted on guinea fowl.  So.  Much.  Food. When the guinea fowl had arrived Lorencia shrugged her shoulders and said “Well…it’s Christmas!”.  I thought it was the funniest thing ever.  So basically we just sat and chatted and laughed all day long.  It was fantastic. 

I definitely missed the Christmas traditions from back home.  The lotto tickets at Grandma Glenda’s, the pajamas and book on Christmas Eve, the breakfast casserole on Christmas morning, the marathon of A Christmas Story (how long is that marathon?), chicken and noodles at Grandma Kay’s, baked goods galore, ugly Christmas sweater parties, and constant eating and laughing and sleeping.  Even though I was feeling a tad homesick, my family in Ghana helped me make the most of the holiday season.  I am so grateful to have such loving and wonderful people in Ghana who treat me like family.  It was definitely a Happy Christmas for me :-)  


Happy New Year!  For New Year’s, I decided to spend some time with fellow volunteers.  We went to this oasis that is owned by a Return Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) in the Upper East Region.  It was beautiful!  It was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a gorgeous scenery (pictures to come soon!).  The sleeping quarters were modernized huts.  It was amazing.  From the outside it looked like a mud hut, and on the inside was 2 beds with mosquito nets, a place to hang your clothes, a dresser, and outlets!  It was adorable.  I loved it.  There was another building nearby (that was the RPCV’s house I think) where we hung out.  We could go up some stairs and sit on the roof and stargaze.  It was so peaceful.  And being the dry season, the bugs/mosquitoes were not plenty, so we weren’t aggravated by those.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

hodge podge

November 17, 2012

So first I want to say that I'm sorry I go back and forth between current blog posts and typing up past journal entries.  I haven't been able to type up my written journal entries for a while now.  Hopefully soon I'll be able to, and hopefully you'll still be able to understand the timeline.  But for now, happy reading.

So I am just taking a break typing up the end of the term exams, and I thought I would blog a little (even though I’m really tired of typing).  So the Form 3’s having already started taking their end of term exams.  Their tests need to be taken and graded by December 10.  On December 10, we register the Form 3’s to take the BECE which is the entrance exam into High School (basically).  So, the students’ overall scores on these end of term exams qualifies (or doesn’t qualify) them to register.  If they can’t register for the BECE, they can’t go to High School and they have to repeat Form 3 of Junior High.  (Hope I haven’t confused you yet)  So you can imagine how ridiculously nervous some of the students are.  And you can imagine how nervous I was when they were taking the math exam.  Gah.  It was ridiculous.  And I was even more nervous when I began to grade them.  I wanted all of them to do well (obviously).  And I know you’re not supposed to have favorite students or anything, but…I do.  Oops.  So as I was grading my favorite students’ exams I was practically pooping my pants.  A qualifying grade is 45% (I know, right? ).  One of my fav’s got an 83%!!! I was so stoked!!  Another got a 64%!  And another one got a 42%.  I almost started crying.  Ugh.  I felt horrible.  That student is so ambitious and tries really hard.  But it’s possible that in combination with his other exam scores, he could still qualify.  I definitely have my fingers crossed.  I learned that night that teaching is a difficult job.  It’s exhausting.  And sometimes breaks my heart.  But I guess that means I care, so in essence, I suppose it’s a good thing.  I dunno, still sucks when students don’t pass.  But I will try to look at the positive side of it.

So lights are slowly but surely coming!!!  They are still working on it, and I am getting to anxious!  I wrote more about this in my journal, so for now, I won’t mention much.  I’ll just copy that info down before I post this blog.  But I did want to mention something else concerning the lights.  On our way into town today, Roger pointed out a few houses to me on the left side of the road.  He told us that while our whole village was getting lights, these houses would not.  Ummm…what?  Why not?  He told me a while ago, people came to that area to install the lights.  And apparently the workers signed off on it saying the houses got lights before they actually did.  The “leader” of that community also signed off on it.  And after all the signing was done, the document was taken to the district assembly.  So, the person in charge at the district assembly saw that this community had gotten lights and he didn’t have to worry about it anymore.  When the people in the area complained, the person at the district assembly said he had documents saying they had lights, and he wasn’t going to do anything.  Ugh.  How stupid.  I asked Roger if someone could just come out and inspect the place and see that they actually don’t have lights.  But nobody probably will.  So I really really really want to do something about this.  Especially while the people are still here working on it all.  The only difficult part is that I’m leaving next week for Kumasi/Accra for Peace Corps related business.  And I’m not sure if the workers will still be here.  But if I can’t do something before I leave on my trip, I’m going to try to do something about it when I get back.  It’s just stupid.  Especially when your neighbors across the street have lights, and you are stuck in darkness.  It just doesn’t make sense.

I know I mentioned before that I wanted to have someone come to the school to give health talks and what not.  I’ve done some more research with that.  I have met with 2 nurses and a guy who works in the lab and asked if they would be willing to help me set up talks around the community.  What I would love to do is set up a presentation of some sort and educate people about HIV/AIDS, nutrition, handwashing, etc.  I have seen projectors around town, so doing a PowerPoint would work perfectly!  Peace Corps also has a committee that focuses on educating people about HIV/AIDS.  This committee has videos that can be shown to anyone and everyone.  So I think having movie nights or something similar would be great too.  And with our community getting lights, I can do the same at the school!!  I have talked to a few volunteers, and they have given me health curriculums that they have used in schools and within their communities.  It’s great material!  I am excited to get started with this.  It’ll sadly have to wait until school is out, because right now, I am just way too busy with all these exams and what not.

I met with the Assembly Man a while ago just to sit and chat with him.  As we were chatting, he asked me if (after harvesting) I would want to meet with a group of women and just chat with them.  He said they could teach me how to make soap.  I thought that sounded wonderful!  I would meet more people and learn a new skill! =)  I told him about making moringa soap.  Moringa is a leaf that is filled with vitamins and nutrients (I don’t know much else about it, so I won’t go into more detail).  I also told him about Neem cream.  Ghana is covered in Neem trees.  And there is a way to use the products on the Neem tree to make what Peace Corps calls Neem cream.  This cream is actually a mosquito repellant.  I don’t really know any facts or statistics on it as of now, but you just put it on like a lotion, and it helps keep mosquitoes away.  I would love to teach the women how to make this.  Not only to help prevent malaria, but also so they can make it and sell it and earn an extra bit of money.  It’s a win win.  So that’s another thing I’m excited about doing.

Care packages!!  Let’s just say, these make my life.  I picked up 3 yesterday.  There was one from my mom.  Inside was a letter, pictures, and two puzzle/game books!  The pictures were of Emma’s birthday and her broken arm.  The puzzles were Sudoku and fast paced brain game things.  I loved it!  I just love getting updates from back home.  And I also love puzzles.  Gotta keep my brain in good shape!  I got another one from Katrina.  Oh my gosh.  I absolutely loved it.  It was filled with so many great things!  A bunch of individual Pringles containers, fruit snacks, soap, magazines, CDs, letters galore, jokes, MadLibs, games, etc.  It was beyond great.  I loved getting little snippets of her new life and seeing the things that reminded her of me.  My cheeks definitely hurt from smiling so much after opening it.  The last one was from my dad.  I knew of at least one thing in this package.  A digital camera!!  Oh, I was stoked.  I opened the box and found so many other goodies!  Cheez its, club crackers, chicken in a biskit, ritz, wheat thins, triscuits, cookies, reese’s cereal, shells and cheese, and Pringles!  And lo and behold, inside the Pringles can, at the very bottom, was a (wrapped up) digital camera!!!!!!  What a beautiful site!  I took it out, put the batteries in and started taking pictures.  I took pictures of all the goodies from all the care packages, so I will add those to this blog entry for you to see!  I am so excited about all the things I got.  I was in such a great mood.  Just having those small pieces of home and knowing everyone still supports me is wonderful.  I miss everyone like crazy, but it’s like I’m getting a little piece of them here.  And I just wanted to say THANK YOU for being willing to pay the ridiculous amount of postage.  YOU ARE ALL AMAZING.  Seriously. 

So I really want to write more about the care packages and everything else, but I am really tired of typing right now.  After a break, maybe I’ll type some more.  Maybe by then I’ll have lights in my house!  Ah!  I am beyond stoked for that.  You have no idea.  It’s gonna rock.  Anywho, I’ll stop updating your ears off.  I love everyone so much and know that everything you do is much appreciated!  Love love love!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

things on my mind

So I just wanted to interrupt the journal entries to kind of talk about my plans for this school/community.  I chatted with some teachers today about what they think this school needs.  And the biggest concern is building extra teaching quarters/classrooms to accommodate for such a high volume of students.  I said before that each class about 65-70 students.  Which is a ridiculous amount.  We talked about building new classrooms and also having the task of finding teachers to fill those classrooms.  If we could accomplish that, things would be amazing at this school. 

We also talked about a school feeding program.  The government currently has a school feeding program for select Primary and KG (kindergarten) schools.  Not even all of them.  Senior High Schools are most often boarding schools, so they have feeding programs too.  And then there is the Junior High Schools.  They get nothing when it comes to feeding programs.  And I have no idea why.  Neither do the other teachers.  So I am going to do some research and see if there is anything I can do to help with that.  If not help with all JHS’s, but at least Dondometeng.  Feeding the students and teachers is important.  Halfway through the day, everyone is hungry, and they quickly lose focus on learning/teaching.  They/we are focused on our growling stomach’s.  Plus, these students are still kids.  Growing kids.  Having a proper diet is important.  So, there’s project numero dos.

Project number three.  The other day we had people from the clinic come and administer CSM vaccines.  Which stands for Cerebral-Spinal-Meningitis vaccine.  Every student and every willing teacher received them.  For free.  At the JHS and the Primary and KG.  Apparently all the schools get them for free.  I thought that was amazing!  It made me realize I really want to get involved with the health aspect in this school/community.  I chatted with the teachers about bringing in some people from the hospital to talk about health, hygiene, HIV/AIDS etc.  And also setting up hand washing stations  at the schools. 

The final thing I’m starting to get involved with is a girl’s camp.  Another volunteer is setting it up and asked if I wanted to get involved.  Heck yes!  It’s going to be in February, so I have plenty of time to plan.  The camp is to encourage girls to pursue their education and knowing all the benefits from it.  As well as possible career options and other opportunities girls have with their futures.  She asked if I had 2-3 girls who I thought would be interested in going.  I have about 10 I think would definitely benefit, but I think I can narrow it down to 2 or 3.  The other volunteer also asked if I would be willing to be in charge of a workshop during the camp, specifically the one about careers.  Of course!  So until then, I’ll have to do some research and figure out what it is I’m going to talk about =) 

I’m so excited to finally get some project ideas.  Even though these projects are pretty big, I think they would be amazing to accomplish.  So for now, my hopes are high.  But I also realize it is a big risk, so hopefully I won’t get too disappointed if things don’t turn out.  So we shall see =)  Anywho, those are just a few things on my mind right now, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on them all.

light journal reading - part 3

September 16, 2012

Let’s talk about my first week teaching!  As far as I know, it seemed to go well!  For the most part, the students seem respectful.  I had some issues with my form 1’s towards the end of the week, but it seemed every teacher did.  In one of my classes (I forget which form), I gave them 5 problems to work on.  I also told them if they wanted more points they could come up with their own questions and answer them and I would mark (yes, mark, not grade) them.  And to my surprise, the majority of the students did more problems!!  It made me so excited!  I’m sure it seems small, but it really made my day.  Every morning, I am greeted by students who offer to carry my things for me.  I have about a 30 second walk, but I always happily agree.  I also have students who walk by my house after school and always talk to me.  Some are genuine, and I think others are just trying to test me.  So I’m trying to stand my ground.  Especially at first.  I had another teacher tell me he thinks the students are really interested in what I am teaching.  They come up to me and ask me questions during breaks.  It makes me feel like I’m actually getting some of them interested in the topic.  But it’s also exhausted.  I remember only wanting to sleep after my day on Friday.  I was pooped.  But overall, I think the week went well.  Notice how I didn’t journal all week?  Yep, that’s how tired I was. 

Which brings me to my weekend.  Friday was stressful at school.  I just wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.  I spent some time in town doing nothing, waiting to meet up with my headmaster.  We finally meet up and we have a drink.  He figures out that I had Pascal go around and find estimates for a wardrobe and a few tables.  He asked me why I didn’t consult him about it first.  Oh, he wasn’t very happy with me.  I told him I didn’t mean to offend anyone and that it’s much different in America.  I told him he has to tell me these things, because I’m still learning the culture.  So after that point, I think we’re good.  Saturday I go and meet up with Sheila who is a weaver I met last week.  I sat at her house/compound for several hours.  There were so many women there.  It’s t hen that I realize I have not made friends with any older women.  Only men.  I also realize that I enjoyed being around these women.  Music was playing and every once in a while they would start dancing.  I told them they would have to teach me these dances some time. Sheila’s sister Sawla made me some food too!  Fried yams and plantains and the spiciest pepe I have ever tasted.  And Sheila agreed.  The pepe was “too much.” (Pepe…pronounced pep-pay…is like a spicy salsa like thing).  It was just so fun to sit and talk and laugh with all these women.  There were a bunch of kids there who called me Sister Jessica or Auntie Jessica.  It was adorable.  Sheila and another woman (Update:  her name is Vida and I love her!) pulled out the loom and began setting up their weaving.  Holy crap is that time consuming!  And it’s just the set up!  I didn’t stay long because I was meeting my headmaster.  We met at a spot and drank some pito.  We were in a big group and everyone was talking.  In Dagaare.  So I didn’t chime in much.  It started to pour, so we moved under shelter.  After the rain cleared, Roger showed up and we decided to leave because it was getting late.  I said goodbye to my headmaster and went on my way.  I was still feeling pretty blah at this point.  Roger and I go grab a bottle at a nearby spot, and he doesn’t seem happy either.  Maybe it’s just the day?  I’m just ready to go home at this point.  We make it home finally after discovering my bike has a flat tire.  Perfect.  Roger says he’ll fix it tomorrow.  Okay good.  That means I won’t have to spend loads of money on it.  I climb into bed and relax finally and fall asleep.  Sunday.  I spent most of the morning reading.  Janet came over to help me with my laundry.  Awesome.  Because my hands are irritated for some unknown reason and are killing me.  I’m still not in the best of moods.  All the kids just sit and hang out.  I am not in the mood to entertain.  I feel bad, but I keep reading.  They seem content for the most part.  After an hour or so, they leave and Roger comes over.  He collects my bike to fix it.  I love that man.  He brings it back maybe 30 minutes later and we decide to go into town.  We stop at a spot and drink some pito.  He says he’s hungry and we should go grab some lunch at NVS (Nandom Vocational School).  Score!  I love NVS!  And jollaf!  It was a tad spicy, but delicious nonetheless.  We go visit Noella because she leaves for SHS today which is a boarding school.  She won’t be back until December.  Sad.  It looks like it’s about to rain, and I left my clothes on the line, so Roger and I decide to go to the market so we can head home.  I buy my few things (which include these delicious crunchy groundnut ball things) and we go.  Roger says he’ll bring some pito over and we can just sit and chat.  Okay.  I can handle that.  And it’s fun.  There was a point where he almost falls asleep mid-sentence and I find it hilarious.  We joked and laughed about it.  His son, Martin, was over and he actually DID fall asleep.  How precious.  He decides to leave to go prepare some food for his kids (well..someone will prepare it).  And here I sit.  I finally feel relaxed and calm.  It’s nice to have some alone time.  I’ve been surrounded by people so much recently.  I’m also missing my friends and family a lot.  I haven’t been able to find internet here, so that mega sucks.  Hopefully next weekend I can find some.  Whenever I get lights, I am buying a modem so I can get online whenever I please. (Update:  yep…didn’t wait for lights and I couldn’t be happier about buying a modem!)  Roger and I decided we are going to meet up with the Assembly Man this week to keep bugging him about lights.  I don’t mind sitting in the dark.  I just wish I could have some sort of contact with people back home.  I just hope it doesn’t make me miss them even more.  Hopefully the next few days turn out better than the last few.  I definitely have my fingers crossed!  I think now I will snack on something and figure out what new book I am going to start.  I hope it rains tonight.  It will relax me and make me happy.  Oh the little things =)

light journal reading - part 2

September 7, 2012

Cultural topic for today:  funerals.  Today was the second time I went to a funeral since coming to site.  The first one was last weekend.  It was my counterpart’s brother who passed away.  Roger and I went together (Update:  I seem to be pretty repetitive in my entries…sorry!)  As we were approaching, I heard loud gunshots.  It killed my ears!  Roger said it was because the chief just arrived so they shot off guns as tradition.  Okay, no problem.  When we got to the area, I noticed a large stage about 10 feet off the ground with a man sitting inside.  Oh, that must be the chief.  As we got closer, I noticed the man wasn’t moving much, if at all.  When we finally reached the stage, I realized the man sitting upright was the deceased man.  Holy crap!  He was just sitting there holding a book like it was no big deal.  It was definitely different than the funerals I’m used to.  As we passed the stage, we threw coins towards it.  apparently, these coins went to the xylophone players.  There were xylophone players at today’s funeral too.  But this time, the deceased was in his coffin.  People threw coins as usual.  This time, I went with my headmaster and a couple friends (they were there when I bought my bicycle.  I can’t remember their names).  We got to the stage and walked around and made sure we stood at every angle facing the deceased.  Then we threw the coins (I know I’m telling the story out of order).  We walked towards the music, and my headmaster told me to go find a seat while they finished up.  I stood for a few moments admiring the xylophone poets.  I went to go sit down and about 5 minutes later was served pito.  When the rest joined me, Roger had already found me.  We talked for a few minutes, and we headed towards another area.  Under a tree.  With several other people.  We sat in a giant circle.  There were maybe 20 of us.  Someone came out with a crate full of beer bottles.  I happily took a Club.  Later, a jerry can of pito was brought out.  I declined.  I had already had 2 Clubs earlier and some pito.  We were all just sitting and talking.  And not even about the funeral.  This sad and unfortunate event was just an excuse for us to mingle and socialize.  It’s so interesting.  We finally made our way home.  I successfully biked home, in the dark, while wearing a skirt.  ‘Twas intense.  I did however get my skirt caught in the back wheel of my bike on the way to the funeral earlier.  Luckily, those friends of the headmaster helped me come untied.  And as I was leaving the funeral, two women helped tie my skirt so it wouldn’t hang.  I absolutely love this place.  I know I have my bad moments, but as of now, the good times greatly outweigh the bad.  Let’s hope that lasts for two years!

Monday, October 15, 2012

light journal reading

So I snagged my journal from my still bee-infested house.  So now I will copy down some things I wrote in it, so you get a better idea of my life here!  PS I believe tonight is the last night I will spend in paradise aka the hotel.  Supposedly by tomorrow, the bees should be gone.  But hopefully I will be able to get online about once/week to updated everyone and stay connected!  In the mean time, happy reading!

August 31, 2012

So I have been here for a little over 3 months now (I’ve been at site for less than a week).  And I must say I have definitely had a rollercoaster of feelings. There are days where I am 100% in love with this country, and days when I miss home like crazy.  I miss the simplicity of everything.  I miss electricity.  I miss air conditioning.  I miss warm showers.  I miss curling up in a blanket on rainy days watching movies and pigging out.  I guess the more I think about it, the more petty these things seem.  Who cares if I miss all of that?  I am in Western Africa teaching math to junior high students.  I am meeting so many great people.  This town I am in is filled with smiling, helpful people.  It’s so wonderful.  So why do I feel down about it all?  I try to tell myself the first few months are the hardest.  I have just recently left my new Peace Corps friends and am on my own for the first time since coming here.  So maybe the shock of it all is hitting me.  Once school begins and I become even more comfortable with this place, it will be better. (Update:  that was about a month and a half ago.  And I must say things have gotten a gazillion times better!  It was definitely rough beginning to settle in, but now it’s pretty great!)  It just sucks to go from seeing my Peace Corps friends everyday and getting online every so often to never seeing them and not knowing when I can get online again.  But I guess I’ll have to get used to it.  I mean, I did join the Peace Corps!  But knowing everyone in my group has power totally sucks lol

I am going to a funeral today.  My counterpart’s brother passed away a few weeks ago and his funeral is today and tomorrow.  I talked with my neighbor, Roger, and he asked if I was going to go.  We decided we would go together when he is finished with work.  I’m not sure how much longer I will have to wait.  We talked an hour ago and he said in 30 minutes he would come home and we would leave. So we shall see!

I am going to Wa tomorrow morning to snag a gas cylinder and a tabletop stove.  I’m pretty stoked to actually start cooking for myself!  I also need to buy a wardrobe and some kitchen cabinets/shelves.  And tables.  I need to get this place looking like a home.  I will feel so much better.  My first purchase was a bicycle for 120 cedis.  Yikes!  And my counterpart paid for my helmet!  How awesome!  People here really do look out for you and care about you.  It’s great.

September 3, 2012

Ah, the weekend has come and gone.  And school starts tomorrow.  Yowza!  I learned there are about 60 students in Form 1 inside a tiny room.  So that’ll definitely be a challenge!  Still, I’m excited for school to start because that will actually give me something to do.

This weekend was a rollercoaster of feelings.  I went to Wa and go my cylinder and stove.  Someone said the cylinder was about half full, so I decided to go fill it.  Someone was gracious enough to help me haul it around.  We walked for what seemed like forever, only to find out there was no LP anywhere.  Lovely.  Oh well.  I’ll use what’s left and fill it later.  By this point I was tired and cranky.  I didn’t get much sleep the night before.  I headed back to Nandom in the most crammed tro ever.  I sat right behind the driver facing backwards.  It was insane.  But I made the trip in 2 hours and we still made stops along the way.  So that was a bonus for sure!  I walked around looking for cooking utensils and what not.  I got all my things and a few ingredients for supper and headed home.  I started washing all of the dishes and hooked the cylinder up to the stove.  When it was all finished, I went to light it, and nothing happened.  Hmm…maybe I hooked it up wrong.  I called my neighbor, Roger (who is by far the coolest and nicest old man ever) and asked if he would come help me.  When he got there, everything seemed to be connected correctly, and then he picked up the cylinder.  He proceeded to tell me it was empty.  Ugh!  I was super bummed.  But we made a plan to get it filled today, so by tonight I’ll finally get to cook for myself.  I was so bummed out. 

That evening, I went outside to my squat toilet and was happily greeted by a bat!  Scared the crap out of me!  There are also bats in my ceiling.  My Assembly Man, Maurice, boarded my ceiling up, and the bats stayed.  So I hear a squeaking noise throughout the day (Update:  those bats are insane.  They make so much noise at night and when they walk around it sounds like a giant animal is up there.  It’s ridiculous, but I’m slowly getting used to it.  Hopefully when we spray for these bees, the bats will magically disappear as well!). 

Sunday was so much better than the previous day.  It started off raining, so I stayed in bed doing nothing all morning.  It was great to relax.  Roger shows up, and we decide to go to the market.  I buy rice, tomatoes, carrots, Maggie cubes (bouillon cubes), bananas, a mortar and pestle, buckets, etc.  I loved that I actually got to buy things for my house/kitchen!  Afterwards, we went to go drink some pito at the Assembly Man’s house.  (Pito is a local drink that practically every family brews.  And we drink it out of a calabash, which is the outer layer of a dried up gourd thing).  We sat around chatting, and the Assembly Man shows up, and we make our way to the nearest spot (in Ghana, spot means bar).  We each have a beer and just chat.  It was great.  After that, we parted ways with Maurice, and Roger & I head to another spot/restaurant to get some food.  Jollaf and Alvaro (a sweet malt drink…deelish!).  AMAZING!  I go visit Noella (a young girl who helped me buy a few things a week prior).  We head back home as the sun is setting.  It was just amazing.  It’s days like this that I love everything about my site.  I love spending time with people in my town.  Even when we do nothing but drink and eat and talk.  It’s glorious.

I decided to clean the house a little today and do some laundry.  I also read my book.  I am now reading 1984.  It’s 1:30pm and I have nothing else to do.  I am waiting for my clothes to dry, so I can go into town.  I need to buy some tables and a blanket.  My house gets pretty cold at night believe it or not!  So there was my weekend in a nutshell.  I can’t wait to write about my first week of school!

September 4, 2012

Today was the first day of school.  I was the only teacher who arrived on time at 8am.  The others trickled in within the hour.  About 10% of the students show up.  The first week is dedicated to cleaning the area.  They clean for maybe 30 minutes, and it start to downpour.  The heaviest rain I’ve seen yet.  It rains for almost 2 hours (I think).  During this time, I’m reading through the science textbooks.  (Oh yea, the science teacher is continuing his education in a town in the Eastern Region and will be gone for 4 years.  So I was asked to teach science instead of math.  Super bummed).  I was seeing if it was something I could tackle.  And it actually didn’t look too bad.  So I agreed to take the subject.  I’ll be teaching forms 1, 2, and 3 of science.  My fellow teacher says I should now be thinking of science always.  I should be dreaming about it.

Nothing else really exciting happened today.  Went to town and chatted and drank with people all afternoon.  Bought a blanket and some t-roll (that’s what they call toilet paper).  And then came home.  Went to shower, and a lizard was crawling on my leg.  Gross!  Decided I wasn’t motivated enough to cook, so I came to read and to journal.  It’s about 7:45pm now.  A much more acceptable time for bed.  Think I’ll read some more and call it a night!

September 6, 2012

Today started off being a bland boring day.  I spent over 5 hours at school doing nothing but sit.  Ugh.  The students where told which of them got promoted to the next form and we got new students from the primary school (elementary school).  I saw a girl from form 2 crying because she didn’t get promoted.  I felt bad.  Also, the circuit supervisor (the person who is sort of in charge of all the schools in the area) stopped by to give us all some encouragement which was exactly what I needed.

After school, I went into town to see some people.  Noella was not at her store, Aaron was not answering his phone, Pascal is out of town.  So I phoned Roger.  He said he’d be in town shortly.  In Ghana, shortly doesn’t mean anything.  I waited almost 2 hours and it began to rain.  I knew for sure he wasn’t coming now.  I sat around for a little longer, got tired of waiting for the rain to stop, so began my trek home.  I wasn’t in a great mood, so I was just ready to get home and relax.  On my way towards home, I ran into Noella.  Oh I was so happy.  I needed a pick me up.  She was going to buy a few things, so I decided to join her so we could chat.  By the time we finished, the rain picked back up and I wanted to hurry home.  There was no point, though.  I was beyond drenched by the time I made it.  And water was covering entire parts of the road, so I’m even surprised I made it!

When I got home, I called Roger to tell him I made it safely (he called while I was still in town saying he couldn’t make it).  he said he was going to pay me a visit.  I was not really in the mood after the day I had, but I agreed.  He came and we talked for almost 2 hours.  It was fantastic.  This is what I love about Peace Corps.  And I wanted to write what we talked about even though it wasn’t that significant.  For some reason, I just want to capture that moment.

He is retiring soon.  In April.  When he turns 60.  In Ghana, you are required to retire at that age.  They collect social security upon retirement.  However, some people wait 3-4 months before receiving their first payment.  One man has waited almost a year because according to certain documents, he was only 59 when he “retired.”  So he couldn’t collect.  Roger said if when you were working, you made 10 cedis/month, upon retirement you would make half, or 5 cedis/month.  Who can live off that?!  That’s ridiculous. 

He told me these schools I work at were built in ’68.  (Which I later found out the school started in 2004.  Maybe the buildings are that old, but definitely not the school).  He corrected himself by saying ’86 instead (still…who knows).  They were built when he was last in Accra.  He told me of his travels around the country.  He said his senior brother was a soldier and wanted to recruit him.  He said he didn’t have the money to travel to Accra.  After some time, somehow, he got the money.  Made it to Kumasi, and stopped in a town (I can’t remember how he pronounced it) that dealt with a lot of gold mining.  He said this town was a lot of fun.  But he decided to make it to Accra instead.  He spent 6 months there, but never saw the person in charge of recruitment.  He just roamed and returned to gold mining town.  Here, he met up with some friends at dawn (when they finished their shifts), they drank 3 bottles each.  Yikes!  Then they were brought a huge amount of rice and plenty of meat, and proceeded to have 2 more bottles.  He had so much fun there.  Now, there are machines that do all the work, so the town is no longer interesting.  Damn.

We talked about mosquitoes and how I don’t have my net yet.  He said a while back, his family was given 3 nets.  He gave one to his young children, one to his wife or daughter (I can’t remember), and then one extra.  He said I could borrow it.  I asked him why he didn’t use one, and he said he already had one.  Okay, good.  Then I don’t feel bad for taking it temporarily. He also said he had cement nails that came with the nets.  Awesome! It’ll be nice to get away from the bugs at night.

We talked about poor eyesight and how we both have it.  He told me his father was blind.  I told him I had to wear my spectacles (that’s what they call them) all the time and that maybe he should look into getting some if it turned out to be a burden.  He said he doesn’t read much anymore, so he doesn’t feel the need to buy them.

His daughter is visiting from Wa (the capital of the Upper West Region).  She is waiting for her school fees to get paid.  Almost 400 cedis worth.  Damn!!  Roger had to go to Wa to get an advance or something out of his life insurance policy to cover it.  I wasn’t able to meet his daughter.  She made banku and I was invited, but when he invited me (when he first arrived at the house that evening) I was just not feeling it.  I should have.  She leaves tomorrow.  But I am sure she will visit again.

As of now, I don’t really remember much else.  It was just amazing to actually have a legit conversation with someone.  Something more than the weather, or how their night went.  It definitely made this day worthwhile.  And I hope things like this continue to happen, because I think this will be what keeps me sane.  Plus, this is where I actually learn about the lives of the people here, rather than just greeting them.  It was great.  I hope I meet more people like Roger while I’m here.  I hope I learn all I can from everyone.  What an experience that’ll be.


Okay, so, as I’m typing all of this up, I realize it is going to take me a loooong time to get it all down.  I have written so much in my journal.  So I think for now, I’ll leave it at the first few entries.  I apologize in advance for the random organization of things, but to make it all easier, just check out the date of each entry.  These are the first journal entries I wrote once I got to site.  When I get more time, I will add the next few, so we’ll enjoy a good read every once in a while.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

wanting to send me something?

So Mom texted me the other day asking what I would like in a package if she were to send me one.  And the more I thought about it, the more things I came up with.  So if you’re thinking the same thing, here are a few ideas!  And it’s okay to get double (or even triple!) of these things, because I will most definitely use them!

Package Ideas:

Leisure books

Face Wash
OB Regular Tampons
Empty half-dozen egg carton (or a plastic egg carrying container)

Chicken In a Biskit
Club crackers
Ritz crackers
Wheat thins
Flavored triscuits
Doritos (family size =P)
Individual size chips (I don't care if they arrive in crumbs...I need them! haha)
Chips & salsa (again, I don't care if they turn to crumbs =) )

Oreos (LOTS)
Chips Ahoy
Fruity snacks (fruit roll ups, gushers, fruit snacks, etc.)
Candy bars (snickers, Hershey miniatures, M&Ms (all kinds), twix, take 5 etc.)

Shells & Cheese (lots!)
Meat and cheese gift set
Cheese of any sort! (that does not need refrigeration)
Salted Peanuts/Cashews/Almonds/Party Mix (yes, we have them here, but I’m craving the ones from home)
Honey roasted peanuts
Instant mashed potatoes
Small cans of spaghetti sauce

Powder cheese packets (cheese packets from box macaroni)
Sauce packets (pesto, alfredo, marinara…preferably just add water kinds)
Powder ranch packets

Drink mixes (Gatorade, poweraid, not a huge fan of crystal light)
Chai tea drink mix

Condiments (Cookies BBQ sauce especially!)
Seasonings/Spices (oregano, basil, cinnamon, etc.)

Pancake mix (just add water)
Syrup (not sure how well that’ll travel)
Microwave bacon (no refrigeration necessary)


fig newtons
s'mores poptarts (any for that matter, just my fav)
s'mores makings
granola/nutrigrain bars
those super crunchy granola bars (nature valley?)
grits (instant, buttery)
skittles, starburst
anything fruity (suckers, jolly ranchers, life savers)
snack packs
ranch dressing packets

chex mix (regular, cheddar, any/all kinds)
home made baked goods vacuum sealed
graham crackers
cake frosting (for those graham crackers)
crunchy bacon bits
Summer sausage
goldfish crackers
jif peanut butter (regular or crunchy)
cereal (any children's kind will do =) )
gummy bears/worms
stovetop rice mixes (stovetop anything, for that matter)

little debbie snacks (zebra cake, cosmic brownie, any kind)

post it notes
painters tape/scotch tape/masking tape

As of now, that’s all I can think of.  As you can see, all you need to do is raid the snack aisle at any store you walk into!  Also, pictures and letters and updates would also make my day!  Check out the previous blog entry for my new address.  But I'll put the address on this post too!

Jessica Keeton, PCV
PO Box 49
Lawra-Lawra District
West Africa

When sending packages, label the green customs form with “school supplies” “food” “personal health items” etc.  Don’t write anything valuable.  Also, on the envelope/package write “Air Mail”.

Send packages and letters and everything there.  It’s in the town very close to me, so I’ll be able to get my mail much more quickly!  Love to everyone!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

site thus far

Oh my gosh, where do I start?  It has been two whole months since I last blogged!!  Holy crap!  Since coming to site, I have not been able to find readily available internet access, and I haven’t wanted to bring my computer out into the open just yet.  But now I have some privacy and some time to blog about a few things.

Right now I am staying in a hotel.  With air conditioning, a tv, running hot water, a toilet, and a fridge.  It’s wonderful.  But why am I staying here, you might ask?  My house is currently being overtaken by a swarm of bees.  I woke up this morning and I heard nothing but buzzing outside my windows.  I saw a few of them yesterday, but didn’t really think anything of it.  I then noticed they began getting in through my windows.  Crap.  This isn’t going to end well.  It was about 6am, and all I had wanted to do was sleep in.  Oh well.  I decided to get up and hurry out of the house.  I went into town and met a few people and told them of my issue.  They said they would get it taken care of.  Until then, I just wandered around town. 

The power just went out in the hotel.  Hope I didn’t just fry my computer cord.  Fingers crossed!  I have had the worst luck with technology since coming to Ghana.  But that’s a whole different story I will get into later.

Anywho, so I was just wandering around town all day.  I went and got breakfast (egg sandwich and coffee…my fav!), and walked around to different stores chatting with people, making new friends, and seeing what everyone had to sell.  It was really fun actually.  And everyone is really surprised at my language/Dagaare skills.  So yay!  I ran into my friend Aaron who is from the capital of the Upper West Region.  He comes to Nandom every once in a while, so we sat down and chatted for a while.  He then showed me where he stays in town.  Holy crap.  It’s a house with electricity and carpet.  Wowza.  We just sat on his couch and watched amazingly horrible flicks all afternoon.  It was glorious.  Anyway, I leave his place because I wanted to go check to see how my house was coming along.  I call Peter, who is the local welder and a good friend, to see if he knew anything more.  He told me someone would come to my house around 6 or 7pm to spray.  What?!  I have to wait that long?!  And by that time, will I even be able to stay in my house?? Clearly, the answer to that is no.  But anyway, I see some more people, and finally make my way to the house with Peter, the Assembly Man (Mayor) Maurice, and another person with the special spray.  By this time, I’ve been told I will be staying in a Guest House (hotel) until the bee problem gets fixed.  We get to the house, I go to unlock the door, and lo and behold, the key gets stuck.  The lock won’t budge and the key is not coming out.  Awesome.  Now what?  I have a back door, but I also have a back screen door that I always lock.  Maybe this time for some reason I didn’t lock it.  Nope.  Securely fastened.  Damn.  Peter ended up tearing apart the screen door so we could unlock the back door.  ‘Twas marvelous.  We get inside, I pack up a few things, we spray the house, and leave.  Tomorrow morning, they will spray with a stronger chemical.  I have no idea what that chemical is.  And now I am sitting comfortably in cool air and a comfy bed.  So that was my night in a nut shell.  Let’s talk about the last 2 months.

I have been keeping a journal to document my time here so far, but sadly left it in the house.  I was going to type it all up to share with everyone, but maybe I can do that tomorrow. 

School started on September 4th, and we are almost halfway finished with the term.  The school year is broken up into three different terms.  The first term (for my school anyway) is from September 4th-December 13th.  The second term is from January 8th-April 18th.  And the third term is from May 14th-July 25th.  And all the time in between are the holidays.  Yahoo!  So everyone should plan their visits accordingly!  You can still come visit during the school year, but I won’t be as free as I’d like during those times.  So the Junior High is split into 3 classes.  Form 1, Form 2, and Form 3.  The students in Form 1 just came from the Primary School (Elementary School) and those in Form 3 will (hopefully) be graduating to a Senior High School.  About the 2nd week of school, 2 students in Form 3 came up to me and asked if I could help them after school with Maths (yes, Maths…that’s how they/we say it).  Heck yes!  So I have organized an after school tutoring session.  We meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3-4:30pm.  I actually really enjoy these sessions, because the students who come really want to learn and do well.  It makes me happy.

I have a neighbor whose name is Roger.  And I just want to start off by saying that this man is my hero.  He is almost 60 years old and speaks amazing English.  I don’t know what I’d do without him.  We see each other every day and spend the nights chatting away about anything and everything.  It’s wonderful.  He’s has several kids who like to come around and sit in/on/around my veranda.  I give them groundnuts (peanuts) all the time, so I think that’s why they like coming over.  The two girls, Theresa and Janet, always help clean my house and my clothes and my dishes.  It’s great.  For many reasons.  One being that I think I may be allergic to the soap I bought.  My hands are kind of breaking out and peeling.  I bought the soap in bulk too, so until it’s gone, I’ve asked the girls if they could clean my things for me.  They happily agreed.  They’re so wonderful.  I can’t wait until I get lights.  Because all I want to do is have them come over and watch movies and eat popcorn all night.  That sounds wonderful to me. 

My house is slowly coming together.  When I first arrived, I had a bed and a desk.  That’s it.  Since then, I have been mostly working on my kitchen.  I have a 2-burner tabletop stove, a gas cylinder, plastic shelves, and dishes.  Oh yea, and food.  I put the stove on the desk, so now I was one desk short.  I was given 4 plastic chairs, one of which has since been traded out for a wooden one.  One of the chairs was used as a dresser.  I put all of my clothes on it.  And another one was used to hold all of my textbooks and lesson notes.  So I had 2 chairs.  That’s it.  I met with a carpenter and he made me a writing table (that’s a little too small, but oh well) and a giant wardrobe with doors!  I was able to put all my clothes (easily) on one side of the wardrobe, and the rest of my things on the other side.  And my books now sit on my wobbly writing desk.  It’s nice to actually have a place to put my things.  I have gotten an estimate for a 3 person couch (which is too expensive as of now, so I have to wait until I get paid again).  So in the mean time, I am getting a coffee table and a bookshelf made.  Roger’s junior brother is making them for me, so hopefully they won’t cost me a butt load. 

I just got over a cold earlier this week.  It had been kicking my butt for about 3 weeks.  Everyone told me it was the change in weather.  Which maybe they’re right, but I think it was from all the sick kids at school.  It felt like a sinus infection, and I couldn’t stop coughing.  I drank plenty of (purified) water and tried to get plenty rest.  By the way, “plenty” is said plenty here.  Anywho, I think I have finally beaten this cold. 

I know a ton more has happened since coming to site, and I know I have written it down in my journal, and I know I should have brought the journal with me, but alas, I did not. 

Oh!  I met with the Assembly Man to see if he knew of a place I could take/use my computer that was private because I thought it was too risky taking it into town.  He said to go to Nandom Secondary School (abbreviated Nandom Sec) and see if I could use it there.  Perfect!  Roger works at Nandom Sec!  So we went and visited the Headmaster (Principal) there and told him of my dilemma.  He said it was no problem that I come and use the electricity.  I asked him what days and times would work best, and he said I could use the staff room during school hours.  Uh, crap.  I teach during school hours.  So I told him that, and he said if I were to come and befriend one of the teachers at Nandom Sec, maybe they would let me use their home to charge my computer.  Okay.  I could do that.  Luckily, Roger knew someone who would be willing, so we went and chatted with him.  He said any time I wanted to use my computer, I would just let him know, and he would let me use his office.  Score!!  So hopefully I will now be able to get online more often.  And I apologize for not finding an alternative sooner.  I’ve just been so busy with school and integration and bees. 

Oh, and I have a new address for you to send me packages and/or letters!

Jessica Keeton, PCV
PO Box 49
Lawra-Lawra District
West Africa

So for now, I think I shall stop.  I plan on going to Nandom Sec tomorrow, so I will take my journal with me and copy everything down then.  So until then, I will enjoy this air conditioning and maybe watch a tv show or a movie or something!  Goodnight world!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

traditional and official

August 14, 2012

Tonight was traditional night.  All of the volunteers and their families (plus many others) gathered in the Presby Church at 5pm.  They served us dinner, which was a potluck of all types of Ghanaian foods we had yet to try.  There was also drumming and dancing.  The dance crew, if you will, would play songs while 4 or 5 dancers worked their magic around the room.  It was amazing.  I love just watching them dance.  Zini (my language teacher) of course was taking videos, while others took several pictures, so the night was well captured.  I am going to try to get those videos from Zini, so I can give everyone a glimpse of the things I’m doing and the things I’m seeing.  I was definitely having a rough afternoon, so this night was well needed and well received.  It was so much fun.  Also, my homestay mother has been working her butt off to get my outfit made for tonight.  She also made a matching outfit for her and my homestay sister, Ama.  Peter and his mom as well as April and her mom also matched.  So we got a big matching family photo taken.  I’ll be sure to get that and post it too.  It was beyond adorable.  My family and I had tan-like material with artwork all over it.  The artwork consisted of elephants, huts, suns, and other shapes.  The artwork was a darker brown color.  I love the material.

We all become official volunteers on Thursday.  That’s 2 days away.  It seems so surreal.  It feels like we just got to homestay, and now it’s time for us to grow big and move out on our own.  It’s definitely going to be different…and difficult.  But totally amazing at the same time.  Such a range of emotions.  We have all come such a long way, and now our day is finally here.  I’m fairly certain I will be filled with emotions come Thursday.  I’m going to miss my homestay family, this town, and all my new friends.  I think what helps is knowing I can come visit my homestay or my friends at any time.  Right now, I make sense and it sounds like it will be easy to say goodbye.  But once this weekend hits, I’m sure it will be a whole new story.  Either way, our Peace Corps adventures will begin, and we can start putting our knowledge and skills to good use.  I hope I will be able to keep you all updated on all my endeavors, whatever they may be.  So wish me luck for the swearing-in and everything to come.  It is going to be such a thrill.