Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Official Official Announcement

[Belated Post]

The end and the beginning has finally arrived. I have sworn in officially as a volunteer in Ghana. The end of training means that we escape the routine and the lorry rides to and from Kukurantumi, that we can set our own goals and schedules and be in charge of what we do. It is the beginning of a very difficult job as well. Were it not for training though I would not be ready to face the challenges that await in Hohoe. So this means a lot more change to come for me in the short term.

However I am getting ahead of myself here. I should probably divulge a few details from the event that saw 72 of us become full-fledged volunteers, and thereby remove the training wheels from our name: Peace Corps Volunteer Trainee.

We met at Opass which was a school close to the hub site in Kukurantumi. In the early morning the skies opened up and a deluge came pouring down which I was certain would ruin our little ceremony. Fortunately by the time my mother and sister made it to the lorry station to catch our taxi out of town the rain had slowed to a mist. I was dressed in the shirt that my host family had had made for me and it looked great. A batik print of dark purple and green which looks really nice. My hair looks terrible as it has not been cut for over two months but beyond that, I think I cleaned up nicely for the day. My mother and sister looked wonderful in their print dresses, and we made it over to the school for the morning. Actually, upon arriving I had my one down moment as my Nalgene bottle was left in the cab before I realized my mistake. I was down a bottle and it took me about ten minutes to realize that it was only a thing and that some Ghanaian now has a nice bottle from the U.S.A.

So all the volunteers showed up in the mist and clouds to get ready to celebrate. We had to wait about 45 minutes to an hour for some of the guests of honor to arrive, but soon the show was rolling with a rendition of the American and Ghanaian national anthems. Ours was song by volunteers Johnathan and Emma and they did a tremendous job. Then the speeches and so forth got under way. After a while we did get to walk up and collect our certificates of training completion from Peace Corps Training Officer Robert which was great, and then Country Director Mike Hoffman came up and announced that we had better all stand up and raise our right hands. We swore that we would uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States which gave me some modest helping of feeling proud, and that we would do our best to perform our duties in Ghana. It was a happy moment for me.

Then came an certificate for our host families. I felt especially proud to see my mother's face light up as our family name was called. We had our photos taken and my family is the gleeful owner of a brand new water jug which was a gift from the Peace Corps. I thought that was a nice touch. They have to put up with us strange Americans for so long that they deserve something neat. By about this time the rain strained to get beyond misting but never succeeded. For me it was better than a bright and sunny day; cooler is better.

Then the dancing came next. I got to do tow different dances for the guests and the volunteers. I probably looked silly, but it was fun and smiles were everywhere when we got done. I wish we could have had a third dance to perform just to extend the good times, but two was all we brought. Maybe I will be lucky to find a video of the routines posted by another volunteer and link to it later. About one hour later and with some lunch in our bellies we were done. I sent my family home and walked over to the hub site to get final payments and my bank account. We gave a healthy applause to our trainers who had been with us since the day we set foot in Accra International Airport. Grace and Gifty were both hard-working women who saw to it that we became acclimated to the new culture with humor and patience. I thought it worked out quite well.

Later when I got home I spoke with my father here and he said that he was full of pride for having a white man live in his house. I realize that this sounds very odd, but I completely understood him as he was just happy to be chosen as having a worthy home for an American to live in. I was extremely grateful to him and his family and said that over and over again. He said that he was going to be sad that I am gone and I believe him; I think the home saw more visitors stopping by to hear my twisted versions of Twi and Ewe. He and I spent many a night just talking about any subject under the sun. I hope his farm does well (though he could use more rain for all of his crops as the rainy season has been anything but rainy) and that the children all do well in their schooling. My final act of getting acquainted with the culture was to help my mother and father pluck dried out corn kernels from the cob. The hand of a Ghanaian is made from steel I am certain since a blister formed on my thumb from about twenty minutes of work. They just kept going and trading stories and laughs.

As the urge to sleep crept in I got up and picked up all the items that I wanted to give to my family. Some of it was food (thank you all who have sent me care packages from back home in the states) other things were gifts that I would pick up at markets here and there. They were all smiling and said their thanks many times over. They have been so nice to me that I felt my gifts paled in comparison, yet they were smiling and that made me feel quite good.

I retired to my room and wrote them a letter of thanks that stayed in the room for them to find after I left. By about ten I was done packing the last of my items in my bags and got myself ready for a trip to Volta. So far I have had a great time in Ghana. I think I will have two more years of happiness to look forward to.


Jennifer Lynch said...

Awesome, Dave -- congrats on your true volunteerhood! Great post...

D.Boyer said...

Thanks Jen. Feels good to get to this stage finally! Volunteering my tucchus off begins right now!