Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Care Package Highlights

[Belated Post]

Mail day at the hub site came and went. I didn't think anything might be there for me (and this is just a mental defense against high expectations dear reader, not a slight against you for not writing, hehehe :O) but I went over to check anyway. Since the mailbox was being blocked up by my fellow eager volunteers, I went to check out the boxes that were laying about on the plastic tables. No. Not me. No. Not min... wait a second!

I was the proud recipient of an unrequested and far-too-kind care box from the states. The family of a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) friend of mine had the very nice notion of sending something my way. I have snacks a-plenty and will be meteing them out over the course of several weeks, savoring sugary-ness and chocolates as needed.

Thanks so much D & M, these donations will not go to waste!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Out To Boti Falls

[Belated Post]

Most Sundays I find myself taking a trip to the church in my town with my home stay mom which should be a post in itself, but not this Sunday. Peace Corps arragned for a little leisure time for us by booking a trip to a place called Boti Falls. I saw it on the schedule and figured that it would be a nice little trip, maybe see some water falling vertically and such. That seemed like a good thing.

Off I went. The really nice thing about this Sunday was that I got to actually hang out with the other half of our group. Again, we are about 72 volunteers now (sadly, one had to terminate early due to life circumstances. The shorthand for this is ET - early termination) but due to our different tracks, we are split almost down the middle for training purposes. This field trip though brought most of us back together for a day which means a lot more fun for me.

So off we went to see the falls. I dressed buisness casual again for no reason at all save for the fact that I am getting used to button down shirts and trousers. Oh, and they are trousers here, not pants. The term pants is used for your underpants. Knickers? those are shorts. Got that? Great. Back on to the story. I am ready for a leisurely stroll which ensues and we get to see the falls after descending 200 or so steps to  the base of a cliff. Sadly, this area has not seen a great deal of rainfall in the last few days so the falls were more trickles instead. One could imagine how impressive these would be though had there been a lot of water gushing over the edge. Instead our group witnessed a leaky faucet on two sides of the overhang. I have video and pictures of this, but they will be saved for a later upload.

Now we have gotten through the falls. What is next? Lunch. And then a hike.

I like hikes, sure, I'll go.

At points this felt less like a nature walk than an ascent up K2 provided K2 was in a jungle. The rise and fall of the trail had extremely sharp changes and while all of us made it unscathed, there were quite a few times where we could have had some really bad tumbles had we lost our footing. But the end,... it was worth it by any measure.

We climbed and climbed up to the highlight of the trip. The Umbrella rock was a giant boulder standing on top of a column of stone. The last 400 or more yards of the walk was straight up to this rock and me and about four others got there first to enjoy the view. For fifty pesewas (about 30 cents back home) you could climb a ladder that the locals set up for us tourists. From there the view of the valley was terrific. The look over the edge was petrifying. I'd say it was an easy 100 feet down if you fell off the top of this. No guardrails, no ropes to keep you safe, just you and a giant rock to walk on top of. Pretty neat, yes?

After cooling off in the cool breeze we then proceeded to move back to our transport buses and get moving back to Kukurantumi. I am glad that I got a chance to do this and am thankful that the Peace Corps allowed us to go. Next time though, I will pay more attention to what we are doing and dress accordingly. It is too warm to look good at times here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Am I Doing Here

Belated Post

No, this is not an existential tome about why I am here on earth. I only lately realized that I didn't provide much detail on what it is that I will be doing while volunteering 24 or so months of my time here in Ghana. The country has a sizeable need for teachers and Peace Corps tends to send about 40% or more of its volunteers to Ghana as teachers. The rest? Meh, we don't care about them right now, do we? Omnibus volunteers will not find that joke at all humorous.

Back to the point though of what I am doing here. My field is computers so they placed me into the Information and Communication Technologies track of education. This means that I get to teach about computers and related topics to my heart's content. During training the Edu volunteers are asked to teach before several classes so that observers can see what they have on their hands in terms of teachers. I am not alone in having zero teaching experience in my background. Most of the people that I train with haven't taught but were studying or working in their respective fields to know enough about the subject matter.

There are five ICT trainees and we all must catch a taxi or tro ride over to a school close to Koforidua. About an hour and a half depending on when the taxi sets sail out of Asafo. The school we are practicing in is a teacher training college. We teach future teachers. For our group we have had a few ups and downs getting classes together so of the four or five hours that I was to be observed teaching, I'd say I have clocked about three and a half hours so far. Classes and our understanding of where things are to be has snipped a few minutes each and every time.

So I get up in front of a class of about 20 or 30 and teach either Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint for an hour. I can quiz the class if I want, make them do homework, make them put their heads down and sleep, whatever I want. This all feels very strange.

Every class that I have had the pleasure of seeing has been incredibly well behaved, but this seems typical for the age group that I am placed with. Most will be in their very late teens or early twenties and they are looking to learn all the can so they may pass their large test in the second year. So I consider this a plus. From all the students I have seen, many will do just fine when they go to exams.

For each and every school that I have witnessed, all pupils are dressed in school uniforms. I am not sure why, but I really like this better than in the U.S. public system. Everybody looks neat and professional, better than me most of the time. (For those of you who know my appearance, you would be surprised to learn that not once have I put on blue jeans since I arrived and even on hot days I am in button up shirts and nice pants. Ghana has changed me!)

Most of the students are familiar with the enforcement policies of Ghanaian schools and to label them strict would be an understatement. Many of them have seen or been the recipient of a switch from a teacher or a headmaster, so I have learned that when I ask a question many of them will not venture forth with an answer because sometimes they have been taught that a wrong answer is punishable. I am having continuous talks with volunteers and my Ghanaian counterparts to find out all that I can to correct some of my habits when it comes to managing a class.

My toughest challenge though is clear to me: Remembering everyone's name! Patience and a bit of hard work should carry me through though.

So that is my job. I will be teaching from the basics to the complex in ICT while making sure my students are prepared for the exams that get them a degree. As my job gets going I am sure to write up more comments here and there. If I haven't mentioned this already, my comments do not reflect the views of the Peace corps program or anyone inside or outside the Ghanaian education system. They are all mine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tro-Tro Express: On Traveling In Ghana

I wanted to provide the best possible description for my counterparts back home in the U.S. to get a feeling of what it is like to go somewhere in Ghana. It may be a long post, but I hope that it accurately captures what you will find should you stop on by and visit me here during my stay.

First and foremost: You are not in the United States. This is not a bad thing at all, you are exploring and getting to know the world beyond your borders, so by all means view this as a positive step. What it is meant to do though is to remind you that the things you expect when in a vehicle aren't necessarily applied to travel in Ghana. It is great fun to ride around and see this really beautiful country, but you have to leave some inhibitions behind, and ready yourself (maybe steady yourself too) for some striking things.

Now, the venerable Tro-tro. That is my phoenetic spelling of what they are called, so it may very well be the case that this is not the right name for it, but that is what I hear when someone asks, "Should we take a tro-tro?" So what does it look like? Most of the vehicles are makes and models that we do not have in the United States, so right off the bat it will be hard to describe it just right. You can think of it as a passenger van from the 1970s or 80s, but we start to lose the look of things right there. These vehicles may be even older than that, I can't really tell, but they have two front doors for driver and passengers, and a sliding side door.

Most typically they will have at least three benches of seats that sit three tightly. The rear bench fits all the way across the width of the vehicle and can seat four. For every other bench seat, the right end of the bench has a fold-out seat bolted on that will allow for all benches to maximize passenger space. If you are on a full tro-tro, you are embarking on a journey with 15 people in a van. And their stuff. Which may at times include one or two children with their parents. So 15 is really a ball park.

The point here is that a full ride can be a very close and personal journey. We should observe at this point that none of these vehicles EVER had a working air conditioner, and so the interior gets rather warm.

The driver is a skilled man (I have never seen a woman driver in a vehicle for commercial service) who really doesn't talk much. That is not his job. His job is to narrowly avoid the following: other tro-tros, cars, motorcyclists weaving through traffic, pedestrians who must walk on the road as there are no sidewalks here, pot-holes the size of sink-holes, goats, chickens, bicyclists, dogs, and anything else that might leap out from the tall grass along the road's edge. It really is impressive to see these drivers maneuver their steeds. I mentioned that the driver does not speak; this is untrue. He speaks with his horn. He tends to speak about 40 words a minute by my estimation.

On the tro-tro we have the man responsible for loading the vehicle with human cargo. This is the driver's mate. He collects money, makes change, and if soliciting business, will be chanting the tro's destination to all who idle by the roadside. I loved listening to the mates in Accra as they had a great delivery. Accraccraccra! Circlecirclecircle! Sometimes the mate might see a volunteer and hope to rub a few extra pesuas from their pocket by charging extra so we have normally been on guard when getting money out, but otherwise they are just doing their duty to make a cedi (Ghanaian dollar).

So those are the people on this quite short yet purposeful bus. I have yet to really describe well the condition of the vehicle. There is nothing new on these vechicles. Everything has been fixed two times at a minimum. When I use the term fix, I use it as loosely as possible; blunt force seems to be preferred when fixing plastic trim. Most times the driver uses the key to start the tro-tro up, but sometimes a dip beneath the dashboard to touch a few wires together is necessary. The interiors have probably seen a million passengers before us, so there is a dingy, destroyed effect that builds up over time. The windows in the tro do open up which is a big plus, but during a heavy rain they never really do shut all the way closed. You aim for the middle seats if you think it is going to rain. Outside seats if it is sunny.

Of the odometers that function, they will not be fewer than 300,000 miles. Most have long since stopped working and you would be right in presuming a state inspection probably doesn't require those to work. I have kept a running total of cracked windshields and I am still standing at 50%. If it has one crack in the windshield, it will have two brothers to go with it almost without fail. There is serious doubt that any of these tro-tros could pass an emission test in the states even if the engine was turned off, let alone running. Yet they manage to get to the end of the line most of the time (discounting flat tires).

One of the very funny things here is that every rear window has a phrase stickered to the glass. "Hustler", "God is all", "In His Name", the list can go on and on. I am missing the funnier ones to be sure, but it gives us something to read while bouncing down the road. Oh, the shocks won't be working during your ride, I failed to mention that. The CV joint may creak a bit on hard right hand turns.

Other than this, you have the experience of a lifetime in store for you. They really are a lot of fun and I am purely amazed at the resourcefulness of the guys that drive them. You will enjoy them too, should you happen out here.

Oh, one last thing. Your driver may choose to pass another vehicle ANY TIME THEY WANT TO. Most roads are like that, so try not to show off that you are a novice by complaining.

I love this place.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Belated Post

The magic word. The word you will hear probably a thousand times before you finish 27 months in Ghana. A word that instantly pegs you in a crowd as the focus of attention and eyeballs. "OH-BROON-NEE." I had read about the term before learning much else about Ghana from comments interspersed through Peace Corps material. The term has been described in varying terms - the one closest to a translation that I remember reading was "person from over the horizon". As it comes out of mouths of young and old alike, it has the feeling of, "White guy!" as I walk down the road.

I am not (yet) upset by the word. Everyone that I know in our group has been called obroni to the best of my knowledge. And by far, it is *never* meant as an insult since I have been here, it is just what someone who looks different goes by in these parts. When you hear about 8 little children, none over the age of 5 yell it, you can be sure that they are smiling very large smiles and waving furiously for your attention. It is quite easy to laugh, pause and wave, and then try your darndest to surprise them with a bit of the mother-tongue to see their reaction. There is something really fun about doing that, and by far having children yell is like a free ticket to feel happy for the next five or ten seconds.

The best moment so far with obroni came when I was walking home one night from teaching. I was on a dirt path a few minutes removed from my homestay families' home, and three small little girls blurted out, "Obroni!" which didn't phase me. What was surprising though was they were all running towards me and no sooner had they reached me then they all gave spontaneous hugs just above my kneecaps. I couldn't move and had no reason to, it was just the silliest but neatest thing ever. "That guy looks different from us," "Yes, let us all run and hug him!" You can't make up neat experiences like that.

So to date, I don't have any qualms with someone yelling obroni. It is a great chance to practice some language, and it also means that they really would like to talk and have a new friend in town.

Of course, a few times when traveling about we see a fellow PC Trainee and we are sorely tempted to yell out of the window, "OBRONI!!" for the fun of it. Good times.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Eagle Will Be Landed, Soon

Belated Post

Today was the site announcement for all 70+ volunteers in our group. Without further ado, you should know that I will be stationed in the Volta region of Ghana, and that I will be teaching ICT and possibly English at the St. Francis College of Education in the city of Hohoe. That will put me in the eastern side of the country close to the border of Togo. Here is what I read about the school:
The college was established in 1968. It has a current population of about 623 students. The college offers specialist courses in Mathematics and Science but the Arts too are taught to a limited extent. You will be teaching ICT with two other teachers.
Not too bad. The accomodations will be on campus so my morning commute probably won't be based on tro-tro travel. Hooray for that.

So I am pretty happy. I am just writing this 30 minutes after finding out, so I should probably talk to my fellow Volta region volunteers and be sociable. I am especially excited about this. The only bad thing is that it means the 70 of us will be broken up into many regions throughout the country and we won't be able to meet the others as often as we like. Life changes though, so here is to more change.

Later update: This was a really fun day. I had a chance to talk to my mom and tell her the good news and give her the update on being sickly so she doesn't have to read it here first (we never, ever scare Mom through blog posts. That is the first rule here at MTN). And of course, I got better and better physically as the day went along. After our cadre found out about the posts we headed over to the bar close by to the Peace Corps Office (PCO) in Kukurantumi. I was merely a few minutes late to the fun and the moment I walked onto the premises was precisely the moment after the group photo was taken. My humorous pal Mayor Mike was there to save the day though, he yelled out, "SUCK IT BOYER!" and everyone broke out laughing. I did manage to get in one of those group shots though, I hope to get copies some day of them.

One Sprite later and I was dancing my happy-dance to the horrified faces of fellow volunteers. Actually, I was just gesticulating and everyone was laughing with (at) me. As near as I can figure almost everyone was happy and ready for the next step to begin and that definitely includes yours truly.

I was told before I got here by another volunteer that there might be days where the ups and downs pile on. I think I just went through my first one. Forty-eight hours does not a volunteer make, but that seems to be a good taste of how some of my weeks and months might go in the future.

As the evening wound down here at the host family's house, I was treated to more Twi practice even though they don't speak that in Hohoe. It was great to have my brothers and sisters help me parse out words and phrases. When I was at the PCO I met the woman who had interviewed and at the time I didn't know where I was going, but I said hello to her and mentioned something about Twi and she slyly pointed out that I would not be worrying about getting the greeting right for long. I could only smile at that, but I did have the feeling that I wanted Twi to be spoken at my site. I really want to tell my host mother how much she has made me feel welcome, and how I can let her know that she had a big part in making me a Ghanaian.

There is still plenty of time for that to happen, and a lot of wiggle-room for my Twi.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It Had To Happen Sometime

Belated Post

The first thing that I will mention is that I feel fine. Seriously, I feel mentally and physically fine. Yet yesterday I had the pleasure of hitting the latrine a few times and you can guess where that story leads. I suppose it is a common thing when adjusting to a new country, but I was hoping to stay nice and healthy for a good long while.

My hunch is that the food I have been eating with the host family (eating with is a misstatement - I eat at a small table just outside my room which is the way guests are given their meals where I am living) has been a bit much for my gut to handle or process. The other morning I grabbed a laxative and crossed my fingers. Let's say it worked, but I had to feel a bit green in order to go through it all.

So we can just agree that this is out of the way, and I can move on. :O)

I am teaching now! We had our first mini-lesson on Tuesday before a sample class and I think I did decently enough, but there are plenty of things that I can improve upon. My main impression is that many students may not have the background in computers that I was presuming so I need to be wary of the idea, "You all know what this is so let me skip right ahead." Just talking about input devices to the makeshift class of students felt a bit awkward. Some were not responding at all to the points or the questions. Overall though everyone is eager to learn which is great. And one big bonus is the ICT lab where we will teach practicum has an internet connection. Very nice.

I am running around between towns in order to my training (as are my colleagues) so we need to pack into vans and cars which has the approximation of a clown car from the circus. For a car that didn't look bigger than a Ford Escort (and picture that Escort in some disrepair), we had 6 adults packed in. Four would be not so comfortable, so you can paint the picture of all of us slammed into the seats, stacked on top of each other for a short 30 minute ride over dirt roads riddled with potholes. Fun stuff.

Soon we will be teaching pros here. On Thursday we learn where we are heading as our final destination for placement in a community. I am hopeful it is within the Twi language, but we will see. No big deal if it is not.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My First Internet Cafe

Everything considered, it was a nice break to head out to school today and get some classroom preparation done, and then move to the next best thing since sliced bread: the internet.  I had about half an hour to plop a few posts on the blog here, and then this quick message. My host family is tremendous and at times I feel like a king when I walk around. I know that won't last long.

There is now a cellular phone on my person, but calls to the states can get a bit pricey to and fro, so I have been limited on who or when I can call up people. Needless to say, there are certain things that one can get access to while still removed from the modern society.

My best description of the towns that we find ourselves in (the larger group of 70 has been split up several different ways now) is that they make do with what they have. In terms of buildings and technology, they adjust to what is present. In terms of fun and humor, they lack none of what I had in the states. Maybe they even have more, I don't know.

Yet for all of that, here are a few things I can live without. A bathroom that has a roof. My shower and urinary moments are inside a four foot tall concrete enclosure. The outhouse is as nice as can be expected. The food, that is just awesome and plentiful. I could not ask for more and quite frankly I had to ask for less food for meals since I would return the family more then half the plate. Culturally the guest must eat by themselves as a sign of respect for the guest, so I have been eating my food on a table one foot or so high and a chair just slightly shorter. It is different, but that is exactly what I signed up for.

I won't reveal names of the family on the blog, but the town is close to New Tafo. Soon we will be practicing our teaching and then in July our education group goes on VisionQuest so we get to run about the country and have some fun finding other volunteers.

Good times so far, and plenty more to come. Provided I find these cafes close to where I work.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Culture Tour de Force (Or, The Last Day In A Hotel)

Belated Post

Today was more training, of course, but this was also the day where the PC Trainers prepared us for a new family: our host family. The training staff prepared us with many details of what we should expect, and then they conducted a very entertaining skit introducing several things that might run counter to the Americans in us. Eating, greeting, where to go to the bathroom, and many more things made for an informative production.

Some things that I am eager for is some stability and a time to get to hear a language spoken by people a majority of the time. We were told that someone in the house is likely to speak English, which would be nice, but I need to be reminded constantly of words, phrases, objects, etc in the new language. When I am with my fellows here, I speak English 99.5% of the time. That means I am learning about 20 minutes a day of Twi. Not ideal. So as the morning progressed I had this feeling that finally I can get that confidence in my language skills by immersing my head in it.

Oddities though in culture: eating a meal at the family level is about eating, not idle chatter. Keeping silent and having the time to talk before or after is best in some families. Utensils for the food is not required so I should not have to worry about which side the fork goes on when setting the table. The toilet is really an outhouse, and the name they use for the upgraded outhouse is VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit), but you are still referring to it with the term 'pit' attached. That can't be pretty but then again, it might be similar to what you use when you are at a town fair and the port-a-potties are lined up. Still, no flushing. There were many other things that they reviewed but those were the most jarring in my mind as to what I was expecting. Or what was new to me.

So beyond that, what we really had in the morning was more Twi. I liked the set up (smaller groups) and the focus on breaking down what words meant versus memorizing one phrase after the other. That was good. The bad might be that I still don't have a good grasp of words and recall of useful responses. I spoke with our Training Leader and she said that it will all come. I hope she is right.

Again, all of the volunteers have been nice and I am really glad the group is friendly, altruistic to a fault almost, and really funny. Good times when you can find people who are more eager than you are to laugh.

It just occurred to me that we have been in the country a full week. Maybe I should let up a  bit on memorizing something completely new to me. It is still great fun, that is for sure.

Oh, I missed calling my mother last night. I had to leave a long message on the answering machine and I bet that while that might have made her happy, she was probably sad that she missed me directly. That should change soon when I get a cell phone. Ahh, technology in the jungle.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kukurantumi And Training

Belated Post

Our class has moved on from Vally View and taken up roots in Kukurantumi for the beginning of training. Just the education group is here so far as the Omnibus (non-education) went hunting around the country-side to find volunteers serving in Ghana. We were welcomed just like back in Valley View; open arms and great smiles. It was terrific and the food here is just as good as it was in our last place, if not a touch better. Gifty, one of our Ghanaian trainers, is disappointed when we don't go back for seconds and I must say it is always tempting. Oh, she is incredibly funny and always in great humor no matter what time of day.

Back to Kukurantumi. We are in the Peace Corps Office here and by Friday, the 12th, we are either going to find out who are home stay families are, or actually go directly to their homes and get used to our surroundings. I am eager to get that going, because that transition is big but it also means I get to hear and experience the language of the home family rather than be with Americans all the time. I don't practice Twi now when I leave the training program, and that is killing my uptake of the words and phrases.

Our training is beginning in earnest though. Today the schedule is full of language, education training, and many other items on the itinerary. Should be exhausting if I am a good judge of things. Last night we were placed in a hotel and had a good time just chatting and playing games. I even got in a sketch of the classic Coke bottle that used to be a staple in America. That bottle is heavier than I remember them. Again, I am having a great time with the people that are here, and somehow I have been passing for being 27 or so. Feels neat to be honest.

Off to breakfast at 7AM.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Skipping Vision Quest

Belated Post

June 8, 2010

Since our education class had to stay on schedule for beginning the school semesters at the respective schools, we did not join our Volunteer-mates on a Vision Quest. That entails going out into the country, sometimes on your own, and making do with the minimal (and minimal is an understatement for me personally) language skills in Twi (pronounce that as CHWEE and you are close to the right sound) to connect to a currently serving PCV.

While that sounds like a blast, our group of education volunteers had to stay home as it were in the dorm rooms and get ready for arrival at our host families. But before we did this, the trainers asked us to visit various sites in the city of Accra and its outlying suburbs to see what we could find. Armed with a few basic places to start with, we ended up going off in groups of two and three to arrive at destinations unknown to us.

It was terrific.

The amount of things to take in is mesmerizing and daunting. What did that passenger just pay to board the tro-tro (I have no idea the Twi spelling for this so you have the phonetic spelling right there) and what did I have to pay? Did I get a better deal? Highly unlikely. What did the person taking money just say to the driver? Why am I in a vehicle that needs a few "minor" repairs? All of it just absolutely enjoyable.

We made a connection to the second line in Medina. Think of these large vans as if they were a big city's subway system. One line will take you here, the other will take you there. Just wandering the street to ask for help seems a nightmare, but with a gentle question, put in Twi thank you very much, yields all the help you could imagine. Many people here enjoy helping. With only four days of a brand new language, it is hard to get the hang of just quick banter, so quickly I am asking "Do you speak English," and hoping for the best. One poor woman had her baby right next to me on the tro-tro, and whenever the baby looked over at me, Mr. Pale Face, he started to cry. His mother didn't speak English and I clammed up and tried my best to stop making the little one cry, but that is the way things happen sometimes.

I was with two friends here and we did our best to find our destinations. We asked our questions and found out that a military hospital cared for veterans, active duty soldiers, and the civilian population alike. They would even help out a volunteer should we arrive in disrepair. How nice. I like that all of us just kept looking around the next corner for answers to our questions, as we were jumped to seven different people before we got to our last one, and even he directed us to the first place we asked to get proper clearance. Very funny.

One short walk from the hospital and we were at the Peace Corps HQ. I got to check my email and send a note to my mom and brother. I hope they read it and felt alright about my lack of updates in the last few days. It is hard not being able to reassure people that everything is well and dandy when it is just that. I know certain somebodies that tend to worry.

More work to be done, and some quick prepping for our departure on the 9th. I hope this update found you well and good in your part of the world.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Things That I Have Learned

Belated Post

June 6, 2010

All the meals have been provided up to this point for the two or so days that we have been there, so I don't know anything about cooking or buying food, but I do know now how to wash my clothes using only the bucket and bar of soap method. Seems a bit more time consuming that way was my first observation. Roughly ten minutes to get one pair of pants sufficiently (but not perfectly) clean. The drying part is self-explanatory, the sun does that nicely. And of course the bucket is useful in that one can take a sufficient bath in it. We have shower heads here but I felt I should do the experiment of my first bath with a bucket yesterday, our first full day in Ghana. It was nice actually, and the water was not cold nor warm, just the temperature of a pool in July I bet.

On the other end of the spectrum is learning the language. It was a bit overwhelming to begin with. The trip to the market wasn't helpful, I felt like a fish out of water. A fish out of water with a lot of onlookers witnessing the episode. After returning back it was brought to my attention that I would likely never see these people again, and that making mistakes was part of the process. So pride took its toll on my first day out. We were there for about an hour, and the food looked really good save for the dried fish that had flies hovering all about. Heck, I'd eat them anyway but they just don't have that much visual appeal.

Today (it was June 6th, Sunday) has seen a few more lessons on safety, some concerns
 on security, and all in all, be aware of who you are and where you are while on duty. That concept of being a representative of the states all day every day was drilled home.

Oh, and I can't ride a motorcycle unless it is life and death. That waits until I get back to America I suppose.

Really, I am not for wanting of anything right now. It is warm, but so what, you sweat and drink water and survive. Let's see if I am saying that 10 months from now.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

I Am Actually In Ghana

Belated Post
June 5, 2010

Here I stand along side a wall typing on the netbook (thank you once again Damla) as the rest of my Peace-mates play volleyball (one rope strong across two columns and a make-shift volleyball which is actually a soccer ball) and also soccer keep-away in the open coutyard, I have to pause and consider how lucky I am to be here. The people are wonderful (both Americans and Ghanians) and so far, every anxious moment I had wondering what it would be like has passed and most things have turned out far better than I could have hoped for.

I have landed and somewhat adjusted to the new world here. The flight out to Ghana went well after the airport had to double check that all of our luggage was actually on board. We waited for alomst an hour before getting out of JFK, but then that was it, we were airborne and only a small, apprehensive sigh came out; it was really happening.

Then about twelve hours in the air passed by. I think I managed to sleep or slightly doze of for about an hour during the trip, and that put me in Accra, the capitol, around 8AM their time. I was not that tired, and the warm rains made sure to wake me up upon stepping off the staircase out of the plane. It no longer was happening, it *had happened*! I made it. What a sense of relief it was. Then came the airport. Or at least out departure.

We collected our bags, showed our passports to everyone, and then jumped outside to approach the bus which would ferry us out to Peace Corps Headquarters. It was large, bright green, and nicely air conditioned. This short trip to HQ gave us a quick acquaintance with the area. The streets, the vendors, the cobbled together shacks and some of the very nice houses made me feel that some have it nice, others have it pretty hard. The meet and greet at Peace Corps' office went well, and the rain kept coming and going for the rest of the afternoon. It really felt nice if it didn't pour too much.

With official business concluded and our behinds back on the bus again, we made the rest of the trip out to our temporary digs at a school about an hour or so from Accra. we had the same escort to the dormitory on a campus outside of town. Lots of honking, lots of not so happy faces peering back in the windows, but they were out numbered by the very happy faces who would wave.

Still, there we were, enjoying a new space and a new land. Small rooms but they had toilets and even a shower head, though I will probably try just the bucket for fun to get used to. The weather was a bit hot and humid, but fortunately it is the rainy season so the day time highs are not that high, mostly in the high 80s as the sun doesn't come out much.

Here we met the staff that will begin the training session for us. All Ghanians, and all smiling and extremely helpful. They fed us and made some great spicy foods which I could enjoy.

So for the first day, I had about 30 or 36 hours of up-time and little down-time. After dinner I crashed in bed without even taking off my clothes, and in the early morning I realized I hadn't taken my shoes off. Yes I was that tired.

No mosquito bites yet! That is a big victory in my book, though I haven't seen one yet so that is a good thing.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Saying Goodbyes

Who knew they would be so tough.

Well, of course they are tough. Still, it is tough to do it and if anyone knows me they know at least one thing - I am terrible at them.

So after some tearful goodbyes, it seems that the only thing left to do is to arrive in Accra and get acquainted with some tropical sun and some mighty friendly people. Care to come along?


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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Staging In Philly Begins

This is where posts get tricky. The access to the network is a must for posts naturally, and given that I am sitting in the airport awaiting the flight to arrive and take me to Philadelphia means that I have wifi here at the terminal. Whence I leave this terminal things become less certain. I presume there will be spots in Philly where I can crack open the netbook and give it a whirl, but Wednesday the 2nd means business Peace Corps style; lots of things to soak up and prepare for.

That means I might be hit and miss for a bit. Thursday afternoon is the road trip from half-way-'round-the-world. Leaving Philadelphia means a bus ride to NYC and to John F. Kennedy Airport to depart for Africa. Exciting? You bet! But I want people to know that I am all right while I am out and about and that gets a bit tricky since I know next to nothing about where I will find myself in Accra and parts beyond.

So stay tuned. It should get much more interesting from this stage forward.