Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tasting Something New

Often when I was in the states I would start my morning, spend my day, and close my commute with National Public Radio. A thousand stories must have passed by my ears and obviously I cannot name them all, but one stuck out in my mind. A report about a berry one could eat that would make anything you put in your mouth taste sugary sweet. It sounded neat and my recollection is that parties in NYC would charge people something like five or ten dollars just to taste the berry and then a whole host of foods that ought to taste sour or bitter.

I filed that one away as a neat thing, but today I got to try it out.

We came back to the hub-site to welcome some of the other volunteers who were traveling around the country visiting various sites and at one point in the afternoon I was pretty much all alone. Our security man, Daniel, came up to me with an orange that he had deftly stripped of its rind with a knife. He was giving it to me which was nice, but I told him that I like my oranges sweet and the kind that grow around here are quite sour, almost lemon-like. He told me that they were sweet, or rather he could make them sweet.

He walked 15 paces and there it was, the Miraculous Berry from that NPR story. It is growing right next to the tents that we take our meals under. I had never noticed it before and here is a source of constant sweetness! My taste buds were in for a treat.

You pop the seed of the plant, which is reddish and waxy, into your mouth. The skin is pretty thin and under it there is a soft meat of sorts that you just roll over your tongue for a minute, then spit that seed out and find your choice of fruit to eat.

That orange which I rejected outright was the sweetest version of orange juice that I could get in the U.S. I am so thankful to our security guard for pointing this tree out to me, as apparently it only fruits during this month so the timing was perfect. I wonder if I could sneak this plant back to my mother's house in North Carolina. I just can't believe I didn't see this during all of my training last year.

Just another tasty Sunday here in Ghana.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Training Away The Days

My blog posts are becoming less and less frequent and must learn to correct that behavior. Here is my first chance to do some correcting.

I traveled to Kukurantumi on the 14th with my fellow Hohoe-ian Scott to get to the training hub-site. We made very good time after leaving somewhere after 1PM on Tuesday. After we walked into the gates of the hub site we saw the new arrivals for the first time. Thirty-six individuals enjoying some rest and dinner just before 6 o'clock. Within minutes of our arrival at the hub-site, the other three trainers arrived on the scene.

We got our orders to find places to stay within the community which has already been set up, and then we took to find some dinner. A nice evening walk and we were in a town close by finding a restaurant to eat at. Pretty simple and we were all in bed getting ready for an early morning.

Our first day of training was general information about what the Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) would be doing for the rest of the week, who we were as the Peace Corps Trainers (PCTs), and what the Ghanaian Trainers were responsible for. These 36 are all going to be teachers so we started off with the appropriate topics that teachers need: what are the courses that to be taught, what will the environment be like at the schools, how to manage a chalkboard, and so on. There were lots of topics and it reminded me how quick it all passed by when I was trying to fill my head with it all last year. I must have missed quite a few points as the acronyms got tossed around, but sure enough we got to the good part - actually teaching.

Thursday was meant to learn the do's and don'ts of teaching for Ghanaian classes. I think the PCTs had a good time teaching lessons on how to perform a major triad chord, playing Tic-Tac-Toe Cubed, and other subjects. Even in the light-hearted forays into teaching there were still things to praise and critique, so that certain points can be polished and other points improved. With peer teaching in the books, we broached the subject that occurred today: micro-teaching.

The Trainees had to travel to real schools and demonstrate a short lesson on subject material more closely related to their disciplines in front of real students. Our group of ICT teachers traveled to two schools: Kibi and SDA. SDA is the Seventh Day Adventist College that our group trained at last year while Kibi (I don't know the full name of that school yet) is a new school about an hour away from where we are staying. Both campuses are nice and it seemed that all involved had a good time teaching a few students. I was even able to get up and do a demonstration lesson on digital images, so we all got in on the act. The PCTs looked as nervous as I felt when I was in their shoes.

We headed home from the colleges in the afternoon. As the tro-tro pulled into a gas station I heard the sound of a sheep ba-a-ahing from below. I thought we had hit one on the way in, but no, the sound was not emanating from outside the tro but from right behind my seat. Someone was ferrying their sheep in the back so we had an extra passenger. I think the Trainees appreciated that. Just one more thing that makes you smile in Ghana.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

One Year On

Time flies and all that. I have not been in America for 365 days officially. My first post from here came on June 5th, but we landed in Accra on the 4th at about 8AM. Some days have been whirlwinds, and others have been smooth and slow. But mostly my stay has been changing me day-by-day in good ways.

Service so far has taught me to adjust to a lot of things. Food that can be grown in a tropical climate does not match much of what I liked back in America. Yams, plantains, and cassava were not my principle food groups, nor palm nut oil or heaping mounds of okra. But somehow my stomach eventually gave in and accepted the changes. It was a struggle early on of course.

Teaching has had its moments of fun and frustration, but doesn't every job have those? I have been fortunate to have a few more, decidedly more, fun moments during the days here. Our school year is almost over and I will miss out on teaching the last few classes due to the training schedule for the next batch of volunteers, yet even if I were still here the time seems way too short to cover the programs and material that I wanted to show everyone.

To be clear, I have not been a volunteer for a year yet. I swore in the 12th of August so that is the official start date and it will also be the official leave date for most of us come 2012. Thinking ahead though, there will be a great deal I will have to un-learn by that time. Let me list some of the things that come to my mind:

  • Ending a sentence with the long "O", especially the word 'bye-bye'. Everyone adds the "O" sound to things, and you will too if you hear it enough times. Sorry-O. 
  • Opening the refrigerator (which I am lucky to have) at night and forgetting to bring a flashlight to see inside.
  • Shaking someone's hand and going for the finger-snap to conclude the shake. This one will be a really hard habit to break.
  • Crossing the paths of roaming sheep, taxi drivers, and bicyclists all on the same street.
  • Waking at 5 every morning.
  • Talking to anyone and everyone I pass.
  • Taking public transportation and immediately slating time for a shower.
  • Not hearing a plane fly over head or any motorized lawn care equipment running during the weekends.
  • Using my fingers to eat rice.
I am certain that there are more that I will add to the list, but that is just a taste of what Ghana has done to me so far. There are so many new friends I have here that I feel really lucky to have been given this chance to volunteer. We all miss the good old U.S. of A., but once you mold yourself into your surroundings, you realize that where you find yourself isn't so bad after all. Never would you think someone was having it hard here judging by their laughter and smiles. Ghanaians are really friendly and roughly ten times more hospitable than Americans, it will be hard to leave. But I am getting ahead of myself.

So far so good. One full year is in the books. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!