Thursday, July 14, 2011

From Training Last Month: Out To Asafo

In one of the previous posts I made a passing mention that I would offer up a story or two from what went on during training but then failed to post anything more on the subject. This one is here to fix that oversight, but it only has to do with my homestay family from when I was in training the year before.

Our current trainees took up housing in several communities, but the one that I had stayed in last year was not among them. Peace Corps will start a rotation with the hopeful benefit of not wearing out one community over many years of training in that area of the Eastern region. Asafo was having the year "off" in other words. It meant that if I made a visit out there to meet the family that allowed me to stay with them then I would be doing it on my own with no one else coming along for the ride.

With less than a week left to stay in Kukurantumi I was heading out to observe a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) at one of the junior high schools when I got stuck in New Tafo looking for a taxi or a tro. At that time I had not contacted my homestay family and I was still unsure of when or if I would make the ride out to visit them. As I was on the lookout for a tro to stop by I happened to notice an individual walking towards me. It was my one brother from the house coming to greet me. "Hello David!" he said. "Hey... (pause thinking of names as fast as possible) Mensa! How are you?" I was lucky to have his name on the cell phone so that I could remember it without missing too many beats. He asked what I was doing and I mentioned the training and that I was only around for a few more days but that I would like to stop by and see everyone. He agreed that that would be ideal and we figured that that coming Saturday would be best.

By Saturday I was ready to go and make the trip to Asafo after our training duties were over which meant that I left our hub site by about 2. It took well beyond an hour to get to the village as there were just not many taxis willing to head out to the place. As an example, when I got to New Tafo station which is where the taxis should be when you need a lift to Asafo, there were none parked nor any metal signs resting on top of a car roof indicating an imminent trip. That was not a good sign. I hopped in a car that went to Maase, but that only put me in more of a bind as three or four giant funerals were being held in each of the small towns and traffic into Maase was only turning around to head back out the way they came. I was stranded in Maase for 20 minutes or more waiting for an empty taxi to continue the journey.

I did manage to make it out though and after 3:30 I was walking up to the house. Little Theresa knew I was coming and was sprinting towards me screaming. That is a good feeling to have, seeing someone greeting you with that much enthusiasm. She landed quite solidly into my legs and missed seeing me double over in pain by a few scant inches; it was quite the greeting. She hugged me so I couldn't move and only when she released her grip did I manage to go to the house and see everyone.

My mother came out and I gave her a big hug, and my father who was seated under the awning roof on their front porch shook my hand warmly. Everyone was smiling and it really, really felt good to be back to what I called "home" for almost three months. I wish I could have stayed for longer but there were only a few hours for me there. Since they knew I was coming they had a big bowl of fufu ready for me and I forgot one thing about eating there: they gave me so much meat in my soup that I could not finish half of it. I still faced the wall while I was eating but this time they gave me a plastic chair to eat on which was comfortable. The fufu didn't get finished but I really enjoyed their version of the dish as it was soft and tasty.

When I was done we spent some more time chatting the late afternoon away. I learned that the youngest girl went back to live with her biological family which saddened me somewhat since she was the most precocious giggler I have ever met and always got me to smile and laugh, and one other sister was not there as she was visiting family closer to Accra. Beyond that, the family was still there and my father had managed to afford some galvanized steel sheets to roof the one cinder block structure on his property so that it almost resembled a house. His farming is doing well now and the rains were much more helpful this year than they were last year.

I paid my farewells and thank yous to the family and moved along to the station. My mother walked me to the center of town and there were a lot of comments from her friends of having the visitor though I could not understand a word of it. She still doesn't speak much English but then again, we just smile and laugh mostly and communicate that way. She packed me into the taxi and sent me on my way back to Mid Tafo with a full belly and a lot of smiles.

I am going to try and squeeze in a visit to their house when I swing down to Accra for the swearing-in ceremony. When I go I have to remember to pack myself full of gifts for them. They have shown me tons of generosity and kindness and they need to know that I really appreciated all of it. Ghanaians are terrific.

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