Monday, August 22, 2011

We Are Almost 50 Years Old

If you were born on August 30th, 1961 then you and Peace Corps have a birthday coming up. We are going to be celebrating 50 years of service coming up soon, and the celebration will be starting in Accra in the country where the first sandals hit the ground and volunteering began: Ghana.

Our new group of trainees, as I may have mentioned, will be swearing-in come the 30th of this month and it has been timed to coincide with the celebrations for Peace Corps' first half-century celebrations. There should be plenty of people on hand to wish the organization well and that will also include me. We have been informed that there is a mandatory training session on the 29th (part of the PC plan to increase protections for volunteers and administration staff while serving abroad) that will require us to show up in Accra on the day before the swearing-in takes place. It will be nice to celebrate the new group with almost all of the currently serving volunteers close by. Most of the rumors being passed around center on who the biggest name will be to show at the celebration but my breath is being generously held; best not to expect too much when it comes to A-ticket names attending. Though if the President were to swing on over during his vacation, I would not mind taking a photo for posterity's sake.

Fifty years is a long time. Hundreds and hundreds of volunteers have passed through the country before me and I hear about them often. When I mention what I am doing here there is a 50% chance that the person I am talking with will recall having a volunteer show up in her community years and years ago and help either teaching or with agricultural practices. They always have found memories of the volunteer and reflect on the impression that this program has made on them. It is a nice feeling to be a part of that, but it also makes me think that I have a bit more to give to the country and that I better hurry up. Less than one year to go and then I am stateside.

If the stars align properly, there may be a video clip on the CBS morning program in America that highlights the 50th anniversary and may include a few interviews with my fellow volunteers here in Ghana. I won't be able to see it, but it would be nice if all of those who read this blog might check out the station next week on the 30th.

Here is to another 50 years of connecting cultures and doing the right thing across the globe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ruminations On School Break

Firstly, I am posting today on August 16th, which means I owe my happiest of birthday wishes to my mother who was kind enough to let me come to Ghana without too much worrying and remorse on her part. She is a special mom, one that I was very, very lucky to have growing up back in Pennsylvania. Enjoy your day Mom!

On top of the special day for her, I am right back in the heart of Peace Corps training as I was invited to attend a workshop on Sunday for saftety training. My house and my town are now a collection point just in case anything remotely bad should happen in the area or across the country, and as such the secruity coordinator within Peace Corps suggested I be an alternate warden to help count heads and open the doors to the house up just in case it became necessary to move Peace Corps Volunteers around. I don't know when (or if) there has ever been a large-scale consolidation of volunteers outside of some general elections held back in the 1980s, but if there ever were a problem, it will look just about like any other weekend at my house with people stopping by strapped in backpacks.

Speaking of people stopping by, two tourists stopped through various places in Ghana and while looking for places to stay, they got in touch with a few fellow PCVs. These two eventually stopped by my place. They were Alex and Eva from Ireland (but orginally from Poland) who stopped in to rest a bit from their three weeks of travel. Both had cameras and were very good photographers; Alex sporting a Polaroid camera that was at least 50 years old which he used to take many peoples' photos - mine included. The instant film prints looked terrific and he was very adept at using the camera which, if you can believe it, held no batteries and was entirely a mechanical / chemical process. The technology built decades ago is still around even today (Fuji still produces the film and paper for the instant print aspect of the camera) but I highly doubt any of the cameras I have will be around in operating condition come 20 years, much less half a century from now.

Back to Kukurantumi: I will be here until Wednesday as I am going to do a small presentation for the Volunteer Advisory Council and then make sure that the Director of Program and Training sees me in my beautiful Philadelphia Flyers smock (he ribs me on the batakari smock all the time). It is nice to have time back here with the Trainees and some of the other PCVs that were extended a similar invitation but the bed is not nearly as comfortable as my own back in Hohoe and for some reason I neglected to bring a pillow with me so my neck is a bit stiff. Other than that, there are great times here and a lot of good people to be with.

I can't conclude without mentioning that Kimmy and Katie (PCVs from the northern parts of Ghana) made some really fantastic meals at the hub site which has a pretty nice kitchen on the premises. Last night was a stir-fry Chinese dinner which tasted fantastic, and then this morning they had pancakes ready with maple syrup and banana slices. Talk about a treat! That too went down quite well. The only thing that I could contribute was my hands in the sink to clean up the pots. They were quite creative in making the pancakes as there were no skillets to be had in the kitchen; they took the lid of a silver pot, flipped it upside down and laid it on the gas unit to make the pancakes. Volunteers can really adapt well to life in the country.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Slow Days Inside And Outside

The tempo has slowed quite a bit. My American visitors departed at the end of July and I returned to Hohoe from Accra the day after. I gather that my immune system was working overtime during their visit and was getting exhausted as I had a slight headache all morning long getting ready for the bus ride home. As the bus finally moved and I was done snacking on all the foods brought to me in my seat (sellers abound in the tro-tro stations) I didn't quite feel so well.

Then the four-hour ride started and I really didn't feel well. The minibus had a little LCD screen fixed to the front of the vehicle and the driver allowed the passengers to watch a Ghanaian movie. Those are not my favorite as the quality and production value screams "home movie" done on your friend's camcorder. As the trip wore on, I could feel a bit of queasiness build and my body started to ache. By the time I got home I was really in need of a taxi and a quick ride back to the house for some sleep. The first driver I inquired said "two cedis", I laughed at him and walked away. That felt really good actually, knowing when someone was just being silly with the fare and then making sure they got zero instead of the normal fifty pesawas.

My next attempt landed me in the right taxi with the correct fare and I was home in no time. I hit the bed and just felt terrible before the drugs that I took could take effect. It had been a while since I felt that ill here, and it was a long-ish night of fitful sleeping and violent kicking of sheets and blankets when the fever broke. The flu stayed with me off and on for around four days, just in time for me to get a few trainees to stop by.

By Thursday of last week I had four somewhat hardened recruits stop by and settle in for a few days of report-writing and internet surfing, plus maybe one or two tourist attractions. Friday night three more came and the house was a bit jam packed with bodies, but everyone remarked that they had a good night's sleep. In the morning one volunteer took it upon herself to make my kitchen into something useful, and breakfast was made for all. I must admit, Kate knows how to sling her eggs and make them taste great.

With Sunday came the end of the foursome and they made their way back to the Eastern region. I am going to be there myself come Saturday for another round of training, this time for the purpose of inculcating in me a sense of what to do in an emergency. I gather that the Safety and Security team will fill our brains with more facts about what to do and when, who to call and who to listen to, and so on. From there I will stay in the region and wait for Wednesday which will be a day to present what the Volunteer Advisory Council does to the trainees there in Kukurantumi. A short presentation and answering a few questions is on the itinerary. From there I can head back home and see the friends here in Hohoe once more.

To keep busy I have a few little things to do. I still do not have the server in the computer lab yet; I really want to be able to install the operating system on it and see if I can create a working network using the system and the notes I have collected to date. We have not judged the room adequate in the back of the lab to house the unit and my counterpart feels that the server should not be in the lab itself. I am still working on this as I don't mind where we put it, I just want to tinker and play with it and get the headaches out of the way as soon as possible, and what better time than when I have a lot of time.

On a personal note, I will be trying to pick up a few chords on the guitar thanks to the generosity of Matthew Morgan who sold me his acoustic guitar before he headed back to the U.S. Bless his heart, it sounds great and it makes my fingers hurt to play it. The A and E major chords are the first ones on my list. Plus I have been told I need to learn how to play the song, "Smoke on the water," first in order to truly say that I am learning the guitar. Just a few thousand hours and I might be decent at it.

Other time is spent fixing and helping those who are still in town or on campus with their computer problems. Nothing major yet has come through, but that will surely change the more I stop by the computer lab.

Still enjoying Ghana, but I am very thankful that I can enjoy it when I am 100% healthy.