Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Medically Cleared For Service

After three days going to and from Accra I am ready for the rest of my service, medically speaking. About a dozen of us from Volta and a few other regions convened at the Peace Corps Headquarters prepared to visit the doctor and see a dentist to ensure that we still are coping with the banku and fufu adequately. We had two days to be in the medical unit of the compound but I was able to get both appointments done in one day, meaning I could get back a day early. While I was there I tried to eat as much American food as I could, but the spending allowance PCVs receive is not quite up to the current prices of eating so well in the city. Two cheeseburgers and french fries plus a pizza are enough Americana for me.

All volunteers go through this checkup to see that there are no problems and that our bodies are not harboring any unseen characters that might affect our health negatively. When I went to see the doctor the only thing I had a complaint about was insect bites but they are minor and as long as I resist the scratching urge they are not a big concern. We reviewed the ankle injury and then that was about it. A few deep breaths to check my lungs and all was deemed well. I sense that I have gotten a little fatter as I am up to 157 pounds and none of that is extra muscle. In hindsight it makes the cheeseburgers and pizza look a bit more criminal in terms of my health, but they were a medical necessity for me (mental necessity at least) which I won't be regretting any time soon.

Part of the process includes giving a few medical samples on which to run lab tests and while the women have more to give than us men, we still all have to do a bit of "collecting" in the lavatory. There might be some more humorous stories I could tell about all of that, but for the sake of a public web log I will keep those private, reserved for later story telling when I get back home. Suffice it to say, you must produce samples of your waste so the lab can do some checks. I obliged and promptly forgot about it. On the 20th, Tuesday, I was running around the buildings at headquarters trying to get my reimbursement forms filled out correctly when the doctor stepped into the lobby of the medical office and made sure I got a brown paper bag with my name written across it. "What's this for?" I asked. "It's your medicine." I wasn't sure what I had neglected to get from him on the previous day so I opened it up and saw one small blue and white box with Arabic writing on it. On the other side I saw a sticky note affixed to the English side of the medicine and on the note it read, "Giardia isolated in stool." I have no idea how long I have had that in my system but apparently it is not so bad as to be a huge concern, and thankfully it is treated with four quick pills which I took promptly. From training I heard that giardia could cause you some severe problems on the gastrointestinal side but I felt decent as of late. I need to be careful on what I am eating apparently.

That was the worst of it though. One tiny little parasite that is currently experiencing its death throes in my small intestines. I feel ready for the next eleven months and those pearly whites feel nice and clean. With the students coming back next week things should get much more busy on campus and I am feeling ready for it all.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Here Is A Taste Of Ghana

This video below is courtesy of our newest group of Peace Corps Volunteers. One Austin Pruett pulled together video clips that he took during training and put on top of it a nice song and there you have it, a video of what it is like to live in Ghana. Many kudos to him for taking the time to do this.

For those back in the States with weak stomachs, I ask you to stop watching at the 4:04 mark (after the Fufu is being pounded) and continue on at the 4:30 mark. Chickens here don't die of their own accord when it is dinner time, and in those 25 seconds or so, you see how it is done.

The credits at the end are inspired to say the least.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sixty-Nine New Faces On The Map

August 30th has come and gone but the memories will be around for at least two more years in Ghana as the new group of volunteers have officially taken the oath and cast their lot with the rest of us still occupying our humble homes in the country. It was a great event and one that reminds me of how special it is to be here and be a part of it all.

As it may have been mentioned in the previous post, most every volunteer who was present in the country made their way to the capital and got themselves ready for the ceremony on Tuesday. I had the pleasure of being housed in a friend of a friend's place in Osu (a district in Accra) and before I forget, I am deeply indebted to Peter and Jessica Gross for their hospitality. I saw where most of the volunteers were staying and tried to keep mum about what I had in the way of a full bathroom, hot water (if I wanted it which I didn't - cold showers have a certain way of waking you up in the morning), air conditioning and a ceiling fan right over the nice queen-sized bed with a warm duvet cover. Yes, they are owed a huge thanks. Add to that, Peter and Jessica are wonderful company and full of ideas and it makes it all the better.

We all were there and got to say hello and how are you before a mandatory training session took place at the headquarters in Accra. We need to know how and when to report allegations within the organization and we had a few trial runs on doing just that. I think it was helpful and a good reminder that corruption or just bad behavior is not tolerable no matter where and no matter who performs it. By the time two hours passed most of us were ready to head out and grab a quick bite to eat that Monday night. Again, Accra does not disappoint you when you are hungry for something like a cheeseburger and fries which is precisely what I was in the mood for. The price can be steep, but sometimes you have every reason to celebrate and enjoy yourself once in a while. A 50th is a great reason to celebrate in my estimation.

The next day, Tuesday, brought the festivities. I arrived just at 10 to see the cow horn being blown by Robert Moler (our Director of Program and Training) giving us all the cue to take our seats. It was decided that the event would be located at the Ambassador's house (where Thanksgiving was last year and where it will be this year as well) and it was well-suited for the occasion. We had the Ambassador, the Country Director for Ghana, our Regional Director for Africa, and then a Minister from the government of Ghana all had time before the microphone to say a few words. The Trainees then stood up, raised their right hands, and promised to do their best to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States. I was pretty happy and proud that they had made it. It seemed as though their 12 weeks of training went by fast (it was two weeks longer than our group's training) but I was assured by most that it was every bit as long as 12 weeks could be. Just the same, they are now fully PCVs and have all the rights as I do which is to say, not many but who is counting. We just needed to celebrate with a party.

Much like Thanksgiving, the staff there at the Ambassador's residence did an outstanding job preparing snacks and dessert for us to munch on. The pizza tray never got more than eight paces from the main house before being swarmed by famished volunteers which was quite comical. The cake was good and the drinks were on the house so I helped myself to two Cokes and a Sprite before closing time.

At the appointed hour the new PCVs were sent to the first place they visited in Ghana, Valley View which is where we went when we arrived over a year ago. Peace Corps did this unusual step because a recent addition was made to the schedule: they would be meeting the President of Ghana on Thursday, September 1st. Now being in Peace Corps gives you some room to complain maybe just a little bit and this was our group's gripe: those who came a year ahead of us were treated to a visit by President Obama in 2009; these who have just arrived meet the Ghanaian President; we got to meet... well, we didn't get to meet any Presidents. It is a joke among us really, not a complaint, that we are the unwanted middle child. All in good fun mind you.

After the ceremony our little band of PCVs, the "old-timers" now headed out to various places for food and libations. I was really happy to be with the gaggle of PCVs that I ended up with since we could trade stories over sushi on the roof of a great restaurant at night with a cool breeze passing by. For 22 cedis I had nine portions of sushi and rice and called it a night with a sundae from the new - can you believe this - KFC that arrived in Osu. It definitely felt like a party.

Now the celebrations are over and I have the pleasure of getting to know two new volunteers who have stopped by for a place to stay while they make their way to their site. We only had three new volunteers placed in the Volta region, but 2/3rds of them have to pass through Hohoe which means I can see them from time to time. So far it has been a good week and I hope to continue it into the next.

Happy trails new volunteers!