Sunday, June 07, 2009

What a Storm

I awoke early this morning to attend church with Raymond, his wife, Dina, their toddler age son, John Anderson, and Godwin, one of the older children at the orphanage who lives with them. When I had asked Raymond about what time I should come over to his house to go to church, he told me that we would be going to the second service, from 9am-11am as the first service is too early for even him. The first service begins at 6am and goes until 9am.

I had eaten breakfast at my hotel as I do every morning but Dina insisted that she had made me food and that I should go eat it. So at 9:15am, only an hour after I had eaten my eggs, toast, and tea, I was eating yams and stew. I later realized that this was in fact my super early lunch.

Around 9:30am, after Anderson’s hair had been cut (during which he screamed his head off) and everyone had showered and gotten dressed in their finest clothing, we left for church. We got there in the middle of the service, which was totally fine by me. Unlike the church service I attended last weekend, this service was both in English and Ewe. The priest would say what he wanted to say in English and then a translator would translate it into Ewe. The priest got really into his sermon and was practically screaming at one point and not leaving enough time for the translator to translate in between. So, basically, this meant that the priest was screaming in English and the translator was screaming at the same time in Ewe. Pretty confusing I must say.

When church ended, the children were reunited with their parents. This was the first church that I had been to in Ghana that had a separate service for the children.

We drove back to my hotel where we all hung around for awhile. I bought Godwin a Fanta which he generously shared with Anderson, who had just woken up. I left Godwin and Anderson with a coloring book and colored pencils and retreated to my room to take a little midday nap. I awoke to a huge storm outside. Rain. Insane rain. Like, Portland rain. Loud thunder. Bright lightening. I stood outside and watched the storm for awhile but I was getting so wet that I eventually went inside.

That’s all that has happened so far today so now, let me catch up on the last few days.

Thursday and Friday were typical days at the orphanage. Or as typical as you can get. I did art with the older kids and they loved it. One of the things I have in my suitcase of school supplies for the orphanage is stencils. The kids absolutely love these. They enjoyed tracing everything from dogs and cats to soccer balls (or footballs) to various shapes.

I told Raymond that I would not hand over any of the school supplies that I brought until we had it all organized and stored in plastic containers. I have so much stuff for them and it would just break my heart to see it all thrown around and unable to be used for a few years. I continuously remind Raymond about this but he is a very busy guy, especially with overseeing everything at the new site. So, on Saturday, Patrick (one of the former teachers at Christ Orphanage) and I went to town and started searching for plastic containers. Now, let me tell you, this was not as easy of a task as I imagined it to be. We went to four different shops and only ended up with about 7 or 8 containers. I had found a smaller container that I really liked and thought would be perfect to get for markers, colored pencils, crayons, etc. But, they only had one of that container and the other shops didn’t have any. So we have a few containers to start with – mismatching of course, but it’s a start. I wanted to get on this so that the kids could actually start using the supplies and that the teachers could identify what there was and develop lessons or projects that use some of the supplies.

Back to the new site of the orphanage. Some time this past week, Wednesday, I think, Raymond and I went to the new site. Raymond goes there twice a day every day but I happen to think it is quite a walk and in the extreme sun and heat, it’s not my favorite thing to do. The site is looking great though. There were more people there the day we went as the staff had asked the parents to come and help at the site that morning. Parents were using machetes to cut the long grass and other random plants that were in the way. Others were moving bricks (on their heads) from the area that they had been made to the location that they will actually be used. The guys who actually work there every day were cutting wood to make the window frames, helping the women lift the bricks onto their heads, and doing other laborious work. I feel bad saying this but I was sweating just standing there, watching, and taking pictures and I wasn’t even the one with the bricks on my head or machete in my hand.

It’s incredible to see how much man power and work goes into building a building like the one that is being built here. And most everything is done by hand. They don’t use power tools or electric tools but rather, use a regular saw and cut through each piece of wood.

On Thursday evening, a man who runs a volunteer organization here in Ghana and is friends with Alfa, the security guard from Cross Cultural Solutions, came by my hotel to talk to me about his organization. He insisted that the following night, I come to his house for dinner. I asked Patrick to accompany me which was a good thing cause I would have never found his house on my own and it made me feel more comfortable. His wife made us some really good rice and served us Coke and Fantas. Their son was shy but immediately after meeting me, he went and told all of his friends that he had a white guest at his home. All of the local children came over to see me. I played with some of the kids and we had a nice evening talking to Cephas, the guy who invited me over. He then asked me to re-teach him how to play Dominos as one of his volunteers had given him a mini set as a present and he couldn’t remember how to play. I taught Cephas and Patrick how to play Dominos and showed them and the children how to line the Dominos up and then hit the first one so the rest fall down. Cephas showed us photos of his engagement and other random photos of him and his family as well as photos that his volunteers had given him.

On Saturday, before going on the adventure to find plastic containers for the school supplies, I spent the morning with Evanx, one of the teachers at Christ Orphanage. He took me to meet the rest of his family that I had not been introduced to the week prior. I met his mother and his sister who lives in Northern Ghana but was in Atabu, one of the subtowns of Hohoe which Evanx’s family lives in to take care of their sick mother. Evanx cut his mother’s hair as I took photos of some of the local kids. We then went to his town’s local garden bar and got a Fanta. He then continued to take me around his town as he told me that he wants me to learn my way around. We went back to his friend Christian’s house where we had eaten last Sunday. I learned that Christian’s father is the chief of the town of Atabu, an elected position. We then went for a walk to Hohoe where Evanx got his hair cut by his friend, a barber. It was a long walk there so we opted for a taxi to take us back to Wegbe, the town in which the orphanage as well as my hotel is located in. I went to Raymond’s house for lunch. Raymond was at the huge funeral but Patrick and I enjoyed the yams and spaghetti stew. Patrick explained to me that Ghanaians typically don’t drink anything during their meals or for at least 20 minutes after their meal. I thought it was kind of weird as all the restaurants and other places that I had eaten meals in Ghana serve you drinks with your meal – like they do in America. I learned that not drinking during your meal is seen by people here in Ghana to be healthier as it gives your stomach a chance to digest the food by itself first.

Last night, after eating our dinner, which Patrick brings to me from Raymond’s house each night, we walked back to Raymond’s house to return the dishes. Dinner was fun as we were joined by two children, Aiden (3 or 4 years old) and Jemimah (5 years old). It is customary and respectful to invite others near you when you eat. Often, this is just out of respect and the person does not actually eat with you but the children came over and enjoyed our akpeleh with us. Akpeleh is a traditional Ghanaian food which you eat with your hand and dip into stew – we dipped it into spinach stew. While many locals, including Patrick and most of the other locals that I have observed use all of their fingers to pick up the food, I find it more convenient to use my first three fingers only. Although Patrick tried to get me to use all of my fingers so that I could eat more at once, I just couldn’t do that. Later, when back at Raymond’s house, I learned that the way that I eat – with only three of my fingers is the proper way to eat but Ghanaians have adopted this new way so that they can eat more at once. In addition, it is not considered proper to let the food go beyond about half way down the fingers but many of the locals have issues observing this rule when eating.

We had met the kids earlier in the day as they were staying at the hotel for the weekend. There was a huge funeral this weekend and this family had come in from Accra to attend it. We also met the kid’s uncles, Von and Sam whom I enjoyed talking to. They told me stories of their study abroad type experiences in London and Boston. Von, who studied in Boston, was not properly prepared for what he was getting himself into and was hit hard by the extreme cold and snow.

The children called me ‘Auntie’ which I thought was pretty cute. I had spent a few hours with them that day and felt that these children behaved and acted more like American children than Ghanaian children. It was kinda weird to be honest. I thought that maybe it was because they lived in Accra – a big city rather than a village like Hohoe. Working at the orphanage, I notice differences between the children in Ghana and the children in America but these children just didn’t seem like typical Ghanaian children. The children were born in different countries – the girl in London and the boy in California. It was incredible to see that although they now lived in Ghana and attend school here, by spending their first few years in another country, they were so different than most Ghanaian children.

Anyways, I am done rambling. The storm has halted so I am going to head to town to visit the internet café.

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