Friday, July 31, 2009

A Day with No Teachers

Nicole: On Wednesday night, after eating dinner at Raymond’s house, we went next door to visit some young girls who live there and adore us (we adore them as well). They put on a show for us as the five girls (ranging from maybe 7-12 years old) danced and sang. They were adorable. Cynthia (one year old) got up off of Melissa’s lap and started dancing with the older girls. She had a blast and kept laughing at herself and at the other girls. She made Melissa and I crack up numerous times. We both agreed that she would sleep well that night.

After the girls ran out of songs to sing, they started reciting their numbers, letters, and multiplication tables for us. We listened in awe as Albert, one of the students at Christ who lives close by, recited his multiplication tables. Melissa was confused as Albert is probably only 5 or 6 years old and was reciting multiplication tables – something we didn’t learn until we were in 3rd grade. I explained that although he was able to recite them perfectly he more than likely had no clue how to use multiplication and would not be able to perform simple multiplication problems out of order. One of the older girls, Bright was unable to correctly recite the multiplication tables and was laughed at by the older women who were sitting around and listening. I told her to come over to where Melissa and I were sitting and practiced her problem area with her. After going over it many times, she was still convinced that 2x7 was equal to 8. We let the children recite their multiplication tables up until 6s before we decided it was time for us to leave. I told Melissa that if we didn’t leave, we would be stuck there, listening to their multiplication tables up until 12s.

Melissa: On Thursday, Nicole and I did our normal routine in the morning; wake up at 7, eat breakfast, get ready and head out to the orphanage. Little did we know that today would be very different and crazier than any other day. We arrived at the orphanage to all the children running around, playing and going a bit crazy. I started playing with them, picking them up and twirling them around. Nicole came out shortly to inform me that Raymond was sending all the teachers home because they had all arrived late to school. I just stood there not really comprehending that that meant I would have my own class since all the classes would have to be taught and controlled by the white volunteers. Since Nicole is the only one that can actually control the kids, you can just imagine how crazy the orphanage was that day.

I ended up in KG1, the class I usually help in with my little babies Happy and Anthony. I was excited to be with all of them and be able to experience what Nicole had really been doing here. I decided we would read books, since I didn’t really know what else to do with them. I went and got a book and started reading it to them. Slowly but surely they all had gotten out of their seats and ended up on my lap, my chair and holding on to every part of my body. You can imagine how difficult it would be to read a book to little kids while they are basically attacking each other to get closer to you to see the book. Eventually I just couldn’t read anymore because I couldn’t even see the book anymore. I got up and told them they all had to go back to their seats. Of course none of them listen and just grabbed on to my legs, making it impossible to even move. One of the older students, Israel, had come into my class to listen to me read the book as well. He started to take control and yelled at all the kids until they got back in their seats. I was so relieved because God knows they would never have gotten them all in their seats by myself.

Israel and I went into the storage room and get more books for the kids, so they would just look at them and attempt to read to themselves because trying to read to all of them was just too crazy. Of course having them read and look at the books by themselves caused even more problems. The kids didn’t want to share the books with each other and would grab them out of each others hands. I had to get tons of books so each kid would have their own book. At this time there probably were 20 to 25 students in my room, as somehow kids from all of the classes had flocked to my room. Some kids didn’t want the book I had given them and started crying and acting out in everyway. I just stood there staring at all of them, watching them go crazy because I really did not know what to do to control them. Raymond was in the room next to me and could hear all the noise. He came in and told the students to sit down and be quiet. Of course they all listened to him but wouldn’t even think about listening to me if I would have said the same thing. It was pretty frustrating but I let it go and just read to a few of them and let the rest do their own thing because there was really nothing I could do to control them.
Its pretty hard to get annoyed or upset at any of the children because they are just so adorable and they don’t mean any harm when they want to be holding on to you every second of the day. But I am pretty sure they didn’t learn anything all day from me. Eventually it was lunch so Nicole and I had a break. We looked at each other and both remarked that the kids and school in general was crazy and uncontrollable. We both agreed that Raymond should never ever do this again and I could tell the other volunteers would agree as well.

Nicole: On Thursday evening, Melissa and I walked over to Raymond’s neighbor’s house – the place where the girls we have become close with live. We had bought two loafs of bread earlier that week but had not yet eaten most of it so we decided to share it with them before it went bad. When Melissa pulled the loaf of bread out of her bag, all of the children and adults started cheering. They were all so happy to get a piece of bread and so thankful for it. We ran out of bread before giving it to everyone so I sent Godwin, one of the older children at the orphanage who lives with Raymond to buy another loaf. It was amazing to see how happy and grateful the people were for the bread.

Today, Friday, we woke up and waited for Godwin to pick us up. He was running on Ghana time which gave us time to watch some Prison Break. He finally arrived and drove us to town. We first went to the Internet Café to print the questionnaires for my thesis research project and some other documents for the orphanage but upon arriving at the café, we learned that between the time that we left our hotel and the time we arrived at the Internet café, the electricity had gone out. We gave up on that and headed over to the post office to send out some mail. From the post office, we drove over to the two little shops I always visit to buy containers and bought some plastic cups. Melissa and I had put together a plastic bag for each child with their name on it and a toothbrush inside a few days earlier but had been informed by the teachers that their were not enough cups for all of the children to rinse their mouths.

After purchasing cups, we stopped at the Hohoe Market. We had driven past many open markets like this one in Accra but I wanted Melissa to see the market here in Hohoe. We walked around looking at the huge bowls full of rice, grains, various types of beans, and all sorts of colorful vegetables. We found a lady who was selling flip flops and stopped to find some flip flops (or as they call them here, ‘slippers’) for the girls who live next door to Raymond. One of the girls had asked us to buy her some slippers as she did not have any, meaning that she walked around everywhere barefoot. We decided to buy slippers for all of the girls as one of the other girl’s slippers were broken and we did not want the rest of them to get jealous.

After our little adventure at the market which consisted of some lady stopping us and telling us that we should be her friends after showing us a photo of her and another one of her friends – of course, a white lady and some guys trying to get us to buy random shoes, we headed back to Wegbe.

We went to the orphanage and were bombarded by a bunch of children going absolutely crazy. I knew that this kind of behavior meant that the teachers were not supervising the children and were probably hidden away in one of the rooms having a staff meeting. I walked into the building and found all of the teachers and volunteers in one of the classrooms having a meeting. These meetings which occur during school hours are something that I am not fond of at all and have told Raymond on multiple occasions should not take place while the children are at school. Every time the teachers have a meeting during school hours, they put the older children in charge of the younger classes but the children go crazy, hurt each other, and run around screaming anyways. It is very sad to me to know that there are very capable teachers who cannot find a better time to meet and sacrifice the children’s educational time for their meetings.

Anyways, Melissa and I walked in and joined the meeting, listening to suggestions, critiques, and ideas proposed by teachers and volunteers. The meeting was adjourned not too long later as one of the volunteers was leaving that morning and there was a good bye ceremony to be conducted. All of the children were rounded up and brought into the nursery classroom. They sang and danced as some of the teachers played the drums. As Steven’s (the guy who was leaving) birthday was that day, we sang happy birthday and then Raymond presented him with a thank you present and made him promise to return to the orphanage. Of course he agreed to come back and told the children how much he would miss them. All of the children were directed to come outside to take a group photo. I started snapping away and the children at the front loved the flash on my camera so much that they kept making different poses and telling me to keep taking their photo.

On Friday evening, Melissa and I went next door to Gloria’s house. Gloria is probably 18 years old and is a very sweet girl who lives with her grandmother. We gave her some clothing which Melissa had brought from home. She was so happy and thanked us immensely. After eating dinner, we went to visit the girls we have become close with. When we arrived only one of the girls was still awake. We decided that we would just give her the flip flops we had bought for her and then would return another day to give the rest of the girls their flip flops and the clothes that Melissa had brought from home.

Our plan quickly changed as the other girls were woken up and came out to see what was going on. As quickly as the girls appeared, the adults appeared. They surrounded us and were as excited as the children. We gave all of the girls the flip flops which was difficult as we had to have them try them on and make sure they got the right pair. One of the older ladies asked if we have flip flops for her as well. We told the adults that we only brought stuff for the children. When I started pulling out the clothes which were for the children, the parents started grabbing at them. It was craziness. I don’t even know how to explain it to you. It was very sad to see the adults fighting over the clothes which weren’t even brought for them. I had to pull a very small shirt out of the hands of one of the bigger ladies and convince her that it would not fit her. She grabbed at another shirt and was so excited to get it. I couldn’t really do anything about it and felt very helpless. All of the people who were surrounding us were begging for clothes – I made sure that all of the children got at least one piece of clothing and then had to tell them that that was all that we had.

Those who had gotten clothing started showing it to others and some of the girls tried on their pieces. Melissa and I said goodnight and walked away feeling sad about what had just happened. We were approached by one of the young boys who attends the orphanage and lives close by. He just stood there in front of us and looked at us with very sad eyes. I felt sad that I couldn’t give him anything and knew that he felt jealous and left out. I gave him a banana which the ladies had brought to us as a thank you present. I knew that wasn’t what he wanted and probably didn’t make him feel any better but it was all I could do.

Melissa and I had wanted to do something nice for the girls but were made to feel bad by the adults that we did not have more stuff for them. It made us sad that the adults, most of them being the girls’ parents, grandparents, and other relatives did not respect the fact that we had brought the clothing for the children. The fact that the adults acted like children and just grabbed at the clothes made us feel very sad. Melissa remarked, and I agree that many of the adults do not understand that by helping the youth, their children, we are helping them – that their children are the future. Melissa and I discussed how difficult it is to do something nice for someone here without others becoming aware of it and becoming jealous which results in them begging for the same or similar thing.

We also talked at length about the fact that these adults, like a number of the people here in the black country of Ghana see that we are white and immediately assume that means that we are made out of money. Many of them think that we can just buy the whole world for them – one of the women who passed by us this day turned to us and said “money money money.”

To end this day on a happier note, when Melissa was on the phone with our mother she was telling her about the children at the orphanage, especially Happy, one of the young boys. While describing him to our mother, she said “hopefully he doesn’t end up in my suitcase but there is a possibility he might.” And also on this crazy day, Melissa and I received love letters from some of the boys in the oldest class. It was absolutely adorable as the boys handed us the letters and then ran away.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Celebrity in Ghana

Melissa: Now let me tell you something about my sister, she is seriously a celebrity here in Wegbe. Everywhere we go someone is there calling Sister Nicole or waving to her. Everyone knows Nicole and if they don’t, they want to. My sister walks through the town like she owns it, and she basically does. When Nicole waves to the towns people she brings a smile to their faces and seems to make their life a little better. It is amazing how much confidence she has and how much she is truly in love with Ghana.

Today I had my first day at the orphanage. Nicole and I woke up at 7 am, got ready, had breakfast and started on our short walk to Raymond’s house. This is the walk where people from all over come outside to say hi to Nicole. Nicole has become pretty good at speaking Ewe and responds to them in their language, which amazes me. I find it difficult to understand some of the people even when they speak English so I think picking up any Ewe will take me some time. The adults and kids laugh when Nicole responds in Ewe, as they don’t expect her to speak it.

We arrived at the orphanage and all the kids were already in their classes and taking exams. Nicole brought me into each of the rooms and introduced me to the kids and teachers. One of the classes sang a welcome song to me which was just adorable. The kids attack you once they see you. A few of the students pulled me down onto the bench with them in their class. They wouldn’t let me go and held onto every part of my body. When I eventually had to get up so they could learn and pay attention, I had to pull them off me because they wouldn’t let go. It was so cute.

One of Nicole’s projects is to give toothbrushes to all the students. We had bought plastic bags the other day so we had the task of writing the student’s names on each of the bags and placing a toothbrush in each bag. Of course the pens and markers we had wouldn’t stay on the plastic bags and we had no permanent markers. Nicole decided we would go into town and buy some. We got in a cab and headed over to Daphils, the stationary store. We found what we were looking for and then called Godwin, Nicole’s basically personal taxi driver, to come pick us up. He was going to be a bit so the owner of Daphils offered to take us back to Raymond’s house. We said okay and got in his car. He made small talk with us during the drive and asked if Nicole or I had children or were married. It’s so funny to me how everyone thinks you should already have children and be married by our age. I can’t even imagine how my life would be if I was 18 years old and it was normal to have kids and be married off already. When we arrived at Raymond’s house, he asked for Nicole’s number and told us he would take us to his church on Sunday. Nicole explained at we would be in Ho this coming weekend and maybe we could go with him another time.

It took us awhile to write all the kids names on the bags but eventually we finished and headed back to the orphanage. We did some organizing in the storage room and put all the kids work in their corresponding folders. Nicole then told me I could work with some of the students with their math skills. I took a little girl named Jennifer outside and we sat down and started practicing counting. She wasn’t very good at it, as she would say 1,2,4 everytime. We went over that 3 came between 2 and 4 about twenty times but she just wouldn’t get it. After about 5 minutes, she was obviously done trying to count and wouldn’t pay attention even when I would call her name. I brought her back inside to her class and went to Nicole. It was so difficult trying to teach just one of the kids, I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to teach a whole class of the students. It is very hard to make the kids take you seriously when you are white; apparently Nicole is the only exception.

When break came along, the kids ran outside to get out their energy and play for a bit before class had to start again. The kids seriously think Nicole and I are human jungle gyms. They grab onto every part of our bodies and don’t let go. Somehow even if you are just holding their hand they find a way to hang from you and make you hold them so they don’t fall. They also all like to be picked up and never put down. But once you pick up one, all of them want to be picked up as well. So my arms tend to ache from time to time.

After break was over, one of the other volunteers, Steven, told me he was leaving on Friday and asked me if I would like to take over his job of teaching the kids phonics. Of course I wanted to, so he showed me what he was teaching them and how to teach it. The kids learn the sounds of letters along with specific hand movements to help them remember better. It’s a pretty easy concept of teaching, but some of the children just don’t get it and don’t pay attention so sometimes it gets difficult. I am happy that I do now have a role at Christ and that I get to have some kind of learning impact on the children.

We had lunch at Raymond’s house which was pretty good. I’m not going to lie I like the food so much better here than in Spain, even though every meal here consists of rice. We rested for a bit after lunch then headed in to town to go to the seamstress. We bought some fabric along the way and explained to Beatrice, the seamstress, what we wanted made. Nicole then showed me CCS, where she stayed last summer. The guy at the front gate was very nice and kept asking me how my mother was. It was pretty funny. When we returned to the orphanage we took all the students to play at the field. They play soccer, jump rope, Frisbee and lots of other games. Here as well they all want to hold you hand and for you to play with them.

We walked with a few of the kids that live in the direction of our hotel and then we said goodbye. We let little 5 year olds with a couple of ten year olds walk all the way home. It was kind of strange for me to just leave them because I would never think of letting such little kids walk by themselves home.

For dinner we walked to Raymond’s house. On the way there we got stopped at a local bar by some people that knew Nicole. One old man told me that I would be his wife and wouldn’t stop holding my hand. It was pretty funny seeing as he was like 60ish years old.

The way Raymond lives is so simple. They are so grateful and content with everything they have; it is truly amazing to me. While we ate dinner, Raymond’s wife bathed her son. She had warmed up some water outside and mixed it with some cold water and started scrubbing her son in a big bowl. They also cook outside under a little hut thing. They make a fire and put a pan above it and make their food. It’s nothing simple, as they have to cut, cook and prepare everything by themselves. It is similar to camping, in my eyes.

Nicole: On Wednesday morning, we were brought our breakfast of eggs, toast, and pineapple. We got ready for school and then headed over to Raymond’s house. Of course, we were stopped numerous times to give hugs, high fives, and hellos to children along the way. The children ran up to us and were excited to see us. At Raymond’s house, we met Godwin, our taxi driver who drove us to the new site of the orphanage. Melissa had seen photos of the site but was excited to actually see the site with her own eyes. We drove down the bumpy road to the new site, picked up one of the workers who was walking, and then turned and faced the even worse road leading directly to the site. I explained to Melissa why Raymond said she should start her Ghana’s Road Project with this road. She definitely understood. We walked up to the workers and parents who were at the site and said good morning to them. One of the workers shook Melissa’s hand and told her that he loved her. The other workers laughed as she just stood their in shock, somewhat confused that a complete stranger had told her that he loved her. She still thinks it’s pretty crazy but I have told her that its pretty normal here, as are the marriage proposals.

We went into the first building, the building that will house 30+ children and walked around, seeing the toilets, showers, and bedrooms. We went upstairs to the top of the building which is currently just flat and has no walls but will eventually become the second story of the living facilities for the children. After looking at the beautiful view from the top, we walked over to the dining hall area. The dining hall has been built very quickly – it was started after I arrived and already has walls. It is amazing how quickly they have built this building, considering its size and the fact that everything is done by hand – from making the bricks to carrying the bricks to making the mortar.

After viewing the buildings at the new site, we walked back to the car and conquered the extremely bumpy road back to Raymond’s house. We then walked over to the orphanage. The children at the school called out ‘Sister Nicole and Sister Melissa’ as we approached the school, alerting all the other students and teachers that we had arrived. As all the classes had more exams on Wednesday, I did some organizational stuff at the orphanage. I have made folders for each child’s school work and have been going through all the schoolwork that has been collected and thrown around over the last few years and separating it by child. Melissa went out to the yard with the kids for break while I stayed inside and continued organizing the papers. She had lots of fun playing with the kids and taking their photos. She already has a bunch of children, such as Happy and Anthony who are crazy about her and love to hang out with her.

One of the little girls, Cynthia, who is probably one year old and who lives close to Raymond has become attached to me and always wants me to pick her up and take her with me. It is so sweet that she never wants me to leave but sad at the same time as she cries and often refuses to go to her mother when I need to leave and try to hand her over. She came with me to the school on Wednesday morning and just hung around with me. Eventually I tied her to my back and she quickly fell asleep. I put her on the mattress and she slept for a good hour and a half.

Melissa returned from break and helped me finish organizing the papers. With her help, we finally finished going through all the school work. It is now up to the teachers to separate their student’s work and keep it somewhat organized. While we were finishing separating the papers, Cynthia woke up. Melissa put her on her lap and just held her for awhile. Cynthia got up and a minute later started peeing on the ground. Melissa was so glad that Cynthia was no longer on her lap and is still so surprised that Godwin, one of the older kids cleaned up the pee with no problem. I think she is still realizing how much responsibility the children here have and how they are expected to help with much of the housework. The children, as well as the adults take care of the younger children and care for them, punish them, and love them as their own. It is an amazing thing to see Dina, Raymond’s wife totally take care of and feed Cynthia when I bring her over.

Yesterday afternoon, after playing on the field with the children, we walked a number of the children part way home and then returned to our hotel. We relaxed for a little bit before leaving to walk to Raymond’s house for dinner. Makafui, the cook at our hotel followed us out of the hotel as Nicholas, another staff member at the hotel begged us to listen to our ipods. I let Nicholas borrow my ipod for awhile as he loves to listen to American music on it. Makafui told us that she needed a teddy bear. Melissa told her that we would be her teddy bears but Makafui told us that if we were her teddy bears, then we could never leave her. I told her that we would be kicked out of the country but she told us that Ghana is different from America and they wouldn’t kick us out of their country. I told her that I would see what I could do about the teddy bear.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome to Wegbe, Melissa

Nicole: - After somewhat of a long drive, we made it to Accra. We had to battle some traffic and close collisions. The drivers here are quite aggressive and competitive. It is quite scary at times as we came extremely close to other vehicles and passed other cars with just enough room. We drove through the crowded city and made it to the Art Market. We walked through the center, passing numerous boutique type shops selling colorful, bright things ranging from fabric to jewelry to wooden sculptures, and more. Each and every shop owner that saw us walk by called out to us, telling us that we should come to their shop and look at their wares. They would show us some of their products and tell us how nice they were and that we should buy them.

We followed Raymond’s lead as he suggested that we first window shop and then go back and buy what we wanted. This didn’t last long as he led us to a shop full of wooden carved pieces. The owners were happy to have two white girls in their shop and told us that we should look around and see what we wanted to buy. It didn’t take us long to start finding pieces that we wanted. The owners set out a table and told us to put everything we wanted on the table. They told us that after we picked out everything we wanted, then we would negotiate good prices. We left this part to Raymond as he is pretty good at bargaining. He helped us substantially reduce the price of all the pieces we bought. The price that Raymond negotiated for us was perfect as it was all the money we had on us. Actually, Melissa made it known that she had 4 Cedis left but I informed her that in this particular shop, that amount of money wouldn’t get us very far.

As we were out of money, we left the Art Market. We were very happy with our purchases which were wrapped nicely for us and taped so well that they will not be opened until we return home. We ran a few errands while in Accra including a short stop at the Accra Mall to get plastic Ziplock type bags and then headed over to Raymond’s uncle’s house. We were warmly greeted by his family. Sammy was shy but after awhile, he got more comfortable with us and remembered who we were. We gave them some fruit as a way to say thank you for all of their hospitality and then started the four hour drive to Hohoe.

The drive was a bit uncomfortable as the tro tro seats aren’t the most comfortable things in the world and really start to hurt one’s butt after awhile. We wrote some of this blog along the way but had to stop once it got dark and the potholes and other bumps in the road started throwing us around. For this reason, it was difficult to sleep or even sit comfortably. The drive took a long time – I got a bit restless towards the end but Melissa was content with her ipod.

Upon entering Wegbe, Melissa and I were dropped off at Raymond’s house. Even though it was raining a bit, I wanted to take her to meet Raymond’s wife and son and some of the other local children as I know how much she has been looking forward to seeing all of my African babies. I introduced her to some children who were very happy to meet her. Yaira was most excited and grabbed Melissa’s hand, telling her to come to her house. Yaira introduced Melissa to her family. They were all excited to meet Nicole’s sister, someone who I had told them about.

I was holding Cynthia, a little girl who has some attachment issues and cries whenever I put her down or try to return her to her mother. Melissa was handed a baby who started crying upon being put into the hands of a white person. I warned Melissa that this may happen and that there are children here in Ghana who are scared of white people and would cry when they saw her. After meeting Yaira’s whole extended family, we said good night and returned to Raymond’s house. While Melissa and I were with the children, Raymond and the driver went to get our dinner. They quickly returned and we headed to the hotel.

Alex, the driver honked as the gate was closed. Makafui, the cook at the hotel who has been very excited to meet my sister was so excited that we were back and came running to open the gate for us. When I left a few days earlier to go to Accra to pick up Melissa, she tried to get in the tro tro and come with me. She gave Melissa a big hug and welcomed her to Ghana.

After the excitement calmed down, Melissa and I started to unpack. Melissa showed me all the stuff that I had requested she bring to me as well as some more supplies for the orphanage that didn’t fit in my bags. As it had been a long day, we ate our rice and salad and then went to bed.

Melissa went to bed excited to meet the children of Christ Orphanage the following morning.

Melissa: - So our next project here after we finish Christ Orphanage will be to fix the roads heading to Wegbe. They are crazy. There are pot holes every two feet that extend across the whole road. It is seriously insane and I don’t understand how Alex and the other drivers drive on it. Nicole and I both agree that we never want to drive in Ghana and with my past history of a few car accidents; I think driving here would just increase my number of accidents. As we were driving, Alex did run into one of the bigger pot holes and the car turned off. Wonderful right? Two seconds later it turned back on, thank gosh.

It is still really surreal that I am here and in the town that Nicole rants and raves about. It’s hard to explain and describe what everything looks like here but Raymond lives in a little house with a small 6 by 6 ft looking living room and a little bit bigger bedroom. It is insane to me that people live like this here but they are so content with it. People in America and especially in LA would never ever think about living in such a little dirty house. To me it is already normal though, this is the way they live here and although I don’t necessary want to live like that I understand that they are happy to even have a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Meeting a few of the little children was amazing. They are so precious and seriously love you from the moment they see you. As Nicole said Yaira took my hand the moment I met her and took me to meet her family. She wouldn’t let go of me and showed me off to her family and neighbors. It was probably the cutest thing ever. I enjoyed meeting my first bit of Ghanaians but was happy to go back to the hotel because it had been a long day.

At the hotel Makafui, the cook was so excited to see me and told Nicole she could go back to Accra because I had arrived. She obviously was joking but it was funny. She told me I was her new best friend and told me I should sleep in her room for the night. She asked me if I would rather sleep with her or Nicole. I just stood there, not knowing what to say because I didn’t want to be rude. Nicole spoke up though and told her I would be staying with her. As we went into the room Makafui told me to have dreams about her and tell her what they were about in the morning.

All night Nicole and I itched our dumb black fly bites. They are seriously driving us insane. They are all over my ankles and knees and even though we are not supposed to scratch them its so hard not to.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Elmina Slave Castle

Melissa: - Nicole and I both woke up at 7 am as Nicole’s phone and alarm both simultaneously went off. We both packed and got ready and headed out for breakfast. They informed us that for breakfast we would get some fruit, coffee or tea and some toast. They also told us it would take 30 to 45 minutes for it to be ready. All they had to do was toast some bread, heat up some water and cut some fruit but somehow it actually did take them 35 minutes to do this.

We headed out around 8:30 and started on our short drive to Elmina Slave Castle. Of course we had no clue where we were going but Raymond told us to trust him that he would find the way. We eventually did make it there after we traveled through many little streets and a village. The way people live here is still a little surreal to me. People really do live in little huts or small houses that look like they built themselves. Kids run around, play in the dirt and just sit in it as well. I don’t think some of them even know what being really really clean feels like. People crowd the streets selling water, chocolate, plantains, fruit and anything else they can get their hands on. We have seen people selling pillows, mirrors, foam, TV antennas. Your every random need can be fulfilled by those people. Something that is really hard for me to get used to is the smell of the villages here. It literally smells like shit at times, because they don’t have a waste system here. And I am pretty sure that no one ever cleans out the sewer so that smell stays there forever. I think Nicole is pretty used to it already but at times I just have to plug my nose. Raymond likes to say he is sorry for it which makes me laugh because it’s not his fault, completely.

Nicole: - Eventually we arrived at the castle and upon pulling into the parking lot, we were bombarded with men selling jewelry. I warned Melissa not to give her name to any of the sellers as I learned the hard way last summer that they will make items with your name on them and then pressure you into buying them. We told the people that we would look at their items after we finished touring the castle which was the only way they would leave us alone.

We walked up to the castle, across the draw bridge and into the reception area. Once again, Melissa and I were charged 4-5 times as much as the Ghanaians. We were told to go inside and look through the museum and that the tour guide would come get us in a few minutes. After spending a few minutes in the museum which used to be the Portuguese Church when they occupied the castle, the tour guide arrived and a group of 9-10 of us started the tour. The castle was used during the slave trade so we were shown the female and male dungeons in which hundreds of captives were held before being shipped to other countries, the open area where the women were only allowed to be in when the governor decided that he wanted to find a woman to rape, and the governor’s living quarters. The memories from the castle were very sad but it was hard to fully grasp the sadness as there was so much beauty surrounding us. With the castle being located on the ocean and it being a beautiful day, Melissa and I couldn’t help but take photos on the top of the castle. The ocean was full of canoes as Elmina and Cape Coast are fishing towns. The smell of the fish was almost as intense as the amount of people in the open market area and around the dock which we could see from atop the castle.

After the tour of the castle, we headed back to the car. Of course, we were once again bombarded by even more people selling all types of jewelry. The guy whom we told we would look at his wares after the tour did not forget us and approached Melissa upon our exit of the castle. He informed Melissa that we promised to buy from him or at least look at his selection of jewelry. She apologized as we left without buying anything.

From the slave castle, we drove back to Accra. We stopped a few times to buy various fruits from street side vendors. For less than 6 Cedis (about $4.20), we purchased 10 oranges, 5 pineapples, and 4 mangoes. Try doing that in America. As we drove towards Accra, we talked with Raymond about the Ghanaian government. He told us how the Volta Region (the region he lives in) has been trying to rally up all the residents of the region to support the idea of them becoming their own nation. Melissa and I were extremely impressed by Raymond’s intelligence and his reasons as to why he supports the idea of the Volta Region becoming a separate nation from Ghana. He also told us about the difficulties in achieving this and how the current government is making it difficult for the people of the Volta Region to successfully carry out this proposition. Melissa, in awe of Raymond’s wealth of knowledge asked him about his schooling and the university system here in Ghana.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cape Coast

Melissa: - It is true, women, men and children walk around with food, water, luggage, etc, balanced on their heads. It is true that, the Tro-tro drivers care more about avoiding pot holes then staying on their correct side of the street. It is true that, Ghana is an amazing place and I understand why my sister is so in love with it.

As I stood in line to board my plane from England to Ghana, I was one of 4 or 5 white people. I was so super excited to get on the plane and actually go see Nicole that I had to hold in my tears of enjoyment. As I handed the flight attendant my ticket, he told me that I had been upgraded and gave me a new ticket with a different seat number. I was so in shock and just said thank you and went on my way to board the plane. When I got on the plane and saw my seat, I realized I had been upgraded to first class. I had my own seat that could turn into a bed, my own space to stretch out and my own TV screen. On the flight I had some interesting conversations with a Ghanaian man and got a 3 course meal that consisted of normal food, which doesn’t exist in Spain. It was pretty amazing and it makes me want to never go back to economy class. 6 hours later, I arrived in Accra and was greeted by Nicole and Raymond. I think I am still in shock that I am even in Africa so you can understand how surreal it must have been when I saw Nicole for the first time. I found it pretty difficult to breath in Ghana but I think soon I will get used to it. We boarded Alex’s Tro Tro and headed to Raymond’s Uncle’s house. He lives in one of the nicer houses in Accra and I can now understand that, as I have seen some of the worst ones now as well. We stayed there for a bit and played ball with their child and then headed off to our hotel.

In the morning we woke up and got ready for our day which consisted of going to Cape Coast. Of course Raymond was late, something that Nicole always talks about. Ghanaians really do run on their own time. We eventually got picked up and headed on our 4 hour ride to Cape Coast. Of course we made it there in 3 hours because Alex likes to drive as fast as he possibly can.

Nicole: - We arrived in Cape Coast – something that was evident by the fact that we could see the ocean on our left. We drove a little further to Elmina where the hotel we would be staying at was located. I spotted a sign for the hotel with an arrow. After zooming past the sign, Alex turned the tro tro around and asked a taxi driver where the hotel was located. The taxi driver informed us that the hotel was further down the road so we turned around again. We didn’t drive too far before pulling over and asking a lady where the hotel was located. She told us that we had past it, something that was quickly confirmed by the fact that the taxi driver pulled up right behind us and pointed in the opposite direction, signaling that we had missed the turn. Once again, we turned around and headed down a road which had many hotel signs but not the sign for One Africa. We pulled over once again to ask a local where the hotel was located. He told us that we were on the wrong road and that we needed to go back out to the main road and go back in the direction we had originally came from. Melissa and I were laughing at this point as the situation was quite hilarious.

Raymond finally admitted that I had been correct and that we had to go back to the sign with the arrow that I had spotted awhile back. We finally found the hotel, pulled into the parking area and got out of the tro tro.

The previous week, I had spent a bunch of time at the internet café trying to find the correct phone number for the hotel in Cape Coast that I had stayed in during my trip to Cape Coast last summer. The hotel was so amazing that I wanted to make sure that I took my sister there so she could experience it as well. This proved to be quite a task as the tourist guide book had a phone number that did not work and finding a number online was a bit challenging. Eventually I found a number that actually went through and after encountering a few more challenges; the lady on the other end assisted me in booking the rooms for Sunday night. I booked two rooms – one for Melissa and I and another for Raymond and Alex.

We put our stuff down in our room – which is more like a hut on the beach. It’s still as amazing as last year and I love that fact that as I am lying in bed typing this, I can hear the waves crashing outside my room.

After getting somewhat settled in our rooms, we left to go to lunch. We found a small ‘chop bar’ where we ordered jollaf rice which came with a side of salad. Raymond was not impressed by the small amount of salad they gave us and convinced the waiter to bring us some more. The waiter brought a small plate with a bit more salad on it for us to share. Unlike us, Raymond opted for a more traditional meal of fufu with soup. Melissa was a bit surprised when the waiter placed a bowl of water and soap in front of Raymond. I explained to her that fufu is eaten with the hands (or rather, the right hand) so the water and soap was brought so that Raymond could wash his hand before eating.

After lunch, we headed to Kakum National Park. It is at this park where the canopy walk is located. We arrived just in time and were added to a tour that was just about to start. We started climbing up the big steps, trying not to trip on the rocks and attempting to catch our breath as we went.

Melissa: - We had convinced Innocent, Raymond’s cousin to come with us to the canopy walk. He was out of breath first and complaining how it was hell. I thought it was pretty funny. When we finally got to the first bridge, we all got in a line, separated ourselves from each other and started on the walk across the bridge. The view was amazing. There were tons of trees that stretched on for miles. The guide told us not to look down because we might get scared and freak out. But of course I looked down. I was not scared at all, but more blown away of the beauty of the place and how high we were. Innocent was walking across the bridge in front of me and he was freaking out. He made me hold on to his back and walk close to him so he wouldn’t fall. He kept saying how he wanted to stop and turn around but that was not possible so I forced him to the end of the first bridge. So there are 7 bridges combined, but the last 3 are under construction. We were allowed to cross the first 4 and then turn around and do the 4 again back. So in total we crossed 8 bridges. Nicole and I were the only two from our group to get the courage to do all 8 of them. Raymond chickened out after half way through the first one. It was a pretty amazing experience and I think Nicole and I got some nice pictures out of it as well.

I just wanted to add that to go on the canopy walk Nicole and I had to pay 6 Cedis each while Raymond, Alex and Innocent paid 1.50 Cedis. We had to pay almost 4 times more than them. We thought they did this because they knew that we would come with money but Raymond later informed us that the Ghanaians pay tax that helps with the upkeep of places like this and that is why they didn’t have to pay as much.

After leaving Kakum National Park we made our way to the Monkey Sanctuary. We were greeted by a woman from Holland who welcomed Nicole, Raymond and I onto her property. She showed us her monkeys, turtles, snails, a half cheetah/cat half raccoon thing called the bushcat or bushdog, alligators, porcupines, antelope and snakes. By far the cutest monkey she had was a baby Mona monkey. It had huge eyes and a small little body. The Mona monkey was scared of Raymond and would scream out every time he got close to him. The woman told us that this was because the monkey remembers when his mother was killed by Africans and that Raymond’s dark skin brings back that memory of it.

Black flies are dumb little flies that were in the area of the Canopy walk and of the Monkey sanctuary. They are little flies that bite into your skin where ever it is exposed. Nicole and I got bit many times on our legs. Since we didn’t know what they were we just saw red blood spots on our legs and itched them. Of course you are not supposed to do that because apparently it makes you itch even more. And soon they started to itch even more. It was wonderful! Not.

After the Monkey sanctuary we headed back to One Africa, our hotel. It was getting pretty chilly because the ocean was bringing in a cool wind. We changed and headed back out to get our dinner. At this time it was around 5:30-6ish. Nicole ordered Mac and Cheese, which wasn’t your normal Mac and Cheese and I ordered a pita with veggies in it. As we ate, the waiter who was 22 years old started a conversation with us. He was convinced Nicole and I were twins, as most of the people here are. But once we convinced him we were not twins, he asked us our ages. I told him he was 18 and he freaked out and called me a liar. I tried to explain that I wasn’t lying to him, but he wouldn’t hear any of it. He told me to stop lying to him, but that was hard for me because I was telling the truth. It was pretty funny and eventually I got my passport and UCLA Id and showed it to him. Proof was the only way he would actually believe me. He told me I looked 25 to 30 years old and I was insulted a bit. He obviously doesn’t know what a 25 or 30 year old looks like because I would really like to think I don’t look like I am 30 yet.

At 7:30ish we went back to our room and were done for the night. We were both pretty tired but going to your room and staying there for the night before 8 pm is not really normal for me anymore. In Spain we wouldn’t even go out to dinner until 10 to 11 pm and we wouldn’t get back to our hotel until 3 or 4 am. But the change is nice and it makes waking up early a lot easier. We fell asleep listening to the ocean waves crash down as our wonderful mosquito net covered our bed.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reflecting on Melissa's Arrival

I cannot believe my sister is here in Ghana with me. It is still surreal to her but also to me, especially since it means that we will be leaving in three weeks to go to Kenya. It’s crazy to think that I have already been here in Ghana for two months. It feels like just yesterday when I was at LAX, crying as I left my mother and sister for my seven and a half month long African Adventure.

On Friday, after a morning of organizing things at the orphanage, Raymond and I were to leave for Accra. He was to come to my hotel around 2pm and pick me up. Two o’clock came and went and since Raymond wasn’t at my hotel to pick me up, I decided to take a much needed nap. I was awoken at 5pm when Raymond knocked on my door. He informed me that he had spent many hours of the afternoon at the post office trying to pick up the box of reading glasses that Sherry had sent. The Immigration Officer who only works every other week day was on break – slowly sipping on beer at a ‘chop bar’ located not too far away. A few days earlier, Raymond and I went to lunch at this particular chop bar and saw the Immigration Officer there. We wanted to pick up the package that day but the Immigration Officer said it would be awhile before he returned to work. Great, huh?

Raymond was finally able to pick up the box and dropped it off at his house before picking me up. I quickly put my stuff in the tro tro and we drove the four hour long drive to Accra. We went to Raymond’s uncle’s house, where I thought we were staying for the night. Raymond and I ate dinner, watched some tv on their big, flat screen television, and played with the uncle’s young grandson, Sammy.

Raymond then informed me that we would go to our hotel. I was initially confused but learned that Raymond’s uncle had another guest staying with him who was occupying the guest room that I had stayed in on my first night back here in Ghana. We were driven to the hotel by Raymond’s cousin in his nice Audi.

We checked in and were taken to our rooms. We slept in and awoke around 9:30am the following morning. We hung around the hotel for awhile before heading out and starting to walk to Raymond’s uncle’s house. We saw Phannuel, Raymond’s cousin with the Audi and he picked us up and drove us the rest of the way. Breakfast was served and we spent the early afternoon hanging around the house and watching television.

After we relaxed for awhile, we left the house and headed over to the internet café. It was so nice to have such fast internet – almost as fast as at home. Unfortunately my laptop was sick and I was not able to take full advantage of the fast internet speed and upload any of my pictures. We also finally made it to Shop Rite, the market which I had wanted to go to upon my arrival in Ghana. Two months late but its all good. Raymond was a bit in shock by the market, which is much like any American market. I was happy to be there and to be able to stock up on some regular peanut butter. I had purchased peanut butter a week earlier while in Ho but after one taste of it, I decided to give it away to some of the locals. It was so much different than the peanut butter I had brought from home and had been eating over the previous two months with my breakfast. Shop Rite had regular peanut butter as well as some other snacks that I decided to pick up.

I explained to Raymond that a few weeks earlier when we took two of the other volunteers to Accra and asked to go to a supermarket, this is what we were talking about. In the villages, the idea of a super market differs greatly than what we Americans and other foreigners think of. It was funny to see that probably about half of the shoppers in Shop Rite were foreigners.

After checking out of the market, Raymond requested that we walk through the rest of the mall so that he could see it as he had never been to the Accra Mall before. I would describe the Accra Mall as being on a similar scale to that of the Topanga Mall. It is most definitely not as big as the Topanga Mall but there are many brand name, expensive stores such as Nike, Puma, Levi, Swatch, Panasonic, etc.

After running all of our errands, Raymond and Alex dropped me off at the hotel so that I could shower. They told me to call them when I was ready to be picked up. I showered and made a few phone calls before calling Raymond back and requesting that he come pick me up. He said they would come and get me. A few minutes later, he called again and said that they had to stop somewhere to see someone but they hadn’t forgotten about me and would be on their way soon. As it was only about 6pm by this point, I was okay with this and decided to take the time to relax for a bit. By 7pm, I was really curious as to where they were. I called Raymond’s phone probably 20 times but every time I called, it said the line was busy. I tried texting him, asking where they were but got no response. I started freaking out as it reached 7:30….7:45…7:50…7:55. I called Dina, Raymond’s wife to find out if she had Raymond’s uncle’s number so I could try to reach him there. She did not have the number and told me that I should just keep trying to reach Raymond. I tried a few more times but continued to get the busy signal. I called Dina back to ask for Alex, the driver’s phone number. I knew that he was with Raymond and since I couldn’t get ahold of Raymond, I wanted to try to get ahold of Alex. She did not have the number but knew of someone who did. She told me that she would go get the number and call me back. I was starting to freak out. It was 8pm. My sister would be landing at the airport in 20 minutes and I was stranded at a hotel.

There was a knock on my door. I couldn’t have been happier to see Raymond standing there. I asked him what happened to him and he explained. I then inquired about his phone being busy every time I called. He informed me that he had given his phone to someone else to use and they must not have switched over when I tried calling. After about 20 calls, you think anyone would get the hint that it’s something important but I guess not. He apologized and told me to calm down. We called Dina back and told her that I no longer needed her to find Alex’s number as Raymond had finally shown up.

Immediately after getting into the tro tro, I opened my phone and saved Alex’s phone number so that I would hopefully never be in a similar situation. We headed to the airport to pick up my sister. I was so excited and anxious to see her. We went inside to wait for her, something that I didn’t realize was allowed as I had always been picked up outside the airport. A number of white visitors came out but not Melissa. Some white women with black babies walked by but not Melissa. Then, finally, I spotted Melissa at the Customs area. I pointed her out to Raymond and he went right up to the area and introduced himself to her. She finished answering some questions about her trips to Ghana and Kenya and then walked out to see us. I was so excited to see her and I think she was just about as excited to see me. We gave each other a big hug. I couldn’t believe that she was finally here.

As my computer has been having issues for quite awhile, I had to wait for Melissa to arrive to start working on my blog again. I will update you on the last few weeks which I have neglected to tell you about as soon as possible. Sorry for jumping ahead in the story within filling in the hole but I will let you in on the middle parts soon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wli Waterfalls & Immigration Office

So it’s been awhile since I have updated my blog. What’s new? It seems to me like I have begun a lot of my recent blogs this way and then go on to give you an excuse about why I have not updated you earlier. This time, my excuse is that my computer was infected badly by some viruses and spent the past few days with someone who works on computers. Long story short, my computer is almost back up to normal and is now totally free of viruses and will hopefully stay that way.

Back to Wli Waterfalls about a week and a half ago. I don’t remember how much I told you about the trip to Wli Waterfalls so pardon me if I repeat myself here. The day we went to the waterfalls, I arrived at the school compound to find all of class one and class two waiting outside quietly as the teachers and volunteers made sure everything was in order and all the children were accounted for. We piled into two tro tros and headed off to the waterfalls. Upon our departure from the school, the children started singing but took a quick break to eat the chocolate bars which we distributed to them. About a half hour after leaving the school, we arrived at the front desk of the waterfalls. Tickets were bought and we headed down the path to the waterfall. The children ran ahead, reaching the waterfall way before some of us volunteers and teachers did but waited patiently until we all arrived to go in to the water. Two of the male volunteers quickly stripped down to their bathing shorts and got in the water. The children started taking off their uniforms and gradually entered the water. I went in the water and played around for a little bit with the children. We didn’t stay in the water too long as it was a bit chilly and the children were tired from the run. We didn’t leave the waterfall before taking a cute group picture (of course, at my request).

The walk back from the waterfall was a bit slower than the one to the waterfall although a number of the children ran the whole way. I walked back with a few children holding on to each of my hands. We piled into the tro tros again and left the waterfall. We stopped to pick up a snack – bananas on the way. The ride back was quieter and one of the children even slept the whole way back with his head on my lap.

The weekend came and went. I stayed in Hohoe, taking it easy and sleeping in til 11 each day. On Monday, I departed Hohoe for Ho in a private taxi to go to the Immigration Office. We left Hohoe at 7am in order to arrive at the office just as they opened at 8:30am. The reason I had to go to the Immigration Office was because even though I had a 2 year visa for Ghana, they only approved two months of it when I arrived at the airport and the two month date was approaching.
I had talked to one of the Immigration Officers on the phone a few weeks before the trip to the office and had been told that all I needed to bring was my passport and a copy of my ticket home. I explained to the lady that I did not have a physical ticket back home but had a copy of my itinerary. She insisted that I must bring a copy of a physical ticket or I would not be able to extend my visa. I informed her that I would be going to Kenya after my stay in Ghana and she said that a copy of that ticket, showing that I would be leaving Ghana would be fine. It was a good thing that the airline that I am taking from Ghana to Kenya issued me a physical ticket because I do not know what I would have done otherwise. On the way to the office, we stopped to make a copy of the ticket.

We arrived at the Immigration Office before they opened. John, one of the members of my adopted family who lives in Ho came down to the office to see me and help if needed. We were informed that it would take three hours to process the extension as the Head Officer was not yet there and could not sign it. They told me that the reason it would take so long is because we arrived so early. Godwin, my driver informed the officers that he needed to get back to Hohoe quickly in order to take two of the volunteers to Accra as they were departing that evening. They accepted this and told us that we should give them half an hour to process the extension.

The officer asked for my copy of my ticket and two passport photos. I told him that I was unaware that I needed two photos and that we would go do that right away. John was of great assistance as he knew exactly where to go and directed us there. By the time we returned from taking the photos and stopping at the market to buy peanut butter and ice cream for all, they had my passport ready for me.

Of course, I had to get my visa extended for two months as I would be staying for an additional month and three days. I also had to pay a fee for them to process my request in Ho instead of sending it to Accra and having me come back in a week or two to retrieve it. There was no way I was going to leave my passport with them especially since I would need it in less than two weeks when traveling to Accra to pick up my sister from the airport.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recovery

Its been a crazy, hectic few days and I have been so busy that I have not even gotten back to finishing my last update about our trip to the waterfalls let alone my trip to Ho and so much more. But I just wanted to let you all know that I am feeling better and doing well. I hope to provide you with a more comprehensive update in the near future.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wli Waterfalls

It is amazing that tomorrow will be two months since I left America. It is absolutely crazy how fast time has flown by. It’s crazy that I only have a little more than one month left here in Ghana. I do not even want to think about leaving so I will not dwell on that right now.

After spending many days just sleeping, watching movies, and taking lots of medicine, I am feeling better. Today was the first day in a good week or so that I have gotten out of bed and been somewhat active.

I spent the morning and early afternoon sleeping. I was awoken around lunchtime and told that the older children would be going to Wli Waterfalls today. As I missed going to the monkey sanctuary with them due to being sick, I really wanted to go to the waterfalls. So I put on my bathing suit, packed up my camera and sunscreen and headed over to the orphanage. The children of Class One and Class Two were waiting quietly outside while the little ones were inside napping.

The children as well as the teachers and volunteers were divided in half and quickly took their seats in the two tro tros. The children began singing in excitement. We passed out chocolate bars which were a huge success and quickly devoured. The singing continued until we reached the reception area for the waterfalls.

Tickets were purchased and then the children began running the 30-40 minute trek to the waterfalls.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Love and Support

My intentions of my last update were not to cause worry but rather to inform you of what is happening to me. I appreciate all the love and support and apologize for any worries I caused you. I should let you know that I am being treated by a doctor in town and am starting to feel better.

Yesterday was my last of three days that I spent at the clinic hooked up to the drip. All together I spent about 10 hours hooked up to the drip. According to the doctor the medicine from the drip and the vitamins and medicines prescribed to me should help me get back to normal within a week or two.

I will continue to take it easy for the next few days as I know that rest is necessary for me to fully recover. I have spent many hours in bed, sleeping and watching movies and tv shows and have almost finished watching the first two seasons of Prison Break.

Yesterday, I spent much time watching the Ghanaian news channel as they were covering US President Obama’s visit to Ghana. Raymond and I had been planning for weeks to go to Accra, the capital city to see Obama but we had to cancel those plans as I needed to stay in Hohoe for medical care. I insisted that Raymond should still go to Accra as he was really looking forward to seeing Obama but he refused to go without me. I felt bad as Raymond had managed to get us two VIP tickets for the event. I promised Raymond that when he comes to America, I will take him to the White House in Washington D.C.

Yesterday, while watching television in my room before Raymond arrived to take me to the clinic, I received a knock on my door. One of the men who works at the hotel, Josiah informed me that I had a visitor waiting for me in the lobby. I walked out and to my surprise I saw Dela. Dela is like my brother…he is part of my adopted family that lives in Ho. I was happy to see him and my heart was warmed to know that he cared about me so much that he came all the way to Hohoe to make sure I was doing okay. He spent the early afternoon with me even though I spent part of it sleeping. This whole malaria and typhoid thing has made me very tired all the time. It reminds me of when I had mono and would need to nap after doing simple tasks such as taking a shower or eating a meal. Dela and his family have been keeping tabs on me and have been calling and texting me frequently to make sure that I am receiving proper medical care. They have truly been like a second family to me, being just as worried as my mother and family back home.

Tomorrow I will be traveling to Ho via taxi as I need to extend my visa so that I can stay in Ghana for the remaining 5 weeks of my trip here.

I will continue to update you on my medical condition. Thank you all for your love and support.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Malaria Part II

This is not a particularly happy update but is part of my experience here in Ghana. About two weeks ago I fell sick and was treated for malaria even though I was not 100% convinced that I actually had malaria. I started to feel better but then got sick again. This time I had worse symptoms and the symptoms I experienced were strong indicators of malaria. I was in much pain and was taken to a pharmacist who prescribed some more malaria medicine to me and gave me an injection to bring my 101.3 degree fever down. The injection hurt so badly – this one was in my upper arm and I couldn’t move my arm for the next few hours without experiencing excruciating pain. The pharmacist however explained that it would be fine.

The following day (Wednesday), I was taken to the doctor who treated me the first time. He told me that these new medications were not good for my symptoms and that I needed to stop taking them and put me on some cough medicines as I had a bad cough. The following day (Thursday), I felt even worse and Raymond insisted that we return to the doctor so I could be put on a drip to fight the malaria. I was not too fond of this idea and insisted that I be tested for malaria first. So we traveled to the doctor who wrote a request for a malaria and typhoid test at a lab in town.

We had to wait a bit at the lab before the attendant drew my blood for the test. I laid in the back seat of the taxi while waiting for the results as my head hurt, I felt dizzy and very tired. After a good half hour or so, the attendant came out and handed me the results without telling me what they were. Raymond and I tried to decipher the results but all we could understand from the writing was that something was ‘present.’ As I had gotten the typhoid vaccination before coming to Ghana, I thought that the doctor must have been correct in the fact that I had malaria and that must be what was present.

I spent the remainder of the day laying around in my room. I continued watching Prison Break as one of the teachers from the orphanage had brought the first two seasons over for me to watch. As I had been feeling so sick that whole week, I had spent a lot of time sleeping and watching Prison Break already.

A few hours later, Raymond came to my room and informed me that the doctor was at my hotel to read the results. We went outside to see him and I handed him the document. He took a look at it and then said something in Ewe to Raymond. I asked what it said and he explained that typhoid was present. I replied by asking him if he was serious to which he said yes. I then explained that I wasn’t supposed to get typhoid as I had made sure to get all my vaccinations including typhoid before coming to Ghana.

I was to later learn that the test confirmed that I also had malaria. The doctor explained that he would take me to the clinic and we would start the treatment. Oh joy.

Raymond and I got into the car and I started to ask the doctor some questions about typhoid as I was unsure what it actually was and how one could get it. The doctor took me into his office and started writing out a long list of medications that I would need. He explained that I would need to take 3 drips. The first one was to start that very afternoon. He told me that it would take two and a half hours. I was instructed to lie down on a bed which was located between two rooms – the Female Ward and the Male Ward. The needle was then inserted into an area near my wrist and the drip began.

I laid there hoping to fall asleep but found that difficult to do without being able to toss and turn at my will. I waited for the doctor to come by again and requested that he remove the large pillow from under my head. I was unable to do it myself as they had made the bed over the pillow. I turned on my ipod and listened to some music as I was very uninterested in the African movie that was playing on the television. After awhile I got bored of the music and called my mother to express my boredom to her and to update her on my status.

I gotta go but want to assure you all that I am taking care of myself and getting good medical care and will be back on my feet soon.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I Guess I'm Just Different

It was my intention to go to the internet café this evening as I have not been there since Wednesday but of course, the electricity is currently not working. Hopefully it will come back on sometime this evening so I can still fulfill my goal of going to the internet café tonight.

I am different. I’m not saying that this is good or bad. It is just a statement.

When I first arrived, there were three other volunteers here. They left within a week and a half after I arrived. After they left, I was the only volunteer here until about two weeks ago when two other volunteers arrived. Since then, five other volunteers have arrived and one has already left. Two will leave at the end of this week and the other two will be here for awhile. Having other volunteers here makes me realize this difference between me and them.

I am the only volunteer staying at my particular hotel. The rest of the volunteers are staying at a hotel in Hohoe, right next to Cross Cultural Solutions. They are located near the center of town, in a big village. On the other hand, I am staying in Wegbe, a smaller village located outside of Hohoe.

Last week, Nicholas, one of the teachers at the orphanage asked me if I enjoy staying at my hotel and being in Wegbe since all the other volunteers were at a different hotel. I told him that I enjoy it very much. I explained that I do not come to Africa to spend all of my time with other white people. This helped him understand why I enjoyed being in the small village and interacting directly with the Ghanaians. I do not feel the need to be in the center of town but rather like being in a small village. Being in a small village has allowed me to meet most of the people and be known by almost all of the residents – both old and young. This is usually a good thing except for when I am actually trying to get somewhere and I am stopped by a ton of people, especially children.

I enjoy staying in Wegbe as I also have the opportunity to see the children out of the school environment. It is nice to be able to see this side of them, interact with them in a different way, and meet their families.

Yesterday, Saturday was my first day in awhile to sleep in. Or so I thought. I awoke at 7:30am to a loud knock on my door, followed by another, louder knock, and then another, even louder one until I finally rolled out of bed and opened the door. It was Makafui, the cook at the hotel bringing me my breakfast. As I take my breakfast at 7:30am during the week, she thought I would also take it at this time on the weekend. She is new on the staff here and was not yet used to my weekend schedule. Later that day, after I fell back asleep and woke up at 11am, I asked her to wait until I wake up on Sunday and come to the kitchen to make my breakfast. She laughed, gave me a hard time about sleeping in so late and agreed not to bring my breakfast to me at 7:30am the following morning.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Party

Happy 4th of July to all of you in America! It amazes me that it is already July. It feels like just yesterday that I landed at the airport in Accra. Its crazy that in a few short weeks my sister will be here with me. I think Mark said it well – “the days are very long but the weeks go by so quickly.” It’s so true.

This week has been a fun one. Wednesday was Republic Day. I am still not exactly sure what that means except for the fact that children don’t have school. But due to the fact that I am working at an orphanage, we do not close on the holidays. I was greeted by more children than usual this morning. I got a huge hug from my little baby who lives on the path that I walk to get to the orphanage and then nearly got pushed over when all the children at the orphanage ran to me, hugged me, and gathered all around me.

Brother Mark had organized a party for the children to take place on Thursday but upon his arrival at the orphanage on Wednesday, Raymond informed him that the party would be taking place that day. This meant that Mark and Co. (Mark, his friend, his sister, and his brother’s friend) as Raymond likes to call them had to go out and get all the supplies that morning.

Classes went on as usual that morning as the children had not been informed about the party. The moment that Class Two was called upon to start bringing the benches over to the site for the party, the word spread like wild fire. The children could no longer concentrate on school work so we packed up their books and let them run around on the yard.

I headed over to the site for the party a few minutes before the children were brought over. The children from Class Two were already there and were dancing to the Ghanaian music which was blasting out of the huge speaker system. Mark and Co. were blowing up tons of balloons and finishing making up the goodie bags before the children arrived.

I heard the children getting closer and walked towards the gate so I could photograph them as they came in. The music could be heard from the orphanage and the whole village so the party attracted local children who had a day off from school as well. The children ran through the gate and joined the older children in dance. I danced with the children for a long while, occasionally taking a break to go around and take photos (of course, right?)

I twirled around some of the girls. Jumped around with others. Got others up from the benches and encouraged them to dance. The children were adorable and had tons of fun dancing. They were so into it that they got upset every time the dj would stop the music.

After a long time of dancing, Dina, Raymond’s wife arrived with lunch for the children. The children were instructed to wash their hands and then sit on the benches. We served them their rice topped with a special treat – chicken. After they said their prayer and devoured their meal, the children were given soft drinks – Coke, Sprite, Fanta. They were so cute with their drinks and enjoyed them very much. Each child was then given a goodie bag with biscuits (crackers), a lollypop, and other candy (toffee). The children held on to their bags, some refusing to open them until they got home later that afternoon. Others dug in and made quite funny faces when they tasted the sour lemon candy.

The music was put back on and the children quickly headed back to the dance area. The balloons were passed out and could be seen in the hands of almost every child. They then started approaching me and the other volunteers, requesting that we untie the balloon for them. By untying the balloon, they would be able to take it home and blow it up again. If it is blown up, they take the chance of it popping, something that made them cry.

After spending three hours at the party, I decided that it was time for me to return to my hotel. I was still recovering from being sick and did not want to overdo it. Apparently the party came to an end less than half an hour after I left anyways.

I rested for awhile before heading into town. I had some errands to run such as going to the bank, buying body wash and lotion, and visiting the internet café. Of course it took longer than planned but it was no problem. I arrived at Mark and Co.’s hotel one minute before 7pm for our staff meeting. When I arrived, I found Mark and Co. but none of the local teachers. One of the teachers arrived and walked over to the seamstress with me as I had purchased some fabric that I wanted to be sewed. By the time Nicholas and I returned to the hotel, there were still not many local teachers there.

Eventually, everybody showed up and we ate the food from the buffet that had been prepared for us. After eating, we had our meeting and discussed how to best achieve Raymond’s goals for the orphanage. We talked openly about rules to guide teachers, students, and volunteers as well as classes, resources, and the schedule. It was a productive meeting as the volunteers were able to give advice and suggestions that the teachers could choose to use or not use.