Sunday, August 30, 2009

Laundry in Africa

Nicole: Yesterday, Saturday, I awoke somewhat early – or rather early in comparison to when I have been waking up and did my laundry. Well, actually, I did a small part of my laundry while Nyambura’s sister did most of it for me. I swear, I don’t know how she got my dirty clothes so clean. Dina, Raymond’s wife was a pro at washing my clothes too. And let me tell you, my clothes were filthy in Ghana. I am not even exaggerating when I say that they get white shirts that I have turned brown spotless. It’s incredible.

I spent the afternoon at the orphanage and returned there this afternoon to play with the babies.

Tomorrow (Monday) night, Melissa will be departing from Africa and flying home to America. I will be meeting up with my study abroad group on Tuesday morning to begin my semester abroad in East Africa. I will continue to keep you updated on my adventures as often as possible.

Safari

Nicole: As you may know, Melissa is leaving tomorrow (Monday) night to return home so as of now, the blog is completely mine again and all the posts from now on will be written by me.

On Tuesday, we returned home to get ready before starting the 2+ hour drive to Nakuru National Park. On the way to the park, we drove up many mountains and could see the Great Rift Valley from above. We then drove down the hill and drove through part of this valley which stretches all the way to South Africa. After a long, bumpy ride, we finally entered a town that had flying flamingos on the light poles. Patrick told us that we were very close and that we should look at the flamingos on the light poles in case we didn’t see any flamingos at the park. It was explained to us that Lake Nakuru had been disappearing and as a result, it was not as likely that we would see flamingos. Don’t worry though, we saw tons of flamingos anyways. And before entering the park, we also saw zebras and monkeys on the side of the road.

We entered the park and proceeded to pay $60 each for Melissa and I and about $5 each for Patrick and Nyambura. This was definitely the most extreme price difference that we had experienced since arriving in Africa. And as this park was a huge tourist spot, they charged in US dollars, rather than Kenyan Shillings.

We got back in the car and started driving around the park. The park was massive and had lots of animals, including beautiful zebras that we got to see up close, tons of pink flamingos, rhinos, monkeys that came extremely close to us, giraffes which we only saw from a distance, and buffalos. After driving around the park for awhile, we heard news that a leopard and lions had been spotted so we began our journey to find these animals. We were unsuccessful in locating these animals but it allowed us to embark on a nice journey to find them. Around 6:00pm, when the park closes, we decided to stop at the lodge and get a bite to eat. It was pretty cold at this time but this didn’t stop us from sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful sunset.

Following our dinner, which took quite awhile to receive, we attempted to head out of the park. This was a lot more difficult than it sounds. By this time, it was dark outside and we got a bit lost. We had difficulty finding the way out and were stopped numerous times due to buffalos crossing the road in front of us. After a long drive through the park, we finally reached a gate. Of course it was locked and there was no one there. So we had to turn around in search of another gate. Luckily Patrick found another gate and there was a guard there who let us out of the park. He was not too impressed with the fact that we were still in the park and let Patrick and Nyambura know this in Swahili.

The guard finally opened the gate and allowed us to drive out of the park. Immediately after driving out of the gate, we were met by yet another buffalo. He stood directly in the middle of the one way road and refused to move. It was hilarious but frightening at the same time. Patrick flashed his lights, honked at the buffalo and then turned his lights off so that the buffalo could see and move out of the way. Lucky for us, the buffalo moved out of the way once Patrick turned off the car’s lights and we were free to leave and begin our journey back to Nairobi.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shopping Adventure

Nicole: On Friday, we called Karis and went to some of the malls in Nairobi. As I did not expect it to get so cold in Kenya, I left some of my warmer clothes in Ghana. So, we went searching for some warm clothes for me. Since we did not have much luck at the Exhibition Center a few days before, we decided that the mall would be the next best place to go shopping.

The mall was full of brand name stores and let me tell you, they were quite expensive. We walked around the whole mall but didn’t find anything beside some delicious berry ice cream. Karis took us to a few different malls but we didn’t have much luck.

We decided that we would put our clothing mission on hold and go over to Village Market. Little did we know that I would end up finding some warm clothes and beanies to buy while there. We also walked through the market, which was lined up with vendors selling art, jewelry, and all sorts of other things. It was much like Prestige, where we had done some shopping the previous week but was a lot bigger and full of a lot more vendors. We made friends with some of the vendors and they gave us some free stuff but we were lucky to have Karis do the rest of our bargaining for us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baby Elephants, Giraffes, and More

Nicole: We left the giraffe center in the late afternoon and decided that it was time to get some lunch. Karis wanted us to go somewhere nice for lunch so we went back to Nairobi National Park, where the Animal Orphanage is located. They have three restaurants there so we went to the one that we parked closest to. As it was a beautiful day, we sat outside and dined on some American type food. Although they tried their best to make our food the American way, it lacked any flavor.

After lunch, which took awhile to prepare and receive, we went to the Bomas of Kenya. This is a place where different cultural practices, dances, music, and ways of living are displayed. We walked around and saw homes from different tribal groups of Kenya and other East African countries. These are not the homes that you live in but rather small huts. Looking at these huts made me realize how much stuff I have and how different my lifestyle is than the traditional African lifestyle. The huts varied from region to region and village to village but basically all of the displays had huts for the ‘boys,’ ‘husband,’ ‘first wife,’ ‘second wife,’ third wife,’ as well as small stores for each of the three wives.

From the huts, we went inside the auditorium where we watched some drumming, dancing, and singing by tribal people. The best performance was saved for last and was an acrobatic performance. It was absolutely incredible. The acrobats jumped through small hula hoop type things, made pyramids while standing up, and did all sorts of other amazing tricks. They ended with playing limbo with fire on the limbo stick. They kept lowering the limbo stick and eventually put the firey stick on top of two glass soda bottles. The acrobat successful made it under the stick and amazed all of the audience.

Following the visit to the Bomas of Kenya, we went to Prestige which is where a supermarket and a few other little shops are located. On Sundays, a bunch of independent vendors set out their goods on the balcony near the supermarket and sell art, traditional clothing, jewelry, and other items. Melissa and I walked around and saw all of the displays before starting our shopping. We were called over to each of the shops by the owners and told that we should buy from them. We had to repeatedly tell them that we were only looking first as they didn’t understand why we wouldn’t start picking out what we wanted to purchase.

We were lucky to have Karis with us. Before going to Prestige, we gave Karis money and he told us that he would negotiate prices for us as we would get ripped off due to our white skin color. After walking around and seeing all that the vendors had to offer, we started picking out what we wanted. We picked out things from many different vendors and sent Karis to go from vendor to vendor and figure out how much we owed each of them. The vendors stayed late as we were still there and they hoped that we would continue shopping. We felt good that we got some beautiful things for good prices and that in the process we were able to put money in many different people’s hands.

On Monday, we were picked up by Karis in hopes of going to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. This orphanage is only open for one hour a day so we had a strict timeline. Unfortunately traffic was horrible and we had to make a stop on the way so we did not make it to the orphanage in time. We decided that we would try again the next day and instructed Karis to pick us up promptly at 10am as the orphanage is only open from 11am – 12 noon.

After our unsuccessful visit to the elephant orphanage, we went to the Nairobi National Museum where we viewed some artwork and historical artifacts from Kenya.

On Tuesday, we made it to the elephant orphanage early. We didn’t face much traffic as Tuesday was declared a national holiday as the census was being taken. We waited with about 75-100 other visitors to the orphanage until the gates were opened. We stood around the rope and waited until the baby elephants appeared. Finally, a number of baby elephants came out with the trainers. The elephants were so tiny. I didn’t even realize that elephants could be this small. They were bottle fed and walked around, allowing some people to pet them. Three different groups of elephants were brought out as the orphanage separates the elephants based on their age. The orphanage only allows visitors for an hour a day as the staff works to nurture and provide medical care to the elephants, rehabilitate them, and then release them back to the wild. They do not want the elephants to become too used to humans as they hopefully will not interact with humans in the wild. I say that they will hopefully not interact with humans because some of the elephants that are in the orphanage are there because they have been injured by poachers. Other elephants are in the orphanage because they fell in a well or due to attack from other animals such as hyenas. The orphanage responds immediately to calls regarding injured elephants and sends out a helicopter to go and bring the elephant to the orphanage so that he/she can immediately start receiving the needed medical attention. Following the visit of the elephants, a baby rhino was brought out. The rhino is apparently a very aggressive animal and for that reason, he was not allowed to interact with the visitors as much as the elephants did.

After this trip to the elephant orphanage, we returned to the house to meet Nyambura and Patrick as we were heading to Nakuru National Park for a safari.

Kenyan Orphans

Nicole: By Wednesday, I had been feeling sick for a few days and decided that it was time to go and see a doctor. Karis picked Melissa and I up from the house and took us to the Nairobi Hospital where blood tests were run for malaria, typhoid, and total blood count. All of the tests came back fine and it was determined that I just had a bad cold. But after my experiences with malaria and typhoid in Ghana, I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any too serious. It is now Thursday and I have been taking the medicine prescribed to me and beginning to feel a bit better.

On Thursday, we slept in and called Karis a little before noon to take us to the Exhibition Center, a place where Nyambura told me that I could find some warm clothes to purchase. Imagine the Shopping District in Downtown Los Angeles. Now multiply that by like 100 and you get what we experienced. The place was so busy and crowded and there was absolutely no parking. We didn’t even end up getting out of the car as Melissa and I decided that this was a bit too much to handle. Karis was a bit nervous about having us in this area as well and rolled up our windows and locked the doors as he told us that all the people could see that we were white and therefore have a lot of money. Needless to say, this trip was unsuccessful.

We returned home and relaxed around the house for awhile before going to New Life Home. This home is located directly next door to where we are staying; hence we had driven past it many times. After driving past the sign for this home a few times, I finally really looked at it and understood that it was an orphanage. I asked Nyambura if she knew anything about this home and she told me that she had never gone in to visit but knew that lots of people who come here to adopt babies adopt them from New Life Home. I was very interested and decided on Thursday afternoon that it was time to go see what this home was all about.

Melissa and I walked over to the home and were warmly greeted by the staff in the reception office. We saw about 25 very young children playing outside with some foreigners as well as locals. The man at the front desk answered our questions as we were not 100% sure of what this home did and then called in someone else to give us a more detailed description and tour. This lady explained that the home has been operating for 15 years and they have adopted out over 1,000 babies. They take in babies who are between the ages of 1 day old and 3 months old. Many, but not all of these babies have a physical disability when they are born or are born HIV positive. We looked at pictures of some of the babies who were born prematurely, with bowed legs, and with other problems and got to see pictures of them after spending some time at the home and in the care of doctors. It was amazing to see how they saved these babies and gave them a second chance at life. It was also explained to us that many of the babies who are in the home are brought in by the police or are abandoned by their parents at the hospital after delivery. Once the child is brought to this home, the parent(s) must hand over all legal rights and custody to the organization. It is incredibly sad to think about this but so amazing that this home helps to stabilize the children and then adopts them out to good families who will take care of them.

After learning about the baby orphanage, we were taken on a tour of the premises. We first visited the area where the youngest babies live. These babies are between 1 day old and about 6 months old. When we were there, the youngest baby was 2 months old. We saw the nurseries which were adorably decorated, the play room, and the room where the babies are first kept and watched over when they arrive. We walked outside and saw many little babies in bouncers or being held and bottle fed by staff and volunteers. It was so heartbreaking to see about 20 babies that were so young and were abandoned by their parents.

We were shown the medical center and then walked over to the area where the ‘crawlers’ live. These children, about 15 in number are between the ages of 6 months old to a little over a year old. The children were not inside as they were outside playing so we just walked through and viewed the area. The common room had all sorts of toys, stuffed animals, and mats for the babies to play with. There were two nurseries, filled with cribs for each of the children. In addition, there were closets in each bedroom. These closets were filled with a variety of children’s clothing. I asked if most of the clothing comes in as donations and it was explained to me that not most of the clothing is donated, but rather, all of the clothing is donated.

Next, we visited the area where the oldest children at this home live. There is a smaller number of these children, the ‘toddlers’ – about 5 or 6 children who range between 1.5 years and 3 years old. These children have bigger cribs as it was explained to us that these children can walk and like to try to escape from their beds.

After viewing the rooms, we went outside where we got to play with the children. Immediately upon walking outside to the grassy area, a little boy came running to me and grabbed my legs. He told me that his name was Doug and that he was two years old. It was the most precious thing ever, especially because he had a huge grin on his face. Doug is one of the oldest children at the home and is currently attending school.

We spent some time with the children outside before we were instructed to start bringing the children inside. We carried the ‘crawlers’ upstairs to their common room. We were then each given a bowl of blended fruits and vegetables as well as a baby spoon and told that we should start feeding one of the babies. After feeding the babies their dinner, we gave them their bottles. Everything was going well until one of the babies that Melissa was feeding threw up the milk all over her. She was not too impressed. But luckily, since we are staying directly next door, she was able to return home and change. I stayed at the orphanage until the babies were put to bed around 6pm.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Karis

Melissa: Kenya started off pretty slow for Nicole and I. Since Nyambura was still very busy moving in and adjusting to her new house, it left us with little to do. On Saturday, Nyambura informed us that we would be going to “upcountry” which are the villages not in the city, to celebrate Ian’s 18th birthday with family. After a 2 hour or so ride we arrived at the little houses on a side of a hill. We walked in and were introduced to some of their family and told to sit in the house. Let me just tell you a little bit about the weather here, it is so cold! Saturday especially was very cold, my whole foot was frozen and although I wore tights under my pants and two sweaters I was still very cold. We basically sat in the house for a couple hours doing nothing and listening to people talk in Swahili. Nicole and I were so bored and dreaded having to do this all day. We ate a bit of some traditional Kenyan food and everyone was so shocked when we told them that we didn’t eat meat. They tried to give it to us but both of us refused. They slaughter a goat when they have special guests. It’s an honor and goat meat is a delicacy so most people would jump at the occasion to eat it.

Finally after a couple more hours of doing nothing and being bored, Ian and Joyce told us that they would take us to see the coffee and tea plantation. The coffee and tea plants reached what seemed like forever. We basically saw them and then walked back so it wasn’t very informative. There were two young kids at the house we were at and they started to warm up to Nicole. We played with the kids and spun them around outside, which they loved.

Next thing we knew it was almost time to leave. Everyone sang Ian happy birthday and once again passed out goat meat to eat. Our ride home was an interesting one. Nyambura drove very fast and it was so dark outside so it was kind of scary. There was traffic on the freeway because an accident had occurred. The accident was crazy. Two cars and a bus were completely smashed and on top of the center divider. Later one of the Kenyans told us that they really know how to get into good car accidents here, which is very true. I think it is because of the insane way they drive.

We picked up one of Nyambura’s friends, Patrick, on the way back to the house. He was very nice and friendly and told us he wanted to take us all out for drinks. We went to this little restaurant with huts and ordered some drinks. We met up with one of his friends, including Tony which happened to be John’s brother. John eventually showed up as well. John and Tony live in America and Patrick had been there before, so it was really nice to talk to people that were Americanized. We talked about some of the things we should do while in Kenya and they were all very helpful. They gave us their numbers and told us to call them whenever we needed. We also made official plans for the next day and John let us use his taxi driver to take us around. We were so happy by the end of the night because we were finally going to be able to see what Kenya was all about.

On Sunday, we woke up and got ready, eager for the day to start. We had a long list of things to do which consisted of: the Animal Orphanage, Langata Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen Museum, Bomas of Kenya and the shopping market Prestige. We had John’s taxi driver, Karis, come pick us up. He was so happy to see us and very excited to be driving us around. He was like our little tour guide and pointed out everything along our drive. I can’t even explain how excited he was to have us in his car; it was like we were celebrities or something. We headed to our first destination, the Animal Orphanage. Karis decided to join us on all of our outings and didn’t just drop us off which was nice. A guide took us around the park and started showing us all the animals. We started with the lions. A lot of the animals were very friendly and would come right up to the gates. We got to pet the lion through the gate which was pretty amazing. Our guide would take our cameras and go into the cages and take pictures for us, which allowed for us to get even better pictures. Then the guide asked us if we wanted to pet the leopard. Of course I responded very quickly “YES!” So we went to pet them. Nicole and I were kind of frightened but we knew that it would be an amazing experience. We walked into the large cage with about 5 other animal guides. Two leopards were just lying on the ground, acting very peacefully. The guides told us to bend down near the leopard and pet him, so we did. It was such an amazing experience! The leopard was so calm; it was crazy to think I was actually petting it. The guides snapped some pretty nice pictures of us and then we were on our way to see more animals. We then went to the monkeys. There were a ton of them in this one cage along with some very cute baby ones. One of the monkeys got out of the cage and made its way over to Nicole, Karis and I. It had smelled Karis’ gum and wanted some. Our guide put the gum along with some leaves on our heads and the monkey started to climb all over us. It made its way onto my head and then over onto Nicole’s. Eventually it got the piece of gum and attempted to try and chew it. His teeth were not strong enough though and all he was able to do was make some scratches on the gum. But it was still pretty cute.

After seeing a ton more animals and the Animal Orphanage, we headed over to the Langata Giraffe Center. We arrived at saw a huge giraffe in front of us. They were so tall and huge, it was quite amazing. We were given some giraffe food and were able to feed and pet them. They would lick the food right out of our hands. Karis started to toss the food into their mouths. They would wait for him to throw it, with their mouths open, and try to catch it. It was very funny. We took many pictures with them and then headed off to the Karen Blixen Museum. Karen Blixen is the author of the book Out Of Africa. The museum was in her old house when she lived in Kenya. All her old furniture had been brought back and we were taken on a tour of her house, learning her history. I am still not really sure what she did to get so famous but I am planning on reading her book when I get home and figure that out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Welcome to Kenya

Nicole: We arrived in Kenya early yesterday morning. As we were very tired yesterday and slept most of the day, we have not yet seen much of the city. However, on the drive from the airport to Nyambura’s house, where we are staying, Nyambura pointed out a slum. She told us that although it is not something to be proud of, this slum is the largest slum in the world. The people living in this slum are not ignored, rather they are being helped as new apartment buildings are being built for them and they are being encouraged to get out and work. As we passed by around 7am, we witnessed a massive group of people from the slum walking to work.

We drove for about 20 minutes or so before arriving at Nyambura’s house. We were taken inside and Nyambura explained to us that as she had just returned to Kenya from a five year stay in America, things were not fully unpacked yet. For those of you who are wondering who Nyambura is and how we know her, here is the story…

As I am participating in a study abroad trip in Kenya and Tanzania through my school, my mother called the Kenya Embassy Office which is located in Los Angeles earlier this year to ask some questions about my visa. The call was answered by the Consulate General, Nyambura. Her and my mother got to talking and stayed on the phone chatting about Kenya for quite some time. Nyambura told my mother that she would be returning to Kenya in a few months as her stay in America was almost up and that she would love to take me on a tea and coffee safari. Nyambura gave my mother her personal email address so that I could communicate with her and ask her any questions I had about Kenya. Over the next few weeks, we communicated with Nyambura via email and phone. We set up a time over spring break to meet her and her two children, Joyce and Ian, who are close in age to Melissa and I.

The three of them came to our house and ate lunch with us. We listened to stories about Nyambura’s huge family and their life in Kenya. We talked about my upcoming visit to Africa and decided upon a date that I should come to Kenya so I could visit them before meeting up with my study abroad group. As Melissa had plans to come and visit me in Ghana, Nyambura and her children asked her if she would like to come to Kenya with me and also stay with them for a few days. Of course she accepted this invitation. We made plans for the two of us to leave Ghana on August 19, 2009 and spend a little less than two weeks with Nyambura and her family. After making these plans, we left the house and took Nyambura, Ian, and Joyce to a play at my old high school, New Community Jewish High School. They loved the play and were so excited about having us come to visit them in Kenya. They told us of all the people we had to meet and all the places they would take us.

So now, a few months later, we are here with Nyambura and her family, staying at their house in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. As she had quite a bit of stuff to finish up before she left America, her and her children just arrived back in Kenya last week. It has been quite interesting so far as she is still getting used to things here in Kenya, which allows Melissa and I to see a different side of things in Kenya.

Melissa: Today, the 21st, I woke up, got ready and headed down stairs where I heard the TV on. Nyambura’s son, Ian, was on the couch watching music videos. I joined him. He started asking me what my plans were for the day. I told him that I knew absolutely nothing about Kenya so I had no clue what to do. He said that he would be going into town a bit later and asked if Nicole and I wanted to join him. I told him of course and just to let us know when to be ready. He informed me that we should not bring any bags with us because the police are very corrupt in Kenya. He said that they had the power to stop anyone and take whatever they wanted from people’s bags. He also said that pick pocketers were everywhere.

He ended up never going into town but Nyambura was going to go so she took us with her. She told us to get ready about 5 times but we would never leave. Apparently they have Kenya time here, so nothing ever happens on time. We eventually left the house around 1 pm with one of Nyambura’s friends, John. John was a coffee business man in Virginia. He was very nice and told us that we had to start exploring Kenya and get out of the house. He took us to a nice restaurant at a member’s only club where we met his Uncle. We had a nice lunch with them and then headed into town. The traffic and driving here is crazy. Nyambura and John said they thought it was worse then LA traffic. I was seriously scared when we were in the car. The cars drive where ever they want and there are no lanes so cars are so close to each other trying to fit down the streets. It was insane.

We eventually got dropped off at the bank where we were able to take out some money. The currency here is called Shillings. It is very difficult to figure out how much something here is in dollars so when I look at prices I have no clue how much it actually is. We said goodbye to John and walked to the bank Nyambura had to go to. There were so many people walking around that I had to dodge people. The town is very business like and almost everybody was an adult and in business clothes. Nyambura showed us around to some of the government buildings and took us to meet one of her friends, Ben who worked at a phone company called Safaricom. Ben was a pretty famous racecar driver in Kenya. He had survived stomach cancer and against all odds still raced.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ghana --> Kenya

Nicole: During my stay in Ghana over the past three months, I have become very close with not only the children at Christ Orphanage but also with the children in the local community as well as with the parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends of the children. Due to this close relationship with the local people, I had a much different experience in Ghana than I think most volunteers do. My sister happily embraced the fact that I did more than just go to the orphanage and then go back to the hotel and spend the rest of the day locked away watching television or something.

The local community knew me and as soon as Melissa arrived, they welcomed her with open arms. As we became so close with the community of Wegbe, it made it very difficult to say good bye and leave. Raymond knew that we were so close with the community of Wegbe and planned a good bye celebration for us to take place on Tuesday afternoon. Raymond invited some of the local youth to the school compound to drum and sing for us. The children of the orphanage, who were at the field, were called to come to the school compound for the celebration. Other children and community members came over and joined in the festivities as well. We danced with the children and had a fun afternoon with them. We were very lucky that it stopped raining just before the celebration was to take place and it became a nice, sunny afternoon.

Raymond warned us that since there are no lights at the school compound (as there is no electricity there), the party would end when it got dark. But the Ghanaians know how to keep a party going and function just fine without lights. The sun set and the drumming, dancing, and singing continued long into the evening.

After a few hours of dancing, we took a break to eat dinner. Raymond had planned and prepared for all the children to come with us to his house to eat dinner with us. Dina, Raymond’s wife made a huge pot of rice and tomato stew for at least 50 children. She happily served the children as they kept appearing and made sure that everyone got food. Dina separated our food and placed it in the house for us. We left the children for a few minutes to go inside and eat our last dinner prepared by Dina. The children, many who had finished their food by then crowded around the screen door and watched us eat. They seem to have this huge fascination with seeing white people eat. After we finished eating, we were dragged (not against our will) by the children back to the school compound for more dancing. We danced for awhile more before getting tired and deciding to head back to the hotel.

We walked out of the school compound with about 50 children following us, some from Christ Orphanage, and others friends we had made in the community. The children followed us to our hotel, holding our hands and singing along the way. I am sure it was quite a sight for the rest of the community and those passing through Wegbe in vehicles. We arrived in front of the hotel. Some ran ahead and laid on the cement drive way while others just crowded around the gate. The hotel staff came outside to see what was going on and why there were so many children in front of the hotel. The children grabbed onto Melissa and I and we tried to comfort those who were crying. It definitely pushed me over the edge and made me cry as well. As I was hugging one of the girls whom I adore, named Jennifer, I couldn’t help but think about how much I would miss her and all the other children, as well as the entire community of Wegbe. It was heartbreaking to see the children cry. We told them multiple times that we would see them the next day and that they should go home and go to sleep, but the did not want to leave our side. Eventually, we had to go inside and finish packing. The children remained outside the hotel as we entered the gate and the staff locked it after us. I walked into the hotel crying my eyes out and told Melissa that the children do not do this for every volunteer and that we must be pretty special people to them.

After spending some time packing, we called Godwin, our taxi driver and asked him to come pick us up. We loaded some stuff into the car and drove to Raymond’s house where we presented Raymond and his wife, Dina with some gifts to show our appreciation. We gave Raymond a velvet top which is traditionally worn by kings. He loved it and Dina applauded us for ‘trying’ as she was impressed with the fact that we took notice that Raymond was a fan of these tops and that we found a beautiful one for him. He tried it on and sure did look like a king in it. We also gave him an Obama shirt as he is a huge Obama fan. He laughed and was happy to add it to his American/ Obama wardrobe. Next, we gave Dina her gifts. As she has been the one cooking for us and doing all of our filthy laundry for us, we got her gifts that she could use in the kitchen and while doing laundry. These items consisted of serving platters, spices, soap, serving utensils, a knife, and a bowl and grinder used for grinding pepper. In addition, we gave her a purse that we had got made here in Ghana and a little pouch with a necklace which our mother made, and a bracelet from Ghana. I think she was shocked that we thought of her and got her such a gift. She was very happy and extremely thankful. We also gave Raymond and Dina a bunch of random, assorted items which we no longer needed or wanted and knew that they could use.

This morning, we awoke and finished packing up all of our belongings. Alex, the driver who would be driving us to Accra in the Christ Orphanage tro tro arrived to pick up our bags. We decided that we wanted to walk to the orphanage so that we could say good bye to all of our friends along the way. We said good bye to the hotel staff and turned in our room key. It was so sad to see the room that I had been living in for the past three months so bare and empty.

As soon as we walked outside of the hotel, we were met by some of the children of the orphanage who were walking to school. They crossed the road and walked to the school with us. We stopped along the way to say our final good byes to our Wegbe community/ family.

A night or two earlier I had asked Raymond if there was any way that I could inform the entire community of Wegbe that Melissa and I would be leaving on Wednesday. I felt like this community had been so welcoming to me and had embraced me as one of their own. They truly became my community. I became a normal part of their lives just as they became a normal part of my life. While I was closer with some more than others, I still felt that they all played an important role in making me feel so at home in Wegbe. I knew that I would not be able to say good bye to everyone but felt bad just disappearing with notifying them. Raymond told me that the community knew that I was American and that I would eventually need to leave and go back home. That wasn’t good enough for me though. We agreed that Raymond would ask the town crier to announce my departure the following morning. The town crier is the person who goes around the village in a car with speakers on top and announces important information and other announcements to the community.

Melissa: Although Nicole and I both knew that Wednesday the 19th would come, we were both dreading it. I didn’t realize how much leaving would impact me. I am so sad still that we are not in Ghana anymore and that we can not just walk outside and see “our children.” I miss the orphanage and all the kids so much and I think about their precious faces all the time. On Wednesday morning, Nicole and I finished packing and gathered all of our belongings. The hotel room that I called home for 3 ½ weeks was now bare and lacked all sense of life. It was so surreal that we were actually leaving. I think this happens for me every time I leave to go somewhere new. It doesn’t really hit me until I actually leave and soak up a new environment. We started our last walk to the orphanage. Right when we walked outside our hotel, we saw some students walking to school as well. We called them over and they ran to us, embracing and hugging us. I picked up one of the girls named Jenet and carried her to school. I didn’t want to let go of her because I knew that it would probably be the last time I got to spend time with her. Jenet is one of the most adorable little girls at the orphanage. She has the cutest laugh and when Nicole asks her if she is beautiful, she replies with a loud yes! It is sweet. Every time I play with her it reminds me of my Aunt Lori. She had bought her picture at the fundraiser we had for The Ghana Project and thought that her little ears and face were just too cute. I think about how much she would just adore and love this little girl and I wish that she along with everyone could come to Ghana and see how amazing the people and kids are here.

As we arrived at Christ, the students were singing and doing their morning routine. In my head all I could think was this is the last time I will see this for a year and it seriously made me want to break down. I think I truly fell in love with Christ and the children here. Nicole and I were both embraced by our “babies” as we walked in. We call them that because they are attached to us and we are to them as well. Our babies, Happy and Atsufe, get jealous of the other kids when we hold them and like to hit the other students until we put them down and pick them up. It is pretty funny. I think Happy is one of the students I miss them most. He loved my elephant necklace and would take the elephant and make it gallop around my neck while he made elephant sounds. Whenever I tried to put him down, he would wrap his legs around me so tightly that it was physically impossible to let him go. Also whenever I hurt myself or tripped he would say “Sorry, Okaaaaay,” in the cutest little voice ever. Whenever I hear someone say sorry now, I hear myself saying Okaaaay in my head. It brings a smile to my face.

Usually when volunteers leave, Raymond comes to Christ and does a little goodbye ceremony for them. But this morning he was at his house along with some other men apparently busy. I was kind of confused and hoped he didn’t forget to do the goodbye ceremony for us. Nicole reassured me that he didn’t and that he said he would be coming soon. This of course meant like 2 hours. I decided to soak up the last bit of the children in my last hours at Christ and went into my class which now consisted of KG1 and KG2, along with Happy and Jenet. Nicholas, the teacher who is also our close friend and member of the Cash Money Niggas, decided to make the children put on a little show for me. He pretended he was a TV announcer and told the students that one by one they would come up to the front of the room and sing to me. He called one of the students up to be the video camera and he walked around the room pretending to film the whole thing. A couple of students came up and sang and it was just precious. They held a marker like it was a microphone and sang their hearts out to me. One of the students sang a song called Goodbye To You, which makes Nicole and I both cry, and it hit me again that these were my final hours at Christ. I would look at the kids and try to memorize everything about them so I would never forget.

After the little show was over, we handed out some stickers to the children and put them on their foreheads. Happy was just in love with the stickers along with everyone else. The other students were getting a bit out of hand and starting attacking me for more stickers. Nicholas told them to sit down while Happy, who is younger than all of the children in these classes, told them if they didn’t sit down and be quite that they wouldn’t get any stickers. It was so funny to see a younger student actually control some students who were older then him.

Another student, Israel, who is in the eldest class at Christ had become my little boyfriend. I called him this because he wrote me about three love letters. He informed me that I should write back to him before I left to go back to America. So I wrote him a little letter, drew him a picture, along with one penny and folded it into a heart. He was so happy when I gave him the letter and all of his friends crowded around him while he opened it and read it aloud.

Eventually Raymond made it to school and everyone gathered in the front classroom. Raymond said some touching remarks about Nicole and I that brought tears to our eyes. He explained that there is no need for us or the children to cry because we are coming back and we are not leaving them forever. He also explained to everyone how much we had helped and benefited the orphanage and how grateful he was of us. He then presented each of us with gifts. He gave me a Kente cloth which said Thank You Melissa and a necklace and bracelet. I was crying my eyes out while he put the necklace on me and I embraced him tightly after he had given me the gifts. Raymond has become like my brother here. I feel like he is my real family and I am so grateful to have him in my life.

The students then sang a few songs, but it was hard for them to concentrate as Nicole and I were crying and most of the students joined in, gathering around our legs. Israel was crying so hard and trying to hide it from me. I found him, hugged him and informed him that I would be coming back in one year and not to forget me. Godwin, the orphan that lives in Raymond, was also breaking down. He came to me and we just hugged. It was so hard to stop crying because every time I looked at a crying child, it made my tears continue. This whole time I was holding Happy who was sobbing on my shoulder as well. I didn’t want to let go of him. Eventually Nicole and I had to be dragged out of the orphanage and away from the kids as we had to begin our journey to the airport. We both cried the whole way to the tro tro and when we saw the local children come to watch us depart, it reassured us that we wouldn’t stop crying anytime soon. We headed out of Wegbe and started on our trip to Accra.

After about 4 hours, we arrived in Accra. We made a short pit stop at Raymond’s old school and went to say goodbye to some of Raymond’s family. We wanted to make sure we were not on Raymond time because we didn’t want to miss our flight so we only stayed at his Uncle’s house for a short time. They informed Nicole that they would be happy if she missed her flight so that she could stay in Ghana. I know that Nicole secretly wished for that too but she knew it was unrealistic. We arrived at the airport early enough to have dinner with Raymond and our driver Alex for the last time. It was a pretty quiet meal as Nicole and I were both reminiscing on what we were leaving behind. We finally had to say bye to Raymond, which resulted in another emotional moment and then headed into the airport to check in.

After a 5 ½ hour flight, we have now safely arrived in Kenya. Nyambura picked us up from the airport along with her nephew, Jimmy, and we headed over to her car. In Kenya they drive on the other side of the street and their steering wheel is on the other side as well. Nicole and I found this very strange and were not expecting it. Nyambura told us that she was not completely used to driving like this either, as she has been living in LA for the last 5 years. She told us that she was not entirely used to driving stick shift either so we constantly dodged people as we drove to her house. She made us some tea and then Nicole and I went up to our room to get some rest. I slept for about 7 hours and Nicole is still sleeping as I type this right now. I am sure that this is really going to mess up our sleeping patterns but I think we needed the rest.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monkey Sanctuary

Nicole: Melissa and I had been planning to go visit Tafi Atome, the monkey sanctuary for about two weeks now. Every day that we told Godwin, our driver that we wanted to go to the monkey sanctuary, it would start raining and we would have to cancel our plans. We decided that we wanted to take Class Two, the oldest class at the orphanage with us as we had so much fun when we took children to the waterfall. So we talked to Raymond and decided that we would go to the monkey sanctuary today. After the children ate lunch, we arrived and awaited the arrival of the tro tro.

The eight children in Class Two, as well as Raymond’s wife, Dina, Raymond’s son, Anderson, Dina’s friend and co-cook, Elisabeth, Patrick, Melissa, and I got into the tro tro as all the other children at the orphanage jealously watched us. Dina and Elisabeth were very excited to be able to join us on this trip as they had never been to the monkey sanctuary. Most of the children were not certain about where we were going as we told them that we were going to take them to the hospital. We confirmed their prediction that we were actually going to the monkey sanctuary and then passed out biscuits and water.

We drove for about half an hour before reaching our destined town. We drove past the sign for the monkey sanctuary as we needed to purchase bananas for the monkeys. But as we drove past the sign, the children inquired as to whether we would be going to Accra, or even America.

After purchasing a ton of bananas for a total of 2 cedis (less than 2 dollars), we turned around and headed down the road to Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. Our guide took us into the forest and started calling out to the monkeys. The monkeys started running down the tree branches, waiting to be fed. Our guide explained that we needed to hold on to the bananas tightly or else the monkeys would take the whole banana. By holding on to the banana tightly, the monkeys could peel the banana and eat it. And that they did. I did as the guide suggested, and bent down to feed the monkeys. He didn’t warn me that by doing this, about five monkeys would come and fight for the banana. I held the banana as the monkeys fought for it but eventually one of them won and stole the banana away from my hand. The children just looked on and laughed as the monkeys ran back up the tree. We saw baby monkeys feeding from their mothers and a big male monkey, the chief of his clan.

Our guide tried to tell all of us about the mona monkeys which lived in Tafi Atome but ended up only talking to Melissa and I as the children, including Anderson were too entertained by the monkeys. This wasn’t to say that Melissa and I were not entertained by the monkeys as well but we tried our best to stop taking photos of the monkeys and listen to the guide. He explained to us that the villagers hid their treasures in the forest where the monkeys lived and when they returned years later the treasure was still there. For this reason, the people believe that the monkeys are gods. We also learned that although the monkeys had been living in this place for about 200 years, they have yet to find a dead monkey so they believe that the monkeys have their own way of conducting a burial for deceased monkeys.

As we stood around listening to the guide, we got distracted as the monkeys tried to get ahold of our last banana which Patrick was holding. One of the brave ones even jumped towards him and attempted to grab the banana which sent us all into laughter. This last banana came in handy as we wanted to take a group photo and wanted to have some monkeys in the background. As the monkeys were hanging around, waiting for this last banana, we were able to take a group photo with me holding out the banana to the monkeys. And we successfully got our group photo with monkeys in the background.

On the way back, we decided to stop and treat the children as well as ourselves to bananas and ice cream. We arrived back in Wegbe just as the storm came in. The children ran to the orphanage as the rain drops coming down were as big as grapes. We then spent the remainder of the afternoon organizing some things at the orphanage and putting up more educational materials that we had made and got laminated.

In the evening, we visited our seamstress in Hohoe for the last time. We had asked her to make so many bags, skirts, tops, and other items for us that she told us that she had to shut out all other clients for the day. We were extremely impressed with the work she had done and thanked her immensely before saying a sad good bye and promising to send her photos of us in the clothes that she made for us.

Melissa: Today is my 2nd to last full day in Ghana. Just thinking of it makes me start to tear up. Although sometimes I really miss home and miss the norms of life, I am going to miss it here so very much. In Ghana it is peaceful and life is easy. I am going to miss having little kids scream out “white woman” in Ewe whenever I walk by and everyone in the town waving and saying hello to me. I am going to miss going to the orphanage everyday and holding and playing with all the children.

We started today off like any other: waking up early, eating breakfast and then heading off to the orphanage. This morning when we walked out of our hotel a man was walking by. He told us he would walk with us and took my bag to carry. He didn’t speak English very well and kept telling us that he was the manager’s father and that the manager was still sleeping. Nicole and I didn’t understand at all who the manager was but we nodded our heads politely. The man said Raymond in one of his broken sentences but that is basically all we grasped from him. We thanked him for carrying our bag when we arrived at Raymond’s house and said goodbye. Later we found out that he was Raymond’s father.

Last Week's Updates

Nicole: Last Monday (August 10, 2009), was supposed to be a teacher in-service and training day at Christ Orphanage. I knew that many of the children would show up anyways as the children were only told verbally on Friday that they shouldn’t come to school on Monday. On our way to Raymond’s house that morning, we passed many Christ Orphanage children who were walking to school or getting ready for school and dressing in their school uniform. I stopped by each child I saw that attends Christ and reminded them that there was no school that day. Of course none of the children that I told this to knew that there was no school on this particular day.

We arrived at Raymond’s house, where we met Kylie and Deb (two other volunteers) as we were all going to see the new site that morning. I met Kylie in Ghana last year as we were both volunteering through Cross Cultural Solutions, and both got placed at Christ Orphanage. She arrived towards the end of my stay in Ghana but we still interacted as there were only a handful of volunteers at Christ. As Kylie is about to start her senior year of college as a Film major, she decided to return for three weeks this summer to shoot a documentary for her thesis project. Her mother came along with her to assist her and to experience Ghana for the first time.

We all piled in to the tro tro and drove down the horrible, very bumpy road to the new site. As it had rained the night before, all of the pot holes were filled with muddy water which made the drive that much more fun.

We arrived at the site, where work was being done on the dining hall as well as the bunk beds. The building of the dining hall has been absolutely incredible. Just a few weeks ago, I remember being at the site as the parents carried bricks on their heads to the area where the dining hall would be built. At this point, there was nothing there except for the dug out foundation for the building. When we went to visit the site on this particular Monday morning, all the walls were up and the beams which will reach to the ceiling were practically completed.

We also went into the dormitory building, where more than 30 of the orphans will be housed. This building has taken quite some time to build. When I came to Ghana last summer, I visited the new site a few times and saw this building in its beginning stages. It is now painted and is getting close to being completed. This building has been built with a flat roof so that when the other buildings are completed and funds are available, we can return to this building and build a second story to house even more children.

We spent quite a bit of time at the site this morning as Kylie was videotaping Raymond as her mother Deb asked him lots of questions about the new site.

We returned to the school where we were met by some of the children who decided to hang out at the school campus even though there was no school. They helped me put up tons of educational materials that Melissa and I had made and got laminated. We hung up pictures that we traced or drew and colored of animals, letters, numbers, shapes, the days of the weeks, the Ghana flag, a map of Africa, and other things in the various classrooms on string which the teachers had put up along the walls. The children loved handing me the clothes pins (or pegs, as they call them) and the laminated pages as I stood on the benches so that I could reach the string and hang up the new educational materials. I know that I am the one that put all the stuff up on the walls and made a lot of it, with the help of my sister, but I must say that the classrooms sure looked good after we hung everything up.

Last year, when I arrived at Christ Orphanage, the walls were bare. There were maybe one or two posters in the whole school but nothing else. So, I took it upon myself to decorate the classroom I was teaching in. The kids loved everything that I put up on the walls and were so excited to see their work on display for the first time. At that time, the only way that we could think to put things up on the wall was to glue them. So glue them we did. We used lots of glue to make sure that nothing would fall down as the walls were brick and not exactly the smoothest things in the world. I never thought that a year later, I would be the one that would have to work to get this stuff off of the walls. I am happy that the teachers and children were able to use these resources for a year but they got so dusty, dirty, colorless, and torn that it was just time to take them down. The children loved this part as well as I let them help me tear almost everything off of the walls in every single classroom. This was a huge project but worth it as the laminated materials that we put up are so much more colorful and useful. And because we did not stick the laminated items to the walls but rather hung them on clothespins, they can easily be cleaned and taken to the new site so they can be used for a long time.

Melissa: Tuesday, the 11th, was a special day, as we had planned to give out the glasses that Sherry from Eyes on Africa had sent to us. Nicole and I along with Patrick, who helped Nicole pass them out last time, headed over to the church. About ten women were already waiting for us when we arrived, eager to get some reading glasses. We set up our table and Nicole showed me how to test the people to figure out what strength of glasses they needed. Patrick explained in Ewe to the people what we were doing and taught them how to care and wash their glasses once they received them. We started calling up people and testing their eyes. We would make them try on the glasses and have them read us a line from a book to make sure they could actually see okay. We had waves of people come in. Sometimes we had a very long line of people waiting to get glasses while at other times it was very slow. Over time, we started to run out of some of the glasses. The strongest glasses went first and so on. We had to explain to some people that we couldn’t give them reading glasses because they were not the right strength for them. We informed them that they should go to the clinic and get their eyes tested by a doctor. Many people wanted the glasses anyways and it was very difficult to make them understand that if they glasses were not right for them that they would hurt their eyes and maybe damage their eyes even more. It was very rewarding giving out the glasses though. Seeing the people’s facial expressions when they could actually see the words in the book was amazing. They were all so happy and thanked us immensely.

By about 12PM we had run out of almost all of the glasses. We packed away all of our stuff and sat down to eat lunch. Quite a few people still came by looking for glasses and were disappointed when they found out that we had run out.

On Friday, we decided to go on a field trip to the Wli Waterfalls with some of the children from Christ. The teachers had picked out about 12 children that were doing especially good in school that were allowed to go to the waterfalls with us. The 12 children along with 7 of us volunteers and 2 teachers pilled into the tro tro and headed for our half hour ride to the waterfalls. The students that came with us were some of the youngest in the school and ranged from 4 to 6 years old. They were so excited to be going out of the town and sang happily during our whole journey. After we parked the car, we had a 45 minute walk to get to the waterfall. We had planned on going on this trip on Thursday but it was raining very hard so we had to postpone it. Since it had rained so much, the walk to the waterfall was very interesting. There were large puddles everywhere on the road and mud and dirt everywhere. The children were so adorable as they loved walking right through the muddy puddles. After walking over about 6 bridges and through many wet paths we made it to the waterfall. To our surprise the waterfall was blasting water everywhere as it was very windy. It seemed like it was raining and the children soon began to get freezing cold. I absolutely loved it though! I thought the waterfall was so beautiful and the water felt so nice. I was kind of disappointed that we couldn’t go into the water or get very close because the water spraying at us was very powerful. Nicole and I did manage to get some cute pictures of the children before our cameras got too wet. After awhile, we decided to start on our way back because there wasn’t much we could do at the waterfall except just look at it. One of the other volunteers had brought chocolate chip cookies for all the children and she handed them out. I don’t think they had ever seen or tasted a chocolate chip cookie as they all looked at it as it was a foreign object. Eventually they all bit into it and devoured the delicious chocolate. We passed out lollipops to the children once we had arrived back at the tro tro and headed back to Christ.

After we returned to our hotel, Patience, Yaira, Godwin, Atsu, Christoff, a few of the kids from around the town and Christ, came over to hang out for a bit. We stayed outside with them and started having a photo shoot. They all absolutely loved getting their picture taken so it made it very easy to get some good pictures. Nicole and I took turn taking the pictures so we could join in with them. They danced, rolled around in the grass and went crazy for a couple hours. Other town’s people would stop and watch us as they walked by. Some of them asked us to take their photo while other kids watched and sometimes joined in playing with the other kids. One girl came with her sister and started to hang out with us. Godwin and Patience ran away from her and explained to Nicole that they truly believed she was a witch. They had told Nicole that she slept with her eyes squinted and her hands all scrunched up. They informed Nicole that they wouldn’t play with her. Nicole and I both found this pretty funny. Eventually it started to get pretty dark outside, so we sent the kids home and went into our hotel to rest.

Nicole: On Friday night, after our photo shoot outside of our hotel with the children, I attended a wake for a man in the community that had passed away about 3 weeks earlier. This man was the father of one of the young boys at the orphanage who had passed away just a few weeks earlier from illness. Raymond informed me that the family, especially the father was having a very difficult time coping with the loss of their son, which was very understandable. Apparently it took such a toll on the father’s life that he too ended up passing away. As the father had to sell his property to pay for his son’s funeral, there was no money to pay for the father’s funeral after he died. It is for this reason that the funeral for the father took place a few weeks after his death.

I was at Raymond’s house, listening to the youth playing the drums and singing, practicing for the funeral before we all moved over to the site of the funeral. The body was inside the casket inside one of the rooms of the house and could be seen from the outside window. The children who were with me ran over to see the casket and then ran away frightened. The wife of the man who passed away had a baby tied to her back, presumably her baby and was in tears, dancing and making jerking movements, and somewhat talking to herself or possibly to God. I could not even image what she was feeling and felt so bad for her as she had lost both her son and husband in such a short period of time. I also felt bad for the baby on her back and just wanted to go over and take the baby from her and just hold it but I thought that maybe the baby was all she has left and was possibly providing some kind of comfort to her.

On Saturday morning, Melissa and I woke up and took a taxi to the Hohoe tro tro station. We boarded an almost full tro tro headed to Ho. Due to the fact that the tro tro was almost all full, we got horrible seats. Melissa ended up sitting in one of the seats on the end that fold up so that people from the rows behind could fold it up and get through. These seats are not attached to the rest of the row so it makes for an even bumpier experience.

We got to Ho and got off at the Electricity Company where we met Eli. Now, let me explain to you who Eli is. Last summer, while staying at Cross Cultural Solutions, Eli was living with the man in charge of the Ghana CCS program. He was best friends with Dela, John’s son, where I spent much/ all of my free time. In the evenings, I would sit and chat with Dela, Dela’s cousin, Godsway, Eli, and the CCS guard, Alfa. We became good friends and my relationship with Eli progressed into more than just friendship.

After I left Ghana last summer, Eli and I continued to communicate via phone and developed a long distance relationship. As I am a white American and Eli is a black Ghanaian, I was nervous to tell many people back home about this relationship. I think that many people have preconceived stereotypes and racist ideas about Africans, especially black Africans. I know first hand that many of these stereotypes are just stereotypes but I know that not everybody understands that. I also know that long distance relationships are not the easiest thing in the world, especially when the relationship is across continents. But both Eli and I have made it work and have chosen to continue our long distance relationship.

As Eli attends a boarding school in Keta and is not really supposed to leave at all, I was unable to see him much this summer, although he visited me occasionally. Earlier in the week, before we went to visit Ho, Eli came to visit me and to meet Melissa in Wegbe. Dela was also supposed to come and visit us at the same time that Eli came but he ended up getting a bad case of malaria and had to stay home and recover.

So Eli met us where we got off the tro tro, in front of the Electricity Company and took us to meet his family. It was a bit awkward as we were seated in a room with Eli’s mother and grandmother, neither of whom spoke nor understood much English so Eli had to translate everything for us. We also met Eli’s older sister and her young girl who was very scared of us, especially of my camera. She would wail whenever I picked up the camera and tried to take a photograph. I took photos of the whole family together as I promised Eli’s uncle, Isaac who lives in Los Angeles that I would take photos of his family and send them to him.

A few days before I was to depart for Ghana, way back in May, my mother, sister and I went over to Eli’s uncle’s house. We met Isaac and his wife, Tamina. Tamina, a previous CCS volunteer met Isaac while volunteering in Ghana and they recently got married. After much doing much work and spending much money, they finally succeeded at getting Isaac to America. They told us of their time in Ghana and showed us photos from their wedding, which took place in Ghana. Eli’s mother (Isaac’s sister) and Eli’s grandmother (Isaac’s mother) were impressed by all of this and were excited that I would be able to share their photos with Isaac and his wife.

After visiting with them for awhile, we said good bye and went to purchase some ice cream. We bought enough ice cream so that we could take it with us to Dela and his family. Eli came with us to visit Dela and his family for the final time on this trip. The ice cream was a hit and it was nice to be able to keep the extras cold in the fridge/ freezer that I had purchased for them. It was also exciting to see that the fridge had other stuff in it, mostly the drink which Annie (Dela’s mother) makes and sells.

Of course, since we were visiting Dela and his family, our short trip had to contain some kind of adventure. Even though I have visited them numerous times, I have yet to learn that I should always wear long pants when I visit them. We walked through the brush (with Richmond on my back) and up a huge hill to John’s work as he would be at work all day and we wanted to say good bye to him. John works at the cell phone towers, on the top of this particular hill on which one can see the whole town. We took the opportunity to take some photos and to say good bye and thank you to John. We walked back down the hill to their house. This time, I carried Richmond on my hip as he got super heavy on my back on the way up.

We (Melissa, Eli, and I) hung out with the family for the early part of the afternoon before having to say a teary good bye. My adopted family members were the first people we had to say good bye to and it was a very difficult good bye. Forgive, Richmond and Melody’s mother repeatedly told me that I shouldn’t cry as they would not be going anywhere and I would be back to visit them in a few short months. Although I knew this, it was still difficult to say good bye and the tears continued to flow from my eyes.

Melissa: On Sunday we decided to attend church with Raymond. We got ready rather early and headed over to Raymond’s house. Raymond had told us that we had to be at the church at 9 AM. Of course we didn’t make it there on time because Raymond took forever to get ready. He wore a traditional outfit with bright colors; it was very beautiful. All of the children in the town were dressed in their best clothes for church and most of the siblings wore matching patterns; it was so cute. Finally it was time to go so we piled into the tro-tro and headed for what we thought would be the church. We past the church and went into town. Nicole and I were very confused but just went with it. We arrived at one of Dina’s family member’s house and sat and talked with them for a bit. Then we took Dina and Andy, her son, to Dina’s sister’s house because they weren’t going to come to church. Finally we headed to the church. As we walked in, everyone turned around to look at me and Nicole. We sat down with Raymond in the back and watched the service go on.

I really enjoyed being at the church. The women were so into the songs and would get up and dance around all the chairs. I thought it was seriously so beautiful. I just felt like they really could connect with God and were so proud and confident with themselves. There were quite a few kids from Christ who were happy to see us at church. We never had a bare lap, as children would come and pull themselves onto us. Most of the children weren’t in the service but rather at the Sunday school building across the way. We went into the class and were immediately attacked by more children from Christ. They gave us chairs and we watched the children “attempt” to learn Bible stories. It was pretty difficult because they were distracted by our presence.

We eventually went back into the church service to watch the town youth perform some songs. This was a special church service because it was directly run by the youth and considered a church youth celebration. Once again they sang and dance and the band played very loudly. It was so beautiful. Raymond has an important role in the church and community so he was called up to the front to say some words to the congregation. He pulled us up with him and everyone clapped as we walked to the front. They introduced both Nicole and I and we were given seats in the front along with Raymond.

After about 3 hours, church had finished. We got back in the tro tro along with the Chairman of the town and headed back to Wegbe. We went to drop the Chairman off at his house but along the way we got a flat tire. Nicole, the Chairman, two of the children from Christ, Godwin and Israel and I walked the Chairman the rest of the way to his house. We sat in his house talking for awhile until they had replaced the tire. We then made our way back to Raymond’s house. A soccer game was about to begin in a half hour or so, so we made our way to the soccer field. As we walked there, the soccer players were parading around the town, informing everyone of the game they were about to play.

The soccer game was very fun. I think that the people that attended liked dancing and singing to the drummers more then actually watching the game. All the children crowded around Nicole and I as we filmed and took pictures of everything that was going on. We met a lot of children that we hadn’t seen before. They instantly fell in love with us and wouldn’t leave our sides, which was pretty cute. We had many photo shoots with the kids as they all loved when we took their picture. The Wegbe team eventually won the game 3-1 and the whole town ran around the field in celebration. We made our way once again back to the tro tro and piled in. We tried to make our way to the street but tons of people were singing and dancing in the middle of the rode. Raymond started to honk his horn along with the singing and people crowded around the tro tro as we slowly made our way to the street. The towns’ people had created a little parade and were all making their way back to Raymond’s house. Raymond had told us they were going to drum and dance at his house because they found Raymond as a hero and someone they admired. The drive back to Raymond’s house was very fun. There were crazy people dancing in front of our car and soon we caused a sort of traffic jam, as cars couldn’t pass us. It was quite funny because they wouldn’t stop honking at us.

We made it back to Raymond’s house, along with about 100 other people from the soccer game. The drumming, singing and dancing continued until the night. It was such a fun night but eventually went back to our hotel as we had gotten very tired from the long day we had had.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Reflections

Nicole: I seriously can’t believe that I have been in Ghana for more than 10 weeks. I have faced so many challenges during these weeks but have fought them with all my strength – even though that is not saying much. During my most recent illness battle, the doctor had much difficulty finding a vein to stick the drip into. I was in so much pain and every time he took the needle out and had to try again, the pain intensified. Eventually after two unsuccessful attempts, I told the doctor that all I wanted to do was go home. It really was not what I wanted to do but I was in so much pain that it felt comforting to think of home and imagine that I was there instead. Other than my sickness battles, I have been quite happy during my stay in Ghana.

On Friday, we said good bye to one of the volunteers from Ireland who had been here for about 6 weeks. It made me so sad to watch Catherine as she tried to hold back her emotions. All I could think about was how soon it was until I would be leaving Ghana. And while I have done so much here during the last few months, I feel like I have so much left to do. As I lay in my bed crying over the fact that I am leaving so soon, I remember that I am only 20 years old and need to finish my schooling.

Although I have been very interested in joining the Peace Corps, I realize that I cannot decide where my placement will be. I am so invested in the children here in Wegbe and don’t think I could bear to leave them and serve in any other community. The community of Wegbe is my community. I am known by almost all the residents and I feel at home here. Although it takes me longer to get places as I am stopped many times along the way, I love it. I love that everyone loves me so much that they want to stop me, greet me, shake my hand, and talk to me. I love that the people notice when I am not around and ask me questions, making sure that I am okay. I love that the women continue to laugh when I communicate with them in Ewe and that the children enjoy greeting me in Ewe just so they can hear me reply in their language. I love that the parents entrust me with their children and enjoy having me around. I love that almost all of Wegbe knows my name and I cannot go anywhere without hearing ‘Sister Nicole’ screamed out at least once. Not everybody could do this. But I can and I am. I have found my community. My home. And I know that this trip is not my last one to Ghana.

Raymond has many dreams and hopes for the children of the orphanage, the orphanage itself, his family, and himself. But one of his dreams that he likes to remind me of is that one day, after I complete school, I will come to live in Ghana and run the orphanage. I too share this dream. It was amazing to return to Christ Orphanage and see the progress made during the year. It has been amazing to watch the progress that has been made since I arrived in May. It will be amazing to continue to be a part of the orphanage, watch the progress that is made, and help the children grow into successful adults.

It’s incredible how much the children of Christ Orphanage have influenced my life. I have a very strong connection with the children and staff -- a connection that can never be taken away. I will work hard to finish school so that I can live my dream in Ghana and help be a part of the lives of the children of Christ Orphanage and the people in the community of Wegbe, Ghana.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Gangster Birthday Party

Friday evening we had much planned. Nicole and I were invited to Kofi’s 23rd birthday party. Kofi is Nicholas’s older brother and Nicholas works at the orphanage as a teacher with us. Nicole and I already knew that this party was going to be very interesting from the invitation we received. I quote: “On behalf of the cash money niggas, the MOB (Money over bitches) niggas, Westsiders and all de Homies in de hood, Kofi invites you…” Nicole and I went crazy, we couldn’t believe what we were reading. On top of this, on Nicole’s invitation it said “Nicole Pampanin, My African Queen.”

So this party was supposed to start at 7 pm at the Royal Club. Godwin was a bit late picking us up and we still had to get Kofi a birthday present. We knew we would be late. We went around to a couple of the stores in the city looking for chocolate because we didn’t know what else to get Kofi. We eventually found some along with chocolate chip cookies and headed for Royal Club. We drove by and didn’t see a single person inside. We waited in the taxi and Godwin convinced us to call the guys to see where they were. Of course neither of their phones would go through. Then a guy came up to us calling Nicole’s name. He told us that Nicholas and Kofi had gone down the street but they would be right back and that we should go inside. We did and we brought Godwin with us. This Royal Club was definitely not a club, or any ordinary club. It was a very small bar but they took us to this back room with about 15 chairs set up where the “party’ would take place. This room was very strange. There were no lights. The only thing that I could remotely see was Nicole’s face and my skin, Godwin just blended into the darkness. We sat in the darkness for about 30 minutes, just waiting. We finally decided that we would leave and go to The Taste Lodge because one of the volunteers was having a dinner for everyone. She was leaving Sunday, so she wanted to have one last goodbye meal. Of course the minute we walked outside of Royal, Nicholas and Kofi, along with all their friends walk in. They asked us where we were going so we just turned around and walked right back into the dark room with them. Once again we sat in the dark but this time Godwin had left and he was replaced with Nicholas. We sat in the wonderful dark room making small talk. Kofi and the bar tender started bringing out drinks and decided to place all of them on the table in front of Nicole and I. By this time a few other guys had arrived at the “party.” Of course I couldn’t see any of their faces as it was so dark but I could see their shadow taking up a chair. There were maybe like 9 or 10 people now. But still they kept bringing out more alcohol. Our table was soon full of all sorts of beers for about 40 people. Nicole and I both looked at each other in awe and just laughed because there was nothing else we could do.

Finally the party started! Well it was more like everyone had arrived and this guy they called “Xibit” came to the front of the room and started giving a speech. He talked about Kofi and other things and then everyone introduced themselves so the “special guests” could know everyone. They introduced themselves by their gangster names. Nicholas’s name was Ghetto, some guy was named Rolex and the rest I couldn’t understand. This was hilarious and I seriously sat in my chair laughing the whole time. It’s a good thing the party was in the dark so no one could see my uncontrollable laughing face. Another guy stood up and decided to tell the story of the “Cash Money Niggas,” that was the crew all the guys were in. Every time he would said “Cash Money”, the other guys would chime in “money, money, money, EVERYWHEREEE.” I seriously couldn’t contain my laugher. So he told his story of how all the guys met, how they formed their crew and how they ruled the streets of Hohoe. He also added that they had parties for orphans, so Nicole and I concluded that they must be nice gangsters. They used many words that you would hear in a gangster rap song while they talked and it was just too funny. They couldn’t really pull it off and sounded very fake and hilarious.

We informed Nicholas that we would leave at 8:30 because we wanted to go to the other volunteer’s dinner. I think I seriously counted down the time. By this time, they had started playing music and drinking their beers. Kofi made all the guys get up and start dancing. They basically danced by themselves and sang right next to their chair. It was so funny. There were no girls, except Nicole and I and I am pretty sure we both agreed that we were not going to get up and dance with them, even though they wanted us to. Finally it was 8:30 and we had to leave. We said goodbye to all the nice gangsters and went on our way. I am sad to say that I don’t think I would ever be able to point out any of the “Cash Money Niggas” because of the poor lighting at the wonderful party.

We headed to Catherine’s goodbye dinner along with Nicholas. We had a nice dinner and taught Nicholas how to do Westside and LA signs with his hands so he could teach his fellow gangsters. I had taught him how to do the peace sign a week or so ago and he just loves doing it now.

Lake Volta

Nicole: It’s been more than two weeks since I have seen my laptop. I wrote that someone in town was working on it and that it would be virus free and ready to use shortly after. But I was wrong. The guy who was doing the work on my computer deleted the operating system to get rid of the virus once and for all. He then tried to download the necessary programs so that my sound, video, and other features on my laptop would actually work. He told me that all the downloads would be ready to install on my computer by the time I left to go to Accra to pick up Melissa. He had good intentions but was unable to successfully meet his goal. I decided to take my laptop with me to Accra to see if any of Raymond’s family members there knew of someone who could finish installing the necessary components onto my computer.

Much to my luck, one of Raymond’s cousins agreed to talk to the guys in the IT department at his work and see if they would be willing to work on my computer. The plan was for us to pick the computer up after visiting Cape Coast two weekends ago. But the computer was not yet ready. I felt safe leaving my computer with Phannuel, Raymond’s cousin. As Raymond would be returning to Accra later that week to pick up two volunteers from the airport, we decided to leave the computer in Accra and agreed that Raymond would pick it up.

Much to our dismay, the incoming volunteers arrived earlier than expected and ended up taking a public tro tro to Hohoe. As a result, Raymond no longer needed to travel to Accra. As my sister was here by this point, it was all good because I was able to use her computer to type and to upload my photos.

This morning, Melissa and I awoke early as Raymond was to pick us up from our hotel at 7am to go to Lake Volta. Of course I knew he would be running on what I now like to call ‘Raymond Time.’ When I warned some of the other volunteers who would be coming on this trip with us of this the night before, they just laughed it off and didn’t believe me. Seven a.m. came and went. 7:30. 7:45. At this point, I decided to call Raymond and see where he was. He told me that he was on his way. I asked him if he was sure and he assured me that he was coming. The next thing I know, Raymond rides up to the hotel on his bicycle. Melissa and I looked at each other and just started laughing. He was carrying a sack over one shoulder – our clean laundry which his wife washes for us. After we stopped laughing, I asked Raymond when the tro tro would be coming to pick us up. Raymond assured me once again that they would arrive with the tro tro shortly.

8:00. 8:15. 8:30. And still no tro tro. By this time, Melissa and I were packed and ready to go and so exhausted from waking up so early that we both fell asleep. Around 8:40, we awoke to a knock on the door. And finally Raymond had arrived and told us that the tro tro was waiting for us.

We joined Debbie and Kylie, two other volunteers (a mother and daughter) who had already been picked up in the tro tro and headed back towards Hohoe. I was confused as we were obviously heading the wrong direction. Apparently the almost two hours we spent waiting for the tro tro arrive was not enough time to pick up the mechanics that would be traveling with us. The tro tro would be dropping the four of us volunteers off at our hotel in Lake Volta and then the rest of the guys and the mechanics would continue on to Accra to get a much needed part for the tro tro. Raymond had to finish up some stuff in Hohoe so he told us that he would take a taxi later that day and meet us at our hotel in Lake Volta.

The ride to Lake Volta was like any other – so bumpy that we flew out of our seats at times. I seriously often felt like I was on a rollercoaster. We arrived at our hotel in Lake Volta around 11am. We checked in to our rooms and then drove to the Lake Volta Dam. It was neat to see this man made lake – the largest man made lake in the world and the way the water is used to create energy. It’s absolutely incredible. After our tour of the dam, we got back in the tro tro and headed to the Cedi Bead Factory, about a half hour drive towards Accra.

The bead factory is somewhere I really wanted to visit last summer but never got the opportunity to do. We were dropped off at the bead factory as the tro tro driver and the others in the car continued on to Accra. We were seated and shown the various types of beads that are made at this bead factory. They make beads out of glass bottles and other recycled materials. We were shown how the designs on the beads were created and how beads of multiple colors were made. We moved on to the ovens, where the beads are cooked and then are left to cool. Next, we saw how the beads are cleaned before they are strung. Each worker who is stringing beads has a certain pattern that he/ she is to follow. After our tour of the bead factory, we were taken into the shop. This was somewhat dangerous for Melissa and I as we had to buy a large quantity of beads for someone back home. We looked around, found some nice pieces of jewelry for ourselves and then proceeded to shop for others. As we were to buy bracelets to bring home for this person, I headed over to the bracelet rack. I told the owner, Cedi that we would take all the bracelets on the rack and that we needed an additional 60 bracelets. According to one of the other volunteers who was there with us, Cedi’s mouth dropped when I began grabbing all the bracelets off the rack. He explained that we should finish shopping here and then he would take us to their other store. I informed Cedi that we had no more cash left and he eagerly agreed to take us to the bank first.

We drove around in his nice van. First to the bank. Then to the other store where we bought more bracelets. Cedi talked with me along the way as I was sitting in the front of the car with him. Cedi was extremely friendly and I could tell that he was a very smart man. He told me all about his most recent trip to America where he gave a demonstration and lecture on the beads made at the factory and how he has been traveling to the USA and other countries for the past 10 years to attend bead conferences and other jewelry making events. I asked him if he had visited Oregon as I was interested in whether or not he knew my aunt and uncle, Chris and Stuart, who own a huge bead and gem business in Grants Pass. He told me of his trips to Portland and explained that I should ask Chris and Stuart if they knew him as he cannot remember whether or not he has met them. His stories were quite interesting – he told me of how he travels to America about 3-4 times per year, something that I find incredible. In addition, he explained the origins of his name to me. He told me that when he was born, his grandmother said that all the people who came to visit the baby should bring one cedi (the Ghanaian currency). It was due to this that he was given the name, ‘Cedi.’

After visiting the Cedi Bead Annex and buying most of the bracelets off their rack as well, Cedi drove us to the taxi station. Cedi found a taxi to take us back to our hotel and negotiated a price for us so we wouldn’t get taken advantage of due to our white skin color. We returned to the hotel with heavy bags of beads. Melissa and I started worrying about how we would get all the beads home but quickly decided that it is something we will deal with when the time comes next week.

We hung around the beautiful resort like hotel the rest of the day. We soaked up some sun by the pool, took advantage of the wireless internet, and ate a delicious dinner. Raymond had not yet shown up but assured me, over the phone, that he would leave Wegbe at dawn the following morning and would be in Lake Volta at our hotel to meet us on Sunday morning. I informed Raymond that we would more than likely still be sleeping at 6am, the time he planned on arriving. I wasn’t too worried though because I was sure that Raymond would be running on his own time and we would be lucky if he made it there by 10am.

Melissa and I returned to our room to type and watch some television before going to sleep. Our room smelled somewhat funny so I called in one of the hotel workers to see if he could confirm that the smell was coming from the air conditioning. Of course it was and for that reason our room was quite warm at this point. We were moved into a room downstairs and had to call the hotel worker back in as we couldn’t figure out how to turn down the air conditioning and were freezing cold. He kindly informed us that the remote for the a/c which was in the room was not for that a/c unit and that the a/c was ‘direct,’ meaning that our only options were on and off. Great. So we had to decide if we would rather boil or freeze that night.

We awoke early on Sunday morning to the beautiful view of Lake Volta. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast consisting of pancakes (!!!), beans, eggs, toast, and pineapple juice. Raymond arrived around 9am and around 9:45am, we checked out of the hotel. We drove past the dam, to the boat dock. The parking lot was crowded and a few minutes after pulling in, we heard the loud horn from the boat, signaling that it was ready to leave. Apparently we were the last people on the boat as they waited for us to buy our tickets and get on board before departing.

Raymond, our driver, Selem, the two other volunteers, Debbie and Kylie, and Melissa and I walked around the boat looking for a table to sit at. There were a lot of people on the boat but finally we found a table on the top level, next to the grill. We began our two hour ride to some island in the middle of the lake. Once we got to the island, the horn was sounded again. Immediately after getting off the boat, young children grabbed our hands. The child who grabbed my hand immediately told me that I should give her money. When I told her no, she let go of my hand to go find a more compassionate foreigner. We walked to the other side of the island, being entertained by small groups of people playing music on drums and other items which they used as drums. I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the island. For this reason, I wasn’t too disappointed when we walked to the other side of the island, saw the lake and some boats and then walked back to our boat. We pulled away from the dock with local kids standing there, begging for money, pens, and anything else they could think of.

We got seats on the bottom level of the boat for the ride back. I sat in the sun for awhile but moved to the shade shortly later as even with the wind, it was pretty warm. It wasn’t til I got up to go to the bathroom that I noticed how much I had gotten sunburned. The whole left side of my neck, as well as part of my face, chest, and arms were quite red. Sunburns are an interesting thing here in Ghana. The locals don’t really understand it as they can be in the sun all day and not be affected as they already have dark skin. After two more hours on the boat, we arrived back at the dock we left from. We got off the boat and headed back to Hohoe.

Melissa: Tonight was the first time I have touched hot water in like two weeks; it was amazing. Everything comes with a give and take though because although I was blessed to be able to clean myself with hot water the shower nozzle did not work, so I had to sit on the shower floor and clean myself. I think it was worth it though, the hot water was magnificent and I still came out clean and not sticky. I tried to get Nicole to touch the wonderfully hot water but she declined.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My Amazing, Supportive Community

Nicole: I am so happy to have my sister here in Ghana with me – I am so lucky to have such loving, kind sister. She has spent the past two days with me at our hotel, caring for me and making sure that I am okay. She has been such a great help and has shown so much love and care towards me.

Last night, just before the first bag of the drip finished, we called the doctor as we were instructed to do. He came over and told us that they wanted to do the second bag right away so that they would not have to put another needle into me the following day (today). As it was so difficult for them to find a vein that was strong enough to take the medicine, I agreed. As it was late, the nurse slept with Melissa and me in our room to make sure I was okay and so that she could take the needle out when the second bag for the drip finished.

I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the nurse was putting a bandage on my hand in the place where she had taken the needle out. I have slept a lot today and with the help of all the medicine in the drip, I am now feeling much better. I will continue to take it easy to make sure that I fully recover and do not get sick again as I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I am comforted by the fact that I have so many people here (and back home) that care about me and love me. As Melissa said, people have been stopping by our room all day and calling to make sure that I am okay. I am so lucky to have such a strong support system and people who are here to make sure that I am healthy and safe.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Back to the Clinic

Melissa: Nicole woke up not feeling so well. I got ready and ate breakfast thinking she would eventually get up. But she really did not feel well. We turned off the alarm and both went back to sleep. The bed here is really uncomfortable. When you lay in it your body makes an imprint and the bed sinks down which makes it difficult to sleep straight. This causes Nicole and mine back to hurt and wake up with pain. Nicole slept until around one-ish. She eventually made it on to the ground with her sleeping bag which was somewhat more comfortable at the moment. She took her temperature; she had a slight fever. Her stomach, head and whole body ached. We called Raymond and asked him to take us to the Clinic.

After riding in a taxi for a few minutes and heading down one of the bumpiest streets ever, we arrived at the Clinic. We didn’t have to wait long and went into see the doctor. He started asking Nicole what was wrong. Nicole felt so helpless and upset that she was sick again so she started crying. Raymond comforted her and held her hand. He told Nicole that he hopes that she sees him as family and like her other mother but from Ghana. It was so sweet but seeing Nicole cry and be so sad brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to help her and make her better so she didn’t have to go through this pain again. In Ghana people only cry when someone has died and in mourning so when Nicole would cry both the doctor and Raymond would tell her to stop it. I tried to explain to them that crying is a way of how we deal with things that are painful and make us sad. I wanted to just take Nicole and somehow magically make her better because seeing the sadness in her eyes made me want to seriously just break down. The doctor told her that she could not have malaria again because it was too soon and that her body was just weak from all the traveling and hiking we had been doing. He explained to her that she needs to rest and that her body doesn’t have a very strong immune system so she needs to be even more careful. He pulled out some pills that she would have to take and some liquid medicine as well. Then he told her she would have to go on a drip. She broke down because it isn’t exactly the most enjoyable experience. He told her she needed the vitamins and medicine from it to gain her strength back.

We went back to the hotel to do the drip. The doctor had to try three times to actually get the needle properly into Nicole’s vein. It was a very sad experience. I hated seeing Nicole have to go through all that pain. Right now she is almost done with the first drip. Tomorrow she will have to do another and rest all day. Send your prayers and love to her so she may get better quickly.

I would also like to point out that during the time Nicole was feeling sick and sleeping so many people came by to make sure she was okay. Patrick, Godwin, Raymond’s wife, Nicholas, and all the people that work at the hotel came by to send their regards. It was the sweetest thing.

More Adventures in Ho

Nicole: After awhile of coloring, Dela kicked all the kids out of the house so that he could bring us our dinner. They had bought rice, salad, and drinks for us and set it up in the house. We ate our dinner and then sprayed ourselves with bug spray before going outside. The children were dancing so we sat down and watched them while playing with the little ones.
Dela then told us that we should get ready to go to the bath house. As the family only has an outside shower with which one needs to use a bucket of water to wash, he took us to a relative’s house who has a running water, indoor shower.

On a separate note, during my second trip to Ho, I had asked Dela to think of something that I could get for his family as they would not allow me to pay for any anything. I knew that between the cab rides, food, drinks, and other things they had purchased for me, it was a bit of an expense for them. I tried to give them cash to pay for these expenses but they refused to accept it.

Dela wasn’t much help in giving me any ideas about what I could purchase for his family. I wanted to get them something that they could use and would help them in their daily lives. During my next visit to Ho (about 3 weeks ago), John told me that their family could really use a refrigerator. As his wife, Annie prepares and sells the local drink; a fridge would help her be able to sell the drink cold. John explained to me that they had been receiving a lot of competition as they had no way to sell the drink cold and that being unable to do this was resulting in them loosing business. Knowing that a fridge would help them make money as well as be able to store food and such, I knew that this was something that they could really benefit from. I told John that I would be more than happy to help them in this way.

During this weekend’s trip to Ho, Melissa and I were shown the newly purchased fridge. Since they had just purchased the fridge, they had not begun using it yet but according to a text message I received from John yesterday, the fridge is now up and running and they are so grateful for it.

Melissa: Nicole, Dela and I all slept in one room together. Nicole and I shared the bed while Dela made himself a bed on the floor. I woke up pretty early because for some reason it is really hard for me to sleep anywhere in Africa. I waited for Nicole to wake up and then we headed outside. We brushed our teeth and then just spit our toothpaste onto the floor because that is apparently how they do it here. The restroom is pretty interesting here as well. It is basically and shower and toilet at the same time. To take a shower here you have to get a bucket of water and wash yourself in this little brick square thing and that is where you go pee as well. Nicole and I both agree we do not even want to know what they do when they have to go number 2.
After all that we had breakfast. For some reason everywhere we go people like to make us ten times the amount of food that we can actually eat. I really hope that someone eats the leftover food. We played with the kids for awhile and then we were informed that we would be going to a Wild Life Game Park. We got ready and 7 of us packed into a small taxi. Once again it was Nicole and I followed by 5 other Ghanaians, it must have been quite a scene to see if you were just a local. 4 of us crammed into the back seat while 3 got in the front. We arrived at one of John’s family’s house a bit later where we found out that we would be picking up another person. 8 people in a little taxi meant for 5, you can just imagine. We drove for a bit longer and eventually ended up at the park. Only Nicole, Dela and I actually went on the walk to see the animals because the rest of them didn’t want to pay. Our guide had a huge gun with him and he loaded it and everything right in front on us. Nicole and I just looked at each other, in awe of what he was doing.

We started on our walk into the forest to go see some animals. Apparently he had some monkeys, buffalo, along with others. The scenery was beautiful. Tall green plants, trees and grass surrounded us. The ground was covered by dark rich dirt and tree branches and all that could be heard was bird chirps. It was beautiful. But this walk was of course to see some animals so I was waiting to see some. The guide kept telling us that it might be hard to see some animals because the grass was so high but still we walked on. We kept up this walk for about a half hour more and still had not seen any animals, except for the occasional spider and ant. Every time our guide would hear a monkey sound, he would turn around and whisper ‘monkey.’ Nicole and I found this extremely funny because most of the time we would never actually see any. One time we saw a monkey from like super far away. That was the only animal we saw the whole entire time! Of course we kept walking though; about another half hour later we finally made it back to camp. Nicole and I laughed about the walk and found it very funny that we had paid this guy 10 Cedis to take us on a walk.

We left the park and made our way in the direction back to John’s house. On the way we made a pit stop at John’s work. He works at the cell phone towers which over look the whole village. It was quite a scene. We eventually made it back to their house and played with the kids before we had to leave. We taught some of them how to play Go Fish and the night before we had taught them Uno. They all seemed to really enjoy this because in Ghana they only have one card game, called Card Game. We took pictures, put stickers all over the kids’ faces and played hand games with them before we had to start on our journey back to Wegbe. It was so sad to say bye to all of them because I had become very fond of all of them. One of the little girls, Melody, got really sad when we said bye to her but Nicole informed everyone that we would return before we leave for Kenya. We found a tro tro to take Nicole, Dela and I to the tro tro station but it zoomed off so fast that we weren’t able to say bye to John, which was quite sad. It’s a good thing we are coming back so we can say a proper goodbye. It’s strange, here when you say goodbye you shake hands. It’s so common for me to hug people goodbye but it isn’t so much here. When we arrived at the station we said goodbye to Dela, boarded the tro tro that would take us to Hohoe and started on our journey back.

Ghana is most pretty at about 5 o clock pm. The sun reflects off the tall grass and trees. It is absolutely breathtaking. We were in the tro tro on our way home at this time and it was amazing. We drove through all the open land and all that is visible is greenness. Everything is natural beauty and it is really quite beautiful.

After a very bumpy ride we finally arrived in Wegbe. When we got out of the tro tro, we were greeted by kids yelling Sister Nicole and Sister Melissa. It was seriously the cutest thing ever. We showered, unpacked and headed to Raymond’s house for dinner. Then we went to the internet cafĂ©. I sat outside on my netbook reading my emails and going on facebook. Out of no where a random kid came and sat next to me. He started looking at my computer screen, reading what I was writing and pointing to things. It was pretty strange. Then he started telling me how much he liked me and how I was meant for him. I just laughed and said thank you, thinking if I didn’t talk to him he would eventually go away. But there was no such luck. I started itching one of my many bug bites and then he decided he should help me. So he started to itch my bug bites for me as well. I eventually made him stop. He started to point out all the bug bites all over my body and he felt it was necessary to touch all of them along the way. He started to make random conversation with me and forced me to show him pictures of my friends that were on facebook. He asked me how old I was and I told him, he quickly agreed he was 18 as well, but he was obviously younger. Somehow over time he got closer and closer to me. His arm was now resting on my leg and his face was so close to mine so he could see the computer screen. I know he meant no harm but it was very strange and funny at the same time. Eventually Nicole finally came out and starred at the young guy wondering what the heck he was doing. I was on AIM at this time as well and Jeffery Gold, our cousin, had IMed me. He was amazed that I was online and asked to videochat. It worked and we got to see him and Elias. It was wonderful. Of course the guy next to me and others from around crowded around to see Jeffery and Elias’ faces. They found it amazing and started getting behind us so they too could be in the video. The kid next to me told me that he liked the little baby, meaning Elias, and that we should bring him to Ghana because he wanted him. Nicole and I started tearing up because we were laughing so hard at this along with the other crazy things they were saying. We then decided to call our mom. We let some of the guys talk to her and they asked her questions like how old she was and if she was going to come to Ghana. We eventually had to rip the headphones out of their hands so we could actually talk to our mom. During our conversation with him, the young guy next to me kept touching my leg and tickling me. I had to tell him to stop and move away from me. It was quite funny.