Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Still want to donate?

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.  -Mother Teresa

Still want to make a donation to The Ghana Project's Farm Animal Project? Do it today -- PayPal link is to the right of this post!

Fundraising will end on Christmas day.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

You saw the video...now what?

Let me guess, you saw the video that I posted on Facebook about The Ghana Project's Farm Animal Project and you came here to find out how you can help.

Well, I have answers for you!

To make a donation online, click on the Donate button just to the right of this blog entry. You can pay via your PayPal account or via credit/debit card.

If you prefer to write a check, that is more than welcome too! Please make out your check to our fiscal sponsor, Eyes On Africa and send it to Nicole Pampanin at 4924 Balboa Blvd #252, Encino, CA 91316.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Contact us at theghanaproject@yahoo.com

Feeling inspired? Want to do more? Spread the word! Let's make this project as successful as possible! Email Nicole for a copy of the fundraiser flyer. 

Thank you in advance for your support!!!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Thank you for your donations!

A huge thank you to everyone who has already made a donation towards The Ghana Project's Farm Animal Project! It means a lot to me and to the kids at Christ Orphanage. We are still raising funds so please spread the word to your friends and family. Every little bit helps and is greatly appreciated!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do Something Good!!


Help Christ Orphanage build a sustainable farm by donating an animal. 

Chicken - $3.00
Goat - $50.00
Sheep - $90.00
Animal Coop - $300.00

Donations of any size are greatly appreciated -- every dollar helps.
You can make your gift by either sending a check made out to our fiscal sponsor,
Eyes On Africa to Nicole Pampanin at 4924 Balboa Blvd #252, Encino, CA 91316, or using the PayPal Donate button on the right side of this blog post. If you want to make this gift on behalf of someone else, please send us their name and email address and we will send them a holiday card via email noting that a gift was given in their name. 

All donations are tax-deductible.
Contact us at theghanaproject@yahoo.com

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kaneshie Market

The Kaneshie Market, which I wrote about in a previous blog post is the market in Accra where we would shop for our produce. The Kaneshie Market was featured as a pit stop in the Amazing Race last year. Watch this clip, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGtu9LNrUWo to see the market bustling with people.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ghanaian Women

Living in Wegbe and not staying at a hotel when I visit the village gives me the opportunity to see how things really happen on a day to day basis and gives me such an appreciation for everything that the women in this country do. Every morning, I would wake up at 6:30am and exit my room to brush my teeth and use the toilet. Every single morning, I could expect to find mothers bathing their children, setting up their shops, or cooking breakfast. They had probably already been up for hours. Around 7:30am, I would cross the road and wait in front of the church with the kids, waiting for the school tro tro to come and take us to Christ Orphanage, or rather, what has recently been renamed, Christ Academy. From this church, one could see women carrying water on their heads from the river, women walking by and carrying various crops on their heads, and women selling food items such as popcorn, which I bought for 10 peswas (about 7 cents) per bag every morning and took to the school as a snack.
While at school, I know that the women continue to work hard. They do the laundry, which is no easy task when done by hand. Since I ended up staying in Wegbe for 10 days, I needed to wash my clothes about half way through my stay. Sika, Alex’s sister who was cooking for me while I was there has a three month old baby as well as two other young children so I did not want to bother her and ask her to wash my clothing for me. Rather, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I purchased a small bag of laundry soap and was given a bucket to wash my clothes. Sika’s children, Mawuse and Richard as well as Sika’s younger sister, Millicent, and my neighbor Cynthia saw me preparing to wash my clothes and decided they wanted to join in the fun. So, the washing of my clothing became a group effort. Five sets of hands were in the bucket, attempting to wash my pretty dirty clothes. After getting through the first stage and preparing to rinse the clothes, Sika came over to tell me that she would wash the clothes for me. “We didn’t do a good job?” I asked. “No,” she responded quite honestly. She rewashed all my clothes and somehow got a ton more dirt out of them while I tried to help in some way by hanging the clothes on the line and comforting her crying baby, Bevlyn.
Women in this country are often times responsible for going to the market and buying the necessary food items to cook for their families. In addition, they are usually responsible for cooking 3 meals a day for themselves, their husbands, and their children. Cooking generally occurs outside, on a coal stove, which means that cooking food takes longer and only one pot of food can be cooked on each coal stove. If the women are lucky enough to have an older child in the household, that child oftentimes becomes responsible for helping with the cooking. In Sika’s house, Millicent, Sika’s younger sister, who is probably about 7 or 8 years old and Godwin, one of the orphans from the school, who is 11 years old help Sika prepare dinner every evening.
Most people, including children bathe twice a day. For Cynthia’s mother, that means bathing three small children in both the morning and the evening. One afternoon after returning home from the school, I went over to Cynthia’s house to visit with the family. I was amazed with the way her mother was bathing her twin girls (around 9 months old). She had one girl in the bucket, bathing her, and the other was standing, leaning on her mother, sucking her breast. It astonished me how she was able to do this and keep both girls relatively happy. Life with twins is not the easiest thing to begin with but here, with limited resources, it is even harder. Cynthia’s mother does not have a double stroller or even really any toys for her girls. When she needs to transport both of them, one baby is tied to her back and the other is carried on her hip. The babies sit on the concrete steps in front of their house all day playing with whatever they can get their hands on – dirt, water, containers that are left sitting, etc. And most of the time, these two young girls are just dressed in a shirt and a pair of underwear even though they are obviously not potty trained, therefore, one can usually find puddles of pee on the step. But these girls are generally happy babies, well, they still aren’t used to me yet but at least they no longer cry when they see me.
Seeing all the hard work that the women here do on a daily basis really makes me appreciate them so much more. Its amazing how much time and work our machines and technologies back home save us when cooking, washing, do laundry, and even bathing. These women are usually underappreciated and not recognized for all their hard work. Ghanaian women, I recognize all the hard work you do and am amazed that you manage to do it all (and do it so well)!

Monday, July 18, 2011

One of those days...

Today was one of those days. You know, the type of day that you just wish that things were done differently here in Ghana, that there was actually some order to the systems here, and that people actually did their jobs well (or even just showed up to their jobs!).
I traveled to Ho on Saturday to visit my adopted family there once again before leaving Ghana and to tell them that I would be leaving. Their reactions were heartbreaking and it made me think once again if I am making the right choice. They decided that before I left we needed to visit the waterfall in their village, so off we went. The waterfall is beautiful and since the last time I visited, two years ago, the surrounding area has been cleared and is more suitable for visitors. My family told me that the village is working on turning the waterfall into a tourist attraction. There are three levels of the waterfall and we walked up to the highest one and enjoyed the relaxing sounds of the water before the rain began. On the walk home, it started pouring. My family had brought along my old March of the Living raincoat that I had given them a few years ago for me to use but I just used it to protect my camera while enjoying the cool rainwater running down my face.
I traveled back to Hohoe on Saturday afternoon with the expectation that I would not be back to Ho until the next time I visited Ghana. But, that all changed today. I decided to ask Godwin, my taxi driver friend here in Hohoe about renewing my visa in Accra and he told me that it would be better to renew it in Ho as they are usually quicker at returning it and are not as busy in Ho. I really did not want to return to Ho, did not want to spend the day traveling, and did not want to leave my kids for a day to do this but I didn’t have much of a choice as my visa expires 2 days before my departure flight. So, I called Godwin to come pick me up from the school and take me to the tro tro station so I could take care of this business. Godwin took his dear old time getting to the school and I became so frustrated that after waiting for a half hour, I decided to leave and start walking.  The walk from the new site of the school to the main road takes about half an hour but I wanted to get to Ho as soon as possible so I could return to Hohoe as soon as possible so I was in no mood to deal with Ghana time today. The headmaster of the school and one of the teachers decided to “see me off” and didn’t seem too confident in the fact that I told them I could walk all the way to the main road. There were no taxis on the road near the school but there were some motorcycles and the headmaster stopped one of them and instructed me to get on. I stared at him and he asked me if I was scared. Uh…yes.  I am scared of motorcycles in America where the roads are paved so yes, I was most definitely scared to get on a motorcycle here. I hung on to the motorcycle driver for my life and was so grateful when after about ¾ of a mile, I saw Godwin’s taxi approaching.
I boarded a tro tro and was met in Ho by John, the father in my family. When I told him that I had to return to Ho today to renew my visa he told me that he would accompany me, something I was grateful for as I had no clue how to get to the Immigration Office. When we got to the office, the first thing the immigration officer told us was that it was break time and we would have to come back at 2pm. Now this did not make me happy. It was 1pm and I was not about to wait an hour to talk to them. So, John and I inquired about renewing my visa and we were told that I would need an introduction letter from my sponsor here in the country. I informed the officer that I had such a letter and had sent it to the Ghana Consulate in the US in order to receive my visa in the first place. He rudely replied that it did not matter and he needed another letter. I pleaded with him and informed him that I only needed the visa extension for 2 days. Finally, I remembered that I had a copy of the letter in my email inbox and we asked if I could go print it and bring it to them. It is at that time that we were told by the rude officer that the head immigration officer that needed to sign and approve the visa extension had traveled for the day. Now I don’t remember the day when I renewed my visa two years ago too clearly but for some reason, I remember that the head immigration officer had traveled that day too. Now, what good is this head immigration officer if he is not in his office? I was beyond frustrated and had had it with the immigration officer. He had attitude and was not a very pleasant man. He happily informed me that there were nice hotels in Ho though and told me that I should spend the night and come back tomorrow. I kindly replied that I had other plans and did not have time to spend the night in Ho. He then suggested that I leave my passport with him and have someone I trusted come and pick it up for me. I informed John that there was no way that I would leave my visa with this man.
John pleaded with the officer to process the visa right away but we were told there was nothing he could do. We finally left and I returned to the Ho station to travel the 2 hours back to Hohoe. I was not happy that I had to travel 4 hours today and that I did not even get my visa extended. Sometimes the systems here are beyond annoying and I don’t understand how anything gets done in this country. I did however learn that if I return to the airport to depart without renewing my visa, I will be charged double the price to renew it (80 cedis (about $60) instead of 40 cedis) so now I am not so worried about renewing it however I will give it a try when I am back in Accra.
Luckily when I returned to Wegbe, I was greeted by some of my kids and their bright smiles and adorable laughs made me feel better. They made me realize why I love this country and made me forget about the negative experiences that I had earlier in the day.
I have decided that since I was gone for most of today, I cannot leave tomorrow and rather will stay in Wegbe all day tomorrow and depart for Accra early Wednesday morning. I need to be able to spend some final time with my kids before leaving. They are already sad that I am leaving and I know that spending tomorrow with them will mean as much to me as it will to them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


If I could have things my way, I would live in Wegbe permanently, Alex and I would both have good paying jobs here, and I would always be as happy as I have been this week. It has been amazing to be back here. Tuesday, when I go back to Accra is coming way too soon and I am nowhere near ready for it.
A few weeks ago on one of my previous visits to Wegbe, Patrick told me that two years ago when he was talking about starting a bead workshop here in Wegbe, I encouraged him to go for it. Apparently I told him that he could do it if he really wanted, if he worked hard, and if he saved his money to make his dream a reality. He told me that I inspired him to really go for it, to have faith in himself. Today, I visited Patrick at his home to see the bead workshop that he has started. It is still in the beginning stages but he is doing well and it is amazing to see. He has a kiln and is making beads and teaching youth in the community to make the beads as well. I have much faith in Patrick and I am sure he will go far with this project. Today, while making some beads, we talked about how he can start selling the beads and advertise so others in the community and passersby know that this bead workshop exists.
While I have visited the Cedi Bead Factory here in Ghana before, it was amazing to really talk to Patrick about the processes involved in bead making and see the whole thing from start to finish. Its beyond amazing how glass bottles are pounded and turned into a powder which is then used to make the beads. I also got the chance to paint some beads which was a tedious and much more difficult task than it sounds. I have a much deeper appreciation for beads after today and now realize all the hard work that goes into making them.
After making the beads, I told Patrick that I have wanted to visit the Talking River for quite some time now and asked him if he would take me. He agreed and Cynthia, my 3-4 year old neighbor decided she wanted to come as well so the three of us set off. Well, the 10-15 minute walk was a bit longer than 10-15 minutes but it wasn’t too bad.  The path was grown over in areas which made it difficult to walk, especially for Cynthia since she is so small so we had to carry her at some points, something she enjoyed. When we finally arrived at the river, it was so overflown that we couldn’t get very close. It quickly became evident that Cynthia’s desire to bathe in the water would not be happening, as the water was very deep. The river apparently has some steps and if you are close enough and quiet enough it sounds like it is talking. Since the river was so overflown, it was impossible to get close enough to hear the river talking. But at least now I can say I have been there, done that and it is no longer something on my list of things to do here in Wegbe.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The way things are

I am currently in Wegbe, loving on my kids here before I depart for the US in a week and a half. Its crazy to think that in less than two weeks I will be back on American soil and honestly is not something I am prepared for. In the back of my mind, I am hoping some miracle will come about and even though I am no longer looking for a job here, I will receive an offer that is impossible to turn down. Can you tell I am not ready to leave yet? I know it’s the right thing to do. I honestly in the back of my mind know that but still, I cannot imagine leaving. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. I wasn’t supposed to be going back home so soon. I wasn’t supposed to go back to having a long distance relationship with Alex yet or a long distance relationship with all my friends here yet. It was supposed to work out. Or maybe it wasn’t. I am trying to see the positive in this. I am trying to understand. Trying to make the best of the situation.
This week has been so amazing thus far. Its nice to be able to stay in Wegbe for a decent amount of time and return to life here. Its like I never left. And its like I never want to leave again. But I know I have to. I know I will be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later. I need to come back, I need to continue to watch my kids grow. Its amazing how much they have grown since the last time I was here. And I can’t even imagine how much they will grow while I am back in the US.
I just keep telling myself I need to leave. It’s the right thing to do. Maybe it will actually all sink in eventually. Or maybe not. Its okay, it won’t be the first time I cry as I leave. But for now, I will make the most of every moment and enjoy being here while trying not to think about the painful good byes.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same...

Since my first visit to Ghana during the summer of 2008, I have had a huge passion for Ghana and a burning desire to move here permanently. Preparing for this life-changing move, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. I knew that things would be much different living in Ghana and I expected that there would be unexpected challenges that would arise as time went on.
I have been here in Ghana for one and a half months now and there have indeed been challenges, both challenges that were anticipated as well as unanticipated ones. I have realized so much living here, things that I could not realize without being here and experiencing life here myself. But I have lived in Ghana before, you say. I know I have visited Ghana many times but living here and trying to start a life here is so beyond different from visiting. When I come and visit Ghana, things are different, I spend my days volunteering, I don’t have to worry about things that one has to worry about when they actually live here, I don’t have to think about the long term, and I stay in the village, not in the city. Life in the city is different. Accra is beyond different from Wegbe. Its like two different worlds.
I know life isn’t easy in the US but life really isn’t easy here. Its hard living as an expat in a foreign country regardless of how much you love the country. Its difficult not having the luxuries we take for granted back home. Its difficult not having a car, not having a job, and just renting a bedroom in a house occupied by others.
As a recent college graduate, it is difficult to find a decent paying job here. The jobs I want, the jobs that pay the American salaries require years of experience, years of experience that I don’t yet have. The life I want to live here is not one of luxury however, I do want to live a life of comfort. That just isn’t possible in my current situation. It is not possible to live that life on the average Ghanaian salary. It is not fair to me to sacrifice my happiness, my health, and myself to work a job where I do not receive anywhere near fair compensation and live a life that I am not happy with. Yes, I know jobs are hard to find and I need to give it time but I have come to the realization that the jobs that I am qualified for and am being offered here are jobs that are not on the level that I want. I need the work experience, experience I can gain in the US while living a more comfortable life. Yes, I know it won’t be easy in the US either but I know that I have more opportunities there. I know that I will be able to find a job where I will be much more fairly compensated than I would be here at this point in my life. I know that one day, maybe in a few years, maybe in 10 years, it might be the right time in my life to come back and live in Ghana but I am also strong enough to realize that that time is not now.
I have come to realize why the expats that I wrote about during my first days here live the way that they do. Its hard to live the Ghanaian life style permanently. I can deal with it when I visit but its difficult to adjust it permanently. I don’t want to live the same life that some of these expats are living but I would like to live a more comfortable life here in Ghana.  Its nice to have some of one’s comforts and luxuries from home. Its nice to have hot water once in awhile, to have an indoor kitchen, to not have to worry about the lights and fans going off because you have a generator, to always have running water because you have a Polytank, to not have to worry about mosquitoes, to have security guards, to have a vehicle, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life here, I love the simplicity, I love Ghana but its difficult to live the average Ghanaian life style.
So, I have taken a bold step. I have made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. A decision that is weighing hard on my heart but a decision that I know is the right one. I am coming home. I am spending another 2.5 weeks in Ghana and will be home towards the end of the month. I know that this is the not end of my relationship with this country and that I will be back many times…maybe even to live permanently (for real) one day when the time is right.

Wegbe and Being Sick

The kids screamed my name and ran up to me like they hadn’t seen me in a year when in fact it had only been a few weeks. I was tired of job searching in Accra and decided to go to Wegbe to visit my kids again. I did promise to visit them every month and I needed a break from the city life so I boarded an air-conditioned tro tro (so nice!!) and headed to Wegbe for 3 days. It was so nice to be back in the village but on my second day there, I started to feel ill. From that point on, I wanted nothing more than to be back in Accra where I have access to a toilet 24/7 and where I could visit a full on hospital to get treated. I will spare you all of the details but basically after a long 3.5 hour ride back to Accra plus a visit to the airport to pick up some volunteers, I finally arrived home and decided that it was time to visit the hospital. I had been given an injection in the village due to the fact that we already had figured out that I definitely had malaria but I was sick beyond just that and I knew that I needed to be seen by someone in the city.
I have come to realize that when I get sick in Ghana, I don’t just get sick, I get really, really sick. So, after three visits to the hospital here in Accra within 4 days, I was treated for malaria, a stomach infection/parasite (the exact type is unknown), and tonsillitis. After the first visit and a day spent vomiting everything I put in my mouth, including water, it was back to the hospital only to find out that I was having a bad reaction to some of the medicine and was so dehydrated that I needed to be hooked up to an IV for the entire evening. I was so lucky to have Alex there to help me and take care of me and wait with me at the hospital until the 3 IV bags were completed at 1:30am. It has been a difficult week due to these multiple illnesses but I have received amazing care and am now feeling so much better.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

This is Ghana...

  • Ghana time: Yes, its 10x worse than Jewish Standard time and whatever other times you know of.
  • Drivers use their horn just as much as they use the gas.
  • And brakes, haha, ya, they don’t like to use those.
  • Traffic lights and signs exist in Accra and across parts of the country but who knows why since no one seems to pay any attention to them.
  • Where you can buy any necessity from the comfort of your car. Toilet paper. Food. Super glue. Handkerchiefs. Flashlights. Phone credits. Ice Cream. Plantain chips. And the list goes on…
  • Where ‘lights off’ is a common phrase. (Meaning = electricity is turned off).
  • And where I am learning ‘tap off’ is another common phrase. (Meaning = Water is turned off). 
  • Where you can determine which cars are taxis because they have orange front and back side panels.
  • One’s head is used to carry every and anything regardless of size or weight.
  • Three lane roads are really five lane roads. Drivers make their own rules and own the road.
  • Where pedestrians do not have the right of way and when crossing the street on foot, your life is in great danger.
  • Where taxis are on the brink of dying at most times. Side mirrors are hanging on by threads and you’re lucky if the window actually rolls down and if the door can be opened from both the inside and outside of the car. And seat belts? Most people don’t use them regardless of whether the car has them.
  • Cell phones are answered regardless of where someone is or what they are doing.
  • It is common to see people peeing on the side of the road.
  • Hissing the call someone’s attention is totally normal.
  • Most people burn their garbage.
  • Babies are carried on the backs of their mothers.
  • Animals roam around at their own will. Yes, even in Accra, the capital city.
  • Drinking water is typically consumed by locals in little plastic bags. The plastic is then tossed on the side of the road after it is finished. And they wonder why there is such a huge trash issue here!
  • Where you will witness the most beautiful sunsets and the starriest skies.
  • Where being a foreigner means you get tons of attention AND get ripped off.
  • Where food is usually cooked outside, primarily by the women.
  • Where window screens are a necessity to keep out the mosquitoes.
  • Where crackers are ‘biscuits’ and avocados are ‘pears.’
  • Where the currency is called Cedis. Yes, it sounds just like ‘CDs.’
  • Where ‘This is Africa’ or ‘This is Ghana’ is a commonly heard phrase.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Community in Accra

Part of the reason I love Wegbe so much is that I feel like I have a community there. Living in Accra has been so different from living in the village for many reasons but one of the biggest is that I do not have an established community here. For the past few days, I have been walking to the internet café every afternoon. The shop owners and others along the way have seen me walking by for a number of days now and yesterday, they finally all set out to find out who I actually was, where I was from, and why I walk past them every day. Although I had greeted the shop owners before, the conversation was never more than a quick ‘hello’ or a ‘hi, how are you?’ However, yesterday, that all changed. I had already met the bank security guards a few days ago so I stopped and had a short conversation with them before moving on. The first shop owner that stopped me asked me some questions, inquired as to where I was going, etc. and then I was back on my way. The next person to stop me was a lottery kiosk owner. He wanted my phone number and wasn’t impressed when I refused to give it to him. I met a stationary store owner from whom I bought paper and her young son, Bernard. I sat down and chatted with a man who had traveled to the US, London, Singapore, and a bunch of other places while snacking on some ice cream. I met a phone credit seller who told me that one day he is going to return to the US with me. These conversations, although short and mostly to the point are essential to me feeling comfortable and safe in this neighborhood. I now look forward to my walk to and from the internet café more than I did before as I am no longer a stranger to those that I pass. Hopefully the relationships will continue to grow and I will continue to meet more people in this neighborhood, making it truly feel like a home.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A [VERY LOUD] Ghanaian Wedding

The other evening as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed that there was some very loud music playing outside. When I awoke, about 7 or 8 hours later, the music was still blasting from a speaker (or rather, probably speakers) down the street. And as I type this blog entry, the music is still blasting outside. Actually, I think it is not quite as loud anymore but I can definitely still hear it and could probably have a dance party in my room and be content with the volume of the music. But even though the music, which we have determined is coming from a funeral party down the road is of a loud volume, the music and volume of the microphones at the wedding we attended this past weekend beats it by at least 100 times.
Saturday morning, Alex, his brother Prince, his (actual, blood related) sister, Delight, and I went to their cousin’s wedding. The wedding was in Tema, which is a port city located just outside of Accra. It took us awhile (about 1.5 hours) to get there due to the fact that we were taking public transportation and had to take 3 different vehicles. Although the event was scheduled to begin at 9am, we arrived around 11am or maybe even a little later. Ghanaian time at its finest! It wasn’t a big deal though and I honestly couldn’t imagine how bored I would have gotten if we had arrived any earlier. We arrived as the engagement ceremony was taking place. Now I don’t really fully understand this whole Ghanaian wedding culture so I don’t really know what this ceremony was about and it didn’t help that most of it was in a local language and not in English. However, the woman who was leading this part of the ceremony kept breaking into song – English love songs. It was quite hilarious although I think I was the only one who seemed to think that it was funny that this Ghanaian woman kept interrupting her program to sing these songs (which were very out of tune). I also was the only American there and I guarantee if there were other Americans there, they would have been chuckling under their breath with me. After the engagement and the exchange of rings, the audience (of about 150 people) was told that the couple would be going to the church for the next part of the program and for the signing of wedding papers. Well, maybe the engagement part of the ceremony also included the wedding ceremony because at the church, about 50 of us just sat in the pews as the couple and their immediate family signed papers behind closed doors and proceeded to return and take photos with various groups about an hour later. The reason I decided to go along to the church was because I assumed that there would be an actual wedding ceremony there but low and behold there was just a lot of sitting and waiting. It honestly was one of the most bizarre things I have experienced. The bride was dressed in her wedding gown for this part but she was not wearing it for the ceremony before departing for the church and upon returning to the location of the engagement ceremony, where the party took place, she promptly changed into yet another outfit. I didn’t understand the point of the wedding gown (which was absolutely gorgeous) besides the fact that she wore it in the photos. In terms of the photos, oh, what a nightmare. There was an official photographer but there were of course, also lots of other people who wanted to use their own cameras and capture the posed family photos. But it was never stated that the guests in the photos should look at the official photographer so in each photo, I am sure that all the people were looking different ways. Not exactly the kind of official photos that I would want from my wedding. It kinda reminded me of prom when all the parents are there and they each want to take their own group photos and no one knows which camera to look at.
We returned to the location of the engagement ceremony where the party had already began since many of the guests decided to stay there rather than travel to the chapel to sit in some pews and wait for the couple to sing some papers…smart move on their behalf I must say. The music was blasting…no, not blasting, rather, BLASTING loud! It was ridiculous and not before long, my head started pounding in pain. I was not very happy and it was pretty evident but I couldn’t help it because the extreme volume of the music, coupled with the screaming of the two MCs on the already loud speakers killed my head. Eventually food was served around 3:30pm and about an hour later, we decided to leave because I was so unhappy. I felt bad for being such a lousy guest but I just couldn’t handle the noise. It was seriously worse than a concert. Worse than anything you could imagine. Its insane the level at which Ghanaians seem to think that speakers need to be set at.  
It was interesting to attend my first Ghanaian wedding even though I am still not clear on some of the traditions of the weddings here. I am sure it is just the first of many weddings that I attend here and I just hope that the rest are not quite so loud!

Friday, June 17, 2011

An afternoon in the life

Its 5:36pm on Friday evening. The heat has finally worn off and it is actually pleasant. I am sitting in my room, windows open, curtains tied back, enjoying the breeze that hits me both from outside and from the spinning ceiling fans. As I walked home from running some errands earlier this afternoon, I took in the scenery, the views which are so different from what I am used to in the US. Alex asked me the other day if the road we were driving on and the streets we were passing looked anything like the US. I just laughed and proceeded to explain the differences, differences which he and many other typical Ghanaians cannot even imagine. He still doesn’t understand how it is possible to live in the US and not know your neighbors or how we can walk on the street and not greet those that we pass.  These are things that are essential here and add to the strong community ties that Ghanaians hold.
While walking along the main road here in North Kaneshie, the town in Accra where we live, I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that every single taxi that drove by honked at me. It made for quite a noisy walk as there are lots of taxis here! Everyone (well, at least the men) seems to think that taxi driving is the key to making a living here. Anyways, its amazing that they see a white girl walking alongside the road and automatically think that she can’t walk to her destination, she needs a taxi. While walking with Alex the other day he commented on this and stated that when he walks alone, not a single taxi driver honks at him. But boom, add the white girl into the picture and everything changes. They also charge a lot more when I am added into the picture. Its been quite a learning experience to watch Alex argue over the price with drivers as we all know that they raise the price the minute they see me.
The other day, while Alex was at work, I had to go somewhere that required me to take a taxi. I stood outside the house where we usually pick the taxis from and waited for the first one to stop. I inquired about the price before getting in the vehicle as I have learned from experience that its just easier that way and was given a price twice of that Alex told me I should pay. I tried to bargain with the driver but he seemed to take me for just another stupid foreigner that he could rip off and refused to hear my offer. I eventually sent him away and waited for the next taxi. This taxi driver pulled over and told me that it would cost me 20 Ghana Cedis to get to my destination. Alex had told me that it would cost me 3 Ghana Cedis. The equivalent in American dollars is not important here as any way that you look at those numbers, the price I was given by this driver was almost 7 times more than Alex had told me. I stared at the driver and didn’t even bother bargaining with him before telling him to drive away. I refused to even deal with someone who was just going to take advantage of me to such an extreme. I know that people here need to make a living and know that they can cut their work short or bring home more money to their families by ripping off foreigners but that’s just ridiculous! I eventually found a driver that drove me to my destination for 4 Ghana Cedis. I didn’t quite make it down to the 3 Cedis that Alex suggested that I pay but hey, I think I did pretty good. I have realized that bargaining for taxis here in Accra is much more difficult than in the village where I had one driver that I usually relied on and that distances equivalent to those driven in the village are more expensive here. I have also realized that traffic here, which doesn’t really exist in the village can be horrific, but I guess these differences can be expected when moving from a village to the capital city.
I also find it quite hilarious that when I am walking alone, so many people, regardless of the fact that I don’t know them, want to know where I am going. If I was a local Ghanaian walking along, I am sure that they would have no interest in where I was going but for some reason, that changes because of my skin color and perhaps also because of my gender.
As I walked along the road, trying to ignore the honking from the taxi drivers, I passed by tons of small shops bursting with food items, stationary supplies, cell phones, and shoes, phone credit kiosks painted the colors of different phone companies – MTN, Vodafone, etc., food stands that smelled of rice, meat, fresh pineapple, and bananas and even a car wash. As the brown and red dirt blew in the air, it stuck to my black TOMS (shoes) and my sweaty body. I wiped away the sweat with one of my handkerchiefs (I have quite a collection here) while continuing to walk and greet the store owners and others who I passed. I chuckled as a young man danced on the side of the street to blasting hip life music and stopped to watch his moves. I smiled as children stared at me and nudged their parents, ‘look at her.’ Its amazing to see the life here, to smile at the people, to greet those you meet on the street, and to be recognized by those you pass on a regular basis.
We are lucky to live around the corner from a Barclay’s Bank and due to my repeated visits, I am known by all the security guards who stand outside the bank. They greet me as I walk by and ask me how my day is, etc. If they are busy and I pass them without greeting them first, they shout out to me with the look in their eye, ‘why didn’t she greet me?’
There are times that I miss things about the US – paved roads, the rules of the road, having tons of choices in the market, constant electricity and water, and of course, my friends and family, but there are so many things that I love about Ghana, so many things that make this place so unique. The people may not be the wealthiest or have all the material items that they desire but they are for the most part, very happy and kind. They may live in shacks that are falling apart and provide for children that they do not have the money or resources to support but they work hard and do it with great dignity and honor. They realize what is important in life and I am coming to understand more and more every day what that truly is.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Helping in the kitchen

Today was the first day I legitimately helped cook a meal in Ghana. Yes, if you do the math, I have been in Ghana throughout my various trips here for quite a number of days. And yes, I was cooked for every single one of those days. So what changed today? Well, 1: I am currently unemployed, meaning I am in the house all day, and more importantly, 2: Beatrice, the lady who cooks and washes our laundry for us is currently traveling. Ya, number 2 is a much bigger reason as to why I helped cook today. For the first few days that she was gone, I ‘cooked’ rice in the rice cooker and we ate it with stew that she prepared before she left to travel but yesterday I finally declared that I couldn’t eat any more rice. I sure Alex was happy to hear that because he is stuck eating whatever Beatrice or I prepare before he arrives home from work!
Alex has been asking me, no, begging me to stay in the kitchen with Beatrice since we hired her three weeks ago so I could learn to cook the Ghanaian way but I just wasn’t so in to that idea. I mean, in all honesty, I would much rather eat a meal cooked and prepared by someone else than by myself. But today, Prince, one of Alex’s brothers and I went to the market (oh ya, Beatrice does our food shopping too) as we were out of most fresh vegetables and a few other necessary items. Now, think about your local farmer’s market. Then, multiply the size of the space and number of people by about 30, increase the volume by 25, and add a very bright, strong sun and a ton of humidity and you get the market that we went to. And of course, don’t forget to add the flies that are swarming around the fish (which smells horrific) and other open food and you really get a sense of where we went. Its no wonder I have hired someone to do this for me, right? I mean its an adventure, but not an adventure I am willing to embark on twice, or even once every single week. After purchasing cabbage, lettuce, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, yams, plantains, salad dressing, and a few other items, Prince and I returned to the house to begin cooking.
Now, in terms of the kitchen…we don’t really technically have one. Basically, the room that we are renting is located in a house, without a kitchen. Ya, brilliant design, right? I mean, a lot of people cook outside but really, I might be more willing to help cook if there was an indoor kitchen.  There is a fridge and microwave in the house and a table in the hall where we keep all of our non-perishable food items and cooking utensils. The landlady is building a hotel in front of the house and because they are still working on the hotel (very slowly, if I may say) we use one of the rooms of the ground level for the kitchen area. There a few tables and stools that have been put in the room and the coal cookers are in there too. We have purchased a gas cylinder, which is like a big container to hold gas, and a stove top type cooker (it has 2 burners) but we have had quite a difficult time getting gas for the cylinder. Finally, yesterday, Alex came home and said that there was gas at the gas station and that we should go and fill the cylinder today. So off Prince and I went, with the gas cylinder, to the filling station, only to find out that once again, they were out of gas. So before heading to the market, we had to turn back, return to the house, and drop off the cylinder because that thing, even when it isn’t filled, is heavy and bulky.
Prince and I made do with the coal cooker and boiled yams and potatoes and made a vegetable stew to go with it. We also made a beautiful salad. We ate some of the food for lunch and saved the rest for this evening’s dinner. Prince departed after we cleaned up and I proceed to take a nap. Its amazing how tiring it is to go food shopping and cook here. I honestly was so exhausted from it that I slept for about 3 hours. It sure makes you appreciate all the women here who work all day, take care of the kids, AND cook in this country. It sure is a lot more work than it seems.
I took photos of the delicious food that we prepared but you will just have to wait about 2 more weeks until I get my computer charger before those photos are posted.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Trip to Ho

On Saturday morning Alex and I woke up early and prepared to travel to the tro tro station. Alex had to travel to Hohoe for a meeting on Sunday morning and since he was traveling, I thought it was a good time for me to travel to Ho and visit my adopted family there. The drive to Ho wasn’t that bad as I had a seat where I could actually somewhat comfortably sleep. On tro tros, it is not uncommon to see sleeping heads bouncing around as head rests are a luxury that do not exist in tro tros. At one point during the drive, we came across a group of Ghanaian soldiers marching in the middle of the road, directly in front of our vehicle. I am used to stopping for goats, dogs, chickens, people (well, usually the drivers don’t actually stop for people, but rather, just continue at the same speed and force the people to run or dash out of the way), other vehicles (sometimes, also depends on the driver), and pot holes (or they just swerve around them and hit the smallest ones), but never before had I been stopped in the road for a group of soldiers.
Upon arriving in Ho, I was met at the station by Derrick, a friend that I know from Hohoe, and taken to the house where I would be spending the night to drop off my stuff. We then proceeded to find me something to eat before taking a taxi to my family’s house.  We found a chop bar where we stopped to eat some rice but we quickly learned that they were sold out. So, off we went, walking down the street, searching for some sign of food but it took awhile before we came across somewhere. We eventually found a chop bar that specializes in serving rice. Derrick ordered me a vegetarian meal but once it came, I knew something wasn’t right as I spotted chunks of meat on the salad. Apparently corn beef is not meat or something crazy like that because the woman just shrugged her shoulders when Derrick returned and asked her why there was corn beef on the plate. Its ironic because as I am writing this, sitting in the house in Ho as breakfast is being prepared, Raymond, who knows that I do not eat meat, came out of the kitchen and asked me if I wanted corn beef. I sure consider corn beef to be meat but maybe they don’t? I ate the rice as it was not topped with the meat and left the salad, hoping that Derrick would come to the rescue and eat it but he claimed that he was not hungry. I felt bad not eating the food but whats a girl to do?
I arrived in the family’s village and walked up to the compound where I was warmly greeted with hugs and the shouting of my name. Melody, Richmond, and a few other children who were in the compound ran up to me and grabbed on to my legs. It was amazing to see Richmond, who was just a newborn when I first met him. He turned three years old this week and boy, can the child talk. Richmond has been anticipating my visit for awhile now as when another white girl came to their village awhile back, he ran up to her calling my name. I spent the afternoon playing with him and Melody and the other children before the exhaustion from traveling hit me. My family set up a bed for me in the middle of the living room and I was instructed to sleep. I was sad to loose time playing with the kids but to say I was beyond tired would be an understatement. After waking up from my nap, I was taken to an open area where men were drumming and community members were dancing. There had been a funeral in the village earlier that day so everyone was still in their funeral clothes and the community was out in numbers.
I decided to just watch the dancing rather than participate as Richmond had already fallen asleep on my shoulder. While holding Richmond, many children gathered about 10 feet away from me and played a little game where they seemed to dare each other to come closer to me. It took awhile but eventually the children came close enough where they could touch my hands and I could tickle them. The older boy sitting next to me threatened the children to leave me alone and they all dispersed…for about a minute before returning. As I was holding my camera, they begged me to take their photographs and proceeded to laugh and smile when I showed them their faces on the camera screen.
I returned to the house that I was spending the night at that evening only to find that the lights were out. In the morning, I returned to my family’s house for a few hours, much to Richmond’s delight. When I had left the previous evening, Richmond was still asleep but when he woke up, he apparently was not very happy to learn that I had left.  After spending a few hours at their house, I departed for the station. Upon arriving at the station, I learned that there was a very long line of people waiting for tro tros to Accra. I had arrived at the station around 2pm to ensure that I would arrive in Accra before it got dark (around 6:30pm) but with this line of people, I quickly realized that I would probably be forced to wait at the station for quite some time. I usually have no problem quickly boarding a tro tro at the Ho station but as there was a graduation at the Polytechnic school in Ho that weekend, it seemed like everyone was at the station, trying to get home. As I waited in line, I tried to contemplate any other options to get to Accra. Much to my surprise, Derrick and his sister showed up at the station and spotted me. Derrick’s sister was also traveling to Accra so they were able to devise a plan in which the sister and I would take a different tro tro about two hours (not to Accra) and then from that station, board a different tro tro to Accra. If Derrick and his sister hadn’t shown up, I have no clue how long I would have been waiting at that station for a tro tro to Accra. The trip took a bit longer due to the stop but we made it to Accra and as it was dark, she helped me find a taxi to my house and went with me to ensure that I arrived home safely. It was a long day and I did not reach home until almost 8pm although the drive from Ho to Accra should only take about 3 hours.  
It was a fun weekend and so nice to be able to see my family as they knew I was in the country and were waiting for me to come and visit them. They took such good care of me and made sure I was always comfortable and that my stomach was always full.
 I took photos but will not be able to put them online until my MacBook is back up and running in about 2.5 weeks. My charger for my Mac has died and I am waiting for a volunteer from the US to arrive and bring me a new one.

Love from the USA

Last week I received word that Isaac, a Ghanaian friend of mine who had planned to visit Ghana on June 20th had actually changed his flight and would be arriving in Ghana 2 weeks earlier than planned. I was excited to see him in Ghana and for him to meet Alex as they had spent much time talking on the phone and communicating online. I was also excited to see him because due to the fact that I do not have a mailing address in Ghana yet and the mailing address that a friend gave me to use here was a PO Box, my mother and sister could not send me a package via FedEx or DHL or through any other service besides USPS. This normally would be fine but they were sending some items that I did not want to risk getting lost or stolen while in transit. He agreed to bring the items to me, making me very happy. On Friday, Alex and I met up with Isaac after spending at least 2 hours sitting in traffic to travel to the agreed meeting spot. Traffic was beyond anything I had ever seen or experienced and I was so anxious to actually be moving instead of just sitting in a car, which the driver had turned off because we weren’t moving at all, that I kept asking Alex, “at what point can we just pay the driver and get out and walk?” He kept telling me that we were too far to walk the rest of the distance and eventually after spending way too much time in the vehicle, we arrived at the Accra Mall. We met Isaac in the food court where the two men talked and talked and talked. I partook in some of the conversation while also eating my first American meal since I have been in Ghana, pizza. It wasn’t as good as pizza back in the US but it was good for American food in Ghana.
Isaac delivered my care package from home to me and I couldn’t have been happier. It wasn’t so much the items that were inside the package as it was knowing that my mother and sister picked out the items and worked so hard to get them to me. And since Melissa had been eating some crackers while skyping with Alex and I during my first week back in Ghana and Alex asked her for some, she sent some American snacks for us to enjoy too. It was so special and made me miss being with my family and being in the US. It made me think about being here in Ghana and if I made the right choice, something I still am unsure of especially due to the fact that I am currently living here unemployed. I am keeping my head up though and trying to take advantage of everything that comes my way and hopefully will find a job in the very near future. For now, I am enjoying my free time and trying to live in the moment, even when that means sitting in horrific Ghanaian traffic.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Beach day

If we are friends on Facebook, you probably already saw my photos and know that yesterday Alex and I spent the afternoon at the beach. I had previously only been to the beach in Cape Coast so it was nice to be able to go somewhere a little closer (like 4 hours closer). We sat outside in the shade for awhile at a “beach resort” sipping on Fanta, enjoying the breeze and cool weather before walking along the beach. The beach was much dirtier than what I am used to in the US but it was still nice.
Unfortunately I totally lost my mind yesterday and forgot to put on or even bring sunscreen. By the time I realized it, it was too late and I already had some color – not red but some color. When we got home, I realized that my arm was a bit red and Alex became quite alarmed and concerned. I have to admit that I am super lucky that my face lotion has sunscreen in it and my face did not burn at all. Alex had never seen a sunburn before and immediately asked if he should take me to the hospital. I assured him that this sunburn wasn’t too bad (although I do have an outline of Africa on my chest from my necklace) and that with some water, lotion, and time the redness will fade.
These first few weeks in Ghana have consisted of a lot of learning about each other and cultural differences such as this one. There are certain things that I am learning that Alex just isn’t aware of or doesn’t know about because he was raised in a different place and with a different culture than I was and similarly Alex is learning that there are things here in Ghana that I am unaware and unfamiliar with. Its definitely a learning process and luckily we are enjoying it, for the most part.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Searching for a new job

After searching for a job in Ghana for months, I was super excited when I finally received an offer. And it was a job working with kids. Now seriously, how much better could it get than that? It made the whole relocating to Ghana thing seem so much simpler and hopefully it would make the transition easier.
I went in to the school late last week and met the staff and kids that I would be working with. It was a good morning and I enjoyed meeting the kids and learning about the school. I was impressed with all the resources and the opportunities that the children at this school received. I started work on Wednesday and although I loved the kids, there was something that was not quite right. I do not want to reveal too many details here but I went back on Thursday convincing myself that it would be better. Unfortunately it only got worse and Thursday on the way home from work, while sitting in traffic, I really thought about things. I knew that my boss wanted me to sign a contract on Friday and I also knew that she did not have time for me to wait any longer and ponder over whether I wanted to sign the contract or not. It was a very difficult decision because I do not know what other jobs are out there and I know that finding a job here can be quite difficult but I decided to quit and start looking for a new job. Its not a huge problem quite yet as I was only training for the first two months at this job and was not getting paid during that time so the way I see it is that I now have two months to find a job. I really hope it won’t take me that long though! I am trying to have good thoughts about this and see this as a positive experience. I am happy that I stood up for myself and did not allow myself to be put in a position where I knew I would be unhappy. Now on to bigger and better things!

Christ Orphanage Visit

On Monday morning, I awoke early and rode with Raymond to Christ Orphanage. The kids were excited to see me but I think I was more excited to see all of them. I spent the morning with the KG1 class and realized that the kids were just as crazy as they were when I left them last August. During break, it was pretty much impossible for me to move as I had so many children hanging onto me and grabbing every inch of my body. Luckily by Tuesday when I visited the school, the novelty of my visit had calmed down and although I was still attacked by the children, it was to a much lesser degree. 

During the two days I spent at the school, I also spent time with the Nursery class. I was so happy to see Cynthia in the class and I could tell that she was getting a lot out of attending Christ. Whereas she normally does not talk at home, she was chatting away at school and loved running around the campus. It made me smile to see her enjoying school so much. I was also quite impressed with the new Nursery teacher who was engaging the children in fun and educational songs, dances, and rhymes. The kids loved it and it sure seems like they love the teacher as well.
It was such a pleasure to see the kids learning at the new site as last summer I left Ghana just a few days before they were introduced to the new facility. They love being at the site and take advantage of the open land where they play soccer and the large dining hall where they are all able to sit around tables and eat with their own bowls and spoons. The older kids have been practicing their ping pong skills and the younger kids enjoy all the toys and resources that are available to them in their classrooms. In addition, the site provides space for crops to be grown for the children to consume. Currently there is corn and cassava growing on the property. There are no longer any chickens as they have all been consumed by the children, something that provides them with much needed protein.
Unfortunately the electricity to the site has been an uphill battle fight with the contractor who tried to walk away with the money before finishing the job and therefore the electricity is still not working yet. However, I have been told that there is only one thing left to do and it should be connected within the next few weeks, if not days. We shall see – this is Ghana so things take a bit longer.
The kids were confused and sadden by the fact that I was only visiting the orphanage for two days but it is my hope that I will be able to get back out to Wegbe soon for another visit!
I uploaded a bunch of photos of the kids and my visit to Wegbe on Facebook. Here is the link to view them: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1673839820846.72851.1682940028

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Babies in Wegbe

The trip to Wegbe was a pretty easy one. Definitely not as bad as I thought that the journey would be. It ended up only taking 3.5 hours instead of the 4 hours that I had prepared myself for and I was lucky enough to be sitting next to someone from Wegbe that Alex knew. She was very sweet and held one of my bags the entire time and offered me food to snack on during the long ride. Upon my arrival in Wegbe in the early afternoon on Sunday, I went to visit Alex’s family and meet his new niece. She is the baby that I was supposed to have named but the chief of the village ended up picking a different name for her and it superseded the name I had chosen. I was disappointed with this especially since I had spent so much time thinking about it and trying to pick the right name but I love the baby the same nonetheless. The name that she was given is Bevlyn. She turned one month old this past weekend and is seriously the smallest baby I have seen. Her 0-3 month clothing was so baggy on her and I had to roll up the sleeves on every outfit she was dressed in. Her size and cuteness make her seem like a doll. She is gorgeous and has huge eyes that just watch everything during her waking hours. I spent a lot of time with her while in Wegbe, holding her and loving on her. When sitting with the baby by the side of the road in front of the hair salon in the compound where my room is located, I got many interesting looks from passersby. I even witnessed two motorcycle drivers completely turn around while driving to take a second glace at me with this tiny black baby. Even my driver in Wegbe, Godwin, who I talked with on a pretty regular basis while in the US asked me if she was my baby. It was quite amusing.
After meeting Bevlyn, I went to visit Cynthia and meet her baby sisters. Cynthia was woken up from a nap to see me so she was quiet at first but quickly showed excitement that I had arrived. Her mother was pretty happy to see me as well and introduced me to the twin girls who are now about 7 or 8 months old. We hung around Cynthia’s compound for awhile as word spread quickly that I had arrived and a group of children had already gathered around to see me. We then walked around part of the village, me and about 25 children, as they wanted me to visit some other children who obviously had not yet gotten word of my arrival. I was excited to see my kids so I didn’t object. The kids were pretty excited to see me and a lot of the adults were as well. It was such a great feeling! I received many hugs and had the pleasure of bringing many smiles to people’s faces.
Upon visiting Constance’s new home and after receiving a huge hug from his mother, I was told that he now had another baby brother and that I should go inside to see the baby. I went inside with the mother where I learned that Constant’s baby brother had actually been born just a few hours earlier – on that same day – in that same room, on the bed. I held the newborn baby and congratulated the mother. She now has four young boys so she definitely has her hands full. I wanted to take a photo of the baby but pushed that desire aside as the room was extremely dark and the flash on my camera can be quite blinding. We could not take the baby outside for a photo as in Ghana, babies are not brought outside until they are one week old.
I eventually returned back to the compound with a whole gang of children following me, something that Alex’s family just laughed at. Lunch was prepared for me and after spending some more time with the kids, Roland and I set off, with Cynthia in tow for the soccer match which I wrote about in my previous entry.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Soccer Game in Wegbe

On the way to a soccer game in the village over from Wegbe, Roland, one of Alex’s brothers said the following: “Everyone knows you here, even the unborn children.” It’s hard to deny it as when I arrive in Wegbe, regardless of how long I am gone for, everyone remembers me and my name is heard pretty much everywhere.  It’s an honor that I have had such an impact on so many of the lives here and that I have connected with so many of the people on a level that they will never forget me. However, I am sure that when others walk around with me, it gets quite annoying. Luckily, I think most of Alex’s family is used to it by now as they don’t let me go anywhere alone and as a result, have spent a great amount of time walking around with me.
It was my first day back in Wegbe and I wasn’t going to part from my girl Cynthia so when Roland suggested that we attend the soccer game on Sunday afternoon, I asked him if I could bring her along. If you are new to my blog, Cynthia is a young girl who lives in Wegbe that I have become very close with during my visits to the village. She is probably about 3 years old by now but its hard to tell especially since her mother only speaks a limited amount of English. Her mother gave birth to twin girls a few weeks after I left Ghana last summer and this visit to the village was my first time meeting the girls, Sarah and Saraphine. Anyways, Cynthia, Roland, and I stood by the side lines watching the soccer game between a local team and a team from another village. After a few minutes, there appeared to be a fight and the police ran on to the field. Only a few minutes later, there was chaos and since I don’t understand Ewe and because I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the game, I was beyond confused. Apparently, the goal keeper for the visiting team was wearing a necklace and it was claimed to have supernatural powers, or what is called ‘juju.’ It was explained to me that the powers that this necklace had were allowing the goal keeper to block every shot by the other team. Next thing I knew, everyone was leaving and the game came to a halt as the two teams and referees could not settle the issue at hand. As we returned to Wegbe, Roland told me that he doesn’t believe in juju but I although it would have been an interesting conversation to actually have, I wasn’t in the mood to discuss it – I was exhausted from the drive from Accra to Wegbe and was just interested in loving on my kids and spending as much time with them as possible.  

Cynthia and I enjoyed ice cream during the game which may or may not be why I wasn't really paying attention to the game!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Accra Today, Wegbe Tomorrow

All week I was under the impression that Monday was June 1st which meant that it would be when I would start work. But yesterday I realized that June 1st isn't until Wednesday which means that I have time to visit my kids in Wegbe, the village where Christ Orphanage is located, before I begin work. I am so excited to see my kids and the people of Wegbe whom I love and hold so dear to my heart.

So excited to see Cynthia's beautiful face and meet her baby sisters! Also super excited to see the kids at Christ Orphanage schooling at their new site. Photos and updates to come!

Expats in Ghana

An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin term expatriātus from ex ("out of") and patriā the ablative case of patria ("country, fatherland"). This "Latin" term comes from the Greek words "exo" meaning outside, and "patrida" meaning country or fatherland. (www.absoluteastronomy.com)
During the weeks and months that led up to my departure from to US and my move to Ghana, I did much research on expats in Ghana and attempted to connect with other expats who were living in Accra. This was made possible through two expat websites that proved to be invaluable resources. It is on one of these websites that I found my job and also where I found contacts/potential friends in Ghana (one of whom I have already met since my arrival).  It also provided me with the opportunity to ask questions to people who had traveled from afar about living in Ghana. Although I had traveled to Ghana previously, there were things about living in Ghana, and particularly in Accra that I was unfamiliar with.
On Thursday evening, I joined a group of about 20 expats for a small get together at a restaurant/bar. I was excited to meet other expats but it didn’t take long for me to realize that these expats were not the type of people that I wanted to befriend. It was interesting to meet some of the women at the event who were in the country due to their husband’s professional careers. As a result, they do not work and instead spend much time partying and shopping, spending what I would call insane amounts of money. They carry their designer purses, wear 5 inch heels, and show off their diamond wedding rings. I do not have a problem with people who have money and want to indulge due to their wealth, but this was taking it to an extreme. As I talked to a friend I connected with on one of the expat sites about my experiences at this event, she explained to me that this is the reason she does not attend the organized expat events here. She further told me that these women probably live in huge gated homes, equipped with gyms, swimming pools, and other amenities so that they rarely have to leave their homes and interact with the locals besides their maids, nannies, gardeners, etc. Its like they are living in their own little world. It honestly did not occur to me that I would meet expats like this in Ghana.
Tonight I will be attending another expat event. I hope that this one is different and that I am able to meet some people who are more down to earth and possibly even people who are in Ghana because they want to be here, not just because they were sent here due to their jobs. I look forward to meeting some of the other expats that I have been talking to online in the upcoming weeks as they too sound more down to earth than those whom I met last night. 

*This post is not meant to be offensive to any group of people here in Ghana. It is important to realize that not all expats are the way that I have described in this entry. This blog is a way for me to speak my mind and be 100% honest and real.