Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 22 and 23

I have got to think of better titles for these posts. :-)

May 22, 2009

This morning the power is still out. We woke up at 7:30 and it seemed too dark, so we went back to sleep. Because the power doesn’t work, the water heater doesn’t work either. I have only showered twice in the week we’ve been here (including today) and both times the water has been cold. I actually decided that I don’t mind cold showers so much. When it’s so hot, it feels nice. So maybe I will shower more often in the future.
We have a woman who works for us here, cleaning the house, washing our clothes, and cooking our breakfast and dinner. Every morning we have what compares to an omelet with onions and peppers (no cheese) on a piece of French bread for breakfast, with hot chocolate to drink. For dinner we nearly always have rice, and then either vegetable stew to pour over it, kebabs, or fried chicken. It all tastes pretty good, and neither of us have been sick yet. Her name is Zet.
Today Jason told Zet that I would like to show her how to cook some American food, and that I would like to go with her to the market sometimes. She interpreted that to mean “Rachel will cook dinner tonight.” So when we discovered there were no dinner plans, I went out to the kitchen (it’s a separate building, and very hot) and threw some spaghetti sauce together. Our refrigerator is broken, so she had someone bring us a frozen block of meat, and we sautéed it with onions and garlic and threw in some tomato paste and a French Provencal spice mix. It wasn’t the best sauce ever, but it worked.
While I am talking about Zet, I should mention that something about the way they do laundry here is amazing. Old stains that I couldn’t get out are gone, and our whites are much, much brighter. I have been very pleased. I don’t love to have my clothes dried on a line because they are kind of stiff, but it’s fine.

May 23, 2009

Today we spent the day doing training for the sales agents. I can’t really talk about what they’re doing or how, because this is a test for the company and it is proprietary information. It’s too bad, because I just wrote all about it and then Peter told me I had to delete it. Sorry.
This afternoon, we went to the Tamale art market. It was very small and not very busy. They don’t get a lot of tourists here. I thought it was funny that the art market surrounds a building called the North Ghana Volunteer Center. They are definitely trying to cater more to tourists than to locals. I also thought it was interesting that they had art products that are not local, such as Ashanti fertility dolls. I really wanted to buy art in the style of the local people here, but the Ashanti are a people further to the south. The dolls are pretty iconic for Ghana, though.
I called my family this evening as well. It’s not too expensive to make calls to the US from Ghana. I realized that they had a lot of questions about our life here that I should write about on the blog. If YOU have any questions, please leave them in a comment. I am happy to tell you whatever you want to know about our experience here.

Now I am going to tell you about the trash, if you are interested to know. There are plastic bags EVERYWHERE here. Littering is perfectly acceptable behavior, despite the fact that many packages say things like “Keep Ghana Clean.” I don’t know how they expect people to dispose of things besides throwing them on the ground. I’m pretty sure that Zet just empties our trash cans outside the Palace somewhere (but I’m not sure on that. If I find out differently, I will let you know.) The plastic bag problem is accentuated by the fact that many products are sold in plastic bags as packaging, such as water and ice cream. They are little plastic packages known as sachets that you bite a corner off of, and then squeeze into your mouth. And then you throw it on the ground if you are Ghanaian, or if you are me, put it in the trash can and let somebody else put it on the ground.
I don’t know if any of my archaeology friends read this blog, but this next part is for you. When I went to a village and saw the trash everywhere, I understood archaeological sites better. I didn’t comprehend before how there were little broken pieces of pots everywhere in the villages. I guess I thought they just got scattered after breaking. Now I realize that there very likely was trash everywhere in the village when people lived there, and the people probably just didn’t care too much about stepping on sherds as they walked down the village path. It seems strange to me to live in a place that is so dirty. I wonder who first had the idea to bury all the trash in the ground so nobody would have to look at it.

A Few Sweet Pics...

So, I (Peter) know a lot of you want to see more pictures, so I put this post together for you all. I know there aren't a ton of pictures, but each one took 5-10 minutes to load, so be patient with us. Enjoy!

Home Sweet Home. If you look closely, you the red arrow points to our house. I took this picture when we flew into Tamale knowing only that the house was near the new soccer stadium. We live in School Ridge, a road filled with different schools and colleges. Despite all the buildings in the photo, it is so lush and green here that it doesn't really feel like its crowded.

This is "Babs Palace", where we live. Our guard, Peter is out front showing off his muscles. He is really cool and helpful. Not too bad for a guys thats almost 60.

Here is the VVIP entrance that Rachel mentioned in an earlier post. The guy in the red shirt is named Boat. He has been helping us to get everything ready, driving, etc.

These are the VVIP seats. Not too bad of a view. Pretty much centered and hig enough up to see the whole field. Across from us on the field level, they are setting up a boxing ring AND several hotel rooms. How sweet would that be to have your hotel room right on the soccer field?

A few days ago we went around and visited a bunch of the woman that I will be interviewing throughout the summer. We met these two girls at one house. Both were super shy, the girl in the white dress kept giggling and hiding her face in her dress while the other just looked at us like she had never seen a white person before (which might have been the case).

Friday, May 22, 2009


We saw brightly-colored lizards like this one when we were in Accra. I haven't seen any animals as bright as this in Tamale. We will be going to their animal preserve where elephants and other cool animals live sometime next month I think, so I'm sure we'll see more of the cool northern animals then.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 20 & 21

May 20, 2009
Today was basically the worst day of my life. It started off great. I went into town with Jason and Frederick, our other boss. We were running errands, and talking to people, and it was much nicer than staying home doing nothing. Just as we were about to go home, I got heat exhaustion (or something) and nearly fainted. Upon arriving home, we discovered the power was out. Our house was cool when we first got there, but it got hotter and hotter throughout the day. It would have been miserable if I wasn’t trying to recover from heat exhaustion, but having that added to it made it awful. In the evening, they got a generator going so at least there was a fan. When the power finally came back, it decided only to make enough power to run the fans really slowly and a few of the lights.
About 10PM when we were going to bed, the power came back on with enough strength to run the AC. I have never been so grateful for an AC. I will make sure not to take it for granted ever again. And no need to worry about me—this morning I barely drank anything, and from now on I will make sure I always have water with me.

May 21, 2009
Today has been a fantastic day. We woke up early (7-ish) and went out for breakfast on our way to some villages where we were going to meet our sales agents and remind them about our training meeting. It was really fun to go to all the villages and see all the people in their homes. The poor people live in mud huts with thatched roofs, and the rich people live in concrete houses with tin roofs. If you have read any literature or seen any photographs of how houses are arranged in sub-saharan Africa, it’s probably the same as what we saw (I remember in particular a model village at the Seattle zoo). Each wife has her own hut if they are polygamist, and if they are not then each son and his wife has his own hut. I was surprised to find that the circle of mud huts had concrete floors in the middle area.

Some interesting things that I learned today:

Never wave with your left hand, because your left hand is your bathroom hand.

A Muslim man may never shake hands with a woman, and a non-Muslim man may never shake hands with a Muslim woman.

How to say good morning, good afternoon, and thank you in Dagbani, the local language, but I have since forgotten.

It is possible to ride a motorcycle with a dead cow on your lap, or with two dead goats on your lap. This one I wish I had a photo of, but the guys moved too quickly.

This evening we had a CRAZY storm. There was very strong wind, thunder and lightning, and pouring rain. I was shocked at how much rain fell. Of course, the power was knocked out.  Fortunately, it’s cooler because of the rain.

Photo of the Day

I have decided that one photo per day is probably the limit. This is some of the scenery in Tamale.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Photo test

Hopefully this one comes through. This is the temple in Accra.

quick apologies

Hi all.

The internet here is super frustrating. It goes out once per day, regularly, and then it's really slow. I tried to load pictures, and it didn't work, and then it wouldn't let me post anything. So I will try again to do pictures later.

Adventures in Ghana: Part 1

May 13
We arrived in Accra (pronounced awk-RAW or AWK-raw) around 8AM after about 20 hours of travelling. It was really humid when we stepped off the plane, and I found it a little hard to breathe. We went through customs with no problems. I laughed when I saw a sign that said “Ghana welcomes all visitors. Ghana does not welcome pedophiles.” Too bad for all the pedophiles who thought Ghana was going to welcome them. I wanted to take a picture of it, but I also didn’t want to get in trouble with the customs people, so I didn’t.
We next went in to get our bags. That was an interesting experience. They have little baggage carts for free, and there was absolutely NO room around the baggage carousel because everybody pushed their cart right up next to it. In the US, as everyone reading this should know, we try to give people a little room so they can get in and get their bags, and the carts are generally away from the carousel. I was a little bit annoyed by this. We got our bags just fine, and as we left the airport there were guards checking everybody’s claim tickets to make sure nobody was taking bags that didn’t belong to them. I found that comforting.
As we left the airport, we were accosted by several “helpers” who pointed out the sign to our hotel shuttle, which we already saw, and then wanted us to pay them. I was annoyed by this, but I also felt sad for them because I know they didn’t have any money or job skills, which is why they were preying on travelers. When we finally got to our hotel, I felt tired and overwhelmed. I felt like every person in Ghana thought I was rich and wanted to take my money for doing nothing. I didn’t want to go anywhere, or do anything.
After resting for a bit, we went for a walk to the nearby mall. At the mall, we got some water, some malaria medicine, a cell phone, and an alarm clock, and it was very nice to be able to get around on our own. We ate some pizza at our hotel, which was surprisingly very good, and we went swimming in the hotel pool. It was very relaxing, and I felt much better about being in Ghana.
That evening, we went to the Accra temple dorms to meet up with some MPA students who were staying there. It was really nice to be with other BYU students and to get our bearings. We ate dinner with them and had a very nice time.
May 14
We woke up fairly early and went to listen to a presentation given by some MBA students (here for a different project than the MPA students). They were presenting findings of some research they had been doing to a microfranchise organization called HealthKeepers. We went to a French bakery for lunch and wandered around Accra with them. It was helpful to go around with them because they were used to Accra and knew how to get good deals on taxis. At some point during the day I remembered it was my birthday. We went to the temple again for dinner with the MPAs. We got some good advice on how much to pay for souvenirs in the Accra area, and saw the kinds of things that were available, as they were all packing up to leave the next morning. My family called, and it was wonderful to talk to them even though we are so far away. I don’t know how much it cost, but hopefully not too much. Anyway, it was worth it to me and was a fabulous birthday present. We were able to do a session in the Accra temple that evening, which was truly wonderful. It was a great day.
May 15
Jason Fairbourne, Peter’s boss and the one who arranged for us to come down here and work, arrived this day. We ate another pizza, went to the mall a couple of times, bought some plastic laundry hamper things for our project in Tamale, and went to a part of the city called Osu for dinner. Here we were accosted by a few vendors, and we bought our first gift. Sara was the only one to request a specific gift, so we bought her the flag she had asked for. The gutters in this part of the city smelled AWFUL, much worse than the gutters in the rest of the city. It became very obvious they were an open sewer when we walked past a man, facing the street, urinating into the gutter in plain view. We went to an Indian restaurant for dinner with some MPA students who were staying longer than the rest of their group to work on another of Jason’s microfranchsie projects in Accra. We tried to go to reggae night on the beach, but they charged a cover fee and we were tired, so we just went home.
May 16
We woke up at 4:00 AM to get ready to fly to Tamale. We left the hotel at 4:30, and our flight left at 6. You have to be ridiculously early to the airport in Accra, especially for international flights. If you don’t arrive 3 hours in advance (for international flights), they may give your seat away. The airplane was about the same as any small plane you might find in the US. I wasn’t afraid at any time. They did provide us with in-flight snack and beverage, which surprised me on such a short flight. We arrived in Tamale around 7AM.
Welcome to Ghana Part 2: Tamale
Tamale is in a beautiful region. Although a Ghanaian at the Accra temple told us it was “dry like Salt Lake City,” it is still humid here. Just not quite as humid as Accra. Our home here is a new (as in, not quite finished) hotel known as Bab’s Palace. It is really nice here, in many ways nicer than our hotel in Accra. Everything here is clean and nice and new. The downside is that the internet goes out daily, the hot water in our room does not work, and the bathroom always smells. I took a cold shower yesterday, but it wasn’t so bad. Supposedly Peter figured out how to get the hot water to work in our room. Even if he didn’t at the very least we can take hot showers in the room next door whenever its occupant is out of town. I will do a separate post with pictures of our home later.
I like the city of Tamale much better than I liked Accra. Accra is way too crowded, and the traffic is horrendous. Tamale has beautiful scenery, fewer people, and it isn’t as hot or humid. Also, we can walk down the street in Tamale without being accosted by beggars or salespeople. For the most part people just treat us the same as anybody else, which is really, really nice. There are definitely fewer modern conveniences in Tamale than Accra. There is no grocery store in Tamale, and there are only 2 restaurants where we can safely eat (there might be more, but according to Jason there are only 2 restaurants where we do eat). That’s okay, though. At least there are those two.
On Sunday, May 17 we went to a football match at the Tamale Stadium. We entered through the VVIP entrance, and ended up not having to pay for tickets for some reason. I really enjoyed the game. Neither team was very good, and it was as fun to watch the fans as it was to watch the game. A man sitting in front of us was wearing a shirt that flared out at the waist, as if it were a little girl’s dress. Both times when the local team scored a goal, he made his shirt twirl around in celebration, and I thought it was funny. Everybody got soooo excited when Tamale’s team scored a point; you would have thought they had just been given a million dollars or something. Also, some of the people sitting on the tier below us got really upset about something, and nearly started a brawl. I was happy they subsided, but I think Peter and the other student working out here were disappointed.
Yesterday (May 18) and today (May 19) have been pretty boring. I have played several games of solitaire (with real cards, I don’t have my own computer) while Peter works. Yesterday we made a couple of outings to go out to lunch and to tour the workout facilities at the Tamale stadium. There is a 25-cedi membership fee and a monthly fee of 5 cedis to use the facilities. One Ghana cedi is about 80 cents US, so when I’m shopping I usually just consider one cedi to be one dollar and then I never overspend. Things in Tamale are mostly cheaper than they were in Accra, which is nice.
Every evening since we’ve been here we have watched a couple episodes of Alias on a projector in the living room. Peter and I didn’t bring any movies, and so when Jason goes home and takes his ipod I don’t know what we’ll do in the evenings. Maybe play more games, or maybe we’ll go to sleep earlier.
So that is our life so far.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Leaving on Tuesday

We are leaving for Ghana on Tuesday. We will be in Tamale (pronounced TOM-uh-lay) until the end of August. If you don't know already, Peter has a job there helping people to start microfranchises--really small businesses to help poor people get out of poverty. I am not sure what I'll be doing yet. Probably helping, or volunteering somewhere else. We will have internet access, so never fear, the blog will be updated with lots of fun pictures. More details to come next week, when we figure out just what we've gotten ourselves into. :-)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Watch this!

Last night we watched Elder Bednar's CES fireside, and I thought it was really, really good. You can get the link to it here. What I got out of his talk was that we need to focus less on media-oriented life and more on things that are real. He talked particularly about people who are addiced to online gaming and social networking. While I don't really consider myself an "addict," I do spend more time on the computer than I should, so I appreciated his comments. Check it out! You may receive inspiration on areas you can improve in your life, so you can get the most out of your short time on earth. :-)