Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meeting the Chief

June 29, 2009
Today I met the chief of Tamale. If I had known I was going to meet the chief, I would have worn some African clothes, or at least dressed nicer than I did today. I was invited to go to town to “run some errands” and I thought it would be nice to get out of the house. Jason wanted to meet with the chief to ask him if he could buy the chief’s drums from him, and that was one of the errands on the list today. The chief lives in a compound in the center of Tamale with round huts like the ones in the villages, but all made of concrete. When we first arrived, we had to wait in a little courtyard with many benches in the shade of a tree. There were other chiefs and guards sitting out there waiting. All of the chiefs I have seen wear these hats that have a tight band around the head and then go back to a loose floppy part that hangs over the back of their head. All of the chiefs I have seen also wear glasses and use canes to walk. I’m not sure if they need them or if it is just a sign of being a chief. The chief himself was sitting in one of the round huts with a door facing us, so we could see him inside. He was on a chair on an elevated platform so he would always be seated higher than everybody else. After waiting in the courtyard, Babs (our hotel owner/store manager/friend) came back to us and told us the chief was very busy today, but if we came tomorrow at any time he would see us. I was fine with that; I wasn’t too sure about being with the chief when Jason asked for his drums, in case it was very offensive. Then, someone told us the chief had changed his mind and would see us. We went around to the back side of the main compound and gave some people some money, and then we went into a separate room to see the chief. I guess it was an honor that he took us into a private room to meet with him. We had to remove our shoes to enter. The room was carpeted, which I had never seen before, and it was one of the nicest rooms I’ve seen in Ghana. An old man who was a chief or a subchief led us into the room, and sat on the floor in front of us and clapped. Then he left. (Jason told me later that the clapping signifies shaking hands, because you cannot shake hands with the chief.) Jason started to speak to the chief, and then the chief interrupted him and told him he should speak to Babs, and then Babs would speak to the chief for him. It was a little weird, because the chief would respond directly to Jason, sometimes right after Jason had told something to Babs, and he spoke very good English. I just sat there and said nothing. The chief was very happy to give Jason his old drums if Jason would pay the price of having new ones made. The chief also said he wanted to visit the US. He told us he watches American TV and he enjoys the culture. I really wonder what he would think if he did come to the US. (For starters, it's probably not like whatever TV show he's been watching.) He definitely would not have the special treatment he gets here, and many people would want to shake his hand I am sure. I guess we’ll find out if he ever comes.
So now I have “met” the most powerful man in Tamale. I don’t really feel like I met him, because I was not introduced and he did not acknowledge my presence at all. I’m pretty sure he didn’t look at me the whole time we were there. Still, how many people can say they have sat with the chief?

Crocs, Slave Camp, and Burkina Faso

June 28, 2009
Yesterday we went to Paga, the northernmost city in Ghana. In Paga, there are a couple of ponds with sacred crocodiles in them that you can touch and sit on for photos. The crocodiles are sacred in that they cannot be killed, and supposedly they have never harmed a human. I was skeptical of this, but when we got to the pond I felt like the crocodiles must be pretty safe. There were people washing clothes in the water, and a few men waded several feet from the shoreline (with crocodiles visible nearby) to throw a fishing net into the water. Animals drank from the pond although it is the rainy season and if the pond were dangerous, they could find somewhere else to go. All of these things convinced me that the crocodiles were safe. We paid some local men a fee and they took us to the pond with chickens to lure the crocodiles out of the water. Since there were four of us, we got four chickens. First, they fed a smaller crocodile so it would leave us alone, and then they made a couple of them squawk at the biggest crocodile so it would come out of the water to be fed. I admit I was still a little nervous to go up next to the very biggest crocodile and put my hand on its back.
While we were there taking pictures with the crocodiles, one of the men who was guiding us decided it would be a good idea to throw one of the chickens to some of the smaller crocs who were coming close so they would leave us alone. He didn’t quite throw it close enough for the crocodile to catch it in its mouth, so the chicken ran back straight at me. I realized that if the chicken was right next to me the crocodile would come to me to catch it (and possibly catch me instead of the chicken), so I ran. The chicken followed me. Eventually the chicken passed me and the small crocodiles stopped running at me, in fact they stopped running at all because the chicken got too far away. The whole thing felt very surreal, and afterwards I could hardly believe I had come so close to being attacked by a pack of “tame” crocodiles. I really could have been hurt if the chicken had gotten stuck between me and the crocodiles. In hindsight, I don’t think the picture with the crocodiles was worth the risk.

After photographing the crocodiles, we went across the road to the Pikworo Slave Camp. Pikworo apparently means “place of rocks,” and it is well named. There are small boulders scattered across the landscape, and there are a couple of places where the bedrock juts out of the ground. I’m not sure who ran this slave camp, but it was a pretty small place. We got to see the bowls carved into the bedrock for captured slaves to eat from, and there were only about 20 of them. Our guide told us that there were about 200 slaves in the camp at a time, and they would eat in shifts. We also got to see the drum rocks where the slaves entertained themselves in the evening. These rocks are apparently hollow in some places so they sound like drums. Some locals played a couple of songs for us that were fun to listen to. Our guide told us that they were the same songs that the slaves used to play, and that they sang a song about how lucky the slaves were to be going to good jobs in a new land. Somehow, I doubt that’s really what they sang about. But who knows? Maybe they really wanted to believe things would be okay for them. I think it is also interesting that the chief of Paga (and the slave camp is right in the middle of Paga) was very opposed to slavery and would lead raids on the camp from time to time to try and free the slaves. I’m guessing the slave camp must not have been constantly occupied, or else it would have been really easy to wipe it out.

After seeing the slave camp, we decided to cross the border into Burkina Faso, just so we could say we had been there. A man told us we could just walk across the border if we weren’t planning to stay in Burkina Faso, so we told the people at the Ghana Immigrations building that’s what we wanted to do. The man there wanted us to leave our passports as assurance that we would come back, but we told him if we had to leave our passports we wouldn’t go. He laughed and then told us to go on through. As soon as we walked out of the gate, people began to speak to us in French. We would say “Hello” and then they would go away; I think they must not have spoken English. The signs also were all in French, except for the baskets for sachets of “Pure Water.” I was a little puzzled about why there was nothing from the Burkina Faso people to officially allow us into the country. We walked around for about 10 minutes, took our picture by a Burkina Faso sign to prove we had been there, and walked out. When we got back to the car, Peter read in the guidebook that the Burkina Faso welcome gate is about a kilometer past the Ghana exit gate. So were we really in Burkina Faso? I think yes, if only because of the sudden language change. But you are free to disagree, because we didn’t “officially” enter the country.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Strange Cows

Here in Ghana, animals roam the streets freely. The most common animals are goats/sheep (I'm not really sure how to tell the difference; they all look the same to me), but cows are very common as well. Very few of these animals have markings, but supposedly everybody in the community knows who they belong to and only uses their own animals for food. I'm not sure about the protocols dealing with roadkill, but it has to happen fairly often because of people's poor driving and the animals' stupidity.

But back to the cows. The cows here are the strangest looking cows I have ever seen. Most of them have these odd humps on their backs, which seem to be fatty and not bony. I have seen them wobbling back and forth on some of the cows. It is like they are crosses between cows and camels. Many of them also have ripply fringes of loose skin hanging down from their necks, some from their bellies as well. The horns also seem to grow however they feel like: up, down, sideways, curved, etc. There isn't a lot of uniformity. So here is a picture of one of these strange cows for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


You can see my June 11 entry for more details. The TZ is the white stuff in my hand (as it's mostly gone, you can tell it is the part of the meal that I liked), the meat is Guinea Fowl, and the soup is something weird and gross.

Beginning of June

June 9, 2009
Ever since we got back from Mole I have had a terrible cold. Yesterday I felt a lot worse, but today I have a worse cough. Don’t worry—the symptoms of a cold are not the symptoms for malaria or typhoid, so I’m not dangerously ill. Nothing of note has happened the last couple of days. We are just continuing on with our jobs as usual.
There have been a couple of funny things we have seen that I have wanted to write about, but forgot. Here is one that I remember right now.
Almost all of the taxis around here have things written on the back, probably for good fortune or to send a message or something. The other day when we were driving around, we saw a taxi proclaiming:
God is God
People here don’t eat burgers, and so I’m not really sure what was meant by that.
And here is another. Today, Zet, our cook, told me that Africa is good for me because I am getting fatter since I’ve been here. I know she meant it as a compliment because here it is good to be fat, so I tried to seem happy to hear that. I thought it was funny that what is a compliment here is an insult at home. I don’t actually think it is true. Apparently she also had told Peter this a few times before, and he (at least he said this to me) thought to himself that I had actually lost weight since being here. Now don’t anybody worry that I’m very concerned about my weight, either gaining or losing. I mostly just thought it was funny.
Another thing. People here call plastic “rubber.” And a plastic bag is also a rubber. It really confused me when I first heard it, because there is really no rubber around. Just plastic.
June 11, 2009
Today I have tried two new Ghanaian foods. The first is a little bean biscuit called kosi or something like that. It is generally eaten for breakfast. It was good, and it was a little bit spicy. The second new food I have tried today is called TZ (pronounced tee-zet). It is basically a cross between mashed potatoes and homemade play-dough that is made out of corn flour. You dip it into soup. It wasn’t the best food I’ve ever eaten, but it was fine. However, the soup we ate with it was AWFUL. It didn’t really have any flavor, and its texture was that of egg whites. I am not sure that there were not raw egg whites mixed in. No way to tell. However, I ate it anyways, just not very much of it. We’ll see if I am sick tomorrow or not. : -)
We also took our first stab at making pizza here. It turned out pretty well. We used Lauren’s dough recipe (see my blog in April if you’re interested) and some canned spaghetti sauce somebody left here. We will definitely be making it again. It was nice to have food that was like home.
Felicia, one of our Ghanaian friends/employees, came over later in the evening and we told her we had eaten pizza for dinner. She thought it was very funny and asked me why we had a food that was named after Peter, or had we eaten him for dinner. (She pronounces his name Peetah). We realized that people here pronounce pizza “piza” and with the “t” sound in our pronunciation, she thought we ate “Peetah” for dinner.

June 13, 2009
I’m happy to report that I did not get sick from any of the food. In fact, I have not been sick at all except for the cold I had earlier this week. It has been a blessing.
The past couple of days I have been thinking about all of the things I miss about home. It’s been super boring here, and yesterday I didn’t leave the house at all. So here is my list:
1. Raw vegetables and salads. We can’t eat them here unless they are rinsed in bleach first, and lettuce is never safe to eat.
2. Milk products. At home, I eat/drink TONS of milk products, and here, people don’t. They’re hard to find, expensive, and for the most part not very good.
3. Having a job that I like. My job here is boring and stressful. The past couple of days have been particularly boring and stressful.
4. Having a job where I get paid.
5. People who speak American English, and who understand it.
6. Not being a foreigner.
7. Variety in food.
8. Variety in clothing (I’ve started to get sick of the clothes I brought.)
9. Reliable electricity. It is SO frustrating to have the power go out about once per day on average. It’s especially bad if it goes out multiple times in one day.
10. Reliable internet.
11. Fast internet.
12. Family and Friends. You deserve to be at the top of this list.
13. Not having to discuss/listen to business discussions 24/7. There is never a break from work.
14. Weekends.
15. Not having to count money every day.
16. Not having people come ask me for money every day (this is for my job, not beggars. I don’t see beggars every day, because I don’t leave the house every day. But as the “accountant and disburser/collector of funds”, I am perpetually being asked for money).
17. Good roads.
18. Traffic laws that are predictable and generally obeyed.
19. Being in a place where terrible diseases are not lurking around every corner.
20. Being in a place without mosquitoes. (Hurray for the desert!)
21. Mountains.
22. Being able to be cold or warm whenever I want.
23. Car air conditioning.
24. Grocery stores.
25. Ice cream.
26. Citrus fruit. It’s not common here, and the oranges I have eaten have been awful.
27. Soft mattresses.
28. Shower heads that are fixed to the wall and higher than my head.
29. Plumbing that doesn’t back the septic tank smell into the shower on a regular basis (or ever).
30. Movies.
31. Mexican food.
32. Good beef.
33. Cooking my own food.
34. Pandora.
35. Comics.
36. Pizza.
To compliment this homesick list, here are a few things that I love about being here.
1. The fruit here is INCREDIBLE. Particularly the bananas, mangoes, and pineapples. Best I’ve ever tasted.
2. New experiences.
3. New people.
4. Learning about another culture.
5. Visiting villages.
6. African children.
7. African music.
8. African fabrics.
9. Seeing the women who are working on this business succeed.
10. New money. It’s kind of fun.
11. Humidity. Honestly, I really like it.
12. I generally have more free time here, which is sometimes nice.
13. I always have something to write on the blog about.
14. Fun things to photograph.
15. Interesting animals.
16. Interesting plants.
17. Hard, heavy rainfall.
18. Enormous mud puddles. They’re fun to look at. They’re also awful for driving and for the mosquitoes, but if you are inside they are nice.
19. Waking up every morning and having breakfast already cooked.
20. Not washing dishes.
21. Stellar laundry detergent.
22. Sleeping 10+ hours every night. (I go to sleep really early here. It’s dark by 6PM.)
23. Appreciating things I used to take for granted.
24. Learning a new language. I only know a few words so far, but I will learn more before I leave I’m sure.

June 14, 2009
Today I want to write about Ghanaian phone manners. Pretty much everybody here has cell phones. Even in villages with no electricity, people have cell phones. About once a week they walk to a place with electricity to charge their phone. There is almost no situation that is more important than answering your phone. If you are in the middle of a meeting or a conversation, or just about anything else, a Ghanaian will answer his phone before continuing it. Our employees often make exceptions to this when they are talking to/meeting with us, probably because one of the bosses complained and told them it was rude.
It also appears that if you have a Ghanaian’s phone number and you are friends, they expect you to call frequently and for no reason at all, except to touch base. I discovered this from two experiences. First, a few days ago a girl who works at our store gave me her phone number so we could coordinate rides from the store to the Palace. I ended up not needing to call her, and so I never did. Yesterday, she chided me for not calling her. I was surprised, because after the rides were coordinated (without the use of cell phones) I really didn’t have another reason for contacting her. Secondly, this morning Fairuza called me. She asked how I was, and said, “I hope I will see you tomorrow,” and then said goodbye. The conversation was probably under 30 seconds long. I would really never consider calling somebody for that. I probably have terrible Ghanaian phone manners, but I don’t plan to change.

African Outfit #2

I think the headwraps look good on African women, but I think mine makes me look like a cancer patient. Which is what Peter lovingly calls me if I wear it.

Peter also has some African outfits that I will photograph whenever he decides to wear them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Larabanga Mosque

This is the mosque at Larabanga. The legend of its creation goes something like this: There was an important Muslim man who was traveling (sometime around the early 1400s, but nobody knows for sure), and he decided to throw his spear and wherever it landed he would build a settlement. His spear landed on the site of this mosque, and its foundations were already built, presumably by Allah who wanted him to stay there. He built the mosque, and when he died they buried him underneath the tree you see in the left of the picture. Every year, the villagers make a special soup with the leaves from the burial tree and everybody has to eat it.


Mole Park

June 6, 2009
This morning we drove to visit Mole (pronounced MOW-lay) National Park, a wildlife preserve. It was a beautiful morning for a drive—overcast and not too hot. The cars here do not have air conditioning, so you really appreciate days that are overcast. We drove over the White Volta on our way. It is the first river I have seen here, and it was pretty. I would never go in the water for fear of getting Guinea Worm, but it was nice to look at. The scenery along the way and once we got to Mole was very nice, much more lush than near Tamale although it isn’t very far away. It also seemed to be a bit more humid, but that could have been my imagination.
Once we hit the turnoff for the 86 kilometer road to Mole National Park, the drive became very unpleasant. The road is never good, but it was especially bad because it rained the night before. The water washed away the soil so the entire road was covered in bumps not unlike a rumble strip next to the freeway. There were some parts of the road that were smoother than others, so we would try very hard to drive in those parts of the road. The road itself was raised a couple of feet and there was about a car-width of flat dirt space on either side. These flat parts down off the road were usually the best places to drive, when they weren’t full of puddles. The drive reminded me of being in an inner tube behind a boat on VERY choppy water. You bounce all the time, sometimes you go over the wake, or back inside, and you hold on for dear life and hope you don’t tip over.
I’m pretty sure the road should have a warning sign not to take infants on it, because the shaking would probably damage their brains.
It took us three to four hours to get through the road. We stopped a few times to play Frisbee and walk around to have a break from the shaking.
We also stopped right before we got to the park at a small town called Larabanga. Our tour book talked about the oldest mosque in Ghana, and we thought it would be fun to see it. We happened upon it by chance—we took a wrong turn, and as we were turning around we noticed we were right next to the mosque. It has pretty interesting architecture, although it is not the only building of its kind in Ghana. However, I did not really enjoy our stop in Larabanga. The tour book warned that the people of Larabanga all accost you and ask you for money, and it was exactly right. Everybody asked our names, and then would start little conversations with you where they would tell you a story about how their life was hard and ask you to donate money to their cause. I just felt very defensive the whole time I was there, and the mosque wasn’t really cool enough to justify the uncomfortableness of being swarmed by well-practiced beggars. So if you ever come to Mole, don’t bother stopping in Larabanga.
The Mole Park Motel, or whatever it was called, was actually very nice. It had a pool, where we spent the majority of our time, and I felt very relaxed. There is only one (public) pool in Tamale and it is always very crowded, so I will probably never go swimming there. The motel is on the edge of a cliff and overlooks two watering holes. It was fun to look over the beautiful scenery and see all the animals. There are warthogs ALL over the place at Mole. We got very close to many of them. I learned two things about them—first, they kneel down on their front knees when they are eating, which was really fun to watch, and second, when they run they look EXACTLY like Puumbaa in the Lion King. I guess the Disney animators did their homework about how warthogs run. It seems like there might be a scene where Puumbaa kneels down as well. Warthogs and antelopes were the only animals we saw today.

June 7, 2009
This morning we woke up VERY early—5:15 was when our alarm went off. Neither one of us slept well, because the air conditioner would turn itself off periodically and every time it did we both thought the power had gone off (which it hadn’t) and woke up. Even so, we got out of bed and went down to the observation deck to watch the animals. We wanted to arrange to go on a walking safari at 6:00, but they wouldn’t let us go before 7. About 6:30 was when we saw the most animals from the observation deck, mostly different kinds of antelope running all over the place. It was really fun to watch.
Our walking safari turned out to be a very nice hike through the park. We were paired with a group of four students volunteering with an NGO that helps people to get cataract surgery in Tamale. The first animals we saw (apart from the warthogs) were baboons. They like to hang out near the staff quarters, and our guide told us that if the staff don’t lock their doors the baboons will get in and eat their food. There were a couple of baby baboons that were fun to watch. We also saw one baboon carrying a different kind of monkey as if it had been a baby, which I found very interesting.
The landscape was beautiful and it was really fun to hike around and look for animals. The big animal which everyone wanted to see of course was the elephants. Eventually, we found about five elephants sitting in a watering hole and having a bath. They would spray themselves with water every few seconds or so. I would say we were about 20 feet away from them, so we were very close. I wished we could have seen some baby elephants too, but our guide told us that they stay in the interior of the park with their mothers and only the males venture out to the edges of the park (at least in the rainy season, when water is plentiful).
There are lions in the park, but they are most active at night and it is rare to see them. Night is when they hunt for food. After hearing this, I better understood the song “the Lion Sleeps Tonight.” You hope the lion is sleeping at night and so it isn’t going to come and eat you, or your animals.
After we saw the elephants, we headed back up the hill to the motel. We swam in the pool until lunch, and then we packed up to head home. While we were swimming, a baboon with a baby came right over the short wall and was looking at us, which was fun to see.
We both got our first sunburns of the trip while we were swimming, despite our sunscreen.
Because it didn’t rain at all while we were in the park, the divots in the road had evened out a little and the drive back was not as bad as the drive in. It was still VERY bumpy and still not an experience I am anxious to have again, but it was better.
We ate dinner at our friend Babs’ house. He is the owner of the hotel where we are staying. They made us Guinea Fowl, yam pottage, a blackeyed pea stew, a rice dish, plain rice with a vegetable stew, and fried yams and fried plantains. Although I think yams/sweet potatoes in the US are disgusting, I like them here. They are not sweet, and they are white. However, every single one of the dishes they served (except obviously the guinea fowl, fried yams, and fried plantains) had fish as one of the ingredients, which I determined because I could see little shiny fish scales in the food. It all tasted good, but being a person who does not like fish very much and thinks fish scales are pretty horrible to look at, it was hard for me to eat the food. I was also afraid of finding fish bones. However, I appreciated their hospitality and it was fun to try new dishes.

Friday, June 5, 2009

African Dress #1

Fairuza got our dresses back to us the same day we went to take the measurement. I am definitely impressed. The dress is super comfortable, and I like it a lot! Here I am with Beth.

"The Juju Man"

As he was "cutting" his lip.

June 1-5

June 1, 2009
Today was a pretty slow day. I just worked in the warehouse all day long. My job is kind of frustrating because the cost of the products going out and the amount of money and product coming back at the end of the day never quite add up—either too much or not enough. It’s stressful.
This evening I went on a walk with the other woman who is working on the project. It was really nice. It was actually the first time I went on a walk just to walk since I’ve been here. The evening was really nice. There weren’t a lot of stars because it was a little cloudy.
We also watched Top Gun this evening. What a stupid movie. Sorry if it’s your favorite. I thought it was gross that the love interest was so much older than Tom Cruise, and she was really ugly.

2 June.
This morning, we had crazy power surges that fried three computer charge cords, including ours. It’s kind of a big problem to not have your computer when all of the work you need to do involves the computer, but we made do with the 2 computers we had that still worked. So we actually didn’t have power to our computer for the last several days, and I made notes for what to write about for each day. With the power surges (and then, of course, the power outages), something happened to our water pump so we had no water to the house. I washed my hands with water from a pink bucket, which was an interesting experience. Nothing like Africa to make you appreciate everything you have.
We went out to lunch today, and a little girl at the restaurant came over and sat at one of the chairs at our table. She was too little to talk for real, so she just babbled in baby talk. Beth, the other woman who is here, taught her how to play peek-a-boo and she thought it was a lot of fun. She would walk back and forth from her table to our table during the time we were there, and she cried when we left. So adorable. : -)

3 June
Today we went to a sales campaign in a village called Napaili. It is the poorest village that we work in—they don’t have electricity, but most others do for at least some of the houses at some times of the day. It was actually the village that was the most fun to visit. Before we started the campaign, some of the women started singing to entertain themselves. It was a call-and-response style song, with the caller walking around the group. Some of the women shrieked loudly during parts of the song. I couldn’t really figure out why. It was so fun to listen to. I also heard a Muslim prayer for the first time in this village. One man led the prayer, and after he would say a few words everybody would say a one syllable word, and then after several of those everybody said a sentence together. Also really interesting and really cool.
This village also had some very sad things. There were many children who had belly button hernias. I’m not sure why. Peter said he has seen it in other villages also, but I never noticed it before. I’m not sure if it is a health problem or just a result of odd bellybutton-tying practices. I also saw two children who I am pretty sure were starving to death. Literally. Their skin was all stretched across their faces, and their heads looked too big for their bodies. Their bellies were not round like most of the other children’s (this is also from malnourishment), but they were thin. Maybe that means they were further along the starvation path? One of them (a boy) was losing patches of hair from his head. When I first saw them, all I could do was feel sad and kind of horrified that I was seeing a person who was really and truly starving. As I thought about it later that evening, I realized that I could probably do something to help, and maybe I should have tried while I was there. I also felt kind of discouraged as I realized that even if I gave them food, there was no sustainable, long-term way for me to help them and make sure that they never would die from starvation. I talked to Peter about it and we decided that the best way for us to help these children and others like them is to do our work here as best as we can, to give people in these communities opportunities to work and access to products that will improve their lives. I still don’t really feel resolution on the issue, but it’s nice to know that I am doing something that is helping people right now, and hopefully will help them in the future.

4 June
This evening I watched a little boy about 10 years old leave the other children he was praying with and go, all alone, to his prayer mat to do his prayers. He actually did them before the call to prayer. I was touched by his faith, even though he was so young and even though his (probably) siblings were not participating.
5 June
This morning, we went fabric shopping with a woman who is the wife of our store manager. Her name is Fairuza. Afterwards we went to two different tailors. One tailor already made Peter a couple of shirts and now he will make my dress, and the other tailor is making matching dresses for me and for Beth, compliments of Fairuza. I will take pictures of myself in my new clothes when I get them back.
We met some of Fairuza’s sisters. One of them has a strange rash on her skin that she has been unable to get rid of, despite going to the doctor in Accra (probably the best doctor around). The doctors prescribed her medicine for everything from allergies to itching to acne, and it’s helping a little bit but not a lot. Peter is giving her some Miracell this evening so we’ll see if that helps it at all.
Speaking of acne, three different people here have commented on the acne I have on my forehead (probably from the sunscreen) and diagnosed it as a mosquito bite. I didn’t bother to correct them, but I think it’s kind of funny.
In the afternoon, we went to the bank. I was talking to a man who helped us at the bank yesterday, and when Peter came into the bank I mentioned that he was my husband. The man told me to tell Peter that he was going to steal me away. I thought it was funny. Here, divorce is common and it actually would not be bad or uncommon for a man to steal another man’s wife away. For example, Peter the security guard lost one of his wives to a taxi driver. (Interesting side note—Peter is a Christian man with four wives. Well, only two now because one died and one ran off with the taxi driver.) According to an anthropology book I read before I came out here, in the Dagbani culture your relationship with your siblings is stronger than your relationship with your spouse. Interesting stuff.

The rest of May

May 24, 2009
Today was the second day of training. I was actually able to participate and do some of the training, which was interesting. I really wish I could speak the language so I wouldn’t have to rely on an interpreter so much. We are planning to take a class, so we will be better able to communicate with the people who live here.
This afternoon, we went to the home of Felicia, one of the Ghanaian women who is working with us on the project. She lives in a concrete duplex with a tin roof (a wealthy home, if you will recall). We went inside her home and met her two little girls: Lucky, who is 4, and Melchizia, who is 9 months. They are beautiful girls. The inside of her home was interesting. The house was pretty small. There was a kitchen as you walked in, and then a hallway to the main room. There were couches along the wall and then some very nice satiny curtains dividing the sitting room from a sleeping room, where we saw the baby. Peter noticed a very nice TV in the sitting room, but I didn’t see it so I cannot describe it. We sat outside under a tree and chatted after our little tour of the house. We sampled Guinea Fowl eggs, which taste exactly like chicken eggs except they are smaller. (Actually, we have been eating Guinea Fowl eggs for a while now, but since she wanted us to try them we did.) Guinea Fowl meat also tastes just like chicken, except there is not so much meat on the animal. I will post a picture of a Guinea Fowl on here sometime; they are pretty funny looking. While we were sitting, Felicia called over various vendors who were passing by and did her grocery shopping. She bought some enormous yams and a couple of bags of small, spicy red peppers. She also stopped the corn flour vendor so we could see what it looks like (just like wheat flour, only perhaps a little brighter white). It was fun to pass the time there and see what a typical Ghanaian family would do on a Sunday afternoon.
We had our own sacrament meeting here this evening. Although there is a temple in Accra and a fairly large LDS population in the country, there is no LDS church or LDS mission here, probably because the region is about 70 percent Muslim (which would make proselyting difficult). It was fun to do it just the two of us.
It was a very nice Sunday.
May 25, 2009
Today we went out to visit the sales agents again. It was very nice to see them all again. The children in the villages were a lot more interested in us today. The children we have met so far either wave to us or look terrified when they see us. One of the little girls at the first village we visited actually held my arm when we were walking around. I also noticed that one of the girls in that village had Down’s syndrome. I thought that was interesting just because I know that people with Down’s syndrome often have other health problems, and so she must be pretty strong to have survived so well with no (western) medical attention at all. In another village, all the children wanted to shake my hand and they giggled and laughed. All the kids here are just adorable, and they are fun to be around. I just wish I could talk to them.
This afternoon I was tired out from the morning trips to the villages, so I stayed home while Peter went to the art market. He bought his djembe drum, and he is really excited about it. He also bought me a necklace as a late birthday present, which was very sweet.
We spent the evening putting labels on containers for the women to sell their products. It’s not very exciting, but it needs to be done.
May 26, 2009
It’s kind of funny to look at the clock on this computer and realize that it’s 3AM at home. Here, it’s 9AM. I haven’t really had a hard time adjusting to the time here. I haven’t had a hard time falling asleep, or woken up at strange hours and been unable to get back to sleep. Basically I just sleep a lot and then feel tired a lot. Peter has not been quite so lucky. He has a hard time sleeping at night here. I’m not really sure why.
I also want to tell you about the mosquitoes here. I have seen a couple of them, and they are large by US standards. Last night there was a dead one on my pillow, and it scared me a little. Mosquitoes are not supposed to be in air conditioned rooms, and our AC was on all day long yesterday. Maybe it got in when the AC was dead and then it died because it is now too cold. That’s what I’ll hope, at least. I get one or two new mosquito bites every day. So far, I don’t have malaria or any other bad diseases that mosquitoes carry. I don’t think Peter has gotten any mosquito bites, lucky for him.
Peter wanted me to write about how we make phone calls here. The system is very different from how we do it in the US. Although they do offer prepaid plans, most people are on a pay-as-you-go system. When you want to add new minutes to your phone, you stop at one of the millions of vendors that sell little scratch-cards with codes for more minutes. You scratch off the little film, type the code into your phone, send it, and the phone gets reloaded with money. The largest denomination of phone money that I have seen is a 7.5 cedi card (about $6 US). You only get charged for outgoing calls from your phone (or for outgoing texts, I would assume), and there are different rates depending on if you call somebody in your network or outside of it. It is very cheap to call the US, about 15 cents per minute. I’m not sure if that is Ghana or US currency. So if you are dying for a phone call from Ghana, let us know. Or if you are dying to call us and you can get a better rate than 15 cents per minute, we can give you our phone number and it won’t cost us a thing! We have a phone card that my grandmother gave us that doesn’t actually work from Ghana, so we could give you the code to that. It has been fun to talk to people from Ghana, especially because we thought we wouldn’t be able to because our internet has been very temperamental.
May 30, 2009
Today was the grand opening of the BonVi store in Tamale. (BonVi is the company we are working with in Ghana). I think it was a success. There were many people who came by, and the chief of Tamale even honored us with his presence. It was cool to see him. He had a man follow him around carrying an umbrella, even though it wasn’t raining at the time of his visit. The chief cannot be rained upon, apparently.
While we were there at the store opening, we had a visit from a street entertainer dressed up as “the juju man” according to Fredrik. I am going to post his picture along with this for you. He had a couple of men with him playing drums, and somebody made a very distinct whistle for him. He was followed by a very large crowd. When he first came around the corner to our store, I was afraid of him. I wasn’t sure if he was part of the visitations planned for the day, but it turned out he was not. When he arrived, he took out a pretty large knife and made some cuts into a post we had in front of the store so nobody would park there, and into a piece of cardboard. After showing us that the knife would cut, he sawed it into his stomach, and his lip, and gouged it into his eye, and somehow “miraculously” he wasn’t cut. After collecting money from the viewers, he went on his way. He left behind a bunch of children that thought it was fun to shake my hand. The rest of the day was uneventful. We went out for lunch, went back to the palace, and then went out for dinner.
I haven’t written about my jobs yet. I am the accountant/banker for the trip, and the warehouse director. The banker/accountant means that anybody who takes money has to come to me and ask for what they need, give me receipts, and anyone who earns it during the day selling products comes to me to turn in their money and an account of what they have sold. For the warehouse director job, I am in charge of making sure that we always have enough inventory on hand and sending a weekly report of what has been sold and used up during the week. They hired a local man as the warehouse manager (that’s why my “title” is director) to do this job, but he wasn’t really working during the initial part of the project (as in, he would sit around and do nothing while the people “under” him were working, and one time he fell asleep) so they asked me to be in charge of making sure that the work got done. We don’t have any “underlings” anymore, and the project directors from the US were worried that the local man wouldn’t be proactive enough to keep the warehouse up and going. We worked together for one day so far (yesterday), and it actually went very well. I think there were two problems: first, managers here probably just do nothing so he thought he was doing his job, and second, he has never had a job before so he really doesn’t know how to do an inventory or how to tell how much stock to prepare for sale, etc. I am hoping that if I can provide good direction at the beginning he will learn how to do the job and be comfortable doing it so when I leave he can take over. We’ll see how it goes.
I have to admit that I don’t love either job. I don’t like having everybody come and ask me for money because I don’t always know if what they are asking for is a legitimate request, or if the price they are giving me is a legitimate price, etc. So I decided I will just be the banker and give them what they ask for, and then if the bosses have a problem with it they can talk to the person who asked for the money.
May 31, 2009
Today was a long and busy day. We had two village campaigns for BonVi that we had to go to. At the first one, the village children started playing with me. I taught them how to do high fives, and then we played a game I knew as “down by the banks” where you sit in a circle and slap the hand of the person next to you and it goes around the circle. I’m not sure how well the kids understood. At first they played really well, and then some of them started trying to hit each other as hard as they could, and the boy next to me imitated slicing my hand or gouging it with a knife a couple of times, and I decided we had enough of that game. Then we played London Bridge is Falling Down. They thought that was fun. I had fun except for when the kids would fight with each other over who would slap my hand next or for different parts of the game. One little boy fell down and started crying, and I didn’t know what to do, and his mother came over and asked what we were doing. I told her we were playing a game, but I worried that she thought I was a bad influence or something. Oh well. She can just chalk it up to “white people are ignorant,” which is what a village chief told Fredrik when he apologized in advance for any offenses we might cause.
This evening, we went to another football match. (In case you don’t know, this means “soccer game” in American.) This time it was the Ghana national team playing the Uganda national team. It was insanely crowded, and I was afraid for my safety a couple of times. People would just push and push, and then there were cars trying to get through the crowd and I thought I would either be trampled or hit. We survived. I don’t think I’ll go to another match, or if I do, I will go very very early. Some funny things from this match:
1. At the beginning of the game, a group of people marched around the field with a very large advertisement on a piece of material like the parachutes you play with in elementary school. You couldn’t really read what it said, but you knew somebody was sponsoring the game.
2. The power went out at the stadium at half time. I was terrified at first, thinking that people would go crazy and freak out (as they would in the US). However, people here didn’t seem to mind too much. There was an elevated amount of talking as people wondered what was going on, but nobody seemed upset about it. Eventually the power came back and they resumed the game.
3. There were two groups of people with different versions of the name “Ghana National Football Team Supporters” who provided band music and dancing in the stands for the ENTIRE game. They stopped when the power went out; otherwise, I think they would have played straight through half time. They were on opposite sides of the field and the music they played kind of clashed. There was no clear melody. However, it was fun to have the African drums as background to the match. It definitely upped the enthusiasm of the crowd.