Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Passout Ceremony at the Saloon

Before we go to the saloon, an update. Peter was feeling really good the past couple of days, and then last night he started feeling really bad again. We're not quite sure why, but today he is feeling okay again. I am still fine, and still don't think I am likely to get typhoid. Thank you everyone for your prayers, and if you would continue to remember us we would really appreciate it.

About a month ago, we had a sales campaign at a local church, and Peter was given the invitation you see above. Because the text is kind of hard to read and for some reason it won't put it the right direction, here is what it says:

In the name of Allah most gracious, most merciful.
The above mentioned salloon wish to invite the company of Alhaji, Hajia, Mr. & Mrs. ............ to witness the passout ceremony,

On its surface, this invitation is very confusing. To be invited to a Muslim saloon is interesting, because good Muslims do not drink alcohol. To witness a passout ceremony at a Muslim saloon must be a very interesting ritual.

It turns out that a "passout ceremony" is a graduation ceremony. You "pass out" of your class. And our saloon is really just a salon.

Too bad.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Saga Continues

So, we still don't know for sure if Rachel has either Typhoid or Malaria because she didn't get tested. Apparently when she first went in, the guy looked up holding an uncovered tube of blood from the previous patient (remember, Rachel is not a fan of blood). Then he sat her down and grabbed a thin line of plastic tube that was wet. For half a second she thought that it would be used to draw the blood, and her immediate reaction was "I can not let that go inside of me," and freaking out, she left the room. For those of you that are wondering, the plastic tube was used to tie off your arm to help the nurse find the vein.

Rachel decided that though she probably didn't have Typhoid as she had gotten a vaccination for it before we left, she did have a good chance of having malaria and so she is now on the malaria treatment with me which includes four days of 8 pills per day.

As for the rest of the staff and habitants of the house hold, the other white people are fine, and all the African staff have low levels of typhoid. In fact, the nurse didn't even want to treat them because it was so normal and not serious yet. I guess having typhoid perpetually is just part of life in Africa, among other things.

On a last note, many have asked when we get home. I will be coming home August 31st. Rachel may be coming home sooner depending on if a job she applied for wants to interview her (or she might just go home early anyways - she hasn't decided yet). I should mention that this is kind of her dream job - assistant curator at a museum in Orem, which is why she's willing to fly back early just for the interview.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Trip to the Local Clinic

At 1AM Tuesday morning, I awoke feeling quite nauseous, and thus began the a thrilling night during which neither Rachel nor I slept - she covering her ears with the pillows and me hugging the toilet. Tuesday was fairly uneventful. I spent most of the day with a queasy stomach in bed.

Wednesday I was at about 80% and enjoyed a nice beef hot plate meal at a new (to me anyways) restaurant in town. I slept great that night and awoke this morning feeling 100% better and ready to work. I did until 1PM that is. Around that time the nausea hit suddenly and I decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to get checked out at the clinic. That decision may have had something to do with reading the guide book this morning that said if you think you have malaria, get medical attention immediately.

So, I grabbed our little garbage can in our bathroom (in case I didn't make it to the clinic) and jumped in the car. From there my Swedish boss friend raced (literally - I was almost afraid of dying in a car accident before we made it to the hospital, though I am very grateful for his assistance) me to the clinic. The clinic was small and had a small waiting room with windows around it for the dispensary (pharmacy), cashier and registrar. I was registered in as Mr. Peter Harrison despite my objections, after which I paid my 7 cedis (~5 dollars) and was immediately taken to have my blood pressure and weight taken. Being white here certainly has its advantages I think because unlike everyone else, I went right in to see the doctor who had them test me for malaria and typhoid.

From his office, I paid my 9 cedis for the tests and entered the Laboratory, where they took my blood between random attacks of nausea. Basically there was some other random guy next to me and they pulled the needle out of him, stuck it in me and sucked out a bunch of blood. Very efficient. Just kidding. They use disposable syringes and needles. Anyways, they took my blood sample and told me to wait for 40 minutes. So, I headed to the bathroom where I awaited the results hovering over the toilet.

Conveniently enough, just when I was feeling well enough to sit in the waiting room, the results came out and I met with a woman doctor or nurse (not sure which). She showed me the lovely results - I had tested positive for the malaria parasite AND I had tested very positive for the typhoid. From there she indicated that the typhoid was bad by pointing to the 1/320 number on my lab results and telling me that usually they were around 1/120 for typhoid cases. Great.

So, as I sat hugging my trash can (yes I carried it with me throughout the whole excursion), the nurse wrote out a nice long list of drugs for me to get at the dispensary. Thinking I was finished after the pharmacist informed me how many pills I would be taking over the next 1o days, I was handed two boxes of medicine and two disposable syringes and told to go back to the nurse. She had me sit on a bench and wait for a guy to inject me with what is apparently one of their strongest antibiotics.

Turned out I had purchased one box of antibiotics too many. The pharmacist came and took one away and gave me my 6 cedis back. That made only 13 cedis total (less than 10 dollars) for all my medication. Anyways, the injections guy stuck the needle into the back of my hand, which was a new experience and not one that I'd like having again. I'm pretty sure the needle went in about an inch or so up my vein. Minutes before I was injected I asked him if there were any side effects to which he replied that some people vomit immediately after getting the injection. Sure enough, as soon as all the medicine was in me, the nausea hit hard. Fortunately I didn't have to use my little garbage can and when I walked out of his room I saw my good friend Abe who had come to take me home.

So, here I am back in bed, with a very achy tummy and a pile of meds, wondering how much longer this story will get before its over.

Addendum: Rachel just left to get tested. Apparently Typhoid is very contagious (who knew?). Anyways, everyone in our little house is getting tested. I guess we'll just have to wait to see how many new characters have joined this adventure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Loom for Mom

We saw this man weaving, and took a picture for my mom. (She also weaves, although her loom looks a little different than this one.) The man didn't speak English, but I'm sure it works just like any other loom.

Where did July go?

July 10, 2009

I haven’t written in my journal for a while. There hasn’t seemed to be a whole lot worth writing about. Whenever we go to the villages, children shout “sinaminga!” and wave to us. Sinaminga means white person. Today when we visited one house, all of the children started saying “sinaminga bah tow fee.” I asked Abraham (employee) what that meant, because I thought it was all Dagbani. Apparently “bah tow fee” is supposed to be English, “buy toffee.” I have never seen toffee in Ghana, so apparently somebody once brought them toffee and somebody else made up the chant and taught it to every kid in the district. After learning what it meant, EVERY time some kids would start shouting at us, I would hear at least one would ask us to buy them toffee. A couple of adults even said it to us.

In the evening we went to Zagyuri, my favorite village. The kids in this village recognize me and come to say hello whenever we are there. Today, they taught me a hand clapping game and another game where you stand in a circle and sing a song and take turns dancing in the middle. It was really fun to play with them. One of the girls (I think she is our sales agent’s daughter, and she is kind of defensive of me as “hers” and always pushes her way right next to me) tried to climb into the truck with me when we were leaving, which I thought was cute. I’m sure she would have been crying within the hour if we did take her home with us.

We started taking Dagbani classes this week. It has been really useful to start to understand what people are talking about, and to have a few words to communicate with them. After our first class, we were discussing African languages with one of our employees, and he told us that if we were to learn Hausa (a Nigerian language) it would confuse us because Hausa has “he” and “she.” Dagbani, and other Ghanaian languages apparently, do not have words for “he” and “she” so it is basically impossible to know a person’s gender when somebody is talking about them. It is really confusing for someone to be talking about someone you know is a man and say “she goes to school for such-and-such.” The idea that a language with “he” and “she” would confuse us was hilarious to me, because we are native English speakers and “he” and “she” are natural to us. I told him this, but I don’t think he understood.

July 16
There have been a few things I have wanted to write about over the past several days, but today is the first time I’ve been able to get the computer to myself.
A couple of days ago, we were in Zagyuri again. My little friend who tried to climb into the car with me put a very small (about fingernail-sized) chunk of dirty coconut into my hand and started saying “Eat! Eat!” I was very touched by her generosity, but I really couldn’t eat the food she was sharing with me because it would make me very sick. So I smiled and said “You eat it,” and she did and she giggled. I don’t think she was offended. Still, in a place where people are so poor, and perpetually ask you to give them things, sometimes you find truly selfless giving. On a visit to another village, the woman we were interviewing had another business selling earrings, and she gave me a pair. They were cute, but gave my ears a nice infection so I haven’t worn them again. We offered to buy them from her, but she said she just wanted to give them to me as a gift. It was really touching, because most people here have not been generous to us.

Something else I have learned about in the last couple of days is the Ghanaian naming system. Everybody here is given the name of the day of the week they were born on, a Christian or Muslim name depending on their religion, perhaps a traditional African name, and a family surname. Yaw is the name for Thursday, and Kofi is the name for Friday (I didn’t learn the rest of the days of the week). I now understand why I see these names everywhere, and I think it would be terribly confusing. What if all of your children happened to be born on a Thursday?
I asked Ernest why everybody has such a hard time with my name, because it is a Bible name and very common in the US. He told me that people “only know the names of important people in the Bible, like Sara, Ruth, and Hagar.” Hagar??? I didn’t even remember who Hagar was (she was Abraham’s other wife, the mother of Ishmael). And maybe this is just prideful, but I always thought Rachel was kind of an important person in the Bible. Not here. Leah is a similarly unheard-of name in these parts. I guess the story of Israel isn’t so popular here. Then Ernest told me that people think Ernest is a name from the Bible (apparently only Christian men are named Ernest), even though it isn’t. Weird.

July 18, 2009
This afternoon, we went for a drive to Yendi. Yendi is about an hour’s drive from Tamale, and it is the ancient capital city of the Dagomba kingdom. The chief of all Dagombas still resides there. He is the chief over the chief of Tamale, and all the other chiefs here in the northern region. About 7 years ago the chief died, and there was an outbreak of violence about who should be the new chief. I’m not sure if the fear of renewed violence is why there are no white people in Yendi, but everybody stared at us as we drove through and we didn’t see any other foreigners. We went to see the chief’s palace, which was surrounded by a dilapidated barbed wire fence, and there were a couple of sandbag bunkers with machine guns to guard the place. One of the machine gun guards motioned to us like he wanted us to come in, but then another man told us not to come in. He came out to talk to us, and Fred told him that Peter went to school with Obama’s cousin and that Peter knows Obama, so the man thought we were important (I guess) and asked if we would like him to arrange for us to meet the chief. Normally, you can only see the chief on Mondays and Fridays (today is Saturday). However, we were not interested in seeing the chief, so we kept walking. The chief also had a horse and a couple of nice cars (a Ford truck and a Mercedes, I believe). There was also a very small tank parked at a building next to the chief’s palace. It seems like the violence and tensions were very real concerns not too long ago, and they are still keeping up appearances. Or maybe there are still threats against the current chief by those who wanted somebody else to be there.

After walking around the chief’s palace, we took a little walk through the village. We happened upon a group of people sitting, talking, and listening to very loud music. A couple of men were playing a game similar to checkers for money. Beth, Fred and I stood by the checker players, and Peter wandered off and I was afraid something had happened to him, but then we saw him just as we were about to go. It turned out that the party we crashed was to celebrate the seventh day of a newborn baby named Wumpini, or God’s Gift. The baby’s father welcomed us, and he told us that there is no need to be afraid in Yendi of violence, even though it has a violent reputation. (Fred had told him that there used to be seven in our group, but three were shot at the chief’s palace so we were the only ones left. He likes to tell stories.) I enjoyed our trip, and I was glad to visit another city.

July 21, 2009

We have our first illness of the trip. We think Peter has food poisoning, although we're not sure how he got it since he ate the same food as everybody else yesterday. However, he doesn't have a fever so we're pretty sure it's not one of the serious illnesses you can get around here (malaria or typhoid). We're hoping it gets better in the next 24 hours, and not worse.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Insurance Scheme

Wouldn't you like to buy health insurance from this reputable looking company?

Actually, there are many businesses here that are called "schemes." It's obviously a translation problem. And this sign is pretty nice by Ghanaian standards. A little dirty, but not too bad.

Also note the crazy acronym at the bottom. ALL businesses here with names three words long or longer make up acronyms for themselves and put them on their signs. I really wonder if people refer to them by their acronyms, or if having an acronym just makes them feel more official.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Peter Wrestling the Croc

Or dragging it by its tail. Or holding its tail in the air. I was too afraid to do this.