Saturday, August 22, 2009

Home Again

After 25 long, long, long hours of travel we are finally home! I will write more about the trip and our adventures during our last week later. I'll just say that everything went smoothly and we were very grateful for that.

Peter went to the hospital this morning to get checked out, and so far he looks okay. He has another appointment on Wednesday to make sure; I guess they weren't willing to do a lot because he didn't have his treatment record, and the doctor was more worried about the malaria than the typhoid even though we are reasonably sure that all of Peter's problems are coming from typhoid and NOT malaria. (Last time he was tested in Ghana he did have typhoid, but no malaria.)

I am so incredibly grateful to live in the US. There are SO many blessings that we have because we live in this country, things that I totally took for granted before. I have been constantly finding new things to be grateful for during the 12 hours that I have been home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dance Competition and Goat Party

This woman was my favorite one in the competition, probably because she was the only woman competing (which makes her awesome!). Here she is kneeling to show respect to the chief before she begins to dance.

A man spinning. The shirt he is wearing is the standard Dagbani-style men's shirt, although it is bigger than any I have seen outside of the dance competition. I have also seen (non-dancing) men twirling their better-fitting shirts to show celebration.

Gongong players

A couple of days ago, we were invited to attend a dance competition at the chief's palace in Tamale. We found out about it right as we were leaving to take Peter to see another doctor, so we decided we would stop by for a few minutes before we left.

Although I was expecting the dancing to be the key part of the competition, what I enjoyed most was the music. African drumming is absolutely incredible. I can't really explain how it feels to listen to it live, so loud and totally engrossing. This group of men I'm sure had never rehearsed, and yet their performance was flawless. They all started and stopped at the same time, their rhythms all matched perfectly, the single flute that played with them knew just when to start and stop.

The drums that they hold under their arms are called gongongs, and they talk. Everyone (well all Africans anyway) understands what they say, and so the performance had lyrics even though it didn't for us. I tried to ask somebody how you know what they say, but I think learning the drum language would be really difficult unless you were learning it from somebody who "speaks" it, not just who hears it.

The dancing was actually not very impressive. Everybody got on the stage and did almost exactly the same steps. They would march around a little bit, and maybe twirl or whip their little fly whip. It got old pretty quickly. I found it much more interesting to look at the clothes they were wearing. They were all dressed as if they were chiefs with their wide twirly shirts, incredibly baggy pants, chief hats, etc. I have a bunch of pictures of the more interesting costumes that I can probably post when we get home.

Yesterday, we were invited to attend a goat party. I thought it would be like a luau, with the goat buried in the ground and roasted whole, or maybe we would see the goat roasting on a spit and I would get a good picture of an African goat being cooked. However, a goat party apparently only means that every dish that is served has some goat meat in it. We were served goat kebabs that were surprisingly spicy (and tasted good), goat soup, and fried goat. The goat meat in the soup and the fried goat was impossible to eat. By "impossible" I mean that I was given a spoon to eat with, the pieces of meat were way to big to fit in the spoon, and besides that, the meat was so gristly and fatty-looking that I couldn't find a place on it to bite even if I could find a way to get the meat to my mouth.

Also, the only non-alcoholic bottled beverage that they had was malt soda, so I got to drink a couple of those. The taste of them reminds me of wheat chex cereal. Definitely not my beverage of choice, but it was better than drinking the questionable sachet water or worse, the juice mix that might have been mixed from the tap.

Peter did not attend the goat party because he was feeling too tired. It was probably a good choice; I'm sure nothing that they served would have agreed with his stomach.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health and Job Updates

Peter has typhoid again. Or, I should say, he never got rid of it the first time, and on Monday his fever came back and he is sick again. We went to the doctor and they gave him more and different medicines, so we're hoping this time they kill it for good. On our way to the hospital, I saw a woman riding a motorcycle with the full Islamic head covering--no eyes visible. It was funny and slightly terrifying at the same time. I know there is some visibility through those cloths, but enough to safely navigate a motorcycle?

Also, I heard back from the museum I applied to and they do not want to interview me. I'm a little sad, both because I wanted to go home early and I wanted the job, but it is also a good thing. Now we will almost definitely live in Salt Lake close to Peter's job, and I'm sure I will be able to find something close by so that neither one of us will have to commute.

We have 18 days left in Ghana, and probably 12-14 days left in Tamale. We're planning to spend our last few days as tourists on the coast, visiting the slave castles and the rainforest.

I can't wait to go home!!!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

And the hair comes out

I thought I would start by telling you exactly how they put in my hair extensions, since a lot of people have asked me. They began by taking three clumps of synthetic hair--one purple, one black, and one golden, and mixing the purple and the black together (I know you could hardly tell when it was on my head, but there was purple in there). Then, they combed all of my hair into a ponytail on top of my head, which they fastened with a regular rubber band. That was the beginning of a LOT of pulling and tangling and general hair unpleasantness.

They started at the nape of my neck, and combed little tiny pieces of hair out of the larger ponytail, and then mixed the gold-colored extension with my regular hair and twisted it around the black hair. So the golden colored hair you saw in the picture might have been mine, or might have been extension. They were pretty much exactly the same color, so it was hard to tell. When I took it out, it was REALLY hard to tell and it got all snarled and it was a huge, huge pain. They got it into some sort of knot at the top, but they didn't do anything to fasten the bottoms. There were four girls working on my head most of the time. Two of them came up the back, and two came around my ears and up on the sides and then the front. The crown of my head was the last place to be done.

To fasten the ends, they dipped my hair into a cup of boiling water (and splashed some of it on my arms. Yay!), which shrank the extension hair and molded it semi-permanently into the coil shape. The extensions ended about the same length as my regular hair, or a couple inches longer.

I had the braids (twists, really) in my hair for 5 days. I was assured by several people that the first two days hurt a lot, and then after that you wouldn't even know you had your hair braided. That was NOT my experience at all. The first day hurt a lot, and after that my scalp felt itchy all day long and then at night it was really painful. I think the itchiness was just the way the pain felt after it was somewhat deadened. Also, the hair extensions itched my face, neck, and shoulders whenever they would touch, which was most of the time. Last night, Peter noticed that my scalp was getting red around some of the twists, which I didn't think was a good sign. Also, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep because my head hurt so much. This morning, more of my scalp was red and so I decided it was time for the hair extensions to go.

It took us two or three hours to get them out, and I am still picking up loose pieces of hair. I hope it's the extension and not my own, but there's really no way to tell. My head still feels sore, but it is SOOOO much better than it has been the last several days.

Sorry for those of you who were hoping to see the real thing when I got home. It was fun while it lasted, but not worth keeping longer than a couple of days. :-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Today I got my hair braided African-style. It hurt really bad, and it took a long time (four hours, plus an hour waiting to get started) but I really like it. I wish my skin color looked better with purple-black hair. What do you think?