True life: I’m a Ghanaian Celebrity

This is my first post as an official Peace Corps Volunteer!!! I’m at site and starting to settle in for the next two years. First day at site was definitely my hardest day in Ghana so far (which doesn’t say much because it’s been pretty smooth sailing up until now – but I had my teary-eyed moment as I walked back from the next village. Thank god for sunglasses). It finally hit me in the face that I’d be here for 2 years and how much work I have ahead of me, of which I may or may not be actually capable. But at the same time, it’s nice to finally feel like I’m about to do something real instead of just hanging out in Camp Peace Corps. Anyway, a quick call from Dad and some quality time spent with my cats (as suggested by Ally)  relieved me of my homesickness and now I’ll hopefully return to the euphoric state I’ve been in for the past 3 months! As my dear mother skeptically asked, “You can’t be THAT happy, are you in love?” Gross, mom. But yeah maybe there’s a baby or 9 over here that have stolen my heart piece by tender piece.

I’m just going to bite the bullet and tell you now that NO ONE from the White House came to our swearing-In ceremony. They told us at the beginning of the summer that someone would be attending, let it build up in the rumor mill for 3 months, and then when we were all convinced that Hilary or Zeus or Miley Cyrus was coming, we were given the news that, in fact, they were not. Ghana, however, held its end of the deal. The minister of Foreign Affairs came for the swearing-in and gave an awesome speech that included him remembering how he used to abuse the PCV he had as a teacher when he was in school. Then we were invited to the PRESIDENTS PALACE for A PRESIDENTIAL RECEPTION and a PHOTO WITH THE PRESIDENT. President Mills himself also had a PCV as a teacher when he was in school so has very fond memories of the program. He also told us more than once that we should all marry Ghanaians. *Only if he’s a prince, Mr. President*. He said his speech, we took a replica of the same picture they took when the first PCV group came 50 years ago, and then we all had fried chicken and beer. Yes, mom, the president of Ghana served us fried chicken and beer and I KNOW you’re jealous. I was in a dream state the entire time we were there, which further proved my suspicion that I belong in a palace.

Ok now that I got that out of the way, I’ll start from where I left off in the last blog. Pretty much we just continued tech and language training, and I passed my language interview and we had a lot of parties to celebrate the end of training. We learned a couple dances to perform at swearing-in (which was televised in Ghana, and portions can be found on YouTube). The deaf-ed girls also did a happy hands sign language song to Micheal Jackson’s “Heal the World.” At swearing-in, when we took the stage to start, the music never turned on so we just sat there awkwardly for 5 minutes, and as you can probably imagine I was completely red and couldn’t stop laughing. Then I tried to sneak off stage but everyone noticed and I had to come back. It was awkward.

Swearing-in was held at the US Ambassadors house and was a very nice ceremony. I talked to one attendee the day after when he recognized a couple of us in the Accra mall (the Head of FBI in Ghana or something) and he mentioned how long he thought the ceremony went. We thought that was especially funny because every PCV thought it was incredibly short and concise (about 3.5 hours). I guess 12 weeks of 8 hour lectures really builds up your tolerance… Other interesting guests were previous volunteers from the very first PC crew in Ghana and others from following years. After the ceremony we had amazing food and drinks and an altogether wonderful time. But we were all so hungry after not eating since 5 am that a swarm of us stood outside the kitchen doors and just waited for the caterers to come out with the trays. The food disappeared within seconds. Luckily the Ambassador also hosts Thanksgiving, so he’s used to starving PCV’s and wasn’t in the least offended. I can’t speak for the caterers. Since then we’ve been on the Ghanaian news a couple times and had a half page color picture in the newspaper so I keep getting texts from people saying they saw me! Can you say celebrity? Watch out Bono!

Traveling to site took 2 full days, but now I’m here and figuring everything out! The closest town with a market and a tro station is about a 30 minute walk, and then the regional capital of Upper East is either a half hour or an hour by car from there depending on time of day, how long it takes the tro to fill, and how many times the tro gets stuck in the mud on the way. Yesterday I had a sheep on my lap during the ride. Altogether not a bad arrangement relatively, but I’ll have to figure out how I’m going to navigate and probably get used to biking a lot (probably a good thing…don’t know if any of you guys remember my belly, GusGus, from Botswana…but he’s back).

One thing that has also made it harder for me to adjust to site has been the death of one of the teacher’s wives here at my school. In my previous post I mention the teacher whose wife just had a newborn baby, and it’s her who passed away 2 days before I arrived. The morale at school is very low, understandably, and is compounded with the worry that the month-old baby will also not survive. Funeral is on tomorrow and is sure to be very difficult. I’m bummed because this particular teacher is one who helped me quite a bit while I was here on site visit, and I got to see this baby in his first few days of life!

So those are the things I am facing now, plus the heat, which I’m hoping I’ll adjust to sooner rather than later. Mailing address at site can either be the same one I’ve been using (just the general Peace Corps one at the side), or I also just learned that the PCV’s in the Upper East all share a P.O. Box in Bolgatanga! (mom, this is a correction since I last spoke with you) Packages are probably still more reliable through Peace Corps, but letters can be sent to the P.O. Box. Well really either can be sent to either address so just use your discretion and common sense as you see fit.

P.O. Box 743

Bolgtanga, Upper East

Ghana, West Africa

Thank you to everyone who has already written! Annnnnnnd, I have to go pet my cat who’s lying on my feet right now.


One response to “True life: I’m a Ghanaian Celebrity

  1. Wow Lauren! You are right about me being jealous about fried chicken and beer (although beer should always be mentioned first … beer and fried chicken!). I am also just very slightly jealous about the sheep sitting on your lap on the tro ride, although I am pretty certain I had a sheep on my lap once or twice while I worked at Drumlin Farm. I hope it was lying down. Sitting sheep are pretty bony – take it from me. They also squirm. Still, the idea of being in Upper East, in Ghana, on a tro, WITH a sheep … that’s like drinking a really good cup of coffee. Liquid gold in a cup. No wonder you are euphoric most of the time.

    I am so sorry to hear about the death of your co-worker’s wife … what a sad way to start your time at the Gbeogo School. I am sure that your happy smiling face will be a nice distraction for everyone there as they get through this tough time.

    I have a suggestion to help you find a prince! I am an expert since I was at a reception with Prince William in Calgary this summer. PRINCES WEAR COWBOY HATS! Prince William was wearing one every time he appeared in Calgary! So that is how you will know when you see one – the hat will be the clue. I’m assuming cowboy hats are pretty rare in Ghana, so it should be pretty easy to pick one out in a crowd. Good luck, and keep on looking!

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