Goats are funny

I’ve decided goats are one of the greatest creatures in the world. They don’t make any sense, and think things are scary when they aren’t (like an unmoving rock) and think things aren’t scary when they are (a tro tro passing by them quickly as they sleep in the MIDDLE of the road). They also have babies all the time, and baby goats are even better than regular goats. I love goats. Thinking about getting one – there’s a section at the local market where you can buy live animals. Goats, sheep, cows, chickens, guinea fowl, dogs…you know, food. Anyways, I don’t think I would eat my goat, I’d probably just watch it and laugh and hope it had babies that I could also watch and laugh at. I’ll keep you posted.

SPEAKING of pregnant animals, my cat is bound to have babies soon. She’s not showing but based on behavior that I was forced to witness on several occasions I will be surprised if I don’t have a couple new kittens in a few months…

As you can tell, Ghana is still treating me (and my cat, apparently) quite well. I’ve been teaching for a couple weeks, and while I have a LOT of improving to do, I’m definitely becoming more comfortable in front of the classroom. I am also part of the Entertainment Club at the school with 2 other teachers, and we recently held our first event! We had a fun day for the students after school on Friday that consisted of such games as trying to eat an apple off a string with no hands, an eating competition and a relay race to see who could fill a water bottle with water carried in their mouth from a far-away bucket. We’re going to have another one soon with a dancing competition, three-legged race and limbo. The kids were SO excited about all of the games, and it was great to see the entire school together watching the competitions and cheering people on. When I walk around the campus after school I always see a bunch of students practicing their limbo for the next event. These kids are just so gosh darn lovable.

There was a festival in the village close to me for about 2 weeks which was unbelievable. It was held by the people who still adhere to traditional African beliefs and was celebrating their harvest and the beginning of their new year. Unfortunately all the events were held at night, so I could only attend when I had a chaperone because I don’t trust myself to navigate the 3 kilometer paths through corn by myself just yet. However, the dancing was AMAZING. Some of the nights we weren’t allowed to wear shoes, have cell phones or carry cameras out of respect. Other nights I felt like paparazzi but I was in such awe that I couldn’t stop myself from documenting every moment. There are different neighborhoods of family clans in the village and each has their own special kind of dance. Some use bells on their ankles or cymbals in their hands as percussion, others dance to drums or a homemade banjo-type thing. Most dancing is combined with some sort of chant. Every night of the festival was in a different location around the village or the neighboring village and highlighted a certain clan, or kind of dance. You could always tell where it was because of the sound of the chanting and the cloud of dust that rose above the dancers from kicking up so much dirt.

Because it was a festival of thanksgiving, it was also accompanied by many many animal sacrifices. Luckily I missed the main day of sacrifice, but the shrines of bones, fur, blood and feathers can be found in different locations throughout the village and are quite exciting to pass when I’m biking.  It was just really exciting to see something SO different from anything I’ve experienced in the States, and to see the village has still held on to so many traditions. One night of dancing was for the Juju men of the village (basically the male witch-doctors). Juju (magic, essentially) can be learned or can be passed down through a family, so as the different Juju men gathered from all parts of the village, they were accompanied by some very young boys who were inheriting it from their fathers. It was pretty cute to see them marching and chanting and waving around animal bones/machetes/horse tails like their dads. Just like taking your kid out to a Major League game for an afternoon, right?

It was at one of the nights of the festival that I received my local name! “Nongba” (pr. Nong-bah) – loves everyone. This is not an actual name, but I guess because I was so vocally impressed by everything at the festival, the two guys who named me (my chaperones from the village) decided I needed a unique name. They spent a lot of time deliberating over it, then proudly announced it to me with the simple explanation of, “it’s because you like everything!!!!” well….yes, yes I guess I do, boys, I’ll take it. It’s also really easy for me to make friends now. I just say my name and people laugh and decide they like me because I’ve essentially just told them I love them.

I’ve asked for and now shall receive my own classroom! I’ve started working on fixing it up (it’s been a storage room for some years now and houses spiders, dead lizards and guinea fowl eggs from god knows when), and I feel like it’s my child. I spend my nights painting different posters for the walls and fake-laminating them with clear packing tape.  Soon I’ll paint a chalkboard on one of the walls and move in for good! I’m hoping it will be the center for our vocational programs until we can get a more suitable space.

We also had an awesome (3 hour) staff meeting that was much more productive that prior ones I’ve attended. The kids currently all eat outside in the dirt because the dining hall is under renovation. I learned that the dining hall has been under renovation for 2 years now, and was originally slated to be finished in March of 2009. The contractor has just been sitting on the project, watching the kids eat in the dirt in the midday sun, and refusing to hand over the keys to the school. I also learned we have only 6 toilets for the entire student body of 376. This is the reason the children have had to resort to the corn fields and plastic bags for relief. And I used to think my college dorm bathrooms were gross….

The realities of malaria are starting to really hit. It seems like everyone is going to hospital these days, and we recently lost a third grader (the second of the year, actually) to it. The funeral is being held in an area about 50 km away, but is off-limits to Peace Corps due to tribal violence so I will not be attending. As a person who is extremely inexperienced in facing and dealing with death, I am certainly being challenged by Ghana.

I attended a classic 500 person Ghanaian funeral for a 95 year-old chief. At the end of the 5 hour service, one of the 11 children of the deceased came up to me and thanked me profusely for adding “color” to the funeral (funny, 5 hours in the sun added some “color” to me too), and then invited me to a private luncheon at a super fancy hotel in Bulga. Which I attended. And drank ice cold coke. I have no regrets.

And so my life in Ghana continues as such.