LIFE… according to a Ghanaian Child

  • A white person sighting can make or break a day
  • Snow kills
  • Juju kills
  • A monkey is King Kong
  • An Asian man is Jackie Chan
  • A white man with a beard is Jesus
  • A white man without a beard is Mormon
  • Another black person is a brother, sister, mom, dad, aunt or uncle. End of story.
  • America is somehow close to Accra
  • In trotros or buses one is not eligible for one’s own seat until they are in their teens, so quick! Take the strange white girls lap before another kid gets it!
  • Clothes are optional
  • If you haven’t had worms yet, you haven’t lived
  • A boob is food, even if it’s not your mother’s
  • Slamming your head against a wall, being hit by a friend or having a fever of 103 is not a valid reason to cry. Being asked to bathe is.
  • Going through a white person’s trash can yield new and exciting toys
  • Why look when you could STARE?
  • OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • The best way to insult a friend is to make fun of the shape of his/her head.
  • Adult supervision? Never heard of it.
  • Yelling is the only way to talk to a peer
  • Whispering is the only way to talk to an adult
  • Not a single item of clothing, no matter how pink and sparkly, is gender specific (….but why would you wear clothes anyway? Fool).
  • It’s ok to relieve oneself…anywhere
  • Running with a tire and a stick can lead to hours of entertainment
  • America=UK=The Netherlands=Germany=candy


How many volunteers are in Ghana?

About 160, all over the country.

Do you live with another volunteer?

No. We all live alone at our sites unless we’re a married couple (which I am not…SURPRISE!). The closest volunteer is about 20 km from me (as the crow flies), or an hour(ish)* by public transit.

*There is no actual reliable public transit, an hour(ish) means roughly anywhere from one to four hours.

Do you live in a mud hut?

Unfortunately not. I live in a 2-room cement building in a compound with another teacher. I have electricity (MOST of the time) and used to have running water. Those days of luxury are over – the water pump broke, the school has no money to fix it, so for the foreseeable future I’ll rely on the borehole on the school campus like everyone else. Minuses: back to the bucket bath, my toilet no longer flushes. Pluses: FINALLY an excuse to really practice balancing things on my head…and……no, that’s about it for pluses.

Are you going to steal a child?

I’m going to call forth all the powers that lie within me to try.

Do you ever feel unsafe?

Not at all. I’ve been stolen from once, and it was a small boy sneaking into my house to steal crystal light packets while I was in the other room. He was caught, all packets were returned to owner and promptly consumed.

If you stay in the sun of equatorial Africa long enough will all your freckles meld together and you’ll turn black?

A note to the wise…never ask me this question again.

Are Ghanaians amazed at your red hair?

Not at all. They think it’s brown. I’m going to write a blog about my first-ever experience as a brunette later. But to summarize my semi-scientific analysis: redheads DO have more fun.

Do you get sick a lot?

I’m pretty much in a constant state of sickness. With that said, I have yet to get anything remotely serious beyond a fever of 101 every now and then. My body prefers to take the long and steady route, and while it might take 5 full years for my digestive tract to regularize again, I have no complaints. Of course there are currently outbreaks of both Cholera and Anthrax in Upper East so…we’re gonna move on before I jinx myself.

What do you miss the most about America?

Is that a serious question? The food obviously. Oh….I mean….my friends and family.

Are you fluent in Sign Language now? Do Ghanaians use a different type of sign language?

I’m conversational in ASL. I can communicate well enough to teach a class using a lot of other visual cues, but I think it’ll take me years before I really feel like I’m fluent. Ghanaian sign language is essentially the same as the ASL from the 1980’s (read: the ASL before Americans realized some of the signs were politically incorrect and changed them. I still feel weird when I use the sign for Japanese. Luckily that particular word doesn’t come up much over here). Of course, there are subtle differences and some new vocabulary (weirdly enough the American Sign Language dictionary doesn’t have a sign for “fufu”), but I’m sure a deaf Ghanaian and a deaf American could understand each other without too much trouble.

What are you working on right now?

A couple projects, all of which I’m VERY excited about

  • Looking for funding to create a Post Junior High School vocational department at my school. This will allow even students who fail the national senior high school entrance exams to continue their education and learn a practical trade. I just need $20,000 more, so if you find it growing on the trees over there or something, feel free to send it my way!
  • Hosting a Leadership Camp for the deaf at the end of the month with 6 other volunteers. Every other deaf ed volunteer will be bringing 4 students and a teacher from their schools up to the Upper East for 5 days of the best camp ever. It’s a ton of work but I have no doubt it’ll probably be the best thing I do with my service.
  • Running an after school vocational club. Right now my students are sewing and basket weaving. We’re hoping to jump-start the bead making in the next week or two.
  • Working on an IFPRI study (International Food Policy Research Institute) – they work closely with the Ghanaian government to consult on agricultural policy. They’ve asked PCVs to help out by doing weekly interviews with a farmer from their village for the duration of the farming season and sending in reports so IFPRI can better understand the decisions farmers are making at the grassroots level. The farmer I interview is name Buzong Kennedy Sandoog and he’s awesome.
  • Hopefully planting some fruit-bearing trees around the school campus to create an internal income source
  • Planning out the logistics of fleeing the country with one or several Ghanaian children (“nuggets”) in tow

What’s the most frustrating part of service?

The transportation. No, no, no, the fact that it usually takes 4 weeks, 15 cancellations and uncountable hours of waiting for someone to actually have a meeting with you… no wait! Probably the heat. But then there’s also the aggressive men who don’t take any female seriously and propose constantly despite assertive claims that she’s already married (ok, I know I told you earlier that I wasn’t, but work with me here alright? I’ve been working a year to convince these guys and I trust you won’t blow my cover). Being called WHITE PERSON everywhere I go and always being the center of attention? No, the lack of volume control on anything that makes noise. Oh man, I can’t decide. Point is, there are a LOT of really frustrating things about service. That’s what makes the awesome parts (see list above) so damn awesome.

Is everyone a really good dancer? Are you becoming a better dancer because of it?

Yes everyone’s a really good dancer. And I’ve ALWAYS been a really good dancer and resent anyone who says otherwise. Mary’s embedded those skills in my DNA. Ok, but yeah, maybe Ghanaian’s have taught me a thing or two.

Do PCV’s ever date locals?

All.the.time. In fact many get married to locals- we have a PCV-Ghanaian wedding this month, a PCV with a Ghanaian child already, and another recent engagement announcement. You’d be surprised. Will I? No… I’m married, remember? Unless of course a prince comes along and then all bets are off.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?

The other day I helped one of my students, Sumaila, catch hundreds of flying termites after the rains. I thought we were just catching them because they were everywhere and it was annoying (literally, there were so many that if you walked outside all you could hear was a loud hum from the beating of all their wings). Turns out fried termites are delicious with a little peppe, groundnut powder and salt! Also, I tried dog (and it was delicious). I’m sorry America, you might hate me now but you’ll forgive me when I bring you African NUGGETS!