A Sad Goodbye

As students trickle in for the beginning of Term 2, so did some terrible news. One of my best (and favorite) students, Akulga Nsobonu, was killed when he was struck by a car over the holidays. He was 14. His absence on campus is felt. He was an incredible student, a good kid with a kind heart and infectious smile (literally don’t think I even saw him frown). He was my best basket weaver, and would often come to my house after school just to work on the baskets with me (meaning he would work, and I would sit with him in awe of his talents). A student who would go out of his way to greet me every morning, giving me a huge smile, and reminding me how lucky I am to be here. He was quiet and humble – didn’t need special attention or recognition. What hurts me the most is that he probably had no idea how much of an impact he’s had on me during my time here.

Unfortunately, life goes on here at school, and there is little mention of him. I guess this is my way of telling the world that he is not, and won’t be, forgotten. I never got the chance to tell him myself.

Nsobonu, may you rest in perfect peace.


Baby Profile: Agana

Hey Ladies

Age: 2

Birthday: 29 October, 2009

Favorite activity: riding on motorbikes (motos), playing on dad’s moto, sitting on benches and pretending they’re motos, making the sound of a moto (vroom vroom), wearing dad’s moto helmet, playing with dad’s moto keys, crying when somebody drives away on a moto without him, helping teach ICT

Interesting fact: Agana is the local name for a chameleon, which in his tribe is a sacred animal that isn’t allowed to be killed or sacrificed. As legend has it, if a baby is crying in the house while his mother is working outside, it probably is being fed by a chameleon. If the mother returns to the house she will find the chameleon with it’s tail in the baby’s mouth.

favorite word: vroom vroom

Pet Peeve: bathing. Try it, he dares you.

Political stance: Doesn’t care as long as he doesn’t have to wear clothes. ever.

Interested in: A lady for the back of his dad’s moto. He’ll even take her to America if she asks nicely and agrees to help him say vroom vroom

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.

Corke, cats and kente cloth

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So don’t get tooooo excited… I got online, yes, at another PCV’s ICT lab, but some force is still against me checking my email becuase every single time i’ve tried to go to gmail the internet times out. I got onto facebook for a moment but then that failed too, so this blog is my last effort at communication. Keep sending me emails if you have been, because someday the gods have to forgive whatever terrible thing I’ve done and let me get into gmail again, at which point i will take my sweet time and savor every last word.

You may have noticed a couple things:
1) the prince count has moved to 1. As many of you know, my dear mother and grandmother were invited to a reception involving the beloved Prince William and Kate. Please contact her if you’re interested in what jeans they were wearing (it was western themed for the Calgary Stampede). Because I am half of my mother’s blessed genes, I have half met a prince. and becuase kate was also there, I count that as a full meeting. So I haven’t quite reached a Ghanaian Prince yet, but rest assured I am constantly seeking them out.
2) some people have tagged pictures of me on facebook, and I’m looking really ghanaian these days. It’s true. I’ve been practicing how to carry things on my head, babies on my back, and eat fufu the right way (NO CHEWING – mom you’d like it, it’s just the way you like Thanksgiving dinners). I’m pretty authentic at this point. Also the reason why they can get on facebook and I can’t is because they aren’t cursed like me. It probably has something to do with their not having red hair and having a soul or something. over it.
3) my parasite count is still at 0. I know, I know, I was disappointed too when the PC Doctor told me that most PCVs in Ghana don’t get parasites…but I WILL be mostly working with children so I do have a decent chance at worms. I’ll obviously let you know.

I’m currently in the Volta region (by Togo) in a town called HoHoe (ho-hoy). We are studying more sign language and technical skills at the school for the deaf here. I got to weave kente today! (kente is the colorful woven fabric Ghana is famous for, look it up) I was terrible, clearly, and eventually I’ll have pictures to show you just how terrible. Or maybe someone less cursed then me will post them. We also got to go and learn how to fire and make recycled glass beads! As I said before, that’s hopefully something I’ll get to continue at my school. I also have pictures of those….maybe someday. They’re really pretty and eventually I might take orders from you guys and send them over so it’s never too early to think about Christmas!!!

I miss people and cheese a lot, but the family I’m staying with out here has a cat and some dogs that don’t look like they’re dying so at least I’m getting my animal-fix. They also have been teaching me some dances including the Bobobo, and Akbagya (no idea how to spell that one), and one othr that involves muscles i seem to be lacking.

Next week we travel back to the Eastern region for our Counterpart workshop! Our counterparts are the people PC assigns us basically to be our first friends at each of our schools. So the workshop lasts one week and is a time for all of us to meet our counterparts together. After that I head up to my site for the first time with my counterpart and stay up there for a week! I’m SO excited to see where I’ll be living. Also, I apparently gave you wrong information about my site..there’s a silent G not a silent B, so it’s pronounced Buo-wego or something. I’m still working on it myself.

Tomorrow I’m going to the “Ancestral Caves” which Ive been told involves some rock climbing and some steep cliffs! Then I’ll be seeing another PCV who works with a women’s group that specialized in batik.

Rumors are still flying about who will be attending our Swearing in ceremony at the end of August. There are some dreamy hopefuls who think it’ll be Obama, but the rest of us have settled of someone of a slightly less caliber like Hilary Clinton or Biden. Either way I might be able to get a dress made out of any of the many Obama fabrics/cookies/wines/notebooks/portraits they have there and show some american pride. And wear my meat pinny of course. It’s with me in Volta, it doesn’t leave my side, so it’s definitely seeing the sites as I do. And smelling the smells.

Ok I think that’s all. I think I’ll close by wishing Traver a happy birthday on the 13th… I was going to write you an email but that doesn’t seem to be possible. I’ll just use this public venue to do it instead. I hope everyone is having an awesome summer and be careful! I hear there’s a heat wave crossing the country!

and PLEASE PLEASE keep emailing, i’m dying to hear from everyone and WILL find a way to get onto gmail. I also DO have a cell phone, I believe it costs you guys 20 cents to get a text from me and 25 to send one, plus I can call you for pretty cheap, so if you’re interested contact my mom – I don’t want to post the number in case of spamming.