Happy New Year! I hope 2012 treated you all as well as it treated me, and you’ve prepared New Year’s resolutions for 2013 that consist of eating lots of good food and traveling to wonderful places. Or working out and getting healthy or something boring like that……
Anyway, because it’s been so long since I’ve actually updated you on anything I’ve been doing over here, I’ve decided to give you a “2012 Retrospective” of my past year in Ghana. The good, the bad, the heart-warming, the heart-breaking, all peppered amongst pictures of cute African babies to hold your attention.
January – I don’t remember; that was 12 months ago, Jeez. Moving on to cute nugget pictures.
February – Agana probably showed up at my house every morning without pants on, I taught some classes, and it was too hot and I sweated.
March – Hot season hit full swing, so I spent most of the day lying prostrate on the floor of my house under the fan and panting. Not much got done except a little work on the computer lab and some more teaching. Starred in super popular PCV movie (see link) and am now a local celebrity.
April – I turned 24, I paraglided, and we began the classroom renovation. Peace Corps hosted the annual All Volunteer Conference (“AllVol”) and I tried desperately to NOT compare myself too harshly to all the other PCVs doing amazing and life-changing work in Ghana.
May – Term 3 started, and it finally rained again. The classroom renovation was completed and I moved into the new space! I went home and saw my amazing family and my wonderful friends, WHILE gorging myself with cheeses, leafy greens and micro-brews. It was heavenly.
June – LAURA AND VINNY GOT MARRIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I returned happy, healthy, and several pounds heavier to Ghana.
The running water at my site stopped working entirely (still doesn’t work) and I had to adjust to living a little more ruggedly. It’s amazing how little water we actually need to get by! A 5-week drought caused a lot fear and stress throughout my village. I got a taste of what it really means to depend on the farms and how terrifying weather can be when you don’t have a supermarket down the road. Right as whole fields of crops started to fail the village elders sacrificed a cow and managed to get those gods to make it rain again. Who knew it was that easy!?
I started a project working with the International Food Policy Research Institute which involved working directly with a farmer in my village and documenting what he does week to week. His name is Sandoog Kennedy Buzong and he’s awesome (see picture).
July – I spent most of the month running around all of Upper East making final preparations for the Leadership Camp. Chaotic and stressful but very fulfilling.
August – I hosted the Leadership Camp for the Deaf (see previous post), in addition to my parents! They finally got to see my site, my camp, my cat, and my multiple Ghanaian families (HI GODFREY! HI HAWA AND DANIEL! HI FRANCIS!). All of Ghana and Peace Corps fell in love with Mom and Dad (as is usually the case), so I’m pretty sure their fan club now has an international base.
September – Celebrated Ryan’s birthday with pizza, gin and tonics, and a quest for bat meat (which still hasn’t been realized). The school year started with the typical 4-week wait for students to arrive and classes to start. The District Assembly finally agreed to pay for half of the creation of the Vocational Department (the other half paid by Canadian NGO Marigold Foundation), and we started to make REAL plans to make this department actually happen.
I found out I’m going to be an AUNT, and immediately started scouring the markets for African baby clothes.
October – Kicked off a project to paint murals in the renovated art room which many of YOU made possible through your outrageously kind donations! THANK YOU! I also teamed up with a neighboring PCV to update a giant World Map on the side of a classroom block on my campus.
I attended a training workshop for teaching to children with multiple disabilities and brought two of my students who got HIV and peer education training. Then I continued my travel down to Accra for my Mid-service medical appointment (NO WORMS!), and spent too much money on delicious Accra delicacies such as pizza, sushi, and bacon. Worth it.
(Emma would like to add here that she returned to Ghana, but not the Upper East; she is certain that everyone was and is terribly sad about this and insists on being obnoxious about it in a blog post that isn’t even hers …)
November – Construction of the Vocational Department began!!!! And I subsequently became the happiest PCV in Ghana. And THEN the icing on the cake was that Obama got re-elected and I got a standing ovation from all the staff at my school (since I played such a pivotal role in his re-election, of course).
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving at the Peace Corps Office in Tamale which involved a live (and then dead) turkey, stuffing, mac and cheese and….sushi! I then attended a traditional fire festival at a friend’s site in Northern Region.
This festival was AMAZING. Words cannot adequately describe what it feels like to be in the middle of a remote village in Ghana, surrounded by people with white ash covering their faces and chests, wielding torches, screaming, drumming, chanting and firing rifles into the dark night sky (I realize how terrifying this might sound to someone who’s never been to Ghana but trust me… it was wonderful. Well…ok…and terrifying at times).
The festival originated hundreds of years ago when apparently a young village boy was lost in the bush. He was found days later, safely sitting under a Baobab tree. Ever since that day, members of his Dagaati Tribe participate in a yearly fire festival in which they mimic the search for the boy – thus the torches at night – walk from the village chief’s palace (that’s what they call it…it’s actually a hut) out to a specific tree in the bush. They throw their torches on the tree in a symbolic gesture to thank the gods for returned the boy safely to them so many years ago. On the walk back to the Chief’s palace they bring live branches in the place of their torches to signify bringing life back to the village. It was incredible. The entire village, all ages, takes part in the ceremony, and it’s a completely out-of-this world experience. I swear, it almost made me believe in juju. Almost.
December – Ghana had its Presidential and Parliamentary Elections and once again proved itself to be a beacon of peace and democracy in West Africa. The elections itself felt much more like a drunken college football rally than an actual presidential election – people with faces and chests painted, waving flags and parading through the city streets covered head to toe with paraphernalia of their chosen political party. LOTS of energy, not a lot of actual content…. After seeing a friend in the garb of his opposing political party, I asked him why he changed sides so quickly and he hurriedly explained that NPP was providing the free food today and that tomorrow he’d return to NDC. Overall a grand time was had by all, and John Mahama was re-elected in an impressively peaceful democratic process. Hats off to Ghana!
I painted a giant map of Ghana on the side of the second classroom block and finished a complete handbook to hosting a Leadership Camp with the hopes that future PCVs continue the tradition. Construction of the Vocational Department continued at an impressive rate and I spent another snow-less, homesick Christmas in Africa.
Ok, it wasn’t THAT bad, I was on the beach surrounded by the AMAZING friends I’ve made throughout my year and a half here. But there was a severe lack of Corke family antics, fireside card games and skiing involved.
Summary: 2012 was an absolutely incredible, frustrating, shocking, boring, fulfilling, guilt-inducing, character-building, pride-swallowing, chaotic, educational, inspiring year. Full of sweat, tears and gut-cramping laughter, the year 2012 will be remembered as containing some of the best days and worst days of my life, but also shaping me into more confident, well-rounded, independent and capable version of myself. A version that is much more aware of my strengths while acknowledging my ignorance. Over the last 365 days I’ve proved to myself that I can take on Ghana…now let’s see about the rest of the world.
Wishing you all happiness, health and gluttonous portions of cheese in 2013!