2012 in Retrospect

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.

Image

Africa.

 

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.

Image

AGANA!!!! with pants on…the many I have of him naked were deemed inappropriate for internet.

 

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toz4_vPmmIA

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.

Image

My birthday present to myself…paragliding! Too bad I was in tandem with a Yankees Fan.

 

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.

Image

The renovated classroom!

 

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).

Image

Buzong in all of his glory!

 

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.

july - anita

Anita showing off my ‘specs’

 

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.

Image

The campers from my school, Godfrey and I all befriending a crocodile (as we are wont to do in Africa)

 

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.

Image

Unfortunately, Brains Foods didn’t have bat meat…or brains for that matter.

 

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 …)

Image

One wall of the classroom with murals painted by some of the students.

 

Image

Britney and Me looking really super cool in front of our almost completed World Map!

 

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.

Image

Ryan carrying his torch through the chaos of the fire festival

 

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.

Image

Progress of the Vocational Dept construction as of December 29th!!!!!!

 

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!

Advertisements

I’m too young to be a cat lady…..right?

So what’s really awesome about goats is how they form these little gangs. Like all goats about the same age are automatically friends, and you see little packs of baby goats scampering together, climbing on elevated surfaces together, freaking out together. The only thing that’s better than baby goats is the 6 baby kittens I currently have in my house. And cheese.

Little blind alien-baby kittens

That’s right! My cat had her babies. Six of them. Six little fluffy nuggets of cuteness with absolutely no sense of balance. That is one of the many things that has occured over the past 2 months during which i completely neglected my blog. And most other forms of communication. I’ll give a quick bullet summary to fill in the gaps:

– Paid a visit to the infamous “Topless Shrine” in the village next to mine. The Cheif there has 18 wives and 376 children not counting those below the age of 5. Busy man.

No...that's not a village. That's just the Chief's house.

– Found a woman near me who knows how to cook burritos and cake. Ate all.

– Went to the Thanksgiving celebration at the ambassador’s house in Accra, where I promptly got sick and was unable to enjoy any of the festivites. After a full night of vomiting i decided I should still force down an entire plate of Thanksgiving feast. Bad idea.

 

– Harmattan (aka the Northeast Trade Winds) arrived and now it’s actually cold enough to sleep with a sheet covering me. Pure bliss.

– “Successfully” completed term one. My students averaged 40 on their final exams, but apparently that’s considered a decent score here! I gave them stickers if they passed…with a 40. Seems wrong.

– Watched my cat give birth to 6 kittens. Alien babies.

– Watched my cat eat all the after-birth after having 6 kittens. Ate all.

– Watched little blind kittens attempt to move. So cute.

– My sister came. We found a drink named reds and drank it. Because we’re redheads. We also befriended a crazy dutch couple who had monkey-bite scars on their legs. Pure bliss.

– Celebrated Christmas and New Years. Received Cheez-its, goldfish, sriracha and mac and cheese as gifts (among other non-edible things). Ate all.

– My brother and sister-in-law came. We saw a 3 day-old baby, ate rabbit (which I still maintain is the best meat in the world) and met a really cool guy named Samed. Pure bliss again.

– Went to another Peace Corps training session at a hotel with AC, and A POOL, and HOT WATER! I learned cool things like how to apply for grants and how to wood carve, screen print and do local pottery. But mostly I SWAM and SLEPT IN AC! So decadent.

Annnnd now I believe we’re up to date! I’m currently back at school, in the second week of second term. My schedule has changed this term so now I’m only teaching 6 classes (instead of the previous 12) and I’m starting a Vocational Club after school with some of the older kids. I’m excited about this change because I’m starting to focus in my efforts towards one thing that I think will really benefit my school and students. Hopefully 2012 will be a productive year for me! I’m still struggling against that common PCV feeling that I haven’t done anything worthwhile yet. Although to get over that feeling I’ll have to do things like reduce the amount of time I play with my kittens….. who are currently climbing on, and falling off of a cardboard box i put in the middle of my floor.

2012 is also an election year here in Ghana, so the debates are getting heated. Not that that’s very different from normal conversations here. Ghanaians can sound like they’re angry and yelling even if they’re discussing the weather.

“AIE CHARLIE, IT’S SOMEHOW COLD TODAY. I’M SUFFERING!”

“OHHH, THE HARMATTAN HAS NOW ARRIVED. IT’S TOOOO MUCH!”

Just a typical, yelled conversation complaining about the (quite pleasant) 75 degree weather of Harmattan. Although I’ll admit, even I wear sweatshirts during the day now. Unfortunately my efforts to train my kittens to puddle around me at night and keep me warm have been unfruitful thus far.

I’m definitely missing out some things but I’ll try to be better about my blog now that school is back in session and I’m in a routine again. At this moment my priority is to find a vehicle with which to eat my sriracha. Please comment and ask questions if you want to know anything!