Saturday, October 25, 2008

First Aerogramme from Ghana


October 25, 2008

I just got Hannah's letter dated Oct here it is transcribed ...

Dear Friends
I just got back from what the Peace Corps calls my "vision quest". I travelled to a current volunteers site for a few days visit, to see what life is like in a village. It was so great to have at least a little freedom,even if it was brief. I had a lot of fun with my host, Sarah. It helped that I brought my M&M's and beef jerky, along with my mad cooking skills. She lives in Tutukpene, a town in the Nkwanta District of the Volta Region.
I wish I could live in Tutukpene too-it's nestled at the base of a mountain and there is lots of good "chop" (fast food Gana style) available. And though Nkwanta is "isolated" because travel is so difficult in the district, the volunteer sites are relatively close to one another and they work together a lot. There may not be electricity and internet and phones are hard to come by, but
I would love living there for two years.
I am supposed to have my site placement interview today or tomorrow to determine where I'll be. We're now at our training site in Kukurantumi. I move in with my host family on Saturday and on Monday I find out where I'll be sent once I finish training in December. Everything is going so fast but I wish it would move faster still. I am ready to go to work!
Though I don't know what language I have to learn for my site, I have been practicing Twi for travel purposes (and so that if I do get to go to Nwanta, I'll have a head start). My favorite phrase so far is "Yemfre me obroni; yefre me Hannah" ..."My name is not white lady, my name is Hannah".
The little kids are so cute when they try to get an "obroni's" attention (Obroni literally means "one from over the sea"), but it is sometimes frustrating . They are usually happy if I just wave back- if I speak Twi to them it makes their day. By the end of my stay with "Ama Olila" ( Sarah's
Ghanaian name) the kids in Tutukpene knew me as Sister Hannah and would call to me
wherever I went. I have run out of room now and time....the Fufu has arrived!
So for now, "Yo Meeks!" Hannah

The first post from Old Tafo

I think I’m going to have to admit failure – at this point, I don’t think the “proxy blogging” thing is working out too well. In theory it’s a great idea, but in practice it’s a bit annoying. While I like sending letters to people, the postal system (both Ghanaian and American) is too slow for the kind of information sharing I normally do with my blog. The letter I sent to be posted two weeks ago still hasn’t made it onto the blog. And though my access to the internet is erratic, I can access it. The proxy blogging idea was more of a contingency plan for if I got placed somewhere without any internet access at all. I wasn’t sure until last week where I would be sent within Ghana and therefore how easy it would be to get online. But now that I know where I’m going, the situation is a bit different. Ultimately, it’s cheaper for me to post to the blog myself – it’s 1.40 Ghana Cedis (GH¢) to send a letter to the states, while it’s usually about .60 per hour at an internet cafĂ©. When I’m only making 6 cedis a day, that’s a lot of money. I guess I should back up a bit and share the letter that I was going to send to Kathe to post for me so that I can bring you up to date…
“Dear Friends,
It has been an exciting few days, full of ups and downs and in between times as well. After months of waiting, I finally found out where I’ll be going once training is over in December. I’ve been assigned to the village of Fufulso (a.k.a. Damango Junction). It is in the Northern Region, about 30 minutes west of Tamale. I couldn’t have asked for a better location. Only 30 minutes from the PC sub office (and therefore free internet) and right on the main truck route between Tamale and Kumasi. I’m also only about 2 hours from Mole National Park, one of the biggest game reserves in West Africa. And, joy of joys, there are quite a few of us clustered around Tamale – so lots of friends to hang out with and bounce ideas off of. I won’t be without some challenges of course. I don’t have electricity at my site. I’ll also have to use either the dam or a stream for my water – my village doesn’t have any boreholes (the safest source of water in rural areas) due to its geological profile. But that is why I’m here – to figure out how to make situations like this work. I think the rainwater collection guide I brought will come in handy very soon.
Because I now know where I’ll be going, I’ve had to switch language classes. No more Twi for me (as much as my host family wants to speak it to me). I’m on to Gonja now (and no, it’s not pronounced like ganga – it’s pronounced GOOn-ja). My language teacher, Braimah, is a lot of fun and after only a few sessions, I can already greet people, introduce myself, and ask for my favorite Ghanaian dishes to eat.
I like the village we’re staying in for training. It’s not very big but it has everything I need. Except internet (but I can take a car to New Tafo for that if I get desperate). I still feel really awkward living with a family and having every hour of every day dictated for me. It was really tough this week, as my “little brother” Kofi contracted malaria and had to spend three nights in the hospital. Seeing a two-year-old get a blood transfusion is so sad. He’s back home though and healthy enough to be playing on my porch as I write and listen to music.
We’re getting ready to celebrate birthdays on Monday. Four of us share October 20th as a birthday so it’s going to be fun. I hope I don’t have a repeat of the Russian birthday party from a few years ago.
I also bought a cell phone this week, so that’s the best way to get more details on my adventure (011-233-242660968). I have so much to talk about and so little time. But life is good and I’m loving it here. Especially when the sun goes down, the temperature drops, and I have time to reflect on each wonderful day that has passed.
Until next time,
So I will have semi-regular access to internet (depending how often I make it to Tamale – but I’d have to go there to post letters anyway). Right now it’s kind of a pain to post stuff to the blog, as I have to go to another town to do it and on my own dime (during training, we only get 2GH¢ a day too – that’s only a little over $2). But it’s far cheaper to spend a few pesawas (100 pesawas=1 Ghana cedi) on getting online than an entire 1.40Gh¢ sending a letter that might make it on the blog within a month if I’m lucky.
I had a fantastic birthday celebration. The others I share a birthday with were all in different towns as we’re all in different sectors and therefore split up for most of training. I told my host family that I wanted to cook for my birthday. They humored be and let me use the kitchen after class on Monday. By the time my “chili” was done however, they had set a table and gathered quite a crowd for the greatest birthday party I’ve ever had. Only a few of my American friends were there, as I had no idea my family was going to go to such links to make me feel special on my birthday. We a great time. My host mom even baked me a heart-shaped cake! Let me just add, living with a baker is awesome. My brother Samuel borrowed a stereo from somebody and for an hour we alternated seamlessly between really loud gospel music and really obscene rap. After my “dance party” was over, the five of us Americans headed to a spot (in Ghana, bars are referred to as spots) to have a beer with some of the others. All in all, a great end to a great day.
At my dad’s request, I set up the skype account like I had it set when I was in Russia. Now, if you call 512-377-1987, it goes to my skype account and is then forwarded to my Ghanaian cell phone. Free for you and cheap for me. I love technology.
Before I go, let me list a few things I’ve learned to do this past week:
-Carry a baby on my back with only a “two-yard” (a piece of fabric)
-Pound fufu (a Ghanaian dish made from either boiled yam or boiled plantains and cassava mixed together)
-Construct a pit latrine (though I haven’t practiced this yet)
I also got complimented on my laundry technique by an old Ghanaian lady. I guess all that hand washing I did in Russia has finally paid off. If only my clothes would stay clean for more than five minutes – stupid humidity.
That’s all for now. Tune in next week for more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hannah's postcard

The very first missive from Hannah has arrived-and she also called just a few days
ago and we had a nice very quick phone call! Here's both sides of the postcard....
Ta Dah!