One year ago today, I walked into the lobby of a Sheraton hotel in Philadelphia, ready to start the next adventure. Here I am, still in Ghana a year later and wondering how the time went by so quickly. I’m sorry to my friends and family back home – I’ve been SO bad about keeping yall up to date on what’s going on in my little village in the Northern Region. But consider this – I went on the BBC website yesterday to read the news and I didn’t understand a damn thing. It was all gibberish to me. I’ve missed so much that I don’t know what the heck is going on anymore. But it’s been worth it to disconnect for a while. I’ve gotten to the point where, when I travel out of my little powerless, (semi!) waterless, toiletless village, I find myself itching to get back.
But enough reflecting. You want to know what’s going on in Fufulso/Junction.
First. The rabbits. Or I should say rabbit. I was finally able to get some bunnies from a friend of Maria’s in her village. Unfortunately, about a week after I bought the two girls and one boy, two of them got sick and died. So as of right now I only have one girl bunny. And bunnies have a strange way of not reproducing on their own. I’m planning on getting some more but I keep getting distracted.
UNICEF’s emergency water treatment plant that they decided to send to my village is officially up and running, though no one is using it yet. It’s still the rainy season, so people have rainwater in their houses and aren’t fetching yet. We’re prepping people to start fetching from the system though. Hopefully they will. I tasted some of the water out of the tap. It’s nice. It’s amazing how a simple filtration system can make 2800 g/mL of fecal colliform just disappear.
The guinea worm mural is also finally happening. It only took 4 months, but I finally got the money from the Carter Center to buy the paints for the project. One of the teachers from the primary school is a pretty good artist and has volunteered to help me. And the Junction chief is letting us paint it on the side of his house. Of course, this means we’ll probably have to paint one at the Fufulso chief’s house too, but we’ve got plenty of paint for now.
The last couple months have been really hard for me. I haven’t been able to get a lot of work done. First of all, it’s rainy season. That means lots of rain. And when there’s rain, it’s time to farm. Even if I wanted to get stuff done, most of the people in my village are spending every daylight hour at their farms. I helped with my landlord’s groundnut harvesting, but other than that I’m pretty useless on a farm. School is also on break, so I can’t do anything there. Then there was Ramadan, which lasted until about a week ago, meaning everyone was exhausted during the day and no one really wanted to do anything. On top of all that, I was traveling a lot this summer due to helping with the pre-service training for the new group of volunteers that arrived in June. Then, after swearing-in, one of the new volunteers came to stay with me for a while. Turns out he was allergic to the house he was supposed to live in (specifically to the bat shit seeping through the ceiling and down the walls due to an extreme infestation of bats and the fact that the house had been empty for nine months) and Peace Corps was trying to find out what to do with him. So instead of staying in Accra, he came and hung out up here. They wanted to put him in a village near me that needs a volunteer, but the house they wanted him to stay in there had had bats at some point and there was a little bit of residual poo making his eyes itch, so they had to ditch that idea. It was fun to have another American to hang out with for a while and I was sad to see him go after three weeks at my site. Especially since they decided to transfer him out of Ghana. He left on Tuesday for his new home. Jamaica. That’s right, his new country is Jamaica. And his site is ON THE BEACH. I’m not going to lie, I’m kinda jealous. I also don’t know what to do with myself now that I’m alone again.
I’ve been in Kumasi for the past week for a PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) conference. It’s given me a lot of ideas for projects to keep myself busy. The biggest is a series of programs I want to put together with the District Health Management Team to target the long-distance truck drivers. As you may recall, my village lies at a major junction on the “highway” between Kumasi and Tamale, the main route for drivers heading north to Burkina Faso. A lot of drivers pass the night at the roadside in my village, and like many young men, they like to … have fun before they move on. The idea would be to train the tea sellers who work the roadside at night as peer educators, maybe even getting them to start selling condoms at their tea stands (since the pharmacies are not open at night for them to buy condoms), then have a weekly educational program on HIV/AIDS, possibly even getting the nurses involved so we can do VCT (Voluntary Testing and Counseling). It’s not like we can tell them, “Hey, come get tested tomorrow!” They’ll be gone by morning. Anyway, it’s going to be a lot of work to get this project rolling. But I think Liz (the new volunteer in Yapei, my market town) and Maria are on board to help.
That’s about it for now. Let me end on a humorous note by saying that watching my 50-something-year-old Ghanaian housewife counterpart learn how to demonstrate how to use a female condom was definitely the highlight of the PEPFAR conference.
PS - I'm thinking about the future. Would I sorta count as a grad student if I went back for another bachelors then a masters? Thinking about following in Kimmie's (and Mom and Dad and Linda) footsteps and going to nursing school. And the best nursing school in the country just so happens to be in the city in which I want to live and has a graduate entry program...