Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thank goodness for Blogger! My hotmail saga continues. Today, I could only read the lovely emails you sent. I couldn't reply or compose a new email. Frustrating!
So Stacey:
Thank you for writing the check. I hope remember to withdraw the amount from my account. Did you find anything out about insurance? Do you know why muscles twitch? My quad won't stop twiching. Dan's phone is still broken and the other one is lost. Xmas when I get back sounds weird but not unthinkable. I really only miss my blanket and we can't lose that in the mail ;)
Hillary: Thank you for the lovely message. I didn't get a rabies shot either. Thank you for the package. It has not yet arrived but I have hope. If you send in the future, send it to the address on this site. I am so very excited you are on your way to Honduras!
Sarita: Thank you for the J house update and the mail update. Stupid SCCC. Go SCA! I will be sleeping on the floor for awhile in Feb, I suppose. I'll work something out;) My address is in the comments on this site or KAUFMAN, RACHEL C/O AT Amanor PO Box 0602 Osu, Accra, Ghana.
Cynthia: If you are reading, I miss you and my mom sent the check. I hope you are readjusting well.
Gramma: I have not received any packages. I am waiting with baited breath. I love you tons and tons thank you for the emails. rachels_imagine@hotmail.com is the correct one.
Chris: It took awhile for the good vibes to get here but apparantly, they travel faster then mail. Thanks

"Good afternoon. How are you?"
"Fine thank you. How are you?"
That is how I start my mornings now. My co-volunteer, Cynthia and I decided not to plant trees anymore for various reasons including my hip and the seeminly pointless nature of the daily work. I was unsure of how my remaining time would unfold but my host brother, Dan, introduced me to the headmaster at a nearby school and he said he would be happy to have me help in the class rooms. I started at the school last Friday in the Kindergarten class. They call me Auntie Ra-hell and they start at me with huge white eyes like I was a giant chocolat brownie.
The school is a slap in the face. If I thought I was fortunate to live in America before, it is now painfully clear to me that I am more than fortunate. I now realize why there are so many kids on the street selling water or gum during school hours. Many kids can't afford to pay the 20 dollar fee. Nor can they afford to pay for their uniforms or books and paper. The parents don't take an interest in their children either. As for the kids who do stay in school they face barren walls, bookless shelves and earsplitting noise from the classes in the same room. It makes me very sad that my program fee has been wasted with the Save the Earth Network instead of paying for crayons or books or paper for these school children. Despite their lack of supplies and tools and books and a teacher who spends all her time nursing her 8 month old baby, the children of the KG continue to impress me with what they know. For example, they can recite numerous bible verses and sing any number of songs. They know thier ABCs and numbers. Most can spell and do addition and recite the months and days of the week. They are also rehearsing for a fairly extensive Christmas program. They sing "the list has been done" instead of "felize navidad." The headmaster said I will be able to help in all the grades (up to 6) and I am anxious to see if their first years of school were at all affective.
On another note, the teachers swat at the kids with sticks if they are misbehaving. I was appalled. But still, the kids smile and hold my hand or stroke my straight hair. I taught them the Hokey Pokey, a hand clapping game, high fiving and a hand trick. It makes me sad that I can't take them all and give them crayons and construction paper and scissors but I hope that my presense will make them more worldly. If anything, I am learning more from them!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving all!
Here is my Ghanaian Thanksgiving poem:


I hope I remember the smell of spongy
sweet coconut simmering in sugar,
crisp clean clothing drying on a line
in the dead equatorial heat and the warm
fruity breeze of over-ripe paw paw, mango and banana.

I hope I remember the easy raggae
beat behind swinging saxophone melodies,
the unpolished harmonies of morning prayer
and the rare pounding of sleeting rain
on powdery red earth.

I want to remember the feel of tightly
curled hair capping flat African heads
and the refreshingly luke-warm water
sliding down my sticky neck and arms.

I hope I remember the icy taste of grapefruit
juice; bittersweet caresse on my tongue,
candy-like pineapple, Lipton tea
that brings beads of sweat to my upper
lip and the starchy dryness of grilled
plantains and salted groundnuts.

I hope I remember bright white teeth
behind genuine smiles, the fragile balance
of people, goats, chickens and tro-tros
on the pocked roads and the topsy-turvy
moon hanging in perpetual twilight,
reflecting light from my eyes to yours,
sharing our senses and knitting us together
for a suspended universal moment.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

So I thought I would write a bit on my daily routine, if there is such a thing.

Up with the roosters around four o'clock am and my sleep is very broken from then on. The dogs bark, people turn on radios, birds chirp, hoo ho hoo hoo hoo and my host family prays. Laud, Edgar, Cecilia and Amano and Dan are my family members, each precious in their own right. I get up and get dressed. I brush my teeth and spit in the sink in the hallway. The pipe runs straight down into a bucket beneath the sink. There is no running water. I drink water from small plastic pouches or from water bottles in the fridge. They are dodgy though as they came from a pipe. The toilet is in a small room and the tank is filled with water from the bucket under the sink. I only flush after I have pooped and toilet paper goes in the garbage can. It took me some time to figure this out and I felt horribly guilty about flushing the toilet every time I used it. The amount of water a tank holds is exhorbant. I take a bucket in the shower room. Green soap and a washcloth. I use a smaller bucket to pour water over my body and the cool water is so nice in the hot weather. My towel smells funny, but so does most things. It smells like mildew or sweat or fish or dirt or poop or burning. I hope I remember the cooking coconut smell when I return and not the other smells. I am never completely dry. My towel is never completely dry. Nothing is every completely dry. My vitamins are dissolving.
Cecilia or Dan bring me breakfast on a tray. There is a tea bay in my cup, a bowel of sugar, a thermos of hot water, a tin of milky cream, several slices of bread with ground nut paste, an omlette and a bowel of pineapple. I have no appetite and my stomach is upset anyway so I eat the pineapple and bag the bread for lunch. The lipton tea is a savoir even though it is too hot to drink such things. Sometimes Cecilia gives me cake or canned pickled macaroni stuff for breakfast. I drink a lot of water, around five to six litres a day. I feel bad about drinking so much. Water is such a hassle to haul and buy.
At six thirty Dan and I head to Madina by tro tro, not a bus and not a taxi but transportation just the same. We have never gotton to Madina the same way twice so I am still confused about how to get to this village. There are no set scheduals in Ghana and sometimes a tro tro comes and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we get to Kingsley's house by seven and sometimes we don't arrive until eight thirty. Tro tros cost around 1000 to 2000 cedis. A man called a mate operates the door and takes money. I am an aspiring mate. A mate yells out the destination as the tro tro hurtles down the road. The mate is painfully hard to understand and Accra sounds like acracracracracra and Madina sounds like markemarkemarke.
We all meet at Kingsley's, sometimes Alex, Prince, Charlie or Eben are there. We hang around and rarely leave the house before ten. We catch a tro tro back towards Frafraha to Adomrobe. The ride is long but I savor it because the wind blows through the open window and cools me off and I am left to my thoughts. There are few stops on the way and the road is ungodly bumpy.
At the site, past volunteers have already filled lots of "rubber bags" with "sand" We are doing the same thing soon to be planted with Lycenae trees. The days are hot, the nights are hot. I am always hot. We work slowly if at all and after at least two hours we head home. The commute is long and we walk at least forty minutes both ways.
Kingsley shops at the market on the way back home and we help him prepare a three or four oclock lunch as it were. Eventually, Dan and I head home and end up walking half the way because tro tros are dodgy and taxies are too expensive. I fall into bed exhaused from heat and read or listin to music. I practice my guitar or talk with Cecilia. It is dark around six but the noise continues well into the night. On days when we don't work and I don't go to cape coast and get horribly sick, I sit at home and read or knit or play the guitar.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Hello from oh so hot Ghana!
I made it, I made it, I made it!
Already, after two weeks, I have had an interesting if not fun time. First of all, the heat makes moving absolutely unbearable but the sun goes down at six and things start to cool off. My host family is very gracious and they still instist on filling my bucket for my showers and refilling the toilet tank after I flush, which by the way is only after pooping.
Food has been a challange, partly because I have no appetite in this heat and partly because I've seen what the meat looks like before it goes into the pot. It's been sitting out in the heat of the day rotting. I did eat a crab leg. My favorite is red red or fried plantain and beans.
I bused down to Cape Coast with my volunteer partener, Cynthia. THe bus ride was a painful 4 hours long. But the trip was worth it. Cape Coast has two forts and one castle rich with history of the Gold Coast and slave trade. We also went to Kokum national park and walked on rope bridges high above the jungle canopy.
Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen though is that I got severe dehydration from eating too little and especially not enough salt and had to be carried to a clinic not far from the American Embassy in Accra. I was very out of it and too weak to stand up but Cynthia was amazing she got me to the clinic and paid for my visit because I didn't have any more money. They gave me two bags of salene solution through and IV and antibiotics. My tongue was dark black. I thought I was going to die. I honestly did. But I'm ok and it's not malaria or cholera or anything scary. I just have to be more carefull about salt consumption. You really wouldn't believe the heat. It is unbearable.
I love you and miss you.
oh yes, my gmail account is not supported in Ghana so email me at rachels_imagine@hotmail.com