Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nothing Like a Waterfall to Make You Feel Small

So, I have to be the nerd and tell you that I had an entire blog written in my journal for the next time I was on the internet. I was attempting to plan ahead (such a silly concept in Ghana, mind you) and stay organized. Low and behold, I've found myself at the fastest internet cafe' near our town on accident, so bear with me because this might be another jumbled free-flow.

It's Sunday, our free day, and we spent it with the Education Trainees at the Boti Waterfalls just outside of Kofi. It was absolutely gorgeous ... I spent the whole day repeatedly telling people that I felt like I was in Tomb Raider ... I'm pretty sure they're all coming to the realization that I am a huge nerd with stores of nerdiness they have yet to encounter. We hiked around the surrounding area, finding ourselves in the sacred caves and, at one point, standing on-top of the sacred rock that apparently gives you twins (if you so wish for them). Luckily, no twins dropped out of my  uterus, so I might be safe for a while ... how awkward would that have been?

My home-stay family (the subject of the journal-blog that I will post later) is quite used to me being gone most of the day. They were careful to make sure I was happy with the Ghana win against the US last night before making too much noise, which, of course, I was. For now, we have a week left until we go to our counterpart workshops and visit our sites for a couple of days. After that, it's technical training in Gushie (which will also include field trips to a few of the national animal reserves) for a few weeks before we come back down to our home-stay families. It seems like there's so much to do, but I'm sure it's going to fly by and, suddenly, I'll be at my site and immersing myself into the language and culture.

I'm currently working on bribing all of my PC friends to come visit me because my site is going to be awesome and unique and exactly what I expected when I found out I was coming to Africa. The more time I have to think about Sherigu, the more excited I get about living there. We are all starting to get rather impatient - training is, for everyone, a slightly painful experience because there's so much to learn. I am slowly amassing care package lists ... most of them involve lots of cheese and cookies ... for when I get to site and start cooking on my own. I have a house to myself, with two rooms and a kitchen. The couple who lived there before me closed off the garden with a wall, so I have privacy and intermittent electricity (which is better than none). I'm actually quite excited for my parents (and, hopefully, a few friends) to come visit ... walking around today, we were all so flabbergasted at the realization that we were, in fact, in Africa.

I will go for now and next time you will read about the experience of home-stay ... for now, I am enjoying the air-conditioned internet cafe' and flush toilets :)


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Making Friends in Ghana

Before getting into the thick of things, let me first say that it is so refreshing to log into Facebook and see people talking about normal, mundane, every-day things. It seems funny to me now that I used to make fun of Twitter and status updates for their irrelevance. Now I can do nothing to hide my excitement over listening to and reading every small detail of the going-ons in America - anything to feel connected and normal.

Our training has officially begun, which means that we've split off by sector and - having learned our site assignmens two days ago - our site-specific languages. It's become quite normal to re-organize our worlds at the drop of a hat, but it hasn't made it easier to deal with friends being stationed somewhere far away. I had a small moment of panic, learning that my site (in the Upper East) was one of two in the region recieving new volunteers from our group. After such an overwhelming first twenty days in Ghana (and plenty more to come until, at least, August 12), I was finding it hard to see the trees through the forest. If I'm being honest, I haven't quite recovered, but I spent the morning reading letters from my family and friends - the letters that remind me why I came and why I'm capable for this job - and I'm feeling much better ... much more grounded.

It's really a slippery slope we walk - it's not that we're alone, it's just that we're very seperate. This is a feeling that most of us have never really felt, a part from being independent and comfortable as individuals, willingly sending ourselves into a foreign land is such a startling experience. You really can't do much to prepare. This morning I found myself feeling completely inadequate in any and all conversation regarding Twi. Forgetting completely the magic words, "Be patient with yourself," I began to feel some self-doubt leaking up under my springs. It isn't that there aren't plenty of people offering help and guidance and friendship. The people here are so welcoming and willing to teach. It's not that I'm not totally open to what I've gotten myself into. I'm taking all of the opportunities thrown my way to interact and enjoy this awesome experience, but sometimes it's still really hard to find the tiny Thomas the Train in my brain.

I only really feel alone at night underneath the Mosquito-net, when the sounds I'm still getting used to are surrounding me on every side, and the darkness curls into the window like a sheet. And I suppose 'aloneness' isn't really all that bad, but knowing that I'll be alone for most of the next two years is surreal. I still cannot believe that I've gotten myself to Ghana. This is all so strange to me, that I'm sitting smack-dab in the middle of one of my biggest accomplishments to date. Even stranger is that my family is so far removed from the experience. It makes me feel stronger, but slightly discombobulated. Like my umbilical chord is stretched too thin.

Now, I don't mean to make anyone think that I'm not enjoying myself. I'm just working through some of the first feelings at the moment. I'm sure there will be fountains of them to come. For now I will tell you that my homestay mum is a jolly woman who I am sure is plotting ways to MAKE ME FAT. She also had me eat an ENTIRE pineapple today after eating lunch because she knew it was one of my favorites. She laughed when I told her I would explode if she kept trying to feed me so much. The kids at the house are sweet and love playing frisbee. We watch lots of football and everyone loves to watch my reactions, laughing and slapping their knees in response to almost anything I do. I'm actually okay with the fishbowl situation here, it keeps things interesting and keeps me as grounded as I can get.

There is so much to write about, you have no idea. Including a two day hiatus in the Sick Bay at our training site (anyone else thinking Star Trek?) ... The other PCTs were betting back and forth whether I had Malaria or not, it got so bad. Apparently I was the only one on my side: I WIN.

As for now, I have a sensative stomach that grows suddenly shy around latrines (you have to be here to know why). Coca Cola is my new favorite treat, even though I hated how sweet it was in the states. I am currently bombarded with random obsessive thoughts involving Pringles and Chewy granola bars - even though the latter hasn't touched my lips in years. My Malaria pills makes movies obsolete when I sleep because my dreams are AWESOME. My old roommate was glad to finally have a room to herself at homestay because I didnt chatter at her all night long. And goat bleets are possibly the best random comedic relief you could possibly have ANYWHERE.

I suppose I should sign off for now, next time I'll try to be a little more organized (though no promises ... something tells me my organisational skills are about to go right out the window), but I am hoping everyone is well and have officially clocked 20 days as a Peace Corps Trainee! Please be sending letters. I may not get them quickly and my replies may take even longer, but like I said above: there is nothing more relaxing than to hear about the normal stuff I'm missing back home. Below is a temp address, I will post the permanent address when I get it:

Emmaline Repp, PCT
Peace Corps Ghana
PO Box 5796
Accra-North, Ghana
West Africa



Friday, June 11, 2010

Greetings from Ghana!

I am typing up a quick hello from an internet cafe' in Wa to let you all know that I am in good spirits and doing very well (though very hot). I am having troubles accessing Facebook because of the lengthy security check and slow connection here, so hopefully there are some who will check here and pass the message on.

I am enjoying my experience immensely. The people here are most welcoming and the trainees are all people I am proud to know. Training is soon to start, we are traveling down to Kukurantumbi tomorrow, and that's where the hard stuff will begin. Many of you will start getting piles and piles of letters, as I will finally have some downtime and will realize how much I miss everyone! I do so wish I had constant connection so that I could share all of these awesome experiences all the time, but for now I will settle for a couple of minutes and a few meager sentences.

I am excited to learn the language of my area, we will be given our assignments within the next week, and cannot wait to get to know the people in my surrounding area. Fellow trainee Nikki and I spent the last couple of days on our Vision Quest staying with a PCV in Jiripa. We were proud of ourselves for traveling so far and alone ... now that we've tackled a twelve hour trip, local tro-tros and cars won't seem half as daunting once we get into the fray! Spending the day at the market and heading to Bole tonight to meet with two others who will travel down with us tomorrow.

I will unfortunately be missing the US World Cup game tomorrow, but am excited to see a game tonight and spend the evening watching Ghana play on Sunday - I plan on watching it with some locals. The food is fantastic and, so far, I haven't had any troubles or sicknesses. A head cold attacked me for the last two days, but is fast disappearing.

I only have a few minutes left so I will sign off for now. Know that I am happy and loving everything about Ghana. It is definitely sensory overload!!