Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Volunteer is not Prepared for Internet Time

So, today's internet excursion was completely impromptu ... again ... and, as such, I am not carrying my three blog updates with me. Confounds!

As I'm growing used to the PCT reality of living by the seat of my pants, I am not phased - though a little disappointed in my ability to adapt into 24-hour preparedness for the unplanned ... but I digress. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind - a whirlwind I'll not go into detail about (for fear of spoiling those other well written blogs in my journal), but I'll try to fit as much in as humanly possible without making this too convoluted.

So, before my last post we left for counterpart workshops where we met our counterparts and supervisors (I have two counterparts - Thomas and Sylvester - and one supervisor - Jop, all of which are super supportive and really excited to work with me on anything I am willing to do) and sat through an intensive two day seminar-packed workshop, learning all about what it means to be a counterpart/supervisor/volunteer. It was intense, alright.

Next, we left early on a Wednesday morning for site visits, commandeering an entire city bus to drive five hours to the Kamasi-Metro Station, where Jop and I got a bus ticket for a straight (and long) ride to Bolga (the capital city just outside of my village). We waited maybe four hours for it to fill, you'll learn about this process in more detail when I post my blog about the traveling experience in Ghana, and rode the full ten hours squished (well, I was squished ... Jop's a big man) and ready to jump out at a moments notice. You'd not believe how exhausting long-distance travel is in Ghana. It took a total of 16 hours of the day to get into town, where I was dropped off at a local guest house and left to rest until morning.

From there I took a 10 cedi taxi (an amount unheard of in Ghana) into Sherigu (which took a whopping twenty minutes) to meet the couple I'm replacing (and the animals I will be adopting, yay!). I spent three days in Sherigu, walking about and meeting my neighbors, checking out all of the side projects that have been started (including but not limited to a nursery and a computer lab for the local school), and being spoiled with things like pancakes for breakfast and tomato basil soup with grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. At one point we went into Bolga, a beautiful forty-minute bike ride from my house, and met some of the other volunteers in the area over lunch and a mineral (aka. Coka Cola, etc.) ... It all suddenly started to settle in and, before I could start freaking out or focusing too intently on the fact that - the first time I'm ever living alone, I will be in Ghana and in my own house - I started organizing the colors I'd paint the walls, the way I'd rearrange the furniture, and all of the possible project ideas I had floating around in my head.

Oh, the joy, to be completely OCD in Ghana ...

After finding my way into Bolga to catch a Metro to Gushie (where our training is being held), I began the process of living in a big house, sleeping mattress to mattress, eating, and taking class with fifteen other people all day - every day. It's definitely something I'm not used to, almost like summer camp but eighteen-million times more intense. The first week was spent specifically on lecture-type lessons on everything from CLTS (community led total sanitation) and AIDS/HIV to malaria and hand-washing lesson techniques.

On Saturday and Sunday we took a break, traveling to my site (a mini-lesson in the different types of side projects you can do) and then to Paga Crocodile Pond where, I kid you not, we squatted over a very large, very ancient crocodile that I am pretty sure was missing at least one eye (this is also going to be expanded upon in a separate blog). Next was this beautiful rock park, of which I forget the name, but is pictured on my Facebook profile for our group WAT/SAN photo and then home to an enormous and delicious proper Italian spaghetti dinner and apple pie. On Sunday we went to one of our trainer's - Beth - sites to draw murals on the side of school buildings with the kid's Health Club. We did an HIV/AIDS mural ... pictures will be posted soon, no doubt.

This week has been out-in-the-field learning, or so to speak. We have gone into the community to give lessons (an age-appropriate hand-washing lesson at the school, an HIV/AIDS lesson to a group of villagers and elders of all ages, a Health Day complete with impromptu field-day activities, helping construct two local latrines and visiting several different village clinics and hospitals).

Before I got sick (again), we spent an hour or so doing what is probably the most amazing experience of my adult life, thus far. After checking on the latrine construction, we come into a compound where the women of the village are pounding a new dirt floor. Only they're bent over, slamming these large wooden 'feet' onto the ground, in unison, to the beat of a worker's song being sung by all. We stood there, amazed, for a few minutes until more wooden 'feet' materialized ... intended for us ... the opportunity of which I took immediately and got right into the fray. I was covered in mud splatters within a matter of minutes ... which I realized was actually a mixture of mud, cow shit, and water (it hardens like cement) a few seconds later. By then I realized it was worth the risk of getting cow shit in my eye, which I eventually did, and infecting a newly opened blister, which I also did, to be immersed in such an awesome cultural experience. I do not regret it. A few girls in our group even shoved their forearms right in and mixed the stuff ... I commend their bravery.

I have to admit, however, it was the best shower I've taken in Ghana so far.

So, here I am today, sitting in Tamale - in Heaven (aka. the Vodofone cafe) - taking a nice break and ready to head into the market for goodies. I hope more pictures will be posted soon, tagged from other people, so that I can post them on here ... in fact, I think I'm going to download a few right now ...


         WAT/SAN group photo, I'm behind a kid on the left
         the magical twin's rock from a previous post
        the first Black Star game