Saturday, August 28, 2010

First Weeks at Site ...

So, I'm finally an official Peace Corps Volunteer (yay me!) ... and my first few weeks at site have been relatively busy:

Usually, this isn't quite how the first few weeks at site go, but I've been lucky enough to piggy-back the couple I'm replacing. It's an overlap of about three weeks and, in that time, I've been able to help them with a Girls Leadership Group in Bolgatanga (one that we all hope I'll be able to continue over the next two years) and I've rescued a panic-stricken Environment volunteer who didn't know how to construct the required latrine for her new house.

I am feeling quite accomplished, actually ... and realize that the next three months will probably not follow suit. As the rules go, the first three months are a 'no-leave, no-travel' time for new volunteers. This allows us to start relationships with community members, become more fluent in our language, and assess the communities needs, without the stress of big projects. My situation is probably more unique than most, considering there are a few open grants and projects to be taken over, but, relatively speaking, I will have a lot of 'down time' over the next twelve weeks.

We have been traveling in and out of Tamale and Bolgatanga (the capital cities of the Northern and Upper East Regions) for various household purchases, so familiar faces are seen every once and a while, but once Kirsten and JJ leave in T-minus four days, I will, effectively, be on my own for the first time since I touched down in Ghana. This prospect is both freeing and terrifying. This will be the first time I've lived on my own as an adult ... and, don't you know, I've decided to do it in West Africa - living in a cute little house, all to myself. I've already begun planning what I'll do with the house to make it a home and am fairly certain that any first-three-months-mental-break-downs will be narrowly avoided by keeping myself busy with projects. I've already wrangled in a few one-year volunteers in the area to help me build things, clean things, and paint things ... all for the price of beer and a good meal ... I'm quite excited to have a nice, cozy place to call my own - even if it will be left here, after I'm done.

I've already begun making lists of potential projects/on-going projects that should keep my mind busy, keep me focused, and sane (this is all in theory, of course). The Girl's Camp was definitely a keeper. We spent six days total - three training the 'big sisters' and three with all of the girls - teaching them about leadership, self-esteem, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and peer pressure. I think it was fairly successful. The group of girls was fantastic and I think we may have positively affected them as peer leaders in their communities. I also managed to find a few local friends in the 'big sisters' and decided I had a lot to learn from this country.

Within the last few weeks, I've learned how mentally challenging my service will be, as well. As I mentioned in the last blog, there's a lot of introspection involved, what I didn't realize until recently was that it didn't necessarily have to do with Ghana or the Peace Corps. Being in a constant state of 'stress,' with various types of stimuli being thrown every-which-way, the brain tends to have short-term revolts against its owner. What I realized, but didn't really understand about the Peace Corps was its potential to be an altering force in me - a chance to fight my demons and an opportunity to better myself, in retrospect of my experiences. I've written a blog about 'Crazy Ghana Me' that I will post relatively soon, but (once again) I am writing impromptu, so you'll have to wait.

Rest assured, Emma now has two distinct personalities:

1.) Relatively normal Emma
2.) Crazy Ghana Peace Corps Emma

I am sure that, at various intervals, you will be hearing from both of them as time goes on ... as for now, I'm going to make myself some tea, enjoy the Tamale (tah-mah-lay) Sub-Office, and the short time I have with familiar faces. Happy travels ...

xx