"Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

-President John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September 3, 2013:

The days are beginning to run together. It rained all day Friday and I wasn’t able to leave the house. Saturday I was in touch with a fellow teacher, who I met when I visited my site a month ago, and he owns a little barber shop. His name is also Jacob, so I am “Suliminga Jacob” which is “White Man Jacob” in Mampruli. He seems like a cool guy, in his twenties, and a very hard worker. He is a teacher, farmer (everyone farms to some extent), and runs the barbershop. I rode my bike into Walewale Saturday morning, about a 30 minute ride, and chatted with him and got my hair cut. No interesting haircut story this time…I just had him shave it all off so it was very simply and easy. I hopped around town buying some fruits and things I needed to restock on.

Later in the evening there were some guys playing football near my home on the field. I don’t know if I’ve described before, but the field is all dirt, and the goal posts are bamboo sticks and there is no net. Not much of a soccer field, but man could those guys play. They were anywhere from maybe 15 to 25 years old, and they were all ripped to shreds. I watched them play around for awhile, in the scorching late afternoon heat, as they went full blast and didn’t have any water around to drink. They just played and played all out. I am curious who a group of village guys like that could match up against in the states. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could compete with some decent college teams. Who knows. It was fun to watch, and it really made me wish I was good at soccer and could play but I would be terrible out there. Plus they had “official” teams, so maybe I can play in some pick-up games whenever those are.

Sunday morning I woke up and decided I should probably check out the church scene since it’s the main attraction come Sundays. There isn’t a church in Gbimsi since it’s predominantly Muslim, so I had to go to Walewale. My neighbor told me it started at 9 oclock, so I played it safe and got there at 830am, figuring I would talk with some people beforehand or something. The church is basically a big open room with a tin roof, just like every other building here for the most part. There were plastic chairs outside of both side entrances, and inside they had wooden pews. There were decorative things like balloons and such hanging and I couldn’t believe that they decorated like that every Sunday. It turns out I don’t think they do…it was a special mass for welcoming a new priest. There were some people around, but it was empty for the most part, so I took a seat in a pew. The backrest of the whole pew wasn’t nailed in right and leaned back as if it were about to break. I was almost certain it would break during the service. I greeted some people as they came, but everyone was mostly quiet. I had on my linen pants and a collared shirt that I had made here. The women wore there best dresses with the scarf things on their heads, and the men wore slacks and collared shirts. Everyone looked nice. I waited, and waited, and waited.

An hour and a half later, at about 10, the place was full and all the seats outside were also full. Mass was beginning. There were many priests there for the welcoming of the new guy. There was a choir and a brass band. There were two other white men I saw, and probably a few hundred people in attendance, inside and out. They had a pretty good sized plastic Jesus on the cross hanging on the wall at the altar. It was all much better than I anticipated! But it was so hot. I had been roasting in there for an hour and a half before the service even started, and I was so thirsty. The service began, and everything was said in English and then translated into Mampruli. For this reason, the lengthy songs, and things moving slowly, an hour had passed and we hadn’t even gone to communion! After a homily in English that seemed like an eternity, he started all over again to say it in Mampruli! I was too hot and thirsty and I had to get up and go outside. I don’t know how the Ghanaians do it, they are just so used to the heat and could probably go weeks without water. I had been sitting there for at least two and a half hours total, and I couldn’t go back in to finish. I knew it would take another 45 minutes to an hour at that rate. So as of now I am unable to report how the rest of mass goes here, and what the scene is like after church. Next week I may try again, this time arriving later and hopefully the mass isn’t as long since it won’t be a special occasion.

I walked around Walewale a bit and then went to the taxi area and waited there for about a half hour until a taxi filled. Oh and it sure filled. There were four women in the back seat with one baby, and then myself and another woman sharing the tiny front seat with another baby. This woman and I were completely squished together, and the baby was half on my lap and half on hers. I knew it was only a quick five minute drive, but then out came the boob…closest to me. This woman and I were so squished and my torso was behind hers that when she started breastfeeding, it almost seemed as if her boob was coming from me! For being a conservative culture, like the women don’t show knees or shoulders, and the men don’t wear shorts, they really have no reservations when it comes to breastfeeding. A woman in front of me was breastfeeding in church even!

Later that day I had a present delivered….my toilet seat/stand! It’s a game-changer. Send me some magazines people, I get to relax on the john finally!

The goat gate was also delivered and seems to be working effectively.

Monday I decided to go to Tamale, which is the third largest city in Ghana, the largest in the north, and it is about a two hour ride for me. I have to go there to check for packages that may have arrived, I can get some mail and items at the Peace Corps sub-office there, and they have some really good legitimate stores. Between two of the stores, I could find a ton of stuff that isn’t available elsewhere in the country. A random assortment of things like soy sauce, olive oil, some jam, spices, vanilla, a form of non-refrigerated cheese spread, etc. These things are pretty expensive, at least on a volunteer’s limited budget, but I bought them for now to kickstart my cooking at site, and I may not be able to afford as time goes on. I also had a hamburger for lunch, and pizza for dinner while in Tamale. It was certainly a success. It’s a hoppin’ city and I think I’ll really enjoy getting to truly know it.

I bathed out in the pouring rain one morning. It was refreshing until the loudest clap of thunder hit and I got scared I’d get struck by lightning…bare naked. I ran inside.

Did my bucket laundry for two and a half hours today in the afternoon. Note to self: Never do that again in the heat of the day. It rained in the morning so I wasn’t able to start it until 1pm, but I won’t make that mistake again. It was kind of nice to do it all and listen to music the whole time, but that is probably only because I am “bored” and don’t have a real schedule yet. Once school starts I probably will despise taking that much time for laundry. And my hands were the pruny-est of all time. Some of the stuff still needs to dry overnight….hope it doesn’t rain and I sleep through it! Oh and before I was able to do my laundry I had to make back-to-back trips to get water. I either need to continue to try that and get my neck and head stronger, or simply never do back-to-back trips again because my neck was broken. If you could only see how big the water bins are that some of these women carry on their heads. They put me to shame. And they probably take way more than two trips…

I am still just greeting everyone I see and making small talk in my English-Mampruli mix. I usually have several of these small conversations each time I wander out, whether I am going to the market, borehole, or to buy something.

I never know what is in store for me each day. It could go slow or fast, I could make decent food or terrible food, it could rain all day and I can’t go anywhere, sometimes a bunch of kids are around, I could laugh a lot or not at all, the power could be out part of the day…I’m still settling in and figuring this whole thing out. Once school starts I’ll get more of a daily routine, but even then I’m sure I won’t know what to expect from each day.

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