"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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Variety of Tidbits

Fetching water. As I believe I’ve said before, I kind of like fetching water because it makes a statement to the people in the village that just because I am white, doesn’t mean I can’t/shouldn’t do tasks like fetch water. It is also a way for me to get out and see people, and you could also say it is decent exercise. The issue I am running into is that the girls next door told me that if I go fetch water then the “women will talk.” I didn’t quite understand this so I asked them to explain. They meant that whoever sees me fetching water will then gossip amongst themselves about the fact that the girls aren’t fetching water for me like they should be. As the girls put it, “You are our master, so we have to fetch for you.” The word “master” is used here frequently and while it is a bit scary for them to call me their master, it just means elder. I told them that I appreciate them getting water for me, but sometimes I like to do it and I want to. They understand this, but the other people who will see me fetch water won’t always get this message, so the girls will then look bad. This is what I deem necessary to call “village drama.”

It was raining right when school was about to begin one day, and I walked over and no teachers were there, not even the headmaster. Since they all ride motos from Walewale, they simply don’t come until the rains stop. This is a completely normal thing and it goes so far as the fact that they write “It was raining” next to the time they signed in at the teacher attendance notebook, and this makes it OK that they came an hour late. The students mostly all show up, and they run their morning assembly of prayers, national anthem, and pledge despite there not being a teacher to organize them. The class prefects run the show.

Something else I have noticed is that if a teacher is sitting under the tree with the rest of the teachers when he/she is supposed to be in class, the students will come to the teacher and say, “Sir, we are having English now.” They will call out the teacher by basically saying you shouldn’t be sitting there, now is our time for class.

My iphone is always getting attention from the teachers. They have me remove the case and ask me all these questions about how much it costs and what all it can do. Smartphones aren’t that common at all in the rural areas. In the bigger cities there will be people who have them, but not here. It is considered a work of art, which I suppose it actually is. Kudos Steve Jobs, RIP.

I’ve gotten used to seeing fifty-odd goats standing on TOP of semis. They will hoist up all the goats one at a time, all tied together with a piece of rope, and stand them on top of trucks to be transported, since inside the trucks are already packed with things. The goats just sway with the ride and the numerous speed bumps, often for trips from the north of Ghana all the way to southern cities which can take up to 10 hours. I don’t know how they can balance that whole time.

I’ve been risking more and more by eating “street meat.” If I am out with a couple of the teachers for the afternoon, we will buy some lamb or guinea fowl meat and take it to a spot (bar) where they have a charcoal grill and will cook it for us. Flies are EVERYWHERE. Sometimes the meat is good, but a lot of it is bones (which Ghanaians chew, eat and swallow) and gristle/fat. I’m getting used to it.

I stepped into a classroom at the nearby primary school to find the temperature increase by nearly 10 degrees. The room was packed with little kids and they could hardly move. The school is so overcrowded and these kids are literally sitting on one another, roasting, and passing every germ imaginable. Too many babies and not enough schools; only a plague or money could fix that it seems. It’s terrible conditions, and here I am thinking my room is packed. The classes at JHS are only getting more and more students as time goes on, and there isn’t more accommodation coming along with that increase.

Figured I’d explain something trivial but is such a normal thing here without running water. When you go to a spot (bar), you sit down outside of course and the person working will bring you a small bowl of water. You then take turns slowly pouring the water while your friend washes his hands. It’s just the routine normal thing here and something you, my readers, may not have thought about. Third-world-hand-washing.

One of my fellow Catholic teachers, most are Muslim, asked if I wanted to pray the rosary at church Friday afternoon at 5. I said sure so we went to the church and I realized that they have a grotto next to the church. It’s very simple, could sit a hundred or so people on the stones, and has a statue of Mary at the front. About 50 people showed up to pray, and it was a unique experience to be standing there, as the sun was setting behind us, praying the rosary a decade at a time in English followed by Mampruli. I talked with the Ghanaian priest after, and he said he had driven through Ohio when he was in seminary in USA on his way to St. Paul, MN. I also got a quick tour of the structure next door that was supposed to be the home for the priest and visitors of the church but was destroyed in a bad windstorm last year and is now rendered useless. There was running water installed and it was supposed to be a nice place, but the wind took the roof and it needs some serious renovations, but the money isn’t there.

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