"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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

(Fire Festival Post Below Before) Last post until after I travel South.

All is hot and well here. It’s Sunday, and I will be traveling on Thursday and Friday to Kumasi down south where my education group I trained with has an In-Service-Training. From there I will proceed to Accra where I will spend Thanksgiving, eat at the US Embassy, and stay with an embassy worker. I will of course be missing my family and friends back home and the fun time I have at Thanksgiving, but don’t worry about me, I’ll be having an interesting time with this new experience for the holiday. So, some updates…

Some of the form 3 (oldest in JHS) came to me the other day and asked if I could help them to send an email. Why do they need help? They’ve never touched a computer, and don’t even know what email is. I asked who in the world they could possibly have an email to send to, but I didn’t really get an answer, I think they are just wanting to use a computer. This just killed me. They will potentially be going to high school next year, and here they are asking me what email is and how to use a computer. I desperately want to get these kids on computers and teach them how to use. It will be so life-changing for them.

From my previous post, I told of how I was brought a ton of water by the students, but it was so murky that anything could be living a few inches below the surface and I wouldn’t see it. I filtered most out, then had to clean my filter because it was filthy, and yes I did bathe with the non-filtered murky water. I suppose I could’ve been dirtier after taking a bath with it. Oh well. As I suspected, the water came from the open well. Anything that wants to get in the well can get in, but the borehole is pumped from below and comes through a pipe crystal clear. I still fetch my water from time to time, but I had to be the stingy white man and tell the students that would fetch for me that I have to have the borehole water. I think the issue is that the well has a significantly shorter line than the pipe, so it takes longer to fetch from the borehole.

Thank you Carol (the volunteer before me) for leaving a strand of Christmas lights behind in a box. I was cleaning the other day and discovered a 15-feet or so strand of colored lights, and as we all know, when you pull those type lights out of the box, you probably have a 50% chance that the thing actually works. Thank the Ghana Gods, I got the half chance of them working. I’ve duct-taped them to my wall and you have no idea how beautiful it looks to me. Scintillating. The first night I had them up I just stood in the middle of my room with all the other lights out basking in their glory. Now I’m living more like my college dorms, and even bedroom at home growing up.

I had a bit of extra fun with the kids one day in class when I whipped out – secretly – the laser pointer that mom and dad sent me upon request. I figured it’d be cool to have and possibly beneficial in class, but I had no idea how entertaining of a reaction I would get from the students. They were working on problems in class, and I was standing at the back of the room and, from my hip, I pointed the laser at the board. Some of the students who were looking at the board at that moment perked up and started looking around and whispering to their friends with a confused look on their faces. A couple more times of this and everyone was wondering what the heck was going on, and I couldn’t keep my smile away, my cover was blown. I started laughing and then showed them what it was and they loved it. They’re so used to teachers being strict, joke-free, and constantly threatening them while holding a cane. Any small joke or even putting on a goofy voice entices a loud laugh from many of them.

From Sunday to Thursday I wasn’t feeling well, and two of the days I had a fever and such and had to miss school. When it’s 100+ outside, it’s no fun to have a body temperature over 100 also. I was just happy I wasn’t expelling liquids from certain exits located on my body, so I dealt with the fever and aches OK. Some of the teachers would come by to see me and wish me a speedy recovery. That felt nice.

Headmaster had to come around and reinstruct the teachers not to be leaving school halfway through the day, because some of them do. Usually one or two teachers are there be opening at 8am. The students will have swept everywhere and held assembly all by themselves. Sometimes I direct a bit but the prefects can run the show.

I forget if I ever really explained this in the beginning, but in Ghana you ALWAYS have to offer your food to everyone before you begin. For example, if a teacher brings some rice and beans to school in the morning, when they open it they will always say “Austin, you are invited” before beginning to eat. The funny examples arise in certain places like the internet café. It is by no means a café with food, just some computers in a tiny room. I’ll be sitting there with headphones and staring into this computer screen, when the person next to me is opening some food they brought in and taps me and tells me I am invited. Also, it’s always eaten with hands, so if indeed you do want to join, you are both digging in with your hands. It’s fun in a way, but I respectfully decline the offer the majority of the time.

It’s safe to say that I’m now a “regular” at certain places. Even at this internet café an hour north in the capital city of the Upper East, the person who works there knows me and commented how it’d been a few weeks since I had come last. At my Gbimsi market, I stand out like a polar bear amongst grizzlies and everyone sees me anyway, so being a regular isn’t that special there. But at the larger Walewale market, I return faithfully to my bread lady, veggies lady, and others and the welcome me with a big smile and we chat small, small. Feels good.

As I said before, the leaves are brown and falling, and all the tall green grass and growth is dying or dead and brown. The maize and other crops are now harvested, and the landscape is becoming a brown, barren scene. And there is constantly a haze now as the winds are blowing the dust and sand around.


  1. Hi Austin! I bet those kids love you!! It's probably such a nice reprieve for them from the strictness of the others. As you can imagine, Marion is all brown and dead as well, and most all of the farms have been harvested. Circle of life here. Hope you are feeling better and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. Hi Austin, I know your Grandmother she gave me your blog address. Please be careful about the political events where you are. My husband and I will keep up with your adventures. Be safe. JOANN & JOE JIVIDEN