"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, January 5, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Hope everyone had a good time back in the frigid states. It hit 100 on both Christmas and New Years here, and while I could go for some cold, I don’t think I would choose the 0 degree temps over this. I managed to have a good break from school and enjoyed the holidays with several other PCV’s at a nearby guesthouse. For Christmas, seven of us met up for two nights and cooked a scrumptious Christmas day meal. My friend bought and brought two guinea fowls and we butchered those to prepare along with a bean dish, sweet potatoes (sometimes you can find) and brownies! From there I visited my friend’s home which is about 30 miles the way the crow flies from my house, but due to the lack of roads it takes about 5 hours in a roundabout way. That’s pretty much how it goes here in Ghana, the country is about 600 miles tall I think, so it shouldn’t take the 18 hour ride that it takes from the coast. On that note, check out my new album on facebook which includes a picture of all the countries that fit inside Africa, or just google it yourself. AFRICA IS HUGE.

After a few days of wandering and coming back to my house, some of us went to Tamale, which is the “big city” in the north for New Years. I may have said it before, but Tamale is actually the fastest growing city in all of West Africa. It doesn’t quite have a million people, and two other cities in Ghana have almost 3 million, but it’s growing quite fast apparently. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for New Years, but it turns out some people do go to the few bars in town, and we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that they actually shot off some fireworks. It was on par with what my friends and I launched during high school, but still. The scary part is that after about a half hour of shooting one firework off at a time, it developed into somewhat of a turf war. Luckily, I was on a rooftop bar (only two stories but the tallest thing in Tamale) and was out of harms way, but we had a perfect view of each side of the street shooting fireworks at each other and running for cover. A little skirmish resulted in the streets, and I never saw a police presence. It sounds worse than what it actually was. I’m just happy I came away with no burns.

As you now know, I wasn’t in my village for either of the holidays, but I know for a fact that Christmas isn’t celebrated in my village since they’re mostly all Muslim. The church service at the Catholic church in the city closest to me had Christmas services of course, but I wasn’t around to attend. I was around for Boxing Day, which had a huge turnout at the spot (bar). When I returned to site, some of the older students asked if I brought them a gift basket, so apparently they are somewhat aware of the gift exchanging that goes on for Christmas. New Years in the village I’m not exactly sure, but from asking around it seems like staying up till midnight isn’t really a thing. They all have to go to farm all day so why stay up until midnight.

School is resuming on a Tuesday the 7th. It’s a mystery whether or not all the students will show up or if we will just clean the compound on the first day…or first week. Time will tell.

Fun fact…I found an actual swimming pool in Tamale that you can use for the day. I’ll gladly travel several hours round trip to utilize this in the hot dry season.

Ghanaians are super friendly. I had hitched a ride awhile back with a guy and got his contact number. Well recently he was making the trip again and stopped at my house to pick me up and take me. This makes traveling exponentially better. Tros are the slowest, hottest, most unsafe and uncomfortable pieces of junk ever.

If you have me on facebook, check out some of the pictures that are graphs from the nearby hospital. It has admittance rates and morbidity rates, etc. It isn’t the easiest to read, you will probably have to zoom, but it’s still pretty interesting. Malaria dominates admittance numbers and morbidity. Abortions are up there. Send me a message if you want the pictures or more details.

The ATM ate my card. Just a few weeks earlier I saw the thing eat a Ghanaian woman’s card, and she wasn’t even phased. She was actually smiling and so nonchalant about it. I made note of it and tried to do the same when mine was eaten, but it’s easier said than done. I had to go inside and be tossed back and forth to different people and wait to finally fill some papers and my new card will be here in 3 weeks…. give or take 5 months.

A lot of prices are going up in Ghana. Our PC country director has said that we are experiencing rapid inflation here, and they are trying to increase our pay to account for it, but it takes too much time getting it through Uncle Sam. We have gained an extra 20 cedis per month (10 bucks) so that’s something I suppose. Petrol is going up constantly; my tro ride from tamale has increased 30% in the past 3 months. Packaged foods and stuff are also increasing, but the village market prices from farming items is still staying the same for the most part. All of that fluctuates with season anyway.

There are constantly “controlled” wildfires here now that it’s the full-on dry season. They just burn all the harvested farmland and I’m not exactly sure why. I’ve been told that sometimes it’s a means of hunting the bushmeat, but that can’t be why it’s happening all the time. Driving on the main road you will see several fires either roadside or off in the distance. With how dry everything is here, I honestly can’t believe the whole north of Ghana isn’t on fire by now.

Another cool little thing I’ve been experiencing lately…As I said earlier, several of us volunteers were hopping around a bit in the north here, and we all speak different Ghanaian languages. It was cool to be able to talk to any street-side vendor, market lady, taxi driver or what have you because we have all the big languages covered up here. Ghanaians are always so surprised when you can speak their language, and more surprised when it’s a group and they are all speaking different local languages! It feels pretty good to surprise them and let them know that we aren’t just passing through, we’re here to stay, well, at least for two years. Still that’s more than they expect, and most of the white people they see are in nice cars and working with big NGO’s and don’t give a villager the time of day. I hate to generalize and stereotype, but that’s how it is most of the time. It feels good to be at the grassroots level and really immersing and integrating into the culture here.

Here goes term 2 of school for me!

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