Greetings from a grey England. Admittedly the weather has been better than I expected, it has actually been sunny a fair amount since I have been here. This is one of the best times of the year though, and November will bring in the cold. It still wont be as cold as the Midwest winters though, or so I keep telling myself. School has been good so far, just ridiculously hectic and busy. Between trying to keep up with my school work, get to know the people on my program, and spend time with my friends who live here, I have had very little time for things like grocery shopping and laundry. However, I am managing, as they like to say in Ghana.
I am living in East London, oh yeah I am an east ender! I told my Irish friend Niall where I am living, the neighborhood is called Bethnal Green. His response was “how very trendy of me.” :) I am very close to Brick Lane, a place infamous for its delicious Indian and Pakistani food. The neighborhood is very diverse, but does have a really high amount of Bengali people (Bengali is the correct term for someone from Bangladesh I recently learned from a woman in my program). There is a vibrant street market everyday and the place is just 15 minutes on the tube from my school.
The program so far has been good, the strength of it is really the amazing diversity in background and experience of my fellow Masters students. I realized how refreshing it is to finally be with people who have been doing the exact same work I have. It is not that my friends now don’t appreciate what I am doing, because they do. But it is different to be with people who have done similar work and can offer advice about past and future experiences. There are 83 people on my masters program from something like 20+ different countries who have worked in something like 50+ different countries. I would say about 30% of the people in my masters are medical doctors. Everyone has worked in public health in a developing country for at least a year, it is a prerequisite for my program.
Anyway let me give you a layout of my program so yall have an idea of what it is like:
Term 1 is from Sep 25 when I started to Dec 19. Term 1 I think is going to be the hardest since I have to take Statistics and Epidemiology. Since I haven’t taken math or science in 12 years, it has been a challenge to get back into the swing of things. I have 3 other classes besides that with lots of reading. I am class for 30 hours every week and have another 20 hours of work to do on top of that (at least). That is the main difference I see from undergrad, I had less class time and more time to get my work done during the day.
Terms 2 is from January 12th to March 27th and term 3 is April 20th to June 21st or so. For the second and 3rd term, I have 2 classes at a time that run for 5 weeks, then I start the next round. So one class runs from Monday morning to 12:30 on Wednesday and then the second class runs from 2 pm on Wednesday til Friday afternoon. My classes end in the beginning of June sometime, then we have 2 weeks of review before exams.
Exams in England are a bit weird, I have 2 major exams in June for all my classes since September. Then after exams I do my masters project and thesis, which is due on September 4th.
The craziness is really that after you subtract the 6 weeks I get for Christmas and Spring Break essentially my classes are crammed into 7 months. And they are obviously very good at fitting as much material as possible into those 7 months.
OK enough about school. I am going out to a club for the first time since I have got here and get to some much needed dancing tomorrow night yay! I am planning on celebrating Halloween with Americans, the plan is to get all dressed up and wander around Soho on a pub crawl. should be fun. I hope to write more when I can but that is it for now. I would love to hear from everybody, just have a bit of understanding if it takes me a few weeks to respond.
For those from Grinnell and IMSA who have recently contacted me, you can read my blogs from when I was living in Ghana below, since my internet time was few and far between there aren’t that many posts.
Hello all, this will be my final blog entry on my adventures in Ghana. I decided to leave the Peace Corps early and am now back in the States. First of all, I wanted to thank everyone again who donated to my project. I promised to put some pictures up on the web of the weavers and others from my project for everyone to see and I was able to do that. I also promised a long time ago to put pictures up from my local festival that happened in October so those are up as well. Check them out at: http://flickr.com/photos/lmihp Fyi LMIHP stands for Lawra Methodist Integrated Health Project. I wanted you to look at them so you can see how healthy and strong the women are, and how with your help they are able to stay that way.
It was a tough decision to make to leave early, but I know I made the right choice. Ultimately for me it boiled down to the fact that I went into the Peace Corps to do sustainable development work and the work I was doing was in no way, shape or form sustainable. Most of the work I did for the project was office work—writing their grant applications, writing their quarterly and annual reports, helping them with reporting to the various required agencies. Time and again I tried to figure out ways to impart my skills to the staff, but it was made clear to me by the manager of the project that my role was to do the work and not to train others on it. I was not allowed the staff’s time I needed to train them. Because of this, I realized that rather than helping the project, what I was really doing was creating dependence on a volunteer/foreigner. So I did what I could for them before I left and exercised tough love. With help from you and Ghana AIDS Commission they should have money for the PLWHA’s antiretroviral therapy for the next year and a half. With your help I raised the money for the smock maker to come and teach the members of the PLWHA association how to make their weaving business more profitable. Since I left I know the project will be forced to allow one of their staff to learn computer and proposal writing skills, making the project ultimately as self sufficient as possible.
I am very happy for the lessons I learned about development work from living and working in Ghana. Ghana is oversaturated with foreign aid, and I learned a long list of what not to do in terms of development projects. At the same time, I got to work with Action Aid International Ghana and got to learn lessons about the amazing things that can be accomplished in communities with sustainable, community based projects which are monitored accurately. Okay, that is the last you’ll have to read of my development soap box, but hey it is my career and my passion so I should be excused this once. :)
So what is next for me? Naturally living in rural Ghana I had some time to think and I realized that I do want to continue living and working with HIV/AIDS abroad. But my family and friends are incredibly important as well so I am spending a few months in Central Illinois with my family and a few months in San Francisco this summer before moving to London for graduate school in the fall. I hope to reconnect with many of you as I am once again accessible. Anyway I will definitely miss the women and kids at my project and all the great Ghanaians and fellow volunteers that came to be a part of my life there.
I do have to say a quick “don’t try this at home” about my experience in the Peace Corps. Honestly, I had an incredibly difficult time working with the bureaucracy that is the Peace Corps administration and would not recommend it to anyone. Maybe if you are straight out of college and have no work or travel experience then it would be a good program for you. But I went there to development work, and was treated the entire time like I was on a high school cultural exchange program. If you are in your thirties especially, no way. I know other people have a different experience but I do have to say that was mine. That being said, I would recommend an organization called Volunteer Services Overseas, (VSO) if you are looking to gain a couple of years international experience. VSO is basically Peace Corps for Europeans and the rest of the world without all the bs of working with the American government. VSO requires 2 years of prior experience in your chosen field of volunteering and places you in a professional position. They also do things like furnish your house (concept!) and provide you with transportation so you don’t have to ride the minivan death traps that pass for public transportation in most of rural areas (shocking!) Although it also has its ups and downs, I had a lot of VSO friends and have to say if you or someone you know are thinking about a change and are contemplating international work, go for it! I would be happy to answer any questions for people.
Anyway I look forward to getting to reconnect with people again. I will be attending my 10 year reunion for Grinnell College at the end of May and then I will be coming out to the Bay Area after that in June. In the meantime, I hope things are well for you in your corner of the globe.
I hope everyone is well in their corner of the globe. I wanted to write first of all and send a humongous thank you to everyone who donated to my project. I found out I raised $1655, which was almost $1000 over my goal!! I will be able to make sure that they get the drugs they need until they get their funding from Ghana AIDS commission in May. In May the grant they receive will provide money for care and support for my association of People Living with HIV/AIDS for one full year.
I decided to use the surplus I raised to help them with their income generation activities and become more self sustainable. The women in my group now have 6 looms and are making traditional cloth that gets made into smocks, a typical style of dress for men in the Northern part of the country. So far they have learned how to weave the cloth, but with the additional money I raised we are going to have a smock maker come from the largest city in the North for 3 months to teach the women how to make high quality hand sewn smocks. What this means in the end is that they will be able to make 4 times as much money off the smocks as they can from the cloth itself. So once again, thank you, this will help them out a lot. I want to get pictures of the women weaving the cloth for you all, but will have to wait until I have access to highspeed internet when I go to Accra in February.
So it is a very exciting time to be in Ghana. Ghana is the host for the 2008 African Cup of Nations, which is basically the African equivalent of the world cup. There are soccer games happening in 4 different cities in Ghana and you can hear the sound of people shouting at TVs at night when their team of choice scores a goal. Everyone’s favorite is of course the Black Stars, who are the national team for Ghana. The tournament began on the 20th of January and will continue until February 10th. The country is filled with soccer madness, it is a lot of fun and I enjoyed watching the first two game the Black Stars played in (Ghana beat Guinee 2 to 1 in the first match and beat Namibia 1 to 0 in the second).
Finally, I have some great news. I was accepted into my graduate program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine! The degree is a Masters in Public Health, and the program is specifically for Public Health in Developing Countries. It is a 12 month Masters and includes one month of research. The program begins in the end of September so I will be moving to London in the fall. I have to go and get back to my town today but I hope all of you are doing well.
11:47 am December 12th, 2007
I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I enjoyed mine thanks to the amazing culinary adaptability of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers. Things have been going well at the project. The People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) received a grant to train each other on weaving traditional cloth and are working towards being able to support themselves and their families better. It will take awhile for the women to be trained and begin marketing their cloth, but they are getting there and I am hopeful for them. In the meantime, I need your help. The NGO that supported us for the first half of this year, Action Aid, has decided not to support us anymore since they have been supporting the project for 4 years already. I have found cross cultures it is typical for and NGO to support any one given project for a 3 to 5 year span. I am applying for funds for the project from the government through Ghana AIDS commission, but their financial support will not begin until May. And unfortunately, we currently have no money to provide our most essential service, the provision of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) drugs to our PLWHA. So please, if at all possible, give what you can to my project. 100% of the money you donate will be processed into a prepaid account at the local hospital for their ART drugs. We now have 30 clients on ART. Compared to the thousands of dollars ART costs in the States, the drugs are very inexpensive here and are only $5 a month per patient. But beginning in January we do not even have that little needed to help them.
I have waited until I really needed your help and this is the only time I will ask for donations while I am here in Ghana but please, even $10 will give one of our clients 2 months worth of lifesaving drugs. Your money goes a long way here. My goal is to raise $750 from all of you to cover their cost of ART until Ghana AIDS commission grant comes in May. Any extra money raised will be put toward a food box for each of the PLWHA for Christmas. Last year we provided a box with bulk rice, sugar, beans and soap for all of them. Right now we don’t have the money for that but I am hoping to raise it.
So please, there are 3 easy ways you can help, all donations are tax deductible and processed through the Methodist church in the States. Note the Methodist church does NOT take a processing fee and 100% of the money donated goes to my project in Ghana:
You can locate the project by typing 120001 into the project number contains field or searching for Lawra in the project name contains field. Then click the Lawra Meth.Orphanage & HIV link at the top of the page under the search results heading "Search Results."
By Phone: Credit card gifts can be accepted by phone. The telephone number is: (888) 252-6174. Tell them it is for the "Lawra Methodist Orphanage & HIV, advance project number 120001."
By Mail: Make your check payable to ADVANCE GCFA. Write the name of the ministry and the Advance code number on the check, the name of the ministry is the Lawra Methodist Orphanage & HIV and the advance code is 120001. Send your check to: Advance GCFA P.O. Box 9068, GPO New York, NY 10087-9068 If you don’t know what to give someone this Christmas, consider sending a donation in their name to my project.
Sorry it has been so long since I have written. Lots of traveling lately has made me busy while at site. So in the beginning of October we had our annual festival in Lawra called Kobine, which is a harvest festival. I found this description of the festival:
Every year around October, the Kobine (pronounced "Kó-bin-ah") festival is celebrated in Lawra, Ghana. It serves as both a harvest celebration and as a homecoming for people who have left Lawra. People come to Lawra from as far away as Accra (capital of Ghana) or Ouagadougou (capital of Burkina Faso) to join in the festival. The Kobine festival lasts four days. The second and third days are the official festival days. The festival begins with the procession of the traditional chiefs. Each festival participant is clothed with their most beautiful smocks while walking under huge parasols. The procession is led to the festival ground by a group of men portraying elephant "hunters". The "hunters" are dressed in traditional hunting atire, including bows and arrows, and "hunt" a small group of "elephants". These "elephants" are another small group of men holding huge, dried elephant ears, which are waved back and forth. These "hunters" and "elephants" are accompanied by a large group of musicians and drummers from the Lawra Chief's (Lawra Naa's) palace. An incredible amount of people watch the performance which starts at the Lawra Naa's palace and continues to the festival grounds. There's lots of dust and excitement in the air and lots of drumming and dancing.
Unfortunately I still don’t have my photos up on the net but you can check out my friends photos who are British volunteers, they got some good pictures:
There were 7 Peace Corps volunteers in the area who traveled to witness the festival with me, we had a good time enjoying the drumming and dancing and pito (a sour local brew made out of sorghum).
After Kobine I had to travel for a meeting in Kumasi (the second biggest city in Ghana), I am the regional HIV/AIDS representative for the Upper West and we have 3 national meetings a year to discuss all the HIV work going on in Peace Corps, it is inspiring to hear what kinds of work people are doing across the country. A couple weeks later I traveled to the capital for my mid service medical examination and was declared officially healthy.
Now I am in Tamale, the biggest city in the North to join other volunteers for Thanksgiving. I am cooking dinner with 15 other volunteers and we will have some of the standards like mashed potatos and even a turkey!
I have to go for now but will try and write an update of what has been happening at my project soon. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
So my birthday was on the 8th of September and I got a ride with some European volunteers in my town to Mole National Park. We had a very relaxing weekend and got to see monkeys, warthogs, cob, baboons, impala, antelopes, lots of birds, and my favorite, the elephants. There are lions and hyena in the park, but they are not accessible. I guess they say you don’t get to see as many animals as you would on an Eastern African safari, but you get a lot closer to them in Mole (pronounced like the Spanish chocolate sauce). I was only about 200 meters away from the elephant and the rest of the animals except the antelope hang out right around the lodge. It was one of those “oh yeah, that’s right, I live in Africa” moments for me.
Today is my official one year anniversary in Ghana. It has definitely not been easy, from the extreme heat to the cold rain to the onslaught of bugs in the rainy season. The malaria medication has its drawbacks too. It really does give you some bizarre dreams sometimes. I woke up this morning straight from a very vivid dream about looking for cottage cheese and sour cream in the supermarket today :) Mmmm…I miss non-milk dairy products. Anyway I really give a lot of credit to those who live in Africa long term and work here for many years at a time.
My project work is continuing well. I helped the association to get a grant from the National AIDS STI Control Program in Ghana for the women to learn how to weave traditional cloth. I was happy to help them fill the very basic grant application because the PLWHA have established their own bank account and are managing the money themselves aside from my non-profit organization. It has been empowering for them to be managing their own affairs. I have been trying to encourage them to be as self sufficient as possible. Funding for the NGO is difficult to sustain so I think my sustainable contribution is empowering them to do things for themselves.
I have concluded after being here for a year that that is the best development all around—responsible, non-corrupt Africans designing projects for themselves with technical and financial assistance from the government and NGOs with proper monitoring systems to periodically make sure the project is on track. I have seen many donor programs fail because the people involved in the program are corrupt or unmotivated because they did not have a voice in the design of the program and therefore have no stake in it. I have seen other programs fail because no one is there to monitor the project, a problem arises that the community cannot solve, and they don’t tell anyone for fear they will lose their funding or are too embarrassed to admit they can’t fix the problem themselves and the project fails. But if the proper elements are in place, I have seen a definite improvement in people’s lives from the development work here.
Sorry I will get off my development soap box now, it is just hard when you see so many preventable mistakes around you all the time. Two weeks from now we are having our big annual festival called Kobine in the town of Lawra. Supposedly it is the one time every year when this place is hopping, we will see what that means for this sleepy town. There will be 2 days of drumming and dancing, I am getting excited. I hope all is well for you all in your corner of the globe.
To celebrate Ramadan, I have done some reading on Islam in a book called The History of God by Karen Armstrong. The book is often tediously academic but has a lot of good information. I wanted to share a bit of what I learned since I think like many Americans I don’t really understand anything at all about Islam. I understand a little now, but it is still not enough. I think what differentiates the teachings of Muhammad from the teachings from other religions is that he did not think or insist that Islam was the one truth faith for everyone. Armstrong points out at the time of Muhammad people believed “Because there was only one God, all rightly guided religions must derive from him alone. Belief in the supreme and sole Reality would be culturally conditioned and would be expressed by different societies in different ways, but the focus of all true worship must have been inspired by and directed toward the being whom the Arabs had always called al-Lah.” Muhammad never asked Jews or Christians to convert to his religion unless they wanted to, since they had received their own teachings. I was surprised because of the reputation of fundamentalist Muslims today being intolerant and not accepting of people from other faiths.
One of the most famous masters of the Sufi tradition named Rumi made it explicitly clear that everyone has their own path to the divine. The Sufis believed everyone’s experience of God was personal and different and, therefore, everyone had their own path. Rumi speaks through God in the following passage: “Ways of worshipping are not to be ranked as better or worse than one another. Hindus do Hindu things. The Dravidian Muslims in India do what they do. It’s all praise, and it’s all right.
It’s not I that’s glorified in acts of worship. It’s the worshippers! I don’t hear the words they say. I look inside at the humility. That broken-open lowliness is the Reality, not the language! Forget phraseology. I want burning, burning. Be Friends with your burning. Burn up your thinking and your forms of expression.”
So out of respect for this extremely important and sacred month for so many Ghanaians in the North I have taken the time to learn about Islam and was surprised by what I found. I think sadly the sometimes impression of Islam is fanatical, intolerant, and dangerous is from men who are committing terrible acts in the name of al-Lah and his prophet Muhammed, while simultaneously directly contracting their teachings. Of course the same thing is happening in Christianity through preachers in the West using Jesus’ words to preach hate and intolerance. The problem is the fanaticism itself. That is one reason why I think it is so, so important to travel in your life and learn first hand about other people’s beliefs and world views. It increases your tolerance and decreases the egotistical assertion that we are taught in America that “our way is the best and only way,” which is dangerous and destructive regardless of whether you are talking about a religion like Christianity or Islam or a political system like capitalistic democracy.
It has been good to be back. I noticed I have been very grateful since I got back from the UK, especially to many of you. I was reading Paul Farmer’s biography called Mountains Beyond Mountains. There was a line in there about the different people who have supported him throughout his career, about lives of service being based on lives of support. I was just thinking about how my life is better because of the support of so many of you on this list. I recently got new music from my friend Jeremy in England and David in Brazil and have been getting lots of work done with the inspiration of new tunes. I thought about how happy I am that I have the camera that Sara gave to me, or how my meals are so much tastier because Julie shared her spices with me before I left. About how I am so much more comfortable because Anthony helped me to get comfortable clothes that I wear all the time. About how I had one of my favorite meals I made in Ghana so far (mmm chicken n black bean soft tacos) I made with the taco sauce Sharif and Catherine sent me and the beans and tortillas that my mama and grandma sent me. I am just very thankful because on a daily basis these are the little things that offset the discomforts of living in West Africa and keep me connected to all of you. I know I am digressing but I did want to say thanks not only to those mentioned but everybody who helped me out before I left and since I have been here.
The project has been doing well since I got back. We finally heard from Ghana AIDS commission and we did get a grant, but it was 30% of what we asked for. The program is “managing” as they like to say in Ghana. When you ask how people they are, they always say “oh, we are managing.” Which usually means persevering with very little resources. That is a good way to describe our project. We are ambitious in the range of services we would like to provide. We have 2 new clinic attendants who were trained as nurses and have begun working in our new functioning out-patient clinic. We are providing services not only for our HIV+ clients, but to people in the community who don’t have money to go to the hospital. Our services for our HIV+ clients are expanding as well, we now have 25 people, over half of our association, on antiretroviral drugs. We are supporting the HIV affected orphans with education and healthcare. And also we are still supporting mothers with malnourished babies and children.
Our self support projects have been expanding as well, which has helped us to sustain our growing services. We grow this plant called Moringa Oleifera, which seems to be sort of a growing craze in Africa now. It is really good for people who are malnourished and have little money to have a varied and balanced diet. We have been giving it to our PLWHAs and it helps to keep them healthy. It supposedly has all kinds of medicinal uses and certainly helps people out a lot, but there haven’t been enough scientific studies done on it to see what it most effectively used for treating. Anyway, we have been growing and processing Moringa to sell and this part of our project has taken off due to the popularity of Moringa now. Also we have a soya milk processing machine so we have been making soya milk for sale as well.
So that is all for now, I hope things are going well for you in your corner of the globe.
One of my friends in the UK said he found the daily details of my life interesting, so in the tradition of Seinfeld, I have decided to describe a bit about my daily life in hopes it will be interesting to you. I wanted to describe a somehow typical day. So when I get up, usually the first thing I do is check to see if the water is on. I have a tap outside and the water flows through it 2-3 times a week. So when it comes I fill up my bucket in my concrete outdoor sink and transfer it to the 2 barrels in my kitchen. I go back and forth with the bucket for as many trips as it takes to fill my barrels. Once the water is sorted, I take water from my water filter and make coffee and start my breakfast. My friend Jenell recently remarked that when she returns to the States she will miss “every morning being a Sunday morning.” My mornings are the most relaxed part of the day. When I finish my breakfast I do my dishes using 2 plastic basins outside near my sink, one for washing and one for rinsing.
After the dishes, I bathe using the “bucket bath” method. I have a large bucket with clean water and then a smaller plastic bucket that I use to dip into the clean water and pour over myself. I stand in a large plastic bin to catch the soapy water. When I finish I pour the water into my toilet. So the actual amount of I use each week is not so much, since much of it is recycled.
After my morning routine I go to the clinic and see what there is to do. I spend time on the computer working usually and help with whatever is happening at the project that day. I usually at some point take my bike and go into town. I check my mail and get fresh bread and stock up on items at the store. I try to go after the heat of the day. If it is market day I will go to the market to get whatever food is in season (now it is tomatoes, yams, okra, and onions). I will often stop by the hospital and greet my friends there. Greeting is a really important part of daily life here. Taking time to say hello to people and inquire about their work, their family, and their health is important, even if you just saw them the day before.
When I come back the kids (from the orphanage) are out of school and will often come over to my house to play. If I have a lot of work to do I will tell them to go away, but if I don’t I take time to play with them. Sometimes I put on music and we have a dance party, other times we just run around and laugh. I finish work around 5 and start dinner. After cooking and cleaning up, I either do 3 things: read by myself and listen to music, go have a beer at the outdoor bar behind my house with my friend Helen who is an English volunteer and play scrabble or card games, or go see my friend Val at the hospital and hang out with his friends and chat or watch DVDs. I have electricity most of the time but they do rolling blackouts every 4 nights and every 4 days for 12 hours. So basically every 2 days the lights (and fan) get shut off for 12 hours during the day or night, depending on the schedule. So that is a snapshot of my daily life, it may not be too glamorous, but I really am lucky. A lot of volunteers don’t have electricity or cell phone service, or have to get in a crowded tro tro and travel to a town where there is a decent market. I may not be as hard core as them, but I am okay with that :)
So I know it has been way way too long since I have posted any entries. The reason is that I spent the last month in the UK. I just arrived on Wednesday and I will return to my site in Lawra tomorrow. I thoroughly enjoyed the month I spent abroad. It was nice to enjoy the amenities of the first world including good food and wine, the theatre, hot water, and electricity all day, every day. I got to visit the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where I will be applying for my Masters of Science in Public Health, specifically the Public Health in Developing countries program for the fall of 2008. I really liked the sound of the program and hope I will be accepted into it when I apply in September. After being scheduled to return to Ghana on July 3rd I ended up being delayed an extra 8 days in the UK due to a suspicious package at Heathrow airport. It was nice to have the extra time and even nicer because by the end of that last week I was really ready to come back to Ghana. After 12 hours of craziness at Heathrow I also realized that transportation can be a nightmare in the first world as well (no one knows what really happened except that 9000 people got their flights delayed).
During my time in London I stayed with friends of mine who were incredibly generous with their hospitality. Inevitably in listening to the stories of my life here, both the good and the bad, they asked if I really wanted to be here for another year. The realization that I came to at the end of my time there and since I have been back is that despite the challenges, of which there are many, I really love it here. Life is not easy here at all. For example, when I got back into the country late at night even though I had called that day for a reservation the room wasn’t available. It seems like no amount of advanced planning helps here sometimes. But moving around Accra and taking care of my business before coming back North made me realize all of the things I love about living here. The people in this country are AMAZING. I continue to be inspired by their strength and resilience and seemingly bottomless capacity for humor in the face of adversity. Ghanaians know they have it hard here. One of the favorite lines I hear all the time from people is “you see how we suffer.” Sometimes it is serious, sometimes it is a said as a joke with a glint in their eye. There are bad people here as there are everywhere, but the overwhelming majority of Ghanaians are friendly, open people who love to laugh. I love the fact that when you get on public transportation you greet the person next to you and ask them how they are. I can see why this country has the reputation as being the friendliest country in West Africa.
Another conclusion that I came to is humans can adapt to any environment and I also am adapting. I am in Tamale at the moment, writing this at the Peace Corps sub office which has been newly connected to the internet (thanks to our new Country Director Bob, he does seem to be willing to make changes sometimes when we ask for them which is awesome.) I went this morning to get my bus ticket to the Upper West tomorrow and to the market to buy some veggies for dinner. The station and market are seriously hectic places which would have once been intimidating to me but are now routine. I discovered the secret that if I moved through society like I used to in Jamaica, I have a lot less people calling me “obruni,” their name for white person, just like less and less people called me “whitey” the longer I lived in Jamaica. Basically I just act like I know what I am doing and where I am going and use hand signals to respond to people rather than always verbally responding to every person trying to get my attention. I remain detached (not to be confused with aloof which I know comes off as snobby) and act like even the strange or confusing is routine and have fewer problems with harassment for money. Also speaking to people in Ghanainglish (Ghanaian English) really helps just like speaking to people in Patwa in Jamaica helped.
The final conclusion that I came to is that I like my life here. I had a great time being in London, but after just seeing friends and grad school and not even doing much site seeing I was exhausted after 3 weeks and felt like I had been running the whole time. I have often enjoyed the fast pace of cities and thrive on the diversity of people and things to do. But right now at this point in my life I have enjoyed slowing down and simplifying. I like having time to read and to cook and time to interact with people on more than a superficial, “I have somewhere to get to after this” level. I have had time to work on personal development, as I always do when I travel. I know I will go back to the urban pace of life next year, but in the meantime I am enjoying what I am doing now. I am really looking forward to going back and seeing where the project is at. I am eager to see if we have heard anything about our grant application from Ghana AIDS Commission and see how the PLWHAs are doing. I am also looking forward to seeing the orphans again, somehow I managed to actually miss their screaming “Nansaal pog! Nansaal pog!” translation: “White lady! White lady!” Besides, after about 50 attempts I think they are finally learning my name. “N youri ba Nansaal pog. N youri la Shista Liz.” Translation: “My name is not white lady, my name is Sister Liz.” :)
So anyway I will let yall get back to your respective days. I know that I will have a lot of ups and downs the next 13 months, but I am feeling reenergized for my work and ready to face things as they come. I will try to send an update of how the project is doing in a few weeks after I get back into the swing of things. In the meantime I hope all is well in your corner of the world. By the way, as you may have guessed my friends were unable to hold the benefit that they wanted to in San Francisco in mid June. The reason is that they could not find an outdoor venue like they wanted. If you know of a good outdoor venue, please contact my friend Freida at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are looking to reschedule toward the end of the summer.