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Ghana Blog
Sunday, 14 January 2007
New Year Bring New Beginnings

Happy New Year Folks!!! Yep, you haven't heard from me in a while but i's not because I've been overly busy. I've just been hanging out and readjusting back to home. Just like my experience coming home last Christmas for three weeks, I've simply slipped back into life as it was before I joined the Peace Corps.

In the days leading up to when I was leaving Ghana, I rememeber thinking and planning out how I wanted to incorporate some aspects of my Ghanaian lifestyle into my American life. My plans were to buy a bike to continue exercising, practice that Ghanaian hospitality, take bucket baths from time to time as well as handwash some clothes just to keep up the skill (it sounds stupid but you never know when you'll need it). I also wanted to continue to make Ghanaian foods.

Now that I'm home, I can evaluate my plans and match them to what I'm actually doing now that I've been home. I have to say I haven't lived up to my own expectations. The things I have succeded in are handwashing clothes from time to time, cooking Ghanain food, and......well, that's about it. And these two things I've done just a couple of times. My American lifestyle is so easy, I get lazy and don't do the things I wanted to keep up. For instance, let's compare taking a bucket bath and a shower. It's soo much more comfortable, especially in this winter time, to let a nice showerhead spray you with hot water and you soap up and warm your body, as opposed to a bucket bath where you have to pour cup-fuls of water over your body to get wet. When I think about it, I can either have a constant flow of hot water running over my body or pour cup-fuls one at a time over me....hhmmmmm.. I think I like option number 2.

I was actually doing well on the bike thing though. I even went shopping with my little brother for a bike and decided I wanted to wait until I start working to buy it. So that dream hasn't completely failed, it's just on hold for a little while. I have been walking though every once in a while to get a little exercise.

As for cooking Ghanaian food, that can be a difficult one because of all the food options I have here: Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Wendies, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Thai restaurant, Indian food places, etc.............. it's very very hard to chose Ghanaian foods over fast food that I don't even have to cook myself (laziness, I know!). But these things have taken a toll on my body. I've gained 6 pounds from all the fast food and sweets I've been eating and I think it's having an effect on me. So now I've decided to cut out fast food from my diet completelyand eat less fatty, oily, cheesy and sweet things and add Ghanaian dishes to my diet (I'm by no means perfect with Ghanaian cuisine, but it'll due).

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Needless to say, I do miss Ghana and my friends. I miss riding my bike everyday, spending time with my friends and the kids coming to my house anytime they hear music playing from my room. I miss the orphanage kids coming to my house, holding out their hands asking me, "Sister Nneka, give me mishkirit" (translation: Sister Nneka, please give me biscuits aka cookies).

Waking up to the sound of school children and the bright sun early in the morning definitely top the list of things I miss. The beautiful scenery and our support group for people living with HIV/AIDS.

I miss striking up conversations with strangers and playing with people's babies and kids on the bus. (Notice how I didn't say I missed riding the bus? 'Cuz I don't).

Fresh pinapple and pawpaw, hhhmmmm...

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Relating my experience to family members here at home has been a big learning experience. I learned that the Ghanaian way of life was practiced just a two generations ago when my grandmother and her 12 brothers and sisters were young. My great aunt told me they used to go and fetch water from a pump, wrap up a cloth and place in on their heads just before putting the bucket on top....just like they do in Ghana. My grandmother and her family used to cook with charcoal stoves even when my mom was a little girl. Women used to wet-nurse their nieces and nephews.

The biggest similarity though is in the foods. Ghanaian food and some Caribbean foods are almost alike, only adding or omitting some ingredients. For instance, callalou is made with Okro and other leafy greens similar to Okro soup made in West Africa. FuFu is similar to a thing we have called Fungi made from corn meal. Gingerbeer is made in both places almost the same way, among other types of foods.

I've found our Caribbean customs to be just the same as Ghanaian customs and culture: (1) Greeting is very important, whether you know the person or not; (2) You respect all elders; (3) Children are their parents and other adult's gophers; (4) Older siblings look after their younger siblings (this one is kind of in almost every culture) ;(5) Shaking your hips and butt to calypso/soca sounding music (more common among Francophone countries); and (6) Ghanaian pidgen English and West Indian Patios are very similar.

I'm definitely blessed to have had these experiences and relate them to my own family. It kind of pieces the puzzle together.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Well folks, that's my little tid-bit. I know it sounds like I'm rambling out of order but it's late and I wanted to make sure I wrote this blog. Any way, I hope you enjoyed. Stay tuned for the next entry.


Posted by pennstatepeanut at 10:11 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007 10:37 PM EST
Thursday, 7 December 2006
Back on the otherside of the world

BACK HOME

Ok. So I've been back in the U.S. for 5 days now and it's been ok. Nothing special except the party/get-together my family surprised me with when I arrived home from the airport. Needless to say, I was excited and happy to see everyone, especially the little kiddies. They have all grown so much. That means I'm gettin old, man.

The transition so far has been smooth. Maybe that's because I haven't been so busy. The only case I can say where I had culture shock was when I walked into Target and I became so overwhelmed with seeing so much of the same thing stocked up and piled high, I became nauseaus and nearly vomited in the store. I know, I know, it sounds exaggerated, but I'm telling the absolute truth. Why is there so much of the same thing in one place?

Walking through the mall, I felt like I was wandering around all alone. Ok, in actuality I was alone but no one even looked at each other as they passed nor did they greet one another. I have to get used to that because back in Ghana I was used to greeting anyone I came across, whether I knew them or not. I miss that.  I'm sure after some time, I'll readjust. And if not, I'll move back to Ghana :)

My plans now are to go back to school. I want to do something related to health/allied health/health technology- something close to what I was doing in Ghana. Right now, I'm still leaning towards nursing but I need to do some more research and see what's out there.

ETHIOPIA TRIP 

I know you all are interested in my Ethiopia trip too. It was really really nice. I went with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer who was also serving in Ghana with me. He was born and grew up in Ethiopia before moving to the U.S. at the age of 18. So it was really cool to go back with someone who knows the place and still have ties through family and friends there. We did some site seeing and he did some catching up with family. We went to Lake Awasa and had breakfast on the lake side. It was beautiful. There were lots of birds and one of my favorite animals- monkies. At first, I was kind of annoyed with them because they kept jumping from branch to branch above us as we eat and then jump down to the ground to get closer to our food. Of course, I wasn't having that so  we got a big stick and threatened to beat the monkey anytime he landed near our plates. The threatening of the monkey went on for a while but after we ate, we hand-fed them the left-overs. That was cool. It reminded me of feeding a little human being.

In Ethiopia, we also visited another lake- Lake Langano. That place was beautiful. We stayed in a lodge situated just in front of a mountain cliff and a few meters from the shore. The water was reddish but calm and in the morning we took a paddle-boat ride. That was relaxing. I even have some video I'll try to post online. We also went to a place called Nazreth. We didn't do too much there but it was good to experience a sprawling town.

Of course, we spent a few days in the capital, Addis Ababa. It's just like any other city in the world- full of cars, people in the latest fashion, good food, and plenty of places to hang out. One night in Addis, we went to a place that served traditional drinks and there was also a show of traditional dances and songs from the country. (I can't remember which ones we saw though). The outfits were pretty and colorful and the people were all beautiful (at least in my eyes).

 The food was delicious. We ate out at different places and ordered different types of food, but none could top the home-cooked meal of Yonas' (my traveling companion) aunti, Emebet. Her lentil bean stew with Injera was off the hook. I never got tired of eating it. The morning after arriving in Addis, Emebet performed the traditional coffee ceremony for us. She roasted fresh beans on a small charcoal fire, ground them, and then we were served with milk. The smell of the coffee was enticing, even though I'm not a coffee drinker. 

What else I loved about Addis  were the bakeries everywhere. I would just buy one fresh bread for less than $.25. My friend tried his best to get me to stop eating as we walked (something that's looked down upon in Ghana and later I found out in Ethiopia too), but it was too tasty and soft, there was no stopping me.

 All in all, it was a nice trip and it was a good way to transition and come home.

LEAVING GHANA

As I wrote in my previous blog, I thought leaving Ghana would have been extremely difficult for me but surprisingly, it wasn't. Not that I was happy to leave the place, but I was actually in denial. As I was leaving my house, I felt like I was just traveling to Accra like I had done so many times before. Then as the plane was taking off in Accra, I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that I'm actually leaving the place I had made home with friends for the last two years. But now that I'm back home, I'm really feeling it. I think about Ghana all the time and how life was so simple and free there. I miss seeing my friends every day, the hot sun, and eating fresh foods.  I've talked to my Ghanaian friends almost every day since I've been back. Oh, Ghana!!!

Well, that's a wrap. Until next time.


Posted by pennstatepeanut at 1:24 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006 1:40 PM EST
Thursday, 23 November 2006
Coming home via Ethiopia

Sorry ya'll. I know it's been a very very long time but I'm back. I'm finally closing service on 24th Nov. I can't believe two years have come and gone like the wind. Less than a week ago I left my site. In the months leading up to my departure, I kept imagining my final days in Lawra filled with tears and candle-light vigils. Ok, I'm exagerating, but you get the picture. In reality, it was completely the opposite. I was soo busy running around with work and accomodating some visitors, I only had two days to pack. I left Lawra in a haste to get to Wa to catch the bus down to the capital city.  On my way down to the capital, I stopped in Techiman to see my host family one more time. Because of the constant running around the last two weeks in Lawra and making another visit to my host family, I felt as if I were just taking another trip down to Accra.  Even as I type this in Accra, I feel like I'm on vacation. It's a little scary because I'll be flying out tomorrow. That means when I finally do realize that I'm leaving, it's gonna smack me dead in the face, really really hard....

But anyway. So my plans for post Peace Corps? I'll be heading to Ethiopia with a fellow PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) who's originally from there. I'm excited to see a new place and experience another culture. Ya'll know that food-tasting is on the top of my list. I don't know what much there is to see in terms of touristy things there, but I hear there aren't many tourist attractions, which is good. According to my travel buddy, we'll have a hard time convincing the locals that I'm not Ethiopian. He thinks we look like twins, lol.

After Ethiopia, I'm heading back to the good ole US of A. I'm happy to be getting back to my family, but sad that I'll be returning home to WINTER!!!!! Maybe I'll take another trip somewhere in December before the year is out. After that, it's back to school. Oh, ya'll are gonna laugh and fall out but so what... I want to study nursing- community health/public health nursing. It's either Johns Hopkins or University of Maryland Baltimore. But more about that later.

Well, that was kinda short but those are my plans. I'll update you all on my travels and return home as soon as I can. Take care.

 Peace!


Posted by pennstatepeanut at 10:30 AM EST
Monday, 21 August 2006
Recent Travel Experience
Mood:  chillin'

Hey people!!! I find myself back in Accra in less than one week and since I have free access to the internet here at the Peace Corps office, I thought I'd share my travel experiences within the last week. After my vacation around Ghana, I headed back up north to my project site. This was last saturday. I travelled two hours going and coming to visit a friend in Aburi, then came back to Accra and boarded another bus to start a 5-hour journey to Kumasi. Unfortunately, we left Accra late, around 8pm, and set off for Kumasi. Two hours into the journey the bus had a problem and we were stranded on the side of the road at 10:30 at night. Luckily, another bus drove pass and allowed us to enter and go with them. Around 1 am the bus arrived at my destination.  But when I got down I didn't recognize the place. Here it was, 1 in the morning, it's raining and cold (cold in Ghana means chilly to you folks back home) and I'm carrying my bag on my head to lighten and balance the load and I have no idea how to get to the place where I'm going to spend the night. So I decide to walk up the road a little bit to see if I recognize a landmark. The whole place is dark, bushy and quiet.  While walking a drunk guy offers me to come and sit in his truck until the rain dies down. I told him I had a friend waiting for me since long, so I really have to get there. I asked him which direction is the place I'm looking for in and he points to the left. I start walking that way and immediately recognize the filling station (aka gas station) and realize that that means my destination is in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION!!!! I have to walk back the other way, pass the drunk guy again. Ok, then I'll just cross the road when I get to his truck and keep going, I tell myself. As I'm walking, three big trailor trucks pass me and I beg them to stop but they keep passing me by. I'm sure they were afraid that I'd lead them to armed robbers that have been haunting the streets at night and preying on night travelers. A couple of taxis also pass me and don't stop until finally around 1:45 am a cab stops and I get in and tell him the name of the place I'm trying to get. And can you believe the place the taxi takes me to is the SAME place where I got down off the bus!!! Finally, I arrived, took a quick bath and woke up 3 hours later to continue my journey across the other half of the country to my project site.

The following Monday morning, I made it back home. I was tired as all get up but happy to be back to start work and see my friends again. I was looking forward to starting computer training again with the health staff at the hospital. Last thursday just before I was to hold the class, I was eating breakfast at the hospital canteen (cafeteria) and a cute little kitten came up to me meowwing so softly- she was telling me she's hungry. So I gave her a piece of my egg and bread and she ate it fast. When she took the food she grabbed my fingers with her soft little claws but then she must have mistaken my fingers for meat and she bit into my finger. My nice little gesture triggered a loong process with Peace Corps. I called the medical officers to let them know what happened just in case they would need to see me. Sure enough, because the cat hadn't been vaccinated and the bite drew blood , they said I HAD to come back to Accra. Noooooooo!!!!!!! I just returned from Accra a few days ago and now they wanted me to come back down. After pleading with the nurses to no avail, I started my journey at 8 am on the following Sunday. The 16-hour journey turned into a 21-hour ride!!!!! To make a long story short, our "most reliable transport" broke down three times before we reached Accra. The first time we stopped, the engine was overheating and water was running from engine. It took 2 hours to repair the hose and get back on the road. Two hours later after a short rest stop just as the bus was taking off to continue the ride, the stick shift got stuck and we couldn't move....another hour stuck trying to fix that problem. By then, it was after 10pm. We were making progress very nicely when two hours later we stopped again. This time the water in the engine was boiling. We waiting an hour to let it cool, poured more water in engine and was getting ready to take off when the bus WOULDN'T START. It seemed like the gods were against us because everytime we stopped and fixed one problem another one arose. This last time we were in the middle of no where.. no lights on the road, pitch black and nothing in view up ahead. We were all afraid for our lives this time because armed robbers have been taking the road by storm in the night stopping buses and robbing the passengers. Just last week, they robbed passengers on the side of the road after their bus broke down. By God's grace, we were able to fix the bus and continue the journey and made it to Accra safe and sound. See why I hate travelling here?????!!!?????

So there you go. I just thought I'd share my experience with you... It's also therapuetic for me to talk about it 'cause it stresses me out sometimes. Any how. I'm out!


Posted by pennstatepeanut at 4:59 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006 5:16 PM EDT
Monday, 31 July 2006
July/August
Mood:  chillin'

Alright ya’ll. I know you’re thinking I’m lying dead in the bush somewhere ‘cause you haven’t heard from me in a while. Well, contrary to your belief, I’m still alive and kicking. I’m still surviving at site working hard and enjoying life too. (I know you’re thinking I’m telling stories especially after how much I complained of missing home last year but this year everything seemed to fall into place.)

 

Work has been the same at the Nutrition Rehab Centre, orphanage and support group for people living with HIV/AIDS: program planning, health education, staff training, and proposal writing. I’ve been focusing a little more on transferring skills to my counterparts so they can pick up after I’m gone. It’s coming along; it’s a little slow because the main woman I’m teaching is pushing 60 years old, which means I have to keep repeating myself over and over until it sticks. But I’m confident that we’ll get there.

 

About a month ago, I started computer literacy training for the health staff at the District hospital. We started off with 15 people but now only half of them are fully committed and attending the classes. It’s interesting to see how something that comes so natural to me takes the staff extra time to learn. Because of that, I’ve been going at a very slow pace, starting off with the parts of the computer, how to use a mouse and keyboard, etc. I do have to say that I’m enjoying watching how they are learning and becoming more confident with the computer. At times it can be frustrating when the lights go off and we have to cancel a class or students are rushing each other so they can get their turn to use the computer. But in a couple of months, they’ll be pros. My goal for the course is for them to learn how to operate common application software – Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint- and how to locate and browse the internet and use e-mail.

 

My social life is cool. I’m still having fun with my friends here. Actually, a couple of weekends ago we had a big party. I danced my a$$ off, lol. (Family, please don’t be surprised at my language… I’ve been an official adult now for a few years ;P ) We had a good mix of music at the party: hip life and high life (Ghanaian music), hip hop/R&B, Merengue (courtesy of the Cuban doctors) some francophone music, and Soca. My friends LOOOOOVED the Soca music. I guess it’s because it sounds a lot like francophone music. My friend Mercy thought it was from Cuba because she didn’t understand what they were saying. That was funny because to me Caribbean English/Patios sounds just like the Ghanaian English/Pidgin English people speak here. But it was really fun. People in town were talking about it for a long time afterwards. We’re planning to have another one in a couple of months. I can’t wait. I’m sure it’ll be a big one since it’ll be the last one before I leave in November.

 

Now that my departure time is approaching, I’m constantly thinking about the things I’ll miss about Ghana. Any time I get the chance to experience them, I really cherish them. I’ll definitely miss my social life here. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t go to visit my friends or vice versa. I’ll miss going to my friends Benedicta and Mercy’s house. Normally after work, I go there; we cook and eat together and then spend time talking about everything: life, men and marriage, work, the future, etc. It’s really nice to have people and a place nearby to go to just to wind down and pass the time away. They are also the ones who have taught me to prepare almost all the Ghanaian food I know how to make. They, especially Benedicta (aka, Bene) have been my backbone, my confidante and support, since day one. 

 

I’ll surely miss sharing a big bowl of tuozafee and soup with a bunch of friends. I know y’all might not it’s kosher to eat with your hands and, furthermore, from the same bowl with a bunch of other people, but for me it’s fun. It feels like we’re forming a closer bond (and germs,ha ha ha, but we do wash our hands with soap before eating) and fighting for the last piece of meat. It’s like eating dinner with the family.

 

Riding a bike every day is also on the top of the list of things I’ll miss. Besides the fact that it’s good exercise, it’s liberating to take a ride and enjoy the scenery – pigs, goats, trees, blue skies, children, etc- as you ride to your destination.

 

I’ll miss the friendliness of Ghanaian society. I’ll miss Ghanaian hospitality and caring for others. I’ll miss sending children to buy kosé (a fried snack made of beans). I’ll miss playing with the children at the nutrition rehab centre and orphanage. I’ll miss fooling around with and visiting our people living with HIV/AIDS at home. I’ll miss not waking up to an alarm clock; the ever-constant, clear blue skies; the social event of a funeral. I’ll miss a lot and some I may not have even captured here.

 

While it’s nice to know the things I will miss, I think I should also be unbiased and tell you what I won’t miss. I won’t miss waiting hours and hours on end for transportation; I won’t miss riding in death-trap vehicles where the interior no longer exists and the speedometer, gas gauge, and engine lights don’t work; I won’t miss traveling long hours on bumpy roads that make your skin itch from the vibration. (Notice how they all cluster around traveling? It sucks, lol)

 

And there are some things that are in between, meaning I neither like nor dislike them but I will probably miss or laugh about them after some time of being home. Things like chasing goats from the garden in front of my house, running out of water and not being able to fetch water from the locked borehole nearby, or the crazy man coming to my house to talk but not saying anything.

 

The positives do outweigh the negatives and I’m sure as time passes, I’ll even forget some of the negatives. I’ve decided that there are some things I’ve adapted to doing here that I would like to bring home and practice. First, I will buy a bicycle to get some daily exercise. (The rising gas prices are really pushing me towards that goal.) I want to adopt Ghanaian hospitality and friendliness-  going out of your way to accommodate a guest, calling a friend just to say hello and check-up on them, helping someone when they’re in need, cooking extra food just in case guest pop in. Not only do I plan on practicing these things, but I will also surround myself with my Ghanaian friends back home – big ups to Nana Ofori aka Kwaku and his wife Jennifer and their families, and Juliette A.

 

Ghana has definitely been good to me. I’ve experienced and learned so much in these two years. I think I’ll have to write a separate journal entry on lessons learned.

 

That’s all for now folks.

 

Nneka

 

 


Posted by pennstatepeanut at 1:55 PM EDT
Saturday, 4 February 2006

Hey yall!!! I know I’ve been MIA for a looooong time. My bad (I’m sorry). I had been traveling every month from Sept. through January. I even went home for Christmas; I surprised my family for the holidays. They were soo happy to see me. All the little kids came running up to me, each one of them were about 1/3 taller than what I remember. I thought when I went home I would have been overexcited with the amenities and comforts that I was missing being in Ghana like a washing machine, running water, warm water, friendly customer service and other stuff; but, I just slipped back into life as I knew it before I left. It was easy to throw my clothes in the washer machine, take hot showers, reverting back to an almost-exclusive fast food diet.

Being home allowed me to see and compare the differences between my culture and what I had been exposed to and living in Ghana. The first thing that drew my attention was the parent-child relationship I saw in the airport. On two occasions, a mother called her child (I would say about the age of 4-6) to come back and the kid disobeyed. The mothers ended up running after the children, catching them, and carrying them kicking and screaming their heads off. It was the complete opposite of what I was used to seeing in Ghana; when an adult calls a child to come, whether it’s your child or not, the child is to respect and obey the adult. So when the children were kicking and screaming, my reaction was to call out to the child to behave like I would have done in Ghana, but I had to stop myself and realize things are different here.

Another thing that caught my attention was the seemingly coldness, unhappiness and individualism of American culture. As I was sitting at the airport waiting for my ride, I scanned the faces of the other waiting travelers and they looked so distant, worried, and unhappy. They didn’t interact with one another, just looked straight ahead looking out for their ride. I’m used to people making eye contact with one another, whether they know you or not, and greeting them. Somehow, it satisfies the validation and attention we all as human beings crave. It makes you feel like a person as opposed to an individual object enclosed in a bubble with no contact with the outside world.

I’ve also observed some changes within myself; my perspective on things is different as a result of learning and experiencing another lifestyle. The first change in perspective was very surprising to me. Before coming to Ghana, I felt like I could do the same thing a guy did; I can do everything for myself so why shouldn’t I. After living in Ghana, I’ve seen and realized that yes men and women can do the same things; however, each one has their own role and responsibility that contributes to society and interpersonal relationships. A perfect example of this was when my mom wanted me to rake the leaves in the yard. When I started doing it, I felt weird because I felt like this is the role of a man; a guy should be doing this. It goes vice versa too. Before, I used to think cooking for a man made me seem like his slave but now I understand that it’s not being a slave, it is part of my role and responsibility in taking care of him. Go figure, eh? I’m learning, I’m learning.

Driving myself around showed me another change in my mental perspective: it’s not as liberating as I once thought. I thought getting in my car and driving anywhere whenever I felt like it was going to be such a fascinating and liberating thing. It wasn’t! I was broke (you know, since I’m volunteering in Ghana, I’m broke as a joke). Just going to the store and back was always an inventorial process- Do I have enough gas to get there? Do I have any money to get enough gas to get there? It was more restricting than liberating this time. Of course things would have been different if I were working but it was just the complete opposite of my expectation.

In general, going back home put a lot of things in perspective for me. Spending time with family and friends reinforced the fact that I want to go back home to live with the roots of my life – my family. I’m missing a lot being away from them. Going home was a wake up call that soon I’d be returning home and I need to decide and start taking steps in preparing towards my future back there- school, job, personal life, etc. I gotta get on the ball.

Now I’m back in Ghana. I’m actually happy to be back- back to the simple way of life. This year, I plan to do more life skills, health and HIV/AIDS education in schools, extend computer training to Hospital staff, and coordinate self-support projects and activities for our People Living with HIV/AIDS support group. I also want to coordinate a “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” to give our orphans exposure to the careers fields they are thinking of entering and make those dreams tangible in their minds. I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, your letters, calls and love is still welcome at the same address and telephone numbers. Until next time.

Ciao!

P.S. Please forgive any errors, I typed this so quickly I didn't get the chance to reread.

Posted by pennstatepeanut at 12:02 PM EST
Friday, 30 September 2005
More Wild Animals
September 30, 2005



After a couple of weeks of monotony, I now have something to write home about.
Yep!, it involves me being up close and personal with wild animals, again. I was getting tired of the same routine of the rural life and work and decided I needed a vacation. So I joined my friend and his father on a trip to Mole National Park.

The experience was soo cool and interesting and just what I needed. We chartered a taxi 2 hours to the park on a bumpy road with a driver whose goal seemed to be to hit every single pothole on the road for the entire two-hour ride. Thanks be to God, we made it safe and sound, dusty, and a little nauseated from all the bumping. But we made it. The park was so peaceful and serene. The central point of the park was located on the top of a hill that overlooked the entire park (over 4,800 plus square kilometers). I could see tops of trees for miles all around. I kind of felt like a ruler, ha ha. As soon as we arrived, we met a baboon sitting in the grass next to the parking lot eating bugs and starring at us like we were the attraction, lol.

The next day, we went on the early morning tour of the park to see the wild animals. We were lucky because an elephant managed to walk all the way up the hill next to the hotel rooms to feed on some leaves. We walked up to him and took some pictures. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to clear some space on my memory card, I deleted the photo (but I'll get copies of my friend's pictures and put them online sometime in Oct.). Then we headed out on a two-hour walking tour in the bush with a skinny old tour guide and his 17th century rifle for protection – go figure. We saw another HUGE elephant. Of course, I was being a chicken and kept my distance. It had to be at least 7ft tall and weighed a ton with tusks that were probably 2'-3' long. Scary! I was trying to find a tree with a thick bark to run behind just in case he wanted to stampede us. You know how your mind starts to remember stuff you see on tv and of course I remembered a situation where a circus elephant escaped and trampled some people. We also saw some other creatures: warthogs, antelope, bush bark (it looks like a deer but barks like a dog, it's weird), a redearth monkey, and a greenback monkey.

The highlights of the trip were the monkeys. One baboon conveniently made his appearance during the lunch hour when he knew everyone would be chowing down. Much to his dismay, no one would give him food. So he walked around the dining area looking in the rubbish bins for food. Then he disappeared around the corner. A couple of seconds later we heard the kitchen women scream. Yep! He ran inside the kitchen and some guys had to chase him out with a sling shoot. He was persistent. It was so funny. He’s so used to everything, that when they guys were throwing rocks at him, he would hide behind a wall like he was playing hide and seek. The guy creeping towards him and he was also creeping towards the guy and when they met up, he took off running. It was hilarious. He wasn't lucky that day though. Then the next day, he came around during breakfast time, I guess thinking we'd be much nicer in the morning and give him food. This time, he came so close to me. I was sitting at the table with my back facing a window that had a month perched on the screen. He didn't even look twice at me. He jumped right next to me on the window ledge, grabbed the moth, and bit it's head off. Then he ran and jumped on the table next to ours and did the same to another moth on the other window. I took a picture near him. (Those pics will come next month).

I can't explain how much peace the environment brought to me. The greenery, the mountains, the singing birds, the beautiful sun worked it's magic on me. You can imagine how the pool helped too, lol. I ate steak and fries three times in two days, lol. It was fabulous. I plan on taking my parents there when they come to visit.

Today was a crazy one too. I was returning from Tamale on a bus – that’s a 6 hour trip. I was unlucky and couldn’t get a ticket in advance, so I had to show up at the station at 4am to try to find a spot on the bus to stand for the whole ride. I needed to get back to my house. It was already bad enough that I had to stand for hours on a bumpy road cluttered and hot. Some how, I ended up standing next to a madwoman who was sitting down. We were at least 4 hours into the trip and out of nowhere, this crazy woman jabbed her nail into my skin. I thought she poked me with a pin. The guy who was with her apologized and I moved up a little (in the tiny space where I could maneuver). A little while after that, she stomped on my feet, TWICE!!! I wanted to smack her, but you never know what crazy people can do. Plus, I wouldn’t have anywhere to run just in case she wanted to bite me or something.

Yep, crazy and fun week. I know I’ll have more to write about next week because our town’s cultural festival, the Kobina Festival, is coming. It’s to celebrate the end of the farming season and thank the Gods for the harvest of that year. I can’t wait. They say the dancing is soo mesmerizing. I’ll let you all know what’s up.

Peace!




Posted by pennstatepeanut at 10:00 AM EDT
Monday, 19 September 2005
September Entry
What's up my people:

Hows it be? Hows it be? Lol. I hope everyone is doing good and preparing for the winter that's coming in soon. Ha ha ha hah (sinister laugh) Thank God I don't have to deal with that cold weather this year either. Yes!!!!

I'm keeping my promise to write an entry at least once a month. Unfortunately, nothing new has been going on with me. Same old stuff going on, except the weather is starting to get hot, hot, hot again. The rainy season is ushering in the dry season, which means back to sleeping naked and dipping sheets in buckets of water to cool down. Aarrgghhh.

I don't think I told you all that my friend Sobe who went to high school with me left Ghana last month and is now home. She left because her dad was having a major surgery and she felt like she needed to be there with him - who can blame her? I wish I had gotten the chance to visit her site before she left though. Being wrapped up with work kept me from visiting. (Sorry gal)

Can't wait for Oct. to come. I get to go down to Accra for my mid-service medical examination. They want to check me out to see how my health is since I'm soo faaaaaaaaaaaar away from good medical care. I can't wait to get out of the rural area and party harty. I already know I'm gonna be saving up my money here to blow it down south on movies, food (mainly pizza), swimming, and clubbin'. Yeeeaaaahhh!!! I know it may seem sad and desperate, but if you were in my shoes, you would completely understand. :p

Alrighty folks. Just wanted to update you on myself, even though not much is going on. Hit me up whenever you want or get the chance and let me know how you're doing.

Peace!

PS. Packages are still welcome. I haven't received any love from home in a while. You can send them to my post office box:

Nneka Matlock
P.O. Box 44
Lawra, UW/R
Ghana
West Africa

P.P.S Oh yeah, how selfish of me to post a solicitation for packages and I didn't send happy b-day wishes to some family members back home. HAPPY SEPTEMBER BIRTHDAYS TO: Aunt Terrance, Shantel, and Sean.

Posted by pennstatepeanut at 8:00 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005 8:06 AM EDT
Friday, 5 August 2005
July/August
Mood:  cool


Recent Adventure:
Today was a very interesting day!!! After working on a proposal (I??ll tell you about that later), I went with my friend Gloria to a nearby town called Paga where they have the Sacred Crocodile Pond. And can you guess what I did??? Can you, can you, can you? YEP, I TOUCHED A REAL, LIVE, AND NATURAL CROCODILE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hell yeah! Ooopps, I mean yeah, I was scared as hell, lol. My legs were shaking, I was breathing fast. At the entrance to the pond, we bought a live fowl (chicken), which they used as bait to lore the crocodile on shore. The tour guide made the fowl squawk and three pairs of crocodile eyes peered out of the water. I was soo excited to actually see crocs live and up close. Then, one croc walked on shore, in my direction it seemed even though I wasn??t the one holding the fowl, and I could have sworn I was about to piss my pants, lol. I stopped fiddling with the camera and unconsciously searched the premises for an easy and fast escape just in case the croc made a fast break. But the tour guides slowly walked up to him and commanded him to stop in the local language. The croc slowed down but didn??t stop, so the guides picked up some sand and three small bits at the croc??s face. He immediately stopped, laid down, and stretched open his mouth. I thought he was laying low and getting ready to attack, but because all senses had escaped me, I forgot that they open their mouths to breathe. Wheeewww!!! (Wiped sweat off my brow). Then came the next challenge. Gloria and I were supposed to go up behind the croc and hold his tail to take a picture. Gloria boldly volunteered to go first. No objections out of me. She seemed not to have a drop of fear in her. After I snapped the pic, she pushed me and said it was my turn. I??m not gonna lie, I was willing to give up the opportunity of touching a real, live crocodile in exchange for security in the distance between us. But Gloria pulled me to the croc and all I could imagine was him making a 360 and snapping my hand the second I touched his tail. I made sure we negotiated with the tour guide to stay very, very close, just in case. We snapped that one together. Wheewww! Then I tried it by myself. As soon as she snapped the pic, I dropped his tail and ran as far away as safely possible. The deed was done. It was fun, afterwards, of course. But now I can say I have touched one and have been up close to a real, wild croc. Check out my pictures page to see me, the Black Crocodile Dundee!



The crocs have an interesting history in Paga. According to the tour guide, the crocodile is the totem or symbol for the people of the area. According to the guide, there has never been an attack on a human by any of the crocs, or vice versa. They believe the crocodiles are their ancestors and that??s why they are able to live in harmony. At night, the crocs leave the pond to poop and even walk into the village to lay their eggs in the sand. In about for weeks, when it??s time for the eggs to hatch, they carry their babies in their mouths back to the pond where they live for the rest of their lives.

I also learned how poisonous crocodile bile can be. Ok, of course, I didn??t try it or else I wouldn??t be here to talk about it. However, they told me that even the tiniest drop of bile added to someone??s food or drink is enough to kill a person in less than five minutes. There was a photo album telling the story of the history of the crocs. There was one picture of a young guy holding a young croc and two police officers. Apparently, the guy stole the croc and killed it so that he could dissect him and extract the bile. I have no idea how they caught him, but I??m glad hey did. He could have wiped out his whole family if he??d wanted to. Croc dung also has its medicinal uses, according to the guide. He says people use it on scorpion stings to extract the poison and on boils to reduce the swelling. Hopefully, I won??t have to test the medicinal power.


Work:
Work is progressing slowly, but surely. I??m still involved with the HIV/AIDS group at our org. and working with the malnourished children and their mothers. I am in Navrongo, a town in the Upper East region, as I type this journal entry. I came to meet a collaborating development organization to start planning a project we want to carry out in my community. We want to encourage people living with HIV/AIDS to use a locally grown, nutritious tree that will replenish depleted vitamins and minerals in HIV and AIDS infected persons. We??re very excited because judging by the leaves?? nutritional value; we strongly believe this could be a solution for our rural, poor people living with HIV/AIDS. They don??t have access or the money for retro-viral drugs. The leaves would provide important amounts of vitamins and minerals that could boost their immune system and help them feel healthier and live longer. As we promote the tree, we will monitor the results of their physical progress in order to gather hard facts. Right now, we just finished up the proposal and plan to start this month. Keep a look out for more information.

International Experience:
I never thought I would meet soo many people from different countries in rural Ghana, but I have. There are various international agencies, volunteers and workers to help in the area of development for 1 or 2 years. Missionaries are also in good numbers here too. I??ve met up with people from Germany, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Canada, and Cuba. But of course, I??ve learned more about Cuba since I speak Spanish. There two Cuban doctors in another town close by that I sit and chat with about Cuba. Yes, we??re able to be friends even though our countries are not. They are the sweetest people in the world, my two friends. Unfortunately though, they are leaving to go back to Cuba after spending 2 years here in Ghana. I??ve learned so much about their government (at least from their point of view) the social and cultural practices, history, and music. Some of it I thought was propaganda from our president, but I heard it straight from the horse??s mouth. I was fascinated to learn that some afro-Cubans still speak the language of their ancestors among themselves ƒ{ the Yoruba language. The same language and tribe of my old roommate Ayoku Kafilat. They said that the dialect of Yoruba that they speak is so ancient that Yoruba-speaking Nigerians today can??t understand them. Ok, ya??ll know I love learning about other cultures so I won??t ramble on so much here.

This is the recent happenings with me. Until next time. Over and out.

Posted by pennstatepeanut at 5:04 PM EDT
Saturday, 11 June 2005
These Past Two Days
Since I have Internet access I want to take advantage of the opportunity to let you all know what's been up with me and my near-prison experience.

Ok, so yesterday I was planning on going back to my site/home after almost three weeks of being away on travel for training and what not. I got up around 5am to get to the bus station to see what time the bus leaves- you can't buy advance tickets on this transportation b/c they wait for the bus to fill before leaving. After taking my bath half asleep, I head out to the station with my friend Kwaku and his brother Kwami. (They've been taking such good care of me) Ok, so we get to the station around 7:30am hoping to catch the early bus. The ticket guy says the bus will leave around 12pm. And since I'm used to waiting 2-3 hours for transportation to move anywhere,I don't mind. I prepare myself to wait for almost 5 hours. I read, talk to some strangers, and rest a little until 12 rolls around and we're still sitting in the station lot with the bus not even 1/2 way full. (They always wait to fill the bus before leaving) I'm not too concerned since it's only 1 hour late. It's better getting this bus going straight to my house than having to ride about
6-8hrs to catch another one for 2hrs more. So I wait and wait and 2 o'clock rolls around. (Yes, 6 1/2 hrs of waiting) So I get off the bus and go to the ticket guy and ask him what is taking them so long. This fool gonna tell me we waiting for the driver who went to town and would be right back. That I should be patient for one more hour before we take off. So before I rip his head off, I go back on the bus and sit down. Sure enough 3pm rolls around and they pull the okey-doke on me and start loading the stuff on top of the bus. So I calm down thinking we gonna leave soon. YEAH RIGHT!!! They load the bus alright and we continue waiting. 4:30pm comes and now I'm pissed. I jump off the bus and go to the ticket guy and I don't even have to say a word 'cause he know why I'm there. He said the driver is right here, they putting gas in the bus and we gonna take off now. Ticket guy tries to hold my hand to calm me down and I almost smack him. I yanked my arm away and told him I'm angry so please don't touch me. As soon as I get back on the bus, here comes the stupid driver starting up the bus to go. By now it's 5:15. We drive for a little bit and then pull into a gas station. YES THE FREAKING GAS STATION !!! Didn't they tell me they filled it already? The driver tries so hard not to look at me 'cause I'm staring him down like it ain't nobody's business. And can you believe we sit there in the gas station for 20 minutes with the driver chillin', talking about the bus owner is collecting his money. That's when I decided that I better take my stuff and get off the bus before I really KILL this dude. I get down and he begs me to get back on and I really try to refrain from hurting him. I've been waiting for 10 hours for this bus and they gonna pull in a gas station and wait some more???!!!??? And then I find out through the driver that they were planning on stopping in another city to pick up more passengers since the bus wasn't full. I coulda killed somebody. But I ended up going back to my friend Kwaku's place and relaxed and calmed down some. I was really really angry. Now I"m in another city trying to get back home and once I get there, I ain't stepping foot on no bus for months to come.

Then today my friend Kwaku and his mom headed back to go back home. :0( I guess I didn't realize how comforting and familiar it was to have him around until they actually got in the car and left me. :0( I think it was a combination of being away from my site for almost three weeks, having lots of fun in the big cities, and spending time with my good friend that made me feel so sad when they got in the car and left. I kinda wanted to cry. I pictured them hopping on the plane and landing back at Dulles airport at home. My home!!! I can't really describe the feeling in words but it was kinda hard to accept. Like they were leaving me behind to fend for myself, which they actually were. (Lol, it sounds like I'm talking about a break up)

Ok, that's a wrap. I just needed to tell somebody. Until next time.

Posted by pennstatepeanut at 3:10 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 11 June 2005 3:37 PM EDT

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