I am not having a regular posting today. I just spend over an hour going through the pictures, adding more information and deleting a few duplicates. I saw your comments and went back and made the viewing public so there shouldn’t be a problem. It took me a while to figure out what I needed to do, but having an account is unnecessary (I hope). Click twice on the first picture as you’ll then have a black background which is perfect for viewing. Come see my adventure: please comment!
Posted tagged ‘Bolgatanga’
I made!! Right now I am sitting in an air-conditioned internet cafe in Bolgatanga. Arriving here was wonderful. Everything felt familiar. I could smell the charcoal fires and food cooking. As I sat and ate lunch outside, complaining sheep walked by in a line baaing for all they were worth. Chickens wander. Small girls go by with trays of food on their heads. I have been greeted and greeted and told welcome!
Last night was the best of all greetings. I was lying in bed reading when the room lit up and the thunder started. Both were tremendous. The lights soon went out and so did the fan. I decided this was too great a storm to miss so I went onto the porch. The watchman was there, and we both watched the lightning brighten the houses, and he said the rain was a blessing as it hadn’t rained in a week. When the rain came, it came in heavy drops which pounded the tin roof of the compound near my house. That is one of my favorite sounds.
I am staying in the house of one of my students in a small village called Kantia, very near to Bolga. The house is large and comfortable. The only problem is the air-conditioning which does not work. The electrician will come today. I had a fan overhead that was working but the storm ended that. It was a warm night!
I am meeting my students for lunch at 2.
With only a single year between visits, it feels as if I were here just yesterday!
The weather is the same as it’s been. The paper calls today partly cloudy. I always think of that forecast as a half-full or half-empty sort of weather observation. Why can’t it be partly sunny? For tomorrow, the first day of summer, Mother Nature is doing herself proud. She’s bringing on the sun and the heat, maybe even into the 80′s. Finally I get to shed this sweatshirt!
I have the Weather Channel app on this computer. It is set to give me the weather in South Dennis and in Accra. If I were in Accra, I’d be writing about the weather being the same every day: highs in the low-80′s, lows in the mid-70′s and the possibility (60%) of thunder showers every day. It is, after all, the rainy season. I loved the rainy season and the fierce thunder storms which came after winds strong enough to blow furniture over and whip trees. Where I lived was savannah grassland. Most of the year it is brown and dead, but when the rains come, the grass is green and tall. Millet grows in all the fields, and the market stalls are filled with fresh produce. That is why I have chosen to go back to Ghana and Bolgatanga in August again this year. The rains will still come every day. Some will be drenching while others will be misty and cooling. We always went about our business in the rain. We never had umbrellas. I don’t even remember seeing any. We knew when the rain stopped the sun would return and dry us, but I remember well the feeling of being wet and cool while walking in the rain.
When I was a kid, nothing was better than a summer rain. We’d run and play and get soaked doing it. We’d kick water at each other from the rivers roaring through the gutters on the street. I remember my hair soaken wet and plastered to my head. I remember my arms stretched out to the sides as I stood in the rain, and I remember laughing from sheer joy.
Finally we have some rain! After our snowless winter, they are predicting possible drought conditions this summer so any rain is welcomed. For some reason, though, the rain makes me lazy. In my imminent future I see movies about climatic upheavals and a nap in the darkness of the afternoon. The animals are already asleep.
It’s cold this morning, but I don’t care. The house is warm and cozy. When I was young, this was the sort of day I’d stay in bed and read by the light of the bed lamp hanging off my headboard. It was a quiet time when I could be by myself. I’d follow Nancy and Trixie as they solved cases and feel bad for Heidi looking for her grandfather. One of the joys in life is finding and reading a great book for the first time. Sometimes I’d read the whole book in one sitting hour after hour. I’d close the cover and hold the book for a bit still savoring every word. My mother used to tell me to take my time, but that was never possible. Once a book grabbed me, it didn’t let go until I’d read the last word.
My love of books and reading has never changed over time. When I was younger and backpacking through Europe summer after summer, I’d bring 3 or 4 books. When I’d finish one, I’d carry it until the next stop. Staying in a hostel was the best opportunity to trade, and I found myself trading for and reading books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise read. That was the fun of it.
In the old days, Peace Corps used to give volunteers book lockers, cardboard boxes which opened into small bookcases. They were filled with paperbacks. In mine, left by a previous volunteer, was The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I devoured all four books and would never trade them to any of the volunteers passing through town. I knew I’d go back and read them again. Before I went up-country to live after training, I visited the university bookstore and stocked up with more paperbacks, all of them printed by Penguin Press. They were trade material. My town had a library and most of the books were by British authors. I read Ngaio Marsh, Ruth Rendall and the wonderful Dorothy Sayers for the first time. Such joy!
Despite having and using my iPad, I still cherish the printed word and love holding a book in my hand, and I still sigh when I’ve finished a book I loved.
The sound of the pouring rain woke me up this morning, but it was a quick downpour which had stopped by the time I went to get the papers. The day is mild, in the 50′s, despite the missing sun and the dampness. Gracie and I have a dump run later.
Another year ending. They go quickly now, but this last year I’ll remember. It was a favorite. I finally fulfilled my promise of getting back to Ghana and what a joy that was. I remember being 20 minutes away from landing and getting butterflies. It had been forty years, and I hoped to find pieces of my Ghana, and I did. I fell in love all over again. Finding my students was an amazing part of the journey, but that they remembered me was the most amazing. We spend all but one of my Bolgatanga evenings together eating and drinking and laughing. We shopped in the market and ate goat for lunch. They had so many memories of me, and I cried when they sang Miss Ryan’s song to me my last night in Bolga. They sang Leaving on a Jet Plane perfectly and told me they always sing it when they are together. I hated to leave, and I have promised myself I’ll go back again, and I never go back on a promise.
When I was young, I used to wonder how it would feel to be old. I sort of know, but I think of myself as older, not old. I have to admit, though, nothing works as well as it did. My knees groan and complain, and my back hurts. My hands get stiff. My hair is getting grayer. My word retrieval skills are less than satisfactory, and I hate getting to the kitchen and forgetting why. The one bright spot is I’m retired and have been since the day I turned 57. That means I have had wonderful years of owning every day, of doing whatever I want. I even banished my alarm clock. Every morning is leisurely, and I can spend the whole day reading if I want. I don’t even have to get dressed.
The new year starts tomorrow, and I’m making no resolutions. I’m not very good at keeping them anyway. I’m going to enjoy every day the same as I have been. Maybe that’s a resolution, but for me, it’s just living my life, and I love it.
Last night my house was festive with all the lights lit, both back and front. The star on the fence is so bright you’d swear it swooped down from the sky just for the occasion. Late yesterday afternoon I went to Agway just for dog food and a red bow for the sled outside, but I should have known better. I ended up buying poinsettias, small ones for a cart in my dining room, a rosemary tree which fills the house with its fragrance, a small wreath for the gate, a larger wreath for the front door and a juniper swag for the mantle. The only thing left is the tree, but I say that with tongue in cheek.
It’s been a bit colder the last few days, in the mid to high 40′s, but it’s still not winter. Yesterday in one store I saw a woman wearing mittens, and I wondered if she was from a warm place.
People have started wishing each other a Merry Christmas. I’ve been hearing it in the stores when friends greet each other. I guess the season really is upon us. I opened day two of my advent calendar this morning, and it was a tree waiting to be decorated. I took my time placing the ornaments in exactly the right spots.
The only two times I was away at Christmas was when I was in the Peace Corps. I was 22, but I was still a kid at Christmas, and I was missing the snow, the lights and the tree and mostly I was missing my mother teasing me about my gifts, something she did all of her life. “Guess what I just bought you,” was what I’d hear this time of year. I’d pepper her with questions and get a hint which was really no hint at all. She sent me a box, air mail no less, just before my first Christmas away. It had a small artificial tree, some ornaments from our own tree, brick crepe paper to make a fireplace and a stocking. I decorated right away and felt a little less lonely.
A story I have told here before is one I’d like to tell again as that night still means so much to me. It was my first year in Bolgatanga. Christmas time in northern Ghana is the time of the harmattan. The days are hot, hot enough to melt a candle hot, but the nights are cold or at least cold in comparison. I kept my windows open so I could feel the cold, but I put a wool blanket on my bed to keep me warm. One night I was feeling sorry for myself missing Christmas and my family and was lying in bed trying to fall asleep when I heard someone singing We Three Kings. It was the only sound in the night, and it traveled through the clear air from one of the compounds near my house. I could tell it was a young boy. He sang each verse so clearly and so beautifully I was filled with all sorts of feelings especially joy at this gift he was giving me. Every year since then I have remembered that Christmas and that small boy and the most wonderous gift I was given.
Rain is coming later in the week, but for now I get to enjoy the sunshine and the coolness of a beautiful fall day. We did get out for a bit yesterday, but I ran into friends whom I haven’t seen in ages, and we chatted for a long while so I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped. Today Gracie and I will go down Cape; yesterday we went up Cape. For those of you wondering what directions I’m describing down-Cape means toward P-Town and up-Cape means toward the bridge. If anyone asked me east or west, I’d be hard pressed to answer.
When I visit Colorado, I ask how far to get somewhere, and they always answer in miles. Here when asked the same question we answer in time. How far to Boston from the cape elicits the response of about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it could be longer depending upon the traffic. In Colorado they’d tell me about 72 miles.
When I traveled in Ghana, the distance was measured in kilometers. I had no idea how far away anything really was. My mind worked only in miles so I always had to convert kilometers to miles. I learned to multiply by .6 so I’d figure out how far away I was from my destination.
Ghana, like Massachusetts, is also a time place. I had no idea the actual distance between Accra and Bolgatanga, but I know it takes 16 hours by bus. I know because that’s what the Ghanaians told me when I asked how far between Bolga and Accra. Later I looked it up and found it was 810 kilometers which didn’t make sense until I figured out it was 486 miles. It may seem like it takes forever by bus, and it does.
Once, when my parents and I were in Germany, my inner race car driver came out while I was driving on the autobahn. There I was driving at 80 MPH and getting passed. I knew this was my opportunity to be Mario Andretti without risking a ticket so I drove between 90 to 100 but I still got passed. My mother commented we seem to be going really fast and kept looking at the speedometer. I told her it was in kilometers, a bold face lie with good intentions, and explained how to convert and I mentioned that we were being passed by other cars going much faster. That seemed to calm her, and I got to be Mario for just a little while.
“When you are sitting in your own house, you don’t learn anything. You must get out of your house to learn.”September 19, 2011
Ahoy, me maties. Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The sea is ruffled and the sails are billowed. Tis’ a great, grand ship and ye are all welcome aboard. Grab a flask of grog and hear me story.
This is the last of my Ghanaian saga. I spent five days in Bolga and three nights sitting and laughing with my students. One day three of them took me shopping in the market. I just sat while they haggled for my baskets and for the smock I bought. We then visited craft places, and I watched the making of the leather goods. At the dress shop, I picked out the one I wanted and Florence bought it. I protested and she just ignored me. Afterwards, I suggested lunch, and we went to The Diplomat where we all had goat and fried rice. It seems fried rice has become a Ghanaian staple. I treated the bargainers to lunch in thanks for all the money I knew I’d saved. They promised to be back that night, my last night in Bolga.
Six of my students came that night. They drank beer and malt and the table beside us gave us a half bottle of champagne they hadn’t finished. The students brought kelewele, my favorite dish and one I suspect I have mentioned many times. They ordered Guinea fowl without pepper so I could eat it. We all ate with our hands and shared the meal. I didn’t eat the bones, and my students couldn’t understand why. I explained we only ate the meat, and they lectured me about wasting food and they finished off the bones. It was a grand night, and we all shared memories. They did imitations of me in the classroom which were right on target. They were me frustrated about what I was trying to teach, and they repeated exactly what I used to say then roared laughing. They told me how the watchman wasn’t really asleep when I’d come to the school at night and find the gate locked. He was just ignoring me and he told the students how funny he thought it was that the white lady kept yelling, “Watchman, watchman,” and he just didn’t move. Most times I ended up climbing the gate, so much for the security of the watchman. I never did understand how he couldn’t hear me as his dog was barking and barking as I yelled. They remembered the one time I walked out of class as they were not prepared, and how they crammed then begged me to return. I did. They sang me a song they had learned from one of the cassettes I had brought with me. I cried when they sang Leaving on a Jet Plane perfectly. One of them told me she often sings it and always thinks of me when she does. That did me in.
We hugged and kissed and exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Three of them have called me already, and I have called a couple. This time we will not lose touch with one another.
I left Bolga the next morning. Thomas and I made it to Kumasi and we stayed there for the night. When we arrived, one of the students who had completed school before I arrived in Bolga was waiting for us as the principal of my old school lived in Kumasi. The talking drums of cell phones had found her through that graduate who was kind enough to meet us and take us to Madame Intsiful’s school. It was named St. George’s, after her she told me. Her name is Georgina. When I walked into the room, she looked at me and said, “I know you,” but she didn’t remember my name. She is quite old now so I understood and reintroduced myself. We chatted a short while and then she walked us to the car.
My hotel room was on a noisy street, but it was clean and had a shower and air-conditioning and was pretty cheap. I didn’t roam Kumasi as I didn’t know it in my day and certainly didn’t know the large city it had become. When I lived in Ghana, I went there just to visit Ralph and Michelle. I was country mouse visiting city mice.
Thomas and I left the next morning, and I arrived back at the Triple Crown in the early afternoon, welcomed by the staff. For dinner that night, I had Lebanese food. It was in Ghana where I first tasted hummos as Accra used to be filled with small Lebanese restaurants. Tahal’s was a Peace Corps favorite spot. I watched some of the Nigerian soap opera then took a shower, a hot shower, and fell asleep early.
On Friday, my last full day in Ghana, I hired the van and Isaac and I did a bit of riding around Accra while I picked up a few last-minute gifts. I had him take me through Adabraca, the section of Ghana where the PC hostel used to be, but I couldn’t remember where. That night I met another former volunteer for dinner. She was staying on Ghana a bit longer.
The next day I packed and then mostly sat around until it was time to go to the airport. I was sad to leave and wished I had planned a three-week trip instead of a two, but I suppose at the end of three weeks I would have been wishing for a month.
The flight was amazing as I went home first class and had one of those sleeping pods which make you feel a bit like an astronaut. I decided I had been substituted at birth. My real family had money and always traveled first class.
My trip back to Ghana was everything and more than I had hoped. I found my Ghana then met the new one, no less wonderful but a lot bigger and noisier and filled with far more people. The Ghanaians are warm and welcoming. I was greeted everywhere and waved at when we were on the road. I fell in love all over again with what I have always called my other country. I had always promised myself I would go back to Ghana. I finally fulfilled that promise.
I have uploaded all the photos of my trip. My first thought had been to do it in pieces like Ghana I, Ghana II and up to whatever, but I decided just to add to the first batch and keep going. It took a good part of the day! Enjoy!
My Dear Hedley, Watch out!
I know it is Wednesday, my day off from Coffee, but I thought I’d post a short entry today to keep up the suspense for tomorrow’s episode of Kat’s Travels to Africa.
This morning I woke up at six so my body is beginning to adjust to US time. I went outside on the deck as I usually do just to get the feel of the morning. It seemed chilly to me, damp from the morning dew. It was and is still quiet with only the birds greeting the day. I saw a grey squirrel at one of the feeders, but I haven’t been home long enough to wish for a weapon.
Let me tell you about mornings in Ghana, especially in Bolga where I spent five days. The air is cool, and this time of year, the rainy season, there is a small breeze. I was awake by 6 and usually went outside to see the beginning of the day. Smoke rose from fires, and I could smell the wood charcoal. I watched carts being pulled and pushed by small boys on their way to market. Women carried market goods on their heads as they walked along the sides of the streets. I could hear a mix of voices, conversations in FraFra, horns blowing as cars, mostly taxis, made their way up the street. The horn is an official symbol of Ghana or at least it seemed that way to me. Not moving for a nanosecond on a green light meant horns up and down the row were going to be beeped in impatience. I heard a few of those. I could see women sitting in front of the fires stirring huge pots with metal spoons. They were making soup for their morning T-Zed, tuo zaafi, a thick porridge made from millet flour which is eaten by tearing off a chunk, always with your right hand, and dipping it into a soup. In restaurants they bring a bowl of water and some soap so you can wash your hand before and after. I had some for dinner one night with a light soup and some chicken. It was in Ghana I learned to like okra, even with all that slime, but I never did become a morning T-Zed eater. I always had eggs, toast and instant coffee with evaporated milk. While I was in Bolga, I bought fruit so I could have a bowl of cut fruit instead of the eggs. I tried the eggs fried, scrambled and in an omelet, but the eggs tasted exactly the same no matter how they were cooked. The fruits were sweet and delicious.
I was usually dressed and finished with my breakfast by 8. I’d figure out my day and call Thomas, my driver, to come so we could begin our day’s adventure.