Posted tagged ‘Bolgatanga’

“Colder by the hour, more dead with every breath.”

January 15, 2017

This morning I just didn’t want to get out of bed. It was 9:15 when I first woke up. Considering how late I went to bed, I figured it was too early to get up so I snuggled under the covers and went back to sleep. I slept until 10. Maddie started howling. Gracie was snoring. I decided the bed was too warm and I was too comfy so I went back to sleep. It was easy. I slept another hour so it was close to 11 when I dragged myself out of bed. I have no guilt at sleeping the morning away. I have no obligations, no errands and no chores though I could do a laundry, but I won’t.

Last night I want the Patriots beat the Texans. It wasn’t the Pats best game as Brady was intercepted and sacked, but my Pats prevailed. The game started late, 8:15, and ended late so my friends and I decided to make it an evening. First, we ate Chinese and played Phase 10, our favorite game. I happened to win. Clare and I alternate winning. Tony hasn’t won since last March. We’re planning a gala for his anniversary of one year without a win. He isn’t looking forward to the festivities.

It was cold last night, 24˚, so today at 34˚ feels warmer. The low this evening will be 19˚. When I lived in Ghana, it was hot and dry in January. It was harmattan. Dust blew over everything. The sun was obscured. Rain was months away. My candle melted without being lit. The water was often turned off. I took bucket baths, and I had to take a few before I got the knack. I got good at it.

During Peace Corps staging, a time when we all came together for nearly a week before leaving for Ghana, I was asked if I minded going to the north. My response was to ask why the question. What was it about the north? The psychologist asking the question didn’t know the answer. I told him I didn’t care where in Ghana I was to be posted. That settled it. I went to the far north, the Upper Region. I even knew before I left staging I was going to be in Bolgatanga. The remote posting areas were filled first. That was Bolga. That was the place with a long dry season when days reached 100˚ or more. I think of that this time of year, the coldest time of year here in New England, but if I were given a choice between the two, the hot, hot dry days or the freezing days and nights, I’d chose the cold. I couldn’t escape the heat, but I can always bundle up to escape the cold.

“The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.”

August 11, 2016

Here I am again, inside the house retreating from the heat. Today will be in the high 80’s on the cape and the 90’s in Boston and north of Boston. My friend Bill sent me the weather from Bolgatanga, Ghana where it will be cooler than here and rainy. What’s with that, cooler in Africa than here?

I could do a couple of errands today, but I won’t. I’m staying housebound by choice. I have food and drink, a semi-full larder, so I’ll be content and cool. I’m even considering baking something.

I hit a wall in watching the Olympics so last night I hunted for something else. It ended up being Cupcake Wars. I traded one boring program for a really boring program, but I’m guessing those cupcakes inspired me to think about baking today. This morning I’ve already watched women’s water polo. That wall is getting closer.

Yesterday I did two loads of laundry. They by themselves are not remarkable, but, for once, I didn’t leave any laundry in the dryer. I am known for leaving laundry in the dryer for up to a week. The clothes come out really wrinkled, but I don’t care.

Books are on the table in front of me as is the TV remote. They represent the day’s diversions, things to keep me busy, things to help the day pass.

When I was a kid, I’d be bored by the middle of August. I had done all the fun things several times, and they had begun to lose their luster. The afternoons were often too hot to do much. I remember being at the park and sitting in the shade. We played some checkers at the table and worked gimp. I remember painting a tray for my mother. We couldn’t play softball. Little kids couldn’t use the slide and seesaw because of the heat. The metal slide would have burned the backs of their legs. August is always hot and humid.

Every month I get a report from my electric company on my usage and how it compares to my neighbors’ usage. My sister in Colorado happened to mention her report to me as her husband, Rod, showed her they were the highest in the neighborhood. I said mine was too. We both decided we didn’t care. We want to live comfortably: cool in summer and warm in winter. I’m sending my next one to Rod so he’ll see they are not alone.

Tonight after midnight the Perseids meteor shower will begin, but the best viewing is after 1 AM or even later. There will be an unusually high number of meteors tonight anywhere from 160 to 200 meteors per hour. The suggestion is to lie on your back and look straight up. Drinking caffein to stay awake was another suggestion. I’m thinking iced coffee.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

March 8, 2016

We have actually hit 50˚ today because there is no wind. The day is bright and the sky is clear of any clouds. I just got back from my library board meeting so I’m done for the day. My outside clothes are going to be replaced by my inside comfy clothes. I brought home three books from the library, and I have yet to read the morning papers. I’m thinking turning pages might just be my only exercise for the day.

Libraries have always been favorite places for me. I used to go at least once a week when I was a kid. The librarian probably didn’t think I was reading all the books because I returned them so quickly. You’d think librarians of all people would understand how books capture you and how difficult it is to put a good book down. I’d sometimes read a book in one day. I’d even read during class by hiding my book inside a textbook. It had to be a big textbook. The best was always geography with history a close second. Not once did I get caught. I’d turned the text book pages to make it all look real. I was adept at concealment.

When I was in Ghana, I read constantly and swear I read most of the books in the Bolga library. We had no radio, no TV and terrible movies shown once in a while in town at the Hotel d’Bull, the hot spot of Bolga back then. Preparing to teach the next day never took long and neither did correcting so with all this time to fill I read. Trips anywhere took what seemed forever so I learned to read while I was on the bus. It used to make me dizzy and sick when I was younger, but I got used to reading on the road in Ghana. Anytime I had a volunteer stay with me, book swapping was part of the visit. We all carried books. When I was in Accra, I’d go to Legon to the main campus of the University of Ghana. It had a book store. I always spent a good bit of money there. Books were almost as important to us as food and water. I don’t think that’s changed.

“When life gives you lemons, make orange juice and leave people wondering how you did it…”

September 26, 2015

The morning is again lovely with a strong breeze and a wonderfully bright sun. When I went to get the papers, I sat on the front steps a while to check out the neighborhood and to let the sun wash over and warm me. The leaves were rustling and the chimes in the backyard were ringing every now and then when the breeze was the strongest. The sound of the chimes is sweet. I finally went back inside drawn by the thought of my first cup of coffee.

We never had fresh orange juice. My mother always bought it frozen in the can. I can still remember how much of an ordeal it was to get the juice to the drinking stage. First you had to open both ends of the can to slide out the glob of frozen juice. The silver hand can opener sometimes cut not just the top but also the sides of the can making it harder to get the tops off. More often than not one of the tops would fall into the pitcher with the frozen juice. When digging it out, you had to be careful as it was easy to cut your finger on the sharp edges. I know from experience. We never had the foresight to take the can out of the freezer and leave it on the counter to let the juice melt. Come to think of it we probably didn’t have the patience either. I remember holding the pitcher under hot water to help along the melting, and we’d use a spoon to smash the glob into smaller pieces so it would melt quicker. When it was finally melted enough by my mother’s standards, we’d run the cold water until it was as cold as it could be from the faucet then make the juice.

We went through a Tang phase for a while because John Glenn and the Gemini astronauts drank it. Besides, it was easy to throw a few teaspoons in water then stir and drink. There was no can opener, waiting or hot water baths before drinking it. The only problem was it really didn’t taste all that good.

“If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.”

August 14, 2015

The days of summer seem to run together. When I wake up, I often forget what day it is. My trick is to remember yesterday then let today slide in its place. Some days are the same, my favorite days, the ones which have no lists. Today is not one of them.

Fern had to go to the vet’s yesterday. She hated the ride and messed the crate going and coming, but when she got to the vet’s, she was calm and investigated everything. She even watched a dog out the window. I took her because she was limping. The vet, Gracie’s vet, said the ligament in the back leg joint is looser than it should be. Surgery would correct that, but she thinks Fern is too old so we are going with pain killers and the hope over time it will mend itself. I help by carrying Fern up and down the stairs.

I don’t spend much time with people any more. I have a play on some Wednesdays and Fridays and movie night on Saturday. That’s it. The rest of the time I’m by myself. I’m just fine with that. I don’t really miss people all that much though I always do enjoy my time with friends. I remember when I first lived alone. I hated it. It was in Ghana. I was homesick and lonely, craving people. I had my students but they didn’t fill the void.

It took a few long months before I was comfortable with myself and could fill and enjoy my time. That was a life lesson for which I am forever thankful. It is not one I ever expected. Peace Corps is so much more than you can imagine.

“Every morning you are reborn, and prove it worthwhile.”

August 14, 2014

The White Rabbit and I share the lateness of the hour. My morning has been leisurely. I read both papers and doubt I missed anything happening here or in the greater world. While my English muffin was toasting, I watered the plants. I am such a multi-tasker say I with a bit of tongue in cheek.

Yesterday it poured. I had to shut windows and doors. It was a noisy rain battering the roof and dripping from the eaves. Gracie slept in her crate most of the afternoon. I took a nap, the best thing to do on a rainy afternoon.

Today is another delight. It is in the mid 70’s and will go down to the low 60’s tonight, perfect sleeping weather, and every day for the rest of the week is predicted the same as today though tomorrow night may even get as low as the high 50’s. It feels more like fall than summer especially in the mornings.

Okay, it’s time for a little bit of Ghana here. The trigger was the cool morning, my favorite part of the day in Ghana. Each morning was the same. I’d have my two eggs cooked in groundnut oil as the Ghanaians call it, peanut oil for us, two pieces of toast, wonderful toast from uncut loaves of bread sold from trays balanced on women’s heads, and two huge cups of coffee, bad coffee which I actually got used to drinking. The food was cooked over charcoal on a small round hibachi like burner. The toast was cooked against the hot sides of the burner and needed turning. Boiling the water was first so I could drink my coffee while the rest of my breakfast was cooking. Thomas was my cook. He’d hand me the coffee, and I’d go outside and sit on my porch, no chair, just concrete steps. Little kids would pass me going in both directions. Just outside the front of the school was an elementary school and just beyond the back gate was a middle school. My house was beside that back gate so I could see the students lining up and hear the national anthem before they went into school. The youngest, heading to the elementary school, always stopped to say good morning and stayed a while and stared. A white person in Bolga in those days was still a novelty.

I had a table, a couple of chairs and a refrigerator in my dining area. One whole wall was just screening, no glass, and the floor always got soaked when it rained. Thomas would call me to breakfast. Those were the best tasting eggs I’ve ever had. On my two trips back, I had eggs every morning, and they were as delicious as I remembered. The coffee was still the worst. In forty years breakfast hadn’t changed a bit and mornings were still my favorite part of the Ghanaian day.

“There are people who like to be alone without feeling lonely at all.”

July 11, 2014

The morning is a quiet one with only the songs of birds breaking the silence. I am part of the morning. A calmness seems to take over, a slowness with no need for haste. I stood outside leaning on the deck rail for a long time. I could smell the freshness of the morning air. I watched the birds at the feeders and the slow sway of the leaves from the slight breeze. It is a familiar feeling for me, the sense I am alone. I remember being in Maine on vacation, and it was pouring. I took my book and went to the car, got comfortable and read for hours. I loved the sound of the rain on the car roof, and I loved being alone. When I’d get home from school on a rainy day, I’d take off my wet clothes, put on cozy pajamas, get in bed and read. I snuggled in the warmth of the blankets and loved the quiet of my room. I used to be a night owl, and I was always the only one awake in my neighborhood. I remember being outside at one or two in the morning watching the meteor shower. I oohed and aahed as they lit up the sky. Every other house was dark, and I felt sorry for them. I wanted to run up and down the street waking my neighbors so they could share the glorious sight of all those meteors. I didn’t, which was probably the right choice.

The first time I ever lived alone was in Ghana. We were altogether for training so someone was always around who was sharing the same experiences I was. At the end of training, the transition to my post, Bolgatanga, way north and off the beaten path, was difficult, especially the first few months. I was terribly homesick and had no one to talk to about it. I was also having trouble teaching. The students didn’t understand my American accent, and at the end of the class they would tell me they heard nothing, a Ghanaian term for not understanding a word. I felt like a failure. Here I was lonely, miserable and a complete failure. I made plans to go home by Christmas if things didn’t change, but happily for me they did. I began to love being alone, to having all this time to myself. I would read for hours. My letters home were filled with everything I saw and did, and I took pleasure in the descriptions. I didn’t have to lie any more about everything being great because it actually was. I learned how to teach, how to enunciate. No more did students not hear me. Everything had fallen into place, and I couldn’t imagine leaving.

I bought my house when I was 29. I have lived alone the entire time. Sometimes I’d like some company, and I always miss my guests when they leave, but I am content living by myself.