Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps Ghana’

“My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.”

October 23, 2017

My back is a bit better. I can walk without holding on to anything. Yesterday was a sit on the couch day, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, the back aside. I have to go out today so I hope for the best.

I think I’ve used every adjective perfect to describe our weather of late. Think warm, sunny, deep blue sky and nearly breezeless. My house is again cooler than outside. In here it is sweatshirt weather. Outside is short sleeve weather.

My mother used to make fried dough for supper on Fridays, the no meat day. We’d all hang around the kitchen counter making sure we got our dough turn. My mother’s frying pan held three small or two big pieces of fried dough. She used to buy the dough at the supermarket. I remember it came in a blue and white box. We slathered butter and sprinkle salt on it. Fried dough was one of our favorite suppers.

We ate a lot of hamburger growing up, but my mother was a whiz at cooking hamburger so many different ways we never got tired of eating it. I still love meatloaf and American chop suey. She made spaghetti sauce with ground beef, another fake oriental dish of hamburger with water chestnuts and crispy chow mein on top,. The fall back was always  burgers. I love cheeseburgers.

My food in Ghana didn’t really vary a whole lot. We were lucky to live in the only area of the country which bred beef so we could always buy meat in the market. There was even a meat factory where we could buy some sort of tubular meat masquerading as a hot dog. The meat from the market was always tough. Only old cows were slaughtered. The meat was cooked in a broth like sauce with tomatoes and onions which tenderized the meat. I think we had that most nights though we also ate chicken, free range chickens because the chickens wandered all over the place all day but did came home to roost at night. We mostly ate mashed yams  but also had rice on occasion. Breaking teeth was a PC volunteer problem as the rice always had a few rocks. You needed to spend time cleaning it, but it was easier not to. When volunteers got together, food was always a topic of conversation.

Living alone means I don’t always make dinner. I improvise with whatever is in the fridge. I’m content with cheese and crackers or hummus and pita bread. I’m even happy with cereal. I do have meat in the freezer, heavy on the chicken, but I usually forget to take it out. Last night, though, I took out some Chinese sausage to defrost and I have some rice I can cook. That’s like a gourmet meal for me.

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“The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind.”

October 19, 2017

I admit it. I am addicted to YouTube’s black and white science fiction movies from the 50’s. No more MSNBC for me. Give me flying saucers, creatures from other worlds, space ships, really bad special effects and even a Nazi scientist. He was in The Yesterday Machine and unsurprisingly, wanted to save Hitler. The opening scene in that movie is a majorette twirling a baton, and that’s a highlight. I’m got to break this addiction. Library here I come.

Today is beautiful, the first in a string of beautiful days. It will be in the high 60’s, even reaching 70 by next week. Despite that near week of rain and clouds, this fall has been a delight.

When I was a kid, I had all the kid things every other kid had. I had a bike, roller skates, ice skates and a sled, something for every season. My bike was my favorite. It took me all over town and even far out of town. Unless there was snow, I could ride. My first bike was blue. It had a wire basket in the front and a bell on the handle bars. I loved that bike.

I remember a tingling on the soles of my feet when I roller-skated. I remember the sound of the skates. They were the loudest on the street and the quietest on the tar parking lot near my house. I carried the key on a rope around my neck. I’d sit on the curb to reattach the skate to my shoe. The skates were heavy.

Like every other girl, I had white ice skates. We all carried our skates tied together on our shoulders, one skate in the front, the other in the back. The trick to skating was always to make sure the laces were tight or I’d have to stop to retie them. My best skill was skating backwards.

When I was in Ghana, kids played with hoops and sticks. They’d use the sticks to roll the hoops. The first time I saw the kids playing, I remembered seeing the same game in old pictures. I never saw bought toys there. I saw cars and planes made from tin cans. Ghanaian kids are ingenious. I did see bicycles, lots of bicycles, but mostly adults rode the bikes as they were dear, expensive. I would borrow a bike to go market. It was an easy ride downhill from my school compound, but going home uphill was, at first, difficult. I had to walk part of the way pushing the bike loaded down as I was with vegetables, fruit and even a chicken from the market, but soon enough I could ride all the way home.

I have a bike but haven’t ridden it in a long while. It has gears. It doesn’t have a basket or a bell. It’s a good bike, but I’m still partial to back pedal brakes and no gears. They were more than enough to whisk me away!

“I saw goats. A party can’t be all bad when you have goats,” Lucy said.”

September 25, 2017

Today is amazing. When I went to get the papers, I was surprised how hot it is. The sun is bright. There isn’t even the slightest breeze. It is a summer day in late June.

Okay, I admit I am more aware of English grammar than the average person. I was, after all, an English teacher so I cringe when I hear bad grammar. I liken it to a musician playing a wrong note or a singer singing out of tune. I am more tolerant of conversation sprinkled with bad grammar. I don’t acknowledge it. Television, however, is a different story. Writers are eliminating the objective case, especially after a preposition. It is between you and me, never between you and I. Today it has been three times so far that good grammar has been tossed on TV. Detective, military and police procedure shows use experts in each field to check the plot details. Maybe it is time to hire an English teacher to check scripts for bad grammar.

My laundry is now downstairs leaning against the cellar door, and I am actually going to wash it today, a monumental task. I am also going to do a couple of errands. I think the sun has energized me.

Last night was so very foggy, a halloween sort of night. I expected something dressed in black to jump from behind the bushes to scare me. Actually, I was a little disappointed when nothing happened.

I once milked a goat. At first nothing happened. My technique was bad so I kept trying. My fingers were about to give out when the first squirt of milk hit the bucket. I felt so accomplished.

A herd of goats were responsible for my only motorcycle injury. It was in Ghana. I saw the herd start to cross the road so I stopped and waited. It changed direction and ran right into me. The bike started to fall so I grabbed it, and in the process got a burn on my leg, a round burn which took a long time to heal. The burn and the boils were my only Peace Corps medical issues.

“Don’t wait, just sweat.”

September 15, 2017

It is sunny and breezy, a strong enough breeze to chase the earlier humidity away. It rained last night but not much. The temperature will stay in the mid 70’s all day. Gracie is restless and already panting, a sign the day is too warm for her. I have given her treats, pulled her onto the couch and taken her outside, but she’s still not happy. I can’t take the staring. Maddie too is impatient. She keeps meowing at me. I give her treats but they’re not enough. Both these animals feel far too entitled, my fault I know.

I got most of my errands done yesterday but not the dump. I was gone a couple of hours in and out of stores so when I got home, I was too hot and tired for the dump. It will have to be today as I have no time tomorrow.

The paper explained that older people don’t have the capacity to adjust to temperatures as well as younger people because old people don’t sweat as much, and many take medication that affects body temperature. I mustn’t be at that stage yet as I was sweating yesterday. All my life I have been a head sweater (as in one who sweats not in reference to a garment to be worn). That might already have been obvious to you, but sweater just didn’t look right to me: hence the aside. I’m glad I’m not a pit sweater. That always looks gross to me.

When I was packing for Ghana, my mother and I looked for a strong antiperspirant knowing how hot it gets in Africa. We found one with maximum protection which keeps you smelling great for 48 hours. Who could have asked for more? Well, I used it and ended up with boils under each armpit, a carbuncle, meaning a cluster of boils, a word I wish I didn’t have to learn. I couldn’t even lift my arms to write on the board. I didn’t connect with the deodorant right away as Ghana has all sorts of diseases, but I stopped using the deodorant anyway. The boils did their thing and eventually broke. I wrote the Peace Corps doctor asking for information. He figured it could be an infection or even my deodorant and said to stop using it. I had guessed right. After the boils finally disappeared, I used powder. It didn’t provide 48 hour protection, but I didn’t care. Those boils were the worst.

“It is labour indeed that puts the difference on everything.”

September 4, 2017

Labor Day is the proverbial end of summer. I remember the now outdated fashion rule of not wearing white after Labor Day. I remember lamenting this was the last day of freedom, but I also remember being a bit excited about the new school year. The tradition was to barbecue, sort of a last salute to summer. I had to take a bath on a Monday. School dictated cleanliness. It was difficult to go to bed early, but my mother demanded it. Being sent to bed, however, wasn’t the same as sleeping. That took a while. Morning meant an early wake-up, a quick breakfast, new clothes and the walk to school. Everything was familiar. It was the same every year.

The real meaning of Labor Day has been blurred. It was first celebrated in the early 1880’s as a day to honor laborers, “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” The first states to recognize the day were Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, Colorado and New Jersey. It became a holiday in 1884 and was a day for parades and speeches, all meant to honor workers and the contributions of the American labor movement.

Most stores are open today. Municipal and federal buildings and properties like the dump are closed as are banks and those schools which had opened last week. When I was a kid, nothing except maybe a corner store was open. I wish it were that way now.

Today is a beautiful day, sunny and warmer than it has been. I’m thinking I need deck time. I need to bank a few warm days to remember when winter comes and rears its ugly head. I have chicken I can defrost so maybe I’ll even barbecue. I do have to go out for animal food, but that’s it for the day, my only chore, my only to do list item.

When I lived in Ghana, we didn’t celebrate most holidays. We did celebrate the big ones like Thanksgiving and Christmas and one year I celebrated New Year’s Eve at the home of the ambassador to what was then Upper Volta and is now Burkina Faso. We had to work on Thanksgiving, but we did have dinner with turkey and all the fixings. We also added chickens to the menu. Christmas was our biggest holiday. We had gifts, decorated a tree and eat a special dinner. We never celebrated Labor Day. I don’t even think we remembered it.

“How terribly strange to be 70.”

August 17, 2017

The morning is again glorious. The sun is wonderfully bright, the sky looks like the blue in a Van Gogh painting, and there is no humidity. Here it is August, and there is no humidity. The days are in the high 70’s and the nights in the mid 60’s. If I were Mother Nature, I couldn’t do better than today.

Every morning I put the coffee on then Gracie and I go get the papers. After the first paper and cup of coffee, I feed the animals. Each of my companions, Gracie and Maddie, have two dishes: one for dry and one for canned food. After filling their dishes, I have another cup of coffee and read the Cape Times. It seems my morning rituals are etched in stone. Maddie and Gracie have expectations so I seldom divert from the usual.

I have wonderful memories of growing up. At times I seem to have an idyllic view of my life back then mostly because I held on to the good with all my might and pushed the bad memories to the backs of my memory drawers. The things I remember aren’t milestones in my life. They are simply the good memories.

My life is filled with lucky choices. One you hear most about is my time in the Peace Corps, in Ghana. My hopes, my beliefs and my sense of self grew out of those two plus years. I can’t imagine what my life would have been without that experience. I think of all the places I’ve traveled, all the strange, weird foods I’ve tried and the wonderful people I’ve met, but mostly I think of how easy it has been to pick up and go to unfamiliar places and never feel lost or alone. Ghana gave me that.

Today I turned 70. It feels no different than yesterday when I was 69. It feels no different than when I turned twenty or thirty, but I don’t look the same. My hair is mostly gray. My face is wrinkled. My back hurts so I sometimes walk stooped. But what hasn’t changed are the basics of who I am, all I believe, all I know and all I have experienced through time. For that I am immensely thankful. For that I celebrate turning 70.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.”

June 20, 2017

Cloudy, rainy weather is now on day 4. The breeze today is strong, and the humidity gives it a chilly dampness. The thick air subdues sound. I don’t even hear the birds.

Gracie is sleeping on the couch after her hectic two days. I haven’t been able to give her the morning pills yet. She is far too smart. I gave her some deli turkey this morning, and she spit out any piece with a hidden pill. She ate the rest. I’m down to hand in mouth pill distribution. Gracie has actually eaten a whole can of dog food. I’ll try a second can later.

Another mouse got caught in my trap two weeks after the exterminator was here. I noticed poop on the floor near the trap, a sign of a nervous mouse, so I checked. It was a gray, adult field mouse. I took it and the trap to the car, drove a bit then let the mouse go. It bounded through the tall grass. I never realized mice could bound.

On Sunday night, I was out back with Gracie. The house behind me on the next street had three outside lights lit. All of a sudden I heard a guy scream, “Come on, rabbits, I’m ready.” He yelled that a couple of times. I figure he has a garden the rabbits are enjoying. Beyond that, I have no idea what awaits those poor creatures. Peter Rabbit and Watership Down came to mind.

I finally loaded my Ghana trip pictures to the computer. I also loaded and posted last Christmas, this Easter and February’s snow storm. I did all this yesterday while I was waiting to hear about Gracie. I needed to keep busy. Looking through my trip pictures was joyful. I got to relive it all. The only thing I’d change about that trip is maybe to make it longer, spend a few more days watching elephants and use a day to visit the Rhino preserve on the river.

I have Peace Corps friends who have no intention of going back to Ghana. I know things have changed. The cities are huge and choked with traffic. People are everywhere: walking, riding in cars or taxis or on bikes, but inherently Ghana hasn’t changed nor have the wonderful Ghanaian people. In Bolga, market day is still every third day. Mostly women sell cooked food along the sides of the roads. Kids are still drawn to white people though I don’t understand why. I know in my day it was the rarity of white people in the Upper Region. Taxi drivers still inflate the fares so we still get to bargain. The food was and still is amazing, except for kenkey which I never liked. If I were rich enough, I’d go back for a farewell tour.