Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps Ghana’

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling”

September 1, 2016

Earlier this m0rning I heard kids playing, a dog barking and the rain falling on the leaves. Now all I hear are the birds. I know it is still raining because I looked out the back door and saw the drops, but they are too little to make any sound. I turned off the air conditioning this morning, but I doubt being without air conditioning will last long. It is so humid you can cut it with a knife, as my father was wont to say.

The morning hasn’t started well. Fern and Gracie woke me up by staring at me close to my face. Fern’s whiskers tickled and Gracie had hot breath. I got up. Later Fern was sick a few times. I think it was the cat food. I have to go to Agway for dog food so I’ll pick up some different food for Fern to try. She is too skinny. I worry.

My neighbors drove their daughter to college on Monday. She is a freshman. Last night my neighbor called and told me she has been crying since Monday. Her daughter has called and is also crying. I don’t remember being that homesick at college though I do remember homesickness in Ghana. The big difference was I could call my family and go home for weekends as my college was only a couple of hours away while Ghana was almost eleven hours away by plane and mail took two weeks. Phone calls were out of the question.

I got over being homesick. I think being so far away and so disconnected made it easier to see Ghana as home.

It is less than two weeks until my trip home. I have made lists. One is what I need to buy while the other is what has to be packed. The countdown doesn’t begin until one week from my flight. It is getting close.

“He who would travel happily must travel light.”

August 4, 2016

When I woke up this morning, Gracie was right beside me. The bedroom was still cool from the late night air so I was body warmth for the dog. When I went downstairs, it too was cool and dark so it was quite a shock when I went outside to get the paper. I was assailed by unexpected heat.

The light from the sun is strong. It looks hazy around the bushes and flowers. A slight breeze ruffles the leaves of the oak tree. I think it will be a lovely day.

My first load of laundry is in the dryer. My second load is in the washing machine. The bags of laundry had sat in front of the cellar so long I had no choice. I don’t deal well transient clutter.

I have started to get ready for my trip back to Ghana. First off was new undergarments, not that you really need to know this but I seldom buy any without a good reason. Even as an adult, I always embarrassed my mother with the state of my undergarments. My contention was nobody ever saw them. The last time I bought any was for my first trip to Ghana. It’s a good thing I travel. I have also bought three new shirts. The last new shirts were Christmas presents from my sister the Christmas before that same trip to Ghana as the undergarments. There is an obvious pattern here worth repeating: it’s a good thing I travel. On my list still is a pair of new pants, rub on insect repellant, a small roll of duct tape and moist towelettes. I think I already have everything else I need.

When I think back to my Peace Corps first time arrival in Ghana, I remember what I had brought. I was allowed 80 pounds. Most of them were taken up with clothes, sheets and towels and lotions and potions enough for two years. I had been given a packing list, and after my mother and I shopped, we crossed off most of the items. If I were going today for the two years, my 80 pounds would be a whole lot different; however, there would still be undergarments.

This morning was Corn Flakes and banana for breakfast. I thought it the perfect way to start the day.

“The Harvard Law states: Under controlled conditions of light, temperature, humidity, and nutrition, the organism will do as it damn well pleases.”

July 22, 2016

Last night I went to bed early, around 10:30, but couldn’t fall asleep so I decided to check out Netflix as my iPad is beside my bed. That was a huge mistake. I started watching Stranger Things and was hooked. It was close to 4 o’clock before I put down my iPad and went to sleep. Episodes remain, and I’m thinking I’ll watch them this afternoon. I won’t do that late night binging again. Okay, I admit I probably will.

As of late yesterday afternoon, the house was closed again, and the air conditioner became a necessity. All of a sudden it was very humid, and the breeze did nothing to cool the day. Poor Gracie was panting, a sure sign the house was too warm. Today is also hot and somewhat humid. Boston is officially in the middle of a heat wave. We are not though heat wave or no heat wave it is still a really hot day.

I don’t remember when the weather started to bother me enough I complained. When I was a kid, the weather never mattered. Summer was for being outside as long as I could be. I always dreaded my mother yelling out the back door for us to come inside the house. Snow was always fun. It was for sledding, making snowmen and building forts. Sometimes snow even gave us a free day from school. Where I lived in Ghana was the hottest part of the country. It was savannah grassland with few trees. I could look across the fields to the horizon. Nothing stood in the way. I was hot in the 100 plus degree heat, but I found ways to be cool. At night I’d take my cold shower and not dry off. The air cooled and dried me and I easily fell asleep. After every snow storm, I used to shovel my walk and driveway. Now I pay someone and wait patiently inside until he comes. My house has central air conditioning. I used to have a fan I carted from den to bedroom at night, and I was cooled enough to sleep. Maybe this intolerance is because I am getting older or maybe it is because I no longer want to abide too hot or too cold. I aim for comfortable.

Tomorrow is our first deck movie night. I have several from which my friends can choose including Charade, The original Thomas Crown Affair, Cabaret,  the Equalizer, Three Days of the Condor and Beginning of the End, our awful science fiction B movie for the summer, a movie where giant grasshoppers wreak devastation wherever they go. I’m serving grilled sausages and sauteed peppers and onions and fresh bread for sandwiches. I’m making a couple of appetizers and a new drink, a blue drink. I have my shopping list ready.

Gracie is sleeping and is snoring. I envy her the nap, not the snoring.

Where thou art – that – is Home.

June 6, 2016

Yesterday I chose to do little. I took a shower for the sake of cleanliness, but that was it for constructive. Today I go back to the old list and change my bed and do laundry then I’ll need a new list. I’m not all that enthused about doing anything so the new list will be short. Outside might just be the only item. I have chairs to clean and lights to fix, and being outside might make doing work a bit easier.

It’s noisy right now. I hear hammering and wood being piled. I suppose in the scheme of things they aren’t very loud, but this is generally a quiet place. Dogs do bark and kids do yell but that’s it. The bird songs tend to be the loudest.

Usually all three animals are here with me when taking their morning naps. The only one here now is Maddie and she is roaming. Fern is in the living room and Gracie is in her crate. I can hear her snoring. If I move around, Gracie sticks her head out to see where I’m going. She’ll follow me if it looks interesting enough. Gracie is never far from where I am.

When I went to Ghana, it was the first time I ever lived alone. It took time to be comfortable living alone because I couldn’t just pick up the phone and chat or drop over to visit. Here I was trying to adjust to a new culture and a new country so being lonely and homesick at the same time felt crushing. I had to figure ways to deal with it. I wrote letters, some of which were never sent. They were filled with my feelings, my sense of failure and my wondering if Ghana was right for me. I ached for letters from home and ran to the staff room to check my box at least twice a day. I also concentrated on figuring out how to speak English so I could be understood by my students. I gave myself until Christmas. Come to find out, that was more than enough time. I adjusted to speaking English slowly with an emphasis on letters like t in better or letter. My students were catching on as well. The more they heard, the more they understood. I started going to the market and shopping for food. It connected me to the town and the people. They stopped seeing me as simply the white lady. Now I was madam, the teacher at the training college. I used Hausa, the language Peace Corps had taught me. The Ghanians were delighted.

I began to feel I was home, a different home but still home. I stopped running to check the mail. Sometimes I ever forgot for a day or two. I read in the evenings or wrote letters about my day to day life. Every one of those got sent. I loved being in Ghana.

“I’ve never been to a class reunion or anything because I’m always afraid of that one – there’s going to be some ‘Carrie’-like incident.”

October 9, 2015

The morning was cloudy and cold when I woke up around eight. I decided the day was uninviting so I stayed in bed another hour. Since then the sun has appeared and warmed the day. Gracie and I have a dump run later. I haven’t told her. It’s a surprise.

This weekend is my fiftieth high school reunion. Tonight is a cocktail party, tomorrow morning coffee and pastries then a tour of the school and finally dinner tomorrow night. I don’t know quite what to think. Fifty years since high school, a whole half-century ago, seems like such a long time if you think of it by itself, in years, but I never gave thought to the year by year passing of time. My life has been measured by events.

There was the fall when I started college. I remember wearing the ugly blue beanie and being asked questions by the upper classmen. That was a breakout year. I was on my own. I don’t remember much, but I do remember the first college dance and the first party, but that last one is a bit hazy. I remember the junior prom at Wentworth by the Sea. We all had imbibed as the class advisor told the management we were of age. The funniest incident was when my friend Andy, as in Andrea, who had imbibed a bit too much, missed the choosing of the prom queen. She was so mad she wanted it declared invalid as she believed she would have been chosen, and we had to restrain her for a bit. My senior year brought the most memories. We had student teaching, and that’s when I knew I was destined to teach high school. We had our Friday get-togethers at the bar every week, a prom at the Marblehead yacht club where I remember toasting, drinking then throwing my glass overboard and then there was graduation. I remember standing in line in the hall. I remember getting my diploma. That was four years gone.

I remember flying to Philadelphia for staging then flying to Ghana, training there and living in Bolga for two years. I can describe everything. My time there lives in vibrant colors in my memory banks. I remember leaving and silently crying the whole flight from Tamale to Accra.

I remember getting my teaching job and teaching English and loving it. I remember the interview for administrator, and I remember when they chose me. I remember the first kid I had to suspend. He had a cast on his arm, and I hated calling his mother. I remember realizing I could retire in three years when I turned 57. That was like a jolt to my psyche. All I’d done for what would be 35 years would end.

I have been retired for 11 years and have alternated between being busy and being totally idle, sloth-like. I have spent entire summers on my deck. I finally made it back to Ghana, not once but twice. I remember walking out of the plane and smiling. Ghana had changed but it still felt like home to me.

In four paragraphs I have just described the last fifty years. Tonight I’ll celebrate those years.

“A true friend should be like a privy, open in necessity.”

September 12, 2015

Today is the finest of almost fall days. The sun is brightly shining, only a few clouds drift around the blue sky and the temperature is 71˚. The house is cool but standing outside in the sun is warm. I was on the deck for a while which partially explains my lateness. Sloth explains the rest of it.

I have nothing to do today. Even the dog laundry was done yesterday. That amazes me as usually my own laundry is moved from floor to floor and then sits around for a few days. Gracie jumped right into her crate and went to sleep on the fresh, still warm bedding when I put it back on the bottom of her crate. I could hear her snoring most of the afternoon.

In Ghana, Thomas who worked for me did all my laundry except for the unmentionables. I did those myself. I had to use a bucket and hand wash them. I hated it and after a while went commando. Keep in mind I wore dresses all the time as that was the custom for women. It presented a problem only when I had to climb up to get into a mammy lorry. The only way to get to the seats was to climb then swing one leg at a time over the side of the truck while holding on to the top. I made sure nobody was waiting below me for obvious reasons. There were a few advantages to going commando and the most important was the ease of going to the bathroom over a hole. Squatting was minimally involved, but I won’t describe the rest of the process; just use your imaginations. I was an expert.

Peace Corps gave me a whole new skill set. I had expected to learn new things about Ghana: its history, its culture and most of all its wonderful people. I never expected to learn to pee over a hole or go to the bathroom in the bush. Those were just extras.

“Just keep your nose clean and everything will be jake.”

September 5, 2015

Today is cool and beautiful with lots of sun. Mother Nature is garbed in her best for this weekend. Tonight, though, will be cold, in the high 50’s. I figure it’s a dress rehearsal for what’s coming.

My street has close to a million kids 10 and under. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but this morning that’s what it sounded like to me. They woke me up before eight yelling to one another, and I think I heard one crying. I drifted back to sleep only to have them wake me again. That went on until 10 when I decided I’d get up. Every day the kids ride their bikes up and down the street mostly for the fun of it. The street is a good one for kids on bikes as it has little traffic. I’m just wishing the bikes came with muzzles. Now, of course, the kids are gone so the street is quiet. I guess they figured everyone’s awake now so their jobs are done.

Learning kids’ names was always one of the first items on my agenda when I was teaching. I wanted to address each kid by name instead of using the proverbial you or the pointed finger. I had five classes of names to learn each semester and I did. In Ghana the learning was complicated by the names and how to pronounce them. Abibata Abdulai and Bintu Liman were a couple of the more difficult names to remember. Fatima was pronounced as fa teem ah. Old-fashioned names were popular. Faith, Hope and Charity were common. Florence, Beatrice, Agatha (a ga tha) Rose, Grace and Regina, pronounced the Canadian way, were also common. It took me a bit longer to match names to faces.

My dad was great remembering business names and details but was never good at other names. I figure his head just didn’t have the room with everything else he remembered. I had two friends with Polish last names, and he never got those names right. One he called the Pole, and the other he never called anything except she or her. I don’t even think my friends noticed.