Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps Ghana’

“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.

“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”

April 22, 2017

At 7:15 a couple of banging sounds at the window woke me up. It was a bird. It flew at the window a couple of times more then I whacked the window with my hand, and the bird flew away. I tried to go back to sleep, but a robo call at 7:45 was the end of my sleeping. Gracie, though, sighed and went back to sleep. Maddie never even woke up.

As for today’s weather, ditto yesterday’s. As for my plans for today, ditto yesterday’s.

I missed the first Earth Day. It happened during my time in Ghana. I read about it when the New York Times Week in Review was sent to me by Peace Corps Ghana. It was their way to keep us connected to what was happening at home. I admit I wasn’t all that interested in Earth Day. My daily life revolved around my students and Bolgatanga, my town, but in retrospect, I realize Ghanaians saved the Earth every day. They repurposed everything. My sandals had soles from old tires. My rice was wrapped in the New York Times compliments of Thomas who worked for me. Tin cans were recycled. My meat from the market was wrapped in leaves. Mammy lorries and buses never left the lorry park until all the seats and even the aisles were full of passengers though that always irritated me, the waiting time.

When I was a kid, we never thought twice about throwing everything in the trash. There were no recycle centers because none of us knew about recycling. The trash was put out on the curb once a week, picked up and willy-nilly thrown into the back of the trash truck. I liked to watch the trash being compacted by the truck. That was my only interest in trash.

My town encourages recycling, and I do my best, but I still feel helpless. So much is way beyond my control. Mr. Trump is not a friend of the Earth. That scares me.

“Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.”

April 15, 2017

Today is warmer than yesterday, and tomorrow will be even warmer than today. I’m thinking that’s just as it should be. Easter Sunday is spring to me and tomorrow won’t disappoint. It will be a spring day in the mid-60’s, perfect Easter egg hunt weather and perfect for showing off new clothes, maybe even spinning the petticoats.

At Christmas, the mere mention of Santa kept us in line. We didn’t dare be bad and risk losing a gift or, worse yet, many gifts, but Easter was always different. The Bunny was never a threat. No elf on the shelf reported me and my behavior. There was no list so the Easter Bunny was completely in the dark as to who was naughty or who was nice. That was definitely to our advantage. The baskets were always full.

Gracie and I did all our errands yesterday. All the items on the list got crossed off and the list was subsequently crumpled and thrown away with fanfare. I have no list today. I’m not going anywhere. I have some wrapping to do and a couple of baskets to fill, but that’s it for the day.

In Ghana, we celebrated Christmas with a decorated tree and presents. The tree was acacia, but that didn’t matter. It was the celebration which was important. Easter, though, was different. In Ghana, it is purely a religious day, spent mostly in church. No rabbit or hare is involved. It was Easter vacation time for me, and I usually traveled down south to Accra for a few days then on to Togo or somewhere else. I do remember Easter Sunday during my second year. Three or four of us went to the beach, to Labadi Beach, which was the best beach in Accra. We swam and walked down the beach. Using a coconut as a ball and a dead piece of palm tree as a bat, we played a makeshift game of baseball on the sand. We were at the beach all day.

We out for dinner together, but I don’t remember where. Peace Corps volunteers know all the cheap places with good food so I’m guessing dinner was delicious.

That Easter Sunday is one of my favorite memories of the day. There I was in Africa walking on a sandy beach lined with palm trees. Only my eleven-year-old self, the dreamer, would not have been surprised. She knew I’d be there some day.

“Close your eyes because all the great sounds of existence can best be heard with eyes shut!”

April 10, 2017

The morning has been a bit trying. Nothing I did made Gracie happy. I walked her down the stairs to the yard twice. I gave her treats three times. I patted her until my hand was tired. She wasn’t impressed. She sat beside me and stared. When I ignore her, she gave me the paw on my arm. When I continued to ignore her, she continued to put her paw on my arm. She drove me crazy. Finally, she got on the couch, got comfy, and went to sleep beside me. It is amazing how much my dog rules the roost.

Spring is happening all around me. Colors are coming back into the world. Hyacinths are blooming in my front garden. Purple, pink and red flowers are popping from circles of small fronds. The daffodils in the flower bed closest to the house are sun bright. Every morning when I get the papers, I see something new in the garden.

I have no energy today to do anything. I didn’t make my usual list of chores as I’m generally compelled to finish most of them. My logic insists if there is no list, there are no chores.

I heard the kids playing this morning around 8. There are 6 boys in two houses, and they are loud. They communicate by yelling. They go out to play before the school buses come. Most times they wake me up but not all the way up. I hear them, register the fact in my brain then turn over and go back to sleep. When I was in Ghana, I did the same thing with the call to prayer. A mosque was down on the street below and across from my bedroom during Peace Corps training. The mosque was small and was sandwiched between two houses. Arabic was written at the top of the smallest ever minaret. From that mosque, I could hear the muezzin sing the calls to prayer. The one at 3:30 or so used to wake me up then I got used to it. I listened knowing when it would end so I could go back to sleep. It was the same with the dawn call. Being awakened twice by a muezzin had become commonplace for me. I could never have imagined that.

“Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content, The quiet mind is richer than a crown…”

March 25, 2017

It rained last night leaving today cloudy and dark. It’s warmer than it has been. All my chores and errands got finished, scratched out. Today is a stay at home day. Right now Boris Karloff as The Mummy is on TV. I have seen this movie several times, but that doesn’t ever matter. A propeller plane circles the world, the eerie music starts, and we see Egypt and the desert. We’re at a dig: it’s 1931, and the mummified remains of Imhotep, who had been buried alive, have just been found. A warning on the top of the chest buried with the mummy warns that whoever opens the chest will die. Despite the warning the chest is opened, the sacred words are said and the mummy comes back to life. There’s more but not here.

In winter, cloudy days sometimes make me feel subdued, and, after several in a row, even melancholic while other cloudy days, like today, make me feel cozy in my warm house. Life doesn’t get much better than being in my comfy clothes and watching one of my favorites, a black and white science fiction movie from the 30’s. I’m even having Chinese for lunch. It’s one of those perfect days.

When I was in Ghana, I lived alone for the first time. My house, one side of a duplex, was brand new and on school grounds right by the back gate, which I had to climb a few times as the watchman chose not to hear me yelling for the gate to be opened. (Sorry for the digression. Back to the story.) I was really lonely the first few months. I hated the quiet of my house. I played music especially at night to ward off the silence, but, by Christmas, I relished the night-time quiet because every day was busy and filled with sounds. In the morning it was the swishing of the hand- held brooms as the students cleaned the compound. After that, I could hear buckets being filled with water for bathing and the conversations of my students in a variety of languages. From that morning time on, the day was only quiet after the students had lights out.

It is always a marvel to me that life in Ghana took on a routine, became every day. Here I was living on a school compound in Bolgatanga. It was eggs and toast and coffee, horrible coffee, for breakfast, fruit for lunch and chicken or beef with a sauce and yams on the side, sometimes fried but mostly mashed, for dinner. I went to the market every third day and filled my basket with vegetables and fruit. The amazement of living in Africa was replaced by familiarity. It was home.

I think the memory of living in Ghana surfaces on days like today. I recognize the comfort in the quiet I felt then and I’m feeling now. It is contentment!

“I’ve buried a lot of my laundry in the back yard.”

March 14, 2017

 

Today is miserable. The snow started early. When I first woke up at 9, I checked out the window and saw snow blowing north to south. I went back to sleep. When I woke up at 10, it had just started raining. I went out to get the papers and yesterday’s mail. Gracie was with me on her leash. She hated it and looked beaten walking close to the ground with her ears down. The street was pure slush, snow topped by rain. I left footprints right down to the street. Gracie finally peed then ran to the door. She should have stayed out as I know she still has more to do, but I wanted in as well. I was soaked. Later she wanted out again but didn’t take the plunge. The wind was ferocious so Gracie just backed into the house. We did that twice, both to no avail. She is sleeping now. I hope she enjoys her nap. My hair is still wet.

The first load of laundry is in the dryer. I threw the bags down the cellar stairs last night so I wouldn’t have to look at them anymore. This morning I decided to bite the bullet and do the laundry. I found a missing gray sock on the floor in front of the dryer so I reunited the pair. Two other socks wait for partners. I first thought them a pair but realized in the light one is black and the other dark blue. There must be another exact pair in today’s laundry.

On the Peace Corps Ghana Facebook page are pictures of current trainees doing their laundry. They are all sitting on the porch edge with buckets of clothes in front of them. Clean laundry hangs on lines behind them. I got a chuckle out of that bucket brigade. All through training, my group found Ghanaian women to pay to do our laundry. During the first two weeks of training, the women were from Winneba where we were staying. You gave laundry to them one day, and it came back the next, ironed and folded. The only exception was undergarments. Those we had to wash ourselves. I hated bucket laundry. In retrospect, I figure maybe a smidgeon of that feeling is responsible for two bags of laundry sitting in the hall for nearly a week. Maybe, though, it is just laziness, but I suspect running out of clean undergarments forced my hand and prompted my memories.