Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps Ghana’

“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.

“The earth tucked herself in for the year with winter’s cold, white scarf of snow.”

March 10, 2017

When I woke up this morning, I ran to the window. It was snowing though the ground didn’t look as if the snow had started in the wee hours when they predicted it would. The brick walk in front of my house and the street were still uncovered. They were wet. The deck stairs had a bit of snow, but it was easy going for Gracie and me. She ran into the yard. I swear she was smiling. She loves the yard. I checked the news: no school. It was a decision based on what might be not what was. They were right. In the nearly three hours I have been awake, the snow on the tree branches has more than doubled in height and the street is starting to disappear. I keep looking. I am drawn to the window by the quietly falling flakes and the beauty of the snow.

In the two years I was in Ghana, I never missed snow though on the hottest of days I did miss winter. I missed seeing my breath and bundling in clothes to ward off the cold. I missed the comfort of a warm house on a snowy day. Only during the night and the early mornings at the beginning of the harmattan, in December, did I ever feel cold. It was wonderful to have my windows open to the cold and to snuggle under a wool blanket to stay warm. It was in the 70’s on those nights. I still have my wool blanket.

Gracie probably has arthritis in her left back leg. She is now on three new medicines. The pain med will last two weeks while the other two are for every day and should improve her overall leg joint movement.

When I was a kid, Duke, our dog, never had regular vet visits. He did get a rabies shot as it was required but the town used to give them, not the vet’s. The only other time I remember him going to the vets was when he was old and was mauled by a dog down the street. His neck was torn open. My dad said Duke would be fine taking care of it himself. My mother said nothing. My dad, who was working in Maine until we could move, only came home for weekends. While he was gone, my mother sneaked the dog to the vets who took care of the neck and gave him antibiotics. By the time my dad got home, Duke’s neck was looking better and was healing. My dad told my mother,”I told you so.”My mother, the wisest woman I knew, said nothing.

“It is not the cook’s fault when the cassava turns out to be hard and tasteless.”

March 7, 2017

Mother Nature has it out for me. This morning as Gracie and I were going to the far side of the deck it started to rain. I walked Gracie down the stairs and went back inside the house. My sweatshirt had gotten wet. I then went to get the papers and yesterday’s mail. My sweatshirt got wetter, and I was cold. The rain stopped not long after I got into the house.

Today is much warmer at 40˚. It may even get as high as 45˚. A bit of sunshine would be welcomed, but I’m stuck with clouds and a rainy day. I suppose I’ll survive.

The other night I had a fluffernutter for dinner. I was in the mood for peanut butter and Fluff was the perfect partner. The only thing missing was Wonder Bread.

I love cheese of all sorts except blue cheese and any of its relatives. When I was a kid, we ate yellow cheese and only yellow cheese. It came in a block. It didn’t have much flavor but made for a wonderfully gooey grilled cheese sandwich. I don’t remember when I found real cheese. The first was probably cheddar.

In the beginning of Peace Corps training, eating Ghanaian food was cause for bathroom runs (think dual definition for this word). One night I fell asleep upright my back to the wall on one of the steps leading to the school bathrooms. I didn’t trust the distance between my room and the bathroom. It seemed to take forever, but by the end of training, my stomach had accepted its lot. Most of the time I was just fine though there were still moments. Ghanaian food can do that to you. Every time I visit Ghana I eat and drink what I want. Living here removed any fears or even thoughts of germs or diseases. It is what it is. I also make bathroom runs. They’re like the price of admission.

“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.