Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps Ghana’

“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.

“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.